Courts are larger divisions of the Fae. Different fae in different parts of the world divide themselves differently while still using the same or an analogous term.
Since the Shattering, the Fae have dealt with duality in major ways. They are creatures of Glamour and Banality, Mortality and Immortality. However, even before the Changeling Way the fae were intrinsically dual beings in their Seelie and Unseelie natures. These two strands of the fae world enlivened the Dreaming as the dance of light and dark, chaos and order, always does. Theirs was an eternal rivalry for ascendence. Now, since the Interregnum and the Compact, theirs is an uneasy truce which is closer to shattering once again.
The Divide Edit
Each of the two mindsets of the Fae has a Court. While each Kithain has both a Seelie and Unseelie side, every fae is ruled by one side or the other with a personality to match. This is not secret knowledge. The Seelie and Unseelie know each other for what they are and the information colors dealings between the fae.
The court of a changeling marks him or her in many ways. While behavior isn't always clear-cut, it is usually not hard knowing to which court the faerie belongs. They react to each other instinctively because of innate differences. The Seelie distrust the dishonorable Unseelie and the Unseelie sneer at the simplistic ways of the Seelie. The Compact may force them to tolerate each other but prejudice and hostility still exist and can break out.
The Law of Rule Edit
Before the Shattering the Seelie and Unseelie courts alternated their rule over the fae, dividing the year in half. The Seelie ruled in Spring and Summer with the pageantry of life and growth. The Unseelie ruled in the Autumn and Winter honoring death and entropy. Between the two courts the complete cycle of life and decay, fertility and fallowness, was celebrated. The Seelie would transfer power to the Unseelie on Samhain while the Unseelie would relinquish their power at Beltaine. The custom ceased during the Interregnum as both courts were forced to rely on each other to survive. Since the Resurgence the Seelie have held power and have refused to turn that power over to the Unseelie. Some Unseelie sages point out that this is unnatural and will lead to problems.
Mixing Courts Edit
Since the Shattering, through the Interregnum, all over the world and particularly in Concordia, Seelie and Unseelie put aside their mutual antipathies for their survival and the survival of the Dreaming. This has led to some mixing in Kithain society. It is completely likely for the lord or lady of a Freehold to be of a court different than most of their vassals and Oathcircles will often include fae of both courts, bound by oaths that transcend their differences.
While neat pigeonholing of the two courts is mostly impossible, there are a few distinctions. Seelie are associated with Light, Summer, and Daytime while the Unseelie belong to Darkness, Winter, and Nighttime. The Seelie represent Law and Tradition while the Unseelie represent Breaking Traditions and Change. Between the two courts they embody all that is good and bad, static and dynamic, light and dark, in changeling society.
Changing Courts Edit
While it is rare, is is known that a changeling will change courts, usually after a great personal transformation. This is not done lightly as the Kithain must forswear their old nature and surrender to the other side of their personality. It changes their place in society and with their own self-perceptions. As such, if the change happens it is done at symbolic times of the year, especially Samhain or Beltaine.
And One More Edit
Within the Unseelie Court is the Shadow Court. Most Fae, even Unseelie ones, only know the Shadow Court as a time of reveling in one's unseelie nature during Samhain... a mock court that lambasts the Seelie and lifts the Unseelie. It is, however, a much deeper thing and meets at other times of the year to discuss their own dark plans for hastening the coming Winter.
The Courts of the Eastern Fae, the Shinma, are based around ideology and worldview.
- The Li Shen - Confucian guardians of the Elements.
- The Xian Mo - Individualist followers of the Tao Te Hsien.
- The Yü - Societies based on prehistoric feudal Asia.
- The Xian Mun - A society of Hsien who focus more on their human lives.
- The Wu Hsien - the majority of Hsien who fulfill their duties under Heaven.
- The Tu Shen - Sybarites trying to bring around the Age of Joy.
- The Shu Shen - The dissolute of Hsien Society.
- The Yellow Lotus - A secret society of Shinma bent on Rebellion.
- The Mu Courts - Two "Evil" bent on bringing on the Sixth Age.
- The Empire of Stones - Composed of the Glomes.
- The Empire of Seeds - Composed of the Kuberas.
- The Empire of Tears - Composed of the Ondines.
- The Empire of Skies - Composed of the Parosemes.
- The Empire of Flames - Composed of the Solimonds.
- The Empire of Dolls - Composed of the Mannikins.
- CtD. Changeling: The Dreaming Second Edition, pp. 71-72.