Mating and Marriage
Unions between the jungle halflings are influenced by their beliefs and their associations with black magic. Marriage is often for life as the halflings know all too well how quickly one can perish in the unforgiving jungle. The ceremony consists of much dancing and music, the two to be wed being announced by a small cluster of shamans whom dance and chant to invite the spirits of deceased ancestors to attend the union. A shaman slits the hand of the two to be wed and as they hold hands to mingle their blood an invocation is named. This union and ritual unites the two as one, quite literally merging the two bloodlines.
Maturity and Coming of Age
The average lifespan of a halfling is a little bit longer than that of a human by fifty some years, the oldest living up to around one hundred and fifty years before their bodies give out. Jungle Halflings, however, are lucky to make it to seventy years old. Children who reach the age of twelve undergo a coming-of-age ceremony. This ceremony marks a transition from being a child to preparation in becoming an adult. For the next six years after this ceremony they will be apprenticed to someone of the path they follow and be considered a full adult at the age of eighteen. The coming-of-age ceremony begins a day before the twelfth birthday. The child will fast, abstaining from all foods and drink only blood mixed with milk. Upon the following day, the child will be lead deep into the jungle accompanied by a shaman. The shaman will then spend a week with that child in the deep of the forest, both unarmed and wearing no armor. They will rely on the strength of one another to survive that week and the trek back into the village. The aptitudes presented by the child as they journey through the dangerous jungle will help the shaman in giving valuable advice on a future path. Upon their return, there is a large ceremony held with music and dance to conjure up the spirits of ancestors so that they can attend. The child is held aloft by the tribe and paraded around the village before they feast. The ceremony is concluded by the shaman who accompanied the child sharing with them what they witnessed and painting their face with a symbol of their biggest strength.
A couatl symbol is painted for those who have exhibited skills of the mind such as clairvoyance or telekinesis. A spider is painted for those who have exhibited skills with laying traps or being particularly stealthy. A dire boar is painted for those who showed exceptional skill with combat. A skull is painted for those who showed skill with necromancy magic. Finally, a representation of will-o-wisps is painted for those who showed skill with communing with the spirits of the jungle. The child will wear this symbol with pride until it is washed away by the rains of Eyr.
Gender Roles and Sexuality
Halfling Tribes typically view men and women equally although women are expected to reproduce if possible so the tribe can continue its existence. Exceptions are made for women who participate in a path that involves a sense of danger such as warriors, shamans, oracles, and the Mombu if applicable. The idea of reproduction is then not forced upon them as much and even when they do produce children, these children are typically raised by the tribe as a whole. In truth, many children of the tribe are not looked after by a sole guardian as the tribe typically has a part in the raising of each child due to their close familial bond with one another. Sexuality and sensuality are handled in a very pragmatic fashion, if one does not find an attraction to the opposite, same, or any variation of gender expressions it is not held against them. There are few of the jungle halfling tribes who identify as both male and female, these beings are called “Two-Spirit” and referred to as a dual entity inhabiting one form.
Due to the treacherous nature of the swamps and jungles of Eyr that the halflings call home, burial or funeral pyres have long been unwise for tribes to practice in disposal of their dead. Instead, many, if not all tribes, practice ritual cannibalism. This practice arose from the wet soil being unsuitable for burials and the danger of funeral pyres attracting unwanted attention from predators. The deceased are consumed by close family members first, the remaining being distributed among the wise or magically gifted of the clan as it is believed they will absorb the wisdom of the deceased. Bones are given to family members, who will then gift them to close friends while keeping some. Many halflings have altars erected in homes with the remains of their ancestors where they honor and commune with ancestors. The only ones whom do not receive ritual cannibalism are children. All deceased children are buried within a hollowed out portion of a tree's trunk. The trunk is then painted with many colorful powders that stain the bark and flower chains are almost always found encircling the base.
There are many minor deities of varying tribes and although some halflings may chose to not follow any deities at all and instead worship their ancestors, those who practice shamanism or necromancy typically follow these deities and worship them. Their Gahouda deities are actually believed to be some of their oldest ancestors, the progenitors of their race whom their children consumed and absorbed their power. In truth, many of these deities are believed to be powerful spirits as fickle as mortals whom serve as an intermediary between the mortal plane and a larger cosmic entity. Halflings believe this entity is beyond mortal comprehension. The group of ancient spirits with whom can commune with this entity are called the Gahouda. The spirits of nature, such as those of the forest and those of the Kuvari river, fall under a separate category known as the Leba.
Ogbunabali [Bloody Skull]
Ogbunabali is believed to resemble a stout halfling wearing only a loincloth, but his neck ends in a bloody stump with a fanged skull resting where a head should be. He is often invoked in rituals involving blood sacrifice and is a being of immense excess, enjoying all manner of frivolity, though such frivolity typically involves all manner of debaucher. His true name is only invoked during ceremonies involving drums, song, and a special rum made with mixtures of dried psychoactive mushroom powder which is a personal favorite of his. In life, Ogbunabali was a lecherous warrior of unrivaled skill, mad with bloodlust he would always drink the blood of his enemies. Legend holds that he slew a tribe of Ampuku skin-riders, lesser jungle spirits in flesh, and drank all of their blood. The Jungle retaliated, thorned vines tearing his flesh from his skull so that no one would remember the handsome halfling's mortal face. Ogbunabali was not finished with the realm of the living though and lingers in the in-between to foster the spirit of bloodlust within his kin.
Awalos [Grinnin' Belly]
Awalos is a female entity and is the guardian of deceased elders. Awalos is rumored to have once been a halfling maiden and the last daughter of the first halflings, but upon her father's death she attempted to bury him in the wet swamp soil only to watch him be dug up by heavy rains. She then tried to burn him in a funeral pyre only to be attacked by a jungle cat. She fled then, with her father's corpse, and ate him after voices in her mind bid her do so. When her siblings learned of her actions, they sewed her mouth shut and split her stomach open to retrieve their father's remains. The remains of her father sprang back to life and commanded his children to continue consuming the remains of their elders so that they would retain the wisdom of the ages past. Awalos was transformed in death to become a spirit with a gaping maw for a stomach that bore rows of sharp teeth, her mouth still sewn shut yet smiling slightly.
Agwu & Njoku [Two Heads]
Agwu and Njoku are two separate entities whom are melded together. They are believed to have been twins of an ancient tribe of halflings and yet they could not have been more dissimilar. Agwu learned of medicine, the methods for healing the body and mind while Njoku studied the poisons, methods for spreading contagion among those whom he hunted. Legend says that Njoku planned to poison the sun itself so that he might always be able to hunt in the darkness. The Sun, having learned of this terrible plot, fused the two brothers as one so that they became one body, yet with two heads seated side by side. The two grew to despise one another, Agwu attempting to heal the contagion that his brother Njoku had set. The Sun had cursed them with double the lifespan as they were two souls and when they passed from this life to the next, they became one of the Gahouda. Njoku now remains to spread contagion and his brother is forever locked in a struggle against him to cure that which he sets loose. Njoku favors pranks, particularly malicious ones, while Agwu favors those whom selflessly help other halflings.
The Leba are different from the Gahouda in that they are representations of aspects of the natural world. Wherein the Gahouda are believed to be powerful spirits of ancient Jungle Halflings embodying aspects of mortality, the Leba are believed to be powerful spirits of beings that predate known races. They are believed to be the creations of a higher being beyond mortal comprehension that passed to inhabit structures of the natural world.
Eyranaka [The Jungle]
This Leba is considered one of the most powerful beings in the beliefs of the Jungle Halfling pantheon. He is considered to live within the jungle itself, an ever present being that is largely neutral towards the happenings that take place among the residents of the jungle. The Ampuku [Mystfolk, Myconids, & Treants] are seen as his servants and is claimed to appear in visions like a vaguely humanoid shape made of vines and other tropical plants held together by some strange shimmering mist.
Kuvayia [The Kuvari River]
Kuvayia or as the halflings commonly river to her as, the wide river, dwells within what the villagers call the Kuvari river. This Leba presides over the wide river and is a Leba representing the waters of life to many of the Halfling Tribes that dwell closer to the river. Kuvayia is both the physical river and an entity worshiped. Kuvaiya is believed to be both benevolent and violent as the silt filled river offers life to those whom dwell close to it and is yet prone to flooding and filled with all manner of creatures. Kuvayia is believed to have once been a mortal whom sacrificed herself as the waters of the muddy, wide river threatened to swallow the world. She tied stones to her waist and plunged into the waters, this act of sacrifice imbuing the river with her spirit.
Azifaini [The Azifix Volcano]
Azifaini is the Leba of all fire whom resides within the volcano of Eyr. Azifaini rules over aspects of fire which is both scorching and comforting and is believed to be a very volatile Leba which requires the utmost respect or this androgynous entity will cover the whole of the world in scorching lava. Azifaini has appeared in the visions of shamans as both male and female.