by Max Barry

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3

Ignisian Culture: Philosophy (and a Magic System), Clothing, and Social Norms

Introduction

The discussion of Ignisian culture and worldview is one that can only be properly viewed as influenced by Eastern Roman culture, not entirely assimilated or untouched by it. This Roman influence, combined with the philosophy of Eixuism, creates a flexible, hardy culture that has stood the test of time and succeeded in spreading its influence across the Milky Way.
Even when faced with certain collapse, the Ignisian culture has still persisted and stayed strong. Though to understand the quirks and attitudes of this culture...we need to actually explain them.
To start off, here's an explanation of Eixuism. Following this will be a discussion of Ignisian social attitudes, clothing choices, and their perception of romance.

Eixuism

Eixuism is easily the defining aspect of the Ignisian worldview and culture as a whole, serving as the dominant philosophy for the species and those that were conquered.
Developed early in the 2000s BC, it survived both Christianity and active erasure attempts from the first emperor. Under Zen's rule and the modern day republic, a minority faith began to see itself climb back to the status of the Ignisian faith.

The core belief of Eixuism revolves around the idea that the multiverse, reality itself is one giant 'narrative', of sorts. Everyone in the multiverse has a specific part to play according to which of the Five Aixedae (literally 'great aspects') they correspond with: Chaos, Order, Light, Dark, and Hatred.
There are four more: Nightmare, Dream, Nothing, and Everything, but the latter two are too esoteric for one person to correspond with, and the former two aren't important enough.

Eixuist Aspects and Magic

These five aspects are not only the core of Eixuism, but they are also the source of all magic. The aspects can be handily described below.

Order: The concept of structure, organization, and anything else that the word 'order' implies. It is akin to Darkness, in some aspects, as its end goal is control - however, it is less individualistic in comparison to Darkness. Users of Darkness commonly use their element to turn and control everything they can, binding it to their will. Users of Order are themselves bound to a will, in some aspects, and spread this will forward, imposing it upon the world, rather than turning or corrupting the world like Darkness users. In summary, one could put it like this: Just like Light is akin to Hatred but bound by a moral compass, Order is Darkness but bound by a moral compass. Order, when used in magic, takes the form of golden energy, used for both defensive barriers and 'balancing' the elements. While this is capable of making foes harmless, it's not very viable for offense unless 'corrupted' in some way. At best, users of Order are organized, caring, and diplomatic. At worst, they are controlling, obsessive, and brittle under pressure.

Chaos: Individuality, freedom from bonds, randomness and chance: All of these on every level, Chaos embodies. In magic, this concept is used for illusions, inciting insanity in a target, and utilizing blasts and constructs of destructive purple energy. Users of Chaos draw upon a desire for some form of freedom, whether that's from a system or from others.
At best, they are free spirited, energetic, and ambitious. At worst, they are spiteful, antisocial, and Machiavellian.

Light: The raw embodiment of purity - akin to Hatred, it seeks to destroy, but unlike it, is bound by a moral compass, and opposes specific elements. With the role of purification, its purpose, in practice, is to empower its user to destroy or change what they consider evil, with the end goal of having more good than evil in the world - according to the user's moral compass. It is a powerful, fiery force that is a catalyst of its user's will to change the world and, in their eyes, fix it, rectifying its mistakes and amplifying what is good about it - usually by force. Much like darkness is smooth and cold, and mostly connected to rationality, Light is often brash and fiery, and often moved into action by emotion.

To master Light, it requires one to tap into their will to change the world, by whatever means necessary. It often requires admitting that hard decisions and actions will have to be taken, and although they should be avoided if possible, if necessary, one must be ready to take them if needed. Mastering Light, in short, often involves putting the general well-being of the world above anything else - it is a little merciless and ruthless in that regard, being very much an emotionless, mathematical decision - if an action benefits more individuals, and more important individuals than another action, then the former should be taken. Mastering Light, in conclusion, requires one to recognize that there will not always be an easy option, but that one must still carry on, no matter the cost, and do what is necessary to better the world - whatever that may entail, based on its user's vision.
At best, they are warm, protective, and morally driven. At worst, they are judgmental, dogmatic in their morality, and unaccepting.

Dark: Darkness is an element with a stigma of evil, viewed as some kind of evil element that causes destruction or general harm to those around the user. A truth that all eventually learn is that Darkness is no more evil than Light, both elements extremely similar to each other. Light is controlled by a desire to purify and change, Darkness is driven by a desire to control, the desire to turn what isn't Darkness into Darkness. It is not as plainly destructive as Light, but it is still capable of building up immense power. Its associated color is black, controllers of Darkness capable of using the shadows offensively and defensively, and even controlling others. Users of Darkness, at their best, are logical, cool-headed, and patient. At their worst, they're withdrawn, ruthless, and sociopathic.

Hatred: Despite what I've said in this factbook about elements being morally gray and depending on the user's morality, Hatred is the one exception. It is a truly evil element, one that most sane magicians would shy away from. Each pure element draws power from and stems from a desire for something. Light is powered by the desire to purify, Darkness is powered by the desire to control, and so on. Hatred stems from the desire to destroy - and nothing else. As such, it is vastly incompatible with essentially every other pure element. While, like with the other pure elements, it can be joined with others to form different elements, these elements are never formed by a harmonic interaction between Hatred and something else - rather, they are formed by a fierce conflict between Hatred and it's opposing element. Each pure element has an opposite, all except for Hatred. Hatred opposes every other element simultaneously, as well as its direct opposite, Love.

Hatred runs the risk of controlling its user far, far more than any other element, turning them into a vessel for destruction if one isn't careful. In magic, Hatred's offensive abilities are unrivaled, black and red flames destroying anything they make contact with. However, Hatred is next to useless defensively. Unlike all other branches of magic, one cannot be born bound to Hatred or with a special aptitude. They have to actively gain the desire to use Hatred.

At their best, they're passionate, ambitious, and assertive. At worst, they're confrontational, short-tempered, and sadistic.

All forms of magic and existence are believed to be mixtures or specific branches of these aspects. The concept of Ice is seen as a mixture of Dark and Order, for instance. Fire is seen as a mixture of Light and Hatred. So on and so forth. Magic is seen as putting your energy and willpower into manifesting these concepts, channeling them from the Mind itself. The stronger the mage, the more of the concept they're able to manifest. The ability to manifest any of the five major aspects is devastating, allowing for planetary destruction and galactic threats. This explains why Strein, Mark, and Zen (masters of Order, Dark/Hatred, and Nothing) are so phenomenally powerful.

Afterlife and Tenets

Eixuists believe that all people fall into these five categories personality wise, working to further their aspect's hold on reality indirectly or directly. When they die, those people enter the Mind, the highest plane of existence where the purest thoughts and concepts of existence reside. Their souls are then sent to the aspect realm they corresponded with. In cases where one was particularly virtuous, they are sent to the realm of Dream, to shape it to their ideal paradise along with countless others. Souls of strife and malevolence are sent to Nightmare, a containment of awful people to do whatever they wish. Newcomers are subjected to an utter hell that cannot end.
The worst of the worst are sent to the Void, the primal realm of Nothingness. Once there, they simply cease to exist, their conscience assimilated into nothingness. This is seen as the worst punishment imaginable, to be absolutely avoided.

The principles of Eixuism are to live in a way that corresponds to your aspect, to follow your role in the universe the way you see fit and keep reality functioning.
This has influenced social attitudes in Ignis significantly, leftist policies being centrist for them due to their belief that obeying a centralized state and state planned economy is their role in the universe. The state is there because existence allows it.
Homosexuality is not even considered a concept, the same case for all other sexualities. If you like one gender or don't, that's simply the way the universe made you, so there's no arguing with it.
Transgenderism, however, is seen with disgust and fear due to its implications. To change your gender is seen as a rebellion against existence, the same sort of action as the ones that destroyed the last multiverse. To disobey reality is seen as a horrific crime.

This allows us to segue nicely into social norms and the cultural attitudes of Ignasae, which, while similar to humanity, are significantly different in many ways.

Social Norms and Culture

To start off, we need to explain Ignisian psychology. Their brains are naturally hardwired to value their place in a collective family unit, to stick close to their fellow Ignasae against adversity.
This has caused a significantly less individualist mindset than humanity, down to the fundamental level. Ignasae barely have a concept with privacy, talking with loved ones and family about topics we would choose to keep private.
Ignisian culture frowns heavily upon the idea of hiding your emotions as well. If you don't have anything to hide, why hide it?
Extroversion is seen as the norm, introversion seen as weird and suspicious. Greeting a friend or coworker with a hug is seen as the polite method of greeting, physical contact being readily accepted on a level we aren't familiar with. This stems from the prehistoric era where Ignasae had to bunch up and keep close to withstand the cold.
This does not mean social decency is a foreign concept, however. Going outside naked or something similar is still heavily frowned upon, as is entering a non-monogamous relationship.

Romance and Marriage

Romance is seen as sacred and the ultimate bond, as a matter of fact. More specifically, the Aerus aspect. Ignasae have six concepts of romance with corresponding colors, which can be explained below

Aerus: Bright scarlet. Romantic, monogamous love, the ideal relationship for any Ignisian. Having romantic feelings like this is referred to as "feeling flushed".

Aerys: Pitch black. Hate-romance, if that makes any sense. This is what happens when an arch-rivalry develops to the point where the conflict is what both sides live for, where they develop an attraction to each other despite their hatred. Yes, it's slightly sickening when you think about it. "Feeling black" or "feeling onyx" is the colloquial term for having an attraction like this.

Epherdyt: Sexual attraction with no emotional bond. This is how one would see a one night stand or escort. Represented with a pale pink. Heavily frowned upon in Ignisian society, "feeling pale" being an insult to one's relationship with another person.

Felus: Bright green. The platonic attraction between friends who would die for the other, but with no sort of sexual attraction. "Jade feelings" is the colloquial term for having this form of attraction with someone.

Fendyus: Purely aesthetic attraction with no form of emotional or sexual feelings. This is like seeing someone on a TV ad or walking down the street and thinking they're cute. Represented with a smoke grey. "Feeling ashen" is the colloquial term.

Laetriv: Represented with a lavender or lilac color. This is the form of deep admiration and respect you have for someone you see as above you in some way, idolizing and wanting to be just like them. "Seafeelings" or "marine romance" are the common terms for this form of attraction due to the purplish color of the fish corpses that wash up on Spaedrif's shores.

Out of all the romance types, Aerus is seen as easily the most respectable and admirable one, all romances except for Aerys being seen as stages that get closer and closer to Aerus.
The marriage ceremony between two Aerus partners involves the following: Traditionally, after 2 years of a relationship, the 'groom' (the dominant one of the relationship) gets a customized collar of platinum and gold for the 'bride' (the submissive one of the relationship) and themselves, putting it on before offering the bride theirs. If accepted, the couple is expected to go to the families of both partners to inform them of the news. Oftentimes, the bride's father or mother challenges the groom to a battle to see if they're strong enough to keep the bride safe and happy.
If won, the couple holds a celebratory feast with both families after a month of planning. Once the feast ends, the couple is told to enter a small field near a field on the outskirts of Spaedrif's largest jungle.
When they get there, the groom and bride stand on opposite sides of a massive bonfire. Using concentration to utilize their innate pyromancy, the bride and groom have to walk through the fire until meeting in the middle, keeping their cool and utilizing their determination to stay safe.
Once they meet, the bride picks up the groom, concentrating to keep the both of them safe as he or she walks out of the fire. Once both are out of the flames, they are officially considered married. Both the bride and groom are expected to wear their collars publicly and proudly, seen as the ultimate symbol of success in Ignisian society.

Clothing Standards

This view of collars naturally segues into the fashion views of Ignasae, which are...quite unique compared to ours.
First of all, pants. They are not a concept in Ignisian society. Instead, both sexes are expected to wear a simple skirt and underwear.
On top of this relative oddity, thigh high stockings are universal among Ignasae. Both genders are expected to wear them, seen as especially fashionable if torn.
This is due to the history of large insect attacks in ancient Ignisian society, necessitating the wearing of leg covering leather “stockings” that protected against harm. To wear a torn pair showed your mettle in battle and life experience.

Even as the need for the protection died out, the social stigma behind them remained, ultimately resulting in the trends we know of today. The presence of stockings has even led to showing bare thighs to be seen as obscene or perverse, in the same way showing intimate parts of the body is for humans.
The skirts, despite what you may be thinking, are designed to cover the upper thighs and groin region adequately, similarly to the skirts worn by Roman legionaries. Their upper body clothing isn't nearly as exposing, consisting of a garment similar in design to a Roman toga or Hellenic chiton, but with tighter sleeves and a generally more snug design to protect against Spaedrif's cold.
Keep in mind, however, that these clothing standards vary wildly on different planets and environments, not even uniform on Spaedrif. In the jungles, for instance, upper body clothing is entirely eschewed. On Jankallain, Ignasae are forced to wear thick coats on account of the biting cold.
In the Sol system, Ignasae even mimic human clothing.
The point is, clothing standards are not uniform. This is not the full story for Ignisian culture, but it should give you a good idea of what it's like.

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