Saturday 30 May 2015

Abiezer Coppe

Another oddball wandering around in the English Civil war is Abiezer Coppe, the infamous Ranter prophet.

Reading about the Ranters today it is hard to believe such lunatics existed as long ago as the 17th century. They were extreme Antinomian anarchists, they believed that for the truly 'saved' there was no obligation to follow the laws of God or Man, that sin existed only in the imagination of men who wished to restrain God's spirit, not exalt it and that there was no such thing as private property for all belonged to God alone, and was free to use by the fiathful..

They drank and smoked tobacco immoderately (the nearest thing to dope they could get in 17th century England presumably), indulged in 'love feasts' full of serious drinking and casual sex and ran off without paying the bill, they allegedly stole, lied and cheated and were generally complete arseholes.

But there was a manic mysticism behind it all, a genuine feeling they had transcended the mundane Christianity of the Churches to become greater than Jesus himself, their personal wants one with those of the Godhead. Some even burned the Bible to demonstrate they had no need of it, and went around naked to show they abandoned absolutely all earthly goods.

Needless to say they got in serious trouble and the whole mad sect dissolved during the 1660's, variously converting to less deranged (but still pretty mystical) sects like the Quakers, ending up in jail or transported to the colonies, running off the the colonies before they got transported, and probably drinking, smoking and fornicating themselves to death.

They never had leaders, the whole concept was against everything they lounged louchely in the corner of a pub for, but one of the most famous today was Abiezer, as he left us some quite remarkable and pretty incomprehensible writings, most notably 'The Fiery Flying Roll' published in 1650.

As of 1642 Coppe is a young man of 23, not long 'graduated' from Oxford University (he kind of abandoned studying Divinity under such conventional church-bound bores, kind of got thrown out for being the worst kind of slack, argumentative and drunken student imaginable). He is making his way round England meeting the many extreme dissenting preachers of the many sub-sects and political movements beginning to emerge as the Civil War loosens and occasionally preaching his own brand of kooky salvation on street corners, crowds of drunks in taverns and at the odd Seeker meeting house and radical Congregationalist church.

This character was created using Marc Gacy's classess LotFP system from Undercroft #4, available from Daniel Sell at

Abiezer Coppe, Laurence Clarkson, Prudence Hever and Sally Price live it up at the Lamb and Flag in Colchester

Abiezer Coppe

Age 23
Alignment: Neutral Cavalier
Religion: Ranter
Level 4

Cha 13 (+1) Con 15 (+1) Dex 11 Int 13 (+1) Wis 17 (+2) Str 8 (-1)
Saves: Pa: 11 Po: 11 BW: 15 MD: 13 Ma: 14
Sills: Stealth 3 Bushcraft 2 Climbing 2

Att + 1
Can cast Cleric spells at level 2
Languages: English, Latin

AC 13
HP 19

Buff Coat with 'poacher's pockets'
Felt hat
Tuck (d6 dam -1 to hit vs AC 15+)
Purse with 3s 17d
Several rabbit snares, 1 in 3 chance of a rabbit
Someone else's mutton pie
Bottle of cheap wine
Pewter beer mug with engraving 'Property of Merton College'
A bent spoon, gift of a Jewish mystic he met while pissed as a newt in a pub in London
Heavily annotated Bible, with many crossings out, marginal comments like 'rubbish', 'Ezekiel was a dunce' and 'must use in next sermon'
Hastily scrawled sermon on back of a tavern bill of fare with numerous beer stains, lots of exclamation marks and underlinings of bits to be delivered in stentorian shout
Pouch of tobacco
Twist of paper with willow bark for use as hangover cure
Letter from Laurence Clarkson, a fellow Ranter; contents partly theological, partly a good pub guide to the taverns of Essex
Key to the back door of the home of Mrs Prudence Hever of Colchester, an advocate of Free Love

Level 1: Purify Food and Drink, Sanctuary

Abiezer is a tall, thin young man, usually sporting a couple days growth of beard and long, somewhat unkempt, hair, a shirt with a few small holes from stray wisps of burning tobacco and a hard used leather coat with patches on the elbows and voluminous pockets. There is little visually to distinguish him from any number of wandering labourers and runaway apprentices, such vagabonds are ten a penny, and he will often be found in the company of such.

He is better spoken than most (though he can put on a 'Mockney' fake working class accent when trying to pass unnoticed), and has a slightly mad twinkle in his eye and a tendency to use long words that don't entirely pass as proper English. His habit of addressing people as 'Fellow Creature' will suggest that he is some variety of religious oddball, and he never raises his hat to people of greater social status, a bit of casual rudeness that is a sure mark of a Leveller.

He may be met almost anywhere, but hiding in the woods from the law, preaching on a street corner with his pipe hanging out of his mouth and a mug of ale in his hand, and stuck in the town stocks for a day for being out of order or skipping church are all likely possibilities.

He stays in inns when he can (and leaves without paying when he can get away with it), but is also used to living rough. There are sympathisers all over the place - he is a frequent lodger at John Pordage's house when he is London (Pordage is an astrologer and pretty eccentric in his own right), and knows John Tradescant, Elias Ashmole and John Lilburne in that city. His uncle Tobias runs a printing press and a newspaper in Boston in Lincolnshire, and Abiezer sometimes wanders up that way. 

His current project is the formulation of a doctrine that will confound the most flinty Presbyterian busybody and make them realise that salvation through being a judgemental nosebleed and trying to get all to conform to their rules is against God's will as expressed through the desires of ordinary mortal men, not a path to salvation. He is also concerned about goings on in Essex - he took part in the looting of suspected Catholic gentlemen's houses there, but is concerned that the Puritan mobs have taken to witch-hunting as well. He is plotting the rescue of accused witches, taking the view that they are closer to God that many of their hide-bound accusers and are mostly innocents picked on for their difference and petty village squabbles.

Not Abiezer Coppe, just some other scruffy ranting loon

No comments:

Post a Comment