All posts tagged culture

T is for Thracians

Published April 29, 2012 by caitlinnicoll

The Thracians inhabited much of central and southeastern Europe. They were a series of tribes, with the mountainous people being wilder than their low lying neighbors.  In the Trojan war, they fought alongside the Trojans.

In the 5th century BCE, the Thracian tribes were united under king Teres. He formed the Odrysian kingdom, which is in modern day Bulgaria.

Their contemporaries saw them as barbaric, namely the Greeks and Romans, who seem to have seen everyone other than themselves as savage. Herodotus writes that “they sell their children and let their maidens commerce with whatever men they please.” They are also described as having red hair.

The Dii, a Thracian tribe, were extremely vicious, and committed terrible savageries in the Peloponnesian War. They killed every single man, woman, child, and dog in the cities they fought against, and would impale the heads of Romans on their spears.

Spartacus, the leader of the Third Servile War against the Romans, was Thracian.

Book recommendations for reading challenges:

Fantasy                                                                                                                   Sci-fi


S is for Slavs

Published April 29, 2012 by caitlinnicoll

The slavic people are an Indo-European group of Eastern Europe with many mythic beliefs similar to other Indo-European cultures.

The most popular creature in Slavic folklore is the Vampire. The Slavs believe that a person could become a vampire by being a magician or an extremely immoral person. Improper burial rites could also cause a person to come back as one. I talked more about vampires here.

Baba Yaga is a haggish creature in Slavic folklore. She flies around on a giant mortar and pestle and kidnaps small children. Probably to eat them. She lives in a hut that stands on chicken legs.

Illustration by Ivan Bilibin

There is also Koschei, an nefarious immortal man who was often the antagonist in many folktales. He is often represented as being old and ugly. Koschei can’t be killed by conventional means. He can only be destroyed by going after his soul, which is inside a needle, in an egg, which is in a duck that is in a hare locked in an iron chest and buried under a green oak tree. A person will be able to control Koschei if they possess his egg, and he will weaken and lose his magic. The egg also acts similar to a voodoo doll that if you toss it about, so won’t his body.

The Firebird is a magical bird that is typically the object of desire in a difficult quest. The bird is described as having fiery plumage that do not stop glowing, even after being removed. The Firebird is usually both a blessing and a bringer of doom to its captor.

Book recommendations for reading challenges:

Fantasy                                                                                                                Sci-fi

P is for Persians

Published April 26, 2012 by caitlinnicoll

Cyrus the Great

Cyrus the Great was a Persian king who lived in the 6th century BC. He founded the Achaemenid Empire, one of the largest empires in the world. He was known for respecting the religions and cultures of the lands he conquered, and his policies.  Under his reign (and throughout the entirety of the Persian empire), people were allowed religious freedom, and slavery was banned. Alexander the Great even looked up to him.

Ruins of Persepolis, the Persian capital.

The Persian Empire was split up into states called a satrapy; each one governed by a satrap (basically a governor).

Herodotus states that Persian youths, from their fifth year to their twentieth year, were instructed in three things – to ride a horse, to draw a bow, and to speak the Truth. Lying was the worst sin you could commit and it was punishable by death. He also says that Persians loved wine, and were often drunk during important councils. They would wait until they were sober the next day before deciding on anything.

Darius the Great created the first imperial navy in the world, yet it was soldiered by foreigners–mostly Greeks, Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Cypriots. The navy greatly bolstered their peace-keeping efforts, and opened up trade routes.

Darius invaded Greece in retaliation against the Ionian revolts, and fell during the battle of Marathon. His son, Xerxes continued where his father left off with a second invasion, fighting in the battles of Thermopylae and Salamis. Xerxes was not the oldest son of Darius, but he was chosen as his successor because he was the oldest son with Atossa, Cyrus’ daughter.

Book recommendations for reading challenges:

Fantasy                                                                                                         Sci-fi

M is for Mongols

Published April 24, 2012 by caitlinnicoll

Genghis Khan

Under Genghis Khan, the Mongol empire was ethnically, culturally, and religiously diverse. Genghis allowed religious freedom, and even gave tax exemptions for religious figures, teachers and doctors. To the Mongols, religion was a personal concept. They did not believe the law should interfere.

Genghis however, was responsible for the deaths of over 40 million people. He and his descendants conquered much of Asia (including the Middle East) and western Europe; More than any other empire in history. He was reputed to be a merciless ruler, often killing the sons of the captured cities. Despite this, he was extremely shrewd and intelligent, often surrounding himself with teachers and religious figures of many cultures. He also untied all of the Mongolian confederations.

Genghis created a secret code of law called the Yassa. Not much is known about it, other than it was the principal law of the Mongolian people. The documents were kept secret and were only read by the royal family. No copies remain (or have at least been found) today. The most common form of punishment was death, even for small things.

Quite a gruesome legend surrounds Genghis’ death. It is said that a Tangut princess that he had captured in war hid a pair of pliers in her vagina and basically castrated him. He died of the pain, and probably blood-loss. Yes, you read that right.

His grandson, Kublai Khan established the Yuan dynasty, and became the first non-Chinese emperor of China.


The Mongols even had an empress of great power, who reunited the Mongol confederations. After the death of her husband, Mandull Khan, Mandukhani Khatan became adopted and regent over the seven year old Batmunkh. The boy was a direct descendant of Genghis and part of the Golden Horde. When he was old enough to rule, she married him. Manukhani was a fierce warrior and tactician, even leading a battle against the Oirats while pregnant with twins. She won that battle, btw.

The Mongols practiced Shamanism. A shaman is a person who is the intermediary between the physical and spiritual worlds. They were the healers and wise (wo)men of their communities. In many cultures, Shamans were two natured (transgendered), especially in Native American cultures. Two natured spirits were said to be more powerful, and were therefore greatly sought after.


Book recommendations for reading challenges:

Fantasy                                                                                                                          Sci-fi

L is for Lakota

Published April 21, 2012 by caitlinnicoll

The Lakota are one of the seven Sioux tribes in the Dakotas.

The Lakota believe they are descended from the eagle, who is the wisest bird. They also have their own flood creation myth, where the water monster, Unktehi fought the humans and won, causing a great flood. Only one girl survived. An eagle, named Wanblee Galesha, saved her and brought her back to his home on a high spire. Back then, humans and animals shared a closer connection, so the bird was able to take her as his wife. She bore him twins, a girl and a boy, and when the waters receded, they came down to earth, married, had children, and created the Lakota nation.

Chief Sitting Bull in 1882

They also believe that Pipestone was created from the congealed blood of all the people who had died in the flood. Therefore, their pipes (made from Pipestone) is sacred because it is the flesh and blood of their ancestors.

Sitting bull was a famous Lakota chief who played a prominent role in the Great Sioux War. He fought in the battle of Little Big Horn, where he defeated Lt. Col. Custer. 

Book recommendations for Reading challenges:

Fantasy                                                                                         Sci-fi

D is for Danes

Published April 4, 2012 by caitlinnicoll

D was a hard one. Seriously.

Along with the Norwegians and Swedes, the Danes were better known as Vikings, but since I’ll be discussing them later, I’m going to focus more on the history and people. Religion will be the other post.

Befitting their culture, the viking age began in a very burny and violent way on June 8th, 793, when vikings destroyed the abbey on Lindisfarne. The abbey was a famous learning center across the continent, and its destruction angered a lot of people and was widely regarded as a bad move.

During their time, they terrorized (and settled. They weren’t all bad) their way across Europe and into Africa and the Middle East, and even going as far as Greenland and Newfoundland, where they created settlements long before Columbus. After the fall of the Roman Empire and the subsequent spread of Islam, trade in the Mediterranean was depressingly low, which opened up the way for Viking trading and expansion.

Interestingly, despite having a history of raping and pillaging, Denmark was united with Norway and Sweden under a woman. In 1397, Queen Margaret I of Denmark, married Haakon VI of Norway and Sweden, forming the Kalmar Union.

The Saxons also thought the Danes were excessively clean. Well, in comparison because they took weekly baths and liked to brush their hair. A lot.

And then there was Hamlet…

"Ophelia, I'm just pining for the fjords, is all"

Book recommendations for reading challenges:

    Fantasy                                                                                                               Sci-fi


Um, Books and Stuff

Published March 27, 2012 by caitlinnicoll

I’ve been seriously slacking in the reading (and blog) department. But! I have read! Has anyone else been in a reading slump? Or better yet, does anyone have any good recommendations? I need some good sci-fi recommendations.

Anyways, so here is what I’ve been reading.





After waffling for a few weeks, I’ve finally decided on a theme for the A to Z challenge, which will be Culture. Each day will focus on a different culture/ empire/ whatever I could find to fit the letter of the day for your world-building inspirational pleasures.

There is an overwhelming trend to write fantasy in some sort of European Middle Ages Default setting, and while I dearly love some of these books, Middles Ages I do not. I mean, it’s so boring stacked against the WHOLE OF HISTORY. Lately, I’ve been veering towards more Asian inspired settings because they are different, refreshing, and well, interestinger. I would also really love to read a fantasy book based on an ancient or Native American culture. So, if you know any, you would make me an extremely happy person.

I will also post book recs and whatever else I deem relevant. Which, knowing me, will be completely random.