February 23rd – The Festival of Saint Gilyant

Buentoille was barely formed when Saint Gilyant, born Jes Meredyth, walked the earth. The Chastise Church, too, was newborn, having only a few hundred followers. Gilyant was born on this day, shortly after the Great Chastisement – the event that formed the Chastise Church from a wing of the Church of Our Great Lord (COGL). According to the Chastise Church’s holy book, the Sanctotemporal Index or Libertem, the Church was founded after a monastery caught fire and, instead of putting out the fire with the water from the well, the monks decided to pray for it to be extinguished. Obviously they were unsuccessful and many monks were burned alive. Those who survived lost their faith in the personal god of the COGL, who they had previously believed to be all powerful. Instead they founded a new religion, in which there is no god, only the world itself, of which we are all a part.

Gilyant was born in an early holy commune that now lies inside the bounds of the City, and there she lived out the first twenty years of her life. She grew up with the teachings of this new church, which had not yet been set in stone; prayer became not a call to god, but an attempt to Attune oneself to the mysteries of the world, of its infinite complexity, so that the ultimate direction of events is perceivable and therefore steerable. This remains the core of the Church today, although over the years dogma has changed significantly. Methods of achieving his understanding outside of prayer have always been welcomed, so that the Church has always been a strange mix of the religious and scientific.

Saint Gilyant is still revered to this day because they thoroughly tested and disproved another method of achieving this understanding: extreme pain. When she was nineteen, Gilyant gave birth to her first child, Juilliame, in what was an extremely long and painful labour. She mused over the experience for a year whilst nursing the child; somehow, in the most painful moments, she had felt a kind of calm and understanding sweep over her, and perhaps this was a delirious kind of Attunement? When her child turned one she left it with its father, setting out to test her theory.

Having heard of fire-walkers to the east, Gilyant set out to test this new method of receiving pain. Unfortunately it did not work; despite wanting to Gilyant was unable to keep her bare feet on the coals for long enough to achieve that same calm and understanding. She stabbed herself with ritualistic needles, she walked through pestilent mashes with enormous mosquitoes that disfigured her with their bites, she deliberately shook bee hives and hornets nests, she gave herself excruciating sunburn. She had some minor success at achieving the calm state, but it never seemed to last. She concluded that it must be the inability to escape the pain, rather than the pain itself, that brought about the state of Attunement.

Pilgrims will return from the Maritch forest today, where they have been walking in emulation of Saint Gilyant. The forest was the last place Gilyant went on her journey before she returned to her commune. She was seeking out the infamous Tree of Anguish, a tall plant (technically not a tree) with furry-looking leaves. The ‘fur’ is actually millions of tiny needles, all covered in a chemical that creates extreme pain when it comes into contact with the body. The pain is said to last for at least three months, but much longer with higher doses. Gilyant spread the leaves over her entire body, and walked the arduous journey back to her commune.

When she returned she sat for three days in conversation with the Heirarch, in which time she fully explained the calm and understanding she had managed to achieve through the inescapable pain. The Heirarch compared it with his own understanding of Attunement, and questioned her on pieces of knowledge she should have gained if indeed she had become Attuned. Ultimately she came to realise that what she felt was not Attunement, and at that moment the pain vanished, as if by magic.

Gilyant’s extreme devotion to experimentation has led her to be much revered by the scientists who follow the Church’s teachings, and she is thought to have saved many others huge amounts of pain through her efforts. Her casket, not kept in the Unfathomed Archive, is placed on the central altar of The Church of the Holy Host, where, despite the fact it will not lead to Attunement, they will inflict some small amount of pain on themselves as a gesture of respect. Donations are taken, and given to the Buentoilliçan Health Service in her name. Respect for Saints and the Dead is a central tenet of the Church, and through these acts followers hope to relieve themselves of sin, avoiding their ultimate chastisement. To this effect, followers will also paint their feet black and paint their faces as if they had been disfigured by thousands of hungry mosquitoes or badly sunburned. They will leave small bottles of painkillers by the foot of the altar, in the hope that in her afterlife Saint Gilyant will feel no more pain.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Crystallisation

  • The Last Day of the Dignified Roll