Monday, August 22, 2022

A Conreligious Practice: Alphabetic Thread Manipulation

Among some of the more ritualistic Bryatesle-Dairwueh religions, a devotional practice involving strings of wool and the hand has developed.

Strings (regionally, this varies from ribbons of about half an inch width to actual strings) are wrapped around the hand in order to imitate the shapes of letters.

Words are written through repeated application of this. This is done in order to emphasize important words in a prayer or meditation. Very few would write an entire sentence this way, but sometimes, groups collaborate in writing full hymns on their hands.


The first  main difference is between ribbon-users and string-users. Naturally, ribbons and strings behave slightly differently, with ribbons not permitting quite as sharp 'turns', thus leading to significant differences in the notional 'fonts' they use.

Not a single tradition tolerates both ribbons and strings; they all are strictly one or the other. All manner of justifications for their favoured type exist. Their opinion of the other group is not violently hostile, but always somewhat negative. However, negative opinions may exist between different groups that share the ribbon (or string), and sometimes over purely technical details: linen vs. wool, blue vs. red, patterned or plain ribbon, woven or crotcheted ribbons, single thread or three threads? All threads of the same colour or different colours?

Ribbon-users tend to have different colours on the two sides, and they may consider which side is visible to be of some importance. Ribbons can also use folds that are difficult to form with strings. Strings can have tighter loops.

Weaving beneath and above fingers, forming angles, using the palm, etc are all parts of this. Both sides of the hand are used in some varieties, whereas in some, only one side is used.

In some traditions, letters are also tied with strings around the hands of the dead, usually one letter on top of the other, so that the outermost letter is the first letter of the word. Which words are used tends to vary strongly.

Really strict beliefs

Although these practices are far from universal, in some areas they are considered important. Special importance is ascribed to the letters tied on the hands of the dead, and they are often considered passwords for the afterlife. (The tradition, however, rather seems to have originated as a way of conveying messages to angels and relatives and God himself, rather than as passwords.)

This of course may cause problems for people who lose a hand or who have lost fingers. Losing a hand in such a way that the hand is physically 'available' often leads to performing this ritual before burying the hand. Some traditions are strict about which hand the letters should be formed on, and so losing 'the other hand' may be less important. In traditions where which particular hand it is doesn't matter so much, it still happens that people bury the first hand with letters in case the other were to be entirely lost in the future.

Loss of fingers may also cause issues, and grafting wooden sticks into the hands of the dead as a solution occurs. Entire wooden hands are often sometimes used.

Further developments

Hand-shaped growths on trees sometimes get similar words tied o nthem. These are not of a sign-post nature (signposts are either cut out or chiseled or some other method), but purely ritualistic. Such growths are sometimes also buried as a message to the other side.

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