Courtship Rituals


Courtship Rituals are an important tradition during which the suitors of the person being courted have to take part into different ceremonies to show off their compatibility. Those ceremonies usually take place over a year during the Equinoxes and Solstices.  

What are Courtship Rituals?

  Traditional Courtship Rituals are a series of social events during which male and female suitors will have to show off their skills and magic to win the hand of the person who has initiated the Rituals.   Courtship Rituals are so called because they contain ritualistic elements:
  1. A connection to the magic of the environment because they invoke the ancestral magic of the Land;
  2. Temporal and planetary patterns, as in their most traditional form they take place over a year during solstices, equinoxes, and full or black moons.
The exact details of the Rituals will be determined by the individuals who initiate them, as many of their elements can be adapted to suit everyone's particular circumstances. Strong regional trends can be denoted despite the cultural exchanges that have occurred through the empire since its creation. Nevertheless, a formal invocation of the Land's magic and ancestors' guidance is usually made before the most important steps of the Courtship Rituals.   A recent trend is for the Courtship Rituals to be transformed into Courtship Ceremonies, with the same kind of events taking place but with the participants intentionally not invoking ritualistic magic. This would negate many of their benefit, but the Light has started to look down on rituals in recent decades and its members have become reluctant to practise them.  

Parchment with ritual instructions, by AmélieIS with images from Pixabay and Vecteezy

Table of Contents

Why choose Courtship Rituals?



A relaxed date as part of Courtship Rituals, by Bingo Naranjo on Pixabay

The advantage of using Courtship Rituals over doing an informal courtship is that they allow for the person initiating them to check several important criteria:  
  • That they have compatible magic with their suitors.
  • That their suitors have compatible magic with the Land.
  • That their ancestors—consulted through the Land's magic with the help of the Rituals—approve of the match.
  • That their suitors' life goals are compatible with theirs.
  • That the alliance would be profitable for both their House and their suitors' House.
  • If possible, that their suitors' have compatible characters with theirs, although this is not seen as being as important.
  The Rituals also provide for some guidance on appropriate gifts and activities, a subject for small talk, and it dictates the progression of the relationship. These can be of great assistance when trying to get to know strangers.
 

Who is taking the decisions?

  All the choices are supposed to be made by the person initiating the courtship, including deciding the different trials in the Courtship, the timing, the locations, as well as the most important one: the final choice of the suitor with whom they will bond. However, in practice the Head of the House to which the person being courted belongs will often be consulted. It is also common for the person being courted to ask for the assistance of their family and community in organising the courtship, and their opinions will also often be consulted before the final choice of a suitor is made.  

What are the different steps of Courtship Rituals?

 
The person initiating the Courtship Rituals needs to declare so publicly to their social community. For members of the High nobility, the Head of their House will give an official notification to the senate. This initial declaration will contain basic information regarding the requirements for entering the Courtship—mostly gender and age criteria.   The individuals interested will then send a letter of intent asking for the permission to enter the Courtship. This will be traditionally accompanied by a presentation of the would-be suitor and their House, as well as by a first gift. Other gifts will also be sent during the rest of the Rituals and are an important element of the Courtship. The goal is not only to display material wealth but also taste and an understanding of the preferences of the person being courted.

An example of craft jewellery offered as a Courting gift, by AmélieIS with images from Pixabay and Vecteezy

Delicate messages can be sent in the language of flowers, by Regent Publishing Co., Ltd. on Dumbarton Oaks Archives
Some Courtship Rituals will include the offering of a flower bearing a message in the flower language. This is used to express how the suitors feel about the Courtship, although in a more delicate and indirect manner than if they were to declare their opinion directly. This is important as the Courtship is also an occasion for the suitors to get to know the person they are courting, and they can choose to retire from the Courtship at any point or to refuse any bonding offer made at the end if the term do not suit them.   However, the most important part of the Courtship Rituals is the series of trials to which the entire community is invited. Commoners' Courtship are only attended by their local community. However, if the person initiating the Courtship belongs to the nobility, they will invite all of high society to the trials—although not everyone will come. In practice, people will want to attend if the Houses of the courted and the suitors are important. They will also come to scout out the skills of the suitors, especially if line-gifts are to be shown off.    

What types of trial are there?

 




The choice of the trials will depend on what qualities and skills are important for the person initiating the Courtship and for their House. Here are a few examples:  
  • A ball. It is the most common type of trials as it is a great occasion for the person being courted to make small talk with their suitors in semi-intimacy, as well as to check for magical compatibility.
  • Some type of competition between the suitors, e.g. a duelling tournament, an archery competition, a treasure hunt, an obstacle race, a sport match....
  • An exhibit for the suitors to show off specific skills such as duelling techniques, line-gifts—although this is more tricky since many Houses have chosen to keep theirs secret—dance, singing, painting, crafting, cooking...
  • Trials tailored to show off specific qualities, such as being fun-loving, generous, mischievous... Previous Courtship Rituals have included a prank competition, teaching small children, assisting patients at a local hospital...

A couple dancing during Courtship Rituals, by AmélieIs with images from Pixabay and Public Domain Pictures

An archery tournament as part of Courtship Rituals, by AmélieIs with images from Pixabay

   

How do Courtship Rituals end?

 

Bonding ritual, by AmélieIS with images from Pixabay and Unsplash

Courtship Rituals are expected to end with a bonding, although it is not necessary. In practice, it is considered a grave insult to all the suitors for the person being courted not to choose any of them by the end of the Rituals. Of course, suitors can also take offence if someone other than them is chosen.   For those reasons, it has been known for the person being courted to bond with several of their suitors at the same time—the suitors also having the possibility to bond together or not depending on their personal preferences. Managing to form a multiple-bond with several powerful Houses is to be envied. However, it is difficult to make such bondings work, as each House has its own imperatives and priorities when negotiating the contract that are signed before performing a magical bonding—and marriages and bindings are before all social, economical and political alliances between individuals and Houses.   For more details, see Mariage bonds.


Cover image: Love by AmélieIs with images from Vecteezy and Pixabay

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