May 15

Wanna play a game?

No dice, just prayer.

The Liesborn Prayer Wheel combines several of my passions: old books, mysterious diagrams, religious studies, and possibly gaming.

You can read the article linked to get a description of the diagram found in front of the ancient book of gospels, 1 of 5 in existence.

It certainly looks like a board game to me. Perhaps a meditative solo exercise, but a board game nonetheless.

What do we know of its origins? The Liesborn monastery was founded in 815 by, believe it or not, Bozo and Bardo. Originally it was a woman's collegiate foundation but later was disbanded (in the 12th century) due to "worldliness" - or some monks wanted the property. Somewhere between these two events the document in question was produced. First in 980 as a gift for society women, but about a century later someone created the Prayer Wheel in the fly leaves of the book.

The thing itself in Latin.

But no instructions. Or maybe there were. There is, after all, a page missing that would have been next.
There is also the cryptic line: “The Order Of The Diagram Written Here Teaches The Return Home.” in the outermost ring.

Unfortunately, my research has not turned up much more. My suspicion is that it is not a game as we would think of it, not something done for "fun" but rather a tool for contemplative prayer. German nuns of the era produced a surprising amount (compared to their male counterparts) of devotional material. Certainly the language of "the return home" is not uncommon in mystic literature and suggests a desire for an experience of God beyond normal practices. Perhaps the wheel is not meant to have instructions, but is meant to be used with supervision at first. My own experience with contemplative practices indicated that such things usually need explanation from those who have done it.

Then, of course, the author in me wants it to be something more. Some kind of code, some hint at a hidden sect.

But I have to admit this one has me stumped.

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