I am passionate about my heroes, Xandr and Thelana, because I share their values, and attitudes, regarding communal nakedness. Since clothing is utterly unknown to their people, the Ilmar, they have no sense of body shame, no understanding, actually, of what it means to be “naked”. The Ilmar manage this without any of the problems we associate with sex. There is no rape, no harassment, no pedophilia, no pent-up longings, and no jealousy in Ilmarinen. And yet, the people of the Ukko Valley are bound by their own customs and traditions, so you would not come across any orgies either.
The bonfire represents the primordial energy that existed when the universe first formed. Husbands, wives, uncles, aunts and cousins, all join hands to form rings about the fire, in recognition of the first gods, Eru and Anu, who are said to sing and dance through the cosmos, making love continually and birthing new worlds. Of their countless children is Aenya, personified in the form of the Goddess, the spirit of nature, who is also called Alashiya, or Zoë.
While the age of those that are joined in this manner might be cause for alarm in our society, it is important to consider the shortened lifespan of the Ilmar, which rarely exceeds beyond forty years. Likewise, the Ilmar are sure to find the impersonal mating habits of the American teenager equally abhorrent. It should also be noted that while it is traditional for joinings to be made during the Solstice, there is no compunction to do so. But mating outside the ritual, before being joined, is taboo. This is enforced, in part, to curb incest, as the Ilmar are small in number and sparsely populate their land, living in familial groups far from other families.
A fraction of the population may remain without a mate for life. Most Ilmar consider this a tragic situation, believing that the partner-soul has yet to be born into the current generation, the two life cycles having become “misaligned.” On such occasions, those who do not find love by a certain age are led up into the Ukko Mountains by the Alashiyan Order of Monks, to become keepers of the sacred knowledge.
A shameless culture is a beautiful culture. If we are free to express our true selves without ridicule or condemnation, whether that means being openly gay, transgender, or choosing simply to live without clothing, I believe this world would be a better place. But a true utopian society is contingent on the sense of community inherent to small, tight-knit cultures, to people who live and work closely together and rely on one another for survival. We must consider the sense of love that exists between people, within families, and between individuals, without which we cannot be free to be ourselves.
Too often when we think of nudity, we immediately think of pornography, and because of this, I have made concerted efforts to separate the two, only because of the demographics-driven culture in which we live, where we divorce love from sex. But for the Ilmar, the bonding of flesh is congruent with emotional connection. The Ilmar are not asexual, but in fact, celebrate intercourse more fervently than we do. But where we equate nudity with sex, the Ilmar equate love with sex.
I do not intend to sound like a cult leader here, nor do I wish to form a commune somewhere. Those things never work out. But I do entertain the notion that we can change the world in the way that every individual, I believe, has the capacity to change it. One tiny thread at a time, within the tapestry that makes up the whole of society. In creating an idealized race of people, if only in my imagination, I strive to make my readers think. Barring that, it makes for great fiction.
Want to know more about the Ilmar? Be sure to pick up Ages of Aenya, an epic adventure about Ilmarin heroes, Xandr and Thelana at www.nickalimonos.com.
COMING SOON: The Feral Girl. When famine strikes Ilmarinen and her family begins to starve, Thelana is forced out into the wilderness. Alone and afraid, she quickly learns to survive in the harshest and most unforgiving of environments, struggling for food, running and hiding from predators, and pining, always, for the innocence of her youth, for the family and home she will never see again.