The dâ vamikèd

The Zurvár people have a large store of legends and myths, many of which are specific to particular Houses. One story shared between almost all Houses however is the dâ vamikèd, or “Tale of Creation”, which seeks to explain the origin of the Zurvár and their culture’s strong relationship to the ocean. Versions of the story have been traced back for over 700 years, and although variations abound, the core narrative of the tale remains constant, with “the Creator” (ràvamiket) making the five important elements of Zurvár existence in a specific order common to all versions.

The version of the dâ vamikèd presented here is taken from the well respected collection of Zurvár myths and songs collated and translated into English by Gâron Kár Vèelisavik in 1987.


The Tale of Creation

In the time before the sun, the Creator needed to cross the Great Ocean. So with his hands he crafted the first boat and set sail on his journey.

But it was dark on the ocean, and the Creator could not see his way. So he took coals from his stove and threw them into the sky. They became the stars and lit his way so he was no longer lost, and he continued on his journey.

But the Ocean was empty of all life and the Creator grew hungry. So he took splinters from his oars and threw them into the water. They became the first fish. He caught a fish, and cooked it on his stove, so he was no longer hungry, and he continued on his journey.

But the journey grew long and there was no sound on the ocean but the wind and the waves and the creak of the boat. The Creator become downhearted. So he tore pieces of cloth from his sail and threw them into the air. They became the first seabirds, which danced between the waves and filled the air with their cries. He was no longer downhearted, and he continued on his journey.

But the Ocean was wide and the Creator grew lonely. So he took twine from his ropes and knotted them together. They became the first Zurvár and provided him with the company he craved. He was no longer lonely, and he continued on his journey.

After many days of sailing, the Great Ocean came to an end.  The Creator beached his boat on the far shore and talked with the Zurvár, teaching them to dance and sing like the seabirds, to catch and cook fish, to navigate by the stars and to build boats of their own. He no longer needed his boat, so he pushed it into the water and set it aflame. But the boat did not sink, it burnt brighter and brighter, then rose into the sky and became the sun.

And to this day the Creator’s boat still sails across the sky every day to remind the Zurvár of the Creator and all that he taught them.


The sequence of Boat, Stars, Fish, Birds and Zurvár (often represented by the knots tied by the Creator) is found in many aspects of Zurvár society, including the standard suits of playing cards and the days of the traditional five day week. The importance of the number five to Zurvár culture is also often traced to the Tale of Creation, although it is unclear whether the primacy of five derives from the five elements of the story, or vice-versa.

The Creator character of the story has never been worshiped by the Zurvár. He (or in some versions she) is not viewed as a god, but as an important and respected ancestor. Some Houses claim direct descent from the Creator via long and complex genealogies, some of which have been proved to be accurate for as far back as the early 1100s, although nowdays those who take such tales as literal truth are far and few between.

The Pèá Vágás

(People have been bugging me to post something to remove our new Prime Minister’s visage from the homepage. Well – to quote TISM – bash this up ya ginga!)

As is common among many human-variant species of local probability, the Zurvár use cards (pèá) for purposes of both gaming and divination. The most common set of cards are called the Pèá Vágás.

The Vágás are divided into five suits, corresponding to five elements of the Zurvár creation myth. These are lòtò (boats), katálá (fish), rindû (seabirds), táká (knots) and minak (stars). Each suit has 10 cards, numbered one to five and double one to double five. The double five of each deck is the pèá tálá or “great card” and has its own name and unique symbol…

lòtò (boats) – altáká (The Sun)
katálá (fish) – hì sùim (The Incoming Wind)
rindû (seabirds) – hì piridim (The Outgoing Wind)
táká (knots) – takal (The Takal – the knot symbol that represents the Zurvár people)
minak (stars) – minak tálá (The Great Star)

Each of the suits is associated with a number of elements and ideas, chiefly of use for divinatory purposes, but also featuring in some card games.

Suit Element Positive Aspects Negative Aspects Roles
lòtò
(boats)
Living Things Protection,
Strength
Restriction,
Intimidation
Protectors and Defenders
katálá
(fish)
Water Reliability,
Skill
Dullness,
Fear
Workers and Labourers
rindû
(seabirds)
Air Creativity,
Passion
Arrogance,
Obsession
Artists and Performers
táká
(knots)
Earth Wisdom,
Intelligence
Resistance to
Change, Passivity
Thinkers
minak
(stars)
Light Ambition,
Persistance
Greed,
Treachery
Guides and Leaders

 

The most basic form of divination is to draw three cards while considering the situation one seeks advice on. The first card reveals positives about the situation, the second negatives, and the third provides a balance between the two. Many Zurvár regard this as nothing more than outdated superstition, but a surprising number will still ‘draw the cards’ before commencing a major undertaking “just for luck”.

In addition to the attributes listed above, every card in the Vágás deck is associated with a particular profession. Again this is used for divination, but it is also used in a number of childrens’ games such as motás qudáqurn (‘balanced house’) where the players attempt to assemble a hand of compatible workers to inhabit their ‘house’.

Lòtò (Boats)
1 – Healer/Doctor
2 – Metaphysician
3 – Militia Member/Peace Officer
4 – Judge
5 – Warrior
11 – Scout/Explorer
22 – War Leader/General
33 – Advocate/Lawyer
44 – Ship’s Carpenter
55 – Ship’s Captain

Katálá (Fish)
1 – Farmer/Butcher
2 – Baker
3 – Brewer
4 – Sailmaker
5 – Carpenter
11 – Potter
22 – Weaver
33 – Labourer/Builder
44 – Metalsmith
55 – Boatbuilder

Rindû (Seabirds)
1 – Sculptor
2 – Dancer
3 – Carver/Engraver
4 – Painter
5 – Singer
11 – Musician
22 – Writer
33 – Tapestry Maker
44 – Storyteller/Bard
55 – Creator (an individual skilled in many artforms)

Táká (Knots)
1 – Student/Scholar
2 – Philosopher
3 – Accountant/Business Person
4 – Historian
5 – Researcher/Scientist
11 – Engineer
22 – Architect/Builder
33 – Marine Architect / Boat Designer
44 – Poet
55 – Sage

Minak (Stars)
1 – Messenger/Mail Carrier
2 – Parent
3 – House Elder
4 – Mayor (elected leader of a Zurvár settlement)
5 – Counselor/Adviser
11 – Mystic/Prophet
22 -Lawmaker
33 – Mapmaker
44 – Teacher
55 – Pilot

Pèá Vágás decks may easily be obtained in any Zurvár settlement and vary from cheap, printed pasteboard to elaborately engraved metal plates aimed at the fortune telling and tourist markets.

Keldáq and Keldáqimon

An significant aspect of Zurvár music is a form of harmony singing called keldáq (‘balance singing’). Keldáq has existed among the Zurvár for as long as their histories record and in addition to being a form of entertainment has a notable ceremonial aspect.

A full, traditional keldáqimon (‘balance singing group’) consists of five vocalists with no musical accompaniment,

1 Keldit Fodim (‘front singer’) – The fodim provides the main melody that the rest of the group follows.
1 Keldit Lârim (‘top singer’) – The lârim sings in a high falsetto, prefiguring and and echoing the lyrics sung by the fodim.
1 Keldit Burmá (anchor singer) – The burmá provides a rhythm by producing non-verbal sounds in a deep bass, interspersed with occasional echoes of the fodim‘s lyrics.
2 Keldit Nìad (back singers) – The mon nìad sing a counterpoint to the fodim and each other with a mix of echoed lyrics and non-verbal sounds. This is considered the most demanding role in the group.

A number of variations of keldáq exist. While many involve assigning additional singers to the roles, the most common is a simplified form called keldáq rèd (‘short keldáq‘), which uses only the fodim, lârim and one nìad. Use of instruments is more common in keldáq rèd than in full keldáq.

The most important ceremonial use of keldáq is on the sûln cârálân (‘day of the departed’). Held every five traditional years this is a commemoration of the community’s deceased and begins with the assembly of the population at the local cremation ground before dawn. As the sun rises a full keldáqimon perform the kelkârâ, a lengthy keldáq song sung in Old Zurvár. Properly timed, this should finish just as the sun clears the horizon. Being chosen to perform the kelkârâ is considered a major honor for a keldáqimon and in the larger settlements on Zurvár Arèáná there is fierce competition to be selected.

Keldáq is also used ceremonially at weddings and funerals, and any Zurvár party worth the name will feature some keldáq singing – if only at the hands of drunken attendees.

Mostly Just for My Own Benefit

The Zurvár second (ZS) is 1.10592 seconds long.

The Zurvár minute (ZM) is 125 ZS long, for a total of  138.24 seconds or 2.304 minutes long.

The Zurvár hour (ZH) is 25 ZM or 3125 ZS long, for a total of 57.6 minutes long.

There are 25 ZH in one standard 24 hour day.

The hour count of a Zurvár day begins at sunrise and continues until the following sunrise. This means that a given day may be longer or shorter than the standard 25 hours depending on latitude and time of year.

A traditional Zurvár week lasts five days. A month is five weeks (25 days) and a year five months (125 days). The traditional calendar has been superseded by a redesigned 365 day calendar on Zurvár Arèáná, but the traditional calendar is retained for cultural and traditional purposes.

For scientific purposes the Zurvár epoch is fixed to 00:00:00 GMT on January 1st 1954. The traditional calendar has also been synchronised to sunrise on this date.

In the traditional calendar, today (Oct 22nd 2012) would be the fifth day of the fifth month, in the year 172. A person born today would be ascribed the horoscope of ‘Double Knot’, which predicts a well balanced personality skilled at problem solving.