September 9th – The Festival of the Saviour Returned

In 1467 Jinni Metchlasin was eleven years old, and had become obsessed with the paintings on the walls of her father’s wine cellar. She went down with an oil lamp and sat in front of the red and blue cave paintings staring at the figures depicted there, trying to make sense of the thing. When her father or one of the workers would catch her there she’d scamper away, then return later when the coast was clear. Her mother was concerned for her, said she’d be better off playing outside, in the fresh air with the other children, but nothing she said would dislodge the obsession. Jinni would ask her parents about the paintings, which covered the eastern side of the roughly circular natural cave beneath the Children’s Mound, but they didn’t know much about it themselves. ‘Farthyr ewesd to say hys farthyr sed thy wer pikturs of the Sayvyor,’ wrote Metchlasin later on, in 1489, ‘but he newe no maw then that.’

As they grew up, Metchlasin moved on from sitting in the darkness, and indeed did spend longer outside with the other children, and eventually started work, and eventually took over the winery from her father when he died. Through all of this she pretty much forgot about the wall paintings, until one day, after checking on some barrels, she turned around and they were there again, and she was back to being elven, staring in wonder at these ancient paintings. Who was this saviour? Who did they want to save? What were they saving them from? Who had painted this on the walls? All these questions came flooding back, but now she felt a determination to answer them.

There have been many archaeologists that have scrutinised the images, which depict a lone figure holding aloft a sword, coming out of a wood and over a hill toward a settlement, which presumably represents Buentoille, or what was here before the City. Today the image has been destroyed somewhat by time and moisture, as well as vandalism thought to have been hastily committed by Chastise Church faithful, who saw the images as some kind of veneration of the Waylayer, but via carbon dating and other methodologies, they believe that the paintings were made in the early half of the third century. Little is known about this period of Buentoilliçan history, when there were certainly settlements on the site, but no City as we would know it today. Back in her day, there were no professional archaeologists, only a few antiquarians who used rather unscientific methods to reach their conclusions.

Going on the little that Metchlasin knew about the flaking paintwork as much as anything else, the antiquarians decided that this was some kind of martyred figure who had been killed after the settlement in which the painter lived had been occupied by antagonistic forces. This fresco was made down here in the dark to keep it secret from those forces, those who the images foretold the fall of, when this great martyred figure arose from the dead. Apparently there was once a large tree painted to the left of the figure rising over the hill, which is now all that is left, out of a wound in which the figure was climbing. To the right of the hilltop scene, the image would have shown soldiers falling dead at the sight of the mysterious figure.

There are no distinct ethnic, religious or geographical groups known to modern historians which neatly fit into each of these roles, the oppressors and the oppressed, again mostly because so little is known of the geopolitical landscape of the time. If such a conflict did happen, this image, now mostly crumbled away, is our only record of it. To Metchlasin, this only made her ‘discovery’ feel all the more important, and she named each of the groups as ‘ancient Buentoillitants’, who were the oppressed people, and ‘the Occupation,’ a nebulous term that has come to describe illegitimate monarchs, mercantilist elites, and foreigners, depending who is using it. There were even early Revolutionaries who advocated waiting until this Saviour presented itself, to save them from the monarchy. The idea of this ‘Saviour’ who will one day rise from the grave and liberate Buentoille became ingrained into the public consciousness, especially when Metchlasin began celebrating them with something akin to a mystery play each year.

Metchlasin allegedly chose the date of September the 9th because of the position of the sun in the images and how it correlated to the hill range, which she claimed was the Children’s Mound; today would be the day the Saviour would return. The fact of the matter is, however, that this makes no sense, and it’s more likely that she just chose a date at random, or perhaps a date that had some significance to her personally. The pageantry, which continues to this day, begins on one side of the Children’s Mound, where a Buentoillitant clad in a suit of armour cuts their way out of a ‘tree,’ a paper mâché and cardboard construction which several branches are affixed to. The crowds will then follow this figure up the hill, cheering and laying paper flowers before them the whole way. At the top they will pose for a good while, and make a speech.

The speech is normally short, and varies around the preoccupations of the age. There were times in which people actually looked towards this mythical, probably apocryphal, Saviour, especially during the Great Grain Crisis, when they promised to ‘remove from office those who starve us’ and ‘let the grain flow freely once more.’ The festival’s resurgence in those times is partly why it survives to this day. There have been various organisers over the years, each with their own agenda seeking to swing public opinion, and most have been tolerated over the years by those in power, who recognise that there is little danger from a fictional saviour who will never actually arise.

Today this speech is played up for comedic effect, more than anything else. The people of Buentoille saved themselves, after all, and the joke here is that the Saviour arose a century or two too late; they promise to ‘depose the vile monarchy’ and ‘feed the masses,’ whilst folk stand to the side enjoying a festival snack. When the figure once again descends the hill and reaches Falen Drochyt’s Square, the crowds assembled there will all fall over at once, giggling as they do.

We might never know for sure who this alleged ‘saviour’ was or what else the painting was supposed to represent. Today there will be works carried out to attempt to preserve some of what’s left, and there will also be a new research paper released, which allegedly claims that the ‘saviour’ is actually supposed to represent an ancient folk story of a greene man or woman who comes to a settlement to avenge the deaths of their fellow trees on the people who live in their seasoned carcasses.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Truly Being You
  • The Charlatan of Nought Festival
  • Away Day