Kēlen Society and Culture HOME   DICTIONARY


Kēlen is spoken by the Kēleni, a humanoid species of the planet Tērjemar. Adult Kēleni are usually between 180 and 220 cm in height and 70 to 110 kg in weight. Their skin color ranges from dark brown through hazel to pale green. A few golden-yellow skinned individuals appear from time to time. Hair color is usually black or dark green or pale green, though again golden-yellow is occasionally seen. Eye color is usually black, with green running through certain lineages, and purple and yellow showing up occasionally.

The name Kēlen comes from the root -kēl-, which refers to crafts and artistry. This could be taken as a reference to the guilds which are such an important part of Kēlen life. Or, it could refer to the creation myth wherein the Kēlen people are crafted by the local deities or by annāra into what they are today.

The Kēlen people are organized into clans, and each clan purports to have a different dialect. That said, the clans Xāmorte and Āstaña together with several other clans in the area known alternately as Xāmorte and Ānnemēþin, have more or less unified their dialects into a common language, known as Xāmorte-Kēlen to outsiders who differentiate it from their own Kēlen, and as Standard Kēlen in the grammar pages.

This sketch is primarily about Xāmorte-Kēlen, but will cover other dialects when they are of interest. Actual Kēlen words will appear bolded and green, while anglicized words will appear as regular text. For those who are interested, a short pronunciation guide is available here.

The People

The Kēleni are not native to Tērjemar. They came from elsewhere. They are humanoid, giving rise to theories that the Kēleni are genetically modified humans. The Kēleni, however, say that they are not human, thank you very much.

There are two other species living on Tērjemar: humans and Īrāñi. Some would dispute that the Īrāñi are a separate species from the Kēleni, but the Kēleni do not take that seriously either. That said, Īrāñi are probably genetically modified Kēleni, the modification having taken place generations ago. The Īrāñi generally speak the same language as the Kēleni, with dialectal differences due to location and not to species.

The humans on Tērjemar are mostly confined to the space station Lānorāen and the port city of Mircāllan. Most of them speak some human language as their native language and only speak Kēlen as a secondary language if they speak it at all.

The Kēleni on the whole prefer their own company and don't like to mix with the other species. They consider themselves superior to other species, sometimes to the point of classifying Īrāñi and Humans as animals.

The Planet Tērjemar

The planet Tērjemar is a terrestrial planet, slightly smaller than earth, orbiting a slightly hotter and brighter star. Tērjemar has four moons, very little axial tilt, and takes approximately 13.65 Earth hours per rotation and 498.22 13.65-hour days per revolution. The year is definied by the presence of a certain nebula, called jamōlemae malūāne or Lūāne's Womb. The earliest appearance of this nebula on the horizon marks the new year, and a day called jilrūsa.

The four moons are Mōrīñ, with a period of approximately 47 days; Sīste, with a period of approximately 32 days; Sēllō, with a period of approximately 23 days, and Lōīñ, with a period of approximately 16 days. Lōīñ's period defines a "week" (jālū).

See the calendar for more discussion on Kēleni timekeeping.


Traditionally Kēlen society is divided into four parts (four being the sacred number). These are: the clan, the church, the guilds, and the wanderers. The clans are matrilineal and often matriarchal. Allegiance to a clan is obligatory for all Kēlen on the grounds that everyone has a mother. Allegiance to the church or to a guild is optional, and not always permanent, though it is assumed to be long-term. Being a wanderer, on the other hand, is typically a short-term thing, indulged in by youth. There are, however, a small number of people considered to be permanent wanderers who are well respected by all members of society and often act as mediators between the various groups.

The Kēlen clans and guilds control most economic activity, often sharing control of any given area. Guilds cover such wide areas as street and public park maintenance, civil defense, mining, hand-crafting of luxury items, etc. Oddly, the storytelling guild is not actually considered a guild. Instead, it is seen as a loose conglomeration of Wanderers.

The church, on the other hand, mediates clan disputes and oversees the making of new clans. It also defends the groups and guilds from being controlled entirely by one clan.

The clans usually number between 150 and 250 people all pooling their economic resources as well as child care needs. The clan is matrilineal, matrilocal and generally matriarchal, with a ruling council of old women and grandmothers. Often this council includes men, but sometimes the men have a separate council of their own. The clan takes care of the child raising for all of its members, leaving them free to do other things as necessary. Since all the children are raised together, the difference between a sister and a cousin is negligible. However, since the women stay in the clan and the men eventually leave, the difference between same-sex and opposite-sex siblings and cousins is important.

The clan house is usually a large and varied structure with gardens and courtyards, receiving parlors for non-kin and areas where only blood-kin are allowed. Even in the cities, clans are clustered together and separated from other clans by public parks and market squares. Most of the gardens and parks are covered as well, if only partially, to provide protection from a native airborne predator.

Each house and market square usually has a well or fountain. Some public ponds are stocked with an iridescent fish. These fountains and ponds are maintained by the Fountain Guild (jānnāneran), which also maintains the public aqueducts and sewers. Public greenery is maintained by the Garden Guild (jāxteran), the guild responsible for street and tree maintenance. The trellises and coverings over public spaces, however, are maintained by the Trellis Guild (jatāñeran), which also organizes public defense against some of the large predators of Tērjemar. Chimes are also common, and the Chime guild (jasālīkeran) is responsible for a popular set of chimes that plays musical notes. Other guilds include the Light-maker Guild (jalūīkeran), responsible for public lighting and power; the Kitchen Guild (jahōheran) which is responsible for all public restaurants and eateries; and the very important Beaders' Guild (janīseran) which is the maker and distributer of the beads everyone wears in their hair to indicate status and fashion.

Education is shared between the clans, the church, and the guilds. The clans provide elementary education during childhood. At a certain age, the girls are usually packed off to a church school for higher education. Some churches offer schools for boys as well. The guilds provide vocational training and education, sometimes far beyond the scope of what the guild officially does. The permanent wanderers will sometimes give tutoring in one or more of the four arts: ansāla (storytelling and music), antēnnara (dance and motion), anālte (healing and touch), and ankeīlke (visual design). These four arts are also taught in other places and in other ways.


The creation story has them coming to Tērjemar in the form of eight sisters who fell from the stars. They were then found by a local power named Ānenānte or who taught them how to live properly and gave them various gifts, as well as a ninth sister named Xāmorte, who was the child of two other local powers known as Kīþje and Nārelke. Some consider these local powers to have been individuals of the matērji, a semi-legendary race native to Tērjemar. Some stories have only Nārelke as native to Tērjemar, and Kīþje in particular as "one of us".

Needless to say, Ānenānte has been deified, as well as Kīþje and Nārelke. However, the most important deity is actually the Star Goddess Lūāne. She is the one most Kēleni pray to. She is also the visible form of annāra, or the underlying order of the universe. Some say she is the mother of the universe and of everything in it.

Annāra, in the form of one's genes and upbringing and history and the consequences of one's decisions and actions, is what makes a person a person and it is also what makes a person distinct and unique. It is closer in definition to "human nature" than to "fate", though it includes a degree of inevitability, though annāra can be overcome. As it is partially self-defined, it also corresponds to such concepts as "honor" and "integrity".

Groups, guilds, and clans also have annāra - theirs being made up of all the individual annāra and the group history. This in turn becomes annāra for the entire species of Kēleni, which in turn is part of the annāra of the universe. While annāra is interlocking, it is not seen as hierarchical. It is rather seen as a substance spread around the universe of which everyone and everything has their piece. The pieces have the same nature as the whole, much in the same way as a small puddle of water has the same nature as a lake.

Annāra is sometimes seen as being opposed by antāλa or Chance. Some see antāλa as hostile to annāra, others see it as a necessary part of annāra. The concept of balance or anxālāe is important here. Balance is maintained by ancāna, which is love or emotion. There is also the idea that the universe is a dynamic pattern that started with the beginning of time and will not finish until the end of time.

One class of priestesses (males very rarely have this ability) claims to be able to see annāra and how it exists in space and time. These are the marōāñeli. Non-Kēleni call them oracles.

Aside from Lūāne, the other important deities worshipped in the Great Temple of Xāmorte include: Rōān, the goddess of dreams and the patroness of the marōāñeli; Ēmār, the earth goddess and the goddess of fertility; and Ālre, the goddess of wisdom, trickery, and the four arts. Kīþje is also considered the god of the wilderness and of hunting, and Ānenānte is considered the patron of wanderers and of the four arts. The only other male deity of note is Mārenon who guards the Hall of Stars, where some say the ancestors dwell with the Star Goddess. The hero Lājathin has also been deified, at least in Ānnemēþin, and makes the fourth of the male deities.

Minor deities are Hārþare, the sea-goddess; Nārelke, the goddess of cold and ice; Xējelke, the god of murder and assassination, Nārelke's son; þīrien and Ātaren, the goddess and god of the forest; Hāwenon, the patron of fishermen; and Tēonērja, the oldest of the matērji.


This section superseded by Kinship Terms.

Notice that Kēlen has words for same-gender sibling and opposite-gender sibling rather than for brother and sister. This is because people are divided up into same generation same gender groups that stay intact throughout a person's life. So, a woman stays at home with her sisters, and a man and his brothers will leave home at the same time and possibly all get married en masse to a group of sisters.

Note also that one's father's kin are not kin. The terms mapāranen and masōwaron are named-kin terms, used for people who are not kin, yet are important enough to be polite to.

Marriage (antēnāŋŋi) sometimes consists of a formal contract or treaty(anñēīki) between clans. These contracts often have an expiration date and detail what is to happen to the children. Sometimes a woman will take up with someone she has fallen in love with and will adopt him or her into the clan. This is also maxāntie, as it is considered a permanent bond.

Proper Names

This section superseded by Proper Names.


Formally, the Kēleni recognize 8 major emotions—four positive ones and four negative ones. The four positive emotions are ancāna (love), anlōλa (trust), anþīrne (belonging), and anānte (joy). The four negative emotions are anpēnne (hate), annūra (anger), anmīra (fear), and anrapīññe (envy).

Love and hate are both conceived of as air. They can be blown around, inhaled, exhaled, etc. This makes them contagious. Individuals are responsible for generating love and hate, for making it with their breath (ñamma ancāna ā sarēla;). Joy also seems to be a gas, as it can make one feel lighter in weight. Less joy, or sorrow (anlōra), makes one correspondingly heavier in weight. Sorrow is not considered to be one of the 8 official emotions (anwālti). It is classified as a belief (jatōla).

Anger and fear are conceived of as solids capable of filling up their respective receptacles. The receptacle for anger is one's belly, and for fear, one's heart. Thus, one can speak of someone being fat with anger (ñi sāen sacāe jatērre ānen annūra;) and empty of anger (ñi sāen sacāe jawōra jē annūra;). Likewise, one's heart can be filled with or empty of fear. Bravery (ancāra), a belief, can also fill one's heart.

Trust and belonging are solids that become infused into the body. Trust is infused into the bones, and belonging is infused into one's torso. Envy is also infused into the body, but as a liquid. It infuses into the blood. The belief of desire (ankīñen) also infuses into the blood. Other beliefs are also felt in the body. Restlessness (antōreña) is felt in the hands or feet; annoyance (anrāŋŋen) makes one's nerves buzz; disgust (anpūteja) and acceptance (ankasāon) make one's throat close or open; and vulnerability (ankewūna) makes one's back twitch.

Other beliefs, such as certainty (anekīþa), are not necessarily felt in the body.

Color Terms

There has been much debate over whether Kēlen has 12 basic color terms or 16. The proponents of the 12 term theory point to the common usage among various merchant clans and various guilds. The proponents of the 16 term theory look to the formal language of the clan Xāmorte, the legal courts, and the Nīseran (Beader's Guild, the Kēlen equivalent of Heraldry).

The 12 terms in common usage are as follows:

12 Color Terms
black anxē yellow anlō
grey anōlñe green anmāλa
white anrāēl light blue ancōra
brown anēkke dark blue anūña
red annēla blue-purple antāxa
orange ansīwa red-purple annēūña

In addition, the following specialized terms also have wide usage:

9 Specialized Color Terms
sea, aqua anhā flesh anēnēha
sky black anāste pale ancēlne
new growth annūāl hazel anīlpe
sand anwūla blood ansūra
    tiēl-fish antiēl

The 16 color terms are divided into two sets of 8— one set of opaque or matte colors, and the other a set of translucent or shiny colors.

16 Color Terms
  Opaque Translucent
black anxē anāste
white anrāēl anōlñe
brown anēkke anwūla
red annēla ansīwa
yellow annūāl anlō
green anmāλa anhā
blue anūña ancōra
purple antāxa annēūña

The official color chart of the Nīseran divides the colors into four domains: People, Earth, Water, Sky.

Official Colors of the Nīseran
  people earth water sky
black anxē   anāsta  
yellow   annūāl anlō  
white ancēlne anrāēl    
gray     anwūla anōlñe
brown anēnēha anēkke    
green anīlpe anmāλa anhā ancōra
blue antiēl anūña    
purple   antāxa   annēūñ
red ansūra annēla ansīwa  

Note that these various color schemes agree on some points and vary on others. The table below shows the discrepancies.

anōlñe anwūla ansīwa annūāl
anhā ancōra annēūña

Notice that the majority of these colors are translucent colors, with the exception of annūāl, which originally appeared as a specialized term for the color of new growth. A search through older texts reveals that the use of the color annūāl for "yellow" is of recent origin, and that the otherwise translucent color anlō can be used in opaque situations as well.

As for the rest of these colors, the Nīseran's chart (as indicated by the first square of color) carries more weight of authority than any other source.

Now what to do with all those color terms?

The citation forms used above are all stative nouns. This form would be used in talking about a color:

la antiēl anrāka anāŋeren LA N.st(tiēl) N.st(color) N.st(beautiful) 'Tiēl is a beautiful color.'

Colors are also found as singular or plural nouns. Essentially, color terms take the same inflection of the noun they modify, even when that noun is unexpressed.

la þō jacēla jūña LA PN(here) N.sg(bowl) N.sg(blue) 'Here is a blue bowl.' la xō jacēli jamāλi LA PN(there) N.pl(bowls) N.pl(green) 'There are the green bowls.' sele janēla cī SE+1p.sg.goal N.sg(red) COMM 'Give me a red one.'

The Cardinal Direction

- N -
- NW -- NE -
- W -- E -
sūōrrien sūānnien
rāōrrie r-ānnie
rūōrrie rūānnie
- SW -- SE -
- S -
* Some dialects have regularized this form to sūlātien.

There are eight cardinal directions in Kēlen: west jōrrien, south-west jahāwien, south jēlkien, south-east jalātaren, east jānnien, north-east jaþīñien, north jasīrien, and north-west jatārien. These, shown in the table to the right, take the locative prepositions as prefixes, and lose the -n suffix when prefixed by - or -.

The words for east jānnien and west jōrrien are related to the words for beginning jānne and ending jōrre, and probably refer to the beginning and the ending of the sun's path through the sky. The word for south jēlkien is related to the word for ice jēlke and probably refers to the polar ice cap to the south. The word for north jasīrien, related to the word dry jasīra, likely refers to the northern deserts.

The other four directions are more problematical. The words for north-west jatārien and for south-west jahāwien are probably related to the words for rain jattārien and for shore jahāwa, respectively. However, there is (currently) no large body of water to the west to justify such a correspondence. Likewise, the words for north-east jaþīñien and for south-east jalātaren are probably related to the words for path jaþīña and for mountain valley jalātte, and yet there is no mountain range to the east. It is possible that jalātaren is related to the word anlatāri, a dialectal word for rain. Admittedly, many strong rain storms do come from that direction.


Last modified: June 07, 2019