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Dunmeri wedding customs

The original of this document is available in the library of House Arador Dayn. (in French)

Dunmeri wedding customs
by Llevndryn Sershilavu of House Arador Dayn
I brainstormed with Tailin Sero for the TESV:Skyrim mod Velothis District, to know what a Dunmeri wedding would look like. With what we found and decided, I wrote this text. All the sources that inspired or give more information are reffered below.

The marriage hasn’t the same function throughout Resdayn, and is not display in the same way according to social class. It is important first to polarize society into two autonomous Dunmeri cultures, that of Housemer and the Ashlanders. It would actually be more accurate to speak of Dunmerii societies in the plural.

These two distinguished cultural centers each articulate a structure in which social classes are formed, very pronounced for the Housemer and to a lesser extent for Ashlanders. Thus, members of a wealthy House will marry differently from those of a more modest House, which themselves will do differently from a House with more conservative tradition. Commoners meanwhile, celebrate much less formal weddings. Among the Ashlanders, the difference will be mainly between clans and their own traditions. Of course, nomadic and sedentary only mingle rarely[1].

While the Housemer and the Ashlanders share many cultural traits from the period of the Chimers, marital tradition has irrevocably reshaped in each crop. First at those entitled to marriage: when for the Housemer all Dunmer can marry, among Ashlanders, only the arakhan[2] can take partner. The Ashlander culture is much gendered, so this right is reserved to men. The more an arakhan be married, the greater his prestige.

Polygamy is generally accepted among the Dunmer[3,4], although it is practiced mostly in Houses of Velothi tradition and by certain independent nobles. Of course, it is among the Ashlanders that it is the more present, and if only the arakhan may marry, other members of Ashlanders tribes can live together as they please.

The proposal

The prospective Houseman must first consult with his family on his or her choice about his or her partner. For the wealthiest families, it is often much thought upstream during which the views of spouses is only slightly taken into account. The Housemer marriage of the noble classes is primarily a strategic or conventional union between two Houses, it is usually arranged. It is also very common that marriages are celebrated within the same House, this strengthening the cohesion of the latter.

Once the parties defined, that of the proposing House will meet with the parents of the partner to obtain their agreement. Proposing House will be the one chosen to be integrated by the couple. This is usually the most powerful home, no matter the gender of the partner originating from it.

The agreement reached, it happens that the future spouses exchange presents. This is a tradition inherited from the Ashlanders.

Indeed, among the Ashlanders, the arakhan made his proposal, sometimes directly, sometimes by sending a representative[1], offering a gift to the one he wants to marry. The coveted individual can of course refuse, especially if he or she is in concubinage, but the arakhan usually chooses wisely and refusal happens very rarely.

The preparations

Clothing, as much among the Ashlanders as among the Housemer has obviously an important place during the ceremony. The garments are woven in advance, sometimes even years before the Dunmer are not old enough to marry. They are in the colors of the House in which they originate. The one whose House is not chosen will have his or her outfit embellished with embroidery and additional sections in the colors of the chosen House. The color is less important for the Ashlanders since both outfits are made by the craft of the tribe and therefore are more similar.

The day before the wedding, sometimes Housemer spouses dine each other in the House that is not theirs, in order to get to know the future in-laws and to be advised. They may have to take a trial to prove they are worthy[10]. It is a tradition that is considered important because it strengthens the bonds between families and allow for better defined each member composing the Houses.

The ceremony

At dawn of the the wedding day, the couple moved to a large table on which are arranged several valuables from the Houses representing their history. They watch dawn embrace the lands and declare open the ceremony. Housemer as much as Ashlanders observe this contemplation ritual of dawn, although the details – especially the table and the family items being found only among the Housemer – differ.

Follows the fertility ritual. Here too, it is interesting to note the similarities between the two traditions. Not only the two perform a fertility ritual – this even when the couple is not fertile – but the use of ash is present in both rituals. Indeed, the ash have a strong symbolic of fertility since in Resdayn the ashfall is synonymous with fertilization of agricultural soils[5].

During Housemer wedding, participants will burn certain items or tapestries to obtain ashes with which they will draw a circle or a triangle around the couple. While the fertility circle is drawn, members of the two Houses surround them to be witnesses of their unions. Throughout the day of ceremony, they will pay attention that each ritual is performed correctly, for the marriage to be valid.

Ashlanders perform the fertility ritual in a very different way, although the symbolic remains the same. If Ashlanders are said to be quick to debauchery while the settled Dunmer have aversion to nudity[6], it is perhaps partly for this fertility ritual, more than that their outfit is lighter than of Housemer. If these are adorned with impressive armor and many layers that they sometimes keep even indoors when they are not wrapped in sashes[7], this is probably more by fear of assassinations that are commonplace than prudery.

The Ashlander couple stands naked in the middle of the circle formed by the tribe. The opumer[8] covers their body with ash while singing. The members of the tribe join her threnody and start to turn around the couple, some drumming rhythmically.

Yet another ritual is performed among the Housemer: the ritual of the ancestors. During this, the Dunmer integrating the House of their partner brings a knucklebone of his or her ancestors in order to integrate the family shrine of his or her new House and thus make it on its protection. He or she then binds to the House, taking the oath to his new clan.[9]

At dusk, all come together to symbolically ask the blessing of Azura or the Tribunes. While Housemer recite here lengthy speeches, Ashlanders gaze in silence, twilight sealing the marriage.

[1] TESIII:Morrowind : Main quest, Zainab tribe
[2] Arakhan: ashkhan
[3] Skeleton Man's Interview with Denizens of Tamriel : "Ada'tyool Vren [Border chap'thiil near Dunmeth Path […] My wives they strip the shell and […]"
[4] « The Real Barenziah, v. 4 » : "he seemed to have picked up her thoughts on marriage, children... wives"
[5] TESO : Loading screen of Stonefalls
[6] « A Less Rude Song »
[7] «A Pocket Guide to The Empire and its environs, First Edition: Morrowind »
[8] Opumer: wise woman
[9] « Ancestors and the Dunmer »
[10] C0DA

« Ancestors and the Dunmer (Abridged) »
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