Friday, November 18, 2011

Persons of Interest: Saint Moses the Black

In Wednesday's post about the Yogi class at Dungeons & Digressions, I made reference to Milarepa, a Tibetan ascetic who began his life as an evil sorcerer.  After taking revenge on his aunt and uncle by leveling their house and village with hailstones, he repented and spent the next several years seeking enlightenment.

Of course, that story reminded me of the tale of Saint Moses the Black.

St. Moses the Black

Like Milarepa, Saint Moses is another historical figure with a checkered past.  As with Milarepa, I include him here because he's interesting, and because learning history and world culture is good for you.  Also, if you want an interesting backstory for your cleric, or an interesting possible future for your cutpurse or murderer, you could do worse than emulate Moses.

Or you could always go the St. Cuthbert route and actually have your character venerate St. Moses.  Whatever floats your boat.

First, the typical rundown of articles.  Saint Moses is all over the internet, but you can find some more detailed information on Wikipedia (always a good start), OrthodoxWiki, the Order of the PrĂ©montrĂ©, and Badass of the Week.  Or just do a Google search; he's pretty well known.

Anyway, Moses the Black is an Eastern Orthodox saint (he was a Coptic monk himself), and according to, he was inspiration for Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction (scroll down to #5; you'll see it).  This is a completely reasonable claim.

Moses the Black was a slave of an Egyptian bureaucrat, and his master discharged him on suspicion of theft.  Moses then proceeded to organize a bandit gang and pillage the Egyptian countryside.

When hiding from the authorities, Moses sought sanctuary at a monastery in Skete.  He was so taken with the way of life there that he became a monk himself.  It was not a painless process — his old life as a brigand was still calling — but he managed.  One of the often-retold tales is that robbers crept into his room and attacked him; he managed to subdue each of them.  He bound them and brought them to the other monks, saying he supposed it would not be Christian of him to kill them.  The bandits were so overcome by this that they repented and joined the monastic community.

Moses was eventually ordained as a priest and became an abbot himself.

When word came that the Berbers were to attack his monastery, he forbade anyone to take up arms, instead telling them to flee.  All but seven did.  When the Berbers attacked, he stuck to his nonviolent path, having presumed long ago that he would die a violent death as he had inflicted on others.

All eight monks died martyrs.

So there you go; a little history lesson for today.  More fodder for the idea of nonviolent character classes, and possible inspiration for any multiclass fighter/clerics out there.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I'd never heard of St. Moses before. Who says rpgs aren'te educational? :)


Print Friendly