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Symbol for elementalism or an elemental in Badi
|Regions with significant populations|
Badi is a religion which reveres knowledge and holds that the world is composed of fundamental and holy essences or elements. It originated out of the organisation of traditional beliefs in central Dezevau in the mid-first millennium CE, and is today the most practiced religion in Dezevau, and xxx, with notable minorities in xxx, xxx, and xxx. The Association of Badi Churches estimates around xx million around the world follow it.
In Ziba, badi means "element", or "elemental spirit", as in the personified natural deity which represent a sanctified element. Metonymically, this has become the common name for the religion in Estmerish as well as in other Euclean languages. Badists' own names for their religion vary, though badi and badi-badi ("badis") are not uncommon in Ziba or Euclea.
Badi holds that everything can be reduced to its component, indivisible parts; these are conventionally referred to as elements. This was historically a literally held belief, but has shifted to a more conceptual, metaphorical ideal with the advent of modern chemistry.
These basic elements are thought to be divine in nature, their physical forms the essence of a higher entity which tends to be conceived of as sentient but not human-like; all existence is thought of as a manifestation of these beings, with one embodying each element. To a limited extent it is possible to interact with, perhaps even influence or contact the elemental beings. Their characters tend to be based on the understanding of the associated earthly element; for example, the heat elemental being is conceived of as energetic and reductive.
The conceptualisation of the basic elements developed over time, and varied in different areas which had different exposures to certain schools of thought. Generally speaking, over time, more elements were discovered. Experimentation and research, of a kind, were conducted by religious practitioners to solve or understand the elemental nature of the world, though changes in the widely held doctrine tended to be slow and rare. In the modern day, the Association of Badi Churches has standardised the elements, though some disagree with its prescription.
The Association of Badi Churches standardised elements are:
- Heat (sometimes fire)
- Air (oxygen, breathable air)
- Gas (non-oxygen gases, non-breathable air)
- Earth (silicon, sand, stone or rock; non-metallic, non-soluble minerals generally)
- Plant (sometimes referred to as wood; vegetation)
- Animal (sometimes meat)
- Electricity (sometimes lightning)
- Light (sometimes radiation)
- Salt (soluble minerals generally)
Human beings are more or less conceived of as being a particularly remarkable, diverse, refined combination and configuration of the elements; lifeforms in general are conceived of in much the same way, to a lesser extent.
The world is thought to have begun in Badi with an undifferentiated mass comprising all existence. This mass slowly precipitated, with elementals gaining their distinctiveness and subdividing further. Over time, as the variety and identity of the elementals stabilised, they dispersed and their essences interacted; the material world is considered to have been created by their slow, collective combination. This is not thought of as a conscious or intentional action, but merely the natural result of their existence being established; they, in turn, have little care for the material world, but look upon it and interact with it from time to time.
Incidentally, the manner in which the elementals came into the world resembles the way in which they were discovered; the process of religious science may have influenced the telling of the myth, but it is not suggested that their discovery and establishment in theology occurred at a timescale anything close to the actual development of the elementals, who are thought to be ancient beyond comprehension. There is, however, a small but fiercely contested body of theology which deals with the seniority of the elementals and the order in which they came into existence.
The story of how humans came to be tends to be separated from the creation myth of the world; while people may have existed near the start of the world, sapient humans with society and civilisation were the consequence of a natural accident, a curious divine intervention by a few elementals, or some incident heretofore yet obscure.
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 either nonexistent, or obscure, dull and empty.
Mhuoganga Dibegaune, a social theorist, author and politician who was an agnostic, wrote the essay The Afterlife in Badi in 1927. 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. The afterlife in the essay is said to be between the material and the elemental spirits' realms; it is largely featureless, without anything capable of significantly enlivening or stimulating the senses. All dead people go there after death, as their consciousness' complexity unravels from the simpler elemental composition of their earthly body. Perhaps the consciousnesses of the dead linger for a time as they unravel, and final farewells are made. After some indefinite period of time, being unravels entirely into basic elements, with the more material parts becoming reattached to the material plane and the spiritual essence which collects in people through life dissipating into the spiritual realm. It was also in this essay that it was said "existence is the scripture of Badi", in reference to its focus on the social and material world as opposed to metaphysical concerns such as the afterlife.
Some sects of Badi believe in reincarnation, with the usual explanation that one's essence of being is too complex to unravel entirely and too complex to create quickly; the essence goes into the world until it enters another body at birth. This belief, though it differs in that it believes reincarnation takes a long period of time, is largely as a result of syncretism with Satyism. Some varieties of Badi also believe in a Sotirian-style heaven, also as a result of syncretism, but these varieties are much rarer and more obscure.
Badist churches in the modern day tend to have weekly gatherings; because the seven-day week was not native to the region where Badi originated, the traditional day of gathering varies geographically and by sect. These gatherings involve study of doctrine, socialisation with members of the community, doing good deeds in the community and other activities organised by priests. While historically they were more structured, they today tend to begin with a single service before rituals and activities are conducted in smaller, variable groups.
Some of the activities traditionally part of gatherings or outside of them include experimentation, the writing of texts, the reading of texts, discussion and doing work in the community. Experimentation was much more common before modern science, as it was seen to be familiarising adherents with the divine nature of the world; it was not conducted in the way familiar to the modern scientific method. The writing and reading of texts is seen in a similar light, but also often incorporates fiction or mystic texts, which are seen to relate to the unveiling of the unknown parts of the world; dreams are considered holy for this same reason. Discussion tends to be of texts or religiously relevant matters, such as dreams or experiences.
While not necessarily based in a secure or traditional theoretical doctrine, religious organisations and gatherings today tend to place emphasis on doing good in the world; in the past, this may have been more directly relevant to religious matters, such as preaching, helping other adherents or the church, or spreading education, today this has broadened to community service more generally, in accordance with the communitarian realignment of Badi after its crisis of modernity and collapse in the mid 20th century.
Temples and sects often have their own variant practices and keep esoteric lore and mysteries which are only revealed to those who undergo certain rituals or rise in the ranks. These tend to vary very widely.
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. They also have significant minorities in Ajahadya and Zorasan.
Badi has a strong and long history of cults, sects and variants; it has been at times considered a collection of religions rather than a coherent one itself by some. However, even members of the most extreme varieties of Badi generally still recognise the holiness and power of all the elementals.
As an organised religion, Badi originated around the middle of the first millennium BCE in the city-states of central Dezevau. Fetishist and other materialistic, mysticist religious practices dominated the region as well as most of neighbouring Bahia at this time; however, unlike in Bahia, large, agricultural city-states had appeared in Dezevau. Some had been founded in religiously significant locations, while in others the priesthoods gained influence through other means. In any case, superstitious practices and generally accepted ideas about the world began to be codified and organised, with a priest class developing to oversee and understand these things.
The city-states of the time tended to have relatively egalitarian cultures; this fostered a more widespread participation in religious practices, and doctrines tended to reflect common understandings about the world. Beliefs tended not to be dogmatic, but changed as technology developed and conditions changed; for example, it is likely that the greater presence of oils in the economy caused by development enabled oil to become an element, rather than being considered part of water.
Over time, cities found themselves with one or a few temples which would collect from the populace or government to conduct rites and activities. The nature of the religion generally precluded them from having wider political influence, but rather these institutions had a stabilising, acculturating effect. Over time, they came to specialise, with, dependent on culture and history, certain temples being dedicated more to certain elements. This process was likely spurred by the economic interconnection of the region, enabling specialisation of a sort, and pilgrimage.
With the presence of influential scientist-priests from time to time, Badi took on an institutionalised shape. Conflicts arose over the validity of certain elements, as well as their powers and significances. Cities often adopted elements to invoke its qualities, either temporarily (say, during a famine or war) or permanently, which might be because of the city's location or cultural practices. This variation within a more widely accepted framework tended to promote smaller conflicts between the Dezevauni city-states, but were robust enough to resist foreign practices which began to appear on the scene, notably Satyism earlier on, and Irfan later on.
In later antiquity, the religion spread with the cultural and economic influence of the Dezevauni city-states. Its nature allowed for syncretism, and it was also promoted where Dezevaunis settled; it, in a sense, replaced the traditional agricultural smallholder fabric of state where it spread. Significantly, Cavunia became majority Badi, but the religion's pragmatic practices saw it spread and seem compatible in a much wider sphere, particularly across the Great Steppe (in the Badi Reaction), but also to Terangau.
Incursions by Ndjarendie from the north in the medieval era as well as the continued spread of Satyism hemmed the religion's spread in. Later, colonial Gaullica would aggressively attempt to convert Dezevau to Sotirian Catholicism. However, it remained a dominant religion, losing ground during centralised Bureau for Southeast Coius rule until it became a symbol of Dezevauni nationalism.
During he 20th century, however, around the time of Dezevauni independence and afterwards, it went through somewhat of a collapse in its exposure to modern science. The rapid expansion of the periodic table and the introduction of secular ideologies from much more developed societies saw the followers of Badi plunge in number, some saying it would be extinct in a generation. However, the establishment of the Association of Badi Churches saw a greater level of institutional control and organisation, and the reorientation of the faith towards community gathering and engagement rather than its older doctrines. The government of Dezevau also to some extent, generally only implicitly, approved of the religion; while earlier on, the communist policy was that religion was essentially cultural foible and incompatible with scientific socialism, later postcolonial thought considered it a distinctively local type of culture, and preferable to imperialistic religions such as Catholicism. 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.