Monday, October 29, 2018


Art by James Jacques Joseph Tissot

In Lou Keep's The Use and Abuse of Witchdoctors for Life, he describes the real life use of substances called Gri-Gri:

"In 2012, the recipe for gri-gri was revealed to an elder in a dream. If you ingest it and follow certain ritual commandments, then bullets cannot harm you. The belief is puzzling, inasmuch as bullets did seem to keep killing people. More puzzling: not only did it survive, it was adopted by many neighboring villages, cities, and regions. 'Why?'"

The article then goes on to explain dynamics of social cooperation and talk about the value of believing things that aren't true, but that will not be the subject of this post. Instead, I want to talk about the use of Gri-Gri in Holy Selmat. It goes by another name, but its fundamentally similar. This is not a game of paladins but practitioners: individuals who create and use a holy drug, held to certain moral laws, in exchange for divine powers.

No one knows who first created Gri-Gri. There are many myths. Four centuries ago, the Sainted Ehud created many new kinds, so it is at least that old. Six centuries ago, the Sainted Elijah was allowed into the city of Skarbor, whose seers were learned in the chemic, so it is at least that old. There are many kinds. Some chemists (who in other worlds would be anti-paladins) must follow commandments of cannibalism and desecration. Others follow other laws. The commandments of the practitioners are always inconvenient, and there are always at least three. Discovering a new skew of Gri-Gri is valuable treasure to a practitioner, not only because it might give them new abilities but because it demands different commandments.

If a practitioner lapses in their commandments, they are unclean and must purify themselves in a simple ritual. They cannot use their powers for at least 24 hours. Below are the "default" gri-gris used by the most important religions near Selmat.

Practioners of Occulat:
Must remain silent every seventh day. On all other days, must compose a verse or measure in remembrance. Must only eat seeds and meat. Indiscretion is a mortal sin. Additionally, you can see around corners but dead bodies are unclean to you.

Practitioners of Rektrine:
Must drink saltwater daily and only travel by starlight. Must keep a servant. Gullibility is a mortal sin. Additionally, you have an affinity with lions but the touch of a wolf is unclean and they will seek you out.

Practitioners of Noryawes:
Must obey all laws and break bread daily. Must mark yourself with the blood of a relative. Betrayal is a mortal sin. Additionally, menstruation is unclean but if you would become pregnant, you instead become more powerful for what the length of the pregnancy would have been.

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