City altars

Another interesting things from the cities of the West African forest: archaeological evidence from one city shows that there were altars built right at the side of their paved roads. That made me think of this:

Lovecraft's fountain

Lovecraft's fountain

This is a fountain in Providence, RI, H. P. Lovecraft’s home town and where I lived as a teenager. Local legend has it that if you drink from this fountain, you will return to Providence – and that Lovecraft drank of it before he went to New York, which is why he is buried in Providence.

African Civilizations by Graham Connah

African Civilizations by Graham Connah

What ritual purpose could require altars at every roadside? Perhaps to consecrate some common pedestrian activity. Maybe you touch a statue of the God of Roads before you cross the street? Wash your hands in a ritual fountain after contact with a stranger? Bless any money you receive before you accept it? Each of these would reveal different civic preoccupations.


3 Responses to “City altars”

  1. Sean Holland says:

    Good questions and a nice, simple way to build on a culture being visited.

  2. Spiralbound says:

    One would need to also consider some of the practicalities as well when designing such a cultural trait. For example, if the locals touch a holy statue before crossing any road, then do they only crss streets at certain locations, or are there street-crossing holy statures every 20-50 feet along every road of the city? Either way you decide will bring additional questions to answer. If only certain locations or certain roads feature the statues, then what are the social and religious consequences of crossing the street in an “unholy” manner? Are only certain people required to touch the statue for crossing streets? Is there another type of blessing that people can pay for at a temple every month or so to clense themselves of the spiritual damage they’ve accumulated from crossing streets without touching a holy statue? Is it even legal to cross the street without touching the statue? And so on… MANY additional cultural features can come of further consideration of just what consequences each cultural invention would have.

  3. paul paul says:

    Agreed. And if the city is rich enough to build statues at every crosswalk, that tells us that they are rich, fanatical, or both. Or else they’re really cheesy tiny statues.

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