Lily of Blythenhale
Including Princess Lily and Blythenhale Forest and texts by Mulholland and Hogg, Daniel Harbour, Shelley von Strunckel, Dushko Petrovich and Arron Sands. Published by Acme Studios.
Princess Lily and Blythenhale Forest
by Andro Semeiko
Before Bethnal Green was Bethnal Green, it was Blythenhale, a patchwork of forest and marshland, deeply steeped in mystical covenants and secret practices. Indeed, on the very spot on which the Acme Project Space, home of the current exhibition, now stands, unusual rituals with combs were once conducted.
In the 13th century, during the reign of Henry III of England, Simon de Montfort, father of the legendary Blind Beggar who appears on Bethnal Green’s coat of arms, inherited Blythenhale. Simon de Montfort was the son of a distinguished crusader and himself a courageous warrior and bright thinker. He led a barons’ uprising against King Henry III and succeeded in creating the first elected parliament. Today he is regarded as one of the forefathers of modern parliamentary democracy. During the parliament's first meeting it was decided to create a secret confraternity called Lily of Blythenhale which would meet regularly with an annual assembly on the 1st of August with the purpose of following the agreed objective of striving for a better world. The first parliament lasted only a few months until King Henry disbanded it and killed Simon de Montfort, but the members of the confraternity went into hiding and managed to hold their assembly in Blythenhale forest on the 1st August 1267. Lily of Blythenhale has held meetings ever since, however the location changed sometime in the 19th century.
The name and the annual assembly date of the confraternity originate from the legend of Princess Lily, a manuscript of which Simon de Montfort carried with him at all times. Unfortunately, the manuscript was destroyed and no other copies reached us. The only known facts and excerpts from the legend come from other 12th century sources. The legend seems to suggest that Lily was the illegitimate daughter of the noble knight Artgur (old Welsh, meaning Arthur) born on 1st August 511 AD.
Little daughter, I have longed a while to see you, and now I see you the fairest thing ever a woman bore. In sadness came I hither, in sadness did I bring forth, since I have to depart your first feast day not gone. But I give you a name of purity that will protect you, your name shall be Lily; the child of knight Artgur.
Lily was given away to be brought up by the family of the forester of Blythenhale and she was raised in the open, accustomed to the danger and darkness of the wilderness. Legend says that on one occasion playing alone in the forest, little Lily found a dragon’s tooth and carved it into a comb. When she brushed her silky black hair with that comb she could talk directly to spirits.
I believe that Simon de Montfort saw through the layers of the fable and identified real powers at work in the forestland that he inherited. The special place in the woods, the alignment of stars, little Lily's date of birth and the shape of the comb, must all have had a crucial significance which Simon de Montfort attempted to recreate.
Throughout the centuries the members of Lily of Blythenhale raised various pertinent issues, and before every discussion they would perform an elaborate ritual with combs specially created for the occasion. It seems that a certain application of the comb from the legend had been rediscovered. The followers believed that the act of combing allowed them to acquire a heightened ability of analysis. They also believed they could connect to parallel worlds and see a bigger picture of the universe. In the 16th century a special underground workshop was built adjacent to the Lily of Blythenhale meeting place, where the gallery is currently located, which continued the production of combs for their rituals. When the workshop was closed in the 19th century and the premises were acquired by a brush factory, several of the original combs and manuscripts were discovered. It is unclear if the found objects were the actual ones used in the rituals, but they were doubtlessly intended for this purpose. And the manuscripts that are written in Georgian suggest knowledge and connection reaching to distant lands and cultures. The combs and a page from the manuscripts are displayed in the exhibition for you to view.
During this year’s Lily of Blythenhale annual assembly on the 1st of August 2011 one senior member unveiled a new method of using the comb that allows greater and faster connectivity with the parallel worlds and a deeper understanding of the higher truth. Just a few different gestures, combing against the grain, and it works—though this has yet to be evaluated by scientists, philosophers and hairdressers.
Dans les Cours de Mont Royal
by Confraternity of Neoflagellants
At around 7:00am, following my usual routine, I squatted atop the colossal chandelier in the grand atrium of Les Cours de Mont Royal. Gazing through the twinkling prisms into the world’s largest gross leasable space, I observed two Customer Service Attendants locking the facilitator washrooms and heading towards the world’s fastest and longest escalators. Months of careful observation of this unparalleled vista through the world’s most avant-garde, most high powered telescopes told me they were heading down to the Foire Alimentaire on level one for breakfast at Tikki Mings. Enjoying the experience of taking a closer look at the sweeping terrace below, I knew they had made their choice from over 1,430 food and beverage options. At night, the mood shifts. I’d had plenty of time to complete my preparations for the day ahead.
Organising my transport in a timely and professional manner had been a major consideration. If you are travelling to the mall there is no direct bus. There is a roundabout not far from this retail experience. At the north side of the roundabout, there is a bus stop. This was designed, at great expense, to allow passengers to pass close to the mall’s fully retractable roof without having the hassle of getting off the bus. If you bus through early enough, you get a swell view of the latest store displays and over 31,400 price markdowns and merchandise transfers. Laid end to end, these would extend over 63 times around the world. You could board if the bus stopped there. Well, it does stop—but not for passengers. The stop just means that you have to pay the fare again. So, if you are travelling to the mall, there is no direct bus. That’s why I came in by metro.
As the guttural joual of the Customer Service Attendants faded, I dropped my satchel to the floor, leapt across the foyer and clung to a pillar outside Spa Diva. I paused for a moment to adjust my grip, controlled my breathing and took another bite of the Bacon Maple Donut that I’d invested in earlier that morning. High in sugar and carbohydrates and low in protein, it sure was super! I could feel the sugar rush as I shimmied down, rolled across the marbled floor collecting my satchel, and completed the movement by executing a controlled fall over the east balustrade. As I landed with a quiet splash in level three’s Fountain Court—the hub of my mission here—a shard of crispy bacon jostled itself loose from the raised yeast and maple frosting and melted delicately on my tongue. As I turned, licking my teeth, I was face to face with the most striking symbol of modernity.
Shivering slightly, I waded through the bamboo-lined lagoon and plunged my hand inside the murky lamprey tanks at the foot of the stepped waterfall that lay between the Discovery Centre and the University of the Mall of America. It was a replica of a waterfall I saw in a photo on the Internet while visiting the Niagra-on-the-Lake Outlet Village; nice view. The most picturesque scene I have yet to come across this side of Ottawa—ideal for a model railroad set or wargaming terrain. It seemed to have that kind of commitment to providing a diverse environment that turns static items into dynamic ones. A signature spa, it made me realise you really can use just about any kinds of rocks you want, including large rocks, round stones, river rocks and pebbles. I thought of it as a sandbox that continues to define waterfall experience, flowing with a wonderful and seamless effect. And the rocks? Have fun smashing! Well, how was I to know that was illegal in some provinces?
My fingers soon settled upon an object, one that was familiar even through my ‘Otter Ultimate’ 4/5mm compressed neoprene suit. I gave a firm tug and my one-piece Samsung day-sleeve floated to the surface. I let it scan my retina, pulled it over my head and within seconds I stood fully clothed as a respectable Quebecker power buyer. Before leaving the water, I scooped some coins from the fountain bed and used the end of my Hermès tie to dry them off. Three loonies, a doubloonie, a few slime encrusted quarters and an unvalidated parking token. I threw a quarter back for luck. Hey, I guess I was the kinda guy who makes random objects return in a variety of new scenarios.
I sat down on a bench amongst the indigenous faux birch across from the 3 Monkeys boutique and opened my satchel. The label momentarily caught my eye: ‘Object size: Height: 0, Length: 0, Breadth: 0. Machine wash only. © Gok Wan 2009.’ Rummaging through, I gathered my supply of sacred ampullae and slotted them into the holster inside my jacket. Next, I withdrew a Tim Horton’s coffee cup, removed the lid and placed it on the bench beside me to admire it. Horton was a hero of mine, a guy who paired sublimely, a guy with a rewarding career and an engaging manner who always supported the goals of the team, a guy struggling to survive in an age of robotic demons. His coffee was one of the world’s most extraordinary experiences. Double-double and nothing else matters but you.
Checking quickly that the retail staff of the Simply Botox beauty bar were yet to arrive, I fished out the cool-bag containing the ceremonial merkin of Kateri Tekakwitha (‘Lily of the Mohawks’) and extracted a few hairs. These I placed in Horton’s cup—I could later brew up a powerful energy drink from this second-class relic—and replaced the lid. The remaining items (provided to me by Lily of Blythenhale) I placed in various pockets about my suit—these included some fine tooth electric combs and a Windows Mobile cellphone pre-programmed by the East London fraternity with bespoke weaponry, gastronomic apps and holographic cartogram generators. You can relieve some of your stress by punching the hell out of some cars and your enemies.
Finally, I leaned back through the foliage behind me and extracted a small black monogrammed attaché case from the misty waters. I waited till the remaining water droplets evaporated from its touch sensitive surface before folding the empty satchel inside. I then rose and strode toward the locked entrance to the washrooms that the Customer Service Attendants had left only minutes ago. I swiped the code into the keypad and entered into the beating heart of the premier lifestyle and entertainment destination.
I quickly bypassed the washrooms, I felt no need to further acquaint myself of their unique tailoring to withstand multiple activities in a safe environment, and proceeded up a stairwell past the Avant-garde Meetings and Events facilities, towards the street-view gallery. I gazed into the narrow two-storey breezeway where the homeless huddled around the steel ventilation grilles in winter, a unique blend of traditional and modern vagrancy just minutes away from where warmth and style meets sophistication. There, pacing out a quadrangled pilgrimage through the rising steam, was my principal contact and mentor Gregg Wallace. Red faced—his great food brain sweating vigorously—he emerged from the fog and pressed a bloody sheet of butcher paper up onto the reinforced glass. He leaned in close against the window, licking the glass, mouthing something… “…like a deadly assassin …chilli comes creeping into your palate… Ah yea… I’d quite happily put my face in it…”
Better initiate a service consultation fast by asking an open-ended question, I thought to myself. “Cor, that is bang on the money,” I mouthed back. “Vision, passion and resources? A comprehensive inventory of all tastes?” He nodded sagely and held up an Android smartphone inside a pastry bag. “Food is a peep-hole on a man,” he appeared to say. We’d built and maintained a strong vendor relationship—I wasn’t about to let that go! “Let’s just simmer down and share a bucket of chicken,” I concluded firmly, gesturing as if delving greedily into a Boneless Box. “…nicely seasoned,” he mouthed, playing air pepper grinder then confidently slapping a spatula onto his open palm.
Sighing heavily I retrieved my cellphone from my pocket—I always dreaded this part of the day. We launched apps and synched.
* * *
I stood outside a wet market on the corner of Cambridge Heath Road. On the bus stop, a large backlit billboard sporting Gok Wan’s grinning face glowed in the night. ‘Ingredients: Bag of rice ’n’ all’y’all favorite sh*t.’ I never will understand how anyone could like this man’s chicken.
* * *
The Confraternity of Neoflagellants are lay peoples dedicated to the ascetic application, dissemination and treatment of neomedievalism in contemporary cultures of premodern futurity. They are an equal opportunities confraternity bound by chirograph: Norman James Hogg (Sergeant-At-Law www.normanhogg.co.uk), Prof Neil Mulholland (Keeper of the Wardrobe www.neilmulholland.co.uk). Codex: www.confraternityofneoflagellants.org.uk
Knights erroneous and gulag dentists
by Daniel Harbour
The knights that fill Andro Semeiko-Antelidze’s imaginings are paradoxical: deeply foreign yet quintessentially quotidian. They are precise, minute vagrants in landscapes of lush and giant vagueness. The expert detail of their execution contrasts with the extravagant simplicity of a world that appears ready to engulf them. And yet, the activities that occupy them seem oblivious to these disparities. They are the humdrum details of our own daily existence: lighting, cleaning, grooming, . . . But these paradoxes, though fanciful and comical, reflect something deep and unique that only Semeiko-Antelidze could bring to his artistry and that connects intimately with the modern world.
Every culture that has forged its existence in battle reveres the warrior. Russian and Georgian literature, like the Homeric and Anglo-Saxon traditions, begin with poetic epics, from the twelfth century, in which heroes battle forces of evil in quests that are at once personal, spiritual, and, from a modern perspective, national. Both epics—the anonymous Lay of the Host of Igor, from which stems Borodin’s Prince Igor, and Shota Rustaveli’s In A Panther’s Skin —are texts with which the Russo-Ukrainian or Georgian schoolchild—and Semeiko-Antelidze, as his name suggests, was both—becomes familiar.
And where there are epics, there is knightly travailing and knightly prevailing, honourable deeds and righteous creeds. Indeed, Rustaveli’s epic is often translated under the title of The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, where the Georgian is more laconic. And, following in the tracks of two centuries’ crusades—one of the definitive acts of the knights of Europe—Rustaveli pilgrimaged to Jerusalem, where his visit is recorded on a (very recently defaced) pillar of the Monastery of the Cross.
Yet, it would be a mistake to see Semeiko-Antelidze’s knights as stemming from the—to him—familiar childhood characters of Prince Igor and his brothers, or Prince Tariel and the nobleman Avtandil, for these are not knights in our sense.
On the one hand, our knights are far more ancient. Whereas the English word is so deeply embedded in the language that half of its letters have fallen silent during its pronunciation’s multimillennial evolution, the abundance of “equivalents” that Russian dictionaries offer shows that this is an alien concept filled by borrowings. First, from the north, came vityaz, harking back to marauding Vikings. Then, from the east, came various forms of Altaic bagadur, consolidating into Russian as bogatyr. And last, from the west, came German Ritter, manhandled by the Poles into rycerz, and arriving in Russian as rytsar. The Georgian “equivalent” raindi is also an outsider: a possible borrowing from Persian, it appears just once in the medieval corpus and is wholly absent from Rustavelia’s epic. It reappears in seventeenth century with the lowly meaning of horse-trainer and only gradually assumes connotations of nobility and ritual anointing (while its possible Persian source, rend, slides into slyness and libertinism). The concept of knightliness, then, like the word, is borrowed, not indigenous.
On the other hand, our knights are far more modern than their Russian and Georgian “equivalents”. As children, we are enchanted by fairy tales recounting their daring and romances. As teenagers, we are excited by films and television depicting their bravery and gallantry. And as adults, we greet with delight, outrage, or indifference the regular bestowing of knighthoods on those—scientists, artists, sportsmen, politicians, businessmen—whose personal quests for excellence (or personal connections to power) have materially affected the nonmaterial wealth of the nation.
To the Russo-Georgian Semeiko-Antelidze, resident now in England, knights have moved from foreign and fictitious to visible, tangible aspects of daily life. Small wonder, then, that his knights are so curiously quotidian in a landscape that it so deeply foreign.
But that is only part of the story. In earlier work, Semeiko-Antelidze created micromorphologically accurate portraits of solitary, ordinary objects. Those that played with light were a particular favourite: a headlight, a spoon, a well-glazed chocolate cake, a woman’s boot or businessman’s shoe. Then, from somewhere in the vaults of the Royal Academy, a medieval knight’s helmet with visor, bearing an accidental resemblance to Mickey Mouse’s nose. And, in its wake, another helmet, then full suits of armour, then knights farming, knights surfing, knights gingerly entering Hockneyesque pools, knights formally posed for Van Dyckesque portraiture. Where does this fascination come from?
Semeiko-Antelidze grew up at a pivotal moment in Georgian history. Communism was waning and the country was beginning to look westwards again. For him, this westward gaze took a very particular form.
Part of his childhood was spent in his grandparents’ house, in the mountains of Guria, where the dangerous Agidaqva River emerges from the forests, dragging the more than occasional tree trunk, boulder, or as its name recalls, drowned man with it.
There, he saw how his grandfather would frequently treat for free the teeth of the local poor. When he asked how his grandfather had become a dentist, he was told the story of the onetime Minister of Justice, anonymously denounced, who lost his vocation, home, and family, and was reduced to a gulag inmate. A death sentence for many, he was fortunate in advancing, eventually, to the position of gulag dentist.
Gulag dentist. Few juxtapositions of words can sound so gruesome. But the position ensured both survival and reunion with his family.
Many lives inflict unimaginable suffering, but it ought to be particularly embittering for such suffering to befall those striving for justice in a movement purportedly dedicated to social equity and human betterment. Yet some people—and Semeiko-Antelidze’s grandfather was clearly one of them—emerge from the crucible of their suffering with a generosity of heart and goodness of spirit that one can barely comprehend, except, perhaps, as acts of defiance.
This was the background that Semeiko-Antelidze brought to his adolescent discovery of the art of Aubrey Beardsley. And Beardsley proved a particularly potent influence on the young artist—beyond the obvious parallels between Beardsley’s curves and Semeiko’s swirls.
First, his work was “western” and, so, of the moment. More important, though, is the prominent place that pieces like Le Morte d’Arthur afforded to kings and knights and nobles, to quests and perils and prizes. The mountains, forests and rivers of his childhood gave Semeiko-Antelidze the perfect landscape with which to vivify these images. And the dangers and trials that the world had hurled at his grandfather, and the implacable magnanimity with which he responded, afforded him an ideal model of knightly virtues.
What was missing, though, was the knightly code. If communism’s treatment of his family had not been enough to debunk its grand design for humanity, its systematic collapse in his childhood would have done so. And the mere wish to be more “western” was not particularly contentful: freedoms of thought, association, and expression are fine, but what thoughts and associations does one use those freedoms to express?
This codelessness is key to the foreignness of Semeiko-Antelidze’s knights. In a landscape in which they are deeply alien, in which, oblivious, they carry on with quotidian activities and strange rites, what they lack is purpose, content, and direction. Their quest is to find a quest itself.
And this is something with which we are all familiar. When Tunisia's recent election mustered a turn out of 80%, whereas ours are barely quorate, when Libya's population have fought for freedom, whereas ours has rioted and looted, one cannot help but feel that the questlessness of these minutely precise knights depicts, through their foreignness, something that is very close to home.
Tales of the Lilies of Blythenhale
by Shelley von Strunckel
1 August 511
Lily of Blythenhale may have been born under summer’s sign, the sign of the Sun itself, Leo. This endowed her with both beauty and charm. But it also gave her access to immense power—exactly like that of the unshaded on the hottest of days.
However, those who were present at her birth noted that the daytime Moon was directly overhead, its position gave it rulership of the heavens. Although the Moon is regarded as the Queen of the Night—a deity whose reign ends when the Sun rises—for a period of each month the Moon appears during daytime, just to remind the Sun that despite his heat and power, she will NOT be ignored.
Thus, as Lily grew, these two forces blended in her character. The Sun endowed her with a firm step and forceful gaze—and promise of more if her will was defied. The Moon, however, gave her the power to sense the intentions of all those who came to her, or even thought about her. Beyond that, she had the mystical knowledge to combine these two.
In those times, the study of Alchemy was reserved for the few. However, a tiny minority had no need to study: they were born with a knowledge of it. At the time of Lily’s birth, Jupiter, the force of promise and Saturn, focus, were united in the heavens, marking her as one whose powers were extensive. She communed with the nature spirits and could spot magical objects, such as a dragon’s tooth, and turn their powers to her will. Thus she was able to join the unseen realms at will, communing with them and receiving their wisdom.
Often initiated Alchemists select a signature scent. While most create and apply the scent they wear, initiates of this level actually exude the scent from their skin. It’s a part of their being. And, of course, Lily’s scent is the powerful scent of the lily flower in full bloom.
Beings of this degree of advanced level of achievement—those some would refer to as magicians—are able to move through time at will. They do not just travel through time but are able to be in a number of places at once. Thus the sense of Lily’s presence, and her scent being noted by many, at Assemblies of Lily of Blythenhale even today.
The Confraternity of Lily of Blythenhale 1 August 1267
Often those organisations that choose to be least visible have the greatest influence. Thus it is with the Confraternity of Lily of Blythenhale. As was the case with most such groups at that time, the members understood that there were two varieties of power, derived from two distinctly different sources. One was political and came from the sword. But the other, which ultimately had a far greater reach, combined mystery and magic.
So of course the date of their meeting, and the individual they honoured, were based on that knowledge. Thus 1 August not only honoured their Patroness, it ensured her Protection. What is more, in that year, they benefitted from magnificent Jupiter near the Sun. And on that day the Moon was in fair-minded Sagittarius, ensuring all those who were involved would maintain the highest standards.
Of greatest importance was the members themselves, each of whom understood that the world was greater than what the eye could see and the hand could touch. They knew that when they joined their minds together, in a mission, the resulting union had the power to create peace and abundance or, if necessary, deal a crushing blow. And without leaving the room in which they met. They were also able to recognise the presence of their Patroness, Lily of Blythenhale, by her scent. And when she was in attendance, they were further inspired to encourage knowledge, harmony and peace and discourage those whose aim was the reverse.
The Confraternity’s New Initiative 1 August 2011
At this meeting the decision was made that the mystical vision of the Confraternity should take a leap forward of major proportions. Devices that would actually allow for communication between parallel worlds would be created. Although nobody has actually acknowledged the date was chosen astrologically, the chart would suggest there was prior investigation into the perfect day and hour to commence these proceedings. The creation of magical devices requires both the power of the Sun, essence of the masculine, and the feminine focus of the Moon to be in the sign of Leo, as they were at the time. This variety of energy and force is vital to cut through both the collective resistance of those who cannot even conceive that such things are possible and to create a new form of metaphysical science.
However, in this case the Moon is assisted by its close proximity to Mercury, which blends the powers of the messenger god with the planet’s reputation for creative thinking, both of which are essential for such a courageous, and creative, venture. Finally, with Saturn, planet of focus and commitment, in the sign of partnership and harmony, Libra, the Confraternity commits anew to its objective of using magic and government, side by side, to create a new way of being, living in the here and now, and in others worlds and at other times.
Two Travellers From Faraway Realms
by Dushko Petrovich
Two travellers from faraway realms accidentally converged near the centre of the kingdom. Each kept his hair in a distinctive way; neither could place how the other one smelled. Their clothing was neither in nor out of fashion. They had come so far, it was as if they were from another time.
As they spoke of other things, they silently studied one another, eventually reasoning that their differences were more the same than different. It was never stated outright, but as they reached for their flasks, it was clearly understood that they would have an easier time if they continued their journey together. It was as if they had only now begun to feel at home.
So much so, they wanted to leave. One of them, the smaller one, had mentioned a positing for a festival of the Desert Territories, so they consulted their maps. There would be stories and a feast, even a huge bonfire for the new moon. As it happens, each of the travellers was also a halfbreed, with families from every corner of the kingdom, so their departure was just as routine as it was sudden.
They had been lost for longer than they realised. Everything had become very funny and they hadn’t even noticed they kept walking up and down the same road. Or maybe they were going in a circle? In any event they were soon out of spirits and really thirsty, so they scrounged some coins and bought a water fruit from a merchant—he didn’t know where the gathering was—and now they were carrying the humongous thing around, awkwardly attempting to bite through its think rind, and all the while asking locals where exactly they were in relation to the castle. (The bigger traveller was nearly collapsing with laughter.)
They were almost certainly slurring their words beyond recognition, but it hardly mattered as nobody they met seemed to speak the official language. They were still more than willing to point in one direction or another, but none of it was very convincing. Indeed, the travellers couldn’t have told you how they finally arrived, but before they knew it, they were joyously relieving themselves against the high castle walls.
Once they finished and tucked in their overshirts, they looked up and gasped as they realised how dead quiet everything was. But soon enough, this too became extraordinarily funny, and it may have been their chortling that alerted the guard. They were too drunk to be scared, but the imposing man fortunately turned out to be friendly. He had been a show fighter in one of the Desert Territories, he explained, so he was hired to protect the castle during the festivities. But what about those festivities, they asked, sobering up just slightly. Those were for the blue moon, he said, weeks ago! He was just finishing cleaning up—everything was about to be packed up and shipped back south.
The smaller traveller sheepishly pulled out the scrap of paper which had announced the gathering and shrugged humbly at his mistake. He wasn’t familiar with these astrological terms, he offered. No problem, said the guard, I can’t even read! He then cheerfully suggested he take the dejected travellers inside on a private tour.
The interior of the castle was dark and cool; tall metal fences divided the vast space into even rectangles. The travellers had heard rumours about the exotic light makers, but they still came as a revelation, each shadowy image more wondrous and dreamlike than the last. As they wandered quietly through the darkened labyrinth, their steps slowed in unison, almost to a halt. These glowing scenes from distant lands somehow made the travellers want to stay right where they were, and as they put down their belongings and drifted into sleep, the two friends even stopped imagining the revelries they had missed.