Saturday, April 6, 2013

Saintly Saturday: St. Methodius Archbishop of Moravia

Today is the feast of St. Methodius, Equal to the Apostles and Archbishop of Moravia, Enlightener of the Slavs. This ninth century saint was born into an illustrious family in Thessaloniki along with his younger brother Constantine (who would become known as St. Cyril). Early in his life, he served as a soldier in a Slavic speaking region dependent upon the Byzantine Empire. This is where he most likely learned to speak Slavonic. After serving for about 10 years, he received a monastic tonsure and retired to a monastery at Mt. Olympus, where he was joined by his brother Cyril.

These two brothers, however, were soon summoned to become missionaries to the Slavic peoples, due, in large part, to the knowledge St. Methodius had of their language and culture. The two brothers would go on to translate the Gospel, Epistles, Psalter, and collected services, into the Slavic tongue using an alphabet they devised based upon what knowledge they had of the Slavic written language. This alphabet is known as Glagolitic. Their disciples would later refine the alphabet and it would become known as Cyrillic (after St. Cyril) and is still the alphabet used in the national languages of Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Mongolia, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, Tajikistan and Ukraine.

St. Methodius would outlive his brother, who died in Rome while the two defended their use of Slavonic to the bishop of Rome. The two had come into conflict with German bishops who insisted that there were only three holy languages: Greek, Hebrew and Latin. Sts. Cyril and Methodius would say:
You only recognize three languages in which God may be glorified. But David sang, ‘Praise the Lord, all nations, praise the Lord all peoples (Ps 116/117:1).’ And the Gospel of St Matthew (28:18) says, ‘Go and teach all nations....’
St. Methodius would spend the rest of his life in conflict with German bishops over this and other issues. He died on this day in A.D. 885.

Thus, these two saints stand as champions of preaching the Gospel in the language of the people. Anyone who insists upon a particular language or particular translation (in the case of English) stand in contradiction to these two great saints. Thus, I am sore tempted to play with language.

What follows is a language I have dubbed VOX, which is Latin for utterance which happens to be the meaning of the root of Glagolitic. I have taken various characters from several versions of early Slavonic and assigned them to various sounds in English. Thus, it can be used to write out code for the purpose of having cool looking props at an RPG table:

For example, a Protection from Evil scroll might be labelled thusly:

In addition, I have devised a way to use the VOX alphabet to duplicate something akin to the Greek numeric system:

Besides the normal treasure map or riddle that would look cool using VOX, I also think it might be fun to introduce new spells using VOX. When a player finds a scroll, hand them the spell and its mechanics in VOX. Personally, I would find such a spell a whole lot more precious because I would have earned it.


  1. I see a spelling mistake in the scroll. I love the idea though! A whole lot of fun to be had. I used to (many years ago) write using FUTHARK runes.

  2. You've touched on several of my "geek loves," here: history, languages, alphabets, props at the game table. I love the idea of introducing a new ("ancient, forgotten") spell to the game via a scroll the players really do have to transliterate.