Tauman wrote:Only the Fire caste and Earth caste have Ta'lissera (as established from the first codex forward
Just a quick point of order, the Ta'lissera was never explicitly stated to be exclusively a Fire Caste and Earth Caste thing. The mention of it in the background piece on Tau language and culture in Codex Tau
states that it is "... most commonly found within the ranks of Fire Caste Warriors and Earth Caste work teams..." which suggests that it is entirely possible that Air and Water Caste teams also perform it, just not as frequently as the Fire and Earth castes.
Indeed, a strong argument could be made for the Air Caste also practising it. Much like the Fire Caste, Air Caste Tau mostly operate in highly dangerous environments and situations in high-risk capacities (even if they're never directly involved in conflict, space travel can be a very hazardous job even with a ton of high-tech safety measures) where you often need to trust in and rely on fellow team members for survival, so they'd probably develop similar levels of camaraderie and closeness among one another, especially in the case of starship crews where fellow crew-members may be the only constant company for Kai'Rotaa on end during lengthy voyages.
Furthermore, the Air Caste have a long history of co-existence and collaboration with the Fire Caste - remember that their direct ancestors, the Fire and Air tribes, were close allies on Pre-Etheral T'au. Thus it's not entirely unreasonable to assume that there would be a degree of cultural overlap between the two as various customs and traditions were appropriated and assimilated through acculturation, and that the Ta'lissera would be part of that. Finally, given that Sister Verity, who was the in-universe author of the background piece, admits to not having many dealings with the Air Caste, it is entirely likely that she simply never encountered any bonded Kor, assumed from her experience that this was the norm and consequently under-reported the practice.
As to the Ta'lissera itself, I've been giving some thought about it recently in regards to how it would likely interact with Tau characters.
One of the many television series I enjoy watching is the paranormal drama Supernatural
, and one of the core themes the show explores is the significance of family. The significance here is in the particular familial bond between the show's two main protagonists, Sam and Dean Winchester, who share as part of their characterisation an extremely close connection stemming from their family ties as brothers. Recently a big thing I've taken away from the series is that the interactions between Sam and Dean are likely a very good approximation of what a Ta'lissera would look like in practice. Indeed, were a Tau to watch Supernatural
without any additional background information on human cultural and social norms, I imagine they would probably assume quite quickly that Sam and Dean were Ta'lissera bond-mates (they'd probably also conclude that Sam and Dean have a very odd self-centred view of what contributing towards the greater whole means, but that's the Gue'la for you). The ideas of family
, of a core of your closest and deepest compatriots, sharing a fundamental, close connection with them, something that goes beyond just familiarity and friendship, and being ready to commit - and sacrifice - everything for them if need-be, that whole 'no-one left behind' mindset - that's what a Ta'lissera is about.
When I was in high school a film I had to analyse for English class one year was Freedom Writers
. In it, the film's main character - a schoolteacher - gets the students of her class to write down their experiences and feelings in journals, and there's a scene where she's reading them. One of the lines in them, conveyed by voice-over, always stuck with me:
"Me and [character's childhood friend I've forgotten the name of] were like two fists man, one army."
Which feels to me a lot like how a Fire Caste warrior might talk about a Ta'lissera bond-mate. Again, the idea of being totally in sync with your team-mate, on a level that goes beyond normal friendship, is important here.
In regards to marriage, I've never really felt like it was a good comparison to the Ta'lissera. My own take is that Sister Verity fumbled the translation of it, and in reality marriage isn't actually an accurate description. This mainly comes from the fact that 'marriage', in the English language at least, often has somewhat heavy sexual connotations, while I see the Ta'lissera as something that would be almost entirely platonic. Sure, there might be romantic or sexual relationships within a bonded team, but it's not really the main focus of the Ta'lissera in the way that it is for, say, Christian marriage. Instead, I feel like the Ta'lissera would be closer to a kind of mutual adoption, if that makes any sense - the team members effectively adopt each other into their own family. Now at a basic level this is sort of how most marriages work, but connotations and charged words are important here, and I imagine Tau in a Ta'lissera bonding would view each other more as siblings than spouses (indeed it's likely that there'd be more than a few Tau who would see sexual relations with a Ta'lissera bond-mate as tantamount to incest). So I guess what I'm saying here is that my vote is for Ta'lissera members being brothers and sisters.
The other big difference with marriage (or Christian marriage at least) is that Tau in a Ta'lissera aren't effectively folded into an existing family - instead, I see the Ta'lissera as forming a new unit of relationships independent of existing family ties.
Finally, there is one last element of importance to the Ta'lissera that seems to have been overlooked so far - it is a method of coping with loss and death. Here are the closing words of the Ta'lissera as described in Codex: Tau
Codex: Tau, pg. 61, 'Bonding Ritual' wrote:The group linked hands and, in unison, said, "Let all bear witness to this Ta'lissera. Like the eternal circle, these bonds shall never be broken. For as long as one of us remains alive, so too do the others. There is no one Tau above another, all are as one and the whole shall be greater than the sum of its parts."
This is performed between each member getting a diagonal slash across their palms with the bonding knife and the previously mentioned bowl of Ky'husa. Take a look at those words again, and the language used. The Ta'lissera bond is a connection that transcends death. If you're part of a Ta'lissera, then your bond-mates are always going to have your back, always
, even after they've passed away. Thus, as long as one member of a Ta'lissera is still alive, their bond-mates are never really gone.
This is also reflected in the effects a Ta'lissera has on Fire Caste teams. A bonded team will always be able to regroup even if it's below half-strength, because in the minds of the Fire Caste warriors in it they never really dropped below half-strength in the first place - their fallen teammates are still right there watching over them in spirit. Sure, their physical bodies might be destroyed, but their memories, their personality, their little quirks and idiosyncrasies, everything that made them them
remains, and as long as even one Ta'lissera member survives, they'll live on where it really counts: in here
(taps over heart).
For a species with a naturally short lifespan like the Tau, that kind of reassurance would likely be a very powerful thing. It also explains why Ta'lissera rituals are so common among the Fire Caste, as their job by its very nature requires them to face death on a very frequent basis.
So that's my two cents on the Ta'lissera for what it's worth.