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2023.05.28 14:08 No_Eight Lifestyle of the Zonowōdjon
She held her breath as the clinker nosed onto the island. It was barely more than the size of two houses, covered in tall grass and reeds, but she hadn’t set sights on it for its size. It was hard to tell, so far from the coast, but it did not appear to have the sloping beach of a sandbar island, and even seemed to drift gently with the wind, as would their ship if the oars were docked. If she was right, this was one of the wandering islands.submitted by No_Eight to DawnPowers [link] [comments]
Her grandmother had told stories to all the children of the village, of her own time on fishing voyages aboard the longboats, and of finding a wandering island herself. Assembled through the will of a powerful spirit, wandering islands were as much life as land, imparting some of the lost vigor of the first generation unto the soil and allowing it to again wander the lakes.
To weather the night here may not seem practical, small as the wandering islands typically are. But the spirits of these islands are kindly if offered due respect, and always protect those who sleep on their backs. And to return to the village with such a story… when she too became an elder, she could regale the next generation with her own story, not just the one she carried from her grandmother.
She teased the land with one foot, and finding it solid hauled herself over the strake and onto the land. It bobbed slightly as it took her weight, and she felt her heart soar as the remaining crew disembarked behind her. As some of their number began fetching the poles and reed mats that would make their lean-tos for the coming night, she watched one of the oarsmen reverently offer a prayer to the ship-shrine, before taking a pinch of sacred ash from the urn within. He took slow, measured steps to the center of the island, before beginning his observances to the spirit who would watch over them that night.
She almost wished she could help, but this was his role, and a spirit prefers to commune with only one regardless. He scattered the ash into the grass of the island as he shook a small chime, two strings of small shells tied on both ends to a T-shaped stick, and filled the quiet air with a gentle percussion. She could not hear his prayers; they were silent after all. But she could witness his devotion in his bearing, and imagine the honor he felt at getting this chance.
It felt strange to see the wild shrine rituals without a shrine, or even an urn, but in truth it would be impossible to erect a shrine here. The proper observances could not be carried out should the island drift and never again be found. To build a shrine, a promise to a spirit that could not be kept, would be a cruelty that the village would not be forgiven for. Perhaps they would instead leave some of the reeds they carried, shredding their mats the same way old thatch is returned to rot in the marshes, for even a spirit powerful enough to set an island adrift must respect the cycle of death and rebirth, and could make use of their gift.
But for this night, they and the spirit would share a kinship, and they would depart on the morrow with a story and a blessing.
The ZonowōdjonThe Zonowōdjon (families of the lake, originally from family.lake-ɢᴇɴ), also known to call themselves simply the Wōdjon, live in the coastal forests and shallow hills along the shores of the southern Titonean lakes. They comprise a collection of small villages, most constructed within reach of waterways with access to the lakes, if not on their very shore. More than anything, the Zonowōdjon are united by their animistic practices and sense of shared identity through language, as well as their predisposition to fishing and wetlands forage over the paddy agriculture predominant elsewhere in Tritonea.
Subsistence, Industry, and LifestyleAgriculture practiced by Zonowōdjon is more akin to horticulture. Long domesticated crops of the region such as zizania have made their way into Zonowōdjon hands, but large dedicated irrigation systems are largely not in use. Opportunistic replanting of common forage goods is frequent, typically in gardens just outside the circle of houses. While a fair amount of village labor is tied up in the planting and tending of these gardens, they do not provide a majority of Zonowōdjon caloric intake. Rather, the quantities of vegetable matter their relatively small population sizes demand are served well by a mixture of forage and horticulture, the former seeing many villages built within reach of the freshwater marshes where their most harvested good, cattail, is found.
Cattail is employed for a variety of purposes, both culinary and industrial. Young shoots and narrow leaves are consumed as vegetables, while the root is harvested seasonally, dried, and processed into flour. Tubers found in the root system are also consumed as a vegetable, as are the immature flower spikes. The bast fiber of the stem is processed for use in textiles, as are the leaf fibers, though the former are more productive and make up a greater share of Zonowōdjon textile goods. Lastly, the stems are harvested whole for the production of wicker, thatch roofing, and reed boats.
Beyond cattail, Lotus is commonly foraged for use as a vegetable, particularly its root. Nuts, fruits, and herbs also comprise a major element of Zonowōdjon food culture, though many are sourced exclusively from forage. Wild alliums are the most prevalent aromatic the Zonowōdjon harvest, while cranberries are one or the more prevalent fruits, used both fresh and dried in cooking. Hemp, both foraged and gardened, serves as a secondary source of textile fiber, and its seeds are heavily employed in cooking. Oil is pressed from seeds and nuts, with pecan being the most common source, but is not produced in great quantities by the Zonowōdjon themselves, and some oil comes by trade with their more agriculturally developed neighbors. Lastly, mushrooming is a major tradition among Zonowōdjon, comprising a significant portion of their diet during seasons when mushroom forage is plentiful.
FishingThe true backbone of Zonowōdjon subsistence is fishing. Fish, shellfish, and crustaceans are caught through a mixture of open-water net fishing, sunken basket traps, river and stream weirs, and manual forage for shellfish in shallower waters. Crayfish are one of the most common catches in the basket traps and are prized more as a delicacy than a staple food, while larger fish from open-water fishing comprise the bulk of seafood by weight, and enable villages closer to the lake shore to grow larger, and their descendants to found new villages more frequently. Both canoes and wading fishers deploy seine nets and cast nets.
The development of more sophisticated nets, the need for more hands to operate them, and the weight of increased hauls have all driven the development of Zonowōdjon shipbuilding significantly. While traditional reed boats and birchbark canoes are still frequently employed, particularly in rivers and streams and for more coastal operations, open water fishing trips make use of larger and far more sophisticated sewn-plank longboats with proper oar locks. Even large villages may only have one or several such boats, and their construction and maintenance is a significant expenditure of labor and point of clan pride. Crews on these boats often leave their village for days at a time, camping on small islands or distant shores. The reed-mats used to construct their temporary lean-tos are carried on the ship itself, chosen for their low weight. These larger longboats typically manage drop nets, though they may also be used to deploy seine nets with the aid of smaller outriding canoes, as the longboats are better able to transport a large catch.
CuisineZonowōdjon cuisine centers zizania, cattail flour, and fish as staples. A common preparation of fish involves slicing the fish crosswise and stewing in an aromatic and seasoned stock. Both the flavorful broth and the flesh of the fish are fully consumed, with the aid of a lumpy flatbread produced from cattail flour. A flat stone atop a stone tripod, constructed above a fire, is the main method for production of flatbreads. Fish may also be dry roasted whole or sliced, with seeds and herbs pressed into the flesh if it has been sliced first. When catches are in excess of what can be consumed, which is common for coastal villages with longboats, fish will be smoke-cured for preservation and hung in a store hut. Smoke cured fish may still be cooked in a broth as above, or eaten as is. Regardless, at family meals it is common for older family members to pick the flesh of the fish from the bone after cooking is done, and distribute it to those younger than them. Another common dish is zizania pilaf, cooked in a thinner stock than fish. This dish often includes dried fruits, nuts, root and vegetables, and sometimes smaller seafood like shellfish and crayfish, with what is included owing more to seasonality and availability of forage than strict recipe. One more dish of note is a vegetable fritter, formed with shredded leaf and vegetable matter, mixed thoroughly with cattail flour, water, and seasonings before being fried. As oil production is marginal in many Zonowōdjon villages, this forms a less frequent component of the diet, but as a result holds a certain prestige. Ceremonies such as weddings, feasts when hosting representatives of other villages, and spiritual observances and festivals are more likely to see production of fritters. Notably, a vegetable fritter is a common burnt offering at shrines due to its status as a festival food.
ArchitectureVillages are typically constructed of permanent dwellings. All buildings are single-storey, and roofed with cattail thatch. Most buildings are single room, and constructed of wattle-and-daub between upright wooden posts, though additional standing posts may support the roof in a longhouse. The clan patriarch lives in a longhouse, which may also be used as a storehouse and hold clan shrines. Cookstoves and fires are typically built outside during fair seasons, shielded by low reed mat walls and thatch lean-tos, though they are often moved to interior firepits during cold weather. Flooring is predominantly woven reed mats, which are easily pulled back to expose bare soil should a fire be constructed inside. Some homes feature bunk beds constructed flush with the wall.
A village never contains more than three clans, and most frequently consist of only one. Houses are generally communal sleeping spaces, so many villages contain few buildings, and some may be devoted entirely to stores. Houses are generally arrayed so that all doors face the center, which is a beaten earth area free of plants and used for celebrations and ceremonies, as well as being used daily for the practice of industry such as processing cattail and weaving. Doing daily labor indoors is frowned upon during fair weather.
ToolsThe Zonowōdjon make use of knapped stone and jade tools, reed wicker baskets, hemp or cattail-fiber sacks and ropes, and primarily burn wood for fire. Western obsidian infrequently permeates Tritonia through trade, so many villages are able to make use of obsidian knives, and some use obsidian in jewelry as well. Shells and bone feature prominently in jewelry and ornamentation, and shells are also the primary material used for shrine chimes. Wood carvings are frequently used for ornamentation, particularly on shrines, and those chimes which are not shell are often carved wood. Wooden chimes that can create clear ringing tones are particularly prized, and make auspicious gifts to other villages. Stone-tipped spears are the most common weapons wielded by Zonowōdjon villagers, though clubs with a flat wooden handle and a setting of a fist-sized smooth stone are also common. Obsidian is rarely used in weaponry.
Spirituality and MythologyThe Father Moon is seen as the shepherd of souls and the patron of reincarnation. He is also the father of men and fish, and fish scales are said to shimmer like moonlight on the surface of water because of his blessing within them. Moonbeams contain souls of the deceased returning to the world both as spirits and to enter new flesh, and the Father Moon travels to the edge of the world every night to collect those souls that have traveled the dark rivers beneath the earth to reach him.
The Mother Sun is seen as the patron of flowers and plants, particularly the cattail. Filled with both warmth and rage, she begat the first life in the world, but cares little for the cycle of souls overseen by the Father Moon after the two generations she directly birthed died or otherwise left the lakes.
T’sawayda is a psychopomp and the mythological ancestor of the Zonowōdjon. They are depicted both as a giant man and an enormous fish, or with elements of both such as the head of a pike on the torso of a man. They are a member of the Zonowōdjon third gender, leaning to masculine expression, and are a member of the second generation of life. They are seen as the first of the second generation to climb from land to shore, and thus their descendents are all the Zonowōdjon. T’sawayda urged all their descendents to reap the Mother Sun’s bounty on land, but stay close to the shore to partake of the Father Moon’s bounty. T’sawayda is said to now make their home in the depths of the lake, with one door of their longhouse opening to the waters of the lake, and another to the bank of the dark rivers beneath the world. They find and guide lost souls, such as Zonowōdjon who die on the water and risk becoming demons, freeing them from their flesh and offering them hospitality before sending them on their voyage to reunite with the Father Moon.
Zonowōdjon believe the world is full of spirits, souls without constraining flesh who embody much of the natural world or protect those within it. There are believed to be local spirits both of locations, such as hills, marshes, and groves, as well as spirits to things within, such as the spirit of fish in a given marsh, or the spirit of a particularly ancient tree. Further, all villages and even most permanent buildings have venerated tutelary spirits.
ShrinesThe core of Zonowōdjon spiritual practice is composed of maintaining shrines and holding public festivals. Shrines are dedicated to a local or tutelary spirit, with the latter also often seen as an ancestral spirit from a member of the clan in that village. For those spirits within buildings, a shrine is a simple as a clay urn which bears a pictorial representation of the spirit, into which offerings are placed. For spirits of larger areas, a shrine is constructed, usually from wood, either sewn or assembled through joinery. These shrines contain the urn which venerates the spirit proper. Most shrine urns feature a lid, often a wicker lid which is replaced annually during the vernal festival observances. Shell chimes are often hung from the roof of freestanding shrines, should there be enough clearance, or from poles erected around the shrine or the boughs of nearby trees. Similar chimes are held and shaken by shrine tenders during their observances, whether or not a shrine itself bears standing chimes.
Spirit urns often contain permanent offerings, with obsidian, bone, shell, and jade beads being common. Beads may initially be on a string, but the burning of offerings often leaves the beads free within the ash. During festivals and days of spiritual observance, offerings of food are placed within the urn. Offerings in distant shrines may be permitted to rot, but typically the offering is burned before being placed within the urn. Should an urn break, the shrine tender is expected to go into a period of grief and observance, and produce a replacement urn before interring the shards at the base of the shrine. Beads and other permanent offerings are transferred.
With the small population of most villages, a single man may be expected to tend multiple shrines, but the most important shrines may have a single tender. The clan patriarch is seen as symbolically responsible for the shrine to their clan’s guardian spirit, and the patriarch leading an entire village for the village spirit’s shrine as well.
Clinkers, the prized sewn-plank boats used for open-water fishing trips, hold a similar importance to homes, and thus contain a shrine. Typically the shrine is a small cavity constructed in the prow of the ship, containing a spirit urn. It is commonly believed that new ships are guarded by the returning spirit of an ancestor, so placing family ash or even bone shards within the shrine urn is often part of dedicating a new clinker.Souls are believed to descend to the world starting on the full moon, so dedications of new homes and boats are usually practiced on the night of the full moon, that the soul of an ancestor might find the shrine and become a guardian for the new structure.
CreationAll the world was one lake, stretching to the ends of the world, and no souls lived within it. Thus, the Mother Sun and the Father Moon came together to cast the first life to the earth. The first life was enormous, and as it died, the massive corpses divided the world into smaller lakes. The Mother Sun was grieved, but tried again. The next generation was composed of smaller beings, but the world was still unable to bear their weight. Most voluntarily climbed to the sky, becoming stars, though some today choose to return to a world that is too small for them, creating disasters that terrorize the third generation. The third generation was the last attempt, and still lives upon the world, birthed by the giants of the second generation before their exodus, but blessed with life by the sky. After so many generations, the seed of the Father Moon was spent, and he went dark for the first time. It is only when many of the third generation died their first death and returned to the edge of the world that the Father Moon gathered them back to himself, and once again began to shine. Thus, the Father Moon became a shepherd of souls, gaining and losing his light as the cycles of death and rebirth flow.
The Afterlife & Funerary PracticeThe Zonowōdjon do not believe in an afterlife as such, but rather in the eventual return of souls, though some may claim the dark rivers of the underworld amount to some form of hell or purgatory. The Zonowōdjon believe that the soul resides in the bones, and is constrained by the flesh. The soul must sink into the Earth to travel the great rivers under the Earth to its edge, where it will be gently collected by the Moon after a long, dark voyage. Souls embraced by the moon are returned to the lakes in the form of gentle moonbeams, souls ready to find new life. Souls of animals likewise find themselves returned to the lakes by the Moon. A soul may become the new guardian spirit of a home or village, or find itself embodied in a new human life. Those souls who return as tutelary spirits are particularly venerated, and it is believed that important ancestors return to protect the homes, boats, and villages of their descendants. Conversely, a soul lost in the dark rivers who never returns to the moon may find itself twisted by the dark, and eventually claw its way up through the lakebeds as a demon. Demons may also spawn from a soul trapped in the darkness of its own dead flesh, a fate seen as especially common for those lost to the waters of the lake. Thus, prayers for the deliverance of the missing to the Father Moon are common.
By far the most common funeral practice is cremation, as it is believed the soul cannot be liberated while flesh still encases bone. After a cremation, bones often remain. Many villages maintain ossuaries composed of shallow earthen mounds beyond the circle of homes in which bones are interred, sometimes alongside carvings, clothing, or even jewelry. Smaller villages without ossuary mounds have simpler burial grounds further outside of the village, with skulls alone being instead interred at the foundation of family dwellings. In both cases, carvings may be made on the forehead of an intact skull before burial, and a shrine urn decorated to match, in hopes that the soul of the deceased will return to grace the village as a tutelary spirit. Some ash from every burial is placed in the spirit urn of a family home, some in the village longhouse, and often distributed to important shrines of the region surrounding the village, with the latter being obligatory for those who served a particular spirit. Remaining ash is stored in a communal family urn, and on the construction of new homes, some ash from this urn is ritually placed in a small pot or basket which is buried at the foundation to consecrate the ground, and allow the descending spirits of ancestors to find and protect the site.
Culture and GenderZonowōdjon clan names are matrilineal, but the ruling structure of clans and villages is more patriarchal, with each clan having a patriarch who serves as both the face of the clan, and the arbiter of important decisions. However, there is a strong cultural importance put on the opinions of elderly women, who hold a similar social importance to clan patriarchs as the retainers of oral history. They wield de facto authority in villages, especially those containing multiple clans. Most villages contain 1-3 clans, with one clan’s patriarch holding primary authority, extending from their role as the face of the village when meeting with outsiders or people from other villages.
Gender roles are not particularly strict among younger individuals, especially the unmarried, with only clan patriarchs and village elders taking on especially gendered roles. Both men and women participate in fishing and forage, as well as cooking and food processing and preservation. Older women tend to perform most weaving, as it is a position of some prestige that does not require them to leave the village. A major exception is during mushrooming seasons, when elderly women are trusted to identify safe forage, and often leave the village alongside the typical younger foragers. The main gender differences observed are that it is seen as a more womanly role to plant and tend a garden, while it is seen as a more manly role to perform observances and burn offerings at a shrine (though at major ceremonies, it is still elderly woman who recount myths and tales for those in attendance, while a man performs the actual shrine observances).
Zonowōdjon culture also observes a third gender, though it is mutable and can express as leaning to either male or female gendered expression based on the individual. The Zonowōdjon believe the third gender to be an expression of the returned soul of another life in a differently sexed body. Visibly intersex children are always identified as belonging to this gender, but individuals who are not visibly intersex may also find themselves identified through other means. Commonly, showing early aptitude with reading the stars is seen as a sign that a child is of the third gender, as is a child showing both interest and aptitude in the weaving usually practiced by elderly woman. Regardless of birth sex, members of the third gender identified in this way tend to lean to some feminine aspects and gain some of the prestige granted elderly women, while those identified by their intersex characteristics tend to lean masculine. Members of this third gender are respected, but not particularly venerated. A member of the third gender can be a shrine tender, just as a man might, and participate in any labor, but are usually seen as beyond the institution of marriage and thus live their lives unmarried.
FestivalsThere are several seasonal festivals observed by the Zonowōdjon, though precise timing varies heavily from village to village, with each usually choosing a phase of the moon, timed from the start of a season, to begin and end observances. Most festivals are multi-day affairs, With each day being dedicated to the observance of one particular god or heroic ancestor. Typically only one day features a full feast, and while spiritual observance happen on every day, the last day of a festival week usually sees a large communal observance. For multiple festivals, the decoration of the village is an important observance. Slender cloth drapes hung from the roofs of buildings and the boughs of trees mark the largest vernal festival, while wreaths of zizania stalks and cattail reeds hung on walls and poles mark the autumnal zizania festival. Some festivals call for decorations to be placed on poles erected in the common areas. While for some villages these poles are a temporary fixture, in other towns they remain year-round, but only feature their festival decorations during the week of observance and otherwise remain bare.
A major feature of several festivals, including the zizania festival in autumn, is circumambulation around a temporary shrine or ritual fetish constructed in a village center. Though circumambulation is practiced elsewhere in Zonowōdjon spirituality, here it persists for as long as two hours, described as beginning as the sun sets and ending when the moon is fully ascended to the sky.In addition to festivals, many clans have other non-festival observances. It is a common practice for most families to forgo the eating of fish on the new moon, and to fast during the daylight hours of both half-moons.
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