February 15th – The Breathing of the Bones

If you were up late enough last night, waiting around the entrance to the Unfathomed Archive, you would have seen the beginning of the procession. At exactly 12am, the great doors of the Archive, recessed into the rock outcrop beneath the Church of the Holy Host, are thrown open, and out march hundreds of priests and acolytes of the Chastise Church. Suspended between them on ornate, litters, held aloft on brocade cushions, and slung along a long pole are displayed all the reliquaries held by the Church. You would have been waiting for well over half an hour before you saw the tail end of the procession.

Whilst some of the litters have canopies, they are all open to the air. The reliquaries themselves are opened up, displaying the bones inside for all to see. According to the church, this is to let the bones and body parts ‘breathe,’ an odd custom which can be traced back to the early thirteenth century. At the time the Church was facing rival religions and cults, and was having trouble recruiting new followers. To combat this, the upper clergy decided to have a show of power and influence by parading their relics. However, Church doctrine at the time was very much against overt displays of wealth, so another excuse had to be found; the explanation they settled on was that the relics required ‘breathing’ to ensure that their captive spirits would remain healthy. Today they still keep to this pretence, allowing bystanders to peer into the normally-sealed reliquaries.

For the first few years the procession was held on various different dates, multiple times a year, unsurprisingly on those dates selected as the holy days of competing religions. The procession would be surrounded by groups of belligerent and well-armed men and women faithful to the Chastise Church, and would ‘coincidentally’ travel through places where other festivals were being celebrated. One religion consistently targeted was The Unctuous Temple of the Messiah, whose assertion of a ‘one true god’ was particularly irksome to the Chastise Church. The Temple eventually waned into nothingness throughout the following century, but during the thirteenth century, today was its most holy and auspicious day, being the birthday of their Messiah, Gregor Fulsome. Eventually, the violence between the two groups became so violent that the Chastise Church was restricted to a single procession a year, which had to avoid the rival religions. Today the procession will still avoid the Bachtian District.

The procession will wind about the City in a complex pattern designed to increase the possibility of miracles, and will keep moving for the entire 24 hours of the day. Throughout the night-time hours the procession is lit by Kendrick’s cauldrons (large glass globes filled with a distillate of bioluminescent mushrooms and an accelerant) on tall staves, a traditional lighting alternative to fire (which could damage the relics) before electricity was developed. This lends a ghostly blue-green light to proceedings, making it quite a spectacle to behold. The reliquaries themselves are gaudy and excessive displays of wealth; gold and silver are the primary components, fashioned in ornate twisting structures along with crystal glass and precious gemstones into a case that often mimics the shape of the relic beneath.

There are at least three whole skeletons held by the Archive; the most famous is the body of Saint Mystergine, Her Lady Evangeline Ristoff, who was martyred in 1102, stabbed through with a spear by order of the Monarch. Her reliquary is a perfectly proportioned gold body, cast from a mould made shortly before her death. The hair is formed of thousands of silver strands, the eyes are sapphires, the teeth pearls. A rusty iron rod passes through the stomach area, symbolising the spear which killed her. There are eight doors on the figure, which is seated on a mahogany sedan chair, all of which are opened today, revealing the bleached bones beneath. The skull seems to grin with a certain mania. The largest relic is eight feet long, and takes thirty strong acolytes to carry. Inside the tasteless gold casing is an enormous leg bone, possibly a fossil from a mammoth or similar prehistoric creature. According to the Church it is the femur of Saint Ginag, a man who was made giant to fight a historic battle against wolves.

There have been a number of thefts from the procession in the past, usually of precious metals and gems from the reliquaries, but occasionally of the relics themselves. In 1832 the member of Saint Thrunt was stolen by the Cult of Virility, who powdered and drank it in ritualistic seances, attempting to connect to the ‘World Phallus’.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Birth of the Great and Merciful Messiah

  • The Lengthiest Smoke Inhalation Competition