Romulan Religion

From IRW Aylhr

What do Rihannsu believe? The answers are as varied as the people themselves. There is no one Rihannsu religion or philosophy. However, there are a few generalities.

Religion is a highly-personal matter. There are few organized or public religions and there has never been a state-sponsored religion, simply because it would not occur to most Rihannsu. Having the government dictate one's religion would be like having the government sanction one's favorite color. What would be the point?

In contrast to this lack of organized religion, religious practices permeate Rihannsu daily life. Traditional ceremonies and governmental and military events typically involve dedications or vows to some deity, power, or potentiality. Starting at an early age, children learn several different faiths, not in the name of cultural diversity, but simply as something every Rihanha should know.

The Elements

Air, Water, Fire and Earth. These a the four arch-elements that many Rihannsu identify themselves with. The Identification can be from the physical to the metaphysical. Water can be compared to wine, one of its physical forms, but it can also be compared to qualities of calm reason, of birth, or of death.

Some symbols and meanings of the Elements:

  • Water: the color blue, Wine, Blood, any drink, flowing water, birth, death, tears, purity, eternity
  • Air: the color yellow, Name Flag, any flying bird, starship, wind, weather, the mind, freedom, unpredictability
  • Fire: the color red, Star, nova, plasma fire, light, lightning, explosion, volcano, singularity, the soul, passion, strength.
  • Earth: the color green, grass, soil, stone, tree, mountain, valley, building, the physical body, the family, endurance, renewal.

Elements Teaching Poems

Four Elements are there.

In Star's heart and heart's desire
Here burns Fire--

Leaping, dancing flames give warmth, give light
Entice us -- but venture not too close,
For Fire gives death, too, to we who live,
And those who play with Fire are always burned.
Never truly tame, unstoppable once loosed,
Wildfires and atom bombs, lightening and supernovae
Destroy. But Fire also builds;
Sunfire, Starfire, life fire in our nerves,
And the fire in our hearts,
Our passions: Love, Joy, Loyalty,
Treachery, Hatred, Despair all feed our power.
Its blaze consumes, searing away
All pretense, leaving truth amidst the ashes.
In crises, it is our hidden strength,
Giving all, unambivalent, holding nothing back.
In brilliance blinds, an inferno,
And in one moment of glory
Fire burns hot
And burns out.

Reckless and Wild, without a care
Here blows Air--

Capricious winds control the sky,
Bring storms and clear skies, heat, and cold,
Bring flood and drought - we know not why,
Nor can predict Air's next direction.
Change its essence, chaos its ally,
For Air cannot be captured, confined, controlled,
But breaks all bonds, and flies off free
Leaving behind we who dare not follow,
Bound by rules of life and law
Resisting that which cannot be -
Though Air gives us our breath, our very life,
Our words, our songs, our soaring, daring flight
Into the unknown - the unknowable.
But it promises nothing and those who jump blind
Off a precipice may gall instead of soar.
Air knows no past, nor future,
But in the ever-changing now
Air blows wild
And blows free.

In secret depths, Aekhwinarrae's daughter
Here flows Water--

The river runs cold, clean, and clear,
Down to the sea, following this path
For all Eternity - aye, Water goes on
As it always has, indifferent to the living.
We concern it not. But still, it is
The Water of Life, for the ocean, primeval, pristine,
Our common birthplace nourishes us still.
And Water's deep calm reason calls seduces
To submerge ourselves wholly in its pure abstract beauty,
Oblivious, as Water, to all else.
But beware - though 'tis indeed a useful tool
Remember now that reason is indifferent
And Water makes tears, too.
While we are mortal, we cannot walk on Water;
We drown. And Water, caring not
What we may try, continues, ceaseless,
Doing Tome's work
Water flows pure
And flows on.

Eternal rock to life gives birth
Here stands Earth--

Mountains rise to pierce the sky.
The horizon's rulers, challenged but briefly,
Never defeated. Earth has risen so
Ere any memory, and still shall rise
When all else has passed, faded, and gone.
Beneath our feet, above our heads,
In soil or diamonds, still, it is there.
Earth surrounds us always, our cradle and grave,
Dust to dust -- though lives may end
Life is renewed, through Earth's agency.
Thus we endure, through fire, flood, and storm,
Through fear and despair, Earth remains strong.
Creatures of clay, we may be molded, or killed -
But not destroyed. Earth endures unchanged,
Through all such attacks, strengthened by trials.
Giver of life, the foundation of the world
Our one sure support
Earth stands firm
And stands ever.

Variations on the Elements

Some Rihannsu religion is similar to the practice of Wicca or Druidism. They have no particular Gods or Goddesses. Rihannsu religion instead centers around 5 elements, Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Space, and the Archelement, which oversees all. In connection with this, the Rihannsu celebrate festivals to honor these elements. Each element has a festival devoted to it, with one culminating festival to the Archelement. Some of these festivals likely date back to the pre-Reformation era on Vulcan as do a few other Rihannsu practices in the area of religion. Though Rihannsu do not preserve 'katras' as the Vulcans do, many religious ceremonies retain a distinctive Vulcan flavor.

Surprisingly, there are priests and priestesses of various sects in large numbers. Each element has, in theory, a single sect devoted to it (although in reality, many sects exist for each, some competing at cross purposes. But such is the way of the Rihannsu). There is no central leader to the sects, only a five-person Key'. The Key is a group of High Priests and Priestesses (one from each of the primary sects of each element) who hold the sects together and advise the Praetoriate directly when asked. As already mentioned, there are 5 elements -- Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and Space. Strangely, there is no sect for the ArchElement, although all sects join together to worship and celebrate it equally. Each of the sects has three scrolls as its basis.

These scrolls govern the daily life of the Elementals and the populace. S'Task and his followers created these scrolls and each tells of tales or legends for easy understanding without misunderstanding the true meaning. Each scroll stands for Mind, Heart, and Soul. Together they are the key to the understanding of the ArchElement. There are many, many rituals, ceremonies, prayers, songs, poems, stories, tales, legends, and sonnets for respect and empowerment.

Sentient Universe

Many Rihannsu consider the Universe itself to have borderline sentience, much as a favored pet. It craves attention and responds to such (or the lack of it) with affection (or annoyance). They further believe that the existence of a 'thing' gives it the right of nobility -- to be honored and appreciated; to be named, and hence to be able to respond to that name.

The Rihannsu language is therefore rich with phrases that acknowledge the sentience of the Universe such as: "Oh Elements, avert it!", "What in the Element's name?", "Elements be thanked!", "Oh Fire & Air & Earth!", "Powers and Elements!", "Elements granting" and so forth.

Origins of Rihannsu Beliefs

Why do so many Rihannsu follow, in one form or another, the faith of the Elements? Even under the most repressive of governments, Element-worship (or any other belief) has never been mandated, or even officially encouraged as such. Freedom of religion is not thought of as a right -- it is a fundamental assumption that is rarely if ever, questioned. Yet, though plenty of other sects have their share of followers, the majority of Rihannsu still worship the Quatrad. On Earth, under far more restrictive conditions, hundreds of religions have flourished. Why are the planets of the Empire, and especially the Homeworlds, so different?

Part of the answer lies in Rihannsu attitudes towards duty and responsibility, which are rooted in mnhei'sahe. Though one is free, in theory, to believe whatever one wishes, a religion that conflicts with the law or with one's duty is difficult to follow. If mnhei'sahe compels you to abandon your duty for the tenets of your belief, it also compels you to accept the consequences of shame, punishment, or ostracism. Most Rihannsu thus follow some form of Element-worship, because its tenets generally match those of the law -- though there have been notable exceptions, particularly in the past century or so.

Belief systems that conflict with the law, science, or other seemingly objective truths are another matter. Such religions are much rarer among Rihannsu than on Earth, where they were long dominant. The reasons for this are rooted in history, though differences in human and Vulcanoid psychologies are also a factor.

When the Travelers (the future Rihannsu) left Vulcan, they were determined to make a fresh start. They knew that if they took all their culture with them, their new world would simply be a second Vulcan, their ending no better than their beginning. So they chose carefully what knowledge, beliefs, and ideas to keep, and swore to forget the rest, letting their children grow up free of Vulcan's self-destructive taint. Among the things left behind were most of the planet's six hundred religions. They were not, of course, forgotten completely, and the influence of many Vulcan beliefs can still be found in present-day Rihannsu. But by and large, this symbolic book-burning succeeded. Old habits were not easy to break, but few Travelers consciously followed any Vulcan religion.

Belief in the Elements developed gradually during the Journey. It was the first purely Rihannsu religion -- though there had been Vulcan religions which worshipped the names of the Elements, in substance and detail they were utterly unlike the new belief. It would have made very little sense for a people entirely dependent upon technology -- whose lives daily rested on an intimate knowledge of their ships' workings and of the hazards of space -- to develop a religion that contradicted or questioned scientific fact. Children who had known nothing but space all their lives, students daily learning the intricacies of astrophysics, would not have accepted myths of turtles supporting the universe or worlds created with a thought. And they had little need (or so they thought) for supernatural explanations of the Universe. What was created, then, was less a religion in the Terran sense than a philosophy or a worldview. It was not so much about explaining 'what is' as much as about discussing what should be, and what could be done to help things be more as they should. By the end of the Journey, this basic philosophy was accepted by nearly all Travelers.

Other religions developed, but they generally shared the essential characteristics of the first. Until contact with aliens, supernatural mythology was almost nonexistent. After contact, the expansionist phase of Rihannsu history began, and with it came some reversions to the old ways. Isolated colony worlds with low levels of technology developed their own beliefs. Some Rihannsu adopted alien religions, and even Element-worship was profoundly influenced by contact.

But the fundamental philosophy developed on the Journey is still held by the vast majority of the Rihannsu. The only major recent disagreement over religion deals with the adoption of Vulcan practices (i.e. Reunification), and the objection there is made is not to their content, but out of fear that the Vulcans are attempting to sublimate Romulan culture into their own. The Rihannsu fight over many things, but religion is not one of them. The Homeworlds have never seen a religious war.