You know you're a Smaldgian if...
This is an overview of Smaldgian culture.
- 1 Arts
- 2 Bathroom
- 3 Cleanliness
- 4 Clothing
- 5 Economics
- 6 Food
- 7 Games
- 8 Hair
- 9 Health
- 10 Inheritance
- 11 Language
- 12 Names
- 13 Race
- 14 Taboos
- 15 Marriage
- 16 Religion
- 17 Rites of Passage
- 18 Sexuality
- 19 Shelters
- 20 Sleep
- 21 Social Structure
- 22 Technology
There are regular shows in open spaces, often at beaches or around the fire, where people sing, dance, play instruments and generally have fun. These are often started impromptu and people just join in when they feel like it. There's no point being there if you don't participate to some degree but it would seem ridiculous to ask for more than that. Sometimes, people will dance, sing and play instruments all night.
There are many mythic tales that are told which are usually 100s of verses long. These mythic tales change through the generations and even between different people; they have no fixed form and are meant partly for entertinment value. Shamans are often the ones to tell the stories.
Their creation myth tells of how, originally, there was only the forest. Then the rains came and created the rivers and the ocean. Another result of the rains was that the trees gradually swelled until they burst and out came all the animals of Smaldgia. The Smaldgians thus see the forest as their collective ancestor and worthy of worship.
There is one myth which tells of the time people destroyed the forest and ended up with so little to eat that they had to beg off their neighbours. This emphasises how important the forest is to the Smaldgians. Because trees are seen as the origin of life in this way, trees are considered to be sacred by the Smaldgians and anyone who cuts a tree down is liable to be the object of severe punishments. Parts of trees may still be cut but never the whole thing.
One tale tells of the Smaldgian hunter who put too much strength into his shooting and broke the string of his bow. He later tries to use his spear and it lands far away, much further than the monitor he was trying to catch. He then runs after the monitor and all the monitors in the surrounding area and is exhausted by the end of it and has neither time nor energy to join in sports or conversation. His community then finds that whenever they tried to go after monitors in the coming months, they could not find any and they all knew, the hunter of the story especially, why that was. This tale has the morals of pure power being far from the most important thing, that moderation should be used in hunting and that excess has bad consequences.
You listen to and play various types of folk music, most of which emphasises vocals and percussion. The percussion is either performed using the people's own body parts or using a single drum. The percussion is played with complex polyrhythms and polyphony; improvisation is encouraged. You often start dancing and singing spontaneously but also as part of organised festivals and rituals. There are several sorts of music for different situations:
These are usually only percussion. Dirges are a form of feast song because you eat the dead.
Songs expressing an idea or emotion for example love or a recent hunt. The voice is used most here and is the only form with lyrics. The lyrics often use complex imagery and allusions.
These use a variety of instruments as well as scat singing. Good dance music is expected to be highly technical and fast.
There are also songs sung as part of specific games.
You urinate and excrete by trees or bushes, several metres from the camp or further. You would never do these things near bodies of water, including rain. You would not bother if anyone sees. If anyone did bother, you would think they are hiding something like a disease, which would be cause for mocking. After excreting, you wipe your bum with leaves. You do not bathe.
If you're too clean, you'll end up with a weak immune system and allergies. And weakness is certainly nothing a Smaldgian wants. The worst thing to happen is for the clean people to try to pass their weakness onto their children through their genes. So they wouldn't want those clean people having any babies at all. Except that Smaldgians don't think of anything in terms of immune systems. Instead the Smaldgians think of it thus: Dirt contains kai which, in healthy doses, causes strength but when people are already ill or they get too much it makes them worse. They think of the genes in that the weak people pass on their weakness to their wives or husbands through their reproductive fluids. Then the women pass the weakness to their children.
Cleaning things also takes too much time up that could be used doing fun things.
It is considered impolite to hide your body from someone, particularly inside a shelter. This is because it is a sign you are being too secretive and that you do not trust the people that you hiding your body from. People do wear some things as decoration though, especially the teeth and bones of dead animals, human or otherwise. These are worn in the form of necklaces, bracelets or piercings. The wing bones of wee birds are usually used for piercings.
Things are given with the expectation that something will be given at an indefinite later point in time. These gifts are rarely turn-for-turn. Instead, one is expected to give when one is able and to those that need things. People usually give people gifts when they go and visit them. The quality and quantity of the gifts are not important. The important part is that you give the gifts. If someone accumulates lots of material possessions, others will ask them for some of the objects. People must either accept such an offer or give it to someone else. If someone asks for something, you will usually give them to them. Rare circumstances where this does not stand is when people ask too much. People are considered good at gift giving if they have lots of people they give gifts to and have a wee bit of possessions which change hands often. People who give rarely are seen as bad at it, especially if they have a lot.
- Main article: Smaldgian Food
Games are played most in the evening.
Some are sports, like races and swimming competitions.
One game is Trees, Sea and Land in which the players divide into 3 equal teams, each team only being allowed to be on one area. When someone tigs another, the person who was tug must move into the other person's team. If someone does go onto another area, they must move into that team. The game ends when everyone is on the same team.
Another game involves the people acting as an animal of their choice and pretends to eat the appropriate other players in the game. Once someone is eaten, they are then out of the game.
Hair is usually cut just before the shoulders. Men usually have their cut bald except for the edge of the scalp where it is made into braids.
Some people dye their hair using ochre, beetle juice or fish. A common colour to dye one's hair is red but other bright colours, like green and blue are also used. Shamans dye their ears red with the fish too because this helps them communicate with spirits.
Diseases are sometimes caused by ancestors wanting their living friends and relatives to come to the land of the dead but they can have other causes. This wish is restrained by eating people when they die so that they always stay with their friends and family. Diseases are healed by people performing rituals, most of which involve the use of plants. Most people know how to use the plants and perform most of the rituals. The way Smaldgians see it is that ghosts and spirits both have many spells in their repetoir for harming humans. Each separate spell causes a separate disease and each separate disease can either be treated with the appropriate plants and rituals or whatever else or can not be treated. Sometimes, people will try to find a cure for the incurable diseases but, most of the time, people just accept that they are incurable.
Scarification is used as a treatment for swellings on the body as well as for decoration. Coughs are cured by letting the person stay by the fire in their household shelter and getting them to eat some leaves of the alpinia plant.
Anyone severely disabled or with an inheritable or incurable disease is killed, cooked thoroughly and eaten, including babies who are in any way deformed. You yourself would let yourself be killed so you can enjoy the afterlife in your friends' stomach than to suffer the pain and be a burden on your friends and family. You think it would be extremely stupid to try to keep ill babies alive and people too old to fend for themselves if they are ill. They obviously make better meals than members of society and the person themself would be unwilling to stay alive knowing they could not help others and would die soon anyway. Furthermore, if people are ill with serious diseases, they are usually killed soon after the disease's discovery. This is partly to stop the disease from spreading but also to stop the bad kai and because such diseases are incurable and it would be a wasted effort to try to cure them. To kill an ill person, people usually give them a sharp knife blow to the back of the head after they have been given a strong soporific to drink. After someone dies like this, everyone moves camp as soon as the meal is finished.
You usually exercise every day as part of finding food and do more as part of games and sports.
You think insomnia is a horrible disease and, if someone can not be cured of it, then they should be put out of their misery. Other mental illnesses include celibacy and refusing to eat when you've not eaten in a while.
Depending on the object, when people die or when you become too old to work, their material possessions are given to others in the community who would have use of them, whether they are genetically related or not.
You speak your people's language and usually one or two others, taught by people you have met from other societies. Your society probably has unique language. If not, you speak a different dialect from, but the same language as, a neighbouring society.
Your name is made up of 3 names usually:
- your nickname, given sometime during your life
- your birth-name, given at birth by your mother. This name usually comes from the word for an animal which was eaten recently, especially if it was a powerful one.
- your mother's (or carer's) nickname.
Terms of Address are used when someone is present and names when they are not. You are called by the last 2 names until you are given nickname and then called almost exclusively by your nickname. Sometimes, people will call you by your nickname followed by one or both of your other names though.
Terms of Address
Smaldgians address each other as grandchild, child, sibling, parent or grandparent, depending on their age, not their genetic relationship to each other. Gender differentiation is only used sometimes. The Smaldgians only see people as having a gender if they are an adult. Because of this, gender is only shown when referring or talking to adults.
You usually don't think in terms of race. You think of people's skin colour as black. You don't see how the colour of peoples' skin can affect anything except perhaps sexuality.
Showing up at someone's place is not uncommon or considered rude but going in without waiting for them to acknowledge your prescence is.
You'd feel uncomfortable if anyone stands further than about a metre away when they are talking to you if they can help it as it would seem that they were scared of you.
It is considered wrong to hide useful knowledge from other members of society. In order to make sure that everyone knows new knowledge, when it becomes known, it is told as soon as feasible to others in the community.
Accordingly, you do not tell lies. This is also done so you don't take effort continuing the lies and so people knows what you're like and that they can trust you. Also, you can't get what you want if you don't tell the truth and you should help others get what they want if you want something yourself.
You should make sure to contribute to a conversation and not be quiet and don't talk so quietly that people can not hear you.
Taboos are not codified and it is accepted that they shall change from time to time. Changes are only made if they are felt to be necessary though.
Everyone is expected to respect and uphold the rules as everyone else. If you see someone violating a taboo, you are expected to call on your neighbours for help stop it. If noone else is around, you are expected to try to stop it by yourself. Serious crimes are dealt with by the community as a whole.
You are expected to be allowed to ask anyone about what is expected in society, including in court. Should you not have known that something was wrong before you did it, you will be let off.
The court system consists of the village meeting up, the evidence being presented and a vote taken on whether the person is guilty.
You can defend yourself in court and if anyone else thinks your case is worthy, they will argue your case.
Normally, a short exile is used for serious crimes and scolding and shunning for less serious ones. Capital punishment is used only used in extreme cases as punishment for repeats of serious crimes such as rape or murder. The capital punishment mostly used is stabbing.
You expect marriages to be decided by the participants concerned, not arranged by third parties. Marriage is living together and being called husband and wife. It is rare for a man who has not successfully hunted and killed to get married but it does still happen. In some Smaldgian societies, there are extra responsibilities when you marry, such as no extramarital sexual activity. However, in most societies, extramarital sexual activity is tolerated and is expected but only occasionally. Most of Smaldgia is monogamous but there are certain areas which allow polygamy and others which allow polyandry. If the newly wed couple are from different societies, they choose whether to stay in the wife's society or the husband's although it is usually the wife's.
You can divorce someone if you can not resolve your differences with them. Divorcing is simply done by neither living together nor having sex regularly any more. Under such circumstances, people return to their own societies and the woman continues to look after the children. Both the man and the woman are then free to marry again; divorcing is not stigmatised at all.
Fighting is mostly spontaneous and due to anger, not a rational decision. When there are fights, they are done either with bare hands or with the weapons used for hunting. It is usually against people who are in the same community but not the same household. Noone starts anything as big as a war because they are too useless at planning and organisation.
Humour is used to lighten the mood and distract people from possible disputes. When there is a dispute, they talk about the problem amongst themselves. Should this not resolve the dispute, moderators will step in to help. If this does not work, the appropriate parties will generally avoid the other until the event is no longer a problem. The people who are disputing may go off away from the community and come back when they have calmed down. If the dispute continues, the people in question would move to another community or even society.
Children are considered to be fully-fledged people and are generally not treated much differently from adults in some societies. Exceptions are sexual intercourse (sexual play up to that point is still acceptable) and things they are too weak for. By some societies, children are treated with extra care and attention but do still partake in the same activities as adults. Children are rarely raised by their birth mother after weaning. Babies may be looked after by multiple women, all sharing the task of child rearing.
Children learn the history of Smaldgia and specifically one's own society. The education is not formal. Instead, children are taught things as and when they are needed to be taught or when things are asked about. Things are often taught as part of myths.
It is considered proper for Smaldgians to express their emotions as soon as they feel them. Letting feelings boil up is something which angers spirits, particularly those associated with time. Smaldgians tend to be emotionally attached to many people in their society and someone who is shy and unwilling to be emotionally attached to anyone is significantly frowned upon. It is proper to talk about the way you feel but to express it other ways is usually not ok. It is improper to express a wish to do things alone though. You are expected to listen to what other people say and respond before you make your own comment, no matter how important you think either comment is.
You have a form of Smaldgian religion and you believe in many spirits and ghosts but you do not believe in a single god.
These beliefs include the following:
Bodies are ephemeral but the forest always exists.
When people are born, souls come into them from the soul world. The soul then leaves the body and returns to the soul world when they die. Noone knows what the soul world looks like.
Spirits are based on places, living creatures or abstract concepts such as time. A major difference between spirits and people is that spirits are amoral whereas humans can decide to do good or evil. The land belongs to the spirits;it can not belong to people. Humans are insignificant in terms of power compared to the spirits. Because of this, the spirits must be appeased with rituals and taboos to avoid them attacking humans.
To some extent, it is up to the individual to think what the spirits and ghosts are like.
Shamans are those with a connection to the soul world. They use this to communicate with the ghosts of the recently deceased to stop bothering the ill person or in order to get advice about problems. These are not considered necessary parts of the healing process but are certainly helpful. Only some dead souls are worth communicating for advice. The weak are never communicated and serious criminals only rarely. The dead are also communicated to stop them trying to take the living into the soul world because they are lonely without them.
People can get such a connection by:
- fainting - afterwards, you are initiated as a shaman
- going into a coma - afterwards, you are initiated as a shaman
- not being afraid of spirits - once you gain a reputation for this, you are initiated as a shaman
You must go through a series of rituals and be taught particular bodies of knowledge from previous shamans before you can become a shaman. The most important purpose of a shaman is to convince people that everything is going fine and that the ill person or whatever else is not going to come to harm. Because of this, shamans have to also be amiable and confident.
All rituals involve both genders either in the same role or in different complementary ones. There are rituals for hunters who are not doing well. These involve eating the hands and brain of recently deceased people who were good hunters within their lifetime to give them the power of the dead hunter.
Rituals, including rites of passage, take place during the night. This means people are also sleep deprived which is supposed to help the experience and help people communicate with the spirits. This is because people are seen to be able to both sleep and be awake, whereas spirits are always just one or the other. These rituals may involve difficult mental challenges, such as remembering whole poems and reciting them off by heart.
Rites of Passage
Women sit up to give birth. Afterwards, the father cuts the umbilical cord with a stone knife. When a person is born, one of their parents eats the placenta. Babies are very often adopted in Smaldgia so their carers are often different from their biological parents. Babies are only kept alive if they are considered strong and healthy enough. Less than half of all babies born are killed as soon as they are born and even less live through to weaning.
A girl is considered a woman after she first has a period. There is no equivalent definite time for a boy becoming a man though; it is celebrated whenever the boy decides it is right sometime during puberty. Both sexes often have big ceremonies when they pass into adulthood. There are often several more rites after these. When all the appropriate rituals have been completed, then the person is allowed to marry. What these rites are like depends on the area. One thing common to all societies though is that these rituals are practiced during the night after a day of sleep deprivation. For men, these involve stretching the skin of the penis so it covers the penis completely even when erect.
A person usually has their first (sometimes also only) marriage sometime during puberty. Sometimes people first marry later than this but children are forbidden to marry. When this happens, there is a huge ceremony. The groom's stomach is smeared with the menstrual blood of the bride. Because of this, all weddings are held when the woman is having her period. Weddings are not planned so they sometimes end up being several months after the husband and wife are considered married. People often marry several times in their life.
When someone dies, the rest of the community chop them up and make a meal of them. This is to keep them close to society and make sure they are not lonely in death. This is partly to care for them but partly to make sure their spirit don't attack the society afterwards. Human meat is always made sure to be well cooked before it is eaten. Bones are kept in order to communicate with the departed soul and for decoration and the skin is kept to be worn by the relatives and friends of the dead person.
You don't kiss your spouse. Instead, you skelp each other, either with your hand or with branches, as part of foreplay.
You wouldn't have sex in public but, as long as it is hidden from view, people don't bother where or with whom you have sex. An exception is that people, especially your spouse, do bother who you have sex with if you are married and have too much extramarital sex, especially with the same person. In such a case, you would probably divorced and later married to the person you had had the extramarital sex with.
Generally, sex is expected to be during the nighttime inside a shelter but it does happen elsewhere and at other times.
People often have sex after a successful hunt as a celebration.
A woman is a bit plumper than the average, it doesn't make much difference either way to her looks. If she is much fatter than that though, it's a turn-off but then so is being too thin.
Men are generally unattractive if they are weak. Being a good hunter is also important.
Facial features are very important also and people who have been scarified or pierced are generally considered attractive and those without are plain and boring. Large nostrils are also thought of as attractive so picking one's nose is a way to beautify oneself. Rings are also used to stretch one's nostrils.
To a Smaldgian, deviant sexual relations are worse if children come from the act. This is why rape of a woman is considered worse than paedophilia or rape of a male in Smaldgian society. If a man has sex with another man, or equally if if a woman sleeps with another woman he's a homosexual and this is very odd and worthy of discussion but not something worthy of animosity. Sex with a weakling would be more of a frowned upon thing. Incest is also forbidden, which is counted as sex with biological parent, child, sibling, grandparent or grandchild.
You are a nomad, moving place every week on average. You probably build your temporary shelters yourself or you failed and are disabled and a friend (or friend of a friend) built it for you. You have heating in the form of fire. For making a home, you always make sure there is fresh water nearby. Shelters are constructed so that various families have huts around a central large open space which contains the fire. Shelters are made out of a central frame of branches tied together. Strips of bark are lain flat over the frame. Mud is then put at the edges of the strips of bark to keep the rain out. In some areas, particularly mosquito-ridden ones, the shelters are on stilts.
You scatter leaves on the ground before you sleep and sleep on that when it is dry. When it is wet, you will construct a platform a little way off the ground beforehand.
A fire, originally started from rubbing 2 stones together, is kept going throughout the night. Later , people lost this knowledge and had to make sure not to let the fire go out at all. This is needed to protect the community from malevolent spirits. Rocks are placed as barriers between sleepers and the fire to protect the sleepers from burning.
You will often have several people sleeping next to you and never sleep alone. If you would sleep alone, you would be attacked by spirits. If you are a baby, you will sleep with your mother. Once they are weaned, they may be adopted by any other member of the society or another society. Unmarried adults sleep in the same shelter as other unmarried adults but not all unmarried adults sleep in the same shelter. The ill sleep separate from everyone else. Once people are married, they sleep with their spouse and their children only.
You go to sleep when you are tired and wake up when you are feeling awake or there is something interesting happening. However, you always do your hunting or gathering during the day and never make loud noises when most people are sleeping in the night. Also, sleeping excessively, especially during the day, is usually associated with illness, particularly malaria, so anyone napping is asked how they feel and is taken to a shelter specifically for the ill. Sleeping excessively except when ill is considered pretending to be ill and thus wanting to die so, if you do it regularly, you will be treated as ill, suicidal or both.
Smaldgian social structure is organised at 3 levels:the household, the community and society. There are usually about 50 people in one community. The size and composition of a community changes frequently and anyone except babies or the own can move to another community or rarely, to another society, as and when the community moves site. You usually can go to any community where you have a friend or relative. You will not be allowed into a community where you have strong negative feelings with any of the members. You will not be allowed in either if you can not speak a common language with the inhabitants. The composition of a community may also change because there were too many or too few children and babies in the group. To solve this, children or parents and their babies will switch group. The community moves camps on average 60 times a year and moves an average of 3 miles each time.
The society has about 1000 to 3000 people in it. The society is usually split up into multiple communities but people do get together in the society as a whole for rites of passage and other ceremonies. You could probably name all the societies in Smaldgia.
Everyone who has a decent command of a language known to a society gets an equal say in decisions affecting the community as a whole. In addition, there are no leaders to a Smaldgian society or community.
Smaldgians treat there as being the following age groupings within society:
- children, who are distinguished from babies in that they have been weaned and have been adopted away from their parents
- adults, who have passed puberty
- elderly, who are too old to do subsistence work.
The last not existing in society long.
Smaldgian technology used stones but no metals and they used bones, teeth and shells as well.
Tortoise shells are particularly useful as they are the containers used most frequently for bowls and cups for liquids.
Other technology used by the Smaldgians include: Digging stick Spade Shaping and cutting tools such as adzes, axes and knifes - all made of stone Bow - same height as adult male, wood is cut, shaped with an adze, smoothed and string attached Arrows - shell tip, harden in fire Trident Spear Snares unshaped Stones - for cracking nuts, hammering Mortar & Pestle Sandals Shelter Clay, ochre - body paint
Smaldgian boats are rafts which are only used to cross or sail along rivers. The rafts are made of branches tied together and could never go more than a few miles off the coast. These are only used by people who live near the coast or a wide river. Otherwise, people do not use watercraft and cross rivers by stepping stones, swimming or a log which has fallen across the river.