Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Green Lands: The Skathaks

The Skathaks live mostly in the  hard and inhospitable eastern regions.  The people are seminomadic,
living at one with the land and travelling with their herds of sheep and cattle in the summers and sheltering in the deep wooded valleys in the harsh winter months. Some have built farming and fishing villages, and making fine crafts of wood, stone and silver. People either freemen (who owe nothing to anyone), bondsmen (who are indebted to a lord or others’ for the wellbeing ), royalty (the chieftains and their families ) or slaves (captured in war and raids).  The measure of a chieftain’s greatness is how many follow him. Skathaks follow only the greatest of leaders.  They decide when to follow, and when to stand beside the leaders and speak to the chieftain or to face the angry weapons of foes.

The people are hunters, trappers, and harvesters of the wild. In the lean season they eat rabbits and tree
bark and whatever the mothers have stored in the dens. In the fat season they feast on salmon and apples, nuts and grubs. Some people live in hillforts, constructed by encircling the top of a hill or rocky peninsular with stones walls and ditches. Inside, they are crowded with huts, cattle pens, sheds and all the usual ingredients of village life. Kings live in large, round halls set apart from the rest of the village. In the Highlands the people live in wheelhouses - circular houses of wood shored up with peat. In the lowlands the houses are
in small clearings. They are made of stone scavenged from older buildings, or from wood, and roofed with thatch.

Their clothing is made of flax, hides and wool, painted, dyed and embroidered with symbols and drawings
and although rough, it is warm and sturdy. The people are centered around extended families who live on
common land and tribal totem. When several clans come together, they form a kingdom and are ruled by a chieftain or a king.

In Skathak society, women are held in higher esteem than men. Inheritance passes from mother to daughter, and only to a son if there are no female kin. Women rule at all levels. Skathak men are as proud and able as men in other cultures, but alongside them the women enjoy equal or higher status. Women hunt and fight as well as men, and the men can cook, sew and forage as well as women. Skathaks are monogamous, and they endeavor to marry for life.

The Skathaks cultural knowledge and history is passed by word of mouth. The storytellers pass the legends and knowledge of the people from generation to generation. This language has no written form. However, they also communicate through symbols and drawings. These range from abstract shapes, such as the z-rod
and triple disc, to images of boars, stags and mystical creatures. Each symbol has many meanings and ideas associated with it, which are enhanced and changed by the presence of other symbols beside it. The ability to understand the meaning of the symbols is learned by all Skathak as part of their upbringing - not by formal tuition, but by observing the significance of each symbol in their physical and spiritual universe. The symbols are inscribed in many mediums. Large cloths and wooden poles are inscribed to celebrate festivals and
important family events, such as a marriage or birth. The symbols carved on the great standing stones dotting the landscape mark boundaries, burial sites and religious places. You also use the symbols to decorate yourselves.. .

Skathak are covered in tattoos which identify them and place them in society. The first tattoos are given to the individual upon initiation into adulthood; as he or she grows older the number of tattoos increases. These
markings show the legends of your ancestors and depict the totem of the clan, along with any other Spirits to which the individual is tied. Events that the individual has taken part in may be portrayed. Battles, raids, hunts and festivals are common themes, as are spiritual journeys to the Otherworld. On some occasions a Skathak will have need to call upon spiritual powers with which he or she is not deeply associated. At such times the
appropriate symbols are painted onto his or her body with a blue paint, called woad. This practice may be needed for a battle or raid, if the individual does not have any warrior totems, or perhaps for a special hunt. Other situations might arise if an unexpected dilemma strikes the family or individual. On a brighter note, a spirit might be called upon to bless a marriage, or perhaps to help in the composition of a ballad.

Skathak people are an honest, proud, worldy,  and vengeful people. Each tribe’s conduct and behavior is strongly influenced by the clan totem, and one trait is personified by and followed closely by that clan. Some tribes may value killing more; others may put more import to knowledge.

Skathak obey only the law of the wild. No written code exists. Punishment of wrongdoers is the job of the community, undertaken for the good of the family. Laws are not concerned with societal justice; only personal justice. If someone murders your brother, it is your right and your duty to punish the killer.Nobody else will do it for you. If you do not revenge the wrong, you are failing your family.

Skathaks rely on reputation and honorable intentions; if someone is a known liar, no one will ever trust that person again. Dishonest people are unable to enter into social agreements with people who know them. And to people who don’t know them, they are outsiders without rights. Your name and your pride are your most important possessions. If you don’t state your worth, nobody else will state it for you. Modesty is not a virtue, because you are misrepresenting yourself. Pride does not mean lying, it means honestly presenting your worth.

Fighting is an everyday companion for men and women alike, whether against the forces of nature, the game they hunt, predators, or unfriendly neighbors. Raiding by other tribes is not uncommon. But Skathaks do not make war for political reasons.

A Skathak believes you must never cut the earth’s skin with a plow, nor bind beasts to work like a slave. You must never kill a creature without purpose, nor without saying the Great Prayer first, nor slaughter it without the Lesser Prayer. At certain seasonal time they attend to the Sacred Time dances, or else the Sun will not rise and the world will end.

Skathaks are famous for brewing heather beer (sometimes called Skathak ale). This ale is brewed throughout the lands, and although the flavor varies from clan to clan, it could never be confused with the ale brewed in other parts. The means of making the ale is such a closely guarded secret that the Skathak are willing to die rather than reveal it. All that is known is that heather flowers are one of the ingredients.

To the Skathaks, the Carthans are divorced from the earth. They do not realize what’s important in life, and the value everything in baubles and coin. They are not happy people. The Walds they consider exactly the same - in fact, Skathaks will joke that they cannot tell the difference between a Wald and a Skathak.  Both cultures are corrupt, as far as the Skathaks are concerned.

Skathaks see time is a spiral, a wheel, as are all things; an endless, ever-turning cycle of birth and death, creation and destruction. You know that you are yourself a spirit, and you entreat with other spirits like yourself. Of these spirits, some are large, some small, some good spirits and some bad. There exist spirits
of ancestors, of animal masters, of woods and glens, of trees and standing stones. Everything is alive, and the world is made of spirit. When our bodies die, we simply return to spirit. The shamans. Shamans know how to enter the spirit world, to make pacts with spirits, and use the power they find there in the physical world.

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