Cults have been a reality since the days when witchcraft was commonly practised, and even before. Membership of a cult appeals to many. The member becomes part of a closed community and enjoys the comfort of being part of something important and exclusive. Like mainstream religion, the adherent may feel connected to the eternal and comforted by the thought. While more conservative members of society may sneer at cult members, belonging to one often serves a social purpose. Members who may not be able to look after themselves are often cared for.

Most cults are eccentric when viewed by the rest of us, but some become worse. The members they look after sometimes pay dearly with devotion, their possessions and even their lives. The famous Jonestown case where a community that had been loved and nurtured was suddenly massacred, or the UFO cult when people sold their possessions and stood by waiting for the end of the world, or the Aum Shrinyiko cult that killed passengers on a Tokyo train in a Sarin gas attack: these are the violent cults that turn on their own members.

With the cult phenomenon growing as traditional religion struggles to survive in many places, I could hardly avoid this story. I found myself looking at a great tale and it needed a special hero*. Beloved Childe with her combination of looks, intelligence and nerve came to me as exactly the right one to explore the nature of the Gathering. When she is first approached it is to help a mother look for her daughter, a woman in her early twenties who has gone missing. She has disappeared before, but always returned. Her mother has convinced herself that her daughter has been abducted, but the police are not interested. They think she has probably run off with a boyfriend and will come back as she did in the past.

At first Beloved has no reason to believe that a cult is involved in the girl’s disappearance. The first signs are brought to her by an agency that is investigating other missing people. Bodies have been discovered around the city, drained of their blood and tattooed with a crucifix on which Jesus is nailed upside down. A revered religious symbol has been turned around to signify something completely different.

As Beloved draws closer to the inner circle of the Gathering, the cult’s leadership becomes aware of her. They want her in the ranks because they know she is not unwilling to use violence and has killed before. There are also members of the leadership, who having seen her, and want her for sex. Delving into the mystery of the woman she was originally tasked with finding, has led to something bigger and to greater dangers on more than one level.


* I’ve explained before that hero works better for Beloved than heroine, in the same way that actor works better for the great women of the stage than the word, actress.

Beloved Childe and The Gathering
Tagged on: