World-Building - Hidanork Land Magic

The whole idea of the United Hidanork Tribes started with Elizabeth Moon's The Deeds of Paksenarrion. It was the first time I heard of the term taig to refer to the land itself as a distinct being capable of magic and awareness. I'm not sure about the history of the word (and my Google search isn't good enough to verify) but the idea of the taig had stuck with me ever since I read that scene.

As a country, the Hidanork are situated in the northern steppes of the continent where the weather is relatively cool. Basically on the northern-most crest of the super-continent. That also means that they would have a fair amount of wind being on the east/west line between the ocean. That means it would have a relatively short growing season with not enough energy (food) to support a long-term, non-mobile population.

The danger of over-harvesting or over-hunting would be the biggest concern since it would be easy to remain in a single place and run out of the food. That would require people to move around to let the land recover while they visit other places, then come back months or years later to resume the cycle. This ties into the way we harvest trees for paper in a multi-decade cycles. It also means they would focus on close-knit groups that don't grow rapidly (birth rate would be relatively close to death rate).

At the same time, whatever I created had to be stable in terms of surviving over generations. I'm talking years or decades of not visiting a land before a family comes back and expects it be ready to survive. This needs some way of “claiming” lands to avoid someone else from using the land before it is ready to support people again. There would be a cultural honor system that would discourage “claim hopping” as it were knowing that a group may not come back for years or even decades to verify their claims.

That gave me the basis for the Hidanork, a culture where they take the long view of things, sustainability is more important than getting rich quick, and a country that will struggle greatly when more capitalist folks come in and start scooping up all the “free” land.

(You know, colonizers from Europe. This is also going to be a major theme of phase two and three for the Hidanork with the various boundaries between countries starting to blur with the war.)

Because of the idea of colonization, I didn't want the Hidanork to view that they own the land. They should have more of a cooperative relationship between themselves and the land. With the idea of resonance, it seems logical that the land itself has a magical frequency that can be picked up by the Hidanork and reinforce that. This resonance/feedback would also help explain why the lands are so far away, because it needed the right combination to “click” with the right family.

With the long view of the culture, that would mean that a family would continue coming back to the same place over and over again, putting energy and their lives into it. Like a well-loved family cabin, the land would pick up on all that and get a character of its own. In effect, the longer a land is part of a family's taig, the more magic it gains and the more sentience or awareness it acquires. It's the memories and emotions that build the land, not the other way around.

This ties nicely into the existing concepts that belief makes the supernatural. Religion, the desert clan spirits, and even the Tarsan families have power because of those who believe in it. The taigs have power because of the love and care the Hidanork give it.

Different taigs would have different characters to them, so a family might have a special place for certain rituals or for defense (the marches will be relevant with my master story arc in that regard). In the story Looking for the Wrong Thing, they only had a grand moot every twenty years; that would be the result of that gathering energy (going fallow) before supporting a ritual.

As for identifying the taigs, I see this as more of an honor system because most family units would know that the land has already been taken. They also wouldn't try to use a land that didn't share their resonance. So, the claims would be more informational and hints than a towering fence around the land; not to mention a fence would disrupt the energies entirely.

I see the various families erecting a pole of sorts at the intersections of two or more of them. The family or unit that claims it would be marked on the appropriate side, like a totem with the faces identifying the owners facing the land they can communicate with. Or a street sign with arrows. There could be general guidelines for how to erect this sign point or pole, such as needing to have something reflective on top or be visible from at least a chain (66 feet) away would make it easier to find. Bright colors would also be useful so I could see it being a common theme with markers.

(Obviously, older markers would be less formalize and probably the newer ones would look like street markers than totems.)

I keep talking about families or organizations. In Looking for the Wrong Thing, there were two points related to that. One was that they were grouped around the mother (husband and children) and the other was the “go out and get pregnant” for the two sisters. Even with the genetic diversity of the moot babies, a family unit is just a little too small to travel long distances. I figured it would be more of a cluster of families, groups of 5-20 individuals and maybe 1-4 families, that travel together. The word “tribe” seems to work for me here, which is why I use it. However, at moots, they would go their separate ways just to get some distance, mix it up with others, and maybe decide to go with another group if things weren't working out.

That way, it could be a self-balancing system where a family that gets too big would lose other families traveling with them to ensure their lands could support them. Naturally, the lands claimed by the leaving family would go with that family so they would want to have more families join them to ensure a variety of places to visit. Also, if there is a natural disaster that causes a forest to burn or a lake to drain, the tribe would break apart more easily.

Obviously, this system is heavily favoring a matriarch. That was intended. That comes down to one comment I heard about about the bible when they follow the various families through the father. That is less reliable because most people know where the baby came from, but knowing the father is a bit less reliable (more so when you have polyamorous-friendly cultures like mine). So, the mothers are the center of families and, therefore, politics.

Overall, this gives me a foundation for the Hidanork, both to further develop their culture and their language (for Lexember):

  • They take the long view of things, decades long in some cases.
  • They favor sustainability over short-term profit.
  • They value adaptability to handle fluid changes.
  • They are a matriarch.
  • They have close ties to the land for magic.
  • They use certain lands for specific purposes.

One of the biggest questions is how they maintained this while bordering up against Kyōti (the desert clans) and Kormar. As I see it, the tribal lands are not desirable. They can't sustain heavy farming (short season, nasty weather) and they have a different view of land ownership because neither Kyōti or Kormar have a concept of a living land.

However, with phrase two, there would the natural fluxations for borders that would start to erode the Hidanork marches (the defense lands). Phase three would be part of the “life as we know has changed too much, grab everything!” green that I feel follows most wars.