~ Thulm ~
Thulm is vast, wide and mostly covered in a thick blanket of ice and snow called Ekivitr or Nasni’s Veil. The country is divided into two; in winter, Ekivitr covers two thirds of the country’s land where as Thejland, the southern thawed lands, is generally warmer.
The wandering goddess, Nasni, is their patron and the nomadic Thulmian culture has developed its wandering lifestyle to honour her. Thulmian tribes wander up and down the country at the will of Ekivitr, herding cattle or hunting and mining.
The riches ore veins are scattered throughout the mountain ranges Malmrvida and Isafeldr. The Thulmians find Malmrvida ore to be their greatest export, as non-native caravans and miners struggle not only with the cold, but the dangerous mountain pathways, wildlife and starvation.
Thulmians combat the temperatures with thick woolen tunics, furs, leather hides and nalbinding wraps.
The Thulmian tribes are sometimes quite insular and cold to outsiders, but will never turn one away from shelter and food. Masters of crafts in Thulmian tribes usually only teach those of Thulmian blood, however,
if an individual is to show their worth and honour the traditions of their tribe, they may be persuaded to impart some of their knowledge in recognition to their commitment to Nasni and the ways of Thulm.
In battle, Nasni has been known to gift a spirit of the dead, human or animal, to those who honour her best in battle, causing them to fly into a beserking rage as the two separate spirits torment the body. Because of Nasni’s ties to those who are dead, dying and in pain, despite varying ways of doing so, all tribes of Thulm honour the dead, especially animal spirits.
Above: Map of Thulm
Above: A Thulmian with his portable shrine to Nasni.
Thulm is divided into tribes and thus has no firm single leader. They're very close to Nasni and usually find that their religious leaders (weiha) take the head of things. The Weiha is usually female and thus Thulm can be considered a matriarchy but some chosen male Weiha can and do lead when a female isn't at hand.
(Way-ha/ Vid-kin)~ Religious leaders
Weiha (or affectionately know as ‘Vidkin’) are those closest to Nasni. They’re generally the leaders of their tribe and are expected to lead their people no matter where they are or who else is around them. Usually, the Weiha are female, but men have been known to take the role when there isn't a female Weiha present. They are custodians of ritual knowledge for the Thulmians.
Banahogg are rare and sanctioned only by Weiha. They are usually trusted individuals by their Weiha to sacrifice or kill in Nasni's name similar to assassins. Banahogg are celebrated individuals as they deliver those worthy to Nasni's arms. They regard death, killing, pain and sacrifice as an art form. Banahogg are usually kept secret.
(smid-madder) ~ Crafters
Below Weiha and Banahogg, Smidmadr are next in the power order of the tribe. Those with a craft are highly regarded as it is their knowledge and skill which carry the survival of the tribe on their back. Smidmadr teach only those who they deem worthy, a Weiha cannot make them impart their knowledge.
(cow-p-madder) ~ Traders
Kaupmadr are also held in high regard as it is their travelling and diplomatic senses which allow the flow of trade to run smoothly. The kaupmadr also supply the tribes with things they cannot get in Thulm, such as Olvany's powerful herbs and honey for the mead in Olfossa.
(veega-madder) ~ Fighters/hunters
Vigamadr are hunters and gatherers as well as basic protective forces for tribes. It is the Vigamadr which help run the tribes day to day by providing food, furs and helping build shelters. They may be at the 'bottom' of the tribal order but they are never looked down upon.
Thulmians live at the mercy of the seasons, travelling south as the ice swallows their summer travelling grounds, then North again when the ice retreats. As their goddess travels, so do they. Where other cultures celebrate the harvest or first growth, Thulmians celebrate moving on. They have four main festivals.
Adrsnoer - First Snow
When the first flakes of snow fall in the early autumn, Thulmians know that Nasni is drawing her veil over the land again. This is the time to say farewell to summer. Any animals that cannot be kept through the winter are killed and their meat preserved or eaten. The last summer fruits and berries are cooked into preserved to last through the winter. Great fires are lit in tribute to the departing sun. During the First Snow celebrations Thulmians symbolically burn representations of things they intend to leave behind.
Those who have disagreed in the past year wrap their differences in cloth and throw them into the fire to show that they no longer matter. The whole tribe must work together to get through the dark half of the year. Couples who wish to part will burn something from their old relationship to symbolise that it ends with no bad feeling. The winter is harsh, even in southern Thulm. Anything unnecessary, physical or emotional, goes into the fire and is left behind when the tribe moves South.
Nasninott - Nasni's Night
At the deepest point in the winter, Thulmians believe that Nasni walks among them. Outsiders speculate that this is because so many of the old and sick die in the depths of winter called to Nasni's embrace. The Thulmians themselves insist that the death is merely a side effect. In the long, dark nights Nasni comes to her children and in her mercy she ends the suffering of those who cannot survive the cold. On the longest night of the year the Thulmians leave offerings for Nasni - a cup of mead and sweet honey cakes, sometimes accompanied by jewellery or precious stones shaped like the animal spirits that Nasni gifts to her favoured children.
While the goddess walks outside, Thulmians gather around the fire to tell stories of those who have passed. This is the time for sagas telling of long dead heroes and tales of the glory days of loved ones who went to Nasni's halls in the past year.
Nyrlaufsblad - New Buds
The spring festival is celebrated at a different time by each tribe. When someone finds the first sign of new growth, an early snowdrop, green buds on a tree or a clump of crocuses, they pick a single bloom and take it to the Weiha. This first sign of growth is placed at the head of the table, like an honoured guest, while the tribe prepare a feast. After weeks of carefully hoarding winter stores this is a chance for the tribe to let loose, eat, drink, sing and welcome the sun back into their lives.
This is also the time when the tribe prepares to go north again, following the retreating ice sheet. It is seen as an auspicious time for things to begin. Contracts, marriages and apprenticeships that start at New Buds are seen as particularly favoured. Children conceived at the festival are thought to be blessed with long life.
Lengstagr - Night of the midnight Sun
Strictly speaking only those in the far north of Thulm will see the midnight sun, but the festival is celebrated wherever the tribe happens to be. Thulmians know that summer will not last for long so they take the chance to revel in the warmth while they can. On the longest day they gather in a great outdoor celebration. There is drinking, dancing, music and song lasting right through the night. It is the mark of a proper warrior that you can stay awake until morning.
Though they serve a death goddess, Thulmians are not eager to die in battle, but nor do they fear it. Nasni calls all living creatures in the end. For the warriors in her service the highest honour is not to die gloriously, but to live long enough to send many foes to Nasni's halls. Before battle the Weiha call down Nasni's blessings on her armies.
They paint to faces of their warriors with staves of power to put fear into their enemies and lend strength to their blade arms. No Thulmian would dream of going into battle unsanctioned if they have any choice.
Thulmians understand death in a way that no other culture can. Many people think that their worship of Nasni makes them a bloodthirsty people, eager to die. This is a misconception. It is simply that Thulmians know that no one can avoid Nasni's call forever. As Nasni's chosen people they have no reason to fear the next world.
When a Thulmian dies their tribe mourn hold a raucous wake to celebrate the person's achievements in life. Dead warriors get increasingly elaborate tales of battle, merchant tales tell of the good deals they have made, and for Weiha the stories tell of how well they served the tribe. It is thought that the better the stories told at the wake, the higher honour the person will be given in Nasni's halls. Thulmian wakes are known for two things - the amount of alcohol drunk and the tallness of the tales told.
Thulm is a hard land. It's people understand that survival means working together, and so hospitality is considered sacred. To turn a traveler away is the worst possible insult. Even the poorest families keep a spare set of clothes for travelers coming in from bad weather. No matter how low the stores, there is always something for a weary guest to eat and somewhere for them to rest. To allow harm to a guest who has been welcomed under your roof is almost the most dishonorable thing a Thulmian can do. The only crime worse is for a guest to attack their host. Even the bitterest of enemies call truce when they stay under the same roof.
A constantly moving people, Thulmians know that few things are permanent. Marriages last for as long as the couple wishes to stay together. It is unusual, but far from unheard of, for someone to leave the tribe they were born in. Only death is forever.