|Motto: "All born after the Light
All to perish before the Light"
Location of Zaruma within Veridis
|•||Speaker of the Council of Augurs||Pahuac Hualpa Mayta|
|•||Flamaguayan conquest||8 September 1640|
|•||Independence||17 July 1949|
196,301 sq mi
|GDP (PPP)||2016 estimate|
|Currency||Solar (S) (SLR)|
Zaruma, also commonly known as the Zaruman Hegemony, and formally referred to as the Under-Sun Above-Ignorance All-Hegemony of the Ray-Anointed, is a theocratic pantheoist state located in south-west Veridis. Ruled by the Council of Augurs, the Zaruman state is a monolithic and impenetrable entity with extensive power and control within its borders. Although it participates to a limited extent in regional politics, Zaruma is characterized as a secretive and isolationist state that prides itself on its millennial cultural traditions. Historically a part of the Flamaguayan Empire, it peacefully declared independence from Veraluca in 1949, distinguishing itself from the rest of the region by enjoying a peaceful and stable existence.
Knowledge about Zaruman history is not widespread outside of its borders. The scope of materials available to foreign scholars and researchers is limited, and the veracity of such materials is difficult to independently corroborate. Zaruman law prohibits the export of sacred and religious texts, and all important Zaruman chronicles have, to date, been compiled by individuals or organizations related to the country's religious hierarchy. As such, it has been difficult to produce an agreed-upon framework to determine the validity of Zaruman claims or archaeological findings in the country.
Academic consensus sustains that the current Zaruman leadership organization has been active, in one form or another, for over 5,000 years. Archaeological remains, including runic tablets, date from about ~3,000 BCE and refer to the "diviners of the rays". Although information is sparse, historians agree that this refers to the predecessors of the current priest-caste that presently govern the country. Priesthood rule appears to have been uninterrupted until Wallasean contact. Flamaguay formally claimed the territory on 8 September 1640, although in reality in was never able to fully control its holdings. Resistance persisted in the mountains, which were subject to several unsuccessful military campaigns over the centuries. As such, religious leadership was able to operate relatively undisturbed throughout the period of Flamaguayan colonization. Far removed from contested regions, Zaruma was able to develop in calm, enjoying its geographic distance from conflict. The existence of widely-supported religious authorities meant that there was no vacuum of power left by the collapsing Flamaguayan state, ensuring a smooth transition incomparable to any other post-colonization period in Veridis.
The presence of a single legitimate political actor, a homogeneous population denoting self-identity along religious lines, and geographic barriers, have ensured that Zaruma enjoys stability within both Veridis and the world.
Zaruma covers 508,416 km2 of western Veridis, bordering Tirsanechó to the north and Veraluca to the north-east, otherwise being bounded by the sea. The coast is characterized by largely arid plains crossed by fertile valleys created by seasonal rivers. The highlands, known in Flamaguayan as the sierras, constitute the majority of the country's land area. Jungle dominates the valleys of the frontier with Tirasenchó. Zaruman rivers originate from its many peaks, defined by their steep and intermittent flows from the sierras down towards the plains. The Zaruma hosts many lakes and reservoirs, often at high altitudes.
Zaruman flora and fauna are highly diverse, with the country internationally regarded as an important natural reserve and applauded for its efforts at conservation and preservation.
Zaruma is classified as a theocratic polity, controlled by a hierarchy that carries the Council of Augurs at its apex. Political decision-making is vertically stratified, and those outside the priesthood have no official way to provide input on political matters. De facto, political decisions at the local community level are influenced by popular assemblies. Unlike religious institutions, local assemblies are not linked through any formal mechanism and their influence rarely exceeds their immediate area.
All Zarumans are considered to be "children of the sun", and ultimately are all equally submissive to the Zaruman state as a religious institution, and to the religion itself. The Zaruman sate is divided into three strata, the priesthood, the administrative caste, and the commoners. Which category an individual is sorted into is determined by the length of, and level of attainment in, religious study during childhood. The heavy emphasis on religious study effectively delineates the state strata into castes, with upward movement very rare, and downward movement usually only applied as a grave punishment.
The Council of Augurs is the supreme political entity in Zaruma, with the Speaker of the Council of Augurs being distinguished as a primus inter pares with limited powers. The Council of Augurs are responsible for the establishment of the "course of the faithful upon the shining path", holding the power to issue religious ruling as well as overseeing the entirety of the apparatus of the Zaruman state. Priests appointed to the Council of Augurs serve until death. It is not known if there is a formal limit to the membership of the Council of Augurs, as of September 2018, it stood at 17 members, with the Speaker being Priest Pahuac Hualpa Mayta.
The All-Faithful Upper Chamber serves as the legislature of Zaruma. It is a 301-member unicameral body in which priests serve five-year terms. The Chamber drafts legislation, certifies the budget, and approves relations with the exterior world. The Council of Augurs reserves the power to veto any decision taken by the Chamber. Members of the Chamber are elected by priests.
The administrative strata composes the Lower Chambers, which effectively act as the government ministries of Zaruma. The Lower Chambers receive directives from the Council of Augurs, but must have their budgets approved by the Upper Chamber.
Zaruma does not posses an independent judiciary. The Tokoyrikoq ("person who sees all ") are priests who undertake the role of inspectors for ten-year terms. Inspectors investigate crime as well as civil and commercial disputes, providing a recommendation which must be approved by a panel of three priests from the locality in which the crime or dispute occurred.
Zaruman law is tethered by four basic precepts:
- Do not lie;
- Do not steal;
- Do not be lazy;
- Do not deny the Sun.
Terrestrial Law codifies the Zaruman legal system. Thought to date thousands of years, Terrestrial Law governs non-religious interactions between individuals and organisations. Religious law is informally codified, and relies upon a system of constantly updated opinions on religious law.
Law enforcement is provided by the Gate-Guard of the Sacred Halls, a volunteer paramilitary who fulfill the duties of police and the enforcement of religious norms. The Gate-Guard is the only national-level law-enforcement organisation, and also provides internal security for religious and government buildings.
Zaruma espouses a largely isolationist foreign policy but does maintain some limited diplomatic relations, in particular with other Veridian states and with fellow Pantheonist nations. Zaruman foreign policy is characterised as being strictly non-interventionist, seeking to preserve internal stability and good standing within Veridis. Zaruman relations with Pantheonist states is predicated on the concept of balance, with particular care not to embroil itself in the Dumanum-Sukarian conflict.
The Zaruman military, known as the Festival Troop, is responsible for securing the sovereignty of the Hegemony and acting as the ultimate insurer of the rule of the Priesthood. A modern, defensively-oriented force, the fully-professional Festival Troop draws its members from those who distinguish themselves during the various competitions and challenges held at religious festivals. Dumanum is Zaruma's principal supplier of weapons system, such as the Foederatia AV.35 Fulcrum II, although the Zaruman government takes care to balance its weapons acquisitions both within and without the Pantheonist sphere.
Zaruman religion is panentheistic, with special reverence of the Sun-Disc. It is not permissible to directly stare at the Sun, or to display the Sun-Disc. Therefore, depictions of eclipses and the Blood Moon are extremely popular. The absence of light is likewise of extreme importance in the Zaruman belief system, and shadow-divination plays a central role in Zaruman religious ceremonies.
Zaruman religious hierarchy is topped by the Shadow-Witnesses, priests who have undertaken the final rites in the White Valley. The White Valley is a depression among the peaks of the X,Y,Z mountains, the perpetually snowy summits of which are clustered together and reflect off each other, creating a near-blinding light. Priests who are deemed to be experienced and devout enough to progress to the final tier of the Zaruman religious world are permitted to enter this otherwise forbidden area. Trials, held yearly at the height of summer, consist of surviving for ten days and nights unassisted within the valley, dedicated maximum time to Sun-Watching. Trials are considered a success if a candidate both survives and emerges having lost the capacity of sight. Failure may amount to simply dying in the process, or to emerge at the dawn of the 11th day with the ability to see, at which point the Priest would be expected to end their life by leaping from a cliff. Priests who emerge the trial with their mental faculties greatly decreased due to trauma are not inducted into the Shadow-Witness caste, but are permitted to live out the rest of their days within temple-grounds. Although no reliable figures have ever been published, it is generally considered that trials have a high failure rate.
Zaruma practices sacrifice, but only of humans. To be selected as a sacrifice is an extremely high honour upon both the volunteer and their family. Human sacrifices are rare due to the high level of qualifications that must be met in order to be selected, both by the individual and by the context of the religious ceremony.