Though the Vermaen peoples have hosted a variety of religious movements, one in particular has stood the test of time and in many ways defined the species as a whole. This would be Janei, a historical state religion and life philosophy derived from the phrase, 'To wend.' The faith centers around protocol in addressing the sacredness that underlies all things, with various events, behaviors, and objects holding their own twist on a single numinosity. Through this, the Wending may be understood, respected, and utilized, ever in the ideal that the outward signifiers may be parted and true Transcendence reached. Janei has informed the Vermaen obsession with pattern and bureacracy, as well as their attitude toward psi and personal rights, among a host of other topics.
Concept of the Sacred: Janei focuses on two major ideas in regard to the sacred; an active, impersonal numinosity present in the world and all of its components, known as the Wending, as well as a nameless ultimate transcendence from which all other sacred components are derived. There is no matter or non-divinity as such, taboo and physical reality possess a merely phenomenal rather than true existence. All things are the sacred entire, yet due to the vagaries of the Wending, they often do not comprehend this. This too is only a phenomenal limitation, and in reality they understand it and their current state is completely justified. The tertiary obstacle for mortals is ignorance of a mundane sort, the kind that can prevent them from conducting their lives in normal harmony, and it is assumed that the problem is one of empirical complexity and not philosophical limits. This lack of a total samsaric concept is mitigated by the conception that despite the perfection of the universe already being existent, it must paradoxically 'be enacted' (a limited but useful phrase) by all, given that they are themselves of ultimate value. Navigating where one's true agency lies amid a sea of potentially incorrect suppositions is where the main obstacle of the Janei faith lies. Broadly, Janei can be conceived of as a metamonist-panentheistic faith, with animistic elements.
The Wending: The Wending is the first derived sacredness, and is the one that drives much of the Janei religious routine. Certain situations are held to 'wend' in a certain way, such as when one is asked by a friend for help. Since the Wending is everywhere, one must take an utmost yet natural care in how they approach situations, and work with the Wending when possible. For example, one may help their friend in the aforementioned scenario, and thus display virtue, unless it is one which the friend may accomplish easily. In such a situation one would essentially not recognize their friend's divinity, a terrible affront. These sorts of calculations also extends to events in and of themselves and even more obscure points, with brevity, grace, and reason being held supreme in addressing whatever the Wending delivers to you. The Wending has a strong active aspect, and religious activities surrounding it are designed both to satisfy it and deliver it into more fixed forms. Shrines or spots of impersonal sacred power are usually constructed in areas where mystical experiences were delivered by the Wending, and propitiation allows for both respect and the practical conveyance of luck and magical benefits. In esoteric traditions, the Wending is synonymous with the use of correspondences in occult operations, as well as concepts of mana.
Concept of Gods: Janei recognizes the existence of divine beings in a semi-naturalistic manner, as entities partaking of a more rareified existence than mortals. Despite this, there is no fundamental separation in nature between gods and mortals, and the problem of spirits is held to be less one of category differences and more one of computation, albeit one that is theoretically possible yet practically impossible. Deities of shrines are often honored, either ones based on divine inspiration or on the deceased founders of said shrines. A degree of ancestor worship is practiced, but in excess this is held to keep both parties from recognizing their true divinity. Due to the shared nature of gods and mortals, it is held that the living may take on the attributes of gods and attain a semi-divine status in life. In practice this is rarely recognized, though the expansion of psi powers in the contemporary era has given it a limited revival.
Concept of the Spirit: The Janei term for the personal spirit, or valen, is derived from one of the titles used for the nameless transcendence, given that they are considered synonymous. Janei holds that all things possess (are) a single true soul, or valen-iko, as well as an insubstantial shadow, the valen-aka, that forms from the vagaries of the Wending. The valen-iko is held to be of the most importance and is the primary part of oneself that is beseeched in navigating the Wending, but due to its incomprehensibility most ritual protocol concerns itself with the valen-aka. The valen-aka is the soul affected by cosmological factors, and its domain includes the astrological horoscope, family heritage, and birth blessings. The valen-aka itself is subdivided into three potencies known as the lithri. These interact in dynamic processes that determine many of the individual's qualities. These are prime targets in transitive magic and are often considered the 'three gates' that must be mastered to achieve enlightenment.
Kithringo, The Will: This lithri governs the desires and wants, as well as the drive that both seeks and fulfills them. At its highest it can reflect aspirations and world-shakers, and at its lowest it is the animalistic drive for survival. In the modern day the kithringo is popularly represented amongst athletes and corporate workers, with the term itself being used as an appelation at times. When combined with the valen-iko, it forms the magical will.
Illiae, The Reason: This lithri refers to the logical faculties and forethought. It is popularly represented amongst intellectuals, and specifically problem-solvers. Intelligence is the attribute primarily represented, though education and knowledge is considered to be associated with it. In esotericism, it is esteemed for its role in planning for magical results, and is thus considered a wizardly purview, though it is not held to cause magic by itself.
Urius, The Wonder: This lithri encompasses the subtleties of life, and is thought to govern an ill-defined group involving emotion, personality, and magic, 'what makes life worth living.' Personal idiosyncracies are commonly attributed to Urius, with eccentrics and trend-beginners being considered its kin. In esoteric practices, Urius is thought to be the lower soul's internal vessel of mystical power.
Concept of the Afterlife: Given that the valen transcends all boundaries, including life and death, it is assumed that its activity will continue post-mortem. Apart from a general outline of its trajectory, however, the specifics of its afterlife are vague. Vermae concepts of spiritual survival are tied not only to the valen's innate immortality, but also to its uncreated nature and existence before conception. It is thought that the valen first forms a valen-aka for itself prior to birth, which gives it a short-lived but somewhat comprehensible spiritual existence before life (the experience of the valen-iko being presumably impenetrable to mortal insight). This same mode of being, of being in a 'spirit world' with an intangible but literal spiritual form, is also thought to happen after death. After the 10 Trials, which are thought to occupy the span of ten minutes in the mortal world, the valen-aka finally separates its perceptions from that of its former body. From here it can begin to lead a numinous existence wholly in tune with the Wending. While sublime and of terrible grandeur, this is itself thought of as a perfected life, in which one struggles to live in tune with the nameless transcendence much as they did with the Wending on Earth. This astral life is thought to last for a greater span than its first brief appearance in pre-existence, and during this time the spirit can be beseeched, interact with the dead, and journey through countless planes. Eventually, it is held, the valen-aka will exist perfectly for an instant and immediately fold back into the valen-iko. From here it is incomprehensible, with the only known thing being that it is the only true state, 'desiring,' not even beginning to cover its value.
The art of necromancy is performed entirely upon the valen-aka, as interaction with the valen-iko is more akin to a mystical experience than anything else.
The Faithful: The faithful of Janei are divided into three categories: the laity, the clergy, and the monks. Each of them corresponds to a different sphere of life, and progression occurs within each group; one decides beforehand which path to embark upon. In theory all spheres are equal; in practice it is thought that the laity is somewhat lesser, though the clergy and monks both have a grudging respect for one another.
The Laity: All Vermae of the Janei faith fall into the laity by default, a sphere ritually associated with the Earth. The duty of the laity is to harmoniously conduct themselves throughout mundane life, thus ensuring benefit for themselves and all (which is one in the same). Progression in this sphere is directly tied to the rights of passage that all followers undergo, though there are positions equivalent to deacons or volunteer positions for those who seek more active involvement. The laity are more generally tied to the clergy in their shared 'this worldly' position, though some seeking spiritual benefits instead advise themselves with the monks.
The Clergy: The clergy of Janei consist of laymen who have taken it upon themselves to learn more of the Wending and sustain the sacred bonds between it and the Vermae. Ritually, they are associated with the Wending, and are responsible for maintaining shrines, performing most religious functions, and interacting with spirits. They tend to focus on the community rather than the self, and are thus somewhat more popular than the monks despite the latter's theoretically higher aspirations. The clergy is divided into multiple grades of progression depending upon one's focus, though all start as an aspirant. The path of the priest is responsible for general ceremony and the stewardship of the laity, beginning at initiate and ending at bishop. The path of the seer is responsible for divinatory activity, beginning at ovate and culminating at diviner. The path of the medium involves interaction with spirits, beginning at supplicant and ending at oracle. The three branches hold a gentle rivalry, whether it be the stereotypes of the priesthood or butted heads between the seers and the mediums regarding psi and the dead. Nevertheless, all are united in their relationship to the Wending.
The Monkhood: True to the name, the monks separate themselves from the world, being ritually associated with the nameless transcendence. Consisting largely of ascetics and seekers, monks are known for their paradoxical combination of severe austerity and strong individualistic bents (whether they acknowledge it or not). Traditionally only those who join historical monastic communities and submit to the judgement of their peers are considered monks, though hermits and mystics who resign themselves to their estates are often considered part of the 'Peerage Invisible.' Monks focus on meditation, deprivation, and theological theorizing to attune themselves to the nameless transcendence and ideally shorten their time in the afterlife. Despite the communal nature of their living, monks often come to personal conclusions vastly different than everyone else, not least of which the rest of the faithful. Progression occurs on the basis of personal growth, which monks claim to have an exceptional way of recognizing. Given how monks are often able to deem enlightened those who completely disagree with them, the rest of the faithful often hesitantly accepts this. The monks occasionally interact with the rest of the world, though their behavior is largely unpredictable. They hold something of a rivalry with the clergy, who see them as ironically self-centered, while the monkhood often sees them as laity playing dress-up. The seers in particular are perenially annoyed at the miracles the monks occasionally demonstrate but rarely wholeheartedly embrace, though there is a strange understanding between the monks and the mediums. Despite the controversy surrounding them, the monks are true in their dedication to the nameless transcendence.
Rites of Passage: Janei traditionally recognizes a variety of rites of passage, which are viewed as initiations into the Universe. In contemporary times these have often become more secular celebrations, though they still see a surprising level of practice.
The Mystery, Infancy: After their first year of life, a child is brought before both of their parents (if possible). The pair will gaze upon their child, expressions legitimately serious, and then simultaneously state, 'I'm sorry.' Afterwards, both will laugh as genuinely as they can muster. This ceremony, though brief, officially marks the Vermae's cultic initiation and is thus registered at the nearest shrine after its conductance. Though the statement involved is generally thought to be related to the child's entrance into this world, ritually there is no known explanation. The child's reaction, whether tears, laughter, befuddlement, or something else, is held to give significant insight into the path of their life.
Sprouting, Early Childhood: Occurring slightly before entrance into schooling proper, this event involves the blessing of young sprouts as their destinies in the sacred and secular worlds become more apparent. If the child has expressed any interest in becoming more active religiously, this is typically when they will make connections with the branches of the clergy, or the monkhood if such fits their Wending. There are two segments to the Sprouting; a public procession of ritually-dressed children around the local shrine's grounds that doubles as a social event, as well as a private meeting between the child and a priest. Ritual silence hangs over this meeting, and this is where the child is not only blessed but also bestowed a confounding secret. Sproutings are annual events held at specified dates, so the ages of the children involved slightly vary.
Aspirans, Puberty: A brief occurrence arranged at the local shrine, aspirans has become a more secular affair in contemporary times, focusing more on information regarding educational opportunities and apprenticeships. Traditionally, the youth is brought before a local priest when they have just passed into adolescence. In this form there is no social element to the event, and the youth is briefly trialed on the abilities that they will focus on throughout the rest of their lives. The priest is supposed to be strong in the lithri that the youth will endeavour to train, though in practice this requirement can be handwaved. After a small but hand-crafted initiation (there is collaboration between one's godparents and the shrine), the youth receives part of their adulthood. Usually by this time it will have become clear if the youth will focus on the secular or the religious, so would-be clergy become aspirants at this point (monks must wait until maturity). Notably, the Vermae will not return to the shrine for their rites of passage past this point.
Flowering, Maturity: Exceeded in brevity only by the Mystery, the Flowering is a small ceremony held to mark a Vermae's passage into adulthood. This rite is held at home by the family and in contemporary times is often nothing more than a more impressive birthday party. Traditionally this involves a great test of skill to demonstrate that one has cultivated their chosen lithri, and many young Vermae choose to coincide stellar academic performance, personal projects, or the acquisition of a good job with their Flowering. Intriguingly, the Vermae in question is thought to be empowered by the Wending that occurs as a result of their virtue, instead of the usual mode of priestly intervention. This rite marks a long lull in rites of passage as the Wending adminsters most of the Vermae's personal growth.
Respirans, Retirement: Unlike the other rites, Respirans does not have a particular age exactly associated with it, beyond its placement after one's retirement from worldly duties and before decrepitude. An individual is supposed to take their Respirans immediately following their withdrawal from work, and it involves total seclusion from the contact of others for a month, during which they must avoid recreation and instead pursue meditation and introspection. In contemporary times standards have eased on this, though many still follow it fairly scrupulously. Respirans can also be declared if one is of sufficient age and is still involved in some part-time employment (as is common in the contemporary era), volunteer position, or religious vocation, and people are often understanding of this. The monkhood gains a surprising number of recruits from Respirans, as some people find they cannot return to anything else after the experience.
Wakening, Old Age: Similar to Respirans, Wakening does not have a precise beginning of date, just a firm ending: death. As a Vermae approaches the tail-end of old age, where the senses shutter and body weakens, they begin to be treated differently by those around them. Mundane tasks are increasingly held by others, not only in consideration for their decrepitude or in normal respect, but because their proximity to death increasingly renders them otherworldly. The valen-aka is held to nip at its bonds at this point, wavering from the body. The Vermae thus begins to be considered quasi-divine, and a variety of alterations to behavior are made. The elder is no longer advised by priests but by mediums, those around them examine their slightest move with reverence, as if insight might be drawn, and they often increasingly withdraw into the surreal mindset instigated by those around them. Extremely traditional families will temporarily relocate a few family members to the aging elder's home and provide for them as the whole group acts like they are living in some fairy's keep, with pomp and ceremony to match. Even less observant families will often find their elders gravitating toward the house's ritual room more and more often, and treat them more as a god than a mortal. Eventually, the strange Wakening culminates in the death of the Vermae. Grief usually appears once the surreality of the situation wears off. Most are inured to the strangeness of this situation early on, as one remembers their grandparents from childhood as both warm relatives and half-ghosts.
Funerary Custom: The process of Janei burial begins 10 minutes after the death of the Vermae, during which it is believed the deceased is engaged in a timeless, purgatorial conflict to escape their former bonds. After the taboo has worn off, the body is quickly shuttled away to one of two fates; cremation or unembalmed burial. If cremation is chosen (whether by the family or the deceased) the ashes are stored in a small urn which is then placed in either an ancestral shrine at home or at a collective burial ground at the local shrine (some also have the equivalent of family tombs, but for urns, set up at these local shrines). If burial of the body is chosen, it must not be preserved in any manner, nor may its burial place be marked. Instead, it is buried in the wilderness and left to decompose. This is the default form of burial for monks. Grieving traditionally lasts six months, but the only limit on its duration is social, not ritual.
Eschatology: Janei attitudes towards eschatology are complex and defined by the central paradox of the faith; a perfection that by definition must already be and always has been, yet clearly isn't yet. Technically, it is believed that the end goal has already been achieved, and that thus there is no eschatology as such. Despite this, it is believed that one's activity is exactly what makes up that goal, so action is still in some sense 'necessary.' More conventionally, it is believed that in some transcendent state, all mediated forms of sacredness will eventually enter truly into the nameless transcendence, not losing their essence, because they were already the nameless transcendence entire.
Views on Artificial Intelligence: Vermaen development on synthetic intellects is nascent, though Janei theology does lead to some common reasoning on the subject. Given that all that is partakes of divinity, even non-conscious robots are considered to be worthy of respect in some sense, though this would be the same respect that one accords to any mundane item. According to the Janei view, it is not necessarily under one's purview to decide how the spiritual progression of an inanimate object functions, which justifies the Vermaen use of resources. Thus, using a machine efficiently may be in exact accordance with its true nature, and thus allowed. In regards to truly thinking machines capable of self-awareness, it is assumed that their form of spiritual progression is similar enough to Vermae that they are accorded the same dignities and rights that other mortal souls have. The fact that self-aware robots can demonstrate extrasensory ability is often used as evidence for this belief. Thus, in regards to A.I. rights, the Janei perspective differs little from the secular perspective.
Views on Psi: Janei theology is positive in regards to both psi and its use. In the naturalistic sense psi functioning is an innate faculty of an organism, and Janei promotes the cultivation of one's abilities. Further, Janei sees psi as relating to the qualities of both the valen-aka and the valen-iko. Thus psi is respected both as a normal (albeit paranormal) faculty of beings, such as eating or walking, and more esoterically as a manifestation of the nameless transcendence's capacity to transcend any boundary.
Most controversy surrounding psi in Janei has to do with its relation to religious practices and the problem of survival after death. The secular use of psi can sometimes be seen as drawing attention away from the seers of the clergy, and indeed many clergymen have used secular training methods and pharmaceutical enhancements to improve their psi powers, with mixed feelings regarding the subject. Secular psychics and parapsychologists also do not enjoy the blurred boundaries between science and religion that this can lead to, which can lead to accusations of misleading the public that can foster hostility on both sides. Janei esotericism is more hospitable to melding psi and religious practice in its practice of magic, but it is a minority viewpoint that is rarely considered. The problem of survival of death is one dealt with more by the mediums. Given that information gleaned from psi amongst the living can seemingly never be differentiated from communication with the deceased, modern mediums are often more confused and disheartened in their endeavours in the contemporary era than they were in past ages. Given the prodigious progress of parapsychology in the contemporary era, though, some hope is still held out that answers to the problem of survival after death will be gained. Given that spirits in the Janei faith are held to be extremely complex and theoretically understandable beings, many faithful are actually open to the idea of experimentally verifying survival after death (though most would still want to believe it anyways). This openness is sympathized with but largely ignored by scientists working on the problem of survival psi versus somatic psi.