Cosmology

The Mortal World

The Mortal World is the realm that human senses can perceive. It is the world that mankind knows and understands, the physical aspect of the earth, sea, and sky. Fate has a strong grip over the mortal world, and man, beast, and plant all must die in time.

Spirits native to the Mortal World are small and subtle. The elemental kami are omnipresent, holding sway over the natural processes of the world, tied to Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Other spirits may also be found: minor animal spirits and other spirits of nature, and spirits born from mankind, including restless ghosts and minor, local Fortunes.

The World Beyond the World

The World Beyond the World is the realm of gods and major spirits, where the Celestial and Terrestrial Gods were born. It is still part of the physical world, but it extends beyond the merely physical into the magical. The two realms are intimately connected, and in many respects are really only one place, but the World Beyond the World is an ephemeral land of spirits in a way that the everyday world is not.

The World Beyond the World greatly resembles its sister realm, but is more wild and primal, and physical phenomena are not always reliable here; sometimes rivers flow uphill, mountaintops hang in the sky like floating islands, and fire dances without anything to burn.

Despite its intimate connection with the Mortal World, the World Beyond the World is very difficult for mortals to reach; even though it exists in the physical sky, no mortal can reach the sun. But what is merely the distant sun to mortal perception is the burning palace of Kagayaki in the World beyond the World. Any mortal can walk in the woods, but few can reach the private glade of the Gentle-Handed Lord of the Forest without a guide. People can climb the mountain, but Kakusei's Retreat hides itself from those who aren't worthy to approach.

Most spirits emerge from the World Beyond the World, including the most powerful spirits of nature and the elements, mighty animal spirits akin to gods, major Fortunes of far-reaching influence, and other, stranger beings. The inhabitants of the World Beyond the World are not gripped by Fate as mortals are, and many are proof against sickness, age, or even death.

The Sojourning Realm

The Sojourning Realm is a grey and misty plane, with no firm land upon which to stand. Everything there hangs suspended in the cool, dim emptiness. This realm is the first stop the spirits of the dead make upon leaving the Mortal World. When a dead soul enters, they must await judgement from one of the Fortunes of Death, or from any other powerful spirit who cares to judge them, even up to the Lady of the Wind's consort, the dread Vulture-Hearted god of death and rebirth.

Those souls whose kharma is pure and whose Fate no longer binds them are sent on to the Blessed Land to dwell among their forbears as Honored Ancestors, while those whose kharma is too impure to be reincarnated are sent to the Hungering Land to purge their sins. Those souls of middling kharma or whose destiny still awaits are returned to the Wheel, to be reincarnated into a new life.

Before returning the Wheel, however, souls must be made ready for their next cycle. In entering the Wheel, all of a soul's memories and experiences are stripped away, to float in the Sojourning Realm forever.

These memories are not entirely lost, however, for the dead are not the only souls to enter the Sojourning Realm. In the depths of sleep, Mortal souls also enter this plane, and their dreams are drawn from the scattered and fragmentary images of every life to be washed clean upon reentering the Wheel. Those with a particularly strong connection to their former lives are often drawn to those fragments that were once theirs, experiencing dreams influenced by their previous cycles, or occasionally even entire, complete memories.

The Blessed Land

This is the realm where Honored Ancestors dwell, and where the gods rule as the Divine Court now that they have departed from the Mortal World. This realm too is a reflection of the Mortal World, though in idealised form, and infused with divine power.

Though the Blessed Land is a realm of the dead, those who dwell there maintain some connection to and influence on the Mortal world. The gods continue to watch over their descendants and the Clans they founded, while Honored Ancestors watch over their bloodlines. When entreated from the Mortal World, these ancestors will impart guidance and advice, and both ancestor spirits and gods may occasionally slip from the Blessed Land into the other realms for a time.

The Hungering Land

This is the realm of the wicked dead, of Gaki and Jaakugaki. It is a dark and dismal realm of twisted landscapes under an oppressive sky. Those souls who die with too much negative kharma are sent here to purge their sins through penance, becoming Gaki subject to their own dark desires, and through those desires led to suffer until their negative kharma has been purged.

If a Gaki is able to purge its kharma, at the end of its time in the Hungering Land it will be returned to the Wheel. However, some souls are too steeped in evil to ever become pure. Those souls that wallow in their wickedness continue to accrue negative kharma even while trapped in the Hungering Land. These spirits become Jaakugaki, languishing in fields of blood, repeating their sins endlessly.

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