Canichmeh Custom Versus Law

Among the Orunameh (“all people”—meaning Canichmehah and Yaechahre together), there are actually two levels of legality—law and custom. There is no American equivalent, because for us there is only that which is legal and that which is not. However, in many other cultures, there is an idea of custom, which frequently has the force of law, even if it is not codified. Unlike law, custom is more flexible and can change with the culture. Custom can also be different in one place than it is in another (an important feature given that Canichmeh law covers vampires and humans around the world). Custom is most closely related to the idea of manners (the idea that there are some things which it is socially acceptable to do, and some things which are not). 

For instance, prior to 1932, all Yaechahre knelt during their Acceptance ceremony to show their obedience (and subservience). That was law. Thanks to Joshua’s campaigning (and he campaigned for a number of years on this point), that law was repealed. American Yaechahre ceased kneeling almost immediately. It is now custom not to kneel in America. However, in some groups—including among the Yaechahre in Jerusalem—it is still custom to kneel. No one can legally force a Yaechahre to kneel (or keep one from kneeling who wants to), but custom tends to be fairly strong, and there are social consequences when you buck the prevailing mores (for example, a parent might be embarrassed if his child did not kneel when everyone else does).

Some customs, though, have world-wide observance. For instance, when a Yaechahre is first Accepted, it is custom to assign that Yaechahre to one vampire for a year in what’s generally viewed as a training period. There is no law which requires this, but it is so commonly done that it’s universally recognized. It is also custom that no one take from that Yaechahre without first securing the permission of the vampire in charge. 

Furthermore, it is against custom for an underage vampire to take from a Yaechahre who has not been Yaechahre for at least five years. Both of these customs evolved into existence to help protect new Yaechahre from problems which may scare them into renouncing their Acceptance (it must be remembered that most new Yaechahre are 16-18 years old). 

Also, it is against custom to take from a Yaechahre who is traveling with a vampire, or who has been reserved for a member of the Council. This is because a Yaechahre is not obligated to travel with anyone or belong to one person exclusively; if a Yaechahre agrees to either, it is considered a favor to the vampire who asked, and no one wants to impose any more. Not to mention it’s considered polite to bring your own Yaechahre with you when visiting another group, so it would be very impolite for the host group to then take from that person. 

While nothing legally prevents anyone from taking from Joshua’s personal Yaechahre, anyone who did so knowingly, and without it being an emergency, would certainly face the ire of Joshua. He could not legally punish that person, but he could certainly find ways to make his displeasure felt. Social censure can be very powerful.

All three of these customs were breached when Jonas took Kalyn in the first book. By law, Jonas had the right to take her, but by custom, he should not have taken from her, because 1) she was under Anselm's tuteledge, 2) he was too young to take from her, and 3) she was traveling with Anselm and Micah. If he had taken from her and had not hurt her, neither Anselm nor Kalyn would have had any legal recourse against the breaking of custom. Marie, however, could have thrown him (and by extension, his sire) out of her group for breaching custom, and they may have had difficulty finding another group to take them in.

However, when Jonas hurt Kalyn, he broke the law. Kalyn and/or Anselm had the right to report him to the Council (through Marcus, the Head of Placement and Internal Affairs), where he would have stood trial for breaking the law. While the Council understands that young Canichmehah have less control over themselves and that accidents sometimes happen, they have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to someone who intentionally inflicts pain.

The Council normally tries to avoid intervening in conflicts between two Canichmeh; they much prefer that people work things out on their own. It is still legal for two Canichmeh, who can’t resolve their differences any other way, to duel each other—either to first blood or to death. When a duel has been openly and mutually declared, it is not considered murder if one person kills the other. It is, however, against the law to issue what are deemed frivolous challenges (i.e. you need to have a reasonable argument against the other person), and if you issue a challenge and the other person refuses to accept, you cannot do anything against that person (although it is against custom to refuse to answer a challenge, and, again, social censure may result).

This is how Anselm escapes punishment for killing Jonas. The Council rules that Anselm issued a challenge to Jonas when he said he would kill Jonas if he touched Kalyn. Jonas intentionally seeking out Kalyn and hurting her was ruled an acceptance of that challenege, thus everything that happened afterwards was legal.

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Background for the website and the header is from Lilium medicinae by Bernardus de Gordonio, translated into Hebrew by Moses ben Shmaya de Castro in Escalona, Spain, January 11, 1466. The original manuscript is housed at the Bridwell Library at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. The female figure in the header is from the Manesse Codex, which is housed at the Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg in Heidelberg, Germany.