Siikesilla

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Two Siikesilla designs: these belong to the current President and Chancellor of Karolia, Rülik Loeslaes and Täni Säpaarv

Note: this article used the vernacular form of the plural for the native term.

A Siikesilla (Románš: Sikâsíllâ) is a design or device which is intrinsic to the folk culture of Karolia and is held to bring good fortune, wisdom and strength to the holder. It is usually made up of a form based around concentric circles and radial lines, but other shapes may also be found. Every Karolian will traditionally have a Siikesilla that they have designed as part of a coming-of-age ceremony; the completed design is often realised as an amulet or carving and, once accepted, cannot be altered or disinherited.

The concept and term derives from the Siike, a magical object in Karolian mythology which is usually depicted as a pot or cauldron (sometimes a chalice or millstone) possessing magical powers to communicate with and restore the dead to life, produce anything the finder desires and protection from enemies, as long as one remains with it. It is thought that the tradition derives from an episode in the Vaaräsiin epic in which the hero Kalet manages to retain some of the Siike's powers by carving its likeness in in gold using magical symbols, although other theories have also been proposed. The circular features of most designs are understood to be the pot or wheel-like shape of the Siike.

The Meridon scholar Teren wrote in his 1301 Chronikk of Parts Occidental:

"...seeing each day the Carooli (sic) all wear about their persons each a different strange device being made of circles, and, being inquiring of this custom, I learned that it was named in their tongues a seekesil, whereupon it was also imparted their belief that the thing was possessed of the shaman's magic and protection. Every soul in that country be they rich or poor had his own, and never were seen apart from their owner. What magic they might have claimed within seemed for all parts not to place the Devil into them, for I was given good victuals and spoken to by gentle men in nigh every hamlet I passed, all of whom wore the devices."

History

Archaeological evidence shows that Siikesilla amulets made from gold, iron, bronze and bone have survived from the Iron Age onwards, often mounted on a chain when belonging to wealthier individuals. A very few wooden examples have been found on bodies preserved in bogs and sealed graves, suggesting that material was not necessarily connected to status, rather, the use of natural materials facilitated a closer connection to nature and religious beliefs surrounding the landscape.

'Great' siikesillad from central Karolia in the Linnamuseo, Känton
As many of the beliefs and customs surrounding the object have survived to the present day, it has been relatively easy to understand the archaeological evidence of its use in the past. Historians speculate that the first tribes to adopt the devices were in the western side of the modern Plains regions and that their original function may have been to show loyalty to a particular tribal leader. Later, the use evolved into a similar function to a coat of arms, with each generation modifying the design of their parents and eventually into the modern custom around 1100. It is not known before around 800 whether women or just men wore siikesillad, as no female graves with them have been found.

Between c.2nd century BC and the 6th century AD the very wealthy wore 'great' siikesillad, large gold neckpieces with circular decorations over the clasps.

During the sixteenth to early eighteenth centuries the practice declined as the religious authorities persecuted shamanistic practices and folk customs deemed to be a threat to their power, disappearing in main population centers. It was only after the Period of Unification that the practice returned to public life as a form of national expression. In the 2011 national census 88% of Karolians stated they regularly wore or 'felt ownership over' a siikesilla design, whilst a further 6% had previously designed one but did not feel the need to use it in public.

Design

The author's own siikesilla, carved in wood. (The neck chain has been removed)
When a child comes of age in Karolian society (traditionally age sixteen) they will create their own Siikesilla. There are no codified rules for the process, but they must devise the design entirely by themselves and may choose to reference their parent's Siikesillad or use symbols that have meaning only to them. Traditionally, the finished design would be drawn in the ground inside a tent, whilst alone, and once the child had done so the shaman of the village would then accept it and carve the shape in wood or bone and seek the blessing of the gods when done, before presenting it. The wearer was also supposed to incorporate hidden meanings into the design which only they would know the significance of. The practice of 'secret' design and having an elder create it as an amulet continue to this day.

In recent times there has been criticism of attempts to codify certain symbols as having a certain meaning - chiefly political, ethnic and sexual identities (this is despite the early-modern revival of the practice being intentionally adopted by the Nationalist and Unification movements). The advent of the Internet has been a particular catalyst for this, with websites claiming to list sets of 'powerful' and 'tribal' symbols and even offering to design a Siikesilla for the holder, leading some to call for the outlawing of such services. The similarity of the circles to musical notes, something which was historically accepted for its association with the quasi-religious bardic tradition, has led to reports that some have attempted to incorporate rock song melodies into their designs. However, most evidence suggests that such occurrences have been exaggerated in the media and that the vast majority of young people follow the traditional processes.

Social customs and etiquette

In theory, every Siikesilla is unique to its holder. Many Karolians to this day choose to wear theirs as an amulet all or most of the time, usually below clothing (although there is no prohibition or taboo on public display). In some traditional areas the Siikesillad of the family are carved around the door of the house.

In some jurisdictions inscribing one's Siikesilla may be used in lieu of a signature. Many Karolians will add it after their names in formal letters, and historically the design would also have been used as a seal. It has become acceptable in modern times to make a copy of a siikesilla for everyday wear whilst a formal version (which might, for example, be made of metal too heavy to wear comfortably all day) is kept safe and used only for ceremonial purposes.

Uninvited handling, or worse, removing a person's Siikesilla without permission is one of the few things Karolians will get seriously offended over. In some ancient laws the penalty was death as a Siikesilla was held to contain part of a person's soul, and therefore they might be killed or their soul snatched by a demon if removed. Even the police or medical services will seek permission before touching one. They are not considered a security risk as the vast majority are made of wood or plastic and, in any case, using one as a weapon is equally offensive.

The wearing of a Siikesilla by a non-Karolian is also frowned upon. Whilst there is no definitive limit to how closely related one must be to a Karolian ancestor, some hold that only those born in the country or who have two Karolian parents can design one. There are certainly none being offered as souvenirs, although this has not stopped enterprising individuals from making their own and claiming Karolian roots. Some descendants of Karolians in the Ardisphere have maintained the wearing of a Siikesilla as a form of regional or 'roots' identity. The use of the devices by Meridonians is controversial for some Karolians as for them the country's claim to Karolian heritage is nullifed by resisting joining the Union in 1803 and subsequently profiting from 'uncultural' financial dealings. An infamous story (which was later discovered to have been significantly embellished by some newspapers) that a Meridonian businessman in Gobrassanya had created siikesillas for his Khaiwoonese wife and adopted child allegedly in order to gain more favourable terms from a Karolian business partner attracted condemnation when is aired in 1998.

When a Karolian dies, their Siikesilla must be buried with them. The device may be copied, but the original must stay with its owner to continue to guide it in the afterlife.

Shamanism

Whilst the majority of Karolians wear a siikesilla for national or traditional reasons, some followers of the shamanic tradition hold that the devices are able to communicate with the ancestors and the ancient gods to reveal knowledge. The Śamaanliidu (Guild of Shamans, sometimes spelt Šamaanliidu) maintain the custom of allowing their siikesillad to absorb the sun's rays on auspicious calendar days (typically solstices and equinoxes) in order to use them to 'bridge' into the spirit world. They also claim to be able to interpret the patterns on a siikesilla to read the owner's future.