The cry rings out from all corners of the city, marking a day of festivity and anticipation. For the first time, today, August 31, 2013, I’m going to be a part of it.
As a fantasy novelist, I’m always looking for ways to apply the real world to worlds that I create, and especially to experience interesting real-life happenings that I can turn into equally interesting fictional happenings. This isn’t to say that I often succeed; I’m too much of an introvert to go out looking for things to do all the time. Today, however, I’m getting out of the house, and going to experience a cultural ritual, a rite of passage that I have been putting off for far too long.
This event is going to result in a three-part series of Savvy Saturdays – today I’m going to describe the background and preparations leading up to the strange and magical ceremony that I’m attending today, and the next two weeks’ will describe my experience after I go. As a good sociologist and novelist, I’m going to describe this for you as if it were an occurrence in a fictional world of my making.
The ceremony takes place, as is proper, in the capital city of the land of the Good Life. Here, farmers, tenders of herds, traders, scholars, and those who rule over them gather together to participate in a ritual that binds them through common dress, speech, ritual, emotion, prayer, and chance. As opposed to many types of rituals, the outcome of the ceremony is never certain. It may culminate in either a joyful or a sorrowful end – a ritual victory or defeat of the land’s warriors against its many challengers. Victory, of course, is seen as a good omen, whereas defeat casts the natives of the land into gloom. Much time and many resources are spent on attempting to prepare those who represent the tribe’s warriors to perform to their utmost, so that victories may be assured.
Leading up to the ceremony, the natives of the land of the Good Life wish each other the festive greeting of “Gobi Gred.” When asked why they say this, the natives reply that it’s simply tradition. Possibly, Gred was an ancient hero of the people, whose victories the ceremony was originally designed to honor. Alternatively, the phrase may originate in an ancient tongue used in centuries past, and now forgotten. Whatever its origins, the phrase is ubiquitously heard and seen in the capital city as a way of invoking tribal pride and good fortune. Many individuals have even put signs with “Gobi Gred” on their houses, possibly showing their loyalty to their folk hero, or possibly invoking the words as a good luck charm to bring happiness to their dwellings.
Whenever the ritual of Gobi Gred takes place, current and former natives of the land of the Good Life come from leagues away to participate. They may spend days traveling to be in the capital on a day of Gobi Gred, and many of them do not even view the ritual with their own eyes. Instead, they listen to the words of the town-crier and the visual images relayed and displayed on large screens around the city, which convey the order of events of the ceremony and let them follow along.
To be a part of the Gobi Gred ritual, even if one is not in attendance at the ceremony, a dress code is required. Scarlet, the color of blood and victory, must be worn prominently. It is typically accented by the color white, for purity and righteousness. Typically, natives wear a short one-piece tunic in these colors and pants (or shorter leg-coverings) beneath. Hats may also be worn. Showing the cultural importance of the Gobi Gred ritual, the tribal symbol of the land – two vertical parallel lines, connected by a diagonal that runs from upper left to lower right – is also featured on every official ceremonial article of clothing. Even before the day of Gobi Gred, some individuals can be found (typically those individuals more devoted to the ceremony’s outcome) who wear these sacred colors, showing their faith in a positive outcome of the ritual.
To reach the location of the Gobi Gred ritual is a challenge in itself. The ceremony is held in a large oval space held sacred by natives; it is rarely used for any purpose besides the Gobi Gred. On Gobi Gred days, the streets of the city are pressed tight with people wearing scarlet; a journey that would normally take less than an hour can take half a day. This does not seem to perturb the people of the Good Life. As they travel to the ritual, they smile, wave, and wish each other a happy Gobi Gred day. Indeed, the traveling and the conversations with others who are buoyed by the festive atmosphere can be just as memorable and enjoyable an experience as the ceremony to come.
I’m looking forward to finding this out for myself in just a few hours.
In the meantime, have a great day, and Gobi Gred!