M'acunism, also referred to as Koema M'acune (lit. "Red River Faith") is the primary indigenous belief system of northern Crona. Best understood as a faith tradition rather than an organized, centralized religion, M'acunism is semi-monolatristic, embracing a complex system of ancestor worship as well as veneration of an Earth goddess. It is generally accepted by scholars that Arzalism and M'acunism are related, with Arzalism either forming from M'acunism or the two religions mutually influencing each other. M'acunism has been losing adherents as a percentage of the overall population of Crona partly due to increasing missionary activity of the Levantine Catholic Church but also due to the rise of secularism in some sectors of Cronite society.
The term "M'acunism" derives from the native Cronite term Koema M'acune, which means "Red River Faith". The history of the term is unclear, and some scholars have posited that the belief system had no specific indigineous name prior to the arrival of Occidentals, who devised the term based on the sacrificial practices of the faith's adherents. It entered widespread use in the Occident in its native form by the 19th century. Some Cronite activists abroad object to the use of the term as a description akin to an exonym, but the term has gained widespread use among the people of Crona itself.
M'acunism is characterized by a set of common beliefs in the lack of an afterlife with distinctive individuality, worship of the nature goddess Makuahine, belief in "Great Man" ancestors in the form of Kānenaka, and animal sacrifice to Makuahine. Beliefs typically vary somewhat due to the lack of central organization within the religion. The religion has no organized "clerics", and typically the "wisest" individual within a community is entrusted with teaching the tenets of the faith as believed locally and in leading sacrifices.
Adherents of M'acunism believe in the "Kot'a'hiac" or "Great Oneness", a tenet that states all of mankind is one being but partially separated by the physical confines of the body. Consequently, M'acunists believe that, upon death, the soul is absorbed into the "Great Oneness". The primary exception to "going to the Great Oneness" upon death is those of the "Great Man", or "Kānenaka". The Man School of M'acunism believes that the Great Oneness only consists of human beings given their prominence within creation and in the hierarchy of life, whereas the Nature School believes living beings are part of the Great Oneness. According to M'acunist belief, all people go to the Great Oneness regardless of their actions or morality in life. However, moral actions and persons in life enhance the "balance" of the Great Oneness whereas immoral ones can lead to "imbalance" in the Great Oneness. Living a moral life, under M'acunism, is to the benefit of all of creation and all mankind, as it ensures the balance of the Great Oneness. Traditional thought stipulates that the Earth goddess, Makuine, punishes the world with drought and famine if the Great Oneness is too imbalanced, not only punishing mankind but creating conditions of privation in which moral order can be restored.
Ancestral worship is a key part of the M'acunist belief system. M'acunists acknowledge a Kānenaka, those who achieved greatness in life through a series of subjective judgments on the achievements during their lifetime. As mentioned in the section above, Kānenaka do not go to the Great Oneness upon death but rather ascend to a position of semi-divinity. According to M'acunists, Kānenaka are charged by the great Earth goddess Makuahine to guard and guide their descendants on Earth and to ensure their descendants contribute to the balance of the Great Oneness. Great people within a family remain in their role as Kānenaka until they are surpassed by one of their descendants, after which time they themselves go into the Great Oneness. M'acunists reverently view their Kānenaka ancestors as something resembling "household gods". Due to the subjective nature of greatness, the issue of a family's Kānenaka causes significant disagreement within Cronite society, leading to the fracturing of tribes and families. For M'acunists, belief in the wrong Kānenaka not only creates dishonor within the family, but will lead to immoral actions and people within the family and imbalance in the Great Oneness. Religious scholars draw comparisons to schism for these divisions, and historians posit that the huge number of distantly related tribes and peoples in Crona are likely due to family fractures over Kānenaka.
Earth as lifegiver
The central deity in M'acunism is Makuahine, the Earth goddess, who formed all of creation and imbued life within all of it by imparting her very presence into all living beings. According to M'acunism, Makuahine is the primary deity that which living creatures can interact with and perceive. By her presence in living beings, M'acunists believe that all of nature is part of Makuahine's divine essence and life, and consequently believe that the Earth itself serves as lifegiver and consequently must be respected. Her role is emphasized within the Nature School but somewhat reduced within the Man School, and she is viewed as a somewhat neutral or at times malevolent actor within the Man School whereas the Nature School emphasizes her inherent goodness. Within both schools, her influence over the afterlife is extremely limited to being able to impart the status of Kānenaka on living beings as other deities oversee the afterlife. Consequently, prayer and sacrifice to Makuahine within M'acunism is mostly related to gaining benefits within mortal life, typically for good weather, curing of sickness, and other immediate benefits often related to biology and climate. Animal sacrifice is considered the highest form of prayer within M'acunism as it is understood to be a returning of the divine life essence of Makuahine back to her, which M'acunists believe is a way to gain favor with the goddess.
Hierarchy of life
M'acunists believe that all living things fall within a hierarchy of life, ranging from the simplest to the greatest among the living, mankind. The various kinds of life are listed below, ranging from least to greatest:
1. Insects 2. Rodents and other similar sized creatures; smaller amphibians are also typically included in this 3. Birds 4. Fish 5. Midsized mammals and larger amphibians 6. Large mammals 7. Humans
Within M'acunism, blood sacrifice is viewed as the highest form of prayer to the goddess Makuahine. Sacrifice on a ritual basis is often done in thanksgiving to the goddess, while individual sacrifices or mass sacrifices are done in reparation or in petition. Every living creature is viewed as suitable for a sacrifice as it is believed sacrifices return the divine life to Makuahine which pleases the goddess. The hierarchy of life dictates the value of sacrifices, with a large animal sacrifice being of the greatest value and insects being of the least value. In modern M'acunism, human sacrifice is banned and viewed as a sacrilege against the Great Oneness. A central legend cites a period of of mass human sacrifice in ancient times before stopped by a collective incarnation of every Kānenaka before all the people. Archaeological evidence, however, suggests that human sacrifice did occur but was rare and not universally practiced. A minority of scholars have suggested that Arzalism broke away from M'acunism over the issue of human sacrifice, a position which was once widely adhered to before falling out of favor in the 1970s. In M'acunism, sacrifice is offered in any and every public place rather than in structured temples, though a segment of the Man School has adopted the use of "sacred earth temples" for the use of sacrifice. The sacrifice involves a careful collection of the blood of the animals slaughtered; this blood is then released into the nearest body of running water, which M'acunists believe is the completion of returning the divine essence to Makuahine. In large-scale sacrifices, rivers and lakes can run red with the blood of sacrificed animals, a practice which gives the faith its name. For most creatures besides insects, the whole animal must be consumed in a feast following its sacrifice, and its bones are typically used for construction or tools.
M'acunists are mostly monolatristic, worshiping Makuahine and their ancestors with some exclusivity. This, however, can vary by region and nationality. Other deities, such as sun and moon gods are given worship as extensions or partners of Makuahine in some parts of Crona. Additionally, a minority position within the religion states that worship of L'e'afu - the god of the underworld and death - empowers an individual to achieve life after death in the form of becoming a Kānenaka.
Schools and Denominations
As M'acunism is not a formally organized religion, the difference between denominations is soft and are comparable to different schools of thought and jurisprudence. Consequently, the beliefs described below should not be understood as a strict dichotomy; many adherents of the Nature School may acknowledge some form of human privilege, while many adherents of the Man School may acknowledge the solidarity of all forms of life. These Schools are generally understood to represent the "core" belief of the two major groups of M'acunists.
The Man School believes that the Great Oneness as described above is primarily composed of human beings, with lower tier forms of life either comprising their own kind of Oneness subsidiary to that of the Great Oneness, or according to some, being "joined but separate" from the Great Oneness in some way. Consequently, the Man School believes that mankind, as the highest form of life, has special privileges and responsibilities over creation. This belief is supported by the perception that only human beings were given the ability to worship and sacrifice, and that they do so on behalf of all other forms of life. Consequently, the influence and reverence owed to Makuahine, the Earth goddess, is somewhat reduced and muted within the Man School and worship of the Kānenaka - those who were once people - are emphasized. Man School adherents believe the divine life of Makuahine to be within all things, but do not universally agree that the goddess herself is fully good, citing earthquakes and punishments imparted on mankind. Historical evidence shows the emergence of organized "Man School" thought in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, though some M'acunists have posited the "supremacy" or "privilege" of humans for the entirety of recorded history in Crona. Some scholars have suggested the rise of the Man School is due to the influence of Catholic missionaries due to the semi-similarity of beliefs on the position of humanity in Catholicism and the Man School, but there has not been conclusive evidence of this link. The Man School is prevalent among richer and more urban Cronites and is additionally associated with adherents of modernization. It is the minority position within M'acunism but the better attested to and transcribed version of the M'acunist belief system.
The Nature School believes that the Great Oneness consists of all living creatures and is either the natural extension of the essence of the goddess Makuahine, Makuahine herself, or according to some, Makuahine's spouse. The Nature School rejects the supremacy of man and believes that all beings worship Makuahine but in their own way. The Nature School also believes the goddess Makuahine to be inherently good and, consequently, all acts committed by her are by their very nature "good", including pestilence and climatological issues which are chastisements from the goddess. The Nature School emphasizes the relative equality of all living beings as imbued with the divine essence of Makuahine, and consequently tend to reject larger public ritual sacrifices in favor of individual sacrifices. The Nature School is relatively small and new as a distinct philosophical movement within M'acunism, but most scholars view it as a "condensed" form of the belief of tribal M'acunists, who constitute the majority of adherents in Crona.