In Votive Park, there is a church that fell into disrepair long ago, and now its walls are maintained, neatly, with sections of mosaic floor open to the elements, surrounded by concrete. No roof has graced this holy space for hundreds upon hundreds of years, and very few religious ceremonies have taken place here, since a fire in 1690. Today’s festival is one ceremony that has endured at this spot throughout the ages.
In the graveyard within the church cloisters, which are now low wall foundations and nothing else, there is a spiked, wrought iron fence which surrounds a hole in the earth. If you were to open this gate, which is locked all year round apart from today, or if you were to clamber over the fence as teens often do, you would find a set of stairs tunnelling into the ground at a steep angle, At the bottom of the stairs, which turn about on themselves twice, in the darkness a small stream flows in an underground culvert that intersects the end of the tunnel. A statue stands facing the water, his back to any viewers. This statue is Saint Ettom.
It’s important to note that the statue is not a representation or depiction of Saint Ettom, as you may have presumed, but (if you believe the Chastise Church), the petrified body of the Saint himself. According to the Church’s mythologies, the Saint was an alchemist and great leader who invented gunpowder to help the City maintain independence from the Chenorrian empire. Towards the end of his life, he found a way of mixing spellcraft, religious Attunement and alchemical substances to turn himself to stone, so that he might survive into the future, when once again his talents would be required.
This tale holds certain similarities with the so-called ‘Saviour’ that is celebrated on September the 9th, and it’s thought by many historians that Saint Ettom was a way of appropriating this popular myth, of bringing it under the control of the Church. If this is the case, it’s strange that the festivals attached to each myth occur on different days; this day of the year is inscribed into the brickwork by the statue, in what appears to be a hasty manner. Archaeologists have proposed that the date was scrawled in by a person who had interpreted the star charts carved into the arched roof, and wanted to make the process easier for later generations. There are also a number of pictograms which have their own translations, inscribed below by the same hand. These seem to describe the process by which Saint Ettom will be awoken.
Nobody’s quite sure when the City will be in need of the saint, and so the ritual is performed every year, just in case, when the stars align in the way they are depicted on the ceiling. First the space is filled with acrid smoke from burning dried camphor and rose petals. Then, into the slow-flowing water is poured hot tallow and honey, as well as powdered bone and sulphur. Quickly, before it all flows away, the statue is dunked face-first into the water; it is attached to a hinged stand, which has two special handles for this purpose. To stop irreverent teens dunking the statue on non-holy days, this stand is locked to the ground, and the only person who has the key to the padlock is a local priest.
Obviously, the statue has never come to life, as it is thought that it will when the time is right. One year it did detach from the stand whilst being dunked, so that for just a moment it appeared that Saint Ettom had arrived. Presumably the Saint will return in the far future, considering that Buentoille is seemingly safe from any existential threats at the moment; the priests who carry out the ceremony today do not mind admitting that they’re all hoping that the statue stays precisely the way it is. Saviours are all well and good, but it’s better not to need one in the first place.
Other festivals happening today:
- Clithero Jonnama’s Day
- The Calmness of the Inner Child Festival
- The Festival of 20% Off Thermal Socks at Withies