Customs and Folklore of the Ombesh and Aummesh
Beasts and Monsters
Lishlobo: A mythical (?) sea creature that is made of or looks like it’s made of seaweed. It is also sometimes imagined to be a great creature on which seaweed grows, giving it that appearance. None has ever been reliably spotted or captured but many sailors believe in it, especially in Ashnabis.
Ikhano: A bearded vulture a preferential bone eater that lives in wide ranges of the former Empire. It is seen as an enormous threat, especially by the priests of the Hand, who must compete with them after battles or plagues to prevent them from taking and defleshing corpses. Unlike most animals, many priests contend that ikhanos have First Ancestors and are thus capable of sentinence.
Khutir: Legend has it that there is an enormous, highly cunning ikhano known as Khutir - she is seen as an almost-immortal, or at least ageless creature of enormous power, highly dangerous, and that anyone whose body is eaten by Khutir becomes an aidastu (haunt). No one has ever seen this terrific creature, but her legend is formidable nonetheless. See also: Ikhano
Arts and Crafts
Saglikom: It is the custom in Ashnabis to place a saglikom, a piece of engraved green copper, above the front door of a home, inlaid in the lintel, to ward against haunts or spirits that might seek to damage the inhabitants. Normally the copper is placed unoxidized at the home’s construction, and then as it oxidizes over time, the protection is thought to build up. To clean the copper is a grave violation, thought to be very likely to bring misfortune to the home.
Bustul: When an individual rendered bubun, it is customary for at least one relative to wear a small inscribed clay tablet on a chain while in public, known as a bustul. Inside the tablet is a smaller tablet, containing information on the individual who has been rendered. This is used as a form of security, to ensure that the correct remains are released to the correct people at the end of the bubun’s seven-year period of service. Since the Hand and Voice keep relatively secure records, however, this is more of a secondary function - principally, it is a symbol worn by the relation to indicate respect for the deceased and the anticipation of their safe return.
Ogol: A ceramic vessel used for holding liquid that has anthropomorphic features - hands for handles, feet for feet, and a mouth for spout. It embodies, metaphorically, the idea of the body as a container and is a common feature in most households that follow the Corps, for pouring wine or other alcoholic beverages.
Urdoche: Urdoche, a style of minuscule curvilinear engraving (particularly on ivory and slate, but also on metal) is a highly developed labor intensive craft practice both in Ashnabis and in the Omban successor states. The expenditure of tens or even hundreds of hours of artisanal labour on fine objects is highly prized, and skilled urdochi are highly sought after.
Vumuri: A rare and valuable blue disc-shaped spiral shell, like an ammonite. Vumuri are worn as jewelry, sewn into fine clothing, and made into belts. Almost everywhere other than Ashnabis, only members of noble lineages may wear vumuri, and this sumptuary law is particularly enforced in Omba, Hasmala, Khutu, and Taizi (the core of the old Omban Empire), where no shells whatsoever may be worn by non-nobles.
Hiliben: A musical instrument, a sort of three-stringed zither common among the Aummesh, also known as the jimuze (with 4 and 5 stringed variants also) in Daligash and Malfan.
Tales and Legends
Legend of Ling and Pigai: This is a myth, possibly with a grain of truth, about a pair of twin brothers, Ling and Pigai. Ling was born first, strong and healthy, while Pigai was sickly. Their mother died in the early morning, having shared first dawn with Ling but not his brother. The two were separated and Pigai, as corpseborn, knew little of his origins. As youths, they met and fell in love with one another, not knowing of their connection. Ultimately this story ends tragically, with Ling discovering the connection, killing his brother for causing their mother’s death, and then taking his own life.
Tales of the Three Bastards: A series of myths and tales told in Ashnabis about the culture heroes Shetsu, Uggi, and Chal, three friends, all of illegitimate and low country birth, who travel the countryside, acting as tricksters and defending the oppressed.
Begh’s Boots: A tale told among the Ombesh of a magical pair of boots that give their wearer the power to dance and charm bubun. Considered heretical, told in whispers.
Vengeful Saint: A myth about a saint who came to life, but was not attended by anyone - her remains abandoned by relatives or never known. Accordingly, she was driven mad and visits her descendants with visions. Sometimes used as a folk explanation of mental illness.
Awakened Corpse: A story told to children about a bubun with sentience. After being rendered, it could hear and sense its environment, and was capable of speech. It broke free of its commander’s control, and wandered off, tormented by its own existence, where presumably it comes to terrorize the young.
The Silver Children: An Ombesh epic poem, by Silikam, one of the major poets of the Imperial period.
The Stone Prince and the Iron Knight: An Aummesh folktale about loyalty of soldiers to their masters even after death.
Slate and Shale: An anonymous Aummesh poem.
The Price of Breath: An Aummesh folktale about the fiendish Brother Bones stealing the breath of the fool Nimpaal.
Four Leaves: An Aummesh liturgical song of unknown origin and meaning.
Moon, Wind, and Kings: An Aummesh folk song of recent origin.
Food and Drink
Achel: A light fragrant spice used in cooking along the Kaskos. It is a yellow-flowered herb that grows in coastal groves, used widely in cooking meat dishes and in yellow dyes. It is known as riverbeard and is thought to help bring on puberty in young men.
Yeppo: A pungent drink infused with fos, and also the name of a drinking game played with it. In the classic form of the game, one of two or more cups of strong liquor are infused with a significant quantity of fos, and then the participants each consume a cup, not knowing which is so infused at first. The (un)lucky one to drink the spiked cup must then hold the fos in as long as possible until a wild surge occurs, with bets on the time and the result. It is strongly frowned upon by sensible adults.
Raumak: A pungent alcoholic drink made of a green-gold gourd that grows locally in the Sestapor swamp and nearby areas. Considered undrinkable by most civilized people.
Games and Sports
Di, Desi, Dif: A choosing game / rhyme used by children and grownups alike whenever something must be decided or some task must be assigned.
Ragau: A highly violent Aummesh ball game popular in Ashnabis in which two teams try to get a ball to rest atop a stone pillar.
Bambos: A game of chance played by both Ombesh and Aummesh, involving 4 long triangular prism sticks made of bone, ivory, or wood each divided into several segments. The sticks are tossed into the air and let fall on a flat surface. How they land and at what point they cross one another determines who wins.
Stereotypes: As with any groups, there are stereotypes often held about natives of different countries. Some of the more common are:
- Omba: dissolute, melancholy
- Hasmala: talkative, disagreeable, boisterous
- Taizi: prim, status-oriented
- Khutu: pious, deferential, lazy
- Malfan: friendly, disorganized
- Basai: taciturn, cheap
- Daligash: foul-mouthed, vulgar, slick, tolerant
- Choradan: stiff upper lip, hard-drinking, risk-taker
- Nulu: pessimistic, musical
- Ashnabis: rustic, honest, gullible
- Sharai: trendy, stubborn
Aukushka: (Aum., ‘bark eater’) A local term in Ashnabis for a crazy / wild person, especially someone who gets lost in the swamp or chooses to live a solitary life in the swamp.
Quartering: The body is the framework for the division of the cosmos into four segments by an up-down axis and a left-right axis. These are mapped onto physical terrain with North-South = up-down = order-chaos = male (Voice) and East-West = right-left = life-death = female (Hand). This structure is reflected in temples (whose entrances reflect the cardinal ordering of their respective priesthoods), the layout of many communities, and the structure of numerous other lesser practices in both Ombesh and Aummesh society. The Hulti do not adhere to this partition.