The Pasan People

See Pasiana, the current state.




The People
The Land







Daily Life


Ancient Pasan Culture

Throughout the centuries of Bergonian history they stubbornly maintained their own, unique civilization.   They rejected Shufrantei religion and originated an opposing religion called Hiestat that spread into the rest of Bergonia and won devotees among porters, slaves, the urban under-classes, and the otherwise dispossessed.

The major features of Pre-Columbian Pasan societies:

They refused to build and live in cities.  Instead they lived in clusters of villages, separated by tightly organized gardens, wheat fields, pastures, orchards and cultivated patches of woodlands.  Each village was the home of clansmen-- the families of two or more clans never lived in the same village.   The effect was the permanent ruralfication of the culture, so that their rulers, generals and artists lived among farmers and peasants.  

Pasan society was matrilineal-- The very rigid Pasan clan system was matrilineal.  People took their clan identification from their mothers.  Men went to live with their wives in the villages of their wives' families, and women were the bosses of the families.

They had no distinct social classes.  Their decentralization and ruralization prevented the development of a powerful upper class, although they allowed a semi-nobility of distinguished families who fostered a warrior-farmer tradition. Such a family lived in the nicest home in the village, and usually managed its affairs.  Their poorer clansmen served them, but the clan unity always created solidarity between the leader and the followers.  A very strong family built alliances and won control over other villages of the same clan, so that a strong boss of the Dolphin Clan had control or influence over eight other Dolphin Clan villages in the area. 

The ancient Pasan were to their Shufrantei neighbors an unremarkable people.  They were not particularly inspired in the arts.  Very little of their crafts was memorable, except their pottery.  They did not construct towns, public works, or monuments.  Their military built only the simplest fortifications.  They did not produce any sizeable amount of literature, though many among the Shufrantei found their poetry charming, if not quaint. 

But in other ways they were incredible; and modern historians find them truly unique among all the peoples of the world.  It seems that they had practically no government.  probably because of their insistence on living in villages and small towns.  Their technology was hardly less advanced than that of the Shufrantei civilization, but their craftsmen and factories were, instead of concentrated in cities, dispersed among the villages.  There would be huge armies formed from time to time-- more a horde of armed clansmen-- in order to repel Minidun invasions.  But there were never any attempts to form military regimes or domination by force. 

The Pasan provide a unique example of how rigidity in custom could render impossible certain forms of human perfidy and excess.  Behavior is conditioned and limited by the prevailing culture.  The Pasan were firmly regulated by a traditional culture of taboos, and were quite content to lead pacific, well-regulated lives according to its strictures. 

The Pasans realized their uniqueness among the Bergonian nations.  They were proud of their freedom from government.  However, in giving an account of it, they never acknowledged the powerful force of custom and usage, which in many respects substituted for the regulatory functions of government.   Instead they tended to explain their lack of need of any government on their music and poetry.  One medieval journal explains:

 “With persistent argument that lasted throughout the night and consumed five bottles of good wine, our Pasan guests maintained that their arts preserved them from the need for tieris (kings).  Their chief said earnestly those men whose hearts delight with soft melodies and winged poetry become free from the concerns of tieris.  He argued that we men and women of Shufrantei could dispose of tieris if we first disposed of commerce and enterprise.   He stated that music and poetry were certainly worthier pursuits in their own rights, even if they did require the regulation of tieris (i.e. kings, tyrants).”

Village Life—No Urbanization Whatsoever

The Pasans held to the custom that no village could be open to more than one clan.  This rule militated against large settlements.  Sometimes a clan might suffer a single family of another clan to live amongst them, but usually an excessive tax was imposed.  Usually the guest’s own clan would frown on the arrangements.  There were instances in which one who went to live in the village of another clan was ostracized by his own in a formal ritual, and he would never be permitted to return to one of his own villages. 

Consequently, the Pasans lived in clusters of villages rather than in towns or cities, and each village in the cluster was reserved for a specific clan.  No matter how big the villages got, the Pasans always maintained strips of field, pasture and orchard between them.   The villages came to exist in a symbiotic relationship with each other, whereby each tended to develop a productive specialization.  For example, the Bear clan, specializing in basketry, would live in one village.  The neighboring village would be the home of the Dog Clan, who produced pottery.  Next to them would live the Raven Clan, whose major activity was smithing?  Perhaps there would be eight or nine other villages in the vicinity, each with its own clan and its own economic specialization.  Custom never ordained such specialization, and a child could pursue any trade he could.   However, while a boy was free to pursue other trades or skills, he usually followed his family because his village simply lacked anyone to teach them and because the tools of the trade were not available. 

Trade between the villages was a highly regulated process, very ritualized and entangled with their notions of social propriety.  The rest of the Bergonian peoples, who were all uniformly voracious traders, had great contempt for the Pasans who would eschew a profit rather than enter into untimely or unpropitious commercial arrangements.  Trade among men or villages of the same clan could occur any time without restriction.  But trade between men of two different clans could occur only if the day was correct on the Pasan astrological calendar.   Trades could occur only in the villages of the two clans directly involved and never in the village of a third.  Some clans were ritually prohibited from engaging in any trade with one another.   Trading was almost always an inequitable affair, with one party always giving up more than what he received. 

The net effect of all these curious arrangements was a complex cycle on a local level of ritual visits between neighboring villages involving some feasting of the guests by the hosts.   The guests were given a large amount of goods by the hosts who then departed after leaving a relatively small amount in reciprocal thanks.  Trade was then incidental to social intercourse, where by young men and women always were permitted to see each other, flirt and plot and contrive with the aid of their parents marriage arrangements.  Such arrangements also gave married couples a chance to see their in-laws. 

At such meetings, the visitors always gave to the host some object of little intrinsic worth but with great symbolic significance, such as polished shell, carved jade or obsidian, fossils or bones, all necessary for the performance of simple magic ritual for the blessing of the hearth and community.  The clan who gave up a great quantity of manufactured goods for a much smaller quantity and for the ritual object in turn went to visit a third clan where they were hosted, feasted and presented with a generous amount of manufactured goods.   But between the two transactions the ritual object was taken by the clan's priests and used in the performance of ritual magic.  So every clan whose hands it pasted used it.   The cycle of trade was such that a single ritual object would travel in a regular route within a prescribed time.   Usually a particular village belonged to five or six such cycles wherein they "subscribed" to the use of five or six such magical objects.  Some of the cycles were double, that is there were two such objects, which traveled in opposite directions among the "subscribers.” 

The Matrilineal Clans—the exceptional power of women

As for the Shufrantei, the clans constituted the bedrock of all Pasan society.   Clans also constituted the basis of all society in Pre-Columbian societies, but no society as rigidly as the Pasan.  One culd say that in with the Bergonians as a whole the Clans were the primary basis of social organization, but with the Pasans the Clans were the only basis of social organization.

Pasan clans operated matrilineally, much like the tribes of many North American Indians.   Men and women took their clan identification from their mother, unlike the rest of Bergonians, who took their fathers’ clan identifications.  Women kept the clan rituals.  

The Clan taboos, like those of the patrilineal system prevailing in the rest of Bergonia, prevented people of the same clan from marrying.  A couple of the same clan who slept together could, if found out, expect death as their reward.  Also like the patrilineal system, the people of one clan lived together in a village, and no village ever included people of more than one clan.  Thus a man had to leave his own village to find a wife, and never in his own.  When he found her, and she and her female relatives agreed to his proposal, he married her in her village according to the rites of her clan.  And then he resided with her in her village, returning to his own village once a week to see his parents and his sisters.  His brothers would have also moved to other villages, and if he were lucky one or more of his brothers or male cousins (with whom he had grown up) would have married girls from the same village as he, so they could continue living together.  This system effectively required every man to move at the time h got married and thus scattered all the men among the various villages, completely antithetical to a patrilineal organization of a band of brothers.  Nevertheless, since villages were usually clustered together, a man was never too far removed from his father, brothers or matrilineal cousins or uncles, usually only a mile or two.  Villages of the same clan felt affinity for one another, even when separated by many miles.  They often developed special trade relationships with one another.  Men who traveled throughout Pasan Land looking for trade and adventure would visit with and stay in villages of his clan.  A man in a Cat village in Buxol might count as a friend a man in a Cat village in far-off Alixodei.

It has often been observed that Pasans of different clans would not—indeed could not—live together.  But it is a little more accurate to say that Pasan women of different clans would not and could not live together.  At the center of the village was the hearth, the cooking fire, the baking oven, the domestic fire, always regarded as the domain of women.  A household’s fire always burned, and each generation passed the fire down to the next generation.  (The Pasan would boast of her home, “My mother’s fire has burned here for eight hundred generations.”)  Fire was ineluctably associated with female sexuality in the Pasan mind.  The village women—all sisters, mother-daughters, aunts & nieces—had a small lodgehouse near the edge of the village, with a bath and a toilette, and men were forbidden from ever entering, save to do work.  The villages nearly always built a small circular stone plaza either next to the bathhouse or near a stream or pool.  There the women all together celebrated the full moon every cycle, and the men and children sat outside the circle and watched.  Each village had its own granary, barn, field, gardens & orchards, all enclosed within the "outer circle" of the village (inside which no woman of another clan could live), occupying on the average about one half mile square piece of land. 

Because of the rigid custom of clan separation, Pasans would not build cities, not even towns of any size.  Cities would have required people of different clans to live together.  In the cities of non-Pasan Bergonia, clansmen would usually congregate in the same neighborhood, or at least in the same apartment building.  But no such thing occurred with the Pasan’s matrilineal clans.  Nearly everyone in the cities of Shufrantei Bergonia thought the Pasans’ rigidity was evidence of a collective insanity. 

Instead of cities, the Pasan formed clusters of villages.  Such a cluster might include as many as 30 or 40 very compact villages, each one with about 100 people.  The villages in clusters tended to specialize economically—one might sew wool blankets, one village might brew mead, one might have a blackmith, and one might make buttons.  While each village maintained a garden, some fruit trees and a poultry house, the villagers who worked in shops did little agricultural work (just like the people of real cities), and thus their village "circles" were smaller.   The villages in a cluster developed reciprocal relationships with one another.  They also had reciprocal relationships with many outlying villages.  The latter specialized in food production, and traded for the items manufactured by the village clusters.  Often time villages of the same clan, even though separated by many miles, had special relationships, and their women visited each other.  Over the centuries some of the villages grew so much, with new houses filing fields and pastures.  Sooner or later the new houses might have expanded to fill in the gaps between villages, and cities would have formed.  Bur the Pasans would not do this.  In the few places where villages grew that much, the villagers preserved strips of gardens, pasture and orchards to maintain the separation.  From time to time a group of sisters and their husbands would strike out into the wilderness with peasants from all their relatives (patrilineal too) and start a new village   The people of the various villages often had to meet with each other to regulate village property lines, water rights, common marketplaces.  Occasionally they collectively planned and built an aqueduct or a system of dikes.  

The largest village cluster was called Kisthu, close to what is now the north coast city of Comleta.  Kisthu, according to the archeological record and a Ceiolaian traveler’s journal, included 160 villages spread over a broad plain about 20 miles wide.  There were over 100,000 people living in Kisthu.  In 1208 a Minidun army came down to the coast from the interior and set every village afire, killing and scattering the Pasans. 

Since the Pasans had no large institutions, they had no large buildings.  They had no military fortifications, palaces or government buildings.  The Hiestat religion did not build temples.

 The Economy 

The Pasan enjoyed most of the technologies that prevailed elsewhere in Bergonia, although they lagged typically behind the Shufrantei regions.  It took time for the advances developed by the Shufrantei peoples to diffuse to the Pasan areas, e.g. iron and glass.  

They had water mills.  They mined iron and made iron tools and pots, as well as items of bronze, copper, tin and other alloys.  They wove fine woolen fabrics.  They made beautiful jewelry of gold and silver.  But the Pasans had no trading houses or banks.  They had only modest markets able to handle local trade.  Their mines and plants were of modest size.  All their economic units of production functioned at the village level.  Thus, all the mines were owned and operated by villages.  All the smelters and factories were owned and operated by villages.  All the weaving mills were owned and operated by the villages.  And all of these-- the mines, mills, shops and other units of production were quite small, with maybe no more than thirty workers, usually of the same clan.  The village elders thus served as the clan elders and the managers of the units of production.  Without any government, the Pasans had no specific currency to expedite trade.   But the economy did not find itself limited to mere barter.  The Pasans as usual found resources in custom.  They nearly always used gold powder as a medium of exchange, and, like the Aztecs of Montezuma’s time, they used quills from goose feathers to hold the powder.   They often used coins from Shufrantei nations, which filtered in from trade with them.  

Relations with the Shufrantei Nations

Although the Shufrantei culture dominated both Nacateca and Minidun peoples, the distinct and independent Pasan people resiliently kept their own culture and resisted the attempts of Shufrantei to impose their religion.  After the fall of the Second Ceiolaian Empire the Minidun nations gave up all attempts to conquer the Pasan areas.  However the cultural differences still generated friction, which occasionally still sparked war.  The powerful nation of Glenrec, which shared a long border with the Pasans of eastern Pasiana, adopted a policy of slow pressure against them, seeking to push it back a few miles every few years.  Such a slow, deliberate, long-range policy was typically Bergonian.  The policy which the Glenrec oligarchy followed over the course of several centuries resulted in the deliberate destruction of Pasan villages every ten years or so.  The Generics designed the policy to proceed at such a slow pace that the Pasans would not feel overtly threatened and resort to war. 

The Shufrantei view of the Pasan before Columbus’s coming differs little from the European view.  This passage from the writings of Canua Sarioso succinctly reflects this view.  “How can those silly children live their lives without the benefit of tieris?   How can they live without standing armies?   Where can they find prosperity without large markets?  How can they stay rooted in the lives of their little villages?   They live lives that should be impossible to live, and no one can deny the preposterousness of their way.  Yet somehow we must admit that live rather contentedly in the shade of their orchards”



The Monster Map of Pasiana,

1300 pixels wide.



A smaller, basic map of Pasiana.

The current demographics of Pasiana

The Pasan people now live almost exclusively in the northeastern peninsular region named for them called Pasiana, though once they lived all across northern Bergonia.  They currently number about 6 million, and share Pasiana with 3 million descendants of French Catholic and Huguenot settlers from the early 1600's.  The present Pasans live rather average Bergonian lives, and apart for their language and their folk music and culture one can barely distinguish them from any other Bergonians.  The traumas of history-- plagues, European colonization, civil war, industrialization, and modernization-- have completely cut them off from their exceptional ancient culture.  

In the 1830s & 40s Pasiana was the scene of fierce sectarian civil wars, with four disparate groups taking turns committing atrocities against each other:  (a) traditional Pasans who for the most part practiced Miradi religion, (b) Pasans who converted to Catholicism, (c) Catholic French settlers, (d) Huguenot French settlers.  In the way that protracted wars makes strange bedfellows, sometimes the traditional Pasans and the Huguenots would join forces against all the Catholics, conveniently ignoring their utter differences.  The fighting did not end until the national government (under the 2nd Commonwealth) sent the Army to occupy Pasiana and fight the militias that would not stand down.  Thankfully the legacy of those hard and bitter times has evaporated.  

Pasan government—or lack thereof:

The Pasan had no government other than the government of clan leaders hip, and the occasional collaboration of village leaders.  They had no constitution or law beyond honor, custom and etiquette.  Throughout all the lands inhabited by Pasans, one found a seamless mosaic of self-governing villages, with none suffering under the domination of any outside force, unless that force came from out of the Shufrantei lands.

Each village had a council of “elders,” and several chiefs whom the elders selected.   Custom dictated that the elders and the chiefs generally had to exceed the age of forty, although there were many exceptions.   Custom dictated the method of election.  The method varied somewhat from village to village, from clan to clan.  But in most cases the existing elders nominated a man to sit with them on the counsel, and then the women of the village voted whether the nominee should sit on the council.   The women also could vote to remove a member of the council, and they could also remove a chief.   The council governed all the affairs of the village, including the allocation of housing and profit, and the management of the economic enterprises, which the village operated. 

The women not only maintained the fires and controlled the village’s ritual life.  They raised the children, and taught them the legends and myths.  They governed the household budget.  They milled grain and wove wool, and they cooked and sewed.  They participated little in the affairs of village government, leaving that up to the elders.  But the women had their own council, which met faithfully in the lodge house every twenty-eight days, and there they reviewed the affairs of the men and considered whether they needed to correct any problems that the men had overlooked-- or caused.  The lodge meetings usually included only the clan rituals, planning festivals and weddings, initiations of younger women, or gossip.  But if the men quarreled badly or verged on making a disastrously stupid decision, then the women had reserved to them by custom the power to step in.  If enough women spat at the feet of a male chief or elder, he had to resign.  In the most extreme cases, the women expelled the worst troublemakers.  While in the village common the women normally deferred to the men and said little, behind the shuttered windows of the individual house a wife had no qualms about expressing an opinion.  The matriarchal basis of the clans extended logically to the government of the clan so that, while the men acted the masculine role of leadership, the women had reserved to themselves the ultimate power. 

The Ad Hoc Hordes—How the Pasans organized militarily 

The thoroughly localized form of government served all the Pasans’ practical needs with admirable thoroughness, except in one very significant respect, that of defense.   The very nature of the Pasan worldview made political and military aggressiveness impossible.  The idea of empire could not find room within the intimate spaces of Pasan mind.  However, their Shufrantei neighbors had very different ideas, and throughout the centuries one Minidun leader or another invaded the Pasan lands.  They coveted the land for settlement, and they wanted the land for mineral wealth.   The Pasans needed some kind of social structure that would enable them to respond militarily to Minidun aggression-- or to what the Pasans from time to time perceived as threats of invasion.  In conformity with their customs, the military response depended on the clans.  

One might think that with such localized, fractured organization, totally based on the village, that Minidun armies could pick off the villages in a border regions with no response by the villages located away from the border not directly affected.  But the threads of clan allegiance bound all Pasans together.  A Bear clan village in the Buxol region felt natural concern for the welfare of Bear clan villages in the Alixodei region, and if the latter sent emissaries to Buxol pleading for help, then they would respond.  If all the clans in Alixodei sent emissaries to Buxol pleading for help, then they would receive a great response.  But the messages for help, and the pattern of responses, would usually occur on a clan-to-clan basis.  When the enemy came marching over the ridge, all the Pasan villages would suddenly coalesce. 

The fact that marriage forced men to move from the village of their birth to the village of their wives made the interrelationship of villages and the Pasan people as a whole even tighter.  A man would be born a Cat by virtue of his Cat mother, and he would live in a Cat village.   But exogomy would require that he find a wife of another clan, and he would move to her village, say a Raccoon village, where the Raccoon clan would adopt him.   His wife and his children by her would be Raccoons and he would honor the Raccoon clan and even serve as an elder in the village, but in crisis he could be released to run back to the Cat village and aid them in crisis.  Through this one man, the Cat clan and the Raccoon clan would find a link with one another.  A thousand other such relationships in a region would tie the entire people together into one entity. 

Through the web of inter-clan relationships that bound their society, the Pasans found their own way of organizing for defense.  The process worked, of course, through custom and a willingness to seek consensus in all things.  First, the messengers went forth alerting wide regions to the news of an attack or the massing or armies.  Pasans, for their love of their village homes, traveled widely, and young Pasan men and women on the road in Shufrantei nations might well learn of invasion plans.  The elders of thousands of villages would soon calculate how many young men they could spare for war and how many would stay to tend to the crops and continue with spinning pots, mining tin, or making wine.   Each village would quickly dispatch a chief to a common place-- one of the regular clan fair grounds-- that custom dictated as a meeting place for military matters.  At these meetings the various chiefs would elect from their number generals, and decide how many men must assemble.  Hundreds of men would see each other on the highways and, in the process; they would stop and exchange news and ideas.  When the chiefs of every clan met to organize, they all knew where the other clans were meeting, and whom the other clans would probably designate as their generals.  

Before long, the villagers with their arms and packs marched to the clan meeting places and assembled in companies as their generals and chiefs dictated, and then they would march toward the front, probably meeting the armies of other clans as they went.  The generals would decide informally, and hardly at any given time, which of their number would become the supreme commander.  Perhaps the supreme commander would not even emerge from among the ranks of the various commanders until the war had already commenced.  Minidun historians had always recorded that the Pasan fought with valor, stealth and cunning-- much like guerrillas of our own time, but never with good organization.  One need not wonder why. 

The ennui that allows institutions to outlive their usefulness tended to encourage the generals to remain generals after the conclusion of the war.  One never knew, after all, when the enemy might strike again.  Thus, after the war, generals might send most of their soldiers back to their villages, but they might retain some soldiers to maintain defensive positions to protect Pasan territory.  But every Pasan soldier knew that he served because his village elders had sent him there and that his first loyalty and interest lay in the village.  Thus, every general knew that he could not by any right prevent a soldier-- or any one thousand soldiers-- from leaving for home.  The generals could maintain their authority and their strength only with the consent of their troops and-- more importantly-- the chiefs who had brought the men from the villages and who had elected the generals.  Indeed, the chiefs might dissolve the army in opposition to the desires of the generals, or the chiefs might depose a general and elect some one to replace him.   Sometimes a dispute among the generals or among factions of chiefs might lead to a split, either along clan lines or territorial lines, or even according to the vagaries of personalities.  For a while after the end of a war, the armies might stand, with patterns of supply emerging, consisting of porters from the various villages carrying grain and other provisions to the army encampments.  Such standing armies would constitute the closest thing the Pasans could achieve by way of organized government.  But the Pasan never forgot the temporary or ad hoc nature of these arrangements and, unless hostilities broke out again, then sooner or later the soldiers would miss their families, their wives’ porridge, the joys of their own beds, and simply depart for home.  The villages then refused-- respectfully, of course, even unctuously-- to send replacements.  In this way the armies would melt away and the generals would find themselves with no choice but to go home them and wait for the next excuse for war.