"The Hsilnge were an interesting people who inhabited a small island in the Northern hemisphere. Traditionally, they clothed themselves in the skins of dead animals - mainly cows and sheep which were also reared for their meat. As the society evolved, however, shortages of these animal skins lead to the development of a variety of alternative, cheaper, forms of clothing which seemed to have the unfortunate side-effect of retaining and even magnifying natural body odours.
These odours appeared to be so great that an interesting cultural development was an almost obsessive preoccupation with coating the body in a wide variety of pastes and sprays kept for the purpose in specially constructed cabinets within the home. These cabinets also contained a wide variety of pills and potions that the Hsilgne used to ward-off all manner of ills and evil spirits.
From an early age - normally 11 or 12 - the female Hsilnge were given to face painting, with the colour red seeming to have a special significance, especially for the lips. Hsilgne females applied a thick red paste to their lips each morning using specially prepared colouring sticks. Red powder was also applied to the cheeks, although this seems to have been much finer than the mouth colourings. Special powders were also used to shade the area around the eyes, although somewhat confusingly these colours were traditionally blues and browns, rather than red. Hsilgne women were also much given to body piercing. Higher status females, for example, adorned their faces, in particular, with gold and diamond studs and rings.
Male Hsilgne do not seem to have been involved in this daily ritual of body painting, although evidence has been found of a male practice that seems to have been performed each morning. This involved the ritual scraping away of the previous day's facial hair with a sharpened blade specially created for this purpose.
In addition, many of the lower class males (and some females) seem to have adorned their body with permanent pictures engraved using needles and inks. This seemingly repugnant process involved a skilled practitioner puncturing the skin with the needle and allowing ink to flow under the skin. Many intricate designs could be created by the most skilled of these skin artists.
Although we do not know the precise purpose or reason for these rituals, anthropologists have speculated that they had something to do with the religious beliefs of the Hsilgne, since body painting was closely associated with elaborate tribal gatherings carried-out almost exclusively at night.
Dance seems to have played a central part in these religious rituals. Groups of males and females would gather at special places, usually outside the home, and indulge in rhythmic dancing to drums and stringed instruments. The spiritual element was evident here through the extensive use of powerful drugs designed, presumably, to allow the Hsilgne to transcend their everyday world and bring them closer to their gods.
These drugs were mainly taken orally, in the form of tablets and drinks, although some were also rolled-up into sticks which were then lit and the smoke was inhaled. Evidence of the communal nature of these gatherings has been found in the ritualistic passing of these mouth sticks between individuals, although strangely certain taboos seem to have surrounded the use of liquid drugs.
Young males, for example, would encourage each other to drink to excess by the practice of taking it in turns to buy liquid drugs for every member of their immediate tribal group. However, although these drinks were purchased communally, it seems to have been important that they were consumed individually. For example, it was not considered socially acceptable to drink from someone else's glass, especially someone who was not well-known to you.
The height of unacceptability, however, was for one male to cause another to spill his liquid drug. If this happened, a ritual chant (evidence suggests it was something like "You've just spilt my pint, you clumsy bastard") was used to signify that if immediate redress was not made, the victim would be justified in violently assaulting the wrongdoer. Acceptable forms of redress were ritual apologies ("Sorry mate but I was pushed") and the offer to buy the victim another liquid drug to compensate them. A failure to participate acceptably in the ritual exchange (for example, saying something like "You male offspring of a female dog, you've ruined my shirt" or, possibly worse, "Go away and have sex, you person who practices sex with themselves") seem to have represented a ritual challenge which would then result in a short, but violent, interlude known as a "fight, fight".".