The Religion and Immortals of Ochalea
by Kit Navarro
"A toast!" said the Duchess, raising her goblet of fine Thyatian wine. "To Master Po Han-Kai — or should I say, Pollux Eriadnus Halicastorian?"
The guest of honor gave a mock wince at his hostess. "I haven't heard my full Thyatian name in decades, Triella," he said, chuckling, "or should I say, Tien-Tang?" Polite laughter — and knowing looks — rippled through the room of distinguished guests.
The Duchess modestly smiled and completed her toast. "To Master Po and his treatise on The Religion and Immortals of Ochalea, product of 80 years in that beautiful kingdom! Ten-thousand years!"
"Ten-thousand years!" echoed the guests, although some were clearly unfamiliar with the traditional Ochalean salutation. Soon after the toast, one of the young ladies suddenly twittered, vaguely addressing Master Po, "Eighty years in Ochalea? That must have been dreadfully dull! Oh! But can you really speak Ochalean? Can I hear it? Can you say something? Say, 'I love you' or 'You are the most beautiful girl in the world!' Or maybe, something like..."
Master Po just smiled politely at the girl. Duchess Triella, however, was quick to intervene. "My dear Valerias, the Master is not a parrot or one of your pet talking birds. Please do not subject him to your—-"
"But how can you spend 80 years with all those Ochies without being able to speak to them? I mean, I have this slave girl from Vestland — or is it the Hinterlands? Oh, I don't remember! It's all the same to me. You see, I..." The vapid girl went on incessantly. The Duchess turned crimson, while Master Po pretended not to have heard anything.
"Valerias, dear," the hostess finally said, in tone so honey-sweet, it was surely poison, "we adults are going to be listening to Master Po read his work now. You might find it 'dreadfully dull,' so why don't you spend the night down in town? Here, let me help you." One teleport spell later, tranquility was restored, and Master Po addressed his audience...
The Kingdom of Ochalea has a rich tradition of religion, spirituality, and worship that spans a period of over 3000 years. Known World scholars have long tried to discover the secrets of Ochalean mysticism, but have faced many obstacles, not the least of which would be the xenophobic Ochalean attitudes, and the difficulty in understanding the exotic Ochalean written language. Only in the last century have Ochaleans opened their doors to Thyatian and Alphatian scholars, and still with much reservation. And only in the last half-century have the products of such scholarship become available to the Known World. The unfortunate events of the last few years are not without repercussions on Ochalea. The Sinking of Alphatia resulted in a immeasurable loss of Alphatian scholars and scholarly works, which even Thyatian scholars grudgingly admit to have a greater contribution to Ochalean studies and understanding. But the recognition of Ochalea as an independent kingdom has brought about a new openness in the attitude of the Ochaleans, and sparked a new interest in all things Ochalean throughout the Known World.
The Pre-Ochalean Period (Before BC 1000)
The progenitors of the Ochalean people did not have a modern concept of the Immortals, nor a set system of religious worship. Instead, they believed in The Principle of Yue and Yi, a philosophy that was remarkably advanced for a primitive agriculture people. (Some scholars have traced the origins of this philosophy to the people of far eastern Skothar.) The Pre-Ochaleans believed in two dynamic forces in nature: the Yue, which symbolizes Night, Darkness, Evil, Chaos, and Death; and the Yi, which represents Day, Light, Good, Order, and Life. These forces are in a constant state of opposition, balance and counterbalance, and achieving a harmony between these two forces is the ultimate purpose of existence. Some Alphatian texts have erroneously tried to personify the two forces, identifying the Yue with the Immortals Nyx, Thanatos, Hel, or Alphaks, and the Yi with Koryis, Ixion, Ka, or even Alphatia (the height of Alphatian arrogance!). The Principle of Yue and Yi is broader and more encompassing that this, and Ochalean scholars themselves suggest associating, but not equating, the Yue with the Sphere of Entropy, and the Yi with the Sphere of Integration.
The Early Ochalean Period (c. BC 1000 – c. BC 800)
The first recorded system of religious worship in Ochalea began before the Alphatian colonization, and it still did not involve the Immortals as we know them. Culturally, the Early Ochaleans put great import in honoring their parents and elders, who are viewed as wiser, more experienced, and therefore fitting guides for the future generations. The Ochaleans extended this respect and honor even to their deceased Ancestors, many of whom were great heroes of glorious deeds, famous personages of the past, or distinguished predecessors of the clan. Thus began the practice of Ancestor Worship. The practice of Ancestor Worship is still very much alive in Ochalea today, as it does not conflict with the religious teachings of the Immortals. In fact, its influence on Immortal worship has been beneficial. Although there may be no direct bloodline as with mortal Ancestors, the Ochaleans view the Immortals as the most ancient and therefore the greatest of their Ancestors. They hold a reverent affinity for all the Immortals, and hold a healthy acceptance for even the darker and more chaotic ones. As a result, the Immortals of Entropy seem to be less sinister, less evil, and less concerned in causing trouble for their Ochalean worshippers.
The Alphatian Period (c. BC 800 – c. BC 500)
The arrival of Alphatian settlers in Ochalea brought with it the true worship of Immortals as we know it. Immortals such as Alphatia, Ssu-Ma, Zirchev and Alphaks were introduced to the Ochaleans, but by far, the most prominent and well-accepted of these Immortals was Koryis, the Patron of Peace and Prosperity. His teachings on peace echoed the ancients precepts of harmony between the Yue and Yi, and his nonviolent pacifist ways appealed to both Ochalean and Alphatian leaders, who were concerned with the rising tensions between the two different peoples. It was at this period when the Immortals revealed to the Ochaleans the presence of the Celestial Court of Pan-Du, a world high above Mystara where Immortals dwell and watch over their mortal followers. Western scholars have identified this with the Immortal City of Pandius, but the Ochalean concept differs in one aspect: The Celestial Bureaucracy. The Ochaleans believed that the Immortals are arranged in a hierarchy, not unlike the political system of the Ochaleans and the Alphatian. There is the Jade Emperor Koru Yi-Si, who rules over the Immortals and mortals, and there are the Immortal Ministers, who are charged with specific tasks in Heaven and Earth. In keeping with the traditions of the Yue and Yi, each position in the Bureaucracy had a counterpart, which provided balance as well as opposition.
The Immortals traditionally belonging to the Celestial Bureaucracy are as follows:
Koru Yi-Si, The Jade Emperor and the Great Patron of Peace and Prosperity (Koryis). Koru Yi-Si is the Patron of Ochalea and his is the major faith in the Kingdom. He is the leader of the Celestial Bureaucracy and all Immortals bend to his will when it comes to dealing with Ochalea — at least outwardly. He is lawful and benevolent, and only promotes goodwill for the Ochaleans.
Nü Yue-Wang, The Empress of the Shadowed Moon (Nyx). This shadowy Immortal rules alongside Koru Yi-Si in the Celestial Bureaucracy, and is his equal, his partner and also his chief rival (in the traditional Yue-Yi style). Her machinations though are never overt, always shrouded in mystery and secrecy, and reflect her powers over shadow and darkness. Ochaleans grant her equal reverence, if only to dissuade her wrath and the evils of the night and the undead (which she rules).
Tao Ru-Jia, The Celestial Judge (Tarastia). The Ochalean Patroness of Justice and Equality, stern and regal, and dressed in judicial robes, holds the Tablets of Celestial Justice. Earlier traditions depicted her as a woman, but the Ochalean's disparaging view of women have all but forgotten her teachings in the equality of the sexes. Now she is depicted as androgynous, or even as a man.
Jiang Da-Ru, The Dream-Walking Immortal (Jammudaru). This sinister Immortal holds the title of Minister of Punishment and Revenge in the Celestial Court. He is Tao Ru-Jia's counterpart, and is charged with meting out retribution and avenging crimes, although his methods are clearly more sadistic and gruesome. He haunts the dreams of guilty men, showing them scenes of horrible punishment and tortures for their misdeeds.
Hua Fei-Xiang, The Heavenly Artisan (Alphatia). The worship of this pacifist Immortal comes from the Alphatians, but the Ochaleans have long since embraced her teachings on art, beauty, peace and serenity. Generally, she is not involved in the intrigues of the Celestial Court, but her teachings have always been in opposition to those of her malicious rival, Hua Fan-Liang.
Hua Fan-Liang, The Jeweled Mandarin (Alphaks). Non-spellcasting Alphatian immigrants introduced this Immortal to the Ochaleans, bringing his teachings of nationalistic separatism from the Alphatian imperialist wizards. Historically, though, his followers have been prone to over-interpreting these teachings as blatant and destructive attacks on all Alphatians in general. Hua Fan-Liang also has a chaotic side in his nature, and offers his offers his followers healthy occasions of wildness and rage, to balance the otherwise reserved and restrained nature of the Ochaleans.
Chang Dang-Su, The Revered Physician (Chardastes). This Immortal Patron of Health and Healing has always had a strong following in the Kingdom, perhaps only second largest to Koru Yi-Si's in Ochalea. He is usually depicted as a healthy, handsome young man, carrying his Infinite Medicine Box (which holds cures to all known diseases in the world).
Tang Da-Si, The Guardian of Death (Thanatos). Ochalean philosophy accepts death as a natural part of life, and thus Ochaleans revere this dark Patron of Death more than they fear him. By the same token, this Immortal is less sinister, and less involved in Ochalean affairs, than he is in other nations of Mystara.
Long Wang, The Dragon King (The Great One). Dragons have always been a symbol of power in Ochalea, and it is no wonder that Long Wang is one of their most revered Immortals. Older traditions noted only one Dragon King who ruled over all dragons, but later traditions mention three Dragon Ministers: Yue Long, The Moon Dragon (Pearl), Ruler of Chaotic Dragons; Ri Long, The Sun Dragon (Opal), Ruler of Neutral Dragons; and Xing Long, The Star Dragon (Diamond), Ruler of Lawful Dragons.
The Late Ochalean Period (c. BC 500 – c. AC 200)
The Late Ochalean Period marked a time of an increasing sense of national identity among the Ochalean people. The natives from Skothar had already forgotten their ties with the eastern continent, and the non-spellcasting Alphatians felt more at home in this new land than in among the wizards on mainland Alphatia. Thus, they came to identify themselves as Ochalean. The Ochaleans then focused on religious and clerical pursuits, gaining a vast understanding of the Immortals and the Immortal Court. But by far, what had the greatest impact on Ochalean religion at this time was the concept of the Five Celestial Spheres. This discovery predates any Western records of the five Spheres of Power, and the Ochalean understanding of it exhibits a profound understanding and insight in the Immortal ways. Ochaleans came to worship Immortals in accordance to the Celestial Spheres. The worship of the Eight Heroic Immortals became popular at this time. Traditionally, these Immortals were believed to have performed great deeds for the benefit of the Ochaleans, at the behest of Koru Yi-Si. But many scholars believe that the each of the Eight symbolized a Yue-Yi pair (one chaotic, one lawful) with each pair belonging to one of the Four Benevolent Spheres (Matter, Thought, Energy and Time). It is important to note that the dualist themes of the Yue and Yi run continuously, from the pairing of the Celestial Bureaucracy, to the oppositions of the Celestial Spheres, all through the Eight Heroic Immortals. The Ochaleans never abandoned the older concepts, but merely added new approaches onto a pre-existing system. Thus, Ochaleans still considered Koru Yi-Si as the supreme ruler of the Immortal Court, and understood that even the Eight Heroic Immortals defer to his will.
The Eight Heroic Immortals are as follows:
Lan Yi-Xiong, The Prince of the Sun (Ixion). Foremost among the Eight Heroic Immortals in brilliance and power is the handsome Patron of the Sun and its life-giving force. Ochaleans honor him with symbols of the sun done in bright golden-yellow colors during harvest festivals.
Zhu Cheng-Wei, The Lord of Ten-Thousand Beasts (Zirchev). Zhu Cheng-Wei is the protector of forest creatures and patron of hunters and rangers. In legends, he often appears in the shape of animals to help his followers, or to punish those who defile his forests and its creatures.
Kong Ru, The High Prefect of Time (Khoronus). The oldest of The Eight Heroic Immortals, Kong Ru is the Patron of Time and History. Kong Ru is depicted as an ancient sage with infinite wrinkles on his wise face, and never-ending gray-white beard. He teaches the Ochaleans the lessons of history and time.
Lao Pang-Tiu, The Old Master of the Sea (Protius). The Immortal Lao Pang-Tiu is often depicted as a bearded old fisherman with a fishing pole, a net and a straw basket brimming with fish. Ochaleans worship him not only for the bounties of the seas and for safety in seafaring, but also for the protection of the oceans around Ochalea from foreign invaders.
Shi Su-Ma, The All-Knowing Sage of Heaven and Earth (Ssu-Ma). Literacy and scholarship are of utmost importance to the Ochaleans, and Shi Su-Ma is one of the most revered of the heroic Immortals. He is credited with the invention of calligraphy and the Ochalean pictographic style of writing. He is often depicted perusing an immense tome, which contains all the secrets in the realms of Immortals and mortals alike.
Ting Lei-Xian, The Flute-Playing Prophet (Tiresas). Ochaleans view this Immortal as a gentle youth with a carefree and whimsical expression, dancing gaily and playing the flute. Although his playfulness is not strongly advocated, his musical talent - as well as his wise insight and prophecies - is honored by the subdued Ochaleans.
Pan Fu-Gong, The Drunken Hermit (Faunus). Fat-bellied and red-faced with drunkenness, this wild Immortal is a symbol of agriculture, fertility, the bounties of nature, and living life to the fullest. He is never without his Endless Gourd of Wine. Ochaleans publicly disdain at his decadence, but privately enjoy his hedonism and indulgence.
Hua Mei-Liang, The Lady of the Scarlet Lotus (Valerias). This beautiful Immortal is charged with dealings of love and romance. Traditionally, she is the consort of Lan Yi-Xiong, and their affair in the Celestial Court is the Ochalean ideal of true love. She is often depicted holding a magical Scarlet Lotus that invokes love in any creature. She is the most popular female Immortal worshipped by both men and women in Ochalea.
The Thyatian Period (c. AC 200 – c. AC 1000)
The arrival of the Thyatians brought many innovations (religious and otherwise), most of which were resisted by the conservative Ochaleans. The worship of new Immortals was not commonplace, especially of those Immortals who could not be fit into the philosophic and mystic order. Only in the last few centuries, with influence of Thyatian attitudes of religious openness and cultural acceptance, that the Ochaleans begin to honor other Immortals. However, Ochalean conservatism runs deep, and the worship of many foreign Immortals underwent change to follow the styles that are distinctly Ochalean.
This is a list of other Immortals that have lately gained popularity among the Ochaleans:
Rong Han, The Fiery General (Rathanos). This Immortal was known to the Ochaleans even before the Alphatian Period (perhaps introduced by the Thothians, as some scholars suggest). But his hot temper and chaotic ways never became popular with the Ochaleans. His one precept that has the greatest impact with the Ochaleans is that of superiority of men over women.
Mao Si-Wu, The Master of Four Evils (Masauwu). Mao Si-Wu earned his epithet for being the Patron of Vices and Temptations. Ochaleans worship him, hoping that he will hold the Four Evils (drinking, gambling, violence and lechery) at bay among their people. In legends, he purposely appears to mortals during times of difficult decisions, offering them five choices, four of which are wrong. Ochaleans have recently placed him among the Celestial Bureaucracy; he is called the Favored Minister of Nü Yue-Wang, as his methods are never overtly evil, but often leading to disaster and ruin.
Koru Ti-Kong, The Spider Trickster (Korotiku). This rakish ebony-skinned Immortal comes from the Pearl Islands, and is first introduced in the religious classic Journey from the West. He is called "The Spider" because he has eight nimble limbs (sometimes with four arms and four legs, sometimes six arms and two legs). According to the story, Koru Ti-Kong appeared before the Great Koru Yi-Su and showed him his due respect, thus gaining him acceptance on Ochalean shores. Traditionalists frown upon the frivolity he espouses, but most people enjoy the humor in the legends about him.
Diu Nan-Liang, The Heroine of the South (Diulanna). This Immortal comes from the Hinterlands and promotes women achieving their fullest potentials, whether as scholars, philosophers, or even as warriors and adventurers. As expected, her worshippers are mostly women. (Her worship seems to threaten the long-standing worship of Tao Ru-Jia, and has met up with opposition from that sector.)
Hua Niang, The Conqueress from the West (Vanya). This Immortal is the Patroness of the rare and few Ochalean women-warriors. Compared to Diu Nan-Liang, her ways are less subtle and more confrontational. However, most Ochaleans cannot tell the difference between the two female Immortals, often mistaking them to be the same Immortal. Most Ochalean men view both their teachings with equal contempt.
Shi'Er Xian-Gong, The Twelve Immortal Craftsmen (Twelve Watchers). Not mentioned in any of the religious Ochalean texts, this Immortal has nonetheless established a strong worship in the Kingdom. His worship is fairly new, but it is very similar to that in any other Mystaran country, except for variations in the local Ochalean crafts.
Tai Qi, Madam Good Fortune (Tyche). This minor Immortal is depicted as a happy, chubby matron with a smiling, child-like face, capriciously strewing coins and gold ingots to anyone who happens upon her way. She is frivolous and happy-go-lucky, caring only in bringing some amount of happiness to mortals, no matter how small or fleeting. Some scholars do not count her as a true Immortal, but consider her as just a fairy spirit, or an Ancestor who has gained immense popularity in the Celestial Court.
Shang Ti-Ruo, The Illustrious Merchant (Asterius) Foreign traders and merchants from other nations introduced this Immortal to Ochalea long ago, but an Immortal who advocated material wealth, exchange of new ideas, and thievery had little appeal to the austere and conservative Ochaleans. Only in the last century, when he was depicted as a trustworthy and industrious merchant, did the Patron of Wealth and Merchants begin to gain acceptance. He is often presented alongside the more popular Madam Tai Qi, in order to contrast his earning of money through hard honest work, as opposed to acquiring money through mere luck and chance.
Chang Hei-Li, The Sable Princess (Hel). According to legend, Chang Hei-Li was an ebony-haired Ochalean princess, so beautiful that, for the sake of modesty, she would only show half of her face at a time, concealing the other half, behind a veil of black silk. She was the favored concubine of an Ochalean king (Accounts are unclear about which king), and wielded great power, albeit indirectly, through her influence over princes, lords and other prominent men in the Kingdom. Recently, this Immortal has gained importance as an advocate for women and the use of their feminine mystique and charms. Incidentally, she is also the Patroness of Consorts, Concubines and Courtesans. Rumors about the seditious intentions of her mysterious cult have yet to be proven.
The guests had left, leaving the duchess and the sage alone in the villa. "It went well," complimented Triella.
"Yes it did," agreed Master Po, "although the Karameikan ambassador did have a lot of questions."
"Oh you know, those Traladarans, always trying to promote their new Kingdom, or their new capital, or their Church, their Petra, their Halav..."
"And the Ylari seemed to be planning a crusade to introduce Al-Kalim," Master Po said, finally verbalizing his apprehensions.
"So was that Skald from Ostland," added the Duchess reluctantly. "He was very surprised that the Ochlaens had never even heard of Odin or Thor!"
An uneasy silence fell over the two. "What do you think will happen?" she finally asked.
"Only the Immortals know, Triella. Only the Immortals..."
This article copyright 1999, Kit Navarro. All rights reserved. Used by permission.