Customs and Traditions

Over the centuries, Kithain society has developed a number of customs, some borrowed from human cultures and others unique to the fae. These traditions define and lend color to the lives of changelings.


Oaths are sacred vows that bind Kithain to one another in certain specified relationships or else obligate the swearer to undertake quests or journeys, fill certain roles, honor specified rights or refrain from certain actions. Some oaths bind one Kithain to another for eternity; others last for shorter periods of time. Many oaths, particularly those taken at Beltaine and Samhain, are sworn for "a year and a day."

The whole of Kithain society helps to enforce oaths, but, more importantly, the weight of the Dreaming lends binding authority to these solemn vows. The wording of oaths is very important, because it weaves Glamour into the bond that is formed by its speaking. Breaking an oath is not done lightly, for the consequences (usually specified at the time the oath is taken) assert themselves as soon as the oath is forsworn. In addition to any innate penalties, oathbreakers are shunned by Seelie and most Unseelie fae alike. A changeling's sworn word is her greatest gift, and those fortunate enough to receive an oath-backed promise of loyalty or love consider themselves blessed by the Dreaming. Oaths define a changeling's personal honor and respect. Spoken oaths are the foundation of noble society, and any who break an oath defy the values of their society and forego their right to remain a part of it.

Courtly Love

The rituals of courtly love occupy a large part of nobles' attention and sometimes form the major part of relations within a noble court. The artistry and pageantry of ritualized courtship lends itself to the fae sense of intrigue and love of romance. Whether as participants or spectators, most members of a court relish taking part in the subtleties of courtly love. Romance among the Kithain embodies a rarefied and elegant dance of skill and seduction, appreciated as much for its form as for its content. Both males and females recognize its usefulness in manipulating others to do their will, and take every advantage to prove their prowess in affairs of the heart.

Courtly love expresses itself as an elaborate duet between the "ardent suitor" and the "bashful beloved." In the past, when mortals practiced this formal expression of desire, the suitor was usually male and the beloved female. The more liberal Kithain make no such demands on the gender of the participants. A very strict protocol oversees all the steps of courtly love, from the suitor's declaration of intent to the pursuit of the beloved, all the way to the usual polite but firm rejection and the period of intense mourning for lost love — a time which presages the beginning of the cycle once more. At every stage in the process, troubadours hover in the wings (if not on center stage), ready to serenade the beloved in private or proclaim the worthiness of the suitor before the audience of the assembled court.

The courting process consists of stylized flirtation. It iscustomary for the beloved to alternately accept and reject the suitor's favors, refining the art of teasing and encouragement to a high level. The suitor has no rights except those granted by the beloved, and is expected to prove her ardor at every possible opportunity. Love poems and songs, heroic deeds and interminable patience in wait for a smile or a kind word are all necessary steps of the lover's journey. Love that comes without a steep price, or that announces itself clumsily and without grace, is not worth having. Courting usually takes place in secret, but sometimes it becomes a miniature drama, staged for all to see. Initially, the beloved should reject the suitor, citing political or personal differences as the reason. It then falls to the suitor to cajole, convince, woo or win a reversal of the beloved's decision.

If the process succeeds in evoking the full passion of amour (though not necessarily sexual congress) between suitor and beloved, the two swear oaths of love to one another. Until this bond is broken, lover and beloved remain inextricably joined in spirit to one another. Only Banality can separate them. Lovers assist each other regardless of personal risk, differences in Court or conflicting loyalties. In some cases, one lover will sacrifice herself for the other. Patronage Changelings often tend to focus their Glamour gathering activities around certain arts that appeal to them. The art a changeling selects for this purpose is known as her patronage. Although childlings and wilders sometimes change their pa- tronages from one art to another, grumps usually settle upon a single art and stick to it. Wilders tend to choose experimental arts to patronize; childlings prefer more direct and simple ones; grumps opt for more sophisticated or traditional arts.

Most Kithain indulge in their patronages at every opportunity, visiting places significant to their particular art or arts and collecting people who are practitioners of their patronages. The acquisition of items and people acts as a source of rivalry between changelings, allowing patrons of the same art to indulge in friendly competition to the benefit (usually) of their chosen art.


Kithain often form groups known as cliques to share their patronage with others of like mind, increasing its enjoyment. Through patronage, Kithain inspire mortals to dream, and thus add to the supply of Glamour in the world. Therefore, patronage not only provides a pleasant pastime, it also makes a vital contribution to the Dreaming. Most changeling cliques know this, although they do not let the importance of their task get in the way of having a good time.

Cliques associated with traditional or medieval arts call themselves noble patronages, while those dedicated to modern or experimental arts are referred to as vulgar patronages. Both noble and vulgar cliques often give themselves formal or whimsical names, depending on the nature of the arts they patronize. Noble cliques include the Galateans, who patronize
the visual arts of painting and sculpture; the Calliopians, who revere both the written and spoken word; the Terpsichoreans, who favor dance over other arts; and the Olympians, who admire athletes and bodybuilders. Vulgar cliques include the Groupies, who patronize rock and roll; the Anachronists, who prefer the ancient crafts of the common folk; the Zoetrope Society, which consists of film aficionados; the Mad Hatters, who find inspiration among the insane; the Daydreamers (a childling clique), who encourage the natural Glamour of human children; and the Hackers, who promote Glamour via the Information Superhighway.

The Importance of Holidays

Holidays and festivals occupy a central part of changeling life. These periods of celebration not only serve as times when mortals edge marginally closer to the Dreaming, they provide the Kithain with the opportunity to remember the traditions these holidays honor, thus bringing them in touch with their lost past.

Kithain use holidays as excuses to expend Glamour, putting it back into a world leeched of its revitalizing energy. In addition, they are often occasions when changelings and mortals may interact without fear of attracting too much Banality.During holidays, Banality and disbelief are at their ebb, since most celebrations have an innately supernatural aspect to them that defies reason. Children who believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are often joined at Christmas and Easter by adults who act as if they, too, believe in these symbols of gifts and replenishment. Humans, for these brief periods of revelry and celebration, allow themselves to experience the fires of their imaginations. Some changelings maintain that if everyday could be a holiday, mortals would slough off their cares and rationalizations and dream freely once again.

The changeling calendar consists of many festivals, which are often used, as they were in medieval times, to keep track of the passing of the year. Before the Shattering, the calendar marked the cycle of Seelie and Unseelie rule. Since the Resurgence, many of the old traditions have fallen by the wayside, but the forms remain constant as the dance of days continues its stately progress through the seasons. New holidays have risen up to take the place of old ones, but the procession of festivities goes on.

Changeling Festivals

During certain times of the year, those of the major festivals, all Kithain come together to celebrate the Dreaming. The following celebrations are held in common by both Seelie and Unseelie changelings, and constitute the major holidays of Kithain life.

Imbolc, February 2nd

The balefire is the most important feature of a freehold, keeping out the cold wind of Banality and preserving the Glamour that maintains the freehold. Imbolc is a festival celebrating the balefire and its replenishment after the long darkness of winter. Also known as Bard's Day, Imbolc marks great competitions among bards and other performers. Originally sacred to the Celtic goddess Brigid, patroness of fire, smithcraft and poetry, Imbolc honors the creative spirit.

On Midwinter's Night, special travelers, called firebrands, set out from Tara-Nar, carrying lanterns that contain fire from the Well of Flame beneath High King David's palace. The lanterns are used to replenish the balefire of every freehold during the Imbolc ceremony. It is considered a bad omen if the firebrands fail to make their appearance at a freehold before Imbolc.

Carnival, February 28th

Formerly a wake for an old age and a birthday party for a new one, Carnival has risen in prominence since High King David assumed the throne. Now it celebrates the new unity between nobles and commoners. It is a night when kings and queens enchant entire cities, enabling the wholesale gathering of Glamour. Masked by the human Mardi Gras festivities, Carnival celebrations mark some of the Kithain's wildest parties.

Borrowing from such diverse sources as English Boxing Day and the ancient festival of Lughnasa, the ritual central to Carnival involves the elevation of a local mortal, befuddled by alcohol or dizzy with an overdose of Glamour, to the position of King or Queen of Carnival, while the local monarch takes the part of a jester. The new "monarch's" word is considered law, although in most cases, the chosen mortal is too addled by the effects of substance abuse to issue any commands which might have lasting repercussions. The "jester," on the other hand, is open to all the abuse of his or her new position. Some kings and queens dread the approach of Carnival, but put up with it as part of their duty as rulers.

There are only three laws of Carnival:
• There can be no retribution for any word spoken or deed done. A monarch cannot exact revenge against harassers.
• Carnival is sacrosanct; all who attend are welcome and safe. Anyone violating this principal is summarily subjected to any punishment decreed by the bleary-eyed Carnival King or Queen.
• Let merriment reign! Carnival ends at sunrise on the following day. In most cases, the Carnival King or Queen is released from duty and sent home, none the worse for wear. In certain Unseelie demesnes, it is rumored, the mortal becomes a ritual sacrifice.

The Greening, April 4th

Commonly celebrated in southern Concordia, the Greening is an informal festival commemorating the beginning of spring. It is also called the Festival of Crocuses, as celebrants weave these early spring flowers into their hair and clothes. Each childling receives a crown of woven grass, and wilders participate in morris dancing. It does not bode well for the coming year if no grass can be found for weaving into crowns.

Beltaine, May 2nd

One of the two major festivals of the changeling calendar, Beltaine is a nighttime spring fertility festival which celebrates life and love. At one time, fae went out into the fields and formed tame chimerical beasts into a line between bonfires lit from the local freehold's balefire. Beltaine once marked the formal beginning of the Seelie half of the year, during which time the Unseelie surrendered its power to the opposite Court. As such, Beltaine traditionally represents a time of peace and amity. The infamous Night of Iron Knives stands as a notable instance of the gross abuse of the Beltaine peace.

Beltaine also sees the blossoming of new romances, particularly between nobles and commoners. The bonfires serve as festival sites where passions run uninhibited. Many childlings are conceived during Beltaine celebrations; conception at Beltaine is considered particularly favorable, since the feast honors fertility and new life.

Highsummer Night, July 17th

Staged to coincide with the hottest part of the summer, Highsummer Night epitomizes mirth and freedom. It also provides an excuse to gather Glamour from the "heat dreams" of mortals. During these celebrations, changelings are free to toy with any mortals they encounter. Pooka consider this festival their special holiday and refer to it as "Pranksgiving." They hold a competition among themselves to see who can play the most outrageous practical joke on a human. The winner gains tremendous prestige. Highsummer pranks sometimes turn malicious, even though jests which result in loss of life or serious injury are regarded as inartistic and tasteless. Tangled romances, mistaken identities, transformations and thefts of heroic proportions have greater appeal for pooka.

Many Kithain weddings take place on Highsummer Night, though not so many as at Beltaine.

Pennons, October 4th

Pennons celebrates the martial prowess of the Kithain. Its festivities include jousts, mock combats, displays of weaponry and the slaying of chimerical beasts. The name of the festival derives from the custom of bestowing a king's pennons — flags marked with royal crests — upon the festival's champions, who have the right to fly them for one year. Artists, crafters and musicians also flock to Pennons, many seeking patronage from lords, who are likely to be generous on this festive occasion. Musicians find Pennons particularly rewarding. Troubadours compose songs on the spur of the moment celebrating the heroes of the various events, and stage their own competitions, along with storytellers, using words and music as weapons.

Samhain, October 31st

A counterpart to Beltaine, Samhain is the second of the two major Kithain festivals. On Samhain Eve, the wall between worlds grows thin. This is a solemn time for Kithain everywhere. It is a night to strain against the Mists, to part them and remember comrades who have fallen. It is a night to honor ancestors who have been lost as well as mortal companions who have contributed Glamour through their creations and deeds.

Samhain also serves as a time for divination. In some courts, soothsayers perform auguries to learn the fate of lost friends and to divine messages about the coming year. Before the Shattering, Samhain marked the beginning of the Unseelie half of the year, when the Seelie rulers turned over their authority to their opposites until Beltaine. Now that transference of power resides only in the form of the Shadow Court's one-night reign. Samhain provides a chance for the Unseelie fae to deride everything they despise about Seelie society. Unseelie changelings hold mock tournaments and courts, making fun of the monarchy and privy council. Seelie changelings are encouraged to adopt their Unseelie personas for this one evening and experience the other side of their fae natures.

Childlings often join with human children in trick-or-treating their way through neighborhoods, gathering Glamour from the real and imagined spookiness of the night and the enjoyment of their mortal companions. In addition to the calendar festivals, Kithain also celebrate other special occasions. The Royal Lottery occurs whenever a monarch steps down, falls victim to Banality or dies a natural death, thus occasioning the choice of a successor. During this celebration, changelings come from far and wide to hear the dukes and duchesses proclaim candidates for the vacancy before the casting of lots by the nobility to choose who will rule. These events usually take place in the monarchs' glens.

Weddings between Kithain give rise to great festivities. While some Kithain marry for life, others marry for a lunar year (13 full moons) or a year and a day. These marriages celebrate life and love in the same way that the Beltaine and Highsummer ceremonies do.

A wake occurs upon the death of a Kithain. When a common changeling dies, her spirit is lost to the Dreaming for a time before reincarnating in a new mortal body. Only the sidhe do not return in this fashion; some believe that a sidhe's spirit is lost forever,while others hold that a deceased sidhe is reborn as a commoner. Wakes are crucial whenever a changeling dies from Banality or from cold iron. The loss must be addressed in some fashion to prevent Banality from gaining a stranglehold on all who knew the lost Kithain. Wakes are blatant denials of Banality, combining joy and sorrow in a tribute to the lost spirit. All distinctions between Seelie and Unseelie are put aside during wakes, as each Kithain remembers the deceased and strives to keep some part of her alive in the Dreaming. Unfortunately many sidhe refuse to attend wakes; they dislike being reminded of their own eventual death and the uncertainty that follows.

Oathtakings also provide an opportunity for Kithain to gather together, usually in small, private ceremonies. It is considered an honor to receive an invitation to a formal swearing of an oath and to act as a witness to the solemn pronouncement of a binding vow. The most common oaths that are celebrated in this fashion include oaths of fealty, questing and true love.