Saturday, January 7, 2012

Saintly Saturday: The Synaxis of St. John the Baptist

Today is the Synaxis of St. John the Baptist. A synaxis is a gathering. After major feasts, there is a gathering of the various saints associated with the feast the next day. Thus, December 26th is the Synaxis of the Virgin Mary. Since yesterday was the feast of Epiphany (the baptism of Christ), today is the Synaxis of St. John — the one who baptized Christ.

As an aside, I am always struck by the hymns that are sung at this time of year. Various aspects of nature get anthropomorphized:
Jordan River, tell us do: What did you see and were amazed? I saw naked Him whom none can see, and shuddered in fear. And how was I not to shudder at Him and be frightened? The Angels, when they saw Him also shuddered in awe. And heaven was astonished, and astounded was earth. The sea recoiled along with all things both visible and invisible. For Christ appeared in the River Jordan, to sanctify the waters.
It is a reminder that Christ willingly uses His creation as active participants in his salvific work. Despite the fact that water is one of the most deadly and destructive forces in nature, despite the fact that the cross is one of the most heinous tools of torture and death devised by man, Christ chose to use both. It is this fact that drives me to play RPGs the way that I do. There is no part of creation where Christ does not belong and that He cannot transform into resurrection.

One of the more interesting traditions of Orthodox Christianity at this time of year the the Great Blessing of the Waters. In places with larger Orthodox communities, this blessing will take place at rivers, lakes and oceans. A cross will be thrown into the waters and young men and women will dive in to try and be the one to retrieve it. Those that do receive a special blessing for the coming year.

This past summer, I came up with some random tables to come up with various festivals that could populate an RPG world. Given that post was also inspired by one of the many days of the year dedicated to St. John the Baptist, I thought I’d expand on that table. The following is designed to come up with unusual traditions that can accompany said feasts and festivals:


  1. Combat
  2. Move
  3. Find
  4. Retrieve
  5. Defeat
  6. Race
  7. Speak with
  8. Journey
  9. Destroy
  10. Trap
  11. Sacrifice
  12. Explore


  1. Holy Symbol
  2. Undead
  3. Magic/Magic Item
  4. Child
  5. Gem or Jewel
  6. Class (1=Fighter; 2=Magic-User; 3=Cleric; 4=Thief)
  7. Demi-Human Race (1=Dwarf; 2=Elf; 3=Halfling)
  8. Exotic Animal
  9. Exotic Plant
  10. Maiden
  11. Construct
  12. Monster


  1. Mountain
  2. Ruins
  3. Bazaar
  4. Castle
  5. Battlefield
  6. Temple
  7. Woods
  8. Desert
  9. Cave
  10. Body of Water
  11. Tomb
  12. Dungeon

I have left these tables kind of vague so that it is possible to come up with several variations for each result. This allows some flexibility so that the feast and the tradition don’t need to be incongruous. For instance, let us take the example feast from original tables (The Discovery of the Skull of the Mother of a Regional Saint) with the rolls on these tables of 11, 4 and 1. Sacrificing a child on a mountain does really fit; however a child making a sacrifice on a mountain does.

Of course, these tables can be expanded or modified to better meet your particular idiosyncrasies. Have fun.

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