Note From The Authors: the Bothare culture is inspired and informed by the Berber culture of Morocco, the art of Southern India, and especially by the Roma and Romani peoples. We have done our best to do extensive research and have used many ideas from these very real and vibrant cultures in our work on Parmeshen, but please note as readers that this is a fantasy and we've adapted or invented many things in the creation of the culture. We hope to hold up only a mirror to the real world that will help people to see what needs to change in our own. At the bottom of the page please see a list of links that will let the reader, if they're so inclined, learn about the cultures in our own world from which we drew inspiration. Please read some of these pages. These peoples deserve your time and your respect.
The Bothare are an ancient people, their roots lost in time and legend. They have no known homeland, though their oral tradition revolves around the fact that they once lived in a beautiful place that was lost generations ago. Now they focus on portable trades and prefer to travel rather than living sedendary lives, though this is at times less a choice than a necessity; if they settle in many countries in any numbers, they're soon driven out. Only the North Isles, Hytec and Euland give them welcome. In many places, they're treated as public nusiances. In Elluthia they're treated as vermin. Understandably, they perfer to keep moving.
Known to outsiders as bothies or travelers, they are known for their abilities in entertainment, their knack for finding food even in the most desolate places, for their cunning and for their secrecy. The Bothare are often pejoratively called 'bothies' after the word 'bothy', a small ramshackle shack not designed to last, or intended to be torn down after a few nights. The Bothare hate this slur and its implications that they are dirty and incompetent. The people pride themselves on their cleanliness.
Their name for themselves means 'Children of Boti', their name for the Lord of the Sun. As children of the Sun, they carry both gifts and must abide by certian laws.
The Bothare are trained in specific trades as young people, but when their own works aren't wanted in an area they fall back on a handful of common skills:
Merchanting- By buying what is cheap in each area and selling what is expensive, the Bothare can make a good living. An especially lucrative trade is the sale of Kelisha root, an extremely effective birth-control herb that they gather in the desert at the center of the continent. Some individuals and families travel consistent routes for specific trades, which they call the Spice Roads, the Cloth Roads, the Medicine Roads. The Bothare also act as an informal international mail delivery service for the contacts who build a relationship with them: they often act as couriers for friends in the North Isles, for example.
Harvest Work- You can work a circular path around the continent with the seasons by bringing in winter wheat in Oura in January, followed by spring crops in Raou, corn and apple work in Burnithak, cabbage, wheat work in Amova, tea harvesting in the North Isles, apple and root harvesting in Amova again and root work in Burnithak, which will get you back to the South by winter. It is a regular source of employment.
Entertaining-Music, dancing and mind-reading tricks are perennial sources of pocket money.
Horse trading and selling- The Bothare will never sell outsiders their own dreys, the beautiful paliminos they breed with unusual intellegence who are never bridled. But they will happily train and sell other horse breeds for other peoples.
The Bothare have three great gifts, which they call by the names of the Light, the Change, and The Song. The first two gifts grow out of a biological adaptation of their eyes that has given them the ability to see bioelectrical fields, much as robins, jays and other birds can. They see this pattern as a light around a living body, changing its patterns and levels with emotions. This gives the Bothare a special ability to understand the emotional states of those around them, a great survival trait when interacting with people outside their own culture. They call these people 'gadje', a word that means 'one who cannot see'.
Over time the culture perfected the study of electromagnitisim and the ability to manipulate these fields down to the atomic level. This ability has been channeled into the ability to 'Change'. Once one of the Bothare has studied an animal and memorized its electromagnetic patterns, they can replicate that pattern in their own atomic structure; they become the animal they studied.
At one time in the distant past, the Bothare funneled this electromagnetic ability into a very particular technology. Though the memory of how it was created is long lost, the technology is self-replacating, and survives to the present. At three weeks of age, each Bothare child is given a heartstone, created by supplying the stone of one of their parents with cobalt, white sand, silver, charcol, lodestone powder and copper. The device absorbs these elements, grows red hot, and splits into two perfect hemispheres of glass, each the right size to fit in the palm of a hand. The new stone is placed on the child's forehead. The Bothare believe this is when the child becomes truly one of them. At that moment, the heartstone reads and maps the electromagnetic patterns of the child's brain, and can show those patterns to any other heartstone and its holder. This creates, in efffect, a short-range telepathic connection stretching a few miles in all directions. This is a great ability and has helped to keep the Bothare safe through the ages, but there is one danger; the heart stone becomes an extension of the holder's mind, and, if destroyed, can severely damage the brain of the victim. Bothare whose heart stones are destroyed die or go mad.
The Bothare keep a strict set of spiritual and physical laws of purity, which helps keep them healthy and safe. They often shorten these into short aphorisims, which are explained below
*Phral, Mara, Marhime*
There are three states of existance in the eyes of the Bothare; Phral, which translates as 'balanced'. It's a state of physical vitality, and since the Bothare see everyhting as having a spiritual element, everything from a person's soul to an apple can be described in one of these three states. To be phral is to be wholesome. To keep the state, the Bothare wash five times a day and wipe down their utencils and the surfaces of their wagons twice a day with a mixture of witch hazel, clove and neem oils.
Mara translates as 'dirty' and implies a nebulous state of something in need of a wash or an adjustment. This is usually used to refer to food; mara foods require more preperation to be considered fit for consumption and should not touch anything but a specific knife, pot and cutting board. These foods include potentially toxic foods such as marsh marigold, acorns, and poultry.
Marhime implies a deeper, more endemic wrongness and implies 'contagious'. In food, this includes mammal meat and especially blood, which must be drained and dumped away from camp when game is caught and cleaned. Marhime food is always boiled. In individuals, 'marhime' means that the person is unrepentantly breaking with the balance of life; they are most usually banished from the company of their own people or, if they are gadje, scrupulously avoided.
*Your Silence Protects Your People*
The Bothare are taught from infancy that it's a crime to tell outsiders about their attributes; this means that while much superstition has grown up around them and much of that derogatory, they always have a few secret weapons in times of danger.
*Water Must Touch Fire*
The Bothare will not drink water that has not been boiled.
*You Shall Not Bow Your Head*
The Bothare see humiliation, fear and rage as a loss of free will and a sin against life. They can appear almost arrogant in their pride to outsiders, because they will not be forced to bow (IE back down or act obsequiously)
*The Balance Must Be Made*
The Bothare believe that there is a balance to the universe, and that all things have a proper balance. This is the basis of their system of justice. Punishment is a non-issue; a wrong doer must make the balace. For example, if a man caused another man to be unable to work for a day, he owes that man a day's wages. This takes on philosophical dimensions, as the Bothare see all things as forms of value, including pride. Humiliating someone else incurs a debt as much as causing physical harm would.
Since law systems are often arbitrary across countries and discriminatory towards the Bothare, they usually ignore local law in favor of their own code. This, as you can imagine, causes issues regularly.
The Bothare are also kept cohesive by their language, fochail, which shapes both the way they interact and the way they think. For example, the language has only a few gendered words, but a multitude of words for the level of closeness to another person and many words for emotional states.
The Bothare organize themselves along very egalatarian lines. They're formed into twenty seven clans of roughly two to three hundred members, each nominally led by a 'baro' or keeper. These clans are extremely porus and are more a way of making sure people know who to take issues to than anything. The usual travelling band is a group of two or three families of assorted clans called a Tserta, a word based on the word for tent, because they pitch their tents together. If the group has a wagon, it's used as the communal storage and cooking area and sleeping quarters for the children of the group.
At the completion of an apprenticeship in a trade, a Bothare youth is marked with a tattoo on either shoulder; their clan on their left shoulder and their profession on their right. At this age their name also chages; they shed the names of their parents and take a professional name, so that a child who had been called Tashi Kamat La Vilo, Tashi Kamat's daughter from Vilo clan, will now be Tashi Dromadano La Vilo, Tashi who watches the roads for Vilo clan. They're then expected to leave their family tserta and travel with many different groups, keeping knowledge in circulation and finding the place that fits them best.
There is no sexual differentiation between male and female members of the Bothare; they see keeping one subset of their people from knowing skills as dangerous to the whole. Every individual is expected to know how to fight, how to survive alone in an emergency, and how to do their craft to the best of their ability. Their language has few gendered pronouns. This cultural trait would probably be impossible without kelisha root, a root they gather on the edges of the Smert desert and distill into a very effective birth control tonic. This they will rarely sell to gadje; it's caused too much trouble in the past.
The Bothare belief system is based around a series of interconnected legends.
Glory And Shame