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Pagan ceremony/pilgrimage

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I have a PK who's converting to paganism. I'm a newbie Pendragon GM and the campaign is in the early GPC years. I can wing it, but are there any published texts on pagan late summer/autumn ceremonies the PKs might attend, or a suitable pilgimage they might do? I found the text on the harvest festival in The Great Book of Pendragon Treasures, so that's an alternative of course.

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There is the Adventure of the White Horse which includes (a bit of ) the Goddess Epona. Alternatively, you could send him to Aquae Sulis (i.e. Bath) to drink from the holy spring there.

Given the context and the location (I am assuming Salisbury here), it is unlikely that there would be big pagan processions and pilgrimages. Instead, remnants of pagan rituals in the form of harvest festivals would seem more appropriate to me, IMHO.

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11 hours ago, Morien said:

There is the Adventure of the White Horse which includes (a bit of ) the Goddess Epona.

Yup, the longform version is in KAP4 too.

11 hours ago, Morien said:

 

Alternatively, you could send him to Aquae Sulis (i.e. Bath) to drink from the holy spring there.

Yuk, bath water tastes terrible.

11 hours ago, Morien said:

Given the context and the location (I am assuming Salisbury here), it is unlikely that there would be big pagan processions and pilgrimages. Instead, remnants of pagan rituals in the form of harvest festivals would seem more appropriate to me, IMHO.

Me too. Plus it more local and low keyed. The big dates are Imbolic in Febuary,  Beltaine in May, Lugnasa in August, and Samain in November, when villagers with gather around someplace, make offerings, and maybe celebrate.

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I think I'm agreeing with the two of you above, but the very nature of paganism suggests that it is extremely localized. 'Conversion' to Paganism might follow a visit to a passage grave or the Otherworld (same thing, really), which would tend to happen around one of the main festivals.

In the Post-Vulgate and the Prose Tristan there's a 'pagan capital' of sorts in Chastel Felon, which is in North Wales somewhere (I have some theories, but Caer Dathyl is a possibility), but the inhabitants are typical medieval romance villains, enemies of Arthur and all that is good and holy. Another possibility is a romance with a Lady of the Lake or a Pagan Enchantress figure, with the lady love symbolizing a pagan divinity. If you want a really off-kilter but very interesting premise, make her Morgan Le Fay or one of her cohorts, so the knight is placed in a difficult position later in the timeline.

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50 minutes ago, jeffjerwin said:

Another possibility is a romance with a Lady of the Lake or a Pagan Enchantress figure, with the lady love symbolizing a pagan divinity. If you want a really off-kilter but very interesting premise, make her Morgan Le Fay

Didn't Mists of Avalon do exactly this, or close enough?

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2 hours ago, jeffjerwin said:

the very nature of paganism suggests that it is extremely localized.

Well yes and no. It depends what we are talking about here as Paganism. Do we just have Celts or Greco-Romans, too? In the former, you still had some important places like Anglesey and the forest of the Carnutes. For the latter, you had important temples, oracle sites and things like Eleusinian Mysteries, which while not a pilgrimage as such, was a procession crossing about 20km from Athens to Eleusis, and the festival lasting 9 days.

But I would agree that by KAP, many of these traditions would no longer exist. But I could still see devotees of Epona coming from all over Britain to celebrate at the White Horse, during that adventure.

Edited by Morien

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3 hours ago, Morien said:

Well yes and no. It depends what we are talking about here as Paganism. Do we just have Celts or Greco-Romans, too? In the former, you still had some important places like Anglesey and the forest of the Carnutes. For the latter, you had important temples, oracle sites and things like Eleusinian Mysteries, which while not a pilgrimage as such, was a procession crossing about 20km from Athens to Eleusis, and the festival lasting 9 days.

But I would agree that by KAP, many of these traditions would no longer exist. But I could still see devotees of Epona coming from all over Britain to celebrate at the White Horse, during that adventure.

Paganism is definitely on the wane in KAP. Anglesey's druids were slain long ago and now Christian saints are numerous there... You'd have to go into the wild forests or the bleak uplands to find pagan sites still operating (which is also going to mean a small population of year-round adherents rather than indifferent quasi-Pagan Christians), and not overlaid by Christian churches... Urban paganism is probably underground or merged with folk saints (Matrona becomes the Virgin, for instance, and Apollo St. Michael). As I recall from my own visit to the White Horse, it _is_ in a pretty isolated area.

As to whether the MoA did it, it's been something that various literary theorists have detected in the medieval cult of Love for a while. Not necessarily true, but viable for game purposes. Certainly it would be how a pagan would interpret the fairy lady-loves in Breton lays. The sort of persistent hedge-witchery that the peasants practice however won't appeal to many knights.

I'm not altogether sure that once separated from the defunct Roman interpretions of the cults that the worshipper of Nodens in one part of Britain, say as a healer, will recognize him as Nudd, a ruler-god or warrior 150 miles away. Local gods tend to be more in tune with the needs of the local population, with rituals and practices that match: that's what keeps Paganism viable or not. Another major aspect of viability is tradition, and that includes the topography of the cult. If a church usurps the high hill, it may get the worshippers, even if they don't care for the innovation, and Belenos may disappear. You can't uproot your beliefs from the hill where the god lives to a similar site where he's worshipped the next tribe/tref over if you don't know the different rituals and don't know which way the sun will rise. Moreover, unlike in modern Neo-Paganism, the other clusters of Pagans are unlikely to simply accept you. Paganism is a pretty inward looking thing. So I get the sense that 'pilgrimages' if they exist are for the bards and druids and enchantresses, the priesthood, with the believers unlikely to be able to get their heads around all the daft other ways of doing things.

Of course, the Triads do list Arthur as an initiated bard, as is Tristram.

Now, decades ago I did play a pagan knight whose lover was a priestess of Epona, whom he met at the White Horse. He had a lot of horses in his herd... But he end up getting a fief next-door to the Vale of the White Horse, so that worked ok.

 

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8 hours ago, jeffjerwin said:

Anglesey's druids were slain long ago and now Christian saints are numerous there...

The former never happened in KAP timeline* as far as I can tell, and given that Gomeret is C/P in 4th edition and Pellinore is Pagan in KAP 5.2, I wouldn't be so sure that local gods and goddesses would have been transformed into saints yet. The problem, as ever, is that there is this anachronistic Paganism (and Romans) while the society is very much high medieval in many other respects, and of course by 12th century all remnants of Paganism were folk lore and harvest festivals, or rebranding gods and goddesses into saints.

* Greg was ADAMANT that HRB is the True History of KAP world wherever possible. Brutus did come over to Britain and fought with giants. Claudius FAILED to conquer Britain in 40 AD, and hence there was no Suetonius Paulinus to massacre the druids of Anglesey**. Instead, Britain was ruled by King Arviragus, himself a Cymric Pagan, so he wouldn't have massacred the druids either. After him, other native kings ruled Britain (Romans got a slice of the southeast after Boudica's rebellion), until 189, when at the death of the last king, Lucius, Rome took over the island up to Solway Firth (Hadrian's Wall). See Book of Sires, Appendix F, in particular pp. 270-271.

** This might be used as an explanation why in KAP world Paganism has managed to survive more than in our world. Without the massacre of druids and their suppression, they could have been keeping the old traditions alive better than happened in our world. Also, magic helps. :P And if this kind of Pan-Druidism exists, then it would be more reasonable to presume that there is a more common set of gods and goddesses, of common beliefs. Otherwise, what is the point of training the druids at Anglesey if they all have widely different local gods and goddesses anyway?

I do agree that the common peasant wouldn't be doing any pilgrimages, but that would be mostly true for Christians as well. Pilgrimages take time and money, although it sometimes happened that a village gathered the resources to send one of their number to a longer pilgrimage for the benefit of all. I'd also agree that pilgrimages are probably more a Christian thing than a Pagan thing, but Adventure of the White Horse implies pretty heavily that people do come from farther away to participate in that particular celebration.

And while Paganism is on the wane in KAP, it is still alive and kicking in Cambria and Caledonia, as well in Ireland. Ironically, it would even be possible that after the renewed Saxon tide sweeps over the Christianized Logres, that there would be a Pagan resurgence, given that the surviving Cymric regions would be predominately Pagan. Assuming that there is not a huge influx of refugees, or that Christianity would lose its legitimacy over not being able to protect against the Saxons. Not that it matters for most campaigns, just a thought I found interesting.

Edited by Morien
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4 hours ago, Morien said:

The former never happened in KAP timeline* as far as I can tell, and given that Gomeret is C/P in 4th edition and Pellinore is Pagan in KAP 5.2,

Pellinore being Pagan has got to be a mistake. His father and brother are Grail Kings! (and his sons are all Christian as well in later editions). In earlier editions, Gawaine was also Pagan, which was abandoned.

Besides the HRB, however, the romances themselves are canon or at least have as good a claim, and North Wales fell to the Christians (with the exception of Chastel Felon, according to the PV) in the latter half of the first century after the death of King Crudel, indeed at the very period that Suetonius visited... Arviragus appears as the evil Argustes in the same source (the Estoire du Graal), so I admit he was probably a pagan in KAP. Lucius was a Christian convert in the Estoire and even in earlier histories (I think Nennius and Bede?). Essentially, the romances and GoM both have Christianity in Britain before the Roman takeover, with it becoming the state religion in 180. However... there are clearly pagan magicians serving Vortigern.

Gomeret was evangelized by several saints in the early 500s onward, and Maelgwn was a Christian (ostensibly) (he did have bards in his court, but so did every Christian ruler among the Cymry). So even if Gomeret is Pagan in the 490s, it ceases formally to be so by the mid-500s. All of the great pagan kingdoms are mostly Christian by the Downfall; I'd argue the Paganism's powerlessness against the Wasteland and Christianity's triumph (the Grail Quest) might be decisive in this. The loss to the waves of the pagan strongholds like Lyonesse and Gwaelod might also seem like divine judgment. There is also the association of Paganism or Atheism with Mordred, who closes the Christian churches at his accession. 

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2 hours ago, jeffjerwin said:

it becoming the state religion in 180

Yep, by King Lucius as you mentioned. But Paganism clearly survived, since we have it in KAP.

2 hours ago, jeffjerwin said:

the romances themselves are canon or at least have as good a claim

We need to make a point here that the romances were written by Christians for Christians in a Christian Middle Ages. If we go by them, then everyone is pretty much a Christian or a Villain. Greg deliberately included Pagans to KAP, and I think trying to wipe them out as anachronistic or because they are not in the romances would be a mistake. Yes, I would concede both of those points, BUT they are KAP canon.

2 hours ago, jeffjerwin said:

All of the great pagan kingdoms are mostly Christian by the Downfall; I'd argue the Paganism's powerlessness against the Wasteland and Christianity's triumph (the Grail Quest) might be decisive in this.

Sure, if you want to play it that way in your Campaign. Heck, in ours, the 50/50 Pagan/Christian PK group just managed to start the ball rolling on converting King Belinans and Powys from Paganism to Christianity.

So I would not have a problem with there being Christian missionaries in Cambria and Caledonia and Ireland in 500s. I am just not agreeing that we need to wipe out the Pagans by the Downfall.

2 hours ago, jeffjerwin said:

Pellinore being Pagan has got to be a mistake. His father and brother are Grail Kings! (and his sons are all Christian as well in later editions). In earlier editions, Gawaine was also Pagan, which was abandoned.

Here I admit that you have a good case. Not that Pellinore is a good Christian, his lustful being legendary, but yes, I think this is the result of Greg's Grail Christianity having been Pagan + Christian in KAP 4. Looking at Pellinore's stats, Greg may have decided to make him a Pagan in KAP 5 without thinking about it more. Just my assumption. Lamorak and Percivale are both Christians.

Interestingly enough, Lot is a Pagan but Gawaine is Christian. Personally, I would not mind him staying a Pagan, thus giving the Pagan PKs someone of 'theirs' amongst the big names, but it is not a huge thing for me.

Also, you mention Lyonesse as a Pagan stronghold, but Tristram is written as a Christian in GPC... so maybe he should switch to a Pagan instead?

Edited by Morien

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8 hours ago, Morien said:

Also, you mention Lyonesse as a Pagan stronghold, but Tristram is written as a Christian in GPC... so maybe he should switch to a Pagan instead?

Tristram was raised in Brittany and in Gaul/France by Christians, so he ended up Christian (and is a not very good one, but as with Gawaine, respects Christian religious authority). However, the conversion of western Cornwall is synchronized in the saints' lives in that region with Arthur's reign (c.530ish), not much earlier. King Mark is a Christian, for example, but he is specifically described as a convert in saints' lives, while other semi-historical figures in the west like Teudar aren't Christian at all when Arthur is presented as a king. Thus it has an even better claim, historically, to be Pagan than Cambria.

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On 8/3/2019 at 9:13 PM, Atgxtg said:

Yuk, bath water tastes terrible.

You think you are joking, but the spring water at Bath does taste terrible and also has a brain eating amoeba living in the old Roman plumbing. 

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4 hours ago, albinoboo said:

You think you are joking, but the spring water at Bath does taste terrible

It should. Most mineral water does.

4 hours ago, albinoboo said:

and also has a brain eating amoeba living in the old Roman plumbing. 

It starved to death ages ago.

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On 8/4/2019 at 11:16 AM, jeffjerwin said:

Pellinore being Pagan has got to be a mistake. His father and brother are Grail Kings! (and his sons are all Christian as well in later editions). In earlier editions, Gawaine was also Pagan, which was abandoned.

Grail Knights are extremely rare in the early years (in my timeline), so he could be mistaken as a Pagan as he was not necessarily a good Grail Christian.  His being taken with the Questing Beast so fervently IMHO was a result of his negligence to his spiritual side. He was continuing questing for it and it took the form of the beast manifesting itself.  Of course, this is my interpretation to the entire side.  And since Pellinore's home is in northern Cambria, did not have to delve into it too much.

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6 hours ago, Hzark10 said:

Grail Knights are extremely rare in the early years (in my timeline), so he could be mistaken as a Pagan as he was not necessarily a good Grail Christian.  His being taken with the Questing Beast so fervently IMHO was a result of his negligence to his spiritual side. He was continuing questing for it and it took the form of the beast manifesting itself.  Of course, this is my interpretation to the entire side.  And since Pellinore's home is in northern Cambria, did not have to delve into it too much.

Pellinore was not a very religious fellow. I think that was a matter he left to Pelles. The Grail kings of course are not necessarily perfect, anyway. Both Pellinore and Palomides share an essential restlessness and inability to settle down, so that the Beast matches their weaknesses. Palomides displaces his frustration over his love for Isolt onto the Beast, and Pellinore his failures as a man (he pretty much abandons his family, both his siblings and his wife and children).

Edit: I have the Grail knights start out as eleven monk-soldiers (plus their king for twelve) in the mists of time, but as a dying order, represented by the 510s by Eliezer alone, in Arthur's day... Pellinor and at least one of his brothers failed the tests to be accounted one of them, showing the decline of their family.

Edited by jeffjerwin

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