“For the Kingdoms rose out of the ashes of men and are built on the bones of the lost, and thereunto we shall return if Heaven wills.” (KOD, Ch. 1)The Devastation is reference both to the apocalyptic event that triggered The Remnant, and the lands that were ruined because of it. (The ruined lands are also called Infernaterr, and are described as white, barren rock that steams.)
While it's not entirely clear, the Devastation event is likely either several nuclear bombs or very large asteroids:
"...they sent the angel Aster to pluck a star from the sky and plunge it to earth, the dust and seas rising so high they choked the unrighteous..." (KOD, Ch. 28)
While "star in the sky" sounds more like asteroid, to a society that has essentially started over with regards to technology, the concept of a nuclear warhead launch might equally seem to have come from the sky.
“Seven stars were flung from the sky.
One to shake the mountains,
One to churn the seas,
One to choke the air,
And four to test the hearts of men.
A thousand knives of light
Grew to an explosive rolling cloud” (Excerpt from The Last Testament of Gaudrel)
While the "rolling cloud" and choked air could certainly be a mushroom cloud and ash from nuclear war, the "star" that went into the sea (odd target in nuclear war, unless a mistake) seems to make asteroids more likely. Asteroids large enough to threaten life on earth would also vaporize dirt and slowly block out sunlight, which might make the smaller fragments burning as they were entering the atmosphere look like knives of light. "Four to test the hearts of men" could be four asteroids that hit major dwelling areas, but could also potentially refer to retaliatory fire in a nuclear war.
- Further reading on Effects of Asteroids and Nukes:
While we can't be sure, the evidence weighs a little heavier on asteroids, which seems a little more poetic as that's essentially the Alvarez Hypothosis of how the Dinosaurs died, and there's something literary about humans going the way of the T-rex (sorry, dinos).
Religious Significance Edit
“I lay back and listened to the story she chanted, the story of the original First Daughter using the gift the gods gave her to lead the chosen Remnant away from the devastation to safety and a new land, leaving behind a ravaged world and building a new, hopeful one.” (KOD, Ch. 2)The yearly Festival of Deliverance celebrates Morrighan leading The Remnant to safety and plenty, which recounts the story of the Devastation as it has been handed down in Morrighan through the Holy Texts:
“The Ancients thought themselves only a step lower than the gods, proud in their power over heaven and earth. They controlled night and day with their fingertips; they flew among the heavens; they whispered and their voices boomed over mountaintops; they were angry and the ground shook with fear...
They coveted knowledge, and no mystery was hidden from them. They grew strong in their knowledge but weak in their wisdom, craving more and still more power, crushing the defenseless.
The gods saw their conceit and the emptiness of their hearts, so they sent the angel Aster to pluck a star from the sky and plunge it to earth, the dust and seas rising so high they choked the unrighteous. But a few were spared—not those strong of body or mind, but those of pure and humble heart...
Only a small remnant of the whole earth remained. They endured three generations of testing and trial, winnowing the purest from those who still turned to darkness. The dark of heart they cast deeper into the devastation. But one alone, First Daughter of Harik, a humble and wise girl named Morrighan, found special favor in the sight of the gods. To her they showed the path of safety so she could lead the chosen Remnant to a place where the earth was healed, a place where creation could begin anew.
Morrighan was faithful to their guidance, and the gods were pleased. She was given in marriage to Aldrid and for evermore Morrighan’s daughters and all generations of First Daughters were blessed with the gift as a promise and remembrance that the gods would never again destroy the earth as long as there were pure hearts to hear them.” (KOD, Ch. 28)
Most of Venda's legends about the Devastation come from The Songs of Venda.