For millennia, mankind has both venerated and feared that iconic facial lip-wand, the moustache (even “tash” chanted backwards sounds ill-fated). Generations of occultists and alchemists alike have striven to harness its raging sexual and supernatural powers. Centuries ago, Dominus Atte Ree, Lord of the Manor and Necromancer, initiated the Ordo Templi Hispidis, thus beginning my ancestral Handlebar of Destiny. But what exactly is this omnipotent force which lies behind the “bewhiskered lodestone”? Come, dear forteans, step into “The Pentagram of Atters”… and may God have mercy upon your souls…
Evidence of ancestral moustache-worship may be seen adorning European churches to this day in the form of grotesque heads of “Green Gentlemen” sprouting foliate whiskers. Furthermore, lurking within France’s Commanderie of St-Bris-Le-Vineux, broods Baphomet, a pagan idol straight out of an MR James story (and so hideous that even the wardrobe of TV ‘psychic’ Derek Acorah holds no fears in comparison). This stone “moustachioed, breasted demon, winged and horned” was venerated by the Knights Templar, that renowned mediæval order persecuted for acts of buggery with The Goat of Mendez (a tad unfair, as I believe the goat consented).
Even “The Great Beast” Crowley adopted the name Baphomet when he initiated his clandestine Templar rites.
The power of the bush could even instill paranoiac hysteria amongst some. Dr John Dee, scryer to Queen Elizabeth I (and impressive wearer of the “bodkin” style of beard) once noted that Prague was a dangerous place for the hairy adept. The Tudor quack accused the “City of the Occult” of being rife with the Philosophers’ Flea, a beard-dwelling creature conjured up by rival alchemists to steal their learned rivals’ “blood of wisdom”. Upon the flea’s bloated return, a jealous Master would greedily ingest its “elixir of stolen secrets”.
According to the diaries of Rudolf Steiner, Third Reich archæologists secretly acquired the ultimate occult relic: the Turin Snood. This sacred Scottish moustache hammock was stolen between the wars from the Scottish village of Turin (just off the A932 to Forfar) then smuggled to Germany. The snood reputedly carried Pictish King Cruithne’s early ‘toothbrush’ moustache into the afterlife. Modern Kirlian spectrum techniques have indeed revealed a wax impression of ‘Hitler’-style whiskers. In my opinion, this is nothing but a vulgar Nazi hoax; most well-informed Celtic historians know full well that such clans sported a thicker Mexican “Zapata”.
A far more unsavoury Nazi belief was in the measurement and taxonomy of facial hair. They believed the texture of one’s whiskers could reveal both the wearer’s IQ and his racial characteristics: straight or lank “non-Aryan” whiskers indicated cunning of the lowest order while blond curls meant loyalty and strength.
Moustache-Lore and witchcraft abound with bewhiskered curiosities. Legend states that East Sussex was once the home of the heavily moustachioed “Brede Ogre”. This 16th-century monster was Sir Goddard Oxenbridge, an unfortunate gentleman of abnormal height (and whiskers). Naturally, this led the local peasantry to believe the fellow cannibalised the flesh of young children. According to legend, the “Ogre” was eventually sawn in half, and his ghostly moustache haunts the ancient parish of Brede to this day.
In 1699, a shower of mustachioed devil-fish struck the sleepy town of Plouennan, Brittany. The mayor took this as a bad omen and a mass depilation of male faces was promptly ordered. Only one brave fellow refused the razor. He was accused of “fish devilry” and promptly hanged by his whiskers for witchcraft. Earlier that century, England’s Matthew Hopkins, the ‘Witchfinder General’, stated: “Any old woman with black warts, a gobber tooth and hairy lip should be pronounced a witch”. Well, she’d hardly be hailed as “Miss Suffolk” would she?
Yet hairy shape-shifting hags may assume numerous forms – the succubus for one. While bewhiskered gentlemen sleep, this shapeless, flapping lump greedily straddles their lip-sprouts. Having paralysed its victim with terror, the psychic vampire is free to shunt and grind at will. Even strap-on cheese-grater snoods offer no protection. This may (vaguely) account for the following mid-19th-century Cotswold nursery rhyme:
Hop back on your lily pad,
Your sweet moustache tastes bitter.
Most ladies of the Court call you
The toad-in-hole beard-splitter.
So dandy with your barley lip,
Be careful where you pop it
A hag is apt to ride that broom
And hex your bobbing pocket
Some spiritualists attribute the succubus to Astral Projection or Out-of-Body Experiences (OOBEs). In the journal La Moustache Transcendentale, 19th-century Theosophist Mme Blavatsky (who sported a sterling handlebar herself) recorded her own astral experiences. She described how the lower spirit planes were rife with tormented entities “eternally searching for moustache grooming aids”. Perhaps these unkempt souls should employ the age-old services of a whisker diviner. Here, an adept’s moustache mysteriously uncurls and tugs the wearer towards a lost or desired item. In 1887, the Society for Psychical Research described how Monsieur Jean-Claude Paquet, a self-proclaimed moustache diviner, demonstrated his impressive electromagnetic “dowsing” techniques: “Before astonished eyes, the gentleman grasped his opulent handlebar and levitated 12 feet into the air.” Frankly, there must be easier ways to locate a tube of Col Conk’s moustache Pomade. Fifty years later, Pierre Messie, a French provincial actor, was officially observed to make his moustache independently spring upward, flop down and curl like a corkscrew. Medical experts claimed this was due to his extraordinarily developed ‘erectospilæ’ hair muscles. Messie could also move his scalp hair in much the same way. When kissing ladies, the disgusting Frenchman was known to waggle his handlebar up their nostrils.
These days, one-time followers of established hirsute religions are increasingly turning to new and “hipper” faiths, such as The Church of “The Great Mullet” Icke, bikini crop circles and other such forms of hirsute quackery. Perhaps the most popular (and lucrative) cult of them all is that of the ‘UFOs’. Personally, I would never allow Unidentified Food Objects near my moustache. Most sightings turn out to be nothing more than entangled leftovers from a drunken takeaway (a glowing Chinese lychee, for example).
Extraterrestrial encounters are, on the other hand, far harder to explain away. During the recent National Press Club UFO Conference, members of the Disclosure Project revealed details (be it unofficially) of a perplexing abduction case which allegedly took place at the Royal College of Surgeons, London, during the spring of 2007. Here an unnamed gentleman (referred to as ‘Mr X57B1’) awoke from his winged chair to note that he had been inexplicably doused in a green liquid and witnessed a mysterious flame consume his whiskers. Astonishingly, his Cavendish pipe (still lit), prosthetic foot and empty bottle of absinthe remained entirely scorch-free. He also reported amnesia, strange dreams of grey “ferret-like” footmen and acute “soilage” to the long johns.
Current opinion favours Spontaneous Hirsute Combustion (SHC) as the cause. However, this does not explain how Mr X57B1’s left ear, ovaries and udder had been surgically removed.
Yet such phenomena are not restricted to gentlemen alone. An outreach awareness officer recently experienced SHC, but in complete reverse. Having been given a bottle of “powdery tasting” alcopop, ‘Miss B3zQ7’ partook of a spot of bump and grind at popular Deptford nightspot ‘Club Innit?’ When she regained consciousness, her Visa cards, car keys and iPod had all mysteriously disappeared and a pendulous ectoplasmic moustache had appeared on her upper-lip. “It was in the style of a Fu Manchu,” a baffled jury was told.
This brings us conveniently to the nocturnal emissions of seamen and a rare phenomenon called St Hispid’s Halo. Here, bearded fishermen are seen to glow hauntingly far out at sea, only to disappear without trace forever. Some blame the infamous “Brazilian Triangle”, others the malevolent ghost of St Hispid himself. I’d wager it’s down to rum spillage, half an ounce of rough shag and a dodgy Zippo.
Perhaps the vivid human imagination is all too often responsible for such tales… but can all strange phenomena be so easily explained? Not always, it would seem. While typing this groundbreaking article, a most singular occurrence prevailed. An eerie chill seeped through my lavatory seat and my ink ribbon jammed. Weirder still, these words somehow rearranged themselves into the illegible runic twaddle you now see before you. Yes, gentle reader; I’m pleased to say that, for the time being at least, the Occult Moustache must remain a mystery…