Externally Betazoids are extremely similar to Humans with the only noticeable difference being the eyes, where in Betazoids the irises are completely black.
Once they reach middle-age, a female Betazoid will undergo a physiological change known as "The Phase" during which the sexual drive is increased by at least 400%.
Betazoids are natural telepaths, with this ability being centered in their paracortex, with psilosynine as a primary neurotransmitter.
Most Betazoids develop their telepathic abilities during their adolescence. And early development of these abilities can be traumatizing for a young Betazoid. Some are even born with telepathic abilities, and this can lead to psychological problems in later life.
Betazoids born with telepathic capabilities, or who develop them early in life are usually very powerful telepaths, but are also often incapable of screening out the natural mental "noise" that their telepathic capabilities create. This can lead to mental and emotional problems as well as difficulties in socialization.
The common psionic abilities of Betazoids extends from sensing thoughts and/or emotions, to projecting their own thoughts and/or emotions, and even to manipulating the minds of others. The level to which these telepathic abilities develop depends largely on each individual's genetic makeup.
While people of pure Betazoid heritage will, likely, have the full range of telepathic abilities, people with mixed heritage will have less powerful capabilities usually limited to detecting the emotional states of other beings and communicating, telepathically, with members of other telepathic species.
Betazoids, and people with some Betazoid background can also communicate telepathically with people who are very close to them (ie. an imzadi) who are not usually capable of telepathy. And in some rare cases involving a close personal bond, a Betazoid can teach a non-telepath to communicate with them using their mind.
Full Betazoids are unable to read the thoughts of Ferengi, Breen, Ullians, or Dopterians, but some half-Betazoids, or part-Betazoids have been successful in reading some of these species. Additionally, even full Betazoids seem to be able to psionically influence some of these species.
It is likely the Rings and the Chalice are actually social, or political symbols more associated with Betazoid royalty, than religion. However, the word sacred carries a religious significance in most cultures.
Betazoids have a pseudo-religious, semi-matriarchal society. Ruling houses, descended from various legendary figures, make up a planetary council that speaks for all citizens; each house broadly encompasses the interests of millions of people, in rough geographic locations (and along certain familial lines). The system of representation can be complicated by the fact that Betazoids can petition along their matrilineal lines in order to be heard, in much the same way that a citizen might write a letter to a representative in a representative democracy. Each house claims its mandate from its legendary founder, an acolyte of the Betazed mythic hero Krystaros.
Fortunately for them, the Betazoid telepathy and empathy meant that warfare was a largely foreign concept for much of Betazed history. The earliest records of conflict in Betazoid history indicate a spiritual war with non-corporeal entities—described as demons in ancient religious texts. Betazoids presumably evolved their telepathic abilities to combat such beings, and in the process created a society whereby honesty and compassion were paramount: Few Betazoids could bear to feel the pain or discomfort of fellow citizens, especially on a large scale.
Betazed wholeheartedly contributes to and partakes in Federation science and technology projects, and this shows. Their cities are built with large mushroom-shaped structures that rise up on thin spires, leaving more of the ground open for natural growth. Betazed contributes its telepathic expertise, psychological experience and philosophical developments to Federation civilization, and in return the Federation's strongly technical members help with advanced replication technology, engineering, and land reclamation. The result is that the average Betazoid has a very high and enjoyable standard of living, while the citizenry have little fear of discontent; an unhappy Betazoid is often quickly discovered and counseled by friends, neighbors, and family, all of whom want to re-establish the pleasant environs. (Decipher RPG module: Worlds)
The Dominion's desire to conduct experiments with telepathy played a big part in their decision to annex Betazed. The Dominion had control of Betazed for over four months. In that time, tens of thousands of Betazoids disappeared. Groups were being rounded up at an alarming rate. Jem'Hadar were rounding up the most talented telepaths for use in experiments conducted by the Cardassian scientist Crell Moset.
Crell Moset made the Jem'Hadar telepathic, but they contained a fatal flaw. Because the Jem'Hadar mind processes emotions very differently from other humanoids, the ones that were made telepathic suddenly found themselves bombarded empathically, with no way to close off their new perceptions. Immediate, fatal seizures were the result. It also affected unaltered Jem'Hadar in close proximity. This same flaw made the Jem'Hadar vulnerable to projected emotions. It made them catatonic for one hour or so.
Betazed was freed by taking advantage of this flaw by using invasive empathy on the Jem'Hadar. The strain killed 40% of the Betazoids performing the technique, and some of the Jem'Hadar went berserk and killed each other, but most were made catatonic. (TNG novel: The Battle of Betazed)
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