Eldraeic Word of the Day: méshválar

méshválar: (from mésh, a tile or plaque, and válaras, name, itself from val, personal pronoun, and laras, word); a name-tile.

The origin of the name-tile is in the simple courtesy of not bringing moisture or road-dust into the home. Imperial houses are normally constructed with a caráhan, an entry room, which serves the purpose of containing outside dirt and providing space for visitors to prepare themselves to enter the house proper, as well as for requesting permission to enter the house proper from its hearthmistress or her proxy. Such a room therefore often contains amenities such as a small fountain for personal refreshment and cupboards or chests for visitors’ shoes, travel clothing, etc., that they do not wish to bring with them into the home, as well as the traditional welcoming display.

The méshválar, a thin porcelain tile bearing its owners name and sigil, serves two purposes connected with this room:

For visitors, the méshválar is placed upon the cupboard or chest in which they have placed their effects, signifying their ownership of the contents. In some caráhan, associated with commercial buildings rather than homes, these containers lock, and once the key has been withdrawn, the méshválar is placed specifically over the lock, but this would not be seen in a private home. The strength of the custom is more than sufficient to guarantee privacy; indeed, should a guest depart without being able to collect their effects, it is usual to ship the entire chest, unopened, to their home.

Meanwhile, when at home, it is customary to place one’s méshválar on a rack located within the caráhan, thus allowing arriving visitors to know who is currently at home before requesting entrance.

Traveler’s Charge

Many of the settlers of Talentar, who would later become dirt farmers and ecopoetic line techs, were drawn from rural areas of Eliéra, seeing an opportunity to apply their sophisticated knowledge of modern agriculture and silviculture to the problems of making this new world blossom.

It is from these settlers that a local variation in the rights and customs of hospitality has become ubiquitous. Many of the foresters and line techs of the Delzhía Terra region in particular were drawn from the wooded upland valleys of the Vintiver region. An age-old custom there was the “traveler’s bite”; a traveler riding through could stop at any farmstead and rap at the kitchen window, receiving in exchange for a few taltis a fill of working-man’s beer for their mug, a handwheel of cheese, a pocket-loaf, and perhaps some trimmings of the day’s roast.

On Talentar, this evolved into the custom of the “traveler’s charge”. A traveler by foot or rover can stop at any of the small domes or prefabs dotting the dusty plains, signal at the service hatch, and receive a charge for their powercells, a fresh oxygen tank for an expended one, and a packed handmeal of the local produce – an invaluable service for traveling light, or in a pinch.

– “Sophontology of the Talentar Settlers”
Mirial Quendocius

Trope-a-Day: Sacred Hospitality

Sacred Hospitality: Absolutely. And even more so once spacer culture arose, because if hospitality was sacred when it was merely cold and hunger that would kill you, it’s even more so when you consider the very large number of ways in which space can kill you, given half a chance. Or not-quite-terraformed worlds, for that matter.

The Code of Alphas, in that subset called the Code of the Hearth, lays out the rules for hospitality pretty clearly, and they’re refined in the Common Social Protocol and such later elaborations as Madame Allatrian’s Garden of Exquisitely Correct Etiquette. It’s got symbols, rituals for entry (not bread and salt; asking for hospitality from the hearthmistress of the home and receiving it – an enhanced form of the ironclad custom of proclamation in which one must announce oneself on entering anyone’s property [1], or be deemed a trespasser) and departure and even formal disinvitation, customary lengths, customary expectations both simple and reciprocal, and so on and so forth. Providing it isn’t strictly an ethical obligation, but it is a moral one and an ironclad custom, so turning someone away who isn’t more than simply an enemy [2] without a good reason may well have unpleasant social consequences.

Even inns and hotels, which are commercial operations, fundamentally base much of their operation around the expectations and customs of hospitality.

[1] And, yes, that does not just mean people’s homes. There ain’t no such thing as a “public accomodation” in Imperial law or custom. When you go into a shop, you introduce yourself to the proprietor, or (in larger stores) their representative or even their automation. Otherwise you are trespassing and subject to all the consequences at the property owner’s discretion; and while those are unlikely to be severe, at the very least, you are being extremely rude.

[2] You’re supposed to offer hospitality to honorable enemies. No-one wants to gain a cheap and cowardly victory by letting their enemies starve or bleed to death, belike. On the other hand, you aren’t obliged to take dishonorable enemies into your home – but even someone invoking this clause may well pitch a tank of oxygen out the airlock, for civility’s sake.