According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the primary definition of culture is: “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively,” as well as, “the customs, ideas, and social behavior of a particular group or people” (OED). Those are simply the two top definitions that are listed! If you were to ask anyone to define culture, they would most likely give you a somewhat similar response. That’s because culture is an infinite and integral part of humanity, woven through the very fabric of our lives. If we are the strings that the three Fates pluck and play with, then culture is the thread that binds us all together. A culture can be a reflection of the time period in which it was prevalent, it can also be the defining aspect of a group of people (negative or positive), and it can be associated with any number of social, political, religious, or extremist views. It is a malleable fabric, constantly added on to and snipped from. But one thing is clear: culture defines us.
Patricia Wrede has accumulated a vast and organized list of questions to ponder when creating a world – or a people. When it comes to Temple, here are a few of the questions that I found most important to think about in terms of culture:
- What is considered a normal family unit? How extended is an extended family? How important are family connections and responsibilities?
- What are the rites of passage in this culture? Are they formalized rituals, such as being dubbed a knight, or are they informal? Are they different for men and women? For nobility and peasants?
- What personal weapons are available to anyone who can afford them? Are some considered “for nobles only” either by custom or by law? Are there laws forbidding certain classes from being armed at all?
- What shapes are tables/eating areas (round, oblong, square, rectangular, etc.)? Where is the “place of honor” for a guest? Where do the important members of the household sit/recline/whatever?
- How are two people who have never met normally introduced to each other?
- Are “true names” significant, and if so, under what circumstances would someone be given another person/being’s true name?
- Are there words that must never be spoken except at particular times, in ceremonies, or under particular circumstances? Are there words that must not be spoken in polite company? Do these words differ from culture to culture or race to race?
- What is the most desired/most valuable stuff in this society — gold, jewels, drugs, money, furs, reindeer, etc.? Why is it desired/valued?
- What are attitudes toward ownership? Who is considered a citizen, with the rights and privileges thereof? What are those rights and privileges (voting, protection from thieves, the right to a hearing in Rome) and what responsibilities go along with them (jury duty, providing funds or knights for the lord’s army?
- Who are this culture’s historic heroes and villains?
- Who are the persons or groups to which one automatically has a duty simply by being born — one’s family, one’s town/city, one’s country, one’s ruler/president, and the gods? What is the hierarchy of duty among them — is it considered nobler to follow your mother’s teaching or to follow your emperor’s orders?
- What are the society’s mores regarding courtship, marriage and family? Is marriage primarily a civil or a religious institution?
- What kinds of people are the rebels and outcasts of this society? How does society deal with them?
Well? What does everyone think? It’s a lot to think about, but all of these questions make for excellent food for thought! Here is what I have defined as the most important aspects of culture in the people and settlement of Temple:
- A normal family unit looks very much like one that would be found in a contemporary American home. There is a mother, a father, and children. There are sometimes Aunts and Uncles, and various other relatives attached. Grandparents are notably present, as the longevity of the Templars is excellent – many live long past the age of 115 years. Like any other normal family unit, the families of Temple have their own expectations of one another. But the greatest difference of these family units is that children are sent off into the “world” once they reach the tender age of 16. From there, they are expected to perform the growth rites (which include hand fasting, and commitment to a livelihood, as well as the construction of a home space), and extend their original units. Thus, there is constant growth – though overpopulation has never been an issue.
- The growth rites are the main “coming-of-age” rites within the Templar society. When children reach the age of 16, they enter the chapel with a group of their peers, and seek out the one that they will mate for life. The two individuals find each other, and must kiss in order to see if the bond is true. If it is not, they are relinquished from their duties, and must try with another. If they fail to make a true connection, they go back to their home and have another 2 “years” to try again – until they reach the age of 18. The rites take place once a year (May Day). If at 18 they do not find their mate, they are tasked to become guards – as guards have no families of their own.
- Speaking of guards, it is only they who are allowed to carry weapons (that the society knows of). Of course, these are mechanized weapons. All are allowed to carry knives or barbs for safety, though they are hardly necessary. This is a civil society. Brawls are contained and punished, as are bad seeds. Thus, weapons are only necessary in dire circumstances. When Shiloh ventures out, he brings his guards with him.
- One thing that really sets Temple apart is how much of a “community” it is. Everyone is expected to dine together in the two large dining halls. Here there is a sense of camaraderie as well as the usual gossip and other shenanigans.
- Introductions between townspeople are quite similar to our own; everyone shakes hands and politely introduces themselves. Of course, there are those who consider themselves superior to others, but they are treated the same as everybody else. The only difference in introductions is the one that is made between an individual and Shiloh (and his family). He is their God, their Chosen One. He is bowed to, and revered. He rarely makes public appearances, and even less one-on-one meetings, but when he does, the inherent and taught response is to listen and do as he says – with a bow and a wide eye.
- Names are some of the most important aspects of an individual in this society. A child’s naming is a community affair. When children are born, the parents deliberate for 1 month before they publicly announce the baby’s name in a “naming” ceremony that takes place at the end of the month. Names have important meanings attached to them. These are the hopes that parents have for their children, but they are also the dreams that they wish to instill in them.
- The words that are taboo in this society are words pertaining to ill omens of the Great Chosen One – Shiloh. He is never to spoken of in negative terms. And never is there to be talk of anything in the world besides the settlement itself. There is no “other world” – no further “exploring”. What has been given to the people is a chosen land, and it must be revered. The old world is a part of the history of the new world, but it is a taboo subject in itself, essentially glossed over in the learning centers, and supposed to be disregarded.
- The most desirable item within Temple is the Honeybee honey. It is more than just honey; it contains a complex of essential genetic modifiers that keep the people of Temple young and vibrant, as well as enhances their longevity and healing. It is their life – source. It does not cure all ills; it replenishes and restores, but only up to a point. Shiloh’s discovery of the honey and his manipulation of the original hive created this source of life; however, there is a limited quantity of it. It can only be used under the supervision of the Infirmary, and only for certain ailments. Individuals usually receive three large “boosts” of honey throughout a single lifetime. After the first 30 years of life, the next 30, and the last. A shortage of honey is a catastrophe – but so are multiple ailments at a time. There is not enough honey to “heal” all the people in Temple. In times of crises, it is used only on the young and already healthy.
- All the people that live within the boundaries of Temple are considered its citizens, so long as they follow the Creed that Shiloh has mounted on the Tower – to obey his commands, to be faithful to each other, to prosper in the limits, and to bring a utopia to the lands. Technically, there is no true “ownership” here – yet by condemning his people to a single place and controlling them so thoroughly, it is in a way as though Shiloh owns his proverbial “flock”.
- The greatest hero of all, is of course, Shiloh himself, who created the settlement of Temple, and all the good things that come out of it.
- The family comes first, unless Shiloh’s needs come first. He is to be revered above all else, even one’s own desires, or family. He is the creator, and he is to be obeyed.
- Marriage is not marriage in the typical sense – it is a handfasting that turns two individuals into a family. It is more than a marriage as well – it is literally a mate for life, like it or not. This bond is like no other.
- Rebels are punished according to the Creed created by Shiloh and mounted onto the Tower. In fact, traitors are often hung from the Tower, their bodies left to rot until they decay fully. They are a warning to others who think and behave like them. There have been few and far inbetween, but there have been some, in the history of Temple. They are those who wish to go against the ideals of Shiloh – and think as individuals rather than for the benefit of the community as a whole. Everyone works together – everyone lives for one another. When there is a block in that belief, a traitor is born. A traitor is thus almost always rooted out by those around him or her, and condemned by all.
And these are just a few of the customs … as the story begins to take shape, so too will the differing factions and practices!
Word Count: 1,828