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Basic Information

Baptism is the religious practice of consecrating a new member to a specific religion with the use of water. In the real world, this is a highly signficant rite for Christianity and Sikhism and part of the process of receiving a convert into Judaism. Other religions use the practice to some degree.

In many senses baptism is a form of Ritual Purification.

Although various religions differ on the details, at its heart Baptism is a ritual act of cleansing, symbolically washing away the person's past impurities. The Christian Church uses it as a Rite of Passage, to mark a person's entrance into the community of believers. For that reason, many Protestant churches restrict baptism to adults who are old enough to make an informed Confession of Faith. But the ancient practice in the Christian Church, still followed by the Roman Catholic, the Orthodox and Lutheran Churches is to baptize infants, as shortly after birth as possible.

The form of baptism varies by religion. In some churches, water is sprinkled or poured on the person's head. Others require that the person be partially or completely immersed in water. The latter tend to favor adult baptism for obvious reasons.

As well as a symbolic washing, baptism by immersion is often seen as a symbolic death and rebirth in which the person who is baptised leaves one life behind under the water and emerges to a new one1.

In the Middle Ages, the tradition arose that at his baptism, or "Christening" (that is, "being made a Christian"), the child would also officially receive his name. For that reason, the term "Christening" has become synonymous with "naming", and a person's first name (as opposed to his family name) is sometimes referred to as his "Christian Name".

The term "Baptism" is sometimes applied to other Rites of Passage. For example, a soldier's first taste of combat is sometimes called his "Baptism of Fire". When a ship is launched, it is sometimes "Christened" with a bottle of champagne. Other forms of Initiation may also take on elements of the Baptismal rite.

See Also



Game and Story Use

  • For some religions, only the water of certain holy springs or rivers might do. So what is to be done if said source is polluted or occupied by an enemy? Why, send in the PCs, of course?
  • Other substances might be appropriate for different religions - oil, wine, or even blood (for a Religion of Evil). Getting enough of these substances is going to be very important for the members of the religion - and again, the PCs might get involved in these efforts.
    • Blood needn't just be for the religion of evil. In a religion which practises animal sacrifice and accepts sacrifices of atonement "are you washed in the blood of the lamb" could be a lot less metaphorical. Bathing in the blood of a sacrifice could very easily be incorporated into a religion that way. Likewise, a religion modelled on Mithraism could bathe initiates in the blood of the sacrificial bull so that they partake of its strength … doubly so if the bull is then eaten.
  • A PC who is joining a group, whether overtly religious like a church or with mystic trappings such as some fraternal organizations, he may be required to endure a ritual cleansing as part of his initiation.
    • Or maybe just have a bucked of ice water dumped over his head. That works too.
    • In George R. R. Martin's Westeros the followers of the Ironborn God of the Sea take Baptism one step further - they actually drown their initiates and then revive them with CPR…
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