4
$\begingroup$

Environment

There exists a strange dimension called the Margins of Reality. All supernatural things in the world come from here and are caused by what the natives call "Margin Spirits." In essence, these are Ideas that have "leaked" into the real world and changed things. These leaks are frequent and can happen anywhere at any time. These Ideas are called "Margin Spirits" because the natives have established a theory that there are people or things inside the Margins of Reality that want these supernatural changes to occur. What's more, supernatural things happen more often or with greater impact in locales that haven't seen upheaval or change recently.

A few examples of what supernatural changes can be wrought:

  • A rock is possessed by the Idea "BIG" and transforms into a mountain.
  • A tree is possessed by the Idea "MOTION" and transforms into an treant.
  • A house is possessed by the Idea "HUNGER" and transforms into a horrifying haunted house that attempts to lure victims to their doom.

Fortunately, people cannot be possessed by an Idea.

The Dilemma

Settlements have high turnover in population. For numbers, suppose 20% of a given population dies each year. (There's also a high birth rate, so overall population tends to not decline year over year.) This means that after two decades, almost all the population from a given year has died.

The act of recording events, or reviewing those records, involves thinking (gasp), which can trigger new and unusual supernatural events around the offending party. These events have a tendency to destroy the records, the offender, or both, so maintaining a written history of the world is difficult. Those who attempt to be storytellers and retain all that history in their head tend to be beacons for the supernatural; they tend not to live long or be welcome as a result.

Is it possible to establish meaningful, recurring holidays, memorials, or other celebrations in a world where "history" largely denotes a 20-year rolling window?


Related:

$\endgroup$
10
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ So the average age is between 4 and 5, and 73% of people are younger than 7? That sounds really awkward. Unless "year" denotes something different than we know, you are describing a beehive, not a civilized community $\endgroup$ – user79911 Oct 27 '20 at 15:37
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @MarvinKitfox Bold of you to assume a human world. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Oct 27 '20 at 15:41
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre Are these non-human beings born with full knowledge or something? Or how long does it take to raise one to reproductive and intellectual maturity? If they're human beings (which is how I interpreted your question too) I'm surprised if they learn to count and read and write in this world, with a 50% chance of losing both parents by age 6. 20% death per year gives a life expectancy of 5, with 3.7% of children reaching age 15. To replace yourself in the breeding pool you'll need to have 30 children per woman (by age 15). $\endgroup$ – Ash Oct 27 '20 at 15:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hope this doesn't get me banned.. Any sentient being in this world will look around, think OH SH!&, and become a big... that. $\endgroup$ – user79911 Oct 27 '20 at 15:53
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre When you just say "people", most everyone who reads it is going to assume humans or something very similar unless it's explicitly pointed out that they're not. $\endgroup$ – Grollo Oct 27 '20 at 16:00
7
$\begingroup$

I'm going to assume that the 20% who are killed are heavily skewed towards the oldest of the population. Otherwise the population dynamics makes no sense, way too many kids per adult. (It doesn't make perfect sense even then, but that's not the question here).

To have a recurring holiday or celebration, you don't really need an extensive history or complex stories. All you need is some natural cycle and way of keeping track of it. I assume the earth axial tilt is unchanged so we would still have seasons in most places, which makes keeping track pretty easy.

The idea behind a holiday can be very simple: "On the darkest night in winter, we exchange gifts", or "When the first spring flowers bloom, we hold a big feast in the village square". A lack of old people to keep traditions could see the fine details change from year to year, but even a young child ill be able to remember the broad outline of that the holiday is.

Non-yearly celebrations can also be boiled down to some basics. "When a child is born, all relatives gather to congratulate the parents" or "When reaching puberty, you're given a knife and are considered an adult". Even very uncomplicated societies can keep ideas such as these, and likely will. Your experience each one as a child, your parents and siblings tells you they are important, and when they're dead you keep doing it by sheer momentum.

$\endgroup$
5
$\begingroup$

Most holidays celebrate natural phenomenon and stories our cultures have created to explain them. They also serve as a basis for all our religions. As human beings, we're addicted to stories. They are how we share ideas which I think is probably why you're struggling with them. The very act of sharing an idea seems very dangerous.

I think it would be possible for them to observe some holidays and rituals largely tied the milestones in their lives. Provided they don't think too deeply into what they mean and the stories behind them. For instance, a lot of people like Halloween and know when it occurs, but they don't necessarily understand why it was important to so many cultures and only have a rough understanding of what it means.

As a metis person, who's indigenous background, which relays on a spoken history and was largely annihilated by colonialism, I can't even begin to explain how lonely it would feel growing up in these communities. To know you lost your cultural history and that you'll never get it back.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Assuming the civilization doesn't die out (massive handwaving required!), normal education methods will do fine.

So before we get into the calendar, lets get some demographics on the society here:

  • You need to have a lot of children per fertile female. Anything 12 children or under PER YEAR and your population will die out within a century.
  • Each women of reproductive age will need to have 13 children per year to maintain the civilisation minimum. (Assuming puberty hits in all by 14, the age of consent is 14 in your society, and there's zero infertility or LGBT).
  • 14 children per woman per year and your society will slightly grow.
  • I'm assuming you've found some magic IVF or something, because the question assumes the society is surviving. So continuing on assuming magic handwaving has occured....
  • I ran a simulation to find out some typical age distributions. Scaling for a maximum town size of 40,000; In a statistically typical year, your society will have:
    • 1 person aged 39 - 43.
    • 31 people 30-38
    • 326 people in their 20s.
    • 1491 teens
    • 2841 Tweens.
    • 14000 young children
    • 11000 toddlers
    • and 8000 infants < 12 months old.

Things like child supervision and breastfeeding and education are going to be a nightmare in this world, but, I do concede that they will be possible. Lets also assume natural food is plentiful and water and shelter is plentiful so the only thing you need to do is procreate and raise children.

Information is going to survive with the elders and be passed down - so normal calendar-education methods will suffice. Not a lot of time will be spend on education, reading, writing, and counting, but the bare essentials can be taught, with older children tutoring younger children and the village elders acting as a central source of truth.

You could teach these guys about Christmas and a millennia later they'd still be celebrating a variant of it. I'd suggest any birthday over 30 is cause for a community celebration.

Even if you make the village smaller (say 5,000), you'll just divide those numbers by 8. So 4 people in the 30s, 45 people in their 20s, etc. Even 1000 people and you've still got 8 people in their 20s to act as elders.

Edit: I just saw your comment saying "people isn't human". I don't know your creatures fertility age (it wasn't in the comment), but this answer holds true for any creature which doesn't get fertile until age 15.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Possibly...

But you only get two, because all you have is a stone-age society. Your two conditions:

  • 20% of a given population dies each year. (There's also a high birth rate, so overall population tends to not decline year over year.) This means that after two decades, almost all the population from a given year has died.

  • The act of recording events, or reviewing those records, involves thinking (gasp), which can trigger new and unusual supernatural events around the offending party. These events have a tendency to destroy the records, the offender, or both, so maintaining a written history of the world is difficult.

...make any form of technological advancement other than by sheer, unadulterated luck impossible. Maybe... maybe... they have picks. But anything beyond that is unbelievable unless you've written a whomping good story.

So, what are your two holidays and/or celebrations?

1. Birthdays

It's theoretically (if not practically) possible for stone-age peoples to mark the passage of a year with enough accuracy (but not precision) to have a "birthday" style celebration. And in your society, the ability to make it another year is a big deal.

2. Duodecadians

And, by definition, anyone living in our Logan's Run-esque society run by teenagers young adults would be absolutely amazed that their palm crystal turned black they passed their 20th birthday. Such people would be heralded as the wisest-of-the-wise.

Now for a frame callenge...

You haven't told us a thing about your indigenous people. That leaves us assuming that they're basically human, which might be completely in error. One hopes this is the case, because...

While there's more than ample evidence that teenagers can raise babies, the reality is that without what we, millions of years later, would call an "education" they're basically spending their whole lives and effort gathering food and raising the next generation. While every 15-year-old believes the following statement to be absolutely false, the truth is that teenagers are not small adults. They're dying before they are physiologically, mentally, and emotionally mature. This is why they're stuck in the stone-age. They're animals. They don't even have the time to develop language (much less holidays).

Your indigenous people are literally incapable of developing any advancement in technology. They die too fast for even the most rudimentary technologies to spread far enough that they can be "remembered" by people over such a short time span. Like you said, no written records. And it doesn't help when the shovel in your hand is suddenly possessed by the idea "FREEDOM" and starts beating the snot out of some poor unsuspecting not-going-to-be-a-15-year-old.

That means that even the two celebrations I mentioned are unlikely to ever take hold. If, left alone, would a 10-year-old come up with the idea of celebrating a birthday? I doubt it. I doubt it would even come to mind until someone turned 13 or 14 — by which time they've lived 70% of their lives. Even religion is unbelievable as most humans don't start developing faith or questioning the faith of their parents until more-or-less age 15, by which time they're mostly dead. There's literally no time to develop a religion, must less codify it such that a celebration could be identified (remember "holiday" comes from "holy day").

The basic story of Logan's Run works because someone else, a society much more technologically advanced, developed all the underlying science that allowed for an enclosed, self-supporting world that didn't depend in any practical way on the inhabitants actually knowing how anything worked. You appear to not have that situation. So... Stone age.

I doubt any celebration would be held at all. Your inhabitants are too busy gathering food, raising babies, and avoiding anthropomorphic shovels.

Unless your indigenous people are NOT human, in which case you can have any celebrations you want because you can develop the society any way you want and this entire question gets closed for being opinion-based. We can't read your mind.

$\endgroup$
5
  • $\begingroup$ (1) I contend that a calendar is independent of species, which is why I related nothing of the species of my world. (2) The 20% number is more of an upper bound for larger settlements (see the linked question) than a set-in-stone rule for the entire world. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Oct 27 '20 at 19:32
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre (1) is intrinsically false. Christmas is no more relevant to worms than my birthday is to elk. And you left a pretty clear expectation relating to (2). If I failed to comprehend it, you need to rewrite your question to better explain just how knowledge can build on the world you described. $\endgroup$ – JBH Oct 27 '20 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ (1) If intelligent worms were converted to Christianity, then Christmas would be relevant to them, yes? (2) I only wanted to address the worst case scenario with this question. Asking for an analysis on a sliding scale would have made the question too broad. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Oct 27 '20 at 19:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre 😁 If an intelligent worm could be converted to Christianity, then yes. There's an Avogadro's number worth of if's in that question because the resulting creature would be culturally human - meaning my entire answer stands pat. And if the worst-case scenario is what you're looking for, why bring up (2) at all? Sounds a lot like I told you what you needed to know. $\endgroup$ – JBH Oct 27 '20 at 20:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I have a bad habit of defending my decisions when I don't need to. :) $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Oct 27 '20 at 20:41
2
$\begingroup$

In the Dark Tower series of books, time and space on Earth are adrift:

Roland's world is said to have "moved on", and it appears to be coming apart at the seams. Mighty nations have been torn apart by war, entire cities and regions vanish without a trace and time does not flow in an orderly fashion. Sometimes, even the sun rises in the north and sets in the east.

Yet, it does have celebrations tied to seasonal things. People celebrate the harvest season, for example. But they celebrate it when it happens, which is somewhat unpredictable.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.