These are the traditions I have learned of the Bear Tribe / Nation:
There are many clans and tribes within the Bear Nation of Volta. There are a few clans that declare individual names, but most do not. Most think of themselves as just part of the Bear Nation.
They do not condone necromancy.
As a whole, they are not obsessed with common omens. Many members of the Bear Tribe have identified specific omens of importance, but they are based on personal experiences. The only superstition that is universal to the Bear Tribe is that they believe very strongly in the importance of dreams.
The preferred method of removing the taint of celestial magic is to kill the caster; however, as this is sometimes not an option it can also be wiped away with Tyrran soil or grass.
I have only met Chief Bron and his sister High Shaman Uma, but from what I have seen of them and heard from them thus far, I believe there are some generalizations to the personality of the Tribe that can be made:
- They have a great deal of value and pride based on strength – individual strength; strength of the tribe; physical strength and strength of character.
- They feel a certain responsibility to use this strength to shoulder a larger responsibility and to assist the other Tribes. As Uma said, “The Bear Nation must bear the suffering of the people of Tyrra, because we can.”
- While the tribe is a community that works together as a family, the members of the tribe also value independence. Frequently even married couples will spend significant time apart, preferring to perform many personal tasks on their own.
There is not a standard Task of Adulthood as seen with some other clans / tribes. The task must be something that is important to the tribe and appropriate for the individual, and it must be proposed by the individual and accepted by the Chief (alternatively a Shaman can accept the quest if there is not a Chief at the time or if the Chief is away for matters of war). While there is no standard task, there are two tasks which the Chief will almost always accept:
- The most common task is for a warrior to take as track down and kill a dire wolf. It is then the tradition for the warrior to make something out of the wolf’s pelt which is then worn with pride. The fur that Chief Bron wears is a dire wolf pelt from his Task of Adulthood. This is a challenging quest requiring great courage for a young teenage warrior, but we agreed it may not be appropriate for a seasoned warrior.
- It is also common for the child to declare a quest for someone, something, or information that is lost as a Task of Adulthood. This occurs most frequently in the harsh Voltan winters when people, families or parties get separated from the rest of their tribe. If the people sought after are dead, returning with this information is considered a success. If they are found in need of aid or rescue, it then becomes the responsibility of the child to help them.
Throughout the Bear Nation there are two holidays that are celebrated. In the Fall, near the end of the harvest they celebrate Entering the Slumber. In the spring, at the end of the harsh Voltan winter they celebrate The Awakening. Some of the individual clans or tribes of the Bear Nation have other smaller holidays that they celebrate with traditions and reasons that are unique to the clan or tribe.
The war-paint is fairly simple and appears to allow for some individuality and personal expression. The tribe uses blue lines on the cheek. The shape and lines of the markings often indicate the person’s station in the tribe.
There is traditionally no marriage ceremony or celebration. The marriage will start off with a simple agreement between two adults, and they must tell the chief. At this point they may tell close friends or family members. Both the husband and the wife adopt the surname of the other's family, as each is now considered a member of both families. The marriage is not celebrated until they have a child. It is believed that if the couple is unable to bear children it is not a true marriage. This unique definition of marriage has caused some tension at times throughout Voltan history when there were arranged marriages with other Tribes.
The birth of children is one of the most celebrated events. Most of the time the parents choose the name of the child. Often the Shaman will help with naming, if there are strong omens or dreams leading up to birth of the child.
While the name given to the Child is something respected and personal to the child particularly if it was chosen because of visions, or omens; people may choose new names immediately after a very dramatic event.
Amongst the Bear nation the two primary stations of leadership are the Chief and the Shaman.
- The Chief makes the big decisions for the clan / tribe / nation (going to war, agreeing to peace with another tribe, etc). They also play a key role in smaller matters. They must be informed when a couple has agreed to be married and they are normally the ones that accept the quest for the Task of Adulthood.
- The Shamans help interpret dreams and omens seen by members of the clan. They communicate with each other and with the totem through The Dream. They provide wisdom for the Chiefs.
- The Bear Nation also acknowledges the role of the Totemic Warrior. This is different from the Shaman, in that the Shaman gathers information from the Bear Totem and interprets this information to help lead their people. The Totemic Warrior walks the path of the Bear, but does not stop to interpret or to contemplate the information, relying more on instinct, leading or defending the people through action.
When a Chief steps down or has died, there are three ways in which a new Chief can be named.
- The first is the Right of Blood (father to son).
- The second is the Test of Strengths. When two people have similar legitimate claims to become Chief they may organized a test, which is normally combat.
- The third is a Council of Shamans, in which a group of Shamans will make the decision.
When a member of the nation dies the shaman will lead the people in the Rite of The Fallen. A funeral pyre is built. The Shaman will spread honey across the lips of the departed. As the pyre is burned the people gathered will drink mead, eat dried or salted meats and share tales of the person’s life.