Sotikaaput

Content warning!
This article contains mentions of suicide, spousal abuse, puritanism, and abusive religion.

Like a roarin' river, we ain't changin' jus' cause you dun like it none. Tradition's everthin', son. Ya best remember that now, you hear?
— A Sotikaaput father to his son
  The Sotikaaput are a people who value tradition above all else, progress and technology are more often than not an affront to their god— Tsal. They live in seclusion from the rest of Umqwam, seldom desiring to interact with other cultures— lest they introduce more unsavory change.  

Shining Shadows

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Sotikaaput are humanoid, with men standing about 4' tall and women around 3'. Besides their legs and faces, men's bodies are covered in large glossy black feathers which curl upwards at their ends while women's are coated in small, softer feathers of similar tone. They are digitigrades, meaning that their short, thin scale-covered legs bend "backwards" at the knee, before the upper portion bends forwards to meet their torsos.   A shiny grey plating covers women's spines, made of a similar material as their long downwards-pointed beaks which end at their soft-rounded jaws. Numerous thick black hairs grow around the top of these.   Men's beaks are shorter, and snub-ended, ending at the center of their jaws which, rather than end in a point or rounded edge, their turn sharply upwards at their centers into a triangular shape that meets the bottom of their beaks. These unusual jaws are made even more pronounced by their high-seated cheekbones. Above this rests their close-set eyes which are almost entirely black— but hold a noticeable, though subtle, orange hue in the center. Women's eyes are farther apart, and rest a little lower on their faces— with a second, closer, pair on the backs of their heads.   Men's feathers drape along the backs of their arms, thinning the farther down one looks— this creates a noticeable 'V' shape when untrimmed arms are held outwards. Feathers grow smaller on their hands, which are accompanied by four fingers for men and three for women. Finally, their bird-like feet end in snubbed claw-like nails.    

Moving Too Fast

The Sotikaaput weren't always staunch traditionalists, in fact— they were once at the forefront of technological progress. Some of the technology developed during this period rivals that of even the Votaw today. They could fly without wings, travel on land without need for walking nor pack animals, and supposedly they were even able to move mechanical men with steam. Unfortunately, most of this is now lost to time— after a dark day in their history known as The Incident.  
"Pa, why'd they call it tha 'Incident?' Ain't that a bit generic?"   "Shut it boy, or there's gon' be a second incident."
— A loving father to his son
  The Incident was spurred by the creation of one of the first ool engines. Unsatisfied with creating the small scale engines they'd made up til that point, those developing them decided to go for gold— and create a mile-wide engine capable of powering entire cities. Not only would it be the largest of its kind, it would also employ a newly developed ward designed to send the stone flying faster than ever before. It was a grand project that garnered attention from all corners of their nation, and took nearly ten years— and most of the nation's ool deposits— to construct. It was truly a sight to behold, and tens of thousands of Sotikaaput had come to witness its activation, travelling to their capital, which had expanded around the project over the years.   A grand ceremony was held, music was played, and colorful banners waved— and then the switch was flipped. A great cacophony sounded from behind the untold number of hand-shaped metal sheets that enclosed the great machine as it groaned to life. The ool within slid slowly at first, but gained speed until it reached its first cycle— ejecting bright, orange chips into the sky above. Now, these were well out of the way of the civilians below, and there was no risk of them falling and harming them— but among the excited onlookers was one excitable pilot.   The aircraft was in the wrong place at the wrong time— and quickly fell towards the ground. Even more unfortunate— its trajectory led it directly to the housing of the ward enclosed within, knocking it out of place— and out of the ool's track in such a way that it could no longer send it in opposite directions, instead causing it to only gain more speed as it spun wildly in its cage. It wasn't long until the perforated casing was unable to contain its charge— and the great chunk of ool tore through and flew into the crowd, and city, beyond.  
  Thousands were killed in the accident, and entire city blocks were leveled or otherwise destroyed. The public began to fear engines and ool at large— as rumor spread of other accidents throughout the nation. Some of these were spurred by oil tycoons, seeing the opportunity to finally get ahead of their competition. The tycoons had gone so far as to stage accidents, utilizing explosives and other means which injured and killed hundreds more in the years that followed. Many began to ask themselves if they really understood how the engines operated, yet alone ool itself— as it was still fairly new technology.   Soon, demands were made to at first restrict the engines— requiring a certain distance from residences. Then, voices calling to outright ban the machines grew until the public outcry was deafening, and the government was forced to comply. During this period, Roywalaap fundamentalism was gaining traction— the ongoing fearmongering campaign and wild rumor-mills only fanned the flames as people sought answers. A hitherto obscure passage of Roywalaap scripture— claiming the end of the world would be the result of turning on tradition and progressing too quickly— began to be passed from ear to ear.   Many had already practiced the faith, making this easier to believe and spread. It preyed upon their newfound fears, and legitimized them. A fair number had already feared the march of progress taking away their livelihoods, others feared that another disaster would strike in time, and the grand majority held that natural fear of the unknown that gripped their visions of the future. Many began to fear for their lives, seeing The Incident as a warning from on high. Priests and tycoons alike gave powerful speeches and promises of a better way, gaining more and more listeners as time marched onward. And soon, books were burned, engines destroyed, scientists pressured to give up their pursuits or be lynched, and progress was painted black— as the enemy, the fiend, the harbinger of death.   This was around two-hundred years ago, and the Sotikaaput's traditionalist views have only grown stronger since. For example— around one-hundred years ago, a great roof was built over their nest so that foreigners could not sully their traditional ways. Now they live secluded from most of the world, stuck in their ways as their contemporaries move forward.  

For more history, please read,
Roywalaap
Organization | Feb 23, 2020

   

Religion & Myth

The primary faith of the Sotikaaput, Roywalaap, has undergone a number of changes since its inception hundreds of years ago. Originally, its focus was on family (notably, respecting one's elders) but as generations came and went, the faith's scripture— Walaak— underwent revision at the hands of tyrants and priests alike, to the point where the original texts have long since been burned and buried while something almost alien wears their skin. It is still very much rooted in the beliefs of generations long since passed, however— and this is where the current iteration's fixation on tradition sprouts.   Currently, Roywalaap is a faith that promises peaceful and bountiful lives for the faithful so long as they adhere to tradition. They will be reincarnated as oil after they die, a liquid that is seen as holy by the faith. Those who turn away from this are doomed to eternal suffering, never reincarnating but instead having their consciousnesses remaining in their corpses after death.  
"Can grammy hear us when we play in the backyar, pa? Can she play too?"   "Thas right boy, but she can't join ya, she ain't gon' move no more— only lisn'."   "Isn' that unfair?"   "Boy, she went and dug up onea them auto-may-tohns and tried ta fix it. Thing coulda gone haywire and killed ya! Way I sees it, grammy deserves it.
— A father to his son
   

Traditions

Tradition is treated almost like scripture, holidays and celebrations are like holy ceremonies that must be practiced without delay and with great respect. Even the way one acts, and dresses must be done with care for the ways of their ancestors— lest they draw ire from those around them. Their ancestors had survived untold centuries before them off of these traditions, how could what got them here now possibly be wrong?  

GREETINGS & FAREWELLS

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Men give their greetings by bowing their heads and holding their right hand to the empty space where one's jaw may normally sit, while lightly crossing their ankles (With the right at the front). Women give theirs by placing their hands flat, under one-another, at their chests. Both will give their farewells in the same manner.  

Eating

When eating, the eldest man must eat first, and following his first bite, he must utter thanks to Tsal. Following him, each person must do the same after their first bites. When preparing meat, one mustn't cook it— lest they lose the food's "purity." Luckily, they are better suited to the consumption and processing of raw meat— though they are not entirely immune to illnesses derived from this appetite.  

Milestones

Birth

Once a mother lays an egg, she must stay by its side for a full day without rest— singing hymns to it. Eggs are often adorned with small hats believed to help the child within orient themselves upright before breaking free. When a child hatches, both parents are to toss them into the air thrice— no more, no less— before catching them. This is believed to wake them into the living realm, otherwise the child may never fully "awaken" from the dreamless sleep that came before.  

Coming of Age

At the age of 13, a boy is considered a man. On this day he is to— rather than celebrate— immediately go out and find work. When he returns home, if he was unable to find work, his father will slap him. (Fathers are, in general, expected to be strict and quick to lash out should their children act out of line.) The boy will then search again the next day, and the next, and the next— however many are necessary for him to land a job. If it takes him more than a week, however, he is disowned and set out into the streets so that he may "learn himself." Only when the boy finds a job, may he return home.   It is not uncommon for mothers to create these jobs in order to avoid this outcome, some band together to fund false businesses that hire these young boys to do menial labor that is, in truth, entirely meaningless. More liberal mothers may persuade their sons to lie, and pay them directly. This is, unfortunately, a punishable offense if caught, however.  
  At the age of 16, a girl is considered a woman. She will celebrate on the day with a small gathering of her close family. Afterwards, she is given a year to find a suitor— otherwise, similarly to the boys, she is cast out of her home until she is finally able to do so.  

Death

Once one passes, their family will attend a ceremony held at their local church. During this ceremony, each of those close to the departed must speak to the rest and thank Tsal for having known the passed individual. White clothing is donned on these occasions, as it is believed to represent the departed before their reincarnation. Afterwards, they are taken and buried near an oil field, with a triangular stone to mark the site. Unless, of course— they were a sinner.   In which case, the departed is buried in the family's backyard— or that of the next closest individual. Passages of scripture pertaining to the sins they have committed will be read by their family members, a meal dumped onto their freshly dug grave which will remain unmarked, and promptly left to rot. The idea here is that, as sinners cannot be reincarnated, they will be forced to listen as their family lives happily without them— as their eternal punishment.  
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War

Spare no sinners, those who endanger the Sotikaaput's way of life and act against Tsal cannot stand. Fellow faithful are given ample opportunity to repent, and negotiate peace to the point where "wars" between them are more akin to polite arguments. Otherwise, women, children, pets— there are no limits in war. They are savage and ruthless in battle, employing a scorched earth policy— ensuring that the sinners can never return.  

Ideals, Love, & Gender

Relationships

According to the Walaak, only one man and multiple women can join together in marriage. This was, in fact, an amendment to the scripture, added eighty years ago by a member of the church leadership who had lost his bride-to-be to another woman. After the amendment was added, he forced the pair to marry him, threatening to send a mob of fanatics after them, and locked them in separate homes after they had no choice but to agree.

The power and sway the church leadership has over the Sotikaaput cannot be understated, though this particular change was supported by many of the faithful who already held prejudices against same-sex couples. Some of those same-sex couples began to doubt themselves and their own beliefs— some in the faith, but many more doubted their hearts first, leading to an unfortunate number of suicides afterwards.

Men often take multiple wives, and are expected to do so. Women, similarly, are expected to join these polyamorous marriages. Monogamous couples, while not outright ridiculed, will time and time again be met with comments along the lines of "So when are ya gettin' another one?"  

The alien in the bedroom

Sex is, according to Roywalaap doctrine, a sin. Procreation is labelled as something wholly separate, and exists as the sole exception. (Though, in their eyes, it isn't an exception, and is truly and entirely different.) Outside of this, any act that may be be considered even partially sexual in nature (this can include flirting, certain glances, dress, looking at/making risque illustrations, satisfying one's own urges, etc.) is greatly frowned upon.   As a result, Sotikaaput families end up being fairly large. Men and women are continuously frustrated and many doubt their own minds— seeing the very attraction to physical features as adjacent or equal to sin. This confusion and self-hatred only becomes stronger for non-heterosexuals, and those who develop fetishes.   This self-loathing can become so extreme, in fact, that psychosurgeries are preferable to one giving in to "temptation." These operations seek to outright destroy the hypothalamus— the hormone center of the brain— and remove lust altogether. This typically creates (when they are successful to begin with— and the success rate is a mere 67%) a worse situation for the patient, as their emotions, growth, sleep cycle, metabolism, and more are disrupted. With the besmirching of sex and sexual urges, this is still seen by many as a worthwhile sacrifice.
 

Beauty

Women must cover the shining scales upon their backs at any cost— no matter the weather. (Which is, as they live in a desert— often terribly hot.) The eyes on the backs of their heads, too, should be covered with strips of cloth tied around their heads when outside their homes. Men are expected to don makeup, especially on their beaks, cheeks, and above their eyes. Both are expected to bathe often, though men are expected to do so twice a day rather than once as women are.  

Gender

Sotikaaput society is patriarchal, as such, men receive more rights and luxuries than women. Only men can join the ranks of church and government leadership, and are much more likely to rise the ranks of their workplaces than women. Women are relegated to the medical field, textiles, cleaning, and cooking. They are expected to work, but men are expected to be the breadwinners.   In fact— should a man's wife earn more than him, he may force her to quit or lock her away. (Divorce is seen as a sin, and used only as a last resort— murder is, at times, seen as preferable to divorce.) Unfortunately a woman cannot do much should her husband abuse her in this fashion, she is often seen less as a person and more as property. It is not uncommon for homes to have dedicated "wife rooms" for this purpose.    

Art, Architecture, & Dress

Art

Sotikaaput art often focuses around depictions of Walaak stories and figures. Oil paintings are the most popular medium for them, shortly followed by wicker sculptures.  

Architecture

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Traditional structures are built tall, on long wooden stilts, often rising three to six meters off the ground. These stilts allow for greater ease of ventilation, and are rooted in the belief that one must be "above" the dirt. These overlook the mesas they are built on, and sway gently in the wind— enabled by a central pillar that keeps structures from collapsing.   These pillars often poke out through a structure's flat square-shaped mud-daubed roof. (Rain is a rare occurrence for them.) The core of all structures is wooden, but their walls are mud-daubed to better keep out heat. Buildings are accessed by way of ladders or stairways to their doorways, with some, on occasion, entering into a portion of the floor rather than the facade. Small rectangular windows dot the top portion of the outer walls, with curves at their backs so as to force wind inside.   Inside, furniture is primarily wicker in make— with loose weaves and ample spaces left empty. From chairs, and stools to beds and tables. These are lightweight, cool, and easier to carry— not to mention that they require less material to create. Most are formed in round, bulbous shapes which contrast the harsher angles of the walls of the structures they inhabit.  

Dress

Men wear dress shirts, often cool pastel in color, which are topped with tight color-stained wicker vests, and tucked into thin cloth skirts.

Women wear loose cloth blouses, often warm pastel in color, tucked into short tight-woven wicker pants that restrict their movement.

Soh-teek-ah-puht

Naming

Sotikaaput naming conventions differ from that of their primary language, Wakip.   Children are often named after figures from the Walaak, history, or their ancestors.   This is determined by prayer, and reading passages from the Walaak to the child— closely watching their reactions as they listen.   Though they cannot understand the words at such a young age, it is believed that their spirits do.   Common names include;   Male: Tsoy, Morani, Aakop, Naapay, Raati   Female: Ramoy, Naan, Aapik, Iip, Moniik   There are no unisex names, as many Sotikaaput believe that gender should never be confused.  

Taboos

Sin, going against the word of Tsal, the Walaak, and church leadership, is greatly frowned upon.   Some perceived sinners are outright killed by angered mobs of the righteous, as, while murder of another is a sin— sinners are not seen as people.   Sex and anything related to it are seen as disgusting and are, like many things, considered a sin.   Not adhering to tradition and digging up the sins of the past, too, is punished with death.  

Uncovering the past

A few years ago, Votaw Tsa who wished to study the remnants of lost Sotikaaput technology were hung promptly, with the remaining survivor beat within an inch of their life and left to warn their countrymen to never return.   This threat has only made the forbidden knowledge all the more intriguing to some— and a handful of particularly adventurous Tsa now hide themselves within Sotikaaput society as they search.   Some have hired Saawkamut to do the work for them, and others wait patiently— perhaps foolishly— for the day that the Sotikaaput open their borders once more.  
 
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Flightless

As Spirit requires one to be balanced to utilize— magic wielders are rare among the Sotikaaput.   With their repressive ideals and church leading their nation, few find themselves balanced enough to gain any magical abilities.   In fact— some view those who can as sinners, claiming that magic is a form of progress, and one which must be avoided.   As a result, those with the ability to create a Wupawk are extraordinarily rare— furthering the people's isolation.  
Flyin' ain't possible, 'nless ya git right blesst!
— A preacher
  There are a few, however, who report directly to church leadership, known as Daanits.  

The secret

Daanits are touted not as wielders of spirit— but as holy messengers blessed by Tsal.   They are utilized by the church to strike fear into the hearts of would-be protesters and apostates.   Their "sin hunts" are infamous— at least, among skeptics and those marked as sinners— to much of the populace these events are soaked in the blood of righteousness.   Not only this, but they are used by church leadership to get what they want— be it particular women, money, or land.   None would dare question their actions or use of their power— for what if they labeled you as a sinner?  
I...I know she was my wife, but I can't jus' say no t' Tsal. She must never have been meant t' be mine, then...it's Tsal's plan, after all. Ain't it?   I just gotta accept it.   But I still love her.
— A broken man
 
 
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Burn away the past

Many Sotikaaput gather together monthly for a ceremony known as the night of burns.   Here, a great amount of oil is collected, and burned while Sotikaaput hold hands in a circle around it.   They will chant, sing hymns, and pray together until the flames die out.   Unfortunately these have gotten out of hand in the past— after striking oil among a new field, one of these rituals was held— right over the well.   The flames are still burning to this day.

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