Marriage Among the Elves, Volume 7 (book)

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Marriage Among Elves

Volume VII: The Mountain Clan

-An Investigation by Simon J. Bright

Mountain Elves are rigidly traditional in their observance of wedding rites. Children are betrothed soon after birth, generally with careful consideration taken for future alliances designed to improve the bloodlines and improve both status and power through the union of the two families.

Once the children have come of age, the groom's family prepares a lavish selection of gifts for the bride's family to indicate their willingness to pay the bride price. Among the traditional gifts are grain and seeds to symbolize wishes for fertility, coins to symbolize wealth, and the finest bolts of silks. Fine furs, gems, and jewelry are also usually added to the gifts, along with some sweet chocolates to offer hopes of sweetness in the marriage itself. This collection of gifts is placed inside a carved silverwood box and locked with an ornate silver key.

The groom takes the box and key and goes into the streets of town in search of the poorest, most ragged creature begging in the streets. He offers the beggar a gold coin in return for the safe delivery of the box to his beloved. Once the stranger accepts the errand, the groom searches for an innocent child or youth and offers a honeyed-nut pastry liberally sprinkled with powdered sugar in return for delivering the key. The acceptance of the box and key acknowledges the acceptance of the nuptials, and often the silks contained within the box are used to fashion the wedding garments.

Included in the box of gifts is a slender black silk cord strung with a single black pearl and a small glass box containing many tiny jet-black onyx beads. The fine black silk cord is partic ularly auspicious for a joining of two in marriage. The black pearl not only wards against any evil influences and brings the bride luck on her wedding day, but also symbolizes the vow of the groom to remain faithful to her. As the time of engagement wends on, well-wishers offer the bride additional black pearls, which she adds to the necklace, using the onyx beads as spacers between the lustrous orbs.

An andu before the wedding, the bride withdraws from society. She eats nothing during this time and drinks only the crystal cold water of the mountains. On the day before the wedding, she is bathed in three ritual baths -- the first drawn from the steaming waters of the hot springs, laced with aromatic herbs to draw all impurity from her flesh, the second of tepid water laced with the dew of mountain blooms to cleanse the flesh, and the third of the icy cold spring waters to revive and awaken the spirit. She is dressed in a simple white robe and her hair is brushed to a high radiance. She girds her hips with her long necklace of black pearls and accepts from her family a small set of silver shears.

Thus prepared, she is escorted by her female friends and relatives in silence to the body of water called Morganae's Sorrow, or the Pond of Tears. Before her bare feet are scattered flower petals by her friends and relatives. They seat her by the pond and set a large silver mirror by her feet, setting upon its surface a goblet of a drugged wine.

Once she is alone, the maiden carefully braids a lock of her long hair into an Elven love knot and cuts it close to the scalp. She braids the end into the beginning to form a seamless whole before casting it into the pond, only then lifting the goblet and drinking of the mixture within. She sets the goblet aside, taking up the mirror and laying it in her lap. For the remainder of the night she keeps vigil, waiting for vision to overtake her.

Much has been written of this ritual, most of it exaggeration or fantasy. There has been little documentation of any maiden dying from the experience or being driven mad by what has visited her in the night. Most maidens born of the Mountain Clan are cast of much sturdier material. However, that being said, there is a common theme in many of the visions reported of Morganae herself stepping from her pond to sit with the maiden and share conversation and counsel with her.

On the dawn of the wedding, the maiden's friends return and escort her back to her home. They come prepared with burial garments, but finding her alive raise up their voices in songs of thanksgiving and joy. The mirror and the shears are returned to the household. The maiden is often carried back in the arms of her friends, being too weak to bear her own weight. She is given a fortified drink to restore her strength and then a light meal before she begins preparing for the ceremony.

The groom also survives a vigil, traveling to the height of the mountain to ask for an omen of his marriage after a full andu when he allows no food to pass his lips and takes only small sips of water to appease his thirst. Despite the chill at the height of the mountain, he goes barefoot, clad only in a light layer of clothing. In contrast to the bride, he takes no drugged wine, but must meet whatever awaits him with a clear head. He returns from this vigil with a token of some sort given or found during his travail. This item is vested with great significance, becoming the foundation for the marriage that the couple will make.

The bridal procession is small. If the mountain fastness of the clan is used for the ceremonies, all involved in the wedding simply meet at the appointed place after offering their coin to the ferryman who transports them there. If the ceremony has been declared to be held elsewhere, other arrangements are made for all to assemble at the appropriate time and place.

In comparison with other clans, the Mountain Elf faction dresses simply. The bride's hair is brushed loose, her gown a simple affair that descends from the silver clasp holding it secure at one shoulder to graceful drapes about her bare feet. She wears little or no jewelry. The groom wears darker colors and a white shirt, enlivened only by a narrow crimson belt and the hilt of his favorite throwing knife showing above its sheath in his high boots. The ceremony of Bile Janis oc Hul Haizeani is followed in a most solemn manner, with voices hushed and reverent.

Mountain Elves exchange either the traditional gelanto fashioned in the Elven danto of joining or rings that complement one another without being exact replicas. As time passes, the custom among them of the gelanto appears to be dying out in favor of rings, although the more traditional among these Elves use the gelanto for the first mating and the ring for the joining of the souls that may come later. Mountain Elves feel the ring unequivocally seals a relationship that is declared to last forever, for its continuous circle is a unilateral symbol of endless love.

After the ceremony, the bridal couple traditionally gives every guest an oval crystal as a remembrance of the mountain and their joining. These crystals are pierced through the smaller end of the oval, allowing them to be easily mounted on a chain or pin.

Another charming ceremony sometimes seen in this clan is the gift by the husband to the bride of a pair of elaborate shoes, usually worked in a tapestry pattern. This symbolizes his desire to care for his new wife's needs and to be a good husband to her in small considerate ways.

After the ceremonies, a simple but adequate feast is served. The bridal couple generally leaves early, leaving their guests to continue with the festivities while they withdraw for a time of solitude with one another.