August 19th – Saint Etmerstand’s Day; The Festival of the Pain in the Neck

According to the MHS, neck and back pain are the most prominent cause of temporary disability, causing hundreds of hours of discomfort and frustration each year. One cannot help but wander whether today’s festival significantly contributes to these statistics, although unfortunately this information isn’t published by day. Today you will see thousands of people, religious and non-religious alike, rubbing at their necks and making pained faces. The more performative amongst them will wear neck braces, or hold their heads at strange angles.

There is certainly an uptick in painkiller purchases, as recorded by the Union of Pharmacists and Medicine Dispensers, yet it does not seem as significant as the sudden increase of apparent neck pain in the City. This could be down to the fact that many seem to welcome the pain, to bear it with holy righteousness, a reminder of Saint Etmerstand and the pain he endured when he was hanged for his faith. It is this factor that leads most doctors to conclude that the sudden onset of symptoms, are in some way a psychogenic malaise, a self-fulfilling expectation of pain brought on by the festival day of a much loved saint.

Saint Etmerstand was born as Simmon Elgaric in the 13th Century, but only became a saint in 1925, when the Revolution, still fresh at this point, occasioned a delve into the histories in search of saints who better captured the spirit of the times (and, by extension, the spiritual sensibilities of Buentoillitants, who had turned away fro the Chastise Church in record numbers, instead finding fulfilment in their newfound power and responsibilities). They had been a preacher of a kind of radical reinterpretation of the Church’s dogma, called Layism, which advocated for wealth redistribution and sexual liberation, at a time when conservative attitudes were the norm. It wasn’t long before Etmerstand found himself with a noose around his neck, charged with ‘spredinge deyjernate tendenseys.’ Given that, in our modern age, all the things Etmerstand was agitating for have come to pass, you could argue that all Chastise Church members are Layists, so it’s acceptable for him to be included in the canon.

Of course, in order for a new Saint to be made, they must have attained Attunement in some way. There was no specific evidence that suggested this was the case with Etmerstand, but the Hierarch’s accepted a spirited case from member of the clergy that Elgaric’s final words, ‘I should have come later,’ suggested that he became Attuned in his final moments, allowing him to realise that the time would come when Buentoillitants were equal and sexually liberated. In 1971 two relics attributed to the Saint were even found; a piece of the noose that hanged him and the Tree of Saint Etmerstand.

The noose was found at a makeshift shrine in the basement of a Ranaclois district home, alongside a book which detailed the location of the Tree, explaining how it had been a green piece of the hastily constructed hanging post that Elgaric had swung from, which had been planted by his followers. The shrine had been created by Terei Instaldo, the one-time owner of the house above, who was also killed shortly after she created and bricked up the shrine. The Layists were all killed within a generation, and this shrine is pretty much the only thing they left behind.

The Tree of Saint Etmerstand grows in the churchyard of the Church of the Holy Host, where it was supposedly planted long ago in a subversive manner. It is an apple tree, producing fruits which taste very sour but are prized for their restorative properties; they allegedly cure neck pain, which is very useful on a day when everyone seems to be suffering from it. Even folk who do not follow the Chastise Church, even atheists and the decidedly irreligious, will today exhibit sympathetic neck twinges.

After the service held in that imposing structure atop Ranaclois Hill, there will be the annual harvest of the small apples, which will be blessed by the priests, then crushed into a juice and diluted with water. A small cup is given to each follower, a good remainder being retained for use throughout the year. Apparently the stuff is pretty tasteless, yet it seems to do the trick; all the folk you see walking down the steps of Ranaclois Hill tonight will have their heads held high, with wide grins and proud shoulders, whilst those unblessed suffer on still, hands clapped to necks, heads held at awkward angles.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Rowdy Ties
  • The Festival of Unlikely Bedfellows
  • Group Spa Day