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Happy Ent

Judging Eye X (Re-read)

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Chapter 5: Iothiah

(Apologies for not chronicling my re-read systematically. Chapters 3 and 4 are interesting enough, but I don't have so much to say about them.

In Iotiah, we meet Psatma Nannaferi, trying to beg anonymously. Clearly, she's too much of a Yatwerian superstar to pass unrecognised for long.

We get lots of glimpses of Yatwerian ethics. It's a cult of selfless giving, and easily on of the the Bakkerian concepts that fascinates me the most. The morals of a religion among caste-menials and slaves ennoble the plight of the helpless, they make servitude holy. The rewards are reaped in the afterlife.

This is of course utterly perverse and appalling to somebody like me, but makes complete sense. Yatwerianism is exactly what is needed in such a society, both from the perspective of the psychological needs of the underclass (because it gives purpose, meaning, and hope to their life), and from the perspective that religion enables stability.

In a few pages, Esmi will tell us:

I shudder to think how many coppers I tossed to beggars, thinking they might have been disguised priestesses. The Goddess of the Gift [...] You have no idea, Maitha, what a salve to the heart Yatwer can be... (Ch. V, p. 120)

(Remarkably, Esmi is very open about her motivation for giving: you might happen to hit a priestess, and since Yatwer is compensatory, this might help you. It's exactly what Nanny tries to avoid in her opening scene. Clearly, Yatwerian followers understand the concept of tit-for-tat a lot better than the Cult's leaders would like them to…)

We've seen plenty of Yatwerians before, both Serwë and Esmenet belong to that cult, and had glimpses of their rituals before. From Warrior-Prophet:

Xinemus had begun muttering some joke, but just then Esmenet sat next to Serwe, smiling and frowning.

"Has Kellhus worked him into a frenzy again?" she asked, handing Serwe a steaming bowl of spiced tea.

"Again," Serwe said, and grasped the proffered bowl. She tipped a glittering drop to the earth before drinking. It tasted warm, coiled in her stomach like sun-hot silk. "Mmmm... Thank you, Esmi."

During solstice, cultists touch a Chorae in Carythusal.

I like the various aspects from which Bakker weaves the religion: birth, giving, furrow, planting, sex, menstrual blood, etc. I am not sufficiently schooled in historical religions to recognise the intermingling of fertility god and slave god, but it works well. (Please point me to historical examples.)

We are told that Yatwer is the largest or second-largest cult (Theliopa informs us later that 6 out of 10 caste-menials attend Yatwerian rites. Aside: Kellhus's administration has these kinds of statistics!). Like all the Kiünnat faiths it is threatened by the more monotheistic reinterpretations of Inri Sejenus and Fane, and the Kellhusian version of Inrithism. In Fanim times, Yatwerianism was simply outlawed and considered blasphemous (remember that the Solitary God is not a conglomerate of the others, but separate from them, and that entities like Yatwer are considered demons). The Thousand Temples (the institutional arm of Inrithism outlawed the function of Mother-Supreme (i.e., the function held by Nanny). The Matriarch is the cult's titular leader, I assume (speculate) that a Mother-Supreme is divine, which is the reasons for her being outlawed by the Shria.

(We are never really treated to the theological details of the Shria's presence. I assume he's like the pope, so he's the God's formal representative on Earth, holy, but not a prophet. In any case, he can not tolerate other divine humans in the hierarchy of Inrithism, which is the Mother-Supremes were outlawed. On the other hand, Matriarchs, to the extent that they perform a purely political or administrative role, are of course a valuable function in the enormous machine that is the Thousand Temples.)

Like all the Cults, the Yatwerians were originally thrilled with the Holy War, since it wrested one of their holy places in Iothiah from the hands of the Fanim heathens. Their enthusiasm has since mellowed, because it has become clear that the last two decades have resulted in a marked strengthening of Inritihism and the Thousand Temples.

Politically, the whole caste system has undergone big changes in the last two decades as well. We've only seen glimpses in Esmi's POVs so far, but the slave-reforms are clearly a big thing, and very controversial.

Word has it, Blessed, Empress, that so-and-so is questioning the slave reforms, and in the emost troubling manner… (Ch. III, p. 67)

[Maitha to Esmi: ] "The Cultists themselves are no more or no less foolish than other Men. They see only what they know, and they argue only to defend what they cherish. Think of the changes my brother has wrought…" (Ch. V, p. 122)

(I think there is one other quote about the changes in Kellhus's New Empire, but I can't find it.)

These seem to be the main reasons for the Yatwerian insurgency: A shift in power towards the impressively well-run Thousand Temples, a demographic threat in the form of slave reforms (and, I assume, other improved conditions for caste-menials), and

The Yatwerians are, of course, only one of the many sources of opposition to the New Empire. We know from interviews that this interests Bakker a lot, he didn't want to write a history where a huge political infrastructure just survives unopposed, no matter how well run (or well-intentioned) it may be. We have pockets of Fanim resistance under Fanayal and the Cishaurim, we have several Cults (also, the Assassins that try to kill Kelmo and Esmi in the Prologue), and of course the Consult. (Ironically, the big threat will turn out to be Kelmo, the snake nurtured at Esmi's breast.)

So much about Yatwerianism.

On to the plot.

Nanny. Is a Shegiki-born cultist, so we can understand that the Cult existed in Fanim times (another Shigeki Yatwerian is Porsperian (whom I'll call Perry), Sorweel's slave.) Pox-ridden, and clearly with a withering presence and rapid ascension through the Cult.

Some timeline details:

Year X: Nanny enters the cult as "Shegiki pox girl" "in her youth". That's all we get, I think. She may be 8, she may be 16. (I don't think she can be 25 and considered "in her youth" in a pre-modern society. At 25 she'd have been an adult for years already.)

Year X+20: Nanny becomes Matriarch twenty years after her entrance.

Year X+20 + 14: Nanny becomes Mother-Supreme.

I we put her cult entrance at 10 y.o., she's is Mother-Supreme at 44. How old is she now? We know she's way past menopause, but it seems that she's really old. Here breasts are withered. Only Phoracia is older. Is Nanny 70? I think she's even older. In any case, I think her advance to Mother-Supreme predates the New Empire.

The first thing we see happen to her, from her POV, is a revelation where the goddess Yatwer actually speaks to her in direct speech. Gods speak in bold face.

Interestingly, a Nansur caste-noble helps her up. I am puzzled by this. Why would a caste-noble stoop to help a beggar after an epileptic seizure ("the Falling Disease" he calls it). What's he doing in Iothiah anyway? Is he a doctor? (Probably nothing to see here, just feeding crackpot theories.)

Anyway, she clearly has a revelation. (Likewise, nobody else sees it, so we can continue to view this whole incident as the complete fabrication of a madwoman.) The supernatural stuff increases: the next item is just before she exposes the witch

[she] closed her eyes, knowing they would be globes of crimson when they snapped open.

"Because the Goddess," she murmured, "lets me see."

Shouting clamour. The clinking thump of a stone stool falling. Eleva leapt to her feet [...]

If this actually worked like Nanny thinks, it must be a pretty stunning special effect, akin to what sorcerers can do. We are never told if her eyes actually do look like globes of crimson, and the commotion can be cause by Eleva alone. In any case, Nanny thinks she looks like that, which seems to be "so Yatwer". Earlier we learned,

Even Gilgaöl shrank from Yatwer's bloody gaze.

Since we get the entire section from Nanny's POV it's impossible to say whether she can actually do stuff. There's the revelation, the bloody gaze, and some funky blood-smoke coming out of the cave, but it could all be in her head. Anyway, the other priestesses are sold and end kissing her knee and fondling her. She then announces the White-Luck Warrior. In a later chapter, she invokes unquestionably supernatural powers when she transforms herself.

What else? Eleva is a witch and has replaced the real Eleva some time ago. This kind of magic is new to us, we have seen nothing better than Mallahet's glamour. The Swayal Compact can change their appearance using sorcery, as well as any skin spy. Out-of-book we have learned that the Swayali are a Gnostic school. This is all weird to me, doesn't sound like Eärwan sorcery at all. The Witch, once unmasked and salted, is buxom and improbably young. We can assume that the Thousand Temples have infiltrated other Cults similarly.

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I'll keep this minimal. Btw, Ent, you are a very good writer. I'm trying to write up chapter reviews and I keep stumbling; they're less reviews and more speculation. Not good. Anyhow:

Out of book, we've learned that Kellhus teaches Serwa the Gnosis. We don't actually know that the Swayal Compact functions like a normal school or that Serwa, Kellhus, or whomever else, unilaterally taught the Compact the Gnosis. I suspect that, perhaps, the Swayal are a collection of witches who had been living on the fringe of Three Seas society pre-Kellian Empire. I have the feeling that many different sorceries are at work in the Compact; makes a good time to point out that while we've only seen four and know of five different types of sorcery (Gnosis, Anagogis, Phsuke, Daimos, and Aporos) and it's implied that there very well might be more.

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Yatwer has a massive gap between her PR and her reality. She's supposed to be this generous, all-forgiving goddess but really she's a wrathful deity who gives nothing for free. I even have a nagging suspicion she isn't really even female but only claiming so for the street credibility as a deity of the oppressed.

I wonder about the rest of the gods and the God...

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I suspect that, perhaps, the Swayal are a collection of witches who had been living on the fringe of Three Seas society pre-Kellian Empire.

OK, so “Change Appearance (level 5)” may be a non-Gnostic spell that has its root in a pre-Kellhusian magical tradition rooted in the various witchy circles rather than the Gnosis. Good.

We note that both witches we see are young, so they at least have brought up entirely in the Swayali school after its founding.

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Ohhhh…

You heard it here first: Nanny is of the Few.

How else did she recognise Eleva? She does not use sorcery, of course, since we explicitly see her touch a Chorae (“between thumb and forefinger”). She also considers sorcery blasphemous, as any good pre-Kellhusian follower of the Tusk.

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How else did she recognise Eleva? She does not use sorcery, of course, since we explicitly see her touch a Chorae (“between thumb and forefinger”). She also considers sorcery blasphemous, as any good pre-Kellhusian follower of the Tusk.
The other explanation is more obvious; she recognizes Eleva because she sees with the God's eyes and is an avatar of the God. The Few doesn't matter here any more than her ability to summon wrathful menstrual cycles does.

Note that she did not see Eleva before her grant of awesome auntie flo. Eleva remained disguised. So either she was a Few, knew Eleva was weird but didn't say anything (or didn't know how she was weird and didn't trust her instincts), or her powers have nothing to do with being Few/whatever.

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Note that she did not see Eleva before her grant of awesome auntie flo. Eleva remained disguised.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by this. Could you be more explicit? (Also, I admit I had to use the internet to parse the slang. I'm not a native speaker.)

The exposure of Eleva is the first thing that happens at the meeting around the Stuck Table. No crimson glow eyes were yet opened, no menstrual smoke was yet seen. It’s many chapters before Nanny herself becomes fertile again.

The only mention of Eleva before that is just when everybody is seated at the table, "Eleva, in particular, seemed desperate to speak. \\ But the pall of enormity was quick to silence even her." We must assume that Nanny knows about Eleva even at this moment (one page before she is exposed), yet her narrative voice doesn't let us in on the secret yet. One page later again we are told that Nanny knows Eleva "has been dead for days. Maybe longer." This may mean that Nanny had contact with Eleva already for a few days (which would make sense given that I can't see that all the sisters arrived in Iothiah at exactly this moment. There are no airplanes and taxis, after all.) They may have spoken, and there could be all sorts of mundane explanations for why Nanny suspects her.

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[she] closed her eyes, knowing they would be globes of crimson when they snapped open.

I had forgotten about this. In the scene where Porsparian blesses Sorweel's face, Porsparian's eyes turn red too. This is from Sorweel's POV, so I do think we can conclude the Mother-Supreme's eyes literally turned red in her scene with Eleva

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This is only partly related to a re-read of TJE, but I've been doing lots of random rereads of the original series and the Gods are mentioned far more than I used to remember. We've talked about Onkis of course in the Inrau scene, but I'd forgotten that Leweth prays to Husyelt the God of the hunt, Yatwer is mentioned a few times, "The Cults" are mentioned a few times, and in the appendix each of these gods is given a solid paragraph. I think it was not a major focus, but there were signs that these aspects of the God had the potential to play a larger role.

And in rereading TJE it seems quite possible that little Kel is an avatar of Ajokli.

That said, is it not fair to say that we are only assuming that we are going to see people as avatars of the gods? It seems to me that there is a lot to support this in theory, but not enough to make a conclusion that it will be so.

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That said, is it not fair to say that we are only assuming that we are going to see people as avatars of the gods?

Well, I am not assuming anything of that sort. It’s a continuum of assumed agency.

Take Nanny for example.

In one extreme, she’s just an embittered madwoman of immense charisma who finally goes completely nuts. She then grasps some kind of Thousandfold Thought that unifies the souls of Yatwerian believers. Funky stuff ensues, including the channelling of supernatural powers to people like Perry. All agency emanates ultimately from Nanny’s zeal.

In the other extreme, Yatwer herself does indeed appear and everything happens just like Nanny tells us (the Nansurian caste-noble and other bystanders are just blind to it). All agency is Yatwer’s, Nanny is her chosen Avatar.

You can even have a smörgåsbord of explanations, where you think Nanny’s POV tells us the truth about her revelation, while Kellhus’s POV lies to us. In that version, Yatwer really truly acts through Nanny, but the God does not act through Kellhus. I don’t think we have any kind of consensus about these issues.

(I happen to think that all these explanations are compatible, since my understanding is that Yatwer is identical to the collective of souls that believe in her, so the distinction between Yatwer and the communality of Cultists as focussed by Nanny is meaningless. I also think that Bakker will remain deliberately coy about this issue and never present us with a smoking gun. (I think the strongest argument against my position is the divine manipulation needed to make Kellhus recuperate on Skiotha’s grave hill.))

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And Conphas and his soldiers see Cnaiur as the embodiment of Gilgaöl, when they try to capture him. The gods have always been there and i think that both Fanimry and Inrithsm are partially correct. The gods are exceptionally powerful demons, but they are also a part of the One god, like all the other souls.

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I had forgotten about this. In the scene where Porsparian blesses Sorweel's face, Porsparian's eyes turn red too.

Very cool! Here are some quotes from that scene (Ch. XIII, p. 294-5)

The slave brought dirt to his eyes, then began slowly rocking to a muttered prayer. […Perry rocks, spasms, even convulses for a while…]

His soiled fingers still to his eyes, the old man writhed and bucked [...]

Porsparian drew aside his hands, looked to the earth with eyes like red gelatin…

Gazed at the earthen face.

[…] Not only had the slave’s eyes gone red (a trick, some kind of trick!), somehow the mouth pressed into the earth had opened.

[Perry drinks water from the earth…]

His eyes had returned to normal, […]

It’s not quite the effect Nanny imagines. No glowing orbs, just red eyes. Still, a cool effect. We note that Perry has spent quite some time rubbing dirt into his eyes, which should turn them red. Speculation: the rubbing of dirt into eyes is a standard ritual used by Yatwerian zealots like Perry. It naturally turns eyes red, purposefully mimicking Yatwer’s apparently well-known “bloody gaze.” However, I do believe that the effect described by Sorweel can not entirely be described by this natural physical reaction. Funky stuff is indeed going on, and not only with Perry’s eyes.

I wonder if Perry’s eyes would indeed glow to a Yatwerian observer of this scene. (Similarly to Serwë seeing halos around Kellhus’s hands before anybody else does.)

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And Conphas and his soldiers see Cnaiur as the embodiment of Gilgaöl, when they try to capture him. The gods have always been there and i think that both Fanimry and Inrithsm are partially correct. The gods are exceptionally powerful demons, but they are also a part of the One god, like all the other souls.

That might make Moe's "They have not the heart for truth" line about Fanim and Inrithi make partial sense. It's not they either side is entirely wrong in what they believe. It's more that they're wrong in their certainty that they are entirely right when the other side is entirely wrong, and that seems very Bakker-esque.

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I'm not sure I understand what you mean by this. Could you be more explicit? (Also, I admit I had to use the internet to parse the slang. I'm not a native speaker.)

Okay, I mean that Eleva was part of that group before this. Psatma had seen her before. Only this time does she actually act against her.

Why?

Why wait if she can see the Mark? It's not like she wasn't the leader before this; it's not like others wouldn't listen to her. The only reason to wait is because she might fear the repercussions, but (rightly) she'd assume that if she were moved on Yatwerians would revolt, so she doesn't have to fear that. My guess is that she had no idea that Eleva was a problem until she became the chosen one of Yatwer. That that allowed her to see through deception - note how this ability (to see through the glamour of the Gnosis) goes well with the shielding of Sorweel from Kellhus's glamours.

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Fantastic summation HE, keep em coming lol.

I think Razor has it right; "Because the Goddess lets me see." are Psatma's words, and they indicate that her vision and understanding have been coloured in a way that is distinct from her recollected perceptions.

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I think Razor has it right; "Because the Goddess lets me see." are Psatma's words, and they indicate that her vision and understanding have been coloured in a way that is distinct from her recollected perceptions.

I’m not against this explanation, I just don’t see the argument for it.

Eleva has been replaced less than three months ago (according to Phoracia), and more than a few days ago, or more (says Nanny). Eleva probably lives far away from Nanny (she was in Carythusal for solstice, three months ago, that’s weeks and weeks of travel time). So Nanny need not observed her for a prolongued period. I assume that the sisters have arrived in Iothiah from all over the three seas during the last few days, and Eleva has been Fake!Eleva (and visible as such to Nanny) for the whole duration of her current stay in Iothiah. I don’t see a reason for why there should have been a previous occasion where Nanny could have seen Fake!Eleva.

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Yes, both explanations are valid.

It just seems that the ability to root out such spies seems like a new ability that has arrived with Yatwer's favour - if Psatma could see the Few before this stage, I would expect that to be framed within her POV - instead it seems to be presented as though part of her newfound 'gifts'. I understand this is subjective interpretation on my part and it is not compelling evidence, but context is what gives meaning - so I'll go with that for now. ;)

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Reread The prologue, only comment is that Kosotor et al are on the Long Side during the prologue, that means they had to go around to the other side to hang around waiting for Akka.

Reread Chapter one, I think the beggar who blows the gate probably is Kellhus. Harweel's eyes are described as judging in the chapter.

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if Psatma could see the Few before this stage, I would expect that to be framed within her POV

Well, not even Kellhus’s POV tells us that he sees a “strange torsion” around Mekki in the beginning of Darkness.

There’s another aspect to this: upthread I said that the Swayali spell “Change Appearance +3” is as good as any skin spy. This is of course false since a disguised Swayali witch would have a mark. What makes the skin spies so clever is precisely the fact that they are unmarked.

This makes me rethink my pronouncement that Eleva uses sorcery unlike what we’ve seen before. Both Inrau and Acka are confronted with skin spies, and both are shocked that there is no mark. Notably, they are not shocked that this is even possible. None of them thinks “But this spell isn’t in the book!”. This leads me to believe that an appearance-changing spell is actually quite common. it’s just pretty useless in Eärwa because it would be so easy to unmask. Any of the Few would immediately see the mark.

Possibly, no Chorae-bearer would be fooled by the spell (this is speculation and easy to refute: Cnaiür, when bearing a Chorae, sees the Dragonheads produced at Kiyuth, even though he is not harmed by it. Also, it seems as if Nanny sees True!Witch only after Fake!Eleva is killed, not when she holds the Chorae).

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Harweel's eyes are described as judging in the chapter.

Ha! So I was right. Could you point me to the passage, because it really bugs me that I can’t find it again.

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