1879: The Saurid Rite of Rebirth

In the 1879 Saurids of the Gruv book, we will go into serious detail about the various cultures, and what makes each of them cool and unique. Why would you want to play someone from the Forest tribes? Well, they have an egalitarian culture, where men, women, djachayshinvar, and sil’kayissar work in an equal partnership to see to the needs of society. They allow crossing over of roles and presentation, like the Plains and Mountain tribes do (the kistalmi are a special case, we’ll get to them later), but they go one step further. In the case of someone who has been born with a mismatch of body and spirit, and it happens, the gods make mistakes, may they stay far away from here, there is a Rite of Rebirth. Let’s have a few excerpts from the current draft of the manuscript. Note that some of this has been through paid consultation for sensitivity issues, and all of it except for Brother Sebastian’s rant has been passed through other transfolk for authenticity checks.

First, an excerpt from Monsignor Sherrard’s report on the culture of the Forest Saurids as a whole.

Among the Forest Egalitarian tribes are Saurids who have been altered by the magic of the Grosvenor Land. Called the ki’isna, translated literally as “risen”, they have significant differences in appearance and behavior from their fellow Saurids. The Sky Trees shamans have told me that the emergence of a ki’isna is a rare occurrence, but when it does happen, it gains the attention of the entire tribe as a significant and momentous event. How Saurids are identified as members of this unique group was not shared with me, being a great secret among the tribes. The crossing-over ritual, in which the physical changes occur, is detailed in the section on Religious Beliefs and Rituals. In the ritual, the ki’isna changes over from one gender to the other, or less frequently loses gender entirely, and becomes something altogether different in the process. After the change, if they cross over from male to female, they are able to lay eggs just as the other women in the tribe. If they cross over from female to male, they can sire eggs as well as any Saurid who was born male. Those ki’isna who emerge from the ritual as sil’kayissar of course have no reproductive capability, nor any of the physical traits associated with gender. With male and female ki’isna, these traits appear to correctly align with the ki’isna’s new form, although I am not a biologist nor a medical doctor, and have not examined one of the ki’isna as closely as such a professional would. This could be due to the magical nature of the change. I find my curiosity raised as to the implications such a transformation could have for medicine outside of the tribal lands. If someone can shift from one gender to another, could we revert Boojums back to human by the same process?

Of note, pronoun usage among the Forest Egalitarian tribes differs somewhat from both other Saurid cultures and English. The primary pronouns of use are ‘he’ and ‘she’ as we would normally use, but they also have a third pronoun much like our ‘they’ that can be used interchangeably within the tribe for any gender, including those who do not gain gender at kayissa or lose gender upon crossing over. The ki’isna use the pronoun appropriate to the gender they cross over to. Using the incorrect gender pronoun is considered very disrespectful. The elders and the shamans will not hesitate to chastise the unfortunate soul who uses the wrong pronoun, no matter how recent his arrival in the tribal lands and scant his experience with the culture.

The ki’isna face serious and unfortunate risks. The Mountain Matriarchs and Plains Patriarchs strongly disapprove of them, seeing them as arrogant and standing in defiance of the decision of the gods as to their physical form. Some of these other tribes may even react with violence towards the ki’isna. This has led to conflicts between the Forest, Mountain, and Plains tribes in the past. Because the Forest Egalitarians see the ki’isna as children of Isnaki, they are all well-trained in the sacred arts of combat. I have been told that on occasion a Saurid from another tribe will come and seek asylum with the Egalitarians, as well as seeking the ritual for crossing-over.

A second excerpt, from a later report on the religious and magical practices of the Forest culture, also penned by Monsignor Sherrard:

Rite of Rebirth: The incipient ki’isna is dressed in elaborate and beautiful clothing and led to the ritual space. There, they are guided through a long litany of questions with practiced answers. The entire tribe watches, and after each answer, the crowd responds with an affirmative, as though encouraging the ki’isna.

The ki’isna then enters the womb of Shiga. Prior to the rite, the shamans will have prepared a deep pit, just the height of the ki’isna, measured in advance. The ki’isna climbs down into the pit. One by one, the rest of the tribe each pick up a handful of soil and toss it into the pit. Once the last of the tribe has thrown their earth, the assembly holds silence. Within the pit, the ki’isna can be heard crying in pain for a few moments. They then strip off their fine clothing and climb back up out of the pit, metaphorically being reborn.

When they emerge from the pit, their physical changes are immediately evident. Beside their gender having shifted, as previously described, within the space of a few breaths they have sprouted feathers from all major joints – elbows, hips, knees, and a mantle across the shoulders. Their new plumage may match their existing coloration, or contrast strongly with it. The reborn ki’isna stands before the tribe and announces their new name, reciting the same poem that children use in the rite of maturity. The tribe welcomes them as a new person, and celebration follows. No mention of their previous identity or existence is ever made again; doing so is considered a shocking breach of etiquette.

Once a Saurid has undergone this change, they may stay within their previous role, if appropriate to their new gender, or choose a new role, as the culture of their tribe suggests. For example, a female transitioning to male within the Sky Trees tribe would be expected to shift from tending to religious practices to being responsible for secular matters.

A bit of a rant that was tucked into a later edition of the report, an extra page being inserted to carry what was originally meant to be marginalia we’re quite sure. Benedictines are not known for taking vows of silence.

At the time of this writing, no Earther had convinced the tribes that practice this right to allow them to undergo it themselves. Admittedly, our culture would have made a terrible fuss over someone asking for this to begin with, given the Scriptures and their interpretations by those who prefer narrower definitions. The Almighty is Infinite, and so is His Love for His children, whatever their form, we decided that with the Boojums. The argument for extending it to cover those who have been amongst us all the while, and readily accepted in some Earther cultures, holds strong, but that is the subject of more than one paper, and I really should not use my marginal notes to rehearse my thesis arguments. Suffice to say that since Monsignor Sherrard turned in his work, a few Earth-born humans and Boojums have made their way to the Forest tribes, and pled their cases. Some have been accepted for the Rite, and passed through it, with varying results. One elf emerged with their gender and sexuality annulled in its entirety. Another, formerly a slender, elegant man, emerged with Rabelaisian curves, a lush female figure whose Mother Nature symbolism came full circle with the long, verdant tresses she now bore, emerald waves of silky hair tumbling down like Renaissance paintings of Lady Godiva. A human man came out a bit taller and slimmer, with a less defined form, but decidedly female in terms of reproductive apparatus, while a human woman came out short, stocky, with a heavy beard, a man who could by walking with a slight stoop pass for a dwarf. A snark man emerged female enough but with a decidedly blue tinge to her skin, brilliant yellow eyes, and scales where she had formerly had hair. The shamans have shrugged and said, the magic doesn’t know what to do with you mammals. It’s going to be a lot riskier for you than for us. It’s worth noting that all but one of the transformed Earthers have taken up Saurid practices and now live among the tribes that Rebirthed them. The aforementioned genderless elf now lives in London, making a tidy living on proceeds from the stock exchange from investments they’d made before their transition (paid for the trip there and back again themselves), making the social circuit, and having the odd dalliance where they see fit, and who is to say them nay? They are neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring. The law has thrown up its hands in surrender, the Boojums already having been more complications in wording than they have time to rewrite, and now this, well, it’s just too much, we’ll leave it to the Church to sort out. Ecclesiastical authorities have been looking to various sources for inspiration and guidance, but the debate on the subject is likely to take as long as writing the Talmud did for the Jews. Oh, am I speaking out of school here? Pardon me, but our purpose is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. The Lord has blessed us with free will and the ability to question. He obviously means for us to use them. I’ll see you at my oral defense.

– Brother Sebastian de Bruin, OSB

And with that, the comments section will moderated with an axe if necessary.

Tally Ho!