I absolutely love to study real cultures and create new ones. I do use real cultures to inspire cultures I’ve created in fiction, and at times I’m sure the culture that inspired me is obvious. The Arashanti culture is likely one such obvious creation.
Since my brain is unreliable with memory, including to remember to write posts on my update days (read more in my post Lost: Really Cool Marbles (Reward) ), I thought it might help me, while I’m working on the serial I plan to post here, to at least post the non-fictiony parts of my creations on fiction Friday. Welcome to my writer notes!
Without further pause, I want to introduce you to the Arashanti. Originally, I created these people within the context of World of Warcraft because I wanted to take full advantage of being able to create a non-white human by also giving her a non-white culture. I won’t get into how I fit them into that world without breaking lore. I wanted more spice in the human culture in game so I created it.
Upon first creating them, I knew I wasn’t wasting my time in a game because I intended, all along, to take them out of the game and insert them into one of my fictional worlds. Today is an overview. I hope no one finds it too boring.
The Arashanti are a jungle-dwelling people in a fantasy setting. They strive for balance in all things, including balance between genders, making them an egalitarian society. I originally made them skew into patriarchy thanks to a past event. It involved a destructive and powerful woman and a secretly power-hungry man looking to monopolize on the people’s fear to keep women down, specifically one he wanted to best somehow (it was sketchy).
I since decided to do away with that history when I read some advice directing people to create the change they want to see in fiction. The example they used talked about putting women in lesser roles and following their struggle to fight out. The suggestion: If our fictional societies fail to make equality an issue, it will serve as a model for real life. Not sure my fiction will ever make such a lofty impact, but I liked the sound of it. I thought the Arashanti a perfect chance to model an egalitarian, fictional society.
They are also a spiritual people, but they don’t separate spiritual and physical. Which brings me to the icon for this topic.
This is the Priva Mansa symbol. Roughly this translates to the Primal Spirit. They believe it permeates everything, but not necessarily in equal amounts. Balance makes equal amounts. Six basic elements make up everything. Starting from top going clockwise those elements are Tala (light), Vati (fire), Oswa (earth), Nilos (dark), Vani (water), and Isha (air), the Priva Mansa being collected in the center.
Many ideas, philosophies, people, animals, plants, and more exist in one or more elements primarily. Some are so strong in the elements that they are able to control and wield that element in magical ways. When one such Arashanti is born, current vishni declare the baby a vishna of that element. A vishna is something akin to a mage or priest of that element.
Sharasvati (pictured) is one such vishna. This visual is from her world of warcraft counterpart. I also drew a picture of her (used in the banner; click the title of this post above if you see only the usual musesings banner). Vati is a vishna of vati, but she also wields a bit of nilos. Most vishna’s powers, sensed in the womb, receive a name according to their primary element after two weeks of ritual (Vati’s full name translates roughly to “heart” or “core of fire”). This ritual includes the six-pointed star tattoo over their third eye.
Current vishni compose these tattoos of special ingredients ritually mixed and containing sacred herbs also gathered in ritual fashion. Their training starts at birth and the Arashanti raise them quite different from the others. One major reason for this is damage control. Each element bares positives, but also negatives. These negatives surface when a person is out of balance.
For a fire vishna such as vati, positives of her element include creativity, energy, passion, purification, and release/freedom. Upon lacking proper and thorough training, the negatives of vati surface: Destruction, a passion so overly strong it consumes everything it touches, freedom, release, and purification untempered by wisdom. Such a person might quest to destroy all corporeal beings, people included, to release the spiritual energies within. Each element contains equal capabilities of destruction when imbalanced. The chance for dangerous imbalances demand vishni (plural for vishna) are strictly trained from birth. Obviously, you cannot do a lot to train an infant. Training contains ritual, exposure, correct surroundings, as well as learning and practicing work with the elements.
Rather than the foreign concepts of good vs evil, Arashanti believe only in imbalance vs balance. However, great imbalances lead to behaviors we consider evil. Regardless, imbalance vs. balance reaches beyond ideas of evil and good. For example, the Arashanti frequently attribute a variety of mental and physical illnesses to certain imbalances.
Their daily life consists of meeting together and using their various talents and interests in a beneficial way for all. Men and women generally perform different daily functions based on a common gender-interest-talent split, but the people place equal value on each contribution. In addition, specific men and women freely cross the gender roles without facing negativity from others.
Despite the focus on balance, generally peaceful daily life, and egalitarian ways, utopia lacks a grip on Arashanti culture. Conflict arises in power distribution where some vishni consider themselves truly above your average Arashanti (actually an uncommon occurrence). Likewise, many average Arashanti buy into this idea without question (common, most vishni accept it with humility, however). Personal and familial conflicts arise as well, some through the practice of arranged marriages, various imbalances (illnesses of which things such as greed are considered) among citizens, or generally disagreeing about something those with power push on others. There are also the general dangers presented by the other jungle inhabitants and environment.
I am entertaining the idea the Arashanti’s jungle home contains other tribes with borders to maintain some semblance of peace. Perhaps one tribe, in particular, holds personal grievance with the Arashanti. However, I have not rounded out any of these other peoples.
Overall though, despite some of the problems present in their culture/society (problems being the case for every culture/society), on the whole, Arashanti tend to be community and family-focused rather than individual-focused, cooperation encouraged over competition. Many problems are handled by the idea of otherwise bringing shame to your family and people.
Par ta-ta vish
End note: The details on the Arashanti are subject to change as necessary for story purposes. I hope you enjoyed the basic work on them thus far. I plan to discuss specific customs and sections on their culture in the future. Anyone want to know something specific about them? Speak up in comments!