Rites surrounding births
General elements regarding ceremonies and rituals
Ceremonies and magical rituals accompany the inhabitants of the empire during all the different stages of their lives. The principal ones are: bondings, conceptions, births, presentations, adoptions and funerals. Whether a simple ceremony or a full magical ritual is performed will mainly depend on the political beliefs of the participants - with the Light mages' disapproval of rituals having increased in recent decades. The participants' power levels can also influence their choice to perform rituals, as they generally require a lot of magic. Yet, their family and local community can come together to assist them in raising enough magic for even the few individuals in the empire who do not have access to magic of their own to perform a ritual. In practice, the ceremonies will use similar gestures and words as the rituals, but they will not invoke ritualistic elements, i.e. a temporal pattern, such as the magic involved in Courtship Rituals, or a connection to the magic of the environmental, like ancestral magic. While thanks to the creation of the empire there has been a lot of cultural exchanges between the different regions, the country is still spread over a whole continent, and as such there is a very wide variety of local traditions that will affect the exact wording and the ingredients used during ceremonies and rituals. Nevertheless, some commonalities can be drawn.
List of the main ceremonies and rituals that will occur in a person's life, by AmelieIS, adapted with images from Vecteezy
Before the birth
Children are mainly obtained through sexual relationships, however if partners are unable to conceive together they have several solutions: 1) they can use simple spells to boost both partners' fertility, 2) require the assistance of a surrogate mother, use a difficult ritual to create a child from partners of the same biological gender or for whom fertility spells are not enough, or 3) use an even more complicated ritual to create a magical artificial womb for the duration of the pregnancy regardless of the biological gender of the partners. However an enormous amount of magic is necessary to conduct those rituals, and to carry an artificial womb for months requires access to an even bigger and continuous source of magic. For these reasons those rituals are not accessible to everyone. A potential solution is to ask for the help of family and community members who can help in raising more magic - although this means having intercourse in front of the other participants of the rituals and so it is not for everyone. The rest of the rituals involve specific mineral-based and plant-based pastes and paints to trace rune diagrams, crystals to place on top of the tracing, candles and incense to burn, and chants used to harmonise all participants' magic and to direct the effects of the rituals. For the Houses ruling the Estates, the conception of an heir is very important. As powerful mages have a lifespan of several centuries, having heirs who have to wait a long time to gain their inheritance can create conflict and destabilise the House. Nevertheless, when the head of the House can die in battle at any time, it is also important to conceive the next heir as soon as possible or the House may lose control of the Estate or become extinct.
PregnancyBonded parents will all come together every day during the pregnancy to meditate and focus their magic on the bond and around the foetus. This includes not only the two parents who gave their genes to the baby, but also all the other partners involved in the bond if there are any. If the baby is borne by a surrogate mother, she will be included in the ceremony. However the conception of babies does not only occur among bonded couples, although it is believed that the magic of the bond can stabilise and feed the baby's magic and increase their future power level. For unbonded couples the ceremonies and rituals will be the same, with the addition of steps designed to further stabilise their magical link with the baby. For the ruler of the Estates, an essential issue during the pregnancy is to ensure that the future heir will have a very strong link with the magic of the House and the Land, so that they will be able to perform their duties in the Estate. In practice, this means that the person bearing the heir cannot leave the Estate for the length of the pregnancy - this is an element of strategic importance for the ennemies of the House.
Depending on the danger of the birth and the wealth of the parents, the birth will be attended by healers with highly developed healing magic or by local people with knowledge of herbs and medicine. Births should always take place on ancestral Land so that the baby can be properly welcomed into the House's magic and form a connection with it. The baby will also typically take that House's name and become a dependant of that House's lord or lady. Because of this, which side of the family is chosen is very important and fiercely disputed, and this is a decision that is made during the bonding, or for unbound parents, at the start of the pregnancy. If the parents wish to perform a birthing ritual, they will gather their family and local community in a similar ritual as during the conception. The assembly will surround the pregnant person with their magic in the hope of helping them replenish their own magic supply so as to facilitate their natural healing. This is also thought to encourage the baby to come out into the world, as being separated from the bubble of magic formed by the placenta is traumatising.
Example of ritual ground prepared for a ritual, by AmelieIS with images from Artbreeder and Unsplash
AdoptionAdoption is consider to be a rebirth, with the corresponding ceremonies and rituals needing to be performed to welcome the new children into the House's magic.
After the birth
The first yearFor their first year, babies are kept surrounded in family magic, mostly by being held by their parents and the parents' partners, but also by staying inside their House's Land and home. It is considered important for babies to participate in the four Solstice and Equinox rituals occurring directly after their birth. Special adjustments are made to allow them to consume some of the food and drinks harvested from the Land for the rituals.
Unless the baby is from the House ruling the Estate, an important ceremony is for them to be presented to the local ruler or a member of their House representing them. During this presentation, the baby is exposed to and connected with the magic of the House and the Land. This allows the babies to be protected and nourished by that magic so long as they will live in the Estate, and in turn to be able to nourish the Land and help it prosper. The presentation is also the baby's official naming ceremony. Typically, a ritual is used to link the Land's magic to a water basin - in most cases a fountain in the ruler's manor - before the baby is completely immersed into the water. If the House is ancient and powerful, the potency of the magic may be enough for the water to cure any infection or weakness caused by the birth, although this does not extend to genetic diseases. While presentations normally take place on the same day once every month for all the babies born in the interval, benevolent lords and ladies will organise additional ceremonies when a baby's life is at risk. For lords and ladies unwilling to perform rituals, the same gestures and wordings will be used, but because the connection between the water and the Land's magic is not renewed beforehand, its healing properties are much reduced - though not completely nonexistant.