The Chasind "wilders" have lived in the Korcari Wilds since the first wars with the Alamarri drove them southward a millennium ago. According to their own lore, they had always been a forest-dwelling people that adapted quickly to their new home. Game and fish are plentiful in the wetlands, and the Chasind thrived.
For a time, they and the hill-dwelling Avvars were true threats to the northern lowlands. The Tevinter Imperium had arrived and was hard-pressed to keep back the waves of invasions from the south and the west. The fortress of Ostagar was built specifically to watch for Chasind hordes venturing north of the tree line. It was not until the legendary warrior Hafter soundly defeated the Chasind in the first half of the Divine Age that the question of their ability to contest the lowlands was settled permanently.
Today, the Chasind are considered largely peaceful, though their ways are still primitive compared to our own. In the Korcari Wilds they live in strange-looking huts built on stilts or even built into the great treetops. They paint their faces and are split into small tribes ruled by shamans like those amongst the Avvars. There are many tales of these shamans having learned their magic from the "Witches of the Wilds," witches that inspire as much terror as they do awe and gratitude even if there is no definitive proof they exist. In particular, the tale of Flemeth, the greatest witch of the wilds, is celebrated amongst all tribes.
While there is no way to know how many there are in the Wilds today, few travelers that pass through the forests tell of Chasind eking out an existence even in the frozen wastelands of the far south. One can assume that should the Chasind ever organize themselves once more, we might have reason to fear them here in Ferelden. We ignore them at our peril.
The Chasind of Warden's Vigil
The Chasind divide themselves into clans, which take their name from the totem animal whose spirit they believe watches over them. Nine clans were known of before the blight: Wolf, Otter, Raven, Hawk, Badger, Cougar, Rabbit, Snake, Spider and Bear, but others may exist further south. While in the past, the clans have united to deal with a common threat, or to attempt to expand their territory to the north, such cooperation has not existed in centuries. Relations between the clans range from uneasy alliances to open hostility, and each clan guards its territory.
Each clan is led by its shaman, generally a powerful, older mage. Next in the hierarchy are the warriors and hunters; their status is determined by the number of their kills. Men in the Chasind clans wear their hair long, and use braids and fetishes of bone, feathers, beads and wire to mark their accomplishments; the more braids in a man's hair, and the greater the number and elaborateness of the adornments worked into those braids, the higher his status in his clan can be assumed to be.
Women and children are outside the status structure of the men, and are considered both the property and the responsibility of their husband/father, or the oldest male of their immediate family. If no such family exists, it falls to the shaman to see that a woman and her children are taken care of, most often by arranging a marriage, or by placing them as servants to one of the more prosperous families, or to himself and his own family. None who are able to work are permitted to go hungry, but severely crippled or deformed infants and children are generally left to the elements, as are the very old and infirm.
The spells of the Chasind shamans fall primarily in the Primal school of magic, with a few from the Creation school to permit healing. They believe their magic is a gift from the spirit world (their term for the Fade), and as such, spend a fair amount of time seeking communion with those spirits by the use of drakestongue: a plant native to the Korcari Wilds with leaves that are broad at the base and narrow to a sharp tip. Even fresh, the leaves are a potent hallucinogen and dissociative, and dried, the effects are enhanced. The roots are quite toxic raw, but if prepared properly, have a number of medicinal qualities.
There are tales of shamen in the past who could change their shapes to that of the creatures of the Wilds, but none are known to exist now. Similarly, none are known to practice Blood Magic, though that may well be done in secret. The last time that the shamans of the clans united to a single cause was to bring down a particularly powerful Blood Mage among their number who was attempting to bring all the clans under his control. As such, any shaman known to be practicing such magics is likely to meet a very sudden end at the hands of one or more of his rivals.
The rest of the time, the shamans mirror the suspicious hostility that exists between the clans, and to an even greater degree. Exchange of knowledge is almost unheard of, and spells are guarded jealously. Each shaman will take an apprentice to train, but much of that 'apprenticeship' is little more than indentured servitude, with the apprentice forced to do the shaman's bidding, while learning basic, nonmagical healing skills, such as herbcraft, and only the most basic of magics.
The reasons for this are twofold: first, the only way that an apprentice may assume the position of shaman is upon the death of his master. Occasionally, this happens through natural causes, but more frequently, when the apprentice gains sufficient skill and the shaman grows weaker with age, student will challenge master to a magical duel to the death (more subtle means, such as assassination, have also been utilized, but are considerably riskier). This gives the shaman a powerful incentive to withhold the teaching of his strongest spells until he is growing close to death, and it is not unusual for apprenticeships to last for decades.
The second reason is that attrition among apprentices is extremely high; over half perish, either learning their early spells (those involving lightning and fire are particularly risky), or during the test of the spirits, a ritual similar to the Harrowing of the Circle. An apprentice is tied securely to a tree or rock, and his master places a large amount of drakestongue beneath his tongue. He enters the spirit world, encountering both demons and benevolent spirits. If a demon overwhelms him (or if the shaman does not particularly like this apprentice), his throat will be cut, and another apprentice will be recruited in his place.
It is because of this that apprentices to the shamans have little to no status within the clan until after they have passed the test of the spirits; at an age where most young men are learning to hunt and fight, and are selecting prospective wives to court, an apprentice shaman is learning herbcraft, how to fish and trap animals, and the most basic of spells, and is not considered a good prospect for a husband until after he has passed his test (and perhaps not even then, depending upon how young and vital the current shaman is).
Women are not permitted to be shamans. The awe in which the Chasind hold the legendary Witches of the Wilds is laced with more than a little fear, as well, and any girl who displays magical ability is taken from her clan and tied to an altar well away from any Chasind settlements, as an offering to Flemeth and her daughters. These women always vanish in the night, and none have been seen again.
It is not unusual, however, for a clan to have one or more 'wise women' who are skilled in herbcraft, potion making, nonmagical healing & midwifery; such women generally hold a relatively high status in the clan, and are often deferred to be all except the shaman.
The Chasind In The Blight
The darkspawn emerged initially within the Korcari Wilds, first driving off the game on which the Chasind subsisted. The Wilders attempted to fight the invaders, but soon found themselves vastly outnumbered. The clans began to flee to the north, but old rivalries flared up, resulting in clashes between clans even as they fled, along with the attacks of the darkspawn.
At least two clans: the Otter and the Raven, were almost completely decimated during this period; those who happened upon the sites of slaughter regularly remark upon the lack of corpses belonging to women of childbearing age among the dead. While it is possible that these women were taken in by other clans, possibly as slaves, the clans are currently highly unreceptive to outsiders, making this theory difficult to confirm.
After the end of the Blight, the majority of the Chasind returned to their old territories, but the ceding of the area around Ostagar to the Dalish elves has resulted in no small amount of resentment, particularly among the Badger and Cougar clans, whose territories included those lands.