Marriage Among the Elves, Volume 6 (book)
Marriage Among Elves
Volume VI: The Snow Clan
-An Investigation by Simon J. Bright
Another reclusive clan is that of the Snow Elves, who inhabit the alpine wastes high on the mountains. Myth states these Elves withdrew from the society of the other clans in order to purify themselves with the harshness of their chosen environment, and one of their names for themselves suggests they view their blood now as pure and rare.
The Snow Elves are withdrawn and avoid interracial relation ships and friendships. They are intensely traditional and both respect and revere all facets of their environment. They believe contact with other races has contaminated the other Elven clans and caused them to be unable to see the error of Their ways. Not only other races, but also other clans of the Elves, consider their reserved ways incomprehensible.
Inside their central hold among their own kin, they live in stark contrast to the perceptions of the outside world. They lead comfortable but simple lives. They surround themselves in the colors of spring and abundant texture, celebrating the joys of life and the arts.
The ice walls of most of their gathering places conform to the most beautiful features of their environment, encouraged by care ful carving or sculpting to display their most dazzling aspects. The visitor is rewarded as every step reveals yet another trea sure for the eye to behold or for the other senses to indulge in a sense of heady intoxication.
Snow Elves arrange the wedding of their children, with the husbands marrying into the family clan. All marriages occur during the winter, when any excuse for merrymaking and festi vities is sought after to break the long tedium of the cold time. Quite often, although a young maiden may know the name of her betrothed, she may never meet him until the time has come for them to be united in marriage.
A recurring motif in all Snow Elves marriage ceremonies is the use of flowers of any hue of red as well as a chill blue to symbolize the ice and cold surrounding them. They have become quite adept at carving gemstones mimicking spring flowers. Some of the gems are found in their frozen wastelands, but more often they are acquired through the limited trade allowed with the outside world.
At the beginning of the winter season, wedding plans are announced. This sets off a flurry of activity among the families. The groom's sisters and other female relatives arrive to visit with the bride and her family and often stay for a month or so. They bring with them gifts of exotic perfumes and cosmetics, as well as an assortment of carved flower gems cunningly strung together in matched sets of earrings, bangles, hairpieces and garlands. The sisters adorn their future sister- in-law with the gem flowers, suggesting their affection for her. The purpose of this ceremony is to increase familiarity between the bride and her new family, creating an atmosphere that is fragrant and beautiful.
Favored gems for the bride are star rubies, garnets, red jasper and spinel. Less favored are coral, sunstone, and bloodstone. The leaves and stems of the flower creations are carved from peridot, green tourmaline and emeralds.
The bride's attire for her wedding day is a fine silk robe of a bright springtime color, covered by the sleeveless coat called "bal baharen guleni" or the coat of spring flowers, a lavish creation of the finest piecework and needlework. The gift of flower gems given her by her beloved's family graces the tiny braids forming her elaborate coif, as well as her wrists and ears. She seems to sparkle in the light cast for the ceremony.
The groom wears pale blue leggings and a cape reminiscent of the color of pure ice on a summer morning. His voluminous cape is edged with a thin band of white ermine. He wears a shirt of stark white, studded at the open neck with a crimson jewel. He goes unarmed to his wedding, for weapons are prohibited within the stronghold.
Although Snow Elves recognize all the traditional Elven forms of marriage, the one most often used is Bile Janis oc Hul Haizean. Although all the major facets of the ceremony are present, there are a few variations in the ritual.
The family lines of the bride and groom are never chanted. The bride and groom each sing their own lines, accompanied by the witness and often by the entire assembly. They maintain the rhythm of the singing by clapping the palms of their hands on their thighs, using no other musical accompaniment.
As noted before, no one bears weapons within the stronghold. Each of the challengers bears instead a staff of ice. When the challenge is completed, the staff is raised high overhead in display before being struck sharply on the floor and shattered. It is quite a dramatic sight to see.
Once the Four Challenges are made with no objection issued to halt the wedding, the officiating Elder takes a long chain that has been painstakingly carved from a single block of ice. He binds the left palm of the bride over the right palm of the groom in a complicated pattern before the ceremony continues. This is the last, unspoken challenge. If the ice chain melts before the ceremony is completed, it is a sign these two were not meant to be bound together and the marriage is not binding. Snow Elves believe it is a most auspicious omen if the chain melts precisely at the close of the ceremonies, showing not only the strength of the bond between the two, but also demonstrating the belief that no mortal may possibly separate them.
At the close of the ceremony, carved bone geldanto are exchanged between the bridal couple. These geldanto carry symbolic representations of the totems of the couple, worked over the entire surface of the geldanto in exacting detail, with all the carved lines acid darkened to display the minute detail. The artisans who create such works of art strive to never replicate the design of one geldanto with another, but to complement its mate with different elements, yet still designate the two torques as part of a pair. The ends of the geldanto are left without decoration.
The entire gathering celebrates the joining of the bridal couple, with all contributing to the bridal feast. When the couple becomes weary, they simply retire to their new home. There is no period of solitude as most of the other clans offer newlyweds, but immediate assimilation as functional members of the bride's family.
*Author's note: The geldanto is a fascinating artifact dis- playing the life of the marriage. At the time of marriage, the ends of the geldanto are left plain. Significant anniversaries are later documented with bands of geometric etchings on the side of the torque closest to the right hand, and the birth of children with specialized bands decorating the left. Should a marriage be sundered by death, the entire geldanto of the surviving spouse is repeatedly rubbed with a special com- pound during the mourning period. The degree of darkening of the geldanto describes graphically the sorrow felt at passage of the spouse to the Starry Road. It also indicates to others in the clan how open the surviving spouse might be to offers of remarriage. Those who choose to darken their geldanto to the color of deep ash are not considered good marriage prospects.