Dawn on the Tower

"In the dark of the longest and shortest nights of the year the High Priest shall make his way to the top of the tallest tower of the town, there to greet the dawn."

[Image of Priest atop radio tower]

In days of old the chosen tower was usually part of a local castle. In coastal towns the lighthouse often got the honor. But today there is more variety. Currently one sect in The Ancient City uses an antenna tower.

The choice of the antenna tower was not without controversy. Was it truly "the tallest tower of the town"? Would the radiation from all those transmitting antennas be dangerous? And even if it did technically meet the requirements of the ritual and even if it was safe enough for someone who was up there only a few hours twice a year, all that newfangled technological stuff just didn't feel right to some folks.

The tower is a few miles south of town, right on the edge of the Plateau. The Scientists who built the tower chose the location because it provided good coverage of both the Upper City and the Lower City as well as the surrounding countryside. And at the time it was in an area of low land prices, well away from any immediate neighbors who might be bothered by too strong a signal. Thus it was a very good place to put an antenna tower.

But is it a good place to conduct the twice-yearly dawn ritual? Some believe that the ritual requires a tower within the actual town limits, even if there are none there nearly as tall as the antenna tower.

And does it really count as a "tower"? The structure in question is a slender latticework of metal, held upright by guy wires. Such things did not exist when the ancient commandments were first handed down. To the first High Priests the word for "tower" would have evoked an image of a skyward-pointing finger of masonry, or perhaps something constructed of sturdy timbers. Would the ritual be somehow less valid if performed atop a thing that could not stand unaided?

The priests tried to settle the arguments by doing what priests have done since time immemorial: Ask their gods. But the gods did not agree either. Some wanted their priests to stand on sturdy time-honored stone. Others wanted whatever structure was tallest, no matter what it was made of or what kept it erect. Some wanted to be honored in the midst of the bustling city. Others wanted to go wherever they could first catch the rays of the rising sun, even if that was somewhere outside town. And so on, on and on.

So the priests of those gods that care about marking the seasons did and do all these things. On the mornings of the longest and shortest days of the year you will see the ancient ritual enacted atop the antenna tower, and also at the old stone lighthouse at the river mouth, and at one of the guard towers overlooking the old trails down from the Plateau, and sometimes even atop the tallest mast of the tallest ship that happens to be moored in the harbor. Each High Priest does it in a different place, and in a slightly different way, in communion with different gods.

And thus are all the gods honored.

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