kismet's world of darkness title

An Introduction to the Bahari

Bahari symbol: sacred owl

"May those who know me see the marks of biting
And bruises which betray a happy love!
In love I want to weep or see you weeping,
To agonize or hear your agony."
 -- Propertius

      Death and taxes are the two constants of life, or so we've told ourselves for centuries.  But there is another constant, a guarantee, really, that cannot be added to the joke, perhaps because of its ever present reality: the universal experience of pain.  Taxes come regularly every year, but actual death takes as long as a last breath - pain, on the other hand, can last for such a long time.  Small eternities can be filled with it, all the world can be warped with it, and nearly anything can be the cause of a sensation beyond definitive description.

      The fist in your face is pain, but so is the memory of a loved one gone forever.

      The angry words between friends, the terrible ache of icy water, the years of bruising, thankless labor - these things are also pain, despite their differences.

      The ruler across your wayward fingers is pain, and it is this pain that reminds you not to miss the note or tap the wrong lettered key again.  But we come to the heart of the matter so quickly.

      Pain is one of our first teachers.  We respond instinctively to it and come to live side by side with it, so that we do not see its power anymore.  It infests our education and our love rituals, brings order to our gatherings and rears its head in our religions - and this is not a coincidence. 

      There are some who have found pain to be our finest and most reliable teacher, the surest means to self-discovery, empowerment, and revelation.  They have found rapture while razing, wisdom in wounding and transcendence through torment.  They have tuned in to a doctrine that goes beyond simple sadomasochism, burning its way through every petty boundary we have erected between each other and within ourselves.  They believe that they walk in the footsteps of the first being to feel pain in this world and they embrace the lessons of Lilith.  And these are the Bahari.

      The followers of Lilith are everywhere.  Many don't even know what they worship in their heart of hearts, with their poems and their songs and their bloody fights.  But all you have to do is look around, and look a little deeply, to see the mindset of Lilith in the world.  The emphasis on pain as a constant, as a philosophy of life, as a pleasure, as a teaching method, as a tool, can be found anywhere you look.  Shopping malls, movie theaters, the neighbor's house, the church down the street are all touched by the undercurrent of such thoughts.  There is a little madness in everything, and in what is called madness lies wisdom.

The Riddle of the Dark Mother

      But what does this have to do with Lilith?  Who is she, and how does she enter the equation?  The first wife of Adam has become a household name in recent nights, but the supernatural creatures of the World of Darkness have spoken her name for millennia.  The mortals say that she was the first woman created by God and the first mate of Adam, but she was somehow dissatisfied.  She left the Garden of Eden of her own free will but Adam begged three angels to bring her back; when she refused, God cursed her to watch her children die.  Perhaps this led to the later tales in which Lilith was linked to female demons who preyed on pregnant women and infants.  Regardless, Lilith did not return to Adam and she bought her freedom with suffering - and the Bahari see an important grain of truth in such a story. 

      The stories of supernaturals vary widely but many speak of Lilith as an actual person with amazing powers.  Some have linked themselves directly to Lilith, like the mages who believe that she was the first to wield True Magick.  Others believe that they are indirectly related to her great power.  For centuries, many Kindred believed that Lilith was the proverbial mother of their kind, probably because of her portrayal in The Book of Nod.  In that revered tome of Kindred lore, Lilith acts as a mother would, taking pity on Caine after he is cursed by God and driven into the wilderness.  She offers him shelter, sustenance, and comfort, and when that is not enough she goes even further.  By drinking Lilith's blood, Caine is able to realize his disciplines and through her teaching he is able to learn Obfuscate, Dominate, and Presence.  The two mythic figures have a falling out before the tale is over but that hasn't stopped Cainites from revering her. 

      It can be argued that Lilith's appearance in The Book of Nod is designed to illuminate Caine more than the Dark Queen.  It has even been claimed that her appearance is falsified, that she is made into a narrative device and a puppet for Caine's glorification.  After all, she stands in as the mother that Caine has lost and he all but suckles at her teat so he can grow strong.  And in the end, Caine must disobey his mother figure and break away from Lilith's apron strings so that he can go forth and become his own man - it's classic storytelling.  But it's probably a far cry from what really happened.  Without the destructive side of her nature - without the language of pain - The Book of Nod's Lilith remains suspect. 

      But which Lilith is the right one?  In ancient times, a bloodline of vampires claimed to be the direct inheritors of Lilith.  These vampires were named for Lamia, their founder and highest priestess.  It was said that Lamia came from the mortal descendents of Lilith, down a long line of priestesses that followed their foremother's dark ways.  They hid their beliefs and rituals from outsiders, even the clan of vampires they served.  But the Lamia present more problems than answers for scholars of Lilith.  Why, for instance, did they serve the Cappadocians?  And why did they utterly fail to protect themselves against the onslaught of the Giovanni?  The Lamia are all but unheard of in the modern nights and all of their secrets died with them.  So what did they really know of Lilith?

      Any number of secret, rare texts have been written about Lilith, although no one knows who wrote them.  Were the Lamia responsible for the Testament of Lilith, or the Lilith Cycle?  Only fragments of these books remain and their authenticity is doubtful.  What about Revelations of the Dark Mother?  Revelations depicts Lilith as a woman of great mystical potential who ascends to power through hardship and suffering.  The early days of creation are retold with Lilith as the protagonist and she is violently wronged by the men around her, yet she finds her greatest strength through the tortures of living and she endures all.  Again, very good storytelling, but probably misleading.

      Many Bahari never see the written lore about Lilith and some have never heard of Lilith at all, yet they come to revere pain and they encounter a presence underneath their suffering.  No one is entirely sure why it happens, but most believe that you have to be ready to encounter Lilith.  It is not enough to suffer, or to suffer greatly, although great tragedy is usually the trigger.  It is likely that a Bahari will have their whole life swept away by agonizing circumstances and just when they are about to fall apart, they find that they are stronger than before, and they catch a glimpse of something that's beneath...well, everything.  Some hear the name of Lilith, or chanting in praise of her, coming out of thin air; others see a vision of a woman stumbling through a blinding desert, battered, bruised, and pregnant.  It is at this moment that they connect with Lilith, whether or not they ever learn her name, and it is this moment that makes a Bahari.

Bahari symbol: All Hail Lilith

The Many Faces of the Bahari

      The Bahari are distinguished by a point of view rather than blood relationships or magical powers, and thus the followers of Lilith come from virtually all walks of life.  It doesn't matter if you're a vampire, werewolf, or a mage - if you seek enlightenment through suffering and have felt the presence of the Dark Queen then you are a Bahari.  Of course, not everyone sees it that way.  There is no official church of Lilith nor is there a hierarchy, but some small groups insist that a person must be indoctrinated before they can be considered a true Bahari.  Most Bahari, however, are spread out across the world and many don't have contact with other worshippers of Lilith, so indoctrination isn't an option, nor is it important.  For many, indoctrination goes against the very notion of freedom that Lilith represents.  The lore isn't necessary, and neither is acceptance - the experience of Lilith goes beyond words.

      Still, the stories about Lilith persist and many Bahari believe in certain aspects.  Many vampiric Bahari believe that Lilith is opposed to Caine and that the children of Caine are ultimately inferior.  These believers often go through rituals to ally themselves with Lilith and they abandon their claims to Caine's legacy and to Caine's fate.  They vow that they will stand with Lilith when she rises to cleanse the world and to end it in pain and fire, in order to bring about something greater.  But many vampiric Bahari remain involved in Kindred politics and keep their knowledge to themselves.  While it is more difficult for a Bahari to keep the rules of the Camarilla it isn't impossible and some Bahari are quite comfortable in the Sabbat.  Amusingly enough, the Sabbat's sadism, violence, and aim to fight the Antediluvians suit the Bahari just fine.

Bahari in the Books

      White Wolf has virtually littered its products with references to Lilith, although many of these references are small and don't necessarily have much to do with gameplay.  She shows up often in Dark Ages books, most notably in the Dark Ages Companion, which outlines the Lamia.  There are several books that are of particular interest to those wishing to portray followers of Lilith, however.  Revelations of the Dark Mother provides an interesting mythology, cultural overview, and ideological background for the Bahari, which can be very useful for developing a character. 

      And then there are the two Paths of Lilith, each released in a different book and for a different edition of the game.  The first Path of Lilith can be found in Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand, which was made for second edition Vampire.  The trouble with this version is that it came about when White Wolf had a much fuzzier picture of what they wanted Lilith to be, so the path echoes other paths rather than creating its own image.  It most strongly resembles the Path of Caine in that its followers live apart from mortals, revere one mythic figure above all others, and serve the Black Hand the way that vampires on the Path of Caine serve the Sabbat.  Even more importantly, half of the hierarchy of sins for the Path of Lilith is lifted from the Path of Caine, with very few adjustments. 

      The second version of the Path of Lilith came later, after Revelations of the Dark Mother, in the Guide to the Sabbat, and it is largely based on the followers of Lilith as they are presented in Revelations.  This overall is a good thing and gives the path a lot of flavor.  The trouble with this path can be found in specific steps in the hierarchy of sins.  The first three steps are simple enough and they fit with the Bahari teachings well.  The fourth step, however, claims that the Bahari are not supposed to kill any being, since they can't learn from pain if they're dead.  While this has a certain logic, it undercuts the violent nature of the Bahari and forgets the opening of Revelations of the Dark Mother.  It also clashes with the fifth step, which claims that death is just a transition "to a new form of existence.  Death comes to all, in time" (143).  If death is simply a change from one life to another and a natural part of life, why would the Bahari hesitate to kill?  Another troublesome step in the hierarchy is step six, which places emphasis on Bahari gatherings.  Those who wish to play a solitary Bahari on the Path of Lilith might not care about rituals or gatherings, and why should they?

      I find that a mixture of the two paths reaps promising results and provides a more balanced opportunity for non-Sabbat vampires and mortals to live according to the precepts of the Bahari.  The chart below offers just such a mixture.  Selections from Dirty Secrets of the Black hand are in this color and selections from Guide to the Sabbat are in this color:

10

Failing to pursue new experiences which can bring enlightenment

9

Pursuing temporal wealth or power

8

Failure to test your own courage and weaknesses when given the opportunity

7

Fearing death

6

Helping others when it is not to your advantage

5

Feeling remorse for bringing pain to someone

4

Not killing a mortal when there is need to do so

3

Not seeking out the teachings of Lilith

2

Failing to dispense pain and anguish

1

Shunning pain

       For a great example of Bahari thought in action, click here

All red symbols on this page created by LdyMox

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