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Birth Control

Question: Can birth control be used by men and women, or just women?

Answer: Birth control comes in the form of Limerance's Libertia, a plant that grows abundantly in almost every region and climate currently known to Arvum. Its leaves can be brewed into a nice tea, taken as a powder, chewed, etc. Limerance's Libertia is accepted at all levels of society, fully embraced in the culture of Arvum, and equally effective for both men and women. It prevents pregnancy with 100% certainty, whether one or both partners take it. Because conception of a child requires both consenting partners to forego birth control, unwanted pregnancies are very rare -- not entirely unheard of, but a bit of an anomaly in a world where pregnancy can be prevented with such certainty.

Godparents And Birthdays

Question: What, if any traditions are associated with the birth of childen, both in terms of casual society as well as within the Faith? Differing ones depending on which region one is from? What about the equivalent of godparents?

Answer: Hooboy. Let's start with godparents. The earliest form of the patronage-protege system evolved from the Arvani equivalent of godparents, and specifically the Oathlands.

In the Oathlands, the Faith dominates many aspects of their lives, and that includes births. When a child is born, a Witness to the Naming can be appointed by the parents, and they serve a very similar role to what many would think of as godparents. A Witness serves at least three distinct roles: political, religious and familial. Firstly in familial responsibility, they are an individual entrusted by the parents to care for the child if anything should ever happen to them, with the implicit high honor that the parents trust the Witness with what is must dear to them in life. If a higher born lord agrees to being a child's Witness, it can be expected even if the parents never suffer any misfortune that the child will at some point in their youth be taken as a ward in the higher house, so in many ways it can be a guarantee of social advancement. Secondly in political terms, the Witness acts as a trusted speaker in saying the child is who they are claimed to be- ie, to make sure that no one can be an imposter claimant to succession, and that their bloodline is exactly what they say it to be. A well respected, honorable witness can (and have) settled succession crises just by speaking for the child. Thirdly, and this is still very true in the Oathlands but much less so elsewhere, a Witness is supposed to take an interest in the spiritual development of the child, and help instruct them in the Faith. In the Oathlands, that is still strictly true. The Witness is there at the child's Naming (which typically happens at birth, but is not required to do so), helps teach the child for each of the Thirteen Lessons (a once per year separate ritual starting at age 5, where a child ritualistically speaks on divine virtues and recites their commitment to them, and the end signals the start of adulthood in the Oathlands), and often help be instructors in courtly behavior.

In other regions, that can differ wildly. One point of contention between the Oathlands and the Lyceum is they feel that the Lycene take upon Witnesses to the Naming is an inverse mockery of their customs. In the Lyceum, a child's Witness is not a religious instructor at all, but a pragmatic instructor that shares responsibility in teaching a child how to survive the Lyceum. By tradition in the Lyceum, godparents are referred to as 'the Best Liar' for the child, which almost certainly started as an insulting term given by the Oathlands but was adopted by the Lyceum out of spite. A Best Liar usually on a child's birthday recites thirteen statements to the child, and the child wins a gift for each one they guess correctly is true or a lie. This also has become a very popular birthday party game for the Lyceum in general, but the implicit message is that a child must be taught to be a convincing liar in order to survive in the Lyceum, and that implication horrifies the Oathlands.

Throughout the Northlands, and in many prodigal houses, the Witness is sometimes called a Speaker for the child, and instructs them in ways of shamanism. The term is thought to come from the notion that they would teach the child to pray properly to the spirits of the wilds, and how to speak to them without giving insult. Birthdays among prodigal houses vary wildly, but in the Northlands in particular having Naming Hunts is a frequent way to celebrate birthdays, though there can be a sharp divide between city living nobility (who sometimes favor more refined parties) and more rural northmen.

The Crownlands are in many ways the stewards of the Compact's history- a Witness for a child often teaches the child about house history, and the interplay between the houses, and helps instruct them so they can better balance the competiting goals and cultures of the Compact and be a more effective leader, if they were born to lead with a repeated emphasis on noblesse oblige. For others in the crownlands of more humble birth or further down the line of succession, a constant emphasis on history and solidarity is repeated in subtle ways, with many Grayson birthdays being storytelling contests of relating the best stories of the history of the Compact and near forgotten heroes.

For the Isles, Witnesses are sometimes called Salt Parents, and though none of the three houses would like the comparison, are close to an amalgam between Oathlands and Lycene beliefs. Their Witnesses walk a fine line in instilling pragmatic self-reliance (parents are horrified if they ever produce a self-pitying whiner), but not allowing that same fierce self-reliance into crossing into rebelliousness, with a repeated emphasis on discipline and rigid respect for authority. The Survivor's Game is a popular birthday game for children, in giving them complicated sets of instructions that encourage them to think for themselves, but they lose and are out of the game if they ever violate any of the complicated (and possibly conflicting) rules. Until recently, games for children in the Isles were extremely sharply gender defined- games of laws and rules were tended to be shown to women (who still make up an overwhelming majority of lawyers and judges in the Isles), and all combat play was shown to men. That's only now becoming less true.


Question: With the Queen of Endings returning to her role in the pantheon, so too have the Harlequins of Death made an appearance. One thing I have noticed they have become involved in is the role of midwife. Yet who were the midwives before Death was remembered? How do most Arvani view the Harlequins in this position over the other/s? Is there any tension between those whose duty this had been previously (and may still be, of course), or are the Harlequins welcomed?

Answer: Arvum's birth rates are significantly lower than a historical equivalent due to the prevalence of contraception, but it's still in the tens of millions of people. That's a lot of babies. The average midwife is not a disciple of any org, but she and the family often would traditionally say prayers to Lagoma during it. Most Mercies of Lagoma are trained midwives, along with the rest of their medical teachings, but there's vastly more midwives than there are mercies, let alone harlequins. Keep in mind that without modern travel, and dangerous roads, means that training like that is pretty common even if it's a job that isn't necessarily needed very often, since a village thirty or forty miles from a large settlement just won't have time to summon someone in an emergency.

Pregnancy And Alcohol

Question: I don't know if this has been answered before but it is a thing I think about. How knowledgeable are those in the world of Arx, ICly, about how alcohol can potentially affect spawn children? As in would someone who is pregnant know to stop drinking alcohol or not too? Is the medicine that advanced? What is the knowledge level about this stuff for those in the world of Arx?

Answer: There isn't an awareness of the direct correlation or of how dangerous drinking alcohol is, however, there is a common religious practice that during pregnancy, both father (out of solidarity) and mother tend to drink water and avoid hard partying (because of the awareness of trauma-induced miscarriages). There's a number of 'accidental' Faith of the Pantheon practices that are healthy, such as worship of Lagoma by the Mercies leading to effective sterilization techniques by blessing instruments with flame, and similarly, pure, clear water helping a child develop isn't scientifically based, but a traditional cultural practice.