Cultures: Ilutan

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Ilutans are a group of related tribes of horse nomads living on large stretch of temperate steppe stretching between a mountain range and an inland sea.

Cosmology And Religion

For Ilutans, the Earth, the Sky, and the Night are the primordial powers of the world. The Earth and the Sky are lovers of indefinite, or even shifting genders, but the Night is invariably feminine. The Sky and the Night appear in various myths as different aspects of the same entity or twin siblings. Beyond the boundaries of the Earth, the Sky, and the Night lies the Abyss, containing things without form or name. Physical manifestation of the Abyss is the Sea, which Ilutans view as discontinuity in the body of the Earth, through which nameless seeps into the world in the form (or more accurately formlessness) of salt water.

The primary ritual measurement of time for Ilutans are sunrises and sunsets—viewed as unions of the Earth and the Sky, called together couplings, and lunar months, which are considered to be birth, growth, and demise of the Earth and the Sky's child.

The world is considered to be full of numerous spirits with different attitudes and interests. Spirits tend to be capricious, often cunning, and sometimes malicious. Talismans and amulets of various kinds are popular among Ilutan to ward off the malicious and capricious spirits, and to attract benign ones.


Meat and milk are primary ingredients of the nomads' fare. Wild fruits, starchy roots, and honey of steppe bees are common supplements of their diet. Agricultural produce is viewed as inferior food, used mainly as fill and reserve for lean times. The most favored is meat of herd buffaloes, sheeps, and goats, and hunted antelopes. Wild fowl and their eggs are readily eaten as snacks, but they lack the esteem given to meat of four legged animals. Pork and poultry are considered inferior meat, suitable primarily to settled people, and are eaten only when there is no other meat available. Ilutans do not eat foods derived from sea, except for the salt due to association of the Sea with the Abyss. Freshwater fish and shellfish are occasionally eaten but are treated with suspicion.

Ilutans drink large amount of milk, but their favorite beverage is fermented honey, often mixed with wild fruits, and sometimes with milk. Some Ilutans developed taste for wine and ale, traded for or taken by force from settled neighbors. Part of available milk is processed into salty butter, yogurt, and cheese, readily eaten at all times.

Available food is shared during tribal rites or famine, with people that contributed to acquiring available food having choice of better portions than the rest.

Sex, Marriage, and Family Life

Ilutans have rather relaxed attitudes to sex and sexuality, with only few strict rules.

After sex, a person should refrain from having different sexual partner until the Earth and the Sky unite three times. Having different partner in this time is considered to be physically and spiritually unhealthy. Strictly speaking this restriction does not apply to twins, for they are considered to be a single person spiritually.

There is no inhibition about sex in public, but certain degree of privacy is preferred to avoid friendly advice, ribald jokes, and occasional words, songs, and sounds of encouragement delivered by amused bystanders.

Marriage is an act of will of both spouses. A pair needs only to publicly announce their marriage and together prepare a meal for witnesses. Potential spouses cannot share grandmother. It is still allowed for people sharing grandmother—but not mother—to participate in sexual activity a long as it could not lead to conception, though.

Spouses are obligated to maintain sexual fidelity for seven unions of the Earth and the Sky since their last intercourse with their married partner. After this time they can legitimately appease their needs with another partner. Catching a spouse during the act of infidelity allows the wronged spouse to beat the paramour on the spot (but not at later time if the paramour successfully flees) as long as no long term injury is caused. The unfaithful spouse can be punished in some imaginative and annoying way as long as no long term injury is caused, though escape providing no protection from the punishment beside delaying it until later. Shaving some or all of the spouse hair, painting his or her face face with green or blue dye, forbidding consumption of meat or alcohol for the next fourteen unions of the Earth and the Sky, or lashing the spouse's rear with stinging nettles are all common punishments.

Marriage is for life, but Ilutans are allowed to leave their spouses in case of impotence or frigidity, crippling injury, curse, incurable disease, or exile.

Biological paternity is of little relevance socially and there is no social stigma associated with births by unmarried women. Spouse is responsible for playing primary role in supporting and teaching children of a woman, but the tribe cooperates deeply in care for children.

Ilutans recognize between physical gender ("sex of flesh"), spiritual gender ("sex of spirit"), and social gender ("sex of tribe" corresponding to division between preference for masculine roles of herding and hunting, and feminine role of crafting). It is expected that sexual partners should have some set of complementary genders, but it is not obligatory outside of marriage. Most Ilutans have some degree of sexual experience with both sexes during their teenage years.

Social Life And Values

The primary values for Ilutans are matrilineal kinship (including people sharing common ancestress), personal freedom, and bond between comrades in arms. The following value are tribal bonds, and then camaraderie between various Ilutan tribes.

Forceful coercion is serious crime against freedom, but lies and deception are acceptable forms of manipulation.

Fighting together against common foe or surviving a calamity together is considered to be a source of strong spiritual bond only slightly weaker than blood kinship bonds, and in case of exceptional enemies, and great cataclysms may be considered equal to them.

Ilutans are not paying large attention to promises and oaths ("speaking is easier than spitting", "words don't harm"), they are fond of bawdy jokes, witty invectives, and exaggerated boasts.

Private property is very loose concept. Except for intimate possessions (weapons, amulets, talismans, clothing, trophies, jewelry, favored mount), sharing belongings with other members of the family and the tribe is common, but a compensation is expected if the possession is broken or its utility is exhausted in some way. Property is only protected within the tribe, so there is no restrictions about stealing belongings of other tribes, as long as the act does not endanger either tribes or causes direct or indirect injury.

Ilutans of all sexes love wearing various gold and silver jewelry but they do not consider it particularly valuable ("can't catch antelope with gold", "silver does not quench thirst"). Gold, silver, and bronze coins are often used as adornment—after being drilled they are made into necklaces and earrings or sewn onto clothing and armor. High quality iron and steel is viewed as more valuable than "colored" metals, especially in the form of weapons, arrowheads, tools, needles, and horseshoes.

Settled people are treated with mild contempt as fearing freedom of nomadic life, with the exception for settled magicians, smiths, and miners.

Justice And Punishment

Ilutans judge offences according to the harm caused to kinfolk and tribe, with tribal rally determining the fitting verdict.

The most severe punishment is exile, reserved for people who brought great harm on the tribe, greatly violated freedom of another member of the tribe, deliberately crippled another member of the tribe, stole amulet belonging to another member of the tribe, or is bearing sickness or curse threatening the tribe. Involuntarily causing serious harm three times is considered to be a sign of dangerous curse. Additionally, anyone who disagrees with a final decision of the tribe on any matter can go on exile voluntarily, taking only his personal belongings.

Lesser punishment is social ostracism—exclusion from social and ritual life of the tribe for a set amount of time. Ostracized member of the tribe keeps the right to meager share of food during famine (but not during tribal rites) but is denied right of choice of portion and has to satisfy with scraps left behind by others.

Both the exile and the ostracism can take greater or lesser form. Greater form is binding to all the tribe members, including kinfolk, spouse, and comrades in arms  of the punished while the lesser form has no hold over close ones.

Ilutan justice focuses mostly on compensation for wrongdoings. Destroying or damaging property prompts demand of replacing the loss. Temporary injury requires providing the injured and his close ones with adequate support. Permanent injuries usually require compensation in form of herd animals, in number deemed adequate by the tribe. An offender lacking the means to provide compensation to the victim is subject to ostracism, unless he ventures on a journey to acquire such means or offers to provide services to the victim—the offender can ask the tribe to set a period of servitude adequate to his offense.

All judgments are taken by all the tribe members currently present in the camp. The sides present their arguments and demands, and witnesses state their knowledge of circumstances of the event. During the judgement all the tribe members can speak sharing their thoughts and opinions about the case discussed. Once started, the judgement has to be continued until its resolution. The adult tribe members can't eat nor drink alcohol (they can refresh themselves with non-alcoholic beverages), sleep, have sex or participate in other activities. They can only leave the assembly to relive themselves. Breaking those rules or deliberate extending the debate can be punished with ostracism.

Intertribal judgments are rare and restricted to long term injuries caused by a member of one tribe to a member of the other tribe, stealing of horses or herd animals, and disputes over pastures or watering places. Intertribal judgments usually take form of negotiations and can easily lead to minor skirmishes, but escalation of violence is frowned upon unless the initial dispute was over death of Ilutan belonging to either tribe.


Ilutan have rather vague ideas about afterlife, focusing more on their current life. Common belief is that spirits of women can remain in touch with their descents providing them with good luck and protection against malicious spirits while the male spirits wander the world unseen until their essence slowly disperses between the Earth and the Sky. Spirits of people that performed outstanding deeds can be reborn within their bloodline or more rarely tribe. People who died due to treachery of a kinfolk or a comrade in arms, sorcery, serious sickness, terrible misfortune, or childbirth may raise as vicious, hateful wraiths.

During the funeral the favored mount of the deceased is sacrificed and its roasted meat is shared between people present. Personal belongings of the dead are shared between kinfolk, comrades, and friends, the rest are shared within tribe as needed. The corpse is left naked under open sky, on the sacrificed mount's stretched skin, with the mount's skull placed under the head, and covered with a mat woven out of dry grass. A piece of roasted meat and a bottle or at least a cup of fermented honey with milk and blood are left in the body's reach.

Bodies of people that are suspected to raise as wraiths are buried hunched under small stone cairns. Those who committed treachery against their kin or comrades are taken to the sea coast and thrown from cliffs together with all their belongings while magicians are cremated and their ashes and bones are used to make amulets for the tribe.


Ilutans are suspiciously respectful when it comes to magic. Protective amulets are very commonly employed as wards against malicious spirits, disease, and misfortune, and talismans are often carried to bring good luck and prosperity.

Unlike many other peoples, Ilutans do not consider writing magical ("lie written down remains lie", "writing down my name does not take it away"). They employ writing rarely, relying on oral traditions instead.

Practitioners of magic can be members of the tribes, but do not have to. Magicians that remain part of the tribe are expected to use their magical abilities for the benefit of the tribe. Magicians that live apart of the tribe can demand payments for their services. Known magicians are often given gifts to ensure their future favors. Ilutan magicians that do not belong to the tribes are usually settled. Often, it is a need for permanent abode and immovable magical paraphernalia such as herb gardens, binding circles, libraries, or consecrated space, that made the magician leave the tribe. Settled magicians often sever their blood ties with their kinfolk, as well.


Wayfinder #13 is live! (for definitions of life acceptable in Ustalav)

And after another half a year shorter period because of PaizoCon moving to an earlier date, a new issue of Wayfinder is >here< This time it is dedicated to Ustalav, a region of Paizo's Golarion inspired and shaped by gothic horror stories, Ravenloft, and things that go bump in the night...

This time, my contribution is "Rituals Secret And Superstitious" article presenting a few new feats and rogue talents. Yes, no bestiary entry this time—this is a printed issue and thus the space is limited, meaning that my submitted monster hadn't made the cut.