travel pilgrims

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A Galaxy Far, Far Away[61/∞] Moon of Jedha

Now ask, ‘Where is the Force of Others?’ and one answer becomes inevitable: the kind and cold moon of Jedha. For a thousand faiths see truth in Jedha’s mysteries, no matter that their stories differ; no matter that not one history of the Temple of the Kyber can explain each brick in its foundation, or that our legends entwine and part in paradox.

One of the moons of Mid Rim planet NaJedha, Jedha was struck by a meteor in the ancient days of prehistory and it created the moon’s vast, craggy mesas and its rich core of kyber crystals. Despite the planet’s perpetual winter, it does not snow on Jedha and rarely rains; when it does, the thousands of religious pilgrims who travel through or settle on its highest and most holy city, NiJedha, celebrate.

NiJedha and the surrounding desert were destroyed by the Empire with its first test of the Death Star superlaser. 

“Spinning their way with each step, two elderly pilgrims pick their way down from Hemis Gompa. The devout believe that each revolution of the scripture-filled copper wheels sends supplications heavenward.” Photograph by Thomas J. Abercrombie for National Geographic, March 1978.

This post is part of my Art side-blog “The–Elusive–Muse

Crash: Good evening. My name is Crash, and these are the Boys.
Wallace Wells: [yelling out] Is that girl a boy too?
Crash: Yes!
[girl drummer flips him off]

Crash: This song is called “I Am So Sad. I Am So Very Very Sad.” It goes like this. [the song last only a couple of seconds] Thank you.
Wallace Wells: [yelling out] It’s not a race, guys!
Crash: [annoyed] Ok this next song goes out to the guy who keeps yelling from the balcony. It’s called “We Hate You, Please Die.”
Wallace Wells: [to friend] Sweet! I love this song!

Mount Kailash - Tibet

Mount Kailash is considered sacred in four religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Bon, and Jainism. In Tibetan, the mountain is known as Gang Rinpoche, meaning “Mountain of God”. Pilgrims believe that to circle the mountain can erase the sins of a lifetime. 

Some further believe that 108 circles around the mountain will break the cycle of rebirth, and assure a state of nirvana at death. The mountain attracts most of its visitors during years falling on the Lunar calender year of the Horse. This is due to the horse being the zodiac symbol of Buddha. 

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The Japanese deity Jizō (地蔵) is the protector of children, pregnant women, firemen, travellers and pilgrims. He has many forms, including Mizuko Jizō (水子地蔵) or Water-Child Jizō, the guardian of children who die prematurely due to miscarriage, abortion or any other means. It’s relatively easy to identify this deity, since he’s often carrying a baby. He’s also surrounded by toys left by a parent whose child has been cured of an illness thanks to Jizō’s intervention, or a gift to help a deceased child in the afterlife. 

SO YOU WANT TO MAKE AN INTERESTING CHARACTER:

AKA, this is a game of “who the fuck are you.”

I wrote a guide for my characters because I’m trying to lead a campaign with 3D characters, and there was some interest in seeing it? So here it is. Of note: The main city in this campaign is led by a duchess, who in her youth slayed a dragon- the previous tyrant of the main city.

Choose a race and a class that provides an interesting story- one you want to be part of, one you’d be interested to read, one you’d be interested to play with. You’re going to be spending hopefully a lot of time with this character, make them someone you’d like to meet. This is not a combat-driven campaign, it’s a character driven campaign. If you don’t have an interesting characters, this campaign won’t work. Your character should be at least willing to work with others, but you don’t necessarily have to like or even trust one another to begin with. That can come later. On that note: I encourage you to have secrets. Your character should not be immediately discernible. If you’re playing a half-orc barbarian, that shouldn’t be the extent of your character. Why did you leave your barbarian group? Are you still on good terms with them? You are entirely welcome to hide your backstory behind traditional fantasy tropes though. No one’s liable to question the massive half orc who claims they’re a barbarian and carries a huge axe- even if the blade of the axe is simple tin hiding a magical core, and is secretly a wizard’s staff.

Also- You’re looking for work. I don’t know how or why you are looking for work, that’s something you can decide (you have  to pay off a debt, you’re a refugee trying to settle in the city after fleeing a plague/war, etc). All I know is- somehow you ended up in the main city of this continent looking for a job. (also, feel free to borrow some aspects of your character from a favourite book, TV show, movie, or game. If you want to use Mulan or Inigo Montoya or Captain Jack Sparrow as jumping off points for your character, go for it!):

What follows is a pair of sample characters and a breakdown of why I like them as characters to toss into a campaign. Example characters and starting points under the break. This got pretty long, sorry

Keep reading

I’m reading Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms, a book about religious minorities in the Middle East by Gerard Russell, a former British diplomat who represented the UK in the region for 14 years. He has a thorough knowledge of various primary sources on religion in the Middle East, and he speaks fluent Arabic and Persian, so he’s able to get firsthand accounts from members of these faiths. So far I’ve read the first two chapters, on the Mandaeans and the Yazidis.

It very much seems that the Mandaeans, Yazidis, Alawites, and other, now-extinct groups such as the Manicheans, Harranians, and various Gnostic sects were all part of a great religious ferment from approximately the end of the Hellenistic era to the early Middle Ages in which different groups mixed and matched various ideas and practices, including asceticism and vegetarianism, astrology and planet worship, Greek philosophy and Mithraic customs, Jewish and Babylonian magic, and curious inversions - or as we might say today, “retcons” - of different aspects of Abrahamic mythology.

Some highlights from the first two chapters:

Mandaeans

  • Although monotheists, the Mandaeans regard the planets, sun, and moon as living beings with spirits, and pray to them in reverence and devotion.
  • Again, though monotheists, Mandaeans specifically invoke by name a variety of Babylonian deities in their magic, especially in dark magic - curses meant to cause disease, marital strife, and other misfortune. Gods invoked by Mandaeans to this very day include Libat, Bel, and Nebu.
  • On the same day as the Shi’a Ashura, Mandaeans observe their own day of mourning, sometimes even joining in with the Ashura processions. The reason for this day of mourning is unclear; some Mandaeans believe it commemorates the drowning of Pharaoh’s soldiers in the Red Sea.
  • The expression current in the twentieth-century Middle East, “First comes Saturday, then comes Sunday” - used by Christians in nervous foreboding that they might share the fate of their Jewish neighbors, and used by Islamists to threateningly remind Christians of their place - has been taken up by Mandaeans, whose holy day is Sunday. One Jewish exile in London remarked to a recently-arrived Mandaean: “We were on a Saturday, and you are on a Sunday. Now your Sunday has come.” (Almost all Iraqi Mandaeans have fled to the West or been killed by this point.)

Yazidis

  • There is seemingly no definitive account of Yazidi origins or theology; or if there is, the Yazidi elders have kept it a secret. Every Yazidi tells it a little bit differently.
  • The Yazidis regard the Greek philosophers as prophets.
  • The famed Sufi poet Mansur Al-Hallaj, martyred by the Abbasid Caliph Al-Muqtadir, gave a twist to the story of Satan that may have influenced the Yazidi account of Melek Taus. Al-Hallaj said that Iblis refused to bow down before Adam, thus rebelling against God, due to an uncompromising love for God, by which he refused to bow down before anyone else. Thus, he was merely misguided, not evil.
  • Yazidis identify Melek Taus, God’s regent over the universe, with Iblis or Azazael but not Satan. They relate an identical story about his motivation for not bowing down before Adam, and justify their veneration of such a figure by explaining that demons will be turned into angels not just at the end of time, but that it has already happened: After his rebellion, Azazael was exiled for seven thousand years, and he cried so profusely his tears extinguished the fire of hell. He was then forgiven by God and accepted as the chief of the angels once more.
  • This concept bears a certain resemblance to the ideas of Christian Church Father Isaac of Nineveh, who taught that at the end of time, everything in the universe would be redeemed - “Demons would not remain demons, nor sinners sinners.”
  • I knew that Yazidis had a close relationship with Christians in Armenia, where Melek Taus is identified with the Archangel Michael. But apparently Yazidis have had a special relationship with Christians for a long time, seeing each other as allies against their Muslim persecutors. Yazidis sometimes pray at Christian shrines or wear crosses as amulets.
  • Yazidis perform a bull sacrifice on the tomb of the figure Sheikh Shams in Lalish, their holy city. The Akkadian deity Shamash was also honored with a bull sacrifice.
  • Yazidi men were traditionally obliged to grow a mustache, and the penalty for removing it was death. However, in modern times, this is no longer enforced, and many Yazidi men who have more modern lifetstyles trim or shave above their lips.
  • Yazidis abhor the name Satan/Shaytan, and the taboo against it was once so severely enforced that any Yazidi who heard the name had to hunt down and kill person who said it, and then kill themself for having heard it.
  • The Roman Christian pilgrim Egeria, travelling through Edessa in the 300s CE, wrote that its pagan inhabitants refused to catch or eat any of the fish from the local rivers, believing them to be sacred. Today, the Muslim inhabitants of modern Edessa - the Turkish city of Şanlıurfa - still believe in the holiness of the fish in the city’s streams, refusing to eat them.
  • The Harranians - a group that paired Greek philosophy with planet-worship, and persisted until around the 1100s, perhaps influencing the Yazidis - refrained from eating beans, just like the followers of Pythagoras.
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The 7 Most Exclusive Secret Societies in History

Freemasons reportedly have a number of secret handshakes that they employ when meeting fellow travelers. Thumbs are pressed against knuckles or wrists in various permutations depending on the greeters’ position within the society. Members of the Illuminati might be seen declaring their affiliation with hand signals that make them look suspiciously like classic rock fans. The Karstphanomen (the secret society in my new book, The Devil’s Workshop) whisper Latin phrases to one another, conveying their mutual agreement that the “end justifies the means.”

But beyond all the special handshakes and code words, there doesn’t seem to have been much point to most secret societies other than self-interest. Once an invitation was secured, membership in one of these societies guaranteed a person certain considerations: political favors, appointments to influential positions, business and financial opportunities. Some societies with a more religious (or perhaps sacrilegious) bent believed they could gain mystical abilities or accrue occult powers and artifacts.

Secret societies still exist today, but the advent of the Internet has made real secrets much harder to keep. Masons ride in parades and the Karstphanomen now work out in the open with lawyers and public advocates. Only Anonymous, the tech-savvy Internet entity has captured the popular imagination in the same way that secret societies once did. But even they don’t fully follow the tradition of selfishness, since they seem to want to entertain us while dragging others’ secrets out into the open.

Children still make tree houses and ice forts with signs that read “keep out” and “no girls allowed.” Exclusivity abounds. Secret societies may be a relic of a bygone time, but they still have the power to intrigue us. These lucky seven are thought by some to have some vestige of influence even now…

Freemasons
The Freemasons are the longest-lasting secret society (that the general population is aware of) still in existence. They’ve become synonymous with secret handshakes, bizarre rituals and a hierarchy in which members move up through various levels as they gain experience and respect within the society. Originally formed by the union of several smaller societies, the first “lodge” was founded in London in 1717, but at that time rumors of the Masons’ existence had already been circulating for at least a century. Most modern secret societies take their cue from the Freemasons by incorporating handshakes, code words, private rituals and complex chains of command.

Illuminati
Although the Illuminati originally branched off from, and broke away from, the Freemasons, they have since become a prime focus for conspiracy theorists, many of whom credit Illuminati agendas for every conceivable disaster, mystery, and economic downturn. In point of fact, there is no evidence that the Illuminati still exist, but that only seems to add to their mystique.

The Skull and Bones
Perhaps the least secret of all secret societies, the Skull and Bones Society at Yale University was founded by William H Russell in 1832. Originally called the Eulogian Club, the Skull and Bones boasts many prominent heads of state (including at least three presidents), captains of industry, and heads of covert agencies among its membership. The society meets twice a week for rituals that are purported to closely follow Masonic rites, but many claim the organization is really nothing more than a glorified college fraternity.

The Rosicrucians
Founded in the early fifteenth century by Christian Rosenkreutz, the Rosicrucians were purported to be using occult practices to bring about a global transformation. Two centuries later, the publication of three manifestos launched them into the popular consciousness. They are believed by discerning conspiracy theorists to have founded the Freemasons, the Illuminati, and the Invisible College, and to have been the guiding force behind every significant revolution in modern history.

Bilderberg
In 1954, the world’s most influential movers and shakers met in a hotel to discuss and plan the coming year’s global agenda. They have continued to meet every year, but the content of their talks has remained a zealously guarded secret. They are not technically a secret society, since their existence and membership are not in question, but many conspiracy theorists worry about the influence and reach of their annual meetings.

The Elders of Zion
In 1920, a newspaper owned by industrialist Henry Ford ran a series of articles reprinting a Russian document called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The document was quickly debunked as a hoax, but those articles were collected as a book, newly titled The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem. Adolph Hitler read the book, was influenced by it, and appropriated many of its ideas for himself. Anti-Semitic theorists around the world still believe that the Protocols were genuine and that there was once a Jewish conspiracy to achieve world domination.

The Knights Templar
Early in the twelfth century, nine knights took a vow to protect pilgrims traveling through the Holy Land. More knights joined the cause and the organization grew, gathering wealth, fame and power as their influence spread. Popular culture has cast them in the role of funders of many other secret societies and guardians of the most sacred Christian treasures. But the members of the Knights Templar were eventually tortured and executed, and the society was disbanded. There is no compelling evidence that they ever possessed the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail or the blood of Jesus Christ.

[The Huffington Post]

Umar on the Virtue of Hajj

It is reported that ‘Umar b. Al-Khattâb – Allâh be pleased with him – once came out and saw a travelling party; he asked:

Who is this travelling party? They replied, “Pilgrims (on Hajj).” He asked them three times, “And nothing else has brought you forth?” They replied, “Nothing else.” He said, “If the travelers [on Hajj] knew who they were coming to, they would feel the delight of having great virtue after forgiveness [from Allâh]. By He in whose hand is ‘Umar’s soul, never does [the pilgrim’s] camel raise its hoof and place it back down except that Allâh raises [the pilgrim] in rank, forgives one of his sins and writes for him a good deed.”

— 

‘Abd Al-Razzâq Al-San’ânî, Al-Musannaf5: 4, 5.

Translated by Owais Al-Hashimi

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Dark Side Pilgrims?

Now this is interesting. Apparently some Force-worshipping pilgrims to Jedha wear red, burka-like shrouds that bear a strong resemblance to the red-robed “Imperial Royal Guards” seen in Return of the Jedi. The resemblance is almost certainly intentional, even if Lucasfilm hasn’t decided what it all means.

Let’s start with what we can reasonably infer. If they’re pilgrims, they’ve traveled to Jedha from another world for religious reasons. The only other Force-worshiper we know of in this time period—Chirrut—doesn’t wear such garb. (Chirrut and his pal Baze are apparently from Jedha, itself, and are not on a pilgrimage.) Unless the shrouds are everyday clothing on their planet (which seems impractical, given that the shrouds even cover the hands and fingers), we can assume the garments have some sacred purpose. They’re the space opera version of the irham worn during a hajj to Mecca. In fact, a quick search revealed similar clothing worn by Christian pilgrims in medieval Europe, as well as a striking outfit still worn by Japanese pilgrims (pictured above) while hiking to the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano, a Shinto tradition. Note that each tradition settled on loose-fitting robes and/or a walking stick as part of their ensemble.

Since we’re assuming the similarity between the Jedha pilgrims and the Emperor’s guards is intentional, it’s only natural to ask whether they’re adherents of the Dark Side. If they were, there’s no reason they couldn’t share the same holy sites as people like Chirrut, Lor San Teka, and Maz. Although a Jedi Knight must eschew the darkness, an unpowered person might be able to safely ponder its mysteries while still leading a normal life. If the Force is like the Dao, or like the Hindu Brahman, then the Dark Side would be essential to the entire belief system. For example, in Hinduism one of the principal aspects of God is the beautiful and fearsome warrior Kāli, who represents the most powerful, dreadful, and essential of forces—time. Not just time in general, but time that brings death and total collapse. As best I can tell, Kāli represents cleansing destruction. She wears a necklace of human heads and a skirt of human limbs and shrieks with mindless fury. Yet She is nonetheless the “mother of all,” and protector of the righteous. The Mahanirvana-tantra describes the paradox beautifully:

Because Thou devourest time itself, Thou art Kāli, the original form of all things … Re-assuming after Dissolution Thine own form, dark and formless, Thou alone remainest as One, ineffable and inconceivable… Thou art the Beginning of all, Creatrix, Protectress, and Destructress that Thou art.

To the western mindset, Kāli seems almost satanic. (That’s how Her worshippers were cartoonishly portrayed in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.) But She is worshipped and revered by all Hindus — even adored in some places. There are entire sects of Hinduism devoted to Kāli. She’s like the lightning that sparks a forest fire, burning up dead growth and fertilizing the earth so new plants can sprout.

Any believer in the Force would have to acknowledge that the mystical energy field lends its power to good and evil alike. On a certain level, the Force transcends morality. If there are Dark Side pilgrims on Jedha, true believers would have to welcome them.

Saint Margaret of Scotland (c. 1045 – 16 November 1093), also known as Margaret of Wessex and Queen Margaret of Scotland, was an English princess of the House of Wessex. Born in exile in Hungary, she was the sister of Edgar Ætheling, the short-ruling and uncrowned Anglo-Saxon King of England. Margaret and her family returned to England in 1057, but fled to the Kingdom of Scotland following the Norman conquest of England of 1066. Around 1070 Margaret married Malcolm III of Scotland, becoming his queen consort. She was a pious woman, and among many charitable works, she established a ferry across the Firth of Forth for pilgrims travelling to Dunfermline Abbey, which gave the towns of South Queensferry and North Queensferry their names. Margaret was the mother of three kings of Scotland and a queen consort of England. According to the Life of Saint Margaret, attributed to Turgot of Durham, she died at Edinburgh Castle in 1093, just days after receiving the news of her husband’s death in battle. In 1250 she was canonised by Pope Innocent IV, and her remains were reinterred in a shrine at Dunfermline Abbey. Her relics were dispersed after the Scottish Reformation and subsequently lost.

The marriage of Malcolm and Margaret took place some time before the end of 1070. Margaret and Malcolm had eight children, six sons and two daughters. Margaret’s biographer Turgot, Bishop of St. Andrews, credits her with having a civilizing influence on her husband Malcolm by reading him stories from the Bible. She instigated religious reform, striving to make the worship and practices of the Church in Scotland conform to those of Rome. This she did with the inspiration and guidance of Lanfranc, the future Archbishop of Canterbury. She also worked to bring the Scottish Church practice in line with that of the continental church of her childhood. Due to these achievements, she was considered an exemplar of the “just ruler”, and influenced her husband and children - especially her youngest son, later David I - to be just and holy rulers.

The chroniclers all agree in depicting Queen Margaret as a strong, pure, noble character, who had very great influence over her husband, and through him over Scottish history, especially in it ecclesiastical aspects. Her religion, which was genuine and intense, was of the newest Roman style; and to her are attributed a number of reforms by which the Church of Scotland was considerably modified from the insular and primitive type which down to her time it had exhibited. Among those expressly mentioned are a change in the manner of observing Lent, which thenceforward began as elsewhere on Ash Wednesday and not as previously on the following Monday.

She attended to charitable works, serving orphans and the poor every day before she ate, and washing the feet of the poor in imitation of Christ. She rose at midnight every night to attend church services. She invited the Benedictine order to establish a monastery at Dunfermline in Fife in 1072, and established ferries at Queensferry and North Berwick to assist pilgrims journeying from south of the Firth of Forth to St. Andrews in Fife. Amongst her other deeds, Margaret also instigated the restoration of the monastery at Iona. She is also known to have been an intercessor for the release of fellow English exiles, forced into serfdom by the conquest.

In her private life, Margaret was as devout as she was in her public duties. She spent much of her time in prayer, devotional reading, and ecclesiastical embroidery. This appears to have had a considerable effect on the more uncouth Malcolm who could not read; he so admired her devotion that he had her books decorated in gold and silver. Malcolm seems to have been largely ignorant of the long-term effects of Margaret’s endeavours, not being especially religious himself. He was content for her to pursue her reforms as she wished, a testament to the strength and affection inherent in their marriage.

Her husband, Malcolm III, and their eldest son, Edward, were killed in a fight against the English at the Battle of Alnwick on 13 November 1093. Her son Edgar was left with the task of telling his mother of their deaths. Margaret was not yet fifty, but a life of constant austerity and fasting had taken their toll. Already ill, Margaret died on 16 November 1093, three days after the deaths of her husband and eldest son. She was buried in Dunfermline Abbey.

Saint Margaret was canonised in 1250 by Pope Innocent IV in recognition of her personal holiness, fidelity to the Church, work for religious reform, and charity.


Margaret of Scotland + bright colours