Sand and Bone 9, a little lesson on Miwāfu, gender in the desert, and speaking for the spirits

The phrase “I speak for” is a common one in the desert culture. It declares authority to speak on the behalf of the entire clan though there are some complexities in how this phrase is written, one that I had chosen not to translate into English while writing the novels.

The base word is sèku.

oi sèku
[begin-sentence, verb] speak
I speak.

The clan name is actually an adverb but with gi- in front of it for “my clan”.

oi shimusogo gisèku
[begin-sentence, verb] shimusogo clan-speak
I speak for Shimusògo.

Now, there is also the accent. There are two forms of giseku: gisèku and giséku. Following the general guideline that feminine vowels are restrictive or controlled while masculine is powerful or uncontrolled, we have two definitions of this word hinted by the accent.

  • The feminine version, giséku, is the restrictive one. It means, “I speak for the clan present right here.” This is the most common form of the phrase when entering a city or in the case for this chapter.
  • The masculine version, gisèku, is the uncontrolled. It is rarely used but implies that the speaker speaks for all of that clan, regardless of where they are located. This is used for when Desòchu kicked Rutejìmo from the clan.

As a side note, the easiest way to remember the gender accents in Miwāfu is include some of the sexism inherit in the language. The downward accents (grave) are masculine. A hint of remembering this is two guys seeing each other naked usually involve certain… parts pointing down. Likewise, the acute accent is for females and feminine and those parts start to point up.

Now one might ask about non-heterosexual relationships. Well, this is one place where the culture isn't very open. Society only acknowledges one form of relationship, male and female. This is mainly driven by the need for procreation in a very violent world. This drive is embedded into the language and the culture.

Now, there are individuals who don't follow the gender binary. The easiest for the culture are the transgendered but even they are expected to pair up or have long term relationships with transgendered individuals of the opposite gender. In other words, a female-to-male would be expected to marry and procreate with a male-to-female. Society handles the pregnancy much like how Rutejìmo was ignoring while he was “dead,” everyone looks the other way.

The more open societies, like the areas around Kosòbyo, relax many of those rules. Urbanization breaks down perceptions and helps with establishing more open mores; this is one reason why cities in our world are typically more open to different cultures, religions, and lifestyles compared to our homogeneous regions such as the rural states.

Around Kosòbyo, an individual can present themselves as either male or female. Their choice of lovers or marriage needs to be the opposite gender to avoid social pressure, but the more open-minded regions allows a lesbian or gay relationship as long as one is a femme and the other is a butch.

Now, that isn't to say all Kosòbyo are open-minded. Mioráshi from Flight of the Scions is violently homophobic but we won't really find that out until Desert Child.

There are others who even deviate from those limitations and sexual modes. My best example is Mikáryo who is demisexual. She chose to isolate herself in the desert to avoid conflict with her sexuality and her world view. It was that or be murdered by her own clan for being a deviant. If that goes well, you'll see that in her unnamed novel. There are others I hope to write about, this is one topic that I like to explore in writing even if I don't do “naughty” scenes.

After that little diversion on sexuality, I need to get back to the entire point of this discussion. In this chapter, Rutejìmo almost speaks for Mifúno but pulls back. He doesn't know it, but he already has the right and ability to speak for her. No one has told him he could yet and he doesn't know how to hear the desert giving him permission.

What stops him are the endless stories that all children in the desert are told: no one speaks for Mifúno. In those stories, everyone who even jokes about it ends up dead. The desert kills anyone who tries, usually by some gruesome slaughter that takes out everyone in the area. I usually see these as the Brothers Grimm story tales, complete with blood and gore from the original version.

Unlike Tachìra and Chobìre who effectively claim every clan in the desert by their virtue of granting powers, Mifúno has no desire to be “in charge” of anyone. Or, I see it in a different way that she is the source of all power in the desert by granting it to Tachìra and Chobìre who then passes it on. The intermixing of powers and relationships between these three spirits is the entire source of “magic” in the desert.

Sand and Bone 9: Greatness

In Sand and Bone, Rutejìmo finishes his purification rituals after helping the little girl die. As he walks alone, he encounters the great-grandfather of the girl searching for revenge for her death.

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