Blessed Are The Binary Breakers: The Blending of Pagan & Christian Belief

The spiritual landscape of nineteenth-century rural Russia blended native traditions and beliefs with Christianity; this is the world in which Black Book, an independent video game produced by Russian studio Morteshka, is set.


In this episode, Avery shares some of what Black Book taught them about this syncretism of belief (without spoiling the game, don't worry!). Then, they bring in Leslie Feinberg's 1996 text Transgender Warriors to discuss similar tensions between indigenous and Christian traditions in medieval Western Europe. What happened to other gods and spirits after the rise of Christianity? How did sorcerers like Black Book's young woman protagonist navigate this spiritual blend as they either helped or cursed the peasants who both revered and feared them for their knowledge? What's all this got to do with trans folk?


Read along with the episode transcript here.

Talking Points:

(0:00 - 3:50) Introducing Black Book: playing as Vasilisa, a young sorceress in a world where people believe both in Christian and pagan teachings

(3:51 - 10:50) Gods become demons; old rituals take on Christian elements; icons & feast days blend Christian & pagan traditions

(10:51 - 13:16) Sorcerers and knowers — both revered and feared; tension between them and Christian priests

(13:17 - 21:01) Moving westward and back in time to Feudal Europe: similar tension between Christianity and native religions; transgender expression targeted

(21:02 - end) Wrapping up


This show's theme song is "Aetherium" by Leah Horn.

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