March 9th – The Day of the Golem

The idea that humans were originally made from mud or clay has left an indelible mark on the psyche of the peoples settled around the Inner Sea, and Buentoillitants are no exception. The Church of Our Great Lord, the progenitor of the Chastise Church, teaches that their god made humans from clay, and whilst the Chastise Church denies the existence of this god, this foundational myth has found its way into their dogma in modified form. According to the Chastise Church’s early myths, humans spontaneously came into existence along with the rest of the world, initially lying face-up in a muddy bog. When this group of thirty-or-so people realised that they needed to breathe, they all sat up together at once and looked about at their new world, no longer horizontal. Obviously, the Church has now adopted evolution as a central tenet of the religion and therefore disavowed these old myths, but some sects still hold true to them.

Perhaps it was these myths that inspired the original story surrounding the Golem of Buentoille, perhaps not. Occultists have tried to perform the actions described in the story for many centuries, attempting to create their own golems, but nothing seems to have worked. Many put this down to lack of detail in the story, thinking that it misses out some crucial step, and have spent many hours scouring the shelves of the Hidden Library for an older, more authoritative version of the story. Of course, the most probable cause for their lack of success is that the story is just a story, nothing more. However, others have had more success in creating their own ‘golems’, and today, one will walk the streets of Buentoille.

Today’s golem is created by the Union of Potters and Clay Workers (UPCW), in conjunction with a contingent of automata crafters from the Eternal Fraternity of the Designer. Made of 365 individual pieces of pottery mounted on a metal armature, the golem, known as the Clay Woman, stands around thirty feet tall, although it changes every year with new each ambitious design. The pottery is painted and shaped with ‘magical’ sigils and words, written in bands around the arms and legs, usually some kind of carefully worded phrase forbidding her to harm any Buentoillitant. On her back is a small door through which an honoured member of the UPCW will enter, climbing into a small cockpit, through which the Clay Woman is piloted. Nowadays the pilot sees through a television screen attached to two cameras, mounted as the Clay Woman’s eyes, but once upon a time there would have simply been a hole in her stomach for them to see from. Above the pilot is a small petrol engine that powers the construction, venting its fumes through the woman’s nostrils and mouth.

The Clay Woman will make a number of laps around the City, followed by a parade of UPCW members, carrying traditional quilted union banners, playing a variety of clay wind instruments. They will come to settle in Holy Market Square, where the Clay Woman will lift children high into the sky on the palm of her hand, and where various stalls will sell small mantelpiece versions of the golem, and copies of the original story that inspire today’s creation.

In the original story, which has seemingly been in circulation for hundreds of years, a lonely occultist called Knorim despaired of finding a wife. He was not a particularly ugly man, but he was incredible untidy and poorly presented, and women tended to be put off by this. One day he had the idea that he would make himself a magical servant that would clean up for him and make him presentable, so that he could win the heart of a woman called Jennta who he had secretly loved from afar for some time. He took some clayish mud from the banks of the Moway (many occultists blame the diversion of that river for their poor luck in recreating their own golem), mixed in the ashes of a note ordering the cleansing of his person and property, and began to shape it into a human form. Whilst he worked he thought of Jennta, of her beauty and grace, and though he did not mean to he began to shape the clay in her likeness. Before he knew it, he was standing face-to-face with the woman who occupied all of his thoughts. He looked at it, astounded, and realised something was off; there was a small smudge on her cheek, the only thing holding the clay back from being a perfect representation of Jennta. As he smoothed it into shape, the golem came to life, and immediately set about cleaning his home.

It took two days, but at the end everything was sparkling, and Knorim was freshly shaved. He looked in the mirror (now actually performing its reflective duties rather than acting as a home for mould) and saw a beautiful man, ready to go out and find himself a wife. Yet now he didn’t want to; he had fallen in love with his golem as it worked. He dearly wished to speak with it, to tell it how he felt, but now that its duties were done, it stood inanimate in the corner. Another idea! Knorim took down a copy of Dhatzhim’s Dictionary from his dust-free shelves, and fed it to the golem. Unfortunately this was to spell his downfall. His body was found carefully buried in his back garden many weeks later; his head had been pulled from his shoulders.

To any who have read Dhatzhim’s Dictionary, the reason for the murder is plainly clear; Dhatzhim was a pedant who adhered to exacting grammatical standards and abhorred any deviation from them on the part of others. At several points in the Dictionary, which has an exhaustive section entitled ‘Proper Grammar,’ Dhatzhim orders the reader to ‘sever the head’ of anyone who abuses his rules. Obviously these exhortations are intended to be hyperbolic, but the golem clearly didn’t take them that way. The tale ends when the golem travels to the Grocer’s Markets on Flesh Alley, and is driven into a murderous rampage. It is eventually killed by a scholar who recognises the tone of voice the golem speaks in as that of Dhatzhim, who she wrote her undergraduate dissertation about. Using perfect Dhatzhimian rules, the scholar asks the golem to spell a word five times (most versions of the story give this word as ‘antipodean’) that she knows for a fact is misspelled once in the book. On the fifth spelling the golem gets it wrong and promptly falls to pieces.

Today’s Clay Woman will similarly fall to pieces this afternoon, as the festivities conclude. The 365 clay pieces will all fall off the armature at once, smashing on the floor, and the pilot will jump out, to great applause. The clay is often infused with various compounds which create bright sparks, colourful smoke or loud bangs as the pieces hit the ground; the spectacle is quite something to watch. The pieces are swept up and taken to the Golem’s Graveyard, a large mound of broken pottery by the river that a small garden has grown on top of.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Uncanny Visages
  • Curl the Winter Roots – A Festival
  • Horgon Betvannis’ Spectacular Travelling Otter Circus Finale!