Diophel: Primitive Social Structure

Diophel in, or near, a ‘state of nature’ live in societies centred around matrilineally-related groups of females, ‘flocks’. Each flock of diophel prototypically contains a number of old sisters, their daughters, and their granddaughters. Within this flock, there is a strict hierarchy determined in almost all cases by birth – daughters inherit the rank of their mother, with sisters ranked by age, with the eldest outranking the youngest, so that the eldest daughter of a younger sister is still lower in rank than the youngest daughter of an older sister. However, generation takes priority over order – the younger sister of a female’s mother still outranks her niece. Exceptions to this system are usually negative – that is, certain individuals may have lower rank than is proper, on account of defects of character or body, but outstanding individuals are not ‘promoted’. A curious anomaly, however, is that the the lowest ranked individual in the flock is the youngest daughter (of the youngest adult generation) of the most senior female in her mother’s generation (i.e. usually the youngest daughter of the eldest daughter of the eldest sister). This is a temporary position, as this female (the ‘tail’) regains her ‘expected’ rank when a younger generation is born, but this does not seem to ameliorate her treatment. It may be that by placing the younger sister of the future flock-leader, the younger daughter of the current leader, at the bottom of the hierarchy, this encourages dominant females to be more respectful and enables a greater feeling of solidarity among females of different ranks.

Confusingly, females can breed throughout much of their lives, leading to two conflicting concepts of ‘generation’ within the flock. Rank is by age-cohort first, then by number of generations from the alpha female, then by age-seniority of each generation of grandmother counting down to the present mother and to the female herself.

However, although this hierarchy underlies all relations within the flock, it may be circumvented in certain circumstances, particularly regarding particular skills and occupations – a more dominant female may, for example, defer to the command of a superior (or simply designated) hunter for the duration of a hunt. Flocks can develop quite complex arrangements of task-oriented hierarchies, so that while the underlying dominance hierarchy is never lost sight of, the specific chain of authority in any given context may be more complex and difficult to discern.

Male diophel are outranked by females – the eldest son of the alpha female has a lower rank than even the tail female. Males grow up in flocks – childcare is communalised into age-streamed nursery groups – but leave the flock as they reach sexual maturity (often they are driven out by older females and by their sisters, and through conflicts with older males). Adult males can be solitary, but more often form into groups of between three and half a dozen. These groups may change their membership over time, unlike the relatively fixed female flocks. Most adult males do not live with the female flocks, but their groups usually ‘orbit’ around a given flock, interacting with the females periodically and opportunistically. This association is not unvarying – a group of males encountering a different flock will not pass up the opportunity for interaction with them. If a group of males generally finds favour with a flock, they will stay closer to them and interact with them more often – if they seem less in favour they will stray to other flocks more often, and eventually may leave the area altogether. Sometimes, particularly favoured males will be so tolerated by the females that they are able to live with the flock for months at a time – so long as it is not breeding season.

Female diophel go into heat cyclically in the spring months. Males are more attracted to females in these months – but individual females do not display any clear signs of their reproductive status. Females select mates partly on physical criteria (they prefer males that appear most graceful and healthy, not necessarily the biggest or strongest), partly on psychological criteria (they are attracted to bravery and confidence), but also on the basis of the ‘usefulness’ of the male. Males compete for attention primarily by showing a pleasant disposition and being helpful and companionable. Fathers do not explicitly care for their offspring in any way, but males do still contribute indirectly to childcare by demonstrating their usefulness to females. Typically females retain roles involving primary hunting, construction, and primary childcare; helpful males are allowed to temporarily take over roles involving luxury hunting and gathering (finding rarer foodstuffs), the artificing of non-essential items, and any roles (support childcare, standing guard, etc) that involve presence more than skill. Males are also favoured if they can please and entertain the flock, and can also be used as go-betweens, either diplomatic or commercial, between flocks.

Though society has changed somewhat since these times, females still tend to favour the same characteristics. One record from a mediaeval civilisation lists the various skills a male ought to seek to acquire: beauty; dance; sexual potency; sexual touching (females can physically copulate when not in heat, but are far more likely to engage with other, non-penetrative sexual activities, both with each other and with favoured males, which have an important social function and are often ritualised); massage; pratfalls; juggling; self-mockery; observations both amusing and wise; calming speech; caring for skin, nails, velvet and horn; mediation of acrimonious disputes; the carving and shaping of wood, soft stones, silver, gold and copper; communion with the spirits of wild creatures; conveying the souls of the dead into the afterlife; the dyeing of fabric and leather; the playing of instruments; song; memorisation of tales and anecdotes; the catching of songbirds; the discovery of precious fungi; the pleasing arrangement of stones; barter and peace-negotiation between flocks; prophecy and transmission of divine commands; the building of traps and wind-chimes; the milking of gall-vipers; the sharpening of weapons and tools; the composition of perfumes; the cooking of fresh meat; ever-present cheerfulness; and above all watchfulness, reliability, and obedience.

Primitive societies, however, were not wholly atomised into flocks. Flocks could be related also through branching and binding relations. When a flock grew too large (generally indicating a fertile area with little competition), it could branch into two parts, often through the departure of its least dominant females into a new group. The new flock often exhibited a degree of transience at first, perhaps only remaining distinct during the most fertile periods and recombining when food supplies dropped, or relying on the mother-flock for aid against external aggression. Even when the daughter-flock fully established itself, it would typically act in a subordinate manner toward the mother-flock, at least for the first few generations. Daughter-flocks might themselves go on to birth more daughter-flocks, creating family trees of flocks. However, while mother- and daughter-flocks might, at least at first, see themselves as closely connected and allied, this did not extend into any form of clan identity – sister-flocks, cousin-flocks, grand-daughter-flocks, all might be vaguely aware of a sense of kinship with one another, but little attention was paid to the details of the relationship, and it amounted for little in practical terms, with alliances more based on fruitful interactions between groups than on claimed blood ties. On occasion, blood ties could even be seen as negative things – sometimes, the process of branching out a new daughter-flock could be bitter and divisive, and could create lingering vendettas.

A parallel form of relation between flocks was binding, in which two flocks, whether related or not, enhanced their (otherwise transient and opportunistic) alliance through the exchange of females. Sporadic movement of females between flocks could always occur – if a flock was destroyed, or an individual did not get on with her flockmates, or if a flock was too large but had no opportunity to branch off a whole new flock – but binding exchanges quickly became ritualised and organised. The newcomer into the flock could either take subordinate rank, or else could ‘swap’ with a departing female. For most purposes, they became full members of their new flock – but they did also retain both formal and psychological obligations to their old flock, and in particular to their mother. These binding exchanges helped form stronger alliances between flocks – both strong bilateral relations between pairs of flocks and broader alliances among the flocks in a given area. Through unbalanced exchanges – a high-ranking female exchanged for a low-ranking female, loose hierarchies of dominance could be established between flocks.

The above all pertains primarily to the primitive social behaviour of A, C, D and H diophel. B and E diophel both tend toward flocks in which one or two specific males monopolise breeding for years at a time, fight violently to obtain these positions (and as a result are bigger, stronger, and generally more feminine than the males of other species), and typically have privileged positions involving little labour. F diophel tend to accept more males into the flock, to the point where most adult males, after an adolescent period of wandering, are flock members, though they remain more peripheral and potentially transient than the female core; G diophel tend to the opposite extreme, with males never accepted into the flock.

In practice, however, on most of the globe diophel societies combine members from multiple species – in particular, the dominant ethnicities for most of prehistory and history involved mixed A/B1 societies. The nature of the mixing varied: in some societies, the B1 diophel formed their own, smaller flocks spaced between the A flocks; in others, the B1s were accepted into the A flocks but retained independent hierarchies; in still others, hierarchies paid no attention to species. The other (sub)species were more restricted in distribution, and formed societies with each other or with the A/B1 cultures; the exception are the D diophel, who had an extensive distribution, in large part because of their early adaptation to insular and coastal environments. As diophel societies developed, they generally became more species-mixed, not only in allowing species to live side-by-side but in more fully integrating different species into the same social units. As a result, species is rarely significant in diophel history.

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2 thoughts on “Diophel: Primitive Social Structure

  1. rottingham says:

    Yay, aliens! I love aliens! It’s remarkable they managed not to exaggerate something as striking as a reproductive divide into a grand metaphysical scheme of some sort.

  2. […] is a description of their appearance, and some other aspects of their physicality. Here is a description of their primitive social structure. Here is a brief history of their social development from that primitive structure through to being […]

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