This article refers to physical Directions within The Inbound Lands, and the related symbolism and archetypes as they apply within gameplay.
Much of the formal visual language of the Inbound Lands carries a rich symbolic weight, and those with a keen eye and sense of mythological history can uncover vast secrets embedded in simple uses of color, pose, and notation.
This article covers:
Birdfolk have an innate sense of magnetic North, and as such, the use and understanding of the Birdfolk compass is essential to navigation. Folken without this innate sense must be able to orient themselves accordingly, either through skill or tool-use.
In addition to their practical use, Locational Directions within The Inbound Lands have rich associations of color, written symbol, and place that help orient the traveler. As much of BirdFolk Culture places heavy mythological associations on place, these symbols also find their way into legend, visual cues such as Flock Motif, and in everyday wayfinding. The wise traveler learns to read this symbolism even more fluently than spoken language.
When both cardinal and secondary directions are included on the same compass – whether as shorthand or more ornate forms, and this compass is shown in a flat format, this expression takes two distinct forms.
The first is known, particularly in older terminology, as the “Open Bird” or “Opened Bird” pattern. It is used as a teaching tool, as a general concept of the compass, and as static signage, (though not for wayfinding directions or directional giving). The Open Bird Pattern can be identified as all of the directional signage is oriented as if the viewer is “off the page,” or looking straight at a flat map or hung sign. For example, the Open Bird Pattern might be used to show static, unchanging signage, such as top-down maps to show Railway lines, geographical maps, or used as a motif in artistic representation.
The second is known as the “Flat Plate” pattern, and is used as dynamic wayfinding or directional guidance. It is designed and oriented to be seen as if the viewer were standing at the center, and symbols are usually arranged pointing inwards towards the viewer’s perspective. Often, the Flat Plate may lack the origin direction (as the viewer is assumed to be coming from that point). The Flat Plate Pattern is used to give directions (particularly written), to show a course of travel over time, or to guide the viewer through a concept of time plus space; it would be used when directing someone to a destination, such as showing how they might take a particular set of Railway lines or trails to get someplace.
Additionally, for symbolic references and orienting the viewer. this pattern is understood to be “seen from the back:” that is, overlaid on the Birdfolk physiology as seen from the back, as if the viewer were standing behind the directional giver, following directions as they pointed them out. When drawn, the directions orient themselves accordingly to this layout, and when given verbally, the viewer is understood to know the location of North.
The Birdfolk compass includes six primary directions, or cardinal directions.
Birdfolk colloquially refer to this set of directions as the “Outer” or “Body” directions, as they are associated with the Birdfolk physical form: each direction is assigned a major limb, and the symbolic concept of this directional set is with external movements acting on the environment in physical interactions. This physical environments are largely related to terrain – the stone, the sand, the sea, and the seed – with the exceptions of egg and eye, which stand for social responsibilities to ones immediate relationships (egg) as well as to the greater social good (eye).
Somewhat confusingly, these directions are also the formal names of the original Birdfolk jurisdictional regions, which are associated with the colors and symbols of each direction, and roughly (but not always) the same general location.
Their names, [symbolic colors], (physical associations), and rough orientations are:
The Birdfolk compass also includes four secondary directions.
Birdfolk colloquially refer to this set of directions as the “Inner,” or “Spirit” directions, as they are associated with the Birdfolk spiritual connection: specific points on the Birdfolk physical form that the Birdfolk believe connect them spiritually and form “physical” conduits to their environment.
These four areas represent the four necessities to developing well-roundedness as an individual: health (left hip), wealth (right hip), expansion or growth of oneself (right shoulder), and establishment or maintenance/caretaking of oneself (left shoulder).
Somewhat confusingly, these directions are also the formal names of four post-Unification Birdfolk jurisdictional regions, which are associated with the colors and symbols of each direction, and roughly (but not always) the same general location. Following unification, these regions were carved out from the original six for easier regional management purposes.
Their names, [symbolic colors], (physical/spiritual associations), and rough orientations are:
Because of their physical awareness of the dominance of North, and a focus on geolocational direction as opposed to egolocational orientation, Birdfolk do not generally include the Walking Folk directions of East and West into their directional wayfinding. Known simply as “The World Line” (as it wraps around the globe and meets itself again), this universal symbol is primarily used in conjunction to the existing directions and to the concepts of Upriver and Downriver.
The World Line is most famously known for its association with The Dual Faces of Corvus and Coyotl, and for its association with the Ranger Corps service categories of Keeper and Seeker (respectively), both of which are seen as two sides of the same concept. These are explained as follows, with their Face, [color association], (Ranger service category), and general wayfinding association:
Though the Birdfolk expect any Hetchlings to adopt and use exclusively Birdfolk directional vernacular, the increasing acceptance of Walking Folk and Foxfolken as cultural neighbors has shifted the worldview of many of the normally conservative Birdfolk. It is not uncommon for modern Birdfolk compasses to include “the generosity of The World Line,” and the Dual Faces color associations and symbolic drawings may be seen denoting markings for East and West. Though you still won’t hear many Birdfolk actually use the words “East” or “West” when giving direction, it is a constant cultural struggle to maintain the monuments of the past under the erosive forces of progress and assimilation.
Less common than the use of compass, Birdfolk loosely associate Corvus and Coyotl with concepts of “Left” and “Right.” This is used strictly in regards to direct egolocational orientation that is constantly in flux due to movement (such as “the left side of my body”) and not to general geolocational direction that is more static (such as “he sat Peakward of me, and they sat Eggward of me”)
These Dual Face symbolic relationships is related primarily to the Inner Compass directions, as the areas of left generosity – of Bone/Health and Shelter/Establishment – fall under the inward nature of Corvus, who looks to the Left or Past, and whose analysis is necessary for the proper boundaries that allow these areas of roundedness to flourish.
The areas of right generosity – of Boat/Wealth and Fern/Expansion – fall under the outward nature of Coyotl, who looks to the Right or Future, and whose disruption of the known is necessary for the healthy risktaking that allow these areas of roundedness to flourish.
Confusingly, the left hand is thus associated with Aqua, and the right hand with Orange: when seen from the back, this is contrary to any compass markings that use aqua for depictions of the east, and orange for the depictions of the west. However, this makes sense within Birdfolk Directional Looking symbolism: for example, as Corvus is said to look Left, Birdfolk would argue that it would make sense for her to be standing on the right side of the Directional Giver, looking across to the left hand’s actions. (“If she were standing on the Left, she would be facing away, and would not see it.”)
Birdfolk may refer to the direction of Left as “Cor,” and the direction of Right as “Ki” or “Coh.”
In contemporary conversation, Walking Folk or Foxfolken may refer to “East” and “West” as “Cor” and “Ki,” respectively, and have readily adopted Aqua as a shorthand for East, and Orange for shorthand for West. However, this usage is generally frowned upon in Birdfolk culture, who generally do not acknowledge East and West, and find it confusing due to the flux nature of Left and Right locational relationships.
As wayfinding and directional guidance maps, Birdfolk use the Open Bird and Flat Plate Pattern to reference the island’s layout, and the traveler’s journey not just in traditional directions, but also in the ideas of “In” and “Out.” This is sometimes confusing to Walking Folk attempting to make sense of the symbols.
In the Flat Plate Pattern, directional symbols are arranged in a circle, whose circumference represents the horizon line. The placement of additional bearings markers is understood to be egolocational, or relative to the current position of the viewer.
“In” is understood as “Down” or “To the Center” (alternately, but less commonly, “Nazen” or “To the Nazir”). When arranged in flat written formats, all Bird Folk compass symbols point “In” to the center, or where the viewer is believed to be. Additionally, markings intended to show that a location is beneath or below the current point in space will be included inside of the compass circle, showing their downward nature.
“Out” is understood as “Up” or “Away from Center” (alternately, but less commonly, “Apen” or “To the Apex”). When arranged in Flat Plate patterns, “Out” is considered external to the circle and “Outbound” points will be outside of the Compass Wheel, showing that the destination is above the
Further complicating things, these above rules generally apply only to the dynamic nature of the Flat Plate Pattern.
In the Open Bird Pattern, static location indicators (such as a locational marker) are placed according to broader geolocational spatial relationships (and not egolocational). In this instance, the symbol for Egg is the primary point of reference, and is understood to located, of course, at the Nest Citadel; the other symbols are simply arranged in a circular pattern but do not necessarily correspond at scale to the regions they represent.
When marking either an existing Open Bird or creating a Flat Plate, when giving travel directions, Bird Folk may use V shapes (that may or may not be placed on lines), with the “Beaks” or points facing in the direction the traveler should go. Additionally, multiple points or Beaks on a single line may be used to indicate different stops on a route.
“Apex” and “Nazir” are unusual cases: though they are sometimes associated with the concepts of “Away from Center” and “To the Center” (respectively) when in the Flat Plate, they are specifically associated with three-dimensional concepts of “Up” and “Down” (respectively) when used in verbal directional giving, using angles of approach as navigational guides. They are used to supplement directional wayfinding and giving, identifying if a location is vertically above or below the viewer’s current perspective.
The concepts of “Apex” and “Nazir” originate from pre-mapmaking verancular and a long history of on-the-move navigation common to sea and sand (where physical landmarks are not always available), and are vocalized as “Apen” and “Nazen” specifically. To denote angles of Apen and Nazen, Birdfolk will use measurements of “fingers,” or the width of the directional giver’s finger when laid against the horizon line. Due to the shifting nature of angles of approach, Apen and Nazen are extremely subjective measurements in vocal directional giving.
This formality of finger widths in the angle of approach makes the most sense when used to describe places slightly over the immediate vicinity. When in enclosed spaces – such as buildings with multiple floors or ships with several decks – it is equally acceptable to simply give someone directions to “Apen” rather than literally count several hands-worth of fingers for directions to a space immediately overhead. Additionally, Birdfolk often abbreviate conversationally. You might hear a folken say simply “Ape-Apen” rather than “Two Apen,” or “Na-Na-Nazen” for “Three Nazen.”
Due to this spoken origin, there is no universally-accepted standard of measurement of Apex and Nazir. In formal maps of the Open Bird Pattern, the terminology of “Apex” and “Nazir” are used specifically, and the terms are given specific measurements of scale within the side legend of the map. Vertical stacks of horizontal lines denote multipliers of these set measurements when describing topographical height or depth. In Flat Plate Pattern, the measurements of Apex and Nazir are indicated by a series of horizontal lines, stacked vertically, and whose suggested measurements are relying on a rough standard finger width (excepting, of course, instances where a Flat Plate is custom drawn for a specific viewer).
In cases where the horizon is not visible, the giver will use whatever horizontal level surface is available as a suggested reference point, or create a horizon by lying the palm flat before the giver, pointing the opened hand towards the viewer. In cases where the horizon is visible but there is a significant difference in size between the giver and viewer, the created horizon gesture is favored for accuracy.
In cases where the giver’s fingers are significantly different in size than the viewer’s, the giver may reach for the viewer’s to demonstrate the appropriate angle.
Curiously enough, the physical concept of Apex, or Up/Above, is associated with Corvus, whose generosity governs the act of Down-looking, while Nazir , or Down/Below, is associated with Coyotl, whose generosity governs the act of Up-Looking.
The Kkaxe River formed the early basis for the exploration of the continent, and it conveniently and effectively divides the bulk of the continent by flowing North to South. As such, it created and is associated with a directional sense of “North” and “South.” Thus, shorthand for northward travel is known as “Upriver,” while that of southward travel is described as “Downriver.”
The use of Upriver and Downriver to mean Northward and Southward are such an accepted cultural practice, the Birdfolk will use it to give casual directions even if there is no water nearby or if the nearest water flows in a different direction. Even above the head of the Kkaxe, this bearing is used in this manner.
For example, the viewer is located at Powell Station. They are requesting the location of Messner Point. The directional giver would tell them that Messner Point is (formally) “Peak Two Apen,” or (informally) “Up-Peak Two Apen.”
In another example, the viewer is located at Powell Station. They are requesting the location of the Nest Citadel at the bluffs. The directional giver would tell them that the Nest Citadel is (formally) “Egg Four Nazen,” or (informally) “Down-Egg Four Nazen.”
In a third example, the viewer is located at the base of a building. They are requesting the location of a room on the western side of the building on the third floor. The directional giver could tell them to “Ap-ap-apen, Cleft Cor.”
Especially in Formal Depictions of Major Mythological Figures, and in official portraiture within BirdFolk Culture, Posing within Portraiture plays specific roles in announcing identifying psychological or historical characteristics of the individual shown. While important, these poses are not static across all images of the individual: depending on the context of the image (such as a plate image accompanying a story narrating a specific incident or place in time/space), the same figure may show several faces throughout a story (or, in contemporary depictions, even within the same image) as they go through several phases of emotion or character development.
Looking Left is to look to the side of Severity/Justice/Order. To Look Left is to look (in)to the past, to look to the Known Path, to look to previous choices and the hindsight of consequence. To Look Left implies that the individual is making a choice and is comparing previous experiences to the one that comes ahead.
Left-looking often implies that the character of the individual is such as to seek truth despite what consequences may occur.
A traditional interpretation of the way out of mazes (both literal and metaphorical), Left-looking signifies analytical thought and study. Left-looking may be associated with objectivity, stoic-ness, or hard realism: of a willingness to look objectively into an experience as to discover what is really there.
Left-looking falls under the domain (or “generosity”) of Corvus.
Looking Right is to look to the side of Mercy/Unification/Ambiguity. To Look Right is to look towards the future, to look to the Unknown Possibility, and to look to the unexpected and in openness of what may come. To Look Right implies that the individual is comfortable with uncertainty, with a “live and let live” attitude, and through nonforcing action, to going with what may be.
Right-looking often implies that the character of the individual may prefer to maintain the harmony of ignorance or is okay with knowing “only what one needs to know” to proceed. It may imply a stubborness against dwelling within an uncomfortable truth.
However, Right-looking also often signifies a willingness to move forward or move beyond previous discomfort: to choose healing by letting go of what one cannot change (such as the past, or desires that cannot be fulfilled). Right-looking is often associated with optimism, open-mindedness, and forward-thinking.
Right-looking falls under the domain (or “generosity”) of Coyotl.
To Look Up is to look to the External. To Look Up is to find context, to gain a larger sense of the situation, to find direction and identify external forces, pressures, or influences.
To Look Up also signifies that the individual is also seeking outside advice, support, or help.
Upward-Looking, or Out-Looking, falls under the domain of Coyotl, who wanders, land-bound, making sense of the world, and who oversees the social realm.
To Look Down is to look to the Internal. To Look Down is to place oneself within the context of the self, to discover hidden motivations, to examine influences brought from past experiences, and to investigate or unpack emotional weights.
To Look Down often signifies that the individual needs to withdraw and seek their own counsel as opposed to being influenced by outside direction.
Downward-Looking, or In-Looking, falls under the domain of Corvus, who, during her flight, looks downward to those she guardians.
The BirdFolk do not have strict interpretations of Looking Straight (also known as “Looking On”). To BirdFolk, this pose – of the individual looking directly at the viewer – is the most neutral depiction of the face. It is understood as the most “blank” and unrevealing pose for the face to be set in, as it does not reveal intention through symbolic means.
Because they view Looking Straight as neutral, the BirdFolk have long been confused at the Walking Folk associations of On-Looking as truthfulness or openness, and this has led to some misunderstanding over the past two hundred years. This may be largely due to the physiological differences between Walking Folk faces (near-set eyes with comparatively small noses) to BirdFolk faces (which have wide-set eyes on either side of a prominent beak): the most accurate view for BirdFolken is to view an object from the side, with only one eye focusing completely on the scene.
Turning away – to turn the back to the viewer – is also a relatively neutral pose within BirdFolk Culture, and despite the occasional abruptness of the pose usage (and contrary to previous misunderstandings with Walking Folk), does not necessarily evoke a negative connotation. Turning Away is a loose symbol of a kind of “smallness” in the face of something bigger: