Proto-Western/Culture

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Written by Dewrad.

Distribution

Linguistic and archaeological evidence indicates that the original homeland of the Proto-Westerners was located along the narrow coastal strip between the Western Ocean and the Zmůwø Mountains. While today this area is noted mainly for its intricately terraced fields, during the period of Proto-Western unity, the multitude of narrow valleys in this area were generally lightly forested with deciduous and scrubby trees, with the tops of the hills being bare of trees.

Social Structure

It appears that the Proto-Westerners were divided into small tribes (*dłeʔka) of about 100-250 people, each divided into between two and five patrilineages (*dłũ tuca) which all claimed descent from a single common ancestor.

These tribes were sedentary, each living a small village located on the valley floor near a source of water. The village itself would have a central ritual longhouse (*tucadu), shared between all the tribe's patrilineages. Here the neccessary social rituals, such as marriages between patrilineages, coming of age ceremonies and the funerary feasts of important men would take place. Apotropaic rituals, appeasing the spirits of the forest, weather and fields would take place at the edge of the village, away from human habitation.

The village would also contain a number of longhouses (*dłũ tuca, the same word as the patrilineage itself), one for each patrilineage, which were built of wood and aligned north-south. These appear to have been divided into three sections. The central section would be the abode of the lineage's men, while the two end-sections would be the home of the women. The southern section would belong to the "women of the house" (*tucaʔašẽ), while the colder northern section would be the home of the lineage's slaves.

Villages would often be surrounded by stockades, and beyond this stockade the village would be surrounded by small gardens, where crops would be grown.

Patrilineages

Patrilineages were divided into four groups. The elders, the youths, the "women of the house" and the slaves.

The elders were men who had proven themselves in battle against other tribes, not by killing an enemy in battle but by bringing back captives. These were the only men who had their own wifes, who would come from the housewomen of other patrilineages within the tribe, these marriages cementing the communal bonds between lineages. The eldest elder was the head of the lineage, the *tʰunã. His eldest son, the *tʰunyaʔã was his second in command, but would not neccessarily be expected to take over from him after his death. Aside from engaging in warfare with other tribes, the main duties of the elders were hunting and rituals, which seem to have been inextricably linked. The consumption of meat was almost entirely from wild game captured by the elders (the most prestigious prey being the forest horse), and it is probably no coincidence that the reflexes of the verb *yeku "to eat meat" have taken on religious overtones in Proto-Western's daughter languages.

The youths were all other males born in the patrilineage, whether to housewomen or slaves. The main economic activity of youths was either sheep-herding or fishing. As such, youths spent a significant amount of time away from the villages: either on the hilltops with the lineage's flocks of sheep or on the coast, fishing from rafts.

The "women of the house" or housewomen, were the wives of the elders and their female offspring. They seem to have had very limited freedom of movement, not being allowed out of the stockade in order to reduce the risk of them being abducted by enemy raids. As such, they spent most of their time cooking, washing, preparing leather and wool, and weaving.

The lowest group in the patrilineage was the slaves. Slaves were all women, captured in raids from enemy tribes, and their female offspring (male children of slaves would simply become youths within the patrilineage). Slaves did not marry, instead they were expected to be sexually available to all males within the patrilineage. It is unclear whether an incest taboo extended to intercourse with a slave who had been born in the patrilineage or not, but it is clear that it was only by the capture of slaves that new genetic material would be introduced into the tribe. Slaves, who were less important than housewomen, were the ones who would do the agricultural and menial work of the patrilineage, cultivating the tribe's communal fields.

*kʷacu

The concept of *kʷacu "strength" was highly significant to the Proto-Westerners. *kʷacu was believed to be the substance which made men strong, virile and intelligent. They believed that women did not have the capacity to make use of *kʷacu in the same way as men: when a woman was given *kʷacu her body would concentrate it in her womb, where it would become a child. On the other hand, *kʷacu in a man would permeate every part of his body, to greater or lesser concentrations.

There was only a finite amount of *kʷacu, as a man could not produce it within himself. He had to acquire his *kʷacu from other males. As it was a precious commodity, he had an obligation to prevent his *kʷacu from being depleted or stolen by enemies, and to share it with other males of his patrilineage. *kʷacu was believed to be not only within the flesh of a man, but also within other parts of the body, such as bones, hair and nails, as well as within the secretions of the body, such as semen, blood, tears and saliva (excreta, such as faeces, urine and vomit seem to have been excluded).

As such, it was highly taboo for a man to spit or cry, and nocturnal emissions and masturbation were both seen as intensely shameful. When a man trimmed his nails, he was expected to eat the clippings, so as not to lose their *kʷacu. When a man bled profusely, the Proto-Westerners believed that it was not the loss of blood that made him weak, but the loss of *kʷacu.

Men would acquire their first *kʷacu as children, by a combination of ingesting the semen and drinking the blood of *kʷacu-carrying men in their patrilineage. This method of "*kʷacu-transfer" continued into adulthood, and seems to have been a powerful method of cementing social bonds. Another method of acquiring *kʷacu was by eating dead people. The Proto-Westerners believed that when a man died, all the *kʷacu would become concentrated in his liver and blood. As such, notably virile men would have their livers removed, cooked in a ritual stew (which appears to have mainly consisted of wild fava beans, blood and grapes) and eaten by their patrilineage after they died, or if they were killed in battle their liver would be eaten by their enemies.

As noted above, it was believed that the effect of *kʷacu on women was to make them pregnant. However, it was also believed that there had to be a large amount of *kʷacu given to a woman in order to make her pregnant, which in the case of slaves would be given to her by a number of different men. In order to make the process of becoming pregnant as swift and efficient as possible, as well as being gang-raped by most males in the patrilineage, an expectant woman could also be spat upon and forced to drink blood. In addition, it was believed that excess *kʷacu left over after the birth of a baby would be expelled from the woman's body in the form of breast milk. This milk would be reserved for the men of the lineage, being both the baby's first taste of *kʷacu and another source for the other males in the lineage. Girl-children, as a result, were generally not breast-fed, rather they were given sheep's milk.

Cosmology and religion

Much of Proto-Western ideology and beliefs can be explained or at least put in context by the following outlines of a creation myth, as reconstructed by the noted scholar Ak!eem:

The first priest made the world, but it was dead and lifeless. To give the world life, the first priest gave each and every thing in the world a spirit. And this worked well, for the world had life. And when the things grew old and died, their spirits died with them.
The first priest most favoured things within his creation were men. And to men, he gave a special gift: *kʷacu, so that their spirits would not die when their bodies did. The first priest made it so that every man was filled with *kʷacu from the moment of his birth. But the first men misused their *kʷacu, sharing it with animals, rocks and trees. And it is from this that the evil immortal demons come.
So the first priest changed men, so that they were no longer filled with *kʷacu from birth, but instead had to share it, conserve it and treat it with respect.

So to the Proto-Westerner, the world was filled with spirits (*łãγa) and demons (*γemałãγa), as well as the immortal spirits of the ancestors (*łãγadu). The former two were due propiation, while the former were worthy of veneration. The intermediary between the spirits and men were the priests (*łãγlawa), who had two functions: being the proxy of the ancestors for participation in the community and performing apotropaic rituals to assuage the wrath of the demons and the spirits (including the spirits of women, who of course have *kʷacu-less spirits like other animals).

Ancestors were believed to participate fully within the life of the community. They were also in need of *kʷacu, to ensure their immortality, and would be fed primarily by blood, either that of captives or their own descendants. Of course, this idea of one-way transfer of *kʷacu was somewhat alien to the Proto-Westerners, so the ancestors shared their *kʷacu by means of the priests (*łãγlawa), who would go into a trance and be "possessed" by the spirit of an ancestor, who would then share his *kʷacu in the normal way.