The ancient Arbarians

"Arbarians are stupid, uneducated and warlike giants" - A typical prejudice of the ancient echyrians

On the trail of the "Arbarians"

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"Arbare" is the Echyrene term for the vast areas in the northwest, covered in ancient times by primeval forests, still beyond the Arros, then considered an uncivilised borderland. Its inhabitants, called simply "Arbarians" by the Echyrians, were considered uncivilised savages, little better than animals, in many ancient accounts from the Phalopos are also hard to distinguish from actual depraved animal-men. But who were the ancient Arbarians, whose only contribution to history for a long time were raids on Arroan settlements?

"The Arbarians" - they did not actually exist in antiquity, at least not in the self-image of the peoples and tribes who lived in and around the Bezilla forest, wrested land from the swampy Foslach plains or defied the cold Kulskirra.

It was not until the middle of antiquity that several clans joined together to form a tribal alliance, initially usually only in order to be able to invade the increasingly well-protected Arros together.
 It took until late antiquity for these tribes to form a more stable structure and to clearly distinguish themselves from other tribes. During the Classical period, the first tribal kingdoms were slowly formed, first on the Arroian model and later on the Arrosevian model.

But although the "Arbarians" never saw themselves as one people (the "Arbarian" people is a creation that was only forced in the period around the Magic Revolution, when the northwestern states wanted to separate themselves from the Echyrean south), they had more in common than that they joined together to form marauding hordes: a common language, a common mythology and a common social structure.

Connected through social customs

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From time immemorial, the society of the "Arbarians" consisted of Esger (sg. Asger, the "free man") and Treller (sg. Traller, the "slave").

A Traller was usually a prisoner of war living in the clan, or the descendant of one; only later did the "Arbarians" also buy slaves from southern slave traders. The Esger were members of a clan who were largely equal to each other. Although according to customary law they had more rights and different duties than the Treller, Esger and Treller were often hardly distinguishable from each other.

Within a clan, the Gemicher ("elder") enjoyed the greatest respect and can be understood as the clan head. In the early days, he was in fact the oldest man or woman of the clan, later the title became hereditary and passed to the men or women of a certain (sub)family, depending on the clan. Around this time, the designation also changed and we hear more and more often of an Arela ("prince"). The Arela then soon became more than just the profane heads of their clans and also became religious heads who led and held cultic rites that were important for the well-being of the entire clan.


When the "Arbarians" began to form tribes, the Arelas met irregularly to consult and, in times of war, to appoint an Arax ("king") from their ranks. The Arax was at first only a "war chief" appointed for a fixed term, but in late antiquity this title too slowly became hereditary, having initially been awarded for life.


"Arbarian" warriors already decorated their bodies with tattoos in early times, but this body adornment became increasingly complex in antiquity. Soon there was a certain arsenal of pictorial signs that not only provided information about membership of a clan and tribe, but also reported on the deeds of their bearers. This custom of the warriors then spread to other areas and soon they were the only reliable sign in many places to distinguish an Asger from a Traller


Connected through language

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Ancient "Arbarian", like most ancient languages, was of course characterised by dialects, some of which were very different, differing in the pronunciation of certain sounds, divergent vocabulary and grammatical forms that were only regionally widespread. Nevertheless, the "Arbarian" could be understood well enough by members of all clans for a common treasure of myths about gods, heroic songs and instructive fairy tales to spread throughout the entire settlement area early on - presumably by wandering „Sinners“ ("storytellers"). These Sinners are probably also responsible for the introduction and spread of a genuinely "arbaric" script, which initially developed in the form of scribal signs without the influence of southern writing systems.

Ancient "Arbarian", like most ancient languages, was of course characterised by dialects, some of which were very different, differing in the pronunciation of certain sounds, divergent vocabulary and grammatical forms that were only regionally widespread. Nevertheless, the "Arbarian" could be understood well enough by members of all clans for a common treasure of myths about gods, heroic songs and instructive fairy tales to spread throughout the entire settlement area early on - presumably by wandering „Sinners“ ("storytellers"). These Sinners are probably also responsible for the introduction and spread of a genuinely "arbaric" script, which initially developed in the form of scribal signs without the influence of southern writing systems.

Connected through faith

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The stories spread everywhere soon led to the formation of a common pantheon, which was supplemented locally by other deities, but always had a common core. All "Arbarians" worshipped Ertius, the Eldar Muder, Ruck, the Sturma Muder and Erkisa, who were everywhere thought of in animal form. The younger Dôdig Heljar was also widespread.

 Besides these deities, about which more will be told elsewhere, there were also heroic songs and fairy tales, which were told almost the same everywhere and were only rarely adapted to local incidents or events. 

The Arbarians did not build temples to their gods, instead they worshipped them at "Vivedi" (votive stelae) and "Gihorgi" ("altar", literally "pile of stones"). The shape of the Vivedi was as varied as the tribes that built them and the gods they were dedicated to. Sometimes they were just painted tree trunks or decorated with colourful ribbons, sometimes they were elaborately carved and garlanded wooden pillars, and sometimes even entire animal figures were sculpted from the wood.

The settlement areas of the Arbarian tribes around the middle of antiquity.

Arbarian culture & traditions

Hôl - The Arbarian longhouse

Lay-out and structure of a Hôl

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The longhouse, hôl, shaped the appearance of Arbarian settlements. Although there was no general plan, these linear, sometimes convex, structures, always longer than wider, were built by all tribes, both as individual structures and in village and even urban communities.

While some longhouses were only nine metres long, some even reached lengths of over 80 metres. The average width was something between five and seven metres.

They consisted of wooden support gates, hôlpeste, which were lined by the walls and supported the roof beams, hemilbjelke. The actual living space was around a hearth, magstad, while other rooms were separated from it by carpets or wattle walls. In most longhouses, these rooms also included a stable, fêburren, which housed livestock permanently or at least in winter.

At first, the outer walls of the longhouses often consisted of wattle and daub with mud throws, but a longhouse clad in wooden planks developed into such an object of status that even in areas where timber was a scarce resource, great efforts were made.

The Hôl in the context of its environment

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Longhouses in antiquity were often built alone and formed the core of a small community that often settled kilometres away from the nearest longhouse. Although the majority of these small communities were spatially isolated, they were linked to other communities through trade, kinship, friendship, alliance or feud, maintained common Harga, consecrated districts, or paruga, sacred groves, or formed raiding communities to prey in the Southlands.

By the Classical period, numerous villages were formed that could cover an area of up to four hectares. These villages, which were more common in the south than in the north, consisted of several longhouses, a series of smaller detached outbuildings.

These outbuildings usually included pit houses, which served as workshops and storehouses, but also small, usually round clay or earth huts, which were inhabited by Treller or served ritual purposes.

The Hôl and its inhabitants

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In the typical longhouses lived just under ten inhabitants who were connected by blood, work or intimate relationship. Whereas in early antiquity the typical household consisted of a man, a woman, their children, possibly some Treller, and possibly parents or other relatives to be cared for, towards the middle of Antiquity a longhouse community developed in the increasingly numerous villages, which was characterised by common work.

Thus there was the Hôl of the hunters, the warriors, the brewers, and so on. At the same time, probably influenced by the already gender-segregated cults, there was an increasing separation into male and female residential work communities.

It is uncertain to what extent the development of the work communities gave rise to the Horgersystem in the first place, or whether they first came into being in the course of a prevailing social change brought about by Horgerdom. However, both developments intertwined and promoted each other.

The cultural significance of the Hôl

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The magstad (hearth) was the centre of life in the longhouse. It was, of course, the room where food was prepared, but it was also the room where Urgameda, feasts, were held.

The place that originally belonged to the master of the house was soon given to the horger (or the oldest horger in a large longhouse); it was called the brôlot, the bear's seat, which preserved the old idea that the master of the house was under the special protection of the bear god Ertius. The brôlot was often the only chair in the entire longhouse, because while stools were usually used for work, wide benches, svenke, were provided near the magstad for the other inhabitants or the banquet guests, which also served as sleeping places at night. The great importance of these facilities is also reflected in the language: the svankbrûer or svankvesjer, the person who is particularly close to you, is originally the person who sits next to you in the often strictly regulated seating order. The svanker refers to a good friend who is not part of the household, but who visits frequently. The svank (masculine, as opposed to feminine for the furniture) denotes lively conversation. "ôm slonga svank stadon" ("to sit on the long bench") was a popular idiom for "making peace after a quarrel" or "talking about it again" not only because of the alliteration, but because it was so obvious in the imagination; just as "vir svank" ("by the bench") denotes "all of them", "all allies" (all as they sit next to each other). Or "svankin" - a circumlocution for sexual intercourse, which, because the bench being made to wobble was also thought of, extended to "wobble; sway".

The significance of the magstad itself becomes particularly clear from the fact that the heart was readily paraphrased in poetic language as the "magstad of the body"; and especially when referring to the biological heart that keeps the body alive.

Until well into Asiranisation, the fire of the magstad, the elda or magelda, also had great cultic significance. The old word for fire, elda, was probably already narrowed down by the middle of antiquity to the hearth fire and was only still used in reference to this, as well as to the Elda Muder, the fire mother, while in all other contexts one spoke of brasza in an onomatopoeic-taboo manner. The priestesses of the Fire Mother alone were allowed to light the magelda and were entrusted with regular ritual acts as fire keepers, during which the ashes of the hearth fire were scattered throughout the house and trampled on the floor (at least as long as it still consisted of tamped earth).

In the middle of the Magelda was a hearth stone, the Agmuder ("mother stone"), which was considered a sacred symbol of the fire mother, who unlike the other gods was never worshipped in animal form, but only in this stone form. It was this stone that was sworn at ("ôm agmuder") or removed in battle and feud to make the whole house "uninhabitable" ("ôragmudersamo").

Hôrgranger - The Abarian family


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Among the Arbarians, the Hôrgranger forms the core of social coexistence; it consists of one or more Horger and their apprentices and is always of the same sex; that is, a male Horger has only male Tiner and a female Horger only female Tiner. Tiner come into the care of a Horger at the age of 6 at the latest and their birth parents play no official role in their lives thereafter; unless two Arbarians want to have a child (see below).

"Kinship" is therefore very much focused on the relationship of an Arbarian to the Horger and his fellow-Tiners; however, since the Arbarians originally knew families in our sense, many kinship terms were originally intended for this purpose as well and were later transformed in their meaning.

The classical family (mother, father, child) is called Mirninger, but it is socially accepted only until the parents hand over their child to a Horger; should it continue after the child has reached the age of 6, this form of family is considered disreputable.


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The initiation rites of the Hunval and Rabsval led to the young Arbarians being given a new reference person (orignally Horger or Muder) in addition to their parents, whose importance became increasingly significant. By the middle of antiquity, it became increasingly common to then introduce oneself with reference to one's horger or rasbval-muder (soon also called horger) instead of giving the name of one's biological father or mother. In combination with a unique form of cohabitation compared to other peoples, the Horger system soon developed in which the biological parents were of little importance.


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Horger (Male/Female): The "trainer" and surrogate father/mother of a group of children/youth (Tiner).


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Tiner (Male/Female): The "apprentices" of a Horger, who call each other Brûer ("brother") or Wesjer ("sister"). They call the adult "children" of their own Horger Arbrûer or Arwesjer ("big brother" or "big sister").

Suner / Diter

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Suner (Male)/ Diter (Female): These words originally mean "son" and "daughter" respectively, but are used to refer to the adult Tiner of a Horger who have completed their education and are legally independent persons. They refer to the current Tiner of their Horger as Bavbrûer/Bawesjer ("little brother" or "little sister").

Oter / Muder

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Oter (Male)/ Muder (Female): "Father" and "Mother" to designate the biological parents of an Arbarian, they play little part in the lives of Arbarians except when it comes to entering into a union to produce offspring: In this case, the two may not have the same Oter or Muder. A bodily parent is also called a Bresser ("birther"), the (bodily) sibling taboo is thus also called Rêkit Bressermirnis (literally "prohibition of parental love").


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Nider (male/female): "Child", the term for the bodily child of an Arbarian.

Arvoter / Armoter

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Arvoter (male)/ Armoter: Originally "grandfather" and "grandmother" respectively, these terms denote the Horger(s) of one's Horger(s).


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Munder (male): The Horger of the biological father. The munder is predestined to take on the male Nider of an arbarian and assumes the role of "oter" should the latter die (or otherwise fail) before a child comes into the care of a Horger.


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Onder (male): A Bruer of one's own Horger. If a Horger can no longer fulfil his role for whatever reason, his Tiner will pass into the care of an "Onder".


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Umer (female): The Horger of the natural mother. The Umer is predestined to take in the female Nider of an Abarian and assumes the role of "Muder" should she die (or otherwise fail) before a child comes into the care of a Horger.


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Omer (female): A vesjer of one's own horger. If a Horger can no longer fulfil her role, for whatever reason, her tiner passes into the care of an "omer".


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Meder (male/female): A Tiner (or Suner/Diter) of a Munder or Umer.


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Veder (male/female): A Tiner (or Suner/Diter) of an Onder or an Omer.


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Enner (Male/Female): Literally "ancestor"; the term for the biological parents of one's own parents or of one's own Horger; or the Horger's Horger. Arenner, "great-ancestor", goes back another generation; however, "Enner" can also be used to refer to "ancestors" in general.


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Indorger (male/female): An Arbarian between 6 and 21 without a Horger.


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