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  1. #1

    Khinasi culture- a strawman

    My D&D group is currently running a campaign in Cerelia, and our adventures have taken us into Khinasi lands. During the Christmas haitus, I did some research and developed a failry extensive cultural background for the Khinasi. I post it here for people to review and comment on.

    Design notes: Inspiration was taken from the Moorish culture of Spain, The Ottoman Empire, and The Persian Empire. For naval and shipping information, it was taken from Chinese ship styles. Much of the legal codes of the Khinasi were adaptations of Zoroastrian beliefs. Some of it was direct copies from other websites. As such, I claim no credit for the research and publishing of these ideas.

    9 values drive the Khinasi culture. Everything unique to their society stems from one of these values. Different areas of the Khinasi lands value each one greater or lesser depending on history, geography, and philosophy. Khinasi society expects these values to be represented by every single person on a daily basis. The sum total of how these values are shown is referred to as Sayim, or “face.” Sayim is how one is seen in the community. It is a reflection of both current actions and past deeds of both the individual and the Family.

  2. #2

    Artistic accomplishment

    The Khinasi pride themselves on being the most learned and advanced society in Cerelia. They express this pride through their fantastic works of art. To them, there is no difference between art and science. A well designed aqueduct is as appreciated as a wondrously thin, faceted crystal goblet. In all things, an expression of discipline and attention to detail is fundamental to the value of an item. Quality and craftsmanship is far more important than the actual materials. An exquisite statuette in silver will be valued more than an identical one poorly crafted from gold. The Geirhou, which is part guild, part family combine, judge their relative worth to one another by the critical reception of their goods more than the overall value of their holdings.

    Advances in many areas are documented below.

    Architecture: The Khinasi have perfected both brick and ceramic tile manufacturing. They have used them to build massive ziggurats, ice houses and food storage buildings, aqueducts and Quanats (underground aqueducts), irrigation systems, dams, and transport canals. Windmills and watermills power commerce, and some large buildings even use spinning roof vanes to draw hot air outside. The Khinasi have perfected dome construction, and more modern buildings are experimenting with double roofs with a void in-between. The wealthy decorate in marble, with balconies for summer. Some houses even have rooms with air ducts under the tile floors for winter, where heated air can circulate. Even the poorest home will attempt to have a small internal courtyard. As wealth and status increase, these courtyards become decorated with gardens and fountains. It is far more important to have well decorated interiors than exteriors, far more important to have well appointed space (quality) over size (quantity). Designs and murals tend to be abstract, as portrayals of living things are frowned upon in their culture.
    Another Khinasi specialty is the bath house. Bath houses are common and nearly every permanent settlement will have at least one. These public houses are usually supported by a charitable organization or a Geirhou. They feature both hot and cold baths, and at least one flame room. The outside typically gives indication of the quality of the services inside, but the inside décor is far more refined and beautiful than the inside. Most public baths are single baths, with different hours for men and women. Double ones exist, but only in larger cities.
    The palaces and pavilions of the wealthy will also have their own private baths, which were usually located at the end of a greenhouse-like passageway, filled with flowers, connecting the house and the garden.
    Architecture also shows a concern with waste. Most of Khinasi lands still favor the chamber pot and sponge. Waste is not discharged into the streets, but captured in large urns. These urns are collected and taken to a site far away from the town and dumped. The dump sites are selected to avoid the waste getting back into their water. In Ariya, the old city has actual waste tunnels under the city, with frequent portholes for people to dump their pots. Several large mansions are experimenting with flowing water to wash clean a special fixture and move the waste into the tunnels.

    Cooking: The sheer varieties of foods available to the Khinasi astound the Brecht or Aiunweirien visitor. While beef is the main passion of the Khinasi, fruits, vegetables, and pastries covered with preserves fill out their diet. Spinach peaches, olives, pomegranates, oranges, lemons, eggplant, artichokes, cumin, coriander, bananas, almonds, date palms, saffron, sugar-cane, rice, figs, grapes, lemons, limes, quince, apricots and rice are all readily available. Khinasi cattle are huge, stupid, and fairly aggressive. Nearly every part of the cattle becomes food- organs, brains, even tails and hooves can be found in recipes. The only exception is the digestive organs- tongue, stomach, and intestines. Sausages, because of their casings, are reviled. Despite their vast shoreline and river system, or perhaps because of it, fish is not seen as a prized food. It is the food of the lower class, cheap. However, highly spiced, uniquely flavored fish are often used as appetizers for larger meals in the upper class.
    While alcohol is disdained, unfermented fruit juices, tea and coffee are the main drinks for adults. Even water is often flavored with fruit peel. For children and infants, goats and cows provide milk. Common wisdom holds cow milk as richer and more flavorful than goat, and commands a higher price. Yogurt is a common ingredient in many dishes and a mainstay in sauces. Honey and sugarcane are both available but the Khinasi pallet prefers honey, drawing distinctions on taste depending on pollen sources.
    Khinasi favor many small meals across the day, with only 1 large meal in the evening. The Khinasi kitchen features a wide variety of tools and equipment not seen in other cultures. While a typical Brecht kitchen may feature a cleaver and small knife, one pan, and a pot for the fire, a Khinasi kitchen is well equipped for braising, boiling, steaming, pearling, slicing, flattening, and many other advanced techniques. Meals are events, an opportunity to show off their cuisine.
    The Khinasi culture also has promoted a restaurant culture. For public food service, the Geirhou control standards for butchering and serving meat, as well train cooks and household help. They also license tea houses and restaurants, the two main types of public food establishments. Tea houses are the most common. They range from open air café’s to small carts in the shopping bazaars. They provide a quick bite of traditional foods- kebabs, steamed fava beans in the pod, rice rolls of spicy vegetables, pastries, and the like. They also provide the favored strong Chai teas, fruit juices, and flavored waters. In most places, drinks are served in simple ceramic cups. In Ariya, however, it is common practice for people to carry their own cups and bowls, an expression of their cleanliness obsession.
    There are many formal restaurants in Khinasi lands, though they tend to be found only in large cities. These are places of high cuisine, with waiting lists in the months. If you need to ask the meal prices, you should not be there. Here, dining itself is an experience, with multiple dishes, the finest place settings, and entertainment. Much of the Sayim for an individual Geirhou comes from the restaurant they run, and the people who frequent it.

    Gardening: Even the poorest hovels will attempt a garden in its courtyard. It may only be herbs for cooking, but someone in the home will make an effort to grow them in a pleasing manner. As wealth increases, so does the scope, variety, and scale of one’s garden. Gardens are considered one of the most intimate places in Khinasi society, and to be invited to view one is a great honor. It is seen as the heart of the family, and is tended with great care and forethought. A recent fad amongst the nobility of Aftane is crossbreeding tulips for new varieties. A gift of a hybrid is prized. Khinasi culture frowns upon painting or sculpture of living things, so flower arrangements and living plants serve that role in upscale homes.

    Glass and ceramics: Temperature control and a steady hand is critical to delicate pottery and glass, so nothing shows the Khinasi fascination with craftsmanship as well as their glass and pottery. Stained glass and wafer thin glassware, optics and telescopes, sturdy teapots and coffee boilers, all proudly display the artistry and craftsmanship of their makers. In fact, some Geirhou are so renowned, that mere mention of their name is seen as high praise. Ceramic tiles and ceramic mosaics are everywhere, used for their color and durability to decorate exterior spaces.
    Literature: A much larger portion of the Khinasi people are literate than most other cultures. More about this will be discussed later. But the large demand makes manuscript illumination, calligraphy and paper production, highly sought after. Most libraries are still privately owned or funded. It is rare for all but the wealthiest to open their libraries to the public, but some institutions do. The Great Library of the Swords, owned by Swords of Avani, has over 600,000 manuscripts, tapestries, and tablets. Research is done by staff of experts for a fee, but visitors are welcome to look about the library at its artwork. The subjects covered by the texts include medicine, astrology, astronomy pharmacology, psychology, physiology, zoology, biology, botany, mineralogy, optics, chemistry, physics, mathematics, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, music, meteorology, geography, mechanics, hydrostatics, navigation and history.
    Khinasi use paper where the rest of Cerelia is still in parchment. A wide variety of paper colors and thicknesses are available. Bookshops, copyists, and illustrators can be found clustered around these large libraries, or even contained within them. To give an original from your library is a high gift, but to give a copy is a welcome, cherished gift. Illustrated texts are the most individual and artistic. It is a generally accepted practice that the text of a book is sacred, and must be copied exactly. The illustrations and marginalia, however, are the playground of the copyist.

    Medicine: The body and its functions are documented, if still not completely understood. The Khinasi as a whole possess more understanding of health. It is their belief that most of their daily health needs can be provided by nature, and that magical intercession by Avani is only needed in the direst of circumstances. As such, apothecaries play a key role in the overall health of society. They provide numerous and wide-ranging health aides in small villages, travelling caravans, and large urban centers alike. In their shops can be found scented candles, natural plant oils, sunburn ointments, antiseptics and analgesics of all sorts.

    Metalworking and woodworking: While most of the renowned metalworking of the Khinasi is channeled into their martial steel, they also have a fascination with miniatures of tin and copper. Small, highly detailed replicas of military soldiers, ships, and machines of war are highly coveted by male children and men alike. It is not uncommon for a wealthy family to honor its passed war hero’s by giving those close to them small replicas of the deceased in their arms and armor. They are cherished heirlooms. Along the coast, wooden models of ships have a similar place in the hearts of the male population. Young boys are often seen playing with their favorite toy Dhow in the baths. Heads of the house take solace in meticulously crafting scale models.

    Textiles & Weaving: Rugs play an important role in society. Small prayer rugs are used during temple ceremonies. Large rugs are used to define and separate areas in large open homes. Even small shacks with dirt floors will use rugs to attempt to bring some civility to their home. These rugs use numerous colors and patterns, some bold and basic, some intricate. Abstract patterns are favored by Khinasi.
    For clothing, a wide variety of materials are available, from silk, cotton, and wool to heavily brocaded and upholstered fabrics. Henna, woad, and madder grow naturally here, providing sources for brilliant yellow, blue and red hues. Here again, the emphasis on quality over display is prevalent in Khinasi society. Khinasi dress in bright colors, tastefully harmonized.

    Performing Arts: The Basarji language is considered by many to be the most perfect language for poetry. While some say it is harsh and throaty spoken, it flows well sung. Music is well developed in Khinasi lands, with advanced keyboard and stringed instruments, double reeds, and tone drums. It also features harmonies and counter-melodies, and many musical structures unheard of in more ‘primitive’ music. Music and poetry accompany almost all important rituals and festivals. Even the poorest village, merchant ship, or caravan will have songs around the fire at night.

    Personal Hygiene: The Khinasi have elevated simple bathing and grooming to high art, particularly in Ariya. The items that are used in the bath are similarly artistic and objects of beauty in and of themselves, and quite profitable for the providers. Either the bath house itself, or building surrounding it, provide a wide array of goods and services to the bathers. These often included cleaning and storage of bath towels.
    Soaps are typically formed of a base of natural, jade green soap. They are melted down and mixed with rose oils and fruit essences, then molded into animal or flower shapes, and painted with a water-based paint.
    Families have a pair of 'bath baskets', the larger one for the men, and the smaller for the women. Bath baskets came in several varieties: fat and round baskets of wicker inlayed with silver, bronze or copper, decorated with reliefs depicting nature. These baskets reflect the status and taste of the family. Carried within the basket are the individual’s soap, combs, mirrors, jewelry boxes, and rubbing and lathering mitts. The soap dish was a lidded metal container with a handle on top, oval-shaped, with holes in the bottom like a sieve. A metal container in the shape of a pumpkin was used for keeping jewelry after getting undressed in the bath. Bath mirrors meanwhile were oval or round with wooden or silver frames. Combs and brushes were made out of silver and ivory, with various animal hairs.
    Special shoes are often purchased for the baths. Called clogs, they were carved out of wood in special shapes and decorated using various techniques. Being quite high off the floor, they ensured that the bather's feet never came into contact with the soapy water.
    The towels used in baths were many and varied, particularly for women. Thin bath towels were woven in plaid designs and adorned with various types of embroidery. The highest-quality towels were woven in Bursa. After bathing, women wrapped themselves in several towels, the biggest one around the waist, the middle-size one around the shoulders and the smallest around the head. After the hair was toweled dry and combed, a gauze-like white turbanette was wound round the head to absorb any remaining moisture. After dressing, the towels were placed on the bath mat and bundled up. The bath mat served to separate the bather from the floor while dressing and undressing.
    Fresh fruit, fruit juices, and flavored waters are often served in the baths.

  3. #3


    The most outward and public expression of Khinasi culture is its courtesy. From the most powerful noble to the lowest peasant, people treat each other with respect and care. How you treat others outside of your station is considered a reflection on you, not them. “Your grace shines upon me” is a high complement to give, saying that their behavior and attitude towards you is a great honor. This attitude is clearly shown in several areas.

    Cleanliness: Cleanliness is seen as an expression of courtesy. Being clean means not offending one with their odor. For men, this means washed and combed beards, clean and neat nails, and clean feet. Hair and beard grooming, manicures and pedicures are often offered as services in the bath houses. This need for cleanliness extends to the content discussed by the men in the bath houses. Courtesy dictates that anything controversial is not discussed. Pools of water are no place for arguments
    For women, bathing is even more involved. Baths are also beauty salons where facial, hair and body care is available alongside herbal treatments of certain conditions. A woman's body is beautified and her soul restored at the bath. After a good bath session, women feel literally purged of all her cares, her kindness and generosity restored.
    Children accompany women to baths, from their first formal 40 day bath until their last bath the day before their 7th birthday. After their 7th birthday Awakening ceremony, girls and boys are allowed to attend baths in groups, at the sex-appropriate times.

    Coffee Culture: The serving and drinking of coffee has a profound effect on Khinasi customs, political and social interaction, and hospitality traditions. Khinasi coffee is derived from a special strain of bean, carefully roasted and special spices are added during the roasting process to infuse the beans. While individual regions have their own unique blends, cardamom and Avaonalia are always found amongst the spices. Coffee is prepared in special open pots, holding only enough for 2 cups of coffee. The coffee is either ground to a fine powder, or floated whole in the cold water. A sweetener, typically honey, is added to the cold water. Since the pots are small, they can be sweetened to suit the individual. Preparing coffee to the desired sweetness without being told is considered to be a great talent. Such knowledge is a valuable commodity amongst wives of certain social circles.
    The coffee is rapidly heated until it begins to foam. The foam is skimmed off, and distributed to both cups. The coffee is then removed from the heat, tightly capped, and left to steep. Sweetness and bitterness is determined by how long it steeps. Finally, it is set to the fire once again and brought to a steam. Then it is poured into the cups. This is a complicated process that must be accomplished rapidly, as the small pots boil and cool quickly. It is seen as the duty of the wife of the house to train the girls of the house in the proper techniques for serving coffee. Prospective husbands judge a woman's merits based on the taste of her coffee.
    Small things, such as the lack of foam when the coffee is served can cause a hostess, and thus her house, to lose Sayim.
    Coffee is the second pillar of social life for the Khinasi. The first is the Temple and the third the baths. Women will host formal coffee parties as often as once a week. There women of their social circle discuss events, their husbands, their children, and dine on fresh fruit and pastry. These events are held at one’s home, and often on a rotating basis. They are small groups, and to be invited into a circle is a great honor. For men, the coffeehouse is center. Coffeehouses serve much the same role as taverns in Brecht society. It is at the coffeehouse that money and politics are discussed and deals made. It is a place where commoners and nobility mingle without clash. It is a place men go to get away from their wives. It is a place for games and entertainment. It is at the coffeehouse that the majority of bards, comedians, poets, and actors ply their trade.
    While the Khinasi do not favor games of chance, they do prefer games of skill. Polo is the regional sport, and various teams are vehemently supported. Backgammon, tiles, and tabledisk are common games. Tradition holds that the penalty for losing these games is limited to the loser footing the bill.
    It is customary to drink coffee only with your right hand. Since most people would wield weapons in their right hand, holding a cup makes one civil. A coffee cup is always held by the handle, and sipped from one side. Courtesy dictates that one should not drink while speaking, or while others speak. Mastering the ebb and flow of a conversation around coffee is something non-Khinasi struggle with.

    Dancing: It is a commonly held belief outside of Khinasi lands that they do not dance. This is true in Ariya, but false in many other regions of Khinasi lands. They just do not dance with members of the opposite sex. Many festivals feature dancing, and ring dances are the most common style. A ring of men will dance, surrounded by a ring of women, then the women will dance and the men watch. Some dances will have the two rings interweaving as they move about. It is common courtesy not to stare at dancing members of the opposite sex, but the line between watching the group and focusing on an individual is often a matter of perception.

    Haggling: Haggling over goods and services is an art form in Khinasi lands. People expect some give and take when making deals. It is so common that to not haggle is seen in certain parts of Khinasi lands as a slight to the opposite party. It implies that he does not know how to judge the worth of a product. Even when haggling, a certain level of courtesy needs to be maintained. One does not insult the haggler or the product directly, though comparisons to other similar products are acceptable. One does not raise their voice or get angry; lamenting and feigning shock are well respected. The crowd should not be excluded from the negotiations; in fact playing to the crowd is encouraged. In all, it should be good natured competition that insures an equitable solution and goodwill for all around.

    Language and Cursing: The Basarji language lends itself well to long, rolling strings of curse words and phrases. Few comments are held as truly taboo; appearance, career, intelligence, odor and sexual proclivities are often fodder for expressing one’s true feelings for another. As mentioned below, cursing contests are used in some areas of Ariya to resolve minor disputes. That said, there are a few areas that are considered off limits. A person should never insult the past generations of another’s family; a person should never intimate that a man’s children are not his; a person should never question an unmarried woman’s virtue. One should never curse at a member of the opposite sex, though it is acceptable for women to curse at other women. Violating any of these common courtesies is likely to escalate the conflict to violence.
    Similarly, speaking in grandiose, glowing terms about others is seen as giving them honor. A person should never brag about themselves, or their prowess at anything. Instead, one should always compare themselves unfavorably to someone seen as a paragon of that particular virtue.

    Smoking: Smoking is a common habit for both sexes. Variety and cut are the appropriate characteristics to discuss when purchasing tobacco. Khinasi never smoke rolled tobacco in any form, they exclusively uses pipes. Pipes range from simple clay pipes to tall, ornate, glass water pipes. When exhaling, smoke is never blown outward. It should always be directed towards the ground. Blowing smoke rings and other shapes, or exhaling through the nose, is considered crass and uncouth.

    Visitors and Guests: Hospitality is another highly praised art form, and one that is almost entirely under the control of the wife of the house. As such, it is the main path for affirmation of her abilities. The Khinasi expression “Men are the Family, Women are the House” expresses this eloquently. When someone calls at a Khinasi home, they will be ushered into a small seating area to wait for the man of the house. No matter what time of day, they will be offered something to eat and drink while waiting. Custom dictates that this should be something small and inexpensive, produced with little fuss. But in practice, it is a chance for people to demonstrate their wealth by showing what they consider ‘inexpensive’. Typically, they will offer milk or juice in the mornings or tea in the afternoon, accompanied by pastries. These pastries tend to be small, but quite artistically crafted and decorated. It is good manners to compliment their appearance upon seeing them, and their taste after the first bite. If a meeting with the man of the house occurs, the lady of the house hopes to see her pastries carried into the meeting and commented upon by the men. Meetings generally call for coffee.
    One should be careful if they have more than a few visits to make in any given day. The chai tea and coffees served by the Khinasi people carry a great deal of stimulant power. In game terms, a Fort save to avoid becoming shaken for 1-12 minutes would be called for after 4 cups in any given 8 hour period, with a DC of 10 +1 for each additional cup.Guests are distinguished from visitors once they stay overnight. It is Khinasi custom to stay with a friend rather than in some inn. In many smaller settlements, there are no public accommodations at all. Guests are treated with the utmost respect and civility, given the finest food and drink available, and generally catered. This lasts until the morning after the third night. Custom dictates that a guest should depart after this time, or else offer to return the courtesy of the hosts by serving as they need. It is a proper way to show respect to the people who are looking after you. Most Khinasi understand this custom, and serve gladly. This can be problematic for non-Khinasi to understand. However, larger villages and cities have “visitor districts” to cater to outsiders- even if it is as simple as “pitch your tents on THAT side of the hill.”
    Khinasi people tend to be very shy around others until they have dined at least once with them. A first mean can be a key gauge of how cultured a person is, and their sensibilities. This is particularly true of non-natives, who are judged harshly against Khinasi cultural courtesies.

    Superstitions around Courtesy. Many of these superstitions have their roots in either fair play or wanting to protect the health of the people around you.
    While yawning, your mouth is to be closed. Otherwise it is considered that you are trying to steal the breath of life from the people around you.
    Scissors cannot be passed from hand to hand. You are seen as handing your fate to another. Instead, they are set on table to be retrieved.
    Scissors should never be left open, or you invite conflict (crossed swords).
    When somebody has the hiccups, it is believed that someone is speaking of you. If you drink a cup of tea and they stop, they have spoken well of you. If not, then they have spoken ill.
    Cloth on anybody cannot be sewn, or you wish something to pierce their skin. It should be removed to be fixed.
    Do not step upon the threshold of a door, or you invite slander into the house.
    Do not sit upon a threshold, lest you risk laziness upon them.
    Soap should never be passed from palm to palm, but placed upon the top of the hand.
    When shopping, to toss the price of the goods down upon the table before the goods are removed is a sign of respect, and will bring the seller good luck.
    Leaving you slippers or shoes being upside down overnight is to invite sickness into the house.
    One should not remove their hat until invited to do so by their host.

    Food Superstitions: Since the sharing of food and drink is so central to the culture, many regions have superstitions regarding eating and food. Below is a sampling:
    One should not cross their feet or legs while seated at the dining table. It shows disrespect to the table and it is considered as the sign of wishing famine upon the house.
    Whenever quince is abundant it is said that winter will be long and harsh.
    When giving milk to someone, a small green leaf is put into milk; otherwise it is believed that the animal will stop producing milk.
    Giving yeast for bread is a sign of wishing to share one’s good fortune with another family. To do so after evening prayer, however, is to invite ill fortune.
    It is ill-omen to boil water without purpose.
    It is believed that anybody who finds clover with four leaves will bring luck to him/herself.

  4. #4


    Many outsiders view the rigid division between male and female roles in the family as an indication that women are oppressed in Khinasi society. This is far from the truth, and stems from a lack of understanding about daily life. To the Khinasi, the division is clear cut. Men are heads of the family, but women are heads of the household. A nobleman may find, upon reflection, that he has never set foot into 2/3 of his home, and never needs to. Meals are bought, stored, prepared, served, and cleaned up without a word, under his wife’s stern supervision. Laundry and washing is done out of sight and mind. Elsewhere, a newly married man will quickly realize that haggling with a vendor stops only with his wife’s subtle acquiescence. While beauty is prized in brides, mothers will judge character more than beauty for son’s first wife. “A wife is to her husband as the kettle is to the fire.” Meaning a woman brings purpose and civility to her husband.

    Marriage and managing a household is the preferred state for women. Through desire or necessity, however, many women take up professions. Some women take jobs to support their household or husband. Others do so out of a desire to produce works of beauty. Leira is closely associated with her mother, Avani. Some women will pledge their lives to Leira and go unmarried. In some areas, they will place a heart-shaped henna mark upon their forehead to show their devotion. Their labors are based upon the same criteria of artistic merit upon which men are judged. Other women take up the healing arts. This is particularly common when a married man takes up arms. The wife will follow him afield and tend to his injuries. It is rare that women take up arms, though a holy warrior in service to the Temple is a noticeable exception. Also, several regions have fielded women-only companies of archers. The only professions that custom dictates women to avoid are those that require exposure to excessive heat- such as smithy and glass work, or those exposed to lead- painting. Lead is known to be detrimental to infants and children.

    Equality extends both directions. While serving coffee at home is the exclusive duty of women, it is boys who serve in the coffeehouses. Tradition dictates that boys who have undergone their Awakening ceremony but do not yet have facial hair serve as coffiers. Geirhou train these boys in the arts of coffee service. The boys serve as waiters and assistants, bringing coffee and pastries, running errands, kibitzing the games, and eavesdropping. A talented coffier with steady hands, fast feet and open ears can make a fine living for himself, earning money and gaining Sayim in the eyes of the patrons. A great number of the nobility’s agents and assistants first impressed their lord as a child in the coffeehouses.

    Until recently, Khinasi lands have been relatively free of religious intolerance. Their belief in logic and reason and their understanding of the pantheon of Cerelia make intolerance seem pointless. The gods exist. Theological and philosophical discussion is encouraged. Tolerance and harmony are valued for their ability to foster debate. Most regions do not even ban temples to other gods. These temples merely have to pay an extra tax. Simply put, many regions are too cosmopolitan and educated for religious fanaticism.
    There are a few exceptions to this rule. Obviously, those gods who are directly opposed to Avani find little welcome in Khinasi lands. If such followers exist, they tend to meet in secret, hidden locations. Written compilations of these doctrines can be found in a few libraries. They are kept for comparative purposes. The Zikilian Temple of Avani has recently been accused of preaching intolerance of other religions. The official response is that they merely are promoting the superior nature of rational discourse and the utilization of knowledge.

    Non-Khinasi who seek employment in Khinasi lands are not forbidden by law. But culture imposes significant barriers that need to be navigated. For example, a bard who wishes to perform in a Brecht tavern would have to negotiate with the owner. That same bard in Ariya would have to find someone to introduce him to the owner, then find which geirhou the owner is allied with, then find someone besides the owner to introduce him to the head of that geirhou. From there, he would have to prove his worth to that head. Then the bard would have to arrange a meeting, at his own cost, between the coffeehouse owner and the geirhou representative, where they would haggle his services. The poor bard would then have to pay the geirhou representative in advance his portion of the expected take. Only then would the bard be able to perform.

    Non-humans have an even more difficult time. Khinasi culture holds that all self-aware creatures have a place in the Avaniahura. All self aware creatures are treated with deference and respect. They are also expected to follow Khinasi cultural practices. Goblins, in particular, find difficulty with this. The Khinasi culture sees gross displays of anger or threats of violence as primitive and crass behavior. This lowers the status of the speaker in their eyes. This disdain is often interpreted as condescension by the goblins, who become more offended. Elves and dwarves are rare in Khinasi lands, and some regions have long-standing conflicts with them. The Khinasi will still judge them against their cultural values and treat them fairly, if cooly. Fey creatures are always suspected as having secret motives, and not speaking their minds. Mischievous fey, such as sprites, are disdained for their lack of restraint.

  5. #5

    Family, Part 1

    The Khinasi culture revolves around the family. All life is dedicated to advancing the interests of the family, instead of the individual. Sayim comes from family name as well as individual accomplishment. The contribution of the individual to the family even affects the Basarji language. From birth to age 7, a young male or female is simply referred to as ‘child’- “this is my child Khalid or “his child Saya After their Awakening ceremony, they are referred to as “my son Khalid”, or “his daughter Saya’. When betrothal is formalized, the references change to “Khalid the groom”, or “his bride Saya”. Bride and groom stay as informal titles until the young couple has their first child. Only then are they referred to as “the man Khalid and his wife Saya.” The implication is that a Khinasi does not reach full status until they have a family.

    Family is also more than blood. There are at least four distinct groupings of family.

    [b][i][u]XXXX- this is the blood family, all of those related by blood. This is the simplest to understand, and the most like other regions of Cerelia.

    [b][i][u]XXXX- this means “the named family”. This expands the meaning of family to the in-laws and their families, and those retainers that have been ‘adpoted’ by forgoing their last name and taking the diminutive. The diminutive ‘bin’ in a name associates someone with house. For example, Mazeen bin Ghazali indicates that while Mazeen is not a blood relation to the Ghazali family, his life is pledged to them. The poor often send their children to live with more wealthy families in exchange for training and a lifetime of security. Surrendering one’s name and taking a new one is considered an impressive honor to give the named family. In exchange for this honor, they allow the young child to learn valuable skills and have opportunities they would not have otherwise.

    Kirvena- the Kirvena is an unusual family tie. It occurs when two families of the same social level agree to sponsor and pay for the Awakening ceremony of the other. The two families have to have children of roughly the same age, but are unrelated by blood. The two families form a close bond, and the sponsor and child enjoy a long lasting relationship of friendship and un-fettered advice. It is also one of the main methods by which non-Khinasi find a socially appropriate way into the fabric of Khinasi society. Such a bond lasts until death of the sponsor, and families with existing Kirvena do not intermarry. This allows for increased solidarity and strength to both families while expanding the social interactions at that societal level.

    Geirhou- the Geirhou are a group of families engaged in the same or similar occupations. In many respects, they function similarly to guilds in other societies- setting prices and settling disputes, providing training, backing one another financially, etc. However, there can be several Geirhou addressing any one craft or profession in a given city. Alternatively, Geirhou cross political borders or encompass wide areas of undeveloped territory. They are powerful institutions, and the leaders of them tend to wield considerable wealth and power. People can spend their entire lives consumed with navigating up the rungs in their geirhou.
    Note that orphans and orphanages are unheard of in Khinasi society. With such a large social structure, most children who lose their parents can find a home in the XXXX, with the Kirvena, or with another family in the Geirhou. In those rare cases where no parentage is known, the Temple of Avani will find the child a home. It is common for religious orders, such as the Swords of Avani, to pledge to bring up such children.

    The family has numerous traditions to honor the passing of individuals from one stage of life to another.
    The common expression ‘children make the family’s kettle whistle’ is a clear identification of how important children are. The language itself does not call a young male a ‘man’ until he has fathered children. A woman is not truly considered a wife until she has a child. Infertile women often turn to Avani and her daughter Leira for assistance. Men who do not have children have difficulty taking their place in the community, seeing such difficulties as a shameful loss of Sayim. The one exception is anyone who has avowed themselves to the Temples. Even then, it is common practice to adopt someone as your child.
    Pregnant women have a number of customs and superstitions around them. Most of these are geared towards keeping the woman healthy, and delivering a healthy child. The mother and mother-in-law take an active role in supporting the mother to be. They encourage good behaviors and discourage bad ones. They do so partially out of genuine concern, and partly due to the importance of correctly guessing the sex of the child. Much Sayim is passed between mother and mother-in-law as they speculate on the sex of the child. They watch everything- the woman’s attitude and appearance, the movement and placement of the child in the womb, the location and intensity of the pregnancy aches and pains. But the woman’s diet is particularly noted, and catered to. Food cravings are seen as expressions of the baby’s needs. There are common phrases like ‘Eat bitter food and give birth to a girl’ and ‘Eat sweet things and give birth to a cavalryman.’ The mothers also encourage the woman to look at beautiful people, smell roses, and eat plenty of fresh fruit- apples, quinces, grapes, and green plums. Pregnancy is the one time in a woman’s life where she is allowed to be in the sunlight largely unclothed. Exposing her belly to the sun allows the Light of Avani to shine upon the baby and feel its warmth. The garden is guarded by the mothers, allowing the pregnant women to sunbathe in privacy and peace. The mothers also keep the mother-to-be away from bears, monkeys, dogs, and camels. Fish is avoided, as are nuts and cheese. Coffee is seen as too strong for a pregnant woman.
    It is a man’s role, largely, to stay out of the way. He is responsible, however, for refereeing between his mother and mother-in-law as they care for his bride. This can be quite trying, depending on the personalities.
    Around the 7th month, the woman leaves the marriage bed and moves into a separate room, which is part nursery, part delivery room. They will stay here until the 40-day bath, or perhaps longer in the case of polygamous marriages. Women give birth at home, attended by the mothers and close friends. The woman’s hair is unfastened or unbraided, and the doors and windows opened. A small fire is made, and a kettle of water is boiled. Some traditions have various people holding and rocking the woman during birth- a woman who had an easy pregnancy, a friend who was still without child, or the older of the mothers. Shouting and screaming is encouraged. The sound is believed to be announcing the arrival of the child into the world.
    After birth, the child’s umbilical cord clamped with a gold clamp and severed with a special silver knife. This knife is heated in fire, then cleaned with the steam from the kettle both before severing the umbilical cord and afterward. This knife will be kept as an heirloom of the birth.

    Making the 40s: During the next 40 days, the woman is treated as if she was still pregnant. Her mother’s watch and fret over her, with the one who correctly guessed the sex first being now clearly in charge. When the last piece of the umbilical cord falls away, the family holds a small ceremony. The part is wrapped in linen and cremated. The ashes are not added to the family sepulcher, but scattered by the father. Tradition holds that where they are scattered will influence the infant’s future;
    At the Temple- be devout
    At the bazaar- be successful in business
    At a stable- be lover of animals
    At sea- having wanderlust and a desire to seek great fortune.
    Most Khinasi understand that the first 40 days of a child’s life are critical to their future health. Any sickness experienced by the mother or the baby and any failure to regain health within 40 days of giving birth as “the falling forties”. Commonly understood precautions are to not allow mother and child to venture outdoors for forty days to avoid exposure, and to keep others in ill health- particularly those in their own 40 day window- from interacting with the mother and child.
    Other less developed areas have a more disturbing superstition- the “mother-snatcher” or “baby-snatcher”: This is a small, feral creature believed to take delight in disturbing women and newborn babies during the first 40 days and sometimes even killing them. It is believed to live in stables, haylofts, mills, deserted ruins, or wells. More backward Khinasi use a number of practices to protect against the creature. Some of these practices are: Hanging brooms, onion, garlic, and prayer beads of entire blue stones in the room where the woman and newborn baby lie, or inserting a needle or packing needle under the pillow of the woman or newborn baby, or putting breadcrumbs and water in the room. Most educated Khinasi tend to see these as precautions to ward off bats, mice, and rats, which can carry disease.

    The 40 day bath: Babies who make it through their first 40 days have a good chance of surviving. It is tradition for the family to take their first family bath on the 40th day after birth. This bath is seen as separating the mother and child, and is the transition from ‘bride’ to ‘wife’ and from ‘groom’ to ‘man’. It is a special ceremony. A special section of the bath house is reserved. A man and woman take their child into the bath together. It is custom that they remain clothed. The bath is surrounded by the members of the XXXX and XXXX family. There, in the presence, of a witness from the temple, the child is given their full name. The couple then washes their baby with special soaps and oils. The group then breaks up, with the men going off to their bath, and the women and baby going to their side. In cases where the bath house has separate hours, the men leave the bathhouse to the women.

    Superstitions around Children:
    A young child cannot be left alone. If it cannot be avoided, then a broom should be put beside the child.
    Small children should always wear at least on stone bracelet. Though the kind of stone varies, it is beloved that the bracelet will cause those of evil intent to avert their eyes, scrying on, or locating the child.
    Clothing of a child should never be left hanging overnight, lest the child become ill.
    A lock of the first hair cut from a boy child is carried in the pocket of father to increase good fortune for the family.
    If a baby clenches its fingers firmly, it becomes stingy in the future.
    When a baby is kissed under its foot, it is believed to walk early, when kissed on lips early to speak early, and when kissed on back of the neck to be obstinate.
    If a small child looks through the space between his/her legs, it means that a favored guest will return. Alternatively, if the child creeps behind furniture or other objects, it has the same meaning.
    A child who favors pens will become a scholar; knitting needles, a soldier; a coin, a merchant; or a cup, a priest.

    The Awakening:
    The 7th birthday is considered a special moment in a child’s life. It marks the passing of infancy, and the start of childhood. Formal education begins, and so does training in a trade. Boys leave their mother’s side and follow their father. Girls take up responsibilities at home. A few days before the ceremony, the parent’s will hire hoodje to spread the news of the upcoming event. Selected members of the XXXX and XXXX families are invited to the private portion of the event. But almost everyone of the same social circle is invited to the public part of the event.
    The girls awakening ceremony is commonly called the Pledging. The important women in the young girl’s life will gather with her at the bath. She is treated to her first adult spa, and pampered. She is given gifts by those gathered about. Most will be simple, such as her own bath basket loaded with aromatic soaps and sponges. From her mother, she will be given the silver knife used during her birth. It is to be kept safe until she gives birth. Her mother also provides her with a brand new outfit to wear to the public party. It is typically as expensive and ornate as the family can afford. She will also receive a pair of anklets of precious metals, jewels and small bells. This will be the gift from her Kirvena, or father if there is no Kirvena. In some regions, her father will provide her with a signet ring being their house’s insignia. In other regions, notably Aftane, they young lady will have a diamond shaped Henna mark placed upon her forehead. The use of henna marks to indicate marital status is common in certain regions. In all regions, her ears are pierced for the first time. Her friends will hire a chare (2 wheeled cart pulled by 2 people) and decorate it heavily with ribbons and bells. The young girl will ride in this chare back to her home. Tradition holds that this will be the first time she is allowed to travel by herself. The public party is a large feast in her honor. It is likely the only one in her whole life entirely devoted to her. Well wishers provide gifts of jeweler and clothing. After this ceremony, the girl will be allowed to go to the baths with supervised groups of her friends. The young girls take great pride in their Awakening, and their sashaying around the baths is accompanied by the tinkling of their ankle bells. She is also allowed to select her own clothing, and accessorize with her own jeweler.
    A boy's Awakening ceremony is more unusual, but no less special. It marks the moment when he no longer is under his mother’s thumb, and begins following the path of his father. This ceremony is not done in the baths, but in the home’s garden close to the family sepulcher. The boy is dressed in a special embroidered robe. Either his father or Kirvena cradles the boy on his lap. His job is to hold the boy tight and calm his fears. The silver knife from his birth is then used to circumcise him. Only his father, grandfather, Kirvena and his son, and the circumcising agent of the temple are present for this. The child is then dressed in bright colors, typically crimson, and gifted with a signet ring and other jewelry. The child is carried and placed on a custom divan. Then the remainder of the XXXX and XXXX families then enter the garden. The removed piece of foreskin is cremated and placed into the family sepulcher. This act formally connects the Sayim of the boy to the family, and the family to the boy. It assures him a place. After that, the divan is carried out into the courtyard for the public party. The boy is waited on and catered to as never before, and showered with gifts of clothing, jewelry, and coins.

  6. #6

    Family, part II

    Engagement and marriage
    Families who want to marry their sons begin looking out for girls shortly after their Awakening ceremony. They typically start with their relatives, neighbors and close friends. At the baths, the gentle tinkling of awakening ceremony anklets serves to attract the notice of the women to the young, available girls. The social interaction of the baths and the women’s coffee groups serve as the first line for identifying potential matches.
    Once potential partners have been identified, a Dejilia is called. A Dejilia (“seeing the girl”) is the first formal act of a marriage proposal. It is a meeting of an agent or agents of the male’s family with the agents of the female’s family. These agents take 3 different types. First, and most common, is the male’s mother and grandmothers. Second, is the man’s Kirvena. Third, and common only to the highest levels of society, is an agent of the Temple, along with the Kirvena, mother, and grandmothers. It is held at the young lady’s parent’s home. The young lady is not to speak, but instead to serve a formal coffee service to the assembled guests. This gives the male’s family a chance to judge the young lady and her receptivity to the potential match without being so crass as to inquire directly. Family history and genealogy is much discussed, to insure potential matches are not too closely related. This can be a concern in small villages as well as in highly stratified cities.
    It is not uncommon for several Dejilia to be entertained for each young man or women. The families have a significant interest in making an appropriate match. A mismatched marriage is seen as a failing of the families more than of the couple themselves, and both families lose much Sayim in the eyes of their contemporaries. Both sides are given time to contemplate the match. Several months may pass. If the match is seen as inappropriate, the deciding side will host another formal coffee and explain the reasons for declining the match.
    If a match seems appropriate, the couple then enters into the Gorus-hallal. During this period, all of the details of the wedding are established. The date, the dowry, where the couple will live, the position within the relative XXXX are all established. If there are extenuating circumstances such as a lack of dowry, this is where they are considered. At this point, the couple is considered engaged to be married. Both the bride and groom-to-be change their wardrobe. The girls no longer wear ankle bracelets, and their signet rings are placed into a red silk pouch. This pouch is tied with ribbon and worn as a necklace as a sign of impending betrothal. In regions where a henna mark on the forehead is common, a red silk headband is worn over the mark. Young men cover their signet ring with a red ribbon. All other jewelry is removed. Tradition holds that doing so is a symbol of putting away childhood.
    During this period, a Devotion ceremony is held. It is the first official meeting of bride and groom. Both men and women will prepare themselves at the bath and dress in their best clothes. The groom will arrive in a chare at the bride’s home. The two will then ride in the chare by themselves from the bride’s home to the groom’s home. This route may be circuitous, to give them a chance to talk. The couple’s chare is followed closely by one for each set of parents. At the groom’s home, they will have a feast. In some larger cities such as Ariya, the tradition allows for them to travel instead to a formal restaurant reserved for the occasion. The two are allowed to sit beside one another at the dining table, with the parents directly opposite. Both parent’s present their opposite person a small bag of gems. As the meal progresses, the couple quietly compares the two gifts, selecting the stone or stones that will be made into their wedding rings. The rest is combined into one bag given to the bride’s family to pay for the wedding feast. Musicians perform and poets do readings of love poems during the event. Afterward, the two return to their respective homes separately.
    It is only after this ceremony that the two are allowed to communicate. The two may exchange notes and private correspondence, but not meet. In many cultures, the friends of the bride and groom may ‘accidentally’ allow them to run into one another and share a quick meal from a street vendor, or a walk through the public gardens. There have been several books published that tell of famous matches, and the things shared between the two. The most famous is “The Wedding of Sameh and Rahena”. It is a collection of the love poems Sameh of Andujar wrote to his bride telling of his love, her beauty, and how precious he held those few moments together.
    The actual marriage ceremony is a 3 day affair for first marriages. The day before, the bride and her mother are excused from all household responsibility and spend the day relaxing at the baths. That night, the bride’s family hosts a “henna party”. The bride, her mother and female siblings, and her closest female friends are joined by the bride’s future mother-in-law. The mother-in-law brings a silver tray bearing the henna ink and a roll of fine silk. After all the guests were assembled, the bride's future mother-in-law would roll out like a carpet before her a bolt of silk cloth that she had brought with her as a gift. The bride and her friends, carrying lit candles, would approach the guests while coins would be scattered over the bride's head as symbols of fertility. The bride would walk along the unrolled bolt of silk cloth towards her future mother-in-law, take the woman's hand, and kiss it respectfully. Trays of fruits and nuts, pastries, and marzipan would now appear. Songs and ditties reserved only for henna-parties would now be sung in an attempt to make the prospective bride cry. In regions where henna marks on the forehead are used, the mark for childhood is removed. This ceremony can be a sad occasion, where relatives of the bride, particularly her mother lament the departure of the daughter from her parent’s home. The mother of the bride presents her daughter with her wedding dress. The bride puts on her gown and her future mother-in-law will tinge her hands, face, and feet with henna designs believed to be good fortune. In more ‘evolved’ cities, these designs tie the dress and the woman’s features together, beautifying both. At this point, both mothers leave, and the gown is removed and set aside. This is followed by a joyous celebration, with much song and dance. It is not unusual for the closest friends of the bride to remain with her until the next morning, spending their last “single” hours together. The bride’s friends often tinge their hands with henna as well, echoing the bride’s designs to share in her good fortune.
    The men have a similar ceremony. Before dawn, the groom, his father and male siblings, and his closest friends will gather. They will carry a long pole decorated with many ribbons and the crest of the man’s family. This marriage pole is planted into the ground in front of the bride’s house. It is considered good luck for the “planting of the flag” to be done without disturbing the bride’s household. After prayers, the day is spent at the bath, grooming for the upcoming ceremony. Then they go to the groom’s family for a party. The bride’s father arrives in a chare. Tradition holds that he should be angry at the planting of the flag, but the anger is nearly always feigned. He is escorted to a seat of honor next to the groom’s father. The groom then spends the next portion of the event waiting on his father and future in-law, as women are forbidden at such events. The two elder men then take turns berating and belittling the groom, much to the amusement of the assembled guests. This is all done in good humor and such a scathing often turns to well loved friends and family. The groom’s deferent nature is certainly put to the test. It is the responsibility of the two older men to show the groom’s Sayim by not being gentle. In the end, however, both men will call the groom up and embrace him. They give a short farewell, praising the young man and welcoming the upcoming match. After that, they leave and the party gets going. Food and drink flow, and dancers and entertainers perform. The groom’s friends encourage him to rowdy and foolish behavior, feats of acrobatics, and wild dancing. More than one groom has greeted his bride with bumps, bruises, and pulled muscles.
    The morning of the wedding, the groom and selected groomsmen go to the church before dawn, to pray and purify themselves. The groom is dressed in their finest clothing. In urban centers, it is becoming fashionable for the mothers of the nuptial couple to work in concert to insure that the clothing of the groom accents and harmonizes with the dress of the bride. In other areas, the groom simply wears the best clothing he can afford. A special coat called Pacalio is worn. This coat is typically brightly colored and embroidered, and represents the setting sun. It is traditional that the wedding rings are placed in the right pocket, then that pocket sealed.
    Women spend the morning preparing themselves. Their wedding dress is the single most complex and beautiful outfit the woman will likely ever own. Two-paneled skirts are popular in many regions. These are cut in various styles and heavily embroidered. They are almost always made of velvet, with long skirts, shaped bodices and round necks. They were open as far as the waist at the front and worn over a blouse of helâlis, a cloth with a silk warp and linen or wool weft. The head was covered with a scarf of muslin or crepe, and a silver belt was worn around the waist. In some large cities, this is being succeeded by wedding dresses made of taffeta or silk woven with silver thread, with long skirts cut on the cross, tight boned and corseted bodices, and capes. These were worn with scarves of crepe edged with needle lace. In winter knee-length fur-lined velvet coats tailored to fit the waist, and matching the color and embroidery of the dress beneath were worn. Shoes and bags were made of fabric or leather, again in matching colors and designs. A small portion of her Awakening gown will be incorporated into the dress, as an edge, a hem, or a panel. When she is dressed, she waits in the courtyard for her groom with her family and friends.
    After morning prayers, the grooms family and friends proceed from the Temple to the bride’s family’s home. This is a raucous parade, with singing, drums, and pipes. To lighten things up, the doorway is sometimes blocked by a younger male relative of the bride. The boy sits on the wooden chest that carries the bride’s dowry, so it cannot be taken, and the bride cannot leave. A tip by the groom’s family solves this final hurdle, and the bride leaves her parent’s home to return to the temple.
    The religious ceremony itself is a simple affair. The bride is lead to the altar by the head of her family, who removes the ribbon or takes the bag from the bride. The groom then proceeds down and joins her, then all of the groomsmen and bridesmaids. The presiding Temple official has them affirm their vows and willingness to marry, and rings are exchanged. Superstition holds that if the groom cannot break the thread securing the rings in his pocket, the marriage will be poor. This seldom happens, as it is the groom’s mother who does the sewing. In some regions, the couple will then spend a few moments in the shrine to Leira, holding hands and praying for a marriage of passion and bliss. The Temple official then will give an oration on the virtues and responsibilities of married life. After the final blessing, all the assembled guests leave, followed by the bridesmaids and groomsmen. They assembled group then proceeds to the future home of the couple- whether it be at either of the parents, or their own home. The assembled group then feasts until late in the night, celebrating the new couple’s good health. The events of some nobility can last for several days.
    The couple is allowed a few moments of peace in the empty temple. Then they take a chare to their new home. Tradition holds that they retire to their marital bed and consummate their relationship. They are not to join the party until afterwards. In most places, this time is taken to get to know one another while everyone else in their lives are occupied. It is the most alone and unbothered they will ever be.

    Polygamy: Polygamy is condoned in Khinasi culture. If a man has sufficient wealth to maintain all of his wives in the same fashion, he is permitted to marry multiple wives. In practice, such marriages are usually done for social, political, or geirhou reasons. If there are children from the first marriage, additional marriages do not purposefully produce offspring. The newer wife is considered subordinate to the woman of the house.

    Influence of Family on Marriage: People from other cultures often wonder whether arranged marriages work. Khinasi pride themselves on finding the perfect mate for their children. It is in the best interest of both families that a relationship be as pleasant, peaceful and fruitful as possible. They choose carefully, judging what they know about their child’s likes, dreams, and temperament. This is seen as far preferable than relying on the observations, intuition, and passion-influenced thoughts that course through a young person’s mind. Their approach echoes the Lady as the light of reason. It is reason, it is forethought, it is right. Even after marriage, the families do much to insure the marriage is successful. Both sides of the family assist in child rearing. The XXXX help maintain and run large households. The geirhou spread the wealth of their craft, assuring that people are supported in hard times. A man who devotes private time to his wife is seen as being a good husband. When a man decides to take another wife, it is done only after discussions with the XXXX and the XXXX. They need to support, or at least understand, the reasons for the necessity of the marriage. Families tend to defend and cover up things that may cause a loss of Sayim for the family, particularly in wealthy or noble families. Dalliances, financial indiscretions, certain illnesses, and loss of self-control are contained and handled within the family. More than one intemperate husband has had a bad slip when meeting with his in-laws at the bath after a bad episode at home.

    Death: Death is not seen as dirty or unclean, but a natural part of life. Concern for the causes of the disease may call for special precautions, but otherwise the death ritual proceeds as follows. After death, the body is moved to a secluded corner of the house. In wealthier houses there may be a special open-roofed room in garden area for meditation. It is used as place to die, and place to be prepared. The body is cleaned, and the eyes and mouth are closed. In some places, honey used to stick shut eyes and mouth. If flies are not seen on the body before cremation, death is said to be unnatural. The body is then wrapped in linen strips, each limb individually. Professional body washers and wrappers are preferred, but are costly. Most regions use special linens blessed by Temple for this process. If professional washers are unaffordable or unavailable, then family does the wrapping.
    Once the body is wrapped tightly, a white cotton sheet is placed over the body, and the rest of the funeral arrangements are made. A formal ceremony called the Menoc i Khirad is held some time later. When it is held is dependent on the availability of relatives and friends. The warm climate prevents excessive delays. The actual Menoc i Khirad is a formal ceremony held at the home of the deceased. It can last for a few minutes to several days, depending on the prominence of the individual. The body is placed on a raised platform. Incense is burned at the four corners of the table. Individual mourners approach the body and place their right hand upon it. They speak of the dead, retelling a story that honors the individual, or give a speech praising his/her deeds. It can be brief, or lengthy, impromptu or prepared. The family seats close to the body, wearing long black cloaks and black hats or turbans.
    During the Menoc, the family serves the visitors a Funeral Soup. In ancient times, the soup was crafted by younger members of family to sustain the senior members during their period of constant mourning over the body. Over the ages it was shared with those that came to give honor to the dead, and eventually grew into an expression of thanks to those that attend the funeral ceremonies. It is made of beef hearts and vegetables, very aromatic and slightly bitter. The soup is similar but slightly different between each household, and its recipe is one of the few family secrets never pursued- it is seen as a part of the family. It is provided to all who come to honor the deceased. In return, visitors often bring gifts of sweet or hearty breads, butter, or honey to accompany the soup.
    When the visitors have largely passed, the family declares an end to the Menoc i Khirad. Visitors and extended family leave. The body is then laid on a pyre and doused with oil. The contents of the pyre will also vary with the individual, with more exotic hardwoods and aromatic plants indicating wealth. A representative of the Temple will say a brief prayer, the set the pyre alight. Followers of Avani see this as releasing the inner light of the individual. This light is the “Gift of Avani”, and cremation is seen as returning that gift to the Goddess. Tradition varies as to when the pyre is lighted – The Ariyans prefer a dawn lighting, to allow the two lights to blend for as long as possible. The Zikilians prefer lighting after nightfall, so as to not diminish the Goddess’s brilliance.
    Once the pyre has cooled, the ashes are gathered and taken to the family sepulcher. These are typically large round urns, some taller than a man, where the ashes of the members of the family are co-mingled together. The mingling of the ashes is typically a very private family event in contrast to the larger spectacle of the funeral. This ritual represents the central role of family in all aspects of a Basarji’s life. All they do, all they are, reflect on the family as a whole. For soldiers and travelers, the basic tenets of the funeral right are the same. Those who die away from home often make the last request that their ashes be returned to their families.
    The Khinasi tradition does not seek to honor the dead after death. Statues and monuments so common to other cultures simply do not exist. It is seen as bragging for a family to honor its dead in that manner. There are three special cases where this tradition is not followed. First is when the deceased is a cultural hero. In that case, the city or province leadership will pool their resources and present the honorific to the family. These are the statues seen in public places. Second, is the giving of metal soldiers. Families who have soldiers and officers die in war will commission the casting of small metal figurines. These figurines will have the arms and armor of the individual. Tradition holds that the figure should not have a face, but be covered by its visor or a scarf to preserve the modesty of the family. These figurines are cherished by friends and family. The province of Mesire has a tradition that one of the soldiers be given to his commanding officer as a reminder of the costs of war.
    Lastly, is the marker stone. Since the ashes of the family are co-mingled, some marker is desired to note their passing. These are either ceramic tiles or small carved stones with the person’s name and birth/dying dates. Frequently, a well known phrase or observation by the individual will be included on the tile. These tiles decorate the walls or floor in the area around the sepulcher. Tombstones are the most beautiful examples expressing the Khinasi’s rich inner world, fine taste, and deep thought. They are sometimes a history, sometimes lament, and express thoughts on goodness, beauty, folly, and the fickleness of history.
    The final act of the death ceremony takes place 20 days after the cremation. At this time, the surviving spouse and family go to the baths. After the baths, they put away their mourning clothes, and life continues. If the deceased was a husband, his wife or wives will wear bracelets of black stones as a sign of their widowed status.

  7. #7


    Appearance: The Khinasi dress in bright, tastefully harmonized. A man will typically wear linen breeches and soft shoes, a high-collared shirt with half sleeves, a vest, sash, and hat. A woman would be dressed similarly, but with long sleeves and a sheer head scarf. Garish or clashing colors, or completely bland and monochromatic dress, are seen as inelegant. Both men and women take great pride in their appearance, and to be able to hold a conversation about style and cut, fit and fabric, is seen as being educated. Women will make sure that their hair and mouth are covered when in the presence of males who are not part of their family. But they will use cosmetics to beautify their eyes and nose. The practice of leaving a small part of their hair- a bit of bang, a decorated pony tail- sticking out from under their shawls is common as well. Khinasi women take great pride in their ability to stop a man in his tracks with just a glance.
    Khinasi of both sexes also wear jewelry at all life stages. Their preference is for many small, intricate pieces which offset or enhance their outfits. Large and gaudy jewelry is dismissed as low class. Beauty and refinement is central to their jewelry. It should appear graceful and charming.

    Begging: Begging, and beggars, is seen as a blight upon society. Asking for money is not a beautiful, refined, or dignified way to earn a living. Those who beg for coins are without Sayim at all. Those who beg for jobs and are willing to do anything to be employed are not considered beggars. “Is there anything I can do for you, honored sir?” is a common call in large cities. If the unemployed are given a task to do, it is ungraceful to ask for payment of any sort. Of course, they will be paid. But this arrangement allows the employer to show their grace and generosity through their payment. It also allows the employee to show effort on behalf of someone not something. Both gain Sayim from this transaction.

    Birthdays: Birthdays are not celebrated in Khinasi society. It is seen as bragging and taking credit for something that is not within your power. Most people see life and death as part of the Avaniahura. It is the plan and logical progression of events that is the driver of people’s lives. Celebrating your birthday is tantamount to claiming that the plan was designed for your life, which is braggadocio in extreme.

    Pets: Khinasi are avid pet owners. The pets tend to be reflections of the kinds of occupations the family is involved in. Merchant ship captains will have pet cats to keep the rats in check. Herders employ large herding dogs. Cattlemen and ranchers favor small, aggressive dogs to keep the hole-digging rodent populations down. Metalworkers will have cages of birds in their smithy, to warn of dangerous fumes. Khinasi favor long, sleek animals with short fur. Long fur is seen as unnecessary in the warm climates. Many families will have a small group of birds in their garden. These birds are never kept in cages. To do so is seen as an affront to their nature, and against the Avaniahura. Instead, great pains are taken to train them to stay in the garden, or in particular trees. The color and refinement of the plumage is the main factor for selecting birds. Horses, of course, are a Khinasi passion. Long of leg and lean of coat, they are considered some of the greatest of pets. Many a struggling merchant will spend their lives dreaming of owning just one of the magnificent creatures. Rodents, such as hamsters and mice, are disdained as pets. They are considered crass, un-trainable, and inelegant creatures. The concept of a zoo, or of holding animals against their will, is anathema to Khinasi.

    Polo: The game of Polo was a Maestian creation, designed to practice horsemanship and mounted combat. It stresses speed, turning ability, and precision. The Khinasi adopted it and refined the sport, turning it into their national past-time. Individual nobles, Geirhou, and nobility all fund and field teams. Matches draw large crowds of men and boys, and are a central topic in coffeehouses. Plays and turns, horsemanship and mallet handling are endlessly debated and discussed. The Khinasi see much beauty and elegance in the sport.

  8. #8


    Honor is a tangible commodity in Khinasi society. While a person’s Sayim is an internal feeling of self worth, actions which enhance or damage Sayim are well known. Being honorable, never breaking an oath, speaking plainly and without deception, holding confidences, all of these enhance Sayim. It allows for a degree of trust in the word of individual that is not seen in other realms. It impacts several areas.

    Banking and money : Each region of Khinasi lands mint their own currency. However, the Geirhou clans involved in minting coins have strict standards for quality and consistency. These Geirhou are some of the most extensive and exclusive in Khinasi lands, and their ties cross borders and serve both sides of rival regions. They consider the Ariyan silver Shetel as the standard reference coin in terms of purity and ‘value’. Outsiders need to note that in several regions, most notably Aftane, commoners are prohibited from using or possessing minted platinum. It is reserved for transactions between the Red Kings and their retainers.
    Similarly, the Geirhou involved in jewelry and gem cutting maintain cordial ties across regions. The accepted process is that gems are sold in small velvet pouches. Accompanying each stone is a small symbol indicating its value, and marked with the insignia of the family that did the evaluation. The standing of each family will influence how close to their assessed value someone is willing to pay for the gem.
    There is no formal banking system in Khinasi lands. Instead, when people have extra monies, they will select merchants they purchase from and give the money to them. In exchange, the merchant with issue them an Egibi. The Egibi is a small writ of paper that tells how much the individual gave to the merchant, and its expected value. Merchants understand the value of coins in hand, and will credit a small increase to the person who honors them with their trust.

    Deal-making : The nobility are the movers and shakers of Khinasi society. They keep accounts and fund projects. It is the nobility who own the land and lease it to orchard or to the cattle barons, who pay to have canals dug, aquifers built, and who collect the tolls and headcount tributes. The nobility are the money managers of their Geirhou, trading in Egibi and verbal agreements. Their word is considered binding. Saying “I will give you the fruits of my date-palms at Pesht when it matures for 10 fold head of cattle now” is binding. Documenting it on paper is simply a formality. This puts the leadership of the Khinasi realms in a unique position. They may not be the wealthiest noble house. They may not even own a large portion of their lands. But uniformly they are considered to be the most honorable, most trustworthy, and most wise. Their Sayim is more important than their wealth.

    Drugs : Having a few ales or beers at the local tavern has been replaced by coffee at the coffeehouse in Khinasi society. Both share similar cultural functions. Khinasi believe alcohol makes people, slow-witted, ill-spoken, and prone to losing their temper. Such things are anathema to their Sayim. The stimulant powers present in coffee and tobacco do not dull the wits, but sharpen observation and are believed to make one more thoughtful and eloquent. “Coffee lights the lamp of the thinker, tobacco smoothes the tongue of the speaker” is a common phrase indicating this attitude. This will be the extent of the honorable consumption behaviors seen in public. Khinasi pride themselves on the fact that their streets are not cluttered by the drunk and down-and-out alcoholic. What happens in the privacy of the family home is another story. Many other substances exist that are used for their healing, calming, or mind-expanding powers. Hashish, a resinous byproduct of making hemp rope, is a powerful mood leveler. It is sometimes added to tobacco to calm the nerves, or to aid in sleeping. Several distillates of poppy flowers are used as medicinal painkillers, and available through apothecaries. There are even a few substances crafted from local fungi or from snake venom, which are reputed to aid in the contemplation of the world and the Avaniahura. All of these carry the potential for abuse and addiction. Such a thing would cause a horrific loss of Sayim for the family, so the family handles such matters privately, before they become a public issue.

    Warfare: The Khinasi are honorable warriors, who fight fairly and treat captured foes with honor. There is no loss of Sayim to surrender to a superior foe; it is considered a reasonable act which praises the captors’ prowess. Similarly, a victorious warrior will treat those who surrender honorably with kindness and deference, showing them that their trust was merited. This is not to say that they are not cunning and devious warriors. Khinasi battle plans include a great deal of subterfuge and misdirection. They understand the value of confidence in their soldiers, and use many devious means to undermine the opposition before fighting begins. Behaviors such as assassination of leaders, holding women/children hostage, or attempting to negotiate terms for surrender, are seen as dishonorable. Foes that do that have no Sayim, and are treated little better than cattle.

  9. #9

    Piety, part I

    Praise of Avani is quite common in everyday life, even in areas where it is not state religion. Morning prayers at sunrise begin the day for the lowliest commoner to the Prince-Paladin of Ariya. Across the Khinasi lands bells and the voice of the Temple Monitor call people to prayer when the sun is at its zenith. The day finishes as people close their stores in preparation for the Sunset Prayer. Phrases honoring the Lady sprinkle conversation. Where Leira is worshipped, praise to her mother is common. In many cities in other lands, there will be one central church for their large city. This is true in Khinasi lands as well. A given city, however, may have numerous smaller chapels in addition to the main Temple. There are simply too many people, too spread out, to all worship in the same temple at the same time.

    Avaniahura : The Avaniahura is the philosophical base for the worship of Avani. Large portions are taken directly from the Canon of Avani, their holy text. It forms the basis of their legal system. Religious devotion and obeying the law are linked. The truly pious man fears not the law. The Avaniahura instructs that there are two opposing forces that underlie all conflicts. The Ashla Mainy (Main- ya), or "Bounteous Principle”, which represents the truth, order and growth, and the Drux Mainy (Droosh Main-ya) "Destructive Principle", which represents falsehood, chaos, and decay.
    Ashla is seen as the equitable law of the universe the course of everything observable- the motion of the planets and astral bodies, the progression of the seasons, the pattern of daily nomadic herdsman life, governed by regular metronomic events such as sunrise and sunset. All physical creation is thus determined to run according to a master plan — inherent to Avaniahura — and violations of the order (drux) were violations against creation, and thus violations against Avaniahura. This concept of ashla versus the drux should not be confused with the good-versus-evil battle evident in some other religious schemes, for although both forms of opposition express moral conflict, the ashla versus drux concept is more systemic and less personal, representing, for instance, chaos (that opposes order); or "un-creation", evident as natural decay (that opposes creation); or more simply "the lie" (that opposes truth, righteousness).
    The Avaniahura is much debated and discussed. Such discussion is not seen as heresy. Avani is the Goddess of Reason, and to apply reason to uncover the underlying rational basis for all things is a noble calling.

    Leira : Leira is the patron goddess of warmth, passion and art. She is beloved by the Khinasi, who see her influence in all their greatest creations. Many temples of Avani will have shrines to her. Craftspeople who design public fountains and gardens often include an area dedicated to her where visitors can kneel and pray. Craftspeople and artisans will have small niche or display cabinet engraved with prayers of thanks to Leira. In these areas they will display what they consider their masterwork. In some regions, there will be individuals who are considered a holy person of Leira. These people, usually women, have devoted their lives to helping others find warmth, passion, and their creative drive. They coach the nervous speaker in oration. The advise the clothier on cut, sometimes serving as models. They advise husbands and wives on bringing love into a home and passion into a marriage, sometimes quite explicitly. Other regions frown upon this last practice, seeing it as akin to prostitution.

    Other gods : While all regions have a state religion, most areas are quite pluralistic in attitude. The gods exist, in all their forms. Avani instructs to apply reason and temperance, so churches to other gods are tolerated. Most cities simply make them pay an extra tax, in addition to the land tax. Prophets and seers are frowned upon outside of the established church. They are seen improper. The practice of magic is accepted, as it does not have the religious implications or superstitions it has in other regions of Cerelia. Necromancy, however, is forbidden and strictly punished. The undead are an affront to Avani, and the precepts of the Avaniahura. The embody Drux. Similarly, worship of XXXX is strictly forbidden. XXXX stands in opposition to everything Avani stands for. Religious texts and treatise around XXXX can occasionally be found in private or Temple Libraries. It is a case of knowing one’s enemy.

    Piety and Bathing : Since many festivals require extensive food preparation and house decorating, the evening of the day after a festival is celebrated by women where they gather to talk of their celebrations. Khinasi also believe strongly in healing and purifying power of flame. Many bath houses will have a flame room- a room where walls are lined with small fires, with seating in middle. Sit amidst the flames and relax, meditate, recite prayer and purify spirit before going into baths and cleaning body.

    Telling of the grounds : The Khinasi do not favor fortune telling, seeing it as diminishing the Lady’s Light of Reason. But an exception is typically made for coffee grounds. Tradition states that after the guest has consumed the coffee and the cup is turned upside down on the saucer and allowed to cool, the hostess then performs a fortune reading from the coffee grounds remaining in the cup. The spice Avaonalia is not just added for flavor. As it cools, it crystallizes around the small bits of coffee, forming small prisms. The cup is then held in the sunlight. The pattern of the prisms and the light they cast is often used to interpret the past and foretell the future.
    While there are many variations, the process is similar to what follows. When the coffee is finished, the saucer is placed on top of the cup. With the saucer covering the top, the cup is held at chest level and turned from east to west 1 full rotation, as if following the sun. It is then turned upside down on the saucer, and left to cool. Once it is cool, the diviner opens the cup and holds it in the sunshine.
    For divination purposes, the coffee cup is considered in two horizontal halves. The shapes in the lower half talk of the past, whereas shapes in the top half talk of the future. The shapes on the right side are usually interpreted positively, while shapes on the left are interpreted as signs of bad events, enemies, illnesses, troubles, and the like. Some interpretations are:
    Cup hard to separate from saucer- person will have luck, and fortune is not needed.
    Coffee drips from cup to saucer- person is soon to shed tears.
    A chunk of grounds falls from cup to saucer- troubles will leave soon.
    Most of the grounds are in one section of the saucer- most of the home will be at peace.
    The grounds are widely scattered on the saucer- small problems will be everywhere.
    If the prisms are scattered, many people will assist you in times of trouble.
    If a single large prism is seen, Avani will bless you with an unexpected gift.
    If no clear prisms can be seen, outside events will trouble your house.
    All of this is done for fun, and great care is taken not to offend or trouble the drinker too much.

    Tesepiha : Tesepiha are prayer beads used to indicate the times to pray and which prayers to say. In their simplest form, they are a collection of beads strung together. There are two kinds, a 33 bead Tesepiha and a 99 bead Tesepiha. They will always contain a disk showing the start, a special bead separating the 6th and 7th stone, and an elongated piece marking the 1/3 and 2/3 positions through the strings. The end of the Tesepiha will have a tassel.
    They are made from a wide variety of materials and by a wide variety of craftspeople. The quality of the materials and the skill of the maker both combine to determine its value. The smaller the individual bead, and the ornate design of each bead, is an excellent judge of the craftsmanship. The best tesepiha makers bring much Sayim for their skill at carving the beads. Drilling the holes through them is one of the most difficult parts, the finer the hole, the more skill being required. Horozun Salih was one of the most renowned.
    Each region, each city, tends to have their own preferences. Many prefer silk thread, others more sturdy linen thread. Some prefer precious metals- gold, silver, elephant or walrus ivory, whale or shark tooth, meerschaum, tortoiseshell, coral, or mother-of-pearl. Others prefer stones- rock crystals, pearls, olive, and date stones, gems of various kinds. Still others prefer wood- snakewood, ebony, agalloch wood, sandalwood, bloodwood, olive, rosewood, m'kunguni, tamarind, tulip wood, satinwood, sugar maple, or teak. The beads may be fitted with bands, engraved with inscriptions, and otherwise decorated, before being strung together. Tesepiha made of fragrant woods are kept in closed boxes to retain the fragrance.

  10. #10

    Piety, Part II

    Festival days : The Khinasi have many festivals, and it seems someone is having a party almost every day, for one reason or another. There are 7 main festival days called for by Avani.
    Shabla-i-Yalda : This winter feast celebrates the New Year. During this festival, astrologers present growing season calendars to their lord. Many apothecaries sell “year salves” a string of specially blended items in 12 small jars. Each month, bread is baked with these items and consumed to bring health to family. That morning, before the sun rises, people go down to sources of fresh water and wash their hands and faces. In warmer regions, girls tie their thumbs together with a cord and jump into the water. They cut the cord and throw it into the water. This is believed to bring them good luck for the following year. Those coming from the waterside will collect seven small stones from the lake or riverbed. Then, at home, the stones will be arranged in a seven-pointed star near family sepulcher.
    Charshan: The Spring Festival. Due to the decades of oppression by Auineire, the Khinasi calendar starts in winter like the rest of the Cerelia. In the minds of the Khinasi, the Spring Equinox truly starts the year. It is seen as the ascension of Avani. During the day, people fast. They will only drink plain water to sustain themselves. The day is spent in prayer, from sunrise to sunset. No work is done this day. After sunset, a fire ceremony is held. Some have men leaping over and through bonfires; others have both men and married women walking on hot coals. In all instances, passing through fire is seen as a symbol of leaving the bad of the previous year behind.
    Sizdah beda : Nature day. During this festival, trees are planted, gardens renewed, and farmers and ranchers show off their prize livestock. It is an opportunity to celebrate nature and its reflection of the Avaniahura. People from large cities take trips into the country. No food is cooked during this day, and the Khinasi eat only fruit, nuts, berries, and other foodstuffs taken directly from nature.
    Jashan Narou : The Summer festival honoring Avani and Leira on the longest day of the year. It is a day to celebrate all that logic and reason, passion and art, bring to society. The Geirhou have contests to judge the artistic merit of their individual’s best works. It is considered good fortune to buy items to decorate one’s house on this day, and markets overflow with goods. It is the one day each year that the amateur artist and hobbyist can present their works alongside the professionals without fear. The Geirhou host public speeches and forums discussing their crafts. It is the only day each year that there are no prayer services. People are expected to be outside to greet the rising of the sun, and stay outside well into the darkness. Tradition holds that a rainy Jashan Narou is a sign that nothing worthy has been produced that year. More urban Khinasi just accept inclement weather as natural, and work around it.
    Sadehi : the Festival of fire. This is the only festival that occurs entirely at night. It is also the most private of the festivals. Families gather around the sepulcher as night falls. A large fire is lit near the urn, and aromatic woods and brush is added to the fire as it burns. Members of the family take turns telling the family stories and history. The fire represents the light of Avani that once was part of each ancestor. In certain regions, the flow of the smoke or the crackling and popping of the fire is believed to be the voices of the ancestors commenting on the speaker. One common folk tale tells of a man who maligned the deeds of his grandfather, only to have a piece of hot ash pop out of the father and land on his hat, setting it on fire. Later in the evening, people will travel to other homes to honor the XXXX and Geirhou’s prominent deceased. It is common practice to bring cold foods and pastries as a gift.
    Mehergan : the autumn festival. Similar in many respects to the summer festival, this is a chance for farmers, herders, ranchers, and the amateur gardener or cook to show off the fruits of their labors. Markets overflow with the finest produce, and many contests are held to judge the biggest and the best. People will fast in the morning until after noon prayer. From noon prayer to evening prayer people devote themselves to feasting. The Geirhou involved in food preparation show off their latest dishes, offering samples to passers-by. Extreme food combinations and experimentation is extolled. Evening prayer brings an end to the festivities, and many a prayer asking for the wisdom to not overindulge anymore.
    Trigan : the water festival. Here people celebrate the healing and restorative powers of water. In many places, the late fall through spring is met with cooler temperatures and less rainfall. Many believe that the root of this festival comes from the ancients trying to insure the return of the rains in the spring. No fires are lit that day. People gather together to sing songs and play music. Music’s rhythm and flow, its combining individual streams of sound into a cohesive whole is seen as an analogy for water. The young swing from swings and fly kites with long streaming tales. As night falls, a large basin is filled with water, and the unmarried boys and girls in the family gather around it. Each one tosses a ring into the basin. The youngest child who can read then closes their eyes and reaches for a ring. After pulling it out, they read a quatrain from the Trigan Barayak, A long collection of verses. The message in the quatrain applies to the person whose ring was withdrawn. The mispronunciations and misinterpretations by the youngest child are considered part of the fun.

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