High Places
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Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the Lord, and the wall around Jerusalem. The people, however, were still sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the Lord. Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.

1KIN3:1-3 (NIV)

Basic Information

Probably for as long as mankind has been building places of worship, people have been putting them on hilltops. Which only makes sense: if you assume that the gods dwell in the heavens, you're going to want to build your temple as close to the heavens as possible.

The Old Testament frequently uses the term "high places" (bamot in Hebrew) to refer to religious shrines, particularly those devoted to the worship of the Canaanite gods, as opposed to the God of Israel. This isn't quite fair, considering that Abraham and Moses also worshiped on mountaintops and that the Temple in Jerusalem wasn't exactly built in a valley either. Nevertheless, in the Books of Kings, "high places" is used as a general term for any center of idolotrous worship1.

Some or all of the forbidden high places may also have been connected to the invocation and veneration of the shedim.

Sources

Game and Story Use

  • If your PC's are going to encounter a temple or a holy place, it could well be on top of a high hill or a mountain.
  • If the temple is in a low place, it's probably because that location has relevance to the deity involved
    • Such as worship of an earth goddess, or a secretive mystery cult.
    • Note that the Greeks (for example) divided their gods into the Olympian (who were worshipped in elevated locations in the open air and to whom sacrifices were burnt) and the Chtonic (who were worshipped indoors, often below ground level and to whom sacrifices were buried). Despite modern misconceptions, no alignment was implied by this division.
    • Or perhaps because the "high places" carry the connotation of a rival sect, so this religion worships in low places
  • Some ascetic holy men have been known to sit on top of high pillars. Which could make and interesting NPC encounter. Especially if the PC's have to climb the pillar to talk to him.
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