There ain't no Devil, there's just God when he's drunk.
In the distant part it is said that the many religions of Teleleli were at war. The faithful of each god strove to burn the temples of the others, and sacrifice hyenas on their altars to defile them. At last it was decided to tolerate all religions and, so that no one could establish an enclave, all temples would gather on the Street of the Gods.
At the head of the Street is a monument honouring the clever diplomat Polly Theism, who negotiated the truce.
One might find two rival sects which worship the same god, with temples across the street from one another. But though each be astounded and outraged by the stupendous heresies of the other, they must hold their peace, or lose their temple forever (though a few insults might be thrown).
In fact many temples are based elsewhere in the city. There are many around the docks, and districts heavily populated by a particular race or species will often have a temple. Likewise some temples find it prudent to hide themselves; and the worship of Beautiful Lady Sebastienne and her consort (see below) is secret everywhere.
Here follows a list of some of the more popular gods.
Beautiful Lady Sebastienne
See The God of Unnatural Death below.
The Celestial Muse
It is unclear if the Celestial Muse is a goddess, or even alive. She is not the subject of regular worship, and has no temple nor priests.
It is said that every thousand years or so there comes a time when she may be courted with flowers and ardent poems, brilliant of wit and rigourous in form. If this is achieved, then she will appear "as a face in the sky". Some say merely a bright star, others speak of it as literally appearing as a face. All agree that it can only be seen in a small area, and that its influence only extends over this area.
For as long as she stays, it is said that everyone's thoughts will run more quickly and purely. Some versions of the story say that she whispers truths to all who seek them. Others say that she sings a song which stirs the blood. The mathematician will find all problems easy, as if numbers were arranging themselves into the correct answers. The poet will find the necessary word always first in their thoughts. The paths of the forest will seem clear and true, so that no one will be lost, even at night. And, likewise, off-notes will nowhere be heard and all will sing like birds.
There are said to have been eleven original centaurs. All eleven are children of one human and one quadraped parent. Bitter theological debate rages over whether they came from human fathers and animal mothers, or vice versa. An alternative theory holds that centaurs were created by a twelve year old sorceress, after her friends could not decide whether boys were better than horses.
They were "as strong as the towers of Bel-Narana; as light as those gossamer palaces that the fairy-spider builds 'twixt heaven and sea along the coasts of Zith; as swift as a bird racing up from the morning to sing in some city's spires before daylight comes."
There were five male and female couples, one each for the five types of centaur.
The eleventh, and youngest, was Ianidhini, who was brought forth to keep peace between the other ten. He or she is both male and female, so as to understand both, and at other times of no gender, to be fooled by either. For similar reasons, Ianidhini's hindquarters are a mixture of all the five types of centaurs.
Ianidhini is the only one of the eleven who is much worshipped other than by centaurs. In Teleleli Ianidhini is the god and goddess of worldly wisdom, and of all who dress in the clothes of the opposite gender, whether for reasons of disguise, acting, or inclination.
The nameless God of Unfinished Things is also a centaur, although he is not worshipped by centaurs.
This god is also known as Dok Tan Ree and Father-on-the-Mountain. He is a god of the sky, and sometimes also of the Sun.
The god is usually represented as a man with eagle wings and/or a falcon's head, or as a giant bird. He is sometimes represented as a shield (understood to be the Sun), with a giant bird, a bird-headed man, and a winged man around him. In this representation the Sun is sometimes said to be the god, and the three smaller figures his attendants.
A few sects use a mountain as a symbol rather than represent the god directly. This is because anything they tried would fall short of the perfection of the god, and he'd criticise like he always does. It's never good enough is it? So fine, we've done a mountain instead, OK? Fine. Where most religions claim that no mortal can understand the true nature of a god, these sects claim that the god doesn't understand them. Or their music.
Daba is the chief god of the Amazons. He is a squat, malignant-looking man, bearded and scowling.
It is widely assumed in Teleleli that Daba is female. The reader should not be surprised at a female-dominated society worshipping a male supreme deity; at least not the reader who has contemplated the witch-finders of our own world who revered Mary, or the foot-binders of the East with their goddess Guan Yin.
Dok Tan Ree
See Cloud-Gatherer above.
See The God of Unnatural Death below.
The God of Unnatural Death
This god's skin is stretched so tight across his face that it looks more like a skull - and indeed, he has no eyes and nose, but only holes like a skull. He has a fine mustache, large and glossy.
Vain and arrogant, he wears fine clothes. His horse, which looks starved and maddened, has the most expensive bridle and saddle.
He wears a bandana around his neck, tied with a knot in the front, whose two ends are usually depicted as flowing outwards like his mustache. Some say this is no coincidence; that once there was a man whose mustache was better than his, and the god cut his skin off, mustache and all, to make the bandana.
He carries a flag, on which are printed words which would drive any who read them to despair. This is usually represented with a skull and crossbones, or depicted so as to be hidden from the viewer. Despite his horse's appearance, none can outride it.
The god of unnatural death is, naturally, the patron of assassins and other murderers, and he may not be worshipped openly in most places. However, many will seek to placate him that he may spare one who has fallen pray to poison, accident or kidnapping. This is usually done by appealing to his consort, Beautiful Lady Sebastienne.
Bribes such as spices, silks or shells may be buried in graveyards, places of execution, the sites of suicides and similar places. Newly-harvested fields are also associated with the Beautiful Lady. The cutting and gathering of the crop is said to remind her of the gathering of souls into death.
Beautiful Lady Sebastienne is, in some places, the god of lepers and like outcasts, and of those whose crimes are so grave that no other god will hear their prayers. She is said to refuse no worshippers, since death takes all. Thus she is given such titles as Mother of the Pedarests, and The Bokers' Mistress. It is said that she even accepted the sacrifice of the unclean hyena, from one too simple to realise his blasphemy, though it made her sick.
Dry-Corpse is a servant of the god of unnatural death.
He was once a man so evil that the earth would not rot his flesh and demons would not take his soul. He wanders "the unseen spaces within the earth". It is disputed whether this means the underworld, the astral plane (see Farther Locations), or simply out-of-the-way places.
He is said to be cursed with an unholy appetite for lost children (or, some say, for pregnant women and their unborn babies) "unquenchable like the craving for salt-water."
Dry-Corpse has the appearance of a great snake, scintillant and seductive.
See Cloud-Gatherer ahove.
See Centaur Gods above.
The Lady of Charity
The Lady of Charity is mainly a goddess of the sea, but sometimes also the protector of prostitutes and the love-lorn. Telelelenes consider the sea to begin when one can no longer see the bottom.
She appears as a beautiful woman clad in coral and night. She is often depicted as pregnant. Her beauty is said to be like the word "sky" whispered by one who squats in darkness in a prison without windows.
She is sometimes said to be the same as the sea god Numen Mari. Either the god is considered to be both genders, or it is said that the worshippers of Numen Mari mistakenly (or blasphemously) consider the goddess to be male. Some believe that the two are separate and married. Others say that Numen Mari is a demon of the sea who causes shipwrecks, and is the enemy of the Lady.
The Queen of Welcome
This goddess of love, friendship, children and good fortune appears as a dancing child with the head of a cat.
Her priests, the 'Mouthess Ones', never speak in public, but advertise their faith by covering everything they own with representations of the goddess, and the short prayer 'Hail, O Kitty'.
The Temple of Many Gods
This Telelelene temple worships a different god or goddess every year. Over several months the temple holds a series of competitions, where anyone can show their grace and skill in singing and dancing. Eventually a winner is chosen. The winner is sacrificed, and ascends to godhead. They are worshipped for the next year, and then forgotten when the new competition begins. The competition, which attracts entrants from many islands as well as the city itself, is called Telelelene Idol.
Gods of Teleleli and the Lands Around
Some of the gods worshipped in Teleleli and surrounding lands.