The Avvars are a human tribe dating back to ancient times
Culture and cultural heritage
The majority of the Avvarian people live in subsistence conditions, with the greater part of their days spent gathering the necessities of survival with little time given over to activities without an immediate practical application. Ornamentation is rare among Avvar-made goods that aren’t religious in nature. They prefer well-made items that endure the Frostbacks’ extreme weather. Positions in a hold include Master of the Hunt, Thane, Augur, Skald and Arena Trainer. Homes are sturdily made of wood with thatched or peat roofs and communal evening meals, prepared by both men and women, are taken around the fire. The Avvar welcome any kind of meat, from snails to gurguts. Stews are common, as they can be easily prepared. Baked fish wrapped in clay and pungent leaves is a popular dish for holds settled near lakes or rivers. Most Avvar food preparation centers around winter: from the spring thaw onward, meat is smoked, vegetables pickled, fruits dried, everything stored in preparation for the long, cold winter of the Frostbacks. Though their culture has declined over the years, some Avvar clans still exist today. The existing clans live in holds that bear the name of the clan that live there. When forced to consider complex spiritual matters, the Avvars turn to their shamans, the lore keepers of the mountains. It is they who watch the migrations of birds seeking wisdom from the Lady, they who keep the old songs and retain the knowledge of the proper rites to honor the gods and spirits of the mountains. The majority of the Avvars’ shamans are powerful mages whose traditions stretch far back beyond the foundations of the Circle of Magi. Neither the Chantry nor the Prophetess means anything to the Avvarians, and Templars are not welcome in the Frostbacks. This is wise, as many of the shamans' rituals would horrify the Chantry. Even mild rites invite spirits to speak through the casters for a time, to say nothing of some of their more powerful ceremonies. The Avvars are well aware that some spirits are reluctant to depart human hosts willingly, but they have means of dealing with such recalcitrant entities. After all, they have no more desire to become abominations than other mages, and so their rituals are specifically designed to force the spirits back out as well. The Avvar call these shamans augurs. Only one mage is chosen to be the augur. The augur's role is to give council to other mages and the thane. In turn, an augur takes council from the spirits they deem gods and shares it with the hold. The augur makes the clan's will known to the spirits and the spirits' will to the clan. By appeasing their spirit gods with rituals, the spirits in turn protect their hold and drive off spirits gone bad with rage or gloom. The augur also spots those who draw bad spirits and councils the thane how to deal with the matter. The augur allow their apprentices to be possessed by a summoned Spirit and the spirit teaches the mage how to control their magic with patience and kindness. When the teaching is done, the mage must then release the spirit through a ritual that involves burning an offering and casting a taxing spell that usually requires a vial of lyrium to replenish one's strength. If the ritual is not done then the abomination is to be exiled. Weak mages unable to control their magic remain possessed and the Avvars' spirit gods watches them both so neither soul becomes corrupted. If the abomination becomes corrupted or the mage stands at risk of harming the hold, then one day the abomination simply dies in their sleep. Other duties of an augur include interpreting omens and preparing the dead to be taken back to the Lady of the Sky.
Common Customs, traditions and rituals
Permanence is a foreign concept to the Avvars. Nothing in the Frostbacks stays the same forever, and nothing in Avvar life is permanent either. Their settlements are temporary; their agreements are temporary; even their marriages are temporary. Avvars are expected to put loyalty to hold before blood. Even a kidnapped bride is expected to renounce her former ties and cleave to her new clan. Indeed, her old clan and family are forever after slightly suspicious of her, even if she was taken against her will. Avvar hold all oaths close to sacred, but the final authority on them, the thane, can always find "a hole in the tent of any promise, a place for the cold wind to sneak in". To make up for breaking an oath with another hold, the party which has done wrong can pay the price of their transgression with gifts and new trade conditions. Spiritual rules are considered equally stringent.
Avvar despise capture and would rather end their own life or die in battle than be prisoner to an enemy
Common Myths and Legends
Each hold also has a "hold-beast" that ties the clan to the gods. This animal acts as a sort of revered mascot and is treated as kin to the clan. It is no pet and is granted independence to live as it chooses. The clan may even offer it gifts of food though not enough that it would not hunt for itself. When a hold-beast is strong and happy, there is joy. When it sickens and dies, it is an ill omen. The Avvars still worship the old gods of the Alamarri, the chief among them Korth the Mountain-Father, Hakkon Wintersbreath, and The Lady of the Skies. Andraste, a barbarian, is said to have prayed first to Korth and the Lady, but her prayers fell on deaf ears until the Maker answered. The Avvars also worship many lesser gods such as Uvolla, who is the god of the Wending Wood. It is nearly impossible to speak of the Avvarian people without speaking of their beliefs. Faith is the vibrant cornerstone of their existence, filling their harsh lives with sacred implications, for the Avvars believe as the Alamarri once did: The gods live in all things. Wind from an unexpected direction, birds flying in unusual patterns, a sudden silence amidst the high peaks in the spring—these are nothing but chance to a lowlander, but are messages from the gods to an Avvar. The Avvars believe without question that their gods have protected them and kept them strong, for do they not thrive despite their numerous enemies? Wise lowlanders avoid pointing out that the hillsmen have been pushed into some of the most inhospitable terrain in all of Thedas. In truth, the Avvars love the Frostbacks and would only take offense at the thought that they were “forced” into the mountains. The Avvars have a complex pantheon, which includes both nature spirits and legendary mortals who have ascended to the heavens. This is further complicated by the fact that the pantheon varies somewhat from hold to hold, as every clan has its own sacred tales and heroes; however, all Avvars agree on the three greatest gods. These are Korth the Mountain Father, Hakkon Wintersbreath, and the Lady of the Skies. Imhar the Clever and the Great Bear Sigfost are also revered in most communities. The Avvars’ gods are more capricious than cruel, demanding appeasement for perceived sleights rather than wantonly casting misfortune on their people from lofty heights. When Avvars suffer, it seldom occurs to them to blame ill luck, but instead, to wonder which of the gods they have offended. If a warrior suffers a wound, he is concerned that he may have slighted Hakkon. If a hunting party returns emptyhanded, their only thought is to placate the Mountain Father; indeed, they will not go forth hunting once more until they have decided on how to mollify Korth - there would be no point in it, as they would surely fail again. The Avvar deem spirits as their gods, treating them as patrons to be lulled and wooed. The Avvar deliberately invoke spirits for strength in battle or solicit them for advice. Such spirits have lived with in their holds for many generations, and sometimes took the form of an animal or departed relatives when they pass on their wisdom. In the event a god is destroyed, the Avvar begin a year-long time of offerings and prayers and rituals. At the end of this period, a new spirit takes on the name and role of the old one. Avvar believe in a hazily defined afterlife governed by the "Lady of the Skies" where the dead are reunited with their kin. Avvar also believe some of their people are destined to be reborn, i.e., the essence (the soul) returns clothed in new flesh. The core of the concept is thus: the souls of a few Avvar "favored" by fate "migrate" on death to inhabit new bodies destined for them, so they may return and perform great deeds for the good of their hold. These resurrected souls are not expected to remember their past selves consciously, but instead are assumed to be subtly "guided" by their previous experiences, especially through visions and portents. Korth the Mountain Father - Also known as the Father of the Skies, Korth is the eldest and strongest god and everything found in the mountains stems from him. The Avvars believe all caves were carved by the Mountain-Father to shelter them, and that dwarves are also his creation as they live within his realm, deep underground. It is through his benevolence the Avvars receive everything they need - be it prey for hunters or green fields for goatherds. If game is scarce, Avvars will seek to mollify Korth. The trial done is his honour is to battle in verse while being carried aloft by those who support a given participant. Most Avvars believe Korth is as old as Frostbacks themselves, but the Winter Song of the ancient Frosthold clan tells otherwise. According to this song, which is sung during Wintersend, Korth was a hunter who brought his people to the mountains at the dawn of time. The Avvars return their dead to Korth by leaving them out on the rocks in order to be picked clean by the birds. Lady of the Skies - The Lady is goddess of all above Korth's domain, of birds and even the wind itself. One legend states that an Avvarian tribe forsook Korth for the Lady, and were last seen with messengers of the Lady flying over their hold as Tevinter invaded. She is also goddess of the dead. Rather than cremating their dead as Andrastians do, the Avvars dismember their dead and offer them to the Lady through her messengers, the birds, in what Ferelden scholars refer to as an "air burial" (also known as "Sky burial").  For most, the body is laid out, and prayers given. When the bird comes, they carry the soul to the Lady of the Skies. The body, unneeded, is gone. Some souls are chosen to return- a blessing considered a rare honor. The augur reads the signs at birth to find such worthy individuals. In order to return, an offering provided by blood-kin and prepared by a huntsmaster is made to Korth the Mountain Father; and buried beneath the body. A piece of the soul thus remains, allowing the rest to return to the world and be reborn. The ritual priests who worship the lady are known as Sky Watchers. Their religious duties primarily consist of reading the portents of the Lady of the Skies to interpret her will and presenting the bones of the deceased as offerings to her. Hakkon Wintersbreath - Hakkon is Korth the Mountain-Father's firstborn son, and Lord of War and Winter. He is master of the two bitter colds of frost and steel, and respect for him and his power leads the Avvars to follow him into battle: they prefer to raid and wage war in winter, when their resistance to the cold gives them the advantage over lowlanders. Avvar warriors train in the martial arts in order to be found worthy by Hakkon and Hakkon in turn was said to grant such warriors who earned his favor with a natural intuition or a second wind during battle. Some warriors who prove their vigilance, wisdom, or valor are granted special weapons to perform his will. The test in his honour is to do battle with blunted weapons. Hakkon was bound to a dragon during the Second Blight by the first generation of the Jaws of Hakkon. Learning that Hakkon's power would make the dragon almost as strong as Dumat, and knowing that Orlais couldn't withstand a combined assault from the Avaar moving northward under Hakkon and the darkspawn pouring south from the Anderfels under the control of Zazikel, Inquisitor Ameridan and his party were sent by Emperor Kordillus Drakon I to prevent the possessed dragon from unleashing havoc on all of Orlais. Ameridan was only able to confine the dragon with time magic, and has been held in stasis with the dragon for centuries. In contemporary times, a new generation of the Hakkonites seek to unleash Hakkon's fury on Thedas and the new Inquisitor foils their plans by slaying Hakkon's dragon vessel; thus freeing Hakkon's spirit. Sigfrost - The Great Bear sleeps at the foot of the Mountain Father's throne, and is so vast in size that Korth once confused him with a small mountain. Sitting at Korth's foot, he is also the guardian of wisdom. Avvars may challenge him to acquire knowledge, but the bones of many on such a quest are strewn about his den. Avvars hold all bears sacred and, though they do sometimes hunt and skin them, do so with great solmenity. Due to this, they consider Bereskarn to be especially blasphemous as well. Several Circle magi claim to have met Sigfrost in the Fade. Imhar the Clever - The trickster of the Avvar pantheon, Imhar is a slight man who must rely on his quick tongue instead of strength. Avvars enjoy tales of Imhar's jests and mockery, perhaps the most popular of which is that of Imhar and an evil seductress. She lured him into facing her unarmed, then faced him with an army of demons. Playing the coward, Imhar lead them on a merry chase through a mountain pass. When they thought they had cornered him, Imhar laughed out loud. The great noise shook the peaks, and the horde was crushed beneath the avalanche he caused. Uvolla - A god of the Wending Wood. Little is known of him. He appears to accept living sacrifice, however, in payment for wrongs done in his sacred place. Bjorn Reed-Beard - A god said to bless fishermen Rilla of the Fireside - A god whose blessings aid in the making of babies
When two Avvars are married, the bride will sing a hymn to a select god while the groom attempts to undo a series of knots in a long rope. The number of knots the groom undoes before the hymn ends determines the number of years that marriage will last. Since each Avvar hold is made up of several extended-family clans, Avvars must often marry outside their hold to avoid their relatives. They see this as a good thing, for it brings in new blood and extends the ties among Avvars. Avvar men go about securing brides by kidnapping them. This is partially arranged in advance by approaching the elders of the target clan and announcing one’s intention. Failure to do so can lead to a blood feud. Once permission has been given, a warrior is expected to prove his skill by slipping into the hold and removing his new bride. A warrior who is caught on his first try can expect a severe beating, but nothing worse. If he is caught again on the second try, though, he is likely to become lunch for the clan’s sacred animal. Avvarian men may approach a lady directly if they wish to secure her agreement (or assistance), and some Avvar women make it known that they desire a specific man.