Ham-Fisted Bun Vendors of the Occult

Carl Kolchak fends off a vampire with two crossed pieces of metal.

Kolchak does the best with what he has.

Carl Kolchak’s solutions were so haphazard. Manufactured, non-canonical examples include:

  • A mallet he cadged from the janitor and a splintered chair leg to fight a vampire.
  • Herbs that a book he bought at the five and dime claimed would protect from witchcraft.
  • Tinfoil folded in proportions cited in sacred architecture as defending against psychic intrusion.

In short, there must have been any number of times that Kolchak’s spit and baling wire efforts didn’t pan out. But the man in the seersucker suit lived to report another day, so there must have been some resolution to the supernatural threats that didn’t include a hibernation or migratory component.

Reminds me of the set-up for Eternal Lies, the Trail of Cthulhu campaign where the player characters are drawn into the consequences of a ritual that another group of investigators failed to prevent some years prior.


N.B. I would be remiss in not acknowledging “ham-fisted bun vendor” as first being uttered by Jon Pertwee in the Doctor Who serial “Terror of the Autons.” So possibly Robert Holmes’ creation, Terrence Dicks’, or Pertwee’s own.

 

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The Thief of Olympus

Apropos of nothing save that I’ve liked this passage since I first read it in Tradition Book: Order of Hermes, thinking it encapsulated the promise of a literal renaissance of a proud fraternity languishing in senescence and at the time not many Mage: the Ascensionfans gave the potential of that revitalization much credit, consider this:

Hermes Trismegistus, from Wikipedia.

Hermes Trismegistus, from Wikipedia.


The idols of today’s youth ride broomsticks or wield spells. They fight balrogs and cyborgs, learn witchcraft and microtechnology. The children themselves bear Tolkien and Linux for Dummies in the same bookbag; chat in cybertongues to distant friends; don virtual disguises to enter imaginary worlds where aliens and faeries are one and the same.

And when they mature, these brave children learn to think around corners. To fly on words and unlock puzzles, weave illusions and craft new colors. Mastering arcane codes and words of power, they’ll summon Umbrood that Great Solomon never knew existed.

And some of them even make that final leap: Awakening to our Reality.

How Hermetic.

How like that Trickster, to confound his enemies this way! For using Technocratic tools to undo Technocratic Order is a jest worthy of the Thief of Olympus. Mythic Hermes stole Apollo’s cattle; modern Hermes steals the “cattle” from the Technocratic god — using their own goads to do it!

Tradition Book: Order of Hermes, pg. 34, by Stephen Michael DiPesa and Phil Brucato

Wardens of the Rosy Cross

Through a sufficiently skewed lens, the Rosicrucians of WitchCraft can be the jailers of Creation, locked in with the inmates. Think about it. They’re one of the major adherents of the belief system that there is a single Creator responsible for the nine sephiroth. Only the Creator’s gone off somewhere, leaving Kether vacant.

At the same time, the Rosicrucians are very concerned with protecting Malkuth from the depredations of the Mad Gods, beings from outside Creation entirely. Sure, the Mad Gods look like appalling transgressions of fleshcrafted nightmare and what they do to their mortal worshipers is no less pleasant, but in a well-built prison of the mind, wouldn’t it be sensible to turn the imprisoned’s very senses against them?

With such a decisive command of the laws behind the universe, particularly any number of angels and other spirits, it doesn’t take too much to start wondering just how in charge the Rosicrucians really are — and whom they truly serve.

The Rendlesham Incident

An artist’s depiction of the Rendlesham Forest Incident.

Balor of the Burning Eye is a Mad God of the WitchCraft universe that’s lived in the back of my mind for the last few years. It manifests in Malkuth as an enormous red eye, usually wreathed in flame, sometimes dripping blood. The original concept for Balor was a Mad God whose frequent incursions into Creation drove a cadre of Gifted to found the Brotherhood of Argus, dedicated to combating the Mad God and its minion’s efforts wherever they may be.

In this depiction of the Rendlesham Forest Incident, think of Balor as a manifesting ultraterrestrial. Balor has sent portions of its being to probe into the material world for many long aeons, for as long as there has been something on interest for it to probe. Long ago, Balor’s appearance was interpreted by locals as a relentless, burning eye. As time progressed, so did the interpretation of its appearance. These days, the ill-informed would call it a UFO, assuming it’s a vessel from another world piloted by beings of some form of flesh and blood.

But what they think is a ship is really still a four dimensional extrusion of an entity from a external space-time continuum that may not as few or as many dimensions as that. Balor’s appearance in Malkuth has no relation to however it may appear in its Creation of origin. It may not even realize how it seems to us, as the Mad God’s own perceptions are warped by the translation of four dimensional phenomena into its own sensory elements. The goals and motivations of such an ultraterrestrial may be even more opaque and unintelligible.

Consider the archetypal alien abduction encounter. An abduction victim recalls a sterile location, often white or some other neutral color. Small beings perform any manner of tests on their victim. In the ultraterrestrial hypothesis, these beings are from another dimension, rather than another world, maybe one coterminus with Earth as we know it — following the notion that it’s easier to step sideways into another world than cross interstellar gulfs. With the Mad Gods as ultraterrestrials of an extreme extra-cosmic order, maybe all those little beings are different expressions or manifestations of a larger being. Its natural state might be distributed across multiple organisms — as in Peter Watts’ short story companion to The Thing, the aptly-titled “The Things” — or it might be the translation to this Creation’s physics that cause a fracturing effect. In the latter case, an interesting twist would be different portions of the Mad God’s being working at odds with each other. Maybe one even founds the group that works against the Mad God’s ineffable goals.

In the case of Balor and the Brotherhood of Argus, the brotherhood may trace its founding to an encounter with the “true” Argus Panoptes, the watchman with one hundred eyes, which traces its existence back to the moment when the Balor entity first intruded on Malkuth-space. A portion of its being sheared off as the probing limb entered four dimensions, taking the appearance of a hundred-eyed giant. Lost and confused with no frame of reference, Argus associated the entity behind the now-truncated probing limb with danger and pain. Then it somehow pulled itself together sufficiently to use the overweening awe of local witnesses to sow the seeds that became the Brotherhood of Argus.

[Via Stochasticity.]

The Acme of Research Laboratories

CoastConFan Blog shows us the elements you might expect to find in your modern 1920s investigator’s lab and attached facilities. The first four pictures are of Harry Price‘s own lab. Price was an actual psychic investigator active during the 20s, so everything you see in those photos is in-period and accessible to someone in that line of endeavor.

CoastConFan goes on to suggest some other resources your hardy group of investigators would find handy: a reference library, examining/consultation room for doctors and analysts, storage and a garage.

That may seem like a lot for amateur investigators to pull together and it is. CoastConFan presents those resources as “for a full blow[n] investigators lab that is fully funded and should be consider the absolute acme of a mid-20s lab and headquarters.” So this is a great resource for someone working for the Gilchrist Trust, a magical researcher of Cabal at Martense College, one of the Rosicrucians’ scientifically-minded Parmenideans in that era of WitchCraft, and so on. That vague itch to dig out Angel‘s organization rules has resurfaced. I could see where the acme of research labs falls in spending points.

[Link via Propnomicon.]

The Tower of Eben-Ezer

Historical Thursday over on There, I Fixed It brings us another neat-o example of weird stuff in the real world: the tower of Eben-Ezer. In 1963, Robert Garcet built a tower in Belgium. He designed it to match the dimensions of the temple of New Jerusalem, mentioned in the Bible. The top of the tower holds statues of four figures that signify in the book of Revelation: a bull, an eagle, a lion and a man. Here‘s another example of the occult symbolism throughout the tower.

Plus, there are claims of an ancient network of tunnels running beneath the tower and surrounding area. Garcet claimed even to find remains of an ancient town dating back 70 million years, which was subsequently lost in mining demolitions, as the writer at Soul Guidance relates:

This village, he claims, was once cut into the rocks, but was exposed to the open air. On top of the village are now three layers of ocean deposits, showing that Belgium has been covered three times by the ocean. This means that the village existed some 70 million years ago . . . Moreover, he says that all the walls, and stone benches had been cut into flint rock, and that all surfaces in these houses are smooth. This is a second anomaly, as flint cannot be worked, it chips, and stays rough.

You can find more tantalizing bits about the tower and its curious features, including photos, at Atlas Obscura and Soul Guidance.


Update! @fortEbenEmael kindly clarified the situation regarding the fortress of Eben-Emael and the tower of Eben-Ezer:

please, do mind that the tower (= Eben-Ezer) has nothing to do with the fortress! Situated apr. 3km from eachother!

I think I’ve corrected the errors. Thanks for keeping me on my toes!

The Occult Nature of Urban Renewal

Public domain image hosted by Wikipedia.

That is John Evelyn’s proposed plan for rebuilding London after the Great Fire of 1666. See anything familiar about it? It leapt right out at me, possibly thanks to the context in which it was referenced at Yog-Sothoth.com. Consider now this image, rotated to aid comparison:

Graphic by Eliyak, made public domain.

That’s right, Evelyn based his street layout on the kabbalah’s Tree of Life. My innate knowledge of London is sufficiently weak that I can’t line up locations with any confidence beyond St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is kindly marked on the details for Evelyn’s plan as location 8, meaning it corresponds with the sephiroth of Yesod, associated with Foundation, the moon and “the role of collecting and balancing the different and opposing energies of Hod and Netzach, and also from Tiphereth above it, storing and distributing it throughout the world. It is likened to the ‘engine-room’ of creation.”[1]

As Wren’s St. Paul’s was to be the centerpiece of the new London, perhaps St. Paul’s was to become the threshold between realms, as well as an “engine-room” receiving energy from the other places of power in Evelyn’s plan. To power what? Otherworldly portals? Memetic stabilizers to help London keep its conceptual shape and power?

In our history, Evelyn’s proposed layout for London never came to fruition. The rebuilt streets followed much the same lines as their predecessors and the general configuration survives today. Christopher Wren still had a hand in redesigning many other churches around London, in addition to St. Paul’s and infused them with plenty of mystic symbolism.[2]


[1] From Wikipedia’s article on Yesod.

[2] Alan Moore’s graphic novel From Hell contains a chapter which is, essentially, a tour of Wren’s churches that dissects the Masonic elements of his designs and — I think — some of the significance of their locations around London.

Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum

Originally published in 1652, Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum was a monster of a book that collected alchemical works from the likes of John Dee, Edward Kelley and Elias Ashmole. Now it’s to be reprinted by Ouroboros Press in a corrected edition based off the original errata sheets.[1]

It looks to be full of neat content good for waving around as an alchemist’s handbook or wizard’s grimoire. As a “stout octavo” edition, I can only hope it’s as good for the party’s occult expert or resident potion-stirrer thwacking a nincompoop about the cranium as putting out small fires.


[1] Tying it to role-playing games in an unexpected way.

Conspiracies and Secret Societies: The Complete Dossier

While laid low over the past weekend with a cold, I took the opportunity to delve into some books that lay untouched on my bookshelf for too long. One of them was Conspiracies and Secret Societies: The Complete Dossier by Brad and Sherry Steiger. It’s a massive tome that I picked up mostly because I kept hearing ads for it on some podcasts and at the time, I had more Paperbackswap credits than I had uses for.

As it turns out, it’s something of an informal encyclopedia on none other than conspiracies and secret societies in history. Rosicrucians, the Trilateral Commission, the Rockefellers, the assassination of political figures throughout the centuries; it’s all in there. Hundreds of oddball topics get some page time in this book. It’s a great way to skip around subjects. You can read up on the Theosophy movement and Madame Blavatsky, then move on to orgone radiation before taking in the Knights Templar.

It’s all grounded in historical fact, mind you. There are no flights of fancy or bisociation. The Steigers’ short articles, typically drawing on Internet resources, but also many traditional works, present the real world perspective as their book is nominally non-fiction — in that they don’t purport that the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’s workings actually achieved anything, just that there was an order and its members did stuff like that.

Coming off Things That Never Were and my refresher course in Suppressed Transmission, this book reminded me that it’s not all about making stuff up for role-playing games. There’s still plenty of ideas to mine here, but it’s a sober testament to the fact this stuff changed real people’s real lives, for good or worse.

Conspiracies and Secret Societies: The Complete Dossier is published by Visible Ink Press and is available today.

Things That Never Were

“Call it speculative nonfiction, or cryptojournalism, or historico-literary ranting, or guided daydreaming or collective-unconscious channeling, or edutainment disinformation, or fabulaic mimesis, or polymorphously perverse media-jamming, or any other semi-oxymoronic term you care to employ, so long as the new phrase conveys the proper sense of daring, erudition, obstinate refusal to accept consensus reality, playfulness, willingness to go out on a limb then saw the limb away, and all the other qualities traditionally associated with humanity’s greatest rebels, outcasts, eccentrics, visionaries, saints, madmen and plain old bullgoose loonies.”

That’s just the start of a glowing introduction from Paul di Filippo to Matthew Rossi’s Things That Never Were, a collection of short essays that range across the fields of history, science and their pseudo-counterparts. In one, he cobbles together an expedition team including Ehrich Weiss, H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard among others who delve into the caverns of Pellucidar and Atvatabari to stop the dero threat once and for all. In another, he posits a war of espionage between Roger Bacon and Kubilai Khan, the greatest minds of the west and east, respectively.

Every essay is a freewheeling mish-mash of ideas ranging from the ultimate fate of the Library of Alexandria — hidden in a dimensional fold by genius mathematician Hypatia — to a bevvy of potential causes of the Tunguska blast of 1908 — too numerous to sum up. Rossi pulls from a wide variety of esoteric source of information without much discernment. The writing of Theosophists are as much fair game as The Dictionary of Imaginary Places. In short, it’s a smorgasbord of ideas ripe for the picking for a role-playing campaign.

As fun as Rossi’s rapid-fire, scattershot mingling of fact, fiction and supposition is to read and feel your brain prickle at the madness of it all, it can be daunting to pick out the one or two things one wants from an essay while the author pinwheels around, invoking as many geek touchstones as possible, particularly Lovecraft’s mythos. Rossi usually cites his sources, particularly with extensive quotes to set the stage, but I often found myself wishing for annotations expanding on a throwaway namecheck, references to other essays in the book — he often brings a name or topic up “as I’ve mentioned before” when they appear later in the book — and footnotes of further books to research.

It’s fun, it’s readable and it’s so similar to some of the plot seeds I’ve written here that I think we’ve both drawn from the same inspirational well, the Suppressed Transmission column by Kenneth Hite. But that’s fine. There’s more than enough weirdness in the world for everyone to write about. And I appreciated being reminded about this book on a recent RPG.net thread lamenting the unavailability of unpublished transmissions; it was a lot like stumbling onto Suppressed Transmission‘s cousin and being just as enraptured.

Things That Never Were is published by Monkeybrain Books and can be purchased on Amazon — and possibly conventional retailers; I didn’t check.