The word Ìletlégbàku refers to a continuum of related dialects spoken by fairly different Coastal Western peoples with no common identity; this document focuses on the culture of the cities of Naəgbum in -900 YP and Pigbaye in -300 YP.
The culture of these people was similar to the culture of the nearby city of Ishe, but there were certain differences.
The city of Naəgbum was the easternmost of the major Lukpanic cities, and had already been in contact with Western peoples for a long while. The culture there was already slightly Westernised even before the Nugbunu Tlégè conquered it. Horses for transportation were a common sight in the city, and pigs were a favoured food (though quite expensive). Most tellingly, Naəgbum was not ruled by a council of priests and elders like many of the other cities, but by an autocratic king who called himself the mutĩea -- 'all the elders' in one person.
In -985 YP, the city was invaded by Coastal Westerners. It seems that several tribes joined together in a small confederacy to help each other defeat it; and the superior weapons of the Westerners made it not too difficult a task.
Unfortunately for the Westerners, the confederacy was loosely bound, and disputes immediately emerged over who was to rule the city. Half a century of vicious infighting among the Westerners ensued, while the still largely Lukpanic population continued living their usual lives. Occasionally Lukpanic rule was restored again, but it was always temporary. Due to various tribes being expelled, the number of Westerners in Naəgbum actually decreased overall. Finally, by -930 YP, one tribe had emerged largely victorious. Their chieftain was the new mutìnge, as they called the title in Ìletlégbàku. This tribe became known as Nugbunu Tlégè (Naəgbum's tribe), and it became one of the largest tribes around.
Westernisation proceeded gradually; Naəgbum was still mostly Lukpanic-speaking in -800 YP, though the culture had changed considerably. By -500 YP, it was mostly Coastal Western-speaking. The long years of fighting in Naəgbum made the rulers of the city not particularly enthusiastic to conquer more land, and they contented themselves with their city-state--although many nearby tribes ended up subservient to the Nugbunu Tlégè for various reasons, usually because they had tried to invade the city and failed.
By -300 YP, Naəgbum had lost its position as the central city of the Ìletlégbàku speakers; that honour went to Pigbaye. Pigbaye had grown out of an ancient trading post linking the Lukpanic world with the Wañelin lake. The Lukpanics had never made much use of it, preferring to trade by sea, but the Westerners were much more eager to trade over land. By -400 it had grown into a prosperous city. As a trading post, it showed noticeable differences from Naəgbum, being ruled by a merchant elite rather than a monarch.
Structure of society
From the start, Naəgbum had been somewhat stratified between the king and the nobles plus the common people. The class of nobles originally consisted of the king's family and friends; it was a formal designation that could be appointed to you for service to the king. A system of taxes was in place, by which the common people gave taxes to the nobles; this made the average noble much more wealthy than the common people. This was a somewhat risky system for the common people as the nobles had no obligation to spend that money on governing the country rather than their own luxury. Nonetheless, the aristocracy did not descend into greed before the Westerners invaded.
Among the common people, various jobs held special positions, namely the priests and the merchants. The priests were religious masters, and often reported to nobles; they were respected as wise elders, and usually obeyed. The merchants were traders, and often became incredibly wealthy--it wasn't unusual for them to be richer than the nobles. They did not have a good reputation with the rest of society due to a stereotype of them as greedy, but they were necessary for the running of the city.
The invasion of the Westerners caused a reorganisation of the social classes. All the old Lukpanic nobles were demoted to the common people or killed, while the new invaders became nobles. For a while, Lukpanics were synonymous with commoners, while Westerners were synonymous with nobles; but this sharp division was soon blurred, with many Westerners becoming commoners due to marriage with a Lukpanic. Westerners who came to Naəgbum later also could not join the noble class. Nonetheless, it remained true that the Lukpanics were nearly always commoners.
In the chaos of the in-fighting years nobles were rapidly appointed and de-appointed, to a point that the title began to lose power and meaning. By the time of the Nugbunu Tlégè rule, the noble class was formally abolished. All people in Naəgbum became common people under one mutìnge.
With them gone though, a new ruling class soon developed--this time from the priests, a conglomerate group of Lukpanic and Western ethnicities. The kingship and the nobility became inextricably bound up with religion. Priests were not given money from the taxes--instead that went formally to the king. However the king would usually spend the money by ordering a priest to service the city with it, and would reward priests with money for their services. So a sort of government became established. The nobles had often been hated, but the priests were venerated. This is probably why the city of Naəgbum managed to attain stability.
With both classes readily accepting either ethnicity, the distinction between Westerners and Lukpanics was soon lost. The Lukpanics took the Western language, but genetically, the people were predominantly Lukpanic.
Pigbaye adopted the inspiration for its governmental system from Naəgbum, but instead of the king an oligarchy of merchants controlled the country. There was a mutìnge in Pigbaye (though he took the Isho'u 'Ohu title of ùmu), but he was mostly a figurehead for worship with little real power.
The Proto-Coastal Western religion had been a sort of animism, with most gods being linked with some kind of object, and some being good and some being bad. The Lukpanics practised a more solid polytheism, and only for them can gods be identified, since the Western gods tended to go out of fashion after each century. The resulting religion of the Coastal Western people blended the two systems.
Most Lukpanics worshipped the sea goddess Poalu, although she was not always seen as the most powerful. In Naəgbum, chief gods included Teletel ('mountains') the god of land and Ruŋme ('leader'), a general father god. The mutĩea also was officially a god, but he was not a very popular one. When the Westerners invaded, they banned the worship of Ruŋme due to one of his priests overthrowing the Western government for a short while. xunmu came to mean 'enemy' in Ìletlégbàku.
A sort of dualistic system began to develop, with Teletel and Poalu being the most powerful gods. All things were divided up into things from the sea, domain of Poalu, and the land, the domain of Teletel. Teletel eventually became the most worshipped of these due to him being associated with Westerns while Poalu was associated with Lukpanics. The Westerners continued to worship their animistic gods, but these were much more short-lived than the cults of Teletel and Poalu.
The Lukpanics had generally worshipped their gods by sacrificing time and effort, e.g. in building temples or visiting shrines. The Westerners felt that blood sacrifice was necessary. Under their rule, there came to be two great sacrifices each year -- the Tagbàgbù Chese 'first dance', at the summer solstice, and the Sìdù Chese 'second dance' at the winter solstice. Unlike in Ishe, equinoxes were generally ignored in Naəgbum. These were the primary festivals of the year, and a time for enjoyment, even though they were festivals of death. The mutìnge would often (though not always in times of hardship) not collect taxes on any wages earnt at the solstices.
Sacrifice was heavily ritualised. There were three sacrifices each solstice--one for the sea, for Poalu, one for the land, for Teletel, and one for the city, for the mutìnge. Poalu's victims would be weighted down with stone and drowned in the sea, while Teletel's victims would be taken several miles from the city, buried in the ground, and left to starve or suffocate to death. The mutìnge's victim had the most ritual associated with them. They were taken to the very middle of the city and put on an altar. A priest would then cut their chest open and remove their heart and liver, while citizens danced around them (This is why chese refers to sacrifices). The mutìnge would watch, and would thank the victim before he was sacrificed. Traditionally the king would then eat their heart and liver, but this practice was much too grotesque for the Lukpanics to stomach, and it became unpopular in Naəgbum.
The Westerners believed that humans had souls that were separate from their bodily flesh, and that while the gods got the flesh the soul went to the afterlife. When sacrificed to Teletel or Poalu, your soul was safe, as it would remain inside your body and the gods would allow it to go into the afterlife afterwards. However a victim of the king had to be cut open, and that meant evil spirits might steal the soul. This is why the citizens danced around them, to ward off any spirits and guide the soul into the afterlife.
Being sacrificed was not necessarily dreaded. Indeed, to be sacrificed to the mutìnge was a great thing in the minds of many people. After all, it was a quick death, and you were guaranteed a good afterlife due to having the king's thanks. Being sacrificed to the land or sea was more painful and scary, but still a great honour. The victims of a sacrifice could and often did volunteer for it; it was a charitable way to go if you were old or sick. If there was a shortage of volunteers one of the priests would have to be sacrificed. So unless you were a priest, you would never be forced to be sacrificed (although you might be pressured into it). If a wife sacrificed herself, her husband would also customarily be made into a noble, while if a husband sacrificed himself, his wife would be allowed to remarry to a noble.
Pigbaye's religion became quite different from Naəgbum's due to influence from Ishe. They adopted the god Talelìna from Ishe, a god of chaos and madness; her cult was very popular, and carried its own special sacrifice method (burning people alive). Unlike in Naəgbum the Coastal Western gods became equals among the old Lukpanic gods, particularly Méwi the bear god.
The Lukpanics had been enthusiastic navigators; sailors from Ishe reached as far as the Kipceʔ desert and knew of the Wellawi. Naəgbum's navigation was not quite as impressive; Kipceʔ had been reached but only after the Ishe had already made an outpost there. There was regular contact with the Western peoples on the Coastal corridor. The Westerners, however, were not so sea-oriented and lost contact with the overseas peoples. Their view increasingly turned to the land, and to the Wañelinlawag Empire on the Wañelin lake.
Pigbaye occupied a strategic position between the empire and the Lukpanic states. Any goods going from the Lukpanic cities to the Wañelinlawag or vice versa had to travel through Pigbaye. This is the main reason why it became more powerful than Naəgbum. Though Naəgbum was closest to Pigbaye and its most frequent contact, Pigbaye saw traders coming from as far away as Doanu and the Western steppe.