December 20th – The Festival of Saint Geltrab

You can tell with just a glance at the name of the ‘saint’ being celebrated today that they’re made up: Saint Geltrab. Of course, all saint names are made up, but there’s something off about this one; sure enough it won’t take you long to find out that Saint Geltrab, or, to call them by their real name, Belini Querno, is not an official Chastise Church saint, nor the saint of any other religion either. Belini Querno was a woman much loved by her partner, their children, grandchildren, and the friends she gathered through her long life. She was also a woman who, during her lifetime, was in a long-running dispute with the Chastise Church, of which she claimed to be a disciple.

The central sticking point, the factor that soured Querno’s relationship with the Church was that she wasn’t one for bureaucracy; her favourite saying was, ‘why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?’ (or, as she often more succinctly put it, ‘do it, do it, do it!’). This isn’t say that there was no fault on the side of the Church, just that these faults are fairly well known and established, and that there was, from the off, going to be some friction between the bustling efficiency of Querno and the glacial pace of change within the Church. Querno seemed to have a need to be constantly busy, and was always ready to speak up with suggestions to improve upon well-worn systems and structures, and she never understood why they wouldn’t just get on with it and implement these changes, rather than passing things around committees and meetings.

Despite her bustling nature, Querno took relaxation very seriously. Her father had suffered from serious mental health issues, exacerbated by the stress of not being able to take adequate breaks from work, and she vowed to herself when he died early as a result of his illness that she wouldn’t suffer the same fate. The way that Querno chose to relax was by climbing up trees and closing her eyes. In the summer she’d listen to the rustle of the leaves, and in the winter she’d hear the wind and feel the boughs move slightly beneath her. She built a tree house to better stand the weather, in the big tree in her garden, and it was whilst lying on the floor there looking at the storm lamp strung from the ceiling swaying back and forth that she had her first experience of Attunement.

It wasn’t long after that she designated the tree house a church, writing a perfunctory note to the local Hierarch, ‘This is just a quick note to inform you that I have built a new church at the address given above, and will be welcoming any who wish to worship there, provided they are able to climb the rope ladder. Please do not trouble yourself with sending an official acceptance or thanks: I have no need for it and I’m sure you have many more important things to be getting on with.’ From this point, things got a little hostile between Querno and the Hierarch, and whilst she always claimed that her little treetop church was part of the official Chastise Church, it essentially functioned like a new offshoot, a schismed sect, with Querno holding special services every Wednesday.

When she died, Querno’s family and friends named her a saint, once again sending a letter to the Hierarch informing them of their decision. There are only about thirty people who form the little schism, and they still gather together, to hold service up the elm tree. The wooden construction there is now known as the Church of Saint Geltrab, and it is the location of today’s festival, positioned on the day of her death, where instead of a showy procession or even a sermon of any sort the friends and family of Belini Querno will lie down on the floor of the tree house and close their eyes. They’ll feel the tree sway in the last of the autumn winds. They’ll feel the light through the small stained glass window that Querno leaned to make in a week, shining on their faces. They’ll think about this industrious woman, whose boundless energy made their lives a joy.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Shake of the Hips Festival
  • The Classics of the Oboe Music Festival
  • Based on Nothing Day