Thursday, November 3, 2011

Worldbuilding: Calenders and Holidays

¡Feliz Día de los Muertos!  All right, it actually was earlier this week.  So was Halloween, which you probably paid slightly more attention to.  And it's Guy Fawkes Day in England in a couple days. 

Working out the calendars and holidays was one of those things that I got a little over-zealous about.  Did I need to come up with a whole 12-month calendar with month-names and matching the dates to the cycles of the two moons?  Did I need to come up with a slew of major and minor Druth holidays?  No, probably not.  But it was fun.

One thing that has crossed my mind was how so many holidays-- such as these recent three-- have a strong current of darkness they had.  Cultural have a strong need to use celebration in conjunction with the macabre.

Take, for an example from Druthal, the Feast of St. Jontlen.  The tradition of the holiday is to have all the children of the household (or ladies and young men, if there are no children in the household) hide in closets, under beds, wherever.  Then the feast is laid out on the table: traditionally roasted lamb, sausages, beets and berry pies.  As much bright red as you can get.  Then the master of the house, dressed in red robes, gets his hands in the pies, and calls out, "Free!  Free!" and the hiders all come running.  There is laughing and feasting and everyone is happy.

Of course, the basis for this feast is the story of St. Jontlen himself, traditionally depicted "red-eyed and anointed in blood".  As the story goes, Jontlen was a soldier who became a monk, and was in charge of an orphanage.  The orphanage was attacked by slavers, who took all the children to work the mines.  They had left Jontlen for dead.  But he came for the children, viciously slaughtering every single slaver in a one-man rampage that no one could have predicted.  When the last slaver was killed, Jontlen, red-eyed and anointed in blood, called out to the children that they were free.  And then dropped dead himself.

But that's just the story.  Now there's the feasts. 

2 comments:

jheaton said...

Hm. Setting aside "it was fun," did the exercise of creating a calendar and a slate of holidays--which you admit up front wasn't something that needed to be done--end up contributing anything of value to your writing? Did inventing the Feast of St. Jontlen help you understand one or more of the characters better, or shed light on why he or she might have behaved a certain way, or lend itself as a setting for something you already written or planned to write? I don't mean to suggest "I had fun doing it" isn't reason enough, but I'm curious as to you got anything else out of it.

Marshall Ryan Maresca said...

Actually, in the specific case of St. Jontlen, it did. With Holver Alley Crew, I wanted a moment in which Asti's appearance would be horrific-- looking crazy and blood covered-- could be viewed by someone as a revelation, salvation. (It makes sense in context.) I wanted the person seeing Asti to see him as a sign from God-- and that's how St. Jontlen was created. And then since I wanted each Saint in the Druth canon to have a holiday, I needed to come up with how to draw the festive out of the original, horrific story.