Marriage Among the Elves, Volume 4 (book)

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Marriage Among the Elves

Volume IV: The Wind Clan

-An Investigation by Simon J. Bright

Wind Elves Marriage Rituals

The Wind Elves depart markedly from many of the traditions held by the other Clans. They do not acknowledge dowry or arrange marriages, but believe in allowing a couple to bond and join naturally. The only exception to this is among the ruling caste, which seeks political alliance and improvement of their financial coffers in much the same way as many other races. Even those among the elite ruling class that do use a formalized version of marriage/alliance outside the clan usually do not go against their children's wishes in this matter should they adamantly oppose the union.

Wind Elves use the tradition of El Agzata as part of the courtship process and not as a legal mating. They do not recognize Zuzses Gelinajaun, Lotsen Gelinaji, Behar-gelinaji, or Shostro Emanto arrangements in any official or legal sense, although consensual varieties of all of these occur informally. Gelinajaun is acknowledged, but more for the benefit of other Clans than the Wind Elves, since this is rarely used except by heads of state. Wind Elves are similar to Sand Elves in their tendency to regard Gelinajaun Ruh as an illness of fate and a most unfortunate state of affairs. They prefer to regard their mates as their freely chosen companions that accompany them along the journey of life and not as a fated union where two souls become one.

Normally, the male wishing to court the female makes a formal request to the matriarch of his beloved's family by braiding a long lock of his hair and cutting it close to the head, tying off both ends of the braid with elaborate beadings and feathers. The matriarch measures the strength of his intentions by the thickness and length of the braid (the more hair the male has to offer, generally the better his proposal is considered!) as well as the quality of the embellishments tying off the braid, as these demonstrate his standing in the community. It is also permitted to purchase a braid of the appropriate thickness with elaborate embellishments to offer. This necessary compromise was established for the male who may have bulging coffers but not the luxuriant growth necessary to produce such a braid, or for the warrior who chooses to wear his hair in a shorter style.

The potential groom seeks the services of the best bard he can afford to compose songs of his skills and deeds in an effort to impress his intended's family. The bard chosen for this honor is generally also the bard who will sing the male's family lines at the nuptials, should all go well. The bard travels to the maiden's home and petitions for the young man, offering the man's braid to the matriarch of the family as a symbol of his intentions. The maiden's family accepts the braid and agrees to hear the groom's petition in a month's time.

Joyously, the bard returns to the man, singing of his success. Preparations for the formal procession and gifts are prepared. While his house is a flurry of activity, the woman's family deliberates over the next month over the worthiness of the suitor.

On the appointed day, the suitor gathers his family and friends about him. With the bard leading and encouraging them all with song, they proceed in a formal procession to the maiden's home, where elaborate refreshments await. All break bread and drink wine together before the Matriarch of the woman's clan rises. She approaches the suitor and either returns the original braid, signifying refusal of his request, or gives him a lock of the woman's hair elaborately braided with silk and cashmere and tied off with a single white feather. This signifies permission for the couple to begin courtship.

The braided hair is worn continually during the season of courtship as a symbol of the couple's status. They are encouraged to spend much time together and to discuss their goals and dreams to ensure compatibility. Either the maiden or man may terminate the relationship at any time during this period with no loss of honor or dignity.

Once a full season has passed, the maiden's family travels with her in a grand procession to the hearth of the suitor's family, where yet another grand feast has been prepared. Assuming all has gone well and the suitor is still acceptable to the woman and her family, he will make a formal request for the hand of his beloved. Upon acceptance, the maiden usually gives the male a carved hair bead to string into his lock of hair. He honors her with a tapestry shawl lavishly woven with his family sym- bols. They are now handfast, and must wed within the year.

Traditionally, the bride wears a long tunic over slim leggings made of supple white antelope hide. Although these can be elegantly simple in design, most brides take the opportunity to embellish their bridal clothing with elaborate beading, fringing and feather accents. Girded about her waist is a beaded belt tied to hold a slender bone dagger securely against her hip, while draped over her shoulders is a mantle or shawl delicately woven of the purest ivory cashmere. Often, the shawl is woven in convoluted patterns and so heavily fringed it not only drapes around the bride, but also trails behind her in a long train. Only a few tiny braids accented with feathers and beads and crowned with a simple wreath of flowers confine her loose hair. Ceremonies that are more elaborate substitute braided head- dresses of flowers interwoven with gems and beads.

The groom wears fine leather breeches of a creamy tan color. The fine-spun cashmere of his shirt is dyed a vivid scarlet and is usually heavily beaded with bold geometric designs along the yoke. He bears his finest weapon in the sheath clasped about his hips. His hair glistens with beads and feathers.

All the clan members of both the bride and groom attend the wedding, and all vendettas and grievances must be set aside for this occasion. No excuse is acceptable. The strength of this taboo is evident as one views the closed litters brought to the wedding, safely enclosing the seriously ill or deformed and those women in the midst of childbirth. To shun a wedding is to affront both families and has wide repercussion. Everyone attending the wedding dresses in their finest apparel, both to show their own wealth and status and to honor the families of the couple.

In preparation for the wedding, the mothers of the bridal couple (or a close friend should no relative exist) have prepared the gelnutre, weaving a new tapestry of their family lines that incorporates an element from the betrothal shawl the groom had given to the bride. This tapestry will be laid on the ground for the ceremony and later used to either cover the couple's bed or be hung on the wall of their dwelling.

The actual ceremony is officiated by the Clan Shaman of the bride's hearth. It essentially follows the traditional Elven forms for the joining of the couple. After the ritual chal- lenges, the Shaman speaks to the couple at great length about the privileges and obligations they will assume with marriage, extolling the virtues of wedded bliss as the assembled guests listen with rapt attention.

After the Shaman has completed his lecture, he again asks the couple if they are still willing to accept one another as com- panion on the path of life for as long as they both wish to con- tinue the relationship. The couple pledges to always respect one another and exchange rings carved from antelope horn. The Shaman raises them and declares them wed.

Grand feasting follows, with dance and song. The parents of the family (if they live) exchange symbolic gifts of a fine cashmere blanket (or horse blanket) with one of the traditional designs as well as a statue or figurine of a colt and foal, complete with manes crafted of horsehair. This signifies not only the joining of the couple and the hope of fertility for them, but also the wish for wealth through the fertility. If there are no relatives of the couple, they may exchange the symbolic statues themselves. The couple is given fancy embellished eggs of all sorts to signify the fond wishes of friends for fertility, as well as thick, luxurious blankets, wide-bellied pottery, horse tack, and other useful items for their future life together.