Welcome back to another article in my worldbuilding series, Cildaire, A Fledgling World. If you missed my first article in this series, Cildaire, A Fledgling Word: A History, please go ahead and give it a read – I will be illustrating the main belief system introduced in that post with today’s.
Belief Equals Existence
As I mentioned in the last installment, I was struck by a profound idea when dealing with real-life issues. Someone I knew, a grandparent or great grandparent of mine or, perhaps, one of my friends’ had fallen and broken their hip. Although I do not remember which relative it was, I remember with perfect clarity thinking to myself, “Oh great, how long until they die.” It’s a morbid thought, but I have come to understand that to be a very common response when an elderly person falls and breaks a hip.
I know a similar thing happens when the spouse of an elderly person passes away. When my Grandma Walters passed away, the whole family was terrified that Grandpa would sort of give up and leave us shortly after as well. I’ve read several tear-inducing Facebook posts telling that exact story.
These two situations really festered inside of me – I was upset with myself for thinking such horrible thoughts. Do we assume that a football player is going to die if they break a hip? The answer is no. Do we assume a newlywed spouse is going to die if their spouse passes away. Again, the answer is no. I had an acquaintance of mine (who is a dear friend of a couple of my dear friends) recently pass away – he and his wife were almost to their one year anniversary. I can guarantee you that not a single person thought she would pass away on account of his death.
I began thinking about this even more – it just would not go away. I started to grow a guilty conscience. I started to grow worried. I began to wonder if my loss of faith in these people’s ability to survive had somehow affected their ability to survive. Did the cosmos hear my worried thoughts that a broken hip spelled doom? Did these people see my lack of confidence in my eyes? How had I contributed to their passing?
Simply put, do the loved ones around us determine our fate to some extent? I can say that with my Great Grandma Jo and with my Grandpa Walters that neither gave up on the world – they both lived for several years after breaking a hip or losing their soulmate.
And that is when the idea struck me. I was sitting at the same sticky, battle-hardened table discussed in the aforementioned post, working on a map of what was then called Kildaire, the initial iteration of my world. Here was my thought:
Does belief in a thing make it real? If so, does the loss of belief in a thing destroy it?
It was that simple. It was very Plato of me and, upon reflection, this all occurred during my college days and very realistically during the semester I took my Intro to Philosophy class (the best part of that class was hearing my professor talk about his competition ballroom dancing days).
From their my mind spiraled out of control. I relocated from the gaming table to my resident spot on the mouldering couch for two reasons. First, I knew I was going to be writing and brainstorming for a while and, second, I didn’t want to get lured into countless games of Magic the Gathering with my mates. I sat on that couch for several hours. I mind-mapped. I wrote situational pieces of flash fiction. I created gods in the spirit of this idea. I destroyed a few with the same spirit. I also asked a ton of questions. I still ask a ton of questions and so have the fantastic people in my writing group and my close friends. A big thank you to Alan Bahr in this regard.
Here are a few:
How much collective belief is needed to bring something into “being”?
How much loss of belief is needed to erase power?
How would a world look if a group of people figured out this “law of existence”?
How could one use this knowledge for good?
How could one use this knowledge for personal gain?
How could one use this knowledge for ill intent?
Is the quantity of belief dependent on the number of believers or the fervor in each believer?
How can you quantify the fervor of an individual?
If enough belief is lost, does the thing that was brought into existence vanish or just lose its power and become mundane?
There are still holes in this ideology/magic system. There are other forms of magic as well, but all are somehow deeply rooted in this concept. Nature magic and elementalism stems from some belief that the elements are able to be manipulated. Arcane magic can only be tapped into by those who believe in its existence, as not all do. Some people do not know, on the conscious level, of the belief but discover a connection by accident, as is the case of one of the protagonists of a manuscript I am working on.
For this installment, I am going to share a bit of the background on a creation story for one of Cildaire’s lesser deities, The Underman. This is actually the genesis concept that implemented my theories into a magic system for Cilaire. I am not writing prose here, as I may actually write a creation story for each of my deities at a later point. This will be more of my thought process and just an overview of how The Underman came about.
The Underman is almost as old as the denizens of Cildaire. He is the manifestation of the people’s Boogeyman stories and also connected to the porquoi story of The Underman’s Handhold, a series of canyons that connect in a roughly hand-shaped geographical feature.
Originally told as a bedtime story to scare children from going into the woods without an adult and to prevent them from wandering outside at night, the Underman has been referred to Uncle Istvan in a few communities (referring to a crazy old hermit named Uncle Istvan who lives in the woods and eats children) as well. It is said that parents told their children about The Underman, and those children grew up and began telling their children the same story, and so on and so forth right up until he sprung into existence.
It is said that when The Underman ‘awoke’, he pulled himself up from his slumber under the earth and, when he pushed himself up, his massive hand crushed the earth, leaving the shaped series of canyons which are now called Underman’s Handhold. The story goes that he crushed an entire village during the process and those people now haunt the canyons looking for stragglers or people out at night.
The Underman isn’t necessarily evil if you think about it – he was created out of good intentions (the safety of children and rebellious youth) through what you could argue was a manipulative means. He is a trickster designed to teach hard lessons to innocent or foolhardy people. He isn’t kind, but he also isn’t mean, He is quite neutral, which can make him rather dangerous to the wrong people. Most of the time he appears as a stalking shadow who slinks between the trees. Most travelers only see him out of the corner of their eye. However, if you run into a hermit in the woods, perhaps missing a few teeth, you should be a bit cautious. The Underman will want to know your business, especially if you happen upon him in the dark.
So this is a glimpse into the idea of BELIEF = EXISTENCE as it pertains to Cildaire. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this concept and to get feedback of the pros and cons and holes of what I have outlined. The next installment of this will address a few of the questions I listed above. Specifically, how could one use this knowledge for personal gain?
I have a long list of other topics that I want to cover in this series, so make sure to check back often. Please follow along by subscribing to email notifications, and make sure to follow me on Twitter.