Fasts in the Growing City

Nothing more than a few fragments bear witness to the fasts of the Growing City; explanations of the voluntarily undertaken starvations are vague and contradict one another. We can take the primary reason to be dearth caused by poor harvests, which they tried to offset through some kind of spiritual ritual in the form of voluntary fasting. Alternately, they opted for a possible purging remedy out of fear of sicknesses. If after all we are to list the motives turning up among the fragments, we occasionally find them to be cloaked in a number of fallacies, among them the following fasts and reasons for them:

· Fast against fear of leprosy
· Fast to bring rain
· Necessary purge for initiation into manhood
· Fast for clear vision
· Fasting ritual at the waters

"Despise the person who eats like a pig, who belches disgustingly, who is naught but a container between meat and shit (sic). His life and holidays are dictated by the game he drags home from wood and meadow. By the spring sowing he is already dreaming and drooling over the end-of-year feast. His bloodshot eyes sparkle only when he eats, the death of the weak bloats his body. At unexpected times of dearth he bemoans his youth until Death comes to fetch him."

The above lines can be read on a little clay tablet listed as Find 115 from Sector C6 of the Growing City. The incomplete text which follows contains a description of the forty days of fasting. Fasting was somehow accompanied by a hermit-like existence, when lonely withdrawal, the selection of a satisfactory woodland clearing, perhaps the construction of a leafy covering or makeshift nest initiated spiritual preparation. Some kind of ritual bathing can also be envisaged at the beginning of the starvation. The spiritual journey progressed from visions induced through hunger to a kind of spiritual superiority (the slow ritualistic movements of the 'cranes dance' can also be traced back to this). After the forty days, thus cleansed and holding four small leafy twigs in their left hand, they made their way to the hall known as "the Hall of Self-Encounter". The reflection of their face in the bronze mirrors positioned in the indistinct light of the place, and the uncertain illumination, may have provided supported both regarding the questions of the day and decisions for the future. Communiqué by O. Günsberger in the "Vicenza notes", 1923.
Trumpet-blast carried in the wind
A late cricket's note sounds behind
Vagrant trudging on the highway
A frozen death is heralding him
(Children's verse from the area around the Growing City)

Shekil's fasting

...The beginning of fasting is indicated by the uncertain fluttering of the gossamer threads in the cool wind. You are called to fast by the yellow fig tree leaf crackling underfoot. You are summoned to fast by the rattling walnut in the stream water. The fast is shown by the timid flight of the robin as it bursts from the bush. The fasting is spoken by every lost cricket in the darkening corner of your room. When the oaks are battered by the wind and the great mountains hidden in dark cloud... when it helps that the night is long...
When the decision of the wise has been made, let the fast be announced by the loud lament of the shellhorn bringing you the dusk. Let this be the beginning of your fast. Take cool wine in a chalice and depart with the last taste upon your tongue. Go to the hidden bends in the stream, go to the clifftops, go to the darkness of the forest, go to the protection of roots...
Slow the course of blood in your veins, slow the inhalation of your lungs, slow the speed of your thoughts... Forget gold, and forget the gossiping babble of merchants, forget flame and forget frankincense, forget the ornamental gloom of halls, forget screams and laughter.
Fill your pitcher with the rivulet's water, your sack with raisins, your pot with honey...
When you reach the forest's deep, shunned even by the hunter, or the mountaintop girdled in fog… home of the never-nesting bird… Adopt the posture of the unborn child, and only when the first pangs of hunger attack you, only then can you begin to…

From this point it becomes impossible to put meaning to the clay tablets; they are incomplete and their exaggerated allusions are unsupported. More of the problem of the never nesting bird later...
Translated by S. J. Robin
You require water, as do your house
And your flocks as they bleat of thirst
Without water, you must harvest on your knees
For your crops will not reach your waist
You need rain to soak your flax
Rain for your heads of rye to stretch
Rain for yourself, a gently hissing
Dancing heavenly thread on your land
Splashing upon your fingertips,
Spreading a host of mirror-drips
(Translated by S. J. Robin)

The Fast of Tiluli awaiting the rain

When the sound of the fasting-horn calls you, depart singly, for you have resolved to answer the call. Tread the dry forest floor alone, whence the fungi have fled and the tiny forest folk die. Leave secret signs behind you, for your fasting may reach a dark end and the looming black hand of Haselrut snatch you up. Let downy feathers quiver on twigs. pebbles dangle from the end of threads, sharp sword slice into the bark so that your anxious son may come for you and your corpse not be scattered by the forest folk. So that the russet-furred fox plays not with your skull, or birds nest in your ribcage.
Take the rainmaker with you, though its sputtering sound but rarely aids; only hunger appeases the heavenly dwellers: petty magic enrages them. Go into the darkness where the ferns grow lush, build your nest where your supplication may be engendered.
Prepare your hands in expectance of rain, your palms to caress the rain, your throat to be beaten by the shower, your back...

Incomplete text fragment from Sector C2

N.B. It is likely that in years of drought supplications were made for rain with the aid of certain structures. The ritual did not demand words, but humility was recommended during the designated period. Arms with interlocked fingers were held uplifted above one's head towards the sky until a raindrop landed on one, thus making the fasting body a link between the heavenly beings and the earthly people awaiting rain.

The Rainwaiting tablets

or Rain-enticers

Rainwaiting tablet
ceramic, bronze, gold leaf · 10 × 32 × 50 cm
The elements of the structures assembled from fragments are strongly contested. Moreover, they often varied in size. From their formation we can infer variations carried by two or four servants, but assuredly there was a version dragged along alone. Their provenance is the northern side of the cisterns found by the City. It is likely that in dry years petitions for rain were made with the help of these structures. According to the assumptions of Thur-i-Lev (the noted orientalist), pumpkin skins were filled with fine sand and turned during the ritual – in this way the soft, swishing sound is evocative of slow, steady rain. The ritual did not require words, but a humble posture was advisable.
The form of the rain-enticer was ornamented by a surface representing waves on the water, or sometimes a drop water falling into a puddle. Some researchers believe the structure to be none other than a parapegma that has evolved into a kind of plastic. Plinius and Colamella cite it as an extremely important piece of equipment among bee-keepers and bird-catchers. These observations are preserved in some fragments caught in clumsy rhyme:
Owl to-whooing in the tower's ruins Good water swishing in your cistern
The harbinger of death is silent, only nods
While thirst tears at your craving throat

(Growing City Archive, Republic Gabion)
ceramics, wood, gold leaf · 26 × 22 × 27 cm