Hycathism (Temple of Hycath)
Hycathism, also known metonymically as the Temple of Hycath, is a monotheistic religion based on the powers and prophecies of the goddess Hecate. Practised worldwide, it has differing numbers of adherents and followers in different nation states, particularly the Promised Land, its present-day holy site, and the Anglia Isle, where it is the dominant religion.
Adherents are divided into two major categories: Hycathae, women who possess the magical powers of Hecate from their own birth till the birth of their daughter, and Hycathi, non-magical persons of all genders who believe in the tenets of the religion. Hycathae, in turn, are divided into three tiers of magical ability, in ascending order of power and descending order of numbers: Baethlae, Cynthae and Nyridiae.
Hycathism traces its foundation to a journey supposedly taken by Hecate to the Underworld in 3500 BC. The three-headed Hecate, with her ability to see past, present and future, is said to have had a vision of a terrible event far in the future, and felt that the Earth needed protectors. She collected eight female souls and transferred her powers to them by touch – withholding only the power to see through time, which she believed would be too damaging a burden to place on them – and spread them around the world, each in a different burgeoning nation.
These female souls are said to have become the first Nyridiae, who would then birth more Hycathae according to the biological rule that a Hycatha’s first daughter will be of her rank, then all further daughters of the rank below; thus, the first Nyridiae would a Nyridia as a first-born and only Cynthae thereafter. A Cyntha in her turn would give birth to a first daughter of Cyntha powers and Baethla powers thereafter. Lastly, a Baethla would have one daughter resembling her own powers and all others powerless. This myth accounts for the higher proportions of Baethlae and Cynthae extant today and the existence of only eight Nyridia lines, all extinct by Reckoning since the close of the Second Hycath War.
Due to its mythological origin, Hycathism still places great importance on myths to this day.
Hycathism as a religion is based on eight pillars, each representing a virtue or positive quality that an adherent should strive to observe. Each pillar is spiritually associated with one of the original Nyridia lines and the culture they were placed in, as listed below:
Community is an important facet of Hycathic belief. The religion holds that everyone is equal, with the same rights, and that this equality provides a sense of community, with no one person having to feel they are alone and the whole community having a greater chance of survival. As a result, adherents often look to Hycathism for a sense of security or belonging. Respect for those who follow other religious faiths is also observed.
Hycathism is a strongly nature-based religion. The majority of its rituals are situated in nature or have a natural setting, and the balance of nature is deeply embedded in its belief system. Hycathism teaches that good and evil are equally present in nature and, therefore, in all living beings. This philosophy of balance is applied in relation to the eight pillars, with a balance between all eight seen as the ideal way of living. In practical terms, Hycathae and Hycathi believe that respect for nature will be rewarded with a greater food harvest. Despite these beliefs, however, this tenet is disrespected more often and more readily than others.
Eschatology (Death and Afterlife)
The principle of judgment upon death is present in Hycathism, and observance is proportional to the level of belief of an adherent. It is believed at several levels that one must learn and grow in life so that, in death, they will have reached a higher plane of understanding.
Devout Hycathae and Hycathi believe that their soul travels to the Underworld to receive the judgment of Hecate. She will send them either to the Fields of Elysium, where they may spend an afterlife in pleasant contentment, or to Tartarus, a purgatory which will present them with the opportunity to be reincarnated and make the necessary amends or learn the necessary lessons to earn a place in the Fields of Elysium upon dying again. The souls of children are believed to be above contempt, and are said to travel unimpeded to the Fields of Elysium.
Non-devout adherents pursue their own interpretation of these principles, and the religion does not constrain them from so doing.
See also: Burial Rituals
Hycathism provides for some elements of communal worship, most commonly displays of technical prowess with Hycathic powers in the form of balancing acts or other gravity-defying skills. An oral tradition does exist, with ballads on the subject of Hecate and other tales from the Hycath Mythos.
Hycathae have also been known to practise a ritual known variously as tuning, attunement or octosis, to which end they spend eight days in a purely natural setting, surviving on their skills alone, whilst respecting the nature around them. In earlier times it was a regular fixture of Hycathic practice. In the modern day it is most commonly observed by Hycathae as they come of age and get their period, and even then it is often voluntary.
See also: Hycathic holidays
Hycathism follows a calendar of eight annual festivals and observances, as listed below:
|Festival or observance||Date observed|
|New Year’s Day||1st January|
|Festival of Reckoning||14th February|
|Hecate’s Day; Birth of the Hycathae||8th August|
|Harvest Festival||21st September|
Hycathism draws its symbols largely from Greek mythology, particularly those associated with Hecate. Most directly, the symbols of an eye and three heads reflect Hecate’s ability to see across time, a key component of her origin story. The torch is also connected to this, being seen as a guiding symbol in a similar manner to the Christian cross.
The Underworld is the other element common to Hycathic semiology. The crossroads is seen as a point between the Underworld and the world of the living, thereby also becoming a symbol of choice. The observance of Crosaire at the end of November is based on this. Also, the cypress tree retains its Greek mythological symbolism of death and the Underworld, and dogs are seen symbolically as embodying restless souls.
Adherents of Hycathism share common superstitions, most notably the belief that the number eight, associated so deeply with the Mythos, is lucky, whereas the number three is unlucky. There is a shared fear of ominous ‘bogeyman’ figures in the religion’s history, particularly the Tricapita – stemming from their association with Reckoning – and the Red Phoenix.
Hycathae and Hycathi also believe that belladonna is a bad omen, and will expect a poor harvest if they find it growing on their land. Some report recurring nightmares of belladonna sprouting from their bodies.
Use of Hycath Relics
See also: Hycathic Artifacts
Hycath Relics are objects that contain the magic of a Hycatha who has died without issue. When a Relic is wielded, it grants its user the ability to channel the power contained within it. Non-Hycathae who use such objects to tap into Hycathic magic are known as Andrathae.
Regulation, Discipline and Punishment
The Oculus exists as a regulatory body for Hycathism, in religious and legal matters. It is made up of eight Hycathae who have passed on their powers to their daughters; the eighth, most senior Hycatha is named the Octal and chairs the Oculus. During the Ages of Hycath, the Oculus was the main legal authority. Therefore, there still remains an Oculus in each country on the Anglia Isle, although it has only an advisory role and its prominence depends on the administration of the Queendom or nation-state it belongs to.
The presence of discipline in Hycathism is generally proportional to its hold in a particular nation-state. During the Ages of Hycath in England and the Anglia Isle, following the eight pillars was a legal duty with a prison sentence for non-compliance, but this practice ended after the Second Hycath War.
The most important form of discipline in Hycathism is Reckoning, a punishment visited on those Hycathae who commit murder or some other grievous crime by their magical powers. It consists of physically sealing them inside an object, hereafter known as a Reckoning Hold and treated with reverence. Locations of notable historical Reckonings are treated as sacred sites.
Some social initiatives seek to create a bridge between Hycathism and the secular administration. For example, the Queendom of East Mercia operates a Hycath Salvation Program.
The Hycath Mythos constitutes the official scripture of Hycathism, containing the canonical origin story of Hecate but mostly telling stories of human endeavour that have become legend, with focus on the eight pillars. It is a well-known piece of literature in societies where the religion is prevalent.