This cult, known locally as the “Sky God Religion” (Suyanu Kanunu Šyakxu), is practiced by the Lyŕgedat of Ninšon. It is an all-encompassing system of belief that includes medicine, religion, a cult of nature, and a cult of ancestor worship that is intricately tied to all other aspects of social life and to the tribal organization of their society. It is characterized by shamanism, animism, totemism, poly- and monotheism and ancestor worship. Central to the system were the activities of male and female intercessors between the human world and the spirit world, shamans (su) and shamanesses (nutu). They are not the only ones to communicate with the spirit world: nobles and tribe leaders also perform spiritual functions, as do commoners, though the hierarchy of Lyŕgedat tribe-based society was reflected in the manner of worship as well.
Theologians see similarities with the Ouranosist cult of the Dasěa, though how they came about is unknown as there are no known contacts between the two peoples before modern times.
This cult is practiced almost exclusively by the Lyŕgedat and is found wherever they are found.
They recognize two supreme deities, the sky (Suya), and the earth (Quxya) and they view their existence as sustained by them. Heaven, earth, spirits of nature and ancestors provide for every need and protect all people.
In addition, they recognize innumerable spirits, greater and lesser, as well as a number of deities, though the line between spirit and deities is indistinct at best. The have complex and confusing spiritual hierarchy. The highest group in the pantheon beneath Suya and Quxya consists of 99 Ťuntau or "divinities" (55 of them benevolent or "white" and 44 terrifying or "black"), 77 Hahauxa or "mothers", besides others. The Ťuntau are called upon only by leaders and great shamans and are common to all the tribes. After these, three groups of ancestral spirits dominate. The Šyaťun or "Lord-Spirits" are the souls of tribe leaders to whom any member of a tribe can appeal for physical or spiritual help. The Huguťa Ku or “Protector-Spirits” include the souls of great shamans and shamanesses. The Yusugu or “Guardian-Spirits” are made up of the souls of lesser shamans and shamanesses and are associated with a specific locality (including mountains, rivers, etc.) in the tribe's territory.
To complicate matters, there is a further division among the 99 Ťuntau: 44 are from the "eastern side", 55 from the "western side", and there are three more, from the "northern side", making a total of 102. And among the eastern and western group, there is a division in how the Ťuntau are supplicated: in both group, the greatest multiple of 10 (40 in the east, 50 in the west) are invoked through prayer, the rest (4 in the east, 5 in the west) through sacrifice.
There are also a large number of further divisions—the Ťuntau are made up of groups including the gods of the four corners, five wind gods, five gods of the entrance and five of the door, five of the horizontal, et cetera. Scholars have found a complete enumeration and description of the 99 to be impossible, and that a full list of names mentioned adds up to more than 99, and that local differences occur due to different local gods being accepted.
The difference between great, white and small, black (in shamans, Ťuntau, etc.) is also formative in a class division of three further groups of spirits, made up of "spirits who were not introduced by shamanist rites into the communion of ancestral spirits" but who could nonetheless be called upon for help—they are called "'the three accepting the supplications' (San Yakuya)". The whites were of the nobles of the tribe, the blacks of the commoners, and a third category consisted of "the evil spirits of the slaves and non-Yanašun". White shamans can only venerate white spirits (and if they call upon black spirits they "lose their right in venerating and calling the white spirits"), black shamans can only invoke black spirits (and are too terrified to call upon white spirits since the black spirits would punish them). Black or white was assigned to spirits according to social status, and to shamans according to the capacity and assignment of their ancestral spirit or spirit of the shaman's descent line.
Worship takes place at kťyaka which are sacrificial altars of the shape of a mound of stones with sticks in it. Every kťyaka (which simply means "heap") is thought of as the representation of a god, though not always a specific one. There are kťyaka dedicated to heavenly gods, mountain gods, other gods of nature, and also to gods of Yanašun lineages and agglomerations.
The kťyaka for worship of ancestral gods can be private shrines of an extended family or kin; otherwise they are common to villages (dedicated to the god of a village), banners, or hordes. Sacrifices to the kťyaka are made offering slaughtered animals, joss sticks, and libations.
In the lands of the Suťušun, the kťyaka are not simple piles of stone, but are actual temples with elaborate structures erected around the kťyaka itself, which is often carved and adorned with precious materials.
In addition to the simple offerings, kťyaka are the site for special worship ceremonies. Worshippers place a tree branch or stick in the kťyaka and tie a ceremonial blue silk scarf symbolic of the open sky to the branch. They then light a fire and make food offerings, followed by a ceremonial dance and prayers (worshippers sitting at the northwest side of the kťyaka), and a feast with the food left over from the offering.
When travelling, it is custom to stop and circle a kťyaka three times in clockwise direction, in order to have a safer journey. Usually, rocks are picked up from the ground and added to the pile. Also, one may leave offerings in the form of sweets, money, milk, or alcohol. If one is in a hurry while travelling and does not have time to stop at a kťyaka, bellowing while passing by the kťyaka will suffice.
In addition to all this, there is also a cult surrounding the "Deer Stones", which are ancient megaliths carved with symbols erected by their Bronze Age ancestors in the 2nd millennium. The name comes from their carved depictions of flying deer. Nobody now knows why they were erected or what the significance of the carvings is, but they are commonly believed to be magical focuses of great power and so are often sought out by shaman seeking to increase the potency of their rituals.
This cult has no real sects, though each clan and tribe have certain spirits unique to that clan or tribe.
This sect has a very loose structure that somewhat mirrors the political structure of the Lyŕgedat, as they are all considered to be members of a single tribe.
Since each tribe has its own collection of spirits, theoretically each tribe can be considered it’s own variant of this cult
Relations with Other Cults
Dualists tend to be unconcerned with other cults, seeing them simply as having mistaken some minor spirit for a deity.
Centre: This cult has no specific centre, but certain kťyaka are considered to be holier, and therefore more powerful than others
Liturgical Language: Rituals are carried out in Yunašunyan, an archaic form of the Yunašunik languages.
Approximate # of Worshippers: 3,894,000.
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