The Women Ethnicity in The River | World Anvil
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The Women

Heads up: birth customs include discarding unwanted babies. Proceed with caution.
Here, in a high mountain valley of the river known to the modern world as Swiftwater or Ciiadociee, the ancestors of the modern vastland and island civilizations live in a series of villages spaced along the bank. Although women of different villages rarely meet, they still share in a common culture.

Naming Traditions

Feminine names

The strongest names, those related to the moon, trees, and other important plants, are usually reserved for firstborn girls. Subsequent girls are more likely to be named for animals or foods or other aspects of the natural world. Tree Shadow, Moon Wish, Tree Falling, Prickle Seed, and Great Tree would be first girl names. Bird Cry, Branch, Red Berry, White Bird, and Rain would be names for later girls.

Masculine names

Boys are often named for inanimate objects or personal features. Examples include Broken Stone, Sand, Footprint, Yellow Dirt, Soft Face, and River Rock.

Unisex names

Generally speaking, a given name reflects the feelings of the woman giving it. Any object or concept might be used to name a child, however abstract, so long as it holds a significant meaning to the woman. A baby who is particularly active prior to birth, for example, might be named Walking or Dance regardless of whether it is a boy or a girl.

Other names

In addition to their daily name, girls also have a secret woman name that is to be revealed to them when they become women themselves. It is usually a short phrase or sentence, reflecting the feelings of the woman toward her daughter. As with daily names, firstborn girls usually have more elaborate and high-value woman names than later girls.


Culture and cultural heritage

The women's society is an exclusive matriarchy. Power is held only by women, and the rank of womanhood depends on giving birth to a girl. Female adults without children are treated as girls no matter how old they are, and males of all ages are considered unimportant.

Art & Architecture

Every adult woman lives in her own house with her children. Houses are built on a slightly raised and flattened dirt oval, about 15-20 feet on the long axis and 10-15 feet on the short axis. The framework is constructed of stiff pipe tree sticks making a shell to support reed thatching.

Common Customs, traditions and rituals

The Moon

The women honor the moon as the source of everything. Their cosmology describes the moon as being both the first of the trees and the first of the women, creating the rest of the world and then rising into the sky so that the world would have light. They observe every full moon by gathering at sunset, sharing a ceremonial drink, and speaking of what they hope and wish for in the coming month.


Women believe that all conditions--diseases, moods, strong sensations, even sleep and dreams--are caused by unseen spirits that move in the air. They cannot be completely avoided; simply by breathing, people are constantly bringing spirits into their bodies. By eating certain foods and avoiding others, wearing talismans, inhaling particular scents, or any number of other minor ritual activities, desired spirits can be attracted and undesired spirits fended off. Each village has one or two Spirit-talkers, who have extensive knowledge on what spirits like and don't like, and can be called upon to drive out especially stubborn spirits.

Birth & Baptismal Rites

Whenever possible, women give birth under the supervision of Spirit-talker. They are cautioned not to make noise, to keep bad spirits from finding them. It is also believed that if a woman lies down during childbirth, she will die.
When a girl gives birth, she is also attended by her mother. If a girl's first baby is a boy, it is believed to be an omen that she will never give birth to a girl, and therefore never be a woman. To avoid that fate, the baby is deemed "trash", and is removed with the rest of the afterbirth to the death trench. A dispute over that practice sparked the events leading to the forced emigration.

Coming of Age Rites

Upon her menarche, a girl undergoes the Feast of First Blood to mark her maturity. if she later gives birth to a girl, she undergoes the woman ceremony to mark her status as an adult.   There are no corresponding rites for boys. At adolescence, they join one of the packs of mature boys that migrate between villages, and each pack might have its own welcoming traditions, but boys are never viewed as adults by women.

Funerary and Memorial customs

In the spirit-centric worldview, even life itself is a spirit. As such, their view of death is as the spirit escaping the body.  They therefore hold no attachment to the empty body, leaving it in the biological waste portion of the village's midden trench. Their mourning is centered around the woman's house.  The other women gather around it and pull it to pieces while they lament their loss.

Common Taboos

The navel is considered a weakness in the human body, perhaps stemming from the observations of infections at the site in newborns. Everyone, male and female, wears at a minimum a band of leather or textile around their belly to conceal their navel and protect themselves from spirits entering their body through it.
Diverged ethnicities
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View from the future

The culture changed significantly by the time its successor established itself on the coast of the vastland. The culture remained strongly matriarchal, as are all its descendants, but males are no longer excluded from the rights of adulthood.

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