Malepo-Palesa (Mah-ˈLeh-Po - Pah-ˈLeh-Sah)
One of the more unusual coming-of-age ceremonies, at least on the continent of Iolera, comes from the nation of Aswarn. As a matriarchal society, their rituals are focused on the young women. The Sher, in particular, preserve an ancient and time-honored ritual called the Malepo-Palesa. Whenever a young woman of their people reaches her first bleeding of womanhood the Malepo-Palesa ritual, literally "flower river", is planned. The female elders of her household will take her to a speciallly prepared room to meditate about her approaching womanhood and new responsibilities. This is often a bedroom that has been transformed with wall hangings to hide the mundane items, and pillows to cover the floor. Here, she will sit in quiet contemplation, apart from the activity of the rest of the household. Meanwhile, all her female relatives will prepare the traditional feast of red-colored foods and drinks. Hibiscus tea, and pomegranate juice are set out alongside sweet pastries of all kinds dyed red with more hibiscus and pomegranate. Most important among the foods, though, is the Bokangi cake. "Bokang" means rejoicing in the Sher dialect. This large, round cake, enough to feed all the young girl's female relatives, is central to the rite itself. It is a simple flour cake, flavored with honey, poppy seeds, and pomegranate. This also gives it a blood red appearance. It is then often decorated with candied hibiscus flowers. A long table is set out wherever the feast will occur, usually the courtyard of the house. It is decorated with poppies and other red plants and flowers. Girls of the family who have not yet undergone the Malepo-Palesa sit on one side of the table, and the women who have sit on the other. The girl who is the focus of the ritual is brought out, and sits in the midst of the children. When everyone is ready, and drinks have been poured, the eldest woman of the family looks up and down the table and proclaims, "Something is not right!" The family pretends to look around them, in mock confusion, until the young girl is called forth by the same elder. She approaches the women's side of the table, and is handed the first piece of the Bokangi cake to eat. When she takes her first bite, all the family cheers, and throw flower petals in the air. The young woman is then lead to a central place of honour on the adults' side of the table, and the feast commences. In richer households, small gifts may be given at this time, as well, often symbols or tools of her new station. From this point on, she will be considered a full adult, with adult responsibilities and privileges, although legally she will remain her parents' responsibility until she turns twenty, the age of majority in Aswarn.
Matriarchy and CultureAswarn is a matriarchy, where only women are allowed to serve in high-ranking positions. Various celebrations of womanhood are not uncommon as a young girl comes of age, and not just among the Sher. The Tsebo people create flowered archways for new women to walk under, and the Nku have an entire religious ceremony held at the local temple, with the whole neighborhood joining in welcoming the youth to womanhood. Likewise, the time when a woman reaches the end of her bleeding is also recognized. Often these ceremonies and rituals are smaller and more secret, involving the passing on of wisdom from elder to elder. The new elder will often wear a crown or necklace made of white jasmine for several days, to announce her new status.
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