Yapa Yaya: Mary Vale and the Olman of Monmurg
In CY 575, one of the most powerful persons in the Hold of the Sea Princes was an Olman woman who claimed to be a slave, Mary Vale. FN1
She was born in CY 531 in Port Toli as the daughter of moderately successful barber, John Vale, and his attractive Olman slave girl, Michelle. Her mother was among the first to arrive in the Hold after the Sea Princes directed their attention away from piracy to large scale slaving in the Amedio Jungle. Michelle was her slave name and likely derived from the Olman goddess name Ixchel, meaning Lady Rainbow.
Michelle’s complexion was dark brown, and it was assumed that she was from a tribe bearing a substantial Touvish bloodline, as is the case of many tribes from the Hook, being among the last to arrive from Hepmonaland and being far from Xamaclan, where the Olman bloodlines run most true, free from the Amedi Suel and Touvish influences. The truth of her mother’s family will likely never be known. Such is but a minor tragedy of the slave trade.
John Vale’s mother was purely Suloise, from an old if poor Hokari family of which there is little to be said. His father was of mixed Flan and Oeridian blood, hailing from the Vale of Berghof. Taking up the name Vale to hide his Flannea heritage, he established for himself a position of respectability in Hokar as a wealthy adventurer semi-retired into planting. Mary inherited the best physical characteristics of all her ancestors, and was known widely for her silky-smooth, creamy-brown skin; long, black wavy hair and perfect features.
John Vale, a descent man, fell deeply in love with Michelle, although he never married her, as well as his new daughter Mary, emancipated them and moved them to Monmurg in CY 533 in an effort to distance himself from the growing slave trade. There, at John’s direction, for his own penitence, Mary was raised strictly in the faith of Osprem, to whom the Jerlea slave trade is abhorrent.
But with her mother’s milk and with the influence of the steadily increasing arrival of Olman slaves, she learned much and more of Olman religion. Eventually she became a great priestess of Tlazoteotl, the Lady of Filth, the Olman seductress goddess of sin and forgiveness. But always Mary remained faithful to her worship of Osprem too, attending the services of the Sea Princess almost daily to pray for her mercy. Nights, however, were another matter.
Mary’s source of power first derived from her father. At a young age, he would often hire his pretty daughter out as a hair dresser to the noble and wealthy women of Monmurg. Such silly women would chat endlessly to the perceptive Mary about matters that would have been better left confidential. With care she was wisely able to use such information to great advantage, both personally and for the benefit of the growing Olman community. FN2.
She cultivated similar sources. Eventually, she developed an extensive network of spies, including domestic slaves intimidated by the power of the Olman priestess and worshipers willing to trade information for cures, blessings or curses. Not the least significant sources of information were the bordellos she eventually owned. Men are as indiscreet with pillow talk as are their wives under the shears and irons. Starting out as a pretty hair dresser in the private salons of the wealthy families, she was often taken advantage of. Finding personal solace in Tlazoteotl, she was able to turn the tables, making a weakness her strength.
To the wealthy she became known as Madam Vale, but her Olman followers called her Lady Mama Laud or Mama Yaya, both for her sweetness. Whether crying their wares loudly in the patois of the mean streets, “gitchi-gitchi ya-ya da-da, gitchi-gitchi ya-ya here
,” or whispering demurely in the luxuriance of a noble Suloise parlor, “neya shacarl shuhesijo abosaki
,” Mary and her cocottes were always flattering to their patrons. FN3.
Her flattery, beauty, connections and shrewd wits earned her a place as the courtesan of Prince Jeon II of Monmurg. She had the critical role in influencing him to attempt to prohibit slavery in the Hold, only to have that blocked the powerful Prince of Toli, Plar of Hool, Grandee of Westkeep, and Commodores of the Isles. Nevertheless, she was successful in gaining some liberties for Olman slaves.
The worship of the Olman gods was legally prohibited in the Hold. Nevertheless, it was very common. Usually the gods were simply recharacterized as servants of an acceptable god, given a different name, and prayed to in established temples. Tlazoteotl was known as Saint Ayida, and tolerated by the Holders as the patroness of birthing. The Olman god of death, Mictlantecuhtli, was known as Baron Starday. He was rarely ever spoken of around Holders, although Mary Vale often claimed to be his slave, as he was indeed thought of a the quintessential slaver. Although most popular among other Olman in the Hold, the god Chitza-Atlan had only a minor following in Monmurg.
While matters upon the plantations were entirely different, in the daily domestic life of the city, Olman slaves did their best to “pass” culturally in imitation of their masters. Likewise, their masters and mistresses did their part to ignore the little things they held in contempt common to small folk everywhere, but expressed in the peculiar Olman way, such as leaving a chicken-foot fetish beside the front door for good luck, or intentionally letting a few drops of blood fall to the floor while dressing the bird for dinner.
Indeed, in some instances, Holders of Monmurg whole-heartedly accepted certain customs and made them their own, such as that of “lanya,” meaning a little something extra provided for the explicit purpose of creating goodwill. FN4. That custom was one of the things that made Monmurg a haven, not only in the Hold, but for the entire Flanaess. Mary, for her part fully implemented it, not only for her customers, but with her whole life, giving what little free time she had to the care of indigent, sick, wounded or even criminals, even if she were the cause of their plight.
By CY 575, Monmurg had largely acclimated to, if not entirely accepted, the presence of an Olman-Rhola subculture. After almost 45 years, sons and daughters of Holders who had grown up with the newly arrived slaves, trusted their own offspring to their care and saw their customs as merely quaint and not threatening. Much of their culture had been lost anyway. Reproductive incentives being different, to say the least, there were even three generations of Olman native to Monmurg since the onset of large scale slaving, with some few bloodlines so diluted that the young children were physically indistinguishable from Flan, Oeridians, and even some Suel. In that year, although she appeared as a fairly young adult, Mary Vale was an expectant grandmother for the second time, and had seven children of her own.
After the accession of Jeon II, in Monmurg at least, Olman slaves were by law given Freeday off from work and, if trusted to return, allowed to congregate in a place that was named Amedio Round, a cross road beyond the city walls. There they performed traditional Olman dances, whirling and twirling half naked to beat rhythmic skin and tin drums. Late into the night, and generally beyond even the thought of Holders, they performed sacred Olman rituals, including the mating dance between Baron Starday and Saint Ayida, called the Snake Dance On more than one occasion Mary played the role of her goddess in the dance. Within a year and thereafter, costumes of furs, leaves, feathers and body paint were seen annually in parade through the streets of Monmurg on Foolsday, Freeday the 7th
of Growfest. It is a custom that is appreciated world wide and one that would be dearly missed should anything ever happen to Monmurg.
FN1. Mary Vale is fashioned after Marie Laveau, the famous voodoo priestess of New Orleans. Her history as applied in this article was larger derived from “Voodoo Queen” at the now DEAD LINK http://www.parascope.com/en/articles/voodooQueen.htm
FN2. The presence of the Olman in the Hold of the Sea Princes is a matter of canon conflict. The 1983 boxed set provides nothing for Amedio slaving before CY 530 and describes the population as SOf. The Living Greyhawk Gazetteer describes the population as Sofz, with the “z” meaning Olman. Samwise has written much about the relatively small scale slaving the in Amedio by the Toli far before the year CY 530. See The Rhola and the Toli: the Battle for Jeklea Bay, http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=731
and forum discussions on the issue. It is assumed for purpose of this article that any Olman presence in Monmurg before CY 530 was minimal.
FN3. The name Lady Mama Laud is derived from the song Lady Marmalade, originally recorded by LaBelle, and pronounced in the song “mama laud.” For Greyhawk, the patois is a variant of the common tongue with the introduction of the Olman word “ya-ya.” The patois phrase means “get your pleasures daddy, get your pleasures here.” The second phrase ultimately conveys the same thing, but more politely. A ritualist survival from the Toli dialect of Ancient Suloise, it translates into “will this great man make spiritual love to this slave woman?” The Olman term “yaya” (also ya ya or yah yah) is intimately connect to Tlazoteotl and reflects her duel personality. Depending on the context, the word can mean girl-talk, pleasure, sex, prostitute, priestess, priest, a woman’s reproductive organs, befouled organs, disease, magic, or just about anything that can be described as a blessing or curse of womanhood. See www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1393
, translating the first phrase, a line from Lady Marmalade; www.etymonline.com
, “yaya,” from Carib, is the name of a tropical disease; www.urbandictionary.com
, defining “yah yah” as befouled female reproductive organs; www.jhu.edu/~newslett/09-24-98/Arts/2.html
, defining “ya-ya,” as in “Ya-Ya Sisterhood” or "Gumbo Ya-Ya," from Creole roots means "everybody talking at the same time" associated with the enjoyment of women in the kitchen; “Voodoo Queen,” supra
, referencing Dr. Yah Yah as a voodoo priest of New Orleans; see also The Scarlet Brotherhood accessory, the second phrase is the author’s variance of the Ancient Suloise provided there. I could not let it pass, so I will just drop it here: "Fred thinks I should have learned French," Shaggy says, "but I say you don't have to know what 'Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?' means to love that song!"
FN4. “Lanya” was originally from the Olman “yapa”, but influence by Keoish. See www.etymonline.com
, indicating that the New Orelans creole word “lagniappe” may come from the Peruvian Indian (Quechua) word “yapa,” meaning the same thing. The word may further be related to “yaya” discussed supra.