1001 "Barbaric" Customs: Superstitions, Taboos, Rituals, etc.

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As far as classes stand now, Barbarian is the only class that implies that somewhere out there, there is a culture out that makes this class possible. Maybe you were born under a certain sign, maybe you were given herbs and foods and training to invoke the rages, or perhaps it is something biological that your people interpret as a "gift." Whatever it was, the people you grew up with and saw you through to "adventurehood" most likely impressed upon you their customs and culture.

With cultures come things that seem mundane to the person doing it but might be seen as bizarre, interesting or grotesque by an outsider. What are some cultural idiosyncrasies our barbarians can have and what is the method to their madness? Superstitions, taboos, etc. And obviously non-barbarian chars can have their rituals as well, just wanted to use the Barbarian as the jumping off point.

1. When names are exchanged, they must be proceeded by the last three enemies one has defeated.
2. [Insert Color Here] is only worn by those in mourning
3. (A common one in many cultures, civilized and otherwise) Food must be eaten with the RIGHT hand.
(What if you haven't defeated any enemies yet?)

4. You may not refuse an offer of food, regardless of what food is being offered.

5. You may not consume dog's flesh under any circumstances.

(These were the two geases of Cuchcullain, the Irish hero. His enemies doomed him to die by offering him dog's flesh to eat, knowing he couldn't avoid breaking one geas without breaking the other, thus damning him.)

6. It is bad luck to ride a black horse at night.
(What if you haven't defeated any enemies yet?)

4. You may not refuse an offer of food, regardless of what food is being offered.

5. You may not consume dog's flesh under any circumstances.

(These were the two geases of Cuchcullain, the Irish hero. His enemies doomed him to die by offering him dog's flesh to eat, knowing he couldn't avoid breaking one geas without breaking the other, thus damning him.)

6. It is bad luck to ride a black horse at night.

Maybe your name is not worth speaking until you have defeated three enemies ;)
(Ah, I see! )

7. When making an agreement that is binding, you and the other party must spit into your hands before you shake on it. If one of the involved parties does not spit, then the agreement is not binding and may be broken.

8. When approaching the chieftan of another tribe with a request, you must first present him with a gift merely for the privilege of speaking with him or her, and in order to convince them to consider your request, you must do something for the chieftan's tribe.

9. It is considered polite to belch after a feast, which indicates to the host that you enjoyed the meal. To try and avoid doing so is considered an insult to the host's food.
10. Elbows on the table! It is considered rude to place your hands under the table/on your lap when eating. Keep 'em where we can see 'em, basically.

11. It is considered bad luck for likenesses (paintings, cameo brooches, drawings, etc.) to be destroyed or marred; this happening is an omen of bad things to come for the person bearing the likeness.
12. Your home culture punishes almost all property crimes with death or dismemberment. So you have no concept of "petty crime". (When you have a crime problem, you REALLY have a crime problem.) When you catch a thief &c, you want to cut off his hand / execute him / lash him 40 times with a rubber hose right then and there. The local police are going to be rather unhappy with you.

13. Washington's Rules of Civility
Title of an IRL book; look it up and read it for more ideas. (Unabashed plug for historical and cultural literacy)

Best complements I have yet received:

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Making it up as I go along:

{BRJN} If I was writing the Tome of Lore, I would let Auppenser sleep. But I also would have him dream. In his dreaming he re-activates the innate powers of (some) mortal minds. Or his dreaming changes the nature of reality - currently very malleable thanks to Spellplague &c. Or whatever really cool flavor text and pseudo-science explanation people react positively to.

{Lord_Karsus} You know, I like that better than the explanations for the Spellplague.

 

Prepped ahead of time:

I started the thread "1001 Failed Interrogation Results" (which seems to have faded into that great electronic goodnight, alas)

{ADHadh} These are all good and make sense! I just can't come up with something that's not covered here and is not completely ridiculous.

 

My 4e characters:

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Active:

LFR Half-elf StarLock8 Gondolin Nightstar

AoA Dwarf Guardian Druid8 Narvik from House Wavir

Character Ready-to-go:

Neverwinter Dwarven Invoker / Heir of Delzoun, worships Silvanus (!) "Truenamer" - speaks Words of Creation

Concepts I'm kicking around:

"Buggy" Wizard - insect flavor on everything.  His DMPC version is going to become a Lamia.  Becauae lichdom is so cliche.

Halfling Tempest Fighter - just because nobody else is doing it

Shifter Beast-o-phile Druid - for Nentir Vale campaign

14. Hands must be washed with salt water before every meal and before entering any religious establishment, in order to cleanse oneself.

15. Spirits and alcohol must be avoided at all costs, in order to keep the mind and body pure.
16. Nothing touched my metal can be ingested

17. One cannot use any tool or weapon made of iron

18. The first successful attack you make must not injure your foe (or similar counting coup)

{first two were actually Crazy Horses's beliefs and according to legend he broke the first one the morning of the day he was killed}
19. When you marry, your spouse must go through a period of solitude, during which they are fattened up. This is a symbol of prosperity and fertility (This is practiced in real-world cultures, mostly in Africa, and while generally it's the bride that recieves this treatment I figured it should be equal opportunity for these forums, especially if the barbarians are Amazons, in which case it would be more prudent for the women to stay fit).

20. When a child is born, they recieve a ritual tattoo that symbolizes what the shaman believes their destiny to be. The tattoo is always displayed prominently, and it is considered shameful to cover it up with clothing or makeup.
21. Any glass of water intended for drinking must have a stone/rock put in it, to "purify" the water.
Maybe your name is not worth speaking until you have defeated three enemies ;)

Actually, your name is simply "son of [mother's name]" until you defeat an enemy. In other words, you're literally just a 'mama's boy' until you make yourself something more.
21. When you defeat an enemy in single combat, you must make a wound on yourself which matches the wound that killed him (not a deep one, just a scratch,though blood must flow). This reminds one that the fortunes of battle are fickle, and pays respect to the spirit of the departed warrior.
21. When you defeat an enemy in single combat, you must make a wound on yourself which matches the wound that killed him (not a deep one, just a scratch,though blood must flow). This reminds one that the fortunes of battle are fickle, and pays respect to the spirit of the departed warrior.

That would also encourage you to avoid certain ... sensitive ... target areas.
22. If you are a guest in someone else's house, it is rude to ask for condiments during a meal. Asking for condiments insults the host by saying that his food is not good enough and is lacking flavor.

23. An empy plate needs filling - for a man with an empty plate is hungry. As such, if you don't want seconds during a meal, don't eat everything on your plate; leave some food on it to show that you cannot eat any more.

24. One should burp loudly to show appreciation for a meal and to let the cook or the host know that he is satisfied.
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25. Clothes are for those who've earned them. Until you take up a profession that aids the camp/tribe/delicious people somehow, you must remain in underwear.
26. It is rude to walk armed in the house of another if you are invited. Your weapons should be left at the door. (knifes are an exception)

27. When introductions are made the person with more to their list of deeds is named first
24. One should burp loudly to show appreciation for a meal and to let the cook or the host know that he is satisfied.

((I think I said something like this already.))
28. When you kill an animal, you must burn any and all unused portions as a sacrifice to the nature spirits and a token of respect for the animal. This ensures that the next hunt is successful.

29. Duels should always take place in a circle scratched into the ground by the challenger (the drawing of the circle also declares the fight).
Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne! Resident Invisible Man Lurker in the House of Trolls A Testament to My Glory
30. When dining anywhere but your own home, it is expected that your first bite or sip of each dish be given to a lesser individual - a servant, slave, or even one of the dogs. If they refuse it, then you cannot eat or drink that thing - it may be poisoned, it may be taboo, it may be spoiled, or some other reason.
Being offered the first sample of something is considered evidence that you are of lower status than the one offering (especially offensive if the offer is a servant!).
If you just dig into the food when your portion is laid in front of you, it shows that you have the manners of a dog, and should probably be treated as such. (When two intimates, such as husnad-and-wife or siblings, are dining together, they typically offer each other morsels at the same time to deomnstrate their equality.)
19. When you marry, your spouse must go through a period of solitude, during which they are fattened up. This is a symbol of prosperity and fertility (This is practiced in real-world cultures, mostly in Africa, and while generally it's the bride that recieves this treatment I figured it should be equal opportunity for these forums, especially if the barbarians are Amazons, in which case it would be more prudent for the women to stay fit).

I'll keep that in mind the next time a barbarian makes eyes at me.
"In my culture, you have to spoil the hell out of me before I could even BEGIN to consider..."
25. Clothes are for those who've earned them. Until you take up a profession that aids the camp/tribe/delicious people somehow, you must remain in underwear.

Delicious people!? You a cannibal or are they? So far there hasn't been any about eating people one way or the other.

31. You must eat part of a fallen ally so that they may continue to fight through you.

32. You must eat part of a fallen enemy so that you can gain some of their power.

33. You must never knowingly eat other people. (For those who disagree with the top two)
(There was this elf druid in our party once. After every fight he'd cut the hearts out of our dead opponents and eat them raw. My Heironean cleric was horrified.)

34. In order to be considered an adult by the tribe, you have to spend a period of time (a day, a month, a year, etc.) as a member of the opposite gender. You are required to wear their clothing and perform their duties (within reason, obviously men lack the ability to breastfeed). This is to promote understanding between you and your future spouse, and to show that no job in the tribe is unimportant. (Inspired by Heracles' slavery to Queen Omphale, where he was required to wear a dress and do ladies work while she wore his lion skin.)
(as long as we're doing the cannibalistic thing...)
35. Before a battle, a warband should share each other's blood, to bond their fates and honor together and combine their strength. Depending on the specific tribe/faction, there are a couple ways to do this:
--direct consumption of fresh blood, as from a wound. Most tribes consider this a bit extreme, and at least rude if not downright offensive. There's also the similarity to actual vampires which causes some suspicion...
--mixing blood into the communal meal, or into a communal drinking gourd/keg/sack. Thus both the blood and the sustaining meal are mixed and shared, enhancing the meaning of both.
--piercing one's own skin, then injecting the fresh blood into a similar wound on your war-brother. About as extreme as direct consumption, though many view the demonstration of bravery and self-inflicted pain to make it less unacceptable (in the eyes of other barbarian tribes).
36. When you come of age, you recieve an amulet that represents your "spirit animal", the animal the elders believe your soul most resembles. You are expected to never part with this amulet, even in death. If you do, you are effectively excommunicated from the tribe and your name is struck from all tribal memory, as if you never existed.
(to stray away from the cannibalism thing...)

36. Before battle, one must abstain from eating animals that possess less than desirable qualities (chickens, eggs, food that has been scavenged). Instead, only brave, strong and/or intelligent animals should be eaten, in order to take on their power and bring it to the battlefield.

37. Any warrior who calls upon a spirit and sings the spirit's "warsong" for an entire battle honours the spirit and will gain their favour.

38. Matrilineal Surnames: because let's face it, it's easier to figure out who the kids mother is than who the kid's father is....

39. The dead are not buried or burned but left out to elements. Only the vilest of creatures are not fit for the "consumption of the earth."

40. Children are given a personal name upon birth; after a certain amount of time, they are given their "soul name," the name of an ancestor they share the most in common with, either by resemblance, mannerisms, dreams, likes, etc. Tests are given and questions are asked of the child in order to further determine the origins of the spark within. The child is recognized as being the reincarnation of the ancestor and is allowed to share the personal name of the family member. If a child bears no resemblance to anyone in the tribe, one of several things may have happened:
-the child is the reincarnation of a person from another tribe
-the child is a reincarnation of something that is not human
-the child is an "original soul," one of auspicious birth whose existence signals a significant event, a major change in the world around them.
40. Children are given a personal name upon birth; after a certain amount of time, they are given their "soul name," the name of an ancestor they share the most in common with, either by resemblance, mannerisms, dreams, likes, etc. Tests are given and questions are asked of the child in order to further determine the origins of the spark within. The child is recognized as being the reincarnation of the ancestor and is allowed to share the personal name of the family member. If a child bears no resemblance to anyone in the tribe, one of several things may have happened:
-the child is the reincarnation of a person from another tribe
-the child is a reincarnation of something that is not human
-the child is an "original soul," one of auspicious birth whose existence signals a significant event, a major change in the world around them.

I like that. Total plot point if say, somewhere in the tribes past were a set of two people who were alike, but one brought destruction and the other brought happiness. Identified as one, and thus trusted by the tribe, when it turns out you're the other, and bring it to its knees/death.
Thanks :D

41: The higher up on the totem pole you are, the less clothes you wear. You can afford the firewood, the blankets and the servants to keep you warm and comfortable. Perfect for a tribe that lives in a cold environment.

Inversely, hot weather leaders can wear many clothes, ordering servants to get them cold drinks, ice from the highest mountain tops, etc.

42. it is considered bad luck to keep what one has made to oneself. One must share the work of one's hands in order to gain benefit from it. Otherwise, arrows will snap in the quiver, food will turn in your belly, etc.

43. Dreams that are remembered must be shared.
44. Circumcision.

45. (For bestial races such as gnolls and shifters) Warriors should take the claws of their enemies as trophies. If they lack claws, teeth will do. These are the weapons the gods gave your foes and by seizing them, they are symbolically emasculated. The accumulation of a tribe's trophies show it's strength.
46) [blank] is the color/material of gods and not to be worn by men, not even preists and paladins.

47) do not touch the cold flesh of the dead nor disturb a fallen foe for trophies. If you have slain them, then their arms were not good enough for your might.

48) wear not the armors of metal that cover a joint, for its weight and slowness will make you weaker like the turtle. (no heavy armor)

49)wear only what you have made, but use only the tools of others.

50) cut not your hair but once each moon, to cut any other time is to invite foulness upon yourself.
51. Your tribe requires all people to shave their heads, the children don't wear clothes, and polygamy is the rule, so that the women can bear as many children as they can for when civilization falls and your tribe survives. Also, all the women carry knives in their hands for no apparent reason, and your tribe makes its living by stealing.
wash your hands BEFORE pee

keep your hidden parts clean ^_^
53. Instead of settling disputes through violence, your people have the two people disputing (or representatives if groups are disagreeing) participate in an eating contest (who can eat the most, not who can eat the fastest). The winner is declared when one party becomes too full and gives up, conceding to the other party.
54. It is taboo to relieve oneself within the circle of camp, the walls of a city or within earshot of running water.

55. Ditto for burying bodies. Dead ones, that is.
54. It is taboo to relieve oneself within the circle of camp, the walls of a city or within earshot of running water.

Why water?
Why water?

Would you want to drink water that could have conceivably been piddled in?

56. You always take trophies from those you slay (ears, fingers, or entire heads). You don't consider a kill to have 'counted' unless you have acquired some part of them.

57. You wear the hide of the strongest creature you have killed as a mark of your battle prowess (this usually doesn't include humanoids unless the barbarian is especially savage/evil).

58. Once drawn, your weapon cannot be put away until it has tasted blood. To do otherwise is the mark of a coward.
Why water?

It befouls the water and can actually cause diseases (particularly the corpses).
Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne! Resident Invisible Man Lurker in the House of Trolls A Testament to My Glory
59. It's considered bad luck to fight in the water or in the air. Without communion with the spirits of the land (contact with the ground) you're certain to lose.
60. Never should a blade touch your face

61. The seasons dictate the activity of your tribe. Ex: Spring is for Repairing (after harsh weather, things have to be fixed, get equipment ready for gathering, etc.), Summer is for having children (surplus of food, good weather), Autumn is for Storing (everyone has had their fill and getting ready for the Winter), Winter is for War (if it's serious enough that it can wait till the winter and serious enough that you're willing to fight in the freezing cold, then have at it).

62. Never speak overly well of children: it attracts the attention of evil spirits.
63. Never shall a warrior of the tribe cover his feet, it is sin to spurn the Earthmother. (Must not wear shoes)

64. Never shall a warrior of the tribe cover his head, it is sin to hide from the Skyfather. (Must not wear headwear)

65. Never shall a warrior of the tribe consume charred flesh, it is sin to disrespect the Huntcousins. (Must not eat cooked meat)

66. Never shall a warrior of the tribe mark his flesh, it is sin to defile the Lifevessel. (Must not have tattoos)

67. Never shall a warrior of the tribe kill without cause, it is sin to harm the Guiltless. (Must not attack first)

68. Never shall a warrior of the tribe speak with the tongue of a snake, it is sin to lie to the Lifebrother. (Must not tell lies)

69. Never shall a warrior of the tribe cut the flesh of the living, it is sin to spill the Lifeblood. (Must not use piercing or slashing weapons)

70. Never shall a warrior of the tribe sleep during daylight, it is sin to waste the Sunfire. (Must wake before sunrise)

Honesty is the best policy, but deception works in a pinch

71. Do not use ranged weapons/projectiles that are not painted red. You should not assume that because your weapon is reddened that your prey/foe has been struck.

72. You or your tribe have a totem or spirit animal, you must not attack this animal or, if it attacks you, you must nurse it back to health. This will bring good fortune and loyalty from that animal.

73. Hunting for sport is worse than poaching. Poachers must be killed to preserve the fauna and food source.

74. If a god/spirit/ghost speaks to you, demand a gift for your people before hearing it. Evil creature's are selfish and will not give a selfless gift. In this way you are not tempted to do evil.

75. Hosts must take the first sip of drink and bite of food. To ask the guest to do so betrays foul intents.

76. Do not hunt alone. There will be no one to witness your greatness or protect you from your failures.

77. Anyone may challenge the chief for leadership at any time. The chief may always choose the form of the challenge.

78. Do not loot the temples and altars of others. To do so is selfish as brings disaster upon your people.

79. Do not make an enemy without killing them.

80. Save some of the fruits of your labors for your people, because they saved the fruits of their labors for you.

81. Always know how to get home. If you become lost then you are disconnected from your people and weakened.
Resident Shakespeare
These are excellent!