Monday 23 November 2015

Purple Bett

'In 1451 a number of leeches were tried at Lausanne in Switzerland. Some of the accused were brought into court to hear a document read out, instructing them to leave the district within three days.' 

Purple Bett: Neophobia and Witchcraft Trials in 16th Century Cumbria 

Barbara Ganoush, Heyford, £25

The circumstances of the trial and execution of 'Purple Bett' for witchcraft in Cumbria in 1583 have long posed a problem for modern students of the witch trials. Mentioned in Culver's 'Trialles of the Witches of Cumbria', the bizarre descriptions of the accused's behaviour and appearance have confused a multitude of scholars and have led to the case being excluded from many analyses with suggestions that the source material has been corrupted so as to be definitively incomprehensible. Barbara Ganoush's study, made possible by painstaking restoration of contemporary woodcuts by Dr. Harecult at the Institutio Stotinkiana, sheds welcome light on the mystery and provides an intriguing insight into the 16th Century mind.

Purple Bett was found 'dwelling in ye tanglie hedge' outside the village of Colston, and was turned over, 'docile and meeke as ye lambe' to the witchfinders. Blamed for the failure of crops and a mild outbreak of 'plagues and mortifications of the bodie', she is described as keeping silent even during the brutal torture to which she was subjected. Described as 'hideous smalle, with her limbes tucked inside her' and 'round and shininge with a darke purple pallor', she put up no struggle when apprehended, although attempts to remove her 'foule and hairie greene bonnet' were thwarted 'by the power of her sorceries.' To prove her allegiance to the devil she was thrown into a lake where 'she bobbed upon the water like ye mallarde.' She was then cut into pieces revealing 'whyte fleshe that would not bleede' whereupon salt was rubbed on her wounds and she was doused in hot flax oil. 'Through the agencie of the Divil, these torments made a sweete smell to issue from her, which smell did make the villagers mouthes to water freely, troubling also sorely their mindes.' The account ends on this ambiguous note.

From damaged woodcuts collected by G. Stotinki in 1903, Dr. Harecult has made high resolution restorations which Ganoush links painstakingly to the village and case in question. The conclusion, elaborated in this exhaustive study, cannot fail to satisfy the most exigent scholar: 'Purple Bett' was, in fact, a fruit of the plant Solanum melongena, the aubergine or egg-plant. Native to tropical Asia, it was introduced to Spain by the Arabs as early as the 8th Century, but its appearance in 16th Century Cumbria is, to say the least, unusual.

Ganoush uses this peculiarity to introduce the reader to other persecuted vegetables and cryptobotanical incidents from the middle ages to the present day, from the 'Tomato of Liepzig' to the infamous 'Buzz Aldrin Turnip'. The author must be congratulated for the open minded yet rigorously academic approach that she takes to her subject.

Sunday 16 August 2015

Revolving Door Catastrophe Brings Stotinkian Studies to Standstill

We regret any inconvenience caused by the two year hiatus in the release of material from the Stotinki archives. This is due to a combination of unfortunate incidents: the extended absence of Chief Archivist, Harriet Kronk, on the disappointingly fruitless search described below; and the difficulty of removing a semi-fossilised piece of pumpernickel bread from underneath the uniquely sensitive mechanism of the famous revolving door at the Institutio Stotinkiano. For the first time since 1913 the back door of the Institute was opened, only to reveal a passage hopelessly blocked by jars of marmalade  which slumped in great drifts to the edge of a vast chasm of unknown depth. The door was promptly closed again.

It is with great pleasure that we now confirm that Ms. Kronk has safely returned from Somerset where, using ancient telephone records and the services of a renowned psychometrist, she has correctly identified the phone box where Gospodin Stotinki left his complete translation of the Voynich manuscript (including marginal commentaries by the mysterious Dr. Cumberland), after he was "distracted by the simultaneous appearance of a beautiful young lady dressed as a 22nd Century Martian speleologist and a salted cashew nut in the coin-return slot."(Diaries, Vol.5) Realising his mistake on the bus to Shepton Mallett, Stotinki was plunged into the period of despair that led to the writing of Oh, no! and other haiku. Much speculation has been made as to the identity of the potential time-traveller, whether she seized the manuscript and whether Stotinki ate the cashew nut.

Needless to say, Ms. Kronk did not find the manuscript in the phone box, despite the psychometrist's assurance that nobody had entered since Stotinki's visit in 1982. Enquiring at a local second-hand bookshop, the elderly owner told Ms. Kronk, "I think we had something like that once, awfully dull read." Ms. Kronk was struck by the curious artefacts displayed around the premises, including a strange head-lamp covered in fine red dust.

Sunday 25 August 2013

Red Dog Green Dog and Wod, Live at Cannings Court 14th September 2013

When, in the spring of 2013, a gigantic hexagonal 'monolith', flawlessly constructed from an unknown substance, was discovered in orbit around the moon, Gospodin Stotinki was among the group of scientists, artists and chefs who were sent up to investigate. Left alone on the spaceship after the on-board computer mysteriously decided to kill the rest of the crew, Stotinki spent the lonely hours in a weightless melancholy. As the beautiful planet rolled over itself in the night, he felt his feet longing for the reciprocal pressure of the earth. In his mind the ground pounded beneath him to the be-tranced steps of the Breton dances of his youth, that ancestral shuffle and stamp, the whirling cytoplasmic daydream of.....

Hearing a thud, he approached the cockpit of the spacecraft. Outside, requiring a space-walk to retrieve it, a small paper flyer was held against the windscreen by the wiper blade. Reading it through the grimy glass, the aching void of stars framing the paper on all sides, he pondered the nature of coincidence then, rubbing his hands with glee, he donned his spacesuit and stepped into the escape pod. He was on his way to Cannings Court.

  "Cannings Court is back!" blurted the flyer.

  "Red Dog Green Dog and Wod", will play for dance, late into the night.

  "Saturday 14th September 2013", it informed.

  "Cannings Court, Pulham, Dorchester DT2 7EA", it directed.


Wednesday 5 June 2013

Beast of Bartcombe

When the mysterious disappearance of livestock in a Somerset village began in 1982, a variety of theories were put forward to explain these phenomena. The surrounding countryside was searched, armed vigils were held at the epicentre of the disturbances. Anecdotic evidence abounds, much of it contradictory. But recent discoveries in the Stoat Inc. Archive may reveal the truth.

Paranormal investigators, Stoat Inc. (formerly O.H.K.), were called in by Lord Heron of Chanter's End Manor after repeated sightings of a large mammal prowling through the grounds of the estate in twilight led to allegations that a big cat had escaped from the Lord's menagerie. The villagers were terrified. Strange tracks had been discovered.

Agents from Stoat Inc. were called to a country barn where a crepuscular stalking animal had been captured by a terrified farmer. Further investigation revealed the 'beast' to be a domestic cat.

But strange goings-on continued. The thatched roof of a village pub was gnawed through leaving a hole big enough for a tractor to pass through. Stores of grain were raided. Walkers were pushed over in the darkness and "sniffed by a snout of sorts..... a silky, snuffling snout," as one witness chillingly recounted. G.S. Poden of Stoat Inc. became fascinated by legends in the nearby village of Bartcombe linking the deserted manor house with ancient legends of Peruvian witchcraft and possible human sacrifice. According to his analysis of the data, events linked with the mysterious beast had Bartcombe Hall as their centre. He decided to investigate. Sensationally, we can now publish evidence of what he found. 

G.S. Poden was reported missing on the 7th of October 1981. A polaroid camera belonging to him was discovered in woodland adjoining the Hall. It contained this photograph. Despite repeated campaigns, his disappearance has never been explained.

The Hexagonal Society of the British Isles would like to thank Perran Anderson Brightman for his help in bringing the Stoat Inc. Archive to light after decades of obscurity and conjecture.

Monday 29 April 2013

Man In The Hills

"We report here a legendary and, apparently, unique use of mosses for man camouflage, something previously seen in some insect larvae and weevils."
                                                                                Journal of Bryology 23: 264

It was in 1976 that Helvetius Kronk gave a copy of the newly released Burning Spear album Man In The Hills to his friend Gospodin Stotinki. Little did Kronk imagine the effect that his gift would have. Ignoring the vinyl disc within, Stotinki mounted the cover on the wall of his workshop and set his chair in front of it. His diary explains,

"Day after day I have looked upon that scene, imagining myself a homonculus shepherd wandering upon that face. In inclement weather I would shelter in the nasal caverns or build my fire out of the wind beneath the beetling brow cliffs. As I walked out into the world around me I saw evidence of great presences lying patiently in the landscape. Some were hidden in the hills and valleys. Others had been formed, perhaps unconsciously, by human endeavour."

Stotinki read the work of Katherine Maltwood but was frustrated in his attempts to recognise consistent patterns in the figures that he discovered. "I craved ever deeper levels of communication with the beings in the land. I had to become..." 

On a visit to Bèjar in Spain he happened upon the curious rites of the Moss Men. This was his epiphany. "Indistinguishable from the land I will recline like a moss-covered mountain, until I am the moss man, the man in the hills."

Stotinki was found in a partially desiccated state several weeks later. He was clasping the trunk of a tree and had a nuthatch nesting above his left ear. 

Wednesday 27 March 2013

On the Map

'About the year 1215, a Zen priest called Mu Ch'i came to Hangchow, where he rebuilt a ruined monastery. By rapid swirls of ink he attempted, with undeniable success, to capture the moments of exaltation and set down the fleeting visions which he obtained from the frenzy of wine, the stupor of tea, or the vacancy of inanition. Ch'en Jung, about the same time, was noted for the simplicity of his life and he competence with which he fulfilled his duties as a magistrate... Finally, he was admired for his habits of a confirmed drunkard. "He made clouds by splashing ink on his pictures. For mists he spat out water. When wrought up by wine he uttered a great shout and, seizing his hat, used it as a brush, roughly smearing his drawing; after which he finished his work with a proper brush." One of the first painters of the sect, Wang Hsia, who lived in the early ninth century, would perform when he was drunk real tours de force, going so far as to plunge his head into a bucket of ink and flop it over a piece of silk on which there appeared, as if by magic, lakes, trees, enchanted mountains. But none seems to have carried emancipation further, among these priests, than Ying Yu-chien, secretary of the famous temple Ching-tzu ssii, who would take a cat-like pleasure in spattering and lacerating the sheet.'
                                                                Georges Duthuit, Chinese Mysticism and Modern Painting
Gospodin Stotinki's contributions to the visual arts have been discussed in these pages before. Inspired by the extraordinary approach of 13th century Zen painters, a near-fatal incident in which he was unable to withdraw his head from a wooden bucket of ox's blood, marked an inevitable change of course from active painter to art critic. Stotinki's interpretations were often unconventional and have been unfairly branded as 'nonsensical drivel.' In this extract he considers Coldstream's 1937 painting On the Map:

'In a haze of uncertain heat two figures are baffled by a landscape which does not exist, an absence of countryside that can only be represented by a map of nothingness held facing away from the one who reads it. These are not, as is often suggested, the artist's friends Graham Bell and Igor Anrep. Close examination shows that they are aspects of the same person. A man, standing baffled by the cartography of the void, is accompanied by his spirit body who sits, barefoot, spattered with the dirt of a desperate flight or furious pursuit through tangled woods and mud-mired tracks. Now he sits in exhausted contemplation of what? A towering spectre of horror just out of sight? Beyond the figures, the Mister Punch simulacrum tree feeds its hungry dinosaur brood with unseen arboreal plankton.'

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Homage to the Remarkable Mr. Hoban

'Some times thers mor in the emty paper nor there is when you get the writing down on it. You try to werd the big things and they tern ther backs on you.'
                                                                                                        Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban