Happy All Saints Day!

I haven’t had a lot of updates lately, but not due to lack of interest in blogging topics. I’ve got two major projects coming down to the wire right now that require my attention.  Thus, a quick rundown:

  • Yesterday Cornell University opened a great new witchcraft exhibit, displaying the cream of their wonderful collection. The story doesn’t mention the reception, at which they served white chocolate mice with raspberry filling, little eyeballs made out of mozzarella, and miniature cauldrons of chocolate pudding.  If you’re passing through central New York, the exhibit will be open until August of next year.

 

 

  • I can’t recall too many recent releases not noted already that have really gotten me excited.  One good candidate has been José Leitão’s The Immaterial Book of St. Cyprian, a collection of treasure-hunting legends that have involved the works of the famous saint with parallel Portuguese-English text.  If you’re keen on learning more about the Iberian Cyprian beliefs, José has created a Patreon to help with his further Cyprianic researches.

 

  • Another work of interest that appeared recently and completely under the radar was Vedrai Mirabilia: Un Libro di Magia del Quattrocento. This is a fifteenth-century Italian book of magic, edited by Jean-Patrice Boudet, Laurence Moulinier-Brogi, and the late Florence Gal.  I probably won’t run a review of this, as I feel that would require an examination too detailed for me to conduct at the moment.  It does have long sections on astrological talismans and love magic, especially involving wax images, but it also has occasional spots of weirdness, such as naming Hercules as a king of the four directions.

 

  • Gaming update! My Basic D&D Rules Cyclopedia game is now over a year old.  The characters have looted the Caves of Chaos, overcome the Veiled Society, and staved off Night’s Black Terror. They now move to Expert-level play – and if you know the X series of modules and me, you know which one I chose.

 

  • My other group is running through a short campaign of Iron Heroes, the old D&D 3E variant with no magic and lots of – well, some – tokens.   I don’t feel the system does what it sets out to do, perhaps because cinematic action in 3E is often countered by the desire for balance.

That’s all for now.

 

 

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Published in: on November 1, 2017 at 1:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

I’m on Twitter

At the suggestion of Matt Staggs of the Disinfo podcast, I’m now on Twitter.  You can follow me at @DanielHarms1.

I’ll use the blog for longer announcements, but it should work in conjunction with my Facebook and Twitter accounts to make the Dan Harms Machine an unstoppable media juggernaut.  Or not.

France Update

Thanks to everyone who wrote me here or on Facebook.  I’ve fed the snake, and I’ve got some good ideas of where I could take my projects next that I think some readers will like.  I suppose it’s time to answer a few questions about my secretive trip to France.

Kenneth Hite asks:

While you were in France, did you go looking for the Rue d’Auseil? Or Averoigne? Or both? Or better yet, did you pretend to yourself that you did?

Strangely enough, I didn’t.  I decided to keep my trip contained within a particular area – spending hours upon hours carting myself around the countryside in trains isn’t my idea of fun – which meant that I ended up wandering about Normandy and Brittany rather than heading south to Auvergne and Clermont-Ferrand, which is where I’d place Averoigne.  Besides, I think Averoigne might have more to do with Smith’s internal world than a geographic location he never visited.

All in all, I had a week in Paris with side trips to Chartres and Versailles, two days at Mont-St.-Michel, one at St. Malo, one at Carnac, one at Rouen, and two at Bayeux.  I probably should have switched off one of the Bayeux days for one at Carnac or Rouen, but I had a great time wherever I went.

And I never saw a hill steep enough in Paris that I could ever imagine it to be the source of the Rue d’Auseil.  A friend did point me to the Court of the Dragon from Robert W. Chambers, and I happened across the gravestones of Baudelaire and de Maupassant sheerly by accident, which gave me a good dose of the weird nonetheless.  The fact that it was a warm but gloomy October was also quite fascinating.  I’ll have to use that wild night of wandering about the ramparts of Mont-St.-Michel, through the gloom and the wind, for inspiration at some point.

Karl asks:

Did you go in quest of esoteric locales in France (Nicholas Flamel’s house and tombstone in Paris, etc.)?

It was a mixture of all sorts of places:  famous historical sites, esoteric locales, cathedrals and fortresses, and whatever I happened to wander past on the way to them.   I stumbled across Flamel’s tombstone in the Musée National du Moyen Age, and I ate dinner at Flamel’s house, which has since been turned into a rather nice restaurant.  I dropped by the local Martinist chapter a few times, but I didn’t go in, not thinking they’d appreciate someone who spent so much time with grimoires.  I walked to the Petit Trianon, not only for its historic significance but also to see the site of the Moberly-Jourdain incident.  At Mont-St.-Michel, I came across the supposed home of Tiphaine Raganuel, a 14th century astrologer.

The highlight of the trip was the megalithic site of Carnac.  The site is known for its long lines of standing stones, but it turned out to be a nexus of many prehistoric monuments in a small area.   I’d been to Stonehenge and Avebury, but both are smaller sites with more tourist attention.  At Carnac, I spent four or five hours wandering about menhirs and tumuli and dolmens, at times without a living soul about.  It was quite an exhilarating experience.

Also, there was what occurred in the north transept of Chartres Cathedral, but that will be told at a much later time.

I don’t have the energy for a full-fledged travelogue, so feel free to ask any questions you like.

 

Published in: on November 12, 2011 at 10:46 pm  Comments (2)  

The Long-Lost Friend and the Egyptian Secrets of Albertus Magnus

One of the most common statements about The Long-Lost Friend‘s sources is that it derives from another book, the Egyptian Secrets attributed to Albertus Magnus.  This statement is incorrect, and is incorrect in two different ways, the sloppy and the understandable.

First, the sloppy:

“Hohman mentions Albertus Magnus in some of his charms.  This means that he got the material out of the Egyptian Secrets!”

This argument assumes that Albertus Magnus only wrote one book, the Egyptian Secrets.  In fact, Albert the Great wrote many books, and the Egyptian Secrets isn’t one of them.  Indeed, it was written nearly five centuries after Albertus died.   Hohman’s recipes from “Albertus Magnus” actually derive from the Liber Aggregationis, a book that probably wasn’t written by the real Albertus but that included lore on stones, herbs, and animals that made it quite popular down through the years.  Hohman used this book as a source and not the Egyptian Secrets, as would be obvious to anyone who read the latter.  You can read it in the English edition, The Book of Secrets of Albertus Magnus.

Second, the understandable:

“Some of the charms in the Egyptian Secrets and The Long-Lost Friend are the same!  This means Hohman got his charms from that book!”

This does get some points for examining the two books in concert, realizing that one book is older than the other, and concluding that one is the source of another.  What it neglects, however, is that both books derive their material from the vast corpus of German charms that we discussed previously.  Viewed within that context, we can see that Hohman derives much of his “Egyptian Secrets” material from the Romanusbüchlein, as well as from charms that were passed down orally in Germany well after his time.

Therefore, the world is on notice that this argument may only be used in the future if someone comes up with a new take on it.

Also of interest is that Albertus Magnus had a mental breakdown before his death, which is a built-in hook for any horror RPG campaign set in the 13th century.

Also, I am Captain America.

Good night.

Published in: on August 3, 2010 at 9:52 pm  Comments (4)  

Hey, Didn’t You Talk about Gaming Sometimes?

Why, yes, I did. A couple notes:

First, Pegasus Spiele has decided to cease publication of Worlds of Cthulhu.  As an editor and contributor, I’ll be sad to see it go, but the final issue should have at least one article that I got a fun opportunity to tweak.

Also, the legions of fans of Father Bruyant from my online Averoigne posts will be happy to know that his player, Brian Courtemanche, has just seen his book Arkham Now released.   I’ve just ordered a copy of my own.

Published in: on March 9, 2010 at 9:35 pm  Comments (2)  

Appearance at ICON Science Fiction Convention

For those in the general area of Long Island, I’ll be attending the Icon Science Fiction convention alongside M. and Tom Lynch of Miskatonic River Press from March 26-28.  My role in the programming is still up in the air, but I hope to run a Cthulhu scenario that no one save my old gaming group back in the summer of 2004 has seen.  Beyond that, who knows?

Published in: on February 12, 2010 at 11:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Averoigne II:38, Being the Conclusion Thereto

Being Terce, Monday, the sixteenth day of February, Anno Domini One Thousand Two Hundred and Seventy-Six, in the palace of the Archbishop of Vyones…

The bleary-eyed companions are ushered quickly into the presence of the archbishop.  Julien looks glad yet shaken.  Bruyant tells his beads as he enters.  Pierre quickly leaves a pitcher by the door, wiping his lips and straightening his tunic.  Marcel carefully balances an urn containing the sword’s remnants between his hands.

Archbishop Honore waves them in.  “Leave, the rest of thee.  No, not thou, sir,” he says to a clerk looking over a large ledger.

The archbishop sits by the window, staring outside for a moment.  The dark clouds have dispersed, and beams of sunlight highlight the crags and furrows of his face.

At length, he speaks.

“Marcel l’Hyers and Julien le Grand, thou shalt not leave on thy pilgrimage.”

Julien looks confused.  “Your Excellency, I thought – “

“Yes, yes.  I have changed my mind.”  The archbishop looks out the window, his face inscrutable.  “’Twould be unseemly if two of the chief participants in these curious affairs vanished unexpectedly before the inquiry.”

Marcel is glum.  “What dost thou think will happen?”

“I know the church well, good friar.  The envoys will come for the enquiry.  I will send them witness after witness who beheld Conrad attack an innocent man like a wild beast.  I shall tell them of the death of his notary, which could only be carried out by such a monster.  I will then display epistles from other nearby burgs, showing that a monstrosity was in town at the same time as the inquisitor, who we now know to have been quite mad.  It shall become immediately clear to them that putting men on trial for such an action would be an ever-unfolding embarrassment to the Church.  At that point, we shall reach an amicable agreement, and the wine cellars will be opened.”  A bird twitters outside, and he gives a quick smile.  “Besides, thou surely cannot leave us while the roads are quagmires.”

Pierre steps forward.  “And what of Breschau, Thy Excellency?”

“Yes, the death of a factotum of the Inquisition under unclear circumstances is hardly a bright spot on one’s record.”  He waves to the clerk.  “Thou hast the ledger of Obert the notary, sir?”

“Yes, Thy Excellency.”

“Tell me, sir, how many employees were employed by Conrad of Nurnburg upon his arrival in Vyones?”

The clerk flips through a few pages and runs his figure down a column.  “The notary himself, and three of his soldiers and bodyguards.  There is no mention of a Breschau or any other personnel, though there is a great amount of unaccounted-for administrative overhead -“

“That is enough, sir,” says the Archbishop.  “It is clear the man was an impostor.  As we know not what exactly fell from the belfry, I order it to be burnt, as the friar has advised.”

He regards the four companions.  “Thou hast served the Church valiantly and with honor, keeping the people of Vyones safe as best thou wert able.  As thy spiritual counselor, I hereby free all of thee from any penance or recompense to be made from thy actions during this time.  What thy consciences demand of thee might be another matter.  Good day, gentlemen, and go with God.  I shall remember thy deeds.”

The men pause in the courtyard and take in the air.  A shout goes up, and a line of people, squinting in the sun, unsteady on legs that have circuited a cell’s walls too long, stumbles through the door leading from the dungeon. Eve is there, and so is the taverner of Deux Diables, and other prisoners of the Inquisition, now freed by the Archbishop’s order.  They move toward the gate, where they are greeted with cheers, laughter, and weeping.  After the dark days they have passed through, it is a welcome moment.

Back behind the door, over the grumbling of a guard, Andre can be heard.  “No, really, sir, I am to be released also.  No, no, I assure thee – what art thou -“

The companions stand silent and beaming for a moment.

“Didst we truly circumvent a murder tribunal via creative accounting?” asks Pierre uncertainly.

“The Lord does work in mysterious ways,” answers Bruyant.

“We may have avoided judicial sanction,” says Julien grimly, “yet I hath slain two men, even in the service of the Archbishop.  I wish I had not been denied the pilgrimage, even for a few months.  I will not feel a right man until I hath done penance for my deeds.”

The door to the prison opens one more time, and Orianne exits uncertainly.  On her way across the courtyard, she gives Julien a smile.  Then she is out the gate and gone.

“But nonetheless,” says the clerk, “I will accept what God hath granted unto me.  Perhaps I might begin my penance while in Averoigne… Excuse me, gentlemen.”  He walks toward the gate.

Marcel quickly follows, brandishing a slate.  “Yes, there will be penance!  Weighty penance indeed!  As thy confessor, I shall outline a theologically appropriate schedule for thee, filled with seclusion and quiet prayer, adhering to the principles of canon law and…”

The clacking of chalk can be heard as they round the gate.

“Wouldst it be possible, good friar, to leave this schedule open in the evenings?” says Julien.

They are gone.

Pierre grins.  “I should be back with mine family.  They have missed me, and the noontide meal draws close.  Wilt thou join us, Father?”

“I will, sir, but only as a friend visiting informally.”  The two men leave the doorway.

“Why?  ‘Tis a time of celebration!  Dost thou fear to impose upon my hospitality?”

“Well, that.  In addition, thy last guest of honor was torn to shreds.”

“Fear not.  I shall open another cask of the wine I sent to the archbishop’s house scarce six days ago.”

The men stand outside the gates.  Light glints from the stained glass of the cathedral.  Below are the dark-stoned houses of Vyones, the busy streets with hoofbeats and the cries of merchants, the town’s low wall, and beyond, the rolling plains and imposing hills, shrouded in forest.  Averoigne is a land of both darkness and light, thinks the priest, and one can only hope to hold the former whilst nurturing the latter in the short years of one’s life.  Yet is that not a worthy goal in the eyes of the Almighty?

“’Twas good wine…” muses Bruyant, and they are off.

Meanwhile, in the belfry of the cathedral of Vyones…

Forgotten on a sill sits a chalice, still half-filled with ruby liquid.  Light falls on it through the slats of the window.

A swish of cloth and a clank of metal are heard nearby.  A gauntleted hand carefully removes the cup from the sill.

Footfalls die away, and the spiders, no longer discomfited, go back to spinning the patterns more ancient than man or wolf…

Published in: on January 18, 2009 at 11:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Averoigne PBEM II:37, in which the Beast Is Disposed Of

Being just past midnight, Sunday, the fifteenth day of February, Anno Domini One Thousand Two Hundred and Seventy-Six, atop the belfry of the Cathedral of Vyones…

“Julien, do not!” shouts Bruyant.  He senses the friar at his side tense and rise.  Heedless of the merchant’s cries, Bruyant draws himself to his feet to grab Julien’s arms, to throw himself over the body, to do anything…

Steel flashes.  A tearing and snapping reverberates through the chamber.  The beast of Vyones is no more.

Pierre, who had been limping toward the stairs, muttering under his breath, turns back and grimaces at the carnage.  Bruyant is ineffectually grasping the arm of Julien, still pushing the blade into the corpse.  Both of their clothes are spattered with blood.

Marcel looks towards Pierre, who hobbles to meet the approaching guards. “Delay them.”

The merchant grunts.  “My thoughts exactly.”

The friar walks over to the beast with his staff, and, with a gentle touch, pushes back Julien’s sword arm.  Using his staff for leverage, he shoves Breschau’s body through the aperture beneath the bell.  Its arm strikes the metal, tolling its own funeral chimes as it falls against the stones.  The companions cover their ears as the sound reverberates through the chamber.

Once it has stopped, Marcel takes the sword from Julien’s nerveless hand.  “The Beast is dead, my friend.  Let the killing blow be shared amongst us all.”  He tosses it after the body.  After a few second, a sound like a glass ornament breaking can be faintly heard.

The guard’s feet tramp on the stone stairs.  They are close now.

Marcel sketches the plan to the others.  After a short while, he cannot tell whether what he is saying registers with Bruyant and Marcel, and resolves to discuss this again later.  He takes Julien’s shoulder.

The wild gleam leaves the clerk’s eyes.  He looks at Marcel in confusion.  “I think,” he says, “this is when the cathedral collapses.  We must escape.  Must we?”

Marcel pats his arm.  “Yes, yes, we must escape.  This way, now.”  He gently leads his friend over to the stairs, where Pierre is already talking with the guards.

Bruyant stares down through the hole beneath the bell.  Far below, a crowd is gathering around a bright red spot on the flagstones.

Later tales will vary greatly as to what exactly was witnessed in the Cathedral that day.  The most reliable, and most accurate, accounts claim that whatever had fallen from the belfry was so mangled it could not have been identified as man or beast.

Published in: on January 11, 2009 at 10:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Averoigne PBEM II:36, in which Those Who Remember History…

Being midnight, Sunday, the fifteenth day of February, Anno Domini One Thousand Two Hundred and Seventy-Six, atop the belfry of the Cathedral of Vyones…

Emboldened by both faith and fear, Bruyant shouts and runs at the beast, propelling his staff toward its snout.  The end splinters against the pavement as the wolf steps back, snarling and shaking itself as if calling on malign enchantments learned in the pits of Abaddon.

Fearful for the priest, Marcel dashes forward, the end of his staff smeared with the foul jelly.  He stabs it at the beast, who gives a quick leap aside to evade it.

Pierre looks to the clerk.  “Julien!  Quickly!”

Julien sways for a moment, dazed, then howls.  “Philbert of Ximes!  There shall be no canonization for thee this time!”  With two mighty leaps, he is next to the beast.

Stunned, Pierre shakes the cobwebs from his head and rushes forward into the crush in the corner, slicing his knife upward to slice at the beast’s belly.  Its thick hide turns aside the blade.  The merchant curses.

While Cyon’s concoctions are famously efficacious, perfection is the province of whatever divine force exists in the cosmos.  The wolf explodes into motion, its slavering jaws carving a chunk from Pierre’s leg.  He stumbles and reels, yet pulls himself back to his feet.  Two staffs and a sword converge on the beast, but it whirls aside and latches onto Bruyant’s shoulder.  The priest screams once and falls to the floor.  Rivulets of blood stain his robes.

“No!”

Reaching toward a corner bracket, Pierre grabs a torch and thrusts it against the beast.  Something sizzles, and the odour of burnt fur and flesh fills the belfry.  The wolf leaps back, and Julien quickly slashes his sword across his gut.  The beast turns toward him, fury in its eyes, before it sways and collapses.

On the ground, the wolf shakes uncontrollably as the metamorphosis reverses itself, hair vanishing beneath skin and muzzle retracting into the cranium.  Soon the still, naked form of Breschau lies on the flagstones, a man once more.

Marcel shakes himself free from the shock and staunches Bruyant’s wound as best he is able.

After a moment’s silence, three shouts are heard simultaneously.

A soldier’s cry echoes from below. “The beast!  The beast is in the tower!  Follow me, men!”

Julien steps forward with hatred in his eyes.  “Thou hath made me a murderer, foul bishop!  Now, thou goest back to hell!”  He raises his sword for the coup de grace.

Bruyant sits upright, aghast.  “This man breathes!”

Published in: on January 4, 2009 at 10:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Averoigne PBEM II:35, or the Den of the Wolf

Being midnight, Sunday, the fifteenth day of February, Anno Domini One Thousand Two Hundred and Seventy-Six, atop the belfry of the Cathedral of Vyones…

To interject the words of Bruyant’s player:
Bruyant will act slowly, out of shock, deep thought, and of course, stalling until his friends can show up. He’ll slowly take the chalice from Breschau, and holding it before him, stare meditatively into its depths. He’ll speak:

“Breschau, I cannot begin to understand what thou art, what thou hast seen, what thou dost believe, or what thou hast done. But thou hast come here not to slay me, but offer me a gift. For that, I thank thee. I realize that a gift refused is often viewed as an insult, and likely to provoke anger. I hope, even as I do not drink, that thou dost not feel insulted. To drink this would change, fundamentally, who I am. I am not ready to make such a transition.”

He’ll hold out the cup, to hand it back to Breschau. If the man does not take the cup, Bruyant will gently set it down where he is able.

“Breschau, I fear thee. Thou obviously hast the power to take my life. I pray that thou decidest not to. But I am not a coward. I will not drink out of fear. Instead, I would seek to help thee. Thou seemest in earnest about being what thou art, and what thou doest. I fear that the path thou treadest leads only into shadow, Breschau, no matter how powerful or exhillerating thou feelest thyself to be. Breschau, seek the path of forgiveness. I am not thy enemy. Let’s together help thee back to that state which God intended…a man. Thou hast sins to atone for, to be sure, but I am not thy judge. That can be for God alone.”

Breschau listens silently to Bruyant’s words. He nods, but does not accept the cup in return.

“Very well, Father. Thou speakest with wisdom and honesty, and I return thy gracious thanks for thy own offer. I regret that man of thy character will not survive this night.”

The odour of the protective balm wafts into the room as Pierre and Marcel appear, panting, at the top of the stairs. Marcel leans on his staff, while Pierre brandishes his dagger. Breschau wrinkles his nose and takes two steps back, standing near a shuttered window. He sizes them up, and chuckles.

“Cyon the unction-maker should have been early victim. Yet I see not thy brave friend with a sword…”

A shutter next to him crashes open, and Julien breaks into the room with a shout. Breschau, knocked across the room into a corner, rolls with the impact and rises to his feet.

Julien brushes a lock of rain-soaked hair from his eyes. “Men are full of surprises, eh, Breschau?”

The spymaster draws himself up to his full height. “Indeed, sir. Yet some have more surprises than others…”

He mutters something under his breath, and then shouts, an untterance that grows louder and higher in pitch. Though they had suspected the man’s nature, the suddenness and violence of the metamorphosis is stunning. Claws stab through his fingertips, drawing beads of blood. His torso undulates as bones shatter under the stress, resetting in shapes not recognizable as the human form. Soon, the black lips of the beast are bared at the companions.

Bruyant glances at the clerk. “Julien -”

Julien stands transfixed, in the grip of some powerful emotion.

With a snarl, Breschau, the wolf of God, lunges.

Published in: on December 28, 2008 at 11:43 pm  Leave a Comment