The Nature of Kut
The Hungry Ones
Of Puddle Gods and Mules of Ecstasy – the Understanding and Misunderstanding of Kut
[Draft in Progress]
Ontolosna strives to employ a consistent anthropological approach to myth and religion in roleplaying. The game-world is partially an exercise in modelling the dynamics of religion in an rpg environment, and of taking religion seriously as a human artefact and creative process in all its varied facets.
Religion in Ontolosna centres upon three key instruments: the kut, the Aji, and the spiritual, tantric and ritual practice of individuals and communities. Kut especially have grown in importance over the course of history, accreting both power and cultural focus. And for Ontolosnans, religion is consciously a technology, and the goddesses and powers, whatever else they might be, are tools to be directed and shaped in the cause of human advancement.
Understanding Kut: their life, growth and death; the raising of them to new levels of consciousness; their taming, binding, and unleashing; the many and varied ways in which humans and other animals have learned to interact with them, the way that Kut regard humans – these constitute key insights into Ontolosnan reality.
We forged our gods of iron, of earth, of anger, all to the steady tac-tac-tac of an altar drum. We shaped our gods with passion, with patience, with a care born of the salt-taste of bitter memory.
W e crafted our gods with the best of our learning, the hard-won wisdom of our grandmothers, the practiced insight of our lah mahs and shamankas.
We fashioned them from story, from fable, our most sacred truths, our wildest imaginings. We clothed them in myth, in fantasy, the harvest of a million hearths.
Finally, we gave completely of ourselves: our power, our strength, our volition, all that we held precious, or holy, all that we dared to hope.
Thus emptied, we sat at the feet of our creations’ cold, burnished forms, and begged that ju gst a little might be returned.
And by the flickering of the copper lamps we shivered, and whispered among ourselves, ‘Where was it that we erred?’
For the gods, the powers, the kut, these are our children. And we have birthed them all with madness, for ours is the human tribe.
Jai Mah! Jai Ka’tamalah! Jai Komun! Jai Shalam’biba! Jai Mah!
– The Thunder of Falling Water,
Vajan’ji, Byon of the Jade Tiger.
The Nature of Kut
The term ‘kut’ here refers to several species of volatile, powerful, yet nearly invisible and incorporeal creatures that inhabit the wastes of Ontolosna, More importantly; it also refers to what they may become. For kut – the term is both singular and plural – are capable of extraordinary transformation through human intervention. From such base animal materials have been shaped the guardians and powers and goddesses of human civilisation.
And so, to the peoples of farwing Ontolosna, the term ‘kut’ can refer to an animal, a power, a goddess, a ritual, a psychological state, or a disease; and are variously pests, predators, repositories of power, allies, protectors, or objects of worship. All these meanings are linked.
It is hard to believe that the mindless kut-beasts hunted for sport or capture in the mountains of Nunshanttang share the same nature with bi Kata Ma Lah, Mother of the Tlöna, most beloved and most powerful of the devis, splendidly enthroned ‘midst the temple-gardens of Sinop. Yet like a lotus in the mud, an animal kut can evolve into a being of great power and almost unlimited potential. Human Theagyns and ritual specialists have learned to capture, bind, feed, direct, and ultimately to impart consciousness to kut. In this process, the Ontolosnans create their devi, the Daughters of Delight.
And to fully understand the devi, one must understand the beasts from which they have sprung.
Kut are not regarded as spirits: indeed the idea of any division of the world into distinct realms of physical and non-physical is foreign to the Ontolosnan mind. Kut are natural creatures, products of environment and evolution. No mind can persist without sinew and nerve and bone, however strange. There is mystery here. Kut live, breed, hunt and die, yet they do not possess an animal body; or at least one understandable to a human mind. They are a different type of creature.
Humans perceive a kut as comprising two parts: a subtle and almost invisible field presence (also called the heat or passion or eye), and a nest, (also called a skin, shell, host, or key). Anchored to its physical nest, the subtle expression of a kut may range, according to its power, over hundreds of metres.
Humans can seldom detect the field presence of a kut through vision alone. Those few adepts sensitive to the subtle worlds of gi have variously described such a presence as a sleek single-winged bird with no eyes or legs, a spinning ball of ice spewing out waterfalls of light, or clustered giant pearls trailing white silk prayer banners in their wake. For most humans, the field presence of a wild kut is experienced as sudden localised drops in temperature, spine-tingling sensations, rushes of emotion – joy or fear, terror or ecstasy – and, less frequently, as involuntary bodily convulsions or fits. (Deva kut, when they do manifest locally, overpower all eleven of the human senses. They are beings of piercing light and raw, unfettered power.)
Kut nests are essentially patterns enacted upon or through some solid medium. And the base pattern is that of a spiralling helix.
The nest of an immature Kut might comprise metallic or crystalline patterns traced like veins through rock or glacial ice, or a jagged cluster of branches upon a tree. Such kut are relatively immobile, plant-like, primitive, and dull, passively absorbing flows of gi. The nests of more animated kut usually find expression in a mobile medium: typically formed by crystal or ice flecks in water; or smoke, snowflakes, leaves or pebbles in air, or an ever-turbulent vortex of water in a river or lake. Such can be capricious, dangerous; for mobile kut may actively hunt gi sources in the form of living beings. And in hunting, they can kill.
Even the god-like devi, whose power extends across all Ontolosna, require temporary nests to manifest in a given locale. They create such bodies by force of will out of whatever is at hand: perhaps a flock of birds spiralling together in a helix across the sky; rocks pummelling suspended beneath a waterfall; or even, in two dimensions, mice or insects crawling in patterns across three or four walls simultaneously. A Greater Deva might herd a hysterical human crowd into a form she can temporarily inhabit. Temple dancers and soldiers learn the movements and dances and formation so they might themselves become the plural body of a goddess.
Worshippers may also facilitate these manifestations through carved or drawn matrices, or even through mental visualisations enacted in deep meditation. Elegant, wire-like kut sculptures are often built in public spaces. Theagyn temples employ similar metallic patternings on their walls: and are said to construct metallic helixes within a devi’s birthing pit.
The piled pebble altars created by pilgrims and travellers across the mountain and desert wastes therefore serve a variety of purposes. Not only are they symbols of piety, and geographic markers, but also as the raw nest material by which a deva might temporarily manifest.
Yes, there is mystery here, mystery and wonder. It is said that all of Ontolosnan philosophy stems from the contemplation of kut nature. For while a natural creature of the wilderness—some more plant, some more animal, some so powerful as to defy categorisation—kut are also, to more sophisticated minds, embodied thoughts in fluid motion, self-aware information, self-organising currents of gi (power) and ki-ok (memory) that are anchored in material foci. In their complete Otherness, and with their radically different perceptions of time, space and being, kut provide achellenging source of comparison as humans seek to understand their own nature and comprehension of reality.
Hungry Ones and Puddle Gods
Humans are not good at recognising the differences between Kut. beyond lore and direct observation ad interaction and rely for much of their knowledge on the fragmented and often ecliptic statements of awakened devis, or the rare cryptic aside from enlightened snow leopard nuns. Hence, they tend to distinguish Kut by the roles in which they are encountered: unmoving or mobile, wild or bound, animal or awakened, servant or mistress, trustworthy or treacherous.