The traditional wedding of the Shama-Abdala, the Salya-aseq, is not one of the most important ceremonies of the faith, but it is certainly the one that lasts the longest. The event generally spans the course of a full week, during which six separate ceremonies take place. The ceremonies are often considered trials, overseen by a priest, that are intended to test the devotion of the couple for one another. Each part lasts for several hours, with the couple spending both time together and time away from their partner in private. These gatherings often give rise to small tent cities that stand for the duration of the wedding, where the many people who are invited come together to share in the merriment and joy of the occasion. The week of the Salya-aseq also calls for those in attendance to fast during the day. Many outsiders find this practice alien, and struggle to complete the week. However, most followers of Shama-Abdala are forgiving of the outsiders and allow them to have a light snack at midday.
The history of the Salya-aseq dates back to year 93 AC, when a young, pious Massya fell deeply in love with a court lady. Before this, most practitioners of Shama-Abdala simply lived with the one they loved, with no official ceremony existing. However, this young Massya desired to prove his love for the woman, and thus asked the High Priests to devise a series of challenges to show his devotion to the Sun and to his beloved. The trials created were a hit among the aristocrats, and quickly spread through their ranks after rumors and accounts of the wedding circulated. As time passed, the ceremony would begin to evolve, eventually reaching the point where all followers of Shama-Abdala would partake in it.
Day One, Fawa-alana
The first day of Salya-aseq is called Fawa-alana, or ‘Day of Beginnings’. On this day, the bride (Alyawm-mewa) and groom (Alyawm-safil) spend their days in separate tents on either end of the tent city. The bride’s tent is always located on the eastern side, with the door opening to the west, meanwhile the groom’s tent is always located on the western side, with the door opening to the east. This traces back to the path of the sun across the sky. The bride represents the dawn; pure, light hearted, and calm, while the groom represents the sunset; experienced, protective, and radiant. The two tents face each other so that they may see the other partner’s rising and setting. This day is highlighted by the arrival of the guests, who in turn greet both the bride and the groom in their respective tents, before gathering around a large fire in the middle of the compound and share a meal at sundown. The bride and groom, however, take their meals together in the privacy of the groom’s tent, and depart once the meal if finished. And the sun sets upon the first day.
Day Two, Fawa-shalum
The second day of Salysa-aseq is called Fawa-shalum, or ‘Day of First Lights’. This day’s ceremony starts just before sunrise, and ends just after sundown; and involves the bride and groom presenting themselves before the guests in the middle of the compound. Here, they must sit and pray together under the judgement of the Sun for the entirety of the day. The couple are given two cups of water, and must survive the day with no other food or nourishment, while the guests sit beneath an awning, catching up and chatting amongst each other. The parents of the bride and parents of the groom judge the couple, watching how the pair work together to survive under the intense desert Sun. This tradition comes out of the belief that the almighty Sun is the ultimate judge in the Shama-abdala faith, and because of this, it is considered an ill omen if a cloud passes in front of the Sun, and such is taken as an indication that the couple is not worthy of the Sun’s blessing. After sunset, the couple are given plenty of food and drink and join with the others around the bonfire. And the sun sets upon the second day.
Day Three, Fawa-sylana
The third day of Salysa-aseq is called Fawa-sylana, or ‘Day of Peace’. On this day, the groom must perform a series of challenges, each devoted to a different form of art. The ceremony begins in the central pavilion at dawn. Here, the groom must perform a traditional sword dance, the Maahla-syren, which is performed with a Songaskia Maylar if the family is Songaskian, or a standard longsword if a Maylar is not available. This dance requires ample grace and balance, as the groom must perform the time-honored steps to the beat of drums. After the dance, the groom begins the next challenge; where the groom sings songs of praise to the Sun, asking for its blessing on his marriage. These hymns continue until noon. The rest of the day is spent performing any other form of art that the groom is capable of. Some paint, some sculpt, some sing songs of the beauty of their bride; what they do is not as important, only that the groom is making an attempt. The tradition is one of showing one’s devotion to another, and the notion of that even if they fail, they remain faithful to the task at hand. The only true way for the groom to fail this day is if he does not attempt any task. A high level of artistic skill better highlights his potential as a husband, but a lack of practice does not necessarily end the marriage. During this day, the bride tends to the groom, helping him should he need it. This symbolizes how they will work together in the future. The final task is completed as the sun sets, leading to the evening prayer before the wedding party turns in for the night. And the sun sets upon the third day.
Day Four, Fawa-benwas
The fourth day of Salysa-aseq is called Fawa-benwas, or ‘Day of Courage’. On this day, the groom faces an archery trial. The fourth day’s ceremony begins at noon, leaving the morning free for all the members of the camp to enjoy each other’s company. Many grooms will spend this time practicing their skills before the day’s activities. At noon, the wedding party gathers just west of the groom’s tent, where a target is set at a distance of fifty paces from the groom. These targets can be hoops, small melons, or really anything on hand. The groom then draws the bow, and hopes to hit the target in traditional manner. This trial has simplified over the years, originally involving the groom to ride on horseback while he fires a flaming arrow at a small ring covered in pitch. However, as Salya-aseq became more available for all members of society, the trial began to simplify. This event ends when the groom hits the target, whether on the first arrow or the fiftieth. Nonetheless, it is generally considered a poor omen if it takes more than twenty four arrows, as there are only twenty four hours in the Sun’s day. After the target is hit, the wedding party spends the remainder of the day relaxing and visiting until sundown. And the sun sets upon the fourth day.
Day Five, Fawa-faalyn
The fifth day of Salya-aseq is called Fawa-faalyn, or ‘Day of Eternal Beauty’. It stands out among the other trials as being set solely for the bride to accomplish. During this day, the groom rests in his tent while the bride must show her devoutness to her future husband. From dawn until noon, the bride stands outside the groom’s tent, singing hymns and praying to the Sun. At noon, she returns to her own tent, where females from her family tend to her. This tending takes all afternoon, and consists of the bride bathing in a pool of milk or rose water, depending on her family's status, and then being perfumed before being dressed in a clean white dress. As the sun sets, she makes her way back across the camp to the groom’s tent, where she enters and the two spend the night together until dawn rises—yet the couple are not allowed to sleep in the same bed. This trial was originally conceived to test the strength and purity of the pair. And the sun sets upon the fifth day.
Day Six, Salim-mukara
The sixth day of Salya-aseq is called Salim-mukara, or ‘Celebration of Wonderful Happiness’. This day holds no trial for either the bride nor groom, and instead focuses on the gathering as a whole. During Salim-mukara, the entire wedding party gathers together and spends the day visiting, praying, and enjoying each other’s company. This is also the only day of the celebration where the group does not take part in a fast during the day. Instead, the entire camp is focused on celebrating the happy couple for completing all of the trials set before them. Then, as night falls, the entire camp gathers around a central fire to toast the happy couple and dance. And the sun sets upon the sixth day.
Day Seven, Fawa-nysa
The seventh and final day of Salya-aseq is called Fawa-nysa, or ‘Day of Gratitude’. This day marks the final ceremony, where the bride and groom are anointed and dubbed Sha-salen, or ‘Couple of the Sun’. Right before noon, all of the guests meets at the central pavilion, where a priest awaits the couple. The bride and groom start in their respective tents, and at noon, a horn is blown in the central pavilion. The bride and groom then begin their paths from the tents in the east and west and make their way to the center, symbolizing the two becoming one. When they arrive at the central plaza, the couple bow first to the Sun, then to the priest, then to each other. While the guests sit or stand around the center, the couple kneel before the priest. The priest then anoints both of their heads with oil, reciting the following prayer in Sofaal:
Bear witness all to these two chosen from on high Bear witness all to these two chosen from on high For before us stand two who wish to be united under the greatest of greats Two hearts, the Shams has blessed Two minds, the Shams has blessed Two souls, the Shams has blessed Now let them stand, two united in one Let them now stand before the faithful, radiant in the light of the Shams Let them stand, guided by the Shams in each day, singing their praise to the Shams
After the priest finishes pouring the oil over their head, the couple stands and faces the gathering of friends and family. They take each other’s hand, raising them to the noon Sun. The couple then recites the following prayer in Sofaal, alternating lines starting with the groom:
We give thanks to the Sun, for marking our days and leading our lives In the days before we were two, two hearts, two souls. But now we are one For the Shams has seen us worthy, for the Shams has seen us pure Now the Sun rises on a new day, where we who were two are now one We give thanks to all the Shams, for passing judgement upon us and finding us worthy We give thanks to all who have come, family, friend, stranger, and familiar
At this, the couple lower their hands, and the pair lead everyone in three laps around the pavilion. The sick, old, and infirm are permitted a pass to stay seated at this time, as they show their devotion not with their legs, but with their hearts and tongues. During this time, many guests will come up and congratulate the new husband and wife. At the end of the third lap, the couple return to the center, bowing once more to each other, then to the priest, then twice more to the Sun. This symbolizes the belief that all things in the end belong to the Sun, thus completing the cycle. The newlyweds then enter into a large tent that has sat vacant for the entire week, symbolizing their new lives together. They then welcome in all the guests, and hold the final wedding feast. This continues until sundown, before the guests all return to their own tents so that the couple may enjoy their first night together in bed. And so the sun sets on the seventh day.
Due to the nature of the Salya-aseq ceremony, the groom will have multiple days of outfits to wear. However, there are a few items that he must always have on, even while sleeping. The first is a bright orange scarf tied around his left ankle. There are a few legends as to why this practice originally started; some stories tell of it being the symbol of a strong Sayfashin warrior who wore the color into every battle, while other stories tell of it symbolizing an eternal bond to the Sun; representing the union between the Shams and the Songaskia. Whatever the origin may have been, it has become a vital part of the ceremony. The other main tradition is that the groom must dress in all white on every day but the last. This is to symbolize his purity before the Sun and a willingness to accept the Sun’s judgement. In many cases, the outfit may change each day, but the color will always remain the same. On the final day of the ceremony, the groom may dress in familial colors. Some families having traditional garb that they have worn for generations, while others may have the means to afford a new wedding suit for each son.
Similar to the groom, there is no set standard for the traditional garb worn by a bride during Salya-aseq. The bride has complete freedom when it comes to the first six days of the ceremony, being free to wear whatever she feels. Most brides will wear pure white, to match their grooms, but that is not a requirement of the ceremony. At the same time, they do have a required dress during the fifth day, Fawa-faalyn. This dress is often a familial outfit, comprising of a simple white dress with a specific design and pattern, a secret passed down from mother to daughter, and incorporating the image of the sun. This symbolizes the bond between mother and daughter, a tradition that has not been broken since the ceremony first started. The differences in pattern are often subtle to outsiders, but can mean an incredible difference between members of the Shama-Abdala faith. This dress is only worn again on the seventh day, during the final ceremony, where it is accompanied by a shawl that includes the groom’s familial colors. This symbolizes the bride joining the groom’s family, while the dress symbolizes her carrying over the traditions of her own family into her new family.
The Shama-Abdala faith has several religious laws about the sanctity of marriage: the first and foremost being that a marriage is until death. They do not accept divorces, as a divorce is considered rebuking the blessing of the Shams. That being said, it is also the duty of both the husband and wife to treat each other lovingly and fairly. If either party causes too much harm against the other, the guilty party is often executed for damaging the radiant institution created by the Sun. Shama-Abdala also has strict laws about polygamy, forbidding multiple marriages with the same individual. On the other side, they are more lenient on homosexual relationships, and allow those that pass the trials and receive the blessing of the Sun to marry regardless of gender. They believe that if the Shams does not find the marriage to its liking, it will simply cause great turmoil during the ceremony. For these marriages, often one individual chooses to act as the groom, and the other act like the bride.
- The first recorded use of this ceremony by a commoner family was in 134 AC, which was led by a young priest who wanted his brother to be able to marry his true love. The priest simplified the ceremony to match his family’s budget, and thus the ceremony was open to the public.
- There was a rather flamboyant Massya who once extended the Salim-mukara celebration for an extra week, simply because he was having too much fun.
- Among the aristocrats of the Masaya, there are special assassins known as Fytashins, or ‘heartbreakers’. These Fytashins specialize in the ending of marriages, as the only true way to do such is through one party dying.