|The Star Goddess|
On a certain summer night, when the moon is heavy with light, and the star winds blow and scatter their glimmerings in a great river of light across the sky, the clashing of timbrels and the cries of women in ekstasis will arise in the city. On this night, the central mystery of the Beautiful Life will once more be ritually played out atop the highest hill, in full view of the stars, as it is done every year, and ever has been, and ever shall be.
The women of the city who are members of the cult--they call themselves the Beautiful--will gather in the the market in answer to the cries and the clash of the timbrels. Others will come as well; Elves, as fellow star-children, will be found in their midst; hangers-on who know of the revelry to come, will wait nearby to follow the procession and join in the celebrations after the mystery ritual is complete; and some few men who have been selected to join in the ritual and the revelry, and who are already swaying, drunk from wine, will have already gathered in the square with the priestesses.
Thus assembled, the entire group will process forth through the city, led by priestesses raising the thyrsus-staves, accompanied by girls bearing jars of wine and of water, all chanting incantations to the Star Goddess and her lover, and banging their timbrels and drums. Any who are to be initiated that night go silently, draped in heavy black robes that hide their features, while those who are already initiated have painted themselves with vibrant colors, and adorned their wrists, arms, ankles and waists with silver and gold while their bodies are decked with robes and dresses of every hue.
"We R Who We R!" sings the procession, proclaiming to themselves and to the world their intent to live to the fullest, to fulfill their own desires, and to love themselves as they are. "Got that glitter on our eyes, stockings all ripped up the sides, looking sick and sexified! ... We're dancing like we're dumb, bodies going numb, we'll be forever young ..."
That, and "Take It Off", singing, "There's a place downtown where the freaks all come around, there's a hole in the wall, it's a dirty free for all ... When the dark of the night comes around, that's the time that the animal comes alive looking for something wild ..."
Singing all the way, the procession of the Beautiful march and dance and sway in wine-drunkenness out from the city, marching through half the night until they come to the place of their secret and sacred rites. This is a hill somewhere in the hinterlands, high enough to be close to the stars, and broad enough at its crest thereon to hold a wild revelry. In the days before, a great bonfire has been built up by the women of the cult; but it remains unlit yet, as the cult gathers atop the hill, and the hangers-on wait beneath the crest, afraid of the consequences of profaning the mysteries with uninitiated eyes. (For indeed, they have heard what happens to those who are too eager to join ... "Cannibal" -- "I eat boys up, breakfast and lunch, then when I'm thirsty, I'll drink their blood ... Carnivore, animal, I am a cannibal, I eat boys up, you better run")
The first thing that must be done is the initiation of new members. Before the pyre is lit, in the darkness that represents the darkness of death whence the Star Goddess was born, and shall ever be born again and again until the end of all things, the initiates are brought forward in their black robes. The priestess sings to them ("Rainbow"), singing about needing to emerge from the darkness--"I used to live in the darkness, dress in black, act so heartless; but now I see that colors are everything; got kaleidoscopes in my hairdo, got back the stars in my eyes, too, and now I see the magic inside of me."
In the process of this chant, the priestess removes the black robes, until the initiates stand naked before the cult; then, as the pyre is lit, the Beautiful step forward to paint the initiates' skin with paints of red and blue and every hue, and to adorn them with silver and gold, and to wrap their bodies in brilliant robes, which will all stand forth in full color as the pyrelight climbs higher. The initiates are asked to recite the tenets of the Star Goddess and the Beautiful Life--the answers to these questions are found in a number of songs they would have learned back in the city, and sung to themselves to retain their mysteries.
The tenets are:
First, all that matters is the Beautiful Life--life should be a striving toward transcendence, especially through drinking, dancing, and sex, but really through any activity that fills a body with joy. ("All That Matters (The Beautiful Life")
Secondly, be an Animal and a Warrior--love yourself for who you are, not for who you "should" be (this is essentially a basic tenet of Chaos, so it should be obvious at this point that this is a Chaos cult)
Thirdly, the fulfillment of the Beautiful Life is to find and join with the Lover. There are entire myth and poetic cycles of the Star Goddess and her Lover, reincarnated over and over again through vast epochs, ever seeking each other out. This Lover is usually depicted as a man (or especially as a dragon when the Joy he/it represents is more metaphorical), but sometimes the sexes are reversed, and the Star Goddess is a kind of king over the stars, and her lover is the female moon, pregnant with light ... essentially, any imagery can stand in here; the point is that a soul is reincarnated over and over again until it can finally fulfill itself in the Beautiful Life ... "Past Lives" is the best articulation of this idea ("We were lovers in a past life, I can see it in your green eyes; maybe you were one of my wives in a long lost tribe ...")
Lastly, that fulfillment is in the return to the Stars (whence all souls are born) and thence the rebirth of the Star Goddess and another cycle of new souls seeking the Beautiful Life, best expressed in the song "Spaceship" ("I'm waiting for my spaceship to come back for me ... look up in the sky and there they'll be, I bet you'll think of me ...")
Once the initiates have sufficiently expressed their understanding of these mysteries, they step back and join the rest of the Beautiful, and join them in two songs, one "Praying," a prayer that is a rejection of the dominance of the Lawful cults, which they see as constricting the ability of human souls to fulfill the Beautiful Life with all their emphasis on duties, self-restraint, marriage, etc. And then they sing a "Hymn" for themselves, which is a full exaltation in their own Beauty and perfectness as they are, and in their seeking for their own ultimate fulfillment.
And then, of course, they TAKE IT OFF! Wine flows, and is cast into the fire as a sacrifice to the Star Goddess, who looks down in gladness from the stars above; incense is burned, and cannabis and opium imbibed; clothes come off, the drums beat to the beat of the heart, bodies writhe, cries of ekstasis and enthusiasmus are raised to the stars and their eternal light. All inhibitions are forgot. All that occurs here is sanctioned by the Star Goddess; taboos are overturned; only excess is sacred.
It is this point at which the hangers-on ascend to the hilltop, to partake in the revelry, which continues until morning, or even well into the next day and evening. Naturally, there are consequences--legendary hang-overs; men and women dead or mad from wine-sickness; unintended pregnancies. But though Lawful authorities hate these revels, they fear to punish those who return, for fear of the anger of the Goddess and her maenads ... certain tyrants in the past have sought to quash the secret rites, and have then ended up in the midst of the revelries themselves, wine-mad, and finally torn limb from limb by the ekstatic Beautiful ...
|A man being torn apart by bacchantes (Tiresias, actually)|
This cult being Chaotic, it is entirely reasonable for non-initiated but Chaotic characters to act as hangers-on, to follow the procession out into the hills, and to wait until the mysteries are completed, but then to join in the wild revelry thereafter. I would treat this as carousing, but at double or triple the normal xp for the normal cost, and probably come up with a unique table to roll for failures ... sounds like a future blog post, anyway.
Chaotic women may, of course, also just join the cult as initiates. If they do so, they may attend the revelry, gain triple xp, and not suffer any mishaps (not the first time, at least ...)--and yes, this is a female-only cult. In the future, I may write a secondary male cult--or write up rules for male priests like those of Cybele who would castrate themselves--but for now, the Cult of the Beautiful is women-only.
And obviously, attending these rites in any matter as a non-Chaotic comes with consequences. A character neutral in regard to Law and Chaos who joins in the revelry must thereafter be considered Chaotic--they have fully engaged with the raw energy of Chaos, and though they may not be of the Beautiful, they are now aligned against the Lawful cults. As for Lawfuls to attend the revels and enjoy themselves, that is a serious breach of their own alignment, and they must seek atonement from some character of higher rank within the Lawful cults--and they gain no xp bonuses or alignment benefits from Lawfulness until they atone, as well as some other appropriate penalty, e.g. clerics losing their spells, or a curse laid upon a fighter by his god for his failure.
Lastly, I should mention that there is another, rival cult, the House of Gog, whose members call themselves Monsters ... I have little to say concerning this cult at the moment ...
... and there are a couple lesser disciples of such Dionysian revelries and lyric poetry--Katherine of Perrin, and Cyris of Milyta--who are semi-Sapphic, and whose lyrics echo both cults (of the Beautiful Life, and of the House of Gog); and yet neither of which have quite the same following ...
I'll probably be coming up with some kind of random table for things one might see/find at a bacchanal of the Cult of the Beautiful, probably along the lines of Jesse Goldshear's Otter Bacchanalia, which is great, and you should check it out! ... but piecing together the tenets of this Ke$ha cult has taken up too much space yet.