In Ech’kent, marriage traditionally works differently than in the rest of Menechit. Though they do now have Catechism marriage ceremonies and many people make use of them for nuptials, there exists an older tradition that many people still observe.
The tradition—known natively as b’veek—is very straightforward. A person will decide they want to court a second person, and to express this interest, they will give that person a knife. If the knife is accepted, then the object of their affections is understood to be accepting the offer of courtship. Later in the relationship, if the person who was originally given the knife wishes to marry, they will return the knife to its original owner. Acceptance of the knife is acceptance of the marriage proposal. If the knife is given back again and accepted, the two people are considered to be married. Generally, after the marriage takes place, the knife is kept in the new couple’s home and displayed somewhere openly, a shared possession between them.
The exact origins of b’veek are unclear to the inhabitants of Ech’kent. The ritual dates back as far as recorded or remembered Ech’kent history, and features in a number of foundational myths and legends as well. Any old Ech’kent folk story that contains a marriage does so using this ritual, often as a dramatic element that creates tension for the audience as to whether the knife is going to be returned—or perhaps used for something else. Ech’kent comedies often make use of b’veek as well, engaging or marrying characters in comedies of errors where knives accidentally get passed back and forth unknowingly or by accident. A favourite play in Ech’kent is The Goat Parade, a raunchy comedy in which six strangers accidentally end up with each other’s knives after a drunken festival night, and spend the whole play trying to figure out whom they agreed to court, only to pass their knives onto other people, creating a convoluted series of relationships in which all the characters end up married to multiple of the other characters.
The practice dates back to the earliest human habitation of the plateau. Knife ownership is a traditional mark of adulthood in Ech’kent, though this is a practice that has largely faded away of late. It used to be common, however, for someone to be given a knife when they were deemed an adult. A knife was often the most valuable status symbol a person had, and it was also something everyone had. The oldest forms of b’veek, no longer remembered, involved the two parties exchanging knives three times, rather than only one knife passing back and forth. Eventually this morphed into the person who wanted to initiate the courtship surrendering their knife, as it was seen as a sacrifice worth making for a romantic partner.
B’veek was deemed barbaric and foolish by the Catechism during the missionization of the plateau, and they insisted on instituting formal marriage rites throughout the region. This was of course just as much politics as it was religion—though the Catechism does believe that marriage is not legitimate unless performed with witnesses in front of a priest, it was also a means of controlling the population of the plateau by forcing them to mark milestones in a certain way or risk illegitimacy in the eyes of the church, which was a growing power.
B’veek never died out, however. Though it is no longer practiced by everyone, most places in the plateau will recognize a marriage between two people who were married through the ritual, even if the church does not. Eventually, the Catechism in the region adopted a form of the ritual as well, having the married partners exchange knives instead of rings at the wedding. It is not uncommon for people in the plateau to be married using both the old ritual and the new ritual in this present day, though exactly how often this happens is hard to measure.
If one wants to break off a courtship, the person who received the knife can do so by jamming it in the door of their soon to be ex-partner. The person who gave the knife away can do this by insisting on having it returned. If one wants to break off an engagement, the knife-owner does so by publicly selling their knife and buying a new one, or the person not in possession of the knife can steal it and bury it in front of their partner’s house. Intentionally breaking the knife is a ritual marker of divorce. In most cases, however, breakups are simply decided by the two partners and the knife is returned to its original owner.
Racist claims have often been made by foreigners that b’veek includes or is descended from duels to the death, and that the winner had the right to claim the loser as a spouse instead of killing them, but this was never true. Outsiders also used to believe that only men were allowed to present knives to women and not vice versa, but that was also never true. The ritual has always been bloodless and gender neutral.
The knife passing ritual is a curiosity for people new to the plateau or who have heard about it from afar, but it’s so normal to the people of the plateau that b’veek, translates almost directly to simply ‘courtship.’ Centuries of attempts to stamp it out didn’t work, and with the Catechism’s influence declining in the plateau, it’s safe to assume that the ritual will, if anything, grow more widespread again in the coming years.
From “The Definitive Atlas of the World, Vol. 2: Peoples and Cultures,” by Pascal Tiberius Naoton Quimbell Haeverine anNatalie, published in White Cape in DN 1997.
4 thoughts on “Friday Lore Post: Marriage Ritual in Ech’kent”
Thank you so much for the explanation!
I think it’s a beautiful tradition and all the possible origins sound interesting.
But I can totally understand that for outsiders this must be super strange…
You’re welcome! It’s a tricky little ritual, so it’s good to have the info out there clearly. It definitely seems strange to outsiders, but imagine how the people in Ech’kent felt when they heard that other people get married by having a priest say they’re married, as if that changes anything! 😀
Definitly true as well. Having a witness or two has a point as well, but on the other hand… from all this speech-stuff beforehand I remember from my own wedding nothing, except my husband saying “yes” xD So a clear ritual has its pro’s.
😀 I think both sides definitely have their pros and cons! It’s just different ways of doing it, at the end of the day.