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Costeny is a monotheistic religion with traditions and beliefs based on the teachings of its prophet and founder Mstis. It is the dominant religion in Lannonia, and one of the major religions of the world.
Costeny can be summarized as the belief in the need for humanity to break free of bondage by a malevolent creator deity, the Demiurge (or Dagnik), through a multifaceted process known as Theophagy that includes asceticism, search of enlightenment, an ethical lifestyle, and preternatural pursuits, which work towards the erosion of the Demiurge and weakening the confinement of the material world. Total and complete theophagy results in apotheosis, a state of bliss, power, and permanence.
Cositene beliefs are codified by the writings of Mstis, including the direct revelations of the Apocrypha, and the larger Three Great Canons, transcriptions of his teachings by his students, as well as by later preternatural revelations. Cositene texts are notoriously cryptic, and the faith relies as much on scripture as it does on folk tradition in transmit itself. Costeny has an expansive ecclesiarchy that includes a large clergy, numerous ecclesiastical polities, and political influence that work to organize its followership.
Historically, Costeny is considered to have developed with strong influence from Tastanism, which it eventually rebuked. Following the revelations of Mstis in the 10th century, Costeny was suppressed by Bibliocratic authorities, but after the Panoles plague Lannonian social order crumbled, and Costeny rapidly converted much of the population while establishing its political authority in the Cositene expansion. From the 16th century onwards, Costeny has seen numerous doctrinal disputes which expressed themselves in many fields and methods; beginning in the 19th century these disagreements have combined with increasingly violent social movements, and more recently gave rise to the tendency of Renovationism, which has led to serious division and tension in the Cositene world.
The name Costeny is derived from koštunstvo (Mstislavic: Ⰽⱁⱋⱆⱀⱄⱅⰲⱁ), a term that initially meant 'sacrilege' in early Vitrian and later Tastanic religious as well as common, folk terminology. The name was applied as a pejorative to Mstis's teachings which opposed worship of both common idols and deities as well as the Tastanic Creator and its Avatars; however, Mstis decided to embrace this label instead, as it demonstrated Costeny's doctrine of rejecting the 'petty deities' revered by the unenlightened. The term very soon became an endonym used by Cositenes themselves widely.
Prior to the use of the term Costeny, Cositenes themselves referred to their religion as simply 'the Truth' (Istina, ⰻⱄⱅⰻⱀⰰ), or as nevięzenje, or 'unbounding', in reference and explicit opposition to Tastanic viezeny.
The 'supreme being' or the 'Absolute' in Costeny is known as the True Lord (žabnik, from Sepcan čap, 'standing'; or more commonly Literary Vitrian pravĭ gospodĭ, 'True Lord').
The Demiurge (dagnik, from Sepcan tak, 'weaving') corresponds to the 'Creator' of Tastanism.
Viezeny, corresponding directly to the Tastanic concept, is the state or process that confines humans, renders them subject to infernal external forces, prevents them from reaching their full potential, and separates them from their true meaning.
The Two Lights refer to two roughly opposite yet also closely complementary tendencies in Cositene theology and practice, the Black Light, and the White Light. Each of the two Lights are characterized by specific general attitudes in approach to subjects such as the path to ascension, the goal of ascension, the organization of the faithful, and the regimentation to be pursued by the believer. Black Light has been described as mysterious and authoritarian, but also egoistic, while White Light has been described as rationalistic, focused on doctrinal abstraction into principles, and egalitarian, yet also tightly regimented and collectivistic. The presence of seemingly contradictory tenets in a Light is actually considered essential to their composition.
Although the Two Lights are historically often considered as radically opposite due to the rivalry of the schools of thought espousing each of them, they are not in fact mutually exclusive interpretations and approaches, and are considered to be the same aspects of the truth that Costeny represents; accepting both is a step towards approaching the Absolute. However, churches have usually tended towards one or other Light, and traditions have been developed upon one particular tendency. The following of Black Light is regarded to span most of northern Lannonia, while White Light is considered to be accepted by its southern half.
Cositene practices generally revolve around resistance against natural forces at every opportunity, exercised through aggressive proselytism of 'unenlightened' populations, strong sectarian opposition to nearly every other religious belief, the constant spiritual exercise of independence from the Demiurge's temptations (often resulting in asceticism, see Monasticism in Costeny), scholarship of methods to theophagy and ascension, and, through constant participation in a collective of believers as well as obedience to directions of clerical authority, engineer even greater acts of 'sacrilege' against petty divinity. The organized practice of Costeny has been noted to feature a near paradoxical blend of self-interest and collectivism.
Cositene morality is usually regarded as consequentialist; acts and their results and consequences are what are to be determined right from wrong. To this end Costeny is very pragmatic with regards to achieving its goals of Theophagy and Emancipation of the human spirit. Notably in Cositene moral and legal treatment those opposed to Cositene teachings, or those simply unenlightened, are dealt with on different principles such that they could essentially be considered defined as non-human in those contexts.
Rites and liturgy
Costeny has a very organized and esteemed procedure of liturgical rite (rječinija) that bears similarity to practice of Tastanism and Lutheran Catholicism, however it notably does not adhere to a strict schedule (on the belief that experienced time, being another architecture of the Demiurge, is immaterial and an illusion) and may be held whenever a religious leader and/or the majority of believers see fit. The rites can take place both in enclosed temples and on large squares designed for such purposes, known as resuasts. The ministers at such rites are known as prvčitatniks ('first readers'), assisted by several bočičitatnici, 'side-readers'. In a style rather distinct from other liturgical traditions, prayers are split into 3 sections, which sometimes overlap when recited, the prvčitatnici responsible for one, the bočičitatnici another and the rest of the congregation the remaining (this part is known as the 'group-word').
Podesy (from podesnost, from pòdesiti, 'to setup, adjust, tune') is a metaphysical and occult system and method of orthopraxy where a Cositene aims to carefully manipulate nature to the maximum of their own benefit and the Demiurge's expense. It is considered a very esoteric field of Cositene practice but at the same time is a common part of everyday life, including both norms and customs of going about one's matters as well as metaphysical understanding and alteration of the environment in the process. It has been compared to the practice of feng shui in East Borea. Podesy has also been associated with both metaphorical and literal-preternatural 'pacts with demons' temporarily, again to one's benefit. Examples of podesic exercise include Cositene architecture, some features of Cositene gymnastics, divination, various Cositene cultural practices such as decorating doors with plants, and even the Cositene approach to science.
The basic Cositene institution is the church, which gathers at a local place of worship, either a church-temple or a resuast, the latter more common among larger urban communities. Rather than primarily being an assembly of believers as with other similarly structured Lannonian religions, the church here is primarily a command center in the fight against the Demiurge, put directly an organ to command believers, and is thus strongly hierarchical with the managing clergy inherently positioned superior to the rest of the congregation, and whose coordinations are generally intended to be obeyed. This local congregation is headed and managed by a group of priests who carry the nominal task of overseeing the community of the Cositenes of the congregation in general. Local churches assemble into parishes, a largely administrative level of organization with little autonomy, and then gather into dioceses, which possess significant relative authority and relevance compared to most other Cositene institutions and polities. Dioceses are headed by bishops, appointed by eparchial authorities, or vaguely elected by consensus of religious subjects in absence of one.
The eparchy is theoretically the first-level administrative division of the Cositene world-state, and functionally is the supreme authority of all Cositene dioceses and churches in a nation, or even an entire region.
Costeny finds its origins in heterodox and eventually heretical movements of Tastanism, a religion in Lannonia codified by its prophet Bozhidar in the 3rd century. Currents that believed in divinities that existed outside of the Creator, Tastanism's central deity, and the World, became influences on Costeny, such as the ideas of Radomil, a heretic from the 8th century, although very few adopted the hostile attitude to the natural world Mstis's teachings took on later.
Himself a poorly documented figure prior to his prophecy, Mstis received revelations from the True Lord beginning in about 921 in Oteki, and then transmitted these doctrines to a circle of disciples. Mstis then travelled to Razaria in 930 to teach there after he was expelled by local authorities. In 933, his revelations were transcribed by memory, compiled, and published as the Word of the True Lord. The text was apparently rapidly disseminated enough to demand its immediate proscription in the context of pervasive church influence on society of the Bibliocracy. By this point, although Mstis had gathered thousands of followers even prior to the Word's publication, they were defeated at the Battle of Dobvod and massacred, with the emerging 'cult' banned and Mstis's inner circle fleeing to the Gozars.
Rise and expansion
Costeny was then only practiced sparsely and secretly until the Panoles plague in the 1050s, a devastating syndemic which depopulated Lannonia severely and consequently caused the collapse of the Bibliocratic social order.
The plague was, among the Cositenes still active then, embraced as a divinely granted opportunity to spread their truths. In the chaos that ensued the plague, Cositene preachers, who had already gathered influence among the disaffected peasantry, organized waves of religious peasant rebellions; their goals of smashing the Tastanic church's grip on society, which was known to be oppressive, gave them huge popularity and rapid mass conversions by Razarian commoners. Eastwards in modern Zesmynia, Cositene conversions also surged, however it was only with the nobleman Ostromysl's act of converting to Costeny and revolting against the ecclesiarchy that the process of destroying Tastanism there began. Ostromysl was emulated by thousands of noblemen with estates large and small, who had all grown to resent the Bibliocracy's erosion of their authority, and wished to preserve themselves in face of the peasant uprisings. This rapid rise of Costeny was known as the Cositene expansion. Over a period of decades, Cositene states were established from Caznia down to modern Luziyca, with Tastanism holding out only southeastern Lannonia.
In the 12th century, the various new Cositene states entered conflicts of interests that initiated a period of infighting and halted its spread, which was only ended in 1151 by the appearance of Adytum, a mysterious council claiming to be Mstis's original disciples, who temporarily provided an unified authority over the Cositene world and even outlined its states with the Investiture of Peregnevy, but after its disappearance in 1227 the Empire of Razaria took over as the predominant authority. Adytum also decreed the establishment of a clear clerical hierarchy, and a single standard of rites, that among other things that formed the set of central tenets and practices known as the Adytic Orthodoxy.
During the Adytic period and ensuing Razarian Hegemony, Costeny spread outwards again, with conquests and conversions of nearby Tastanic kingdoms or pagan tribes made steadily. In the early 14th century, the Cositene world confronted the Tastanic Petrolevian Empire, and eventually triumphed, with Petrolevia being conquered in 1338, sealing the Costenization of all of civilized Lannonia.
The long serenity
The stable remainder of the 14th century and much of the 15th century saw Cositene culture and learning flourish in the tranquil setting. This included the sophistication of Cositene philosophy, which continued but also added onto the foundation of Neo-Sepcan philosophy. The debate of the supremacy of rationalism versus mysterious dogma was theologically controversial, and turned into a division between the Two Lights of theology. The moderating doctrines of White Light became influential enough for the Cositene world's previously fervent iconoclasm against pre-Cositene culture to attenuate, and even introduced a peaceful approach to interfaith relations known as cultivationism. Cositene clergy also emerged as a consolidated social class, introducing political conflict between imperial authority and clerical power that turned into the controversy of the Separationist movement in Razaria. The Separationist Wars, although mainly fought in Razaria, had consequences for Lannonia as a whole; the underlying philosophical conflict behind the political doctrines of the parties deepened the divide between Black Light and White Light churches. Although a schism seemed imminent, no further issue was made of the conflict due to the recession of the Razarian Hegemony, and later a harmonistic, reconciliatory approach adopted during the Zesmynian Hegemony.
Cositene science developed significantly in the 15th century under its religious framework, with the understanding of the world from science viewed as useful in liberation from the Demiurge, and the application of it as technology as an act of theophagy. In the 17th century, under the White Light's influence, science in much of the Cositene world took on a rationalist and later empiricist bent, even though this was questioned by Black Light scholars of Razaria, Caznia, and Zesmynia, whose discourses formed the base for an anti-intellectual reaction that curtailed science in those areas. The further progression of White Light rationalism, combined with other philosophical developments, evolved into a clergy-questioning tendency that was also swiftly suppressed in southern Lannonia. These currents led to the Delirium and Torpor, a period of intellectual stagnation as philosophical discourse and heterodox ideas were repressed. However, Cositene social order had in any case come under threat as Age of Enlightenment ideas slowly entered with the developing transoceanic trade in Esquarium.