An Introduction to the Aristasian Lay College

Sai Thamë College is a Lay College in the Aristasian tradition.

The Lay College is an institution unique to Aristasia. Nothing like it (so far as we know) is to be found in Telluria.

To give you an idea of the type of institution you will be entering if your application is successful, you will need to understand a little of the background to the Lay College in the Motherland, so we suggest that you carefully read the following information.

The modern Lay College is largely a Westrenne institution. That is it exists mostly in the five Westrenne Nations plus West Arkadya (including Jenilow). Its most immediate occasion was the relative weakening in the West of a) the extended family and b) the guild system with its structure of apprenticeship, as well as certain other traditional institutions.

As you may be aware, given the greater longevity and resistance to injury and disease among intemorphic peoples, together with the absence of warfare and internecine violence, the need to replace the population involves a much lower rate of reproduction than is the case in Telluria.

Marriage is much less "the norm" in Aristasia. Many, many people do get married, of course, but it is not the "default expectation" of society, and many, many people do not.

So the entire "nuclear family" pattern that emerged in West Telluria under the pressure of an increasing individualism, while it certainly exists in Western Aristasia, is by no means the sole or expected norm. At the same time, a similar kind of individualism did emerge.

In Telluria this might have led to large numbers of people living alone in flats. In Aristasia it did not, for two reasons: 1) Since "single" life is much more common, more provision is made for it; 2) Aristasians are a very social, group-oriented people compared to West Tellurians. Individualism only goes so far. The idea of living alone is quite repugnant to many (not all) Aristasians.

In more traditional times (and still in much of the East) most unmarried (as indeed most married) maidens remained within the extended family. Others lived withing communities established by religious Orders, noble Orders, scholarly Orders, craft Guilds and other institutions all dedicated, in their various ways, to the pursuit of "kenning" - that is, Spiritual awakening through the practice of pursuits suitable to one's Estate.

As this traditional, sattwic manner of life passed into the more modern Rajasic style (always acknowledged to be inferior, yet often considered inevitable), the large number of unmarried Aristasians would have been "displaced" had it not been for the natural evolution of alternative institutions.

One of these was the pension, or small hotel, of which there are many in the west: places where maidens stay permanently, usually with communal dining and various activities pursued in common by all, or particular groups of residents.

The pension has a twofold heritage. It derives on the one hand from the older inns and guesthouses (a guesthouse being more like a German Gasthaus than an English/American "Bed and Breakfast") and on the other from the various institutions that preceded the Lay College.

The pension is, these days seen as a somewhat extra-laicised Lay College, and the popular image of the pensionette (as depicted in fiction and humorous cartoon sketches) is of a rather Bohemian type of maiden who does not wish to submit to the discipline of a Lay College - something of an individualist (which is not regarded terribly favourably in Aristasia) and possibly a little dˇcadent. Actually a majority of pensionettes are perfectly respectable ladies, although there are certain pensions where wild parties and other non-respectable activities take place.

The Lay College is the decidedly respectable cousin of the pension. With a few exceptions, the most fastidious family will not object to its offspring joining a good Lay College, and will often strongly encourage or even compel it (usually as a condition of continued financial support).

Lay Colleges developed from the older noble and scholarly Orders, often representing a merging of the two in a culture where the Haiela and Raihira were less sharply distinguished and often merged into a more vague "Raihiralan Class" which also included some High Magdala.

The precise character of each Lay College is determined by its history and its more recent developments. On the scale of academic seriousness, some are only a little removed from full University Colleges (most or all members being graduettes who wish to continue their studies on a not-absolutely-full-time basis) while others are like slightly more serious pensions.

Most fall between the two extremes, but the average Lay College is primarily a hestia and an adopted "second family". The functions of a Lay College may be enumerated as follows:

    1. To provide a home and "family" for its members.
    2. To provide an "in group", which is a vital necessity of Aristasian life.
    3. To provide supervision, structure and discipline. To provide a thamë.
    4. To provide a modified form of "kenning" and continuing education (these two things are still not distinguished in Aristasia to the extent that they are in West Telluria, and the aspect of "kenning"in all education is never forgotten) to the extent that the scholar wishes to pursue it.

Each of these functions is linked closely to the others, and there is little doubt that in the vast majority of cases, the order given here is the order of importance. A College that put the fourth function higher on the list would not normally be a Lay College.

Having said that, it should be noted that some of the most important works of research and literature have come out of the Lay Colleges, many of which have a very high standard; and in a culture where the concept of "academic professionalism" does not exist (scholars are not Magdala), there is very little tendency for Full Colleges to "look down" on the work of the better Lay Colleges.

The second and third functions of the Lay College may be relatively strange to West Tellurians. Aristasians almost without exception belong to one or more in-groups, beginning, in most cases, with their schools (some Lay Colleges have a membership drawn almost exclusively from a particular school or group of schools).

In a fundamentally non-individualist culture (by West Tellurian standards - Aristasians regard their West as highly individualistic), membership of an in-group is almost a necessity of social existence. Maidens will identify with their College on many levels: supporting it in sporting, literary and other contests certainly, but also regarding it as a fundamental part of their very identity.

The third function may seem even more strange to West Telluri, but one must understand that the concept of "adulthood" in the current West Tellurian sense has never developed in the Motherland. It is commonly understood that every maid needs a mistress, a guide and a protectress and that every maid is "child" in relation to someone.

Lay College scholars, whatever their age - especially if they are not fristali (one of a group of terms often translated as Elders in Telluria, though it has nothing whatever to do with age) or College mistresses - are subject to rules and personal direction which would be considered "unsuitable to an adult" in much of West Telluria.

It must be understood that Aristasian culture as a whole - in all its various local and National forms - is always a Culture of Obedience, which regards obedience to mistresses as obedience to Dea and sees the Golden Chain of Thamë as part of the saving function of a Divinely instituted social order.

In the words of an oft-quoted Filianic Scripture:

To rest in the hands of a mistress that ruleth in thamë is to rest in Mine Own hands.

Amity and the Lay College

One cannot understand the functioning of the Lay College (or indeed of Aristasian society as a whole) without understanding the concept of Amity.

Even the purest West Tellurian is likely, perhaps, to ask the question: "If so many Aristasians never marry what becomes of their emotional and affectionate life? Are they a rather cold people?"

Quite the contrary. Aristasian life as a whole and lay College Life in particular is filled with love and emotion.

At the most general level, one may see (in cases where a Lay College is linked to a girls' school) graduates from the School to the College, in their new College uniforms, passing through the ranks of their school-uniformed juniors. Many of the juniors will be in tears, moved by the momentousness of the occasion, by the graduation of their Elder Sisters (whether in a general or a personal sense).

Many juniors will be admirers of one or more seniors. Admiration has a special sense in the College system (and elsewhere in Aristasia) and is considered to be a minor form of Amity. Some seniors will be almost universally admired by the juniors (and by many of their peers). Some admirations will be strong enough to be a full-scale "pash" which may be spoken or unspoken.

College life is a webwork of admirations and minor amities. The love that binds a Lay College together is something that many West Telluri may find hard to understand. The passion with which an Aristasian is attached to her in-group and its members is extremely intense. Those who have experience of such Aristasian elektra-groupings as the White Rose Family will already know something of this.

Beyond these everyday amities, whose depth and emotion are very great, is the phenomenon known as Mayamity - Great Amity. This is a profound and intimate attachment between two (or more than two) maidens. In its most intense form is is accepted and respected on the same level as marriage.

It is a peculiarity of late West Telluria that relationships that are not s*xually bonded are regarded as relatively unimportant. In Aristasia this is not the case and bonds of Mayamity - often between girls of the same sex - are part of the life-blood of a College. Bonds of Mayamity of great intensity are treated with recongition and respect equal to that of marriage or blood relationships.

These bonds (normally) rather than being exclusive are integral to the general Amity of the College and are both a strengthening factor in, and are strengthened by, the amative bonds that create the in-group.

Sai Thamë College

The above notes relate to the Lay College as it exists in Aristasia. That is the model that we are trying to re-create in Sai Thamë College. As a virtual College there will doubtless be some factors that do not apply and some that will be applied differently.

But the amative bonds of an Aristasian in-group have already begun to form to a degree that many might have considered impossible through an electronic medium. The will to learn, work, create and live together as a College and a community is strong and we have every confidence in our ability to create a true Lay College in virtuality.

If you would like to be part of the nearest thing possible to an Aristasian Lay College and are prepared to give it the necessary commitment, please proceed with your application.

Related Resources:

Aristasian Life and Manners: a talk in MP3 format explaining many things about Aristasian life and culture - including Lay Colleges. Shows how they fit into Aristasian life as a whole.

The Adventure of the Crystal Staff: A detective story set in an Aristasian Lay College, including a visit to a different Lay College. Shows some aspects of Lay College life.

See Also:

An Introduction to the Aristasian Lay College

"Teenies" (teenaged personae) at Sai Thamë College

The Sai Thamë College Song

Sai Thamë College Arms

Return to Sai Thamë College

Return to Aristasia Central