The Hollow Stone has stood in place in Hollowstone square for thousands of years, long before the buildings popped up around it, since the last ice age in fact. The Stone is a prominent example of a glacial erratic rock, i.e. a chunk of stone picked up by a glacier in the far north, brought south through glacial drift, and deposited here when the big melt came. Being scoured across the land for hundreds of miles has given the Stone a number of striking features; firstly it looks nothing like the local stone, but is made instead of a bluish granite, secondly it is smooth on most surfaces, as if polished by the journey, thirdly it has a hole in its centre after which it has been named.
The shape of the strange Stone has always been a source of fascination for the people of Buentoille, and some say for many folks who came through the Buentoilliçan lands before the City was built. Over time various folk tales have been ascribed to the rock, identifying it as the eye socket of a giant, or the fossilised vagina from which the first person was born. Some say that if you pass through on the harvest moon you are transported to an alternate, subtly different Buentoille, one where they decided to build your house a few feet over, just noticeably, or where someone you never met was given a different name at birth.
Other magical properties have been ascribed to the Hollow Stone, such as the curing of birth defects and other ailments, an increase in fertility, or the divination of truth; peace negotiations between warring families have apparently been conducted with the negotiators sitting either side of the Stone, looking at each other through the hole so they could not make false promises without the other knowing. Today’s festival pertains to one such magical property of the Stone; its ability to give a fresh start, free from the detritus of a previous life. By passing through the Hollow Stone you can be reborn.
The idea of being reborn through the Hollow Stone is certainly an old one, as Liberatum have been found which apparently describe the ritual in great depth, as part of the Day of Sin, an Escotolatian celebration held on the 5th of June each year where one would attempt to rid themselves of the year’s accumulated sins. Passing through the Stone was actually a sideshow in this day long celebration, which focused primarily on the digging of a large hole into which sins would be buried, later to be eaten by the worms. It’s unclear how this process actually worked, but it seems to have involved self-flagellation with birch twigs and washing the broken skin with special oils.
Traditions morph over time, changing meaning and emphasis with the times. Today there is less focus on sin with the festival, more on escape, change, remaking. A long white tent is constructed, attaching to one side of the large, perforated triangular rock. At the opposite end enter those who wish to start their lives again, those heartbroken or tired, those who see only failure when they look in the mirror. Before they reach the rock they must complete three trials: the trial of labour, the trial of generosity, the trial of death. In the first trial we see something of the Day of Sin, reformed into its modern setting; those undergoing the ritual must dig a large hole, then bury something in it, something they wish to be rid of. The small grass island in the centre of the square is full of old photographs of lost loves, letters describing mortifying mistakes, decomposing slowly.
After the large tent of the first trial, they move along to the second, adjoining tent, a smaller, more personal space, where someone dressed as a beggar blocks their way, hands outstretched. To the beggar must be given something of great value, whether it be for its emotional significance or monetary value. If the beggar senses a large enough toll has been taken, they step aside. In the last tent is a tall figure with a skull mask, holding an electric razor in front of a barbers chair. They do not speak, but the intent is fairly obvious. Most folk also undress before they wiggle through the hole in the Hollow Stone, out into the sunshine.
In the square, the gathered crowd cheers raucously as each person emerges, reborn anew, naked and bald as they were on their first days on this earth. A band plays a loud serenade, and kindly folk run over with dressing gowns to cover the modesty of those who want covering. ‘What’s your name?’ the assembled crowds ask, plying the newly born with food and drink. They are free to answer with whatever they choose.
Other festivals happening today:
- Whisper to Me Nightly – A Weeklong Festival
- The Trap of Saint Dolmew Festival
- The Day of Singing to the Grasses