Rakash Traditions and Dawvs (book)

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Rakash Traditions and Dawvs
by Ravwe Tashkiok

Introduction

I have been known by many names during my years in Elanthia. First was the birth name I was given in my homeland of Odcoru, where I was called Eskapa. When we were fleeing from the scourge and my husband dropped in battle, I chose to be known as Turinstil (butterfly in Rakash), a name my husband fondly called me. Since arriving here in Crossing, I have birthed my children and am called Ravwe.

My time is drawing near to return to Mrod. In search of a boon from Enelne, that she might ease my final journey, I set my hand to recount what we Rakash of Odcoru believe. Pray that my efforts may be so rewarded.

Deep within each sentient being lies the desire to continue their lives and avoid the Starry Road. It was no different for those of the Rakash race as they populated the lands of Odcoru in the far west before Grazhir fell and Katamba was scorched. It was no different for those who lived before and during the Great Scourge of the Undead. It was no different for those who traveled long and far and arrived in the Crossing in an effort to begin new lives. It is no different now, though some have turned to new, eastern Gods. I planned to tell you what I know of the Rakash Gods Mrod, Enelne and Coshivi and what this meant to the people of Odcoru. Once I took pen in hand, however, I found a voice I knew not I had, and decided to also share some customs relating to our Gods that Rakash in Odcoru follow.

MROD

Mrod is the true God of the Rakash, leader of the Grand Pack. He is the keeper of the skies and all above. His spirit soars everywhere and sees all. Indeed, that is one of the reasons the Rakash in Odcoru prayed so hard to him when the cataclysm in the sky caused them to lose their moonskins. Long students of the sun, stars and moons, the Rakash understand the way of form changes and accepted their own new change as an answer to their prayers. Mrod's symbol is the black crow.

ENELNE

Enelne is the Goddess of all natural things found beneath the skies. From the smallest insect or plant to the leader of the pack, Enelne watches over all growth, be it visible or within the soul. Hers is the name petitioned by the farmer for good crops as well as by the lady of the house that her cub may have a gentle birth, a good memory, and a long life. Enelne is fond of the guardians of knowledge and, it is said, looks kindly on scholars and those who maintain the Rakash traditions by sharing and retelling their stories.

Followers of Enelne are often found outdoors kneeling, facing west with their palms flat upon the ground as if seeking to make contact with her through nature. Her symbol is the butterfly. It is wise not to tempt Enelne to display her wrath.

One story often told is of her turning a stream to raging rapids when she was offended. That incident involved a group of strangers hunting butterflies. Even after the Rakash explained that butterflies were considered protected, the visiting hunters insisted on capturing every butterfly in the area and pinning them to boards to dry in the sun. This so incensed the locals that they attempted to stop the hunters. When the hunters ran from the Rakash, it is said that as they approached a normally calm stream, it became engorged and extremely turbulent, which delayed their crossing. Their pursuers were able to catch them on the bank and a battle ensued in which some of the hunters were slaughtered and the rest received the same treatment they had given their prey. Since there was no visible reason for the stream to change the path it had followed for hundreds of years, Enelne's wrath was credited with the sudden, short-lived, violent change in the waters.

COSHIVI

Warrior, trader, thief, Pack chief, hunter -- all look to Coshivi to watch over them in their efforts. Overseer of all that does not grow when cultivated, Coshivi is always seen in moonskin. Swift and agile, he is a special patron to the young as they come of age. Also attributed to Coshivi are recurring reports of an unidentified moonskined Rakash who sometimes appears in the thick of combat. This stranger's efforts are credited with helping to turn the tide to favor the Rakash, but when the battle ends, he is nowhere to be found. Coshivi's ire is roused when the preservation of the greater pack is endangered, be it in peace or in war. Shouts of "Coshivi!" serve as a rallying cry to unite the pack. The Rakash say that the number who successfully fled from the west was largely due to Coshivi's vigilance. His symbol is the badger.

RAKASH BELIEFS AND TRADITIONS

Rakash expend great effort where story telling is involved. Recitations have evolved from relating a simple tale to creating stories that teach many aspects of their lives to their young. Often the same tale contains several points appreciable at different stages of life. Hence, Rakash put great store in seeking the meaning behind the story, examining it from many sides. Each story is examined to see if it contains a kernel of wisdom about morals, customs, belief, legend, or allegory.

As everyone knows, there are good stories, and there are great stories. The difference is not only the talent of the storyteller, but also the receptivity of the audience. When a listener becomes so immersed in a tale that it touches them in some way, the story has found greatness for that listener.

In Odcoru it was never odd to see storytellers finish a tale and then fall to their knees, hands on the ground, in what was considered an expression of thanks to Enelne. When students successfully completed a lesson, they would also give thanks in this fashion, because Enelne is the Goddess of wisdom and knowledge. Ever since the migration, Rakash normally face west when continuing this tradition as if contact were made through the land and nature. The Rakash have a saying; "Uz zinat cik zu jurs kas jusu dzuaws recitawt vut Enelne vislavaka davana" (To know how to use what you learned is Enelne's best gift).

REDIVAWZIS

Before the eastward migration of the Rakash, many told tales, and more believed them, about a special rock called redivawzis. Sworn to be true by many, and believed by more, it became an accepted fact that this unusual stone was somehow able to link those who were found deserving with their God. I recall several variations on the results attributed to the special properties of redivawzis. One such benefit that I myself heard of was that if warriors journeyed to that site and performed certain rituals, they were often rewarded with the sense that they were protected by Coshivi and would not fall in battle. Of course, those that fell were not likely to contradict the prevailing belief in the powers of redivawzis. As to what preparations were required, all I was told when I inquired was that patience was a virtue and the process required an offering.

RAKASH WEDDING PRACTICES AND BELIEFS

Rakash believe that no wedding is properly done unless a symbol of Enelne is somehow included in the ceremony. Nowadays, though not as often as in Odcoru, couples spend the morning before the wedding carefully capturing butterflies to release at the start or end of their wedding service, since it is thought that freeing the butterflies will cause Enelne's eye to turn beneficently towards them. The hood of the outer cloak, or rantija, is often heavily embroidered with intricate butterflies in the hope that Enelne might look down and bless the marriage. Actually, Enelne's butterfly flits across many a Rakash garment, especially those worn by infants, and no home tapestry is considered complete without a butterfly worked into the scene. To kill a butterfly is said to cause three years' bad luck.

One of the more prevalent customs found throughout most of the packs was the use of color to highlight the duality and frailty of wedded life. When this tradition is followed, both bride and groom wear two ordinary pieces of clothing: the flowing odaj, a pleated and wrapped garment well suited to the Rakash form changes, and the rantija, a cloak. When the ceremony begins, the bride wears a white odaj and rantija, and the groom wears black ones. After they declare their vows, they exchange rantijas. Each then has both a white and a black garment. The ritual symbolizes the nature of marriage, the white representing the good times, the black the not-so-good. The trading signifies that it is always necessary to give and take in order to maintain balance between the couple.

The first part of the ceremony involved the exchange of a small laulivas laufisana, Rakash for "marriage sack", matching the color of the giver's rantija. The bride and groom would fill their bag with their spouse's wedding ring and other items they felt to be significant to their new lives. Some couples would create their entire ceremony around the contents of the bag, explaining why each item was included and what it represented,

The celebration consisted of a party with food and drink, after which the bridal couple was seated on two chairs set before a thatched pine hut. When the revelers agreed the time was right (often timed for when Katamba rose or set), the couple would enter the hut, the door would be locked, and the party would continue around them. The choice of pine for the hut was symbolic. Pine is a sturdy, plentiful wood, but it mars easily, so care must be taken to have it last long in good condition, a fact meant to impress the newlyweds.

The Rakash celebrate with fratvarit, a mash of fermented apples sweetened with molasses, brought to a boil, and allowed to cool before being bottled with fresh peppercorns. Fratvarit must be aged in the bottle for the full flavor to develop. The wise father of a newborn female cub often cooked up a batch and set it to age, thus ensuring a potent brew for his daughter's wedding. Served as a complement to the fratvarit were fried apple fritters dusted with sugar and cinnamon and baked apples, both considered a Rakash treat.

RAKASH BELIEFS AND CUSTOMS DEALING WITH DEATH

Rakash have long lived with the certain knowledge that death can come at any time. After I survived the Great Scourge of Undead and escaped, I treasured life and live it to the fullest. When I lived in Odcoru, Mrod was the acknowledged Lord of Death. The Rakash believe that, when alive, the body and spirit are equal parts of the whole, and when death claims the flesh, the spirit of the departed often needs help to separate from its worldly remains.

In an effort to help the spirit of the departed rise to Mrod before the fleshy remains were buried, the family would take turns pouring water on the body until it was drenched. The family would guard the body while the water evaporated. When the body was dry, it was said the departed had found Mrod and gone home. After the completion of this ritual, known as the gars kerreni luzurt, "the breaking of body and spirit", the corpse could safely be buried. Rakash believe in an afterlife that allows the departed to watch from above.

This tradition, practiced for thousands of years, became too dangerous to continue, and those who fell were hastily splashed with water and then burned to keep them from rising as undead. It was hoped that their spirits found their way to Mrod in the smoke. This was a large departure from custom, but there was no other way to ensure that the newly dead could not rise against the living.

EPILOGUE

If my spirit and flesh are not soon parted by the waters, I shall write down more of my memories. In the meantime, you are welcome to come join my family any time I am the storyteller. Right now, my many great-grandchildren wish me to tell them one, so I bid you lavs dzive.