>The Dung-Haters

>The followers of this religion believe that their excrement contains foul and murderous spirits. To thwart these spirits they must be sealed in decorated jars, rather like those used by the Egyptians to contain the organs of mummified kings. Since the storage of large amounts of waste is impractical, all but the most holy of priests will perform a brief rite to extract the spirit into a tiny portion, and seal that.

At certain times of the year these jars are taken on pilgrimage to sacred caves or fissures in the ground, where they are thrown in, then covered in a flammable mixture of water, cloves, pepper, and oil, and burnt. The position of fire-lighter dooms the one who takes it to ritual impurity, so that no one will associate with them. In this they resemble the Untouchables of the Hindoos, or menstruating women in many cultures. It is also believed that the fire-lighter’s soul will inevitably be taken by demons. In lands where this religion constitutes a majority the job is given to criminals of the vilest sort, and they are thrown onto the flames they light. Where the religion is a minority, as in Teleleli, the office is supposed to be voluntary, and the one who volunteers is showered with treasure and luxury of all kinds. Although even here it is said that those who are caught in ill deeds may be offered the position in preference to execution, that they run the risk of murder at the hands of the devout, and that they are shunned.

Their aversion to dung extends to nourishing the soil thereby. Indeed most will refuse to eat anything which comes out of the ground, unless it be purified by lengthy ritual. Those who transgress have been known to starve themselves to death in penance. Naturally this attitude has stunted their progress in agriculture, and since the adoption of this religion thousands of years ago it is believed that their numbers and territory have slowly but surely reduced.

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