The Velheim culture group, known to most of the world as the “Northern” culture, is a rough term that refers to the splintered cultures of The North Belt. Velheim is often considered to be a barbarian culture among what are generally perceived as the more “civilized” cultures of the world, and not without good reason: The cold people of the north have inflicted centuries of violent attacks and savage destruction on many southern kingdoms. Not only do the Velheim cultures have reputations of being feared; they are also reviled for their lack of common decency. That being said, to simply compare a Velheim to a wild barbarian does not do justice to an intricate culture that in itself is far more complex and isolated from the other surviving Ailor Cultures. By far, the Velheim culture is the closest connected to the ancient Ailor cultures of Old Ceardia, a fact that Velheimers are all too eager to remind others of. Regardless of opinions, the fact always remains that the most ferocious and honorable warriors among the Ailor come from the Velheim people, as much as southerners might like to think of them as barbarians.
- 1 History
- 2 Language and Dialects
- 3 Laws
- 4 Lifestyle and Customs
- 5 Religion
- 6 Literature and Folklore
- 7 The Arts
- 8 Recreation
- 9 Regional Customs and Traditions
- 10 Symbols
- 11 Trivia
Velheimer culture follows an old narrative dating back to at least five centuries before the Cataclysm. In the early days of the Old Ceardian landmass, Ailor developed means of travel through smaller vessels known as “Tall Ships” (which weren’t actually tall, but more long), which allowed them to begin the practice of hopping from continent to continent. These ships weren’t suitable for travel across oceans, but they did allow the Ailor to quickly spread from one continent to another, using them as stepping stones. This naval urge to expand and explore was largely inspired by captured Elven ships and maps that were used to raid Ailor coastlines for slaves. It didn’t take long for the Ailor to colonize most of the continental landmasses all the way up to Ellador, and despite the harsh conditions, many Ailor such as those on the Regalian Archipelago and in Ellador prevailed.
Once the migrants had settled in their new homes, the Velheimer culture remained very similar to the old Ceardian culture, though the settlers adapted their practices to suit their local needs. This included the exchange of the old practice of Wydt-Reedh (raiding on land) to Havstrid (raiding by sea), and also cultivated the adoption of cuisine and local customs to support a practical lifestyle in a much colder environment. The Velheimer culture has stayed distinctly different from Old Ceardian as a colonial culture, though it eventually replaced its ancestor as the last living remnant of ancient Ailor culture. As such, not much history is attributed to its birth.
Language and Dialects
Velheim language is often simply called Northern, but there are in fact many dialects in the Northern language group. It is often said that for every village, there is a different dialect, and for every valley a different way of pronouncing things. The most common language used among the Velheim is Skodje, a language that is particularly present in Ellador, Hedryll, Østryll, Jorrhildr and Nordskag. Another common language is Tunge, which is commonly spoken in Arlora and Torse (by the Northern minority). Tunge is furthermore also spoken by Drixaghers, but in Drixagh the Velheim use a unique dialect called Als-Tunge, which is barely understandable by native Tunge speakers. There are further some lesser languages spoken among the Velheimer, such as Skogenbaar, a language that is frequently spoken among Ithania and Daendroc settled Velheim, and Hemmelig, a very small minority language of Northerners who moved back to re-settle Ceardia after its reclamation by the Regalian Empire. Formally, only Skodje is accepted by the Regalian Empire as a legal language from which to engage in government affairs. As such, Northerners, especially the Als-Tunge speakers, often learn Skodje as well when they are inclined to pay service to the Empire.
As a language, Velheimic languages sound very melodic, which is not something one would expect from a language spoken by mostly warriors and hunters. Skodje in particular is a language which makes use of the art of pitch to differentiate between words, and the language itself has several vowels which do not exist in the common Proto-Regalian alphabet used by all other Ailor languages. While being melodic to the ears, the languages are often also quite forceful in their sounding. Even the most cowardly Velheimer will sound confident and resolute with the words spoken in his own language due to strong and short consonants. Between their own people however, pitch and manner of pronunciation differentiate moods between sentences, so it is much easier to pick up whether someone means what they say. It is, as such, said that it is impossible to lie to a Velheim in their own language. They will be able to pick up small body language hints and differences in pronunciation that only the most skilled actors are able to overcome.
Velheim naming customs remain simple, yet often say a lot about a person. There is no strict naming system among the Velheim people, though many often follow the trendline of first name, followed by surname, followed by son or daughter of such. The last segment is particularly important because all Velheimer from a particular village might all share the same surname, and they differentiate from each other by using their parents in their name. As such, in locality, Velheim often omit their surname, though when dealing with foreigners or any formal state, they still use their full name.
A Velheim often carries a surname based on a geographic feature of their birthplace, preceded by the general description. For example if a person comes from a sund (a sound, a waterway that forms the mouth of a fjord) while the primary product of the local fisheries is eel, their surname would be Ålesund, a combination of the Skodje name for eel and the word sund. Similarly, if a person were from an island named Valder, their surname would be Valderøya, a combination of the island’s name and the Skodje word for island, øya. Some examples of geographical features that are used in surnames:
- Fjord, a waterway between two mountains that has a distant connection to the sea
- Sund, a waterway that forms the mouth of a fjord towards the ocean
- Haug, a large hill or small mountain
- Fjell, a large mountain (not frequently used since few Velheim live on mountains)
- Dal, a valley or large plains area
- Vik, a bay or secluded shoreline area
- Heim, a name used to define an important family belonging to noble lineage
- Borg, a densely populated area (particularly popular among Regalia natives)
- -enn, meaning “one” often added as a surname to define the person by their surname for example, “Sterke-enn” would be “strong one”. Nicknames basing themselves in surnames are not common, but often are used when someone has achieved something great that sets them apart from their ancestors giving them the right to start their own lineage.
(There are more terms that permit creative freedom for the person in question, but these are just some examples)
Another number of examples with explanations:
- Skogheim, a noble family that lives in a forested area
- Håstdal, a horse breeder that lives in a valley
- Frisfjell, a person living on a really cold mountain
- av Uggla (a far less popular way of creating surnames by taking an Anglian approach and simply saying “This person is from there”, in this case from a place called Uggla)
Velheim first names are unique among all other cultures in that every single male or female name can be commuted to the opposite gender by adding a number of vowels and consonants. There is no clear distinct rule to it, but most Velheimer will be able to tell whether a name sounds male or female, due to the number of vowels in it. A good example of this is the difference between Alvid and Aldiva, the former being male and the latter being female. Another example is Bjorn and Bjornhilda. The languages often assist in the creation of female names by using additional consonants to accommodate the vowels, but generally speaking the ground rule remains, whichever name has more vowels is the female name. Velheimer often name themselves after animals or localized names for the Old Gods, though it is also common to take Ceardian names and translate them into Velheim spelling. Some common creature or object based names are:
- Bjørn, or “Bear”
- Ulvid, or “Wolf-life”
- Trenne, or “Strong as a tree”
- Stein, or “rock”
- Brunhild, or “Brown fighter”
Commonly Ceardian names converted to Velheim are:
- Ania, from Anna
- Karl, from Carl
- Sigmundr, from Sigismund
- Elsa, from Elizabeth
Velheimer Law is generally fairly straightforward. Do not steal, do not murder, do not violate and do not destroy. Disputes between families are settled by the Earl on a satisfactory-basis where the Earl attempts to compromise. When a matter has turned violent, the Rakhr, a type of sheriff in Velheimer communities, is necessary to decree an outcome. The Velheimer know numerous customs for handling such affairs, known as Jovr’s Justice Laws, that are nominally accepted as legal in the Regalian Empire even. Most foreign cultures respect Jovr’s Justice among the Velheimer (even if the Velheimer in fact do not believe in Jovr, and are Old Gods worshipers or Unionists, Jovr’s Justice is still more of a cultural norm than a religious belief). The specific codes of Jovr’s Justice are presented below. These are all legal within the boundaries of the Regalian Empire, though only apply between Velheimer and Velheimer. Regalian Law in fact does not interfere with Jovr’s Justice at all, even if it means the Velheimer in question are breaking state law by executing the specifications of Jovr’s Justice.
- Lovgang, the act of challenging a sitting Rakhr for the seat of Rakhr. A Rakhr must always accept a Lovgang or be disgraced and removed him his position by default to the challenger. A Lovgang is a duel between challenger and position holder that concerns the title of Rakhr. This fight does not have to be until death, but death is a viable means of winning. When a Lovgang succeeds, the challenger becomes the new Rakhr. If the old one survives, they must pledge themselves and all the Velheimer that have pledged themselves to them to the new Rakhr. The men can object to this pledge, but become misfortuned Dreyr at that point, calling down Otr’s misfortune on their family for their disgrace.
- Rakhrgang, the act of forcing a Velheimer to accept a Rakhr as leader. A Velheimer that does not acknowledge a Rakhr as their leader is considered Huust, or honorless. If a Huust is discovered by a fellow Velheimer, they may publicly accuse them of being such, after which they have three days to pledge to a Rakhr, or face Otr’s misfortunes. A Huust when discovered may never challenge a Rakhr and will be shunned by Velheimer society, not being able to appeal to Jovr’s Justice Laws in any way.
- Hjemgang, the act of taking by force. A Hjemgang is a fairly controversial duel between two Velheimer that concerns their property. When Hjemgang is invoked, the challenger and challenged enter into a duel over the property of either. If the challenged refuses, half their property is taken from them by the Rakhr and given to the Earl for redistribution. If accepted, the duel proceeds with live weapons until either surrender or death. Death is not necessary to win a Hjemgang, but often inflicted anyway since a loser doesn’t want to live with the shame of losing a Hjemgang, even if it doesn’t bring about Otr’s misfortunes. The winner of the Hjemgang takes all possessions from the loser, regardless of whether they were the challenger or the challenged. They take the loser’s Sol-Kvinne, who becomes their Bond wife, they take all slaves from the loser, as well as all their clothes, weapons, their home, and their job positions. Their children will take a different name, though not become slaves of the winner. The only thing the loser is left with is an axe and the clothes they wore during the duel. Losers aren’t completely shunned by society, and it’s in fact quite common for other Velheimer to take pity and provide them with free food and clothes and shelter, though most Velheimer consider this a dishonorable and shameful existence and would prefer to avoid it if they can. Many Velheimer who fail to see any outcome to such a situation simply throw themselves into battle with no possible positive outcome for them to face death in a proper way.
- Trille-Skulle, the act of recompense for theft. The point of Trille-Skulle is to compensate a thief with a path of thorns, requiring the thief to walk over a thirty feet path filled with thorn bushes and nettles, while their community pelts rotten tomatoes at them. Curiously enough, when the ordeal is over, everyone embraces the thief and takes them out for drinking to celebrate their forgiveness.
- Mord-Skulle, the act of recompense for death. The point of Mord-Skulle is to compensate a family for the murder of a person. Murder in Jovr’s Justice Law is very complex, because it often borders into implying that the person should have been a better warrior so as to not get murdered. If however the Rakhr determines that the murder took place while the victim was unaware or unable to even know they were about to die, then the murderer must take blame and act as a sacrifice to Jovr to cleanse the Soldi of the victim. This is done by beheading, after which the corpse is buried in a shallow grave after having been burned and trampled by oxen. Curiously enough, if the victim was considered aware of the murder and did not fight back in a decent way as per judgement of the Rakhr, the culprit is released after a stick beating where they are tied to a pole naked and beaten by three men with sticks.
Lifestyle and Customs
Velheimer families are a bit of an oddity among the many Ailor cultures in that they are a very pro-equality culture in terms of gender, but still hold a very strong concept of polygamy, though in a different way than it is implied in other cultures. A man must always wed his primary wife, or the so called Sol-Kvinne. In all aspects, a Sol-Kvinne is permanent. The concept of re-marriage does not exist among the Velheimer people, even when a woman and a man wish to no longer be married, due to the misfortune Soldi concept applying also to failed marriages and cursing their offspring. They simply separate themselves to live far away from one another but remain married (though, many Velheimer have found a solution to this by simply converting to the Old Gods Faith or Unionism where remarriage is permitted, since this aspect is only partly enforced by the Oldt Fayth). A man may never marry another woman officially (or man at all), though may take so called Bond Wives (or men), which border somewhere between prostitute, slave and consort. Bond Wives are often captured during raids on either other Velheimer towns, but more often foreign places like Ithania or the Essalonian Kingdoms. Bond Wives serve as secondary wives to the man, birthing children that will be legal offspring. A man can force any female slave to become a Bond wife, though curiously enough, a male slave also. Same-sex relations (or polyamorous relations involving a man, a Sol-Kvinne and a Bond-man) among Velheimer is far more accepted than most other Ailor cultures. While Bond Wives are essentially slaves, they are often treated well by the men, dressed in fine clothes and bathed frequently to keep them clean. The Sol-Kvinne are often responsible for their hygiene and obedience to the man. That being said, Bond Wives are still slaves even after they are chosen to serve their master, and can be treated as such, including but not limited to verbal and physical abuse, down to murder if the slave does not perform as wanted (though in the Regalian Empire, murder on a slave is still murder, the legality of this is only confined in Velheimer states). This practice is entirely optional however, there are many Velheimer men who marry only a Sol-Kvinne and simply sell off any potential Bond Wives if they should ever present themselves to them, thus remaining monogamous.
Marriage among the Velheimer is always arranged between fathers, mothers have no input in the matter, which is one of the very few cases where Velheimer society is more patriarchal than equal. The purpose of marriage is often to carry many children, and even though society among the Velheimer is far more equal than say, Anglian or Calemberg cultures, sons are often preferred, because they can bring great honor onto a household, while far less women take the path of the wolf and become warriors. Family units beyond marriage tend to be strong. Parents care greatly for their children, and even take care of the elders that are infirm or incapable of taking care of themselves. A great father-son and mother-daughter relation persists among the Velheimer where parents pass on their skills to their children of the same gender, or in some rare cases, the opposite gender.
Velheimer gender roles, aside from the more strict cultural norms in their relations, are incredibly equal. Men and women treasure each others as equals in a marriage, a Velheimer man is never found obstructing a woman from trying to achieve the same things a man could. While women are more suited to raising their children, men take a strong role in parentage as well, and women and men are both equally welcome in combat schools and in war. This is often also why Regalian women, who find no way to enter Regalian military academies, travel to Nordskag to serve in their army for the necessary qualifications. In politics, women can equally achieve the same heights as men, though often because of the physical nature of men in relation to women, men tend to occupy more of the top roles in Velheimer society. The only position that is entirely unique to men among the Velheim is the Staargir, which is a fortune teller of sorts.
Many of the Velheimer follow the faith of the Old Gods, with Elleja (Ellea), Lanar (Lanarra), Baskil (Bashtur), Merkell (Mershell), Alu (Alu), Bep (Bep), Jula (Julla), and Handrin (Handrin). Despite commonly seen as the major faith of the Velheimer however, it is in fact not the dominant faith by number of followers, especially in the continents closer to Oldt Era. In fact, the majority of the Velheimer follow the Oldt Fayth, a religion that is as ancient as the Ailor people themselves, and as such, equally complicated in its vast intricacies. In theory, Oldt Fayth has no limit to the amount of gods that exist, and practically any activity or act has a god associated with it. That being said, the Velheimer recognize the greater pantheon, which are the main gods, and the lesser pantheon, which is the theoretical infinite pool of gods that wildly differ from town to town. Some gods of the lesser pantheon could for example exist to a group no larger than twenty men, though the greater pantheon is present in all aspects. A list of all the major pantheon gods:
- Daguyr, female goddess of the sun, dawn and daytime, often prayed to for staving off droughts and summer heat.
- Daina, female goddess of the moon, dusk and nighttime, often prayed to for protection during the night and a clear moon for navigation.
- Jovr, male god of justice, husband of Daguyr, often prayed to for fair dealings and by rulers.
- Jagr, male god of injustice, husband of Daina, often prayed to for revenge and success in dishonorable deeds.
- Hermed, male god of honor and ancestry, often prayed to in the end to bring fair Soldi to descendants and survivors.
- Otr, male god of trickery and disgrace, the only god that is never prayed to and is universally reviled. It is said that men who die without the grace of fair Soldi become haunted Dreyr, undead spirits that feast on the living.
- Balla, female goddess of fertility and carnal pleasure, often prayed to for success in conceiving children, as well as romance.
- Haella, female goddess of pestilence and solitude, sister of Balla, often prayed for to bring ruin on another’s family but also for contemplation and patience.
- Varld, male god of the earth and soil, brother of Balla and Haella, prayed to for good harvests and plentiful livestock. Also prayed to to stave off earthquakes and rock slides.
- Aella, female goddess of the air and the sky, wife of Varld, prayed to for good rains and clear skies when necessary for sailing.
- Vinella, female goddess of the winter and the hunt, prayed to for good hunting prospects and to stave off wild predators during winter.
- Bjarkan, male god of the spring and rebirth, husband of Vinella, prayed to for good health among the children and plentiful forage.
- Gaudr, one of the few male giant gods, god of the forest and all trees and living things inside. Giant gods are not worshiped, merely respected in name to revere their domain.
- Raudr, one of the few male giant gods, god of the Sea and all living things inside. Giant gods are not worshiped, merely respected in name to revere their domain.
- Fadaudr, one of the few male giant gods, god of the mountains and the snow and all living things inside. Giant Gods are not worshiped, merely respected in name to revere their domain.
- Ul, the only female giant goddess, goddess of death and a final end to all the living. While giant gods are normally not worshiped, Ul is a sole exception in that several traditional festivities as well as customs are related to offering her service in exchange for safe passage to the dead.
- Varfal, male god of war and fighters, father of Balla, Haella, and Varld, often prayed to for good fortune in battle and success in combat and strength.
- Milna, female goddess of the elders, sister-wife of Varfal, mother of Balla, Haella, and Varld, often prayed to for good fortune to the elders and parents, and for a good security in old age.
Furthermore, Oldt Fayth knows concepts of origins and the all-end. Jaud, the all spring being the concept of origins. Jaud is not really a god but more a general understanding of the all spring of origin. It is often described as a fountain or a water spring, though often also as a waterfall or a creek in the mountains. It is said among the Oldt Fayth that Jaud gave life to everything, and that Jaud itself continues time by ever flowing. Jaud is not really a person, and as such is not revered, but simply recognized as existing, as all gods make their home at the beginning of this spring of water and time. Forseth, is the all-end in the Oldt Fayth. Forseth is not really a god but more a general understanding of the imminent end to all things. It is described as a rock or a tree, sometimes with the shape of an old man’s face, though generally considered to be a very mundane object. The story goes that on the Forseth Daggrondr (day of Forseth), Forseth will fall into the Jaud and end time by blocking the flow of water, which represents the passage time. It is said that when Forseth falls, the world simply ceases to exist and all that has happened will be meaningless, though it is not entirely clear how the prophecies exactly mean the world will end. Some imply time simply stops turning, hunger will disappear, but also sleep and birth and death, the world becoming a gray nothingness where souls wander in infinity.
Other prophesies claim the sun will go dark and the land will die, and others yet imply that the world will fracture, just as the flow of Jaud is fracturing, creating multiple worlds that will begin anew. It is important to note that this exactly the reason why Velheimer are considered life-lusting and cherish every moment of existence. They are under the constant belief that the world could end at any moment with no warning or explanation, so they simply live in the here and now and for their own satisfaction and life lust. Forseth is not worshipped or even really referred to in name. The Velheimer mostly ignore Forseth’s existence because they are aware that nothing they do, not even the gods, can stop Forseth from falling.
Finally, as much as the Oldt Fayth does not have a concept of afterlife, the faith does recognize a concept of surviving honor from one dead to another. When a man dies, they either die with fair Soldi or without fair Soldi. Soldi is the concept of combat honor or bravery in battle. A man that fights to his last in battle is said to enjoy fair Soldi. A man that is murdered or stabbed in the street without much of a fight, or a man that cowers from a brave end, is said to die without fair Soldi. Not only does a man who dies without the blessings of fair Soldi become a Dreyr spirit of the trickster god Otr, it is said that disgraced Soldi is passed on to descendants, meaning they will suffer misfortune and bad luck in their lives. This belief persists even among Velheimer who are not followers of the Oldt Fayth as the whole concept of honor is codified in their culture. As such, Oldt Fayth men believe they should all die in battle honorably, even if they are sick. In fact, the skill or strength shown in battle often doesn’t matter, as long as the man dies in battle without cowardice, fair Soldi is assured. For families cursed with misfortune of Otr, it is said that the sons of a cursed man can atone for their cowardice or weakness of their fathers by participating in the religious festival called the Skjald-Vinella, the act of slaying a great beast in the heart of winter with nothing but wooden spears. Any who die in this custom are assured of fair Soldi, meaning that even if all sons die in this custom, the misfortune of the father is undone from the family.
There is no real mention of how women should die in the Oldt Fayth, since the religion originated from a time when women were in all aspects considered property of men, only centuries later did they become equals among the Old Ceardian people (where the religion originates). As such, officially, the religion has not adapted to the new social situation of the Velheimer either, though many women often infer that the same laws apply to them, either to die in battle, or to die in childbirth (which in Oldt Fayth is considered a battle of sorts too, with the Haella for the life of the child and birth).
Literature and Folklore
The role of the state among the Velheim people is very ambiguous. They do not formally recognize the existence of a state (though will when it is practical for them, for example when they are part of the Regalian Empire). They do, however, also maintain a dualist structure of State based leadership, and Honor based leadership. This presents itself, in the simplest of terms, in the dual leadership of an Earl (more commonly seen as a Count, or called Jarl), and a Rakhr. Rakhr are not legal leaders in a sense that a King rules over their people, so they do not contest the rule of the Earls. They do however, command the loyalty of the warriors and the hearts of the people through Strength and Honor. In a way, in Regalia it could be compared in that the people owe their allegiance to the Emperor, but only through the local lords and Nobles who answer to the Emperor. The Rakhr however don’t necessarily answer to the Earls, and often even struggle for power with the Earls. In many places, the Earls pay heed to the advice and opinions of the Rakhr, for even though the Earls can legally force the people to serve him, only the Rakhr can make them do it with spirit and vigor. The distinction of where Rakhr authority stops and Earl authority begins is often hard to understand for outsiders, so the role of Rakhr is often simplified by calling them the Sheriff of a Velheimer community.
Rakhr can be both male and female, and is inherently a hereditary title by default. They are the administrators of Jovr’s Justice, a legal code system that often differs from Velheim community to community, but often supplements the Earl’s state law as additional Velheim custom laws. This mostly pertains to the codes of honor, rites of the dead, religious and traditional festivities, but also the morale of the warriors and the general satisfaction of the people. Earls and Barons (or other rulers for that matter) often learn how to work with these Rakhr on a local level to ensure smooth rulership, though it’s not been uncommon for a Rakhr to oust an Earl or Baron in favor of sole rule. Typically however, this is seen as a disgrace to Jovr, and most Velheimer will quickly attempt to restore order by having a new Earl appointed.
Due to the raiding nature of the Velheimer people, to go out and plunder foreign lands and bring the profits back, Earls are inherently necessary to integrate this economic activity with any formal state or Empire. The Earl takes a set percentage of the profits of a raid, which they pay to the state as taxation. In return. Velheimer people generally don’t pay taxes (though sometimes there is a general tax that requires them to pay off part of their cattle or wool if they produce those things). The Earl also dispenses social security to struggling families as well as legal control over who can farm or fish where. While the position of Rakhr is formally hereditary, hereditary inheritance barely ever happens. To be a Rakhr, is to command the loyalty of other Velheimer through boundless honor and just rule of Jovr’s Justice. If another person presents themselves to be more honorable or more just, they can challenge the Rakhr for a Lovgang. This practice is more explained in the Laws further below.
There is a prophecy among the Velheimer (those that believe Forseth is a tree) that one day, Daguyr will bless a chosen Velheimer’s axe, the strongest of all Velheimer that ever will be and ever has been, with the essence of the sun, allowing them to burn the gnarled Forseth to the ground before it may fall, thus ending the all-end before it can begin. This prophecy in particularly resonates with the Skagger people, especially those who follow the School of Skagger and the School of Beorl, both combat schools that train their followers in the use of axes. It is said that the Velheimer will know the coming of the chosen one, if Daguyr’s crown should burn red as blood, and crows shall herald his naming by flocking within a league’s distance. It is said that the son or daughter of Daguyr, this chosen one, will then go on to found a glorious Era of service to the Oldt Fayth and a hundred years of successful raids.
Velheimer art is deceptively simple, though intricate and incredibly time consuming to produce. Their art is most often displayed on wood carving, but also on woven cloth and metal decor. Carved or woven decor often depicts swirls and lines running through each other, woven patterns which represent Jaud and the passage of time. Animals are also frequently used to decorate especially silver, a commodity that is not natively found within Velheimer occupied lands, but that is greatly prized among their people. Silver casting and manipulation is greatly prized among the Velheimer, producing chains, necklaces, earrings, nose rings and general bodily decorations with fine details. Velheimer art, much like the people, is pragmatic mostly in that it needs to tell a tale. No other piece of Velheimer art does that as strongly as their body tattoos. Every Velheimer has body tattoos made with the same light blue or Teal color made from roots from Ellador that functions as its own alphabet of sagely storytelling on the body of the wearer. Their achievements, but also their hopes and dreams are printed in these tattoos of geometric lines and shapes all over their body. They can be very large and pronounced almost inch thick lines to tell of great achievements, or smaller quarter inch lines to speak of family and ambitions. When a Velheimer dies, their body ought to be half covered in these tattoos so that the surviving relatives may tell their tale by simply reading their body markings. This is why one of the greatest punishments one can inflict upon a Velheimer, is to obscure or otherwise erase their tattoos. Since Velheimer don’t have a formal written script that survives more than 3 towns far (their alphabet differs widely from area to area), attacking their tattoos feels like erasing their identity and their biography. These tattoos are always applied by the respectable Staargir, and only tattoos applied by the Staargir are considered authentic.
Velheimer music is simple and straightforward, often to just produce a drumming beat or a lute tune. As such, the only instruments known to the Velheimer are the drum, the horn, and the lute, though in some rare cases a violin is also used by more upper class Velheimer. The music itself lacks direction and is just an expression of energy and happiness, producing a chirpy tune with fast tones and notes to entice listeners to dance. To Velheimers, there is a time to be quiet, and a time to be loud, though some Velheimers have trouble deciding when that is. Singing rarely exists among the Velheimer, though is often used in special occasions. Staargir chant the songs of the gods, and are the only ones allowed to sing them. These chants often sound like ominous, low bass tones accompanied by animalistic grunting, and produce a very barbaric yet organized melody. Women have a few work or nursery tunes that they also sing to entertain themselves or their children, and finally, warrior men have the Th’ud, a song to herald the coming of the dead, when one of their comrades has fallen.
Velheimer fashion is simple in that it doesn’t really exist. Velheimer dress in whatever way is practical to them, the environment around them, what they have available on hand and what they intend to do. Fashion, or at least the sense of dressing to impress, mostly exists among the richer and more well-off Velheimer who use specially traded (or raided) silks from Ithania or dyed furs from their own native hunting grounds. Red dyed bear and reindeer fur in particular is popular, though White Calemberger Fox furs have started becoming more popular among the southern Velheimer due to the practicality of white fur in snowy landscapes. Velheimer often dress in single-layer compositions, meaning they have a tunic that serves as a half coat, and a simple set of pants and boots. This is sometimes complimented with a cloak or animal fur on the shoulders, though Velheimer generally do not wear undergarments.
Velheimer, much like their clothing and customs would portray, don’t have a formal sense of architecture. They simply build with what they can where it is practical in whatever way is practical. If that means upturning a boat and filling the walls with dirt, then that will be done. Most Velheimer houses are half dug into the ground to protect them from the elements during long winter months, though some Velheimer have also been known to build their houses on stilts to avoid flooding if that should be present in the area they settled in. With few exceptions, all Velheimer constructions are made of wood, largely to enforce a more nomadic idea that they might be able to pick up their belongings and move at any time should it be necessary. The more nomadic Velheimer that have embraced the trek often simply live in skin and pelt built tents which are held together with rope,sticks, and bones. Velheimer houses are never fancy, lacking proper plumbing or much privacy. This does however foster a strong family bond as every action in the household is shared one way or another, intentionally or unintentionally.
Velheimer cuisine is in many aspects incredibly dull. Their food is rarely salted and even less commonly spiced up with herbs. It mostly consists of flat bread, fish, dried fish, smoked or roasted fish, and leafy greens. Velheimer have difficulty adapting to foreign cuisine as their tastes are considered flat and small. Strong flavors give them a sense of bitterness, though they are able to adapt after long term exposure to new foods. Velheimer are however known to make delicious pancake-like treats called Svele and Lefse, the former a wetter pancake with drizzled sugar syrup, the latter a drier pancake with a mixture of sugar, butter and cinnamon on top.
Velheimer people are generally considered the physically most robust and healthiest Ailor people on account of their sports and leisure often including many arduous physical activities on top of their already harsh physical lifestyle. Their main acts of sports are spear throwing, disk throwing, and also Tre-Paller, an activity that involves trying to cut down a tree as quickly as possible in a race with others.
In leisurely time, Velheimer often pick up wood carving or hunting just for pleasure. Men are also known to engage in Northern Wrestling or Lecgaen Wrestling, or just drunken brawling during a night out drinking.
Regional Customs and Traditions
One of the more unexpected customs that Velheimer maintain is the keeping of slaves. Velheimer warriors frequently raid foreign towns (and sometimes even other Velheimer towns) taking anything they find of value: particularly noble metals, and seizing people as slaves. They often opt for weaker slaves, and as such frequently capture frail young women, though some Velheimer make a business out of capturing large brawny men for more arduous physical activity. Velheimer don’t treat their slaves as dogs however, unlike the Songaskians. In fact, some slaves (which they call Bonds or Thralls) are sometimes free enough to be considered an extended part of the family. Certainly, any slave can become a Bond-wife (or Bond-man for same sex-Velheimer; women are not permitted to take Bond pairs). Slaves often help with maintaining the food supply on a farm, or teach the children if they have skills worth teaching.
Raids are essential among the Velheimer people. Their entire economy is based around surviving and preparing for the next raid. During autumn and winter, shipwrights build ships and women forage and tend the children. During spring and summer, the warriors raid foreign shores and bring back booty, which is used to pay for the ships and the men to pilot them, and the cycle begins anew each year when Raiding finishes. While the Earl dictates what the Velheimer can raid, only the Rakhr decides what specific target the raiders will attack, and how high each member can claim their share of the raid profits.
Burial customs among the Velheimer are different than most other cultures. Among the Velheimer, the body of the dead are preserved through a process of dry mummification before the dead are stored in large and ancient Helbolwen, large underground cave or hewn tunnel complexes where the dead are stored in small alcoves. The dead are tended to by the Staargir, who actually live inside the Helbolwen from where they dispense their fortune and potions to the people when they seek them out among the dead. It is, as such, said that the Staargir live in the cities of the dead, while Valsung are the guardians of the dead.
Staargir in particular are a revered and reviled bunch. By Regalian Empire terms, they are nothing but soothsayers and heretics that claim to know the future. As such, Staargir occupy a very strained position within Regalian Empire lands, one where they should be careful not to reveal fortune tellings and superstitious sagas and prophesies to non-Velheimer, though the Velheimer greatly appreciate their services and advice. Staargir are solely male, and chosen from boys who are either born blind, or become so after a disease or simply from malnutrition. Staargir specifically look frightening since their lips are cut off as well as the soft tissue of their nose, while their eyelids are darkened with charcoal dust. Their face is often also littered in scars, lines drawn with knives to resemble Oldt Fayth runes to allow them to hear the gods. Finally, they blacken their teeth with charcoal paste also, cutting all hair and dressing head to toe in black. Even if a Staargir is reluctant to become one at an early age, they eventually realize the benefits of having the adoration of the Velheimer as well as a position of power for little work. They are provided everything they require, even Bond-Wives that they did not capture themselves (though they may not take a Sol-Kvinne). The accuracy of Staargir predictions and fortune tellings is a hotly debated topic among the Regalian Scholars in particular due to their unusual far-higher average than usual prediction correctness. It is as such believed that their practices through the dead and the soul-essence that drifts in these great cities of the dead, somehow has an impact on their ability to perceive events from far away, or to predict natural occurrences before they take place simply by reading the world around them through the essences. There are two known cities of the dead even in Regalia, though both of them are in the Regalian underground, rarely visited even by the law abiding Velheimer due to the fondness of Vampires to roam around the cities of the dead who surprisingly leave the Staargir alone, but attack other Velheimer on sight.
Valsung are equally respected in Velheim culture, but to a much lesser extent than Staargir. Where-as Staargir use rituals to augur the future, Valsung use rituals to illuminate the past. Valsung are an all-female religious role in Velheim society, a role which has often also been described as the "Guardian of the dead". While Staargir often live inside the Helbolwen, the Valsung guard the entrances and perform their ritual services to the dead from there. When a Staargir embalms a dead person, or when a dead person's last march proceeds before being laid to rest, Valsung are always present singing the Helsang, a chant of the dead in a rare showcase of Velheimer singing without instruments. The Helsang is both a beautiful yet harrowing chant that laments about the death of a person, while giving a poetic citation of their life to all those who listen. Valsung accompany so called Death Marches, where an embalmed person is taken on a procession through their home town before being laid to rest. They also sing to the dead from the doorways to the Helbolwen. Furthermore, Valsung are consulted when a dead person's past has not been resolved. For example, a hidden treasure, a long lost relative, or a conflict between relatives that has never been resolved are all the jurisdiction of the Valsung. Valsung take offerings and compensation to engage in rituals of the calling, where they use the Helsang to summon the soul of the dead for reconciliation with the present. It is also said that Valsung are lucid in their dreams, and fight off the evil spirits from trying to corrupt and posess the bodies of the dead to make them rise again as Helvall, or the undead. To be Valsung is relatively simple in Velheim society, though not an often chosen role for young girls. More often than not, are Valsung chosen for their singing talent, or because they've had some sort of supernatural encounter or vision of the past.
The Velheim people are closely associated with owls and axes. Owls are cherished namely because they are seen as a sign of wisdom. Within the Oldt Fayth, they are the messengers of the Gods (where the Staargir do not suffice at any rate). Axes are the favored weapons of the Velheimer people as well as all their gods (even if they are female or portrayed as frail beings, they all fight with axes). The colors brown, red and green are also often used to identify the Velheimer people, as are depictions of wolves and bears, who are highly regarded for their strength. Swirling wave patterns as well as flowing rivers of waterfalls are used in many Velheim tapestries and crests, particularly in reference to Jaud.
- While Velheim culture is considered the closest to Old Ceardian and the old Ailor cultures, it has diverged in that it has become far more violent towards outsiders, though far more free thinking and equal internally.
- One of the more notable Rakhr that ever lived was Rådlig Varmadal the Brown-maggot, a name he was given in reference to the fact that the was a homosexual. He was widely known to have been the only homosexual Rakhr ever recorded in history, and was a terrifyingly strong one at that. He unfortunately met his end when his Sol-Kvinne murdered him for neglecting her in favor of the Bond Wives (which were all men).
- While Velheim is still a strong culture in its existence, it is generally accepted that the culture is slowly dying due to the modernization of the world, and the success of Regalian Empire policies with regards to civilizing the lesser (from their perspective) cultures. While thousands convert however, there are still many healthy communities of Velheimer in the old lands, which will endure the test of time so long as they do not touch the sprawling reach of the global Empires.