Tolf Culture: Family

Family is very important to the tolf. The family you’re born to is called your jɪɻʃk. A jɪɻʃk is made of the daughters of the family’s Great Mother, or dem.ˈkin, and their sons and foreign husbands. Line of descent is traced purely through the mother’s blood. The mother’s husband, or wog, is considered the father of her children, regardless of their actual parentage.

The Greatmother is nearly always the eldest mother in the jɪɻʃk. She and her direct descendants receive great respect. While important decisions are made by a group of the most senior elders, the Greatmother’s word carries great sway.

Tolf women typically spend their entire lives within their jɪɻʃk. Women often become crafters to help contribute to the prosperity of the family. Having children is an extremely important rite of passage for a tolf woman. They carry their children for around nine months. Twins are common, and infant mortality is high. Children aren’t named for months after birth, because so many of them perish. Children are raised communally, amongst their mother’s sisters, aunts, grandmothers, nieces and other children.

Tolf men stay with their family until the end of adolescence, when most leave home to find another jɪɻʃk to marry into. While there aren’t many rules about who can marry, one which is strongly enforced is that no-one who shares a grandmother’s blood can be wed. The ceremony of marriage is a blood rite where the wife-to-be shares her blood with her husband, and he mixes his in with hers, symbolizing the bond they share. This blood bond is also a metaphor for the children they will share. Mixing blood together from the same sources would anger the gods and spirits, and is avoided strongly.

Marriage is not for love, though that too can be shared between the couple. The primary purpose of marriage is political, as it strengthens the positions of both husband and wife, enhances the living standards of their children, and cements the husband’s role in the new jɪɻʃk.