Thursday, July 6, 2017

On the Soil-Slaves.

"That these people have such a strong and visceral reaction to large-scale agriculture built into their mythology is uncanny, and suggestive of a long-lost chapter of their history from which they may still derive the lessons of firsthand experience."

- Roberick Bertrum Litte, Associate Undergraduate Scholar of the Department of Natural Philosophies at the Ivory Tower University of Deneroth.

The outside world of mankind is known to the Fokari, at least vaguely, and much of it fills them with a certain existential dread. Chiefly, they fear that one day the people from the lowland green will rise up and consume them like a dust storm raging in the heart of the wastes. But the anxiety extends to certain practices of "neighboring" peoples which tend not to lend themselves in any way to invading like bogeymen.

There exists within the vast Fokari pantheon a singularly reprehensible creature which is bereft of the usual qualities of dualistic positive and negative. He is a deity, after a fashion, for whom the enslavement and debasement of all creatures is His desire. He is also the patron god of farming, making clear the nomads' equation between working the land and hopeless bondage. It is also no surprise that His name, never uttered aloud by any Fokar, shares an etymological root with the most common word used to describe any acts of sexual aggression, making Him (and His vocation) the metaphorical violation of the Mother Earth figure prevalent in much of the rest of the mythos. Rather than invoking this distressing episode, He is referred to sparingly by the equally sinister epithet of "He Who Reaps and Sows".

The slaves of the soil are those beings miserable and unfortunate enough to be ensnared in His seductive lies of full bellies and surplus. Both people and the animals yoked by them are unwitting pawns of His, set to toil away and struggle against the land to the tune of His silent, mocking laughter. Though the power they are beholden to is a terrible one, the slaves of grain and fodder are more to be pitied than reviled. Such desperation has the potential to clutch anyone. While less common, some versions of the myth even suggest that mind control and enchantments play a direct role in keeping them tied to a plot of land, often taking the form of maankhir, or agonizingly tight metal bands set around their skulls in order to crush out all thoughts of tribe or self.

Years of plenty are His means of lulling all into a false sense of security, and crop failures or freak incidents of pests and natural disaster are, at best, His way of testing His servants and reminding them of the uncaring nature of the soil which will one day consume their decomposing bodies. But more often than not it does not carry any such message of warning, and serves only to amuse Him more deeply. The gradual, imperceptible erosion of soil and the degradation of its nutrients over the generations is the grandest of all cruelties engineered by He Who Reaps and Sows, for it forces over-committed populations to uproot themselves in order to seek literal greener pastures, thereby breaking covenant with Him and inviting upon themselves further punishment, according to His warped mind.

That the borderland frontier farmers eking out an existence at the watered edges of the steppe return again and again to that damning livelihood no matter how many hardships they've faced is admittedly a testament to their dedication and hardiness, but it is an even greater testament to the might of the Grain God.

No rites are performed in His name, though very rarely if a tribe's Seer determines that they've somehow earned His ire or the attention of one of His fiendish spiritual servants, a ritual is performed in order to placate and distract Him. Several farmers in effigy are constructed from sticks and sacks and positioned around a patch of tall grass. The grass is then cut close to the base like grain being harvested, and then the farmers themselves are felled one by one, like lives being taken by starvation and disease. While this is all being acted out by one very brave volunteer, the rest of the tribe rapidly breaks camp and flees as far as it can move in a half-day's time. Upon completion, the volunteer sprints to keep up, and undergoes a cleansing ritual once he or she has reunited with their breathless fellows.

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