religion ritual and performance

Tiny Writing Exercise #1: Gods

Choose an abstract noun. Open a book and choose the first one you see.

Now, imagine the deity of the quality named by that noun. 

Describe what they look like, how they are dressed. Describe how their voice sounds. Describe the bower, island, grotto, or temple where they live. If you have time, describe their priests: how they dress, what rituals they perform. 

Make up a religion for your noun.

lectorel  asked:

Because it appears we share a common interest in it: Top five bits of headcanon about Tatooine slave culture, possibly as it relates to Anakin?

The hardest thing about this ask is narrowing it down to five! Expect another long post here; sorry followers.

1. Tatooine slave religion. There are quite a few variations on this theme, but here are my headcanons about the religion the Skywalkers practice. (Told in mythical form, of course.)

Once, long ago, Tatooine was a beautiful place of garden oases, and Ar-Amu was the mother to all her people. But Depur came from out of the blackness, and he threw down Ar-Amu, and bound her in chains, and took her children from her and scattered them, each to a different depur (which means “master”). And Ar-Amu could not free them. Her grief was so great that she could not even cry. But she promised her children that one day they would be free. One day, she would call out to all the seven corners of the desert, and her children would cast off their chains and throw down their masters and be free. And it was said that they would know when this day was come, for the skies would open and Ar-Amu would finally weep.

For most of her life, Shmi had a series of mystical visions in which Ar-Amu spoke to her. This culminated in a profound experience in the desert - when Gardulla sent her out to bargain with a group of Jawas, and she was caught alone with no shelter in the midst of a terrible sandstorm. She opened her eyes and saw the desert blooming, and heard the voice of Ar-Amu saying, “Daughter, will you bear this storm?” She said yes, and nine months later Anakin was born. (Anakin, in my headcanon, means “the one who brings the rain.”)

I will forever headcanon that Anakin was meant to be the Chosen One - for Tatooine. He was born for his people, to free the slaves.

(And, because I cannot handle too much sadness, I also headcanon that Luke and Leia did go back after ROTJ and lent their support and the backing of the new Republic to the liberation movement and the universal emancipation of Tatooine’s slaves.)

2. Some rituals of the slave religion:

2a. The vigil for the lost is performed both when someone dies and when someone is sold away. It involves the survivors standing in a circle around a bowl of water (sometimes not much water at all, but at least a drop is needed) and looping a cord around the left wrist of each person. This binds the survivors together in their shared grief. At the end of the ritual, each person “gives something to the waters,” representing a gift to the person who has departed. It’s usually a very small thing, like a stone or a japor snippet or a scrap of fabric. After this, they each take back the item that was given to the waters and keep it as a personal mark of connection between themselves and the person who is gone.

2b. There is also a ceremony of return, for when families and friends who have been separated (usually by sale) find one another again. Ritually, it is a ceremony of rebirth or resurrection. The person who has been returned stands in the midst of the people, and all the others circle around them with their wrists connected by the cord as in the vigil for the lost. The returning person’s hand is placed in the bowl of water, and the oldest woman present says, “We return [name] to Ar-Amu and to [their] people.” Each person in the circle then names the returning person aloud, dips their own hands in the water, marks the hands or forehead or heart of the person returning, and states their own relationship to that person. (e.g., Shmi might say, “I name you Anakin Skywalker, my son.”) When all have named the returning person, thus symbolically reenacting their communal identity, the person who is returning then names themselves in relation to each of the people in the circle. (e.g., “I am Anakin Skywalker, son of Shmi, brother of Kitster, husband of Padmé,” etc.)

When the ceremony is over the oldest woman binds a length of jerba cord around the left wrist of the returned person, and that person wears the cord for a full year, never removing it. When a year has passed, the person has been fully reincorporated into the community, and there is a celebration.

3. The slaves have a fully developed and entirely secret creole language that they speak among themselves. It’s derived from Huttese, but is incomprehensible to their masters. They don’t teach it to any outsiders.

(Years later, this will be a source of endless frustration to all of Anakin’s masters, both Jedi and Sith. They can never crack his codes.)

(Even more years later, Force ghost Anakin will eventually teach his children his mother tongue.)

4. Slaves aren’t allowed to marry legally, but they have formed their own traditions. Couples typically make an announcement to the matriarch of the community, and are considered bonded to one another afterwards. There is also a ceremony of binding before Ar-Amu, similar to the ritual of return, but it’s a private ritual in which only the two who are getting married participate. If it’s safe, there may be a community celebration afterwards, but this isn’t always possible.

(All of this means that, among other things, while Padmé found her wedding pretty unusual, for Anakin it was basically the way things are normally done.)

5. Surviving a sandstorm together is considered the greatest possible bond between people, something that outweighs even the ties of kinship and blood. According to tradition, surviving a storm together creates a kind of soul-bond between the people who survive, and this bond will last even beyond death. The bond also entails certain responsibilities - if one person is killed or sold, the other is expected to care for that person’s extended family as if it were their own.

In my headcanon, Anakin and Kitster survived a storm together when they were seven years old. Afterwards, they actually performed a ceremony of blood-brotherhood to ritualize things, but they already considered themselves brothers. (In canon this mostly ends in sadness and unfulfilled possibilities, but in all my AUs, Kitster is a major character and one of Anakin’s main ties back to his home.)

Defining Coding and Islam-coded Fantasy

a-confused-fruit asked:

Hi! I found this blog from a writing site and set up a Tumblr to ask here so sorry if I’m submitting in the wrong place! Could you explain “coding” to me? I’ve seen you use the term a lot but I haven’t found a satisfying explanation of what it is from Googling it. I get the general meaning of it but the specifics confuse me. For example, is it possible for an Islam-coded fantasy religion to be polytheistic? As far as I understand most (all?) sects of Islam are very specifically monotheistic, but could an Islam-coded fantasy religion differ from its inspiration in such a way? If it, for example, resembled Islam in its customs and morality and in its use of language. I don’t plan on writing such a religion but I’m just asking for, like, general reference. Do fantasy cultures/religions/etc. coded to resemble an actual religion/culture/etc. have to be exactly like them, and if not how much are you “allowed” to differ from the real world inspiration? Sorry if I’m being ignorant here I’m just very unsure about how to treat cultures that are not mine in a fantasy setting!


Coding is a way to tip off readers that characters or settings in literature are based off of a certain ethnic group/religion/place in real life through the use of notable characteristics or stereotypes. Examples would be frizzy hair for Jewish peoples or a hijab for Muslim women.

The “limits” of coding are blurry, and there’s no general answer to it. This is where beta-readers or our Colourful Critiques submissions come in handy. If a second set of eyes can recognise what you intended by your coding, then you’ve successfully coded. However, if that coding provides positive or negative representation is an entirely different matter.

However, regarding a religion based off of Islam being polytheistic, we have stated in numerous asks that monotheism is an integral part of Islam. One of the main differences that sets Islam apart from Christianity is that, while they are also monotheistic, Islam deeply stresses the existence of only one divine being, Allah. So I would say no, I do not believe you can code something as Islamic but take away such an important part of it. I’m also not sure what you mean by “use of language” or exactly what morals and customs you’re referring to, since some customs are a lot more Islam-specific than others that may be attributed to several different religions.

Most of the questions you’re asking can only be answered on a case-by-case basis. Generally, I would say that yes, fantasy cultures can deviate a bit on the semantics of the actual culture they are based on, but not over something that is a big part of said culture or is seen as controversial.

It’s okay to have an Islam-coded religion that is monotheistic and requires their people to perform a ritual similar to hajj for example, but it’s not okay to code something as Islamic in nearly every way and then have them be a violent people hell-bent on taking over the world. Fantasy literature has real-world implications.

Right now, using a hijab in writing a culture is almost immediately associated with Islam whether you want it to or not, and then you have to be careful about how you portray the hijab-donning characters. We don’t have enough positive representation to rely on to set the “evil” pseudo-Muslim characters apart from the good ones.

Having said all that, I’m going to echo a sentiment often reiterated by Mod Shira- I’m not fond of Islam-coding. I’d rather see actual representation. If something is coded Islamic but has a few differences, then the second we try to claim it as our own people jump on us to point out why these characters are not Muslim. Again, I don’t know much about how you intend to write this, but if there are opportunities for actual Muslims instead of Muslim-based characters to be included in your writing, I urge you to seize it.

Here is our fantasy tag that contains loads of information on how to write POC in fantasy (which includes coding). This post in particular I believe addresses a lot of your main concerns. Doing a lot of research for primary resources and asking more specific questions in the future as you go along should keep you on the right track.

-Mod Yasmin

>> Do fantasy cultures/religions/etc. coded to resemble an actual religion/culture/etc. have to be exactly like them, and if not how much are you “allowed” to differ from the real world inspiration?

The way to approach coding is not the same across the board. For example, taking two facets of my identity, I’m a million percent okay with a fantasy country being “Germany coded” (such as in Heather Rose Jones’ 19th century lesbian epic Daughter of Mystery ) but uncomfortable with Jewish “coding” that is not instead just explicit “yes, these characters are Jewish, not something else I made up to vaguely evoke Judaism” representation. For me, the two things that make the difference is the likelihood that people will argue with you about the representation, and the way in which the representation differs from the real group.

The reason I usually prefer explicit coding specifically for Jewish characters as opposed to vague “they’re wandering because they’ve lost their homeland!” handwaving is mostly that first reason.

Yasmin’s response shows why the Muslim example you asked about trips over that second reason.

BTW, sometimes people in a group do the coding thing. That is different, because 1. people will misread Reason #1 in reverse anyway (Saladin Ahmed tweeted me that his book is set in an Islam-inspired fantasy world, but I bet most people just consider it Muslim fantasy because he’s Muslim), and 2. they’ll know what vital things need to be left in, re: Reason #2 and even if they change things it’ll read more as “I know how this works but in my version it’s like this” rather than “I don’t know and I don’t care!”

​-Mod Shira

Unbroken: The Mari Religion

The Mari native religion (Mari: Чимарий йӱла, Čimarij jüla), or Mari Paganism, is the ethnic religion of the Mari people, a Volga Finnic ethnic group based in the republic of Mari El, in Russia. The religion has undergone changes over time, particularly under the influence of neighbouring monotheisms. In the last few decades, while keeping its traditional features in the countryside, an organised Neopagan-kind revival has taken place.

The Mari religion is based on the worship of the forces of nature, which man must honour and respect. Before the spread of monotheistic teachings amongst the Mari, they worshipped many gods (the jumo, a word cognate to the Finnish Jumala), while recognising the primacy of a “Great God”, Kugu Jumo. In the 19th century, influenced by monotheism, the Pagan beliefs altered and the image of a Osh Kugu Jumo, literally “Great God of Light”, was strengthened.

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