The Clans date back for as long as the Nords have inhabited Umbria. The choice of an iconic animal for each clan is an offshoot of the totemic religion (thought by some to be worship of the Primordials) that at one point all Nords practiced. While countless smaller clans arose and fell as history churned on, six established themselves as constant powers: Elk, Bear, Raven, Boar, Fox, and Wolf. Even after totemic worship stopped and temples were built, the clans retained their animal names. While they began as separate tribes of the same people, differing in one ideology or another, the clans have over centuries evolved into distinct nation-states.
No one really knows the exact genesis of the major clans. No one’s really sure which came about first or last. The six major clans have been always been the strongest clans for as long as history goes back, and few in Umbria really even cares to think about what might have been before then. Occasionally in history, a very powerful and respected figure will be recognized by all the clans and become a Patriarch (or Matriarch, in some cases), ushering in a time of peace and prosperity that usually only for a decade or so, before the clans return to squabbling (or worse).
Each Clan is ruled by a single Lord, whether in deed or title, and has a capital city. Being a member of a clan is much like being a member of a guild, and for the most part there is a hierarchy of the clans’ members. For instance, while Lannik is a town under the jurisdiction of the Fox clan, by no means is every citizen in Lannik a Fox clan member. However, most of its citizens would be considered a clansfriend, a term that means an ally that has a loose allegiance with a clan, but swears no oaths; one is simply viewed as a clansfriend or not by the members, as there is no specific way to become one.
Becoming an actual member of a clan could mean vastly different things between each clan. Clan members are usually very easily identified by clothing and tattoos. Each clan has a color, and the clans ubiquitously enjoy sporting the color of their own. Wearing the colors of another clan to impersonate them is incredibly frowned upon, and is considered an affront to whatever oaths you may have sworn to your own clan. If caught, the offended clan is quick to enact whatever form of justice they deem fit.