Mortal hands ripping into divine flesh.
Green ichor bedabbled against warm bodies, painting them like savages.
And the power.. it was a rush unlike any other.
No longer did nature bend us to its whims.
We bent it to ours.”
- A roughly translated Rh’lyr passage, uncovered in a cave by an Amyrian research team.
At face value, Te’fil Cultism is often seen as a vile and godless religion. Its followers are often painted as barbaric savages from the forests who kill anything in sight, especially adherents to other religions. This stigma has been perpetrated by the Amyrians for centuries. It’s led to thousands of witch hunts. Of course, this resulted in cultists leading a life of secrecy and fear. Despite the sheer quantity of propaganda that has been layered onto the cultists for centuries, it is far from the full truth.
The faith was born the night Sephyrr was slain and the mortal Te’fil rose to divinity. Spreading like wildfire across the world, it ensnared many of the inhabitants of Alm. Circles of Te’fil emerged and beliefs were formed. Generations passed until it became the mystic and nature-tied religion it is today.
Te’fil cultists are organized into Circles, with a minimum of three members and no upper limit. They operate inside vast forests and usually away from prying eyes. Upon joining a Circle, or coming of age if born into one, members are given a tattoo of a symbol unique to their group. It signifies that their lifestyle is a commitment, and if they want to abandon it, they’ll have to remove the mark (usually done through self-mutilation).
The structure of Circles are roughly democratic. Everyone has equal weight behind their voice. They are allowed to freely express their opinions in thoughtful conversations with peers. Even make suggestions that are discussed and voted on if it should pass. The only exception to this is the leader of the Circle, frequently called The High Priest(ess) or The Sacred Sage. They were once members who have risen through the ranks, and through various factors, have become a strong authority figure within the Circle. Their word is final and respected.
Often they will give themselves a name to separate themselves from others. The nomenclature of Circles is typically built on their location or purpose. For example, a Circle that exists on the Palecoast may be called “The Circle of Fae.”
Beliefs are written in a so-called Book of Impetus, or Grimoire of Craft. These are written by leaders of a Circle, taking inspiration from the baseline beliefs created by the first Te’fil Cultists. Those original groundworks are the following:
- The genesis of Sephyrran, which are seen as closer to Te’fil than any other race, is shrouded in mystery. What stays consistent with most stories is that they were once subjects to Sephyrr’s cruelty, made to accomplish tiring feats of labor with no reward, until Te’fil came and led her people into a revolt against the deity. The series of events that happened after is what frequently changes between retellings. Some say they brutally slaughtered Sephyrr, and others say they tricked them into their own demise. What actually happened is unknown and a lot of cultists today try to elucidate the most accurate story, but none of them are close.
- Life after death is taken literally. It’s believed that once dying, reincarnation occurs. Souls pass through the Garden of Te’fil, and then will join a congregation of souls within a Sephyrran. Not truly living again, but designated to guide the aforementioned Rhyloryn with the knowledge they’ve accumulated.
- Love is sacred to Te’fil Cutlists, and as such, all forms of it between adults are considered valid. This comes with an open minded philosophy which preaches the ideals of respecting and accepting others as they are, in order to eventually attempt to bring them into a Circle. The way non-believers are seen and converted entirely depends on the Circle’s interpretations of Te’fil's divinity, of which there are many. The three most popular interpretations are:
- Te’fil is the only true divine being, because they ascended to godhood. They earned the privilege of divinity. All other deities are false and unworthy. She is omniaware and omnipresent and watches over all her Children.
- Te’fil is one of many divine beings and like the former, omniaware and omnipresent. Other deities worth and existence is acknowledged, along with a mutual respect. Though they do not worship these deities and have no room for them.
- Te’fil is the only worthy divine deity, but they are not everywhere all at once. They travel through nature with the seasons and come when their Children call for protection, or guidance.
- There is a singular kind of monster, which creates dread in Te’fil Cultists, that’s written about consistently across multiple Circles. Some deny its existence, others lay out lilac flowers to drive it away. They are called the Mormagani, bloodthirsty monsters that hunt down and kill Te’fil Cultists. How they came to be is up for interpretation. The largely believed myth is that with Sephyrr’s dying breath, filled with malice and an urge for revenge, created the Mormagani to spawn from their corpse exactly three days after they died.
Only one deity is worshipped by Te’fil Cultists, and that is Te’fil. While the explanation for her divinity varies from Circle to Circle, her physical description is widely the same. It’s said directly after Te’fil’s ascension to godhood, she changed physically. The most prominent is the presence of three faces, each with its own name, based on the three magic schools Te’fil mastered. The Artificist, The Occultist, and The Primalist. Each face has its own personality, described below:
The Artificer: Calculative, logic-based, innovator. Called upon for guidance in situations that require clear-cut decision making. Examples: building a home or how to deal with an approaching calamity.
The Occultist: Researcher obsessed with the arcane and otherworldly. They are prayed to by aspiring mages, who wish for better results when attempting cantrips. Additionally, they may be called by scholars, who cannot seem to crack an ancient grimoire of magickal secrets.
The Primalist: Nature-lover and self-proclaimed guardian of wildlife. They are often given offerings for a bountiful harvest, or sacrifices to protect a Circle against nature’s cruelty.
Each face is said to have control at a certain time. At sunrise and throughout the morning, The Artificer has the reins, as the best ideas come during the early morning. In the evening. At dusk, The Occulist is in charge, because as the sky darkens, that’s when the arcane elements of the world awaken. After sunset and all throughout the night, The Primalist is in control, s when darkness envelops the world, nature is truly alive.
Another figure is popular within Te’fil Cultism -- not a deity, more so a prophet figure -- is a Sacred Sage, whose real name was never brought to light, with excellent divining abilities, able to dig their fingers within the soil and foretell what was to come. They were usually minor predictions, like who would die soon, or who would fall in love with another. This all changed one fateful night - the exact year and date unknown, but scholars theorize it was days before The Thousand Year Midnight.
When the prophet went to the dirt to practice their divination, they saw three major catastrophic events play within their mindscape. Some dismiss these doomsday foretellings, believe in them wholeheartedly, or are stuck in this neutral zone between. The predictions were:
“The Mormagani will kill all the faithful, lest one of virtuous heart and pure body slays them all with a single spell.”
“The worshippers of the Divine Lady will inherit Alm if not driven out of existence.”
“Sephyrr will rise again, and make an attempt on Te’fil’s life to regain their divinity.”
The Days of Roses, commonly known as a wedding, is what Circles call the union of two partners, and the following days after that. What precedes the actual holiday is a Grand Hunt. The combat-capable will go out into their forests and capture beasts for after the wedding. Proceeding that, the leader of the Circle will marry the lovers in an alcove. Then the festivities begin. In a campsite each member will sacrifice one of the animals detained prior, and bathe in it’s blood. They’ll dance for hours on end, partaking in various herbal hallucinogens, until their bodies physically collapse. This will continue for two days exactly, and then they’ll go back to their normal routines as if they hadn’t been indulging in mass-scale hedonism.
The last two weeks of December are called The Days of Cleansing. Te’fil Cultists will eat only red foods and drink only red liquids, with the exception of water. This is done to prepare their bodies for the next year, and to get rid of any impurity of the soul so they can start fresh.
Next, The Baptism of Blood and Petals is a commonly used initiation ceremony for converts. These people are often chosen from a nearby community.The requirements for the initiates depend on the cultists’ beliefs and who they want. Inside a large hole big enough to fit ten grown adults, members fill it with both their own blood, as well as the blood of various animals. They scatter protea flower petals on the surface of the pool. The initiates are submerged one by one inside the blood bath by the one who brought them to the Circle. When they arise they are given the tattoo of the group.
A similar ceremony to the Baptism of Blood and Petals is done for born-in members, as a sort of coming of age ritual. Typically called The Baptism of Sticks and Ash, it occurs the night following the individual's eighteenth birthday. They are covered in the ashes of flora burned, to represent the destruction. Then they walked down an aisle, and battered with sticks of all kinds. This is so they can endure the pain Te’fil Cultists’ ancestors had to. If they make it through without falling, they are considered adults. If not, they are banished. Many children of Circles fear the day of their Baptism.
When a Circle moves from one land to another, a ritual is done to mark a new forest as theirs. A goblet is tightly woven from leaves and twigs. Poured inside is a vial of each cultists’ blood. It’s given to the leader soon after, and what they do with it varies from Circle to Circle. Some simply pour into the ground. Others use it to paint the trees with their symbol.
June Twelfth is called The Most Sacred Day, and there is a good reason for such. It’s called this because it’s believed to be the day Te’fil slayed Sephyrr and became a goddess. During this holiday, it’s much similar to the aftermath of a wedding. Animals are sacrificed and dancing occurs under moonlight. They sing praises of their goddess. Some even take this day, when in desperate times, to try and communicate with Te’fil for guidance and strength. There are no known records of these attempts having been successful.
Te’fil Cultism’s genesis is in the Wilderlands, where the first practitioners came to be. However, others argue it started in The Palecoast. Naturally, this creates a divide between believers, although not much of a schism because the two areas are so close together, and the fact remains that it’s entirely possible that simultaneously Te’fil Cultism began on both land masses.
Because it’s so widespread, the religion is practiced virtually everywhere. All nations, countries and etcetera have small pockets of Te’fil Cultists amongst their people. In Pallomaire and other Amyrian Empire controlled regions, Te’fil Cultism is outlawed. Those who are caught practicing will be immediately executed as vile heretics. The same stands true for the Ikyrian Solacracy and the Dwarvish nation of Highkeep. In sharp contrast, there are places like The Faecourt, where cultists are allowed to openly practice their religion without fear of prosecution.
- Every Circle around the Alm has their own interpretation and vision of how the Garden of Te’fil looks like. None of them are actually entirely accurate, but a rare few become so enticed by the visions that they have conjured up that they actually send several members to go investigate rumored locations of the Garden. Suspiciously, those aforementioned Circles will often vanish into thin air after a few years.
- In some groups with only Sephyrran members, leaders can be challenged for their position in duels to the death. There have been reports of the losing party feeling weaker after resurrection, and the winner feeling invigorated and stronger than ever before, as if a vitality exchange occurred during the fight.
- Recently there have been rumors that one of the three predictions made by The Prophet will come to fruition in the near future. These rumors are almost universally considered to be hearsay.
Symbols: Mystic geometric shapes, that vary from circle to circle in meaning, oftentimes made up of flora and plantlife. The symbol that represents the religion as a whole is a skull with flowers for eyes, encased inside a triangle that each point had a runic symbol for the following magics; Occultism, Primal, and Artifice.
Object of Worship: Te’fil and Nature
Affiliation: The Wilderlands, Sephyrran, and large groups of Faefolke on the Palecoast.