Irian Customs
Known as the people of the roads, the travellers, and by a number of far less flattering names, the Irians are a strange people. Insular, fearful of outsiders, but willing to give even the least of their race anything his heart might desire. Transient, but by generation and not as individuals. Aloof. Respecting of wealth and success as a sign of wisdom. They are the fathers and mothers of language and the linkers of worlds.

Rule by the Wise


Hierophant and mystagogue rule in the Irino, Nasirs in a nation, and each is aided by a company of learned advisers hand picked from the most successful and influential of the Irians. In fact, in many cases while a figurehead is in place to break ties, or to take control when a situation demands immediate action, it is generally the council and not the hereditary ruler who are in power. Nasirs have their powers severely limited by being forced to consult the council on all social matters, and while emergencies result in the Nasir dissolving the council for the duration of the emergency, they are usually quick to reassert themselves when they feel it appropriate. Councils are usually formed around a combination of the most learned and the most well travelled members of a community, and are exclusively male.

Wealth

The ability to accrue wealth and be charitable is often seen as an indication of wisdom, and thus of fitness to rule or advise upon rule. That is not to say that mere wealth is enough to be judged worthy. It must be earned by the individual, and not inherited or seen as a fortunate windfall. However one who has had great success in business rather than learning or extensive travel can buy his way onto the council of his home for a suitable donation without his membership having to be ratified further by its sitting members or his standing being impacted. His success is seen as merit enough to lend success to a nation.

Voices

While men are seen as the fonts of wisdom and the leaders in Irian society, women are the spokespeople of every Irian institution save the temple. As a result every Irian ruler is served by a Voice - usually a female relative - who delivers his edicts, negotiates on his behalf, and in all things acts as his public representative.

Segregation


The Irians have long been a persecuted people; for settling in foreign lands, for hoarding wealth, for not intermarrying or mastering the local language, and sometimes just as easy scapegoats. This has led to them segregating themselves from other races and being unwelcoming to outsiders.

Outsiders

While outsiders are welcome in an Irino they are viewed with suspicion and would never be allowed to settle there. Non-Irians will usually find the prices higher in the Irino and will seldom find a place to rent a room, even overnight. This is not a not-so-subtle hint to do your business and go, though most see it as open xenophobia. To the Irians the Irino is a place for Irians,and they work to support one another. There is simply no benefit to them in being unduly generous to outsiders.

Relocation

When a community moves on it does not move as one but rather in pieces, but such is the desire to move on inherent to the Irian folk that all eventually move on. No one family can claim to have been in a place for more than three or four generations before picking up and relocating. Some may even return to ancestral homes again and again generations apart.

Names


Irians are exceptionally guarded about their names. They believe firmly that knowing something or someone's name confers power over it, and so the sharing of a name - a true name - is something they will only do in the most intimate and secure of settings. Usually an Irian's public name will be that he shares readily: A combination of mono-syllabic words describing who he is, or who his parents desired him to be. However they will be known by their longer, true name in trusted company only. In some cases a ruler will disclose his true name to all of his subjects, for to rule is to belong to all those that you govern.

Hospitality and Charity


Irians take hospitality and generosity extremely seriously and a plethora of laws, customs and ceremonies surround both being a host and giving charity. If a person is invited into the home of an Irian, that Irian immediately has certain duties and obligations to the visitor the moment he crosses the threshold. Should the visitor break bread in the house (which is to say be offered food) then he becomes a guest and the host has yet more obligation. These obligations are so important to the Irians that often an individuals breaching them will be lynched by the community in outrage.

Provision

A host must provide drink to a visitor or guest (though once a visitor eats he becomes a guest, so food is not expected) and must provide all of the food and drink for a guest. How well one keeps ones guests is a mark of status amongst the Irians, and so often even the lowliest guests will find themselves kept better than the master of the house when they travel.

Protection

A host must see to his visitor or guest's security. He is compelled by custom and law to safeguard a visitor against all threats as he would a member of his own household. A host who attacks or kills one considered a guest, or allows his servants or family to do so, is generally forfeiting his own life. Of course a guest who seeks to harm his host or members of the host's household immediately gives up their status as a guest.

Free Speech

Once a visitor becomes a guest he no longer has the right to speak against his host in any way, or in any venue, even courts of law! This does not extend to private conversation with the host, where how freely the guest speaks would be decided by the usual conventions of their relationship. However for the duration of a guest's stay he is compelled to speak no ill of his host or his host's household, and is expected to be complimentary when called upon.

Philanthropy

An Irian who has more than he needs (and more than his guests need) is expected to give generously to local Irian charities, or to make loans to poorer Irians wanting to take up business without any expectation of profit (or even repayment in some cases). Sometimes he will simply give goods and coin to the local bank or temple and they will choose worthy causes to support. This does not extend to offering charity or loans to non-Irians, though frequently an Irian might decide an outsider represents a wise investment and broker a deal with profit in mind.

Non-Irians

A non-Irian is expected to abide by the same laws when in an Irian household even in a foreign country. Because much of this is so archaic and foreign to outsiders however a non-Irian will seldom be offered food under the roof of an Irian household. Many an outsider has taken being asked to eat their meal outside as a grave insult, when in truth his host is merely upholding the laws of hospitality.

The Way Price


Perhaps most confusing about the Irian culture is their paying of the Way Price. To the Irians nothing is without value and so even when freely given all things must be bought. No Irian will take anything as a gift unless he does so as a guest, and so he will always offer some payment for a service, kindness or goods. A trader might repay his client a volume of coin for his gracious conduct, a traveller might offer a coin when a stranger lets him pass in the street. Courtesy is a commodity, as is information, entertainment, even flattery. In an argument an Irian might feel compelled to pay recompense when he lands a particularly cutting insult or when his opponent concedes a point. The Way Price can see coin, goods, information, congeniality, or whatever commodity change hands over and over in a single transaction, even seeing the same goods pass backward and forward several times in the service of custom.

Tattooing


To the Irians their tattooing is like a fingerprint. A story told in flesh of genealogy and personal history. Designs are simplistic, with swirls, circles, triangles, and other basic geometric patters all in the vivid indigo dye, traditionally sourced from plants that grow only around Irikhan Mora. Far flung Irinos have a plant, dug from the soil of Irikhan Mora with which to make these dyes. Usually the forearms and face are entirely covered, but tattooing can cover the entire body from the waist up. Patterns tend to have little meaning in and of themselves, but they are passed on down a family, so to see one's family design on a non-relative is a grave insult often repaid by death, or flaying that skin from the perpetrator. Many families trace their lineages and relationships with other families through their tattoos, though an individual's designs are more inspired by those of their forebears than directly copied.

Property


Anyone in Irian society has equal right to own property be it objects land or tools, save for those who have been exiled or enslaved to repay debt. Generally speaking an Irino is owned as a collective by all of the Irians living there by virtue of their contribution to that society. As a result, while a foreign nation might see the Irino as belonging to its governing council, the Irians see the land as legally belonging to whoever the council allows to make use of it, and they are obliged to simply return it when they eventually move on. This, in large part, leads to Irians being more willing to contribute to community projects, and also leads them to favour their own over outsiders in business. An Irian would argue that in a sense goods a shop sells belong to the community already, and the vendor is merely charging a handling fee to those who already have a share in the Irino.

Cats

Rodents are epidemic in the cities of the Irian lands. Their cities saw unprecedented plagues of them after the death of their last Emperor and they never entirely seemed to leave. Carriers of plague and spies of evil beings the Irians hate rats above all living things and so the cat has become important in Irian culture. No man can own a cat any more than he can own another man and so all will court them with lavish fare and warm sunny places to sleep so that they might kill the rats. As a result irinos teem with cats of all colour and variety, and to harm a cat is often punished as severely as harming a man.

Age of Majority


Irians believe that a man comes of age at the sixteenth anniversary of his birth, and a woman when first she menstruates. At this point a man is expected to leave the home of his parents and go and take up a trade where he will then be cared for by whatever master takes him apprentice. Women who have come of age can be married, or promised in marriage, but cannot bare children from their marriage until they reach the age of fifteen, meaning that many will remain wed for years without leaving the home of their parents for that of their husband to safeguard against unwanted pregnancy.

Birth Anniversaries

Irians acknowledge the exact anniversary of an individual's birth, usually by spending that day in solitary prayer and contemplation. Gifts are not given, but close family might join the individual in prayer and quiet solemnity though this is not merely a courtesy one might afford a relative if one had no other duty that day.

Death Anniversaries

Irians also mark the anniversary of their father's death in a similar way, though this will always be solitary even where siblings mark the same day. This is seen as a mark of respect for one's sire and Irians will mark the day of their father's death until their own. There is no need or merit in visiting any kind of memorial - the individual's own memory should be sufficient.

Inheritance


Irians follow a pattern of regular primogeniture, which is to say that they favour the first born male child as heir to everything. However being heir comes with parental obligation to one's siblings. Political power, however, is not heritable as it is in other cultures. Instead Nasirs who rule entire nations are free to choose their own heirs, and while they frequently choose their own family this choice it is seldom a child, and it is not unheard of for them to select a capable adviser instead. When a Nasir dies without naming his heir there is often either open warfare or a gathering of a council of learned men to select the next ruler. Rule is seen as a duty rather than a right.

Worship


The Temple of Irik is an important social institution within the Irian Irino, but it is not a formalized faith with a central bureaucracy or leadership. Still, surprisingly, the Irian propensity for moving around has kept the temple teachings and structure essentially the same from place to place, in all but the most remote lands.

Religious Tolerance

Irians have relatively little interest for other divh, but do not deny their existence or even aggrandize Irik above them. They have tried to form a complete view of the cosmos as it relates to the divh, and rather than place Irik at its centre they recognize that the worship of Irik is right because he is their father, not because he is pre-eminent amongst the court of the divh.

Banks

Irian temples will often also double as banks, and all banks will at least have a priest or two as part of their governance. Because banks often invest in charities they are expected to consult closely with the clergy in order to ensure that their decisions are in keeping with proper Irian values.

Women


Firmly patriarchal within the household, Irian fathers arrange marriages of convenience to unify families and to favour their sons. Every Irian family wants a good strong son, but daughters are often more valuable. Where a male will lead a household, a female is always the spokesperson for a household, family, political institution, business, or even temple. Irian women are the face of their family unit, both to outsiders and other families, leaving men to the pursuit of enlightenment, spirituality and wisdom. Irian women also have a reputation for great beauty, and for a long time have accentuated their appearances with makeup, scandalous attire, and flirtatious manner in order to get the better of foreigners in a bargain.

Trade

Marriage


Marriages in Irian culture are relatively marginal affairs, as much business arrangement as the foundation of dynasties and generations. When one family wants to unite itself more closely with the Irino, or with another family in the Irino, or sometimes simply to mark a lucrative agreement between two families (or acquire a particularly successful wife to represent the family) they will engineer a marriage.

Love Matches

It is not unknown or frowned upon for Irians to marry for love and not business. However one must always take one's family assets into such a union. Those who are of age, without a gainful marriage on the horizon are free to make a marriage offer to whomever they choose. Fidelity to one's partner is expected amongst Irians making a love match desirable, but in practice women often marry men considerably their senior and take a lover or two early in the marriage with their husband's tacit blessing.

Marriage Contracts

When a marriage is conducted for business it is usually designed to reaffirm bonds between two families who are working closely together, and thus marriages are usually simply a footnote to larger contracts, as a sign of good faith and a promise of greater prosperity for the next generation. No one really has any moral qualms about this - the institution of marriage being as much about the proper management of property as anything else.

The Ceremony

As marriage is a minor consideration, so the ceremony is quite low-key, but it is still a time of celebration for those immediately involved. The bride and groom are met at the homes of their prospective parents, and each led through the streets by a Mystagogue advocating for their family. They are then led separately to the temple of Irik, with their friends and family waiting on the streets en route, cheering and laying floral wreaths about their shoulders and brows. Once they reach the temple they go within privately with their advocates to take vows before Irik and put their mark to a marriage contract, sealing their agreement.

Dissolution

Irians consider marriage a contract, and contracts improperly fulfilled are invalid. Therefore if a marriage was part of an agreement that promised some business dealings or payment that did not come to be, the marriage is deemed over. Partners are free to re-marry, though usually their value has been diminished and love matches are more common for second marriages. If there are children then daughters are taken by the father's family, and sons by the mothers, and they will cease to be entitled to the other parent's family tattoos, with existing tattoos being a point of irresolvable contention.

Because women often marry much older widowing is common, and when this happens a woman will generally not remarry. If a woman is widowed without an appropriate male heir she will usually be left to manage the household herself, but will be beholden to an appropriate male guardian chosen from her husband's immediate family, who will consent to manage the family's assets and inherit them upon the widow's death.

Marriage Collars

It is customary for a married woman to wear an elaborate, and often costly jewelled collar after her marriage to signify her status as wed. The man gives the collar as part of the marriage ceremony. Once she is wed once she will always wear the collar, even if her marriage is dissolved or she is widowed. The details of the collar tell a great deal about the wearer, a large jewel (or piece of coloured glass) at the front signifies her marital status - green for a wife, red for an unwed woman seeking a new husband, and blue for an unwed woman not seeking a new husband. She will also wear a jewel for each child she has borne, and one for each of her previous husbands, on the left for a separation and the right for death. In the wealthy collars are often intricate chokers of gold or silver, while lower born women wear collars of brass. Women promised in marriage wear a narrow black band or silk or linen to signify that promise.

Death


Death, unlike marriage is a grave occurrence amongst the Irians and they take mourning very seriously indeed. When a member of the family dies, even a distant one, Irians are expected to mourn for three days taking nothing but the barest sustenance, forgoing work, and visiting the temple daily to wail. Immediate family are expected to mourn for a full six days in this manner, and wear nothing but white (the death colour) for a year thereafter. A wife who loses her husband must wear while for a full six years and cannot remarry for that period, while a husband need only observe the same for one year.

Funerary Rites

The funeral ceremony itself lasts for days. The body is salted to be preserved, wrapped in a shroud, and displayed in the home while visitors come daily from their wailing at the temple to lay hands upon the shroud. After all visitors have stopped coming (as some may choose to mourn for longer than the prescribed period) the body is taken to the catacomb beneath every Irino, flayed (see below) and entombed in its family chamber.

Flaying

A individual's tattoos are of great import. In a sense they are the story of his or her life, and so it is important that these tattoos be kept so that the individuals be remembered. When the body is consigned to the catacomb its tattoos are flayed from the body tanned and preserved. They are rolled like oversized scrolls, and stored in a round case in a vault at the heart of the catacomb, directly beneath the temple of Irik. Families can request to view an ancestor's skin whenever they wish, but may never remove it from that place of burial, even if the Irino is abandoned.