Kalnekh (also known as Abiy'an Tar'isia) is the name of an old "fringe" religion found on the batarian homeworld of Khar'Shan, in the ancient nation-state of Khaljah. Prior to the Reaper War, very few of its teachings had made it into mainstream batarian culture, where most of the religion was seen as 'backwards'. When the Reapers devastated Khar'Shan and left Khaljah intact, the faithful claimed divine intervention, an interpretation that - to the broken batarian people - turned a once sheltered state into paradise.
With Khaljah's rise to prominence, the Kalnekh religion has seen a renaissance, and the people of Khar'Shan have adopted the religion while forming their new, theocratic government after the Reaper War. It is somewhat moderate when compared to its predecessor, though several core batarian beliefs (slavery, castes, etc) are upheld.
The Names and their Meanings
Known as The Names in Khaljah, the eight names, or Eight Principles, have many other terms. Commonly, they are known as ‘The Sacred Pillars’ throughout most of batarian civilization.
There are eight names - Honour, Order, Tradition, Respect, Courage, Strength, Pride, and Faith. Each one has several meanings, and each builds upon one or more others - no Honour without Respect, for example.
Often seen as one of the most basic pillars. ` Protection of one’s lessers is a key meaning, as is following one’s Duty without fail, Chivalry in a batarian sense is encouraged, and aiding the weak often strengthens one’s honour. Shame or dishonourment is tantamount to death in some areas, and suicide is seen as an appropriate response, and although exile is preferable to murder, the latter has been known to happen. Courage and Strength both build on Honour
Used mostly in the form of the batarian caste system. The caste system itself was born from this Name, many millenia in the past, as a way of implementing it into society’s mainstream. The justice system always relies strongly on order, and it is the most ‘obvious’ remnant of the Pillar in pre-Reaper society. Respect builds strongly on Order.
Mainly noted as being akin to using the ‘old ways’, in every manner able. Technology that is not batarian made or brought to the batarians by other races is generally seen as outside tradition. Order and Faith build upon tradition, as both are born from it.
Another core of the batarian culture, Respect is strongly intertwined with Honour and Pride, to the point where it requires almost a scholastic eye to know the difference in pre-Reaper society, as it is often used interchangeably with both. With the rise of Khaljah, this is slowly changing, and Respect is often seen as following order. It is something that must be woven into everyday conversation, and many historians believe the earliest forms of today’s body signals (akhtum) were created as an efficient way to show respect outside of dialogue, as ancient linguistic rules held no akhtum sections as the modern rules today do, instead relying on a complex system of honorifics and titles that are almost completely absent in modern times.
Built upon many things, the courage to face down one’s enemies or to defend one’s ideals are both rewarded. Even if the enemy or the ideal breaks another Pillar, the courage alone is often respected, grudgingly, at the least. Courage to fight and die for your ideal is gifted a special place in Eternity, reserved for soldiers and martyrs recognized by the priesthood.
Strength is many things, often reflected in the parts of the soul. Physical strength comes not just from the conditioning of the body, but how one uses it in guidance with the Pillars of Courage and Honour. Mental strength comes from Pride, in how one flows with the events of Fate, as does Spiritual strength from Faith. The strength one gives to others, in strength of Heart, is often seen as one of the most important aspects, as in ancient times, one of the trials required at a young one’s coming of age involved completing several acts of honest and random compassion within the village of their birth.
Pride is strongly connected to courage, in that it is often respected, regardless of what you take pride in. Pride can come from personal victories, or from the deeds and actions of others, or even in ideas and faith. Mythology, however, offers a warning to this Pillar - too much pride can lead to a slope of Folly and Defeat.
Those who are pure of heart and follow the names of the Pillars, the Words of the Speakers, and take sanctuary in the Mantras are the faithful. Belief in one’s ideals, in one’s gods, in one’s self and in fate are equally in accordance with Faith. Pre-Reapers, this Name had diminished greatly, as the Hegemony had discouraged use of the old religions, and it is this that the batarian people found salvation from the Reapers.
‘Speakers’ are enigmatic beings. According to mythology, these are the ones that first created the Mantras, the Pillars, and spoke the first words. To this day, their breath grants ‘winds’ of the pillars to the faithful who call upon them in aid - chimes are a key feature in any temple or on any priest’s stave for this reason.
While they are often invoked in the manner of gods, they are known to have once existed on Khar’Shan, and even the most faithful of the clergy would claim them to be more akin to divine ancestors, rather than omnipresent creators - though this stops no one, including those faithful, from describing them as gods.
Originally found carved in the cave systems of the Cha’lev mountains in Khaljah, copies of the 64-chaptered book are now found in almost every format available, though heavily monitored and censored by the pre-Reaper Hegemony. Only the religious caste may print them unaltered, with great expense to the monasteries and temples.
The Mantras (“Tar’isi”), also known as “the Word’, tell not only the story of the Speakers and Pillars, but, like many text-based religions, immerse the reader in complex mythology, parable, proverb, and fables. Stories range from heroic epics to warnings, to biblical verse and poetry.
Clergy and Priesthood
The priesthood of the religion is a secretive group, mostly out of necessity in recent times, as they were often contained to Khaljah by the Hegemony, and required great leaps through bureaucracy to be allowed to wander and preach..and even then, they face persecution . Recently, thing have started to change, with the advent of the new government, and the batarian people are slowly being reintroduced to their Traditions, though the inner workings of the caste are still restricted to those of certain tiers within it.
Most clergy carry staves made of mati, wood born from a species of great tree found in the Cha’lev Mountains. At the top of the staff is a circular ring, from which is hung a set of eight chimes. This especially true of Walkers and Mouths, and, aside from the pale green and sky blue robes worn by each rank respectively, it is one of the most telling signals that the person you are speaking to is a member of the priesthood.
It is believed that by offering your home to a member of the clergy is a good omen and a blessing upon your home and family.
Young Ta’heri or Gadech who wander from village to village, often guiding others towards the faith. In towns with no monasteries or temples, walkers can offer lesser services of the clergy, such as advice or bearing witness to important events. Walkers are usually sent by their home temple or monastery, as a way to learn about the world around them, and acclimate themselves to the popular view of their people.
Walkers who choose not to settle once their purpose has been completed, choosing to continue wandering with the blessing of their elders. Unlike walkers, however, they may preach and complete any duty that would be offered by an elder at a temple or monastery, and are often the inspiration of pilgrims.
Priests or priestesses who have achieved high rank and status within their place of worship, often caste leaders or reverently respected. They are leaders of Ta’heri and Gadech, and act as mentors to young initiates. They are led by an Elder of Elders (Esiv, a high priest, of sorts), who is believed to be touched by the Speakers themselves.
Gadech and Ta’heri
A male or female (respectively) priest or monk who has not yet reached an age or experience worthy of becoming an Elder.
The Eyes of the Soul
Batarians are very considerate of their eyes, as each of the four eyes is seen as a physical representation of one’s soul (zayn’ir), split into four pieces. Without all four eyes, a soul is considered disunified, and if the eyes are removed from one’s body after death, one cannot make it to the afterlife. Lesser creatures with only two eyes are considered to be permanently disunified.
- Mind (“Li”) - upper left eye, mental strength and intelligence
- Body (“Nava”) - lower left eye, actions and expression
- Heart (“Anya”) - upper right eye; compassion and faith
- Self (“Ziku”) - lower right eye, achievement and confidence
Disunification of the soul can also be caused by the four parts of the soul being ‘out of sync’, in a manner of speaking - this is surprisingly common, as very few batarian’s souls are completely in sync, either by choice or by circumstances. Disunification is common in victims of trauma and veterans of especially gruesome battles (Torfan, Reapers, etc).
Should a batarian loose an eye for whatever reason, a special pilgrimage must be made, and a replacement made from one’s own hands (in wood or glass) with all other pieces of the souls unified in Sight. Cloning and cybernetics are both common in modern times, and acceptable in most places, but strict followers often see them as ‘fake,’ and believe that the soul is partially destroyed in that way.
A purgatory of sorts, where the soul goes after death if they are casteless, if there is no purpose to their lives, or if their soul cannot exit through their eyes properly. A batarian doomed to live here will find themselves wandering the Grey Wastes for eternity. Those with purpose - or those who died with young souls - will still have to pass through here and find their proper path before reaching their eternity. This a silent, colorless wasteland whose depressive qualities are only matched by the sheer amount of boredom found here.
- Chak’tah - the Pure Lands, where the Religious caste spend Eternity.
- Lekh’iva - the Golden Fields (Tier 3 Castes)
- Neri - the Mountains (Slave Caste)
- Uq’kest - the Forests of Peace (Soldiers killed in battle; Martyrs)
- Sakhel - the Oasis (Tier 4 Castes)
- Ziachav' - the Light (Tier 1 Castes)
- Hadev’ut - the Islands of Paradise (Tier 2 Castes)
The number 4, and multiples thereof, are sacred to the batarians and often repeat themselves in religious culture. There are four pieces to the soul, eight pillars, sixty-four chapters, twelve sacred warriors, and so on. See Batarian Numerology for details.