People of the East Aravin

religious symbols of the people of the east Aravin Mountains, fantasy world and culture.
Religious art of the people of the east Aravin; this shows one of many possible styles and arrangements.

The People of the East Aravin tend towards being semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers, and have no true organization beyond the clan or village level. They have no identifying name for themselves, calling themselves simply the people. Their range extends eastwards from the Lesser Aravin Mountains towards the more coastal regions where the Greater Aravin Mountains meet the eastern sea-board, and they live from the steppelands and plains south of the Aravin Mountains to the highlands.

Since they have no true organization as a people or a nation, they have no true national symbol or emblem. Having never fought a war or engaged in diplomacy as an entire people, they have never had need of a national banner, and therefore none exists. However, there are certain religious symbols common across the people which describe some of what defines them as a people, though various clans have represented them substantially differently at various times. The core elements include the three arrows for the three principal gods, Firi, the goddess of healing and herbs, Vorli, the goddess of rain and good luck, and Monra, the goddess of Summer and love. Firi’s arrow is central and vertical, and at the top and bottom of the circle herbs are drawn to represent her; these can be either two medicinal herbs or a medicinal herb and a poisonous herb, but she is never represented with two plants primarily associated with death. The other two arrows are diagonal, and on one side Vorli is represented with a rain cloud, sprouting plants that are usually grass or clover, and a deer head with antlers, though some clans have used rams or goats. On the other side of the circle, Monra is represented with the sun, some sort of summer fruit, and a leaf, though there are other substitutes for the leaf. The edge of the circle is defined by shooting stars, though there are not always thirteen of them, and sometimes, instead of shooting stars, rays are shown issuing from the point where the arrows cross.

The people of the east Aravin associate their gods with arrows and refer to them as the Arrows of Light. Shooting stars, arrows, and lightning bolts are all symbols of divinity (though the lightning bolt specifically pertains to Vorli). Godhood is specifically associated with the feminine, though it is not considered to be exclusively female, and Vorli is often drawn with the head of a stag. They hold their gods – the Arrows of Light – to be in conflict with the powers of the nightmare, the Shadow of Unforming.

All women have long names that are patterned on the full names of the three principal gods, names which are spoken only in private prayer or sacred ritual. Because of their closeness to the divine, the gifts of magic and vision (glimpses of other times or places) are considered to generally belong to women, while men are generally considered to be hunters. There is no strict taboo forbidding one from the role of the other; however, different clans handle this differently. In some, a woman who feels herself a huntress may readily be granted the man’s right of passage, while a boy who shows talent would be readily accepted as a seer. Other clans may be more hide-bound and unwilling to step outside of the traditional roles without something they interpret as a clear sign from the gods.

Generally speaking, a girl is considered to be a woman when she has her blood, and a boy is considered to be a man when he undergoes his ritual hunt. The people of the East Aravin believe in choosing true names for a person when they reach adulthood, but practices vary. In some, a man may receive his name from the seer (or sometimes the senior hunters) when he goes on his manhood hunt, while a woman receives hers when she marries (and some clans have yet another ritual for a woman who does not marry). In others, a man continues to receive his name when he goes on his ritual hunt, but he chooses a best friend to bestow the name or to first call him by name, though likewise a woman who marries will receive hers in marriage, and in a few clans, man and woman may name each other in the marriage ceremony.

Marriage is held to be sacred, as it is a joining together for the bringing of new life into the world, which is especially sacred to the gods. The understanding of the role of man and woman within marriage varies from clan to clan, but in general it matches everything so far: the man is hunter and provider, while the woman is something of seer/priestess and cares for the children. There is no taboo against a wife and mother being a huntress, but a man who wishes to marry must complete his ritual hunt, since he must be able to hunt and provide for his wife and children when she is pregnant or nursing. In some clans, the man is supposed to have primary choice in the woman he marries, while she will then be the leader in their family, but this is by no means a general rule. Marriage ceremonies are usually held in Summer, when the fruits of Monra, goddess of Summer, make a fitting feast.

The dead are always buried with the herbs (and sometimes fruits, but herbs, the domain of Firi, goddess of healing take precedence) of the season and sung into their rest and the next stage of their passage.

Song is a great part of the culture of the people of the east Aravin. Their festivals center around song, including songs meant to be sung by one, songs meant to be sung by many or by all, and places for songs designed by the singer. Story-telling can be oral and pictorial, and some stories are sung, but for the most part song is for celebration and expression that may go alongside the stories, but is deeper than stories. Thus, while some stories are carried by song, traditional story-telling is usually not sung, though all stories may be punctuated by or interwoven with song, and some usually are. Always, there is openness to the spontaneous and unplanned.

The primary art of the Aravin people is done in black and white, the colors which may be gotten from fire, the colors of ash, and the colors which may be found in the black and white granite which dominates much of the south side of the Greater Aravin Mountains. This is not to say that they disdain color arts, but as a people their black and white art is remarkable, and it is valued for its accessibility. Religious art and symbols may be done in colors, and for personal use it is not de-valued, but for communal rituals, all art is black and white. Their visual art is as artistic and fluid, as spontaneous and inviting towards growth, as their vocal art, with various styles developing in different clans and at different times.

While as a whole, the people of the East Aravin have no banner or emblem, that does not mean individual clans do not adopt a symbol, by which they name themselves. This symbol is generally anything living, whether a rabbit, a tortoise, a mountain lion or an acorn, and sometimes depicted within a ring of shooting stars. The style of the depiction may vary greatly, both between clans and within a clan. Due to the lack of organizations among the clans, there may be more than one clan with the same name, though usually not one that occupies the same regions unless circumstances have forced a major migration.

Though the people of the East Aravin tend towards being semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers, that does not mean that they never undertake any agricultural pursuits. When a clan undertakes agricultural pursuits, the agriculture is considered to be a community activity, whereas hunting is an activity arranged individually. In general, the structure of a clan is loosely communal, with people contributing as they are suited to do, and being given the food, shelter, and clothing they need. The degree to which a clan or village is structured or hierarchical, and the ways in which decisions are made and any issues settled vary greatly from clan to clan.

It is also worth noting that this is an overview of the people of the East Aravin over several thousand years. It is not an in-depth discussion of any one clan or time-period, and it is certainly not an in-depth discussion on their customs, beliefs, and living during periods during which they were being subsumed and merged into another culture, society, and way of living, nor a discussion of the pressure and circumstances that formed such situations.

The people of the east Aravin feature in The Gifts of Faeri and the Return of the Dragonriders Trilogy.

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