wood elves Ethnicity in Scarterra | World Anvil

wood elves

The wood elves are a large culture of Third Age elves in Scarterra hailing from the forested realm of Codenya. The name "wood elves" was given to them by outsiders and most wood elves are okay with the label though a few insist on being called "Codenya elves".   Most wood elves do not leave Condenya unless the situation is very serious, but there is a major exception. As young adults, wood elves take a decade or a few decades to explore the outside world before returning home (or deciding never to come back). This period of time is typically called the Rumspringa.


Major language groups and dialects

Wood elves learn Elven as their mother tongue. The Wood elf dialect of Elven is distinct from the other major dialects of Elven but other elves rarely have trouble understanding them.

Culture and cultural heritage

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Symbol of the Nine by Pendrake
Wood elves usually venerate all of the the Nine, but they frequently lean towards Zarthus and Korus and lean away from Maylar and Greymoria.   Hallisan, Khemra, and Phidas are fairy well respected, but they are generally venerated once a year and then given token acknowledgement the rest of the year.
  With the major exception of the Stewards of Korus, most local wood elf priests and priestesses prefer to have minimal contact with their ecclesiastical brothers and sisters outside of Codenya. That said, wood elf priests and theurgists have no issue at all mingling with other religious figures of their traditional allies such as the forest gnomes and the Codenya satyrs.

Average technological level

Wood elves may live a quasi-barbarian life style, but they have roughly the same technology available to them that most of the so called "civilized" humans and elves have access to.   Wood elves want to preserve the forest of their homeland but they are not unwilling to cut down trees. They still clear forests to make way for farmland and houses much like other Scarterrans do. They just to try to space out their cutting, so that they don't completely deforest any one area. Not too surprisingly, their carpenters and woodworkers are highly skilled and efficient because if they do chop down a tree, they don't waste any of the lumber.   Wood elves have less reliable access to metal goods than most dark elves, grey elves, and most humans, but they have a well-developed metalworking tradition of their own with roots in the Second Age. The land of Codenya even as a small number of mines.   Because they don't have as many mines as most other Scarterrans, wood elf metalworking often prioritizes avoiding waste. They are very good at reworking and recasting broken weapons and tools. Wood elves don't import much from the outside world, but what they do import is disproportionately metal goods.   Wood elves mages are proportionately more common than most human cultures. A majority of wood elf mages are wizards. No single wizarding tradition dominates politically or economically. The wood elves have their own cultural variants of rune casting wizards, classical hermetic wizards, body wizards, with aesthetic hermetic wizards possessing a slight plurality.   Wood elf sorcerers and sorceresses are very rare. Wood elf witches and warlocks are relatively common and they are somewhat less stigmatized than witches and warlocks in other cultures   Wood elf commoners are better educated on the basics of how arcane magic works than most human commoners are, so it is difficult for a mage to impersonate a member of another tradition. Because of this, wood elf mages often dress loudly to make their magical tradition very obvious (aesthetic hermetics being the exception that proves the rule).

Common Dress code

Wood elves usually dress practically and in the land of Codenya, "practical" usually means not impeding movement, so moderaterly form fitting and breathable is the norm. "Practical" also means weather appropriate and most of Codenya has very pronounced seasonal variation.   Most wood elf formal events occur in the autumn and winter (when wood elves are more likely to gather in large numbers), so formal clothing tends towards being thick and warm.
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  Expressive clothing is generally not seen as practical, so wood elves tend to dress very similar to their fellows. This forces wood elves to be creative in expressing themselves. Wood elves often accent their otherwise practical clothing with jewelry, religious trinkets, wearable family heirlooms, or good luck charms to add a bit of personal expression to their clothing.   Leather and furs are common, but thanks to their unusual system of pastoral crops, they have more access to fabrics than most human nomads.   Wood elves certainly have access to a wide variety of dyes, so they can have clothing almost any color they want. Those who are hunters by professions (or those who are simply hunting right now) tend to wear clothing designed to blend in with the forest. Those who are not involved in hunting, especially children and elderly, often bright colors, so it is harder for them to become lost.

Art & Architecture

Most wood elves follow Zarthus' ideology and values to some extant and this includes valuing artistic expression. Because most wood elves have a semi-nomadic lifestyle, large non-portable art is not favored though their few permanent settlements often have large sculptures or murals as part of the architecture. Music, storytelling, and poetry are popular forms of art because these forms of art are highly portable.   Jewelry is also popular. While some wealthier wood elves do use precious metals or gems to flex status, but wood elf jewelry culture generally values personal expression and creativity over cost. Wood elves are more likely to make their own jewelry rather than purchase their adornments from a professional jeweler though some celebrated jewelry craftsmen will commonly guide and assist many wood elves in creating their own jewelry, often doing the proverbial heavy lifting during the creation process.

Foods & Cuisine

Wood elves blur the line between hunting and gathering and farming. For more information on this, check out "How do most wood elves feed themselves?".   Wood elves do have an aristocracy of sorts but unlike most other Scarterran (including most other elves), wood elves rarely differentiate between "rich food" and "peasant food".
  Wood elves in their homeland of Codenya have a wide variety of foodstuffs available to them that varies from season to season, and they generally like to try new things, at least when it comes to food. For many, trying new foods is a highlight of their Rumspringa.   Since wood elves travel a lot, food that is easy to transport and prepare is common, but wood elves like to make slow cook meals when time and circumstances allow. Since wood elves generally don't travel much in the winter, wood elves often refer to any slow cook food as "winter dishes" regardless of what season it is prepared in.  
Because wood elves are so isolationist and their trade with distant lands is very limited, wood elves are not able to use many spices in their cousine, but their knowledge of local herbs available in temperate forests is unsurpassed in all Scarterra.   Wood elf cousine is valued by many humans and other non-wood elves. Few outsiders are allowed to visit Codenya, but more than a few wood elves on Rumspringas have made good money as herbalists and cooks and "wood elf style cooking" has gradually seeped into the human names that border Codenya.

Birth & Baptismal Rites

Like with most passage of life rituals, wood elf birth rites have a lot of cultural and family variation but tend to follow broad patterns overall.   Name days usually occur eighteen days after an infant's birth whereas most humans and even most other elves only wait nine days, if even that long.   Given that wood elf population is so widely dispersed, the extra time makes it easier for the parents to find a priest or priestess to preside over the naming ceremony. It also provides extra time to invite grandparents, aunts and uncles and other extended family.   Naming ceremonies are usually short and simple affairs, often with some kind of ritual annointing of earth and/or water on the infant's head.   Beltaine is a very important holiday in Codenya and wood elves try to gather in large groups at this time. Among other Beltaine rituals, all wood elf children under nine years old are given a formal blessing at these gatherings.

Coming of Age Rites

Coming of age rites vary tremendously across wood elf society but young adolescents usually go on some kind of vision quest alone or in small groups in a wild area while fasting.   Young adults usually take a Rumspringa to roam the wider world of Scarterra for a decade or two before returning home to the forests of Codenya.

Funerary and Memorial customs

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Funeral customs vary widely and there is no standard funeral practice in Codenya. In general, wood elves place more emphasis on the spirit of the deceased than the remains of the deceased. If a wood elf is cremated, their family members probably do not keep the urn very long before spreading the ashes somewhere, and if a wood is buried, it is most often in an unmarked grave where they are left to quietly decompose and have their remains anonymously return to nature.
  Wood elves generally take their ancestor remembrance ceremonies very seriously though their acts of filial devotion to ancestors are more free form than ritualized. Funerals tend to be more ritualized. Funerals are usually considered community events, but remembrance rituals are usually considered personal events and performed by individuals or very small groups.   Traditionally, most ancestor ceremonies are performed in the winter. Many winter camps are dotted with small individual shrines dedicated to the honored dead of the families that commonly live there. More cosmopolitain and transitory camps that are not tied to specific families usually have a large communal temple set aside for wood elves to come and go and commune with their ancestors on their own schedule.


Beauty Ideals

Both sexes of wood elves consider signs of health and robustness as being attractive. Like most other elf subcultures, both men and women tend to grow their hair out long though this is a norm not a rule.   All four elemental ethnicities are present in Codenya somewhere. Like follows like, and wood elves have a broad tendency to gravitate towards mates with similar elemental blends to themselves.
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  Earth ethnic traits are generally the most common with air ethnic traits coming in second with Fiery traits coming in at a distant third. This contrasts with dark elves and grey elves who are usually fairly watery with airy traits being almost unheard of.

Gender Ideals

Wood elves are generally fairly egalitarian relative to other Scarterrans, and rarely push people into taking specific gender roles letting boys and girls pursue their interests as they see fit as long as they help the community.   That said, there are small biases noticeable. Professional soldiers and craftsmen skew towards male representation. The priesthoods and herders skew towards female representation.

Courtship Ideals

Wood elf courtship is generally fairly informal, but young adults often are going to find their parents extended family are going to going to become fairly pushy about "When are you going to get married?" usually starting ten years after they return from their Rumspringa. If a wood elf wants to stay single while avoiding this social pressure, he or she does not have a lot of options other than join a priesthood that encourages celibacy. The other major option is to never return from their Rumspringa.   Arranged marriages are relatively uncommon outside of the aristocracy and even highborn wood elves can wiggle out of arranged marriages relatively easy if they truly do not like their would-be marriage partner.   If a wood elf is lucky enough to find their "soul mate" relatively young, the young lovers may take their Rumspringa together. More often than, couples that do this drift apart during their Rumspringa but the couples that stay together through their entire Rumspringa tend to be very solid. Many choose to get married on their Rumspringa.

Relationship Ideals

Elves live a long time. Most wood elves understand that life time commitment is a very big ask for people with a four hundred year life expectancies.   Wood elves have advanced lore on herbs with contraceptive properties, so they are generally more concerned with avoiding the creation of bastard babies than they are with avoiding extramarital sex.   Even if the parents aren't married, wood elf mothers and fathers face a lot of social pressure to co-parent civilly. Since Codenya has a large number of Zarthus temples, they always have the option of dropping off a basket baby as a last resort but this is culturally considered a somewhat shameful act.   Rampant promiscuity is generally frowned upon by wood elf society but serial monogamy is generally viewed as acceptable, at least among lowborn elves. Divorce is not especially common, but it is more common among wood elves than most human societies and it is certainly more common than grey elves and dark elves.   Wood elves generally face less stigma for creating half-elves than grey elves and dark elves experience, as long as the parents take responsibility for their children.

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