The Remembrance of Blood

As a deeply spiritual people with a love for a good party, most races know that Elves have many festivals and holy days. What most of them don't know is just how many Elves have. Almost every species has celebrations based on the cycles of the sun and moon, and the turning of the year. However, with their long life spans, Elves have the opportunity to also find significance in much longer cycles.

One of the Elves' most important ceremonies is based on such a cycle. The Remembrance of Blood occurs but once every 100 years or so, when both moons rise in a certain constellation. Elven lore has it that this stellar confluence is the one that looked down over the battle between Corellon Larethian and Gruumsh. As such, they celebrate it as one of their holiest days—the birthday of their entire race. It is also a day to give special reverence to Corellon and Sehanine, for the suffering they endured (represented by Corellon's blood) and the love they give (in the form of Sehanine's tears) to their mortal children.

This observance begins at sunset on the evening of the alignment. Each elf travels to a shrine, grove, or other site holy to any of the Elven gods. Though they can simply walk to the nearest place, many elves prefer to travel great distances, if necessary, to make sure they spend this night in the holy place that has most personal significance to them. They attempt to arrive by sunset, although no scorn is shown if someone turns up a bit late. Until the sky turns dark, the elves at the site spend some time simply relaxing in whatever way they see fit—quiet conversation, bathing, sewing, even eating a light meal. The point of this is simply to put oneself into a contemplative, spiritual state for the ceremonies.

As the sky grows dark and the moons begin to rise, the elves begin the ritual, led by any priests who are present. Priests of Corellon and Sehanine take precedence over priests of other gods on this night. First a flagon of holy water (preferably blessed by a priest of Sehanine, or drawn from a sacred location) is passed around, and each person present takes a sip. This is in memory of the tears Sehanine shed, and elves hope to imbibe some of her wisdom, kindness, and generosity with it. Then the priests lead the assembled elves in a hymn, performing a ritual that enfolds everyone present. After the hymn, the elves settle themselves and enter Reverie. Bound together by the ritual, if all goes well, they all share a single memory of the elves’ birth as a race.

The final act of the Remembrance seals and ends the ceremony. Each elf sheds a drop of his or her blood to the ground in remembrance of Corellon. Elves know well that his blood still runs through their veins, and this small sacrifice reinforces the magic and sanctity of elven holy sites. It also strengthens the ties between the elven community and the holy site, their gods, and their world. After this, the ceremony is over, though some elves choose to stay at the site for the entire night to meditate or simply bask in the feeling of closeness to their deities.

Though the Remembrance of Blood is a solemn ceremony (a rarity among elves), it is of course surrounded by plenty of celebration. In the case of a holy site that is dedicated to an elven god besides Corellon or Sehanine, the elves make especially sure to hold festivities in their honor. Often, services in the honor of the other gods are held on the heels of the Remembrance, since the elves feel that the spirituality of that ceremony adds to all the rest.

Elves born on the year before the Remembrance are considered to have a special blessing, and they often grow up to have an even keener sense of the spiritual than most elves. Elves take some pains to make the event extra special for youngsters who have never experienced it before, and it is often a time of gift-giving and celebration similar to an elf’s coming of age.

Because of the time table the Remembrance is held on, many races are all but unaware that it even exists. Humans, for example, can live their entire lives without the event even occurring, and when it does, humans are seldom invited. Elves have no inherent problem with other races being present, but they naturally desire anyone who attends to have respect for the ceremony. Still, they seldom invite others, or even mention it, simply because few other races are able to participate and the elves don’t want their friends to feel left out. An occasional gnome or half-elf are the most common guests. For half-elves, the ceremony is at once especially meaningful and particularly frustrating. Being of partial elven blood, a particularly spiritual or open-minded half-elf can sometimes share part of the elves’ experience. They may well come closer to realizing what full elves feel than at any other time in their lives, but they cannot hold on to the sensations.

The ritual performed during the Remembrance of Blood is a true ritual of divine magic. Participation is completely voluntary. The water is blessed to give it an echo of the divinity of Sehanine’s tears, and this helps the vision to manifest during Reverie. The elves’ singing serves to harmonize them as a group, much as group prayer would, and is the catalyst for the binding. Any elven priest of at least 3rd level can cast this ritual. The additional power comes from the elves who participate. Any elf who refuses to drink the water or sing does not participate and does not share the vision during Reverie. Likewise, if they choose not to enter Reverie, or simply wish not to share the vision, they will not. Creatures who do not experience Reverie cannot participate. This ritual has no mechanical benefit, and no elf worth the name would consider using it outside its proper context anyway.

The vision is of Corellon’s wounding by Gruumsh, Sehanine’s tending of him, and the creation of the elves that resulted from that. They see it as if they were watching from some distance away, and can see, hear, and perhaps smell what is happening as if they were observers. Any emotions, pain, or other reactions come purely from the mind of the individual experiencing the vision. There is some question as to whether this is a true and divinely inspired vision, a racial memory, or simply the way the elves imagine it happening. Most elves don’t really care, since it doesn’t seem to make much difference. The chance to empathize with their creators is what matters. If the Remembrance has been observed since the time of the first elves (no one knows how old the rites are), however, it’s possible that it is a true memory passed on by Reverie through the generations.