Termes – God of Back to School

Termes is a children’s deity. He watches over all youngsters during their years in full time education. Termes came into being in 387 BCE, the year of the founding of Plato’s Academy.

Temples of Termes are either leaking old complexes of buildings, haphazardly expanded over the years, or befuddling shiny new monoliths of baffling progressive architecture. Which also leak. Uniformly displayed in every temple are dozen pictures known as “The 12 Stages of the Education”. If you tour the temple and view them in order, in each one, Termes is depicted as a year older than in the previous. The first scene always depicts Termes in short trousers. At stage 7 there is a sudden, complete change of costume, and in the final scene he is show waving two fingers at his shite-hole home town as he heads off to university. The innermost sanctuary of the temple is forbidden to all but the priesthood. This mysterious realm is known as “The Staff Room”. No one knows what happens in here, but those who have passed the door have reported hearing quiet sobbing from inside. When choosing a new High Priest or Priestess they will select the one with their faculty still intact.

In the religion of Termes, it is the congregation which have to wear ceremonial vestments, not their parents or the priesthood. The uniform of each temple is slightly different, and only available from a few select retailers at conveniently extortionate prices. All clothing comes in one size, known as size “you’ll grow into it”. Any member of the congregation found to not be wearing their uniform correctly at the temple will be immediately sent home with a note.

Termes’ sacred day occurs on the 1st of September. It is known as the “First Day of Termes”. This festival is loathed by all Termian children and priests, but loved and longed for by Termian parents. Let me describe a Termian child’s typical “First Day of Termes” for you.

The preparation for this special day usually begins in July when supplies for the celebration start to be stocked in the shops. A fraught and hectic family shopping trip will take place to purchase all the necessary accoutrements and vestments. Traditionally, mothers will take their children on this annual venture. However, from time to time, brave fathers have stepped into the breech. According to the folklore of Termes this yields mixed results. There is a famous myth told of a male guardian who took his young charge back to school shopping. Sure, he got the books and the clothes okay, but he also forgot to get their broken glasses fixed and brought the child an owl. (In modern times this attitude is considered by many Termians to be old fashioned and sexist and parents will undertake the duties equally). Children will also usually receive their annual shearing at this time in readiness for the festival.

The night before (known by Termians as “The Longest Night”) is a flurry of activity to try and ensure excellent organisation, followed by eight dark hours of restlessness. By strict tradition, parents will yell at their children exactly one hundred times to “Pack their bag”. Also by strict tradition, their children don’t. At dawn on the big day the children are roused early, scrubbed to within an inch of their life, forced into their new vestments and lined up in front of the fire place to be ritually shot for Instagram. Thus their tender dignity is sacrificed to Termes. Once the moment has been captured, the children are allowed to break their fast. They weren’t allowed to eat before “in case they got something on it”.

Next the children will leave the house to go to the temple in a ceremonial rush. In ancient times they made this journey on foot. Nowadays these processional routes* are jammed solid with honking Land Rovers and Audis. This change has come about because over time all schools have been re located up mountains. It is a modern tradition for the children to fling the doors of these vehicles open without looking, for the parents to leave the engine running and for the vehicle to be left parked diagonally on the yellow zig-zags whilst someone has a chat. As the children enter the compound, the temple bells will ring shrilly to mark the start of the new year.

At the temple, the children will gather in the hall to hear a short address of welcome from the Head Priest. This will also contain messages of inspiration and dire warning for the year ahead.  Following this, worshippers engage in the traditional activities of colouring in time tables, catching up with friends, covering books in wrapping paper and getting lost. Then they will write an essay of meditative reflection known as the “What I Did On My Holidays”. Sometimes the priesthood may hold a little pop quiz, which really bursts everyone’s bubble. Older children will be introduced to a variety of new subjects to study. Every style conscious Termian child hopes to have Geography on the First Day of Termes, because Geography is where it’s at.

The day ends at around 3pm, when the weary youngsters will wend their way home. When their parents enquire how their day went, the answer will always be “Ugh, alright”. When asked what they did, the answer is always, “Nuffin”.

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*Note for Classicists: The route to a Temple of Termes is marked by distinctive statues known as Terma (or Terms). Terma consist of a vertical stone cuboid plinth topped with a sculpted head of the god. The front of the plinth is decorated with a carving of an Oxford Maths Set 15cm perspex ruler and a couple of protractors. It is considered pious and good luck to touch the carving of the ruler as you pass. They say if you have pleased the god it will turn into a 30cm ruler.

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