The Four Winds are spirits that sea-fairing Utans, or perhaps all seafarers, pray to and offer sweet sticks to for good luck and safety as they go out to fish.
The Four Winds started out as primarily an Utan religion, but was later absorbed into the Endian Lyon Empire as the official religion there, too. It dominates much of the world outside of Afriik (making it the most widespread religion on Earth), and has been blended with the semi-deification that has occurred with Jyotis and his family.
Vayu is the chief deity, and god of the northern winds. Generally assigned a male gender, he is seen as the most benevolent of the four, and is associated with great luck and great fortune, and those who claim to fall under his protection generally attain high positions and fame. Like all of the Four Winds, Vayu also has a ‘negative aspect’ which represents the failings of both himself and of those who align closely with him: he can be greedy and covetous, lazy, and prone to driving supplicants mad when they are out of favor with him. Vayu’s visage changes depending on the species worshiping him – in Utan sects, he is large and often very obese, with large cheekpads and long fur, and always holds a wooden cup (which supplicants for his favor fill with what they feel he would most like); Lyons depict him as a reddish and muscular cat, with a spiky mane that blows ever forward, and whose roar is said to shake the heavens.
Ira is Vayu’s sister, and the god of the western winds. She is associated with both good news and prosperity, although not so much as her brother – but she runs a close second in terms of those who seek her favor. She also is associated with easy living, happiness, and satiation of all earthly needs. Her negative aspects are those of hungers of all types, and of being something of a trickster, first seemingly granting favor and then jerking it away. She is also said to be a bit of a liar. In Utan variants, she is a slim, with dark hooded eyes and braided fur; among Lyons she is seen as being athletic of build, colored in medium browns, and always smiling at something only she knows or finds funny.
Anila is also a sister of Vayu, and the god of the eastern winds. She is heavily associated with those needing protection, and so is always shown in armor, in all sects that worship her. Her negative aspect is that of extreme anger – she is short-tempered and sometimes spiteful, and can be easily provoked by ‘poor’ offerings; often it is said it is better to give her nothing than to give her something that she would see as insulting. Utans depict her as a bulky beast, and Lyons as a squat and heavily-built one, but both always have her completely covered in armor with visible fur dyed blue – her face is never seen.
Marut is the brother of Vayu and the others, but unlike his siblings, he is always cast in a slightly negative light. He commands the southern winds, and is generally viewed as representing bad luck and hardship. He is blamed for all storms but also thanked for needed rainfall, and is seen as protector of riches but cursed for ruination of the same -- a dichotomy of feelings that follows his dual nature. As a god of wind, he is offered the same tributes and prayers as his siblings, but few actually want his attention. Despite all this, Marut is not hated, and is often courted heaviest, just to avert what he represents! Among Utans, he is a small male with a feminine cast of features, and is always smiling widely; with Lyons, Marut is an androgynous golden-colored male, often maneless or with only long strands the same color as his overall fur, and who is always shown to be dancing and full of mirth.
There is also a ‘lesser’ deity within the Four Winds pantheon, and that is the mysterious figure of the Lord of the Underworld. Generally described as male, he is given no official name nor physical representation, and is depicted in carvings and trinkets by amorphous and sinuous shapes rather than as an actual animal. This Lord of the Underworld is a shape-changer, and can look like anyone or anything at any time, and uses this ability walk among mortals – in order to be present to collect souls at the time of death, or to judge the actions of those around it. It stands as lone decider of a soul’s worth, and is the one to decide where to place such things after death.
For Lyons, the Four Winds religion also mixes in elements of the myths and stories of Jyotis and his family:
Tšatši is often combined with Vayu, and associated as something of a ‘chief god’. He is not depicted as white in these iterations – as said previously, Vayu is shown as a reddish Lyon - and some scholars attribute this to mixing with the story of Araawa to make a single “heroic” figure. Others cast this theory in an even more negative light, saying that Tšatši has usurped Araawa’s contributions in order to dismiss the notion that a female would be equally worthy in the eyes of history. Others say there never was an Araawa, and her creation was a way for females to try and justify their worth to society, and that it is they who usurped some of Tšatši’s legend for their own ends. Whatever the original reason was is lost in the sands of time, and most all followers of the faith do not even think very deeply on such matters (as usual, that is the realm of scholars and such) – the beginnings of their religion and logic do not interest them and are not needed in order to worship correctly. They simply believe and for them there is only Vayu, the divine evolution of Tšatši.
Along similar lines, Mōbōr supplants and combines with both Marut and the Lord of the Underworld. While still primarily seen as both negative and having violent, or even evil connotations, within the religion Mōbōr is depicted as having ‘seen the light’ after his own death and being accepted into the divine by his brother. As a creature of darkness himself, he is best to judge such in others – he can see it and know its presence. Since the ability to change the shape of others (and perhaps himself) was Mōbōr’s chief power, it has obviously become linked with the Lord of the Underworld’s own shape-shifting, and created an even stronger tie between them for Lyons, and Marut’s nature for mischief and bad luck sit well with historical tales of the black Lyon. Like his brother, Mōbōr’s color is changed in the Four Winds religion to that of gold, as evidence of his ascension to the higher planes and the casting aside of his horrible past in favor of a more enlightened one – his “true” self, as he could and should have been in life.
It must be noted that although this mixing has taken place, the characters names remain the same as in the Utan version of the religion; Vayu is still always called Vayu, not Tšatši. The Lord of the Underworld and Marut are still mostly separate figures, even if they are seen as two sides to the same deity (Mōbōr). The only overt change with the Lyon version is to the figure of Anila, who is often shown to be male rather than female to reflect the absorption of Jyotis, but since that deity is heavily armored and unclear in looks anyway, this is not so drastic as it might seem. Some smaller sects of the Lyon Four Winds go a step further and Anila has become hermaphroditic, reflecting both the Utan origin and the Lyon one. These smaller sects also often re-separate the Lord of the Underworld from Marut and depict it as a Lyonesse – black of coat and blue of eyes, and daughter to Marut. It is unclear what prompted this change, but again, scholars attribute it to female need for empowerment, while followers of this branch of the faith dismiss such notions as asinine.
Key Elements Of PracticeEdit
Those who worship the Four Winds follow a strict notion that the way the wind blows on any given day hints at how fortune will go. Many adherents are deeply superstitious about this, and buildings are often erected to have no windows, doors, or other openings where a southern wind could find ingress – the better to block Marut’s influence. On days when the wind offers to be unlucky, ‘lucky’ sticks are either burned or thrown into the sea to try and placate the deities and convince them to go against their decisions on the day’s fate. Sticks are also thrown or burned at any time an adherent feels they need that extra boost of luck for their ventures.
Every year on the longest day of summer, a Festival of Wind is held where great feasts, mass gatherings to worship, and celebration feature. The day begins before dawn, with the preparation of vast amounts of food. Each household makes enough to feed both themselves and to offer to their deities, and often extra is put together to take out into the streets later on; heavily featured are those edibles considered ‘lucky’, which changes depending on geographic location and culture. Children are sent out to bang on neighbors’ walls and houses, and to shout the traditional words of luck and good tidings while doing so – very noisy to be sure – and they are also tasked with taking gifts to the closest neighbor to the north (who will in turn be gifting to their own northern neighbor). These gifts are often some useful item for the household, or lucky food, but occasionally can be a small idol or treasure. By the time the sun is well into the sky, families are donning face paint and costume, and will begin to gather in the streets and large open areas. There will be much dancing and noise and eating, along with spontaneous waving of arms and calling to their gods. Offerings are burnt, and then all will come together to quietly listen to speeches and sermons and so on and so forth, and all make obeisance to their gods. Much wailing and waving of arms occurs at this point. An hour of silence descends at sunset, and when the sun is finally down, an enormous party atmosphere erupts. Parades and bonfires, noise and music, dancing, singing, and the endless feasting all take center stage, and run until the next dawn, where somberness once more takes hold of the participants. The head priest of their area hands out bundles of lucky sticks to a line of the locals, and these sticks will be placed in a household for use during the rest of the year, to be used sparingly as offerings to placate the Winds. A day of contemplation and quiet follows the Festival, and then life returns to normal.
In The Forges of DawnEdit
Wulan is seen showing due tribute to them at the beginning of the second part of the book. She is also shown offering them sticks for good luck and safety. Vayu is the greatest of them, while his siblings Ira, Anila, and Marut are lesser.