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The Cults of Deimos and Phobos:
A Treatise on the Endemic Religions of the Western Dioscurian Region of the Planet Mars and the Origins of Said Religions
Presented by Dr. Roger Hammersmith Usher, Ph.D.
To the Royal Geographic Society
On the 9th day of November in the Year of Our Lord, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Eighty-Six
As Reported by Samuel Noyce
"And in the day of her tribulation the Mother delivered. And thus were two sons born but one was their body. The first to breech was fair and full of light. The second was dark and full of power. The second grabbed after the first, and thus from their birth was the struggle born. Thus was the Mother delivered and she had much joy to behold the fruit of her labors, but was much troubled by the conflict that crowded around them like Gashants to a watering hole."
-Excerpt from a partial translation of the Book of the Mother, Chapter 3
"Shortly after the time of the void, twin boys were born to the Mother Mars. She named one [Deimos] because he was the first-born and his future was shown to be one full of life and the nurturing of living things. The other was named [Phobos] because his future showed that he would forever live in the shadow of his brother and deal with things of the shadow. His destiny was to overcome the life-bringer and to be overcome by him in turn."
-Excerpt from carved panel in Prince Rhuumbarrdaar IVís tomb
(Translated by Umbran Archaeological Expedition of 1884)
In Martian mythology, Deimos and Phobos are twin brothers. They were born to the Martian Mother Goddess during her last days. Due to the strain placed upon her, her twin boys were malformed upon birth, their bodies fused together. Although legends recount the eventual separation of the twins and their adventures as they sought a cure for their mother throughout Mars, they were always linked on a metaphysical plane and some legends even refer to a cord that linked the two physically. The universal drought that followed the gradual drying up of the canals is reflected in the religious beliefs of the people by the death of the Martian Mother. Legend states that on her deathbed she gave one last piece of advice to her sons, how to revive her. This request for assistance is the basis of the two religions that dominate in the region. Each has their own holy records that proclaim their mission to the Mother Goddesses. Each denounces the other as heretical and evil though having a goodly portion of the truth. The history of the region is replete with their struggles and clashes. Though currently the two respective cults have small devout followings, at one time they held almost tyrannical sway over large parts of the Western Dioscurian region. Even today most of the colloquialisms, mannerisms, and habits of even the non-religious is dominated by the common elements of the religions. In politics, strongly religious leaders have often held sway. Although the current culture seems to place the highest value on profit and the trade of spice, there is still exists the small sayings of religion in the everyday lives of the people and their business transactions.
Although the Cult of Deimos is relatively peaceful, much like the Canal Priests, the Cult of Phobos is much more bloody and violent. Strangely enough, the two cults seem to be linked together much like the twins. Where one cult exists, the other soon follows. Resurgence in the worship of Deimos in the Umbran region has been linked to the abnormally wet flux season. As the season continues, more followers of Deimos come to the canals to ready the sacrificial water and to prepare to watch the far-away moon during 3-day fast. Recent reports from my contacts in Umbra report that the cult of Phobos has also experienced a recent increase in membership. This could possibly be due to the rumor that a force of Ground Cleansers from outside the city-state of Umbra are moving in to disrupt the flow of spice and remove the "Red Menace" from among their brethren. Rumor also has it that all captives of the Ground Cleansers will be turned over to the Phobites to appease their God for the incursions of the Red men and his soulless lackeys in the government of Umbra.
The Cult of Deimos
"And the Mother lay down and her life was surrendered. But a last request escaped her lips as she lay to pass the veil that separates all life that has passed from those that have not. And she said unto her sons, "This last thing I require of you if you would prove yourselves gallant and able, restore me. I go now to sleep, but I shall re-awaken if you complete this request. Restore my body by cleansing and repairing it. Make my life waters to flow more freely and clearly. Take up the obstructions that hinder its movement through this sphere." And with that she closed her eyes and vanished from before them. And the great Deimos trembled and cried whilst his brother grew enraged. "I shall do what thou hast spoken," they said in unison, but it was Deimos who spoke truest and surest."
-Excerpt from a partial translation of the Book of Deimos, Chapter 313 (The Pledge)
According to the book of Deimos, the Motherís last request was that the twins restore her arteries and veins by cleaning them and allowing her blood to flow more freely. The Deimites interpret this to mean that the water flowing through the canals is the literal blood of the Mother. They believe that only through the proper use of this lifeblood and the maintenance of the pathways that carry it will the Mother ever return to her former glory and shower her followers with love. Following this charge and its interpretation, the Deimites hold water itself to be most holy and should be used with care and reverence, avoiding waste and spillage whenever possible. They see the spice as a last gift of the Mother to help her little ones to fund the often-expensive restoration of canals and channels to all of Mars. The shaman who claimed to have been visited by Deimos after ingesting the spice root for the first time was Breexxtt. Breexxtt, also called the First Follower of Deimos, wrote that the spice should not be sold, but traded and given away so that other less enlightened souls could feel the spirit of Deimos and then join in the cause. The Deimites as a whole are almost pacifistic, but there are members who will defend themselves and even begin physical confrontations. There are no written laws that prohibit them from engaging in violence, but many view violence as the spirit of Phobos and so restrain themselves whenever possible.
Some of the more differentiating beliefs of the Cult of Deimos have to do with their reverence for water. As a sacrifice, they pour an urn of water into the canal nearest to their home at the beginning of the Flux season. They then begin a Flux fast. During the 3-day fast, they sit and meditate, watching Deimos wane to nothing and then wax from the brink of destruction as his brother Phobos is overcome in the celestial battle. Deimites also have an almost fanatical belief that the canals must be kept open and running during these times, and should not be polluted with boats, barges and other flotsam. This is the one time when the Deimites could become dangerous and attack anyone with the misfortune to pass their section of the canal. Some say that this is because they are deprived of the spice and are driven a bit insane. Others think that the fast gives them more spiritual strength and the inclination to use it to further their sacred mission.
Throughout the year, the Deimites build solar stills to extract water from even the most barren areas. They view the construction and maintenance of such stills to be of great benefit to themselves and others. In actuality, the stills provide very little water and are probably more of a burden, than a benefit for the individuals. The Deimites make several trips during the year to their stills to take the water harvested and to fill the still with more material gathered from the surrounding area.
Another distinguishing belief of the Deimites about water is that it is the most pure and undefiled substance. They believe that one day they will become clean and attain all the properties of water that are demonstrated in their religion: the ability to conduct light, the ability to reconstitute itself, and the ability to give life.
The strangest belief of the Deimites is that of the "Cleaners". They believe that huge flying beasts with a single eye will come to clean the planet some day. The eyes of the beasts emit a strong beam of light and so will be able to distinguish the believers, those who conduct light like water, from the unbelievers, those who won't conduct light. The manifestation of the cleaners will precede the return of Deimos and the Mother, but succeed the transformation of the believers into beings of pure water.
The Cult of Phobos
"And the Mother lay down and her life was surrendered. But a last request escaped her lips as she lay to pass the veil that separates all life that has passed from those that have not. And she said unto her sons, "This last thing I require of you if you would prove yourselves gallant and able, restore me. I go now to sleep, but I shall re-awaken if you complete this charge. Restore my body by cleansing those who would hinder me. Make my life waters to flow more freely and the blood of those who hinder me should also flow more freely. And when their blood shall flow into mine, I shall gain strength." And with that she closed her eyes and vanished from before them. And Deimos trembled and cried whilst his brother, the great Phobos grew enraged at those who would take his mother from him. "I shall do what thou hast spoken," they said in unison, but it was Phobos who spoke truest and surest."
-Excerpt from a partial translation of the Book of Phobos, Chapter 313 (The Charge)
According to the book of Phobos, the Motherís last request was that the twins restore her by cleaning the non-believers from among them and allowing their blood to flow more freely into her. The Phobites interpret this to mean that they need to purge non-believers and drain all their blood into the red Martian soil. Needless to say, the Phobites believe in sacrifice and the bloodier the better. This particular belief has led to their repression by many other groups who have passed through the Western Dioscurian region. Those who openly profess the religion are usually branded as rebels or potential troublemakers and are under constant watch from the guard. Despite this treatment, the cult has never been entirely extinguished among the citizens of the region, and even now is enjoying a quiet renaissance among those who would follow the path of blood, at least according to my local contacts.
The Phobites are required by their sacred text to make a blood sacrifice yearly. The process leading up to this sacrifice has been ritualized over the millennia. It begins at the end of the last year's sacrifice with the pouring of the blood into the canal. The leader of the group takes the same vessel that held the blood and fills it with water from the canal and carries it back to the room where the sacrifice was carried out. He leaves the vessel for a month and then returns. He casts an augury in the water filled bowl which determines where next year's sacrifice will take place. He thencarries the bowl to the site. When he arrives, he cleans himself with the water and then dumps it on the ground and smashes the bowl. The group then arrives one at a time and begins to build the altar a stone at a time. When the altar is finished, the time has arrived to procure a victim. This must be someone who passes by the site before the day of the sacrifice. Should no one arrive, one of the groups must offer himself, as Phobos has been displeased by the conduct of the group. During the sacrifice, all the blood is drained from the body and held in a newly fired bowl. Afterwards, the cycle repeats. They believe that blood is the lifeblood of the Mother, and so the sacrifice is an essential part of her livelihood. They believe that the blood of one person is enough to sustain the Mother for one year, no more, no less.
The Phobites have some strange beliefs about shadows and their properties. They believe that the shadow is the repository of the soul and that light, which causes shadow to disappear, weakens them. They also believe that upon dying, their shadow goes out to join the great mass of darkness that already exists. They believe that one-day, their numbers will be so great that light will cease to be, smothered by the darkness. On that day, they believe that they will all go forth and spill as much blood as possible, and that this will bring back Phobos and the Mother.
The Phobites also believe in the "Shadow Stealer". This is a giant winged beast with one large eye that emits a very powerful beam of light. They believe that it is certain death for anyone who is spied by this beast as its eye beam will roast them.
"May the waters carry you safely to the Mother."
"Why exactly do you say that at the end of a business transaction?"
"Why do we say that? It is tradition! The sign of a trade fairly sealed."
"Do you believe in the Mother?"
"No, I don't subscribe to that (untranslatable) religious dogma! I am a trader. I trade. That is all. I don't mix myself up in cults and ceremony. My customers would not appreciate it. Good day!"
-Excerpts from a conversation between Dr. Usher and a local spice trader (Umbra, November, 1884)
"ÖThus we see how the water conducts the light and it follows the course prescribed by the holy lifeblood. When we have obtained the favor of the Mother and conduct ourselves as correctly as the light, then shall we too travel the pathways to our reward. And we shall flow like the waters and become one with the Mother, giving and receiving eternally. We shall be like the sunlight and spread across the land, banishing darkness and bringing lifeÖ"
-Taken from a discourse to a congregation of Martians (Umbra, November, 1884)
Some of the common beliefs and everyday practices of the people of the Western Dioscurian region are deeply rooted in the belief of the Martian Mother and the teachings of the Books of Deimos and Phobos.
The roles of males and females are defined by the roles of these characters in the Holy Books. Women are expected to be mothers and take care of the home. Men are encouraged to be more active in the marketplace, learn a vocation, or become traveling traders, following in the steps of the twins.
Barter is still the preferred way of selling spice, as the first follower of Deimos, Shaman Breextt, prohibited its sale for money in his writings. A lucrative trade in spice handling is still a centerpiece of the market today. For a small fee, a handler will receive spice from someone, and "give" it to another. In return he will receive a "gift" of money from the receiver and in return "give" that to the seller. The fee is usually taken from the money received, as it is a gift. Although there are no laws that prohibit the keeping of the money, as it is a gift, several bloody examples exist in the history of the city that make handling an unofficially well-regulated business. Most spice merchants swear by their handlers, and often whole dynasties of business relations arise because of the trust between merchant and handler. In fact, the five major and minor trading houses arose because of the intermarriage of merchant and handler families.
A duality of person is also a commonly held belief. Much like the two twins of the Mother, most people believe that there are two forces struggling inside them. Evil deeds are attributed to the influence of the dark side of their person, good ones to the light side. Some primitive medical operations try to restore balance to persons afflicted by disease by either adding light, or shadow to their being. These attempts usually involve leeches on the heels, to drain off shadow, or staking out on rooftops to add light. As can be expected, these cures are highly ineffective and most often more harmful than whatever was ailing the person in the first place. However, miraculous healing is taken as a sign of favor with the Gods. Those who are healed often take to preaching as a vocation and soon rise to command vast congregations.
The Festival of the Remembrance of the Pledge is a common holiday to all groups in the region, including the secular governments of each city-state. During this festival the people commemorate the giving of the pledge from the Mother and the passage into her current state. The religious attend ceremonies together in the League Grand Council Hall and one priest from each religion conducts half of the ceremony. Following the ceremony, the Prince, the Director, and the priests each hand out a small packet containing, a vial of spice, a vial of water, a candle and a cup. These are the symbols of the Festival and are used by each sect according to their belief. Rituals in the same religion even vary from city to city. In the other city-states of the Boreosyrtis League, the people must provide their own cups, candles, and spice. In the city of Saardaar, the people prepare a local dish in the traditional cup that is absolutely exquisite and tastes much like a figgy pudding. In the city of Coloe, the people have a communal candle lighting festival and sing together as a group. In all cities, there are multiple rituals involving the symbols of the Festival. It is a time of peace and harmony in the cities, but that peace is tempered by the knowledge of the conflict that is to follow when the Phobites run rampant during the partial eclipse of Deimos.
The religious roots of the people of this region hark back to the earliest days of the wandering tribes that frequented the area. From their insistent belief that Mars is the Mother and that the struggle between the two twins continues in them to this day, the people of this region are very superstitious. Anyone entering this region, and even Her Majesties Government, would be well advised to know the current religious climate in any city-state before traveling into them or transacting any kind of business.
Posted Monday, 04-May-2009 19:51:59 EDT