shepherd and sheep

In The Wee Free Men, the village has a tradition of burying a shepherd with a piece of wool on his shroud, so that the recording angel will excuse him all those times during lambing when he failed to attend church — because a good shepherd should know that the sheep come first. I didn’t make that up. They used to do that in a village two miles from where I live. What I particularly liked about it was the implicit loyalist arrangement with God. Americans, I think, sometimes get puzzled by people in Ireland who call themselves loyalists yet would apparently up arms against the forces of the crown. But a loyalist arrangement is a dynamic accord. It doesn’t mean we will be blindly loyal to you. It means we will be loyal to you if you are loyal to us. If you act the way we think a king should act, you can be our king. And it seemed to me that these humble people of the village, putting their little piece of wool on the shroud, were saying, “If you are the God we think you are, you will understand. And if you are not the God we think you are, to Hell with you.” So much of Discworld has come from odd serendipitous discoveries like that.
—  Terry Pratchett, “Straight from the Heart, via the Groin” (collected in A Slip of the Keyboard)