WW #21: Docking in a Body

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Yesterday was my birthday! To celebrate, I’ve made birthday-related words for my languages.

In the Three Rivers cultures, people celebrated their birthdays when they reached an age that’s a multiple of five, at least if they weren’t part of a religious sect that disallowed such celebrations. The fifteenth birthday, considered to be the onset of adulthood, was the most important.

In Muipidan, the word for “birthday” was kimk’odo ne-thendi [ˈkɪm.kʼɔ.do nɛˈtʰɛ.ⁿdi] (“group of five years”) or just kimk’odo. The fifteenth birthday was called siymïhündide [ˈsɪj.mɨˌhʏ.ⁿdɪ.də], literally “waterfall”, but also used for any life-altering event (since a waterfall dramatically alters the course of the river). In some sects, the celebration included literally pouring water over the youngster’s head, a survival of ancient purification rituals.

Kharulian had similar birthday words: rutum [ruˈtum] (“five years”), for “birthday”, and luee rutum [ɫeː ruˈtum] (“fifteen years”) for the fifteenth birthday. They also loaned in the Muipidan word siymïhündide as simíndit [sˠiˈmʲin.dˠit], both for its literal meaning of “waterfall” and for the water-pouring ritual.

Aside from its tradition of birthday celebrations, Kharulian culture was particularly interested in the birth date, ascribing spiritual significance to the number of the month within the season (from 1 to 4) and the day within the month (from 1 to 18). Different spirits (áraal) were associated with each month number and day number, so a person was considered to have a special bond with the two spirits associated with the date of their birth.

The Nitherians didn’t really pay attention to birthdays, but the birth itself was cause for a major celebration, marked by gifts to the parents and colourful decorations. The word for both the birth itself and the celebration surrounding it was shivoshomelavashalo [ɕi.vo.ɕo.me.la.vaˈɕa.lo]. This mouthful is a nominalization of the verb stem voslomelavaslalo- [vo.ɬo.me.la.vaˈɬa.lo], which breaks down as voslo- “sail” + -mela “stop” + -pas “at” + -walo “body”, i.e. “dock in a body”. The Nitherians believed that souls were eternal beings with no beginning or end, so they imagined a birth as one of these souls sailing into the infant’s body and docking there, to spend a lifetime before sailing away again at death.

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