Culture of Kasca

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The culture of Classical-period Kascans is somewhat dysfunctional. Their traditions of close families and colorful celebrations, and their reputations for quick wit and resilient survival are balanced by their outlook of cynicism, apathetic inertia, and slowness to accept change, with the result that most Kascans live in poverty.

Nevertheless, Kasca is home to a fairly diverse range of cultural practices, because it is a land in transition. Politically, independent city-states struggle to remain viable next door to the imperial backwater that Kasca's own heartland has become. Economically, buy-and-sell market practices rub shoulders with the traditional tithe-based command economy. Ethnically, native Ëda intermix with Fáralo traders and Miw immigrants. In religion, Etúgə gains ground even while traditional polytheism prospers.

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Personal Names

This section is specific to the Delta dialect of Naidda, although the Southern dialect is similar.


Personal names are granted by mothers on the child's Naming Day (native: seza pabosa), which is generally the day of the full moon nearest to the first anniversary of the child's birth, if the child is healthy. Sickly children may not be given their names until they become stronger, but rarely later than the third year of life. Thereafter, a Kascan's age is counted from their seza pabosa, not their date of birth. A child who has not yet been named is always called a nåvåm, "little one" - this is treated as a common noun, not a proper name.

Names are virtually always single, unanalyzable words: a name has no other meaning than to name a person. Etymologically, they are mostly derived from sources like placenames; names of long-dead lords and rulers; virtues, or animals or geographic features thought to embody them; and names borrowed from other languages, principally Fáralo. That much is true for both sexes, but there remains a great difference between how men and women are named, and between how they are addressed on a daily basis.


Names for Women

Female names are very nearly a closed word class. While it's hard to get an exact count of female names due to regional differences, the figure is somewhere between forty and fifty, discounting alternate forms - so rather than discuss what they're like, we can simply list them. Following are the names one can find across the entire delta:

full name diminutive
Amudan Amul
Åji Åjil
Byasti, Basti Basïl
Cadin Cadïl
Di'n, Din Di'ïl, Dinïl
Duvren Duvel
Gasha, Gashla Gashal
Gwelin Gwel
Gizësa Gizël
Ilyam Ilyal
Isamïng Isamïl, Samïl
Ïbi Ïbïl
Koili Koïl
Larasi Laral
Loiddi Loïl
Levëir Levël
Mëswalan Mësal
Midin Midïl
Moddong Modol
Måyuro Måyul
Ñazin Ñazal
Pegoña Pegoil
Reyën, Reñën Reyël
Råjëgun Råjël
Såri Sårïl
Sëiwi, Sëoi Sëil
Sharëlïn Sharïl
Shën, Shiyën Shël
Sïdwa Sal
Tushtin Tushïl
Taizin Taizïl
Una Unal
Uslin, Wusëlin Usïl
Virigë, Vizgë Virïl, Vizël
Yåva Yåval

Notable in the formation of female name diminutives is that i changes to ï before the diminutive -l, which usually means a reduction to schwa - a behavior not otherwise found in Naidda diminutives.

A woman is normally addressed by her diminutive name; the full name is more formal. Generally the full name is used for any of the following:

  • introductions, or otherwise naming a woman unknown to the listener
  • in ceremonies
  • marking a serious tone of conversation
  • addressing a woman older than you if you do not know her well (regardless of your sex)
  • referring to any woman who is not present, unless she is close family


Names for Men

By contrast, men are normally addressed by their full names. Even good friends will normally use each other's full names, unless they have known each other from childhood. Male diminutive names are restricted mainly to the following uses:

  • addressing and referring to children
  • addressing one's significant other, if you are female
  • addressing a male younger than you, if you are also male and know him well
  • close family members (regardless of age or presence of the person named)

The class of male names is more open than female ones, with a wide variety in common use - in principle, mothers are free to make up their own names from scratch, and sometimes do. However, it is very common for boys to be named after recently deceased male relatives, or after their fathers. In some families firstborn sons are given the same name in every generation in the male line. A system has arisen to distinguish between such people, although it is not entirely comparable to the English system for "junior, III, IV" and so forth, in which the oldest living bearer of the name is the unmarked case. Instead, the unmarked case in Naidda is the man in his prime years, and both older and younger bearers of the name in the family will take informal appellations to distinguish them. For example, with the name Gado, it works like this:

Man: Gado
His father: Gado ånzo (literally, "old Gado")
His grandfather: Gado malë ("old man Gado")
His son: Gado lize ("young Gado")


male name diminutives

Most male names have two different diminutives - the reduced diminutive, used only for children, and the full diminutive, for adults. The reduced diminutive adds the suffix -l to a clipped form of the name. Generally this is the first syllable or (V)(C)CVC of the name, followed by either the next vowel or the last vowel in the name, followed by the suffix. Full diminutives instead simply add the suffix, which replaces any final consonant.

Examples:

full name full diminutive reduced diminutive
Kïrone Kïronel Kïrol
Mazudonën Mazudonël Mazël
Dwavlam Dwavlal Dwaval


name roots

A majority of male Kascans actually have a two-part name, consisting of a monosyllabic "root" plus some additional material appended to it. This derives from a full two-name system that was in use many centuries ago, but the second name has eroded to the point where it is now more like a "suffix" on the name's root. Each root name can appear with many different suffixes, which each tend to be used only with a particular root. For example, a very commonly used root is Mur-. From this, dozens of names can be built. Some common ones are Murzar, Murëbë, Muraskam, Murisi, Muruno, Murshåi, Murovan, Muryuri, and Murëdïn. While many such names are used time and again, new suffix portions are often invented at the whim of the mother. The list of name roots, meanwhile, is rarely added to.

Reduced diminutives are formed directly from the root name whenever possible, while full diminutives are always formed from the full name.

Some common name roots: Kïr-, Mur-, Dwav-, Cen-, Nëm-, Dod-, Slan-, Rig-, Beå-, Tais-, Sur-, Ji-, Gëil-, Gav-

The Miw

The Miw are a group of related peoples who live primarily in the forests south and east of Kasca. They are pre-agricultural, in the sense of large-scale grain growing. They do practice garden-scale agriculture, but still practice hunting and gathering. They are pre-literate and organized tribally. They had long had only minor trade contact with the Kascans, but this began to change about a hundred and fifty years ago.

Around that time, a drought in the forest led some Miw to seek better prospects elsewhere. They were aware of the existence of more prosperous lands elsewhere, but where the emigrants ended up was Kasca. But conditions there were still better, and word spread back to the forest of a richer lifestyle and abundant food, so immigration was substantial for a time. The newly arrived Miw assimilated reasonably well into poorer segments of Kascan society, and a moderate number of immigrants continue to arrive through the present day.

Kascans tend to see the Miw as stupid and backwards, and it's true that a number of them have gravitated to the wilder parts of the delta and retained their tribal ways of life there. Nevertheless, the Miw arrived without many of the foot-bullets of the Kascan mindset, having the adaptability of immigrants rather than the cynical apathy of a stagnant society, and as a result many of the most enterprising and innovative people in the land are now of Miwan descent. This is particularly true in the south; as many as half of the merchants and shopkeepers of Påwe are part Miw. The upwardly mobile Miw have been much quicker to embrace Fáralo capitalism and Etúge, forming a small but distinct middle class in Påwe. Their poorer counterparts are in the majority, however, and work in the fields or on the fishing boats just like other poor Kascans.

There can be no doubt that Miwan contributions have been a significant factor in the continuing modest success of southern Kasca. The introduction of numerous ideas (like voting) and even crops (like oranges) can be credited to them. But anyone detectably Miw remains a second-class citizen with relatively low social standing, and there is some resentment towards them by many poor Kascans who often do not quite understand why some of those "stupid backwards Miw" are actually richer than them.


Death

In Kasca, there are a number of religious traditions, which co-exist and sometimes get mixed together. So there are a wide range of approaches to the topic of death. One of the most common beliefs though, is that when a person dies, their nalïn (soul, spirit, lifeforce) goes to rest in a thing or object, thereafter called a sonïdda, which then contains their nalïn. Usually the sonïdda will be something that was important to the person - a blacksmith's soul may come to rest in his favorite anvil, for example - but it can be anything. Frequently it's a tree or a building.

Identification of a sonïdda after someone dies can be difficult, or it can be easy. Quite often, one or more of their family members will simply know where their soul came to rest. At other times, a search is required. Typically the personal possessions of the person are searched through, and items and indeed whole buildings they used to use or go to regularly - and trees nearby are examined. Such a search may need to be repeated in other locales where the person had previously lived. If no sonïdda can still be found, a priest will probably be called in to ask the gods where to look. In all cases it is up to the family to find it, however; the priest can only offer helpful advice for where to look and how to recognize when you've found it.

In a few cases the sonïdda is found dozens of miles away and only after a great deal of time and effort has been expended. Young men or even elderly ladies have been known to spend months on a quest for this purpose. And the fact that they may well return from it with a new wife or valuable trading ties is completely irrelevent, so hush.

Once the sonïdda is identified or located, the family will bring it home if it is portable and wasn't already there. Otherwise, they will thereafter visit it often, especially at first and if it's closeby, or as often as they reasonably can if it's far away. Most Ëda believe that by praying to sonïdda, they can communicate to the dead person, or at least their nalïn - asking them to intercede in the spirit world on their behalf, for example. Or they may simply seek closeness with their departed loved one. Either way, this contact with the dead is a great comfort and brings about what we might call "closure" - a measure of peace and resolution to the grief of loss. A family who cannot find where someone's soul rests might live in grief and despair for a very long time.


Culture Test

The Kascans are culturally very diverse for being a single people. I could have written this culture test to focus on things that are common to all of them, like the above discussions, but here my preference was to go into more depth for a subset of the people.

Therefore I have written it primarily from the viewpoint of the rural folk of the delta. I chose them for being the single largest demographic in the land and also for being the most relevent to future developments by Zompist. A number of the following points would be rather different if they focused on southerners, or the larger towns and cities. Momuva'e and Påwe in particular have cultural overtones all their own (and differ sharply in the socioeconomic sphere).

Another important thing to keep in mind is that the set of ways of life we collectively call "civilization" can be lost as well as gained. In the south they're doing a bit better, but in many parts of the rural delta, Kascans are perilously close to the edge. They continue to hold on, by and large, by clinging to traditional ways, but some have already fallen off the edge.


If you're Kascan...

  • The land you live on is "owned" by a Fáralo nobleman somewhere, but he's never been there and you don't know who he is. You've heard about foreigners being picky about which bits of land belong to whom, but what use is that? It all washes away sooner or later. You and your neighbors negotiate the use of land, year to year and even week to week, as needs arise.
  • But the insides of houses are sacrosanct property. You never enter anyone's home without invitation - it'd be like seeing them naked. Respect for privacy is similarly important.
  • You've likely never been more than 20 miles from home, unless traveling is important for what you do (like traders and priests). Most travel is by water, and just about everyone owns or has access to a rowboat. Overland roads are uncommon and typically connect only major towns.
  • The only form of government familiar to you is the village/town council, which usually operates by consensus rather than voting. You know that if you had a problem with your neighbors, or others you do business with, you could take it up with the council.
  • In principle you live in the empire of Huyfárah, but it's been over a century since it last tried exerting actual authority here. You aren't used to taking orders and don't think it's a good way to run things, so eventually the Fáralo stopped trying it in Kasca.
  • Bribing councilmen is normal, but you still expect the merits of the case to be considered too.
  • You expect many problems not to be solveable. Often all you can do is crack jokes and cope with unpleasant outcomes.
  • You don't think messing around with traditional ways is a very good idea, and probably oppose change. Our way of life is what separates us from the ferals, after all, and we wouldn't want to be like them.
  • You work hard to do the things that need doing, but probably no more. When someone is ambitious, you are suspicious of their motives.


Are you religious? Yes... I guess.

  • You are probably a follower of the traditional faith, unless you're an Etúgeist or an Anaitist or a Sun-cultist or just don't care, but it usually doesn't take up a lot of your time. You say the proper blessings over meals and you are reverent of ceremonies and holy things, but unless there's been a recent birth or death, there's not much more to it.
  • Even so: of course the gods exist. How would the sun keep rising if they didn't?
  • Unless you live in a large town or city there are no churches or services. You've met priests many times, but they're always full of elaborate ideas about which gods require which forms of respect. You still go to them when you really need to, though.
  • It's up to everyone to decide what they believe. Some people don't seem to believe much anything; this may bother you if you're devout.
  • If you've met any Anaitists you don't mind them, they don't cause trouble. You've definitely met Etúgeists and the same goes for them, although they're a lot louder about it. Unless you live in Momuva'e you've only heard about the Tolyists... but what you've heard is disturbing.

Letters and Numbers

  • All the towns have schools, and some of the larger villages may as well. But most education is practical in nature, like how to do things, and occurs at home; children learn from their family and anyone else who's around. Schools are for the few who show aptitude and interest, and typically lasts from age 9 or 10 to around 13 or so - for those who stay the whole time.
  • After 13 or 14 you are expected to work as hard as anyone else, there's too little time for school. But if you show exceptional promise, you might instead go to a religious school afterward to enter the priesthood.
  • You can tell where someone is from by hearing how they speak. Often you can pinpoint a specific town or island, and other times all you can say is that they're from far away. You've met people you can hardly understand at all, but not often.
  • Educated people, like priests, can usually speak Fáralo. Everyone else gets by fine with only Naidda, but occasionally a Fáralo trader will come through. Usually there's someone around who can translate, if only very basic sentences.
  • The Fáralo who travel through expect you to know their language, they never bother learning yours - and that's ridiculous. You've probably met Fáralo who've settled nearby, too, but most of them can speak Naidda.
  • If you went to school you may have learned reading, writing, and figuring, though you might not remember them very well anymore. Otherwise, it's mainly something priests and traders do, or doctors or councilmen.
  • You know the names of several nearby lands and countries, but maybe not much more about them. You know a little about Buruya and maybe Lasomo or far-off Rathedan, and you've certainly heard of the Miw, but any foreigner who isn't from some other land is Miw to you. You know a lot more about Huyfárah, and you've definitely met Fáralo.
  • You know what money is, but rarely use it. Copper coins from Huyfárah are sometimes accepted as a payment, but most transactions take the form of barter.
  • Teachers and the literate are respected, even when they don't know much more than you do.



We eat everything

  • To drink water straight from the well is really stupid... but you've had to do it before. The well-off mix wine with their water; you usually drink tea or beer.
  • It's not even a good idea to bathe or swim in it - when somebody does something stupid you call it "swimming". Instead you wash with a pail of boiled water and a rag, every few days or as needed. But you wouldn't dream of going to bed without washing your feet first.
  • There are few domesticated food animals - mainly just ducks and chickens. Sheep are kept in most places, mainly for their wool; they are too valuable to eat regularly, but mutton will likely be served at important feasts. Instead you eat whatever you can catch or fish for yourself: fish, squirrels, opossums, eels, snakes, crabs, or even frogs or crayfish. There's a saying, "If it's on a Kascan's dinner table, it crossed his path an hour before."
  • The bulk of your diet, however, consists of vegetables and grain-based foods. You eat bread every day, but only foreigners drink cow milk. When you have milk or cheese, it came from a sheep. If you live in a coastal town, you eat fish on a daily basis.
  • There are few animals you don't consider to be food. Except insects, blech!
  • You always eat at home together with the rest of the household, unless there's a feast. On feastdays, the entire village will eat together.
  • There are two meals on most days, a light midmorning meal and a larger evening meal. You eat them sitting on the floor around a low table.
  • Dirt floors just aren't practical because of the frequency with which they become mud floors instead, so you probably have at least a rough wooden floor even if you're very poor. It's worth the effort. Many floors are knee-height or higher above the ground, to allow for mild flooding.
  • Everyone grows barley and oats in the cool season. In the summer you grow all manner of vegetables on the same ground, especially beans, cabbage, and onions. The biggest non-food crop is flax.
  • If you're especially poor, you may wear wool; otherwise you use this only for blankets and other course fabrics, and wear linen clothing - though you'll still use a woolen coat in cold weather if you're well off. If you can afford linen clothing you can probably afford linen bedsheets too. Animal skins are used only by the Miw.
  • A toilet consists of a hole in the ground, often covered by a wooden platform with a hole - which makes it safer to squat. Holes tend naturally to fill with water, so toilets also function as cesspools and can last for years before you need to dig a new one. So that works out okay... except for when there's a flood. You don't even want to think about that.


The priests call it moral decay

  • Maintaining the household is hard work. Meals require labor: chopping firewood, killing animals, cooking. Cooking, cleaning, and necessary household crafts and chores take hours out of the day. But you'd better not be lazy - you don't want to end up like the ferals, do you?
  • There's always someone around who brews beer. You drink it all the time, but some people drink nothing else, and dealing with them can be frustrating. Grapes grow everywhere - they're almost weeds - but you usually just eat them. It's hard to get wine to turn out right, so you reserve it for special occasions.
  • You know of several wild plants that produce interesting effects when consumed in various ways, but you probably don't do it much. Some folks are very attached to a particular one, and that's their business, but to you it seems like they're wasting a lot of time.
  • There's even that tale about the guy who found a bush that made him really happy and he just sat there next to it eating its leaves until he died of starvation... but his name is different every time you hear it. From the things you've seen, you suspect it might have happened more than once.
  • Others have just completely lost touch with civilized life. They live out in the wilder parts of the swamp and you've probably even seen them, dressed in filthy rags or nothing at all. Only the gods know how they survive, but keep your distance - they're dangerous. Sometimes they sneak up to houses in the night and steal anything they can. Protecting yourselves from ferals is a major hassle.


It's crowded in here

  • Households tend to be large. Often an entire extended family will live together in one building - which is named.
  • You have only one name. There are no family names per se, but you may mention the name of the house someone lives in if there is any question who you're talking about. Nobles always have multiple names, sometimes a dozen or more, but they're strange like that.
  • Sickness is part of life. It catches up with everyone sooner or later, so if you live into your 50s you'll count yourself fortunate. Far too many people you've known have died much younger than that... but a few make it a lot longer, too.
  • When you get sick, you take care of yourself at home and listen to the advice of the local wise woman. You know of a doctor in the next town over who can help with some things, like poultices and setting broken bones, but you wouldn't expect him to be able to do much about most illnesses.
  • A lot of the land is too swampy to live on. You think it's natural, on the usefully dry land, for a hundred or so people to live within a mile's radius - even if it's quite isolated. Or more if there's a village, and villages of one or two hundred people are everywhere.
  • Speaking is done close and softly. If you're talking to someone, you get uncomfortable if they stand more than about arm's length away. Raising your voice so as to be heard from further away is considered crude, unless of course it's to warn somebody of a danger.
  • You haggle for all manner of things, even with your own family. When you do it, you often do not say exactly what you mean, and you expect the same from everyone else. Negotiation is an artform of posturing.
  • If you wish to speak to a priest or doctor or anyone else, you might make an appointment, but it's rarely more specific than "come over tomorrow in the early afternoon". You do not expect anybody to notice or care if you are late.

That's just the way things are

  • You've probably never seen a nobleman - they live off in the cities and spend their time going to balls and dressing funny. You don't think about them often, except when it comes time to tithe a portion of your grain. If you live a long way from any large towns you might escape even this.
  • If a woman is plumper than average, it means she's healthy, and probably a good mother.
  • Unless your religion requires you to marry if you want to start a family, you probably won't. Just about everyone forms stable relationships, but you do not necessarily expect these to be formalized or last forever. Some do marry though, and if you do, divorce is inconceivable - period. Marriage is a binding contract and is taken extremely seriously.
  • Monogamy for unmarried couples is always expected, but if someone breaks it... well, that's between him and his woman. But you'll gossip about it anyway.
  • The natural order of things is that men have all the power to make decisions and act on them, and women have all the power to make men's lives miserable if something upsets them.
  • When women try to speak out in public, you wonder where their men are. Both, however, work in the fields side by side, unless he is well off.
  • What family someone comes from is one of the most important things you can know about them.
  • Nothing men do with other men is considered sex, nor will it count as infidelity, but such things are still disgusting and cause for public humiliation and you try to avoid speaking directly about the subject. What women do with each other in private is their own business, but that's disgusting too.


Rhythms of life

  • The summer heat is sultry rather than scorching, but it stays like that for months. You don't get much relief at night, either.
  • You haven't seen snow more than once or twice in your life, and both times it was gone by morning. There are frosts several times a year.
  • You're all too familiar with insect bites; the stenches of sour mud, pit toilets, and retting flax; and having muddy feet for the entire springtime. On the brighter side, you've rarely gone hungry for long - no matter how poor.
  • You think it's natural for the annual grain harvest to be in spring. You always know the current phase of the moon. You can predict how many days it will be before the lilacs bloom or the plums ripen and not be too far off.
  • Winter is the best time of the year. It's pleasantly cool out, and there's more free time because the grain can mostly take care of itself for a little while. Instead you work on maintenance and repair of buildings and tools, weaving, doing business in town, and diverse other needful tasks - and you find this variety a refreshing break.
  • Music isn't something you listen to, it's something you do - or at least dance to. The odds are good that you can play a flute or drum well enough to join in with the group.
  • Music is mainly an evening passtime and you play in groups of whoever's around. It tends to be improvised, rhythm-focused, and repetetive, with a theme naturally developing among players and then getting complexified and elaborated on as it repeats.
  • Singing is considered separate from music, and is usually unaccompanied by more than perhaps a single drum. Anyone can make music, but it takes talent to sing. It is not, however, considered separate from poetry - this is normally sung, not recited, though rhythmic chanting is a frequent alternative for those who can compose poetry but not sing it well. Many traditional poems work best with multiple singers.
  • You wonder how the good poets find lines that work so well. You may come up with a short bawdy rhyme from time to time, but that's about the limit of your talents.
  • You like colors. Your clothing is brightly colored and there is always someone in the area who knows how to find and use dyes - it's an artform, which extends even to creatively disguising stains. Your roof is probably painted red or yellow or purple, too.

See also