Ancestor Poles Item in Creus | World Anvil
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Ancestor Poles

At one point the estate that they were entering was a majestic clanhall of the western expanse, with the roofed ring wall that was so commonly built for these old family centers, pole over the entryway with streamers waving in the wind. But this building had fallen into disrepair; the wall had collapsed in many places, the front gate to the estate was missing, and the ancestor pole itself...   Toreo picked it up off the ground. It had likely fallen in a storm some time ago, and rain and insects had done their work; the streamers were half destroyed, and the poleshaft was in splinters. He gave the pole a slight shake, and winced when a few of the streamers fell out of the pole.    Cara clicked her tongue when she saw it. "Put it under what's left of that awning. If my suspicions are correct, we'll have to gather it and return it to the Capital."    Toreo placed the pole gingerly against the wall before they continued to the clan building proper. The mansion house was large and in better shape than the walls, with no visible structural damage, but nobody responded when the Marshal knocked on the door. The door itself seemed to dislike the knocks, and one of the hinges holding the door on snapped; the whole door began to sag in its frame. Toreo gave the door a tug, and it fell out onto Toreo, who eased it into the dirt.   The Magistrate stepped through the frame and looked around. The home was in quite poor condition, with visible leaks, discolor on the walls that indicated mold, and furniture with thick layers of dust and grime. Wordlessly, the two walked through the foyer and into the center of the entrance hall, or what was left of it. Once palatial rugs were eaten through by bugs; Toreo's boots squelched as he walked over them.    "You alright?" Cara seemed distressed. Not quite scared, Toreo had never seen her express fear.   "I'm fine, Toreo." Cara turned to him. "I'm simply contemplating what happens when a family dies. This estate represents generations of work, hundreds of people looking to further themselves and provide for their children. And it all turns to naught, right here where we're standing."   The Marshal raised an eyebrow. "Didn't take you for the sentimental type, Cara."   "I'm not. It is merely a statement of fact." The Magistrate turned away. "I'll search the upper floor of the estate, you cover the ground floor. Call out if you find a body, but I suspect I'll be the one calling out to you." She moved up the staircase in the middle of the hall, while Toreo entered the dining room.   The rooms on the first floor were all at one point opulent, meant to entertain guests. Several portraits of long-lost ancestors decorated the dining room, while the living room was covered in massive landscapes of the bucolic countryside of the western reaches. The kitchen's hearth looked like it hadn't been lit in well over two seasons. Toreo pulled a drawer open, to find it suspiciously empty of silver silverware; only cheap pewter, and not enough of it to serve guests. A rat had gotten in at some point. Or maybe the rat was a family member.   "Toreo!" He closed the drawer and went back to the main hall, bounding up the steps, his boots making wet noises against the stair carpet runners. Cara waved him down from one of the rooms deep in the mansion's eastern wing. A powder room, at one point, with the most recent signs of activity; it was the least worn and damaged room Toreo had seen in the estate, likely owing to the actions of the now-skeletal person sitting in front of the mirror. The same couldn't be said of the chair the skeleton was sitting in, which was utterly befouled from dripping rot.   The Magistrate had her lips pressed together tightly before she spoke. "I believe we've found Samanta of the House of Capreton, the last of the Capreton lineage." Cara turned. "We're done here. The guards will manage the cleanup, the District Commander will handle the estate. All we need to do is take the ancestor pole back to the Academy, they'll likely want to reconstruct it from the House lineage records. Let's get out of this house. Immediately."

Mechanics & Inner Workings

Each pole is unique to the family that built it up over time. The pole itself is a simple wooden stick, roughly eight or nine feet high, with a number of iron rings nailed into one end. The rings are not flush against the wood surface, but provide a small gap through which strips of cloth can be pulled through and tied.    Each member of a family will, when they come of age, tie a streamer of cloth through the uppermost ring that has space. The streamer is dyed in a color the person chooses and is monogrammed with their initials. Over time, the pole will fill up with streamers, ring by ring; the largest and oldest of these poles can have upwards of forty rings, each ring representing nearly a hundred individuals in the family tree. While the decision of who is 'in' the family is up to that family, most people who are part of a pole-bearing family on both sides will choose to add their streamer to the pole of their mother's family - it is considered impolitic at best to contribute a streamer to more than one pole.   Poles are placed in a prominent position on a family's land, or, if maintained by someone who lives in a city, merely a prominent place somewhere in their home. The latter is rare, as there usually is some branch of the family that maintains some sort of rural household, and it is generally agreed that poles standing in the wind are more interesting than poles as mere interior decoration.   Ancestor poles are not made from particularly resilient materials, being subject to sun, wind, and rain. As such, they are typically rebuilt every two years - every streamer is extracted from a pole carefully in order, the streamers repaired or replaced as necessary, the pole itself refurbished or replaced, and the streamers carefully re-inserted back into the pole before it's ceremonially reinstalled. For severe cases of damage, the pole may be replaced in its entirety with new materials and new construction. For younger families that have not maintained an ancestor pole, this may be an afternoon of work; for very old clans, this can be a multiweek affair that's cause for a family reunion and celebration at the old clanhome.   For the families that maintain these poles, they are treated as a serious matter. Members of a family that for some reason or another do not add a streamer to the pole are essentially declaring their own disinheritance from the family; denying someone the opportunity to add a streamer is effectively a disownment.


Ancestor poles are an ancient tradition in the western reaches of Saibh, dating well into prehistory and their origins lost to time. What is known is that some families have ancestor poles that, if an accurate and true representation of that family's past, are older than 800PH, and predate all other cultural artifacts known to the modern Principality of Etoile  These poles are a relatively unassuming tradition; no historiographies or collections or surveys exist to keep track of which families have maintained their poles, and no major changes to their status has been observed. They stand outside the clanhomes of their families, as they have for hundreds of years, their streamers waving in the winds.


Ancestor Poles are one of a category of cultural artifacts known to The Academy of Etoile as 'continuation' artifacts, objects that families preserve between generations that link families together over time, not dissimilar to such concepts as coats of arms, or family heirlooms. The colorful streamers from the top of the pole mark a family's claim to the land; the individual streamer links a person to their family.    While some families have died out and their poles have been discarded or destroyed, many families have instead donated their ancestor pole to the Academy as a relic; these poles are useful tools for confirming family trees and potentially providing circumstantial evidence of a prehistorical figure's existence.
Item type
Creation Date
Anywhere between 800PH to the modern day
Destruction Date
~8ft high
Raw materials & Components
Wooden poles, cloth, and dyes are now commonly found across all of the Principality of Etoile. Very old poles must have used some sort of primitive dye to make streamers, and those people were likely limited in the color palette, but there are a near limitless number of dyes and hues available for modern cloth.
As befits such an old object, these poles can be produced with nothing more than a hammer and some nails. Presumably these must have only been built after humans discovered basic metallurgy, but substitutes to bind the streamer to the pole (sinew, hemp rope) could have been used prior to iron or bronze. The fact that the oldest ancestor poles seem to favor red in their oldest streamers likely indicates that blood was a commonly used dye early in prehistory.

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