Saturday, July 7, 2012

Saintly Saturday: St. Kyriake the Great Martyr

Today is the feast of St. Kyriake the Great Martyr. The title Great Martyr is given to those saints who had to endure many tortures prior to their death. St. Kyriake was originally accused by a pagan suitor who, out of rage for being rejected, turned the saint and her family into Emperor Diocletion. Seeing her beauty and the wealth of her parents, Diocletion attempted to convince St. Kyriake to renounce Christ. Even after a severe beating, she refused. After this, she was shipped to various places in the Empire to be tortured and tempted.

She ended up in Nicomedia (in modern day Turkey), where she was hung in the air by her hair and burned with torches. This only seemed to make her stronger in her faith. Indeed, Christ visited her in a vision and healed her wounds. Finally, her torturers gave up and scheduled her to be decapitated; however, during a prayer just prior to her execution, she gave up her soul in peace in the year A.D. 300.

The name Kyriake literally means The Lord’s Day (Sunday) and reminds me of a level of campaign detail that I usually neglect, but wish I didn’t — time and calendars. Although, in theory, such detail allows for player immersion into the game world, in practice I always find that our conception of time is so ingrained that alternate names of days and months tend to take players out of the world rather than farther into it. I always end up redefining these names and time frames back into our own. Therefore, I don’t usually bother.

However, I am reminded by St. Kyriake, St. Paraskeve (the Day of Preparation or Friday) and St. Sabbatius (the Sabbath or Saturday) that Greek does have an alternate system for naming days that isn’t too outside our own experience of time to take us out of a game world.

For the most part, the days of the week are simply numbers. For example, Monday is the Second Day (of the week). Friday (the Day of Preparation) refers to the Jewish practice of doing all the work for Saturday in preparation for not working on the Sabbath — the Seventh Day on which God rested. Sunday (the First Day) is called the Lord’s Day because it is the day of the Resurrection.

This method implies a simple way to tell time that will be easy to associate with our own experience. Months can be replaced with familiar time frames such as seasons (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter) and days can be named by number — the Second Day of Spring, for example. Alternatively, months could be replaced by the cycles of the moon. Days could be numbered either according to the New Moon or the Full Moon (this could be particularly useful if the world has a magic system tied to the phases of the moon).

Personally, I would be tempted to combine the two. To keep it simple, each season would have three moons. Days could be named thusly: The Second Day of the First Moon of Spring. For those interested in maintaining the idea of weeks, there can be 28 days every moon. Thus, the first, eighth, fifteenth and twenty-second days are the Lord’s Day.

As a curiosity, this system would have 336 days in a year, 84 days per season, and (assuming the days are numbered from the New Moon), Pascha (Easter) would always fall on the Fifteenth Day (or Third Lord’s Day) of Spring — the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.


Desert Scribe said...

I think Portugese also calls days of the week by their number.

I'd keep the idea named weekdays, whatever you decide to call them. I read on Wikipedia that pretty much every culture had a seven-day week, with one day set aside for chores and the next for worship.

Anthony said...

Yep, Portuguese uses numbers for names, except for Sunday, which is "Domingo." Thus Monday is Segunda-feira ("Second Day"), Tuesday is Terça-feira ("Third Day"), &c. It's a neat language with some interesting grammatical oddities, such as a personal infinitive.

I've used calendars extensively in both my Greyhawk (AD&D) and Old World (WFRP) campaigns and found they helped create a sense of immersion. Players had copies at the table, which helped them use it in character. Particularly the clerics, since I would include holy days.

Necropraxis said...

This is a great way of handing time flow that doesn't require players to remember too many details about the setting. I'll probably use something similar for the OD&D setting I am working on.

Flambeaux said...

I've used the Roman Kalendar system (Kalends, Nones, & Ides) before successfully. It's just different-enough without being completely foreign.

I usually combine it with the monastically modified intraday timekeeping of the Romans: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline.