Parmeshen | The Bothare

The Bothare

 

The Bothare People

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.

 

Abilities

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. 

Laws And Language

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. 

 

Organization


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.

To help with long-distance communication out of range of heartstones, the Bothare teach their children a pictograph code that can be chalked, carved, scratched or painted wherever it's needed to impart important details. This is the patrin, and contains both practical and spiritual significance. 
 

 

Legends


The Bothare belief system is based around a series of interconnected legends.

Creation

 

In the beginning of all things, God had four children,  and he sang, and in the song he named them. Marhaman glorious bright, Boti golden glowing, Kiti silver shining, Atlati spark of life. And his children danced when he sang, and the steps of their dance set the paths of the stars and the turn of the earth and the pattern of the world. And God was glad.
 
Together, the Children of God began to make living things. Each made creatures after their own nature. Marhaman made things that ran like perfect clockwork; ants and bees, sharks and snakes and lizards. Boti created things full of passion and joy; flowers that splash color across the world, the fox who is so bright a red and the lion that runs so well. Kiti made things of cunning and wit; the cat and the owl, the plants that hold secret medicines, the witty raven, the coyote and the jackal who sing to her silver disk in the night.  And Atlati made the tall trees that shelter, the lovely deer and the horse that works so hard, the grass and the grain and the fruits that feed all creatures.
It’s said that in those days, Marhaman took each thing that his siblings made and wove it into the pattern of the world. He wanted the world to be a perfect place, never changing, never decaying. But his brother Boti said that was no good, because if nothing changed, nothing could grow. But Marhaman did not see his brother's point. He thought only of maintaining his perfect, unchanging order.
 Boti pressed his brother. He had an idea for creatures that could dream and think as they did. They’d have new ideas, he told his brother, and make the world glorious with them.
Marhaman did not approve. He hated the destruction of his good order that might come of too many minds meddling. Again and again, he made his arguments for a world where all things were unchanging, perfect in their patterns.He was oldest,and thought he knew best, and as they talked that bitter pride darkened his heart. 
The talk became an argument. Kiti and Atlati stood with their younger brother, because they wanted to see these new children who could dream. God himself said that he would like to see Boti try it, and gave his blessing. But Marhaman refused. And the longer they argued, the more proud and bitter Marhaman was, until he was in such a rage that he struck his own brother, and Boti bled.
That was the moment when everything changed. It was the first act of hatred the world had seen.
And Boti took a handful of earth, let his bright blood drip onto it, and made the first creature with imagination. 
Seeing this, Marhaman turned his back on his family and walked away. He declared himself O Beng. The word means 'opponent' in your language, for he had become the opponent of his siblings and his father. And God cried.
Since that first day of strife, O Beng has set to breaking whatever good thing his family makes, and he endlessly tries to reduce all beings to instinct and take away the free will his brother and sisters gave them. When a person acts from senseless rage, from thoughtless fear or greed, when he degrades another, he gives up his free will and does the work of O Beng. To do those things is to be marhime.
So now the tale is told.
 
Light

When O Beng had betrayed his family and began to work against them, he was very good at undoing the order he'd once made, creating disorder, disease and rot. His siblings were constantly wary of him, and the three of them took turns standing guard. One night, Atlati was taking her turn while her brother and sister did their work, and O Beng made himself into a bird and sang her to sleep. While she slept and the world was unguarded, O Beng set about his mischief. He planted terror and hate in the hearts of all living creatures like the seeds of weeds, set poisons in even the clearest water, made mushrooms that were poisonous in the shape of those that were good, and created things made to mock the form of  good life; the wild pig and the vampire, the hailstorm and the ice storm, the weasel and the wolverine, the wasp and the leech.  He might have done much worse, but Boti came running, and there was battle in heavan and on earth. It took Kiti, Boti and Atlati together to run O Beng off.
After that, it was decided that there must be a constant guard against the evil and the dark. So Kiti took a handful of her brother's light and rubbed it into a handful of her sister's seeds, and walked up into the sky, scattering them far and wide, and where they fell a glowing white flower bloomed. Since that day, the flowers have bloomed in the night sky, guiding and guarding us all. And so the tale is told.
 

Glory And Shame

In the beginning of the world, my people were born to the Sun, and we were given a green valley in a golden land, rich and ripe and alive. But we were lonely children. In the night, one lonely child sat by a pool under a moon as round as a ripe persimmion, and sighed. "I wish I were not alone." they said.
And the Lady Moon took pity on her brother's child. So, from her shadows and light and the reflection of her moonlight on water, she made the first of her own children to sit beside the Child of the Sun. The Children of the Moon were our mirrors and our balance, the moonlight to our sunlight. They were beautiful, and they were never lonely, for they shared a Song. Each of them could listen to every other across hundreds of miles, singing in their hearts.
The Children of the Sun longed for the Song, wept for it and wished for it. And Boti took pity on his children. He went to his sister and said, 'let us give my children their own way to sing with yours'. So he reached inside himself, and brought out a perfect gem of amber, tall as a man and as wide. Within it Kiti placed brimming handfuls of her light and her soul-song, until it beat like a heart.  From this, they broke a thousand tiny chips, each as perfect a gem as its mother, each shining. One of these was given to each Child of the Sun, and they could hear one another and the Children of the Moon in their hearts and were joyous.  Together, they placed the gem in the center of the valley, and around it they built the greatest of all cities, a song of gold and spice made real. In the center of this great City lay the gem, and they called it the Soul of the City, 'Zhuro Chroi'. From this City, my people ruled the golden lands. 
It was a time of glory. For two thousand years, we were kings. 
But as darkness follows day, so shadows crept in. 
 
 
In time, we grew all too proud, haughty in our mastery and our might. In the minds of the Children of the Sun grew a terrible pride. In the hearts of the Children of the Moon there grew shells so thick that they were like stone.And we forgot the laws of balance.We turned away from what was pure, and the land that had once fed us now shrank under our arrogance and our demands.
There was a great man among us then, and he saw the madness that had come over us. He pleaded with his people, but he was not heeded.
 In desperation, he stole the Zhuro Chroi and ran with it away, hiding it far and far from all eyes. He called on God to hide it until the people had learned the error of their ways.
Without its Soul, the Song fell silent. Without the Song, the Children of the Moon lost their way and wandered, we know not where. Without the Children of the Moon, the Children of the Sun were lost.  We scattered like dust before the wind, scattered from that place where the sun shone gold. On that day, God wept.
 
And to this day we wander, and will wander until we are cleansed of our sins, 
and the Zhuro Chroi is found once more...
 

Further Reading

As we said, we were inspired by several cultures that deserve a great deal more than a passing mention. Below are links to several good resources.

I, Roma- An Interview With Ian Hancock, Roma Ambassador
 

The Romani Archives And Documentation Center

What's In A Name? Romani are not 'gypsies'

Roma Proud-musings on Roma life from one who's lived it

Amazigh, The Free People: Who Are The Berber Tribe? 

The Berber Of Morocco

The Culture And Arts Of Morocco