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New Colchis: People and Culture

Customs and Laws

New Colchians’ thinking is dominated by their common belief in the Wheel of Life, which prescribes a high level of morality. The religion is observed by the vast majority of the population so Colchians tend to be very law-abiding. The law is strict, and in some ways a little odd from an outsider’s perspective.

Spirit Shrines

The Wheel holds that chaotic spirits inhabit many inanimate objects. Everywhere one goes on New Colchis, one finds shrines to the local spirits. Acknowledgement of these shrines is practically compulsory. For example, a bridge across a river will have a toll barrier, which collects money as an offering to the spirits of the water. Technically, the donation is voluntary; in practise it is a compulsory tax.

Much of the money raised by these spirit offerings is spent on caring for the spirits’ environment. New Colchis’ natural environment is consequently very well tended. There is very little pollution.

Outsiders

Colchians tend to be extremely hostile to visitors who do not observe their local customs. Questioning the belief in reincarnation is tantamount to questioning a Wheelie’s place in the Universe - their very identity. Questioning the belief in the spirit world is often seen as stupid or devious - most Wheelies assume that otherwise intelligent people who reject the Wheel must be sorcerers who have embraced the evil and chaos of the spirit world. Such people deny the spirits’ existence to protect themselves from such accusations.

Those who do not practice the State religion are excluded from many aspects of civil life. Catholic Christians are the largest non-conformist religious group. About one million of them live in tiny ghettos in several major cities.

Gender and Sexuality

Women are seen as different from, but equal to men. The sex of a spirit is believed to be forever fixed - although very occasionally a male spirit may be born into a female body and vice versa. Homosexuality is strongly discouraged. Gays are treated as mental patients. They are usually consigned to discrete clinics, where they are abused by the staff and forgotten by society.

Women have a somewhat subordinate rôle in New Colchis society, although they have been known to rise to high rank. Female strengths are thought to be persuasiveness, negotiation, care and so forth. Male strengths include resolve, aggression and cognitive reasoning.

Punishment

There is no capital punishment on New Colchis. It is believed that the offenders would simply be reborn elsewhere. Punishment usually takes the form of hard labour (which is believed to cleanse the soul) and ‘re-education’.

If an offender commits suicide to escape punishment, then their reborn spirit is identified by the authorities and re-apprehended. If their crime was serious enough, the child is taught about their crime and punished appropriately.

Human rights groups across the Clusters find New Colchis’ justice system to be distasteful. It has sometimes been a source of inter-world tension.

Marriage

The concept of monogamy is not strictly adhered to by Wheelies. Whilst most marriages are monogamous, there are many polygamous matches. No social stigma is attached to this ‘unfaithfulness’. There is a very free attitude to divorce - few people see marriage as a life-long match.

Technically a marriage can survive the death of one (or both) partners; witness the centuries-old match between King Magnus and Queen Sujata. Practically however, most marriages end with the death of a partner. It is common for the bereaved to seek out their dead spouse’s soul’s new body. Ex-partners often a feature in a child’s early life - something like an elderly grand-parent or aunt.


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