And now I’ll continue with the story. Check out the previous blog post for part 1.
The woman stood quietly, her hands clasped loosely together. “In our culture, Adam was not jealous of Eve. Because our origin was so different, so too was what we grew up believing and seeing as normal. Sex was not something for ‘behind closed doors’ and children were never punished for being curious about what is natural. For your society, I see just the opposite. In truth, there is a great degree of discomfort around the notion the sexuality. One which makes talking about it at all very awkward. And talking about it with your kids, even more so. It then becomes a discomfort which is handed down. But this is not what the cultural story is. The cultural take is that by teaching children anything about this subject those kids will then be unable to control themselves and get into trouble or become ‘bad people’ as a result.”
She paused a moment, canting her head as Veronica continued to feel that soft feathery sensation she had come to interpret as her memories being reviewed. “It’s like drinking. Denying something, making it ‘forbidden’, is what makes it so appealing. So irresistible. At some point, the forbidden is indulged in. One of the problems with this approach is of excess without knowledge of reasonable limits. In this case, drinking until literally blind drunk is hardly uncommon and indeed is considered ‘part of the college experience’ and the process of growing up.” Her brow furrows as she speaks. “But in other countries where drinking is introduced early and children are taught to behave responsibly, blind drunk is not really appealing.”
Veronica felt herself tensing up in revulsion at her extrapolation of the words. “So you’re saying your culture introduced young children to sex?”
“No, dear. There are many ways to teach without imparting first hand experience. The very foundation is anatomy. It’s as simple as ‘this is your arm, your leg, your penis, your nose, your ear, …’ It’s just another body part.” She gave a little shrug. “Nothing particularly special or unspecial about it. It won’t take a genius child to notice that boys and girls are different, and that too is nothing special or worth remarking on any particular way. ‘No, she doesn’t have a penis; she has a vulva.’ And so the conversation goes. To a child, the discussion is as innocent as why the sky is blue. Treat the question with that degree of innocence in return, free from the shame based story, and the foundational attitude is completely different from there on out.”
As the woman explained, Veronica felt the tension leaving her body. She remembered her own childhood asking those questions and being treated harshly for daring to ask. While, as an adult, she understood that her parents meant well, she also remembered the confused fear she felt and she got a very clear ‘sex is bad’ message which plagued her adult life, preventing her from being comfortable in her own skin. How different would her life and outlook have been with a different initial message? “I see.”
“In our society, we had a very good education system for the time. Of course, with the advances in knowledge that I see you have access to that education system would be greatly enhanced. We ensured that every student walked into adulthood armed with self-knowledge as well as book knowledge.”
“Yes. We taught kids how to examine their emotions and understand their own motivations. To recognize their limits and talents without judging them. This type of personal training is utterly absent in your memories. But I do love how very much you know about sexual anatomy. This is one area of study which would be greatly enhanced with today’s awareness.”
“Wait wait wait. You taught sexual anatomy in school? Hell, sexual anatomy was barely taught in my school in this ‘modern era’. Even then it was just a bunch of analogies or inference pictures, teaching by vaguely getting close to fact and hoping the students ‘got it’.” Memories of high school ‘sex ed’ surfaced, along with the outrage at the uselessness of it. “The education was so bad that when I started doing independent research, I was pissed because we had literally been taught the wrong things. For example, I was taught that ovulation and a period were the same. Wrong!” As she remembered learning the truth, the memory of how betrayed she felt by the education system she had trusted was as powerful in this moment as it had been then at 16.
“Exactly! How can you expect someone to make wise or even sound decisions when they really have no idea what is going on? But we never distinguished it as you do. There was ‘sexual education’, there was only ‘anatomy’. Remember, a penis and vulva were on par with arms and noses. Nothing special about them. Why segregate them into another category like that? Now, we did separate the classes. Young children were taught together until about the age of 8. Since every child is different and we didn’t have the burden of dealing with hundreds of students per single decision maker that you do, we had the luxury of making a case-by-case decision. Some children at 8 are definitely ready to be separated into an all boys or all girls class, while others are not.” The woman gave a soft laugh as she smiled and a memory flooded into Veronica’s awareness. A memory she knew darn well was not hers.
A sense of excited anticipation filled the air. At the end of every quarter, some children Rose. (Veronica’s nearest analogy was moving from grammar school into middle school). Today was the day of the announcements. While every child wanted to be moved up, they also knew it meant more work, longer hours and being in with only other boys or girls during actual classes. Before and after classes as well as recesses and lunches were always mixed.
A few parents were there, and some clever children had already figured out that if the parent was there than odds were very good that the child would be called up. Not-Veronica scanned the small sea of attentive faces, hope shining on some while others looked to the side clearly wishing to be overlooked and yet others were just plain not sure what to think. Names were called, and after each name everyone celebrated. This was one of the three landmark Rites of Passage that all children went through on their way to becoming a full member of the tribe. The first was the Welcome, which happened as an infant and so they didn’t have personal memories of it. This one was the Rising, where they go from being children in the eyes of the tribe to being young adults. The final one was the Induction, where the child walked in and an adult walked out to the fanfare of all.
The memory cleared and Veronica found herself blurting out “The Rising!”
The woman nodded. “See? The integration is already starting. The memories I guarded for so long are now starting to merge into your awareness. Did you notice how it felt? The ‘feel’ of that memory which was not actually your memory?”
Veronica thought a moment. “Yes, now that you point it out. The kinds of details noticed, the colors, the thought pattern, none of those were native to me. Like watching a movie I directed versus a movie directed by someone else. Both are movies, but the style is very different.”
“Yes!” She smiled happily. “Exactly. Remember that feeling, that way of distinguishing. As more of the memories start to integrate, it could be easy to get lost and forget what is your personal memory and what is another’s. Each memory will have the ‘fingerprint’ of a the person whose it is. Fortunately for you, there are only 3 people’s lives you have inherited. That memory was from Shaila, the most recent of our queens.”
“Queens. That’s not the word I want to use.”
Her smile grew large. “Indeed. It is not the word we use. Our word for the female leader of our people is Namenka.”
“Nah-men-ka.” Veronica repeated it, testing the sound on her tongue. It rolled off easily.
“Yes. And the male leader is called the Namenma.”
“Namenma? I would expect her’s to end with the ma.”
“That is your linguistic training. In our language, the -ma suffix is the masculine one. See? MAsculine begins with MA, so you can use that to help remember.”
Veronica nodded. Sure, why not? She was being downloaded with the memories of 3 generations which spanned several thousand years. Not much was overly shocking at this point. Let it roll and move on.
The guide smiled, as if she understood Veronica’s point. “Together, the ruling male and female are simply the Namen. Drop the gender specific suffix and the word is now plural. You are the Namenka, Cole is the Namenma, and together you are the Namen.”
“Could I just use Queen and King instead? I’m more familiar with that.”
“You could, but your words carry with them their own backgrounds and stories. These words are free of that, able to be defined anew for you. For instance, the Namen are chosen by the previous Namen. No one is born into the role, and there is no concept of divine right to rule. The future leaders are selected very carefully from the entire population and trained for centuries, and sometimes a latecomer to the scene will be chosen over someone who’s been assumed the heir apparent for decades. In this case, while Cole just happens to be the son of the last Namenma, the previous Namenka was unrelated, instead merely a gifted individual chosen for the honor.”
“Wait a second. Cole was the son of the last king, but not the queen?”
“See, another notion which gets in the way. To you, the queen and king are a couple. But to me, the Namen may or may not be a couple. While the previous Namen loved each other greatly, they were not ‘together’ in the way you mean.”
“So the memory that surfaced was Shaila’s. Eventually, you’ll know their memories so well that you’ll feel as if you know them. In a way, you will know them better than anyone in their time could have because you’ll have every detail of their life. Fortunately for you, the human mind is an amazing thing and you’ll generally only access those memories which are relevant to what you are searching for. At least, when this process is complete, that’s the way it will be. Until then, there may be some … integration issues. Just keep your ‘roll with it’ attitude and we’ll get through this fine.”
“Got it. Now get back to the Rising please. Once a child has Risen, what do you teach them?”
“The closest equivalent would be the Greek school system. We emphasized what you today would probably call critical thinking. This whole color-in-a-dot system does not teach young minds to think; it teaches them to memorize and regurgitate. But again, we didn’t have the problems of scale that you do.” She gave a little shrug again, a gesture Veronica was beginning to recognize as a sort of ‘there you have it’ or ‘what can you do?’ motion. “And anatomy was definitely something learned. Remember, in those days we didn’t have electricity or grocery stores. Almost every kid worked to some degree or other with animals. If that kid didn’t know the difference between a penis and a leg or the brain and the intestines, then there were bigger issues.” She chuckled a little, but stopped quickly at seeing Veronica’s serious expression. “Essentially, by the time a girl has her first period she is very well versed in exactly what is going on, what to expect, and where to go if she has any questions or concerns. Likewise, the very first time a boy ejaculates will also not be a surprise, even if he wakes up to wet sheets. It’s all perfectly normal and natural. Life is messy. You deal, and move on. None of this crap I can see in your memories! How perfectly traumatizing. I grieve for the millions of fledgling adults who are left to think such negative things about something so … common to the entirety of the human experience.”
At that one, Veronica had to just nod. “Bathroom talk isn’t particularly helpful. The blind lead the blind in that case.”
“Exactly! For example, if neither a boy nor a girl has any idea what effects all those different hormones have on a girl’s brain throughout her cycle…” She made a face which would be perfectly appropriate if she were just about to see someone horrifically crash their bike. “And turning it into the butt of a joke?!” Now the guide bristled.
“Goodness, you’re actually getting animated here. So far you’ve been all Zen serene.”
The guide calmed down, taking a deep breath before resuming the ‘zen serene’ pose Veronica had come to expect. “So much needless pain makes me angry.” She looked at Veronica again, smiling. “Remember, I am you. Needless pain makes you angry as well.”
At that, Veronica could only nod. “True.”
“After being Risen, when a girl has her first period the girl classes have a celebratory ceremony marking her as now a Child-Woman, which essentially translated to now having access to a type of garment worn by adult women. For the boys, the line of demarcation between Child and Child-Man is having his first actual ejaculation. While in your culture, these biological events are what mark one as being a woman or man, not so in ours. All children are by our definition ‘innocent’, so the label of child remains until after Induction.”
“Wait a second. You said the Induction was when the child became a fully recognized adult in the eyes of the tribe.”
The guide nodded.
“But children are, ‘by our definition innocent’.” She quoted the last back. “That means that no adult, no Woman or Man, is ‘innocent’ And it has nothing to do with periods or hard-ons.” The guide nodded again. “My brain is short-circuiting on this.”
“Here is the idea that you with your shame based origination Story will likely find the most offputing. Children are innocent, that is to say they have not had sex. No child can be fully Inducted into the tribe, only adults; which means every single young adult has sex before they are recognized as a full adult in our tribe. Your culture’s notion of marrying a virgin is just as rudely shocking to me. You would marry a child? How barbaric. Leave the induction of a child into adulthood in the hands of just anyone becase they happened to show up with a ring or be dragged to the brothel by a brother? Doubly barbaric. When a child is ready to become an adult, then the Induction starts. It can take a week, a month, even a year, and it all depends on the child. It’s a Rite of Passage, and like all such ceremonies is vitally important that it be treated with honor and respect. Because it was such a big deal, very few children wanted to rob themselves of the experience. Let me give you another analogy here. I see in your mind the temptation to sneak down at Christmas and see what you got before the official unveiling. Why didn’t you? No one would have known.”
The response was immediate. “I would have known. I could imagine all the wonder and excitement of seeing this or that toy under the tree with my name on it, but having no one there to share my joy with. I could imagine sneaking back up, and then coming down again with the family having to fake my surprise. I didn’t want to do that.”
“Exactly. Our culture made a huge deal about the importance of a child being a child, and the sacredness of the process of a child becoming an adult. And at the end of that journey, they were celebrated for making it. With so much taught to them, there really wasn’t much to be ‘curious’ about because little was a secret. But the mystery of having sex for the first time, that can only be experienced once. In the right setting, it will make a strong and confident adult who has much to offer the society they call theirs.”
“Mystery versus secret.”
“Exactly! That’s why secret societies will always fail, while mystery societies and schools persist. Secrets are learned, but they are just the mental side. There is no depth to a secret. Mysteries are lived, and once lived they will change your life forever. I can know all the secrets, but the mystery remains until I’ve experienced it for myself. For example, I know all about childbirth, all the nitty gritty details. All the ins and outs. About the cravings, the swellings, the pee breaks, the aches, the kicks, that my hair won’t fall out, the contractions, the breach, the afterbirth. All of it. But until I’ve been through it, until I’ve had a literal living child kick me from the inside, it’s still a mystery, even though there’s nothing secret about it. Understand?”
She smiled. “I thought so. You have a way with them.”
Hope you’ve enjoyed the latest installment of this this background piece. As mentioned previously, this story is the unrevealed background for my Erynu people and their culture, and what the new queen learns as she absorbs her inheritance. All these concepts and words used here are mine, incorporated into my own fictional works. While history provides an excellent springboard (in early Babylon, it was illegal for a child aka virgin to marry) I’ve taken those and used them for my own purposes. It is fiction, afterall. 😉 In the next story, I describe the Induction.