As a fan of both fantasy and science fiction, I often find that I really dig into what I call speculative fantasy, where the shape of the story and world is shaped by asking “what if this were different?” An easy example is all the out queers I have peppered all over everything in my fantasy, and how that shapes the setting and stories that come out of it. This week’s entry is Weavebonding, which is a way some people form households in the Speaking Lands.
Weavebonding is not exactly a marriage alternative, because nothing is an exact and hot-swappable alterative when it comes to worldbuilding, let alone culture in general. Both weavebonding and marriage exist in the setting; some people and places prefer one over the other, but both are known throughout the Speaking Lands.
I like seeing what happens to the setting when monogamy is not the assumed default, and this goes double for a fantasy setting, which—let’s face it—is often built on medieval European manners and mores. And if medieval Europe was built on anything, it was the practice and myth of marriage. What happens to households, dynasties, and romance when their foundational building blocks come in different shapes than we’re used to? That’s the sort of question I love considering; maybe you do, too.
A common ritual throughout much of Ipieros, weavebonding is the formalized recognition of a household. In many cultures, weavebonding is explicitly and indelibly connected to the romantic relationships often at the heart of the new household, and is considered interchangeable with marriage. In other cultures, however, weavebonding may have no romantic element at all, or consider it a pleasant but unnecessary ancillary feature.
Weavebonded households are formal social bodies similar to dynasties, clans, or noble houses. Such a household may build renown through the actions of its individual members; all other members share that acclaim, assumed to have assisted, supported, or contributed in their own ways. Legally speaking, weavebonding generally affords its members an elective mutual culpability. Any member of a weavebonded household may take on the debts and obligations of one’s weavebonds, but is not obligated to do so. However, a household may quickly become known for unanswered debts and find that no member is extended credit or favor.
Weavebonding ceremonies vary wildly in content, although some themes recur across the continent. Clasped hands and arms are a nearly universal motif, and depending on the region are wrapped in rope, chain, or vines to bind the members together. Exchanging wearable gifts, often matching or complementary, are another common element: jewelry in Dion, cloaks in Outland, and colorful stamped barkcloth headcloths in Verdas. Instead of items which can be lost, the kobolds of the Wastecoast go a step further. There, weavebonding rituals are accompanied by bodysculpted “branding.” Members of these communities are easily identified by the community’s sigil etched across their foreheads and cheeks.
The greatest regional variation in the practice lies in how new members are added to an existing weavebonded household. Throughout Verdas, new members are expected to be added and usually require the assent of all existing members. In Outland and the Wastecoast, only household leaders may invite new members to join. Dioni weavebonds do not admit new members, but can be dissolved and reformed to include new members, usually with a large party involved. The exclusivity of weavebonding also sees some variation: in Verdas, one may only be a part of a single weavebond; north of Kharzan, there is rarely any such expectation.
The ancient origins of weavebonding are murky, at best, although ethnographers generally agree weavebonding rituals were first practiced in Verdas. The practice spread quickly along the Webiga River; today nearly every culture in Verdas enshrines weavebonding as the core building block of civilized society. Even cuca clutchmates practice a form of weavebonding, although they are perfectly happy not seeing their weavebonds for years at a time.
Weavebonding was spread beyond Verdas in large part thanks to kobold migrations. Kobolds came into contact with weavebonding after being expelled from Kharzan, adopted it, and took it with them as they continued moving. Their vine witches introduced weavebonding to Outland and Wildermarch. In the north, the focus of weavebonding shifted towards community bonds rather than romantic bonds. When satyrs arrived in Dion, they embraced weavebonding as a ritual that suited their own culture; their fervent adoption recentered the practice in romance and homemaking. In Outland though, the shift stuck: weavebonding is used to formalize nomad bands and city guard units rather than domestic arrangements. While romantic weavebonds are understood, they are considered decidedly odd.
Weavebonding is not universally accepted, however. Despite a long tradition of polygyny, the steppefolk find weavebonding ludicrously overformalized; by contrast, elvesconsider it a menial if not barbaric ritual compared to their own lofty traditions of marriage and dynasty. Kharzan society maintains a particularly virulent hatred for the practice, whether because of its association with their ancient enemies or because the practice threatens the very hierarchical tenets of dwarven matrimony. Where weavebonding is not recognized, weavebonded members enjoy no renown from their household and are treated as unconnected individuals, which can be disorienting and upsetting. Few weavebonded households remain in such circumstances for long.
It’s totally silly, but this is one of those entries where the references are all clumped together, and I don’t know why but it bothers me. It takes a lot of work to convince myself that it reads just fine clumped or unclumped!
Anyway—now that we’ve got weavebonding under our belts and in our brainpans, what related entry do we want to peruse next week?