Postfest V, Part II: Berceuse, the Song of Osprem
Date: Tue, August 09, 2005
Topic: Gods & Followers
Berceuse, the Song of Osprem, is a ceremonial holiday, as opposed to a festival, which is performed to calm the seas. For most worshipers of the goddess, it is aimed at the rages of sea god Procan, so as to lull him to sleep.
POSTFEST: Berceuse, the Song of Osprem
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
One winter night, bundled in fur with a basket of fish, Karl Jaggerson, a young boy of the Fruztii, waded through a blizzard and snow drifts to reach a cave near the shores of his village. The other boys of his clan had taunted him for asking such a stupid question. His uncle had smacked the back of his head. But he would show them. He would brave an encounter with the sage-seer Volf Wandering Eye, who lived in the sacred cave and ask him, “Why do the elders put a longship to sea in the middle of a storm only to pound Maiden-hair drums and return to the shore?”
The boy did just that. He handed over the fish, but insolently stared down the wiseman from across a hearth-fire. But Volf said, “I will not tell you. Heh! What do you think of that? Instead, I will tell you how the heathens far to the south celebrate Berceuse, the Song of Osprem. Then, you can figure out the answer to your question yourself, and your clan will be asking YOU questions.” Volf laughed to himself, knowing that he was torturing the boy and that the boy in his turn would get tired of the questions of others. But he also knew the boy would be better off for it. Wisdom must be bought, he thought, even when the trade and the trader, were small.
Volf Wandering Eye, looked into the fire and recited his knowledge:
“Berceuse, the Song of Osprem, is a ceremonial holiday, as opposed to a festival, which is performed to calm the seas. For most worshipers of the goddess, it is aimed at the rages of sea god Procan, so as to lull him to sleep. They say his rages are manifested through the cyclone season, called Storm Lords (FN1), in the southern seas of the Flanaess.
“To cause such effect, the ceremony is performed beginning Waterday the 26th through the 28th of Patchwall, with a community celebration sometimes held on Startday, the 1st of Ready’reat corresponding with the annual end of the Storm Lords. Whether Berceuse is solely a church ceremony or involves some community celebration depend largely on the local whether and influence of the church. Communities that have frequently experienced the threat of storms and broadly worship Osprem typically celebrate the end of the season at the conclusion of Berceuse.
“While not universally accepted, at this late date following the Migrations of the Suel and Oerid, it is widely and falsely believed where these bloodlines have mixed that our beneficent Suloise goddess Osprem is the wife of the seemingly uncaring Oeridian god Procan. Procan, it is said, in addition to Osprem’s protective father, Xerbo, as you know, is the source of storms. In areas other than around the southern seas, such as here along the coasts of the Thillonrian peninsula, where Suloise blood runs thick and worship of Xerbo is favored over Procan, Osprem is not seen as the wife of Procan, but a dutiful if somewhat wayward daughter, who sings her father to sleep when necessary to calm storms. Regardless of whether one or the other belief is accepted, it is agreed by all worshipers of Osprem that it is by her voice that the savages seas are calmed.
“Travelers tell that the village of Garrotten on the Lendor Isle provides one of the more elaborate examples of how the Berceuse is performed. Other communities vary the ceremony. It begins with a ritualized somber parade, followed by a public proclamation (FN 2) by the church:
Another storm brewing;
I hear it sing in the wind:
Yond same black cloud, yond huge one,
Looks like a foul bombard that would shed his liquor.
If it should thunder as it did before,
I know not where to hide my head:
Yond same cloud cannot choose but fall in torrent.
She will deliver all; and promise you calm seas,
Auspicious gales and sail so expedite.
“Following this proclamation, the clergy then undertake a three day long ritual involving long monotonous singing and sacrifice of herb-infused wine (chamomile and others more potent), which is poured into the waters. Although they are not excluded from church during the ceremony, few non-clergy attend as invariably they fall asleep in the pews. The singing in aid of Osprem is intended to help put a deity to sleep, so it is not surprising, or socially awkward, that it would have the same effect on mortals. Osprem help the cleric, however, that cannot keep his eyes open, unless, of course he be the high priest.
“The common folk participate in their own way, typically by adding to their prayers a simple lullaby such as “Stay Your Wrath” (FN 3):
Stay your wrath, ease your storm
To but ripples be transformed
Her bosom’s your bed
There pillow your head
If She will, you shall wake
But for now sleep for Her sake
“While Osprem is perhaps the most widely worshiped deity in Garrotten, she is not the only one. Furthermore, the Storm Lords have less destructive effect upon the Lendor Isle in comparison to, for example, the Lordship of the Isles and the County of Sunndi, being north, rather than northeast of the Oljatt Sea along their typical trajectory in the late season. In Garrotten, although there are frequent storms, they are usually, but not always, less severe. Whether or not this is solely a product of geography, it is attributed by most to the efficacy of Berceuse. Community celebrations on the 1st of Ready’reat are not as extensive as they could be. Usually they are little more than indulging at the local inn with the help of a few of bottles of herb-infused wine that did not make it to the sacrifice.
“There! Now you have bought something with your basket of fish.” Volf Wandering Eye looked away from the fire to the young Karl Jagerson. The boy had fallen asleep, curled up in a ball. Of course, he would care nothing of somber rituals in the south. He wanted grow up, earn the respect of his people and plunder such places. “Old fool”, Volf said to himself, “now you will have to give him back one of his fish for breakfast.” Wisdom is bought, he though, and he laughed again as he too went to sleep thinking of how the boy would be telling his friends tomorrow of how crazy old Wandering Eye had put a spell on him and showed him a vision of his future plundering the rich southern city state of Gar-Odin and carrying away slaves and casks of magical wine.
FN 1 The Storm Lords of Oerth: Part 1, by Kalem at Canonfire!,
FN 2 Modified from Shakespeare’s Tempest - Act 2, Scene II and Act 5, Scene I
FN 3 Modified from Brahms’ Lullaby
Module L2 The Assassin’s Knot
Living Greyhawk, the Free State of Onnwal, Major Deities, Osprem
Osprem, The Sea Princess