Thursday, April 5, 2012


Most people in the English-speaking word, I wager, would be completely unfamiliar with the name Ebeneezer if it were not for Charles Dickens' Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.  Dickens, however, got this perfectly fine English name from the English Old Testament.  In origin, then, it is a Hebrew name and one likely to have been popular among the somewhat Puritanically inclined segment of the English population given its relative exoticness and lesser popularity.  The origin of the name, however, is what is of interest for us.

The Standing Stones in Gezer, Israel

The name means "Stone of Help."  There were two locations that had stone memorials raised in Canaan/Israel with that name, mentioned in 1 Samuel chapters 7 and 41.  These stones or massebah may have been pillars, stele, cairns, altars, or perhaps even odd naturally occurring stones that served as a landmark in various cases.  They were often given theophanic names celebrating an appearance or act of deity.  Identification of memorials stones set up by earlier Israelite heroes may have later fallen afoul of idolatrous associations, especially as cultic centralization increased in the period of the kingdoms, but earlier strata of the Old Testament seem to accept these as perfectly acceptable expressions of Yahwism.  The practice, of course, resonates with the practice of various forms of stone memorials of religious and geographic significance in other cultures.

Markers such as these in the production of narrative or gaming worlds are useful as landmarks and for world-building atmosphere.  Readers or players develop associations with background stories and character events, while description works the enchantment that weaves the sense of concrete place.  So pick a place, create the stone or stones, and explain how they got there, when, why, and by whom.  Who knows?  At some point in contemporary time, the characters themselves may mark a spot, raise a pillar, and exclaim, "hither by thy help I come."


  1. Neat. Not at all where I expected this one to go, but I learned something. Well done!

  2. Well fine don't use any of my ideas, and then come up with something better.

  3. Oh, nice! I especially like that it ties in with games. I used to work in game design, and we had to include things like this.
    Interesting blog! I'll keep checking back. Happy A to Z! :)

  4. Thanks, Lady with a Kaleidoscope! (Also, thank you Google Translator for the Read Language spell.) I hope you saw my Steven Brust-related post!