As with most Minmatar, Sebiestor Spiritual Beliefs are largely animistic, based around the principle that all entities or forces have a spiritual essence. While this belief has evolved with the influence of positivism and the development of each individual Sebiestor, the essential ideas and practices have not altered from an essential acceptance that unseen forces influence the tangible, elemental world and that there are ritualized ways of controlling them. The culture also focuses on the use of hallucinogens, talismans and symbolic iconography to enhance or direct this influence, as well as the role of shamans, who bridge the gap between the two worlds.
The animistic force isn't necessarily a single entity as much as a manifestation of whole essence, as one rock is representative of rocks as a whole. When one asks a shaman to contact their ancestors, it is the ancestor that best reflects the essence of his question or its answer that is thought to respond. While Sebiestor belief acknowledges that every individual journey is different, and that the details that distinguish our lives should be shared and learned from, it is the commonalities that need to be celebrated most. The purpose of our journey is to guide one another and to draw on that guidance, even beyond death.
The Sebiestor tribe was established in the arctic regions of Mikramurka and many of their rituals, and underlying principles, can trace their origins to the harsh life of the frozen steppes. Since life could often result in deprivation and death if crops and hunting expeditions were not particularly successful or environmental conditions were harsh the Sebiestor sought explanations and rules that would provide them with at least the illusion of control, particularly over the elements. Due to its structure the Sebiestor belief system is considered a more ritualized religious practice than those of the other more individualistic Minmatar tribes, although it's built upon the same essential elements. While it also centers around the shaman as a significant figure it also seeks to empower each individual to seek their own path. The belief system is also more isolationist and even monastic due to the relative solitude that many lived in in the arctic regions. They also have a fundamental belief that isolation and the removal from the community are sources of valuable insight or learning outside the context of the traditional tribe. Introspection is a key trait that is cultivated and celebrated. The Sebiestor belief system has centered around the practice of guided meditation for thousands of years due the lifestyle that they adopted in antiquity. A Sebiestor is encouraged to reflect upon life experience, and accumulate and record knowledge and skills that will contribute to the betterment of the individual and his tribe. This process has often been aided by the instrumental use of hallucinogenics - particularly the much revered rhizome of the Gahari plant, which grew abundantly in the caves of Mikramurka and, increasingly, small doses of the poison of the Yetamo lizard, brought to the steppes by the Vherokior. Unfortunately, pirate groups such as the Guristas, the Serpentis and the Angel Cartel have come to traffick in these hallucinogens, having whole complexes dedicated to their distillation and distribution alongside other wares.
The Sebiestor belief system is based on the recognition of spiritual essence, or resonance, that is recorded and drawn on throughout life's journey towards a more complete understanding of it. There is no singular godhead as much as an elevated state of consciousness that some beings have achieved to a far more significant degree than others - to the point that their influence, ideas and even direct existence continues beyond the veil of death. This is not to suggest that a particular identity might persist beyond physical death, but instead become part of the essence of several ideas that they were a conduit or personification of in life. They contribute to an essence and may be the progenitor of the form that it takes in the material world. Spirits are seen as not only the manifestation of people that existed, but the most appropriate representation of a spiritual essence for a particular audience.
Sebiestor spiritual practices have core tenants that govern individual practices. Principle is the notion that Sebiestor should seek alignment with their essential or intuitive self, that they should respect the wisdom and guidance of their elders and shamans, and that they should devote themselves to the preservation of ancient customs, forces and beliefs by making them real. The spiritual leader of the Sebiestor is expected to work alongside their people for one week of every month, engaged in the labours and trials of the everyday reality as readily as they spend the rest of their life in spiritual pursuits. The entire belief system is highly ritualized and while focused on identification of the spiritual and reverent, still bases itself in the practicalities of life and the hardships that were endured in the past.
Spiritual Sebiestor are the sum of their accumulated connections with the other world. The material form of this other world can be influenced, realized or chosen by those that have worked to attune themselves with a mass of ideas, echoes, impressions and/or combined wisdom. Each Sebiestor must seek to understand their path, and the path of their ancestors, and realize it. The head of the spiritual community are themselves the vessel of the combined wisdom of previous spiritual leaders and she draws on who they were and what they came to represent. A shaman is therefore the living conduit of those shaman before them and they assume their combined experience and works in order to pass on as much of it as possible in their own lifetime, both literally and figuratively.
While the Sebiestor also pass on a great deal of their tradition orally, they have traditionally recorded a great deal more on paper, particularly in the volumes kept by spiritual leaders in their respective Book of Todram, a personal journal. The Shamans of the Sebiestor tribe have often gone to great pains in preserving and passing on their knowledge to the following generation, though it is often allegorical in nature rather than specific. While the oral tradition has often taken a more traditional role in other tribes, allowing for some natural development of their beliefs as they are passed down, many of the Sebiestor rituals have altered little for hundreds of years, being recorded quite precisely in various texts. The ideas are as adaptable as those in other religions, but the day to day practices and concepts change little and continue to provide a measure of stability despite some of the antiquated notions at their heart. While spiritual leaders may reinterpret some of the allegorical writings, the rituals at the core of the Sebiestor practice are often steeped in traditions that do not alter, and still adhere closely to their ancient tribal roots.
One tradition is the Festival of the Dead, a week where the spirits of the ancestors are said to move amongst the living. Children are instructed not to be frightened but recognise the opportunity this presents. Many Sebiestor are encouraged to recognise all that have passed during this time and offer them tributes, usually only in the form of a statement made aloud recognising who they were and what they meant to the Sebiestor or how they impacted their journey. Sebiestor also traditionally wear black during this week and venerate the spirit world through thought, action and written and spoken word.
The life of the spiritual Sebiestor involves rituals that are designed to empower the individuals connections to the realm of pneuma, and to draw on it to inform their own life, it's path, and the lives of all those in the world around them. Every Sebiestor therefore seeks to align two worlds and create bridges between them. They may seek recognition of purpose over form, but are encouraged to recognise the sublime nature of both. They are craftsmen and archivists seeking to bring an ideal into full reality, but with recognition of the fact that the spiritual realm is the goal and the material world simply the tool or path to be mapped, harnessed and appreciated in the process of achieving it.
Ohnesh and Andesh
The duality of the material and spiritual worlds influences the life of every Sebiestor so much that their lives are governed by two states. One is either alignment with their cardinal element, ancestry and spirituality, known as Andesh, or disconnection from these essential parts of life, and so entered into Ohnesh.
Neither state is particularly definitive, as each evolves as readily as the individual Sebiestor themselves will throughout their lifetime. The essential ingredient is a sense that all is as it should be in Andesh, and somehow out of balance or chaotic in Ohnesh. Even this latter state is instructional, however, and may provide inspiration or experience from which to learn from, adjust or avoid, eventually guiding a spiritual Minmatar towards a greater connection and understanding, and so take the Matari to Andesh. Just as the Sebiestor are encouraged to recognise that both material and spiritual worlds are both separate and intrinsically interwoven, so these states are moved between throughout one's journey. The understanding, however, is that the material world, and the misery, anger or destruction of Ohnesh will eventually lead every Sebiestor to an eventual and final unification with Andesh in death.
Minmatar have always revered elemental forces, and this is particularly true of the Sebiestor. These are cardinal essences that provide the most direct influence over the natural world, and are revered as much as the spirits of the people themselves. The elemental forces can actually significantly impact on the development of an individual spirit and play a part in their journey. Each Sebiestor needs to recognise their basic elemental nature, and the color of their voluval is important to them, as it can influence their identity as powerfully as their clan and tribe. The four inks therefore reflect the elements of Fire, Earth, Water and Pneuma.
Obviously fire is of great importance to the Sebiestor as it was this basic elemental force that was linked intrinsically with the maintenance of life. It is traditional for those that have passed to be purified in flames and spread on the howling winds of the Mikramurka Steppes, connecting them with all four essential elements. Fire, however, often unlocks access to the other elements or transforms them. A death that ends in fire is therefore seen as purifying, particularly for those that are aligned with that particular elemental force. Some firey Sebiestor capsuleers have therefore come to see each pod-death as a purification that serves to unite them with Andesh as effectively as mortal death, albeit briefly.
It is traditional for Sebiestor to be burnt on a pyre, and a location was often set aside for that particular purpose. The only exception was the death of the leader of a clan, or a significant figure, who was left to the elements so that they might become one with the earth and be offered to the predations of animals, particularly the, an avian of particular significance. Fire was not required for those that were often seen as more spiritually aligned, as they did not need to undergo the same transformation into spiritual essence. It was a greater priority that these leaders offered what they had possessed of the combined essential elemental forces back to the earth. A funeral of this kind was therefore a great honor that recognized that they had achieved the aim of bringing spiritual essence into the material world.
Respect for elders and shamans or leaders in the community is both a combination of the reverence for accumulated wisdom and their ability to impart lessons to those that listen. Even those whose mental and physical faculties are failing them can still provide something that almost needs to be decoded or incorporated into the audiences own life. Like most Matari, the Sebiestor believe in the display of symbols and the sharing of meaning and significance. Whether through the practice of tattooing their bodies, or in their own writings or ability to formulate and share wisdom, the Sebiestor are encouraged to look deeper into the material world and to report back what they see of it's spiritual underpinnings. The Sebiestor needs to make an honest reflection of their life and what their journey is teaching them that could potentially be shared or demonstrated to others, and this is a singular devotion for a shaman.
Shamans are understood to be conduits whose clarity of purpose and constant focus on the collective journey of themselves and their community has allowed them to serve as direct conduit to the spirit world. They're intuition and intellect is honed so that they are to be consulted about decisions made by a clan or larger tribe. Every week a Sebiestor shaman will remove themselves to a chosen site away from settlements or cities, usually a cave or spiritual site, build a fire and sit at it, consulting with the spirits. This is can be accompanied by the consumption of hallucinogenics, but this is not always the case. At this time they welcome all those that come to sit with them and will engage them to help them move towards Andesh. Shamans have been known to gather together at this time, and it's always expected that if one shaman visits another it will involve one of these sessions. When gathering collectively, especially in great numbers, shamans will usually employ masks to emphasize that it is not the individual that is important as much as the message and to prevent visitors from seeking advice from a particular shaman. In reality, some masks will often be associated with particular shaman over time. To overcome this shaman will occasionally swap masks in a gathering and will occasionally redecorate their mask if they're moved to. The only notable exception has been the masks of the Elders, which have remained largely unchanged for generations and are never removed in public.
One responsibility for shamans in a Sebiestor community was also to find out who had angered the spirits and calm them. Communities or individuals not recognize a spiritual space and not paying respect to spirits would result in hauntings or at worst their transformation into entities motivated by a desire for harm or ill fortune. This became a more humanistic pastime for shamans, who counsel the parties involved to determine where the negativity is being directed and instruct parties to undergo ritual cleansing to help them dispel whatever was hanging over them. This traditionally involves a period of exile from the offended community and a return based around conciliation following a spiritual journey or session with shaman.
As methods of storing and preserving food have developed with technology the spiritual leader is tasked with maintaining rituals concerning food stores so that they still preserve the religious core that existed in the tribes antiquity when food was potentially scarce. This is has become especially true of markets on orbital stations and ship mess areas.
As much as Shaman are required for ceremony and rituals that were originally based on preservation and mourning, the blessing (or segin) of meaningful objects, the recognition of bonds within the clans, and counselling those living with the very real possibility of death (which has come to increasingly include capsuleer crews), they are also master storytellers. In days past the Shaman passed the time for those sheltering from the cold engaged in storytelling, and this tradition has also persevered, particularly for children. It is their duty to encourage the oral tradition by encouraging children to speak, create and recognise the narrative structure at the heart of every Sebiestor's personal journey.
As with other Minmatar tribes, the Sebiestor have benefitted from a dedicated effort to preserve and recover items and artifacts that pertain to their spiritual tradition and the history infused within it. In line with their tendency to select significant sites and mark them also meant that troves of relics, mainly in the form of significant texts and reflections, were secured during the Amarr invasion when it became clear that their enslavers were destroying significant locations. While these locales were often marked with particular symbols, the Sebiestor shared the same practice as Vherokior and Thukker tribes in that they usually placed these troves away from camps, towns or cities in areas that needed to be journeyed to, as an allegory for the excursion of life. As a result, while sites in populated areas were destroyed, many of the buried treasures of the Sebiestor hidden atop mountain passes, in mounds or in ice caverns, were largely untouched by Amarr. This is true of the site of the Nochgefror Shrine, the sprawling monastic temple of glass, stone and engineered quartz that serves as the traditional home of the tribes spiritual leader, as well as the many burial sites or caves where young Sebiestor were expected to journey to during the ritual that marked their spiritual coming of age. In recognition of their passage to adulthood each teen was given a crafted box, traditionally ivory or bone of some kind, etched with a symbol of particular significance and wrapped in velvet or hide, which contained a portion of Gahari or the poison of the Yetamo. This gift was presented at a shaman's fire also attended by the person intended to be their essence instructor, who would guide them towards their Test of Destiny, or Voluval. Afterwards they were asked to wander in isolation, consuming the contents of the box, returning to the fire the next week where their essence instructor would be waiting to talk about what they'd learned. While this ritual is no longer a requirement many Sebiestor living in orbit will still send youths to terrestrial sites for it.
Signs and Symbols
The Sebiestor are, like most Matari, people of iconography and symbolism. They are encouraged to not only tattoo themselves, but have been known to leave markers or symbols in places of particular significance. Their lexicon of symbols is quite extensive, and has it's roots in a basic vocabulary of signs that can still be witnessed in protected caves on Pator where the art became a means of passing the time when freezing winds and storms kept tribesmen inside for long periods.
It is not uncommon to find a particular sign in a Sebiestor's personal quarters, or etched somewhere in a station, informing others familiar with it as to who the person is and what they align themselves with, or what has been noted about the environment. In many stations not sympathetic to the Sebiestor belief system these markings are classified as graffiti and have resulted in charges of property damage, but stations where there is a significant Sebiestor presence usually have designated areas where Sebiestor can leave particular iconography. These boards, walls or signposts are usually found close to hangers and docking bays or trading areas and markets, so that visitors can peruse them or contribute to them in order to transcribe insights into the collective 'story' being told within that station. This practice is usually protected, as there have been cases where corporations and station administrators have employed Sebiestor to label them positively and eliminate anything that might negatively reflect on the internal politics of their establishment. Controversies have occasionally resulted in legal action, such as the protracted case in YC98 where the manager of a Nurtura plantation in the Vorsk system attempted to sue Sebiestor who had been leaving derogatory references to him around the station, identifying him with symbolic representations of perverse lechery.
Importance of Music and Dance
In spiritual practices there is a tradition of low sounds such as dirges, long meditative odes, and deep, resonant throat-singing. These are combined with cries, rhythmic choruses and chanting and the use of unique instrumentation. The spiritual Sebiestor value music that is intended to encourage trance, relaxation and reflection.
The most significant tool of the Sebiestor musician inside and outside their beliefs is the use of the voice and its modulation. Sebiestor music is most commonly described as haunting, deep and reverberating, and this is especially true of its employment in spiritual practice. One of the common elements of the music produced for ceremony has been the use of binaural sound, usually through vocalization but also instrumentation. This has been linked with the earliest tunes produced, which used the natural environment of a cave, cavern or shelter to play with sound so that it either resonated from a particular part of the natural space, or it could not be determined exactly where the noise originated from as to represent a sound from 'another place'. The slow drum, still preferably made from animal skin, is used to this day to set a beat, and instruments that combine elements of chime, gong or similarly resonant tone are commonly used. It's also common for wind instruments to be employed, not only capturing breath but the natural winds like those that would sweep the tundra.
The Anirmiak is the most significant instrument. Traditionally made of a mixture of skin and bone, though now constructed with synthetic equivalents, this instrument requires minimal manipulation and is therefore accessible to every Sebiestor. The instrument harnesses the presence of natural winds to produce a rhythmic and eerie sound from several different conduits, or artificial 'throats'. Due to modulation and enhancement the music can mimic distant moaning voices, humming, song or even cries depending on its positioning and the strength of the winds. The instrument was traditionally placed at the entrance to a cave or placed in the open near a campsite as Sebiestor went to sleep or were reflective, to either 'speak' to them as they rested or meditated or to literally 'sing' of their surroundings, rousing them from slumber should the winds become so intense as to warn of an impending snowstorm. The instrument is also used to make music of the winds outside caves, which could unsettle young children. Sebiestor funerals also employ the use of the Anirmiak, where the assembled mourners will listen to the song of the same winds that disperse the departed's ashes, or those that howl around the highly-elevated and exposed locations used for the offering of a chieftain or significant figure.
As with other Minmatar tribes there is a great oral tradition and the collection of songs about the tribes beliefs and history are part of the memeplex that survived Amarr attempts to eradicate their culture. Many of the songs of the spiritual Sebiestor are based on communicating significant ideas and often deep emotions. While Sebiestor culture as a whole celebrates significant figures or details moments from the past, mostly key battles between between the ancient tribes, songs here detail conflicts within the soul, aides to meditation and the instructional journeys of spiritual leaders or guides. Music also became a greater part of religious practice as it was one of the most significant methods of preserving and communicating spiritual knowledge during Amarr occupation, as well as strengthening the bonds within communities. Traditional beliefs may have slight variations amongst the different clans but essentially there has been little deviation from the primary elements encoded within lyrics and what may appear to be senseless chanting. It was far less likely for gatherings of Sebiestor slaves to have their songs silenced as opposed to a readily apparent discussion of traditional beliefs. Music was actually often encouraged, particularly on long work duties where it was important to maintain morale without the use of brute force.
Sebiestor spiritual dance is less overtly sensual but still incorporates many of the fluid elements of other traditional cultural dances. It matches the musical influence and often involves very stylized but slow stomping, stretching and rolling that are meant to exhibit flexibility. A performance that is literally seeking to root itself in the earth and pose defiantly while reaching, bending and moving with the desire to reach the continual andesh of spiritual existence. The dances of the Sebiestor are often performed in a small space, around a fire, or during elemental events when the spirit of the Sebiestor rejoices or challenges the beauty and lethality of the storm, flood, winds, etc. The body is used to tell a story that represents the life journey of the individual Sebiestor or expresses their essence, so whereas there are characteristic and very ritualized movements and poses, the dancer moves with the whims of the music and flow of the environment, akin to their beliefs themselves.
Relationship with other religions
Gallente - Sebiestor have a strong alignment with several of the principles of the Intaki. While they don't believe in the strict reincarnation of singular entities, they do acknowledge the possibility that an essence may choose to once again share itself with the material world. Not every soul will be born again, but they may pass their wisdom on to others who come after them, that achieves the same goals but on a more general level. It is the essence that is passed on rather than the singular identity. The Sebiestor may consider the soul a personification of a particular essence that recurs across lifetimes, such as their spiritual leader, who serves as an apex or meeting point for many spiritual elements.
Overall the Sebiestor, as with most Minmatar, are aligned with the personal liberties at the heart of Gallente culture. Keen to express and explore themselves freely the Sebiestor belief system aligns itself with the potential of a libertarian culture but recognises the dangers for excess as well. Extremes can cloud the personal journey and actually draw Sebiestor into a potentially self-abusive ohnesh.
Caldari - Sebiestor beliefs and ways of life mean that they often enjoy the company and philosophy of the Achura. Both foster introverted practice, encourage a detachment from the material, and have increasingly become nomadic, traveling New Eden in pursuit of purpose and realization. Culturally, however, the spiritual Sebiestor appreciate the utility of the Caldari way of life, primarily sacrifice to a greater sense of community and purpose, but frequently balk at the concept of state over individual. It is recognised that this may of course be part of one's own spiritual journey, which many Sebiestor in the service of the megacorporations have argued is the case.
Amarr - While it is uncommon for free Sebiestor to easily adopt the beliefs of the race that enslaved their ancestors and destroyed many of the practices and sites that defined their religion, there are commonalities. An acknowledgement of the spiritual world, devotion to the immaterial, actualization of the higher self and recognition of a spirit that would pass into another kingdom mean that many of the essential principles are aligned with the beliefs of the Amarr. The first significant difference is the adoption of the central godhead, though many Sebiestor refer to the God of the Amarr as Andesh, combining the figure and the spiritual ideal. The second distinction is that whereas the Amarr seek to limit self-indulgence the Sebiestor belief system promotes self-governance and tolerance and may permit questionable acts as a means for testing one's limits and learning more of one's spiritual destiny.
Vuld Haupt has pioneered a ritual that focuses on examining the impact of capsuleer technology on beliefs, and reuniting it with the beliefs and practices of his people. The traditional segin, or blessing, of a person's material form as a means of wishing them good luck in their journey, or reuniting them with the spiritual world. Sebiestor actually approached religious leaders seeking a blessing of their cloning vats.