December 14th – The Festival of Honouring the Stag

The Brotherhood of the Glorious Stag is a notorious group in Buentoille, known for their secretive nature, parties of wild abandon (from which we get the term ‘stag party’), their rites of sexual virility, and their exclusivity to male-identifying Buentoillitants. As their name suggests, the Brotherhood derive a lot of their symbolism from stags, and during their parties they will often go about wearing large sets of antlers on their heads. These parties are held often in the summer, whenever the weather is good enough, but it is now, on the cusp of winter, when their most important rite, The Festival of Honouring the Stag takes place.

You might think, given that members of the Brotherhood go around adorned with pieces of their chosen animal’s body that they were involved with hunting these majestic beasts, yet nothing could be further from the truth; the Brotherhood are actually entirely vegetarian. Instead, all the antlers used in their practices have either been naturally shed or taken from the skeletons of deer who died naturally. They are gathered across the year, important tokens that the men believe grant them greater fertility and sexual prowess, but today they will be relinquished back to nature, quite literally returned to the earth.

The place they bury the antlers is the same every year, a spot in Dunmonii Wood that is a place of great significance for the group, for it was here that their founding myth allegedly took place. They leave around the sunset, carrying torches, lamps and shovels, wearing their antlers and their traditional swaggering garb, complete with codpiece and cape. The burying place is beneath a large, ancient chestnut tree, from which the lanterns are hung whilst the Brotherhood dig the hardened soil. Rodents and other woodland creatures will actually dig up and eat the antlers, so there isn’t a stored trove of horns here that goes back as far as the Brotherhood’s history (the group is about four hundred and fifty years old). These offerings are put into the soil as an offering for the original Glorious Stag, which itself was allegedly buried at this spot.

The Brotherhood of the Glorious Stag began not on this day, as you might imagine, but in the depths of winter, a cold January night. Three poachers had been hunting deer in the woods, but suddenly became the hunted themselves, by a large group of wolves that strayed unexpectedly close to the City. They began to run, and just as they thought all hope was lost, out of nowhere a huge red deer, its antlers sharp and magnificent, jumped at the wolves, killing several of them, and giving the men long enough to get up the same spreading chestnut tree that they gather around today. After a long battle, the wolves eventually won, taking down the deer at long last, but at the cost of most of their number. All night, the men hid shivering up the tree, the heroic deer being devoured below them. In the morning they buried the deer, out of respect, and none of them ever went out hunting again.

The various beliefs and rituals of the group developed slowly over the next hundred-or-so years, but it has invariably retained today’s festival, the honouring of this first stag which managed to save the hunter’s lives, as a central part of its identity. The reason that the festival takes place tonight is because tomorrow would have traditionally been the first day of the monarchic stag hunt, and part of honouring stags is to protect them by, strange as it seems, scaring them off.

After they’ve buried the antlers beneath the tree, the Brotherhood take a number of items out of their sacks; firecrackers and loudhailers and loud rattles and drums and anything that makes a lot of noise, really. The aim is to scare all the deer out of the wood, away from the City, so that come tomorrow morning the hunt will not be able to find any of them. This tactic worked for hundreds of years, actually making the Brotherhood an illegal organisation (hence the secrecy that surrounds them) because of the frustration and embarrassment that they caused the monarchy.

Obviously nowadays they are just scaring off the deer (and every other animal for miles) for no good reason, and hunting deer with hounds is illegal Buentoille anyway. There have been some internal discussions about whether or not they should continue, seeing as this doesn’t seem like a way of ‘honouring’ the deer any more, but the general consensus has been that the festival should continue. The official reason is that it’s good to keep the animals scared of humans, as some people still shoot them for food, but it seems more likely that the real reason is that the Brotherhood have a lot of fun running around the woods making lots of noise, and, of course, because this is Buentoille.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Crest
  • Simple Sester’s Slightly Scary Selebration
  • The Tinnitus Daemon’s Day