Nomads vs. Settled
CENTAUR religion tends to be privately practiced and animist, with a lot of variety in what deities and spirits are celebrated and how they are celebrated between different clans. Clans also tend to have their own personal mythology and patron spirits, especially older clans who have had time for their creation to be mythologized by generations of oral storytelling. Line of descent, historical rivalries, and local natural disasters can also play a big role in shaping the region’s mythos. Holidays are variable, but almost all clans away from the snowy twilight of the equator have one big one in fall before the long winter nights, and one big one in spring when daylight comes back. Oral historians typically perform for holiday events, speaking historical poetry and acting out history.
Centaurs will sometimes shave patterns into their short body “fur,” and will often dye these patterns. Centaur’s “fur” is structurally more similar to feathers and only molts a couple times a year, so these patterns last much longer than they would on a human head. Body painting in general is a big dealio for centaurs, and many paints have a clay component to help with body cooling and standing out on fur. Piercings are also fairly common, especially on the trunk, lips, breathing outtakes, and… genitals…. Fur and antler dyeing is common as well, though most traditional stains are derived from plants and animals and don’t come in wild colors. Human and ferret artificial dyes can be used instead, but it’s a mixed bag how centaur biology will react to them (accidental poisonings and allergic reactions are common in situations like this). Antler carving is another common tradition, usually accompanied by staining, and the shed antlers of dead loved ones are often kept and displayed together at clan altars.
I mean, unlike the human infant feeding mechanism, the spinnerets sit right above the rest of the reproductive bits (in both sexes, although in adults they are only prominent in the child-bearing sex). So basically if the culture takes issue with public genital exposure, they take issue with showing off your spinnerets. A pair of pants/skirt/etc that shows off only the spinnerets would either put an uncomfortable strap right over the junk or dip dangerously close to doing so. Centaurs in coverage-mandatory cultures who are currently feeding pupa generally have the spinnerets loosely covered by a maternity sling/shirt or the entire operation covered with an overjacket and chausses, depending on how cold it is and local custom.
This is actually one of the reasons that centaurs, especially ones living in city areas with a lot of hardscape, wear shoes. In addition to the pad of the hoof being vulnerable to sharp objects, hard rough surfaces like concrete can grind down the material of the hoof faster than it grows back, causing numerous issues… Wearing shoes does mean the hoof material has to get worn down through other means, though. Talita uses a set of metalshop files, a rotary tool, and sandpaper to shape and dull hers, though standard farrier tools would also work.
Art and Media
Centaurs on their home planet didn’t have much in the way of long distance tech except for radio and telephone, which is now getting messed up with space age tech from everyone else. On-planet their media scene is a mess, and dada-esque art and humor is popular because it embodies the cultural theme of “nothing makes any goddamn sense anymore.” They have a large emphasis on sculpture, murals, practical art, graphic design, fashion, and visual art, and videos spread through alien tech are already fighting with previously hugely popular radio shows for attention. Performance art is mostly oration– given an option centaurs seem to prefer listening and seeing a performer say a story rather than reading it– which may have something to do with the fact many centaurs are far-sighted. Talita wears glasses to help with this, since she grew up with humans, who prefer text over oration. Written language in centaur culture is mostly used in signage, or to disseminate information quickly, before it can be recorded in sound bytes. New alien tech is making the spread of information through audio rather than text even easier. Oddly enough they don’t have a lot of music, at least as we would consider it? Centaurs don’t have a strong sense of rhythm like everyone else does, the closest thing they have to music is like… collections of pretty noises and exaggerated poetry reading. They’re difficult to listen to as someone trying to find a beat or musical sense to the sound, since it’s more comparable to human media targeting ASMR than music.
Centaurs appear to have tusks on their face, but technically not! Tusks are a permanent structure derived from teeth, but antlers are a seasonal growth that develops under velvet. Despite their fearsome appearance, centaur antlers aren’t there to fight or injure prey (in fact they can make biting opponents harder), they evolved to help root up tubers from the ground. Although centaurs are obligate carnivores, due to the harsh light binary of their planet’s seasons and fickle availability of migrating prey herds, they often supplement their winter diet with the rhizomes of dormant plants.
Like deer antlers, a centaur’s face rack grows under a layer of velvet, or thinly furred protective skin. But unlike deer, centaurs have hands, knives, and too much spare time. Many cultures, not willing to let some free leather go to waste, wait till the velvet has just loosened and lost nerve connection, score the underside and base, and peel it off in one go. The resulting fuzzy pizza slice of flesh is tanned and used in either warm clothing, historical records, or family heirlooms. The antlers themselves are sometimes also mounted as a keepsake, especially when carved and decorated with dyes.
Food and Agriculture
I haven’t talked much about life on the centaur homeworld in Runaway to the Stars, so here’s some tidbits. Most centaur buildings have a stove in the center, both for cooking and heating the house. In the northern territories, a popular stove attachment is a basin of sand (This was inspired by how traditional Turkish coffee is made here on earth!). When the fire is started in the morning, the sand gradually heats up until it’s hot enough to cook food. Even after the fire goes out in the evening, the heated sand and stove walls radiate warmth into the air. The sand basin is removable and can be traded for a grill or flat stove top in the hotter months of the year. Most stoves are fueled with wood, grass, and dried animal dung; but in urban areas and wealthy households electrical stoves were quite popular, even before first contact with the other alien races.
Centaur guts are pretty short and designed for a diet of raw meat, not breaking down plant matter. But being opportunists, they’ve found ways to process some local plants into tastier forms. For tubers the method usually involves steaming, peeling, and then pounding into mash with enzymes juiced from the digestive glands of herbivorous prey. Nutritionally it lacks some amino acids centaurs can only obtain from meat, but it fills a stomach or two during bad years for hunting and livestock rearing.
Sorta… all of those? It’s not terribly equivalent to human eras because of course, technological advancement is not linear, but they were just starting to diversify their use of electricity into stuff like fridges, heaters, and basic factory machinery. They have a strong culture of oral language and were quick to develop sophisticated radios, recording and communication devices; while things like printing presses were still extremely rudimentary, if available at all… centaurs are all farsighted, so almost all written language is used on stuff like signage with huge painted symbols.
Centaurs were also dragging their feet on transportation technology. Most centaur cultures glorify running and walking to some degree, disapproving of anyone who uses assistive devices to get around. Cars, trains and motorized vehicles fall into this category for them… why sit in a car when you can just WALK there like a dignified person? The few things they had developed, like railcars, were mostly used to transport goods quickly and often didn’t even have an engineer on board. Boats, elevators, (eventually spaceships), and etc are a grey area here, some more conservative centaur cultures condemn them, others use them regularly. Bikes and pedal cars are a little more universally approved of, since they require you to pull your own weight. They are by far the most common vehicle you will see on centaur roads, even post-contact.
Centaurs in Space
Centaurs, as I’ve mentioned, eat a lot of raw meat and live meat. A common snack food is a bag full of live invertebrates, maybe sprinkled with spices and salt. A lot of these delicacies are not available off their home planet, as most food in space and on non-terriformed planets is made with synthesizer machines, which can make pretty alright fake meat out of organic molecules, but cannot create life Frankenstein style. Another weird food stuff of centaurs… is meat soda….. they can’t taste sugar very well so a lot of their fun beverages are either basically weak vinegar, or meat broth. They also serve hot beverages with animal fats in them (so like a hot buttered rum, but with lard. They have no dairy equivalent).
Displaced centaurs in general struggle to replicate important elements of their culture in space, usually sticking into very tightly knit adopted clans of 5-20 people. The hardest hit aspect of their lives is food. As I’ve mentioned before, aliens in Runaway to the Stars do not have interchangable molecular biology– eating food grown from another planet’s biosphere can result in anything from indigestion, to allergic reaction, to death. Simple sugars, water, and atmosphere mix is about all we can safely share.
While avians, ferrets, and humans have many established planets with food production, processing, and interstellar shipping methods; centaurs only have one biosphere to call their own, their homeplanet. And shipping food off of it, especially raw meat (the majority of most centaur diets) is bloody expensive. Spaceships don’t move very fast in RttS, even with wormhole shortcuts.
The majority of spacer centaurs basically live off of food printers, which use component macro-molecules to synthesize ‘food products.’ While the tech has finally advanced to the point that centaurs eating only from printers won’t quickly die of malnutrition, it’s an incredibly limited way to eat. Most centaur food printers only have two options: raw pseudo-sausage, and “tuber” paste.
With most clans only able to afford limited amounts of preserved and dried food from their home planet, cooking has gotten a little… well… the first thing that comes to mind is prison recipes. Centaurs optimize their dishes to stretch the shipments of homegrown food as far as possible, with printer paste used to pad out calories. The more dignified recipes shape, steam, roast, boil, or fry (in printer lipid canister oil) the pastes; then season with dried spice and augment with preserved organ meats. The less dignified ones get creatively desperate. Some use random macromolecule printer canisters as seasoning or a cooking medium (pasteballs boiled in DNA, anyone?), add alien foods just below the gastric regret threshold, or even throw in non-food items, like clay, charcoal, indigestible fibers, and household chemical products. When you’ve been eating plain paste for 2 years because you can’t afford natural food, adding some laundry detergent to liven things up suddenly doesn’t sound like the worst idea.
Talita is a weird case even for a spacer centaur, and has lived her entire life under far more human cultural influence than centaur. Fortunately she eats pretty well with printer food and regular home planet shipments, but her culinary background for centaur food products is non-existent. Talita has eaten like a college kid slapping together strange human-recipe-adjacent concoctions out of whatever they find in the mini-fridge her whole life– picture ramen omelettes and chocolate chip mac n’ cheese galore. Yum!