“To be born at all means to have died before.
Many Lion samurai dye their hair gold, in honor of the beasts whose name their clan bears.
The Lion deviate little from typical Rokugani dietary practice, though they eat far more poultry and tofu than they do fish, due to farmlands being too rocky or dry to grow rice. However, they do have extensive land to grow smaller crops, leading to many options in dried fruits and vegetables.
Lion samurai earn their reputation for being uninterested in frivolities, but neither do they object to having necessary objects that are also beautiful. Kaya, white oak, and plum wood are favorites.
--The birth of a Lion is a glorious event, usually attended by the child’s close relatives and a representative of the local Daimyo or provincial governor. A Kitsu shugenja is often on hand to discern any omens at the birth. At the birth of any highranking samurai, one of the Kitsu ancestor shugenja known as sodan-senzo importunes the ancestors to divine whether any have taken a particular interest in the child. Everything is recorded dutifully, and from that day forward the young Lion is guided towards the destiny the Kitsu have foretold.
Most Lion parents are too occupied with their duties to raise a child themselves. In most cases the newborn is raised solely by a chosen protector (usually a trusted ashigaru or ji-samurai) with occasional visits from the parents. This protector is no nanny, however; it is his duty to insure the young Lion is prepared to meet his destined course in life. If a Lion should become dishonored later in life, his childhood protector often takes his own life out of shame.
Despite the Lion Clan’s reputation for inflexibility, they are neither stupid nor wasteful in their dedication to Bushido. Failure is a dishonor, but one that can be corrected and learned from. The Akodo study their battlefi eld defeats, not their victories.
Wild tales of Matsu children slitting their bellies in mass numbers and Akodo students killing each other to weed out the unfit are popular in the rest of the Empire, but they are wild tales, nothing more. In truth, the Lion would rather bring a less-promising child up to an acceptable level of skill than waste the time and resources spent on him in his younger years by killing him outright.
A Lion finds himself once again at the center of his family’s attention during his gempukku ceremony. This is the only time a true Lion fears scrutiny, because his audience is the people he values most. While no Lion will ever consider an opponent to be a worthy judge of his skill, he will spend his entire life bowing before his superiors within the clan. Those who fail their gempukku cannot truly escape or erase the stain they place on their names. However, those who fail despite their best efforts are often given another chance to learn and prove themselves. Only those who fail their gempukku due to cowardice, selfi shness, or other irretrievable moral flaws are required to commit seppuku.
Relationships between Lion are generally dispassionate. Arranged marriages are the overwhelming rule, with notable and powerful bushi commonly uniting to raise a stronger and more perfect generation of Lion, or to cement necessary political alliances with the leaders of other clans. Notions of romantic love are uncommon among the Lion, to say the least; only the Ikoma fi nd any sort of interest in the notion of romantic affairs, as they are raised to embrace emotional displays. However, as the most political of the Lion families they too usually marry for political reasons.
Children of influential figures are generally betrothed by the age of ten. Others might have their marriages arranged at any time of their lives, as circumstance and glory demand. Occasionally a betrothal is delayed for years while a samurai’s parents seek an appropriate partner. Members of the Ikoma family act as matchmakers and chaperones between engaged Lion samurai, and make the perfect emissaries should a Lion marry outside the clan.
Once the arrangement is made, a Lion will always fulfill it, lest he shame both his own family and that of his spouse. Often, Lion enter tournaments of skill and dedicate their victories to their spouse, donating winnings to the spouse’s family.
The Matsu have an unusual tradition: any time they marry a member of another Lion family, they demand the other samurai take the Matsu name. This convention dates back to the dawn of the Empire, when Lady Matsu repeatedly refused Akodo’s request to marry. Finally, she married another Lion samurai, a man whose name is lost to history. When Akodo demanded to know why she had spurned him for someone of lesser rank, she replied: “If I married you, I would merely
be the wife of Akodo. Now, this man is the husband of Matsu.”
Every Lion dojo contains a pristine copy of the Tao of Shinsei. Pristine and untouched, never opened. This tradition dates all the way back to the great teacher’s lifetime at the dawn of the Empire. After the conversations between Shinsei and Hantei were recorded as the Tao, Akodo refused to accept the New Way. “Your Way is not my Way,” he said sternly. Hantei was shocked by his brother’s behavior and asked why he would treat the Enlightened One so poorly. Akodo simply growled again, “It is not my way. This is my way,” and he shook his katana in its saya.
Hantei commanded Akodo to apologize to Shinsei and display a copy of the Tao in his clan holdings. Akodo agreed, for he would not disobey his brother and Emperor, and thus the Tao is displayed to this day—and never read. Few Lion samurai openly disdain its teachings—it is, after all, the official religion of the Emperor—but the focus of every Lion’s life is warfare and combat. It is only when a samurai can no longer wield a weapon that the life of a monk is acceptable.
For the Lion, giving up the way of the warrior is not always easy. Instead of retiring, may older Lion become advisors or teachers for the next generation. Those who seek the favor of a Lion daimyo would be wise to please his elder advisors. This will win the favor of the daimyo twofold—not only do these advisors hold a great deal of influence, but by respecting them one also shows respect for the daimyo’s judgment. Even those Lion who retire to the life of a monk are unlike the monks of other clans, for they seldom remain cloistered. Many become traveling holy men, or work with the Kitsu or Ikoma to maintain their records, or guide the more spiritual aspects of the Lion Clan.
Death is life’s inevitable conclusion, and a necessary step within the kharmic cycle. A Lion does not long for death, but he meets it without fear or complaint. A Lion who falls in glorious combat will die at peace, for even if his army is defeated the Heavens will remember he died as a samurai.
How a Lion is honored after death depends on how he lived his life. Deceased samurai have been cremated since the Battle of Stolen Graves hundreds of years ago, and often communal funeral pyres are made on the battlefield where Lion soldiers fell. Large numbers of rank-and-file soldiers are committed to the Void in this manner, while a Kitsu or Ikoma records the name and deeds of each of those who have passed on. Many Lion bushi receive promotions after death to acknowledge their bravery and skill in battle. Sometimes these promotions bring with them positions and land that pass to the soldier’s descendants.
Important deceased figures usually have long, somber rituals to celebrate their lives. A Kitsu sodan-senzo or Ikoma omoidasu (bard) is typically on hand to recount the glorious deeds of the deceased to the assembled family and friends. The omoidasu will also weep and otherwise express the emotions of the stoic mourners. If the dead Lion had any special wishes that were to be enacted after his death, a family retainer makes these wishes known at the funeral. Such requests often involve disposition of property and titles among heirs.
The most glorious funerals are reserved for true heroes of the clan and family, or for family daimyo and the Clan Champion. Those who are noticed by the leadership of the Lion may be interred in the Hall of Ancestors, with a commemorative statue raised in their memory. Such fortunate Lion are considered the guiding ancestors of the clan, shining examples for all who come after. The name and deeds of such a Lion will never be forgotten as long as any member of the clan draws breath. Those who visit the Hall of Ancestors claim to hear the deep, awe-inspiring chant of these ancestors the moment they step across its gates.