Hirana Gāradaza (Mazatecatl)
The Hirana Gāradaza are a human
ethnic group from the far northeast, mainly inhabiting the area known as “Yancuitlan”. They have inhabited this area for presumably thousands of years, though they had no calendar to date it. For most of their history, they were a foraging people, gathering the abundant fruits of the forest and living in small familial villages. However, at some point around 500 years ago, they turned to deer herding. What caused this shift is not definitively known, although it is probable that encroaching competition from other groups (namely, kenku
and orcs) may have been a factor. Regardless, they became semi-nomadic pastoralists, but still retained many of the values they held as a foraging people. Before M.E. 1653, they were completely isolated from other human ethnic groups, so are very unique in terms of cultural practices and appearance.
In Tititl of M.E. 1653, Chalchiutl Atlcahualo, lauded Cuicatecatl explorer, established the first foreign human contact with the Hirana Gāradaza. Previously, both groups had recieved some artifacts from the other through cross-craton trade with kenku and, rarely, elves. This evidence of unknown human groups is what spurred the Ikniutsin expeditions. Initially, the Hirana Gāradaza were unnerved; however, they soon warmed up to the explorers and welcomed them into their villages. In these first meetings, which took place over a period of about a month and a half, both parties traded food, tools, and objects, communicating through basic pantomime and early precursors to International Mercantile Pidgin Sign
. By the end of the period, Doctor Atlcahualo had deciphered the basics of the Bhāśā language and assembled a vital first ethnography on the culture that she returned with to her home country, dubbing them the “Mazatecatl”, or “People of the Deer Place”.
Major language groups and dialects
Accent in other languages: ranges from Galen’s hideous Banastre Tarleton impression to vaguely Arabic
Shared customary codes and values
If religious, the vast majority belong to the Cult of the Dam, Cult of the Sire, or Cult of the Fawn, if mother, father, or unwed, respectively.
Common Dress code
Men, women, and children clothe themselves in a single, long stretch of cloth (saree). Depending on age, gender and time of year it is worn differently, but generally it covers the shoulders, torso and legs. They are often woven with complex and beautiful geometric patterns in softer, muted colors - generally periwinkle, sage green, grey, or brown with cream designs. These patterns double as camouflage and dazzle in the forest. Cloth is generally woven from plant fibers. Individuals may go barefoot, but more commonly wear leather boots to protect their feet from the dangers of the forest.
Ceremonial dress is used in sacred rituals, festivals such as the Running of the Deer, and when an individual wants to be taken very seriously. Ceremonial dress is often more brilliantly colored than everyday dress.
The base of a mother’s ceremonial dress is a soft deer-leather torso wrap and leg wraps, girded so as to become like baggy shorts. Over this is worn a woven belt, with several dried deer-hoof rattles hanging from it (as many rattles as she has children). On her head, she wears a beautifully woven turban completely hiding her hair. This turban and belt is made by her husband(s), showing their love and devotion to her. Depending on the situation, she may wear a wooden breastplate beneath the torso wrap, rigid wooden sandals, and tassels on her ankles, wrists and belt (at base of spine, like a tail).
The base of men’s ceremonial wear is formed by a particularly flowing, intricate saree showing off his weaving skills. This saree is large enough that he may wrap extra fabric around his shoulders like a cape in addition to covering his body. Around his waist, he wears a stamped and engraved leather belt, crafted for him by his wife(s). He wears his hair loose and down in the back, with the sides and front in elaborate braided areangements. Depending on the situation, the braids may be securing a real rack of antlers to his head, and he mah wear tassels on the points of the horns and his belt (at the base of the spine, like a tail). When dressed in this manner, a father is generally barefoot.
Children’s ceremonial wear involves a short length of fabric wrapped around the hips like a skirt, and a cape made from the pelt of a dappled fawn (such pelts are only taken when a fawn dies of natural causes or must be mercy-culled). Depending on the situation, they may paint additional spots and designs onto their skin.
Common Customs, traditions and rituals
The Running of the Deer is the highlight of every Yancuitlan citizen’s year. Although many no longer participate in the actual deer herding, it continues to be vital to the area and other festivities are enjoyed by all. The most anticipated events are the Stag and Doe dances, performed only by members of their respective cults. Dance partners are generally siblings, but may be cousins, parent/child, or very close friends.
The men’s Stag Dance is performed in flowing ceremonial clothing with their hair plaited to secure a real rack of antlers to his head (some dancers are known to inlay bits of flint in them to create sparks). Groups of two or more men showcase their acrobaticism as they spin and lock antlers again and again - the only legal point of contact (in large groups, exceptions may be made for the shoulders and hands, but no further). Particularly skilled dancers may even be able to flip their partners over their heads without injury. Women’s Doe Dances, on the other hand, are very contact-heavy and more resemble a sparring match. The focal point of their dances are the sounds made when their wood-clad hands, feet, or chests make contact. While they may appear random and brutal, the unmistakable rhythms created by their movements betrays its choreographed nature.
Coming of Age Rites
Membership to the Cult of the Sire or the Dam is considered complete as soon as the first child is born. This is the ultimate coming-of-age rite.
Long hair is considered a feature of adults, so growing one’s hair out is a mark of adulthood begun as soon as one’s first child is known to have been concieved.
The Hirana Gāradaza look markedly different from other humans of the craton, with much lighter, khaki-colored skin, slightly wavy hair that may be black or brown, black to green or grey eyes, and more raised features. Their most striking attribute is their abundant, darker brown freckles, most concentrated on the cheeckbones and across the bridge of the nose.
In more traditional and rural areas, freckles are considered the peak of beauty, displaying a divine connection to the sacred deer. A lithe, agile body is prized, as it is well suited to difficult yearly task of herding. In women, muscularity and bulk are much more acceptable. High contrast between features is also considered desirable. In urban or less traditional areas, western attitudes towards beauty have been adopted.
Hirana Gāradaza society is broken up into three primary groups: mothers, fathers, and the unwed (including children). Expectations are based upon which category you belong to.
A mother is strong and resilient. She will fight to protect her family, and hunt for them and prepare the meats they subsist on. A mother is expected to be an adept physical combatant, to balance her “natural” tender and nurturing tendencies. A mother is also very resistant to pain, but is permitted to cry or complain about it if she so chooses. She is stoic and aggressive in the face of danger, but gentle and kind in times of peace. She does not injure or take life without a very good reason and due ritual (e.g. for sustenance, the protection of her herd, or the safety of her family).
A father is calm and collected. He takes care of and educates the children, collects and prepares plant materials, and weaves the garments for his family. He is adept in visual and medicinal arts, creative and innovative. He learns quiet and healing tasks to balance his “natural” aggression and pride. If need be, he will defend his family with his life. A father may resist only nonviolently and will never take another creature’s life unless it is an absolutely necessary act of humanity and there are no mothers available.
An unwed person is watchful and patient. They are in a constant state of learning (to become mothers and fathers, or, if permanently unwed, the mysteries of the universe). They are curious and studious. An unwed person learns practical tasks such as how to forage, make basic repairs, and simple first aid, so they may help the community. Unwed people learn vigilance and unity to balance their “natural” selfish and distractable tendencies. An unwed person may stun or injure, but never kill.
While young people may flirt and eye each other at other points in the year, true courting does not begin until the biannual Running of the Deer. At this festival, in addition to rounding up, herding, slaughtering, and butchering their deer herds, men, women and children display their prowess through a series of elaborate dances (see Observed Traditions
section for more detail on these). Afterwards, prospective couples will find a private tent and talk, relax, and if all goes well, consummate over the next few days. If this encounter results in a pregnancy, both parties are now considered adults (if they weren’t previously) and married.
Married parties generally life in the same camp or villiage and share a sleeping space, though not necessarily (for example, a father may live with his ailing mother in a different camp for several months). They respect each other’s boundaries and have total trust in each other. Couples raise their children together, although mothers may end up doing more in infancy and fathers are more responsible for older children. They are also expected to try for multiple children (between 3 and 7 is average). Multiple marriages are permitted. However, they must not be at the expense of existing partners and children.
Religious organizations: Cult of the Dam, Cult of the Sire, and Cult of the Fawn.