Shanidar is a hunter-gatherers tribe specialised in leather crafting, bone and feather jewelry, rock art, incense sticks and essential oils. Collecting wild plants, pursuing wild animals, performing rituals and producing wonderful fragrances occupy most of their time. The myths says that every lake, spring, rock or tree has the guardian spirit which may be friendly and helpful if the place is treated with respect – or adversary. Any behavior which can angry the spirits is called Marah. The most dangerous spirits are Hungry Ghosts – called Gaki – Assa (Pride), Ssana (Lust) and Nansa (Greed). They chase those who misbehave. Shanidar people like to see themselves as modest and humble. In fact they are very kind, generous and helpful. Their hospitality culture requires to encourage strangers to try their traditional dishes consisted of snails and worms. They also ask their guests to sprinkle themselves with essential oils.
Everybody is equally inferior to the Hidden Folk – spirits and demons who settled on Earth before the humans. Decisions are made after asking the spirits for advice (casting bones). It is believed that everyone shall be obedient, hard-working and humble to take part in any decision-making process. Knowledge created by humans is not appreciated, as it is considered deceitful and artificial. True wisdom is brought by the grace of the Spirits which can allow the chosen ones to have insight into the structure of the reality.
culture and habits
When Shanidar people see others doing something that could angry the Spirits, they get upset and yell “MARAH”. The word “marah” has many meanings and describes a lot of situations. Shanidars are hard working and busy people who cannot stay without occupation even for a moment. Resting during daytime is considered as laziness, sitting on chairs and benches as unnecessary highlighting a higher position opposed to modesty and humbleness. Number “3” is wrong – they are superstitious about anything that goes in groups of three, as there are three hungry ghosts called Gaki.
List of Marah:
– number 3 written and spoken,
– people and things in three units,
– eating anything without giving offerings to the Spirits,
– drinking anything else than water,
– not giving offerings 3 times a day to 3 Gaki – Hungry Ghosts,
– singing (may summon Gaki),
– sitting on chairs and benches.
Shanidar like collecting and eating snails, especially slugs (full of proteins and delicious). Shanidar are merry people who actually like having fun by gambling, but this activity is only accepted during weddings and funerals.
Strong fragrance of essential oils and incense sticks make every Shanidar happy and relaxed, it is part of their cultural heritage. They are very generous and try to sprinkle them on everybody they meet.
In Shanidar belief, there are billions of spirits living among humans. They have different positions and functions. Spirits may be protectors or enemies, generous or malicious, but Gaki are always evil, always hungry. Three of them rule them all: Assa (Pride), Ssana (Lust) and Nansa (Greed). They are chasing people who have done something Marah and punish them severely, even eat their souls.
After death, a Shanidar becomes one of the spirits, e.g. a guardian of the favourite lake, tree or rock. The ones who have done too many Marah deeds, will become hungry ghosts, slaves of Assa, Sana or Nansa, depending on the way they lived.
Spirits and Gaki demand offerings three times a day, thus every Shanidar should prepare themself carefully, sprinkle essential oil all over the body, burn incense sticks, offer food and clear water. That is done individually. Also every person shall daily confess if they did some Marah deeds (go to a chosen tree, ask its guardian spirit for a permission and while confessing, start gently hitting their head against the tree).
Community ritual is led by the Shaman who chants a litany to The Spirits asking for protection from Marah and Gaki. The community repeat and clap rhythmically.
crafts and skills
Collecting wild plants and hunting are the primary activities of the Shanidar. They are also famous for the fine leather crafting, original jewelry made from bones, feathers, stones and wood. However, their top trading products are essential oils and incense sticks which every Shanidar can produce by extracting oils from plants and resin. Some are skilled in abstract painting on rock, walls and basically any flat surface.
attitude to others
Anybody who doesn’t respect the Spirits and is not afraid of Gaki is considered uneducated and blameworthy. For Shanidar, other tribes seem lazy and spoiled.
They are called “wildlings”, mainly because the way they live as hunter-gatherers. Some people call them primitive and simple-minded. Others mock them about Marah and Gaki, intentionally using cursed number “3” to scare them. Eating snails and worms also doesn’t help to make friends.
People from Edinu say that you would smell a Wildling before you see him. This is not because a bad odor, but because of their love of strong essential oils which they generously sprinkle over their bodies.
There have been many accidents of wildfires in the Shanidar lands, which forced many groups to look for safer places to live. The Shaman organized an expedition to Edinu, as many stories called it the Promised Land, abundant in food and clear water. Many refused, as they heard that the culture of Edinu is unbearable and the way leading there is dangerous due to frequent mutant attacks.
Nevertheless, a group of the bravest Shanidarians decided to take that risk and start a new life there. Their families tried to stop them, arguing that the new culture may bring worse consequences than the wildfire, promoting lifestyle full of Marah and ending up in the afterlife as hungry ghosts. They believed that dying in wildfire would be better. “At least you will die with dignity”, the said. Regardless of these advices, the group decided to face the challenge and open a new chapter in Shanidar history.
the third migration
The Shanidar tribe came to Edinu recently. They learned that this was not the first migration to this place. They found that most of the land was divided between tribes that had come here earlier. On the way to Edinu, they have picked up few individual wanderers from Maykop, Uruk and Yamnaya. When the group appeared at the gates, a big turmoil spread. Many people with weapons stood at the gates, reluctant to let the tribe inside. Those individual wanderers, however, had been welcomed with respect, while Shanidarians were led into a provisionally built “waiting zone”, where they spent the first day with no food and little water to drink.
On the second day, they were allowed to enter the main territory of Edinu. Many people were distrustful, followed them with weapon at hand, watched their every step. Nevertheless, Shanidarians managed to find their ways to get some work (low paid) and some shelter (but not a tent of their own). They tried to stay close to each other and keep to their religious ways and customs. These were, however, hard to explain to the local people. Few newcomers abandoned their cultural heritage in order to get accepted by other tribes.
The Shaman who led them to Edinu, loved and respected by his people, could not get on with the local culture. He was so strict about Marah, especially about the prohibition of alcohol, that a fight in the beer house eventually broke out. He tried to assassinate the Beer Master, got revenged by the old Priest of Uruk. Later on, accused of murder, theft, blasphemy and betrayal, he was cast out of Edinu never to return again. His tribesman accepted this verdict with no comments – after all, it was peace not trouble that they wanted.
Some people of this tribe have perished due to poor living conditions, some have decided to go back to the Wilderness (never to come back), some have finally mingled with other tribes and do not acknowledge themselves as Shanidar any more. Few traditional Shanidarians have remained in Edinu, they keep close to each other and stay always together in times of trouble. They are accepted here, but treated as a minor group of lower status. They are forced to work on the fields with no money payment – it is called “interim public duty”. The High Council had decided that they should work in order to earn the full right of Edinu citizens. Many years have passed since the interim duty was introduced, but nobody in the Council seems eager to call it off.
Nevertheless, they are here. Maybe some more will come and in their struggle for decent economical position. Their biggest success is was to enter the High Council of Edinu. There are three decisive members (one from Maykop, Uruk and Yamnaya) and two advisory members (from Shanidar and from The Guild). The Shanidar Doctor was granted this honour, but still is perceived inferior by “native” people of this land.
There are rumors that a new wave of migration is coming to Edinu. Are there any Shanidarians among them? If so, this might be a chance to fight for better rights in Edinu. But you remember that an open conflict may be tragic in consequences. It would be wiser to find a peaceful resolution – secure the economical position, make allies, learn new skills – make Shanidar a worthy ally in the eyes of other tribes.