I’ve been using the Cerberus development boards and micro controllers to create interesting ‘instruments’, the aim really to develop something with a unique interface that dictates it’s function and necessary performance techniques.  I have been doing some interesting reading about the philosophy of artifacts, and (despite, admittedly weak, attempts not to develop something ‘sword and sorcery’ related) have started making a ‘Voodoo Staff’ instrument, inspired by some of my favourite ‘Weird Tales’.

Solomon Kane is a character created by Robert E Howard, a sixteenth-century puritan obsessed with vengeance and delivering his brand of justice to ‘evil doers’.  In the short stories Kane, who is perpetually ”sombre of mood, clad in black” and with ”features that are saturnine and gloomy”, has different adventures, usually having to do battle with bizarre monsters or other evil characters, to whom he will be exacting retribution, on behalf of their helpless victims.   Howard describes him as ”a true fanatic, his promptings were reason enough for his actions”.  ‘Though he acted on impulse he firmly believed that all his actions were governed by cold and logical reasoning.’

In Solomon Kane (1928), the first story to feature this character  Kane is given a peculiar staff by his witch doctor ally N’Longa, which is said to be capable of powerful magic.  The voodoo staff and N’Longa reappear throughout the stories and are central to the most interesting dichotomy concerning Kane, that of using evil to fight evil, and calling on the black magic that as a puritan he finds totally abhorrent.  In ‘The Footfalls Within‘(1931) we learn more about the history of the staff, that it is older than the world and “with it Musa did wonders before the Pharaoh and when the Yahudi fled Egypt they bore it with them.  And for centuries it was the scepter of Israel and Judah and with it Sulieman ben Daoud drove forth the conjurers and magicians and prisoned the efreets and the evil genii”  

In the same story it is the staff, similar to King Kull facing the immortal worm-god Zogthuu, that prompts Kanes  philosophical musings about the world and human existence, “for he had looked on life that was not life as he knew it, and had dealt death and witnessed death that was not death as he knew it”.  Kane ponders that “human life was but one of a myriad forms of existence, that worlds existed within worlds, and that there was more than one plane of existence   The planet men call the Earth spun on through the untold ages, and as it spawned life, and living things which wriggled about it as maggots are spawned in rot and corruption   man was the dominant maggot now – why should he in his pride suppose that he and his adjuncts were the first maggots – or the last to rule a planet quick with unguessed life?”.

This gallery shows the development of the prototype.  Once completed I will provide technical specifications.

Short clip of the flashing LED eyes, the staff will feature.. a simple effect, but one that took many hours of code writing and ironing out problems.  It was a proud moment when they came to life!