Sunday, September 10, 2017

Gender & Family in the Fokari Tribes.

"What should we name her, when the day comes? She needs a beautiful name to grow into."
"How about Alyah?"
"After your aunt? She had a nose like a falcon's beak! Better to choose Golnaj, in honor of my mother..."
"You mean the one whose face is like a salt flat?"
- Fokari parents bantering over the cradle of their newborn.

Generally speaking, there are two genders among the Fokari. These are male and female, and again generally speaking, each of these genders encompasses a broad range of roles, customs, and expectations for those included within it. The most visible example of the sexual division of roles in a Fokari tribe is the existence of the Speaker and Seer. The former, a tribal archivist and overseer of youths within various age groups, is always male, while the latter, the preeminent or sole shaman of the community, is always female. This lines up somewhat appropriately with the general Fokari worldview of dualism and differing halves. But there are more divisions of labor less ritualized than either Speaker or Seer, and there are many more scenarios where these spheres may overlap in daily life.

Women are the commodity powerhouses of sorts in each family, weaving, felting, doing needle-work, and more rarely woodworking or clay-making, when available plant matter and water permits. Men will scrimshaw, tan hides or process meat, or work metal in exceedingly rare cases, but they more often attend to hunting and the maintenance of the tools relevant to it. War is ideally a male affair, but then again war is ideally avoided whenever possible, and pragmatism often calls on all to defend kith, kin, and yuum herds. Both men and women may tend to the tribe's herds, often in larger numbers of shepherds per animal head than in cultures where the use of domesticated horses is common. These house industries are overseen by the elder married couple of each family, with active parents generally exempt from the most rigorous and time-consuming projects unless a grandparent can manage their children for them.

Fertility and the bearing of children is not a private matter for families in a Fokari tribe. Because of the fluctuating access to resources common on the wasteland fringes, the family heads and other elders try to maintain a certain population range from generation to generation, encouraging marriage and reproduction here or discouraging it there. The range has initially soft limits at either end, but the sudden and severe under-or-overpopulation of a tribe's territory can lead to either voluntary assimilation into another band, or the cleaving-off of groups into new tribes. Allegations of adultery arising from unexpected children are dealt with in the same discreet manner as other disputes, with a mish'khiltah rarely ever being needed. Couples who plan for a single child and receive twins or triplets are celebrated as being gifted by the spirits despite the extra burden, but couples who do not limit themselves after multiple instances of childbearing face social stigma of varying severity, mother and father alike. The exposure of newborns is rare due to an association with blood-guilt, but it is not an unheard-of practice. Children who are both needed and desired must still survive the challenging first two years of life before having a celebrated and official name-day.

Being one of the few hereditary roles in Fokari life, chieftainship is passed down from parent to selected heir. As a general rule, the chieftain selects their youngest adult child of the opposite sex who is unmarried, in the belief that this will ensure the new chief's full dedication to their duties, as well as prevent a dynasty of personality from forming through successive generations of fathers and sons or mothers and daughters. Of course succession does not always come to pass in this way, either because of fate, or by personal choice of the chieftain.

Marriage may still occur when children are unneeded, and there is nothing to stop a married couple from constructing their own tent and living together within it. But a low fertility does not mean that infertile or discouraged couples are forever without children. Attrition and challenges to life expectancy are found at all age ranges, and in the event that a youth is orphaned of both parents, or a nuclear family unit is overwhelmed with needs, a foster pair may take them in. These foster parents are typically of the same extended family through one side or the other, so it is not uncommon for these children to be raised by aunts, uncles, or cousins. Often, these foster parents are couples which include one nyaak partner.

Literally meaning "mirrored", a nyaak Fokar is one who identifies and behaves as the gender opposite of the one they were born into. In mythic traditions held by many tribes, they are the result of a spirit being incorrectly clothed in flesh during the movement from the spirit realm to the physical world. A Fokar cannot identify as nyaak until they are of the age to be able to complete the adulthood rituals typical for all members of the tribe. But after that point and upon completion of these events, they are treated in accordance with their truer, unfleshed self. A male is for all intents and purposes a woman, and vice versa. From a certain sociological perspective, couples including one nyaak serve to limit population growth somewhat, and so they are valued as naturally-occurring moderators despite their rarity in the tribes overall. In this way a dualistic binary is maintained, but a mode of transportation between the two points is made available.

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