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An Introduction to the Bahari

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Bahari symbol: sacred owl

"May those who know me see the marks of biting
And bruises which betray a happy love!
In love I want to weep or see you weeping,
To agonize or hear your agony."
 -- Propertius


Death and taxes are the two constants of life, or so we've told ourselves for centuries. But there's another constant, a guarantee, really, that can't be added to the joke, perhaps because of its everpresent reality: the universal experience of pain. Taxes take hours to figure out, and death takes as long as a last breath, but pain can last such a long time. Small eternities can be filled with it, all the world can be warped with it, and nearly anything can be the cause of a sensation beyond description.

The fist in your face is pain, but so is the memory of a loved one gone forever.

Angry words between friends, the ache of icy water, years of bruising labor - these things are also pain, despite their differences.

The ruler across your wayward fingers is pain, and this pain reminds you not to miss the note or tap the wrong key again.

But we come to the heart of the matter so quickly: Pain is one of our first teachers. We respond instinctively to it and come to live side by side with it, until we don't see its power anymore. We don't see how it invests our education and rituals, brings order to our gatherings and rears its head in our religions, but its ubiquitous presence isn't a coincidence.

There are some who have found pain to be their finest and most reliable teacher, the surest path to self-discovery, empowerment, and revelation. They've found rapture in razing, wisdom in wounding, and transcendence through torment. But they aren't simply sadomasochists. They aim to walk in the footsteps of the first being to feel pain in this world: Lilith, the Dark Mother. They are the Bahari.

The followers of Lilith are everywhere. Many don't even know what they worship in their heart of hearts, with their poems and songs and bloody fights. But all you have to do is look around to see the mindset of Lilith in the world. The emphasis on pain - as a constant, a philosophy of life, a pleasure, a teaching method, a tool - is everywhere. Shopping malls, movie theaters, the neighbor's house, the church down the street are all touched by the undercurrents of such thoughts. There's a little madness in everything, and in that madness lies wisdom.

The Riddle of the Dark Mother

But what does this have to do with Lilith? Who is she, and how does she enter the equation? The first wife of Adam has become a household name in recent nights, but the supernatural creatures of the World of Darkness have spoken her name for millennia. Mortals say she was the first woman created by God to be Adam's mate, but she was dissatisfied. She left the Garden of Eden of her own free will but Adam begged three angels to bring her back; when she refused to go, God cursed her to watch her children die. Perhaps this led to the later tales in which Lilith was linked to female demons who preyed on pregnant women and infants. Regardless, Lilith did not return to Adam and bought her freedom with suffering, and the Bahari see an important grain of truth in such a story.

Myths among supernaturals vary widely but many speak of Lilith as a being of incredible power. Some link themselves directly to her, like the mages who believe she was the first to wield True Magick. Others say they're indirectly related to her great power. Some Kindred hold Lilith as the mother of their kind, likely due to her portrayal in The Book of Nod. In that revered tome of Kindred lore, Lilith acts as a mother would, taking pity on Caine after he's cursed by God and driven into the wilderness. She offers him shelter, sustenance, and comfort, and when that isn't enough, she goes even further. By drinking Lilith's blood, Caine is able to realize his disciplines and through her teaching, he learns Obfuscate, Dominate, and Presence. The two mythic figures have a falling out before the tale ends, but that hasn't stopped Cainites from revering her.

It can be argued that Lilith's appearance in The Book of Nod is designed to illuminate Caine more than the Dark Queen. It's even been claimed that her appearance is falsified, that she's reduced to being nothing more than a narrative device to serve Caine's glorification. After all, she stands in as the mother Caine lost and he all but suckles at her teat so he can grow strong. And in the end, Caine must disobey his mother figure and break away from Lilith's apron strings so that he can go forth and become his own man; it's classic storytelling. But it's probably a far cry from what really happened. Without the destructive side of her nature - without the language of pain - The Book of Nod's Lilith remains suspect.

But which Lilith is the right one? In ancient times, a bloodline of vampires claimed to be the direct inheritors of Lilith. These vampires were named for Lamia, their founder and highest priestess. It was said that Lamia came from the mortal descendents of Lilith, down a long line of priestesses who followed their foremother's dark ways. They hid their beliefs and rituals from outsiders, even the clan of vampires they served. But the Lamia present more problems than answers. Why, for instance, did they serve the Cappadocians? And why did they fail to protect themselves against the Giovanni onslaught? The Lamia are all but unheard of in the modern nights, and all of their secrets died with them. So what did they really know of Lilith?

Any number of texts have been written about the Dark Mother, usually by authors who remain anonymous. Were the Lamia responsible for the Testament of Lilith, or the Lilith Cycle? Only fragments of these books remain and their authenticity is doubtful. What about Revelations of the Dark Mother? Revelations depicts Lilith as a woman of great mystical potential who ascends to power through hardship and suffering. The early days of creation are retold with Lilith as the protagonist and she is violently wronged by the men around her, yet she finds her greatest strength through the tortures of living and endures everything. Again, good storytelling, but probably misleading.

Many Bahari never see the written lore about Lilith and some have never heard her name, yet they revere pain and encounter a presence underneath their suffering. No one is entirely sure why it happens, but most believe you have to be ready to encounter her. It isn't enough to suffer, although great tragedy is usually the trigger. It's likely that a Bahari will have their whole life swept away by agonizing circumstances and just when they're about to fall apart, they find that they're stronger than before, and they catch a glimpse of something beneath...well, everything. Some hear voices chanting her name and praises; others see a vision of a woman stumbling through a desert, battered, bruised, and pregnant. It's at this moment that they connect with Lilith, whether or not they ever learn her name; it's this moment that makes a Bahari.

Bahari symbol: All Hail Lilith

The Many Faces of the Bahari

The Bahari are distinguished by a point of view rather than blood relationships or magical powers, thus the followers of Lilith come from all walks of life. It doesn't matter if you're a vampire, werewolf, or a mage: if you seek enlightenment through suffering and have felt the presence of the Dark Queen, then you're a Bahari. Of course, not everyone sees it that way. Some cults insist that their version of worship is the One True Path and their rituals are the only way to become a "true Bahari." But most Bahari don't belong to these groups and for many, indoctrination goes against the freedom that Lilith represents. In the end, lore isn't necessary, and neither is acceptance; being a Bahari is an internal, experiential philosophy.

Still, the stories about Lilith persist and many Bahari believe in certain aspects of them. Many Kindred Bahari believe Lilith and Caine are oppositional forces, and that Caine's children are ultimately inferior. Because of this, these believers undergo rituals to ally themselves with Lilith and abandon their claims to Caine's legacy. They vow to stand with Lilith when she rises to cleanse the world in pain and fire. But many of these Kindred remain involved in different sects and keep their knowledge to themselves. While it's more difficult for a Bahari to obey the rules of the Camarilla, it isn't impossible. Some Bahari are quite comfortable in the Sabbat; after all, the Sabbat's sadism, violence, and aim to fight the Antediluvians suit the Bahari just fine. But no matter which sect they belong to, they can look for ways to spread Lilith's influence.

Bahari in the Books

White Wolf littered its products with references to Lilith, but many of these references are brief and don't have much to do with gameplay. She shows up often in Dark Ages books, most notably in the Dark Ages Companion, which outlines the Lamia. Revelations of the Dark Mother provides an interesting mythology, cultural overview, and ideological background for the Bahari, which can be useful for developing a character.

And then there are the two Paths of Lilith, each released in a different book and for a different edition of Vampire: the Masquerade. The first Path of Lilith can be found in Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand, which was made for second edition Vampire. The trouble with this version is that it came about when White Wolf didn't have a strong picture of what they wanted Lilith to be, so the path is an echo rather than a unique philosophy. It resembles the Path of Caine in that its followers live apart from mortals, revere one mythic figure above all others, and serve the Black Hand the way that vampires on the Path of Caine serve the Sabbat. Half of the hierarchy of sins for this Path of Lilith come from the Path of Caine, with few adjustments.

The second version of the Path of Lilith, in the Guide to the Sabbat, is based on Revelations of the Dark Mother and has its own distinct flavor. The trouble with this path comes from specific steps in the hierarchy of sins. The first three steps are simple enough and fit Bahari teachings well. The fourth step, however, claims that the Bahari aren't supposed to kill any being, since they can't learn from pain if they're dead. While this has a certain logic, it undercuts the violent nature of the Bahari and forgets the opening of Revelations of the Dark Mother. It also clashes with the fifth step, which claims that death is just a transition "to a new form of existence. Death comes to all, in time" (143). If death is simply a natural change from one life to another, why would the Bahari hesitate to kill? Another troublesome step in the hierarchy is step six, which places emphasis on Bahari gatherings. Those who wish to play a solitary character on the Path of Lilith might not care about rituals or gatherings, and why should they?

I find that a mixture of the two paths reaps promising results and provides a more balanced opportunity for non-Sabbat vampires and mortals to live according to the precepts of the Bahari. The chart below offers just such a mixture. 10, 8, 6, and 4 come from Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand; the rest are from the Guide to the Sabbat:

An updated Bahari hierarchy of sins




Failing to pursue new experiences which can bring enlightenment


Pursuing temporal wealth or power


Failure to test your own courage and weaknesses when given the opportunity


Fearing death


Helping others when it is not to your advantage


Feeling remorse for bringing pain to someone


Not killing a mortal when there is need to do so


Not seeking out the teachings of Lilith


Failing to dispense pain and anguish


Shunning pain


All red symbols on this page by Lady Mox, may she RIP


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