How To Blend Cultures (Without Making Impossible Mixes)
This is a guide specifically about fantasy worldbuilding. WWC gets a lot of questions around “I’m mixing two cultures together, how do I do that?” and this is to explain both how to do that and when you very much should not.
Next up, mixing Greece/Rome with far-flung cultures gets a little bit eyebrow raising. Unless it was a direct trading partner/conquered property, Greek/Roman cultures do not mix with non-European cultures. The Greek empire only went to the Northern regions of India at its very peak, and that is limited to the ancient world. Rome stopped in the Middle East, so, again, you don’t have the cultural backing for a mixing of anything outside of its borders.
Depictions of Rome and Greece in ancient literature shows other ancient cultures found them quite backwards, and were adverse to mixing with them. By many standards they were very backwards, and it’s only Europe (and, as an extension, America) that revered them to the extent they do. Asia and Africa had no reason to see them as advanced, because they made many more technological advancements than either. North America and Oceanic cultures hardly interacted with either, and had both their own technological advancements+ cultures closer by to borrow advancements from, instead.
Outside of that, cultures are born out of the environments that made them. As a result, places with wildly dissimilar climates and resources pools will not be able to blend harmoniously unless you’re taking a modern analogue society where globalism has happened. This is plain old because resources only travel so far, and people are more likely to build culture around resources they have easy access to (even well-established trade links can lead to people re-creating things: Han purple and Egyptian blue point to an ancient trade link, but they were made with local materials processed differently).
Roman architecture exists because the Romans had access to copious amounts of concrete materials/marble and lived in the Mediterranean, which got very hot summers, heavy rains, and not a whole lot of cold. As a result they created structures that worked for this, which included open airways, pillars, easy to clean floors, shade, and ventilation. Places that lack these resources will not be able to replicate Rome.
Their resource pool was very specific to their regions, and there’s a reason Rome had the rule that anybody who did’t live like Romans were slaves: it was really hard to live like a Roman, and they wanted their slave pool as large as possible.
Different cultures with different resources formed in wildly different ways, and might not even have anything similar to Greece or Rome. Because of this, you need to look really close at why culture developed the way it did. If it’s because they had extremely dissimilar resources pools, it’s wise to not blend the cultures (or at least not think they’ll look anything like their original cultures)
Which brings me to value systems. Cultures put value on different things. Each culture ends up with a base philosophy for what they esteem and how they use resources, which proceeds to influence how it develops. Architecture has meaning to it. So does what colours you use in different applications. Because these things are sacred and/or practical for certain social orders. “Sacred” in cultures ends up becoming a shorthand for “this ritual helps us survive.”
There is no such thing as “aesthetic” when you get down to the root of each single item, because that aesthetic has a practical purpose. There is also no such thing as a “solely religious reason” under the same logic. Cows have become sacred in most varieties of Hinduism— because cows (and oxen) have been the main farming animal in the Indian subcontinent for millennia. They provide milk for sustenance, power for ploughing fields, and dung, which can be used as a floor polish and, when dried, a source of fuel for fire that gives off a more even heat than wood. As a single provider for crucial elements of agrarian life, their sacredness developed from their practicality. Having cows roam freely meant absolutely everyone could have access to an efficient cooking fuel.
Chinese brush painting has meaning. Jade sculpture has meaning. Pagodas and sloped roofs and gates have meaning. The philosophy, environment, history, and present circumstances of a culture is built into every. single. little. thing. about that culture, meaning you cannot just change it out.
Unless you learn the very root of culture, their values and stigmas and honours and shames, you cannot modify it accurately. Cultures survive because that was the best way to respond to the world at the time. A long-standing culture such as China’s has to be functional and incredibly well suited for the environment, otherwise it would not have survived. There is something about Chinese culture that works extraordinarily well for it to perpetuate itself, and you cannot disrespect that.
Learn the “why” of culture. Learn how it came to manifest and the reasons behind its manifestations. Study the geography and resources available to the people at hand. Know a culture so well you can explain how it works in real life and how your world’s history parallels the circumstances that created a similar culture in fantasy.
Only then will you be able to pull it off with respect.
Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack
in the concrete
Proving nature’s laws wrong it learned 2 walk
without having feet
Funny it seems but by keeping its dream
it learned 2 breath fresh air
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else even cared!
’ you look a lot like my next girlfriend/boyfriend. ’
’ are you a drill sergeant? because you have my privates standing at attention. ’
’ do you mix concrete for a living? because you’re making me hard. ’
’ if you’re feeling down, i can feel you up. ’
’ i’m no weather man, but you can expect more than a few inches tonight. ’
’ i may not go down in history, but i’ll go down on you. ’
’ are you from the ghetto? cause i’m about to ghetto hold of dat ass. ’
’ you know what i like in a girl? my dick. ’
’ are you a doctor? cause you just cured my erectile dysfunction. ’
’ i lost my virginity. can i have yours? ’
’ hey, you wanna do a 68? you go down on me, and i’ll owe you one. ’
’ you can call me cake, cause i’ll go straight to your ass. ’
’ roses are red, violets are fine. if i be the 6, will you be the 9? ’
’ i’m like a firefighter, i find ‘em hot and leave ‘em wet! ’
’ i’m hung like a tic tac. wanna freshen your breath? ’
’ you smell like trash. may i take you out? ’
’ i wanna floss with your pubic hair. ’
’ let’s have a party and invite your pants to come on down. ’
’ you’re so hot, even my pants are falling for you! ’
’ are you spaghetti cause i want you to meat my balls. ’
’ we should play strip poker. you can strip, and I’ll poke you. ’
’ do you like adele? cause i can tell you wanna be rolling in the d. ’
’ do you have a shovel? cause i’m diggin’ that ass! ’
’ damn, are you my new boss, because you just gave me a raise. ’
’ remember my name, because you’ll be screaming it later! ’
’ are you an elevator? cause i wanna go down on you. ’
’ are you a shark? cause i’ve got some swimmers for you to swallow. ’
’ do you work for papa johns? cause you’re a fine pizza ass. ’
’ are you from china? cause i’m china get in your pants. ’
’ why don’t you surprise your roommate and not come home tonight? ’
’ baby there’s a party in my pants and you are invited! ’
’ i’m looking for treasure, can i look around your chest? ’
’ if i flip a coin, what are my chances of getting head? ’
’ would you like a hotdog to go with those buns? ’
’ this may seem corny, but you make me really horny. ’
’ how about you make me the climax of your story? ’
’ that’s a nice set of legs, what time do they open? ’
’ my name is skittles… wanna taste my rainbow? ’
’ you remind me of a crop, because i wanna plow you. ’
But let’s normalize
city witchcraft, urban witchcraft. Not everyone’s craft is centered around lush
forest or green mountains. Some witches live in the city, full of concrete and
cars. Some live on the streets. Let’s normalize that.
I think a huge part
of seeing witchcraft as primarily a woodland thing has a lot to do with a
whitewashed view of craft, and it would be nice to normalize witchcraft in the
city, considering a ton of minorities live in city areas.
i. Kids playing hooky early morning, I am the pain relief pills they hide under their tongue and spit out under the couch cushions when their mother shuts the screen door. I am the first time you skin your knee, in the rain whispering nixie weaved revenge spells down your yellow coat and your red boots (the first time you really know you are alone). I am the hand stand on the sidewalk when your elbow buckles in like lame horses fall to the canyon mouth, you are just a child. You can fly, turn invisible, speak to animals, walk through walls. Rustling, do you hear it? Yanking the baby teeth from their pink beds.
ii. You crumble under the weight of a naked black sky, feeling something skittering on your skin. Something wicked and naive. Like a spider egg. You get a mouthful of broken teeth, and lay frying sunny side up on the summer asphalt.
iii. Tonight you’re gonna learn how to fall, then get back up again. Tonight you are gonna know what it is to be exhausted. Are you okay when you fall off your daydream and end up on your back? Your eyes are red where they used to be white.
iv. you have been chewing your will to live with the aching wisdom teeth you desperately need to get pulled. you have been softening it with your saliva, but it’s 11 pm, and it’s stale now, and it tangles into your rapunzel locks in your sleep and finally gives you an excuse to cut all your hair off.
v. Last week your dentist asked if anything was bothering you, and you almost told him about the small tooth you think is growing between your tricuspids, pushing everything out of place, sending you on the verge of sonic tears and crawling on the bathroom floor with no idea where your phone is, and something out of control, and poison, and odontalgia, and dysthymia, and forgetting the Latin roots, and ripped out pages of a book that was supposed to tell you how to get back home and. how long do you think I can hold my breath before I look like a blueberry, and it is,
in me, and the throbbing red bump at the base of your sternum and how you tried to cut it off but you were too scared of what was underneath, and dandelion seeds of reasons why you should just stay here until somebody forgets you even showed up heaving out of your mouth and into a McDonalds bag, and the feeling at 13 in the bathroom stall after swim practice shaking like coffee on an empty stomach pulling out the first tampon you ever put inside, and your wet thighs, and the warm dirty smell.
Gargle, spit. You say no. Nothing really.
vi. you should get gold fillings. then all you have to do is flash a smile and no one will fuck with you.
vii. Four months until graduation we are not wasting time, but we eat it too fast and end up vomiting on the highway. On the swing, wood chip splinters, and agitation like termite fever beneath my skin. It’s not that I think the zombie apocalypse would be cool, but I could do all the things I do right now without getting sideways glances in the convenience store, or being told I’m depressed like it’s such a problem, or being treated like the splattered milk gallon on the dairy aisle linoleum. Everybody stepping back and maneuvering their shopping carts around the fresh disaster, and staring, and looking away, and ignoring what they don’t want to deal with. And not wanting the blame.
viii. I’m not depressed. It’s just winter.
ix. Is this the last weekend before the first blood? I’m not gonna do my homework anyway.
x. I’m not depressed. My brother took me into the car with the light fixture wires hanging from the ceiling like your wet hair from shower tiles. we zoomed down with Apollo laughing in the backseat and egged the big white houses in Beverly Hills and pretended like we were still the strawberry jam kids on concrete playing hopscotch, living in sandcastles, eating mudpies. Like we were not hotboxing, and taking pictures of half healed things under the band aid, and always ready to put our hands up when we hear sirens, and microwaving earthworms. And growing up too fast.
I’m not depressed. But I’m not coming back this time either.
xi. It’s a haunted Sunday in the home your parents left to rot, and the black mold spores bleeding down the buttermilk wallpaper are causing you to do unadvisable backbends. And somehow years later I am still the grocery list you are always throwing in the trash with the candy wrappers.