Sunday, March 24, 2013

earth devours man

What follows is a thick green miscellany.

The title of this post come from the most interesting search term used to find this blog of late. I am sufficent of a pontificator that I feel obliged to point out the humble tragedy encoded in the lowercase usage of that term. Planet Earth does not devour all mankind, earth devours man, soil consumes an individual bloke. How sad. How very glum and dreary and quietly beautiful.

I have quite a thing for soil. It is everything to us as biological entities living our allotted span betwixt spawning and senescence, and if anything is holy, dirt should be holy. It is a living substrate consisting of planet-dust and dead ancestors and it can magically transubstantiate into whatever the fuck we need to survive. Hundertwasser also considered it something of a necessity for human survival that shit be considered holy. I tend to agree, taking out nutrients from the soil and then throwing them away is unforgivably stupid and destroys civilisations as sure as any ravening horde ever did.

Recycle your shit


I get a lot of inspiration from contemplation of psychedelic experiences. Most of my own are half a life ago.  I am, however, aware that the building blocks of every hallucinatory experience are available to some extent to the conscious mind. Additionally, I've read a lot on the matter, enough to know that numinous experience, in all its grandeur and terror and unflinching ferocity is available to everyone, all they need are the tools and techniques - be they Baptist gospel choirs, shrooms, self-flagellation or Tolkien.

I also know that numous experience is responsible for art just as much as art is responsible for numinous experience and that so much of what is called fantasy is fundamentally about visionary states.

Of particular interest to me is  Northern Renaissance painting and its depictions of psychedelic hellish Weirdness. With which stuff I shall now bombard thee.

There is nothing like this stuff in D&D

Ryckaert painting translated as Dance of the Leprechauns (!)

Like nothing else in the world

It should be noted that these are produced by extremely pious individuals at a time of religious ferment and that the Reformation probably played a role in inspiring these apocalyptic images. That said, this shit is fucked up in a very particularly psychedelic way, very similar to the hallucinatory style of John the Revelator's book and potentially influenced by the outbreaks of ergotism that afflicted Northern Europe in them days. I don't think that this stuff is necessarily produced under the influence of hallucinogens but I think it was produced in a time and by a culture seriously obsessed with visionary experience. Likewise, I don't subscribe to the idea that Jesus was a mushroom but I do think it a lttle bit weird that this fringe apocalyptic visionary cult has become such a force for the suppression of individual visionary exploration.

And I'm veering into the political again.


Here's some fluff from the Middenmurk which I will preface with an explanation. In Tolkien's On Fairy Stories (which someone should publish together with Lovecraft's Supernatural Horror in Literature, they are deeply resonant with one another those two essays) the good Prof. laments the diminishment of the original fairies from noble and wild otherworldy entities to cutesy little flower sprites. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment and am interested in a parallel departure from the incredibly fucking boring WoW-style contemporary unflappable sexy person elf to something more intellectually disabled or dissociative or flamboyantly maniacal and fey. So Elfland is a weird place and elves are inherently transgressive, like this guy;

I don't know who made this photo but its impact is undeniable

-A Howe: 'neath a grassy mound on shrouded moors is a inverted kingdom of brilliantly hued strangeness. Elongated greenish heron-folk, Twiggy-men and barely coalescent dwimmer-crafty courtiers attend the Equinoctial Court. Blasted grim and silent chicken-footed geezers toil at weaving and smith-work, and capering Hinky-punks prostrate at the feet of the wayward angels who seem ostensibly to reign for the majority of the time. These three are; Salmagunde, who is the Bride of Badgers, clad in autumnal leaves and greyish mucus, and Chymic Flankette who is a horned man of bluish stony visage, and the Laird Impregnable - Magister of Silt and invisible for centuries, all are stewards of carnivorous twilight.

Mostly these three seem to reign but for the frequent Holy-Days when stolen human children are given sceptre and diadem and the Oranges of Infinite Justice and called upon to arbitrate various untranslatable infractions, the punishment of which seems always to be recitation of substandard poetry, or flaying alive for less serious transgressions.

After reading speculation that St. Nick is partly a memory of the Bishop of Turkey and partly an avatar of Amanita muscaria I thought it would be interesting to use what I know of shroomlore to create a more interesting midwinter festive figure.

Upon the Night of Blackest Yule there is a sound on the roof of the hovel and an elder shaman antler-crowned and skinny climbs through the smoke-hole to bestow magic piss into the mouths of the sleepers. When they awake it is into a dream of fierce and brilliant vitality. In their minds they run like young horses across a steppe with the winds of a gathering storm rippling the grass, waves of gleaming sunlight racing across the bright-green sea. Then they are plunged into grey darkness, embedded in a glutinous substance and screaming through densest silence. Then they are unity itself, then splintered into such a multiplicity that they can never, ever, ever get back together. When they wake a second time they are changed.

Save vs. poison, success means transcendental insight is gained (+1 WIS), failure means an ill-dream of anguish and forgetfulness haunts the waking world (level drain)



  1. Your blog is full of awesomis majoris.

  2. I've always felt that altered states of consciousness were an underdeveloped aspect of most rpg settings. From historical Mystery Cults, to Dune, to The Matrix, experiences that sort play an important roll in the source material. I don't know or how much these things should be integrated into a the game at the table, but I do think they should play an important roll in the fictional worlds. In my description of various exotic and eldritch drugs in Weird Adventures or elsewhere, I've tried to be much more detailed and "realistic" about their effects and uses.

    1. I can imagine you'd have a particularly rich understanding of the subject given your profession.

      I also think that one of the really nice things about what the OSR has produced is that it is not burdened by the obligation to adhere to a bowdlerised version of the source material. Fantasy should be a little bit trippy and this community has worn that particular heart on it sleeve.

  3. I recently created a D&D/Myth setting the morning after taking shrooms. It was mostly nonsense but the crux of the idea was to take the Browning Dark Tower's Roland and the hermaphrodite Orlando and reconcile them into a cohesive myth cycle grounded in a Gene Wolfe style/ Frank Herbert clone based human lifecycle, which I think is meant to render human cycles of oppression and inevitable rebellion as part of a mythic understanding of humanity as a whole as a hermaphrodite cycle, wherein empire, subjugation, and rebellion are the changing genders roles of a greater whole.
    In short, a Dark Tower is ruled by Orlando, in the center of an Edenic wombland, running off of the lifeforce of a concentric circle of subjugated cities, until it can no longer maintain control, at which point a number of heroes who are always Roland will emerge and destroy the Orchard, and the surmounting hero will become Orlando.
    Having written it, I can see that it is a deeply flawed and nonsensical idea, but at the same time, I have never felt such a strong sense of mythic resonance. After years of playing, I never felt any need to establish any sort of cosmological grounding for a game, and I feel I have gained a first hand understanding of the way myth functions to provide a microcosm of larger history.
    Jesus, what nonsense.

    1. But such rich and fascinating nonsense. I imagine John of Patmos might have felt similarly after looking back on Revelations, and various '70s prog-rockers too. I think there is place for that kind of fierce purity of imaginative outpouring but that place may be as compost to fertilise something that comes later on.