A whole different kind of ceremony
Staring into the clearing from a distance, Laina had trouble believing this was really happening.
From where she was standing, she could see the entire married population of the village standing around waiting for the bride and groom to arrive. Flickering torches lit the area, hung from trees, and the villagers stood in a large circle about Consummation Rock, holding hands, and chanting quietly in time to beat of the drums, swaying with the flow, buck naked.
The single adults and the children were back in the village, forbidden by tradition to witness the joining until it was their own turn to take part. Laina had heard rumours about the ceremony, but knew now that most of them were false, or at least severely warped. Her older brother had explained what was going to happen to her yesterday, and whilst she was still nervous, she had been relieved that her worst fears were unfounded.
Laina shivered in the cold and wished they would get on with it. She harboured no doubts about Korta's love for her, and was confident of their happiness together if only they could get the Joining out of the way. She was dressed at this point in a single long string of red, while and black flowers.
As she peered into the torchlit area, she could see the high priest lighting the fire around the Rock, and knew the time was close. Suddenly the rhythm of the drums changed. A pulsing boom-chigga-boom-boom reached out into the forest and triggered something in her mind. She'd heard this sound many times in the past, and knew what it meant. The time had come.
Putting aside all doubts, hesitations, worries, indeed all thoughts, she started the suddenly long walk toward the light, the noise, the Joining. As she neared the torchlight, the chants became louder, the swaying more pronounced. The villagers nearest her approach parted to let her through, and rejoined behind her. Looking forward she could see the large flat Consummation Rock, covered in flower petals, and surrounded by small fires, warming the Rock for that yet to come. Further away, across the clearing, Korta suddenly also appeared within the circle, dressed the same way as Laina.
As the drum beat changed again, Laina turned to the villager nearest her, who happened by chance to be her aunt, and handed her the white flower on the very end of the string.
"Life," chanted the aunt.
Spinning around to undo a single loop of the string, and stepping to the left, she presented the next flower, still attached, to her aunt's husband. This one was black. "Death", he told her, solemnly.
Spinning and advancing again, she presented a red flower to the next person. "Blood".
She continued around the circle, distributing the flowers to all the participants, and receiving the appropriate chants from each. As she reached the halfway point, she started to give flowers to people who were already holding the string which Korta was sharing. Her heart gave a lurch as she started to hand people their second flower. This part of the ceremony symbolised the joining of their two lives, and the colours of the flowers were a reminder of the importance of their commitment to spend the rest of their lives together, only parted by death, and the blood of menstruation and childbirth.
Much faster than she expected, she was back in front of her aunt, who was smiling at her with great affection. The drumming stopped, and the swaying circle was quiet, entwined in the life string. "It is time for the anointing, girl. Are you ready?"
"I am ready. Anoint me." She heard an echo of the comments from across the circle, but could not see Korta.
The drummers appeared outside the circle, and distributed small clay pots to the entangled villagers, and then the aunt spoke again to Laina.
"Come then, and feel the fire."
Laina walked up to her, and the aunt pulled a few fingers full of a pale paste from her pot. She gently smeared the paste on Laina's left breast, and rubbed it in. Laina yelped as the paste penetrated her skin, but then could feel her breast become hot, and her nipple became erect.
"Go on. You are a girl no longer."
"Thank you aunt."
As she progressed around the circle, the villagers rubbed more and more of the paste on her body. All over her chest and stomach, her arms, legs, even between her thighs. The further around the circle she walked, the more aroused she became. As she neared her aunt once again, she felt her whole body begin to glow. The sooner she could get near Korta the better.
The circle complete once again, Laina knew that the ceremony was reaching the finale, and she couldn't wait. Vibrant in the cold night air, no longer cold, nor shy, she turned to the Rock. From here she could vaguely see Korta at the opposite side, undoubtedly also excited. The villagers had rubbed the remaining paste onto each other, and Laina could see that some of the men nearest her were sporting huge erections as they stood in the circle, waiting. The women too, looked expectant.
Near the rock, between her and the small fires, there sat a single small birdcage. Inside was a white dove. Releasing this bird was Laina's final unspoken vow. If she gave the bird its freedom, she gave away her own. Not in any sexual sense, but she committed finally and irrevocably to Korta. He in turn was required to release his own bird. Though the lovers could barely see one another, they would certainly see the doves once they were released.