An Anthropological Approach to Sarkicism - Case Study 01: The Vaśńa of Sarvi
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An Anthropological Approach to Sarkicism

Dr. Matthieu Desmarais, Department of Anthropology

Forward:
Our understanding of Sarkicism has changed dramatically over the last few decades. This information has revealed a diverse and shifting paradigm far different from the monolithic creed first hypothesized. We are now able to paint a broader, more detailed picture of the Sarkic religion, its various sects and cultural traditions.

Modern sects are the product of divergent interpretations, many bearing a mere superficial resemblance to their ancient progenitor cult. Most unexpected, especially among early scholars of Sarkicism such as myself, are the seemingly benevolent intentions of its founders. The road to hell, it is often said, is paved with good intentions - an aphorism the Foundation must always keep close in mind, for despite the aeons between us, we gaze into that very same abyss.

And like the ancient Sarkites, we have found it full of monsters.

Dr. Desmarais, at great risk to himself, seeks to better understand Sarkicism and its ever shifting paradigm through the study of living communities - revealing what ruins, artifacts, and the dead cannot. Though his methods are unorthodox (at least for the Foundation), his results are undeniable and deserving of continued support.

Dr. Judith Low, Senior Adviser at the Department of History - Religious GoI Threat Analysis.

CASE STUDY 01: The Vaśńa of Sarvi

Overview:

A number of indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabit the Arctic area of Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. Due to a distant but shared cultural origin, Sarkic communities are difficult to differentiate from local Sami1 but these similarities quickly disappear with closer inspection. These people identify themselves as the Vaśńa and they are the subject of this study.

One Vaśńa community is the village of Sarvi. Located on the coast Lake Inari in the Lapland region of Finland, the people of Sarvi are isolated but self-sufficient. They harvest fish via primitive but clever traps and herd a distinct subspecies of reindeer for meat, fur, and transportation. Sarvi remains connected to other Vaśńa communities throughout the Arctic, including some which are entirely nomadic, but who join together for significant religious events or in the defense of their ancestral homeland.

house.jpg

A house in Sarvi during the warm months. Such dwellings are actually quite spacious with the bulk of the structure located underground.

History:

The Vaśńa belong to Haplogroup N (M231), a Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup typical of Northern Eurasia and have likely lived along Lake Inari for the last 4,000-6,000 years. It is believed that the Vaśńa descend from or share a common ancestry with the so-called "reindeer folk of Adí-üm", a Finno-Ugric people once native to the Northern Urals who were among the first followers of Grand Karcist Ion.

The Norse saga "The Tale of Asbjørn the Unready" relates a failed invasion of Lapland, whose inhabitants closely resemble Finno-Ugric Sarkites. The natives are described as having ghostly pale bodies (though this is likely a reference to white body paint) covered in red-colored runes. There are frequent (often gratuitous) references to blood and flesh, as well as "blood magic", a "land kraken", a "god of entrails", and several stanzas dedicated to the description of a Norse warlord being turned "inside-out".

For a time the inhabitants of Sápmi, whether Sarkic or non-anomalous Sami, lived in relative peace. Sweden and Norway would seize control of the area by the 15th century but the Vaśńa tribes, due to their northern isolation, remained largely unaffected. During World War II, German forces in Northern Finland applied scorched earth tactics to the region, causing devastating losses among both the Vaśńa and Sami. Between 1946 and 1961, the village of Sarvi was under the occupation of GRU Division "P" and village elders speak of brutal experimentation and later, unmerciful vengeance. Although the elders do not explain what occurred in detail, they were certain to note that it did prevent GRU Division "P" from ever returning.

Culture, Tradition, and Misconceptions:

The Vaśńa refer to their religious beliefs as Nälkä2; the word "Sarkic" is actually a pejorative created by the Mekhanites, an ancient anomalous cult of Mediterranean origin (as well as the probable forebears of the Church of the Broken God). Efforts to remove this Eurocentric misnomer from the Foundation lexicon have proven fruitless. Sarkites worship neither "flesh" or a "god of flesh"; in fact, while there is a belief in the existence of gods, they are reviled rather than revered - an example of dystheism, the belief that a god, goddess, or singular God is not wholly good as presented and even possibly evil.

The Grand Karcist and his Klavigar play an important role in daily living. Lovataar3 (Lovarakka4 to the Vaśńa) is invoked by soon-to-be mothers and those seeking love; Orok5 offers strength, protection, and amulets depicting his icon are worn by hunters for good luck; Nadox6 (pronounced "Naw-dock" by the Vaśńa) is prayed to by those seeking wisdom or those merely wishing to make the right choice; Saarn7 is less commonly called upon but when she is, it is usually in the hopes of cursing/vowing vengeance upon an enemy; and the Grand Karcist Ion (pronounced "Yon" by the Vaśńa) is prayed to daily (although the Vaśńa request little from him, claiming that his "work" is too important to be selfishly interrupted).

Reports of human sacrifice appear to be unfounded. The community practices endocannibalism as a funerary rite but scoffed at the implication of hunting humans (though they do state that it would be "wasteful" to simply allow any corpse to decay).

Life in Sarvi is relatively simple (even idyllic, if one enjoys the cold). An outsider might not notice anything unusual at first and I would go so far as to argue that these people could assimilate into other communities without significant issue (were they to choose to do so). Peace is valued and rarely broken beyond the occasional petty squabble.

Neither puritanical nor libertine8, the Vaśńa have a generally healthy attitude towards love and sexuality. One today might refer to these views as progressive but such a label is relative and distracts from the ancient roots of their norms and folkways. Sexual orientation is regarded as a spectrum (though they do not refer to it as such) and concepts like heterosexuality and homosexuality are viewed as strange and restricting. The Vaśńa do not allocate labor based on gender, despite living a traditional way of life that tends to lend itself to such a practice, and this has possibly resulted in a diminished concept of gender - but gender and even biological sex9 appear to be quite fluid throughout all Sarkic traditions.

The denizens of Sarvi treat the human body as a canvas, artistically expressing themselves through tattoos, scarification, bone piercings, and the occasional corporeal augmentation10. Traditional garb is practical and rustic but includes a pleasing aesthetic. Such outfits are usually composed of wool, leather, and fur. Locals use natural dyes which include red11, blueish black12, and yellow13 and clothes are decorated with symbols and patterns associated with the Sarkic religion.

Though physically isolated, the people of Sarvi are not entirely disconnected from the outside world - radios have long been common and the younger generation occasionally gains access to technology with internet access. The incremental nature of these changes are not the result of some aversion to technology but rather due to an extreme distaste for money, with most residents preferring to barter with outsiders. Sarvi, in turn, functions as a sort of proto-communism, the concept of private property being entirely foreign as well.

Those born within Sarvi are free to leave and it is possible that their traditions are being secretly practiced in more populated areas without any taking notice. From what I am able to gather, most return but those that stay with the outside world are not begrudged for their choice (though I have certainly sensed disappointment, take that as you will). Locals refer to this practice as one's Valtaanok (or "The Wandering"). Dávgon14, a young man in his mid-twenties, attended university at Helsinki before returning; he received a degree in microbiology and financially supported himself through "odd jobs". I would interview Dávgon about his culture and faith; the transcript is available in the collapsible below:

Located beneath the village is an ancient network of cavernous tunnels. Dated to the 2nd millennium BCE, it is potentially the oldest Sarkic structure west of the Ural Mountains and was likely settled by the Adí-üm people prior to or shortly after the successful overthrow of Daevite rule. The walls display thousands of years of artistic expression, either painted with red pigment or engraved into the stone itself. Images include flora and fauna (some of which are entirely unidentifiable) and humanoid figures undergoing metamorphosis. Adytite glyphs are also common but most are faded beyond recognition, their meaning a casualty of time.

These caverns are also used in the cultivation of various fungi, Foundation mycologists identifying thirteen unique and previously unrecorded species. One species, the recently named Mycena candentis ("Ion's Flame" to the locals), produces a green light quite reminiscent of the auroras common to the region, with a brighter bioluminescence than any known non-anomalous organism. The fungus is harvested and used to light the village at night. Another fungus, Psilocybe calixtinus20 ("Nadox Eyes" to the locals), is a potent psychotropic employed during religious rituals.

Another section serves as a kennel, housing a previously unknown SK-BIO species (classified as SK-BIO Type Θ). The creatures wag their tails (and tendrils) and pant excitedly at our arrival. Although their behavior differs little from the average canine, they look absolutely nothing alike - indeed, it would be difficult to even recognize them as mammals (something Foundation biologists continue to debate). Known as "pǟnalka" (or "witch-hounds"), the species has a leathery red epidermis, chitinous white plates and scales, a thick mane of white feathers, and a row of prehensile tendrils along its spine. Its head resembles a featureless skull while its mouth opens along multiple axes, due to the multiple flaps of muscle and skin that compose the aperture. Its six legs provide excellent locomotion and its feet resemble a cross between talons and hooves. Although they lack visible eyes, Dávgon assures me that their vision is keen and that they even see things "beyond the sight of man".

I asked about SK-BIO Type Θ's origins, Dávgon informing me that the seemingly chimeric species does in fact descend from wolves. I delved deeper - perhaps deeper than one in my position should - into the ethical ramifications of fleshcrafting. Dávgon took a moment to laugh and shake his head, then replied:

"They are healthier than wolves. They can live well over eighty winters. And they are as clever as ravens. You outsiders are in no place to criticize our ways. Your methods are both inefficient and cruel. Can you truly say the same of your dogs? The pug is a crime against nature."

I found no fault in his argument. Shifting the conversation, I inquired again about his faith and was able to convince him to translate some Sarkic scripture. Though the Foundation has encountered Sarkic scripture in the past, such documents vary from cult to cult and are devoid of codification. In turn, such documents are rife with contradictions and there is strong evidence that much of the Sarkic religion - its history, mythology, ritual, and dogma - was either lost or purposefully removed. The Valkzaron, the most complete Sarkic grimoire in Foundation possession, displays evidence of gross alterations dating back centuries. This suggests that shortly after the original faith (or Ur-Sarkicism, as Dr. Low has proposed) suffered its greatest defeat, others sought to control the narrative and use it towards their own ends (such is the way of even non-anomalous religions).

What Dávgon was able to translate proved intriguing and important to understanding the Sarkic ethos, while also providing a possible explanation for the peacefulness of Sarvi. Examples are provided in the collapsible below:

The Sarkic calendar emphasizes astronomical phenomena and is based on the alignment of celestial bodies rather than solar (such as the Gregorian calendar) or lunar/lunisolar (such as the traditional Chinese calendar). Precision is unimportant, the calendar recognizing seasons and years but not days. The calendar is primarily used in the reckoning of animal migration and holy periods.

The calendar is divided into three seasons: Kätkea ("The Cradle") corresponding with spring and early summer, Tulisija ("The Hearth") corresponding with mid to late summer and early autumn, and Kalmaa ("The Grave") corresponding with mid to late autumn and winter.

Sacred periods, known as vahvuusajat ("times of strength"; singular: vahvuusaika), are similar to the concept of holidays. I was able to observe one such vahvuusaika known as Lovaska.

Celebrated in early Kätkea, Lovaska honors Lovataar and is associated with sex and fertility. It begins with the encouragement of flirtation among uncoupled individuals for 12 days. During this time, those not already ritually bound to a partner (or partners) are forbidden from having sex. Gifts are given, friendly pranks are played, and amorous feelings are made known. Though the Vaśńa generally lack gender roles, it still appears that female participants are more assertive and aggressive than the males. Similarly, there seems to be an expectation for males to be coy and show more restraint. It is possible that the personalities of the Grand Karcist Ion and his lover, the Klavigar Lovataar, influence the development of these dynamics. This is not universal and is only noticeable in female-male interactions. It is important to remember that Sarkites have a notion of human sexuality untouched by Abrahamic religion, manifesting as a spectrum and devoid of terms to distinguish one as "heterosexual" or "homosexual".

On the 12th day, uncoupled individuals gather at nightfall and divide themselves into "predators" and "prey". Individuals playing the role of prey don antlered headdresses and long gossamer scarves but are otherwise nude. Those choosing to act as predators paint themselves with animal blood and wear the skulls and skins of bears and wolves. There appears to be some unspoken understanding of who will play what role as well as who would be "hunting" who.

The "prey" consume a tea brewed with Psilocybe calixtinus and are allowed to enter the nearby forest a day before the "predators", who themselves are tasked with the raising of lavvu21 which they then paint with the seal of Lovataar. The predators awaken at dawn and consume the same psychotropic tea and venture into the forest. They return throughout the next few days, with predators carrying their prey over their shoulders. These couples vary in composition and include nearly as many same-sex pairings as opposite; a few aren't even pairs, with two predators sharing one prey and another carrying one male and one female slung over both her shoulders - a rather remarkable feat of strength. Prey and predator then enter their lavvu, which the other townsfolk (elders, those already in relationships, etc.) have filled with food and drink during their absence.

When their supplies run out, they will return to the village with newly forged relationships. Despite the predatory theme of the celebration, elders inform me that this practice is entirely consensual (I will note that I didn't see a single frown among those that returned; all appeared to be quite happy before I allowed them their privacy).

Dávgon offered to arrange an interview with Võlutaar Jaská, the eldest resident of Sarvi and the closest person the community has to a leader. I agreed and was brought before her at dusk.

I agreed to her offer. The ritual would involve a tea brewed from Psilocybe calixtinus. Ill prepared for what I would encounter, I write this after several days of hospitalization. Further experiments with Psilocybe calixtinus should be conducted with D-Class personnel. I do not begrudge the people of Sarvi for what occurred; they have likely developed a tolerance to the substance and had no frame of reference to predict an outsider's reaction.

After receiving extensive therapy, I was again able to continue my work. Despite the accusations of my detractors, I have neither lost my mind nor have I "gone native". My experience was a hallucination and it was never presented as anything more than a chemical trick of the mind.

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