July 17th – The Shattered Gathering’s Gathering

Who knows what strange and unstable compounds have been formed beneath the plant-covered surface of the Golem’s Graveyard? Over many years this enormous ceramic mound has grown with the addition of fresh chemically-infused pieces of pottery from each year’s golem which is paraded through Buentoille in early March. The chemical infusion on each tile is designed to create colourful sparks, brightly coloured smoke and loud cracks and bangs as the 365 pieces of pottery which cover that mechanical wonder fall off all at once. On more than one occasion spontaneous fires have started within the mound, strange green or purple fire purging the precarious vegetation; once this happened in the deepest winter, and the ceramic mound became so hot that it melted the snow for a block around it, and many folks gathered there to warm themselves. Given the noxious smoke that was likely given off, this probably wasn’t the best idea.

It’s not just pieces of golems which make up the hillock; many other pieces of broken ceramics are added to the pile on a monthly basis by a group who call themselves the ‘Shattered Gathering’. Much rag and bone men, these odd folks travel around the City knocking on doors for old broken crockery and pottery. Their motivations are unclear; for one, they are paid a small retainer for their service from general taxation, but also some of them seem to enjoy the management of this enormous structure, watching it grow taller by inches. Yet for some of them there seems to be a pseudo-religious significance to their actions; they feel that through this collection the broken can achieve an alternate wholeness, an invisible transformation. Quite why you would care whether some old pottery becomes invisibly whole again is a more complex matter.

Today’s festival seems to have its roots in some older ritual carried out on the site of the Graveyard, before the mound had built quite so high. At the base of the mound is a door (this, after all is Buentoille and where there is an overground there is inevitably an underground), which leads into a small chamber, constructed from cemented large pieces of pottery, shaped in such a way that they will not collapse in under the immense pressure from above. On the floor in the centre of this small space is a large clay tablet, itself split into five large pieces, glazed with painted figures holding hands in pairs. In the upper centre of the space is a large, golden figure, and beneath it a couple, attached to it by lines, attached to each of those figures is another couple, and so on, creating what looks like a large, radial family tree, the outer levels of figures spreading out and surrounding their inner children.

And yet, it is possible to read the image in reverse; that these figures have been split from a central figure, dispersed. This was the belief of a very old religion, one which predated and was overcome by the Chastise Church, and exists only today as the Shattered Gathering. Much of the history of this religion, The Reforming Bond, has been lost through time, neglect and deliberate destruction by the Chastise Church, and the floor tablet beneath the Golem’s Graveyard is one of its last surviving remnants. Most of what we know of the religion is from Chastise Church decrees and propaganda which inevitably paint it in a negative light and could well be untrue: according to them the religion was a ‘Culte af Seckshualle Deyviants’ which held vile orgies in order to worship their god, a god that the Chastise Church naturally saw as an aspect of the Waylayer, their ancient adversary.

Despite the rather hyperbolic nature of these texts, there does seem to be some truth in the claims that sexual liaisons were a central part of the Reforming Band’s religious practice. Recently discovered books in the Hidden Library seem to Reforming Band ‘breeding guides’, disguised as other texts to evade destruction. One of them sets out the manner by which you may identify ‘markes ov thee One’ within children, and another describes a process via which couples were mixed-and-matched frequently to increase the likelihood of producing children bearing specific characteristics. If Markusz Vernathon, head of the Department of Theological History at de Geers University, is to be believed, the Reforming Band were trying to remake, or ‘reform’ their god, whose essence they believe was spread throughout humanity upon their creation, by selectively breeding those with what they believed to be ‘godly’ characteristics.

Thankfully none of those frankly eugenicist practices and beliefs are in play today with the Shattered Gathering, which has none of the dogma of a formal religion or cult. However, many of the Gathering do hold religious beliefs, or at least have religious feelings that approximate their predecessors. There is no leadership within the group, but the more vocal members have given several interviews in which they describe an intense feeling of loss, of separation from the divine. ‘There is this teasing spark of that divine spirit, which makes me feel that separation all the more keenly, when I talk to others, when I love and am loved. I feel it within people, just a tiny piece of that great whole I know once existed, and I feel that piece within me reaching out to them,’ said Grace Versatility, one of the older members of the Shattered Gathering. Whereas the Bond seemed to believe that this spark was stronger in some people, the Gathering believe it is dispersed equally, and that by gathering together, rather than breeding selectively, we create some fleeting simulacrum of their god.

For the Shattered Gathering, the Golem’s Graveyard is a great symbol, a form of adjacent worship, for whilst it doesn’t do anything to show god’s presence to them, it does act as a metaphor for it, the occasional fires its spirit rising from a simple gathering of broken ceramics. Today, beneath the mound they will sit in a circle around the broken, painted floor tablet, holding hands, and meditating on the aggregate weight that hovers above them. Not all of the Gathering will be there, some care only for the pay or the skyward extension of the mound, but most will arrive, to talk quietly about god, of all the times this year they felt its presence in a crowd, at a party, as they talked to their lover at bedtime, surrounded by their monument, letting the weight of the metaphor press upon them.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Skate Day
  • The Festival of Pointless Storytelling
  • The Opening Anniversary of the Moralistic Liar – Half Price Drinks All Night