Omen Valley
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Haruspex

 

By one fire I could see a squat Tuchuk, hands on hips, dancing and stamping about by himself, drunk on fermented milk curds, dancing, according to Kamchak, to please the sky. The Tuchuks and the other Wagon Peoples reverence Priest-Kings, but unlike the Goreans of the cities, with their castes of Initiates, they do not extend to them the dignities of worship. I suppose the Tuchuks worship nothing, in the common sense of that word, but it is true they hold many things holy, among them the bosk and the skills of arms, but chief among the things before which the proud Tuchuk stands ready to remove his helmet is the sky, the simple, vast beautiful sky, from which falls the rain that, in his myths, formed the earth, and the bosks, and the Tuchuks. It is to the sky that the Tuchuks pray when they pray, demanding victory and luck for themselves, defeat and misery for their enemies. The Tuchuk, incidentally, like others of the Wagon Peoples, prays only when mounted, only when in the saddle and with weapons at hand; he prays to the sky not as a slave to a master, nor a servant to a god, but as a warrior to a Ubar; the women of the Wagon Peoples, it might be mentioned, are not permitted to pray; many of them, however, do patronize the haruspexes, who, besides foretelling the future with a greater or lesser degree of accuracy for generally reasonable fees, provide an incredible assemblage of amulets, talismans, trinkets, philters, potions, spell papers, wonder-working sleen teeth, marvelous powdered kailiauk horns, and colored, magic strings that, depending on the purpose, may be knotted in various ways and worn about the neck.

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the women of the Wagon Peoples, it might be mentioned, are not permitted to pray; many of them, however, do patronize the haruspexes, who, besides foretelling the future with a greater or lesser degree of accuracy for generally reasonable fees, provide an incredible assemblage of amulets, talismans, trinkets, philters, potions, spell papers, wonder-working sleen teeth, marvelous powdered kailiauk horns, and colored, magic strings that, depending on the purpose, may be knotted in various ways and worn about the neck.

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It is near Turia, in the spring, that the Omen Year is completed, when the omens are taken, usually over several days by hundreds
of haruspexes, mostly readers of bosk blood and verr livers, to determine if they are favorable for a choosing of a Ubar San, a One Ubar, a Ubar who would be High Ubar, a Ubar of all the Wagons, a Ubar of all the Peoples, one who could lead them as one people.

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I heard a haruspex singing between the wagons; for a piece of meat he would read the wind and the grass; for a cup of wine the stars and the flight of birds; for a fat-bellied dinner the liver of a sleen or slave. The Wagon Peoples are fascinated with the future and its
signs and though, to hear them speak, they put no store in such matters, yet they do in practice give them great consideration.

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 Kamchak and I dismounted and, from outside the circle, watched the four chief haruspexes of the Wagon Peoples approach the huge altar in the center of the field. Behind them another four haruspexes, one from each People, carried a large wooden cage, made of sticks lashed together, which contained perhaps a dozen white vulos, domesticated pigeons. This cage they placed on the altar. I then noted that each of the four chief haruspexes carried, about his shoulder, a white linen sack, somewhat like a peasant's rep-cloth seed
bag. "This is the first Omen," said Kamchak, "—the Omen to see if the Omens are propitious to take the Omens."

 "This part of the Omen Taking always goes well," I was informed by Kamchak. "Why is that?" I asked. "I don't know," he said. Then he looked at me. "Perhaps," he proposed, "it is because the vulos are not fed for three days prior to the taking of the Omen." "Perhaps," I admitted.

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 Indeed, I supposed there must be one haruspex at least for each of the many altars in the field. Among the animals I saw many verr; some domestic tarsks, their tusks sheathed; cages of flapping vulos, some sleen, some kaiila, even some bosk; by the Paravaci haruspexes I saw manacled male slaves, if such were to be permitted; commonly, I understood from Kamchak, the Tuchuks, Kassars and Kataii rule out the sacrifice of slaves because their hearts and livers are thought to be, fortunately for the slaves, untrustworthy in
registering portents