Physical Description: Very poor condition with a cracked spine, blue pasteboard covers with marbled endpapers and tattered blue-stained page edge, multiple dark stains around the edges of dog-eared pages. Multiple marginal notes in two different hands. The bookplate inside the cover states the work belongs to Harvard University’s Widener Library
Author: Nigel Blackwell, a descendant of British East India Company merchants, an amateur explorer with various assets throughout Africa. Reported to have died during an expedition to the Belgian Congo.
Publication History: Immediately banned after a limited print run in 1920. Only 13 copies remained following the work’s seizure and destruction per the dictates of the Obscene Publications Act. The posthumously published book and its subsequent ban drew substantial public attention and speculation. Concerned Blackwell Family members claimed that Nigel’s journals had been used to construct the sensational work in a blatant cash grab by an estranged brother. The same brother alleged that Nigel directed him to publish his writings in the event of his death. Others suggest that Nigel Blackwell did not even write the observations himself and may have purchased or stolen the notes from another author. Despite the ban, many anthropologists expressed a serious interest in the work and its unique findings. Several outspoken academics suggested a political motivation for the ban with Liberals viewing the title as a sensational demonization of Africans, whereas Conservatives considered it an anti-Colonial screed.
Location: M’Dari’s Alcove in Ju-Ju House basement. Alternatively, you may place this book in N’Kwane’s room along with his mask or underneath his bed.
Skim: Published as a collection of Blackwell’s travel journals from his African safaris in 1910-1917. No index or table of contents to direct readers. Skimming the introduction reveals Blackwell’s fascination with African cults and fringe religious sects, particularly violent ones with gruesome or disturbing ritual practices. The style is academic and detailed in its descriptions providing highly detailed accounts of particular rituals, as well as deep discussion regarding various sects. Despite referencing numerous obscure works and authors, no bibliography or footnotes are provided. On several occasions the book delves into stream-of-consciousness digressions, reflecting this as a very rough unfinished work. Skimming readers will find a detailed chapter at the end of the book from 1916 addressing the Cult of the Bloody Tongue.
Spell – Create Ciimba:
May present as a development of the Kikuyu sorcerers of Kenya or as ritual practiced by a blasphemous West African vodun sect. Marginal notes by M’Dari may suggest modification of the original ritual, possibly incorporating the ritual Bloody Tongue mutilation. Requires priest cast spell immediately after death (may choose to modify for dramatic effects) with reanimation within 24 hours. Performs simple tasks and rots as a normal corpse requiring periodic replacement. (Cost: 12 MP, 1d6 Sanity)
Full Study or Focused Reading:
The initial chapters deal with the Vodun religions of West Africa. A highly detailed account of the process undertaken by a tribal “magician” to create willing servants by ritually slaughtering innocents and binding them to the creator. This passage has been dog-eared and blood-stained. (Create Ciimba)
Near the middle of the text, he addresses bizarre Congo cults, including the Cult of the White Gorilla. The practitioners worship a legendary pre-historic simian believed to be a bridge between primeval knowledge and the present day. He includes a variety of quotes and references, including an underlined work, Observations on Several Parts of Africa, by Sir Wade Jermyn. These cultists refused to meet with Blackwell during his travels and his writing includes obsessive notes detailing his plans to return.
The final chapter of the book, which includes a variety of derisive penciled notes in the margins (M’dari and M’Weru) recounting Blackwell’s visit to British East Africa in 1915-16.
Excerpts from the Last Chapter:
“After successfully ingratiating myself with the visiting Kikuyu villagers in Nairobi, they described to me a remarkable place, which they called the “Mountain of the Black Wind.” This peak, a lifeless place, serves as the lair of some terrible dark god with an accursed visage composed entirely of a giant bloody tongue. To the Kikuyu, this “god” is merciless and cruel, periodically releases a noisome black wind, which spreads pestilence, famine, and death through the mountain’s valleys and shattered plains. According to the villagers, this immortal deity possesses devoted servants in the form of a brutally violent sect. Acting as their god’s ministers, they commit unspeakably vile ceremonies, including wild human sacrifices with victims obtained from the surrounding community. From what I understand, the officiants prefer the weak and young for their offerings, which is somewhat unusual for practitioners of this ilk. While men traditionally fill the ranks of their sadistic priesthood, the leader of their abominable ministry is a woman, deceptively beautiful, apparently chosen at birth and educated in the darkest of arts and despicable magicks. The descriptions evoke an image of an eldritch Nefertiti. I should very much wish to make her acquaintance.”
“We approach the mountain from the barren savannah. Its wicked teeth stab outward from the earth. The surrounding grasslands appear devoid of life, the sound of birds faded as we moved closer to the looming spire. In contrast to the blasted plains we traveled, the mountain’s slopes appear darkly shrouded in thick forest. As I take note, my guides suggest this lurid mountain arbor receives sanguineous sustenance from the Bloody Tongue’s victims.”
“We stop for a brief interlude and resupply at an outlying village. Here, after much cajoling and simple bribes for the natives, I persuade them to speak of the Bloody Tongue. They reveal a lengthy history of midnight raids by cult ravagers. Many a soul here and in the surrounding environs has been stolen in the night. Their earlier reticence is understandable as they recount savage beheadings and ritual eviscerations in their village commons. I have asked one of the more brazen villagers to inscribe the mark of the cult here in my notes (inset illustration of the Cult’s sigil, identical to that in Jackson’s forehead). The stone and dirt in the village centre unveil the veracity of these terrible claims. Blood and gore still stain a wide swath of surfaces where the village shaman’s son paid for his resistance to the cult. The shredded remains of the poor lad were cremated before our arrival.”
“At present, the local authorities have no interest in suppressing the hideous cult activity. My countrymen remain fully attentive to the conflict with adjacent German East Africa. In Nairobi, the officers and officials I dined with ascribed the wicked bloodshed to “tribal disputes.”
“We here plaintive wails and moans traveling on the wind tonight. A cacophony of tortured voices. The villagers seek refuge in their homes. They speak in low tones of the many-faced horror. A hungry beast that devours human flesh. A living totem to the horrible god of the mountain.”
“After overhearing the dark rumors, my English companions and Boer rifles departed this morning. I continue onward into the Rift valley with the assistance of several handsomely paid Kikuyu tribesmen. As we moved through the shadowy foothills overlooking the valley and desiccated plain, they assured me that they know the location of the cult’s sacrificial killing grounds. We now await, huddled in a mountainside cave. Outside the cave’s mouth, a foul wind batters the odors of a charnel house into our refuge. As the night grows near, we can hear a faint, rhythmic chant calling a single name…M’weru. Then the screams began. There were many voices crying out in agony.”
“The night sky was cloudless, but the new moon shed no light. We crawled carefully from our shelter along the rocks and serpentine roots towards the maddening din of screams and chanting. As we approached, the appalling scene was illuminated by a bonfire casting a strange light. At the sight of the ritual, my Kikuyu guides retreated. They had not the stomach for it. The executioners, wearing masks decorated with red leathery strips dangling from the forehead, busied themselves with disemboweling victims of all ages, carving intricate runes and characters onto their human canvases. Amidst the blood and writhing, their priestess appeared to more shouts of “M’Weru.” Wearing iridescent feathered robes, she began slow deliberate movements around the fire, chanting an incomprehensible language. Suddenly, the foetid, corrosive wind returned and a vapour shrouded the fire…a form began to take shape in the rising, but darkening flames…my mind struggled to understand the anatomy of this great beast. In an instant, it turned to face me. My heart stopped, my breath froze and my resolve died. I had but glimpsed a dripping red, wickedly curved appendage where the horror’s face should have been, and I fled into the night.”