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The Beic people worship a pantheistic religion that revolves around a feminine manifestation of divinity. The creator is a mother goddess that is imbued in all of creation, but resides in the Immaterium, a spiritual world parallel to this one. She is not distinct from reality, but is identical to it and all-encompassing. As she is a part of creation, all life is sacred, down to the lowliest creature as well as the animals they hunt.

The land That the Beic inhabit is a large and tropical continent with warm temperatures all year-round and much fertile soil. Society is organized into extended family groups called bands led by an elder woman and consisting of her descendants, plus males who have married into the family. Bands rather than marriages are the basic economic unit: members work for the band as a whole, and wealth is pooled. Raising children is a task of the entire band. The optimum size of a band is one to three dozen people; when the band becomes larger than this, it splits. When an elder dies and has two adult daughters, they each become the nucleus of their own bands. When a band splits, it will abandon its old fields and begin two new plots. Noble families own the land and do not split off, while other bands are given the right to live off of the estate.

Humans existed as separate physical entities, but maintain an attachment to the Immaterium due to their connection with god. When a child is ready to be born, it must pass through the spirit world into the physical. This other world is not completely benign and serves as both a light and dark reflection of the material universe, raw emotion given physical form. Malevolent spirits exist in this realm. Although rare, they can affect the fetus and have various effects. Physical and mental deformities can develop (tentacles, horns, extra eyes or limbs, etc).

While the creator encompasses humanity in its entirety and represents a balance of its emotions, each of these evil spirits represent an emotion taken to its extreme. Magical runes are placed on the mother to act as a barrier of protection to prevent this through a ritual, and must be reapplied periodically. This is performed by midwives, who study this craft during their training. While runes are an effective deterrent, they are not a foolproof method.

These children who survive birth are not born evil, but are treated with suspicion by the world due to their "impure" taint. In ancient Greece, infanticide was practiced with unwanted newborns. A mother would present it to her husband. If he accepted it, it would live. If not, it was customary to expose it to the elements so that it would die naturally. I would like to represent various cultures in this world as responding to these events differently. Would a matriarchy be more likely to kill "defective" infants more so than our own past cultures? How could they rationalize it?

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    $\begingroup$ The Spartans killed off a fair chunk of their own population as infants even as their population of males eligible for military service, which their society was based around, was constantly declining. Never underestimate the stupidity a culture can get too. I don't see any reason to assume a society would be immune to such a thing just because it was matriarchal. At the end of the day, people are people regardless of gender. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Dec 19 '18 at 20:59
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There are numerous ways to rationalize infanticide in this setting:

  • As an offering to the Goddess, they sacrifice the most valuable they have, their own children
  • To eliminate unholy / tainted life from the material world to make it more appealing to the Goddess
  • The child lost part of it's soul in the spiritual world and is either considered not human, not alive or not worth living
  • Some old story about some old prophetess who killed her child (think about Abraham who was about to sacrifice his own son). Now the midwives look for specific signs and omens that were mentioned in the legend to determine whether a child should be allowed to live or not "because the Goddess said so".
  • To balance power and avoid conflicts between daughters. In our history, sons of kings and noblemen often schemed against or even killed each other in order to advance on the line of succession. In order to avoid such conflicts, the number of noble daughters is limited to 2 (healthy, non-demonic) and every subsequent daughter is to be killed. If 3 daughters survived the elder, the band would have to split into 3 smaller bands, most likely too small to have any power and recover in any foreseeable time.
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Women tend to be far more likely to make decisions based on the perceptions of their peers than men. This has nothing to do with their role in society, but their generally better awareness of how other people feel about them. The outcome is that if a society expects women to behave one way or another, they are more likely to do it because they perceive more shame than a man would when they do not. If a deformed child is shameful and infanticide of said baby it is not, I'd expect a woman to be more pressured into doing it where as a man would be more likely to choose to do what seems right to him.

Women also have a period after childbirth were they their hormones can cause them to be callous in best case scenario, and full blown postpartum depression at worst. In this vulnerable state, they can be very likely to reject their young if they do not feel like they are in a supportive environment.

As for how they would rationalize it, they would likely see it as a merciful release to allow a spirit who was not given a good body an easy path back to the immaterium. This could further the shame aspect where mothers would be judged for forcing a child to live with a deformed body (like you might judge parents who let their kids out of the house without a jacket). In all, under the right (or wrong) conditions, I could see a matriarchy being far less likely to make exceptions for deformed children.

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