Rissan Wedding Customs (book)

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Rissan Wedding Customs

by Lindryl Jinsaith, sometime bard,
dedicated to Prince Belirendrick Sorvendig,
"May our beloved Sovereign's soul find peace."

Table of Contents
Chapter I.
The Symbols of Marriage .........................................1
Chapter II.
Proper Prayer Etiquette for those attending a wedding ...........3
Chapter III.
The Forms of Marriage ...........................................5
Chapter IV.
The Fashion and Attire of Weddings ..............................7
Chapter V.
The Ritual of Gifts .............................................9

I. The Symbols of Marriage

Do not be misled by the absence of a wedding band or ring upon the finger of a Rissan native. Rather than rings, Rissan couples frequently wear torcs around the neck or upper arm to show marital status. Precious metals are used for the band, the most common being bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. Frequently the metal is etched with scrollwork or made with a filigree of one metal superimposed upon a metal base. Gems are added to the torc to commemorate anniversaries. Quartz crystals hanging from the bottom of the torc indicate up to four years of marriage, then a colored stone embedded on the metal of the torc itself commemorates each five year increment. Different gems represent values as follows:
Years 1 to 4 -- quartz crystals (any color) hanging from the band
5th year -- pearl
10th year -- red coral
15th year -- sapphire
20th year -- emerald
25th year -- ruby
30th year -- diamond
100 years -- amber

So, for example, an individual married 7 years would signify this with a pearl on the torc, and two quartz crystals hanging from it. One married 12 years could represent it either with two pearls and two quartz crystals, or a red coral and two quartz crystals.

This counter system is used equally by both sexes, and restarted with each new spouse. One extraordinarily notorious lady, who will remain unnamed since gossip isn't polite, refused to restart her count of "years married" upon each newly acquired husband. Although human, she simply lumped all the time she spent as a wife regardless of her current mate. Further, she eventually took the custom of Rissan Elves who also hang a piece of black coral from the band to memorialize dead spouses. However, in this woman's case, her display was a show of how many men she divorced (one was married as a life-mate, which made it all the more shocking -- see below for types of marriages). It is generally considered in poor taste for human women to husband count, since they are frequently counting divorced husbands (or those married gelinaji), not dead ones. But, due to Elven longevity, it is viewed as a fitting memorial to the deceased spouse rather than a "trophy" counter.

II. Proper Prayer Etiquette for those attending a wedding.

It is extremely important as one enters the wedding site to offer a prayer for the wedding couple. There are nine traditional blessings, which those familiar with Rissan formal gardening will recognize as the symbols embodied in the pozreman. They are long-life, luck, prosperity, happiness, honor, wisdom, strength, fertility, and beauty (sometimes translated as artistry). This last virtue does not necessarily represent physical beauty or aesthetics, but is an embodiment of living a virtuous life... one which exemplifies the qualities of a good soul, a kind spirit, and having the fullness of the other eight blessings.

There are several ways in which a guest may perform a prayer for blessing. Writing prayers on papers, then burning them or folding them into an origami boat and casting them into the sea, are both common practices for any important event. Prayers for the newly married couple, hopes for a newborn child, success at a boat launching, peace to the soul of the departed... just about any prayer the Rissans wish to get to their patron gods are written down, then burnt or cast into the water. The pool in the carillon gardens is a place the natives frequently float prayer boats.

Another form of prayer is to make a prayer wreath. The supplicant prays as he constructs the wreath, then places it at the shrine of the god he is praying to. The oxen statuary in the carillon gardens are a popular site for natives to put wreaths woven with prayer papers.

Some "wreaths" are made by creating a circular garden, and inhabiting them with small "pozreman" garden statues. As mentioned above, each pozremi represents one of nine virtues. These statues are very formally styled, always appearing in a particular pose with no variation of coloring or expression. Sizes of the pozreman vary from the life-sized Nuscilremi (beauty) overlooking the outer canal, to tiny 1" high figurines. The other pozreman are: Ongsaremi (long-life), Pozremi (luck, and also the singular form of the word), Abadremi (prosperity), Puremi (happiness), Buremi (honor), Caidremi (wisdom), Indaremi (strength), and Mesremi (fertility). Should there be sufficient interest among readers of this volume, I will endeavor to write another devoted solely to Rissan formal gardening, for indeed, a full description of the pozreman and devotions would require one.

III. The Forms of Marriage

As Rissan culture is a blend of Elven and human lifespan, it is unsurprising that there are also two forms of wedding. The word for wedding is "gelina," and the wedding procession referred to as "gelinaliji." Rissans are, as a rule, monogamous within their married states, and unlike some cultures take only one spouse at a time.

The first form of marriage is an ordinary wedding, called "gelinaji." It is a joining of two people for as long as they wish to be joined. There are no vows of life-long partnership, nor even any expectation of it. Divorces are easy to obtain to break the union. The torc is made with a hinge and clasp which allows it to open and close easily.

The second wedding is "gelinajaun" and is life-long. A divorce is practically impossible to obtain, and even if one is obtained, people frequently refuse to recognize the divorce. The marriage torc for gelinajaun is fused shut permanently (it can be taken on and off, but the symbolism is permanence). Individuals who marry gelinajaun for no reason other than love have usually spent many

years married gelinaji (but not always, of course!). When someone swaps their gelinaji torque for a fused one of gelinajaun, it's also usually done on the anniversary of their gelinaji wedding. More commonly, when gelinajaun is entered by people who haven't been joined by gelinaji, the wedding also involves other reasons such as to create family alliances or seal a trade agreement.

Humans are more prone to gelinajaun than Elves, due to the relative amount of time involved in the commitment. Any gelinajaun is dissolved upon the death of one partner. That is to say, the remaining spouse is NOT expected to fade or never remarry.

Also, Rissans don't have words for "husband" and "wife" as such. The word to indicate one's mate is sex-neutral, and corresponds more closely to "spouse". There is a distinction of spouses according to the type of marriage which joins the couple. "Ezcama" is the term for husband or wife if one is joined in gelinaji. "Jaunezcama" is the word employed to describe a life-term spouse.

IV. The Fashion and Attire of Weddings

There are no set colors which a bride and groom are expected to wear. Guests should be aware that purple is the color of mourning and should be avoided. Also, it is ill-advised for a guest to wear orange. I have never been able to discern the reason for this prohibition. The sole time I asked my mother to explain it, she merely blinked at me then began laughing with such force that she wept. She continued to giggle for the rest of the day each time her sight rested upon me. So, it is with lamentable ignorance that I note this peculiar aversion to orange at weddings, but nevertheless strongly advise against wearing a garment of That Color to marriage ceremonies.

Rissan clothing itself is generally made of cotton. The island is blessed with a climate well suited to its cultivation. Weaving is an important skill. Colors and patterns have names, meanings, and symbolism. Cloth is woven in two main widths. One is a solid piece about 50" wide, and the other width is truly no more than a panel about 10" wide. These panels are then stitched together to form wider pieces of cloth. Rissan textiles, like the formal gardening, is an extraordinarily large topic which would require its own book to describe fully.

The main style of Rissan clothing is the "hac," which as pronounced sounds like "hawk" said rapidly. It is a simple but elegant rectangular gown which fastens along the shoulders with a fibula, buttons, ties, or other variety of intermittent closure. The hac is usually quite full, either by gathering the material or by pleating it. Although the garment does not have shoulder seams, it can be either sleeved or sleeveless. It is worn by both sexes. Men frequently wear it hip-length and belted, with trousers; sometimes long and belted with a cloak or cape. Women usually wear it long, often in combination with overskirts, overdresses, short capes, stoles, mantles, sashes, and the like.

Unlike the mainland cultures, marriage fashions don't follow a "traditional" gown style, veil, and throwing bouquet. If someone wanted that, I doubt that given the current trade climate anybody would think it odd. The only truly traditional piece of wedding clothing is a belled girdle which rings as the bride moves and announces her approach and presence. Alternatively, some brides sew bells to the hem of their gown instead of wearing a girdle. This is no more than the bride's preference and which style she feels is most becoming to her. Grooms wear a sash around their upper arm or loosely around their neck (soon to be replaced by a the wedding torque or armband). This sash does not have bells.

V. The Ritual of Gifts

After the ceremony, as the couple leaves the ceremony area, guests present them with painted eggs (called "hamaz paute," which translates literally to "prayer egg") and ripe fruit. The egg decorations are frequently very elaborate, especially among the wealthy. However, the degree of ornament varies from a simple dye bath for a single color, to being painted with intricate designs, or even jeweled and gilded. Gifts are often wrapped within paper decorated with painted eggs or featuring illustrations of ripe fruit.

Be wary, however, to avoid any representation of ripe esturi fruit! Esturi are poisonous when fully ripe and presenting such to a couple is considered a wish for bad luck and a barren marriage. Non-natives must often be corrected from making this mistake as esturi are an attractive fruit, with their star shape and rich color providing a festive appearance. There is a famous story about a feud starting between two families because one supplied a foreign wedding guest with ripe esturi fruit as a gift. The feud raged until a gelinajaun between the feuding families put an end to it.

Once the couple leaves the ceremony area, it is common for the newlyweds to celebrate their first meal together among friends. A large pavilion filled with food and vibrant with music for dancing is set up for the festivities. Guests may also bring gifts to this first meal. Gifts are generally anything the guest believes the couple will find useful or amusing, however the traditional gifts are cloth or leather.