Aijitu (also spelled as Aijito, Aizitu, and Aizito), also known as Dengism, was a West Thadian system of religious beliefs, rituals, practices, and traditions, that developed in the early 60th century OE. It was vital in the development of West Thadia (and to a lesser extent, East Thadian) culture, politics, and society. It was duotheistic and animist in nature, rooted in a creation myth involving a god and goddess. Its followers believed that spiritual forces, called anari, were present in all things, animate and inanimate. Dengist scholars identified six elements that constitute all anari in the world that co-exist with the forces of chaos and order: fire, water, air, earth, light, and metal. This is reflected in the jumon, the primary symbol of the faith.
Aijitu was borne out of folk beliefs and traditions that existed in West Thadia for centuries. With the beginning of literacy in the Tiang Ji, these beliefs were consolidated into one religious movement and system. Deng Ki was the first to organize West Thadian folk beliefs and he wrote extensively on the spiritual nature of the world, melding his own beliefs along within his works. A Teaching of Nature was a very influential piece of literature among the upper classes of society and eventually made its way down to the common classes, where it was responsible for turning Aijitu into the predominant religion of the population.
Aijitu is commonly separated into two categories, Dengist Aijitu and Traditional Aijitu. Dengist Aijitu is based on the teachings and writings of Deng Ki, a monk and cleric who lived in the Tiang Ji, and took a more rigorous approach to the belief system, establishing rules and laws that all followers should do their best to follow. It was also very political in nature, with Deng directly referencing monarchs and other rulers of his time and their relation to the faith system. He believed that the King of the Tiang Ji and his relationship with the qolia were reflective of the relationship between the elements and the chaos-order dichotomy. He also noted the number of qolia was the same as the number of elements (six), which he believed was not a coincidence. Traditional Aijitu, on the other hand, was far more decentralized and varied quite significantly based on location. There were far less clergy in Traditional Aijitu and it was viewed more as a personal matter; that it was up to each person to discover their relationship with the forces and spirits of the world. Traditional Aijitu was also said to be more theistic but this has been disputed by some historians. Aijitu is also sometimes referred to as Dengism, albeit somewhat incorrectly, regardless if it involves Deng's writings.
The Aijitu creation myth was formed over several hundred years, mainly through oral tradition, until it was codified by Deng Ki in 6131.
According to the legend, the world was created by a god named Yuki and a goddess named Yuno. They existed in another dimension, beyond the human realm, and fell in love with each other when they met for the first time. Yuki, the god of order, collected the elements of the void and combined them into one, thus creating the world in staticism. Yuno, the goddess of chaos, created humanity, animals, and life in order to give the world meaning through dynamism. Yuki and Yuno lived in harmony forever, acting as opposed forces, yet united as one for the greater good. The story also tells of twelve spirits, called Koigi, who were malevolent in nature and wish to break up the union of Yuki and Yuno. The two deities were successful, however, in vanquishing the Koigi and imprisoning them under the earth. Their power was not destroyed, however, and the Koigi, according to the Aijitu faith, continue to attempt to destroy Yuki and Yuno's creations by splitting the unions found in the cosmos: Sun and Moon, Earth and Light, Air and Metal, Fire and Water, and Man and Woman.
Other variations of the story exist including one where Yuki and Yuno have a number of children who are interpreted in many ways. In Traditional Aijitu, the offspring of Yuki and Yuno are said to be the stars, dotting the sky with their presence, and continuing their parents' work elsewhere in the cosmos. Other forms say the children of Yuki and Yuno live among all animate things whereas the spiritual forces of the elements reside in inanimate things.
Aijitu has its origins in folk religions and beliefs that were passed on through oral tradition. The story of Yuki and Yuno had been a long-enduring legend centuries before Deng was born. The belief in anari was postulated by the Bai people as early as the 60th century and quickly spread throughout what became the Tiang Ji.
Deng Ki was born in 6309 and into a wealthy, educated, and literate family. He was one of the earliest pioneers of West Thadian calligraphy. He was intensely interested in religion and spirituality and studied the folk beliefs of the Western Thadians and consolidated them all into a work he entitled A Teaching of Nature, an effort that around six years. Deng would often spend much of his day next to a river, listening to the water flowing, as he believed he could hear the voices of the spiritual forces present in the universe. It was through these meditation sessions that he, according to A Teaching of Nature, was able to identify the twelve characteristics that all humans must work to purge from themselves (see below).
Deng Ki's ultimate spiritual goal, which he incorporated into his writings, was a state Haiurin or cleanliness, peace, balance. He believed that life was a spiritual journey meant to cleanse humanity of negative traits before it could move on to a higher plane of existence. This belief was perhaps the most dramatic departure from Traditional Aijitu. Deng identified twelve characteristics almost all humans are born with that they must work to purge from themselves through a variety of prayer, works, divination, and mediation.
- Romoro - Sloth
- Zaitoko - Wrath
- Tiakono - Envy
- Buzaino - Hypocrisy
- Inikao - Greed
- Kushiano - Gluttony
- Asionio - Treason
- Vonukoto - Pride
- Kojuto - Melancholy
- Mitono - Obsession
- Dainoto - Self-Centeredness
- Hunotoso - Irreverence
Deng did not list these in any particular order and it is suggested he believed all were equally negative. Nor did he list the exact process one must undergo to purge these traits from themselves, and instead offered a general plan, but left the specifics up to the individual. Many clergy following Deng's time have attempted to fill the gaps by studying what works best against each trait. For example, Dainoto was often purged by having an individual refusing to use their own name for a period of name, in an act of surrendering of the ego.
It was not expected that one would purge all these traits by the time they died. As a result, it was believed that when a person died, they would be sent to a sub-dimension of the world called Honi, a sort of purgatory to rid the soul of the remaining negativity. Once cleansed, they would be reborn into the next life, which was thought to be a higher plane of existence than worldly life. However, if a person was judged to be beyond redemption, they were obliterated from existence, never to be reborn. Dengists and Traditionalists did not believe in what many would refer to as Hell or eternal punishment. Non-existence was considered to be a pitiful fate and a waste of energy; an insult to nature.
Animism comprised a significant part of Aijitu. It was believed that spiritual forces, residual of Yuki and Yuno's creations, were present in all things. Forces of Yuki resided in inanimate things such as trees, rocks, water, and even human tools and constructions; the static, stationary, and unmoving. Yuno's forces inhabited the animate, people, animals, and insects; the dynamic, flowing, and moving. Sentience, beyond humans, was generally not assigned to these spiritual forces, although it was believed that some forces could become corrupted through negative human emotion and experiences. For example, if a house was the site of a grisly murder, most followers of Aijitu would say the house has become cursed and ought to be destroyed and rebuilt to rid it of the cursed force and energy.
Traditional Aijitu is essentially a less organized variant of Dengist Aijitu, although there are some distinct differences. As noted before, the biggest difference between the two is rooted in Haiurin. Traditional Aijitu did not involve belief in transcending negative human traits to achieve a higher state of well-being, or at the very least, did not name any negative traits that must be purged, and certainly not twelve. Instead, a life-long effort to reach peace and tranquility through cleansing of the mind and good works was considered to be the goal of Traditional Ajitu. Dengist Aijitu also differed from Traditional Aijitu in the afterlife. Traditionalists believed in reincarnation as the life force and energy was constantly being recycled and re-purposed. Humans would be re-born as other humans, continuing Yuno's dynamicism whereas animals and insects would be reincarnated into trees, stones, and other inimate things, thus continuing Yuki's staticism.
Both Dengist and Traditional Aijitu had extensive beliefs in the relationship between the masculine and the feminine. Aijitu taught that it was vitally important for men and women to tap into and realize their inner masculinity and femininity, respectively, and the concepts that both states embody. The masculine is order, the rule giver, the one who casts meaning into life. The feminine is chaos, the void, the darkness, one who creates potential. Deng in wrote in A Teaching of Nature that sexual relationships were the pinnacle of the chaos-order dichotomy. The womb was said to be a void, from where potential is created, literally ejaculated into, by the man. The resulting child is the union of chaos and order, which represents all life in the world, and reflective of the creation myth of Yuki and Yuno. A mother and father then continued this relationship throughout the child's life.
Deng wrote about the dangers of order and chaos as well. In A Teaching of Nature, he said:
Only order, and there is tyranny, oppression, and staticism. Nothing changes, nothing moves. It is unmoving stillness. Only chaos, and there is a void, meaninglessness, and confusion. Nothing settles, nothing can thrive. Therefore, it is necessary for a balance. The man and the woman exist in harmony. The order of a man is placed into the void of a woman, and whence a child is brought forth. Humanity is the great child.
Customs and practices
Marriage and family
Aijitu marriage customs are emblematic of the chaos-order dichotomy that is central to the belief system. As chaos is feminine and order is masculine, Aijitu marriage rites recall the story of Yuki and Yuno and are rooted in the belief that marriage is the ultimate union of the two forces. According to Aijitu marriage customs, women are able to bear children due to their nature as chaotic beings. Children represent potential that is born from the void (the womb) that must be cast into meaningful order by the father. Thus, fatherhood was placed in high regard when it came to childrearing though not at the expense of mothers. The role of a mother was to constantly create new potential for her children while the father casted that potential into order. How exactly this was accomplished was left to the parents and many did not follow their spiritual roles to the letter. It was common for mothers to assign a list of complex tasks that were meant to be confusing for their child. The father would then step in and help the child organize, helping them to find their strength and talents. This was also intended to teach children how to do deal with the unexpected and unknown.