What is a Centaur?|
A centaur is a species in its own right, comprising of a horse from the withers down (in other words, missing only its head) and a human from the waist up. The human half is attached to the horse where its head should be, blending from skin to horsehair on the lower torso. Centaurs are omnivores, using the land around them to sustain them. They tend to be hardy creatures, able to withstand situations that most humans could not (see below for a comprehensive list of strengths and weaknesses). They are sentient, entirely self aware and as intelligent as any human being, though many centaurs believe themselves of higher intelligence than humans. Though they were offered the classification of 'being' (ie, 'any creature that has sufficient intelligence to understand the laws of the magical community and to bear part of the responsibility in shaping those laws') they chose not to accept this classification, instead opting for the classification 'creature' as they didn't want to share the title with creatures such as hags and vampires.
Centaurs do not have magic in the same way that Wizards do, and thus do not carry wands. Instead, their talents lie in divination, clairvoyance, and in the earth. They are closely tied to nature, and draw some small amount of power from it, even if this power is only used to ascertain where their next meal is (again, see below for a comprehensive list of strengths and weaknesses). As they are a species in and of themselves, a centaur cannot be created by scientific or magical means, and can only be created through traditional reproduction among their own kind. There is no such thing as a half breed between centaurs and other species, as the difference between centaurs and other creatures is simply too different both anatomically and physiologically to produce a child.
Centaurs are a large race, larger than the average human. Average height for a centaur would be around 16 - 17 hands high at the withers (see here to find out where the withers are) which makes them typically around 5.4 - 5.7ft at the withers. On top of this, there's the human half. In order to fit the equine half of themselves, a centaur's human half would need to be proportionate to the equine, meaning this part can be anywhere from 3 - 4 feet tall, from waist to head. Thus when calculating the height if your centaur, it is preferable that you calculate his/her height from hooves to withers, and then from waist to head, so something like this: 16hh (5.4ft) + 3ft = 8.4ft. Both the horse hands and total height can be included in the application. For children/adolescents, they would, of course, be smaller. Anything between 5/6 - 14hh at the withers could work for a centaur from infancy to adolescence, while their human half would be between 1/1.5 - 2.5ft.
Like horses, centaurs can come in a variety of naturally occurring colours, ranging from deep black to white. At the section where horse meets human, the fur becomes sparse, slowly fading away to become skin further up the waist and onto the torso. This vague midline varies for most centaurs, and can begin anywhere from the human 'hips' to the lower ribcage. Skin colour tends to be as varied as any other human, just as the mix of skin and hair colouring varies, though for most the skin colour will correspond somewhat to the colouring of the horsehair. For example, a roan lower half may have a light olive or ruddy complexion, the deepest black horsehair will likely have dark olive/medium brown to black skin tones, while paler lower halves will likely have pale skin.
They tend to lean towards muscular body types, in part from their lifestyle and how they live, though most are genetically predisposed to build up muscle bulk easily. The body type of the upper half is also determined by the body type of the lower. Larger horse breeds will create physically strong, powerful centaurs, who build up muscle bulk easily. Lighter, faster breeds will create a lithe, light centaur, built more for speed than for brute force. The appearance of their human half varies greatly from centaur to centaur, and can look almost completely human from the waist up, to almost horselike in their facial features, taking on an otherworldy shape to their face and ears. All centaurs tend to have larger, slightly pointed ears, though the shape varies depending on how closely or remotely the centaur resembles a human. It is not entirely out of the realm of possibility for a centaur to have horselike eyes, a large, flat nose and ears identical to that of a horse.
- Physical strength: Due to their lifestyle and ability to build up muscle bulk easily, most centaurs would be up to three times as strong as the average human. Again, this varies depending on the centaur, but an adult centaur in his prime would be able to overpower an average human. You also don't want to stand behind a centaur. Ever. Google pictures of horses kicking people and you'll understand why.
- Speed: Four legs certainly give centaurs an added boost in terms of speed. While they aren't the fastest of creatures over short distances, centaurs are capable of building momentum, slowly increasing their speed over long distances until they hit their peak, which they can maintain for at least two or three hours before needing to rest. While these speeds are certainly advantageous over long distances of flat, empty space, it is unfortunately very hard to stop suddenly or quickly.
- Longevity: Centaurs do not age in the same way as humans. They have a longer gestation period during pregnancy (14 months), meaning that foals are born with an upper half that resembles a toddler rather than an infant. For the first decade or so, they grow at much the same rate as humans. This slows down at puberty, when a centaur is close to adulthood, and from here on in they will age at about half the rate of humans. The average centaur will die between 160 and 180, depending on the general health of the centaur.
- Clairvoyance: Most centaurs have some ability to gain visual telepathic information about an object, person, location or physical event. While this ability is never 100% perfect, the strength of this ability varies with each centaur. For tangible things, a centaur often needs to touch the item/person in order to gain the information s/he seeks, extending their senses out from their bodies to learn more about what they are touching. The information is often difficult to interpret, and can arrive in brief flashes rather than a series of cause to effect, and is often mentally taxing. In short, it's a semi-learned skill, depends heavily on natural inclination for the skill, very difficult to control and interpret, and it often gives the centaur an impressive headache.
- Nature: Centaurs are extremely in tune with nature, regardless of whether they have any skill in clairvoyance, and often think themselves protectors of the Earth and the land they live in. This is an innate skill, varying in strength from centaur to centaur, and often involves the ability to 'feel' the earth around them to some small extent, the ability to pinpoint the location of nearby animals (within a five-feet radius) and sense potential dangers around them. This skill is particularly useful when hunting.
- Night Vision: Centaurs have very good night vision, and are particularly adept at seeing the stars and planets, which ties heavily with their skill in Astronomy.
- Magic: Centaurs are as susceptible to magic as any other soft-skinned, warm-blooded creature, and due to the fact that they can't use it, they can't defend themselves against it.
- Broken legs: it is very difficult to repair a broken leg for a centaur, and due to their lifestyle and culture, it is often seen as a death sentence when a centaur breaks a leg. There is some chance that it will heal, but more often than not a centaur will be permanently crippled in some way after a broken leg.
- High mortality rate: Bringing a foal into being can be a dangerous and often fatal process for both mother and foal. While advances in the centaurs healing methods have lessened this somewhat, it is still not unusual for a foal, mother, or both to die in childbirth.
- Physically slow: while momentum is all well and good, it's not easy to build up a large amount of momentum over a very short distance. Centaurs tend to be a little slower over short distances, particularly larger centaurs, and nimbleness is not something that comes easily to this particular species.
- Day vision: This ties in with their heightened night vision. Unfortunately, they can't have it both ways, and centaurs have varying degrees of sensitivity to strong sunlight. It is by no means fatal, or detrimental to their overall vision, but most centaurs prefer to stick to a nocturnal lifestyle, where they can look at the stars.
Centaurs are typically a prideful race, many are raised to be proud of what they are and where they come from, and are often raised with the beliefs and traditions of the ones that came before. They are often determined to maintain what traditions they have in order to keep them alive, to remind the centaurs of the future that they come from a proud and noble race, that needs to be able to protect themselves. They also tend to be highly independent from other species, preferring to keep their dependence limited solely to other centaurs and prevent outside influences from shaping their ideals and how their culture develops. This often means isolating themselves from the world of humans, restricting their contact with the other species of the world as much as they can.
They often prefer to live in groups, known as herds, which can number anywhere from 10 to 50 centaurs at any given time. Currently, the largest centaur herd in Great Britain resides in the Forbidden Forest, with a total of 50 centaurs. Due to the high population of the country in and of itself, and the amount of human settlements in the country, very few centaur herds in Great Britain choose a nomadic lifestyle any more. In times past, there was a relatively even divide between centaurs who chose a nomadic life and those who chose to settle in one place, but with the rise in human population, the ability to move from place to place has become heavily restricted for the centaurs, particularly in an effort to prevent discovery by Muggles. But settling in one place has its own trials and tribulations. Most Western/Northern European centaurs prefer heavily wooded areas, to offer them some protection from the sun during the daylight hours, but deforestation by humans has limited their options severely. It is not uncommon for the modern centaur herd to be semi-nomadic, settling in a forested area until the humans arrive with their axes, by which time they will move on to the next area. It is a frustrating life for those who grow comfortable in one home only to discover that they have to leave it behind in search of greener pastures. Or forests, as it were.
Due to the lack of permanence of most centaur settlements, there is a permanent need for centaurs with some skill in carpentry, and in building houses to protect them from the elements. While their houses are sturdy, they are often built of wood, cutting down as few trees as possible to create robust wooden houses for the members of the herd. When a herd moves to a new place, as many of the centaurs as possible will pitch in to build as many houses as are needed to cater to the herd, putting them up and thatching them as quickly as possible to provide shelter for the young, wounded and elderly before providing for the stronger members of the herd. It is completely unheard of for a centaur herd to live in stone or concrete, as many find these types of shelter to be too cold. Stone may have a life of its own, but wood is a material that centaurs find themselves most comfortable with.
Within the herd, many centaurs live in groups, be it of friends, family or coworkers, and will share the duties of the household equally between them. Parents will share the job of raising children equally, and it is not uncommon for a stallion to stay at home with a foal while the mare goes out hunting. These groups are by no means self-contained, they are simply smaller divisons of a larger family, and will look out for and care for each other as such. For most centaurs, the whole herd is their family, and they will fight tooth and nail for that family even if it means their lives. It is considered to be the duty of all centaurs to protect the herd, and those in it that might not be able to protect themselves, and this comes first and foremost above all else. This ideal is held so highly that a selfish centaur is often looked down upon, the centaur who puts him/herself before all others will often be ridiculed, and those that fail in their duty to protect others when they are able to serve the herd may find themselves ostracised from it. No one wants to ally themselves with someone who won't watch their back when they need it.
Centaurs are a truly equal race, with both men and women doing the same kinds of work as long as the individual is suited to it. Their warriors are made of both mares and stallions alike, as are their hunters, leaders, builders and craftsmen. Certain jobs are not left up to solely one gender over the other in any aspect of their lives, and foals are often carefully watched as they grow, to ascertain what job would suit them best within the herd. Stronger, larger centaurs are often hunters or builders; those who show signs of skill with pottery and other crafts receive further training in their skill; smaller, lighter centaurs often become scouts; the gentler, more compassionate centaur often cares for the very young or very old. All foals are taught the basics in most areas from a young age, and once they start showing signs of talent in one area over others, they may seek a master of that skill within the herd to teach them further. Of course, the most popular is hunting, which is often doubled up with the skills of the warrior.
Divination, clairvoyance and astronomy are held in high esteem, and all centaurs are expected to have some basic knowledge in all three. Foals are taught several methods of divination, along with the layout of the constellations, the planets and the meaning behind them. Clairvoyance is slightly more difficult to teach, as the amount of skill a centaur can attain is almost entirely dependant on their level of innate skill. After all, it's impossible to teach someone to run when they can't walk. A centaur's skill in clairvoyance is tested slowly, gently over several years before they reach adulthood, and once their skill level has been determined, they will either discontinue training or intensify it as needed. It is very rare to find a centaur with exceptionally strong talent in clairvoyance, and these often become shamans, living their lives using their skill along with the strongest in Divination and Astronomy. It takes many years to master any one of these skills, and those that do are often highly respected members of the herd. While it is possible to become a master of more than one of these three skills, it is unheard of for a centaur to be a master of all three. Training simply takes too much time, there is more knowledge in just one of these skills than can be soaked up in one lifetime, and to learn more than one at a time with the aim of becoming a master is to divide their time and attention, thus lessening their skill and lowering their ability to attain full mastery of any of them. It is possible to have high knowledge of more than one of these skills, but this comes with the price of not being considered a master of any of them.
History is very important to centaurs, who rely on the written and spoken word to teach young centaurs about where they came from. They believe that it is important to know where you came from in order to decide where you're going, and all foals attend lessons on the history of their people. Those with an interest in learning all that there is to learn, and in noting the modern history of the herd will join the historians in their endeavour, spending their lives within the only scholarly pursuit of the centaurs. Due to their semi-nomadic lives, many centaurs prefer giving their history lessons orally, passing on stories from centaur to centaur throughout the years and keeping as few scrolls and books as possible, lest they be damaged by the elements. Other, more settled centaurs may aim for a mix of both, writing down their stories and learning them off by heart so that they can be rewritten if the original tome is damaged or lost.
More often than not, there will be four leaders of a herd, chosen by the rest of the herd. These leaders are almost always masters of a certain field, and there will never be more than one master of a certain field in the leadership group at one time. These masters are Warrior/Hunter, Shaman (Clairvoyance), Seer (Divination), and Craftsman/Village. It is believed that having one of each skillset balances the leadership capabilities of all of them, as all can discuss any plans to be made for the herd, in order to benefit the herd as a whole. These masters can be either mares or stallions, and are chosen by the herd in its entirety, aside from foals (younger than 25). They are often deemed to be the wisest, the most skilled, the most pragmatic of their peers. These centaurs are completely equal, no one skill is above the others, and all leaders are to be equally respected. If a leader fails in their duty to the herd, it is often met with severe, if not near-fatal punishment, as it is seen as deception on the leader's part if they convince the herd that they were willing and able to fulfil the duties set for them. Leadership also does not run in family lines, centaurs often try to avoid appointing successors that are immediately related to the previous leaders, eliminating the idea that a mare or stallion has earned the right to lead purely by being born to the right dam and sire.
The language of the centaurs is known as Centauri, and it is almost unheard of for anyone outside of the race to be able to understand or speak it, as it would be extremely difficult to find a centaur who would be willing to teach it to someone outside of their race. They do not, however, have the same reservations about learning other languages, and many learn English as a secondary language, in case dealings with humans or other creatures are necessary.
Relations with Wixen/Humans|
The relationship between centaurs and wizards/humans has always been. . . shaky, at best. Due to the fact that centaurs, for the most part, think themselves of higher intelligence than humans, it is a common belief that humans should not hold dominion over centaurs. Very few centaurs would accept humans as having any kind of power over them at all, despite being vastly outnumbered by the humans. As such, there is a shaky truce between the centaurs and the humans, reliant almost solely on their leaving each other alone. While centaurs will intervene in human affairs in times of great strife (such as the Battle of Hogwarts) their feelings towards humans/wizards on a daily basis is much less benevolent. In fact, the behaviour of most centaurs towards humans tends to lean towards belligerence, if not outright aggression and hostility.
Due to past mistakes and the steady increase of human population (leading to the steady decrease in centaur territory) the vast majority of centaurs have a strong mistrust of humans, if not open dislike of them. As far as most centaur herds are concerned, humans are not to be trusted, and they are not to be trifled with. Interaction with humans is often looked down upon with severe distaste, and most will avoid it where possible. The idea of allowing a human to sit astride them as if they were a horse is utterly abhorrent to them, and many herds will banish a centaur who allows a human to do this, for any reason. To take a rider is to be no better than the mindless beasts of burden that the humans use and abuse to their hearts' content, and centaurs believe themselves to be better than that.
Centaurs do not marry in the traditional sense of the word, and thus don't make lifelong commitments to just one other centaur. It's not unknown for a centaur to have multiple partners, in fact it is encouraged for a centaur to explore romantic relationships with multiple others before settling on one or more longer term partners, in order for the individual to determine what meshes best with their personality before choosing to settle down. While its not considered a big deal if a centaur chooses not to have any long term partners at all, a union is almost always celebrated if it results in live, healthy children, due to the high mortality rates of both mother and foal. Regardless of how the child came into being, a child is always something to celebrate and welcome into the larger family of the herd.
If a centaur chooses to commit to a long term relationship with one or more others, it isn't considered mandatory for them to solidify this union with The Bond, particularly if one or more centaurs in a relationship are considered to be more flighty individuals who might not take well to being officially "tied down" to someone. A bond is a union that has been formally recognised by the herd as a whole, in which the centaurs to be bonded pledge themselves to each other for seven years from the date they made the vow. If at the end of seven years they wish to remain bonded, they may renew these vows for another seven years. If not, they can choose to part, and are free to choose other partners. It is also not unheard of for bonded centaurs to choose not to renew the vow, but continue their relationship anyway, meaning they are technically permitted to see others, but also stay together.
The Bond must be approved by the three leaders of the herd, and a ceremony is conducted under a full moon, witnessed by the entire herd. The shaman often officiates the ceremony, walking the bonded through the ceremony and conferring with the scholars to take note of the union and those participating. The ceremony begins with a joining of hands, and the Bonded pledge themselves to their intended in sight of the herd before a short ritual in which the bonded perform a small task related to their partners occupation within the herd (eg, if a hunter and a potter choose to bond, the hunter will shape some clay into something resembling a pot, and the potter will shoot something) to represent the centaurs knowing the others' place in the herd and understanding the ups and downs of being bonded to someone of that chosen field. The ceremony ends with the Bonded being presented with a home of their own (or entering their home if they already have one) and celebrations often last into the days after. At the end of seven years, another ceremony is held to celebrate the completion of ones bond, and further ceremonies are held if the Bonded are renewing their vows.
It's frowned upon if a centaur chooses to break this bond, and while it doesn't result in expulsion from the herd, the guilty parties are often given less responsibilities that affect the herd as a whole. Leaders will be forced to step down from their roles, and new leaders chosen in their place, as its widely thought that if a centaur can't stay loyal to even one other for seven years, there's no guarantee that they'd be loyal to the herd as a whole. Children of such unions are welcomed and celebrated the same as any other foal, since the centaurs are intelligent enough to know that its not the child's fault that they were born to parents of lower morals than others. In extreme cases, if a child is born to parents that the herd believes to be excessively selfish or disloyal, the foal will be raised by others in the herd, typically carers or a willing parental figure, in the hopes that removing them from such selfish influences will protect the foal from being raised the same way.
Roles within the herd|
Jobs that cannot be doubled up with other things:
- Seer (includes astrology/astronomy)
Jobs that double/triple up:
((Note: They're divided into the categories that would make the most sense for a centaur to have multiple jobs in. So you could have a carpenter/builder/stonemason or a farmer/preserver/gatherer or a healer/carer/herbalist, but not a carpenter/farmer/healer, if that makes sense))
- Gatherer (water and things that grow in the wild)
- Tanner (doubles best with shepherd)
- Weaver (doubles best with tanner and shepherd)
- Miller (doubles best with farmer)
- Potter (doubles best with brewer and preserver)
- Herbalist (can also double with gatherer, but nothing else in the food/necessities category. Herbalist focuses mainly on herbs for healing)
In herds of ten centaurs or less, its not unknown for a centaur to cover four or more jobs within one category (for example, a centaur in a small herd could have to do a little of all of the jobs within the food/necessities category rather than two or three)
Teachers can come from any of the above careers, since they'll do that for the majority of their time anyway, but unlike all other jobs (apart from leader) the teachers have a minimum age. To be considered experienced enough to teach others their craft, the teacher must be between 50 and 60 at the very least.
There are always four leaders of the herd, one from each of the main occupational groups: Hunter/Warrior, Seer, Shaman and Village. The first three speak for themselves, but Village encompasses any of the occupations that can be undertaken in or around the herd's current settlement area (dwellings, food/prep and health/care). Each leader is chosen based on their skill within their area, and their age, as it takes a long time to train in any one given area, and by the time they reach a certain age, they are considered to have enough life experience and skill to be able to lead the herd. Each leader tends to oversee the others in their field of work. For example, a Hunter/Warrior will lead a lot of hunts, particularly dangerous ones, Shamans and Seers often teach the young while continuing their day-to-day activities, a Village leader will keep an eye on all comings and goings of the village itself, watching over the growth of crops, the care of livestock, the basic training of foals and making sure the elderly are being cared for according to their needs. It doesn't matter what the occupation of the Village leader actually is, the Village leader always oversees the day-to-day running of the village itself.
The four leaders combine to discuss how the herd is run, food stores (particularly in the autumn, when food preparation for long term storage is done in earnest for the winter months) whether anything in particular needs to be addressed, the progress of foals and where their abilities are taking them, and all the other little bits and pieces involved with running the herd and keeping things ticking smoothly. All leaders also convene to help sort out disputes within the herd, listening to all sides and discussing between them before making a ruling. Same applies when a crime is committed. All leaders must be present to judge a criminal, and none are permitted to abstain from a case. They are expected to judge the accused fairly and without bias, regardless of who the accused is, and in the event that a majority ruling isn't reached, a vote will be put to the herd (apart from foals - anyone under 25) to decide the fate of the accused. The vote is anonymous, each elder is led to a private area wherein they will vote much like humans at a polling station. One at a time, they write their vote on a slip of parchment, and hand it directly to the Leaders, who tally the votes at the end of the voting period before adding their own votes to the mix. This voting system also happens when choosing a new leader.
Leaders are generally over the age of 65 and under 120, given the longevity of the race as a whole, and it is considered that once they are old enough to teach, they are old enough and rich enough in life and work experience to lead the herd. The exception to this rule is in the event that there isnt anyone qualified to take up a leadership role in any of the four main fields, in which case no leader at all will be chosen from that field, and the duties of that particular leader will be divided among the three that remain. This is true particularly if a leader meets an untimely death through extreme illness or injury rather than dying of old age. Sometimes it's better to wait for any potential leaders to grow up rather than forcing them into a position they might not be ready for. This is another reason why leaders don't run in family lines. It prevents the possibility that a foal might inherit a leadership position at a very young age if their parent dies suddenly, thus leaving the position to someone who is neither prepared nor old enough to undertake such a task. It is only in extremely rare cases, or extremely small herds that a centaur under the age of 65 might rise to a leadership position, typically if there is no one at all of a typical leadership age to lead the herd.