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Domina Kokeshi and Domidi Ilundoji

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue.

Author’s note: This is designed for a generic non-Imperium setting that suffered at least one long-term collapse of interstellar society, preferably lasting at least 500 years and ending approximately 200-300 years before the current campaign era. Adjusting these figures will affect the age of Kokeshi, as it depends on a period of planetary isolationism to get started, while Ilundoji depends on the resusumption of interstellar travel to have created its own colony. In the Third Imperium, the region they are in should have remained fairly isolated for about the same period of time. Usage in the campaign will drop Kokeshi squarely into the antagonist camp. The worlds involved are easily changed to any Garden worlds of about the same population.

Editor’s note: The age of the religions, and certain unspecified terms in this article as submitted (e.g.,”Prior Interstellar Empire”) have been adjusted to assume the current Imperial era (Third Imperium approximately 1100). The planet names should be assumed local, not those appearing on star charts, and UWPs are as submitted but may vary.

Domina Kokeshi

Formal Name: Domina Kokeshi (doh-MEE-Nah Koh-keh-SHEE) [doˈmiˌna ˌko.kɛˈʃi]
Translation: Followers of (Domina) the Righteous One (Kokeshi)
Linguistic Analysis: (Silvetri, creole developed by terraforming crews and initial colonists)
Domina (Do-) prefix for Of/To – contextual – (Mina) Follower, originating (Mi) movement and (-na) relative status suffix. Kokeshi (Kokesh) Righteous, originating (Kok) Good and (Kesh) Behavior/Morality, (Shi) singular they.
Informal Name: Kokeshi
Adjectival and Demonym Form: Kokeshin
Planet of Origin: Silveter B786998-A 204
(Adjectival form and Plural form: Silvetri. Demonym: Silvetrin)
Age: ~2800 Standard Years
Classification Tags: Deism, Reincarnation, Formal Structured, Prosperity.
Potential danger to other sophonts, hostile (non-violent) to other faiths.
Followers: 3.5 Billion

The origins of Kokeshi are, in many ways, the origin of the culture of Silveter, a colony founded during the Rule of Man shortly before the Long Night. The young colony, of perhaps 100,000 adults, most of whom were workers involved in building the primary infrastructure required to house and feed the actual incoming colonists, was cut off from interstellar support and regressed to TL4. During this time, Kokeshi arose as the major religion, starting off in the early days from a small terraforming commune lead by the First Prophet Vidmand Fadin. After his death, control passed to his daughter Bathille, who focused on attempting to religiously dominate the growing population and created the structure of the modern church, changing it from the intended loose hierarchy of equals into an ascending bureaucracy. She is also credited with creating the matrilineal system that came to dominate Silvetri culture and law, even amongst the other faiths that opposed Kokeshi.

Today the faith holds sway over 35% of the Silvetri population, the highest share of the seven faiths officially recognized. These include 4 rival faiths, and 2 formally recognized derivative faiths, but specifically does not count derivatives the church finds heretical (or, for that matter, derivatives of the other faiths). It has a major presence on another six worlds, including one settled and ruled exclusively by the church – Madina (B7648D9-A, 2 parsecs away).

The primary belief of Kokeshi is an ascending karmic reincarnation cycle dictated by a distant creator deity, known by the common name Gias (GEE-ahs) [ˈɡi.as] with the Heavenly Title Davadi Kokeshi (Great/Mighty Righteous One). The relationship between Gias and the reincarnation cycle is mediated by purportedly divine rules and a Heaven/Hell system, where those who consistently fail to abide the rules will fall out of the cycle and see their souls destroyed, while those who follow them over many lifetimes will ascend to live at the side of Gias and eventually create their own universe. These rules vary over the course of their recording: one section is concerned with the basic social contract and the proper method of prayers, another is a terraforming manual specific to the planet (with a liturgical section concerning the divinely ordained dominance of humans over alien ecosystems), the third is concerned with sumptuary laws, the smallest one is dietary guidelines and sanitation (Contrary to many reincarnation faiths, Kokeshi allows the eating of meat, since it is held that doing so helps the soul understand the natural cycle), while the last is interpretations of previous rules, proclamations from the highest ranks, and rules derived from analysis of the communion rituals (see below). Many hold the belief that Gias lays down specific rules for each person, which are usually given to the faithful by means of the communion rites and dreams. One issue that lays in the history of the church, which has been the reason behind the three known derivative religions, was to pair a prosperity gospel with reincarnation – the reasoning being that the karmic cycle would not allow a bad person to be put into a position where they could amass or inherit wealth and power (provided they are of the faith, of course), resulting in a de facto plutocracy being in charge of the church.

Kokeshi has a rigid, bureaucratic, structure, with the main concession to interstellar travel being the decentralization of internal decision making to the highest ranked priests on individual planets. However, overall control of the church resides with the Prime Speaker, who is currently headquartered on Madina. Below the Prime Speaker lies 6 main divisions of rank, with 3-6 internal divisions within the lowest four of them, covering the almost 3.7 million clergy of the church (The preferred ratio is one priest (rank 1) per 1000 congregants, leading between 10-20 lay ministers, with a 20:1 ratio between ranks, dropping as low as 15:1). Priests are selected primarily from the wealthy, often alongside a large donation, with secondary preference given to the upper-middle class. The poor are very rarely selected for the priesthood, and only occasionally for the lay ministry.

Liturgically, the common expression is a set of four, minimally invasive, daily prayers, with a weekly group prayer and sermon lead by priests. One interesting aspect is the Communion Lottery, where a select few are chosen by lot to ingest a mild sacred hallucinogen that lasts for a few minutes at most. This is believed to bring the chosen closer to Gias, but actually receiving a vision is considered a matter of luck and faith – one common jokes states that you’re making a call and hoping to not get the answering machine this time. A vast body of superstitions have grown up around Communion, mostly among the poor hoping to have their faith publicly recognized – ranging from fasting, to the ingestion of particular substances. Anything that pops up during Communion is recorded before being sent to committees for review, which may lead to new interpretations of rules, but more often is believed to give hints as to past lives and soul-specific rules.

The church also maintains a list of those stated to have ascended and gained the rank title Kokeshi, many of whom are prayed to, believing they can interface with Gias on their behalf. No such roll is maintained of the damned, but many children are taught to fear sinners by taking advantage of a natural aversion to insects – and many adults take a small amount of pleasure in killing insects when convenient, believing it to be a mercy towards the soul by removing it from a tortured existence and allowing it to reach a true death. Culturally, the faithful hold Olsuk—Bug—as an insult usually reserved for those of other faiths. Their neighboring faiths return the favor by using Kokeshi to mean “self-deluding fool”.

Politically, the church maintains much power on Silveter, as it once held sway over 65% of the population and helped direct the formation of the legal system and world government, but not enough to drive the other faiths almost underground again. Many still wish for that to return, but also view the non-existence of their faith on other worlds as an insult and conspiracy – after all, Gias has been sending the most faithful of their souls to other worlds, right? Why haven’t they been able to recreate the church on those worlds? It must be a conspiracy of evil souls who have exited reincarnation without being destroyed, seeking to destroy the faith to weaken Gias. Needless to say, this attitude does not make them, or their very aggressive missionary activities, popular on other worlds. Only the wealthy will tend to favor them, as the prosperity gospel provides validation for their egos.

Economically, the church (and the wealthy who lead it) are very much in favor of trickle-down economics and monopolies – if Gias blesses one with wealth, then to be wealthy is to be a good person. To have gained wealth by unblessed means (effectively, by methods the wealthy have not gained control of) is somewhat morally grey – it is a good act, but it will mean nothing for your soul. The most holy way to gain wealth is by inheritance, followed closely thereafter by receiving it as a gift (with the expectation that this creates a debt to be settled by other means or another gift, a model strange to most of the universe) or from a lottery (Gifting is the only remnant of the mutalistic economic model Kokeshi once championed, with Inheritance – gifting that prevents the creation of a debt as one is dead in that identity – being a natural expansion when the prosperity gospel was added).

In regards to other (non-human) sophonts, the church holds them as especially damned – they are close enough to mimic, with accommodations for biology, human behavior, but can never be human in that form and are therefore subject to human domination of the alien. The end result is a belief horrifying to almost all other cultures – the faithful are permitted to slaughter and consume non-human sophonts, to remind them that the spiritual cycle has humanity as spiritually superior and to release their souls – with that lesson learned – back into the natural cycle to ascend towards human again. (Not that anyone follows this rule, or even acknowledges it. Publicly.) But for some reason, the church refuses to change this rule, instead preferring to lean on public officials to hide any evidence of eating sophonts and downgrade the charges to mere murder instead of “cannibalism of a sophont”.

Kokeshi Cultural Notes

Some pertinent beliefs are listed here, especially when they might impact players.

Sumptuary laws, especially on Madina, are very serious business. The faithful might refuse to deal with characters who have an apparent social status lower than the expected wealth to own a ship (SOC A+), or who break other sumptuary laws (Admin, 9+, 1-6 hours to figure out an outfit or meal that does not break these laws for your particular social status and career). On Madina, the Imperium maintains a Class B Highport on the second moon, with it being very strongly suggested that independent owner-operators not go anywhere near the surface, as the sumptuary laws are based primarily around ownership of local assets (or being a multi-ship corporation, as that shows sufficient assets to be permitted ownership of a starship). The first thing they take is the ship. On the surface, the only extraterritorial starport is effectively a class C, with docking room for a combined 5,000dTons. The non-extraterritorial portion is Class B, and looking very nice, with room for over 150,000dTons.

Priests, and the wealthy, are forbidden to touch the spiritually unclean. This extends to not being in the same room as priests of other faiths, and the abjectly poor.

Like the other faiths of Silveter, motherhood is held to be an especially holy act. Pregnancy is the only exception to what is considered spiritually unclean, as the act of growing the body for another soul is to biologically emulate the creation of the universe, even when the mother is bearing a damned soul.

Prayer days are also mandatory rest days.

Animals and insects are considered to have souls, while plants and microscopic life do not. According to the official interpretations, the souls of insects and animals are in fact portions of souls torn apart for committing sins.

The dietary laws are mostly concerned with avoiding poisonous combinations of imported and native life, but a few also function as sumptuary laws; for example, it is forbidden to eat a common native plant – Yultin, a decent carbohydrate source that grows like a weed – without an expensive additive derived from a modified blue orchid, even though another common native plant can be cooked to provide the same compound.

The hallucinogen used in Communion is locally called Scarlos, or more commonly Scarlet Hair. It contains a semi-decent hallucinogen, with activation time from oral preparations starting in less than 30 seconds on average, lasting for up to 15 minutes. Comparisons between it and other common hallucinogens indicates dissociative memory retrieval and temporary modification similar to brain activity in both the commonly remembered dream state and the REM cycle. A professional hallucinogen reviewer once said “Mildly trippy, but more thoughtful than most, with a low chance of a bad trip. Quick activation, short duration, and easily retained body control makes it perfect for work or artistic use. Comedown is a pain though”. The plant itself is a low-lying perennial, easily mistaken for red-veined short grass, growing from a fungal system that exists in a symbiotic nitrate-fixing relationship with the root structure of the local Red Bamboo, and appears to have been given such a relationship as a cover for its importation during late-stage terraforming. As the common name suggests, the portion of the root structure harvested for the hallucinogenic compounds resembles fine strands of red thread or hair, and is sent through a relatively small number of processing steps. Exportation is extremely low, and primarily for off-world church gardens that have not started their own stock (or are forbidden importation of the plant).

Author’s Note: In the OTU, it is native to another world, imported by the terraforming crew. IMTU, it is botanically named Terra Claviceps Divinorum C3av-Silveter, one of the many descendents of a genetically engineered variant of the ergot fungus that produces the hallucinogen Salvinorin A (produced by the real life plant Salvia Divinorum). Actually tracing which specific variant was introduced to Silveter is difficult, as it bears gene markers from six different, but closely related, variants (D1-New Tokyo, G2-Veritas Ultima, Xv-Miller’s System, Ku1-Intelligible Screaming, Vb4-Foolish Glory, and Ma2-Drogo) while resembling a seventh (C3-Brand New New New York Junior).

General Culture Note: The matrilineal structure of Silvetri culture tends to push men into physically active and menial jobs, while academic, artistic, and leadership roles are dominated by women. The main effect is the extended family – daughters will move out, yet still near, to start their own household, while sons will stay home until married to provide their wages to their mother. Additionally, the stigma of illegitimacy is not based on the marital status of the parents (many wealthy women maintain a few ‘male mistresses’, referred to as padual, a gender-neutral term for the unmarried lover of a married woman. Vodual is for the unmarried lover of a married man), but on whether the mother has provided recognition to the father (an act that either places him in her household or requires payment to support the child)– the insulting term for those without a recognized father translates as “poor-child”, meaning their father wasn't economically valuable enough for the mother to add his finances to her income. For the Kokeshin, wealth plays a big part – wealthy women can get away with adding additional males, or sharing men between households, but poor women are expected to maintain, at most, one husband.

While the Kokeshin explicitly hold that the giving of a gift creates a debt, the common attitude is that gifting creates a bond between giver and receiver, one that is not settled like a debt.

Domidi Ilundoji

Formal Name: Domidi Ilundoji (doh-MEE-Dee ih-LOON-doh-Jee) [doˈmiˌdi ˌɪˈlun.doˌd͡ʒi]
Translation: Walkers of/Walking To (Domidi) the Many-fold Single Path (Ilundoji)
Linguistic Analysis: (Silvetri): Domidi (Do-) Of/To (Midi) Walking/Walker, origin (Mi) movement, (-di) suffix for action being performed by person, also used for person currently performing the action. Ilundoji (Ilun), single item of multiple forms/aspects, origin from contraction of lost phrase in one origin language, colloquial usage “Complex”, (Doji) path, origin (Do-) to/of (-Ji) suffix marking subject as a location.
Informal Name: Ilundoji
Adjectival and Demonym form: Ilundojin, commonly Dojin.
Age: ~2300 T-Years
Classification Tags: Aspected Polytheism, Semi-Statistical Reincarnation, Informal Semi-Structured, Charitable
Followers: 675,000 (Plus unknown hidden converts on Kokeshi-dominated worlds)
Planet of Origin: Silveter. Almost all followers live on Hasnava Doji (E554556-3 623), 15 parsecs away

Ilundoji is an unrecognized derivative faith of Kokeshi, officially a heretical group. While it bears a superficial resemblance to another Silveter faith, it is more accurately a “throwback” derivation, focusing on their view of what “pure” Kokeshi was. These differences make the parent church very hostile towards them – the rejection of the prosperity gospel, almost no sumptuary laws, rejection of human dominance, a non-karmic reincarnation cycle, and a much looser structure all makes Ilundoji very attractive to the poor. In the face of these differences, the one that had them declared officially heretical is very minor – the nature of the divine. The faith is still young, with a few first generation converts still alive and telling stories of the founder, Kamina Restoran; a young priest who decided that the ethics of her position required questioning the prosperity gospel and eventually the entire faith as she knew it. While normally this would be a simple rebellion easily quashed by the church, she was able to gain a large number of converts, including several wealthy families. This turned the split into a five year guerrilla preaching campaign that started with buying an astronavigation database off some free traders, using her funding to start a covert colonization project, and preaching to flash mobs to generate cover for it all. In the end, she died at the hands of a church sponsored mob, helping the last desperate converts past the starport extraterritoriality line, an incident that would have ended poorly for the Silvetrin government if the Rule of Man Navy hadn’t been passing through on patrol and liberty, giving them an excuse to take control of the situation and start a brief media war with the church. While the incident was officially resolved, the coverup generated to prevent a religious rebellion sits poorly on all sides, and the church still has a ban on any contact with them.

In Ilundoji, the divine force is nameless (more accurately, has a name that can only be spoken by the entire universe acting in harmony), both the universe and a separate entity. As any universe is massive and complex, the divine is split into multiple guiding spirits (in much the same way that a brain is split into multiple sections), which also includes souls as the least powerful of the spirits. The most powerful of these, the personifications of fundamental scientific forces, are classified as “Unspeakable”, a name that carries no moral judgment but rather an acceptance of the limitations of the human form (after all, how could a person speak the language of gravity or the weak nuclear force?). The next set are the impulses of life, the organizers of the materials created by the prior group and the maintainers of the natural cycle – birth, death, photosynthesis, etc. Following them are the “guiding spirits”of species and different types of life (every species has a collective spirit, with the number of souls – the lowest level of spirit – for that species dependent on their biological and neurological complexity – so bacteria as whole have perhaps one or two souls per planet guiding them through their brief lives, animals share a soul over a small number of individuals, while sophonts are complex enough that each has a single soul per body), followed by the impulses common to all sophonts, with sub-divisions for the natural behavioral tendencies of each sophont species, which sees the first Daravimar Karad (lit. “Order-opposing Spirit”), or “disharmonious spirits”, (in a “take that!” to Kokeshi, Gias is listed as the disharmonious spirit of greed), then the souls of creatures. Reincarnation is primarily random, but the spiritually powerful are said to have the ability to pick potentially interesting lives or ones where they think they can do some good, with the end goal of spreading life and harmony so the universe has the power to create another of itself.

With that end goal in mind, the Ilundojin have very minimal issues with other societies and religions, holding that as long as the end result is a just and harmonious society then it is good. As reincarnation is essentially random, it is the duty of sophonts to help others, aiming to create a better tomorrow for the group as a whole with minimal disruptions to the natural cycle. Their rules are minimal, being mostly the standard social contract, an set of ethical guidelines, and a primarily oral collection of common superstitions (examples: dark red is said to be the most pleasing color to the spirit that governs jump travel, clear gems are the baseline decoration for any shrine to the spirit of light). The most visible superstition (taken from a suppressed folk tradition on Silveter) is the Memory Gem (most often colored glass blessed by a priest or family elder, but natural semi-precious gems have also been used), a necklace given shortly after birth (and usually designed in a prophetic haze of asceticism and fasting) that is believed to carry the memories of the life it was worn in. These gems, alongside a name plate, serve as the gravestones of the dead as their bodies are put through a natural burial/composting practice – a funeral rite responding to the relatively poor soil of their new world. The more suspicious and conspiracy minded outsiders wonder if these gems are actually hidden psionic amplifiers, but such an example would almost certainly be one of a kind.

Much like Kokeshi, the eating of meat is allowed, but for different reasons; humans, and other sophonts, live in the natural cycle, which is spiritually pure. If a species requires protein in their diet, then it is unnatural to demand they not eat it. For this reason, meat animals are either slaughtered by hand or hunted with primitive weapons. Imported advanced weaponry is allowable for self-defense, but proactive hunting of dangerous species is not allowed.

The liturgy is very minimal, yet very complex. It consists entirely of lists of prayers and ritual actions for each known spirit, kept by the priesthood and created by a modification of the Kokeshi Communion rite – rather than it being selection by lot, communion is undertaken when an answer to a question is sought, usually finding and translating prayers, rituals, and other pleasing acts. The populace is not required to follow the liturgy (although lists are maintained of “common” prayers and rituals that don’t impede too much on the lives of the faithful – as Kamina once said “proper action takes precedence over piety”). Only priests, or dedicated lay followers, are required to try and follow the liturgy, with group worship activities taking place once every few weeks. These worship activities bear more resemblance to small festivals than spiritually serious rituals – group activities and games, food vendors, some light partying, an actual ritual and group prayer of thanks to the spirit being celebrated on that day, all with the end goal of creating a small, temporary space for the spirit to come down and join the community for a day.

The priesthood is rather informal and open, with minimal structure. Priests are self-selecting, trained by older priests, given some time to get their feet under them, and then let loose in the world (this entire process can be represented as a one term career that gives a few skills; perhaps Theology (Ilundoji) 1, Instruction 1, and some skill at handsewing (see below), giving no benefits other than Cr1000 as starting funds. Other second careers are encouraged among young priests). The structure tying the priesthood together is also informal, with the eldest priest of a community (or the person they choose) meeting in councils made up of other local communities, with messages passed between councils and occasionally a higher level of council being formed to solve a particular problem. Permanent high level councils are rare and right now, only two exist; one maintains the imported communication infrastructure running their electronic mail server (and aggressively moderated message board), while the other is their internal judiciary, which is rarely called upon now that the secular government has been set up – priests who break laws are charged as ordinary citizens, with no special treatment due to their religious position.

The priesthood was originally the government of Hasnava Doji, but have removed themselves from power. The world is run as a series of direct democracies, with every 1000 citizens forming a local council and their collective votes (and proposals) being sent upwards by representatives until an odd-numbered council of less than 22 people is formed. As usual, communications between settlements is done over an imported communications infrastructure, with runners to communities not yet tied in.

Regarding other sophonts, Ilundoji explicitly rejects the Kokeshi viewpoint – humans are not divinely ordained to rule other species, all sophonts are expressions of the divine (to say that the universe finds a form that is just one type within its internal structure to be the most holy is sheer madness, much like a human saying that one particular species of gut bacteria is the most like them).

Economically, they prefer a mutalistic gift-economy – the individual works for the community, the community provides resources. Resource exchange between communities is typically barter, but they also use the Imperial Credit. In larger communities, this breaks down to each household being considered a sub-community, which leads to either diversification of efforts or specialization to avoid competition and duplication of work. Work performed above what the community requires will actually give those excess resources or goods to the worker, who can then distribute them as they wish (but for many, it goes to the community). Gifts are a common form of excess output, providing most of the personal property of citizens, with their manufacture and exchange forming a non-monetary economy.

Ilundoji Cultural Notes

Ilundoji polyandry is a continuation of the Silventrin matrilineal system. Most notably, it is expected of young women to maintain multiple partners before selecting one primary to start their household with, and perhaps a few others. It originated with a severe gender imbalance among early converts – women, typically placed in positions of power and importance, had less dissatisfaction with the Kokeshi faith, leading to a larger number of male converts than female. Ironically, this is the same situation that lead to the creation of Silvetrin matrilineality due to more male workers than female on the original terraforming crews.

Officially, there are no sumptuary laws among the Ilundojin. However, there are unofficially enforced community expectations – most of which have to do with the amount of effort put into the item and the degree of usage. It is expected for clothing made with rare or hard to produce materials or dyes to be considered common cloths among the community, mostly being reserved for special occasions (many have a variety of “birthday suits”, clothes made specifically out of rare materials, used by youth as their clothes for birthday celebrations). Similarly, hard to produce items are also owned by the community instead of a single individual. The exception is gifts – items produced or obtained as a gift for a person are held as their personal property.

Priests are expected to make their own clothes, preferably by hand. This has lead to a grand tradition of very personalized embroidery designs. Over time, a few designs have gained religious or social meanings, with sociologists expecting a semi-formal design language to emerge within 3-4 centuries.