Often depicted as a cat-faced woman in Chastise Church iconography, Saint Pamulak is the patron saint of acrobats and thieves, and a famed lover of feline friends. Born in 1790 as Vedina Shawlans, Pamulak was part of a circus troupe who travelled the seven cities of the Inner Sea, before converting and founding a church in Buentoille. It is at this church, the Church of the Seventh Sister, that today’s festivities are centred.
During her time with the circus troupe (Estaldor Trall’s Entertainers), Pamulak learned the fine art of acrobatics, for which she seemed to have a natural talent. When she was just twelve she managed to perform her first high-rope cartwheel, and by sixteen she had mastered the Dance of the Kingfisher, a fast dance where the acrobat never touches the floor, only the very small tops of five tall poles. Throughout her journeys she would always appreciate the company of cats, who seemed naturally at ease around her, even those wilder cats who were skittish or violent towards most people. She would often sing softly to them as they curled up on her lap.
It was during a balance exercise at the age of twenty that Pamulak found faith. According to Church scripture she was balancing atop a very tall pole that wasn’t fixed to the ground, and that bent significantly. Even for a skilled acrobat like Pamulak, the feat required a huge amount of concentration and resolve, as the bend was want to change direction haphazardly. After she had been practising for two hours she closed her eyes. After the third hour she realised that she had been balancing perfectly for some time without thinking about it, but instead was experiencing an immense feeling of connection with the world around her; ‘I did not need to think about balancing because it was obvious how to keep the pole dead straight, just as it was obvious to me that the moth in tree behind me was about to be eaten by a bird, and that the tree was thinking about the particular texture of the soil around its tap root, and that later that year I would sit beneath the tree with a man of faith.’ It was Pamulak’s first experience with Attunement.
Later that year she would travel to the Undying Monastery between Litancha and Buentoille, where the holy folk there taught her the intricacies of the Church’s teachings. Five years later she started performing daily on the streets of Buentoille to gather money for a new church. When she realised that a group of young pickpockets were working the crowds that gathered to see her, she chose not to stop them but instead to demand a cut of their profits. It took her a further ten years, living in the back room of another church and performing every day, before she raised the funds she needed. All the time she promised far more beautiful sights to those who watched her performance, when she had built her church.
The Church of the Seventh Sister is not like most other churches. All up the walls are small openings and wooden board runways, where cats can enter and exit as they please. There is no altar, instead a large stage sports high wires, ropes, tall poles and safety nets. The whole place has the feel of a more solid circus tent. Saint Pamulak was a controversial figure in her time, but the sheer volume of folk she converted through her performances and acrobatics lessons eventually led to her canonisation. Throughout the performance she would relate her actions to scripture, and a small choir would sing verses to the assembled crowds. She continued taking to the high ropes until she was eighty eight, when she stopped under the express orders of her doctor. Yet her own acrobatic feats were only half the performance. Something that she had been developing all through her time performing on the City’s streets was the cat whistle.
Cats have beautiful singing voices, truly, they do. Especially if they train them. The dissonant yowls that you hear outside your window in midsummer are the cat equivalent of the screams of drunken yobs. Cats are also very shy of their singing voices. They would often purr tunefully along with Pamulak as she sang to them, but only so quietly that nobody else would hear them. It took multiple Attunements for her to realise how to develop a way of getting them to sing. Pamulak carved her first cat whistle whilst in this meditative state, atop the bendy pole she used to Attune. There is something about the pitch it plays at, or the sweet quality of the note it produces, that gets cats to sing. The exact design of the whistle is a family secret that has been passed down from Pamulak to Pamulak through the generations.
Today, in the Church of the Seventh Sister, the walls, rafters, stage and pews will be filled with hundreds of patient, well behaved cats. There are usually a few resident cats who perform with an acrobat in the Church each day, but today, the day Saint Pamulak was interred beneath the Church with great ceremony hundreds of years back, they seem to know to come and sing in her memory. Their beautiful song, a little like a rounder-sounding violin but with no true comparator, echoes hauntingly through the church and out into the streets, where the faithful gather.
Other festivals happening today:
- The Darling Whisky Tasting Competition
- Down the River Without A Paddle: A Drifter’s Race
- Pigeon Fancier’s Day