A society deeply steeped in tradition and culture, Helmfirth has no shortage of unique festivals, rites, and holidays that they observe. While smaller, individual celebrations may be unique to holds, settlements, or even families, the following are celebrated herdwide.
Rituals, Traditions, and Ceremonies
The Rite of Nomenclature
At some point in each phae’s life, they will do something of note that will earn them their title. While a fawn may come of age at five, they are still considered young and inexperienced until they earn their title. Each title is unique, and acts as the phae’s surname, to be called in formal settings and whenever their full name would be appropriate to state. Unlike traditional surnames, these are not familial, as each phae’s journey is different and they will not bear the name of their parents (although calling them son of, daughter of, or fawn of, followed by the name and title of one or both of their parents, is not uncommon.)
To receive a title, a phae must do something of note that is observed by another. No two titles are the same, as are no two deeds; what one phae does may not be seen as great enough in the eyes of another, or the phae in need of a title may not see something they’ve done as title worthy, but those around them do. Their names are given to them by elders, or occasionally their higher-ups– some phae may even be formally titled by Thanes or Jarls. A phae’s title is unchangeable, and will remain with them for the rest of their lives…
…Unless, of course, they disgrace themselves, their land, or their families. In such a case, a phae is stripped of their unique title and given something like ‘the Disgraced,’ or ‘the Treacherous,’ in which case not only do they lose their unique title and must share with other phae who have been outcast and stripped of their titles, but they lose the merit of their title without the capacity to ever earn it back. Once a title is stripped, it is gone for good, and the phae in question is cast out of society everywhere in Helmfirth. They may as well be dead.
This is one of the few traditions that extends to outsiders– if a phae does something noteworthy on Helmfirth soil, they may be gifted a title. It is not uncommon for travelers from Mirroweld on their personal journeys to incur a title, or for guild members from different herds to get one either. Some titles may be humorous (alluding to a gaff that a phae might have overcome, regardless of circumstance) while others may be more serious. Most are hyphenated, but some may be compounded. (Sure-hoof or Brightmane, for examples)
Held in Sunhigh when the weather is mild, members of the Wayfarer’s Guild compete to build and sail the best boats around the Windswept Sound. A good number of these boats wind up stranded or dashed against the rocks in Shatterbow Cove, where the water is shallow and mild enough to swim to shore. It’s great fun, and the victor gets boasting rights until the next year. There have been several grand shipsmiths and captains who have defended the title for years.
Grand Ice Festival
At the height of Frosthold, in Wolfengard where the winter is milder, a festival is held on the deeply frozen surface of Fangdeep. Merchants come to peddle their goods, there are games and performances and feasts for a solid week. Temporary shelters are even set up on the ice to house travelers and those who come to enjoy the celebration.
Festival of Light
On the first of the year, just before Rainfall begins, a great festival is held in Landfall to honor Utmjirr and his guidance to bring phae to this new land. The streets are lit up, and boats sail into the harbor, stringing great garlands of light between them as well. The night is luminous, and almost always graced by the aurora as well. It is a time to celebrate families, both those that will be made in the coming Rainfall and Sunhigh, and those that already exist. Stories and songs are shared, and the guild here puts on a performance of the legend of Utmjirr’s travels.
Helmfirth loves their companions.
Most commonly, though, they love the wolves that they’ve tamed and walked beside for generations. While still genetically similar to the wolves of the wilds, these companion wolves of Helmfirth’s are beginning to become more domestic companions. They still sing and howl, but they respect their phae companion as the leader of their pack, and treat them as they would treat any other. Frequently found in the company of hunters, farmers, and sojourners, these wolves are also found in the halls of the Jarls and alongside other families as well.
The Companion’s Fair is held to celebrate not only the friendship of these wolves, but the other animal friendships that are forged in the frigid land. Mariners who befriended families of puffins recognize them, and some have even earned the respect of foxes, owls, eagles, and hawks.
Held in Rainfall when the wildflowers across the tundra can be gathered to make brilliant dyed powders, both phae and companion are marked in similar colors in markings to symbolize the bonds of their eternal friendships. They often wear flower crowns and necklaces as well.
When a phae dies in Helmfirth, if their body is able to be recovered, they are burned atop a funeral pyre to send their spirit into the air around them, and to join Utmjirr in shining light down upon them in the darkness. Sometimes these funerals are held by lighting a boat aflame, other times, it is a pyre on land. It is seen as only right to allow a phae’s mortal form to be engulfed in light to return to the light paths that cross the night sky. Similarly, almost all funerals are held at night.
Legends and Stories
Helmfirth values bravery, individuality, loyalty, integrity, and strength of character above all. The importance of discovering one’s own personal journey is sacred to Utmjirr, and regardless of if a phae comes from Helmfirth or not, it is held in high regard.
The greater part of their culture surrounds walking one’s own path in life, and finding where that path leads. Whether it is to remain in Helmfirth, or to wander the isles, or even both doesn’t matter. Any good phae of the isle has a love of individuality and personal purpose down to their very core.
Helmfirth also places great importance on honor, preserving the truth, and offering aid when it is needed. They believe themselves to be the upstanding, immovable rocks of the isles; the ones that others can come to in times of great need. Still, their kindness it not to be mistaken for weakness– those who seek to take advantage of them will be shown the full brunt of their might.
Greys, whites, roans, and earthy colors are favored, but everyone has their own preferences. Strong stags and hardy does are seen as attractive; a doe who can bear fawn and still be strong enough to continue whatever duties she might need to continue is ideal; a strong body with plenty of curves. Helmfirth likes them buxom.
Similarly, stags who are strongly built and have good racks or horns for fighting and defending are ideal. A stag who can clash with even the mightiest of enemies and emerge victorious, who wears his scars as badges of honor, and who works hard are preferred.
Those who fit into none of these standards are not looked down on or belittled– it’s just not the journey they are set to walk, and no matter how someone looks, it’s their conviction that matters.
Those of fairer build and thinner fur might find themselves earning pity here– the cold is unforgiving, and even furs and cloaks can only do so much against the bitter chill.
Gender and Sex Roles
Stags are, on the whole, larger and stronger by nature of what they are, but they are equal to does. There are jobs that are more suited to the strength of a stag, but there are no laws forbidding a doe from any position that a stag may also hold (Milkmaids notwithstanding, of course.)
Helmfirth doesn’t care about sexuality or gender expression– both are viewed as part of a phae’s personal journey. If their journey leads them to a new identity, a partner of the same sex, or even multiple partners, that it their path and it is no one’s place to question it. Helmfirth is incredibly accepting of all things related to personal identities.
Marriage and Romantic Relationships
Weddings are often small family affairs, but may be overseen by Thanes, or even the Jarls if it is between phae of especially high standing. Ceremonies are up to the phae getting married, and some may choose to have a large scale event in one of the great hold cities, while others may choose a quiet, intimate event with only close family and friends. Yet others may elope, and some may choose to marry more than one phae! It’s really up to individual choice, but the bonds of marriage are expected to be upheld until death parts the two (or more.) Instances of divorce are rare, as phae are encouraged to make sure they want to walk the path with their partner(s) for the rest of their lives before committing.
Marriages are not required to have phae recognized as family, however– two or more may remain as mates without ever entering wedlock, and still be recognized as a family as much as any married phae might. Weddings are viewed as a much more serious commitment, and are an option, not the end goal.
View of Other Herds
These are the general views of the average Helmfirth NPC concerning the other herds of The Elaphaea Archipelago.
Helmfirth views all the other herds as allies all the same– they all inhabit these isles, and though each culture is different, they are all the same race, and all set upon this earth to find their own individual path to walk.
On the best terms with Stonemire and on the shakiest with Dawnspire, Helmfirth welcomes all with open arms, especially considering their position as the headquarters for almost all the guilds on the isles!
Helmfirth is shockingly tolerant of other belief systems as well, and believes them part of a phae’s path. So long as they aren’t forced to try and conform to another’s belief system, they’re absolutely chill with everyone else’s.
Playful rivalry. Helmfirth put a stop to the March of Mirroweld at the turn of the Dark Age, and they don’t forget it, nor do they let their opponents forget it. Over time, it has become less serious and more of a playful jab. Mirroweld is actively trying to make up for its past sins, or so it seems, and they aren’t keen on holding grudges or getting in the way of progress.
Kind of look down on them whenever they come to visit. Thin, hot-blooded phae built for the sand and heat often suffer in the snow and cold. However, anyone strong enough to tough it out is okay in their books! They think the noble society is a little silly, but as long as they aren’t hurting anyone, Helmfirth takes no issue.
Have occasional dealings with, and are grateful for their help with working the land when they are present. Largely appreciate their tenacity and conviction to their faith.
Stonemire & Lowlanders
Great friends with the hardworking phae from the mountains! They are old allies and frequent trade partners. The Lowlanders are still allies, but they don’t quite understand, on the whole, why they split. It’s a new development, but Helmfirth holds no animosity for the lowlanders doing what they need to do.
Helmfirth welcomes all with open arms, especially considering their position as the headquarters for almost all the guilds on the isles!