Love and Light: Marriage Rites
Even in darkness, there is love and light. It is celebrated with abandon, with song, dance, and a festival of flickering flames. The celebrants paint themselves with elaborate patterns, light candles and sing. It is a moment of joy and community, and no one ever wants to miss out on the Shroom Shower.
Ever since the early days of life in Araea, people have joined together in one way or another. As societies grew larger and more complex, so too did the rituals surrounding the union. When tribes became cities, the festivities became local community events to celebrate and cherish the newly wedded couple. Lights and communal participation continued to be important parts of the events, and helped bind people together. Singing, dancing, eating; all parts of the ceremony is done as a group, with the marrying couple leading the event.
Arranged Marriage It was once common for marriages to be arranged between spouses by either their families or tribes, and these were just as much as joining families, tribes or businesses together as about the partners. While it still happens, the practice has become rare and such couplings have come to be viewed with a sort of cultural suspicion. After all, how can you trust one who'd sacrifice love for fortune or power?The use of the elaborate Shaavat started to a way to mark the couple with blessings and well-wishes, but have since become much more intricate and many of the other participants will now sport them during the ceremony as well. But no matter how much the ritual has grown in the last century or two, the cornerstones of the ceremony remain the same: love, celebration and community.
The marriage ceremony begins the day before the event with the application of the Shaavat. There is usually some competition about who has the privilege of helping the marrying couple paint the elaborate Shaavat, but it usually falls to very close friends and family. Being selected is considered as a great honor. The Shaavat is decorative, but sometimes include small well-wishes or blessings. Once the day of ceremony has arrived, the ritual begins with the lighting of candles and fires. There are placed on patterns on the grounds at first, then in every nock and cranny that can hold one. More is considered better and while it can be a way of flaunting wealth, the ceremony is generally a community event. Everyone helps each other to supply the candles and wicks, then to light and place them. Strong alcoholic shots brewed from mushroom and fungi are served at this stage, though not enough for anyone to become seriously intoxicated. When the candle has been lit, the music and dancing begins, as does the drinking. Dancing with fire is popular, with either lengths of wick or wick wrapped around staves, batons or any other item that might make for a good show when twirled around.
It isn't a proper wedding until someone's gotten at least a little bit of a burn.After that, the rest of the day and night are spent feasting, drinking, singing and dancing. There is no set structure beyond having a good time, though it is popular to play simple games or light-hearted Spars, though it is equally common for people to just mingle, drink, and be merry.
If those who marry or their friends happen to be Saen-Kaw athletes, the performance of a special wedding Saen-Khru is another popular way to celebrate the marriage. Read about Saen-KawThe final part of the wedding is the Shroom Shower. The married couple have to make a mad dash to get into their home while the other celebrants pelt them with soft, sponge-like mushrooms, sometimes dipped in dyes. When the couple have reach safety, the party is over and the crowds begin to disperse. The lights are kept alive as long as possible and should any still be lit when the morning comes, they are often given to guests as gifts of good luck. In particular to single guests. The community helps to clean up after the marriage, then life moves on. The Shaavat washes off by itself in about a week and at that point, the couple's new union is seen to have entered the phase of being their normal life - better then it was before.
The ShaavatThe intricate, spiraling patterns made with dye from mashed mushroom pulp are called Shaavat and are central to the celebration. As with all activities of the marriage celebration, it is not done in solitude but applied by ones friends and family. Exactly how elaborate they are is a personal preference, though everyone likes to show off at their marriage. As such, they can become extensive and reach across the arms, face and even chest. It is considered poor form to sport a Shaavat more elaborate then the couple being married, so participants and guests tend to stay with something simple but visible.
Clothes and JewelryDue to the Shaavat, the clothing used during the marriage ceremony tend to be open and often sleeveless as to better show off the painted Shaavat, with some even choosing to go bare-chested. Jewelry and other accessories are more common ways of dressing up, with bracelets being particularly common and popular.
Music is an integral part of the celebration. Whether with song or with instrument, the music signal the beginning and end of each part of the ceremony. When sung, it is done in a chorus by all while the instrumental music tend to be lead by a skilled musician and then complemented by the probably drunk amateurs attending the marriage.