Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saintly Saturday: St. Daniel the Stylite

Today is the Feast of St. Daniel the Stylite. The title "Stylite" comes from an unusual form of monasticism. It is the ascetic practice of living on a pillar. St. Daniel was encouraged from a young age to the monastic lifestyle by his parents and he willingly was tonsured at the age of 12 after running away from home in order to join a monastery.

After many years living in a monastery and as an abbot, he met with St. Symeon the Stylite. Moved, he asked the monk's blessing to follow his way of life; however, it wasn't until he was forty-two that he was visited by Symeon in a dream, where he was commanded by the great stylite to imitate his struggle atop a pillar.

Known as a great healer, St. Daniel spent the rest of his thirty-three years atop one of three different pillars.

I find this image of the stylite to be wonderfully exotic. It is so alien, and yet historical. What a wonderful way to add strangeness to the RPG fantasy world (or any RPG world, for that matter) — important clerics, monks or other figures of authority live standing on pillars. To add further strangeness, they could, like Daniel, be atop any number of pillars in different parts of the world. No one knows exactly which one is currently occupied, and no one ever sees the stylite move from one to the other.

Such an encounter could very well end up being a series of wilderness adventures. Give the stylite a unique piece of information or a spell that the characters need. Then they have to travel to the one of the places where a pillar is, which may or may not be occupied. When the stylite is finally found, he could demand that the characters prove themselves worthy and send them off on another adventure. Then the whole process begins again.

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