UNDISCLOSED LOCATION (Street View)
The borometz, otherwise known as the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, is neither flora nor fauna by nature. It exists in a taxonomical category all its own: an ovine quadruped bound to the earth by a single umbilical stem. It spends its short life grazing within the circular area permitted by its physiology, then starves when there is nothing left for it to consume therein (assuming the wolves don’t get to it first).
The notion of such a creature existing is an affront to the language with which humanity understands life. Linnaeus named the golden chicken fern as Cibotium barometz after the creature it superficially resembled, certain that the soft wool covering its rhizomes explained away this supposed bridge between the plant and animal kingdoms. Without this singular decision, the whole project of representing taxonomy as an unordered tree would have been doomed. From this bifurcation spilled many more, leading to kingdoms composed of phyla, classes, families, genii, and species, each neatly inheriting properties from the last.
In the twentieth century, this legacy method of categorizing life became increasingly untenable as millions of unique species flooded the model with edge cases requiring adjustment. New nodes and structures were added inbetween previously established branches. Infraphyla, parvorders, clades, supertribes, breeds, legions, and cohorts brought a once-organized design into near-meaningless convolution and granularity. Domains and empires were added to counterbalance kingdoms, which rose and fell until seven remained. The possible future inclusion of viruses means that they now threaten the model as much as the creatures represented within it by diminishing the importance of the cell.
Had Linnaeus seen a borometz with his own eyes, the entire manner of categorization of life would have perhaps begun as a spectrum, or an even stranger form still. The hummingbird moth might have been seen as a bridge between the insect and bird phyla, or the snake as the fulcrum between worm and wyrm. Despite appearances, horseshoe crabs were recently noted to technically be arachnids, of all things. That’s not to say that we would not have recognized or disavowed evolution; rather, that perhaps our model might have focused less on deviation from common ancestry, and more on convergence, symmetry, and interrelation. Dismissal of the existence of anything like the borometz has allowed exclusionary subdivisions to persist as the unchallenged standard methodology of organizing and curating data into the present.
For the past three-hundred years, Carthusian monks have produced an elixir of long life from a manuscript of unknown origin, which has since become a classic cocktail ingredient known as chartreuse (bottled in both yellow and green variants). Though over one-hundred thirty different plants are used in each recipe, which and in what proportions remains secret. The only account publicly available comes from a note written by one Monsieur Liotard, a pharmacist from Grenoble who temporarily came into the possession of the extraordinary manuscript after the Carthusian monks themselves were temporarily exiled. When the Napoleonic government began to taxonomize secret remedies from across France in 1810, Liotard submitted their manuscript with the following note:
“The recipe lists a myriad of plants to be fed to something called a ‘borametes’ over the course of twenty-eight days, then butchered for its liquored blood. The creature is likely an alchemical symbol for some form of still.”
Being a learned pharmacist, Liotard would have been aware of the allegorical language and imagery of alchemists, but he was mistaken: the blood of the borometz was, in fact, believed to be literal alcohol. Colin Macfarquhar, who wrote the majority of the Encyclopedia Britannica’s Third Edition, noted the following in his entry for the borometz from around two decades prior, referring to it as the “Agnus scythicus:”
“The usual account of this extraordinary production is, that the Tartars sow in the ground a seed resembling that of a melon, but less oblong; from whence arises a plant called the borometz, i.e., lamb, growing almost to the height of three feet, and having feet hoofs… the pulp within resembles that of the gammarus; and when wounded, a liquor oozes out like blood.”
Macfarquhar died during the course of writing the Britannica entry on “Mysteries,” of “fatigue and anxiety of mind” and thereafter, his work would be appropriated into numerous bootleg editions across Europe. It is unclear where he uncovered this knowledge of borometz physiology, but it is known that the Napoleonic government rejected and returned Liotard’s manuscript, noting that somehow, it was already known to the empire.
The recipe and the borometz both continue to elude the public eye. Despite curiosity and allure, the monks continue to produce their classic Chartreuse as they always have: in secrecy and solitude.
Blood of the Lamb
gem and bolt mezcal