Erithi tea ceremony lecture (log)

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Posted by MAZZAC 2009/4/18. This event took place at Convocation of Coraesine Field.

[Coraesine Field, Serenitea]
Richly hued silks and velvets, the colors of summer turning to autumn, hang from teak supports, and a brilliant azure watered silk swathe arches overhead. Along one side, a riverstone waterfall fountain surrounded by fresh greenery burbles merrily, and in the center, an octagonal teak table sits low to the ground, with several seating cushions set about it. A tiny stove is situated close to both the fountain and one side of the table. You also see a blue wolf that is sitting.
Also here: Cultural Delegate Kovesed who is sitting, High Lady Musiac who is sitting, Lyndianne who is sitting, Debia who is kneeling, Cultural Delegate Isienaka who is sitting, Yukito who is sitting, Sir Cryheart who is sitting, Jendaarah who is sitting, Caro who is sitting, Alashadi who is sitting
Obvious exits: east

>look fountain
Crystal clear water tumbles gently down a collection of moss-covered riverstones, pooling in a basin filled with some shimmering blue fish. Greenery clusters around the fountain, and forest-hued silks hang behind it. The overall effect is of a small waterfall stumbled over while walking near a stream, not of a portable fountain in an enclosed tent.

You see Cultural Delegate Kovesed.
He appears to be a Faendryl Dark Elf.
He is very tall and appears to be very young. He has brooding stormy grey eyes and dusky skin. He has a bald head. He has a pinched face and angular pointed ears.
He is in good shape.
He is holding a plain clay tea bowl in his right hand.
He is wearing a dark red tunic cinched at the waist with a black cloth sash, a loose-fitting white shirt with ivory buttons, a pair of knee length black leggings with gold embroidery near the cuffs, and some knee-high tan leather boots.

You see Cultural Delegate Isienaka the Chief Scholar.
He appears to be an Erithian of the Eloth Dai.
He is very tall and appears to be senescent. He has slit-pupilled dark jade green eyes and pale skin. He has long, elegantly braided, grey-streaked black hair surrounding a hairless crown. He has a timeworn face, a classical nose and slightly pointed ears.
He is in good shape.
He is holding a plain clay tea bowl in his left hand.
He is wearing a dream agate elothrai suspended on delicate mithglin chains, a silk and samite ataniki in dark ocean blues and deep forest greens, a pale blue silk isiqiri, some elegant dark blue silk nanjir, and some dark silk yatane.

Isienaka says, "For example, one might ask their lover to marry them during a rai'kan. A teacher will hold a rai'kan for a student at key points in a student's learning progress, such as when they are ready to move on from student to teacher themselves. A student might hold a rai'kan for their teacher as a method of honoring the teacher and showing respect. In a similar vein, a parent might hold a rai'kan for a child as they meet milestones in their life, to reconnect with them individually, or to say goodbye as they move into adulthood. A child would hold a rai'kan for the parent as a manner of honor and respect. For the parent/child and the teacher/student rai'kan, it is more common for these to involve multiple people. The most common two-person rai'kan is between lovers and married couples."

Isienaka says, "The individual rai'kan is not simply the pouring of tea for oneself. It involves going through the stages of the ceremony, and it is usually done when an individual wishes to center himself and his thoughts. It is often done before embarking on a new stage in life or before large decisions are made."

Isienaka says, "Let us get a bit more in-depth on the symbolism and philosophy of rai'kan."

Isienaka says, "As mentioned, symbolism varies. Some interpret it as a meditation, and they place great value on precise movements and ritualized settings. They feel that the shared meditation of the group brings a closeness that cannot be replicated by other means. These ceremonies will tend to be quiet and contemplative. Others stress the social ritual, the interaction between host and guests. These ceremonies while still formal are often more relaxed and involve casual conversation. And still others meld philosophy, art, meditation, and the social together.

Isienaka says, "There is a whole branch of philosophy within erithi culture on tea and the tea ceremony. Some abscribe different emotions or methods of thought to different sorts of tea. These are so varied, however, that to go into them would be akin to attempting to explain every possible nuance of a symbol within our poetry. In short, an exercise in futility."

Isienaka says, "It doesn't stop us scholars from trying though."

Isienaka says, "I've seen two chairs of philosophy nearly come to blows over variances in philosophical discourse on rai'kan."

Isienaka says, "Anyway, the meaning of each rai'kan is individualized and the tone set by the host. Erithi are more than happy to follow the host's lead and do the ceremony on his or her terms, for they will soon repay the honor and host their own tea ceremony."

Speaking to Isienaka, Lyndianne says, "The leaves, they form images."

Isienaka says, "And while most of us do not read tea leaves as a rule, trust me, there are some that do."

Isienaka says, "Rabidly."

Isienaka says, "And loudly."

Isienaka says, "There are several stages to a rai'kan."

Isienaka says, "The first is the arrival and greeting."

Isienaka says, "Guests arrive at the designated time and are greeted by the host. Often, a small refreshment is offered. Once all guests have arrived, the host leads them to the rai'kan location. In the full ceremony, this stage can take several hours."

Isienaka says, "So normally, you would not have waited for me here, but instead perhaps in the main room of the pavilion."

Isienaka says, "I would have fed you, were the time appropriate for that, and then we would have as a group come to here."

Isienaka says, "The next step is the gathering at the table."

Isienaka says, "Guests gather about the tea table and its sitting cushions. They make appropriate offerings, and then sit. Offerings can be compliments to the host, a murmured prayer of thanks, an appreciation of nature, etc."

Isienaka says, "The making of the tea is typically a ritualized process as well."
Isienaka says, "The host makes the tea. No matter the wealth of the individual, this duty is not pushed upon a servant or guest. During a special ceremony in which a child is being celebrated as an adult, the host parent might call the child to assist and turn the duties over to him or her as a sign of their maturity. This is rare, however. Water is boiled in a kettle which typically rests off to the side so smoke from the fire never reaches the guests."

Isienaka says, "Makeshift stoves of stone are not uncommon in outdoor tea ceremonies. In indoor ones, the boiling kettle is most often brought from the nearby kitchen or is over a fireplace in the same room. The host selects the tea leaves and puts them in the teapot, which is situated in the exact center of the table, and then pours the water from the kettle into the pot. The host takes his seat while the leaves steep (the time varies depending on the tea chosen) and elaborates on the tea chosen and why. It is also appropriate to explain the water's origins at this time as well, if there is something special about it."

Isienaka says, "For example, I would have, while making the tea, explained that the water I used was brought from our continent and gathered at a spring on my property."

Isienaka says, "It is in a small glade, and I typically gather the water beneath the full moonlight, as it soothes me to do so."

Isienaka says, "The tea I chose is one favored by the Valaka Dai."

Isienaka says, "And the blending of the white and green teas with the heady taste of chrysanthemum is pleasing to my tongue."

Isienaka says, "Once the tea is made, the host begins the pouring of the tea."

Isienaka says, "Traditionally, the host will say something meaningful to each guest as she pours that person's tea. This is done with a calm demeanor but with an underlying quickness so no one's tea grows cold in the waiting. Guests are then offered additions to their tea such as crystallized lotus blossoms or drops of honey. The tea is then gently whisked or stirred. Variation: some teas are best made within the individual bowl. In these situations, the boiling water is transferred by the host from kettle to pot, and each bowl already holds the tea leaves. The host pours from pot to bowl as normal, and while it steeps in the individual bowls, he talks of the choices made."

Isienaka says, "This brings us to the penultimate stage of the rai'kan, the drinking of the tea."

Isienaka says, "Once all have been poured, the host drinks first and the others follow suit. After the first drink, everyone is free to sip at will. If they finish, the host will fill the bowl, but it is not considered polite to hurriedly drink the tea. It is in this stage that deviations occur."

Isienaka says, "For a more meditative ceremony, the host might continue with small rituals and the talk will be soft and to that purpose. For a social ceremony, a light snack might accompany it, and the talk will be more free-flowing. Poets might be asked to perform or a guest asked to sing. A small play might be put on for the benefit of the guests, or perhaps storytelling. The drinking of the tea often lasts long into the day, and subsequent pots of tea are made with less formality. However, the formality never disappears entirely. It would be a horrible breach of etiquette to devolve the ceremony into a party. Thus, the importance of the final stage."

Isienaka says, "Once the drinking of the tea stage is completed, a host subtly indicates it is time for departure. Guests rise and formally thank the host, and they file out of the rai'kan area. Once a suitable distance away from the area (if it is outdoors) or out of the room (if it is indoors), the formal ceremony concludes, and the guests can return to talking."

Isienaka says, "Often, guests will stay for a party or dinner at this point. In the full ceremony, the departure is final and all guests leave in a pre-determined order. By tradition, no one speaks at the end of a full ceremony. They bow in thanks and leave. The host will not speak until all guests have left and are no longer in sight of his or her house. Guests will not speak until out of sight of the house either."

Isienaka says, "I have been to a few full ceremonies over the years, and they can be quite taxing and relaxing all at once."

Isienaka says, "That, in an agate chip, is the essence of the rai'kan."

Isienaka says, "It takes awhile to get used to the procedure if you are learning as an adult."

Isienaka says, "And they are often quite lengthy, which is why we have more informal gatherings with tea as a focal point regardless of putting on a rai'kan."

Isienaka says, "But the rai'kan speaks to our souls as erithi, and I do not foresee it ever going away. It is who we are."

Isienaka says, "Families pass down tea bowls and kettles through generations."

Isienaka says, "You would be hard-pressed to find an erithi family without at least a modest set of implements."

Isienaka says, "I do have some more information on the tea implementations if there is time and interest."

Isienaka says, "Tea, of course, would be the most necessary ingredient."

Isienaka says, "And it is carefully chosen by the host."
the adventure.

Isienaka says, "It is typically a matter of prefence, but a full rai'kan has specific leaves at specific times during it."

Isienaka says, "As you see, we tend toward using tea bowls instead of cups. We like to wrap our hands fully around the container rather than a small handle."

Isienaka says, "These are made from a variety of materials, such as different kinds of jade, porcelain, agate, or pottery. When jade or agate are chosen, the bowls can be decorated by carvings, inlays, and intaglios, but are rarely painted upon. Porcelain varies in delicacy, and it too can be decorated, and painting on porcelain is common. Pottery tea bowls often become stunning works of art with the use of intricate glazing techniques. Some more elaborate tea bowl sets often have a favorite quote from book, song, or poem worked into the designs."

Isienaka says, "Some feel that the material influeces the tea and the soul when drinking."

Isienaka says, "Teapots and tea kettles typically match the bowls being used."

Isienaka says, "The kettles lean toward the utilitarian, of course, as they go on the stove."

Isienaka says, "The pots, as a steeping only mechanism, can be more elaborate."

On the octagonal teak table you see a plain clay tea bowl and a silver tray.
You glance at an octagonal teak table.

Isienaka says, "No self-respecting erithi would hold a rai'kan at a regular table with chairs."

The polished teak table is designed for cushioned seating rather than chairs, as evidenced by the several padded silk cushions surrounding it. Its large expanse will seat several, but the head of the table is clearly situated near the small stove, and a carved tea chest has been slipped beneath the table in close proximity as well.

Isienaka says, "There are whisks of reed or bamboo or spoons, and these are used to stir in crystallized lotus or other additions.

Isienaka says, "They can also get quite elaborate, but the most elegant are often the most simple."

Isienaka says, "The water used to brew the tea is very important. There are certain springs within the erithi continent that are said to have healing powers, so water from these hard-to-find springs are coveted. Water, like so much of the ceremony, is specific to the host. Some only want water used from their personal "tea springs" or water from their home village. Some are fine with any high quality water. Some Nathala enjoy distilling ocean water from their homelands and then, once all hint of salt is removed, using it in their ritual. They claim they can hear the sea calling to them through their tea, and it brings great peace to the wandering Nathala."

Isienaka asks, "Do you know of the wedding bowls?"

Isienaka says, "Wedding bowls are tea bowls, but approximately twice the size, and they are always carved from a single piece of agate and are unadorned except for an optional simple quote carved along the edge. A couple promised to one another will choose the type of agate and their wedding quote (if they desire one) with care. Couples drink from the bowl together at the end of their wedding ceremony. Wedding bowls are typically displayed with prominence in a home, and no one drinks from it except the couple."

Isienaka says, "As I mentioned before, these implements are often passed down through generations."

Isienaka says, "I know of a woman with a set of tea bowls a few hundred years old."

Isienaka says, "But getting someone to part with their rai'kan equipment takes a power greater than I."

Cryheart says, "I can imagine."

Alashadi chuckles.

Isienaka says, "It might take slipping something into the tea."

Isienaka grins.

You laugh out loud!

Speaking to Isienaka, Kovesed asks, "Excuse me if I am using the wrong term, but do the different clans within your race have different traditions for these ceremonies?"

Isienaka says, "The various Dai, or clans, can have variations to an extent, but nothing too far from what was discussed."

Isienaka says, "It typically is a tendency toward a type of locale or a type of water."

Isienaka says, "And not so much a change in procedure."