Lesser Known War Machines of the Astra Militarum

The Leman Russ Expectorator
A rare model of Leman Russ battle tank, the Expectorater replaces its main armament with an Expectorator Cannon, which fires congealed globules of Space Marine phlegm at the enemy.

The limited supplies of Astartes saliva (which is collected by specialised Chapter Spitoon Servitors post-combat) restrict the use of the Expectorator to actions where it it expected to prove particularly effective, such as against Emperor’s Children Chaos Marines who have shown themselves to be horrified at the idea of being covered in rancid spit.

The Leman Russ Exasperator
The Exasperator Battle Tank swaps its main weapon with a bank of servitor powered mega-vuvuzelas. The indescribable cacophony produced has proven able to drive even Slaaneshi noise marines off the field, hands clamped firmly over their ears.

The Leman Russ Exnihilator
All attempts to create a hybrid of the Executioner and Annihilator Battle Tanks have so far met with failure, with many Astra Militarum Commanders firmly of the opinion that the Tech Adepts responsible only maintain the effort due to an unhealthy fascination with puns.

Faith, Cheese and Anime

The old black dog is biting a bit hard at the moment, hence the general lack of updates. But I thought I’d jump in and post this remarkable chart…

The Evolutionary Chart of Religion
The Evolutionary Chart of Religion

Click to enlarge and all.

You obviously can’t sum up the entire scope of human spirituality in one simple diagram, but it’s still a fascinating attempt.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, here’s a few things I promised Paula I’d link…

* Where’d the Cheese Go?
* Smoke Week Every Day

I’m so sorry…

Later: Oh! I also promised to link these stories from Hyperbole and a Half. No need to apologise for these, they’re great! 🙂

* Dogs don’t understand basic concepts like moving
* Wild Animal (The Simple Dog goes for a Joy Ride)

Musical Tuesdays – Tom Cruise’s G-String

Three weeks without a Musical Tuesday. Dreadful!

So I happened to catch the start 0f the Tom Cruise/Jamie Foxx vehicle Collateral the other week and was extremely impressed with the version of Air on the G String that featured.

Air on the G String is a 19th century arrangement by August Wilhelmj of part of Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major. By messing around with the key of the piece Wilhelmj was able to play it entirely on the G string of his violin, which is kind of unfortunate because if he’d made it fit on the A string it’d have a lot less potential for awful puns.

In any case it’s a wonderful piece and the Klazz Brothers somehow manage to turn it into jazz without damaging it in any way.

And while discussing the Air, one can’t go past Procul Haram’s A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967). The entire song draws from Bach, but the memorable organ line leans particularly heavily on the Air. The song was a massive hit and was voted joint best British pop single since 1952 in 1977 (along with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody).

So that’s it for this week. Enjoy!

The Russian Village

When I was kid I was really in to the paranormal (I still am, although I like to think I’m a lot less credulous today than I was back then). At school we had a book club where they’d hand out a catalog three or four times a year and (if you could convince your parents to fork over the cash) you could put in an order, and a couple of months later the books would arrive and get handed out. Now and then the catalog would contain books about monsters, ghosts and other “unexplained mysteries” and I’d always convince my parents to buy them for me.

In one of these books – it had a rowboat being capsized by the Loch Ness Monster on the cover – there was a story that has always stuck with me.

It was about an isolated village in Russia. Just over the hill from this village was another village that had once been run by monks, but in the middle ages there’d been an investigation by the Tsar’s troops who’d discovered that the Monks were devil worshipers and had put them all to the sword. Ever since, the village had been abandoned, and even though it was surrounded by fertile land the locals wouldn’t graze their sheep on it because it was ‘cursed’. The buildings were mostly collapsed, but the church belltower was still standing on one side of the village square, which was surrounded by stone benches.

The only people who used to go to the ruins were the local youths who’d prove how brave they were by trying to run from the top of the ruins to the bottom and then back between when the sun started to set and when the last rays left the belltower. There were all kinds of stories about what would happen to anyone who failed, but no one ever came to any harm, although no one would visit the ruins after sunset.

Now supposedly in the late 1800s a teacher named Swerts was sent to the village by the government to help “modernise” the area. He’d been brought in from Germany and was highly dismissive of the Russian peasants and their beliefs. When he learnt about the ‘cursed’ ruins, he decided that he was going to prove there was nothing to the story, and announced that he was going to spend the night there. The locals tried to talk him out of it, but he was insistent and eventually convinced some of them to assist him. They set out in the afternoon before a night of the full moon, and helped him get into the belltower by stacking up some of the benches from the square. They then hurried away, promising to come back and help him down the next morning.

When the sun came up they headed back to the ruins. They reached the square and called for Swerts, but he didn’t respond. After some nervous discussion two of the bravest men climbed up into the tower. On the top floor they found Swerts, huddled in a corner in terror with his arms wrapped around his head, weeping quietly and whimpering under his breath.

They couldn’t get any sense out of him, but they managed to get him down the tower and into the square. Here he went into hysterics, shrieking in German and apparently gesturing at the piled up benches. In the end one of the villagers had to knock him out, and they carried him back to the village.

After several weeks there was no change in Swerts’s condition, so the villagers sent a message to the authorities. A new teacher was sent out, and Swerts was sent back to Germany, where he was confined to a lunatic asylum in Cologne. No one dared to visit the ruins again, and after the Soviets came to power the site was cleared and the land put back into production.

As I said, this story stuck with me for some reason, always floating around in the back of my head. As I got older I discovered that most of the stories in the book were excitingly rewritten but exaggerated accounts of well known (and often completely debunked) ‘paranormal’ incidents, but I never found any other references to that particular one.

Then a few years back a friend of mine moved to Germany for work and ended up living just outside Bonn (which is just down the road from Cologne). I jokingly asked if he could say hi to Swerts at the local lunatic asylum for me, and in the resulting discussion ended up telling him the whole story. It turned out that one of the friends he and his wife had made was a member of the local historical society and he’d said he’d ask her if any records were available.

It turns out that there was a lunatic asylum just outside Cologne in the late 19th century, and although it was destroyed during World War II some of the records survived. Looking though these (they’d recently been digitised) she found that a teacher named Ralf Swartz was admitted to the asylum in 1882 with ‘hysterical paralysis’ after a trip to Georgia. He remained an inmate until he died of a seizure in 1907 and in all that time was completely non-communicative. He simply repeated just one phrase, over and over under his breath – Die heiligen BrĂĽder nicht gerne auf dem Boden sitzend.

“The Holy Brothers don’t like to sit on the earth”

The dâ vamikèd

The Zurvár people have a large store of legends and myths, many of which are specific to particular Houses. One story shared between almost all Houses however is the dâ vamikèd, or “Tale of Creation”, which seeks to explain the origin of the Zurvár and their culture’s strong relationship to the ocean. Versions of the story have been traced back for over 700 years, and although variations abound, the core narrative of the tale remains constant, with “the Creator” (rĂ vamiket) making the five important elements of Zurvár existence in a specific order common to all versions.

The version of the dâ vamikèd presented here is taken from the well respected collection of Zurvár myths and songs collated and translated into English by Gâron Kár Vèelisavik in 1987.

The Tale of Creation

In the time before the sun, the Creator needed to cross the Great Ocean. So with his hands he crafted the first boat and set sail on his journey.

But it was dark on the ocean, and the Creator could not see his way. So he took coals from his stove and threw them into the sky. They became the stars and lit his way so he was no longer lost, and he continued on his journey.

But the Ocean was empty of all life and the Creator grew hungry. So he took splinters from his oars and threw them into the water. They became the first fish. He caught a fish, and cooked it on his stove, so he was no longer hungry, and he continued on his journey.

But the journey grew long and there was no sound on the ocean but the wind and the waves and the creak of the boat. The Creator become downhearted. So he tore pieces of cloth from his sail and threw them into the air. They became the first seabirds, which danced between the waves and filled the air with their cries. He was no longer downhearted, and he continued on his journey.

But the Ocean was wide and the Creator grew lonely. So he took twine from his ropes and knotted them together. They became the first Zurvár and provided him with the company he craved. He was no longer lonely, and he continued on his journey.

After many days of sailing, the Great Ocean came to an end.  The Creator beached his boat on the far shore and talked with the Zurvár, teaching them to dance and sing like the seabirds, to catch and cook fish, to navigate by the stars and to build boats of their own. He no longer needed his boat, so he pushed it into the water and set it aflame. But the boat did not sink, it burnt brighter and brighter, then rose into the sky and became the sun.

And to this day the Creator’s boat still sails across the sky every day to remind the Zurvár of the Creator and all that he taught them.

The sequence of Boat, Stars, Fish, Birds and Zurvár (often represented by the knots tied by the Creator) is found in many aspects of Zurvár society, including the standard suits of playing cards and the days of the traditional five day week. The importance of the number five to Zurvár culture is also often traced to the Tale of Creation, although it is unclear whether the primacy of five derives from the five elements of the story, or vice-versa.

The Creator character of the story has never been worshiped by the Zurvár. He (or in some versions she) is not viewed as a god, but as an important and respected ancestor. Some Houses claim direct descent from the Creator via long and complex genealogies, some of which have been proved to be accurate for as far back as the early 1100s, although nowdays those who take such tales as literal truth are far and few between.

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