Monday, February 11, 2008

Centres of Culture III: Kulari (Part i, Kulari Proper) -- Revised!

Edit: I changed my mind about the Sun and the Moon religions. I've reversed them. They'll get their own posts later, but the wording of this post has been changed to reflect it.

"So", I'm sure some of you are thinking after the last couple posts, "What's the big deal about this Kularian Empire anyway?"

Glad you asked.

Kulari is a nation that first grew from the foothills of the northern mountains, much like the Commonwealth, merely further east. Historical records begin with the ascendancy of Kular, a general, to the kingship. Presumably there was some sort of society before Kular, but there are no records of what it might have been like.

Kular was, according to the records, an established general and brilliant tactician who had won battles at many places that no longer exist, or exist under different names. He did not wrest power from the hands of the former ruler, the records insist that he was chosen after the king died an ignoble death, sick in bed.

Under Kular's command, this apparently small kingdom began to expand a great deal, extremely quickly. In a push to forget the previous age of weak rule and stagnancy, Kular decreed, with the support of the religious leaders, that the nation would be renamed Kulari, and all the old records would be burned.

Posts to follow will deal with the growing empire of Kulari, but this post is dedicated to the culture of the Kulari themselves, and their descendants who still live in the area where the empire was born.

There was, in many ways, a cult of personality around Kular. A successful general and apparently charismatic man, he was a natural leader in a society where religious beliefs called for the people to rally around their leader. The old king had been weak, and died sick in bed rather than on his feet with a weapon in his hand. During this king's rule, there had been little expansion or increased wealth.

When Kular became king, all this changed, improving expectations and popular support skyrocketed. After all, everyone likes a winner.

This had a huge effect on the sorts of values and character traits that were considered desirable. Men wanted to be more like Kular, even though this meant a certain level of cold calculation and lack of mercy. Kular's personal beliefs about the inferiority of women began to percolate, and women lost much of their social status.

In the end, Kular turned to mass expansion through a vast army to keep his people under his control. It's not that they wouldn't have followed where he led them, but in inspiring people to be more like him, he grew paranoid that someone even more competent than him would wrest control away.

When he was routed and killed by the Commonwealth at the Hill of the Moon, his empire fragmented and the people of Kulari proper went back to work their farms and mines, and to sell their goods. The legacy it left was one of strong individualism that feared outside influence. Government became weak for a very long time.

The nobles slowly rebuilt public confidence in their rulers, but a popular revolt forced the principles of a parliamentary government on the sovereign and his nobles. Much like England in the medieval period, two houses were established, one made up of the higher nobles and clergy, and the other made up of elected representatives (elected from men with enough property) and lesser nobles.

The religion of Kulari is dualistic, focusing on two opposing viewpoints: That of Order (represented by the moon and stars, all in their proper place) and Chaos and Passion (represented by the sun, a raging flame that is always in motion). Neither is good and right on their own, as there must be order to build stability for growth, and there must be chaos to avoid stagnation.

The Kulari do not tend to identify with one concept more than the other, but rather speak of cycles. "It is a moon cycle," one might say, which means that it is a time of great stability and order. In times of great upheaval, it is said that a sun cycle is occurring. The Gods (Sun and Moon) who constantly fight over the sky are promoting a healthy conflict that is to be admired and imitated. As with the other major cultural areas, there are no major wars of note currently occurring, so this conflict is largely symbolic and ritual in nature.

This dualistic religion had a great effect on both the western and eastern coasts. Interestingly enough, the West has adopted many of the traits of the Sun devotion and the East has adopted many traits of the Moon devotion. It's interesting that neither set of cultural values has adopted the dualism.

I'll go more into detail on these topics in later posts, but next time: The Golden Interior!

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