V. Blue Apple Day – January 17th 2022 – Part 1 of 3.

Tales from the Zone, by Richard Stanley. Episode 5 Blue Apple Day, part 1 of 3.

Tower Room. Blue Apple Day

First light fell as a blessing through the tower room window, driving away the shadows, informing the void. 

I took a breath as its rays found my upturned face, centring myself, trying not to think – at least, not yet. The crystalline beams warmed me and I gave thanks to Pacha Mama I was still alive, that we were all still alive. It was warm in the sun and I took refuge in the eternal now over which past and future holds no claim. Beyond the tower, the forest was frozen and silent, the river lost in the freezing coils of the night mists. Above the valley, the dome of the January sky was clear, cloudless and utterly still as if the world were on pause, suspended in a vast motionless crystal, all held together by a breath. Then, breathing out, I allowed the day to get started, this being a day like none other. Not that all days aren’t rare, mind you but this was Blue Apple Day, January 17th 2022 – and a Wolf Moon to boot.

Nobody knows how long this weirdest of anniversaries has been marked on the Rennes plateau. Mystics, geomancers, treasure hunters, conspiracy theorists and itinerant occultists have been gathering in the church of Marie Madeleine on the morning of January 17th since the mid to late eighties when the Rennes mystery first came to public attention but the true origins of the practice are lost in the mists of time.

In dynastic Egypt, Plutarch tells us the 17th day of Hathor marked the death of Osiris, the solar deity and the true beginning of winter. In the old days, when folk were made of sterner stuff, the shepherds, hunters and farmers of the haute Razès  didn’t don their woollen undergarments until this day when the deep freeze truly began. While citizens of the world beyond the mountains pause to mark Martin Luther King Day, there are those in the Zone who still remember January 17th as the feast day of Saint Anthony the Hermit and Saint Sulpice whose basilica in Paris contains the gnomon that marks the precise angle of this morning’s sunrise – nor was it any accident the tower room in which I found myself was similarly aligned.

View from the Tower. Photo 1. Blue Apple Day
As above, so below: Dawn on January 17th 2022 – the view from the tower – photos by Richard S.
View from the Tower. Photo 2. Blue Apple Day

I took another breath, hearing the distant grumble of an engine. There was no mistaking it. Brother Pyke had just entered the valley and in a few minutes his battered blue van would come into view between the trees. I imagined the grizzled British ex-pat, ardent free climber and former Spiral Tribe roadie already puffing his first cheroot of the day as he kept a weather eye out for black ice. Blue Apple Day had been cancelled last year thanks to the Covid lock-down so this season the Guardians of the Zone had decided to attend the annual gathering at the church en bloc just to show they still existed. I wasn’t sure how many of the Guardians were still capable of rolling out of bed this early. That depended on how much they’d had the night before. Either way, it was time to get the coffee going. Brother Pyke was seldom in a good mood at this hour but he was a safe set of hands at the wheel so I figured we’d ride with him. He’d been based on the far side of Pech Cardou for a good twenty-five years now and knew as much about the Zone and its ways as anyone.

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JC was already waiting in the kitchen, dressed in a rather fetching black tailcoat he had retrieved from his father’s house in Averon. “Looking good. Looking sharp”, I smiled, giving my apprentice the thumb’s up, seeing his face fall a little as he tried to puzzle out whether or not I was making fun of him. The formal attire contrasted oddly with JC’s matted beard and dreadlocks, yet this incongruity seemed wholly in keeping with the surrealism of the occasion. It was his first Blue Apple Day and I knew he was anxious to make a good impression, nor did he have the faintest idea of what to expect. Doozy, my familiar felidae, mewed, brushing against my leg as I made my way towards the door, reminding me to fix her breakfast before hitting the trail. 

“yeah. You too.” I reached down, gently petting her as brother Pyke pulled up outside. “You take care of the house while we’re gone now! Garder la maison.”
Doozy purred. Normally the maison Bethany took care of itself, standing in the centre of a complex web of geo-teluric energy but there were witches at work in the Zone these days so you could never be too sure. 

Blue Apple Day fell on Deedlemass this year, the feast day of small things and the first full moon of 2022, marking it as a period of particular magical potency. It was also the 105th anniversary of the stroke that killed Bérenger Saunière, the priest of Rennes-le-Chateau on January 17th, 1917. If the true mystery didn’t begin with Saunière, the archetypal evil clergyman who reputedly cut a deal with the devil and uncovered the treasure of the ages, then he was certainly the catalyst that brought it to light. 

The Church of Marie Madeleine had been in a state of disrepair when Bérenger Saunière first arrived in Rennes-le-Chateau on June 1st 1885. It is thought the young firebrand’s anti-Republican sermons had lead to Saunière’s punitive posting to this remote backwater, a constituency of fewer than forty houses. He took lodging with a local widow, Alexandrine Dernarnaud and her young daughter Marie who was to become his companion, accomplice and in all likelihood his lover. The Dernarnaud family held a number of properties in the area, including the maison Bethany where I have made my own headquarters, which goes some way towards explaining the alignment of the tower room with the January 17th sunrise, not to mention the rambling gothic manse’s other idiosyncrasies. 

On arrival in his new parish, Saunière set about restoring the church with the help of a handful of volunteers from his tiny congregation. One of those volunteers, a venerable sacristan with a drooping silver moustache, whose name, Captier, in our tongue means simply ‘Keeper’, took a personal interest in the matter, fussily tidying up after the young priest had repaired to his lodgings for the simple evening meal prepared by Marie and her mother. Finding the altar shifted off true, master Captier stayed on after tolling the Angelus and in the course of his solitary labour found to his surprise the ancient visi-gothic column was hollow all along. Quite what the bell ringer found within that musty cavity has been the source of considerable controversy over the years. The general consensus is that he discovered a glass tube hidden within the altar column containing a number of jumbled, apparently nonsensical, documents drafted by one of Sauniere’s predecessors – in all likelihood the late Abbe Antoine Bigou. The bell ringer handed the parchments over to Saunière, who puzzled at length over their cryptic contents. Perhaps it was simply a way of relieving the drudgery of his rustic isolation but something about the affair seemed to capture the priest’s imagination. Marie couldn’t help watching over his shoulder as he sought the necessary key to decipher the parchments and saw the light burning beneath his door at all hours.

Grand Parchment.

This puzzling text, drawn from the Book of John, Chapter 12, verses 1-12 describing Christ’s visit to Bethany, the home of Lazarus and Martha, can only be decrypted by applying a Vigenere cypher with the reverse keyword ‘Mort Epee’ or ‘Death Sword’ (drawn from the headstone of a certain Marie de Negre d’Ables) and then re-ordering the letters produced by this process through the use of two chessboards. 

The actual documents are lost to us now. Some say they never existed, while I have it on first hand report that they are currently locked in a concealed vault in northern France. Some believe Berenger Sauniere found the key he was searching for but in all likelihood, he consulted his peers on the matter – Antoine Gelis, the ageing priest of Coustassa and the Reverend Henri Boudet, who hailed from Rennes le Bains, the crumbling spa town on the far side of the plateau, where the Romans had once come to take the waters in search of a cure for leprosy. Boudet fancied himself as a poet and an amateur archaeologist. He was also the author of an extremely strange (some would say impenetrable) book entitled ‘LaVraie Langue Celtique’ / ‘The True Celtic Tongue’ (1886), which purports to be a gonzo work of Celtic etymology and a guide to the standing stones and other neolithic sites in the area, but written in a spiralling, allusive manner allegedly concealing any number of codes and punning word games, not dissimilar to the parchments themselves. Whether it was Boudet who helped find the key, or whether Sauniere was simply ‘inspired’, is impossible to know nor can we be certain the solution handed down to us is anything like the truth. 

By conducting a ‘knight’s tour’, essentially a series of knight’s moves, one square forward and one diagonal,  across the 128 squares of the two chessboards, the following can be deciphered: 

“Shepherdess no temptation peace 187 Poussin Teniers hold the key by this cross and horse of God I complete or conjure the guardian of the Daemon at noon Blue Apples”

“Bullshit,” Brother Pyke grumbled, cornering sharply onto the narrow road that snaked its way up from the valley of the Salz to the Rennes plateau. It was too early in the day for the former roadie to be anything but sceptical. “It didn’t happen that way. There were no ‘parchments’. Henry Lincoln pulled the whole cock and bull story out of his ass.”

“Just saying,” I smiled, not bothering to argue the point, despite having heard the story first hand from master Captier’s grandson. “I mean, it’s subject to interpretation but the one thing it does specify is noon.”

“It’s all tickety-boo. We”ve got time to spare.” 


A note from the editor of Tales from the Zone by Richard Stanley.

Thank you for reading Blue Apple Day Tales from the Zone by Richard Stanley, a journal that will give outsiders some small insight into our day to day lives in the valleys of French Occitania. Please NOTE these entries are meant to be experienced in order. If you only just found this blog, you can begin reading from the start: Halloween. You can also find Richard Stanley on Twitter, and Facebook. However, Tales from the Zone are only published here.

This particular episode of Tales from the Zone by Richard Stanley, Blue Apple Day, will be published in three parts.

If you want to support Tales from the Zone by Richard Stanley, you can do say via PayPal donations.

4 thoughts on “V. Blue Apple Day – January 17th 2022 – Part 1 of 3.”

  1. Love the photos (real orbs?) and the story of Blue Apple Day – so atmospheric. Every time I read an installment, I’m living inside a real mystery. “tickety-boo”. In all my years of film watching, reading, have never heard that phrase before. Good to know I can still learn.

  2. Pingback: Blue Apple Day 2 of 3 - Tales from the Zone by Richard Stanley .

  3. Pingback: V. Blue Apple Day - January 17th 2022 - Part 3 of 3. - Tales From the Zone

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