Topic: The CounterCulture- A Different Take on KT's Mando'ade
Ok, for those who have never heard of it, Karen Traviss's first work on Mandalorians was an article in the Star Wars Insider with her version of Mandalorian lifestyle and some history. After finally getting a copy of it, I was sad to see that she varied from the path I'd always seen the Mandalorians in. However, I decided to take her work and rewrite it, attempting to make her vision of the Mando'ade the MODERN truth, and use my old ideas as the basis for a Crusader era Mandalorian history.
For those just discovering this thread, here is a LINK to the thread I am currently working on that shows KT's original, unedited article that I based this revision on. It offers a clear and unbiased look at her vision without my notes and comments, giving you a better understanding of where she is coming from and what she sees for the Mando culture.
This revision is in some places a rewording of KT's work, in a few places a flat out copy of her work, with a LOT of additional information from me about the Crusader Mandalorians that I've added to give a comparison of Mando life then and now.
I value any and all feedback, and hope some find this of interest.
THE MANDALORIANS: PEOPLE AND CULTURE
A revision of Karen Traviss's Mandalorian history and an alternative view of the Mando'ade by Ralin Drakus
In five millennia, the Mandalorians have fought with and against thousands of armies on as many worlds across the galaxy. They absorbed and improved upon the weapons, technology, and tactics of every culture they have encountered, and have welcomed recruits from any and every planetary system. And yet, despite the overwhelming influence of so many alien cultures, their own distinct language and cultural identity has not only survived but evolved very little over time. Their warrior's ideals, strong sense of family, and devotion to their clan and nation have remained all but untouched in their storied history. Their armor, though universally recognizable, is not what makes a Mandalorian. It is simply a manifestation of an impenetrable, unassailable heart.
Note: Despite their mention, the Neo-Crusaders are not covered in this history. This is due to their deeper and well-known coverage in other articles, as well as the short duration of their existence.
Mandalorians are a people of contradictions. They have an unmistakable identity, yet they are not a race. Mandalorians have accepted varied species into their ranks for generations. They have a nationalistic pride, yet no home world or country in the typical sense. Though the planet Mandalore is a safe haven and home to many, countless Mandalorians have never even seen the ancestral home of their culture. Their way of life revolves around war and bloodshed, yet have the tightest family bonds that extend beyond blood relation. It is a common practice for Mandalorian warriors to adopt orphaned children, even those of their enemies. This unique blend of harsh yet accepting, brutal yet loving characteristics has made the Mandalorians a mystery to much of the galaxy
Anthropologists disagree about the roots of the modern day Mandalorian, or Mando'ade in their native language. Were the first Mandos humans, or as some academics claim a gray skinned, near-human race who were driven from ancient Coruscant millennia ago by humans? The real answer may never be known. Whatever the case, what is known is that humans have been the predominant species of the Mandalorian nation for the last four thousand years if not longer. This being said, any species who follows the laws and lifestyle of the Mando'ade is considered Mandalorian. It is their unique way of life that sets them apart from the rest of the galaxy, and not their shade of skin.
Many question how the Mandalorian culture has survived intact for so many generations. The answer is quite simple. For the vast majority of species, culture is the unique expression of their being. With most species, as they are overrun or otherwise enveloped over time by their neighbors, the two cultures are melded. The conquered species adopts much of the newcomer's mode of life while retaining and sharing elements of their ancestral culture. The Mandalorians are no exception. The difference is that, perhaps through sheer hard-headedness but more likely due to their loose knit cultural structure, the Mandalorians have all but completely evaded conquest or absorption into another culture's lifestyle. Outside species are adopted or are invited based on their pre-existing similarity to the Mando culture already, and their highly mobile and decentralized structure have protected them from invasion. Thus they have maintaining one of the few truly long lasting civilizations in the galaxy. This long-lived cultural identity has served to further increase the sense of belonging that is already inherent in Mandalorian society. Ironically, the Jedi Order is probably the closest parallel that the Mandalorians have. The Jedi are almost surely the only group to have maintained an all but unchanged code of living that is (probably) older then the Mandalorian culture.
The only moment in known Mandalorian history in which their culture took a noticeable change of direction was after the catastrophic end of the Mandalorian Wars. Over the next four thousand years, slavery vanished as a common Mandalorian practice, women took a truly equal role as men in all aspects of Mando life, and their modern mode of a truly nomadic lifestyle took root. Despite these drastic cultural fluxes, the heart of Mandalorian ideals remained the same. Their Honor Code went unchanged, their language never altered, and none of their core values were touched.
CURSADER CODE VS. MODERN MANDO'ADE: A Comparison in the Evolution of the Mandalorian People
The Law - Past and Present
Of the cultural differences between Modern Mandalorians and their Crusader ancestors, the most visibly obvious change is in their different Laws, or Tenants. The original Crusader Code was longer, deeper, and much more clearly defined then the modern Six Actions, making the old code much less open to interpretation. This original code of laws, which has been recently recovered in an archaeological dig on Dxun, read as follows:
1. Honor gained in battle is the lifeblood of the true Mandalorian. The more worthy the foe, the greater the Honor gained in victory.
2. A true Mandalorian fights not just for Honor, but with Honor. A Mandalorian may use any means necessary to achieve victory, but he will not maim, torture, or destroy needlessly. An Honorable enemy deserves a quick, clean death. The dishonorable foe warrants no quarter, and may be exterminated by any means.
3. The Crusade is the greatest right of passage for the Clans. When Mandalore decrees that the clans are ready, he will lead them through the galaxy or beyond to search for the worthiest adversaries. If you are worthy, you will sweep all before you. Of failed Crusades, past and future, let none see shame in the survivors or their defeat if they fought with Honor. They have gained the Glory of battling the greatest of enemies and lived. Their mission must then turn to rebuilding the clans and preparing them for the next Crusade as their forefathers did before them.
4. Surrender is an option only if Mandalore has been slain or he decrees that the enemy has proven they are stronger and the crusade has ended. If the Crusade still lives, victory or death should be a point of Honor to the true Mandalorian.
5. Be calm in the midst of chaos, strong in the presence of weakness, alert in the embrace of darkness, resolved in the face of indecision. Do not fear your emotions, but never allow them to rule you.
6. Be loyal to your clan leaders, a comrade to your clan brothers, a protector to your mate and children, a son to your Mandalore. A true Mandalorian's loyalty is unquestioned.
7. Conquest of the weak gains the True Mandalorian no Honor. The meek should be left to their own devises unless their destruction is a necessary means of achieving a greater plan.
8. The true Mandalorian keeps what he conquers. To the warrior the prizes of battle, to each clan the spoils of victory, and to the greatest of our people the title of Mandalore.
9. Anyone who obeys the commands of Mandalore and follows the Law is Mandalorian. If one is Mandalorian in his heart, then his skin matters not.
10. Family is more then blood. Every youth deserves training, every orphan deserves a father, every soul deserves the Manda *See 'Religion and Spirituality' below for information on 'The Manda'*
11. Know the history of our people and your Clan. Let not the struggles of your fathers be forgotten. He who knows and understands the past shall master the future.
12. Disownment is the most extreme act a Mandalorian can take. If one of your own should dishonor himself and cannot or will not redeem himself, he should be disowned. If a warrior defies the Law and does not recant his actions, he should be disowned. None are above the Law.
As can be seen, this code is very clearly directed toward a totally warlike nation of people.
This is in contrast to the modern day 'Six Actions,' which are generalized and in no special order: A basic knowledge of battle and combat, Knowing the Mandalorian language and passing it on, Defense of one's self as well as his/her family and clan, Passing on the Mandalorian culture and history to one's children, Contributing to the clan's welfare, and Rallying to the reigning Mandalore when called. Because of their broad nature and the far flung nature of the Mandalorian people today, these Actions can vary slightly from one Mando to the next, but the general meaning behind each law is universal to most all. Anyone who practices these laws is considered Mandalorian. Despite the Action's obvious roots in the ancient Crusader Code, they are much broader and open to interpretation, and more achievable to a less warlike people.
Evolution of the Warrior Society
Despite the retention of their core values after the Mandalorian Wars, there was a great deal of change in the Mandalorian way of life following the events at Malachor V.
Despite their tendency to roam, the early Crusader Mandalorians rarely followed a true nomadic lifestyle like most of their modern descendents. The pre-Mandalorian Wars Mandos had dozens of very large permanent settlements in the Outer Rim, including the massive City of Bone on Mandalore, and wide spread settlements in neighboring systems like Concord Dawn. An Aliit, or clan, would often have one or more colonies on wild or conquered planets and raid their non-Mando neighbors from these permanent bases.
All of these facts are in stark contrast to most of today's Mandos. The vast majority of Mandalorians today who still follow a militaristic career are almost always independent mercenaries or bountyhunters, not unified soldiers fighting for their own banner. These individuals usually have nothing more permanent under their feet then their starship, if they even have one. And then there is the large percentage of Mandos who don't follow a military path at all, choosing frontier life, scouting, or simple migratory subsistence, although their military prowess can return very quickly if the need arises due to strict adherence to the Six Actions.
Rank and status has evolved since the end of the Crusader era. During ancient times, Mandalorians were dominated by the rule of the strong. Leaders of any level, even Mandalore himself, could be challenged for their rank in a test of combat. Times of war, which were often, would require that such challenges be relegated to annual events that were usually accompanied by a great deal of celebration. In certain cases, popular rulers who were no longer physically a match for new contenders would be forced to allow a champion to fight for him. These cases were rare however, as most leaders who were no longer fit enough to fight for his title would often retire to a lesser status or join a council of advisors, preferring not to hold a rank they couldn't fight for. However, strength alone was no substitute for leadership skills. Any new leader would face a great deal of scrutiny by his former peers until he'd proven himself. Any Mando who proved to be a less able leader then his predecessor could find himself removed by popular demand, which would lead to the return of the former leader or a new set of trials.
Modern Mandos are something of the reverse. Seniority is the dominant factor in rank. However, the generally individualistic nature of most modern day Mandos makes the leadership in coordinated efforts a rare question. More often a single Mandalorian is hired by a government and no matter what his stated rank is he becomes the dominant advisor. This being said, when Mandalorians do work together they still have few peers on the battlefield. A generally informal command structure is quickly sorted out, and their energies are focused on reaching their common goal.
The use of slavery is a huge difference between the ancient Crusader Mandalorians and their descendants. At the height of the Mandalorian Wars, their war machine was powered by tens of millions of slaves. Not a new concept for the Mando'ade, slavery was a common practice employed by earlier Mandalorian Crusaders as they conquered new colonies and took prisoners on raids. All children under the age of eight were typically adopted into the clan, while all the rest would be relegated to building the colony and its defenses. Interestingly, the Crusaders rarely had any long-term interest in slaves, and seldom raided with the specific aim of acquiring them. Having a historical preference for droids anyway, sentient slavery was simply a means to putting the local or captured populace to some use. All children born to the slaves would be adopted into the Clan as well as a select few of older age who might impress their captors in some way as being a Mandalorian, and the slave population would be allowed to eventually die off or be otherwise disposed of *transfer to another project, limited freedom granted, removal, or termination depending on the circumstances.*
Slavery is almost a taboo among the modern Mandalorians. They have little care regarding its employment among other species, but it is now an unheard of practice by Mandalorians. This is rooted in their fierce independence and in the individualistic nature that has developed over the past generations. A modern saying common among Mandos highlights this sentiment: No one owned, Owned by no one.
The role of the sexes has evolved over the past four thousand years as well, if not as drastically. The roll of the modern Mandalorian man is, as it always has, the primary defender of the family and the one to answer his Clan's call to arms if needed. The woman's roll is all but equal to his in the current era. Women are now expected to have equal skill in battle as the man, have entirely equal representation in Clan affairs, and can hold as high a rank among her peers as anyone else. The only difference common to Mandalorian men and women are the rolls of child care: women are expected to care for young children and daughters, while men take on the training of their sons at the age of eight. If they have no children or they have reached adulthood, the Mando woman's roll is entirely indistinguishable from the man's.
The reason for this even division of power lies in the crushing defeat of the Mandalorians at the Battle of Malachor V. Women of that era had similar social requirements: physical fitness and combat training were highly prized qualities in Mando women, and the care of the young children and daughters fell almost solely on them. However, they were rarely front line combatants, and there was a strict class line dividing men and women. The marriage ceremony of the era was a clear indication of where the man was meant to be seen in the relationship. The ceremony consisted of a head to head duel between the proposing Mando and his perspective bride. If he could best her in the fight, which could consist of anything from a bare handed wrestling match to a fully armored warrior's battle including edged weapons where any death blows were usually pulled back, the marriage would be sealed. If she won, the warrior would be disgraced and the engagement called off. Mando women were generally accepting of this process, being taught from childhood that any male who couldn't best them in battle was not worthy of their hand. This unusual tradition was rooted in the Crusader Code law of warriors keeping what they conquer. It was also a public display of prowess, with suitors challenging highly skilled and dangerous mates, which the Mandalorians believed would ensure the most compatible matches and strong children. Situations of love would often lead to a mock battle where the wife would quickly give in to her soon-to-be husband. This was acceptable, but all fanfare and status revision that would go with an actual marriage duel would be forfeit. Traditionally, a newlywed wife would give her new husband a trophy; a symbolic gesture showing that she accepts the outcome of the duel and gives herself to him. Many clans required young girls to grow a braid of hair that would only be cut upon their wedding and given to their husband, but this was not universal. Other marriage gifts included pieces of armor, weapons, or symbols painted onto their armor.
After the battle of Malachor, however, there was a sudden situation where women on the home front vastly outnumbered the males in the society. Women had no choice to take a much more leading role in the society on all fronts. Probably the only reason Mandalorian culture didn't reverse into a totally female dominated society during this critical point in history is Mando reverence of tradition.
The Mandalorian marriage was equally simplified to hasten the re-population of the culture. Duels and battles were eliminated as part of the marriage requirement. Instead, only a simple chant is required:
We are one when together,
We are one when apart,
We share all,
We shall raise warriors.
Upon repeating this phrase to one another, a couple has entered a legal commitment to each other. As in the ancient times marriage is considered for life and monogamous, although some believe male faithfulness may have been more lax during the Crusader era, where situations of non-Mando concubines or captured females were kept for the purpose of producing more offspring.
Adoption, especially of children, is one element of Mandalorian life that hasn't changed since the Crusader era. Orphans of a Mandalorian's enemies will be adopted by a Clan nearly as fast as a fallen comrade's children would be. This process by which the Clans have expanded has been in use for as long as Mandalorian history has been chronicled. This process has been practiced for the simple strengthening of the Clans, as well as an almost obligational duty to offer a young soul a chance to enter The Manda.
Children, both adopted and blood related, are equally loved and trained. As part of a warrior culture, children are taught to deal with hardships and to earn their privileges. Never pampered, Mandalorian children are allowed a fair level of childhood freedom before the age of eight while under their mother's care. This period is still a time of basic instruction in Mandalorian history, culture, and learning one's duty, as well as a good deal of low level training. Fathers will assist during this time, giving more advanced lessons and sharing his experiences. At the age of eight, sons *as well as daughters if there are no sons to be trained* leave their homes with their father to begin advanced training. In this form of cultural apprenticeship, they learn their father's trade first hand. This practice is typical in both the Crusader and the modern eras.
Religion and Spirituality
The Crusader Mandalorians at the end of the Mandalorian Wars were among the last true believers in their culture's original creation myth. They fanatically worshiped war, believing glory gained in battle earned them higher rank in the Mandalorian afterlife, or The Manda. They believed in the endless war that would rage for all eternity between the sloth god Arasuum, who represented idle consumption and stagnation, and the destroyer god Kad Ha'rangir, who forced change and growth in the universe. The ancient warriors of this era were certain of their place in a literal afterlife, a place where their numbers would add to the eternal battle that raged among the gods, and their glory would know no end.
This faith began to slip with the Neo-Crusader movement during the Mandalorian Wars, and soon after its disillusioning aftermath the literal faith in The Manda began to disappear completely. Today, the average Mando views the ancient myths with a pragmatic eye, but almost all believe in a redefined version of The Manda. The Manda is characterized in the modern era as more of a collective state of being or an oversoul; very similar to the Jedi view of the Force. Few Mandalorians believe it is a literal heaven, but they almost universally agree that the Manda does exist as a collective consciousness, and that following the Six Actions and knowing the Mandalorian heritage is all that is required to become part of The Manda. This is one of the reasons that adoption of orphans is such a common practice; sharing one's heritage with another gives that person a soul, without which he or she would have been lost to oblivion.
Every Day Life - Then and Now
The every day life of early and present day Mandalorians is starkly different in many ways, but rooted in the same fundamental philosophy on living.
The Crusader era Mandalorians benefited from larger, more tightly knit Clans then their predecessors. They were usually migratory only in the sense that they would leave a permanent settlement only if there were no more foreign worlds within reasonable traveling distance of raiding. But fundamentally they were generally not nomadic, creating or occupying permanent settlements that were within striking distance of bordering systems, but rarely far from friendly home space. One exception would be a clan that maintained claims to more then one planet, rotating from one settlement to the next depending on various outside factors. Another would be the rare clans that chose not to maintain a planetary settlement, choosing instead to live on board their ships. Few clans had the fleet capacity to do this for any length of time however, and those that did would almost always stay in one of the several Mandalorian cities rather then spending all their time aboard ship.
Settlements were always centrally planned around a large 'Warrior's Hall,' which served as government center, community event facility, and all round focal point of activity. Depending of the size of the building and community, the hall was usually in a T shape, with the main entrance at the bottom of the T, and apartments for Clan leaders in the second story section of the T's cross. Some small Clan outposts would have only a Warrior's Hall, which served as a single barracks as well as its other functions. On the other end of the scale, some Mandalorian War Lords would lavishly decorate and stock massive halls. A hall's size and accommodation would often reflect the Clan's prowess and prestige. It's a rare evening when a Warrior's Hall is dark and silent; large parties and celebrations complete with Mandalorian ale and the results of the day's hunt roasting over an open fire were all but mandatory. Larger clans would often have several Halls; one controlled by the clans leader, and the others ruled by his captains and officers. On the planet Mandalore in the City of Bone is the last of the great Warrior's Halls. Made from the bones of an ancient Mythasaure, its walls echoed with the commands of generations of Mandalores, and is still the center of Mandalorian political conventions. All other buildings and homes are usually clustered around the hall within a protective perimeter wall, though some Mandos may choose to settle outside the colony in more isolated structures.
The modern day Mando lives a mixed life depending on each individual situation. Few Clans still travel the galaxy together. Most that do are based on one of the core Mandalorian words. The majority of Mandos not rooted on any planet travel the space lanes from one job to the next. Some are subsistence farmers and seasonal settlers, but most Mandalorians never stay in any one place long enough to call it home. There is rarely a moment of certainty regarding a Mando and his place of lodging. Even places a Mando has stayed in for years, their way of life dictates that little if any effort is exerted into making the place more then functional, and they are usually ready to leave in a moment's notice.
Burial practices have altered with the times as well. With today's Mando'ade, actual burial is usually impractical due to their constant space travel. Even when death occurs planet-side, it has become the custom to cremate and scatter the remains. A common practice that has been maintained from the ancient times is the retention of one of the deceased's possessions. Anything from entire suites of armor, single pieces from it, or some other article that was of importance to the dead person is often kept by loved ones as a memorial. Each night each Mando must recite the names of fallen comrades as a conscious act of keeping their memories - and thus their existence - alive.
Most of these practices were retained from the ancient Mandalorians. The only difference would be the actual cremation process. Rather then a controlled funeral procedure, the ancient Mando'ade would send the bodies of comrades who fell in battle into the heart of a star. Those who died peacefully would usually be given standard cremations.
By far the most identifying and easily recognizable feature of a Mandalorian is his armor. The design made famous in this era, the segmented body plates topped with a full T-visored helmet, is a throwback to the Crusader era. Even more so then today, Crusaders were fiercely independent as to the design and style of their armor. Interchangeable and standardized parts were very rare. Each warrior would spend his lifetime customizing and upgrading his kit to fit his exact specifications, no matter what the mission. Although most modern armors are lighter and have fewer plates then the ancient Crusader armors typically had, this is as much a symptom of Mandalorian armor's utter rarity as it is a modern preference toward less bulky kits.
Although Mandalorian armor has been made from several different types of material, by far the most desired and rarest are those sets made from Mandalorian Iron *known as Beskar.* This all but impenetrable metal, made so by both the material's natural properties as well as the forging techniques of master Mandalorian smiths, has protected both ancient Crusaders and modern mercenaries. It's customarily handed down from one generation to the next, with some suits tracing back in the same Clan line for hundreds of years.
Armor colors and markings have come to indicate a myriad of different meanings. The Clans of the Crusader era often had their own colors, and warriors from each clan would usually have at least one noticeable item that identified them as being part of it. This was not universal however, and there was usually no set rule to the rest of a Mando's colors other then his own personal taste. By contrast, the Neo-Crusaders shortly afterward had a standardized set of armor for every Mando, with a strict code of color based rank identifications. Today, a Mando's colors can identify him as either of the above, or a whole host of other possible meanings. The choice could be as simple as personal taste, a localized identification code used by certain clans or just families, or even a warrior's state of mind or mission. Sand gold has at some point over the years come to represent vengeance, while some view black as representative of justice. Some color schemes identify a particular Mando's fighting style; camouflage for those that like to attack unseen, bright and flashy on those who don't care or even prefer their query sees them coming.
Clan and family sigils are commonly, though again not universally, displayed on a warrior's armor. Some marks are only worn as a reward for bravery in some clans, like medals worn by some other cultures.
There is a deep-rooted connection nearly all Mandalorians share with their armor. It is a physical representation of their heritage that is universally recognized, and protects them from the hazards inherent in their line of work. However, every Mando youth is drilled with one rule before he may possess their first set of armor. It is the man or woman inside that makes the Mandalorian, Not the armor. Without you, the armor is useless; within the armor, you are still Mandalorian.