THE AENYA BESTIARY: ILMAR

The Ilmar (plural) or Ilmarin (singular, descriptive) go by many names: savages, barbarians, wild humans. Given their propensity for nakedness, and for living in the wild, they are viewed by most civilized people as more animal than human. This view is perpetuated by the little that is known of their culture. Ilmar are often forced into wars and labor camps, or, ostracized by society, become beggars and prostitutes. Believed to be sexually promiscuous, Ilmarin women are often raped or taken as sex slaves. A lucky few become wives, adopting local customs, while keeping their heritage secret.

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES:

Isolated from the rest of Aenya between the sub-tropical / temperate Wildwood forest to the south and the Ukko Mountains to the north, the Ilmar have remained unchanged for millennia. With food supply often becoming scarce, the Ilmar developed lean, muscular physiques. Subsumed into other cultures, they can be difficult to distinguish from other humans, aside from their coppery complexion and light-colored, translucent eyes. While their homeland is known for its ideal climate, the Ilmar are more resilient to temperature changes, and with soles like leather, can more easily endure physical hazards like brambles, thorns, and rocks. Beyond the most extreme conditions, the Ilmar abstain from clothing, finding the feel of most textiles unbearable. This can be ascribed to their hyper-delicate sense of touch.

HISTORY:

The Ilmarin people harken to the days of the proto-human, when technology was limited to the building of fire and to the use of simple tools of wood and stone. According to an inscription found within a Septheran ruin, the earliest word for human was ilma, which the Ilmar use to denote their species, since they do not identify themselves as a separate social group.

For one hundred thousand to one million years, the proto-human lived peaceably, subsisting on hunting, gathering, and basic agriculture. During this epoch, the whole of the human species lived as the Ilmar did. With the arrival of the Septhera c. 10,000 BGM (Before the Greater Moon) came human subjugation and later, technological advancement. Finding the dominant surface-dwelling species defenseless, the reptilian invaders conquered the planet with ease, enslaving all humanity, save for a small population hidden within the valleys of Ilmarinen. There, the proto-human continued to thrive, oblivious to the changes occurring beyond his borders. It was not until 5 BGM that the people of the Ukko Mountains were discovered by Kjus, a Zo researcher. Kjus became so enamored by the Ilmar’s simple way of life, he abandoned his own society to become one of them, naming the land Ilmarinen, and the flower of orange and violet that grew in abundance there, the ilm. For the remainder of his life, Kjus proceeded to teach the Ilmar of science, history, philosophy and medicine, but made certain to not pollute their culture with the excesses of his own civilization. To protect the knowledge of the Zo, he built a monastery high in the Ukko Mountains, and before his death, founded the Order of Alashiya, who are colloquially known as the Keepers.

The Ilmar by Mensink
For the Ilmar, clothing is unnatural.
CULTURE AND SOCIETY:

Knowing nothing of war, crime, or government, the Ilmar live a simple agrarian life. Since everything in their community is shared, they have no concept of currency or of property. As is said of the Ilmar, “No man is poor who wants for nothing.” Much of their day is spent farming and gathering, but they will hunt during famine. In their leisure time, they enjoy singing, dancing, and telling stories, in relation to their myth and history, which, recorded in verse, is passed down though the generations.

The Ilmar are skilled wood-smiths and clay workers. Their artifacts include elaborately carved farming tools, throwing spears, atlatls, and pottery. They excel in the shaping of trees to produce homes, hallowing out camphor and oak for living spaces, though most activities, including cooking, eating, grooming, and sleeping, is practiced outdoors. As they are without any concept of crime, the Ilmar do not have doors, though partitions between rooms include curtains of shell and bone.

SEX AND MARRIAGE:   

On the longest night of the year, when the turquoise moon sits greatest in the sky, the Rite of Solstice begins, the most important holiday in the Ilmarin calendar. Families gather from across the land to join in eating, drinking, singing and dancing, and unwed couples pair off to jump the sacred bonfire. Showing hair about the loins signifies a readiness for the flames, as does menstruation in girls and frequent erections in boys. Signs of sexual maturity are seen as gifts from the Goddess.

The bonfire represents the primordial energy that existed when the universe first formed. Husbands, wives, uncles, aunts and cousins, all join hands to form rings about the fire, in recognition of the eldest gods, Eru and Anu, who are said to sing and dance through the cosmos, making love continually and birthing new worlds. Of their countless children is Aenya, personified in the form of the Goddess, the spirit of nature, who is also called Alashiya and Zoë.

According to Ilmarin lore, Alashiya first created mankind without genitals, though closely resembling the Goddess’s own female form. But Wizzeria, Alashiya’s first-born, a giantess associated with trickery and the lesser moon, became jealous of her new siblings. Seeking to ruin her mother’s creation, Wizzeria tore a piece from the first human, Wo, forming the vagina, and gave it to the second human, Man, forming the penis. In this way, Wizzeria created male and female. While women are considered the more perfectly formed, and the “fairer” sex, they remain with a part of themselves removed, which they must seek from the male. The penis, by contrast, is viewed as the physical manifestation of Wizzeria’s joke, a detail made more evident when the man is well-endowed or semi-erect, an impossible thing to hide in Ilmarin society. Without any sense of shame, the Ilmar perceive these differences with good natured humor, and it is not uncommon for a fully erect boy to strut about proudly, displaying his emerging manhood to his friends and family.   

To undo Wizzera’s trickery, Alashiya invented intercourse, through which Wo and Man could re-merge into a single, perfect being. During the Solstice Night, the act of sex also serves as a metaphor for how the world was created. In honor of Eru and Anu, a boy and a girl will pair off to leap the sacred flame, before engaging in the union of their bodies. The lovers do not actually choose one another, it is believed, but find one another again, having joined in a previous life. Withdrawing to a tree under which their ancestors are laid to rest, their souls and their flesh become one, in sight of everyone in attendance. The ceremony binds the two for life, and the reuniting of lovers separated by death is celebrated as a triumph over death.

The High Priestess, painted with stars of henna, ordains the coupling with the Hoop of Eternity, representing the eternal cycle of death and rebirth. Tethered to this hoop are pods filled with kindling and the petals of the Ilm flower, which, when burnt, gives off an aromatic scent, but also has a hallucinogenic effect.

Mating before being joined considered  taboo in Ilmarin society. This is enforced, in part, to curb incest, as the Ilmar are small in number and sparsely populate their land, living in familial groups far from other families.

A fraction of the population may remain chaste, without a mate, for life. Ilmar consider this a tragic situation, believing that the partner-soul has yet to be born into the current generation, the two life cycles having been “misaligned.” Those who do not find love by a certain age are led into the mountains by the Alashiyan Order, to become Keepers of the sacred knowledge.

Homosexuality, rarely seen among such sparse populations, is celebrated in Ilmarinen, as it is believed that the souls of past lovers, the male and the female, reside in a single body, and that in this way, the conjoined soul moves closer to oneness with the Goddess. Unable to reproduce on their own, gay men and women typically become Keepers, though a rare few have been known to adopt children, owing to the scarcity of orphans.

When Solstice Night ends, it is expected that the female move into the male’s household, and that by the following year, she bear him a child. Bringing new life into the world is the highest honor for any Ilmarin, and for this reason, mothers are afforded greater status than fathers, as it is from the womb of the mother that life originates.

LANGUAGE AND CUSTOM:

For the Ilmar, personal identity extends beyond the physical body, to encompass family, friends, other living creatures, and even the environment. Anything one touches, or affects through his or her actions, becomes a part of what it means to exist. Consequently, shame is incomprehensible to the Ilmar. Clothing is entirely unknown to them, and so there is no word in their language for nude or naked. They also lack terms for secret, lie (deception), or honesty.

During their menstrual cycles, women camp by the river, where their blood is offered to the gods. The Ilmar are not, however, without a sense of individuality, and will decorate their bodies with flowers, bones, mud-patterns or henna, or with semi-precious stones like jade and lapis lazuli. Neither sex cuts its hair. Women wear a single braid, which can grow to their ankles, while the men wear locks down the middle of the back, either loose or in multiple braids.

To foreign ears, the Ilmarin language may sound hard and clipped, as vowel sounds are often unused. Common names include Xandr, Baldr, Heimdl, and Borz. Female names typically avoid the conjoined consonant, ending in ‘a’. Examples are Thelana, Aliaa and Anja.

RELIGION:

For the Ilmar, all life is sacred, from the smallest insect to the greatest camphor tree. They make no distinction between human or sentient life and animal or non-sentient (plant) life. All are part of a singular essence known as the Mother Goddess, Alashiya, or Zoë. The goddess exists in all things, even in non-living matter: in the wind, in sunlight and in the earth. Alashiya is never seen or heard, but can be sensed through the skin.

The Ilmar do not consider dreams separate from reality. Each and every dream is a literal experience. By grinding the ilm flower into a fine powder and drinking it, the High Priestess, as well as other seekers, embark upon dream journeys. In this way, a chosen few can traverse time, space, other dimensions, and realms beyond death.

In death, the Ilmar become one with Alashiya, as they were before birth. The body is marked by a cairn close to home, typically under a tree, which is absorbed into the soil to sprout new life. Due to limited nutrition and a lack of medicine, the average lifespan for an Ilmarin is forty years.

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