Sunday, 29 April 2018

Grimoires - The Long Lost Friend (RPG materials)

I've talked about grimoires before, those worm-eaten magical texts so often found on the bookshelves of the preternaturally deceased. In the last couple stories posted on patreon, Martin's Beach cunning man and private enquiry agent Mowry refers to one particular grimoire: the Long Lost Friend. I thought I'd take a moment to talk about that book.

Der Freund in der Noth; oder, Gehime Sympathetische Wissenchaft is known to have been published in 1793. No doubt its contents were liberally lifted from other occult works, but at this far remove it's difficult to tell where from. Like many other occult texts it claimed to draw on older secret knowledge.

The following secret remedies were taken from an old Spanish manuscript, which was found at an old hermit's who for over a hundred years lived in a cave in the dark valleys of the Graub√ľnden Land, performing the region many wonderous works, among others totally expelling from the said region the monstrous dragon with four young which dwelt upon those fearsome mountains in Unterwalden.

So it's Spanish, which means it's from them there Foreign Parts with a very slight hint of South American/Aztec Wisdom. It comes from a mysterious place, and through its power great mystic works were possible. All good advertising needs your basic dragon or dragon-equivalent; nobody'd believe Tide got your whites the whitest without a demonstration.

What you actually got for your money was twenty-four pages of charms, medicinal remedies, and other magical workings. Since it was German it travelled across the ocean blue to America in the trunks and bags of German immigrants, and before long became in translation the Long Lost Friend. A collection of MYSTERIOUS & INVALUABLE ARTS AND REMEDIES for MAN AS WELL AS ANIMALS. First printed in English in 1846 by Pennsylvania German bookmaker Hohman, copies of this extremely rare edition now sell for thousands of dollars.

Of course this wasn't the only edition. Success breeds imitators, and before long there were several other Pennsylvania booksellers with their own versions of the Friend. One of the more ubiquitous is John George Holman's Pow-Wows, which went through many pulp printings in the early 20th century. There were some changes in content with each new edition, but at its core the Friend remained the book of charms it had been since 1793. Do you want to cure scurvy and sore throat? The Friend has a charm for that. Do you want to find water? The Friend will show you how.

Its influence lasted well into the 20th century. In 1951 a Pennsylvania Mennonite couple were reported to the police for refusing to have their serious ill child treated by 'scientific' medicine. Their belief in faith healing came primarily from Hohman's Long Lost Friend. "If the Lord wants to heal the boy, He will heal him," said the father to State troopers.

In 1928 a Pennsylvania murder was linked to the Friend. Farmer Nelson D. Rehmeyer was found beaten to death at his home, and it transpired that his killers had followed the advice of a pow wow man named John Blymyer. This cunning man had identified Rehmeyer as a witch whose hexes had bedeviled his killers. Rehmeyer happened to own a copy of the Long Lost Friend, and Blymyer knew about it. Blymyer told Rehmeyer's neighbors to break into Rehmeyer's house, steal his Friend and a lock of his hair, burn the book and bury the hair. That would break the curses they labored under. It all went spectacularly wrong, and in an attempt to cover up the killing the murderers tried to burn the corpse. They fled the scene without checking to make sure their cover-up worked. The fire went out, the murder scene was preserved intact, and the killers were brought to justice. Blymyer served twenty-five years in prison. After this, Pennsylvania authorities became extremely sensitive to hex magic cases, and the Friend got a reputation as a witch book.

In game terms, books like the Long Lost Friend confer no real power as such - not when compared to the eldritch authority of the Cthulhu Mythos. However they do have occult status. Any self-respecting curse-breaker is bound to have a copy. Moreover as it has been through so many printings by so many different booksellers, a Keeper would be well within her rights to give it a few Mythos touches. No doubt those touches are borrowed from some other text, just as the original Friend borrows its ideas from mysterious Spanish mystics.

CoC 7th Ed:

The Long Lost Friend. English translation of a German hex book, containing a collection of prayers, charms and medical advice. SAN Loss: 1/1D2. Occult: +4%. Mythos variant: SAN: 1/1D4+1. CMI: +2%. CMF: +4%. MR: 12

GUMSHOE:

The Long Lost Friend. Adds 2 to Occult rating. Potential dedicated investigative pool Oral History (assumes players use it or phrases from it in conversation with old folks, particularly in Pennsylvania or anywhere there's a significant German population) or Theology. The Mythos version provides 1 Mythos.

Whichever version you use, assume it confers no spells - or at least, no spells that work as advertised.

Enjoy!

Source material provided by Grimoires: A History of Magic Books by Owen Davies.

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