|Religion||Faith of Estel|
The Ceremony of Ajollë-Nadës is among the oldest ceremonies in the Faith of Estel, having served the various Nelfin races for centuries before the terrible Cataclysm rattled the world to its core. It is an old tradition, serving as a form of bonding ceremony for Estellians, and developed into multiple variations as the centuries went by. Today, most Nelfin cultures have some form of the event, with the most common being the ceremony practiced by the Altalar. Among the Nelfin races, only the Kathar do not practice Ajollë-Nadës, in response to their cultural norms of hedonism and debauchery. The ceremony itself is traditionally associated with Serenity, due to the common belief that a bond that is pleasing to Serenity will endure for years to come. It is because of this that Ajollë-Nadës has popularly been dubbed the ‘Flower Ceremony’ by non-Nelfin guests. To this day, Ajollë-Nadës stands as a pillar of tradition for the Estellians, with many happy couples being united together for all their lives under this ceremony.
Ajollë-Nadës has its origins back many centuries before the Cataclysm, when the Elven Empire was still at its height and the Faith of Estel was spreading across the known world. Among Estellians, the story of how Ajollë-Nadës came to be is known as the Ore’benra. The tale starts with Serenity, one of the all-powerful Virtues, hearing the cries of a young Nelfin, deep in the arms of love, who had no means of devoting themselves to those they care deeply about. Seeing this, Orelaben held the first Ajollë-Nadës—a festival made to cherish love—deep in the heart of Daendroc, in a grove whose location has been lost to the ages. Here, Orelaben taught the first lovers the rite of bonding, and made it their mission to spread the word. Other than the tale of Ore’benra, written records note the first Gwe’dena happening in the city of Rië long before the Cataclysm. From here, it quickly spread among Estellians due to the simple nature of the ceremony, as well as the blessing of Serenity that was believed to be associated with it.
Traditionally, Ajollë-Nadës ceremonies have taken place in bright meadows full of flowers or in cool grottos shaded from the sun by ancient standing trees. However more frequently, the ceremony takes place wherever those who are to be married believe is most pleasing to Estel and to Serenity. Altalar favor special, circular gardens located in their Citadels, usually full of flowers of all kinds that are collected for the ceremony. Avanthar often construct great fire pits, large enough to run several dozen horses around as the ceremony takes place, while Cielothar prefer colorful meadows chock full of flowers of all varieties, often away from a settlement where the only sounds to be heard are far off birds and the wind sweeping over the plains; meanwhile Drowdar choose wherever they can find space, due to the volatile nature of their homeland. The Drowdar are also unique in that they do not choose their bonding mate, but instead are assigned one by a higher ranking Official. Yanar who choose, albeit rarely, to partake in Ajollë-Nadës often reflect the culture in which they grew up in, with non-Nelfin Yanar choosing the Altalar’s style. The locations of Ajollë-Nadës ceremonies are often set aside and only used during such occasions, with each containing a small font with water in it. Some Ajollë-Nadës groves feature statues of Serenity that gifts are offered up at. In addition, most Ajollë-Nadës ceremonies do not require a priestess to commence; though the Altalar are the exception and require having a priestess. Instead, they often simply have a figure that the couple respects; be it a favorite parent, friend, mentor, or even sibling. The ceremony has very little that requires an official figure, being more reliant on the pair then it is on the priest. Finally, these ceremonies are often attended by only family and close friends. The guests stand on the sides of the ceremony grounds, and tend to remain silent during the wedding as a sign of respect.
The ceremony traditionally begins at dawn, just as the first light of the day is slipping over the horizon. The bride and groom stand side by side, hand in hand, facing the rising sun. As the sun crests over the distant horizon, the pair turn to face each other, taking a step back and bowing. Next, they walk to either side of the font, so the groom’s back is to the sun and the bride is facing him. Each partner in turn says their vows, with the bride going first. These vows are always created by the individuals as a way to profess their love and commitments, and rarely are the same due to the personal nature of them. Common themes are promising to protect and love each other, providing for one another in bad times as well as good times, and promising commitment to one another. After the vows, the groom takes a small scoop, historically made of silver (though bone, wood, or steel have been used), and ladles out some water from the font. He offers it up to the bride, who takes a sip. The gesture is then repeated by the bride, who gives water to the groom. After this, the pair move to the statue of Serenity—if one is available—and offer up three dozen flowers to her, often picked from the grove around the statue. This is done as an offering to Serenity to grant the couple a peaceful bonding, that will hopefully continue for years to come. Along with their offering, the couple recite the following prayer, The Seranda, in Modern Elven:
"Highest praise be unto you, dearest Serenity, whose lessons teach us peace with the world. May you grant us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, May you grant us courage to stand by each other through all chapters of life, May you grant us wisdom to value that which we already have beside us, May you grant us power to overcome any obstacle that presents itself, And may you continue in us your lessons of calm and tranquility, Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, and taking the world as it is, not as I would have it."
At this point, the official for the ceremony enters the grove, traditionally dressed in regal garb for the culture. They carry the two bands, called the An’ollën, that were crafted for the couple; who return to the font and stand to face the official. The An’ollën vary tremendously by culture; Cielothar use wooden beads, and Avanthar brand themselves to show their everlasting commitment as examples. The couple then recite the verse known as the Vanda, which is most accurately translated as ‘Vow to the Faith’. The Vanda serves as as a pledge that the couple will remain true to Estel, and that they recognize that the world and all that exists within it was created by her will. The official here serves as a witness to the claim of the couple, ensuring that they have said all they need to. The Vanda is as follows:
We stand today not as two individuals, but as one who is made of more. Let our voices be heard and our hearts judged for their merit. We, faithful of Estel, do swear our faith, strength, and devotion to her teachings, To the belief that she, who is greater than all, shaped this world and all who live within it, We take an oath to the Children of Estel, the Virtues, from whom lessons and wisdom flow, That these lessons shall be passed on to our children, and to our children’s children, until the day that we pass from this world, We take an oath that we will uphold the tenets of creation, for the good of creation, and by the will of Estel, For this, we share our lives, and for this, we stand today as one; bonded together, one heart, one soul, and one body.
If the presiding priest finds their Vanda to be satisfactory, which is nearly always the case, he says:
Your words speak the truth, for in them true enlightenment resides. Take pains to keep to your vows, for nothing is as lasting as Estel.
At this, the bride and groom hold up their right arms. The official takes the An’ollën, sliding one each onto the arms of the couple. The couple then turn to face each other and kiss, thus consolidating their bond and ending the ceremony. At this point, most modern Estellians hold some form of celebration, which often relates to the race, culture, and financial status of the couple.
- Standard as stated above.
- Anollën are made of metal bands; gold for male, and silver for female.
- Most common wedding among Faith of Estel. Practiced by non-Nelfin Estellians.
- Requires an ordained priest or priestess of Estel.
- Anollën are wooden bands or beaded bracelets in place of metal bands.
- Ceremony takes place in a small, isolated grove or meadow outside the main settlement. Often couples will add two new flowers to the grove before departing.
- Anollën are replaced with matching tattoos or brands in place of metal bands.
- Takes place only at night and only during a full moon.
- Ceremony takes place in a designated area outside of the encampment, often with a large fire pit for the celebration after the bonding.
- Traditionally, couples will use fermented mare’s milk in place of water.
- Anollën are replaced with matching runes inscribed upon their Khoptar in place of metal bands.
- Takes place wherever there is available space. Ceremonies often lack the statue of Serenity and instead simply recite The Seranda out loud.
- The Vanda is expanded for Drowdar, and the following line is spoken at the end; We take an oath to stand firm against the darkness, for we are the torch that keeps the darkness at bay.
- Post-ceremony celebrations often involve duels where the married couple engage in practice spars with various guests.
- Drowdar Ajollë-Nadës partners are always chosen by high ranking officials among the Drowdar.
Historically, grooms partaking in the Ajollë-Nadës ceremony wear whatever is deemed as dress clothing for the males of the society. Altalar will wear white, loose, flowing robes of silk or cashmere, which is often decorated with jewelry to express the groom’s wealth. These robes are dyed white to better reflect the light of dawn, and are intended to show the groom’s respect for Estel’s purity and greatness.. Along with this, they traditionally wear simple, white slippers. Among the Cielothar, the robes are made of simpler materials, and are frequently decorated with vibrant flowers such as Lady’s Shine or Ruby Flower; intended to breathe new life and color into the costume, just as Estel breathed life into the world. Avanthar favor their traditional leather harnesses accompanied by a special cape that is reserved for Ajollë-Nadës ceremonies. The cape is made by hand, and consists of hundreds of black and silver beads and strings that create beautiful tapestries that are intended to replicate the brilliance of the night sky, with silver flecks shining out from a sea of inky blackness. This cape is kept in special care and only worn during Ajollë-Nadës, during which the moonlight glimmers off the cape as the groom performs the ceremony. These garments are often passed down from generation to generation within a family, and hold tremendous value to the males of a clan. Finally, the Drowdar favor their armor as they hold true to their zealous cause. While the Drowdar take part in Ajollë-Nadës, they see it more as a service to the race than as a ceremony to praise Estel, and every component of their ceremonies is austere and militaristic.
The bride’s ensemble during the ceremony of Ajollë-Nadës is also based upon the culture that is celebrating the bonding. Altalar tend to wear bright, single tone colors in their dress; often pale blue, pink, or yellow. The theme has always been to match the colors of dawn, since it is believed to be a sacred time where new beginnings occur. The dresses are handmade in different styles and materials, and as such they often match the individual who is getting married. Altalar also frequently wear silver tiaras, decorated with various gemstones, as well as a wide variety of necklaces, pendants, bracelets, and rings all crafted of silver. Cielothar brides often wear equally brightly colored dresses to the Altalar, with the exception that they include multiple colors. Popular combinations are rose and yellow, periwinkle and cyan, and mint and rose. Their dresses also include colorful beads and feathers foraged from birds nests, which are weaved into the fabric to make intricate designs. Avanthar tend to dress incredibly simply, wearing their standard clothing of light fabrics and leather harnesses with the occasional bone jewellry. Some more free-spirited Avanthar will wear a crown of weaved flowers, but this is uncommon. Finally, Drowdar women traditionally partake in Ajollë-Nadës wearing their armor, accompanied by a pale lavender sash of fabric worn over the right shoulder. This sash is communal, and is routinely decorated by each couple who is bonded; adding their own mark.
Despite often being described as a ‘marriage ceremony’, Ajollë-Nadës is not, in fact, a marriage. Due to the longevity of the Nelfin races, it seemed foolish to bind everything together that a couple owned, since it would remain like that for a very long time. Instead, Ajollë-Nadës is a bonding ceremony, in which two individuals agree to share part of their lives together for as long as the two decide. It is similar in values, and as a result most outsiders would simply assume it to be a marriage. The main difference is that there are no guiding laws saying that the two cannot choose to end their bond at any time. Should the two tire of each other, they simply choose to end their bond, engaging in Gwe’na, or ‘the separating of two’, where they return their An’ollën to one another and simply carry on with their life. There are no penalties or social stigma that come with Gwe’na, and the pair are free to perform the Ajollë-Nadës ceremony again with another individual should they desire. Most Nelfin do not perform Gwe’na more than once in their life but there are, of course, the rare exceptions.
Regardless of the looseness in ending a bond between two Elves, there are enduring social stigma against bonds consisting of more than two individuals. All Nelfin who take part in Ajollë-Nadës hold it sacred that when a couple take part in Ajollë-Nadës, they pledge themselves to be faithful as long as they remain in the bond. Most Estellians do not engage in polygamy due to this belief. In addition, Estellians have more homosexual couples to take part in Ajollë-Nadës than the marriage ceremonies of other faiths. That is not to say that they approve of homosexual relationships, but due to the personal nature of the ceremony it is simply tolerated. Any homosexual couple that wishes to partake in Ajollë-Nadës often does so in private, away from prying eyes with only a few select loved ones as witnesses. They proceed to live their lives bonded together, but rarely engage in enduring acts in public. This has misled many couples to convert to the Faith of Estel only to learn that they are despised more than the religion they converted from.
- Ajollë-Nadës is among the most peaceful of all religious ceremonies, as it is considered impolite for guests in attendance to make any noise during the proceedings.
- There once was a Avanthar Ajollë-Nadës after-party that lasted twenty seven nights, from one full moon until the next. Celebrations would cease during the daylight hours, and resume again at nightfall. At least thirty seven different individuals disappeared during the course of the celebrations, often wandering off into the plains drunk.
- There are rumors of a secret grove in the Park in Regalia where Ajollë-Nadës celebrations were held, but the Crimson Inquisition is said to have sealed it off long ago.