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The Cult Aloft

A Ffynche History

of

Aeronautic Adventure

Part V.  A Modern Phoenix: Indiscernable Levitation by Proxy

While today’s Air Force still serves its workman-like duties at night in search of truffles and morels, technical development has increasingly been directed to a novel theoretic interpretation of ancient thought.

 

In 1964, a letter was received by the CoFIC patent committee from the young son of recently-retired test-pilot Lester Jocktoggle. Was it possible, the 10-year-old Fester had asked, that if he wished hard enough, his pet donkey might one day fly -- so long as it was out of sight, of course?

All the earlier work on Indiscernable Levitation had been directed at human flight. And although animals had been used in parachute descents, no-one had attempted to lift one off the ground by sheer concentrated ritual alone.

 

The arduous training involved in medieval attempts at mind-powered flight had been largely abandoned by the restless and eclectic Marlowe lineage. 

 

But interest has since returned with renewed vigour -- first through the quiet devotion of young Fester and his donkey Cuthbert, and then in collaboration with his long-time friend, Jolyon Peabody Brakewynde. 

 

In many ways, the Jocktoggle-Brakewynde approach can be seen as a very early post-modernist approach to avionics, entailing the repetitive sedentary introspection that later characterised the school.

 

While assisting the Marlowe enterprises during weekdays, the young duo used their Saturday afternoons hunting through the archives. They hoped to find reports of effects of Cult rituals on nearby animals.

The Jocktoggle-Brakewynde partnership began in youth

Pig interrupts the High Pope’s 'thyrd infertion'

A key phrase, dating back to an evening at the start of the Lenten month of 1705, read 'upon the High Pope’s thyrd infertion genuphleck, a nurfing pig did rear up and fpeak in tongues, in words feeming to say -- "two legs batter"'

Pig mimicry of the human voice is of course common, and the porcine utterance was thought at the time to be a reference to the pancake mix of the landlady at The Lion Inn. 

Contemporary engraving

Goody Partridge’s practice of eliminating flour lumps with her bared feet in large copper bowl became an annual public event in the early part of the century. Frail elderly men were given a front-row seat in an effort to reinvigorate them at the sight of an ankle.

But the tattered parchment made no further mention of the fact that the fore-quarters of the pig had lifted off the ground for a moment. Could this be a missing clue? Perhaps a partial levitation, ended when the animal’s face above the bar startled the watching celebrants?

 

In those years, the entire ritual was composed of three hours of sixteen alternate static poses and muscular arm waving -- broken by rest periods requiring the consumption, on each occasion, of a pint of dark porter.

Goody Partridge prepares for batter after a hearty meal

But breweries have steadily strengthened the alcoholic content of their porters since the latter part of the 18th century, and records show that performers rarely got past the ritual’s tenth stage. The young men reckoned it was therefore highly unlikely that the accuracy required for the three consecutive insertion genuflections in step 14 had ever been achieved in the previous two centuries.

 

The two lads began home-brewing a mild porter in 1968, and practised component sections with increasing duration. By March 1969, on Shrove Tuesday at mid-afternoon, Fester and Joylon set up a cable-triggered camera pointed towards Cuthbert’s paddock.

As they staggered about at the critical moment of the fourteenth episode, orienting themselves away from the pet donkey, Fester pressed the plunger.

 

Cuthbert seemed undisturbed when he approached the two men, and they feared their efforts had been in vain. The animal itself recognised the typical signs of inebriation in the two exhausted humans, and dutifully carried them home in two trips.

Cuthbert' continued to ferry home the severely inebriated for many years

The two-week wait to get the photograph developed was an agony. But the grainy image was clear, Cuthbert’s hind-quarters had lifted into the air at the third genuflection.

The Indiscernable at dusk

Success can bring out a reckless arrogance in all young men, and the troubled history of Indiscernible Levitation by Proxy of Animals (ILPA) soon unfolded.

 

It was a hedonistic period of long hair and rule-breaking, and during their youthful experimentation, Fester and Jolyon discovered that so long as enough glasses of porter were drunk, the three genuflections were all that was required for flight. If the position could be preserved for as long as a tight nadgerstrap allows, the creature’s ascent could be extended.

 

Soon the two boys were bragging to their old classmates. And in that long summer, the well-known ILPA scandal exploded. Ministry of Defence documents recently released under the 50-year rule note a spate of UFO sightings in East Anglia that year, and reports of the presence of young drunken revellers nearby.

The MOD folder includes the following alarming photographs of the effects of youthful extravagance:

Incident 18: Bardfield, 580 yards from gated field

Incident 237: Sampford, 10 yards vertical

Incident 382: Bardfield, 200 yards

Incident 115: Wethersfield, a mile from next farm

While not explicitly stated, the reports suggest that the intelligence services were requested to investigate -- and this tallies with Cult archive material from the period.

 

The minutes of the High Pope’s emergency conclave of late 1969 note the arrival in the Lion of an American man in a long dark coat, who spoke of a colleague’s prophecy that 'a herd rain was going to fall'. 

 

The leading committees took this as a warning that US intelligence services were about to intervene. Evidence of farm stock stranded in elevated positions was public knowledge, many of them indeed, herd animals.

Incident 541: Rodwinter, 2 miles

Cult elders immediately began their own investigation of the herd rain, and quickly discovered the tampering with the Indiscernible ritual.

 

Not only had the young hipsters and yippies foreshortened the ceremony, but worse, they were failing to complete a full Recollage. When Fester and Jolyon made a full confession, the elders were stunned. The lads were congratulated for their cunning and ingenuity and received that year’s Blatterworp Medallion for Scientific Progress.

 

But in the only encyclical ever issued in Cult history, members were henceforth compelled to perform the 'Indiscernible' in its entirety, and always with commercially brewed ales. 

 

It is to the great credit and wisdom of Cult elders at the time that their quick action to curb the risks of uncontrolled ancient powers seemed more like a challenge than a discipline to the youth. The harsh measure nevertheless brought about an immediate halt to the problem, and averted further approaches from the authorities.

The remaining weak ales in the hands of members was given to Cuthbert the donkey, already a frequent visitor to the Lion.

First pint of the day

Propping up the bar after 12 gallons of home-brew

Getting him back home

The morning after

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