Badi


Badi is a religion originating in ancient Dezevau, which holds that the material world is the result of the interplay of theological elements, which are each the manifestation of a semi-sapient deity known as a badimua. Followers of the religion believe in the sanctity of the elements, and understanding and interacting with them. Badi is characterised by a high level of doctrinal and practical heterogeneity, to the extent that it has been considered a group of religions rather than a religion itself at times; however, internal collegiality and cooperation link the many varieties. It is also characterised by a focus on interactions between humans and both other humans and nature. The Association of Badist Churches estimates there are around 100 million Badists worldwide, concentrated in and around Southeast Coius, but also found all around the world.

The elemental theory of Badi is broadly agreed upon by Badists today (as there are fifteen theological elements), as is the general nature of sacraments which are based on the idea of communion with the material manifestations of the badimua: religious activities include experimentation, craft, sensory experience, reflection, education, documentation and artistry. The actual practice in Badi of these is, however, extremely varied; devotion to different theological elements takes very different forms, and people are frequently involved with multiple sects, which may perform different roles in the community. There tends to be intimate interaction between the activities of daily life and religious tenets, though there are also hierarchies and relatively abstract doctrinal texts. These features characterise Badi, leading it to be described variously as pluralist, decentralised, informal, materialist and/or syncretic in analyses.

Badi originated in the first millennium BCE, amongst the early Dezevauni city-states, from formalised consensus of cultural knowledge and civil customs. It spread from there via various means including trade, cultural contact and emigration, though maintaining a degree of continuity because of its flexibility. Accompanied by the influence of the rich, urbanised and densely populated Dezevauni civilisation, it had a substantial impact on the places it reached, though often finding itself in competition with Irfan. In the 20th century, Badi went through a period of turmoil called the Crisis of Faith, which challenged its validity as a body of thought and belief; this resulted in a decline in its societal importance in some places, and saw realignment often in favour of mysticism, reinterpretation of its traditions as symbolic, and a focus on community.

Today, Badi is followed by over a hundred million people, and it is the most practiced religion in Dezevau and Terangau, and a notable minority religion across the Great Steppe and Satria, where it had historical significance; smaller numbers of Badists exist around the world, such as in the gowsa diaspora. The Association of Badist Churches is a body with very loose authority, but generally taken to represent the religion's practitioners, including for the authority of these figures. It is difficult to measure the sects of Badi, because of their frequent overlap, variety and informality, but some of the most notable include Pure Water Badi, the Cult of the Sun and Time.

Etymology

In Ziba, badi means "element", or "essence"; the term is typically translated to Estmerish as "theological element" for clarity. Metonymically, this has become the common name for the religion in most Euclean languages, as the elements are arguably the clearest and most basic doctrinal point. In Ziba, other terms are common, but badi and badiba ("badis") are not uncommon for referring to the religion; the latter usage has also found some usage outside Ziba. "Badism" is also used as a term.

Beliefs

Creation myth and planes of existence

Painting by Duamabo Dogo representing the separation of badimua

In Badi, the world is thought to have begun with an undifferentiated mass comprising all existence. This mass slowly precipitated, with badimua, semi-sapient beings with unique characteristics separating out. Over aeons, the identities and powers of the badimua stabilised. As a result of this process, while the badimua exist primarily in the most fundamental, primordial and powerful dimension, lower planes precipitated out. Often metaphorised as echoes or effluent of the realm of the badimua, these planes are below the sustained or close attention of the badimua, who in turn may be incapable of being fully comprehended by lower beings. The material world is one of these lesser dimensions; while in it, the existence of badimua can be gleaned, they are less distinct and less animate in this place. There are generally thought to be other dimensions, of more and less distance to the badimua than the material world, and with varying levels of permeability between them.

The beliefs in the way that creation took place on a scale far beyond the human one and that the material world is veiled or distant to other planes help explain Badi's focus on presence in the material world. The creation of humans, nothing more than an unusually complex combination of theological elements, is a relatively minor, recent and unclear point in Badist lore, and in fact, the theory of evolution is widely (though not universally) accepted as a part of religious thought. Interestingly, the manner in which badimua are said to have come into existence resembles the way in which they became part of Badi thought, as religious science and philosophy posited new ideas, and these gained acceptance through demonstration and propagation, or fell out of currency.

Elemental theory

Badi holds that everything in the material world is composed of theological elements, which are indivisible component parts, each the manifest of a badimua in this dimension. Historically, this was a literally held belief, but its interpretation as metaphor is more common since the Crisis of Faith and the advent of modern science such as chemistry and atomic theory. Humans are often conceived of as the most complex combination of elements in the material world.

Theological elements' characteristics are representative of the badimua they are related to; for example, the badimua of heat is thought to be energetic and reductive or transformative in its activity.

The conceptualisation of the elements developed over time, and varied in different regions which had different exposures to different schools of thought, technologies, environments, culture, and so on. Generally speaking, over time, more elements were discovered. Theological experimentation and research were conducted by religious practitioners to elucidate the elemental nature of the world, though changes in the widely held doctrine tended to be slow and rare. Today, most agree on the set of elements that had been arrived at as consensus by the early modern period; the identity of the theological elements is one of the few doctrines the Association of Badist Churches holds.

Conventionally, the fifteen widely recognised theological elements are given in Estmerish (here in alphabetical order, as there is no conventional order) as:

A timeline of the development of the theological elements in Badi
  • Air
  • Animal
  • Earth
  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Heat
  • Light
  • Metal
  • Motion
  • Oil
  • Plant
  • Salt
  • Sound
  • Time
  • Water

Morality and ethics

Badi has been traditionally associated with a consequentialist approach to ethics, with human life, natural life, avoidance of pain, knowledge and freedom being among the moral goods, variously considered. It is debated to what extent this approach stems from the influence of state-structures, Dezevauni culture, its religious materialism and humanism or other sources, but in any case, the influence is significant and widely noted, and has played the role of ancestor to other philosophical strands of thought up until the modern day. There are noted similarities to utilitarianism.

These beliefs have been employed in the defence of the legitimacy of states, according to some; in Dezevau, their application to socialism was part of the public debate on paring back restrictions on religion. In other cases, these ethics are considered to be what has restrained the development of a more prescriptive, conservative morality. A body of modern religious theory focuses on formalising and tying this form of ethics to the elemental conceptualisation of the world Badi provides for; in interfaith dialogue, it has also been a notable topic. The relatively weak moral boundary between humans and nature is also notable, and has seen an involvement between Badi and environmentalist and agrarian movements.

Photograph of Mhuoganga Dibegaune in the 1920s

Afterlife

The afterlife is not emphasised in Badi philosophy, but has been a point of theological contention with exposure to other religions which do emphasise it. Traditionally, it was regarded as nonexistent, or obscure, dull and empty, though some few obscure varieties believe in reincarnation or a Sotirian-style heaven, mainly as a result of syncretism.

Mhuoganga Dibegaune, a sociologist, author and politician who was agnostic, wrote the essay The Afterlife in Badi in 1927 (it is known as the origin of the quote "existence is the scripture of Badi."). However, despite their not being a follower of Badi, the description of Badist beliefs set out in their essay have been taken as a prescriptive scripture by many modern Badist laypeople and priests, though it has not been officially adopted by the Association of Badist Churches. According to the essay, the afterlife is in a realm between that of the badimua and the material world; it is largely featureless, without anything capable of significantly enlivening or stimulating the senses. The consciousnesses of the dead, or souls, detach from their elementally less complex material bodies, and gravitate there. Souls linger for some unspecified period of time and finish unravelling in that realm into base elements, whereupon the material dissipates into other dimensions depending on its nature; souls are often thought of as composed of more exalted material than most of the material world.

Myth

A moderately sized temple library in Vadimhunga

By volume, most Badist literature is not widely known or distributed. Insofar as Badi reveres knowledge, its understanding of knowledge is not coterminous with modern scientific knowledge; rather, a much larger body of texts is religiously coloured. Reverence of knowledge is predicated on its relation to understanding the actual, physical nature of the material world, but also on the way in which it relates to other dimensions, as well as the nature of knowledge itself as a complex construct. Care for literature is deeply rooted in Badist religious culture, often interacting with nonreligious and applies even to entirely fiction. These beliefs influence Badist practices relating to the creation, experience, preservation and dissemination of texts; it is important to understand that not all Badist religious texts are actually held as tenets of the religion so much as the texts are subjects of religious attention.

Sexuality

A carving depicting sex, on a historic Badist temple in Satria

In a similar vein to reverence of knowledge, sexuality has religious significance in Badi. It is thought of as one of the key characteristics of life, and its nature in humans one of their distinguishing features. As a whole, sexuality is emblematic of the elemental complexity of the world and of people, and closely related to the ritual sensuality of experience and recorded knowledge which engage with the world similarly. To this end, sexuality plays a notable role in many rites, and sex workers are religiously esteemed. Sex workers were associated with a third gender in much of Southeast Coius, and the people of the third gender in turn often became priests or sex workers themselves.

These themes, while relevant to secular culture in many Badist areas, have lessened considerably in the modern period for a variety of reasons, ranging from the introduction of Sotirian morality to declines in religiosity to commercialisation of sex work. They are generally understood to have originated from ancient Dezevauni culture.

Practices

Congregation worshipping Heat near Jenejegenumo

Elemental rites

Among the most prominent and established practices of Badi is attendance at a temple or similar site to engage with an element in a particular ritual way. Such rites are intended to serve a variety of purposes; for one, they are useful as gatherings, helping to create intercourse and centre the temple in social life. This is the case especially where their timing is standardised, and there is group rather than individual participation. They are also meant to help people understand the elements, to invoke the elements' power, and to strengthen emotional or spiritual bonds with the elements. The role of rituals is merely as intermediary or guide to fundamental links between humans and existence.

There is significant variation in these rituals; what they actually consist of varies based on element and aspect thereof focused upon; they may be very lengthy or short, lavish or sparing, arduous or facile. Some involve the use of drugs, entheogen usage in Badi being known as catinism; some are very simple, such as recounting dreams; some involve the mortification of the flesh. What rites one partakes in depends on one's purposes, the practices of one's sects and temples, and practicality, cultural propriety and availability. Mostly, ritual undertakings are roughly standardised at the sect level.

Artisanal production and small-scale trade are undertaken by temples and their personnel to help with the upkeep of the temple or its social works, as well as to give them something to do outside of religion; this commerce is typically related to the temple's elemental dedication. Often, temples' produce, because of devotional focus and concern for reputation, is well-known for quality and reliability.

Dazeda, famous medieval Badist elemental scientist as depicted in a Euclean illustration, Bouvamedagavo

Experimentation and study

Understanding of the theological elements, and how to best utilise and ritualise them, are important in Badi; to this end, religious research is a preoccupation of many followers and priests. Unlike theology of many other religions, this involves engagement with the subject matter itself; it is inaccurate to apply the idea of the scientific method to elemental experimentation (though such ideas have permeated in from the method in modern times), but there is the testing and sampling of substances and materials, in their interactions and forms. In the past, when new elements were identified, it was done through the propagation of this pseudoscientific process.

Religious study does not only involve clarifying the material nature of the world, but also has social aspects; study, related to Badist ideas around knowledge, is holy in and of itself. There is also study of, practically, how best to demonstrate, use and illuminate the elements. Temples are often devising new techniques and variations thereon to keep followers engaged, or to propagate ideas in more accessible, intuitive ways, or to better promote understanding of underappreciated aspects of Badist theology. New ways of engaging with the elements enable, in the eyes of Badists, not only better knowledge, but better applicability of that knowledge, as power to invoke the elements in their daily lives.

Study is often conducted by temples, but insofar as it questions the nature and boundary of elements and benefits from wide-ranging interchange, much study is also conducted by other institutes and individuals. Many of the most famous figures in Badist history were religious scientists, many of whom also made contributions to what might be recognised today as secular science. There existed institutions, similar to universities or laboratories, for the purpose of research as well, operating in a way sometimes compared to consultancy with the temples. Powerful polities often funded or established religious research institutes, to demonstrate their prestige and piety; many of these institutions were centres of secular learning, and some were converted into secular universities, a few having survived to the present day. In most cases, during colonialism and the modern period, they were shut down, merged with other temples or educational institutes, or converted to temples (though many of these retaining educational and experimental traditions).

While there is cooperation across the religion, sects are largely coordinated internally in regards to lore. For techniques and more esoteric religious science, it is not unusual to have it kept as mystery, and only revealed to those initiated into higher levels of temple hierarchies.

Conservation

Items on loan to the Jenejegebizo City Museum from Badist temples around Lake Zindarud

Badist temples, and to a lesser extent, individuals, have a custom of collecting and preserving texts and objects of cultural or natural distinction. This practice is rooted in beliefs about promoting knowledge, understanding and engagement, with the elements and in broader terms. Temples are often places of preservation of memory and religious education, as texts are made available to visitors and objects put on display or used in ritual. While collections originate in the course of promoting religion, collections are often very wide. Through donations, trade and their own creation, temples often accumulate a mixture of artworks, technical texts, fiction, natural oddities, objects of historical significance, devices for elemental demonstration or performance, and cultural objects such as clothes and decorations. Their role in preserving and propagating cultural and even technological knowledge has been significant; today, they are often closely related to museums and libraries in their operation, in collaborating on preservative techniques or loaning items for digitisation or display.

Orphanage and community centre run partly by a consortium of Badist temples, Bedamangi

Community service

While the notion of explicit community service is relatively new, temples have always had an element of social conscience, in accordance with the role of religion as a force for social guidance and civic function. Today, Badist institutions are almost always engaged in charity and environmental conservation, both in more generic ways (such as distributing to the needy) and in ways specific to their elemental dedication. Traditionally, low-level temples were most involved most directly with service of the local community; many were intimately engaged, such as in the maintenance of vital infrastructure such as living root bridges or producing a particular vital product. However, as far as temples are rarely central to community life in contemporary Badi, community service tends to consist of charity directed non-transactionally towards groups outside the temple's cultural ambit. The idea of community service gained prominence after the Crisis of Faith, where there was a communitarian realignment of Badi; these practices helped it maintain moral authority and civic relevance in an era of secularism and declining religiosity.

Customs

Every practices and habits outside of substantially religious contexts have been adopted by many Badists, and are maintained even by non-Badists in societies with historical influence. Instances include the hanging of zagubis as decoration, preference for rock salt in formal contexts and for the sick (as it is perceived as purer), the wording of some greetings, and various anointments for newborns. Some customs are associated with specific sects, but have spread to be accepted more broadly. Some traditional customs have been replaced or abandoned because of secularism or Sotirianity.

History

Origin

The origins of Badi lie in the traditions and customs of the Dhebinhejo Culture, which formed city-states and petty kingdoms in central Dezevau in the first millennium BCE. It is believed that beliefs, similar to fetishism, acquired cultural and political significance as groups inside the societies of the time used them to make or justify practical power arrangements, and linked them to civil duties and responsibilities which took on religious flavour. There are various debates over the origin and nature of early Badi, but it is generally agreed that rather than stemming from novel doctrine, Badi was the formalisation of a way of relating to others socially as well to nature; this fact was significantly determinative of the nature of Badi. The influence of the relatively egalitarian culture of the city-states may also be noted.

Antiquity

Ancient temple to Stone in Bazadavo state

As the early Dezevauni city-states grew prominent as the most urbanised, populated and wealthiest polities in the region, Badi spread through their influence and contacts, such as to Terangau and Rwizikuru. Temples, organised on the typical activities which they retained relevance to the community with, became the primary unit of organisation. While decentralisation between groups associated with different theological elements largely prevented any centralised forms of religious governance at the state level, politically powerful hierarchies, with priests and followings, within and between polities, emerged. Often, local rulers allowed or encouraged Badist activities because they seemed to tend to have a stabilising and productive effect, though conflicts between sects over boundaries and superiority were not uncommon; lore tended to be kept as mystery or technological knowledge rather than law or dogma. Religious specialisation went hand in hand with economic specialisation, in many cases. Some commentators in fact suggest that this characteristic inhibited the development of the rule of law in Badist societies, while others consider this to be a view overly predicated on Euclean positivism.

The development of the religion followed the complexity of the societies it inhabited; in the first millennium CE, only a few of the modern theological elements were not established. Badi had a substantial theological and cultural presence as it came into contact with bhaga in Greater Satria and Irfan in modern Zorasan and Mabifia.

Badi Reaction

Badist shrine to Stone on the Great Steppe

On the Great Steppe, Badi spread through trade, migration and cultural contact during a period of upheaval and military conflict. It came in as older religious structures and empires were dismantled by those revolting against oppressive rule, and Badist practitioners formed local civil societies; Badi became established and instrumental to the society of the Steppe, gaining a contextual political significance for a time.

Medieval

Badi came into conflict with Irfan across Coius; incursions by Ndjarendie from the north in the medieval period hemmed the religion's spread in, while its presence was reduced considerably in Satria and the Great Steppe, where it never regained majority or plurality again. Irfan considered Badi, especially the water-focused sects often present in central Coius, to be especially heathen, even infernal, because of its doctrines around fire and water. This provoked conflict which usually ended in Irfan's favour, because of its centralised military strength in the form of the Dominions of Heaven. In the south, the spread of Badi halted roughly at the limen of Xiaodongese regional hegemony.

Internally, while consensus took time to be established, all the modern elements were recognised to some extent by this time. Robust theological development occurred in the religious heartlands, and Badi was employed as a stabilising, unifying force by the ascendant Aguda Empire. Many of the state-sponsored religious research institutes were established during this time.

A painting of some gowsa transport ships as seen in Binhame Inlet in the 19th century

Colonialism

Euclean colonialism and imperialism repressed Badi where it held authority, but through the global interchange of labour, capital and ideas, spread Badi around the world. Gaullica aggressively attempted to convert colonial Dezevau to the Sotirian Catholic Church, beginning in the time of Saint Bermude's Company. Other forms of Sotirianity were also introduced, such as Amendism mainly through the Estmerish presence, and the Episemialist Church from Amathian missionaries. However, Badi remained the dominant religion, losing ground during the centralised Bureau for Southeast Coius rule until it emerged as a symbol of anti-imperialist resistance. Badi similarly remained on top in Terangau and other neighbouring regions. The dispersion of gowsas around the world, meanwhile, was the seed for many populations of Badists.

Crisis of Faith

During the 20th century, around the time of Dezevauni independence and afterwards, Badi went through the Crisis of Faith. The introduction of modern science and ideologies, ranging from socialism to the periodic table, and their permeation throughout the masses, destabilised the social fabric and delegitimised the material realities Badi based its existence on. Some saw this as the doom of the religion, though this was by no means a widespread opinion. However, there was a reorientation towards community and non-literal approaches to old beliefs. The establishment of the Association of Badist Churches saw a greater level of institutional control and organisation, and helped coordinate these communitarian, practical changes. Some argue that the reformation of Badi in the aftermath of the Crisis of Faith was essentially on a postmodernist basis.

Present day

Badists in meditation and reflection in reverence of Plant at a locally sacred location

Though Badi saw a decline in many areas in the modern period, it recovered from the Crisis of Faith and is today a world religion, focused in Southeast Coius. The government of Dezevau greatly loosened anti-religious restrictions in the latter half of the 20th century, which helped. Internationally, the gowsa diaspora is in large part Badist, and in the Eastern world, there are some recent converts to Badi of those who seek new religious approaches. In Narozalica, it was associated with the socialist Zalyk independence movement, with such figures as Tagai Chulgetei who led in the Sostava War being Badist. There are around 100 million Badists worldwide and growing.

Demographics

Around the world, there are over 100 million Badists, with wide distribution by gender and healthy intergenerational transmission. A majority of that population are in Southeast Coius.

Badists comprise 32.2% of the Dezevauni population according to the 2020 census, or about 42 million making them the largest religious group in the country, behind a larger irreligious group. In Terangau, they are 89.8% of the population, or about 28 million. The primary religion on the island of Tava in Tinza is Tai'u, a form of Badi. Across the Great Steppe and Greater Satria (such as in Ajahadya and Kumuso), there are Badist minorities around 5%-10%, owing to the historical presence of the religion there. The form that Badi takes on the western side of the continent of Coius is often divergent broadly from the forms practiced in its original regions in the east because of its sometimes beleaguered position as a minority and historical separation. There is also broader distribution of Badi, often related to the Dezevauni or Terangauni diasporas (such as in Euclea, the Asterias and parts of Coius through gowsas) and modern spiritual converts in the Eastern world.

Tendencies and sects

A view of Lake Zindarud, revered primarily by the Pure Water Badi sect

Badi may be subdivided, as a matter of convenience, into tendencies and sects. This terminology is largely academic, as there is limited popular understanding of or identification with tendencies, which have also been called varieties, regional varieties or interelemental varieties. Sects have also been called intraelemental varieties, or cults; both the terms "sect" and "cult" have been criticised for sounding derogatory at times.

Tendencies are largely regional, denoting broadly different, exclusive strands of Badi; they touch on aspects across the religion, and the understanding thereof. They are generally not self-identified with; most Badists consider themselves part of the same religious community as others distant, without much formalised doctrine of orthodoxy. Main Badist tendencies according to most academic taxonomies include Indigenous (most of Dezevau, Terangau), Animatism (most of Satria), Tai'u (Tava) and Neo-Badi (converts in the Eastern world).

Sects are subdivisions of Badi within the same community, and often people or institutions are associated with multiple. Most typically, they are dedicated to a particular element, or a few, with a focus on aspects thereof. While usually not formally coordinated (except for very loosely, e.g. through the Association of Badist Churches) they are only in limited competition; they coexist, representing different aspects of Badi as a whole. In most areas, a few sects predominate, but the presence of many more is noted. Commonly, people are closest to a single sect, often dependent on what part of their life they are in, while there is continued engagement with other sects. There are very many sects, far more than there are tendencies; sects are the level of organisation immediately above temples, which are the most basic form. Major sects include the Cult of the Sun, Pure Water Badi and Time.

Organisation

A modern urban temple to Metal

Badi's basic organisational unit is the temple (also historically called churches). These are typically a single location or locations in close geographical association, with unified hierarchy, resources and legal status. They tend to belong to a particular sect, but temples that are associated with none are common, especially in areas where the density of Badists is not high. These temples organise and carry out activities, ranging from community service to ritual to outreach to elemental experimentation. While there is similarity across temples, they tend to fulfil different roles within the same community, usually depending on element. They vary in size, but are generally proportionate to the community they serve. Followers attend temples for these activities, and financially support them (through payment for services or donations, generally).

Temples are most often associated with a sect. Sects are the organisational form above temples, as while they do not represent the concrete presence on the ground generally, they have closely held traditions, customs, emphases, doctrines and roles. While regional variations in Badi exist, most organisational power exists at the sect level, which has helped prevent the overall drifting of the Badist religion over time and between places, as far as the variation is constrained to and variously interconnected through sects.

One can think of the theological elements as the top-level subdivision; while there are non-elementally affiliated temples, they are mostly in areas of low density, and even then they tend to be influenced by a few elements over others, and to have internal divisions. Sects are almost all dedicated to a particular element; general roles and aspects are related to the fifteen theological elements, and despite the fact that a Badist is typically engaged with many, they help form a coherent framework for structuring Badi's activities and concerns.

Sun candy, a kind of hard candy made of honey, connected to the Cult of the Sun and often containing hallucinogenic ingredients for entheogenic purposes

Society

Culture

Badi has had a significant influence on the culture of many peoples. Religious customs have permeated secular life to a significant extent in traditionally Badist areas, including the popularity of religiously significant foods. The architecture of Badist temples has been fertile ground for postmodernist developments, and is renowned worldwide. The case is also made that Badi has a significant impact on the social conscience of the societies it inhabits, through its moral and ethical teachings and norms.

It has been argued that Badi preserved and fossilised aspects of ancient culture in areas where it was dominant, because of its acculturation and long continuity. Many classicists look towards Badist doctrine, texts and customs for material, for this reason.

Politics

Badi has had political significance in a variety of ways. In areas where it was traditionally dominant, cultures of pluralism and tolerance have been attributed to its tenets. Like many religions around the world, Badist temples have also been pointed out as conservative, hierarchical institutions that siphon away social conscience and are slow to change or admit fault. Badi has been blamed for inhibiting mass movements and the development of the rule of law at times.

Dezevau, the centre of world Badi, repressed religion for some decades after the Dezevauni Revolutionary War and the success of the socialists therein; this had an impact on Badi as it existed in the country, and around the world therefrom. It was also, however, the characteristics of Badi as decentralised and moderated that influenced the easing of religious restrictions, despite their orthodoxy in the international socialist movement of the time. It has been argued that the Badist focus on community was a result of Dezevauni socialism, and some allege that the Association of Badist Churches is unduly or secretly influenced by the Dezevauni government.

See also