the cult of the cricket

Royal courtiers in China kept singing crickets as early as the eighth century, housing the insects they’d caught in small golden cages next to their beds.

cricket cages found here

In their relations to crickets the Chinese have passed through three distinct periods : during the first period from early antiquity down to the T’ang dynasty, they merely appreciated the cricket’s powerful tunes; under the T’ang (A.D. 618-906) they began to keep crickets as interned prisoners in cages to be able to enjoy their concert at any time; finally, under the Sung (a.d. 960-1278) they developed the sport of cricket-fights and a regular cult of the cricket.

image found here

As happened in China frequently, a certain custom first originated in the palace, became fashionable, and then gradually spread among all classes of the populace. The women enshrined in the imperial seraglio found solace and diversion in the company of crickets during their lonesome nights. Instead of golden cages, the people availed themselves of small bamboo or wooden cages which they carried in their bosom or suspended from their girdles.

image found here

During the summer the insects were kept in circular pottery jars made of clay and covered with a flat lid. Many potters made a special business of these cricket houses, and impressed on them a seal with their names. The crickets were kept cool as the heat did not penetrate the thick clay walls. Tiny porcelain dishes decorated in blue and white contained food and water for the insects, and they were also provided with beds or sleeping boxes of clay. Jars of somewhat larger size served for holding the cricket-fights.

image found here

In summer the insects were generally fed on fresh cucumber, lettuce, and other greens. During their confinement in autumn and winter, they ate masticated chestnuts and yellow beans. In the south they were also fed on chopped fish and various kinds of insects, and even received honey as a tonic. It was quite a common sight to see idlers congregated in tea-houses laying their crickets out on the tablesTheir masters washed the gourds with hot tea and chewed chestnuts and beans to feed them. Then they listened to their songs and boasted of their grinding powers.

chestnut tree found here

The fighting crickets received particular attention and nourishment, a dish consisting of a bit of rice mixed with fresh cucumbers, boiled chestnuts, lotus seeds, and mosquitoes. When the time for the fight drew near, they were given a tonic of bouillon made from the root of a certain flower. Some fanciers allowed themselves to be stung by mosquitoes, and when those were full of blood, they were given to their favorite pupils. The good fighters were believed to be incarnations of great heroes of the past, and were treated in every respect like soldiers.

mosquito larvae found here

Those with black heads and gray hair in their bodies were considered best. Next in appreciation came those with yellow heads and gray hair, then those with white heads and gray hair.

The tournaments took place in an open space, on a public square, or in a special house termed Autumn Amusements. There were heavy-weight, middle and light-weight champions. The wranglers were always matched on equal terms according to size, weight, and color, and were carefully weighed on a pair of wee scales at the opening of each contest.

image found here

A tickler was used for stirring the crickets to incite them to sing or fight. In Peking fine hare or rat whiskers were inserted in a bone handle for this purpose; in Shanghai, a fine blade of crab or finger grass. 

A referee who was called “Army Commander” or “Director of the Battle”, announced the contestants, recited the history of their past performances, and spurred the two parties on to combat. For this purpose he availed himself of the tickler described above, stirring their heads and the ends of their tails, then finally their large hind legs.

image found here

The two combatants would fight each other mercilessly. The struggle usually ended in the death of one of them, and it occurred not infrequently that the more agile or stronger one pounced with its whole weight upon the body of its opponent, severing its head completely

The sum of money staked on the contest was lodged with a committee who retained ten per cent to cover expenses and handed over the balance to the owner of the winning cricket. The lucky winner was also presented with a roast pig, a piece of silk, and a gilded ornament resembling a bouquet of flowers. The names of the victorious champions were inscribed on an ivory tablet carved in the shape of a gourd and these tablets like diplomas were religiously kept in the houses of the fortunate owners. The victory was occasion for great rejoicing and jollification and the jubilant winner strutted in the procession of his overjoyed compatriots, carrying his victorious cricket home.

image found here

Published in: on October 23, 2011 at 8:04 am  Comments (57)  
Tags: , , , , ,

the names that enchanted France

Jean “Papa” Galmot was born in Monpazier, France in June 1879 and died in Cayenne, French Guiana, August 1928.

Galmot found here

He managed a gold mine owned by his stepfather in the forest of Guiana, making ​​a fortune while striving to improve the lives of its workers and employees. He relieved their poverty by paying them decently, applying labor legislation and creating local scholarships for the poor.

rocket launch in French Guiana found here

Galmot was a pioneer in many areas; an idealist, poet and writer of value. But he was poisoned and died, aged just 49, while working against injustice and for the rights of the citizens of Guiana. He then became the object of a cult. Spontaneously, hearing of his death, the people rose up and a riot broke out in Cayenne.

people of French Guiana found here

Janet Flanner reported on the trial of these rioters

“Indeed, the prisoners’ very names have enchanted the citizens of France. Buckaroos with gentle voices and criminal records are called Mith, Parnasse, Pilgrim, Avril, Mars and even Time. A woman who is said to have aided them in casting stones is a Mlle. Radical, possessor of four children and three professions, only one of which, prostitution, could be acknowledged. The giant Iquy, a deaf fisherman, was Galmot’s mameluke.

image from Mameluke Training Manual found here

An octogenarian named Moustapha is accused of having beaten men to death with his umbrella on the big day. When at home he lives in an inn called The Thirty Knife Cuts. None of the prisoners speaks French grammatically, all refuse to have interpreters, all mix their genders, lie magnificently, are affectionate, polite, and as a means of showing their admiration, call the lawyers and the judge “Papa”.

brass knuckle umbrella found here

Dying, some of them, from tuberculosis contracted in the cold prison where they have waited two years for trial, the accused, attired in evening clothes, green mittens and varnished boots, probably await either the guillotine or Devil’s Island. The giant Iquy wears a sweater embroidered with his motto: “Life is Lovely.”

man in embroidered clothing found here

If the evidence is long, the prisoners remove their boots. Those beheaded would remain in France. Those sentenced to hard labour for life would merely, ironically enough, go back home to Guiana. One can only regret that Conrad died too early to have written of their hearts of darkness.”

image found here

Published in: on September 29, 2011 at 9:35 pm  Comments (51)  
Tags: , , , ,

Cinderella of my heart

Pierre Arnold Bernard (1875-1955) had an abiding interest in Tantra

“Known in the popular American press as “Oom the Omnipotent,” Bernard became notorious throughout newspapers and journals as a spiritual leader and philosopher as well as a philanderer, seducer of women and purveyor of scandalous indecencies.


Wily con man, yogi, athlete, bank president, founder of the Tantrik Order in America and the Clarkestown Country Club …the remarkable “Doctor” Bernard was all of these.

Bernard simulating his own death

In 1904, Bernard established a clinic in San Francisco where he taught his own versions of self-hypnosis and yoga, which eventually became known as the “Bacchante Academy.” Even then, Bernard had become something of a scandal in the California press, who charged that the Academy “catered to young women interested in learning hypnotism and soul charming by which they meant the mysteries of the relations between the sexes”


Teaching Hatha Yoga downstairs and offering secret Tantric initiation upstairs, his Oriental sanctum quickly became an object of scandal in the New York press: the notorious “Omnipotent Oom” was charged with kidnapping and briefly imprisoned, though the charges were later dropped. “I cannot tell you how Bernard got control over me or how he gets it over other people,” said one of the alleged kidnapees, Zella Hopp, “He is the most wonderful man in the world. No women seem able to resist him.” The press reported “wild Oriental music and women’s cries, but not those of distress”


Apparently, Bernard also believed that for certain individuals (particularly overly-repressed women of the Victorian era) more drastic surgical measures might be needed to liberate their sexual potential. Sexually unresponsive women could be helped by a form of partial circumcision in which the clitoral hood was surgically removed, an operation believed to improve female receptivity by exposing the clitoral gland to direct stimulation.


One of the wealthy men associated with Bernard was Ed Browning, better known as Daddy Browning.

Real estate multi-millionaire Edward West Browning married Nellie Adele Lowen in 1915. He built a 24 room Manhattan penthouse for them that included an interior aviary, a miniature lake stocked with Japanese goldfish, and a turtle and frog garlanded fountain that spewed the colors of the rainbow. In 1918 Nellie adopted three-year-old “Little” Marjorie, and in 1920 five-year-old Dorothy “Sunshine.” But by 1923, Adele had had her fill of Edward, and she ran off with a dentist, taking Little Marjorie with her. Divorce followed.


Browning tried to make up for the loss by providing Sunshine with ponies and miniature railways. For transportation she selected a peacock-colored, stretch Rolls Royce “equipped with a 4 foot high motion picture screen.” The child, however, still suffered from loneliness and Edward placed adoption ads in 1925: there were 12,000 applications from which he chose 16 year old Mary Louise Spas. The adoption was later annulled as it was discovered she was 21.

To assuage his failure at marriage and adoption, Edward became active in sponsoring youth-oriented dancing clubs and high school sorority dances where he met Frances Belle Heenan, a tenth grader. She was described as buxom, with a peaches and cream complexion. “Peaches is the Cinderella of my heart,” he said. Thirty-seven days later, on her sixteenth birthday, fifty-one-year-old Daddy married Peaches.

Daddy doted on Peaches, spoiling her with a four and one-half carat diamond ring and Fifth Avenue shopping rampages. There was much activity after their marriage, including social engagements and a stroll along the Long Beach boardwalk with their pet African Honking Gander on a red ribbon leash. But six months after the marriage, Peaches left Daddy, claiming abuse.


Court room details of Peaches’ assertions of Daddy’s excessive eccentricity, included contact with the “Love Cult” High Priestess of Oom, sandpapering shoetrees at night, prowling and barking on all fours, and placing at the end of his lit cigar a white tablet that produced a large snowflake.

Michael Greenburg has written a book about their exploits called “Peaches and Daddy”. And on this site here you can see more photographs like the one below of their pre-marital abode.

Published in: on September 14, 2010 at 8:10 am  Comments (37)  
Tags: , , , , ,

mary mary quite contrary

Let’s play 6 degrees of separation with Annie Besant, Charles Leadbetter, Charles Manson, Mary Ann MacLean, Mary Tyler Moore and Sugar Ray Robinson… the connections are diabetes, animal rights, cults and people who travel with an entourage.

Sugar Ray Robinson was the pioneer of boxing’s bigger-than-life entourages, including a secretary, barber, masseur, voice coach, a coterie of trainers, beautiful women, a dwarf mascot and lifelong manager George Gainford. When Robinson returned to Paris in 1962—where he was a national hero—to get him to cross the seas the French had to promise to bring over his masseur, his hairdresser, a guy who whistled while he trained, and his trademark pink Cadillac. In his later years he was diagnosed with diabetes and Alzheimer’s.”

image found here

The actress Mary Tyler Moore is well known for her charity work and various political causes, particularly on behalf of Animal rights and Diabetes.  In the photo below she is shown with the editor of Process magazine.

The Process Church of the Final Judgement was founded by Mary Ann MacLean and Robert DeGrimston Moore. Several sources report her as having once been married to Sugar Ray Robinson, but an equal number refute this claim.

In 1965, Compulsions Analysis, a derivative of Scientology, became the Process Church of the Final Judgement. The following year, Mary Ann, Robert, about 30 of their entourage and six Alsatian dogs travelled to Mexico City and down the Yucatan coast to the hippie paradise of Xtul before returning to London. Processeans hit the streets asking for donations. Mary Ann was a fanatical anti-vivisectionist; cult members were told to say the money was going to ‘animal welfare,’ although most of it landed in the DeGrimstons’ pocket. They also set up a church in Cole Street, San Francisco where they were close neighbours with Charles Manson.

Charles Manson was interested in Scientology and the Church of the Final Judgement. Two Processeans visited Manson in jail; Manson later contributed a stream-of-unconsciousness rant for the Process “Death” issue, calling death “total awareness, closing the circle, bringing the soul to now.” DeGrimston wrote of Satan and Christ coming together; to those in the know, that was just another name for Charlie.

Annie Besant also lived in London where she supported humanitarian causes, mysteries and occult teachings. In 1902, she and six others journeyed to Paris where she became a member of the Theosophical Society and met Charles W Leadbeater who convinced her she was a clairvoyant.

“In 1906 Leadbeater suddenly became the centre of controversy when it emerged that he was sleeping with young boys and engaging in mutual masturbation with them — Leadbeater explained that he had been offering them advice and guidance in order to keep them from sleeping with women”

more images of Annie Besant and C W Leadbeater here

Published in: on December 8, 2009 at 7:42 am  Comments (28)  
Tags: , , , , ,