Greetings again one and all from your friendly neighbourhood Clan Koragg
With so much new life that has come our way recently I wanted to step back and write up this 'guide' if you will, on just who we Cimmerian's actually are. Now first off this isn't me trying to tell you how to roleplay your character, far from it. It is simply the facts what we use here in Clan Koragg to base our characters and roleplay around.
Over the last three years we've been collecting lore from various different sources. So instead of keeping it all hidden away, I'll share it here with you. Hopefully it will be useful to someone out there wanting a roleplay a Cimmerian, someone who wants to know more about us Cimmerian's or simply for someone who enjoy's reading more about the lore of the game we all play.
So without further adieu, lets get started.
Section 1 - How Cimmeria came to be Section 2 - The History of Cimmeria Section 3 - Cimmerian Society (Split into 5 sub sections) Section 4 - Cimmerian Men, Women and Children Section 5 - Cimmerian Gods Section 6 - Cimmerian Names Section 7 - The Cimmerian way of Life Section ? - Still in progress
Once, all people lived as kings and the world was a fine place of light, wealth and prosperity. But the kings became greedy and this angered the gods who caused the world to shake and the great kingdoms to be destroyed.
So now the people lived like animals and had to fight for what they needed, because the gods had taken away everything that made life easy.
Life is Never Easy: that is the first lesson.
In that time the people fought against each other because they did not know any better. They had forgotten how to act and live like men. They grunted like apes, or the svartheim of the Black Mountains, and dressed themselves in the smeared blood of those they killed. They used rocks as their only weapons and had even forgotten how to knap flint for blades and arrow heads.
Life was this way for a very long time.
This is the second lesson: Nothing Can be Hurried.
Around the savages, the world grew darker still. Out of that darkness came the Pict-Men from the south. They had not forgotten themselves as had the People Who Had Been Kings, and they looked around them with scorn and set-to cleansing the world of the beast people.
But the People Who Had Been Kings knew how to fight, and fight they did. T
This is the third lesson, and it was learned hard by the Pict-Men: An Enemy With Nothing To Lose Fights Harder.
Through fighting and war, the people relearned some of their old ways. They learned to talk again, so they could taunt the Pict-Men, and they learned to make weapons, so they could kill them.
This was the fourth lesson: Necessity Breeds Invention.
With tongues and weapons, the Pict-Men were fought on many battlefields. The Battle Lands were formed and countless good warriors died there, spilling their blood so the Picts would be driven away.
The Battle Lands taught the people to form families again and make ways for themselves. It took a long time, and the families fought each other, becausethat is the way of families, but the families grew, fought against the Pict-Men and others who tried to invade, and became larger.
This is how the clans began, and the clans grew because more families joined together to make bigger houses and protect what was theirs. So with more time, more clans; with more clans, greater strength and greater learning.
Here is the fifth lesson: More is Good; Too Much is Bad.
From the clans comes Cimmeria, but we are mindful of what happened when the Old People became like kings, and so the clans keep to themselves, make and take what they need, and leave the rest to Cimmeria.
The land colonies of the Atlanteans survived the death of the world and the doom of Atlantis only to find themselves stranded on the mainland, alone and isolated from all they had possessed and known.
Surrounded by bestial savages and ape-men, this new existence was a struggle for survival.
Old techniques such as metallurgy were lost to them – the advances of the old Atlantean culture stripped away so that the isolated colonies were reduced to a simpler, more savage existence, mirroring the savagery of the world they had inherited.
To their south the Picts, brutish, unforgiving brutes, launched attacks on the Atlanteans, plunging the two races into a series of long, vicious wars that were focused on nothing less than the survival of one race over the other.
The Picts had the advantage; their clans were unified and led by powerful, warlike kings who had the strength of will to wage protracted war on the Atlantean interlopers. By contrast the Atlanteans were divided and disparate. Slowly, steadily, inexorably, the two battled and destroyed each other, piece by piece.
Then, three thousand years ago, the remnants of the Atlanteans and the Picts, who had warred for five hundred years already, were reduced to complete barbarity by some unknown cataclysm. Degenerating to an almost bestial existence, the Atlanteans came to forget their heritage and were forced to climb their way slowly out of savagery.
The land around them was as savage as they; grey, rain-lashed and unforgiving. Slowly and steadily the Atlantean savages began to rediscover old crafts and ways, but had completely forgotten their ancestry. They named the land enclosing them Cimmeria and themselves Cimmerians. Families joined together to form the basis of the clans that now permeate the land and, in time, the clans joined to
These early Cimmerians dwelt primarily in the north west, protected by the forested hills. To the south west their ancient enemies, the Picts, continued to dwell. They had fared better in these dark days, retaining their language and cultural memory, but still they remained enemies with the remnants of the Atlanteans, although their propensity for war was limited.
The Thurian Age
Over time the Cimmerians fought their way from bestial savagery and became men once again. Nomadic clans struck out from the north west and encountered first the Acherons and then the Hyborians. From both they learned many of the arts that, when Atlanteans, they had been masters of. The Cimmerians regained the knowledge of iron and steel, husbandry and fine crafts. Savagery turned to a crude form of civility and the Cimmerians carefully nurtured these crafts so that they could be used against their enemies.
War with the Picts came again, and the Cimmerian clans were driven away from the coastal plains of the north west and further into the interior of their land.
Invasions by the Vanir and Æsir from the north cemented in the Cimmerian mind that they were beset by enemies on all sides and could look to no one for aid.
As the Cimmerians developed in size, culture and capability, further raids took place – this time by the Hyperboreans, the Nordheim and the Acherons. The reasons were always the same: to seize territory, make slaves, and create empires.
Scoured by the Picts to the south and the fierce northlanders, the Cimmerians knew that their only chance of survival as a distinct populace was to maintain pure bloodlines and to fight harder, faster and with less mercy than their foes. With each battle the Cimmerians forged a new reputation for themselves; vicious, cunning fighters who would face incredible odds, fight tirelessly and with little regard for anything but the absolute defeat of their enemy. This grim reputation, reinforced by the grim nature of Cimmeria, created the impression that perpetuates throughout the Hyborian Age:
Cimmeria is a cold, dark land inhabited by cold, dark people prepared to live and die by the sword.
Hyborian Age (The setting used here in Age of Conan)
Cimmeria Attacks by the Picts continue, although with far less frequency than in earlier times, and, now wise to the way of their age-old enemy, the Cimmerians are able to contain the Pictish raids with a minimum amount of force. The Hyperboreans, a race famed for its cruelty and tenacity, still sends slaving raids into Cimmerian lands, particularly the north east regions, but its pickings are few as, again, the clans of the lands around Mount Crom
are wise to the ways of Hyperborean slaving parties and are able to use guerrilla tactics to demoralise and destroy those who are foolish enough to plough too deep into the Cimmerian interior.
Cimmeria considers itself alone in the world. Forsaken by gods, forsaken by nature, surrounded by enemies, beset by hatred, Cimmerians have nothing but contempt for the nations around them. Having seen the greed and weakness the desire for empire brings, Cimmerians are content to remain within their own realm, with absolutely no interest in expansion.
Bloodlines are kept within Cimmerian stock and the purity of the race is considered paramount for survival. Trust is limited to the immediate community and allied clans. Outsiders are treated with suspicion and a healthy degree of contempt. Those from the lands north of the Eiglophian Mountains and south west of the Black Mountains are considered enemies until they prove themselves otherwise.
Few nations of the world, in Cimmerian eyes, deserve any kind of respect or honour.
Against the whole of the world, Cimmerian stands alone, grim, brooding, untrusting and scornful of the so-called ‘civilised’ lands.
The tribes and clans of Cimmeria in Conan’s time are far removed from the savage days of the Thurian Age.
Tribal and clan history stretches long and far and, because Cimmerians have an oral, rather than a written tradition, the truth of their distant history has become myth. Similar myths are shared across all the clans, although details vary considerably according to clan victories, defeats and the merging with others. No single, reliable guide to Cimmerian history exists although the core myths are about as reliable as any history needs to be.
Cimmeria is, without doubt, a barbarian society. That is, Cimmeria has no cities, few settlements that could pass for towns, and an overwhelming reluctance to embrace or develop such structures or ideals. The landscape shapes the people and, because the landscape is harsh, grim, dark and forbidding, so are Cimmerians.
No true Cimmerian has any time for deliberate complexities or subtleties. A man’s word is his bond, and any man who breaks that bond pays with his life. Justice is fast, harsh and retributional.
Everyone works or everyone starves:
raiding a neighbouring tribe who has more than you is considered both work and survival. The strongest survive and the weakest die: it is evident all around. Cimmeria has no room for sentiment and little for sympathy. Yet
Cimmerians are passionate and aware of the importance of certain conventions and constraints. For all their brutal hardiness every Cimmerian understands honour, integrity and dignity, even if these concepts differ markedly from what he civilised realms of the Hyborian age would understand by the terms.
The Cimmerian outlook revolves around five key facets: Section 3 A - Devotion to Clan Section 3 B - Conformity to Tradition Section 3 C - Honour and Prowess Section 3 D - Blood Vengeance Section 3 E - Clean and Honest Death
Without exception Cimmerian society is based on the clan as the social unit. Clans are groups of extended families bonded together through common lineage, either patriarchal or matriarchal and for a common purpose, mostly survival. Most marriages and births take place solely within the clan but unions with other, allied or semi-allied clans are common so that the clan’s bloodline
can be extended and enriched. Marriage between clans that have settled a feud is a good way of demonstrating the reconciliation although by no means is this a way of guaranteeing it.
Clans range in size form anything between two to a hundred families, depending on the clan’s success and perceived prestige. Family units vary between three and twelve members; typically Cimmerians do not have large families because infant mortality is high, but, on occasion, families within a clan prosper leading to large family sizes. As families within the clan marry and produce further offspring, cousins, half-cousins and so on proliferate but, generally, Cimmerians do not recognise such relationships with any great regard.
Siblings – brothers and sisters – demonstrate the strongest filial bonds, but more distant relatives are regarded as simply being clan members. A typical clan may therefore consist of perhaps ten to fifteen families and range in size from around 40 to 500 individuals.
Few clans can accurately trace their roots. Cimmerians are evolved from the Atlanteans but it is rare for this lineage to be offered any kind of regard. Those clans that can trace their lineage may honour one or several ancestors but of more fundamental importance s simply the clan’s existence, purpose, current territory and the natural support offered to its members.
Cimmerians are pragmatic, practical people with little time for remote sympathies are pressing needs for distant ancestor worship. Clan history is important in terms of its collective deeds rather than any illustrious ancestors,
although certain key individuals are, from time to time, used to invoke the clan’s position when dealing with others (‘We are the Clan Karnak and Gulan the Head Stripper won us these lands…’).
The clan is everything to Cimmerians. The extended family nurtures and supports, creates a fabric of social values, educates, and perpetuates the Cimmerian warrior spirit.
It is for the clan’s honour that a Cimmerian makes war on his enemies; for the clan’s prosperity that he raids his neighbours; and for its continued existence that he ultimately lays-down his life.
Most Cimmerians are indivisible from their clans. Children are raised communally, by both the women and men, and schooled from the earliest possible age in the clan’s ways, duties, allies and enemies. Irrespective of its true position in Cimmerian society, the clan is the most noble, most hard-working, most potent in battle and most blessed of all the clans scattered across Cimmeria’s gloomy hills, valleys and forests.
As he grows, the young Cimmerian usually learns that his clan’s position is not necessarily as illustrious as his peers have described it, but by that point the clan’s spirit flows through his blood and the young Cimmerian perpetuates the clan’s strength to others despite knowing and understanding its flaws.
For every Cimmerian the crowning moment is the clan adulthood ritual; the point where he ceases to be a child and becomes a man. Even though every Cimmerian upholds his clan’s values and traditions from the moment he begins to understand them, it is the adulthood ritual that demands he do so. Passing from youth to man confers on every Cimmerian the duty of protecting the clan and upholding its ways in the face of any adversity. Every adult in a clan is expected to be prepared to lay-down their life for the clan, and to take the life of its enemies without question.
The rite of passage varies from clan to clan, but there are many common elements and similarities. The rite of passage usually involves several tests involving bravery, cunning, martial prowess, mental fortitude, physical fortitude and a measure of the individual’s devotion to the clan and understanding of its nature and purpose.
Cimmerians dislike change; some hate it and others positively fear it. The Cimmerian outlook is founded on things that work and ensuring they continue to work with as little interruption as possible.
This means that Cimmerians act and think the way they do because it has always been done that way. Change is destructive; Tradition preserves and endures. Change alters everything; Tradition ensures predictability – and, in a landscape as harsh as Cimmeria, predictability is fundamental to survival.
Cimmerians have countless traditions: efficient routines; clan-focused beliefs and rites; and modes of thought and action that have developed over hundreds and hundreds of years which have proved to be effective.
Few traditions are maintained for sentimental reasons; almost all of them are developments from practical necessity.
Some traditions are based on superstition and folklore, but few are designed to appease the gods outright.
Cimmerians who deny the traditions or actively balk at them are viewed with deep suspicion and hostility because, inevitably, such people are troublemakers.
Traditions underlie the few laws Cimmerians have and, if these traditions are challenged, then so is the fragile rule of law. Respect for the tradition andthe ‘old ways, the right ways’ is inculcated from birth and therefore any adult who wilfully takes a stand against a tradition is rejecting the years of teaching and wisdom the clan has tried to instil. The honourable option is to leave the clan; any who attempt to stay and create or impose change are likely to pay with their lives.
Cimmerians live by a ‘rough code of honour’, as Robert E Howard describes it. Irrespective of the clan one comes from, Cimmerian Honour can be defined in the following terms:
* Accept hospitality gracefully when it is offered, but always be wary
* Accept no imprisonment
* Accept no insult
* Defend the honour of kith and kin
* Defend those who need defending; attack those who need attacking
* Listen to those who seek your aid, but always be wary
* Never trust a sorcerer
* Offer foes a clean and swift death, if they are deserving of it
* Remain true to one’s clan (and by extension the clan’s traditions and customs)
* Remain true to one’s word
* Show no fear
* Sometimes, even theft is necessary
* Speak only the truth; punish liars and expose falsehoods
* Take no woman by force
* Take only what is necessary; taking more than is necessary is theft
Cimmerians then, have a very simple view of what constitutes ‘honour’: speaking and acting truthfully, and decisively, whilst maintaining respect for those who do likewise.
To Cimmerians, honour does not need to be any more complicated and should always be a straightforward business. Cimmerians do not make the mistake of confusing honour, honesty and tact – something many civilised nations do. Neither do they believe that politeness and gratitude need to be dressed in false sincerity or fawning courtesy. When a Cimmerian offers his thanks, he means it. When he wants something, he asks for or demands it, depending on urgency.
Most Cimmerians speak and act plainly, clearly and bluntly – but always honourably.
Prowess – personal excellence in a given area – is a matter of deep personal honour for all Cimmerians. Generally most Cimmerians place import on their prowess as hunters and warriors although, for some, prowess in other fields is
held in higher regard. It is the desire of most Cimmerian youths to be considered fine fighters first and foremost, but not all: some are destined to be better craftsmen or herders and, whilst the hunter-warrior creed is expected
of all Cimmerians, it is understood at a cultural level that a range of skills and talents are essential for the clan’s survival.
What is most important is the honesty and honour of understanding where one’s talents lie and achieving excellence in that field, whilst still cultivating the ability to both hunt and fight well.
Thus all Cimmerians are geared towards being the best at what they do, because prowess yields success for both the individual and the clan. Every clan sincerely believes it produces the best fighters, hunters, crafters, herders
and so forth in Cimmeria. Each clan’s traditions are bent towards this goal even though every clan exhibits different areas of excellence.
Yet Cimmerians are not innately boastful. Great pride is taken in every endeavour that proves personal excellence, but few Cimmerians use their expertise as the basis for boastful declamations. Such actions always invite challenge and, although Cimmerians never balk at a challenge, it is always better to err on the side of caution and reserve because each and every Cimmerian knows that life is harsh and unforgiving.
No Cimmerian believes himself singled out by fate above his kith, kin or comrades; whatever success one realises is the result of hard work, training,
listening, watching and learning. Boastfulness is foolhardy and most likely displays a lack of personal confidence. And that – confidence – is the key to both honour and prowess in Cimmeria.
Every Cimmerian, despite their gloomy surroundings, is confident in his abilities and confident that he can be the best of the best; but displays of arrogance and
misjudged pride always attract a fall. Cimmerians know this and simply work towards developing their prowess through deeds, not words. The truly excellent swordsman or crafter knows that his work will speak for him; if he is as good as he believes himself to be, it will be evident to others without the need for rash and arrogant boasts.
Cimmerians are passionate and filled with pride for their clan. Slights can be weathered from time to time, but insults and assaults against the family or clan are taken seriously and never allowed to rest.
The desire for vengeance runs through every Cimmerian as freely as their blood. Insults and assaults must always be paid for, usually in blood.
Because clan ties and personal honour are closely bound together, injury to an individual becomes the responsibility of the entire family or clan to avenge. Refusal or unwillingness to seek revenge is seen as a sign of weakness and is likely to attract further attacks.
Thus, any Cimmerian who feels his honour, or that of his clan, has been challenged, always seeks vengeance against the perpetrator; the matter cannot
be allowed to rest until vengeance has been satisfied.
Clans therefore can, and do, engage in feuds and war between themselves. Individuals may even accept the burden of extracting blood vengeance as a perfectly acceptable means of proving both their honour and prowess. It is commonplace for Cimmerians to brood upon an insult or attack for days, weeks, months or years before taking action, but action is always taken.
Anything that challenges, insults or harms the honour of a person or thehonour of the clan attracts a furious response. And, naturally enough, vengeance begets further revenge, resulting in long-running and bloody feuds that persist long after the initial provocation has been forgotten. Grandsons seek vengeance for long-dead grandfathers; clans battle clans for decades, becoming ignorant as to why, but retaining the certainty that they must.
A Cimmerian who has been wronged becomes a life-long enemy and, given the insular and sullen nature of each and every clan, it is impossible to gauge what is likely to provoke vengeance.
This uncertainty leads clans and individuals to act cautiously whenever they encounter an unfamiliar clan or individual.
Cimmerians do not like to give offence; not because they believe in being deferential (far from it: deference is for slaves – no Cimmerians will ever allow himself to be a slave), but because one can never be certain what will provoke a violent response. Once a certain level of trust and understanding has been developed, Cimmerians relax, but always take care not to overstep perceived boundaries.
Known enemies, of course, never receive such caution; but no clan wants to make more enemies if it can help it. Many clans have been wiped out through a
constant willingness to attack and insult their neighbours; and, making an enemy of one clan usually results in making enemies of all the clans the injured party is allied with. A single insult can, and will, result in attracting a fierce and
Cimmerians do not place any faith in their gods to provide them with a happy afterlife. Death is part of the natural cycle of things, and every Cimmerian knows that death is never far away.
Death is not spoken of in hushed tones; it is discussed matter of factly and without sentiment.
Every Cimmerian wants a death that is both clean and honest. That is, a death that would not bring shame on the clan or the individual. Dying in battle, sword in hand, surrounded by the bodies of the enemy, is a good and honest death. Being executed after capture, pleading for one’s life, is exactly the opposite.
Dying whilst behaving with honour is the way every Cimmerian wants to die
and they have no fear of it; but dying pitifully, weakly, and either denying honour or having it denied to them, shames the soul and clan.
Similarly, when dealing death, Cimmerians tend towards offering it cleanly and honestly. If a foe fights well and honourably, a fast, cleanly delivered death is an honourable thing to offer. A clean death is delivered without cruelty
and without resort to unclean methods such as poisons or venoms, which are the weapons of cowards who lack the prowess to slay their foes cleanly.
When facing death from other Cimmerians, every Cimmerian expects a fast and clean death (assuming he has, himself, behaved honourably); but
when dealing with outsiders, Cimmerians know that they cannot be guaranteed such a death. Plenty of outsiders do not understand the concepts of honour and an honourable death, and resort to tactics and weapons that deny such
honesty. Foes who do not offer clean and honest deaths will always incur the enmity of a clan; foes who take lives as Cimmerians expect are simply acting with honour and will be recognised for it.
Those who die with honour are always highly regarded in the clan, but, again, never with undue sentimentality.Death comes to everyone and one cannot choose when they will die or by what method; but how one dies is important. Those who die bravely are honoured in song and reputation. Those who die weakly or with cowardice, are erased from the memory of the clan.
First a quick quote about how Cimmerian's actually look according to Robert E. Howard
Cimmerians tall and powerful, with dark hair and blue or gray eyes. Other hair colors are considered as marks on non-Cimmerian origins. Red hair is color of Vanir, the main Cimmerians' enemies. Blonde hair means any Hyborian nation, but with pale skin it is most likely a mark of Aesir or Hyperborean.
Starting with Men:
The expectation is that every Cimmerian man will be a warrior or hunter. Indeed, every Cimmerian man is considered to be a warrior and/or hunter unless, quite clearly, they are incapable of fighting or stalking. Very few male Cimmerian children ever express the desire to grow up to be a farmer or weaver; those that do are usually frowned upon and considered for exchange.
From the earliest years Cimmerian boys are taught to fight – to fight hard, skilfully and cleanly.
Whilst Cimmerian clans display a great deal of sexual equality, the tasks of hunting and protection fall naturally to the menfolk. Adopted into hunting and war bands from an early age, Cimmerian men form strong masculine alliances, learning to rely upon and trust their comrades. This is less concerned with machismo and far more concerned with survival. The tough terrain of Cimmeria means that even the task of hunting is a risky business, and teamwork and trust are essential to avoid injury and death. And, with so many warlike clans vying for territory, Cimmerian men know there is strength in numbers and greater strength in trust. An enemy is more easily bested or outwitted if you
can trust another to watch your back.
Cimmerian men therefore enjoy male company and are capable of making male friends easily. They enjoy the competitiveness that inevitably arises in male groupings: drinking contests, friendly boasting and tall stories, games of chance, do or dare, and so forth. Raucous behaviour offsets the hardships of life in Cimmeria and helps form strong bonds that can be relied upon in adversity.
To outsiders, groups of Cimmerian men are intimidating; dark haired, invariably toned and muscled, and usually exuding aggression. However, if trust is gained, such groups prove to be boisterous, loyal company. If a Cimmerian gives his word, then it is binding; if a group offers its trust and friendship, then it is far-reaching – as long as the same courtesies are returned.
When there is no hunting or fighting to be done, Cimmerian men get on with the mundanities of clan life, completing the common tasks, whatever they might be, without any real complaint. Thus, despite their rugged natures and
appearances Cimmerian men are remarkably capable where home-making tasks are concerned. All good Cimmerian men can look after themselves and any dependents, cooking, cleaning, stitching, and so forth. Of course, no great honour is accorded to such mundane tasks; true honour and prowess is found in hunting and battle, but Cimmerian men rarely scorn mundane activities as being ‘women’s’ work. Instead, they just get on with the job.
Women are naturally expected to be hearth-makers and mothers, but they are not denied the occupations traditionally occupied by men. Cimmerians are practical people and, if a woman shows an aptitude with spear, sword or bow, then it is quite acceptable for them to fight alongside the menfolk and, in some clans, even expected as a duty.
Women are not perceived as being weak or inferior and, typically, they are anything but. Because strength survives, and because Cimmerian life is about survival, Cimmerian women are strong in body, spirit and purpose.
Strong Cimmerian men can only be born of strong, Cimmerian women, as the old claim goes. Women and men usually share equal status in terms of clan rights. Clan tasks and chores are shared; women chop wood and hunt, and men fix the hearth and cook. A wife is not a husband’s property or chattel, but she is expected to be faithful to her man (and vice versa).
This independence of female spirit may account for the way that many Cimmerian men who travel outside their borders view the women of other cultures. In cultures where women take a more subordinate role, Cimmerian men naturally assume this is an inherent weakness and therefore have a propensity to treat women as chattels rather than equals, to be taken as and when the man decides.
Strong women of other cultures are admired, and Cimmerians tend to appreciate foreign females who display similar characteristics and personalities to Cimmerian women far more than do the menfolk of the culture concerned.
One role that women cannot escape, though, is child birth.
Some Cimmerian women are quite content to do little but raise large families; others are content with raising only a few. Every women is expected to bear at least one child, and usually within a few years of the adulthood rite. It is therefore very common for Cimmerian women to be married as soon as puberty begins and to have born their first child within the year.
Marriages are quite often arranged affairs, usually by the parents, either because the match is considered to be one that will produce plenty of good, strong, handsome children, or because the union cements an alliance between two clans. Marriage is very rarely for love, and it is considered against tradition for a woman to disagree with an arranged union because she does not love (or even like) the intended husband.
Whilst most women marry, some do not, and will lie with whoever they wish. If a woman tempts a married man (even if she did not actually do the tempting), it is generally considered grounds for expulsion from the clan although the
child, if one results from the union, is usually kept within the clan and raised as part of the father’s household.
Unmarried women and men may sleep together and have as many children as they want; there are very few taboos surrounding illegitimacy because, once again, the overall welfare of the clan is strengthened by the presence of children.
Child rearing differs from clan to clan but is most commonly a communal affair. Parents are ultimately responsible for a child, especially newborns, but once a child is old enough to run and, more crucially, hold a spear, the clan at large takes over with children spending time with whoever in the clan is equipped to teach them particular skills.
Cimmerian children therefore grow to respect the clan much more than their birth parents – although bonds between parents and children may remainstrong for life. There is little device or artifice in how children are raised; clan practice, tradition and common sense dictates what skills children learn, when and how.
The vast bulk follow in the footsteps of their parents, older siblings and other clan members, learning the primary skills of the clan. A few might exhibit other talents useful to the clan that might need to be nurtured elsewhere. If this is the case – with a child that is clearly a better weaver than hunter, say, but born into a hunting clan – then it is not uncommon for the child to be sent to live with another, allied clan, in exchange for one that has the requisite skills.
This practice, whilst barbaric to ‘civilised’ eyes, serves a number of purposes. First, it ensures that a child’s talents are properly nurtured; Cimmerians do not believe in stymieing natural aptitudes unnecessarily. Secondly, the exchange ensures that the clan’s resources are not depleted and that it continues to benefit. As the parent/child relationship in Cimmerian clans is nowhere near as sentimental and strong as elsewhere, most children are unaffected by such
a transition. With their typically brutal honesty exchanged children are told why they were placed with a new clan and the benefits to both clan and child explained.
But, for the most part, Cimmerian children are born, raised and die within the clan. As children they live relatively carefree lives but, once they reach the age of 13 or 14, they undergo the rites signalling the transition from child to adult.
For males, this symbolises the youth’s readiness to fight for the clan and perhaps die for it. For females, it signals their readiness for marriage and child rearing.
Many children do not survive beyond their first year. Cimmeria’s damp climate is hard on young lungs and many succumb to illness and disease before they have been weaned.
It is customary for many clans to present a newborn child to the chieftain who inspects it for physical deformities. Whilst this is quite often a formality, some chieftains decide that any child who carries some form of defect should be taken out into the wilds and disposed of.
Anyone who may come to be a burden on the clan cannot contribute to its long-term welfare and it is considered better to get rid of such burdens before they become troublesome.
Where a newborn is condemned to such a fate, it is customary for the child to be either taken deep into the forests and abandoned to the elements and predators.
In some clans the child is either drowned, or swiftly strangled. The parents are usually compensated by the chieftain in some way;
perhaps with a precious token or with better than average food for a short period. This is not some form of sentimentality, however; Cimmerians believe that parents who have brought a less than healthy child into the world stand a better chance of producing a healthy child swiftly if their loss is rapidly compensated for. The act has no deeper emotional connotations.
From his mountainous seat, Ben Morgh, Crom watches the world dispassionately, sending form storms, dooms and gloominess to haunt both the landscape and the souls of men.
His grim demeanour lives through the Cimmerian outlook, as does his courage, ferocity and lack of mercy. Crom cares for no one and nothing.
He is head of a pantheon of similarly dismal and warlike gods, but he is neither their champion, king nor father figure.
Crom simply is, and through his existence, so is his will.
Cimmerians have no explanation for his merciless nature and neither is one required. Crom is a god, after all, and that is simply how he is made.
Crom is the chief Cimmerian god, who grants no boons save the strength of the sword arm and fire in the heart, which are his only gifts to all Cimmerians.
He and his pantheon do not truly have worshippers or priests. Nominally, every Cimmerian is a follower of Crom but they have long since learned that he takes pride in them only if they never call
on his aid in their lives.
Cimmerians are expected to take what they want from life using Crom’s gifts, not call on him for assistance every time they are in need. That would be weak and Crom despises weaklings – he would sooner see them dead than help them out.
Whilst Crom is considered a storm god and a god of ill-omen, he is, first and foremost, a war god, and pre-eminent amongst all the Cimmerian war gods. No foe, it is believed, can withstand Crom’s wrath and, when immortals ruled the earth instead of men, there was no foe that he could not vanquish.
His strength, perhaps, has bred his contempt for all others; and Crom is a contemptuous god, scorning weakness and the emotions that go with it. His harsh nature is reflected in the world spreading out before his
home, Ben Morgh, and those who live in his shadow are bound to reflect his demeanour.
The mists war goddess is the Morrigan, a goddess of battle, strife, and fertility. Her name translates as either Great Queen or Phantom Queen, and both epithets are entirely appropriate for her and her dark ways.
Together with Badb and Nemain the Morrigan comprises a trio of morose goddesses. The Morrigan’s symbol is the hooded crow and any Cimmerian catching sight of one of these birds is apt to utter Morrigan’s name and spit thrice, to avert any doom she might lay upon him. Killing a hooded crow is considered to attract considerable ill fortune and hence all crows and ravens are exempt from Cimmerian hunts.
Lir, the father of Mannanan Mac Lir, is the god of the sea in its primal, elemental form, which is a little strange as Cimmeria is a land-locked nation without access to the ocean.
Perhaps in their history, the Cimmerian lands included part of Pictland (which would also account for some of the Cimmerian hatred of that dusky race).
Another theory is that the Cimmerian collective memory, which holds tales of a great flood that destroyed the world, attribute this catastrophe to Lir’s wrath, and so, whilst having no clear relationship with this tempestuous god, have no wish to invite further cataclysm by ignoring his undoubted power.
The son of Lir, Mannanan Mac Lir is also a sea god in a more humanised, heroic form, and is considered to have strong connections to the islands of the dead, as well as to weather and the mists between the worlds.
Mannanan Mac Lir’s is believed to have a wife, Fand, who is a queen of the Otherworld, and he is the foster-father of many gods, including Lugh. He is the guardian of the Blessed Isles, and the ruler of Mag Mell, an Otherworld island where giants are believed to dwell. Manannan Mac Lir has a sail-less ship that follows his command, and his cloak renders him invisible.
Macha is a goddess of war and often associated with horses, but she also is in charge of fertility, helping to fi ll the land with warring Cimmerians.
Some ancient Cimmerian lays identify Macha as leading a settlement of the new lands after Lir’s flood destroyed all, bringing war to those who opposed her return to the land.
Little mentioned by Cimmerians as a whole, but brought to the lips in some clans, Lugh is the god of personal prowess, especially arts and crafts.
He is also the god of the harvest although, given the poor weather and low reliance on crops amongst Cimmerians, this aspect of his nature is rarely acknowledged.
Known as ‘The Long-Handed’, Lugh is considered to be a god of spearmen and
archers, when his warlike aspect is foremost although, for most Cimmerians, either Crom or the Morrigan is considered to be the more effective god of war
Badb is a war goddess who often assumes the form of a raven or carrion-crow (her favorite disguise although only occasionally is a wolf ) and is then referred to as Badb Catha, meaning “battle raven”.
Not only is she believed to take part in battles themselves, she also infl uences their outcome by causing confusion among the warriors with her magic.
The battle-field is often called the Land of Badb, and Badb is invoked as a curse or oath by Cimmerians preparing themselves for a full-on battle.
Some warriors invoking Badb’s power in the eve of a battle recite her dire lay:
Summer without flowers,
Kine without milk,
Women without modesty,
Men without valour;
Captives without a king,
Woods without mast,
Sea without produce
The belief is not that Badb will aid the sword arm or strengthen the shield-wall, but rather turn the fortunes of battle against the enemy, thus making it easier for the Cimmerians to enter the Land of Badb.
Many Cimmerian names are composed of two words with a separator, or two words with a prefix added to the second word. Some have suffixes added. For example,
~an is a suffix that indicates a diminutive. “Conan” actually means “Little Wolf,” much as “Donny” means “Little Don.”
Pronunciation: MH is pronounced as a V;
DB is pronounced as a TH;
CH is pronounced as a K from the back of the throat;
GH as a regular K;
C is always pronounced as a K.
Separators/Prefi xes/Suffi xes :
bann, ban Wife of
ingen Daughter of
~an, ~en, ~nan Diminutive (male)
mak, mac Son of
ui Grandson of
ua Descendant of
~in, ~at, ~nat, ~nait Diminutive (female)
Names with meaning
If a name with meaning is desired, then the following chart can be used to construct a suitable Cimmerian name. You might not create an authentic Celtic name, but Cimmeria is not 100% analogous to Ireland, Scotland or other
Celtic regions. The goal here is to create an interesting, but authentic-sounding name.
* Stand Alone: Words can also stand alone. Conn is a perfectly good name by itself.
* Noun Plus Adjective: Sometimes a name is a single noun followed by an adjective. For example, Conn Mór means Big Chief, and is written as two words.
Bre Hill, noble (lives on a hill)
Ceallach Bright-headed, war, strife
Cearbh To hack (with a weapon)
Cinnéidigh Armoured head
Coem Kind, gentle
Conn Chief, wise
Corb Defi lement
Cú, Co Wolf, hound
Ghus Strength, force
Giolla, Gil Servant
Lagh, Laogh Warrior
Niall, Nial Champion
Odhra Pale green, sallow
Rí, Ríogh King
Ruarc Rainstorm, Squall
Sean Wise, Elder
Aisling Dream, Vision
Blaith, Blath Flower
Brígh Exalted, High
Et Person, One
Flaith Lady, Princess
Gorm I llustrious
Muadh Noble, Good
Siofra Sprite, elf
Of course, many people are named without any regard given to the meaning of the name. They just like the name, perhaps, or a family member is being honoured by giving the child the name.
Do you know the meaning of your name? Some people do, other people do not. Did your parents know the meaning when they named you? So, if desired, traditional names based on old Irish or Scottish Celtic names can be used, without regard to meaning.
In this section we'll touch on the everyday aspects of Cimmerian life, starting with: Trade
Most clans produce everything they need internally but, sometimes, trade is necessary – either with neighbours or further afield.
Cimmerians lack a merchant class, so most trade expeditions are conducted by warriors who explain what they want bluntly, are unprepared to negotiate, and consider refusal to trade to be an insult.
Of particular interest as tradable commodities are meat (fresh and cured), metals, weapons and armour.
Lacking a currency of their own, Cimmerians are prepared to deal in whatever treasure the clan owns as its Clan Property. Coins, when a clan has them, are always valuable, especially when silver and gold, but usually the clans must deal in whatever items are to hand.
Trading expeditions tend to be tense affairs as Cimmerians lack the nuances of communication essential to striking the best deal.
Furthermore, trading within the nearby clans means that markets are limited and so clans must range further afield, taking them into unfamiliar territories where the chances of hostility are far higher owing to the fact that clan relations are less assured or completely non-existent.
Trade is therefore not an activity Cimmerian’s relish since it goes against the gut instinct to take what is needed via a show of strength.
Merchants from outside Cimmeria are, at once, both admired and distrusted. Cimmerians admire those who, through the gift of the gab and slick negotiation, can obtain a superb deal for minimum outlay; however they are deeply suspicious and even contemptuous of the mercantile skills.
Slick negotiation is one step up from lying, and lying is not in the Cimmerian character. Few merchants speak plainly and say precisely what they mean; many bend to the truth to unacceptable lengths to get what they want and at the lowest price. But their methods, whilst often despised, are sometimes valuable for Cimmerians and so, on the odd occasion where foreign merchants might venture into Cimmeria’s dark vales and bleak territories, clans are prepared to hire them as negotiators (or kidnap them for the same purpose, promising freedom if a trade deal works out; death if it does not).
Cimmerians are, first and foremost, hunter-gatherers.
What small amount of farming takes place does so on a subsistence basis. The vast majority of a clan’s food is hunted in the wild, not reared, and gathered from the moors, valleys and forests, not grown.
Meat is highly prized. Deer, boar, goat, rabbit, wildfowl, pigeon, and so forth. Cimmerians will eat anything they can trap or stalk and have a use for just about every part of an animal. The highest prized meats are deer and boar.
Both require stealth, skill and cunning to be successfully hunted and their skins, antlers and tusks are prized for all manner of crafts.
Hunts takes place every week with a full hunting band, both men and women, spending one or two days ranging through the territory checking snares, stalking the hunting trails and bringing-down prey. This extended hunt brings-back meat for the whole clan: several deer, boar and rabbits being the most common catches.
This weekly food supply is supplemented by individual hunting expeditions where smaller game is targeted and the yield is not expected to be shared with the rest of the clan.
Cooking is simple: spit-roasted meat served on the bone, with left-overs being used to make broths. A portion of any large catch is reserved to be air-cured for the lean, winter months when hunting might be scarce, and Cimmerians
are experts in such techniques of meat preservation.
Vegetables and herbs figure in the Cimmerian diet, but are not high on the agenda. Whatever is seasonal is gathered in the wild: nettles, wild garlic, berries, nuts, edible weeds and edible fungi.
Cereal crops such as wheat and barley are cultivated in those territories where the land is available, and fertile enough, to support successful harvest, but cereals are by no means widespread and bread is not a staple of the Cimmerian diet.
Agricultural methods are simplistic;
Cimmerians have not developed crop rotation to optimise soil fertility and many crops are prone to disease and blight due to Cimmeria’s wet, miserable climate and limited sunshine. The failure of a complete crop is viewed as likely rather than an avoidable disaster, and so clans are careful to ensure that their hunts are extensive enough to support the entire community, knowing that nature in Cimmeria is invariably harsh.
When the hunting is lean and food scarce, clans turn to raiding other clans; usually those that are foolish enough to maintain sizable herds of livestock that are worth the risk. The hunting bands turn their skills to reconnoitring a rival clan’s territory, sizing the livestock, understanding the defences, and then using the cover of night and inclement weather to steal into the compounds and take as much meat as they can escape with.
Naturally enough any clan with livestock understands it is prone to these attacks and uses its own war bands to form defences against raiders. Clashes
over livestock are fiercely-fought affairs – as much a way of settling territorial and other disputes as for obtaining and protecting food. A raiding clan may disguise its identity by dressing and acting like another clan in a bid to minimise
the likely retribution that will follow a raid, and feuds can develop, fester and spill-over into long-term bloodshed.
A raid is usually the first taste of combat a young Cimmerian warrior will experience. Raids are considered part of the training and initiation of all new warriors – a chance for a young man to prove himself in conditions that are dangerous, but less-so than a full-scale battle.
Hot-headed warriors, keen to prove their mettle, are therefore at the heart of many raids and receive their fi rst battle scars from the defenders. Particularly ambitious, fierce and successful raids are lauded as reverentially as any major battle, with those who distinguish themselves (especially young, newly blooded warriors) being feted for their deeds.
Raiding season is thus an eagerly anticipated time as it relieves some of the grim monotony of the cold, dark, long Cimmerian winter.
Cimmerians are skilled metalworkers, particularly in copper, bronze and iron. Gold and silver, whilst scarce, are merged sparingly and skilfully into the mix to create precious items such as bowls, plates, goblets, jewellery and weaponry that are highly prized in the Cimmerian community.
A good metalworker is an asset to any clan, and so the profession is considered honourable and necessary to clan fortunes.
Cimmerian metalwork shuns straight lines and rigid patterns. It favours flowing, intricate, interconnected patterns of curves, waves, concentric circles and complex knot formations. Such intricacy is always sparingly applied, but highly detailed and finely wrought.
Cimmerian metalwork is, at first glance, quite simple to look at but, as the detail is studied, the intricacy and beauty of the design becomes apparent. Ostentation is deliberately avoided; quite simply, for Cimmerians, less is more.
The patterns and motifs used in Cimmerian design, especially their metalwork, avoid direct representations of nature and focus instead on symbolism. The main symbolic areas are: the clan, the ancestors, and the sacred
Each clan has its own designs, expressed in the patterns and colours used in fabrics, but also in the knots and circular patterns used to decorate metalwork. The patterns followed allow Cimmerians to identify the clan producing the item.
Each important ancestor has their own combination of non-linear patterns, typically swirls and whorls refl ecting the turbulent nature of life.
These tend to be etched into the surface of an item, expressing how deeply ingrained the memory and influence of the ancestor is to a clan.
The sacred numbers: three, nine and twenty seven, represent several things. Three represents the three-layered nature of the human soul; the earth, water and sky are considered three parts of the same relationship. The triskel, a figure composed of three spirals, is thus a common motif throughout Cimmerian artwork.
Nine represents the family unit, and the nine months of gestation for new, human life.
Twenty seven, the result of multiplying three and nine, is the number of warriors comprising a typical Cimmerian war band and thus embodies Cimmerian strength.
Cimmerians shun finery and ostentation.Typically clothing for men and women are simple tunics or shirts of coarse wool and linen worn either with kilts or woollen trousers, dyed with simple, natural dyes derived from minerals or
vegetables. This is everyday garb worn to protect against the seemingly incessant rain and cold, chilly nights.
Footwear, when worn (often it is not – many Cimmerians go barefoot), is a pair of simple leather sandals laced around the ankle and calf.
Every clan adopts specific colours that are displayed in the patterns woven into kilts, tunics or trousers. These colours are often plaids or crude tartans; regular, geometric patterns that are simple to weave but intricate enough to promote clan identity.
In cold weather cloaks are very common, being of either wool, sheep or goatskin, or, occasionally, leather. Hats and other forms of headwear, with the exception of helmets for battle, are extremely rare amongst Cimmerians, although a cloak might have a hood stitched to it if lengthy travel in inclement weather needs to be undertaken. Cimmerians generally consider headwear to be a form of disguise as it shadows the eyes or masks the hair. Every Cimmerian is proud to be a Cimmerian; disguises or attempts at them, are for cowards and thieves.
However, when it comes to hunting and warfare, dress changes radically. Loincloths of soft leather, sometimes accompanied by leather jerkins, replaces the woollen shirt and kilt. Such garb would easily snag when out in the wilds
and, although it protects against the cold, Cimmerians would far rather shiver than be impeded when it comes to a high-speed chase through forest and briar, or across bleak moorland.
When going into battle, those Cimmerians who have armour, either taken from slain enemies, gifted by fathers or clan elders, or bought (although this is rare),
wear it – especially helmets. Cimmerians, whilst proud of their prowess in battle and eager to display their strength and tenacity, are not fools and value good, solid protection.
Many outsiders view all Cimmerians as near-naked savages, running into battle nude, save for a loincloth and battle scars, but this is a rare sight; Cimmerian war bands wear whatever armour they can and those that do choose to go
semi-naked (as Conan himself did on many occasions), usually have a specific reason for doing so (the most common being that they cannot afford armour, or want to maximise their speed).
Typical Items of Cimmerian Clothing:
Léine – a shirt of soft linen, usually worn under a woollen tunic or robe. The léine has no collar and is often slit in a V from the throat to the top of the chest. For men, the léine is calf-length and for women, ankle length. It is usually dyed a deep saffron colour although bleached linen (a creamy-white) is also common.
Braecci – linen or woollen trousers worn over the léine, and belted at the waist and, sometimes, gathered at the ankle.
Inar – a woollen, collarless jacket worn over a léine and cut in the style of a robe. Designed to be worn open, but sometimes secured with a belt.
Trius – woollen or coarse linen underwear formed from two rectangular
leg tubes and a centre flap of rectangular cloth that folds from the belly to down
between the legs, and then back up to cover the rear.
Mantle – woollen rectangular cloak with length indicating status within the clan. Fringing is common and many are decorated with clan symbols.The mantle is held in place by a clasp of horn, antler or bone, although chieftains and other high-status individuals may have claps of bronze, iron, silver or gold.
Cimmerians treat days as starting at sun down, and months are moons, based on the lunar cycle. A two week period is a fortnight, a contraction of ‘fourteen nights’ with one week known as a sennight (seven nights).
Festivals are held on the nearest moon, new or full depending on the festival. The length of the moon cycle is just over 28 days, giving 12 moons in a normal Solar year.
Every 21 years there are 13 moons in the year and this is called a Great Lunar Year; Cimmerians mark the passage of the solar and lunar years and hold a Great Lunar Year as a period of unusually powerful foreboding.
The Cimmerian year is divided into four main parts based on the farming and hunting cycle, and marked by festivals symbolising the transition of the world.
Samhain begins the New Year, when the world starts to darken into winter. The veil between the human world and the world of the dead becomes very thin. Feasts are held and the ancestors of the clan honoured. The following day in the calendar has no name, to prevent the ancestors from being trapped in the mortal world and to make the journey back over the veil of death much easier.
The end of winter and the start of the awakening of the world is marked by Imbolc, which translates to ‘the lactation of the ewes’. The birth of the first lamb means that there is once again fresh milk available, and isn the proof of new
Beltain is the most lively festival of this gloomy realm, and it marks the first day of summer. It is marked by the appearance of the first May blossoms amongst the twisted branches and shoots of Cimmerian tress. A time of partnerships and fertility, this is the time for declaring alliances of politics and marriage. New couples proclaim their love for each other on this day, and clan chieftains take stock of what prosper or problem alliances and enmities will bring for the year ahead. Animals are transferred from winter to summer pastures, and are driven between the Beltain fires to cleanse them of evil spirits.
The last major festival of the year is the bringing in of the harvest, starting on the feast of Lughnasa.
Cimmerian Festivals - English Date Festival
Samhain - 31st October New Year
Imbolc - 31st January Awakening of the world
Beltain - 1st May 1st day of summer
Lughnasa - 31st July Harvest
Minor clan festivals and feats are held traditionally on the ninth day of the third, sixth or ninth month. celebration of the clan coming through another year and
entering the darkening days with plenty in store for the winter. In those clans where agriculture is practiced, the culmination of the festival is Harvest Home, marking the last load coming in from the fi elds.
Last edited by -Kathal-; 12th April 2011 at 22:43..
Most Cimmerians have an ambivalent attitude to property, needing only the tools of their trade (weapons, mostly), somewhere to live and clothing to keep warm. Many Cimmerians own only what they wear and can carry, considering all other non-essential property as just so much excess baggage. But Cimmerians do appreciate and admire
quality and craftsmanship; they also understand the value of precious metals, both for use in trade and in creating
items of outstanding value.
A typical Cimmerian clan member can be expected to own the following range of possessions:
* Hunting spear
* Bow and arrows
* Broadsword (usually handed-down from his father, or taken from a fallen foe)
* A dagger or broad-bladed knife
* Ordinary day-wear (see Clothing, above)
* War gear (a few pieces of armour, a helmet or cap)
* Leather sandals
* Cloak and bone brooch or clasp
* Hunting tools (snares, bone or antler fishing hooks, fishing line)
* Flint, steel and tinder
* Wine/water skin
* A few items of jewellery – a torque, some warrior rings made from the spear tips of defeated enemies, and perhaps a necklace
Additional items depend on status, experience and so forth, but most Cimmerian warriors consider the above to be the essentials.
Property within a Cimmerian clan is divided into three types:
-that which is a hunted, made, bought or traded by an individual (and summarised in the list above). That property is an individual’s by right and taking it away from him is an act of theft and punishable under whatever laws a clan enforces for theft.
–that which belongs to the clan and is administered in behalf of the clan by the chieftain and his council. This is essentially land and territory, but also extends to treasures and items that are known to symbolise the clan and its heritage; it also includes specific gifts made to the clan by other clans, whatever form these take.
–Communal property therefore expresses the clan’s wealth, heritage and standing.
-is the third kind of property; this is property owned by the chief’s position and which can be freely gifted by the chief either as rewards to other clan members or to other clans as an expression of gratitude or alliance.
-When emissaries come to a clan it is typical for them to bring two gifts; one for the clan and one for the chief. The clan gift becomes communal property whereas the chief gift enters the chief’s wealth and can be used by him in whatever way he decides.
Laws Regarding Personal Property
Theft is regarded as a grave offence within a clan.
Mutual trust and respect plays such a strong part in clan life that stealing from another clan member is considered a critical breach of trust. If caught stealing from another clan member, the thief can expect to, at the very least, lose his left hand. If the item stolen is particularly valuable, or is either clan or chief wealth,
he might pay with his life, and the chief is always called upon to make the final decision in these circumstances.
Even if the thief loses just a hand, he will be expelled from the clan and, bearing the mark of his crime, will find it difficult to gain sanctuary in another community.
The only circumstances where theft is deemed acceptable are:
* Looting the body of a defeated enemy. Cimmerian tradition always gives the victor the right to the spoils
* Seizing livestock in a sanctioned raid when a clan has no other option
* Sacking a village that has been defeated in battle, if the residents have offered resistance. In these circumstances only clan property and chief wealth should be looted; personal property, with the exception of weapons and armour, should be left untouched.
In resolving a dispute between two clan members, a chief might levy a confiscation of personal property as a punishment for the guilty party, but this tends to be a rare occurrence. Most disputes tend to be settled through tests of honour in some form of challenge
A note to the above. This is Age of Conan and most of us are kitted out in "fancy" looking things that you can always justify having. The mark of a good roleplayer in my eyes is not someone who takes the lore and makes it law. But takes it in mind and makes it work in the current setting.
Cimmerians are an unsentimental people, but most certainly passionate. The romantic ideals surrounding love that might be found in other countries do not exist
in Cimmeria; there are few, if any, romantic sagas told by bards or around campfires; no one composes great swathes of poetry in celebration of love and romance.
But Cimmerians do love, and love deeply. They love their clans, their families, their hunting bands, their war comrades and, of course, members of the opposite sex in the romantic sense. Where they differ from other countries is in the way love is expressed.
There is little time, motivation or appetite for idealised expressions of love; instead Cimmerians simply get on with their lives personally confident that those who are loved know it because they are not considered to be enemies and are treated with respect and kindness.
Occasionally a couple might be so stricken with each other that they hold hands and adorn each other’s hair with flowers, but such practices are quickly subjected to scorn and ridicule because they serve little practical purpose beyond mawkish sentimentality.
When a Cimmerian loves someone, he tells them, bluntly and matter-of-factly, but usually he does not feel the need to do so.
Marriage is almost always a political union, designed to forge new alliances, bring to an end old enmities or advance the standing of the families involved. Couples do marry for love, but it is the exception rather than the rule, and a union that would benefit the clan is far more likely to be approved by the chief than a union that is being made out of love.
Before marriage takes place the couple must gain the consent of the heads of each family; if one family refuses permission, then the couple can ask the relevant chieftain to overturn the decision if he approves the union. Once the families have consented, then the couple are presented to the chieftain of the bride who must also consent. If the chieftain refuses his consent, then the marriage is not permitted to take place – even if the chieftain of the groom
approves the marriage.
Once consent has been given, the couple must marry within ninety days. This period varies from clan to clan sometimes, but is a widespread and accepted Cimmerian tradition. In this time the couple must have minimal contact with other – something that is not diffi cult if the bride and groom are from separate clans – and when they do come into contact they must be chaperoned by a relative or close clan member. This particular tradition is designed to prevent the bride and groom from either eloping or having enough time to decide that they dislike each other before the marriage ceremony. It is not designed to ensure that sexual relations do not take place.
The Marriage itself
The marriage ceremony itself is a nine-step process that involves the entire clan or clans. The groom’s clan acts as host and both clans are forbidden to carry weapons for the duration of the ceremony – which generally lasts from dawn until dawn of the next day (or whenever the drinking stops).
First Step: Casting Consecration of the Circle
The women of the clan prepare a circle for the bride and groom to be married within. This might be a circular area in the centre of the clan’s seat or it might be a sacred or special place in a nearby forest or on a moorland. The circle is clearly marked with either stones, flowers, petals, or some other marker and is always with a nine-yard radius.
Only the bride, groom and the clan elder, who performs the ceremony, may enter the circle; anyone else who does so is considered to be cursed with bad luck for nine years.
The circle is consecrated with the urine from nine virgins, which is sprinkled around the perimeter. This wards against evil spirits and is considered to be a powerful charm aiding fertility.
Second Step: Presentation of the Bride and Groom
The bride and groom are brought from respective ends of the clan settlement where they have remained in seclusion from the previous night. The chieftains and elders of the respective clans andfamilies receive the couple and offer a formal blessing, usual requesting the clans’ ancestors to look favourably on the union.
It is at this stage that the bride’s family presents her dowry to the groom’s family. The dowry is usually an agreed amount of some commodity that has been negotiated before the ceremony. It might be gold or coin, slaves, food or even armour or weaponry. If the bride and groom separate for any reason within nine years of the marriage, then the groom’s family forfeits the dowry.
Following the exchange of the dowry, the bride and groom are presented to the gathered clans in preparation for the
third step of the ceremony.
Third Step: Statement of the Bard
The bard is either a clan member who regularly regales his fellows with stories, songs and poetry or someone, such as a sage, who has been nominated for the purpose. It is the Bard’s duty to explain, simply and concisely, why the couple are to be married, and to call upon the gathered clans to either bless the marriage or speak
It is accepted tradition for the marriage to be blessed; any opposition is expected to have been voiced in private with the relevant clan chiefs before the ceremony takes place. However, it is still an opportunity for people to protest.
Anyone who challenges the marriage must step forward and justify his opposition. It is then the duty of the groom’s chief to either accept or deny the challenge. If he accepts it, the marriage is denied and tradition dictates that each party must go their separate ways without bloodshed or rancour. In practice, when this unfortunate state of affairs has arisen, it has invariably led to the creation of a feud or the intensification of one.
If the chieftain denies the opposition, he may call the challenger out. This always signals a duel of honour between the challenger and whoever the chieftain nominates as his champion. Usually this is the clan’s foremost warrior, but may be anyone the chief decides to nominate, including the groom. The stakes for the duel depend purely on the severity of the opposition. Where considerable clan or personal honour is at stake a duel to the death is not uncommon. If the charge levelled is less serious, then the duel might be to first blood or even disarmament; if they duel is simply being fought to prove a point or make one, then a physical contest, such as wrestling, might be used instead of a duel with weapons.
If the challenger wins the duel, then the charge he has made stands and the marriage ceremony is either suspended or called-off completely, until a resolution (if there is a resolution) can be found. If the chief’s champion wins, then the marriage continues – although Cimmerian superstition holds that any marriage challenged in this way is always doomed to failure in some form.
Step Four: Declarations of the Bride and Groom
Once the Bard’s statement has been made, the bride and groom, followed by the congregation, proceed to the circle. Here, the person conducting the marriage calls upon the bride and groom to declare their vows. There is no specifi c form of words, but essentially the groom must declare that he will:
Protect and honour his wife
Provide for her and his family
Place her needs above those of any other woman
Remain faithful to her
And the bride must declare to:
Honour and obey her husband
Ensure his needs are well-met
Raise his children in the traditions and ways of the clan
Remain faithful to him
Step Five: Exchange of Rings
The rings exchanged between husband and wife need not be finger rings of metal; they can be of any circular object – torques of bone or antler; warrior rings forged from the weapons of defeated enemies; necklaces of flowers or beads – anything, as long as it is symbolic of the circle.
The bride presents the groom with her ring and then the groom returns the action.
Step Six: Fasting of Hands
The couple clasp hands and present them to the elder conducting the ceremony. Their hands or wrists are then bound together in a loosely tied length of soft linen or silk. This signifies the completion of the union.
Step Seven: Passing of Light
The elder performing the ceremony takes either a lit candle or burning brand and encircles the couple nine times, chanting their names. The light source is then passed to the couple who, holding it together in their fasted hands, must proceed nine times,anticlockwise, around the inner perimeter of the circle. This act represents the spirit of the union and everyone watches the light source carefully to see if it will be extinguished. If it goes out at any point, then it is relit by the elder of the ceremony, but the rotation in which the light goes out signals the year or years in which troubles might be encountered by the couple. The more times the light source is extinguished, the more troubled the union will be and if the light source goes out more than once in any rotation, or is extinguished in every rotation, then the marriage is considered to be cursed from the start.
Step Eight: Thanksgiving and Oath
Once the Passing of the Light is completed the couple kneel in the centre of the circle and jointly utter a simple prayer of thanks to the ancestors and any gods observed by the clan – usually Crom, Macha or Nemain – and pledge to serve the clan that will be their home as a married couple.
Step Nine: Blessing and Opening of the Circle
The elder of the ceremony blesses the married couple by offering them a sip of either wine or mead. This done, the circle is opened by the married couple each taking one of the markers of the circle and stepping out of the perimeter.
They emerge from the ceremony as husband and wife, and the opening of the circle is the signal for the feasting to begin. The couple can remove the item used in the Fasting of Hands and tradition demands that it is tossed by the bride into the throng of the congregation; whoever catches it will be the next to marry.
Officially the marriage ceremony lasts for one full day, but celebrations might continue for several days depending on the mood of the clans involved, the status of the married couple, and how much food and drink is available.
It is the mark of a good chieftain to sustain the feasting for as long as he can, and, although no chieftain has any obligation to continue the feast any longer than dawn the next day, it is considered poor form for the celebrations to end at the appointed time.
Death and Mourning - Some of my own personal favourites in here.
Cimmerian funerary customs are quick and deadly. The fallen are left where they fall, or disposed of simply; it is no matter, since their shades are departed. A wake is held, with those present drinking a toast to the departed, then pouring out the remainder of their beverages onto the ground for the dead. If revenge is called for – and the headhunting of their fallen foes in a ritualistic manner, similar to that of their later Celtic descendants.
Ever fatalistic, Cimmerians do not believe in some paradise or benevolent realm of the gods when they die, but simply an eternity of existence at the gods’ whim. This after-death world, unknowable but grim nonetheless, is called the Otherworld. Here the human soul becomes a shadowy presence that the gods may favour or torment dependent on how they are disposed to the soul they receive.
Upon death, the soul must cross the Bridge of Swords, which crosses a yawning chasm of non-existence. Cowards, traitors and enemies of Cimmeria are doomed to fail in crossing the Bridge of Swords, which is lined with the blades of Crom and his kind.
Only true, brave Cimmerians cross the bridge unscathed and pass then into the Road of Bones. This road, which stretches into the otherworld, is made from the skeletal remains of Crom’s foes, ground into a white ash that lends some comfort to the weary feet of the traveller as he completes his fi nal journey.
The culmination of that journey is the otherworld itself, where the soul is neither judged, rewarded nor punished, but simply used in ways that Cimmerians cannot, and do not, wish to contemplate with any depth. The otherworld is truly an unknown and unknowable realm, governed by the likes of Crom and the Morrigan. It might be a world of endless battle and feasting, enduring torment, or simply an existence without further awareness.
For Cimmerians, the best they can hope for is to cross the bridge and walk the road, accepting the afterlife that only the gods themselves can dictate. Those who fail to cross the bridge, but who do not plunge over its edge, might return as restless, sometimes malevolent, spirits, eager to inflict their torment on others.
Last edited by -Kathal-; 12th April 2011 at 23:13..
Well after an unscheduled weeks break I'm back and thought I'd expand on this some more. I hit my character limit on the first post so I'll start again below. This first part might feel a bit mix and match, I apologise for that.
Part 2 - More on the Cimmerian way of life
Superstition, Taboos and Geasa
For all their fierce practicality, Cimmerians are not a strictly rational people. They do not base their actions, beliefs, or lifestyle completely on what can be deduced from observation and experience. They are shaped by their environment (and the inevitability of Crom’s overarching doom of the world) and react in ways the landscape causes them to feel.
Cimmerians are, however, possessed of a strong sense of wonder and superstition. Fate cannot be avoided, but neither should it be tempted or rushed towards. Simple customs and behaviours can prevent the worst aspects of fate from manifesting although, ultimately, one’s lot in life is wound from the gods’ distaff.
Superstitions take many forms and are usually associated with avoiding bad luck (rather than encouraging good luck). These simple acts prevent one from becoming prematurely noticed by one’s fate, and a few examples of typical Cimmerian superstitions are as follows:
* Never bid farewell on a bridge (if you want to see the other person alive again)
* Seeing a single crow is very unlucky; seeing a single hooded crow signals war is close by
* If a bride does not sew a swan’s feather into her husband’s bedding, she cannot guarantee his fidelity. If a husband does not sew a hawk’s feather into the bride’s, then likewise.
* Burning beef bones when making broth brings a bad harvest and poor hunting.
* Malice and envy are to be feared when sparks jump out of the fi re.
* If thirteen people sit down to dine, the last to rise will meet with ill fortune.
Every Cimmerian is beset by doubts and superstition. Every Cimmerian has a need to go about things in a particular way and, if that little routine is disturbed, then only bad luck and poor fortune can result. Cimmerians are therefore very careful not to disturb either their own routines or those of their comrades.
Taboos are things that are not done, both as a matter of clan tradition and as a way of avoiding bad fortune. Usually clan taboos are linked with the ancestors and breaking a taboo is considered as bringing bad fortune on the whole clan and not just oneself. Taboos therefore differ from clan
to clan, but typical common taboos are:
* Murdering innocents
* Murdering clan members outside of a blood feud
* Defiling an artefact of the ancestors
* Theft within the clan
* Theft of clan treasure
* Eating human flesh
* Killing crows, rooks or ravens
* Killing animals sacred to the clan
* Making independent peace with a blood feud enemy
* Treachery to the clan
* Ignoring the call of the Bloody Spear
* Worshipping false/foreign gods (indeed, worshipping any gods)
Breaking a taboo usually involves a clan punishment and, given Cimmeria’s lack of mercy, this can mean death.
But, some taboos are punishable not just by a physical punishment, but also by the accepting of Geasa.
A geas is a punishment of atonement and can be a permanent, lifetime affair depending on the taboo broken and whether it was broken knowingly. A Cimmerian burdened with a geas must comply with the geas’s conditions for the duration compelled by the clan chief or elders.
A geas can be a social condition, such as a vow of chastity or being forbidden to eat meat on clan festival days. It may also be more perilous, compelling the Cimmerian to act in a way contrary to clan or individual norms in order to atone for the broken taboo.
Sample geasa include:
* Never use a sword in battle
* Take a vow of permanent silence
* Accept no healing from wounds inflicted in battle
* Wear no armour
* Drink no alcohol
* Take a permanent vow of chastity
* Become a direct slave of the chief or an elder
* Accept exile from the clan and make no attempt to join another
* Quest into enemy lands and kill a given number of enemies
* Live outdoors permanently, never accepting shelter
* Eat no meat – offer all meat given to the ancestors or clan chief
* Eat no vegetables - offer all vegetables given to the ancestors
or clan chief
* Never utter a single lie
Cimmerians have a nonchalant attitude towards slavery. Slaves are taken whenever an enemy clan is vanquished in order to prove mastery, and the treatment slaves receive depends purely on the outlook of the owner.
By and large slaves are considered to be chattels and receive the most basic level of care but are often abused, depending on the will of the owner. Slaves are expected to do the drudge-work of the clan, to wait on the chieftain or owner and have no rights within the clan other than to receive food, somewhere to sleep, and a few, exceedingly modest
possessions. Slaves might be traded between allied clans, much as any other goods might be traded and, if a slave is especially fit, diligent and obeisant, valued as highly as gold or silver.
However the Cimmerian clans do not, as a rule, deliberately go in search of slaves and make a practice of trading them to further the clan’s position. Slaves are an occasional necessity and a right of victory, but not a commodity to be farmed and bartered.
But Cimmerian pride makes them poor slaves. To be taken into slavery is considered shameful and no Cimmerian warrior worth his salt accepts slavery as an option in defeat. Acceptance of slavery automatically confers a position of weakness and almost all Cimmerians prefer death to a life of enforced servitude. It is therefore rare to fi nd strong warriors amongst Cimmerian slaves. It is more common to find the old and those less capable of fi ghting amongst the slave ranks, and invariably Cimmerian slaves have a subdued, morose attitude because they are abundantly
aware that, in being captured and enslaved, they have
effectively failed to be good, proud, Cimmerians.
If a slave proves to be hard-working, accepting of their lot (a rarity, but a possibility), then, occasionally, a chieftain might grant the opportunity for the slave to become part of the clan. Whilst this confers freedom it does not necessarily confer respect and honour. Those who have risen from slavery to become clan members proper are always remembered as slaves and cannot count on being treated with the respect ‘true’ clan members receive. To have been a slave is to have demonstrated a weakness of spirit and, no matter how well an ex-slave has behaved, the stigma of weakness is always there in the clan memory.
Because individuals do not own property or land (save for the chieftain of a clan, who holds territory in the name of the clan), there are no serfs in Cimmerian society. Working the land is a communal activity and the drudge work associated with serfdom is carried out by any slaves a clan owns. Other than this, the Cimmerian philosophy is to co-operate to survive; the concept of serfdom is alien to their way of thinking.
Considered the oldest profession in many cultures, and Cimmeria is little different. Men are always willing to pay for sex and there are always women willing to oblige.
However, few Cimmerians would ever admit to taking pride in using prostitutes. Every Cimmerian man is expected to have a woman, just as he is expected to have a sword and spear. Those that habitually pay for sex are considered to be, at best, unlucky or, at worst, weak and unable.
For women, prostitution is not considered to be a profession, but simply an activity that is indulged in when necessity dictates. Accepting payment in exchange for sex is sometimes the best way of preventing **** or rough, undesired union and, sometimes, as a form of reward for Cimmerian men who might have made an impression, but to whom the woman does not want to grant unrewarded favour.
Prostitution therefore happens but is always behind closed doors and is never discussed. Professional whores do not exist in Cimmerian society and clan settlements do not have regular streetwalkers or courtesans readily plying their trade. Usually, though, a few women who are known to
accept payment for sex can be readily identified in any clan, although a great deal of euphemism and discomfort surrounds such identifi cation.
Whilst some of Cimmeria’s clans are semi-nomadic, most have fixed territories with established settlements.
The standard kind of building in a clan settlement is the bothan or roundhouse. A circular base of stone, about two feet high and (in a typical family dwelling) twenty feet in diameter, is topped with a wall of wattle and daub, which acts as a windbreak and insulator. A central post and several radiating beams provide the framework for the conical roof
which is made from thatch, reeds and willow canes.
It's interior is generally dark but warm. A central fire pit surrounded by stones serves as the hearth, and animal skins and pelts are hung on the walls and from the rafters to create basic divisions and increase insulation.
Bedding is made from clean bracken, rushes, straw or reeds, topped with a length of cloth to be wrapped around the body at night. Even the cleanest bed soon becomes riddled with fleas, lice and other fauna and so regular changes of bedding and sweeping out of the bothan is essential.
In cold weather it is common for livestock to be brought into the dwelling at night to offer yet more warmth and to protect them from predators.
The bothan of a chief is built to a similar design but on a larger scale (double, or even triple a standard bothan’s diameter), and sometimes with a rectangular annex added to the circular structure where livestock and other chattels are housed. The chieftain’s dwelling acts as residence, meeting hall, feast hall and, occasionally, armoury for the settlement, and is usually the focus point for the clan.
The chieftain’s chosen warriors may be required to sleep in the chieftain’s bothan on a permanent basis, in order to act as both guard and symbol of strength for the clan, so the chief ’s bothan needs to be large enough to accommodate an extended family as a matter of course.
Cimmerians rarely use tables, chairs or other furniture. When sitting, it is cross-legged on the floor, with perhaps an animal skin for comfort. Meals are eaten from carved wooden bowls and trenchers of thick, unleavened bread, which are held in the hand. Cutlery is either a personal knife/dagger, and a spoon carved from wood or antler.
The only concession to furniture is likely to be a possessions chest, made from stout wood and secured by iron or steel fittings. The chest contains items of value or things that need to be kept dry, such as spare clothing and fl int and tinder. The chest may or may not be lockable, depending
on what the owner has been able to afford.
Cimmeria’s nomad clans do not build roundhouses but carry with them their portable equivalent: the yurt.
Each yurt is built of a circular wooden frame over which a fabric cover, usually of coarse linen or wool, is draped. The timber frame consists of
several lattice sections for the walls, a simple door-frame, roof poles and a crown. The wood frame is self-supporting and covered with pieces of cloth;
guide ropes add strength and stability. The yurt’s structure is kept under compression by the weight of the fabric, but, sometimes, a weight is hung from the centre of the roof to create even greater strength.
A yurt can be erected and disassembled by a couple of people in less than an hour. Its design allows it to be collapsed completely and be easily carried on horseback.
Last edited by -Kathal-; 21st April 2011 at 00:47..
Cimmeria is a lozenge some 1500 miles by 700. It is bordered to north by the cold, unforgiving peaks of the Eiglophian Mountains, to the east by the Border Kingdom, to the south by Aquilonia, and to the west by the lands of the Picts.
The landscape is raw and undulating, occupied by great, unsheltered stretches of moorland in the interior, and densely wooded vales surrounding, rising steadily to the hills and mountains forming the boundaries at its edges.
Cold winds drive down from the north bringing chilling autumns and freezing winters, when the countryside is blanketed in deep snow. Spring brings a thaw but also rain, which inflicts itself across the land for almost the whole season, tumbling down from skies like sheets of lead. In summer, the sun breaks through to warm the land but it never seems to be enough; great patches of ground remain waterlogged and the forests and vales are so dense that all sunlight is absorbed into the thick canopy.
In the spring and summer, days are long but grey and lacking in vibrancy, even during the relative beauty of the summer. In the winter, Cimmeria experiences daylight for only six or seven hours out of the day, and even then the light is frail and sombre, the darkness ever threatening.
Cimmeria possesses only one, great river. The Shikal rises in the high hills of the north east and winds steadily south west, creating the natural border between Cimmeria and the Border Kingdom. Many smaller rivers are found
throughout the land, but none has any kind of majesty and many are underground.
The land is rich in natural resources, particularly timber, coal, iron ore and copper in the Black Mountains of the south west and the hills of the north west and west, and salt from the Great Salt Marsh. The interior vales have a plethora of herbs and plants that form the basis of many medicines, salves, unguents, potions and poisons and the dense, dark forests provide a home to species of malevolent and benign fungi.
Cimmeria is therefore a land of stark contrasts. Natural features of the landscape denote particular territories, and the land is pock-marked with clan symbols such as cairns, henges, ghost fences, totems, gibbets and burial mounds. It is chilly throughout the year, and Cimmeria always seems to be cloaked in wind and water, which the dark ground absorbs and then releases.
Travel in Cimmeria
Cimmerians have little use for roads and the best any traveller can expect are ancient footpaths threading through the moorland, marshes and forests. Most paths follow hunting trails which means they conform to the movements of game rather than following the easiest pathway through the landscape. Road signs and mileage markers are non-existent; the only markers are for clan boundaries and these are often only obvious to a trained eye or other Cimmerians. Getting lost in Cimmeria is not difficult; the countryside is intense and oppressive – it is easy for the mind to either wander or become distracted by the overbearing nature of the surroundings and, in these instances, it is all too simple to lose one’s bearings.
Gales and Storms
Cold winds from the Eiglophian Mountains batter Cimmeria’s northern edges whilst warmer, wetter winds tear in from the Western Ocean, funnelled between the northern reaches of the Pictish forests and the western edges of the Eiglophian peaks. In the autumn and winter months, Cimmeria is frequently battered by strong gales that launch an assault on the countryside and people alike.
Cimmerians refer to such gales and storms as The Breath of Crom. Settlements built in the shelter of valleys and forests are more likely to survive a howling attack of Crom’s breath than the yurt-towns of the nomadic clans, but even so the destructive powers of a fierce gale are yet another reason for Cimmeria’s dark and dismal aspect.
In complete defiance of the general Cimmerian distrust of the Eiglophians, three clans make them their home territory. The long, wide Conall Valley is home to the warring Gaud, Taur and Cruiadh clans.
Cruiadh owns the northern stretch of the Conall Valley, controlling the Pass
of Blood which drives deep into the mountains and leads eventually to Asgard. In the central plain the Taur control the land and, in the south, where the land softens and slopes down into Cimmeria proper, the Gaud rule.
Once, the three clans were a single clan and they guarded against invasion from Asgard. What sundered them is lost to memory but the enmity runs deep and each wages a blood-feud against the others. In the winter, when snow carpets the Conall Valley, the three clans are bound into their territories for many months. In this time the clans brood and make plans, storing-up hatred that is vented in the spring and summer when the thaw makes war a
Numerous attempts have been made to heal the rifts between these three clans, but to no avail; marriages between them have failed; peace talks have stalled and collapsed. It is as though these three clans, separated from the rest of Cimmeria by the mountains, have become infected with the Eiglophians’ madness.
Because they cannot make war against the enemies of Nordheim, they must make war against each other – simply because there is little else to do, and the need for warfare is so ingrained in the Cimmerian soul.
The Pass of Blood is occasionally used by the Æsir who raid from time to time. Clan Cruiadh defends the pass from the Asgardian raiders and when the threat to the valley is overwhelming the three clans have been known to band together to drive the Norsemen from their lands. However in recent years the Æsir raids have been less intensive and have not focused on Cruiadh holdings, leading the suspicious Taur and Gaud clans to speculate on what deal the Cruiadh have struck with the age-old Nordheim enemy.
The Field of the dead - playing a Cimmerian Chieftain, this is one of my favourite bits.
In the direct shadow of Mount Crom is a gently sloping plain. To the east and west, grey bluffs of granite rear from the lush, green grass, framing the plain against Ben Morgh’s rough, wild majesty.
Scattered across the plain, seemingly haphazardly, are many, many cairns of stone, varying in height and width. Some have toppled over with age or the attack of the elements; most stand proud and tall. Each cairn marks the fi nal resting place of a clan chief.
It is the right of every clan chieftain, no matter what his actions in life, to be laid to rest in the Field of the Dead if he so chooses. Not every chief chooses
the Field of the Dead as his final resting place; many prefer to be buried in grounds sacred to the clan.
Cimmerians believe that, at the moment a chief dies, Crom appears bearing a bloody spear, summoning the chief to the final council. To reach it, the chief must accept the spear and then cross the Bridge of Swords which spans the river of hell. Here he is judged and, if found to have fulfi lled his
obligations as a chieftain, may pass across the bridge safely, to spend his days carousing with the ancestor chiefs in the Field of the Dead.
If he has failed to lead as a Cimmerian should, his progress across the Bridge of Swords will either be slow, whilst he atones, or it will fail and he will fall into the boiling river of hell.
No one has bothered to count the cairns in the Field of the Dead, but they stretch back centuries. Many are unmarked, but usually the chieftain’s device, symbol or seal is carved into a marker rock forming part of the cairn. A chief is buried with only the things he needs for the journey across the Bridge of Swords; his armour, weapons, some food and drink, and some gold and silver which are given as gifts to the assembled chieftains he hopes to join in death.
The promise of treasure buried beneath the cairns has been a lure to grave robbers. No true Cimmerians would ever plunder a chieftain’s grave, but there are plenty of unscrupulous interlopers who are only too willing to break into the graves and steal the gold, silver and artefacts buried with a chieftain. Such thieves are willing to try, but they will find, to their cost, that the Field of the Dead is protected by more than just a remote location and the elements. Plundering a grave may anger the spirit of the chieftain attached to it, and, in turn, that chieftain’s spirit may call on his fellow chieftains to assail the villains and preserve the peace and sanctity of their resting place
The northern horizon is dominated by the immensity of the Eiglophian Mountains; icy daggers digging into the sky, separating Vanaheim and Asgard from Cimmeria’s warmer lands.
The Eiglophians are difficult to negotiate but are not impenetrable; snowy passes and ice-seamed gaps connect the northern edge of Cimmeria with the
lands beyond although Cimmerians have little interest in risking life and limb against the wrath of the peaks, the treacherous glaciers, the Ice Demons and the murderously cold conditions of the range.
The mountains are symbolic for Cimmerians in several ways. They mark the edge of the earth; represent a barrier between the knowable and the unknowable; and, most potently, reinforce the isolation Cimmerians take comfort from.
The mountains would not exist if the gods had wanted Cimmerians to wander. Although the Eiglophians appear lifeless and stark, Cimmerians know that terrors lurk within those peaks: demons and giants of ice; white-pelted ape-men who feast on brains and drink blood like wine; winged serpents that make the glaciers their home, emerging now and again to feast on the souls of hapless travellers who, driven by curiosity, have wandered too far north.
The Cimmerian clans living in the shadow of the Eiglophians have many tales concerning the mountains’ dangers and the children of these clans are told them at the earliest opportunity, so that they will develop the necessary fear that will keep them alive.
In the autumn and winter, when the earth grows colder, the highest peaks of the Eiglophians are wreathed in mist and cloud. When the sun breaks through it renders the mountains eerily beautiful – an otherworld kingdom of sharp whiteness that contrasts with Cimmeria’s own, gloomy aspect. In the summer, the brilliance and warmth of the sun, frail though it is, angled through the dagger summits, softens the Eiglophians’ appearance, making them almost enticing.
This is why the Cimmerians fear the mountains so much. Their beauty is duplicitous, hiding the true dangers of what lies within and beyond. As a people who gain much from surface appearances, Cimmerians are naturally repelled by the dual nature of the mountains and this is why they fear them. The mountains are complicated, untrustworthy, and offer nothing save death and a barrier from those in the ice wastes beyond who would deliver more of it.
This high, cold, narrow pass between the rocks leads into the Border Kingdom.
It is named Ymir’s Pass in veneration of the war god because, it is said, Ymir held this ridge of mountainous land against the Ice Demons.
The pass is reached via a narrow, winding path that snakes up from the south eastern Cimmerian plain below. It marks the border between the Border Kingdoms and Cimmeria and, although Ymir’s Pass is not within Border Kingdom territory, the fortress of Atzel, a Border Kingdom outpost, watches the road and pass for Cimmerian invasion
– something that still happens from time to time when the clans decided to risk a raid into the Border Kingdoms. The presence of Atzel’s fortress means that people passing out of Cimmeria have a more difficult time than those passing into it. The fortress sentries are alert for Cimmerian insurgency and closely question everyone who uses the pass approaching from a westerly direction. Those who approach from the east, from Border Kingdom lands, are usually granted free passage through Ymir’s Pass without any further trouble.
The immense Hoath plateau hosts the Field of the Chiefs; ancient, uncontested ground where, when needs involving every Cimmerian clan dictate, the clans gather and make decisions.
The field is a huge, open, grass-filled plain. It is relatively dry, flat, and from it one can see to the Eiglophians in the north, the Black Mountains in the south and the Goralian Hills in the east.
At its centre is a large, angular slab of dark stone, placed there deliberately by the Atlantean ancestors of the Cimmerians. Moss covered and carved in strange, indecipherable runes, it is incredibly sacred; the symbol of All Ancestors.
Some crudely refer to the stone as Crom’s Arrowhead, but all know that the stone was placed there by the long forgotten people who became the Cimmerians.
Perhaps a symbol of their superiority; perhaps as a prayer to some long-dead god; perhaps as a warning. No one knows. But the stone has prevailed even though its architects have ceased to be. Cimmerians take heart in that permanency and so have named the plain Field of the Chiefs and this is
where they gather.
The call to the Field of Chiefs is made by the circulation of the Bloody Spear. Any chieftain of a clan who feels that a council of all the chiefs is needed takes a hunting spear, makes a blood sacrifi ce, and drenches the spear in the blood.
A messenger is then sent out to the take the spear to nearest clan, which, in turn, relays the spear to the next – and so on until all the clans have been contacted. Anyone bearing the Bloody Spear is immune to attack or retribution for they represent Cimmeria; if any harm comes to one bearing the Bloody Spear, then the enmity of all clans is earned.
As soon as the Bloody Spear reaches a chieftain, he must make immediate preparations to venture to the Field of the Chiefs. He may bring as many warriors with him as he wishes; some bring just a small circle of advisers and a bodyguard; some bring several war bands whilst others bring the entire clan. The size and composition of the retinue says much about the competence, confi dence and intentions of the clan chieftain.
The chiefs arrive at the Field of the Chiefs prepared for an extended stay. Shelter and supplies are brought; a long discussion is always anticipated. By the time all the clans have assembled, the Field of the Chiefs has become a tent city, countless standards fluttering in the breeze above the yurts, ghost fences with a hundred separate totems erected around the encampment to ward against evil spirit spies.
The host of the meeting is always the chief who prepared and first sent the Bloody Spear. It is his duty to set out, clearly, why he has summoned the chiefs together. Once this is done, it is the right of each chief to question the host. The Bloody Spear is passed to whoever is speaking and, whilst they hold the spear, they cannot be interrupted. When all questions have been asked, an open debate begins and lasts for as long as all present can stand it. Finally – and this might take many days – the host brings the debate to a halt and, taking the Bloody Spear once more, outlines the options and demands a decision.
A wide, bleak, rain-lashed plain of south eastern Cimmeria, the Battle Lands are the site of ancient clashes between the Picts and Cimmerian clans.
Countless cains of stone mark the glorious fallen, built by the survivors of the battles that took place in the land’s grim past. No battle has been fought here for centuries, but it remains sacred territory for all Cimmerians who know it as a place of both ghosts and glory, haunted by the restless spirits of those who died resisting the Pictish incursions.
On certain nights, when the wind howls through the Black Mountains to the west, it is as though the cries and moans of the fallen prevail still, and Cimmerians believe that, beneath the cairns, trapped in some limbo, the warriors maintain a peculiar half-life, waiting for the final battle where all Cimmeria’s enemies will be gathered in the Battle Lands above.
At that time the dead shall erupt from beneath the cairns and come to the aid of the clans in the Final Defeat where Cimmeria’s enemies will be slain once and for all, releasing the souls of the fallen to cross the Bridge of Swords and find eternal peace.
With that defeat the enemies will take the place of the glorious Cimmerian fallen. Cimmerians are fearful of entering the Battle Lands; not because the spirits will seek retribution, but because the land itself is a sacred place of death. To enter the Battle Lands is to issue a challenge that will call forth Cimmeria’s enemies, and only Crom, or the fallen warriors themselves, can issue such a challenge, and no true Cimmerian wishes to bring about the dark gathering of enemies that will see the Final Defeat wash the rain-soaked plain in more blood.
This peaceful, if rain-soaked valley, saw a ferocious clash between the massed tribes of Cimmeria and a Pictish war force a hundred years before Conan’s birth. The fighting was so bitter, the sages say, the blood so thickly spilled, that it looked like the very land was wounded. Fifty thousand met on these fields of slaughter, arranged on either side of the valley, and then collided in the middle in a pair of vast shield-walls that pushed and sparred, making no headway, for an entire morning.
The Cimmerians feigned fatigue and allowed themselves to be pressed back; this lured the Picts into a false confidence and they pushed further, driving the Cimmerians back up their own side of the valley.
But the Cimmerians fell back in good order, taking care not to trip or stumble and to keep their shield wall held. Then, when the rear ranks had the advantage of height, a thousand spears were hurled to slice into the rear ranks of the Pictish fighters, weakening both their strength and confidence. Using the advantage the slop gave them, the Cimmerian shield-wall made a single enormous push and broke the Pictish line.
From that point forward the battle became an intense melee of clashing wood, steel and bone. The Picts suffered a dreadful defeat and the Cimmerians pursued the fl eeing numbers all the way to the Black Mountains, slaughtering all but a handful of the Picts in the process.
Many Cimmerians died, but the Pictish propensity for bringing war deep into
the heart of Cimmeria was checked for a long, long time, and it all happened in the Wounded Lands.
Nothing remains to mark the Cimmerian victory, save for the songs and lays that sing of the heroes of that day. The Wounded Lands look anything but wounded now, but that gentle valley, blanketed in its soft, incessant rain, once resembled a deep an livid scar on the Cimmerian landscape. That it healed quickly is as much a refl ection of the Cimmerian tenacity as it is of the earth’s ability to quickly absorb – and forget – the atrocities committed on its surface.
In the far east of the Eiglophian range is the most potent representation of the gods’ will for isolation. Its precipices, sheer cliffs, and snow-bound lower slopes are amongst the most aggressive and fascinating in appearance of the whole mountainous wall.
Mount Crom challenges the eye and the will, and only those who are truly fearless would dare accept the challenge and stray through Crom’s territory. Almost all Cimmerians are content to approach the Eiglophians as far as Mount Crom and, even then, to go no further than the Field of the Dead.
The mountain is considered Crom’s fortress; a jutting, threatening crown of precipices, sheer cliffs and sharp ridges that is as implacable as the god himself. From here Crom curses Cimmeria with the gloom and desperation it feels daily, unsympathetic and uncaring of the fate inflicted on the mortals below.
Cimmerians do not worship Crom in any meaningful religious context – but they do acknowledge and fear him. As a war god he is respected; but as a god of the Cimmerian people he is considered a remote, cold power that seeks to give nothing to those who worship him and wants nothing in return.
Eager to try their hand at conquering barbaric Cimmeria, Aquilonia sent forth an invasion force to capture the south of the country. Swordsmen,
spearmen, archers and mounted knights pushed into Cimmeria’s south west corner and quickly found that the land was more rugged than previously
A camp was made and named Venarium. The small clan inhabiting the area was butchered rapidly, although some survivors escaped north and brought warning to the other clans of the region.
Knowing that Aquilonia would only advance if not checked, the Bloody Spear was sent around the clans, summoning a council of war at the Field of the Chiefs. There, the clans acknowledged the threat and an army was hastily prepared.
Many, but not all, the clans joined it, and at the earliest opportunity the Cimmerian war bands marched south to counter the Aquilonians at the fort of Venarium.
Many heroes were forged in this battle; many deeds of valour performed. The Cimmerians brought their formidable shield walls to bear against the archers and knights of mighty Aquilonia and, over the course of three days, scythed into their warriors with little more than outright ferocity and strength in the shield line.
Both sides suffered horrific casualties, but the Cimmerians broke through, and, with all the savagery Aquilonia had anticipated, sacked Venarium, showing no mercy.
Aquilonia broke and ran. The clans hunted the survivors down on foot, driving some towards the Black Mountains, others into the Pictish wilderness, and killing many where they tried to hide in the glens and secluded valleys.
A young barbarian named Conan, born on a battlefi eld, brought his fi rst blood at Venarium, fi ghting alongside his father. Countless other Cimmerian warriors did the same.
Venarium was a great victory and sent a clear message back to the Aquilonians: leave Cimmeria alone. The Cimmerian army was not larger or better organised than the Aquilonian force, but Aquilonia had wrongly anticipated that the Cimmerians were incapable of any form of organisation and would soon crumbled beneath the displayed might of its armoured troops.
Cimmeria countered with ferocity and tenacity – something that the Aquilonians had failed to anticipate. Nothing remains of the fort of Venarium – save the low hill where it was built, and dozens of stones placed by the clans to mark the heroic fallen. It is still remembered as a place of great victory for the barbarians and, across the border, remains a bitter memory of defeat for Aquilonia.
Last edited by -Kathal-; 21st April 2011 at 01:07..
Out of the Three Great Tribes there came a champion who slew the Ice Giants, the Fire Giants, the Earth Giants and the Water Demons.
He did so without weapons, using only his hands and wits, and all agreed he was a true champion of the land and not to be challenged lightly.
But the champion, having slain all these foes, had lost humility and wondered why there should not be one single tribe with himself as leader. His wife, who was the widow of the Earth Giant, agreed, because she sought power too, having lost it with her old husband’s death, and so together they decided to become kingmakers.
The champion called together all the tribes at the Field of Chiefs and there, side by side with his giantess wife, declared that, from henceforth, the three tribes would be one, and he would be king. His wife had fashioned a crown from giantish silver and she placed this on the champion’s head. The champion called for any who disagreed with his plan to step forth in challenge.
Knowing the champion’s strength, no one was prepared to risk facing him in single combat, but there was considerable anger amongst the three tribes that they should be dictated to this way. The various chiefs made conference and reached and agreement; rather than be a single clan, they would return to being many clans, and, in that way, the champion could not defeat them all.
When the champion heard of their plan, he became enraged and he stormed into the chieftain’s tents and threatened them with death.
The chiefs were, however, resolved; many was better than one. The champion killed several out of spite, thus proving his worthlessness as a king of anything, and, one by one, the Three Tribes split into many separate clans that left the Field of Chiefs and spread to the four corners of Cimmeria, leaving the champion and his wife alone.
What became of the champion, no one knows. Some say he returned to the Earth Giant’s layer, beneath the Eiglophian Mountains; others that his wife ate him. What is certain is that he was never seen again and, from that time, the Cimmerian clans have always distrusted any attempts to form a single land with a single king, knowing that, somewhere, no matter how vague or distant, the hand of a giantess is behind it.
Last edited by -Kathal-; 21st April 2011 at 01:08..
Nice background, but please change the thread name to "roleplaying guide to a koraggs view of cimmeria in AoC".
Which should not mean i want to start a discussion or mean any disrespect to your guide and research (even if you disagree about some points, there is enough useful stuff in it).
This isn't a compiled thread of "Koragg" views. These are taken directly from resources such as the "This is Cimmeria" which is published my Mongoose for the D20 game. Koragg as a guild has its own take on some of the information there.
[Quick Edit: If you go through the post not once do I mention any of the said information from a Clan Koragg standpoint It's all general info from Mr Howard's view on Cimmerians
Last edited by -Kathal-; 12th April 2011 at 17:53..