Bird cultures: a description
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IntroductionEven more numerous than humans, Perrot birds are the most common and widespread sentient species in the Cylinder. As a result of their extension, they present a particularly large cultural diversity. To what extent are the Perrot cultural heritages related to one another and to the species' biology and origin? This article is the result of the compilation of information gathered across the Cylinder over the course of twenty-eight expeditions conducted by membersof the Merinos Academy. Its objectives are double: To present the common denominators of the various perrot cultures, and to study bird societies extensively, from the reproductive aspects and the family unit up to large tribes, regional kingdoms, and social classes.
Primary social dynamicsIn the first part of our essay, we will present the reproductive habits and the development stages of Perrots, so as to link these reproductive habits to their classical family structures.
Elements of biologyFirst of all, it was noted that although they are apparently able to differenciate each other between "layers" and "nesters", there is no visual sexual dimorphism nor gender role among Perrots. Perrot birds often form strongly bonded couples for years if not life. Although a majority of couples appear to involve members of opposite sexes, this is not a norm and many couples form between members of the same sex. When it comes to reproduction, it seems that Perrots do not have any particular mating season, but rather have cyclical periods of fertility, one cycle usually lasting roughly 15 days. A few days after mating in the fertile period, a single egg is generally produced. The egg hatches after thirty to thirty-five days of nesting, a period during which both parents take turns in protecting the egg and working. Although no investigator was authorized to lay a hand on unhatched eggs, some Perrots reluctantly agreed to show shell fragments of eggs that had just hatched. The shells appear to fit in the palm, and very light blue - tinted. What is more, it was observed that couples unable to lay eggs can fairly easily obtain eggs from other couples. After hatching, fledglings are very dependent on their parents for the first year of their life. During that period, a hatchling is constantly taken care of by one of its parents, while the other is working. The young birds usually start talking half a year after they hatched, though this is not systematically the case. Depending on the culture, they learn to fly between age one and two, age at which the birds are roughly the same size as adults. They will however continue their intellectual development for more than one and a half decade. Finally, adult birds lose their down and are sexually mature at age twelve to fifteen, although they rarely mate before age twenty.
Egg line and soul lineOnce they know how to fly, young Perrots start getting an education. In feral cultures, the bird often have a coming of age ritual of some sort, during which they prove to the group they are old enough to fly on their own. From that point, the birds are not necessarily taken care of by the couple that nested them. Investigators have reported that almost every culture they managed to approach was presenting a double system of genealogy: the eggline is a bird's biological ascendance, and is seen as less important than the soul line, which represent the bird's cultural ancestry : the birds that accompanied it during its psychological development. While it is not biological, a bird's soul line is often seen as more important, and plays a role much closer to a human family unit than the bird's eggline does. When considering a Perrot's ancestry, some specific vocabulary is to be used. A bird's Raiser is the main educating figure. It is the Perrot that housed and took care of a bird until it reached adulthood. Since Perrots usually live in couples, one generally is the soul child of two Raisers. Brothers or Siblings are Perrots that grew up with the same Raisers. Although the distinction is not systematic, birds often call themselves Siblings when they are of a close age and shared some time in their raiser's time, and call themselves Brothers otherwise. To the same extent, it is possible for a bird to call piblings its raiser's siblings, and to call cousins its piblings' soul children.
Family Units and kinIn this section, we gathered the several family bonds that exist among Perrots, as well as some of their roles in several cultures. So as to correctly describe these roles, we will have to create a separation between City Birds, that is to say Perrots living either in large human cities, in large independent Perrot cities, or in close relation with human groups; and the Feral Perrots, who live in the wilderness and actively avoid contact with humans. However, we are aware that this model does not entirely describe the reality. Our investigators showed several times that this cultural separation is a only simplified model, and that it is possible to form bonds with isolated tribes, or to observe trading fluxes between feral and city birds.
The Perrot family sphereThe very first social structure that can be observed among Perrots is the couple, that defines both the size of habitations, and the friendship relations between individuals. Although couples aren't systematically lifelong, members of a couple are generally almost considered two sides of the same individual. The soul ancestry of the two birds fuse, they share friendships, and property. Once the notion of bird couples is established, the family unit can be extended. As mentioned in the first section, the Perrots generally attach more importance to one's soul line, that is to say its cultural ancestry, than its eggline, that is to say its biological ancestry. Therefore, one's family is considered not to be its biological family, but the group of birds that deeply cared for and participated to one's cultural and psychological development. During our investigations, it has been observed that eggline and soul line tend to overlap in small communities. In these cases, the bird's biological parents are the one taking care of and accommodating the young bird. However, most of its education is conducted by one elder, either being the local Shaman, or some bird having the rank of spiritual teacher. In these communities however, while the direct family and the teaching figure are particularly important, most of other members of the group are responsible for training and teaching the youth. In larger communities such as big cities, the soul line is considered important. The notion of Raiser, Siblings, Piblings, and Cousins start to make sense and mark particular social bonds between birds. What is more, it is generally frowned upon and considered taboo to form a couple with close members of the soul line, such as brothers, or birds with a large age difference that could be one's Raisers or Piblings. However, love is a mystery and our investigators did find some sibling couples, as well as a legal couple between a young adult bird and a bird that was its Raiser's Raiser.
Extended kinship bondsIn addition with the classical family unit, numerous fictive bonds have been observed to form between individuals who aren't part of the same soul line. We will present the most common ones in that section. The first fictive bond that has been observed concerns birds that undergo the flight ritual at the same moment. In small communities, Perrots passing the flight ceremony at the same season are considered bonded forever. However, while birds learning to fly at the same moment are considered somewhat closer to one another because of that, their bond is far less absolute, and is much weaker than other fictive bonds between individuals. In large communities, birds going to the same school at the same year, or birds living in the same tower for a long time, are often considered as kin. Finally, among enslaved Perrot communities, birds that have been owned by the same person tend to form some strong friendship bonds.
Tribes and bird dynastiesTribes consist in large groups of families or individuals that are loosely related to one another. Being a member of the tribe generally involves having some forms of privileges in the community, as well as some spiritual value. Among Perrots, tribes exist of families that are either related through their eggline, their soul line, or both. In this section, we will give examples of the main categories of bird tribes that were found over the course of our studies.
Feral tribesBirds that live far from humans usually live in tribal groups. In these tribes, the birds' eggline is perceived as more important than it is in cities. A young's raisers are often its egg parents, with the Shaman or one other elder as the main educator. Decisions are taken either by the elders, a single chief couple, or in councils involving the whole tribe.
City tribesWhen it comes to birds that live in close relations with humans, the diversity of tribes that exist and their roles is greater. First of all, a lot of the enslaved birds owned by aristocratic humans are part of some greater, noble dynasties: The eggline relation between birds is used as a mean to remain "pure", while the complex and intricate soul line depends on to whom a young bird is sold. In that case, being a member of a dynasty often grants access to human earned nobility, and political power among other birds. Other famous dynastic tribes rule the City of Thalamos, as well as other large, independent bird cities in the Three Seas region. Finally, some large geographical kin groups have been observed among perrots that live among humans but far from large cities. The birds that live among the Wirkas slaver tribe are almost all parts of three famous subclans, that have had some major impacts on both the internal politics of the Wirka ethnic groups, and the surrounding human and bird communities.
Social classesThe last part of our study aims a gathering the main social status and displays of wealth that exist among Perrot societies. Once again, we will separate the classes observed in isolated communities, and in larger bird cities.
Social classes among feral birdsIn small bird communities, the number of individuals is too small to make a distinction between a higher or a lower class. What is more, food and goods are often equally shared among birds, and individuals are rarely left behind. However, chiefs and important members of the group do display their power or wealth by owning enchanted items, spiritual statues, or hunting boards. What is more, although there are no social classes differences inside one tribe, groups of tribes can very well have different power, or recognition, based on their numbers and displays of power. In addition to that, it has been reported that mountain chains usually have a dominant village, that has some spiritual importance and is respected/accepted by the other tribes. Members of that dominant village come from all the surrounding tribes, and are allowed in every territory. It is considered extremely shameful for a tribe to attack such a dominant village, unless the tribe manages to win and become the new dominant spiritual point. It has been observed that some tribes in militaristic regions tend to enslave their enemies. That is also the case for birds working with the Wirkas. Important members of the Wirka clans can very well have two to five slave birds they personally own.