Votaw Ethnicity in Umqwam | World Anvil


The Votaw are a curious people who often dedicate themselves to the pursuit of knowledge. Much of their culture is somewhat utilitarian in nature, as this pursuit dominates their lives.  


Votaw are humanoid in shape, the majority of their rough skin is black as obsidian, with two vertical white stripes stretching down from their necks to their hips— connecting to their heads which are primarily white with two diagonal black lines which taper towards the center of their faces. Their heads are short and elliptical, stretched to the front as if having been carefully pinched and pulled by the hands of a sculptor.   At the longest point of their faces sit straight blackened beaks made of an incredibly durable substance, which can grow up to a foot in length, and are used to burrow into their terrain. Underneath this, rests a smooth rounded jaw while small, circular ears made of smooth skin rest on either side of their heads.   Towards the front are two wide almond-shaped eyes, their fiery orange irises matching with the wild, bright red hair which grows on the backs of their heads. This hair grows in a short diamond shape for women, and in a long triangular shape for men.  
Their legs tend to be thinner than their arms, jutting forward at a slight angle and balanced at the bottom with a pair of two long toes on the backs of their feet. Women posses a third back toe, though this is much shorter than the other two, rarely reaching the ground and aiding in support. Its purpose has been widely debated. Their wide hands, elongated fingers, and hardened black nails seem well suited for scooping dirt loosened by their beaks.
In order to prevent brain damage, their skulls are not only more durable than those of their contemporaries, but are protected by an extra bone which wraps around the entirety of it— keeping the skull as still as possible and mitigating the shock of impacts made by their burrowing. Within this bone, too, rests much of their elongated, round tongues which can stretch up to one foot outside of their beaks.

A Forgotten History

Currently, the Votaw live within the nest of Hiik— but this was not where they were first born. Long ago, they had immigrated to Hiik, fleeing something lost to time. Many questions go unanswered. Is their old nest still out there?   Did some terrible danger drive them from their home, and is it still waiting? And even more worrying— who occupied Hiik before them? Is there a more present danger lurking within their newfound home that wiped the previous occupants out?   Determined to never lose such important information again, the Votaw have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of knowledge and fervent record-keeping. One of the tales remaining from this lost era speaks of a secret hidden deep within the great tree Umqwam itself. A secret which they believe can answer all they wish to know of their past, and perhaps even more.   In search of this, they burrow into the great tree— striking fear into the hearts of all who live within its branches. What if the tree collapses by their hand? Even other Votaw, fearing this horrible outcome, emigrated from Hiik— refusing to take part in what they believed to be a suicidal pursuit.  

Religion & Myth

  Most Votaw are devout followers of the Kuqim faith, and it is from here that the story of hidden secrets lying behind Umqwam's bark originate. Like the rest of Umqwam's denizens, the being that brought the Votaw into this world has left them alone— and followers of Kuqim believe that this story was left behind as a clue from on high.   Perhaps they may be able to find out why their gods had left by pursuing it, among many other burning questions. Surely, the knowledge of the gods could satiate their curiosity for generations to come. The primary tenet, and core of their faith, is "Always answer." No mystery must go unsolved, no knowledge shall escape them, and no question is too dangerous to answer.  


  Votaw families are focused on the immediate— parents, and children. Extended family is rarely communicated with, merely recorded.  

Greetings & Farewells

When greeting someone, a Votawan will cup their right hand and gesture to show one side of an egg, opening the interaction. Farewells are given with both hands, gesturing the entire shape of an egg— closing the interaction.


Votaw food is almost always kept square, for practicality. It is considered rude to begin eating from anywhere but the lower corners.



When a Votawan's egg is first laid, it is placed in the center of the mother's home in an enchanted stone called a kwusi. The parents will then spend the next month giving oral lessons to the egg. First, they begin by explaining the incubation process in the hopes that their child will somehow take this knowledge to heart and use it to properly develop themselves during the process. Following this, the parents will read studies or essays they themselves have written, or ones they greatly respect so that the child may get to know them.   Finally, once the egg hatches, the child is bathed and lulled to sleep by their parents softly reciting various formulae. The shell is kept, ground, mixed into a sweetened paste, and used to decorate a celebratory dessert enjoyed by the parents.  

Coming of age

When a Votawan child reaches the age of eleven, their parents will celebrate by each writing an essay on what they may enjoy about, and are proud of the child. One presented with these, the child will then spend the night awake writing a similar essay for each parent.  


Many Votaw speak of donating their bodies to study after they die, but there is simply not always a need. Colleges will post when they have need of more cadavers, those who cannot be donated are cremated and their ashes collected within a stone egg, kept inside a yahniik tsat, or death library where shelves of these eggs are kept and labelled with the titles of their most impactful work.  


Votawan military units will keep a band of drummers, who will beat their drums to formulae related to eggs, such as circumference, durability, incubation times, etc. It is believed that this will invigorate the warriors with newfound life, while disrupting the enemy with its occasional dissonance— or, by Votawan standards, unappreciated beauty. Those who fight in time with the drums are believed to be blessed with strength, as well.    

Ideals, Love, & Gender



All Votaw are encouraged to find partners and have children. For— so goes the argument— if not their own progeny, who will carry their work into the future? As a result, same-sex relationships are often shunned.   Either party may approach the other first, and they court each-other through long discussions over a period of months to years. Finally, to become partners, the pair will engage in debate— whoever broaches the topic first will state their case on why they believe they should be together, and the other must then play the opposing side and argue why they should not.   Each is given a set period of time for their logical statements, followed by a second round with their logical, and a third for their summaries. If they find that they should not, after all, be with one another— they will simply go their separate ways. If they do find that they wish to be together, they will embrace each-other, and tie a green bead into each-other's hair to symbolize their partnership.  


Many Votaw will keep their beaks polished, and ground to a fine point at their tip, as a dull beak is ineffective. Dirt must be scraped from under their nails for hygiene's sake as well. Beyond this and bathing, there is little else they deem necessary in the way of bodily upkeep.  


Seeing as both men and women are equally capable of producing great research, both enjoy equal opportunity throughout the grand majority of Votawan society. However, there exists one particular split saawkamut are almost exclusively women, as it is believed by the Votaw that they can more easily balance themselves, and consequently control magic much more easily.    

Art, Architecture, & Dress



Votawan art is formed to mimic the world around them. The most common figures are those of nature, such as geology and animal biology— as well as physical representations of mathematical formulae. As it comes naturally to them, sculptures and reliefs in wood and stone are their most common mediums.  


The grand majority of Votawan architecture is carved rather than built, their settlements are mostly burrowed and carved into the mountains that populate so much of Hiik. Most structures consist of rough-hewn ellipsoidal shapes, partially carved from the stone walls surrounding them.   To them, the shape of an egg is almost holy— symbolizing the beginning of life, innocence, and its smoothness representing something without roughness or imperfection. However, only the most important of structures deserve to be fully excavated, smoothed, and polished into this shape. The rest are left embedded, with all but their exposed exterior left connected to the surrounding stone.
Their settlements are set into grids, which consist of tiered elliptical rings each with six tunnels sprouting from the center. Each of these tiered areas is then connected by one or more of their six tunnels. The sixth tunnels are diagonal, and in these, train tracks are built, run, and operated.   There is little to see directly outside of one's walls, and as as result, there are no windows in most structures— merely series of small circular holes along their tops to allow for smoke from fires to escape. To ensure that this smoke does not become a hazard, these holes lead the smoke into the topmost part of the nearest corridor road, where magical drafts of air are constantly blowing.
As there is always an abundance of stone, doors and furniture are more often than not made of rock as well, with wicker and coarse cloth added for comfort.  


Votawan dress is simple; men and women both wear long skirts woven from magically treated stone known as yahavo— the recipe for which is known only to the Votaw. These stone-grey skirts split at the middle, widening towards the bottom, and are fastened to one's person with a simple belt of the same fabric.   A common variation sees a longer split, with each side tied to one's knees. Some, feeling particularly adventurous, may dye one or two dots of bright color.
Diverged ethnicities
Related Organizations
Related Locations


Naming traditions differ from their primary language of Wakip.   Names that change are troublesome to keep track of, and as such, one must stick to the name given to them during childhood.   Common names are things such as Ahon Hiiptay, or restless scholar, Qiik, or stone, and Qotal Yahniik, or endless library.  


If one is reading any written work, they cannot stop in the middle of a page— as doing so would be to insult the author, as if one walked away in the middle of conversation.   Depictions of spheres outside of related research— spheres are believed to be failed eggs, and should not be celebrated in art or architecture.   Burning books and other records— this is seen as equivalent to threatening death on the author.  

Riverbed eggs

During a hunting expedition, a group of Votaw returned home with a bizarre discovery— a box of stone burial eggs found in a riverbed.   There were ten in total, each crudely carved with the names of college officials. Officials who were, at that time, still alive.  
Are you trying to threaten me, sir? Or is this a joke related to my recent research into the matter of defying death? Either way, this is a complete waste of my time.
— An unnamed professor
  The issue was not taken seriously until three days later when two of the ten officials were found dead— with egg shaped holes in their chests.  
Idunno, d'ya think an egg jumped up n'...y'know, killed 'em?
— A child's insight
  Day after day, another fell— regardless of precautions taken. Each had had a hand in the same research, and their notes were found burning near their bodies.   Whoever had done this was trying to send a message— that death was final.   They were never caught, but many believe they were a member of the Qaawt— former Votaw-turned-cultists who directly oppose the Votaw's pursuit of knowledge.  

Meditative essays

A common practice for the saddened Votawan is to create a meditative essay, or, to quietly meditate and write an essay in their head.   This is especially helpful for Votaw spellslingers, as it helps calm their minds to a state of mind more suited for spellcasting.  
This is going to change the world when it's published!   I'll be hailed as a genius!   Finally my break is here, and all I need to do is put this to paper...   Now why can't I remember any of it?
— A panicked Votawan

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