Although today’s festival is officially hosted by the Buentoilliçan League of Kind Treatment Towards Non-Human Animals (BLKTTNHA), a great deal of Chastise Church followers will also attend to pay their respects; no saints are celebrated today, but a dog with strong connections to one is. Of course, the Church cannot be seen to officially support the veneration of dogs, but attendance of the festival today is quietly encouraged.
Barnabas Gotter was a feral dog when he first saved the life of his future friend Saint Gotter. The saint (born Jeremy Samitch) was being assailed by a gang of monarchist thugs who had recognised him from a protest the previous night. The dog left one of the men severely maimed and the other running for his life, and from that moment on Barnabas and Jeremy (he had not, at this point attained his sainthood) were the fastest of friends.
The dog attended a number of protests with the future saint, having a great deal of fun barking at the Royal Buentoilliçan Police Force, and occasionally biting one of their members when the occasion dictated. Barnabas sustained a number of serious injuries during these fracases, which turned increasingly violent as time went on, including three bullet wounds and a number of broken bones, but he was always patched up well by his friend who had trained as a vet before his religious dedication took over his life.
During the rule of the Traitor King the Chastise Church became the state religion, an accolade it had never officially held beforehand, and high-up members of the hierarchy were wooed into subservience to the King. This was not, however, the position held by all church members; many felt that it was their religious duty to speak out against the absolute monarchy. Saint Gotter was one such churchgoer, who believed that the Church’s doctrine of a godless world should be further extended; if there is no god there is no natural hierarchy, and therefore we should accept no masters, went the argument. ‘The only true masters of this world,’ said Saint Gotter in one of his few public speeches on the matter, ‘are those who can truly understand it through Attunement.’
Saint Gotter was martyred early into the rule of the Traitor King, although he had to wait until after the Revolution before the more strident monarchists were weeded out of the Church and he was officially granted sainthood. Barnabas had helped him escape three other attempts on his life, before he was captured in the aftermath of a protest and publicly hanged. According to the official tale, he had his first moment of Attunement on the gallows, the moment before the floor dropped from beneath him, his cry of elation being cut short. His body was given no ceremony, but instead dumped in the far side of the marshes in a mass grave, along with thousands of other victims of the absolute monarchy of the Traitor King.
Yet he did not lie there long; Barnabas never let his body out of his sight, and plunged into the sucking bog after it when the monarchists had left. The dog almost died in the act, and lay exhausted beside the body of his friend for a long time, until followers of the saint, religious and non-religious folk alike who had been inspired by is speeches, came to give him a proper burial. Barnabas remained by the graveside for a further fifteen years, refusing to leave for love or sausages. A number of folks attempted to lure him away to their homes, thinking the windswept hillside where Gotter had been buried to be too desolate a place for a nice dog to live, but he refused to leave, and eventually they built him a small house next to the grave and walked over to feed him every day. When Saint Gotter was made a saint, Barnabas fiercely resisted any attempts to exhume his body and make it into relics, so instead the ground was officially sanctified. A number of Saint Gotter’s followers have since been buried there with him.
According to the Church, the small patch of ground next to Saint Gotter’s grave where Barnabas is now buried was always left unsanctified specifically for that purpose (it would be sacrilege to bury an animal on sanctified ground), though this claim has its doubters. At the entrance to what is now a small walled graveyard is a statue of Gotter greeting Barnabas, the dog gazing lovingly up at his master. The BLKTTNHA procession of dog keepers, animal lovers, religious folks and the occasional religious anarchist will stop at this statue for a few minutes of silence, before carrying on into the graveyard and leaving offerings of dog toys, sticks, slabs of meat and bottles of stout (the dog’s favourite drink) by the graveside. The dog keepers then lead their dogs around the outskirts of the graveyard twenty times, just as Barnabas used to patrol each morning and night.
At the end of the festival, a member of BLKTTNHA will give a short speech, praising the life of Barnabas, using it as an example to show that animals are indeed deserving of the kindness that the League proposes we treat them with.
Other festivals happening today:
- The Bottle Smashing Festival
- The Society for Reckless Behaviour’s One Day of Temperance