|Mother of the World, Queen of the Gods, Lady of Riches|
Uchsvŭn is the goddess who, along with her husband Thek, created the world. She is the mother of all gods and all peoples of the world, but sadly many of her offspring have forgotten her and worship other gods and goddesses. Those faithful to Uchsvŭn have the chance to earn riches untold, if they keep that faith.
Uchsvŭn is worshipped throughout Chaigari, into Kilalammu as far as the Central Plains area, and north across the Dry Bay of Ssu’úm into southern Jannu, where she is considered to be the wife of Dumŭgâk the Lord of Spears.
Uchsvŭn is unequivocally Avánthe, but a very strict and cold version of the deity to Tsolyáni eyes. Her priestesses take a vow of chastity, as do the Priestesses of Dilinála, and sexual rituals are notably absent from her worship.
The planet of Uchsvŭn is Tekumel itself, the great globe ever turning beneath our feet, from which life is brought forth by ever generous Uchsvŭn. Note: The followers of Uchsvŭn subscribe to the heliocentric theory of the solar system as derived from the teachings of Thek. The Tsolyáni and Salarvyani regard this opinion as laughable, the earth is flat and stable and the Engsvanyali orrerys that depict it as rotating and orbiting Tuleng are merely abstractions and toys.
Noble action for a follower of Uchsvŭn is to obey the Headwoman at all times while within the village, to work in the fields diligently praising Uchsvŭn all the while, to respect the sanctity of marriage and to contribute to the clan’s storehouse unstintingly and generously. One must sacrifice in the proper season, and one must never complain if ones lot is hard; Uchsvŭn is generous to those who are humble, not to those who demand more than is their due. Followers of Uchsvŭn are modest, generous, humble and resist the temptations of wasteful pleasures.
Ignoble action is to be lazy and expect Uchsvŭn to provide for you, to engage in sex outside marriage, to refuse to share the bounty granted you by Uchsvŭn with your kin, to disobey the Headwoman and to ignore the advice of the Wise Woman. Persistent ignoble action may be punished by banishment from the land within women’s circle and denial of the fruits of the earth.
Rituals and Pilgrimages
Every village and town
has a shrine to Uchsvŭn either within its precincts or at the
nearest convenient spot where fresh water may be found. All followers
must wash their faces, hands and feet every morning with cold water
(though this may be perfunctory dab with a wet finger tip in places
where water is short such as the
The acting of grinding grain into flour is an act of prayer to Uchsvŭn and in devout households quern stones are carved with intricate spiral patterns scared to Uchsvŭn. Flour made from such a quern is more resistant to rot and spoilage and bread made from it is more nutritious. Uchsvŭn worshipping bakers make their bread in a circular shape with diamonds in the centre as a tribute to Uchsvŭn. Other everyday references to Uchsvŭn are the blue spirals sewn into hmelu-herders boots to strengthen the felt by some clans (others use red crosshatch patterns, a sign of Dumŭgâk, or white chevrons, a sign of Thek).
Certain wells and springs are especially scared to Uchsvŭn and it is the duty of the priestesses of Uchsvŭn to make sure that these springs are unpolluted and are not over exploited for irrigation purposes.
Pilgrimages to Uchsvŭn’s shrines are an almost daily occurrence – people are always dropping by to visit the Wise Woman to ask her advice on everyday matters, seek her help in curing minor illnesses, ask her blessing on a field or on a pregnant hmelu or just to gossip. Consequently the ritual blue cloth one should wear while on pilgrimage is almost never removed and is worn as a necklace string by most women and many men. One must still observe silence on the walk between the edge of the village circle and the shrine or if the shrine is within the village one must stop for a moment on the threshold of the Wise Woman’s house in total silence before entering.
In areas where water is in short supply Uchsvŭn may be the guardian of all the wells and springs and the pilgrimage is a morning routine as the women of the village take their water jars to be filled.
The major ritual of Uchsvŭn is the wedding. This is as elaborate a feast as local conditions allows with consumption of alcoholic beers made by the priestesses from local grains and herbs, payment of dowries, exchange of gifts, sanctifying of a quern stone for the new wife and a spear for the husband. This culminates in the sacrifice and roasting of a hmelu, and the man and wife drinking from a scared vessel filled with holy spring water mixed with its blood and blood from the couple.
There also great
shrines to Uchsvŭn in the rich agricultural lands of the valleys
and plains and at a certain oasis on the edge of the
Followers of Uchsvŭn are buried according to whatever their local practice may be; usually burial in the valleys, though some clans burn their dead and in the mountains a form of sky-burial is practiced.
Followers of Uchsvŭn
usually sacrifice foodstuffs, garments and tools to their god,
essentially providing directly for the upkeep of the Wise Women. It is
also usual to pay a Wise Woman for ‘services rendered’, a small fee
in return for a blessing or prayer to the goddess. Priestesses will also
make and sell beer for feasts, though they will refuse to sell to those
they think will abuse this scared substance. In the small towns and
villages brewing is exclusively in the hands of the priestesses of Uchsvŭn,
though in larger towns there is often a brewers clan who produce a
non-sacred ale for general consumption and merchants who import wine for
sale to the wealthier citizens. Note:
The Tsolyáni practice of sacrificing flowers is regarded by the people
of Chaigari with some disdain; what possible use are flowers to the
goddess and her priestesses? She made the flowers herself, She has an
infinite supply, why insult Her by trying to give these things back to
Only women may be priests of Uchsvŭn; very occasionally a man may be sufficiently devoted to the goddess that he may emulate the rituals, practices and dress of a priestess, but such persons are regarded as eccentrics rather than true conduits to the goddess and are not entrusted with any community rituals such as weddings and blessings.
Some larger shrines have male guards against possible attack. Mostly these are provided or paid for by the local clans, but the bodyguards of the highest priestesses will be warrior trained women or male eunuchs. The position of eunuch guard is an honourable one, and some clans take great pride in devoting a son to the service of the goddess in this manner (what the sons themselves think of it is not recorded).
No priestess of Uchsvŭn may have sexual intercourse. If she does so she is considered to be a priestess no longer and any blessings she made or weddings she carried out in the past must be immediately reconsecrated by a proper priestess or the ire of Uchsvŭn will fall on the community. Such a person is usually expelled from their village and will have to move a long way away to escape their reputation.
One popular ballad concerns a young couple Hegga and Yilu’űn. Hegga left to carry a spear in a war far away and did not return. Yilu’un pined away, rejecting all suitors and became a wise woman of Uchsvŭn rather than betray his memory. He returned fifteen years later and his old sweetheart accepted him with open arms. The village awoke to find Yilu’un impaled on her lover’s spear in the middle of the village – after their night of passion Hegga had destroyed his true love for her betrayal of her sacred vows. Hegga was hailed as a hero and elected headman of his village. Such is romantic poetry in southern Jannu…
Adultery is not punished as such, but the person who violates the sanctity of marriage is considered dishonourable and will certainly go down in the estimation of his tribe and may be subject to assault from their partner and/or their relatives. The usual solution where there is much bad feeling is for the headman and/or headwoman to banish the guilty parties. Adultery is the only legitimate reason for divorce in the eyes of the Jannuyani, and the breaking of any oath to man or deity is of course dishonourable.
Rape is considered the most heinous crime possible, worse even than murder, and a rapist will be subject to immediate attack from any right thinking Jannuyani tribesperson. An oath sworn by the victim while having one hand submerged in a pool sacred to Uchsvŭn is considered to be sufficient proof of guilt.
There are no food
taboos, but a wise woman may decide to deny an individual the right to
draw the products of Uchsvŭn’s fields and wild plants from the
tribal storehouses as a punishment for various infractions.
As with Thek heaven is considered to be a place much like earth but nicer, but the souls of most people are doomed to return the mundane plane until they can live a sufficiently virtuous life to earn their place in heaven.
When it comes to knowledge of healing plants and the proper methods of dealing with disease and injury in humans, animals and plants the Priestesses of Uchsvŭn far outstrip even the priests of Thek with their laboriously memorised ‘Litany of the Ills of Man’ and ‘Litany of the Uses of the Many Herbs’. The priestesses see many more everyday cases and learn practical skills as acolytes assisting their wise woman mistress, and no Thek priest would have the first idea of practical obstetrics and would go purple if asked to put his theoretical knowledge of gynaecology to actual use. Only very serious and ‘spiritual’ malaises requiring heavy duty magic are referred to hermits of Thek.
The priestesses have some plant lore they rarely ever employ, that of poisons and of ‘recreational’ drugs. The only time they will use any of their more outlandish herbs is to achieve a state of altered consciousness to diagnose which evil spirit is causing a given illness. The lore of Uchsvŭn makes it clear that using mind altering drugs, even as mild as alcohol, makes one more vulnerable to demons as well as enhancing ones contact with the goddess, and the more powerful the drug the greater the risk. The sorry example of the Tsolyáni, drinking, using drugs and trafficking openly with demons is there for all to see.
The Sacred Springs
The water of a spring
sacred to Uchsvŭn is considered to be a useful talisman against
many ills and little clay vials of it serve as the basis of many
talismans sacred to Uchsvŭn and of many rituals. Both Thek and
Uchsvŭn dip sprigs of the Tiu tree in this water and sprinkle it
over an area as a purification ritual, and a pot of sacred water is
often included in the supplies taken up the hermits of Thek just before
A village priestess of Uchsvŭn does not dress any differently from any other village woman, the only sign of her office being a green stone on a blue cord round her neck and sometimes a blue hat. In the valleys at the larger temples costumes are a little more elaborate and finer. Linen is used to make long-sleeved dresses for priestesses, usually in white trimmed with blue and green and a priestess will have at least one blue diamond tattooed on her forehead. As she rises in rank further diamonds may be added at the outer corners of the eyes and around the mouth.
The magic of Uchsvŭn is very similar to that of Avánthe and Dilinála, with a few unique spells and variants. By no means all priestesses use magic, and those that do rarely have access to all the possible spells, being taught only those her mistress knows. A few young acolytes from the villages do get to spend some time at the larger valley temples where more magic is known, but it is felt that a wise woman’s place is supporting her tribe, not learning esoterica she will use maybe twice in her life. Some of the more hair-raising magics are sufficiently rare that knowing such a spell is enough to make you considered to be an avatar of the goddess (see below).
The typical shrine of
Uchsvŭn in the average mountain village is simply the house of the
wise woman, which will be divided into two by a curtain, or have a
cellar or underground room separated from the living quarters by a
curtain. No male is allowed to see what lies beyond this curtain, though
in fact it is usually nothing more dramatic than a back room used for
delivering babies and brewing beer and where the wise woman can hide
when she is fed up being asked to do favours for the villagers. The room
will contain an image of some kind of Uchsvŭn. These are often
entirely abstract, cubes and cones of black or blue stone or wooden
posts carved all over with intricate spiral patterns. No man is allowed
to see such an object and when they are taken out of the shrine to be
present at a wedding ceremony these statues are shrouded in hmelu hides
or thick woollen cloths.
The lowland shrines in the towns are different only in size and material. They will often house several wise women and their acolytes and have a suite rooms used for different purposes, often including one used as a sick room and another as a meeting room for the women of the town. Sacred areas are denoted by beaded hangings with silver or copper bells on the bottom, and in the largest and best appointed shrines there will be wooden doors. Rituals are always small scale and private, and small groups of local women will be met by the wise women and treated as guests in the house as much as worshippers. Weddings are held in the yard outside the shrine, with a special wooden post covered with many layers of blue cloth, and hung with beads, amulets and other small sacrifices. Fixing a golden kaitar to the post with a tiny copper nail is a popular way of giving thanks for healing by Uchsvŭn. Such defaced coins often crop up in Chaigari towns as they are spent by the priestesses when they drop off the post, much to the annoyance of the market police and officials who regard this as a gross insult to the image of the Emperor.
The greatest shrines are the monasteries which dot the richest agricultural lands and the largest oases of the Dry Bay of Ssu’um. These are built on sculpted hills or artificial earthworks, and there is always a path which runs round the circular site at least once between high earth banks. Within are a series of buildings constructed round three circular courtyards of varying degrees of sacredness. Male worshippers are only allowed in the outermost court, eunuch or female guards prevent access to the next court which is for female worshippers and the last court is seen by the priestesses alone. In some temples this final court is a semi-subterranean structure with a domed roof covered in turf and planted with wheat. The temple always has a large granary, and many tribes sacrifice large amounts of grain to the temple, in the knowledge that they will get it back in times of dearth.
As with all temples in
Jannu and Kilalammu the
The Bride Fair of Oallau
The temple at Oallau in south west Jannu hosts a great bride fair, where young men and women and their families come and arrange a suitable marriage (the priestesses get 10% of any dowry negotiated, a big money spinner). This is a great three day jamboree with much feasting and beer drinking and games for the prospective brides and grooms to show off their talents. There is also, much to the displeasure of the priestesses of Uchsvŭn, an arena run by the priests of Dumŭgâk for rival youths to duel over the disputed favours of a young woman. For the last five years the priestesses have refused to heal anyone injured in such a fight, which last year led to the death of a young noble, a riot led by his friends and family and the early break up of the festival with at least five new blood feuds in the offing.
When things go well a king and queen of the fair are chosen by the priestesses and married on the spot with a feast and ceremony paid for out of temple funds. This couple are considered lucky for a year after and are invited to copulate in the fields of the local landowners to ensure their continued fertility.
The Great Spiral
This ancient site lies in the mountains near Kakri Midallu and consists of a cave which winds in a huge subterranean spiral up inside a mountain. Towards the centre it remerges and leads to a path climbing steeply up round a tall spire of rock, ending in a precipitous stairway of three thousand three hundred and three steps. At the very pinnacle is a cone of black basalt, guaranteed to cure infertility and/or impotence in any man or woman who manages to make the arduous climb to touch it. Rival shrines of Uchsvŭn, Avánthe, Dlamelish and Shiringgayi guard the cave entrance. The priestesses of Uchsvŭn here have a reputation for not following the Concordat and being pretty handy with their fists.
The Tomb of Queen Llunakaun
Queen Llunakaun was the only heir to an ancient lord of Alasum, and was wooed by many men. She refused them all and became a priestess of Uchsvŭn, and led her people to great wealth and fortune by her shrewd management of their affairs, playing off one rival king against another and personally leading her warriors in battle against their foes. This last more or less disqualified her from being considered a true avatar of Uchsvŭn, but her tomb is still a site for pilgrimage for noblewomen and women who control their own and their family’s affairs. There is also a temple to Hurgmak at this site which trains female warriors, some of whom serve the temples of Uchsvŭn as guards.
As with any other beer made by Uchsvŭn’s clergy this is intended for ritual use only and only sold if the buyer can assure the priestesses that it will be drunk at a ritual or special feast such as a wedding. Major rituals seem to happen pretty frequently in the small towns near Dzuyukh, and the priestesses themselves are plump and red cheeked due to consumption of their own product and the wealth in food stuffs they accumulate through trading it. Dzuyukh temple is a place of pilgrimage by connoisseurs of fine beer from as far afield as Tsolyanu and Salarvya.
Depending on the dominant deity of the local area Uchsvŭn is considered to be the wife of Thek, Hurgmak or Dumŭgâk, and the relationship between these temples is very close. The male deity is considered by his clergy as superior of course, and the priestesses of Uchsvŭn rarely contest this openly, while making it perfectly clear where the real power lies when necessary. Uchsvŭn is neutral to most other temples, and relations with the rival agricultural goddess Tnalu and her son Mushk’ak worshipped in the central Kilalammu plains are noticeably cool. The priestesses of Uchsvŭn are pretty hostile to Dlamelish, Hrihayal and Shiringgayi, and will try and raise moral panics about their activities among their own followers when they think they can get away with it. They find the Tsolyáni followers of Avánthe patronising – they associate Uchsvŭn with a very minor aspect of their deity associated with brewing and village alewives – but do respect their work for women’s rights. They are quite friendly with Dilinála priestesses, but suspicious of their taste for lesbianism.
The Queen of Sweet Water
The eastern end of the
Dry Bay of Ssu’um around Disunar is inhabited by a population of mixed
Milumanyani and Jannuyani origin. The oasis villages and rare wells used
by the nomadic tribes of the region all have their attendant wise women
following Uchsvŭn or Udzvan as she is known in the local dialect.
The area has its own Avatar of the Goddess as well, the Queen of Sweet
Water resident in Disunar. The
The Queen of Sweet Water is an indescribably ancient crone who controls access to this fresh water, and is in charge of a temple bureaucracy rationing it to the local populace through the yearly issue of brass water tokens to the leading women of each family. The temple priestesses have been known to refuse entry to travellers on the grounds that the local water supply cannot sustain them, and to tell the ruling council of elders that the population must be decreased by a certain amount to preserve supplies. The Queen is rarely seen in public, appearing once a year in a heavily veiled palanquin borne by eunuch guards to receive the worship and thanks of her people and to perform the ritual of Purification of the Waters, taking a bowl of the brackish well water of the region and rendering it pure by magic.
For the most part she lets the people of Disunar manage their own affairs through their elected council, but they do not dare offend her and levy taxes specifically to pay for the upkeep of her temple and will purchase male children to serve her as eunuchs. Recently a detachment of Priests of Light from Saa Allaqi have arrived in the town, gaining their water tokens by the simple expedient of taking them from the townsmen at sword-point and then evicting them into the desert. The Queen refuses to talk to them or even acknowledge their presence in the old citadel across the city square from her temple, and their efforts to take over the council have been rebuffed, though they are managing to levy a tax on visiting salt traders. Some have muttered darkly that the Queen could be getting a whole lot of new eunuch guards some time soon unless the foreigners leave of their own accord, others that all that is needed is some bold men with strong spears to remove the Queen from her prime position over the clean water wells.
The Eternal Virgin of Ghasvet
The Monastery of the Eternal Virgin is in Chaigari in the He’eka Valley a few tsan west of Sirsum. The Eternal Virgins are a line of priestesses born in succession to each other by miraculous virgin births. An Eternal Virgin gives birth to her successor sometime between the ages of 18 and 30, usually at the lower end and retires to become an ordinary member of the clergy. Sometimes they leave the temple entirely and marry, being sought after as spouses by leading members of landowning and agricultural clans. The child is brought up within the temple and treated as if she were the goddess herself. Even as an infant her moods and behaviour has an influence over the weather of the valley and the yield of its crops and herds. She is also capable of predicting earthquakes and even deliberately causing them in distant places through a powerful variant of the spell Seismism. All Eternal Virgins have piercing blue eyes until they give birth to their successor when they lose their divine powers and their eyes become an ordinary brown.
The Moon Woman
Born as Yuluakaun
Gurishma of the Clan of the Long Grass in Jannu, this now middle aged
lady exhibits some very unusual divine powers. When the green moon Gayel
is waxing she can cast the spell Fructification at high power, when it
is full she can use Zoification and command whole groves of trees to do
her bidding, and when it is dark she can wither any plant with a mere
look. When Kashi is full she can use the spell of Seismism in her
immediate vicinity and when it is waxing can use The Hands of Kra the
Mighty. When it is waning she can use the reverse versions of Excellence
and Empowering. She is also entirely telepathic and can read minds. She
is much sought after for counsel and blessings, but a life of being
regarded as a divine phenomenon and being assailed by the thoughts of
others seems to have damaged her mental stability. She often sits
silently in her favourite grove of trees and screams incoherently at any
who come closer than a hundred yards; she has killed a member of her own
family using the Hands when thus enraged. Many of her pronouncements are
cruelly stated and others are downright impenetrable.
The Clan of the Long Grass, undistinguished Chlen breeders until blessed by the birth of an Avatar into their family, have done well out of the pilgrims who flock to see her, but are becoming tired of the dangers and are seeking an out of the way temple willing to take her off their hands.
Uchsvŭn’s priestesses have access to most of the universal spells known by Tsolyáni temples, and have a few variants and limitations of their own.
Control of Self – all levels.
Empowering – cannot use the Reverse Effect variant.
Favouring – can use Greater Favouring, but cannot use the Diiferent Species variant.
Healing – the Artificial Body variant is known only to the Queen of Sweet Water, and there are additional variants for use on animals and plants.
Nimbleness – cannot use Reverse Effect variant.
Phantasm – all variants known to Avánthe except Singular Phantasm.
Benefaction – Know Greater Benefaction, which restores success x 10 power, if within 3 meters of a sacred pool.
Speculum of Retribution
Light – all variants known to Avánthe except Darkness.
Tranquilisation – Climatisation variant changes ambient temperature within area of effect to a cool temperate day. Collapses under effects of extreme heat (as at height of day in a hot desert or swamp) or of cold (as high in the mountains).
Vallation – Vallations produced by Uchsvŭn are of Water.
Ascertainment – all variants known to Avánthe.
Benignity – as Thumis spell, cannot use Affect Inimical.
Zoic Domination – cannot use Creature of the Deeps variant.
Hands of Kra the Mighty – cannot use Increased Power variants.
Robustness – Long Duration variant extends effect to one hour.
Seismism – known only to the Eternal Virgin, and in a form with a range of 50 tsan.
Perception of the Energies
Fructification – causes plants to produce greater yields and fertility in animals and humans.
The Sacred Pool – opens a portal to the Sweet Lake of Uchsvŭn’s Heaven, providing a few litres of pure drinkable water. You do need a suitable receptacle for it though. A variant produces a weak but very tasty beer.
The Amazon’s Girdle – prevents harm being done to the caster by any male human, non-human or animal (effects are variable on species with neuter and other sexes).
Spiral Staff – acts as a talisman allowing +1 to Hiking Rolls and +1
to Wilderness Survival. Said to infallibly guide the user to the nearest
source of fresh water.
The Great Hoe – a simple agricultural utensil enchanted so that any field it is used to till yields 10-50% more wheat.
Talisman of the Great Mother – given to small children to enable them to resist disease. Each Talisman is specific against one disease and adults sometimes get benefit from them if they are specially devout followers of Uchsvŭn.
The Black Prism – what is says, a prism of dark basalt about three cm long which improves ones saving throw against poison by +1. When used as a sling stone against a venomous creature it adds +1 to hit and +2 damage. Such creatures were corrupted by Jrakka long ago and Uchsvŭn wants them eliminated.