Kyllsa had announced that she would celebrate the Ko'mak midsummer festival with her family tribe, and she invited others through a public announcement to join in as well, to enjoy some genuine fun & festivities. The event itself was held on the planet Matar, homeworld of the Minmatar.
It was clear from the start it wouldn't be as formal as other events I attended in the past. While Amarr, Caldari and Gallente events all are very distinct and different, they do share that feel of formality, especially for outsiders, the feel to be on your best behaviour for the others.
But nothing would prepare me on how open & fun this midsummer festival would be, hardly any formality. Also fighting, friendly fighting, but still, never seen that before without a legion of security-personnel slamming it down.
About a playful Tribal Shaman and water
Upon my arrival at the Festival grounds, it was immediately clear this wouldn't be like any other event previously attended. As I witnessed the watery chaos before me,there was a group of soaked wet but laughing people, children playing with their waterguns and playing alongside them adults. One of those was the tribal shaman Kyllsa Siikanen! It's so strange to see people whom you learned to know as high ranking within their own society to just play and have fun with children and water.
The whole watercombat was a hit for those who arrived early, as many were laughing and doing their best to soak others as payback.
As more guests arrived, the waterplay died down, albeit the children and few adults continued for a bit. One of the remarkable guests was renowned combat pilot Ava Starfire, who acted wholly different among this crowd then one would expect from the stories told about her. She was a warm and playful person, far from the rage-prone starship pilot some people say she is.
All in all, everyone did their best to make the guests feel comfortable and welcome. While it was primarily a minmatar event, the capsuleer guests were a mixed bunch, mainly Minmatar, but also Gallente and Caldari attended. and as the music played, the guests chatted, laughed, drank and ate, enjoying themselves freely.
For the hand of a Lady we shall fight!
As the Midsummer festival continued, music playing and people drinking, Ava Starfire did her best dragging people on the dancefloor, me among those. I set aside my typical Caldari reservation, and decided to just go with the flow, enjoying the party in full, dancing alongside the others on the rhythm of music and the clapping of hands.
The capsuleer N'maro Makari did a great job with his band on stage, picking the right music to keep the dancing up!
Outside the dancing, many guests had a good time enjoying the refreshments as they talked about various subjects, from children teasing elders to adults having an in-depth discussion about the various Matari brews.
Apparently, during this carefree joyful dancing, I had attracted the attention of one of the guests, Jaqel Aubaris, a Gallente capsuleer who was clearly at home with Matari customs, but shy.
When his friends noticed, they teased him to ask me out, yet he didn't take a step, until the challenge.
Vinh Trahn, a minmatar capsuleer; challenged his friend to a weapon's duel, that would end on first blood, with the stakes being that either Jaqel asked me out, or Vinh would do it for him!
At this point I was unaware it was about me, but as excitement rose for the upcoming fight I did join in the spectations, overhearing Ava yell *Finally! A Fight! Now it's a real Minmatar party!* So her hot-bloodedness mentioned in the stories weren't entirely exaggerated..
And so the duel begins, Jaqel with shield and hammer versus Vinh with a sword and shield, for a duel till first blood drawn. While Vinh seems to have an advantage with the sharp sword, lets not forget that a hammer can carry quite a punch and shields do have sharp edges!
As the duel began, people started betting as the combatants tested each others capacities with feigned strikes. As the combat intensified people cheered and yelled as they striked and blocked skillfully. But then, Jaqel shows what a hefty blow of a hammer can do, bringing Vinh out balance, allowing his shield to draw blood!
As Jaqel won, he followed through on the accepted challenge and asked a completely confused but very honored me for a date. After such display of primal secy manfight, how could I do nothing but accept!
However he had to leave shortly after for personal matters, but Vinh turned out to be a great fellow, being a great guide for me for the rest of the evening on various matters concerning the festival and Matari customs.
And so shall we continue!
Later on the evening, a second duel broke out, but this time a bare-hand fight between N'maro Makari and Sammi Oskonnur, in order for the latter to win back her bet she lost on the previous duel.
As these two began their duel, fighting with a certain grace as they exchanged blows, Vinh explained this particular part of Minmatar culture better to me.
It's mainly a way to resolve matters directly, as friends but also for sheer enjoyment. Most of such duels aim to have a good time, not to badly hurt the other. As matters are resolved quite fast through this, not allowing it to fester on as it can occur in other cultures, I can see the elegance of what appears to be a brutal way to settle matters.
This also comforted me, knowing there's usually reason behind such fights, and that duels occur only on the consent of both participants. As we chatter, the duel ends rather dramatically, when Makari miscalculates the force he puts in a kick, taking out Sammi quite harshly. As worried people gather, Kyllsa's quick on the scene, checking up on Sammi. In the end it turns all right, save for a hefty painful bruise for Sammi.
Using the momentum of this, Kyllsa Siikanen offers a training battle with practise swords along with Sanadras Riahn, to show the audience a proper way to fight and apply the right amount of force and movement in a duel. As the duel progresses, Kyllsa does show off some rather unconventional moves, teaching the audience to be flexible yet to be always on guard.
As the duel went on, I chatted with Vinh about the possible deeper meanings of this, as Matari as a whole always had to take that stance to the outside world, to be flexible in what they had, and to be on guard for others.
And then in a big applaud, the trainingduel ends, with a very suprise move from Sanandras, allowing him to claim victory over Kyllsa, by the very creative use of a watergun!
After this, the festivities went on, and people refocused on the dancing, food & drinks. By now, the various fights also gave the guests plenty of things to talk about and laugh.
A drunken end to a wonderful evening
And so it continues, people were slowly leaving now that it had gotten late, while the rest indulged themselves with the remaining drinks, having obviously drunken chatter among themselves. I was among those drunks... Does show how good a time I had, the reserved me, always watching not to drink too much just got drunk beyond belief.
This was a very great and very unconventional evening, with little formalities and alot of free-spirited fun. I truly enjoyed myself and got to know alot of people better.
I also learned more about Minmatar and their customs in a single evening then all the years prior to it. While I'm aware this was an exceptional event, as one of the Midsummer themes for minmatar is to drop all formality, I did gain the insight that even on more formal event, it's still fairly loose compared to what you are used to under Caldari or Amarr celebrations.
But the greatest insight I have gained was in the duelling. Previously I never understood why Matari enjoyed physical fighting so much, seeing it as just random brawls.But now I realized it's part of their culture, and that such 'brawls' tend to have deeper meanings, as a way to settle disputes before they fester, strengthen bonds or just to let off some steam without someone getting hurt, beyond some physical pain.
All in all, I can advise others to attend such events, even if only to learn more about the deeper nuances of Minmatar customs.