August 17th – The Festival of True Buentoille

On this day in 1730 Homily Stravond’s book, History and Traditions Sadly Lost in Buentoille, was published, receiving a mixed reception in the following weeks. With many folks it struck a chord; these were days of great change and expansion of the City, and with changes like that often things are overwritten, left behind. Political tensions were beginning to escalate, with the ever-increasing population not being matched with increased food production; in the early eighteenth century the Great Grain Crisis was beginning to make itself known, setting the icy tendrils of hunger into the stomachs of the Buentoilliçan poor. The book told the disenfranchised and xenophobic of a now lost ‘true’ Buentoille, a land of happiness and plenty where authority was just and culture more authentic. More importantly, for anyone who could lay claim to a purely Buentoilliçan inheritance, it told them that the City was theirs.

It’s a great thing to have a sense of ownership over a place – it connects you, gives you a sense of belonging in return. It can bring you closer to your community, your neighbours; knowing where you come from is a great and powerful thing. The problems come when your idea of ownership excludes that of others. It was those who felt threatened, who had something to lose or had lost out in the changes that spread across the City, who were most easily drawn to the book’s message, which blamed not only poor leadership for the loss of the ‘true’ Buentoille, but also foreign immigrants and itinerant communities. It was a book full of lofty statements of the beauty of True Buentoille, as this lost city was called, juxtaposed with ugly xenophobic sentiments, sentences filled with words like ‘swarms,’ ‘vermin’ and ‘colonisers.’

The book was, unsurprisingly, mainly codswallop. This was quickly recognised by many of the historians of the time, who repudiated the idea of a Buentoilliçan ‘golden age’. It seems that many of Stravond’s ideas of the past were either entirely made up, based on spurious evidence (for example, Stravond found the higher instances of the word ‘perfect’ in fourteenth century texts, and claimed that this meant the century was naturally more perfect), or inspired by (possibly wilful) misreadings of historical texts and images. The most obvious and famous example of this is Stravond’s dogged insistence that the wide-brimmed hats and thick brocade shawls worn by certain figures in every Kaemen Squina painting were what every Buentoillitant of the fourteenth century wore.

Art historians were, and have remained, equally adamant that these outfits were intended as an allegorical marker of foolish aristocracy; according to Quintillience Sand, a contemporary to Stravond, the hats symbolise a kind of wilful ignorance, the denial of knowledge, which is here symbolised by the sun, and which the hat blocks from reaching their minds. The shawls provide an alternate, self-created warmth to their occupants, and allegorically represent aristocratic culture and belief systems, which are unconnected to the ‘truthful’ knowledge allegorically brought by the warmth of sunlight. The wisest figures in Squina paintings are always those who are naked, taking in the warmth of the sun, accepting the truth of the world with no barriers between them and it. It’s unlikely that anyone actually ever wore those clothes in the fourteenth century.

And yet it is a testament to the popularity and sheer persuasive power of the book, which somehow makes these outrageous statements appear eloquent and well-researched, at least to the relatively uneducated, that there still to this day folk who believe in the mythical ‘True Buentoille’: the True Traditionalists. They even, in what is generally regarded as unintentional self-parody, wear the ridiculous outfits that Stravond was so oddly obsessed with. The True Traditionalists display a fanatical adherence to the traditions and rituals of the idealised and entirely fabricated past laid out in History and Traditions, and disavow anything ‘new,’ i.e. anything which has not been set out in, or acknowledged by that text. This includes all festivals which began after the fourteenth century.

According to Stravond, today is the Municipal day of Buentoille, it’s original founding day, when the people immortalised in the Festival of Landing (now celebrated as the Festival of the Alternate River) decided upon a name for their settlement. Despite the fact that this is based upon (slightly) more convincing (or at least established) myths, there is no evidence to suggest any of this is true, but of course that does nothing to dissuade the True Traditionalists. The Traditionalists celebrate today in the same way laid out in History and Traditions; by flying the ‘True Buentoilliçan Flag’ (a gablelark rampant on a dark blue background), and feasting on venison hunted from the local forests.

Yet even these past-entombed people are subject to change; the Traditionalists celebrate the festival of their own, alternate City, in another way that is not explicitly set out in History and Traditions. It seems that change is acceptable if it’s in service of tradition. Today, in the heat of late summer, the Traditionalists will don their wide hats and their shawls and trudge the limits of their City, the point at which the ‘true’ Buentoille reached in its golden age, before it grew larger and was defiled in the process. As a way of demonstrating their dedication, the most fanatical of the True Traditionalists will not step outside these boundaries their entire lives.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Ditched Foodstuffs
  • The Classical Reminder Festival
  • The Festival of Changing the Bandages