The Vow of the Nazirite is a special type of ascetic vow described in the Book of Numbers. The Nazirite is a person who has dedicated his or her life to the Lord. As a sign of this dedication, the Nazirite is obliged to observe three things:
- Abstain from wine, wine vinegar, grapes and raisins; (whether or not this includes all alcohol is a matter of debate)
- Do not cut the hair on his head
- Avoid contact with corpses and graves — even those of family members
The vow was usually specified to last a finite length of time; no less than thirty days; and at the end of this period the Nazirite would mark the end of his vow by offering a special sacrifice. It was also possible to vow to be a permanent Nazirte.
The Books of Samuel describe how when the prophet Samuel was born, his mother vowed to make him a permanent Nazirite. Samson from the Book of Judges was similarly a life-long Nazirite, although he seems to have killed a lot of people for someone who was supposed to avoid corpses and was also pretty lax about the abstaining from wine thing too1.
Nazaritic status seems to have served a similar function to that of being a monk.
It is still possible to take the Nazirite vow today, but since the Temple in Jerusalem no longer exists, it is no longer possible to perform the ritual sacrifice neccessary to end the vow, effectively making the person a life-long Nazirite.
Game and Story Use
- The PCs might encounter a Holy Man who has undertaken a Nazirite vow or something similar
- The Nazirite vow could be used as a model for religious vows that a PC might undertake