A short examination of the Society and Traditions of the Imperium
This piece is meant to give a basic orientation on how life is in the Imperium of Man.
Tattoos are common sight in the Imperium, and are often insignia of rank and membership in an organisation. Electoos are miniaturised, subcutaneous machines similar to regular tattoos, and often contain data or enable the user to interface with machinery, in addition to displaying a picture. Some are even invisible to normal vision, serving as a covert means of identification given that the correct equipment is available to read the electoo. Some electoos are even luminescent, basically making them striking versions of normal tattoos.
Ancient religious laws pertaining to the “purity of the human form” all but forbids biological modification of baseline humans, but accidents still happen, and people need to replace lost limbs and such. Cybernetics/bionics is a mostly remembered science, and many imperial citizens have cybernetic replacement organs and limbs. These are also referred to as ‘augmetics’ and ‘bionics’. Since they are technically artificial, they do not break any taboos. The Cult of the Machine even considers them superior to their fleshy counterparts, and often a good quality implant will be superior in functionality to a flesh and blood system (however, many a worker or soldier has been fitted with temperamental prosthetics that can only be described by the sarcastic as ‘augemetic’, malfunctioning frequently and being severely inferior to corresponding biological systems).
The Aquila: The two-headed eagle is a symbol of the all-seeing God-Emperor and his divine right to rule the galaxy. It is often worn as a pendant around the neck by the pious, and is formed as a sign of devotion or formal greeting by placing one’s hands on one’s chest with the thumbs interlocked (thus, the thumbs form the heads of the eagle).
Skulls and bones: Symbols of mortality are common in the Imperium, since all citizens know with utmost certainty that their time will come in the dangerous galaxy; the questions are only when and where. Reminders of this are a constant in in imperial art.
Religion in the Imperium is mostly fatalistic; your place in society is determined by your fate, which is given unto you by the circumstances of your birth and the path of your life through the almighty God-Emperor on Terra. The Ecclesiarchy – officially called the Adeptus Ministorum – is the state church (and the only one tolerated), and is led by Cardinals each responsible for a diocese; many dioceses are just system or even but a single world, while some are sector wide. The supreme ruling body is the Holy Synod, which gathers on Terra periodically to discuss religious policies. Specific religious rules actually vary somewhat between worlds in the Imperium, but adoration of the God-Emperor and respect for the priests of the Eclessiarchy are universal traits.
All imperial citizens have a largely mystical understanding of technology. Machinery works due to ‘machine spirits’, and correct maintenance rituals keep these spirits appeased and cooperative. Additionally, many technological items are of such complexity that the arts and sciences of their production are no longer widely known even by the red-robed priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus, and these items are consequently viewed as nothing less than irreplaceable relics.
Adeptus (female: adepta) is a title accorded to those who serve some official function, typically within one of the organisations of the imperial bureaucracy, such as the Administratum. Priests are also technically adeptus, as are the genetically modified superhumans of the Adeptus Astartes and the techpriests of the Adeptus Mechanicus (although the latter are typically referred to by the title ‘magos’).
Food and drink
On many hive and forge worlds, most citizens live on rations distributed to the population by central authorities. Many times the quality of food and drink is dependent on class; the lowest on the social ladder get corpse-starch rations (chemically recycled labourers who continue their service to the Imperium even in death), while more palatable protein pastes, vitamin supplements and the occasional grain are made available to the middle hivers. In the highest spires of the nobility, lavish feast which would boggle the minds of the masses are routine to the point of boredom. On worlds with freer economic structures this pattern is less set, but quality still varies enormously with class.
The most common palatable meat that humanity makes use of is that of the grox, a saurian creature transplanted to many imperial worlds due to its ability to survive the most variant environmental conditions.
A common alcoholic beverage is amasec, which is made from distilled wine. It is sweet and strong, and accompanies many a ship into the depths of the void.
The linguistic system of the Imperium is one of diglossia, with High Gothic used in official situations and by nobles, while Low Gothic is a catch-all term for the vernacular forms used for everyday communication. Being diglossic, the two languages are related but for the most part mutually unintelligible, and the children of some noble houses will learn nothing but High Gothic, being completely unable to communicate with the lower masses who often only know some variety of Low Gothic. (See A short examination of the languages of the Imperium for more information on the Gothic language itself.)
There is also a third language group; Techna-Lingua or Lingua-Technis, spoken within the Adeptus Mechanicus. To fully speak this language one must be augmented for binary data transfer, although verbal components are still present. It is optimised for quick data transfer and servitor commands. The variety called Explorator Binary is a divergent dialect used by the Explorator Fleets of the Adeptus Mechanicus.