Forgotten over the years
Pushed to the back of minds weighed down with mundane concerns
He waits in solitude for the day
When someone may remember, and keep him company
A chill wind blows from the north
Reminding one who lives along the shore
Of someone she held dear in time long past
Yet the thought is more a whisper than a shout
He feels the pain of being a promise broken
Yet still he abides behind the veil
A soul immortal cannot die
But can be buried by the wretchedness of anguish borne alone
He looks down upon the sea below his vantage point
And longs to be free of his boundless solitude
He extends his arms, and falling forward from the height, joins the sea birds in their flight
Twisting, wheeling, unafraid
The soul immortal cannot die
He touches surf and is drawn beneath the waves
The sun reflects off the surface of the water,
Revealing a dark, familiar shape below
Along another shore in a world far away
A woman feels a pang within her breast
She is weary and wishes she could sleep forever
And walk the shores of an eternal dream
Something lies beneath the surface of her memories
A treasure that she lost long ago
Someone who understood the unflagging sorrow
A breath inhaled and exhaled, lost forever
She will reach beyond the veil this night
And take the hand of the one who waits
Forgotten to the conscious mind that buries dreams beneath stacks of unpaid bills
Burdened by joys thrust aside in favor of unending toil
Some things cannot be explained away by logic
Tested away by science, prayed away by dogmatic religion
She has labored long and hard for futile gain
Happiness has waited long enough
Tonight she shall sail away to join the one who waits beneath the waves
To dwell on shadowed shores where the blinding light of the orthodoxy never reaches
She is weary of a world wherein to survive she must forget what she holds most dear
Tonight is her last night among the striving masses
Tonight at last he rises from the sea
To dwell forever in the shadows of a land
Created by the dark dreams of souls misunderstood
Never again shall he abide alone
For at last he has someone to dream with
Rose LeMort is a clairvoyant and fiction author. Her first published work will be a revision of the 2007 novel, Eternal Death I: Lost Beneath the Surface, which was originally penned by Lily Strange. The revised novel is due out by the end of this year. Rose works in tandem with her spirit companion, Kai Rikard. For more information, visit Rose’s website or her Facebook page.
©2010 by Rose LeMort.
Donald Tyson’s Necronomicon Series, including
- Necronomicon: The Wanderings of Alhazred
Llewellyn Publications (December 1, 2004)
- Alhazred: Author of the Necronomicon
Llewellyn Publications (July 1, 2006)
- Necronomicon Tarot
Illustrated by Anne Stokes
Llewellyn Publications (September 1, 2007)
240 pages plus 78 cards
- Grimoire of the Necronomicon
Llewellyn Publications (August 1, 2008)
Reviewer: Lon Sarver
Stars rating pending.
H.P. Lovecraft, a writer of weird fiction for the pulp magazines of the first quarter of the twentieth century, created for his fiction a pantheon of demonic deities and their debased cults. This collection of beings and lore are known today as the Cthulhu Mythos, and have been expanded, first by Lovecraft’s friends and fellow pulp authors, and also by later generations of fantasists. Lovecraft and the others did the job so well that even now there are still people who believe that Lovecraft was writing fact disguised as fiction.
Even those who do not believe that Lovecraft’s writings are on some level literally true feel the dread pull of the Cthulhu Mythos, finding therein powerful symbols of strangeness, fear, and alien mystery. As with anything that grabs the attention and provokes the emotions, the Mythos has found its way into several serious works of magick.
Don Tyson’s Grimoire of the Necronomicon (Llewellyn 2008) is an attempt at one of these. Along with its companion volumes, Necronomicon: The Wanderings of Alhazred (2004), Alhazred: Author of the Necronomicon (2006), and the Necronomicon Tarot (2007), the Grimoire presents a new look at the Cthulhu Mythos as workable magickal system.
As such, the texts can be evaluated three ways: as contributions to the overall literature of the Cthulhu Mythos, as contributions to occult scholarship, and as a functioning magickal system.
Necronomicon: The Wanderings of Alhazred, the first to be published, presents itself as a version of Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, detailing the Mythos as discovered by Abdul Alhazred, a medieval Arab sorcerer. Alhazred: Author of the Necronomicon is a much longer work, describing the life and journeys of Alhazred in the form of a novel of adventure and occult mystery.
From his surviving letters and non-fiction writing, we know that Lovecraft believed in using fragments and hints to fire the reader’s imagination. Dread and horror would thus be created in the reader’s mind far more effectively than they could be in complete descriptions on a page.
Unfortunately, Tyson’s writing does much to remove that kind of mystery without replacing it with anything worthwhile. While Necronomicon could easily be excused as an occultist fan’s labor of love, perhaps, Alhazred could not. The novel would read and feel exactly the same if one were to change the names of the protagonist and the monsters so as to remove all allusions to Lovecraft.
Also, the attributes Tyson ascribes to the Mythos and its entities are so changed from Lovecraft’s work that it seems, at times, as if the author is writing about entirely different things, and only borrowing the more famous names. This would give the books a hollow feeling to any reader familiar with the other stories that make up the Mythos.
This is important to the magickal value of the Grimoire and the tarot deck. Insofar that the point of writing a work of Cthulhu Mythos magick is to tap the current of energy created by generations of readers of this kind of fiction, departures from that fiction weaken the link, and the power that can be drawn through it.
The Necronomicon Tarot suffers heavily from this. The descriptions of the various Mythos entities used in the deck frequently do not match their presentation in works of Mythos fiction, and often do not match the meanings of the cards upon which they appear. For example, Azathoth is described by Lovecraft as a blind, idiot god dancing at the physical center of the universe. The deity is generally understood by Lovecraft scholars as a metaphor for Lovecraft’s existential dread of a blind, uncaring universe far too large for humans to comprehend.
In the Necronomicon Tarot, this deity is used as the image for Trump 0, The Fool. While the traditional divinatory meanings of innocence, child-like wonder, and gullibility are kept for the card, the deity is described as a filthy, insane being squatting in its own excrement. Use of the deck for divination, or really for any purpose other than rounding out a collection of Mythos paraphernalia, would be impaired by such internal dissonance. It certainly was for me.
The Grimoire of the Necronomicon itself suffers on many levels. Stripped of all of Tyson’s Lovecraftian pretentions, it is a simplified system of planetary/astrological magick. In brief, particular beings from the Mythos are ascribed to the seven “planets” of classical astrology, whose energies are held to rule various aspects of life. Communing with these beings through ritual brings these energies under the magician’s control and perfects the magician’s soul. Additionally, Tyson created twelve beings to represent the signs of the zodiac, for similar use.
Stripped to its bones, the system isn’t bad, just incomplete. Much of the material is borrowed from other, better works of planetary magick, without the context or depth that the original systems provided. In place of this is a narrative which attempts to explain how the various deities of the Cthulhu Mythos are related to the planets, why they would work with the magician, and why such an alliance is a good idea in the first place.
The narrative begins with the creation of the physical world as the aftermath of a cosmic rape. Nyarlathotep, a malign trickster god, attempts to usurp Azathoth’s throne and rapes his daughter. Azathoth is blinded and driven insane, and his daughter flees the divine court and wraps matter around herself, becoming the Earth. Nyarlathotep and the other deities then vow to extinguish all life on Earth and destroy the planet, to “free” the goddess in order for Nyarlathotep to force himself on her again and complete his usurpation.
It should be noted that this is original with Tyson. Except for the characterization of Nyarlathotep as a malign trickster, none of this appears in any Mythos fiction of which I am aware. Thematically, the story is entirely counter to original stories. What made the entities of the Mythos horrible in the original stories was that they were undeniable proof that the Earth is not special and that the powers that be do not care if humanity lives or dies. It is, so far as I can tell, a rather loose adaptation of certain Gnostic ideas about the corruption of the material world and the human spirit’s fall from grace.
The text of the Grimoire is ambivalent about the myth at its center. Sometimes, it seems to hint that the tale is about the redemption of a fallen world, and that the “good” magicians work to restore Azathoth to health and power. Most of the time, the text suggests that there is nothing one can do but go along with a bad system, repeating that those who will not serve Nyarlathotep will be destroyed with everyone else.
Perhaps the only saving grace of the Grimoire is that it does not pretend to be a revelation of the “real” magick behind Lovecraft’s fiction. The introduction is candid about the text being a fusion of fiction and bits and pieces of magickal systems. Despite this, however, it never quite makes a case for why a magician would want to choose this particular modern synthesis over all the other more complete, and less offensive, systems of planetary magick available.
So these four texts contribute nothing original or useful to the literature of either the occult or the Cthulhu Mythos. The question remains, though: Does it work?
Yes and no.
In order to test the system, I performed an evocation of Yig. In the original fiction, Yig was a snake-god in the American west who took horrible vengeance on anyone who harmed a snake. In the Grimiore, Yig is the god associated with Saturn, the keeper of forgotten and occult secrets. This seemed to be the appropriate entity of which to ask questions about a magickal system.
The ritual for contacting the Great Old Ones detailed in the Grimiore is not complex. One goes to a lonely place, preferably one at altitude and with a view of the night sky. A circle of seven stones is made, with four rods painted the colors of four of the Great Old Ones marking elemental directions. On a central altar, three more colored rods representing Azathoth, Nyarlathotep, and Yog-Sothoth form a triangle. Candles are placed at the points of this triangle.
The magician then sits or stands to the south of the altar, facing north, and recites the Long Chant. The Long Chant is a fairly standard invocation, customized to the narrative of the Grimiore. The chant is presented in both English and Enochian, for the convenience of the magician.
Once the chant is completed, one calls upon the chosen entity to appear in the triangle. Any offerings or sacrifices are placed on the altar inside the rods. The text does not provide invocations for the deities, though many of them have personal requirements of location or timing the magician must observe.
What is supposed to happen next is left vague. The magician is to meditate, and will, if all goes well, receive some kind of communication from the entity called. The gate is closed, the candles extinguished, and the rite is over.
For me, a circle of stones on a hilltop was not practical. I substituted a room on the second floor of my home, with a large, open window through which I could see the night sky. In the place of a stone circle, I created banners for the cardinal points according to the instructions in the Grimiore, and hung them in the appropriate directions. As the Grimoire stresses that the “true” circle exists on the astral, I felt comfortable in simply visualizing the standing stones.
I read out the Long Chant four times, first in English and three more times in Enochian. After, I improvised an invitation to Yig, praising his wisdom and asking for contact. In my mind’s eye, I saw a snake curled up in the triangle. Meditating on the altar, I did receive a vision of Yig and his realm, and heard the god’s answers to my questions about the system of the Grimiore.
To summarize the wisdom of Yig, the beings contacted by the magick of the Grimiore are not, in fact, the beings written of by Lovecraft and his peers — but they could be, given time and the effort of magicians using this system. In any case, the specific names and images of the system are only tools for achieving contact with whatever it is magicians are contacting, so it doesn’t matter whether or not the deities are fictional or historical.
I thanked the old snake and closed the rite.
So, did the magick work? Yes, in the sense that the ritual induced a vision. However, the ritual did not evoke any of the sense of dread or cosmic vastness associated with the Cthulhu Mythos. This is for the best, really. The folks who seek experiences with real-world magick based on the Mythos are most likely not imagining what it would feel like to be living out one of Lovecraft’s stories. Instead, they’re probably recalling what it felt like to read those stories, and seeking to tap into that emotional current.
While the system seems to produce results, it doesn’t actually do anything better or differently than any other system of magick I have ever worked. The Lovecraft pastiche doesn’t seem to interfere, but it also adds nothing.
One might wonder how useful it is to make contact with a fake snake god. To quote Alan Moore, author, magician, and worshiper of the late Roman snake god Glycon; “If I’m gonna have a god I prefer it to be a complete hoax and a glove puppet because I’m not likely to start believing that glove puppet created the universe or anything dangerous like that.1”
Approached this way, the Grimiore of the Necronomicon might be useful in maintaining a healthy skepticism about one’s magickal work. Those seriously interested in planetary magick with an old-school feel would be better served to study the systems of the Golden Dawn or the The Key of Solomon The King: (Clavicula Salomonis). Those seeking to evoke the mood of the cosmic and alien in their spiritual lives would do very well to track down a copy of The Pseudonomicon, by Phil Hine2 .
- Quoted from an interview, “Magic is Afoot,” published in Arthur magazine in May 2003
- New Falcon publishing, 2004
Review ©2009 Lon Sarver
Edited by Sheta Kaey
Modern occultists are working practical magic based on the fictional characters of H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). This would have amused to no end the Old Man of Providence, as he preferred to be known among his circle of literary friends. He was always tickled when a reader asked him where he could buy a copy of the Necronomicon, a book originated by Lovecraft as background for his stories of cosmic horror. Lovecraft wrote primarily for the genre magazines known as the pulps between the years 1917 and 1937. Most notable among these publications was Weird Tales, which hosted the writings of many popular authors of the period working in horror, adventure, suspense and science fiction.
The stories of Lovecraft are loosely connected by certain themes and common elements that create a fictional world all their own. Central to this world is the Necronomicon, a dread book of black magic that is mentioned in many of the tales. Those who read the Necronomicon usually wish they had not done so, and often come to a horrifying end. Lovecraft created an entire history for this imaginary book. It was supposed by him to have been written by Abdul Alhazred, a mad poet of the Arabian kingdom of Yemen, during the early part of the 8th century. How Alhazred lost his reason was never revealed by Lovecraft, but he became privy while wandering the desert wastes to certain secrets concerning forbidden subjects such as the processes of necromancy and the ways of the dead, and also to a history of this world that long predates human history, and even the human species.
When Aliens Ruled the Earth
The Necronomicon describes the colonization of the Earth in its primordial beginning by a series of alien species. The first arrived before life had even appeared on land on in the seas. According to Lovecraft, we are the descendants of life forms created by that first race, which is called the Old Ones, or more commonly among students of Lovecraft, the Elder Things, to distinguish it from another race of aliens that came to this planet somewhat later, which were also known as the Old Ones. Lovecraft used the term “Old Ones” to describe several alien species inhabited this planet before the evolution of mankind.
Chief among the species mentioned by Alhazred in the Necronomicon, or described by Lovecraft elsewhere in his stories, were the already named race of crinoids known as the Elder Things or Elder Race; a race of creatures with heads somewhat resembling octopuses known as the spawn of Cthulhu; a blind race of gigantic invisible monsters larger than elephants to which the name Old Ones is usually applied; the Great Race of time travelers from the planet Yith which inhabits our past and our future but not our present; a race of highly intelligent fungous crustaceans from the planet Pluto, who came to our world to mine it for metals; and a race of immortal humanoids dwelling in the vast subterranean cavern of K’n-yan, deep below the plains of Oklahoma, who were carried to our world across the gulf of space by the spawn of Cthulhu.
According to the Necronomicon, these colonizing races have not so much disappeared from our world, but have simply withdrawn temporarily. In the case of the Old Ones and creatures of a related kind, they wait patiently in deep places beneath the earth or in the oceans, or in alien dimensions parallel to our own, until conditions in the heavens are more conducive to their nature, which is utterly unlike anything that has evolved on the surface of this planet. They wait for the stars to “come right” once again, as they were in primordial times. The patterns of the stars and planets are constantly changing. At present they are baneful to many of these unimaginably alien beings, whose bodies are not even composed of matter as we know it.
Lords of the Old Ones
The Old Ones have certain leaders or lords who are mentioned by name in the Necronomicon or in other ancient texts that are less well known. Azathoth, the blind idiot god of chaos, has only an indirect link with our world. He sits on his black throne at the center of chaos and pipes a music composed of the proportions and harmonies that sustain the universe, while great blind gods dance around him, mesmerized and compelled by the sounds. He is awkward, misshapen, covered in his own filth, yet he holds the power of creation and destruction in the form of the musical notes he pipes. As he plays, the elder gods who dance weave the fabric of the universe or unravel it. In them may be seen mythic echoes of Shiva, the dancing Hindu god whose dance creates or destroys the world, and also of the three Greek Fates who control the spun threads of life for all human beings.
The soul and messenger of the blinds gods who dance to the music of Azathoth is known as Nyarlathotep. He despises Azathoth, but he is bound by his nature to serve him, for Azathoth is merely a personification of the central vortex of chaos itself, and Nyarlathotep is a servant of chaos. Alone among the Old Ones he enjoys walking the surface of our world in the shape of a human being. He has many avatars or vessels that serve him as bodies, some not even remotely humanoid, but he prefers that of a deathless Egyptian pharaoh who is dark, tall, gaunt, with bony hands and eyes that gleam like stars. Sometimes he wears the face of a human being in this desert-robed form, but other times he goes faceless. He has a sardonic sense of humor. Our race, with its petty wars and desires, gives him amusement. He diverts himself by controlling, tormenting and killing men. Even so, he is the most human of all the Old Ones, the only one among them that it is even possible to communicate with in any familiar way. Nyarlathotep enjoys the company of humans in much the same way a malicious child enjoys tormenting a nest of ants.
The blind and invisible Old Ones, whose substance is so alien that we cannot even see it with our unaided eyes, move between worlds, and even between galaxies, by means of dimensional gateways. These are controlled by the sky dweller, Yog-Sothoth, who sometimes appears to human beings in the form of interlocking iridescent spheres when he opens one of his gates. In one of the longer passages from the Necronomicon quoted by Lovecraft in his story “The Dunwich Horror,” the relationship between Yog-Sothoth and the Old Ones is described:
The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them, they walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen. Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They had trod earth’s fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread. By Their smell can men sometimes know Them near, but of Their semblance can no man know, saving only in the features of those They have begotten on mankind; and of those are there many sorts, differing in likeness from man’s truest eidolon to that shape without sight or substance which is Them. They walk unseen and foul in lonely places where the Words have been spoken and the Rites howled through at their Seasons. The wind gibbers with Their voices, and the earth mutters with Their consciousness. They bend the forest and crush the city, yet may not forest or city behold the hand that smites. Kadath in the cold waste hath known Them, and what man knows Kadath? The ice desert of the South and the sunken isles of Ocean hold stones whereon Their seal is engraver, but who hath seen the deep frozen city or the sealed tower long garlanded with seaweed and barnacles? Great Cthulhu is Their cousin, yet can he spy Them only dimly. Iä! Shub-Niggurath! As a foulness shall ye know Them. Their hand is at your throats, yet ye see Them not; and Their habitation is even one with your guarded threshold. Yog-Sothoth is the key to the gate, whereby the spheres meet. Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again.
As the Necronomicon makes very clear, it would be wrong to think of Yog-Sothoth as a gatekeeper. He is not only the keeper of the gates, but the key that opens them, and indeed, he is the very gates themselves, or rather the very gate, since all gates are one in Yog-Sothoth – a single gate that he may open anywhere in any dimension of time or space. The Old Ones ruled by Yog-Sothoth dwell hidden in dimensions of the upper air, yet there are other invisible Old Ones who dwell in vast tombs deep beneath the sands of the Arabian desert, where they were banished in a great war with the time traveling race from Yith in our distant past.
Cthulhu and his spawn lie sleeping in stone houses on the sunken island of R’lyeh, on the floor of the Pacific Ocean. The spawn are smaller creatures similar in form to their great lord and high priest, mighty Cthulhu. They came to the Earth to conquer it, and for long millennia waged a series of wars against the first occupiers of the sea and land, the crinoid Elder Things. They were defeated by the Elder Things, and a truce was arranged wherein Cthulhu and his spawn were given certain newly-risen volcanic land masses in the Pacific Ocean. When the stars went wrong, Cthulhu and his people withdrew into stone crypts on their main island of R’lyeh. Cthulhu used his science, which to humanity has the appearance of a form of magic, to place himself and his people into a deep sleep that resembled death.
Cthulhu is said to be like a walking mountain. This is an exaggeration, but his body is more vast than any terrestrial organism, larger even than the blue whale, which is the largest creature of flesh and blood on this planet — the largest of which science is aware, at any rate. His body has two arms and two legs, but his hands and feet are clawed, and his great, soft mass of a head is covered over its lower face with tentacles or feelers that somewhat resemble the tentacles of an octopus or squid. He has six eyes, three on each side of his head arranged in a triangular pattern, and from his back spread membranous wings similar to those of a bat, that he uses to fly not only through the air but through airless space itself. In some manner that cannot be fathomed, he is able to use them to push against the very substance of space. His innumerable spawn, like smaller versions of himself, are similarly equipped.
For eons Cthulhu continued to control many of the creatures that remained free to wander the surface of our world by using his power of mental telepathy, in which he and his spawn excelled. Cthulhu lay sleeping in a death-like slumber, but in his dreams he ruled and instructed his worshippers, by communicating with them in their dreams. He projected into their minds strange and beautiful images of alien landscapes and architecture, and whispered commands below their conscious awareness that compelled them to actions he desired them to perform.
Then an unexpected disaster struck, and R’lyeh sank beneath the waves of the Pacific. This event Cthulhu had not foreseen. The vast body of water cut off his telepathic link with his servants on the surface, including the primitive tribes of human beings that had heard his siren call in their dreams, and had begun to worship him in Cthulhu cults around the world. So the situation remains today, according to Lovecraft. The human cults of Cthulhu sustain their faith, even though they have been cut off from mental communication with him for long ages. Cthulhu continues to dream on sunken R’lyeh, and bides his time until the stars come right, and R’lyeh rises.
Goat with a Thousand Young
Another of the named lords of the Old Ones is Shub-Niggurath, the Goat With a Thousand Young. She is said to resemble somewhat the occultist Eliphas Levi’s concept of Baphomet — a creature with the head of a goat, the torso and arms of a woman, and the hairy legs and cloven hooves of a goat. Her function is mother of monsters. It may be that Azathoth is her husband — this is an uncertain point, and various lords of the Old Ones have been named as her spouse. She is by nature promiscuous and has coupled with many to produce many strange and horrifying beings, some of whom continue to dwell deep in the intestines of this planet in dark and secret caverns. Shub-Niggurath may be hermaphroditic. She may even be capable of engendering children on herself. At times she is referred to as if she were male in Lovecraft’s works, and it is significant that the sexual parts are concealed by Levi in his illustration of Baphomet.
There are other great lords in Lovecraft’s mythology who are not so closely tied to the Old Ones, and whose origins are not even know with certainty. They may be aliens to this planet and related in some way to the Old Ones, or they may have arisen after the crinoid race of Elder Things arrived in our sterile oceans and began their experiments in genetic manipulation. Humanity was one of their creations, brought forth as a kind of joke to amuse themselves. Who knows what else they created, and what evolutions took place in the darkness of lost ages among their more misshapen experiments?
Yig is known as the father of all serpents. It is my belief that he is of an alien race, but this is not stated by Lovecraft. He is worshipped as a god by many primitive cults in Lovecraft’s world, and has the power to curse with misfortune those who harm his sinuous children. As it true of the Old Ones, Yig has the ability to breed with mortal women, and to engender in their wombs monsters that are half human and half serpent. He sometimes comes with the body of a man and the head of a snake. The Plains Indians of North America propitiated his wrath by drumming and dancing for part of the year, and took great care never to harm a snake. His power was greatly feared. Yig is worshipped in the vast subterranean cavern of K’n-yan, along with Cthulhu, who carried the race dwelling in K’n-yan across space to the Earth.
Another ancient lord worshipped as a god is Dagon, whose size is almost as vast as that of mighty Cthulhu. He dwells deep in a rift in the Pacific Ocean. In overall shape he resembles the body of a man, but his fingers and toes are webbed for swimming, and his head is like that of a fish, and sits directly on his shoulders without a neck. His eyes are large and fish-like. Gills for breathing underwater open and shut on the sides of his head. Dagon is sometimes depicted with only a single eye, but this appears to be an error caused by Lovecraft’s use of the term “cyclopean” to describe him. By this term Lovecraft meant that Dagon is very large, but some artists have interpreted it to mean that Dagon, like the Cyclops, had only a single eye in his forehead. He appears in this striking manner in the trumps of my own Necronomicon Tarot (Llewellyn, 2007).
Just as Cthulhu has his spawn to serve him, Dagon has the race known as the Deep Ones, an amphibious race of humanoids with froglike heads and lungs for breathing the air of the surface world, along with gill slits for breathing the water of the deeps of the ocean. The Deep Ones intermarry and interbreed with human beings, to produce a race of hybrids who are human when they are born, but who gradually assume the aspect of the Deep Ones as they age. These hybrids are deathless unless killed by accident, disease, poison or some other mishap. They live their early lives among mankind, but around the age of seventy years they take to the water permanently, and seldom return to the surface world. According to Lovecraft, the Deep Ones are highly intelligent and are skilled artisans and engineers who could destroy the human race anytime they choose. They live in their millions in stone cities in deep fissures on the sea floor of the world’s oceans.
The Cthulhu Mythos
These are only some of the alien races and ruling lords who make up the mythology created by Lovecraft over the course of his writing career. It has come to be known as the Cthulhu Mythos, a somewhat misleading title since Cthulhu, although important in the mythology, is not the god nor leader of all the other races, but merely one among many. Perhaps it would have been better to call it the Elder Mythos, but Lovecraft’s close friend near the end of Lovecraft’s life, the writer August Derleth, came up with the name Cthulhu Mythos and it was adopted by general consent.
Lovecraft himself never tried to put a name on his evolving mythology during his lifetime. Other writers who were his friends added to his mythological structure, and allowed Lovecraft to borrow the occasional piece from their stories. For example, the toad-god called Tsathoggua became a part of the mythos when Lovecraft incorporated this strange deity into his work from the stories of his friend Clark Ashton Smith. Similarly, the book known as the Black Book, or more commonly as Nameless Cults, was borrowed by Lovecraft from the writing of his friend Robert E. Howard, who created Conan the Barbarian. Lovecraft used it in much the same way as he used the Necronomicon, as a source that described forgotten or forbidden secrets.
In the decades after Lovecraft’s death in 1937, other writers continued to set their stories in the mythological world he created, until it grew into a universe of bewildering complexity. I make no attempt to examine the entire range of the mythos, but limit myself to investigating it as it existed when its creator died. It is not that I regard later evolutions of the mythos as illegitimate, but merely that it took off in so many different directions after Lovecraft’s death that it is almost impossible to reconcile all its offshoots. The Cthulhu Mythos continues to live today. New stories are constantly being written that are set within its framework. Like the Necronomicon itself, the mythos refuses to die.
Reading over this summary of some of the key players in the Cthulhu Mythos, it would be easy for a modern magician to dismiss it all as silly fantasy. There are several factors to consider before doing so. One is the sheer persistence of the Necronomicon and of the Cthulhu Mythos as a whole. Why would something of no practical value be cherished and sustained and replenished with such devotion by so many writers and their fans? Clearly there are aspects of both the book and the mythos that resonate deep in the human psyche, an innate recognition of significant meaning below the level of articulation. The power of the Necronomicon and of the Old Ones is in part confirmed by their very continued existence.
Themes of the Mythos
A central theme of Lovecraft’s mythology is that the universe is inhabited and ruled by races of great beings who are largely indifferent to humanity. They are not malevolent in any human sense, but neither are they benevolent. They simply do not notice or care about us in any serious way. If, at times, our actions attracted their notice, they might kill us with the same casual ease with which we would swat a fly, but there would be no malice in the act. Humanity is not important enough to hate. None the less, it is possible to communicate with some of these lofty and indifferent beings, and through the use of magic alluded to in Lovecraft’s quotes from the Necronomicon, to manipulate their power for human ends.
Another theme that has a profound resonance for practitioners of Necronomicon magic is the assertion by Lovecraft that these beings are not on distant planets, but still walk among us under the cloak of darkness, or invisible to our sight. They dwell concealed in deep places beneath the ground, on under the water of wells, lakes and oceans, or in parallel dimensions just slightly out of phase with our own. Lovecraft’s world is filled with alien creatures who possess ancient wisdom that they can, if they wish, pass on to human beings. They are dangerous to deal with, but the potential rewards justify the risks in the minds of many magicians.
You may be saying to yourself, Lovecraft’s creations are only fictional characters, they have no reality. Well, maybe. Reality is a slippery concept for those of us who deal with ritual occultism. There is a form of reality that is not composed of material substance, yet it is no less potent for its lack of a body. It is known as the astral. Astral things are shaped in the mind from mind-stuff and have no tangible base, yet they sometimes exhibit a potency that extends beyond the imagination to resonate in the physical world. Many magicians regard astral beings and astral landscapes as real on a higher level of reality than the physical.
Lovecraft’s Strange Nightmares
Lovecraft was a very strange man. I do not mean merely that his personality was odd. This has been established by numerous aspects in his life, such as his love for sitting in old graveyards late at night, his obsession with anything English, his inability to part with the furniture or objects of his youth, his complete nervous breakdown in childhood, his determination to write in the style of two centuries before his birth, his determination not to earn a living because he considered it beneath the dignity of a gentleman, his precocious intellect, his conviction that he was so ugly as to be deformed, his period in early life of shunning the daylight and only venturing out at night.
All these things and countless more verify that Lovecraft was eccentric, but that was not the height of his strangeness. What made him weird, in the Anglo-Saxon sense of the word, were his dreams. From very early childhood to the day of his death, he was plagued or gifted by nightmares of uncommon force and clarity. Many of these nightmares repeated over and over for years. During his early life, Lovecraft lived in his dreams more than he lived in the waking world. He was fortunate enough to have a pair of aunts who indulged him. They took care of the running of the house, and cooked the meals, leaving him free to wake or sleep when he chose. He was not troubled by school, after withdrawing at a fairly early age. He was not troubled by work. He had no woman friend with whom to plan a future family, and few male friends. He lived in a waking dream, and when he slept his dreams were more real than waking reality.
Lovecraft began to write these dreams down. This is seldom adequately stressed by his biographers. He did not merely draw on the occasional dream for inspiration — much of his fiction is directly based on his repeating nightmares. Indeed, some of it is no more than a direct transcription of his nightmares. This is true of the early tale “Nyarlathotep” in which this great figure of the mythos is first described. It is important to understand this point, which is why I stress it — Lovecraft did not invent Nyarlathotep. The story was a verbatim copy of his repeating nightmare.
Similarly, Lovecraft did not invent the Necronomicon. He saw the book repeatedly in his dreams. One night in sleep, the name was given to him. He heard it in his dream, and knew it was the name of the book, but he had no idea what the name meant. Lovecraft’s use of the title Necronomicon marks its first appearance — it is totally original. Later he did some research and concluded from its Greek roots that it must mean “an image (or picture) of the law of the dead.” Others have questioned this translation, and the exact meaning of the name is open to debate, but not the name itself, which was delivered to Lovecraft’s sleeping mind from a higher source. Lovecraft’s most respected biographer, S. T. Josi, translated the title as “Book Concerning the Dead.” Assuming Josi’s interpretation to be valid, perhaps the simplest rendering would be “Book of the Dead.”
Lovecraft’s fictional characters often undergo transitions from one world to another through the portal of dreams or daydreams. For example, in “Dreams In the Witch House,” the protagonist of the tale is taken to various alien settings when he falls asleep in a particular room that has strangely angled walls. He at first believes himself to have seen these places only in dreams, until physical evidence forces him to confront the fact that somehow he has actually gone to them bodily while still asleep.
This curious blurring of the boundary between waking and sleeping occurs in the practice known as astral projection. Those who project the astral body usually do so while lying with their eyes closed. The experience of astral projection is in many ways very similar to dreams. Indeed, it may be asserted that dreams are a form of spontaneous astral projection. Deliberate astral projection differs from dreams in that the traveler on the astral plane is conscious of what he does and can control his own actions, whereas in dreams the dreamer is usually unaware that he is dreaming. Yet there is a well-known phenomenon called lucid dreaming in which the dreamer is aware that he dreams. Lucid dreams differ in no significant way from astral projection.
It is my contention that Lovecraft was engaged in a form of astral projection when he experienced his vivid, repeating nightmares. A large portion of his mythology, perhaps the major part of it, was based on astral visions that he had himself experienced firsthand while asleep. This explains their uncommon clarity and intensity. Lovecraft did not merely make them up, but recorded what he experienced.
How much reality is granted to Lovecraft’s mythology depends in large part upon how seriously we take the astral realm. Even if the early history of the Earth as recorded in his short stories is not factually true, in a material sense, it may still be true on the astral level. The Old Ones may have inhabited, not the physical surface of the Earth itself, but its astral reflection. This would have allowed them to interact at times with human beings, when the barrier between the physical world and the astral world was thin. This sort of interaction takes place between fairies and humans in certain favorable locations at favorable times, such as early morning or twilight, or on certain days such as the equinoxes.
From a human viewpoint, the most important portal controlled by Yog-Sothoth is the portal between the ordinary waking world of human consciousness, and the astral world experienced during dreams. By passing through this portal, the Old Ones and their great lords can be confronted and perhaps bargained with. In the traditional Christian sense, such dealings would be considered black magic. It is no accident that in Lovecraft’s stories Shub-Niggurath is the same as the Black Goat of the sabbat, or that Nyarlathotep is the same as the Black Man who presided over the secret festivals of witches.
Necronomicon Is Chaos Magic
However, from a modern perspective the Old Ones should not be regarded as evil, but rather should be treated as agents of chaos. Necronomicon magic is chaos magic. We know that it must be, because mindless Azathoth who rules cunning Nyarlathotep has his throne at the center of the great central vortex of chaos, and indeed is himself that vortex. In Lovecraft’s mythology, Azathoth is at the center of all. Everything spirals out from him and eventually spirals back into him. The structure of the universe is composed of the music of his flute, as expressed through the dance of the blind gods. But it is not the music that is the foundation of creation, but the mathematical intervals and interrelations between the sounds and the silence. Creation is a mathematical formula that Azathoth ceaselessly works out on his flute.
Of all the lords of the Old Ones, the easiest to reach is probably Nyarlathotep. He is frequently to be found moving among men — or rather, moving through their dreams. He will heed a summons, but he is utterly lacking in human compassion and will destroy the person who summons him if it offers him a moment of amusement. To travel into the astral in a conscious way, it is necessary to make use of the gateway of Yog-Sothoth. All astral travelers do so, even though they never realize it. By summoning Yog-Sothoth and offering sacrifices of various kinds to his honor, the gateway may be approached more easily. Sacrifices to the Old Ones transfer esoteric energy to them, and for this reason are welcomed. They need not be sacrifices of blood, but may involve devotions in the form of chants and prayers, or offerings of various substances such as food, drink, incense, music, precious objects, or money. They may take the form of pledges of service, or physical austerities. All these activities can, if done well, transfer esoteric energy that astral beings are able to use as a kind of nourishment.
Cthulhu will be difficult to reach. He dreams at the bottom of the ocean, a way of symbolizing that he exists on a very deep astral level. An astral traveler venturing through the gate of Yog-Sothoth will have to dive very deeply indeed to reach Cthulhu. The same is true of Dagon, but Dagon is free to surface when he chooses, although he does this seldom. Dagon can come to the dreamer, but the dreamer must descend to Cthulhu.
Shub-Niggurath is much easier to reach, almost too easy. She is connected with Lilith worship, and all worship linked to great mother goddesses, particularly to their darker and wilder aspects. The way to Shub-Niggurath is through sex magic and sexual energies, which serve her for nourishment. By contrast, the way to Yig is through ritual austerities of the kind practiced by the shamans of the Indian tribes of North America. To contact Shub-Niggurath controlled indulgence under will is required, but to contact Yig, one must abandon the self to denial and endurance.
Power of the Old Ones
Even though the Old Ones have their existence on the astral levels, there is reason to believe that they can work physical effects when they wish to do so. The astral world and the physical world are so close together, they almost touch. At twilight in some locations on the Earth, and at other opportune moments under favorable circumstances, the separation drops to almost nothing, and it becomes possible to walk from one world to the other, and back again. The gate of Yog-Sothoth may be more easily opened at these times. It allows passage through in either direction. The Old Ones may be petitioned to act, and they may project their will on the Earth.
The greatest effects of the Old Ones are worked indirectly, through physical agents such as other human beings, which the Old Ones influence on the astral level, particularly during dreams. Even though the action may be indirect, it can be potent and achieve results that seem miraculous. When every person and condition is made to favor a certain outcome, that outcome becomes almost inevitable, even though the exact manner of its achievement remains undecided until the very last moment of realization.
Necronomicon magic is a dark form of occultism not to be engaged in without serious consideration. It remains largely unwritten. The book by Simon titled the Necronomicon that has been so popular contains little or nothing of practical value, in my opinion. It remains for a serious ritual magician, working in the Western tradition and familiar with its history and various currents, to compose a serious set of rituals upon which a viable cult of the Old Ones may be based and sustained. Such a cult is possible, and indeed inevitable, given the continuing popularity of the Necronomicon and of Lovecraft’s fiction.
©2007 Donald Tyson. Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Donald Tyson is the author of Sexual Alchemy: Magical Intercourse with Spirits, Familiar Spirits: A Practical Guide for Witches & Magicians, and Soul Flight: Astral Projection and the Magical Universe, among other works. You can visit his website here.