The Na’vi and the Fremen: What Science Fiction Teaches Us about Tribalism and the Mystic

January 26, 2010 by  
Filed under culture, featured, mysticism, popular culture, shamanism

The Na'vi and the Fremen: What Science Fiction Teaches Us about Tribalism and the Mystic

To begin, I must offer an unqualified spoiler alert. During the course of this article, I’ll be examining the complex and fascinating intersection between tribalism and mysticism, employing for reference points James Cameron’s 2009 movie Avatar, and the 1984 adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic Dune. If you’ve missed either of these movies, please remedy this deficiency immediately, for cultural literacy’s sake if nothing else. I’ll endeavor to make this article accessible for everyone, including those who have missed one or both movies, so by the same token, don’t blame me when I ruin the movie for you. You have been warned. Additionally, I should make clear from the outset my intention isn’t to judge whether these movies are “good” — or even entertaining — in any traditional sense. I shall leave proper film criticism to those more educated in the nuances of the medium, or at least those with a somewhat more interesting point of view than my own. I’m much more interested in teasing out the lessons we might derive from science fiction about our own role as scholars and practitioners of the occult.

Regarding the inspiration for this article, I must thank the editor for her recent post regarding the movie Avatar. I had the pleasure of watching James Cameron’s beautifully rendered epic with several friends the weekend before Yule. If you haven’t seen this movie — Yes, the computer animation and the special effects are nothing short of amazing. Yes, the overall story arc proves exceptionally clichéd in places. I’ll stop short of calling it colonialist fetish porn, although other reviewers have leveled exactly this charge. (More of this anon.) Still, Avatar raises some meaningful questions about what being mystical means in relation with the rest of society.

In broad outline, the story arc of Avatar closely resembles that of the science fiction classic Dune. In Avatar, soldier-turned-mercenary Jake Sully finds himself on Pandora, an alien world largely inimical to human life; there the forces of human civilization are busily mining unobtanium, a rare mineral which is fantastically valuable back on Earth. Compare this premise with that of Frank Herbert’s Dune, wherein the young noble Paul Atreides moves to the desert planet Arrakis; Arrakis is a desolate and hostile world notable for being the only source of the spice melange, a mind-altering substance critical for interstellar travel and thus the continuance of civilization. Pandora is populated by the Na’vi, a supposedly primitive people who we learn are actually very much in touch with the rhythms of their world. Upon Dune, we have the Fremen, a deeply spiritual people whose survival skills are nearly as strong as their tenacious belief in prophecy and fate. Jake Sully finds himself among the Na’vi, and he learns not only the skills necessary to thrive within Pandora’s lush biosphere, but also an appreciation for the interconnected web of life upon Pandora. Paul Atreides, cast into the unforgiving wilderness during a coup by a rival noble house, becomes part of Fremen culture and learns the ways of desert survival. Both figures are eventually accepted by their respective adopted cultures. (Interestingly, in each case the protagonist must ride some dangerous beast in order to be recognized fully as an adult!) When human mercenaries arrive to drive off the Na’vi, Jake Sully successfully unites the various tribes of the Na’vi in a heroic campaign against the technologically superior humans. Paul Atreides, taking up the heavy mantle of messiah-figure, becomes leader of the scattered communities of Fremen in order to lay low the rival houses which conspired to bring down his family.

The patterns here mirror each other to no small degree. For our purposes, though, I should like to focus our attention upon the two spiritual cultures at work here — the Na’vi and the Fremen. Looking through critical eyes, we may find a surprisingly jarring contrast. While both peoples are undoubtedly spiritual, and — crucially here — connected with the rhythms of their respective worlds, the real-world analogues are very, very different. In the sky-hued and iridescent countenance of the Na’vi, we see reflected the shamans of Africa, South America, the Pacific Rim. In the wind-scoured and burning gaze of the Fremen, we observe nothing so much as the Islamic militant. By the artist’s design, we find ourselves inspired by the serene pantheism of the Na’vi. Conversely, we most often shudder when confronted with the naked, apocalyptic fanaticism of the Fremen. Whether these portrayals are even-handed or accurate, we will leave for another day. What matters here is this: Both the Na’vi and the Fremen are spiritual cultures which exist largely outside of the broader universes they inhabit.

This quality of apartness echoes the notes sounded by two authors here on Rending the Veil. In the Yule issue, Patrick Dunn observes that in the practice of magic there exists an element of separation, which “amounts to a cutting off not just of society but of the physical world.” (More on the second author — the insightful Ian Vincent — momentarily.) Dunn characterizes this process as “a turning inward” into the world of ideas. This inward focus is crucially important both for the Na’vi and for the Fremen, because both cultures are really defined by their inherent inwardness. When confronted with outsiders, both cultures act with some mixture of caution and hostility, attenuated for the specific encounter. When confronted by the beliefs and practices of outsiders, both the Na’vi and the Fremen instinctively close ranks and look inward, towards their own respective teachings.

In an article appearing in the March 1992 issue of Atlantic Monthly, noted political theorist Benjamin Barber described a cultural conflict he termed “Jihad versus McWorld” — in short, the conflict between the forces of tribalism and the forces of universalism. Jihad — speaking strictly in the context of Barber’s article — is the tendency to identify narrowly with one’s cultural, ethnic, or religious community. Jihad, in its extreme manifestation, is parochial tribalism taken to an extreme, coupled with suspicion or even outright hostility towards other cultural identities, whether tribal or universal. Jihad seeks to cut off the broader world, sequestering itself to prevent contamination by the external world. McWorld, on the other hand, is the homogenizing impulse which suggests all people are essentially equal, together with an essential disdain for the unique aspects of local and tribal identities. The universalizing paradigm of McWorld — at its worst — suggests all people are consumers within a world driven by culturally neutral economic forces.

Neither paradigm possesses an exclusive claim upon the moral high ground. While Benjamin Barber’s characterization of Jihad speaks of parochialism and even xenophobia, the impulse towards tribalism also preserves myths, traditions, and cultural artifacts, elements which resonate with older elements of our cultural and biological makeup. Left unchecked, McWorld reduces everyone to consumer trends and dollar signs. Still, the notion we all share an essentially universal identity as people grounds — morally and politically — the notion of universal human rights. We should also take note these two tendencies — the one narrowing our identity, the other broadening it — exist inside every single individual and across every single culture. Because these tendencies — considered philosophically — prove more ambiguous morally than Barber’s political focus, I will employ the terms “tribalism” and “universalism” throughout the rest of this article.

The respective worldviews of the Na’vi and the Fremen are strongly tribal in tone. Both cultures demonstrate elements of siege mentality, more or less justifiably, given the deleterious outcomes of each people’s interactions with the broader universe around them. The Na’vi find their very survival threatened by the arrival of humans, especially when the corporate authorities leading the occupation decides a Na’vi community must move to make way for the company’s mining operations. The Na’vi, however, perceive a broader threat to their way of life. Their fear finds expression in their ambiguous response to the school opened by Dr. Grace Augustine. According to the movie’s backstory, the Na’vi close the school because of its association with the occupation force; still, the tribe demonstrates an obvious and mutually held respect for Dr. Augustine.

Coupled with this tribalism we find a strong spiritual element. The Na’vi demonstrate a profound appreciation for the interconnected web of life around them, which translates into an essentially pantheistic worldview. The Fremen, on the other hand, embrace both fatalistic reverence for the wilderness and zealous devotion to prophecy. The broader universe crafted by Frank Herbert does include other religious expressions, notably the influential sisterhood of witches called the Bene Gesserit; still, the Bene Gesserit are only one player within a much larger complex of institutions. However important they may be for the story of Paul Atreides, the Bene Gesserit sisterhood cannot shape the worldview of the Galactic Empire to the degree the spiritual voices of the Fremen single-handedly define the culture of Arrakis. Indeed, tribalism and religion generally support one another. Spiritual traditions become an identity around which a tribe can find both root and shelter, and the resulting tribe then protects and perpetuates the dogma of the religion.

It’s not surprising that the universal tendency cannot so easily sustain this level of religious fervor. (Quite ironically, Western forms of mysticism — properly understood — exhibit an ineffable quality which precludes, and indeed transcends, the particular; sadly, this impulse seldom permits any real alliance between the broader universal impulse and the community of believers. Oh, and allow me to belatedly wish everyone here “Happy Holidays!” — See what I mean? ) Spiritual pursuits — including mysticism and magic — most often prove intensely idiosyncratic and deeply personal, and what is idiosyncratic and personal forever remains the enemy of homogenous community. The beings and phenomena of the astral realms — however the believer conceives them — become so many impersonal forces of nature of psychology, when cast beneath the relentlessly materialistic gaze of universalism. Tribalism, on the other hand, celebrates the personal myths and traditions which resonate with our primal selves most profoundly. Whether right or wrong, the tribal believer encounters Deity and the spirit world in ways more intuitive — more relevant — than the universal impulse allows.

The charge has been leveled that the story of Avatar amounts to cultural chauvinism, since the story shows an outsider who “out-natives” the natives, surpassing the wildest expectations of the tribal culture, in order to bring the disparate tribes together against their common foe. The damaging subtext, according to this deconstruction, belittles native culture by suggesting the natives could not themselves engage in such daring and heroic efforts in their own defense. We might well make the same inquiry of Dune, an endeavor further complicated by the fact the Fremen are notably guided by the prophecies of Dr. Kynes, another outsider who identifies with — and becomes part of — the religious conversation of the Fremen.

Before we can consider this train of thought, we must return briefly to “Jihad versus McWorld”. Barber himself suggests — in no uncertain terms — that McWorld is heavily favored within the broader culture wars. McWorld has the distinct advantage of looking past every possible division between diverse peoples as something essentially superficial. People are people are people, and when people who would otherwise belong to distinct cultural groups share this belief, then the universal tendency can bring to bear the full weight of the community during its battles with tribalism. A movement which embraces tribal thinking, on the other hand, devalues not only the broad, universal impulse which would homogenize the world, but also the surrounding tribal movements which fail to correspond with that movement’s identity or worldview. McWorld doesn’t need to divide and conquer; Jihad conveniently divides itself.

Herein we observe what I believe is the real reason why basically tribal peoples unite under someone like Jake Sully or Paul Atreides in the stories of science fiction. Their allegiance has little to do with the outsider’s physical or mental prowess, though both individuals are certainly remarkable and talented individuals. Neither the Na’vi nor the Fremen can be considered guilty of any misplaced reverence for the technological superiority of the outside cultures. No, the real strength of both Jake Sully and Paul Atreides lies in their cultural background. Both Jake Sully and Paul Atreides come from cultures which celebrate coming together for some common cause, and both are charismatic enough to communicate the benefits of intertribal cooperation to otherwise disparate tribes. The universal impulse which they champion isn’t superior morally to the tribal mindset. Jake Sully goes to war with the culturally arrogant and environmentally reckless corporate outfit he abandons, yet here we observe nothing so much as moral self-correction emerging from within the homogenizing force of McWorld. While Avatar shows clearly defined lines of good and evil, with Jake Sully representing the “good” aspects of universalism, and the corporation representing the “worse” elements, Dune adopts a more nuanced approach. Paul Atreides is clearly the embodiment of universal impulse among the Fremen, yet Paul frequently works from motives of vengeance and wrath, and his overall character remains morally ambiguous at best.

The defining element here isn’t the “advanced” culture’s psychological or moral superiority — Jake Sully and Paul Atreides are both uniquely talented individuals, yet this fact alone does not enable them to rally the disparate tribes and communities under one banner. No, the real conflict here is between the universal impulse and the tribal impulse, and here both Jake Sully and Paul Atreides claim their decisive advantage, since they emerge from universal cultures. (Of course, pragmatic advantage does not equate with moral worth, yet this is another discussion for another day.) In both science fiction stories, tribal peoples must adopt a more life-affirming version of the universalizing impulse which empowers their enemies, and Jake and Paul give them the tools to effect precisely this change.

What’s the takeaway for us as witches and magicians? Generally speaking, we are not the Na’vi, and we are not the Fremen. In the battle for the collective soul of our world, we are born into the universal impulse which suffuses the whole of Western culture. Every time we endorse universal human rights — every single time we look past someone’s skin color or sexual orientation — we affirm the universal impulse. Every single time we suggest in matters of religion there are many roads ascending the same mountain, we affirm the universal impulse. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are life-affirming elements within universalism; any time we can tease those out, we add something important towards the health and sanity of our world. Our culture celebrates the universal impulse. We perceive in Jake Sully and in Paul Atreides noble protagonists who speak towards the most life-affirming incarnations of this mindset.

The practice of magic constitutes the crafting of paradigms. The doctrines of chaos magic make this aspect explicit, yet most introspective forms of contemporary magic embrace this notion to one degree or another. Even if the paradigm in question is nothing more than simple acceptance of some spirit world, the magician embraces a worldview apart from the cultural default of scientific materialism. And herein we see the “otherness” of the magician. Earlier within this article, I referenced Patrick Dunn’s treatment of the magician as something apart from the rest of the world. This impulse is tribal in tone. Equally tribal in aspect is the turning inward of the magician. I ran with the notion of inwardness as something defining about tribal societies, yet what this treatment misses (and what I believe Dunn catches) is this: The turning inward practiced by the magician is personal introspection; the magician remains ever the tribe of one. Choices about magical paradigm are made by the individual magician.

This idiosyncratic practice, this personal interpretation of our shared world, runs counter to the overall thrust of the universal impulse. And herein we discover the fundamental tension for those who practice magic within the Western tradition. We are children of the universal impulse which defines our shared culture, and yet we rail against (or subtly subvert) the homogenizing aspects of this same force. We are, to borrow an expression from Ian Vincent’s article in the Samhain issue of Rending the Veil, the “Tribe of the Strange.” We are those who step out of line, who dance with the unique beats of our own hearts. And it’s damnably difficult to step outside what the mainstream considers normal, without feeling a profound tension with this homogenizing force.

Friedrich Nietzsche, with his characteristic wryness, once proposed this tension conspires to prevent the emergence of genuinely great souls across humanity. The common people, bound together by simple and mutually held conceptual ground, are able to communicate with one another easily, facilitating their collective survival efforts. The great mind, upon the other hand, not only thinks “outside the box” of common thought, but also along unique lines distinct from other great minds. Unable to communicate either with the common people or with one another, they struggle in isolation to survive and reproduce. Now we might take issue with the notion that greatness contains some genetic component — Again witness the universal impulse at work! — and in fairness to Nietzsche, I think there’s some tongue in cheek which a surface reading of his work too frequently misses. Still, our own endeavor to preserve our individual uniqueness becomes doubly difficult, since nearly the whole of Western civilization remains indelibly universal in character. We are not the Na’vi, and we are not the Fremen. Simply phrased, we are not an inherently tribal people.

Nevertheless, the line separating the universal impulse and the tribal impulse, much like Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s famous line between good and evil, passes through every human heart. We might favor one mindset or another — we might be born into one world or another — yet the opposing viewpoint remains within us, always there in potential. This latent potential is what gives Jake Sully the capacity to understand, however imperfectly, the pantheistic and animistic worldview of the Na’vi. Likewise, the nascent tribal impulse within Paul Atreides makes possible his tempestuous and fateful connection with the devout Fremen.

As the inheritors of Western culture, we are universal within our thinking. People are people are people, and there are many roads ascending the same mountain. This universal tendency is what inspires virtual homes like Rending the Veil, wherein we find many authors and readers, with many distinct viewpoints, coming together with the common cause of learning from one another. As witches and magicians, as members of the Tribe of the Strange, though, we are tribal within our thinking. We nurture and develop paradigms which oppose or subvert the homogenizing and materialistic tendencies of universalism. And while we may find meaningful spiritual traditions and covens which share broad elements of our individual magical paradigms, our paradigms remain forever individual and unique, for the paths of the mystic and the magician remain forever inward ones. The challenge here becomes one of balance and integration. Taken to their respective extremes, tribalism devalues everyone and everything outside the narrow definition of the tribe, while universalism devalues everything which renders the individual unique and special. How can we champion the life-affirming elements contained in these two impulses, without falling prey to those perilous extremes?

The complete answer — should there be such — rests outside the scope of my article. I can only propose what might be the path towards an answer, since the real solution occurs within genuine introspection and open-minded dialogue. We are the Tribe of the Strange, and we must learn how to embrace both our strangeness and our latent tribal impulse. By our strangeness, I mean those unique paradigms and practices which make us witches and magicians. Our strangeness transcends any particular affiliation; by the very nature of our craft, our personal introspection transcends even spiritual tradition or coven. Still, this strangeness makes all the more urgent our collective efforts to communicate with one another as one singular tribe. We might not — cannot, really — agree upon every issue, and we must be okay with such differences. We must develop a common dialogue, however, should we wish to resist as one tribe the homogenizing elements of universalism which would deny our spiritual birthright. And we develop this common dialogue via the universal impulse which we inherit from our broader culture, just like Jake Sully, and just like Paul Atreides. Science fiction teaches us how to tease out the life-affirming aspects within our cultural makeup, without falling prey to xenophobia or to homogenization. Let’s continue the dialogue of our strange little tribe, here and elsewhere, embracing both our own unique greatness and mutual respect for one another.

Blessed Be!

©2010 by Grey Glamer.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Beyond the Veil – Book Excerpt: Blood of the Dark Moon

Beyond the Veil - Book Excerpt: Blood of the Dark Moon

Beyond the Veil

“Jesse, this is most puzzling. There are a lot of references to blood in here, and it’s clear that they’re not necessarily talking about some form of sacrifice. Do you have any light to shed on this?”

He blinked but kept his expression steady. “Well, I, um —”

Amanda laughed. “It’s okay; I don’t think that this text is talking about ancient vampires or whatever. I’m in fact wondering if it’s a symbolic allusion to some kind of ancient Eucharist. But still, it’s quite strange. Any chance that I could borrow this from you?” She looked up at him hopefully. She was clearly both enthralled and intrigued with the book.

Jesse found it difficult to refuse her — in spite of the little voice in his head reminding him that if the Clan elders discovered the text missing and in the hands of a mortal, he’d most likely be staked. “I — perhaps, yes. Was there something you wanted to look into further?” As he gazed into her liquid, dark brown eyes, he tried desperately to remember why he gave her the text to begin with. Ah, yes, to impress her. And certainly she was impressed — and perhaps was also more observant and skilled in Latin than he had originally anticipated. Her translation proceeded at a rate even Amaltheia would’ve found proficient.

Finally, she stopped scribbling and took an additional sip from her glass. “Hold on one moment,” she requested, grabbing her purse, “I’ll be right back.” She smiled at him and ran to the women’s restroom.

He started to speak but thought better of it, gazing at her half-finished wine. What a lightweight she is, he mused. And how incredibly competent at Latin. Not to mention, he thought with a frown, very . . . intuitive . . . when intoxicated.

Idly, Jesse wondered how a few drops of blood mixed with her drink might aid her psychic skills. You idiot. You do that and there’s no turning back. Having her ingest his blood as a mortal would give him a light psychic connection to her, enough to know her location, or perhaps read her thoughts. That connection also would be very difficult to get rid of if he later desired to do so.

Glancing out of the corner of his eye, he watched Amanda standing by the women’s restroom, engaged in what looked to be friendly banter with another male patron. Perhaps a little . . . too friendly for his tastes.

Eyes narrowing, he quickly stuck his finger into his mouth, nicked it with his teeth, and deposited a few drops of his blood into her wine.

She’ll never notice, he thought smugly.

She returned some moments later to find him sitting calmly, sipping his wine. “Hi, I’m back,” she declared with a grin. “Now, where was I? Ah, yes . . . how old did you say this text was? And where did it come from?”

“I’m . . . not certain,” he admitted. “At least a thousand years or so ago it was written, I am guessing.” More like two thousand, but he didn’t want to admit to that. Not just yet.

He watched her carefully as she took a sip of her wine, slowly placed the glass back on the table, and made scribbles in her notebook. At one point she stopped reading and looked up, her finger on her mouth. Jesse couldn’t tell if she was confused or deep in thought — or both.

“Is there something wrong?” he asked her, inwardly cringing with anxiety. Did she taste the blood? Did she perhaps sense something wrong with the wine?

“Oh, um, no, no, nothing at all.” She shook her head as if dispelling something. Then she shrugged and laughed. “Was just wondering something.”

Amanda put her head back down in the book and took notes while Jesse observed her, fascinated. While her focus was still on the Latin writings, she reached out her left hand to the wine glass, which slid, of its own accord, a few inches closer to her hand.

It took Jesse a few moments to register what he had seen. By the Blood, she’s a natural. Dazed, he kept watching her, but she gave no appearance of having noticed what she had apparently done while under the influence of a glass or two of wine. It occurred to him that perhaps she had always been telekinetic and didn’t think much of using it while intoxicated. Either that or the blood he had slipped into her drink had temporarily — or perhaps permanently — increased her abilities. He suspected, given her keen interest in occult Latin texts, that he would be seeing much of this young woman in the days to come.

Not that I would mind, he figured, observing the way the folds of her sweater fell over her breasts and hips.

Some minutes later, she finally put down her pen. An animated dialogue ensued about various other occult texts that she had read while working on her thesis, mostly medieval and modern derivations of Ancient Greek and Roman magick. Amanda spoke of how they related and were also altogether, unlike this work, part of which she had translated. While she conversed with him, he couldn’t help but wonder whether or not she guessed his real purpose in showing her this text and taking her out for dinner. Perhaps she might realize that maybe he was interested in her?


Hours later, he walked Amanda to the subway station, smiling and nodding along as she rambled about various Greek and Latin texts, responding when he could to some of her statements and answering vaguely to others.

Amanda, be careful, she heard in that small but clear male voice which sometimes spoke in her mind.

Apollo? she thought back, but heard nothing afterwards. Maybe it was my Agathos Daimon. Her guardian spirit.

They stopped at the entranceway, and she turned to thank him for the wonderful evening and for tolerating her rather fanatical interest on some subjects and for a lovely dinner, but was interrupted by Jesse leaning in so fast she almost didn’t see him move. Before she could utter another word his lips were on hers. Everything at that moment stopped except for her heart, which she heard in her ears. Upon finally pulling apart, she realized that she wasn’t breathing and an electric current ran through her skin. Amanda was on fire, and she was alive, so alive, in that moment.

He left shortly after that. Amanda stared after him, agape. She turned to look up at the sky, but all she saw was light, endless light from the buildings, the faint traces of stars in the moonless sky, and all of it swirling around her.

©2008-2009 Adrianne Brennan
Excerpted from the book Blood of the Dark Moon.

Book Review: Pop Culture Magick, 2nd Edition

Book Review: Pop Culture Magick, 2nd Edition

Pop Culture Magick
Taylor Ellwood
Megalithica Books; 2nd edition (August 14, 2008)
ISBN: 978-1905713127
144 pages
Reviewer: RainSingingWolf
Full starFull starFull starFull starHalf star
 

When I first heard that somebody was seriously considering writing a book on media magick (specifically pop culture), I was both thrilled and terrified. As a longtime lurker on many boards, I have encountered so many terrible ideas using new media that I was doubtful when opening this book.

With this one book, my impression of pop culture magick has completely changed. I commend Ellwood for identifying the importance of previous (and current) belief systems, rather than simply disregarding them, as so many authors are prone to do. The first few chapters of this book are devoted to what exactly “pop culture” is, why it is important in our lives, and how powerful it can be. The idea that simply exposing people to something can give it power isn’t a new idea; however, Ellwood emphasizes exactly how important this factor is in one’s life from commercials (merchandise identification) to news (celebrities). With such a wellspring of options and power available in every day situations, it seems that using pop culture is an obvious choice for creating magick.

Ellwood emphasizes the importance of keeping one’s magick current to one’s living situation and personality. Finding a story or character that one identifies with can completely change the enthusiasm for magick; thus, a more powerful magick is made available to the magician. This concept is no different than when a magician may go searching in older religions for a god/dess that matches his or her needs.

According to Ellwood, a plethora of media is available for a creative magician to use. This includes: comics, cartoons, anime, books, movies, video games, card games, and even commercials! And why not? Many people follow characters or celebrities so closely that they know them better than family, friends, or even themselves; additionally, many books or movies provide clear rules and structure for their worlds that could easily be adapted for one’s own rituals. He generously shares examples from his own attempts and successes at using pop culture, as well as those of fellow magicians. If a reader is feeling up to the challenge, exercises are provided at the end of each chapter that can easily be used just as they are or adapted for one’s own ideas.

Like a responsible mentor, Ellwood not only emphasizes the positive in using these new techniques, but also reminds the reader of the risks associated with the practice. Just like every day people, characters from many sources have positive strengths that are just as strong as their flaws. While working with entities one may get the benefit of better strategy; however, that same character may have a splash of arrogance that can easily rub off on the magician.

Another useful thing Ellwood offers the reader is appendices with the various media he references throughout the text, as well as further explanations on some of the techniques he mentions. He also provides a bibliography of the texts he references, which could be useful to the reader.

The only problems I had with this book are completely technical. The font appeared small to me, and I’m not sure whether or not this has to do with the particular font or the actual font size. Also, while I understand the use of “hir” is a generous attempt at being gender-conscious, I find it’s usage to be hideous, especially in a book.

Using pop culture for one’s practices is certainly not a new idea, but many people are afraid of moving beyond the safe boundaries of known magical techniques. Ellwood invites readers to join him and others in, at the very least, giving these new techniques a chance. While the book is small, it provides a variety of examples to open the mind of the reader to the possibilities. Whether one is just curious about pop culture magick or seriously considering using it, I recommend this book.

4 and a half stars out of 5.

Review ©2009 RainSingingWolf
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Book/Tarot Deck Review – The Tyson Necronomicon Series

Book/Tarot Deck Review - The Tyson Necronomicon Series
  
  

Donald Tyson’s Necronomicon Series, including

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 .

Footnotes

  1. Quoted from an interview, “Magic is Afoot,” published in Arthur magazine in May 2003
  2. New Falcon publishing, 2004

Review ©2009 Lon Sarver
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Wolverine: The War God’s Poster Boy

Wolverine: The War God's Poster Boy

War is hell — neither pretty nor kind, and it is bringing lamentation and suffering to so many in the world right now. People have hated war ever since there was war to be hated. It shouldn’t be terribly surprising then, that Mars — the Roman God of War — was not well liked around Mt. Olympus. He was much maligned by his father Jupiter, his sister Minerva, and all others who preferred peace and order to wanton savagery.

But if Mars is so easy to hate, then why is our media saturated with iconic characters that are clearly born under the influence his planet? Let’s see: Off the top of my head, we’ve got ninjas, samurai, marines, Navy SEALs, Jedi, medieval warriors, Roman gladiators, cowboys, hitmen, gangsters, secret agents, martial artists, renegade cops, and (wait for it. . !) super heroes.

Like it or not (and some of us love it), the red planet of Mars’ namesake is present in all of our birth charts. However, the negative attributes ascribed to the Greco-Roman war god are usually found in individuals who have an afflicted Mars. Mars being a malefic force, a stressed placement in a chart can lead to a very unstable person — someone who throws a punch when diplomacy is called for, or who screams at loved ones against his own heart’s wishes.

A healthy Mars, however, will usually lead to the qualities we revere in our action heroes — men of will, vision, courage. Our Clint Eastwoods, John Waynes, Bruce Lees; our Schwarzeneggers, Stallones, Bruce Willises (Willii?), our Steve McQueens, Jackie Chans, and various James Bonds — these are the guys who put a presentable face on wrathful action.

Turning our attention to the higher echelons of geekdom, there is only one comic book character I can think of who so singularly personifies the Mars archetype. Love him or hate him, Wolverine is about as Mars as you can get as one of the good guys.

Anti-Hero

When we think of the word “hero,” Wolverine’s gruff visage is hardly the first conjured up. The heroes of myth are usually Mars archetypes who have received Jupiter’s blessing and been given a task from a Saturnine figure.

Perseus, for example, who decapitated Medusa and destroyed the sea monster called Kraken. He wouldn’t have performed these deeds if he had not been given marching orders from Zeus (his father) and Athena, who charged him with an epic task. And while they’re the ones who ordered him around, they’re also the ones that gave him the gifts he needed to succeed. His heroism was bestowed on him by providence.

A modern parallel might be a character like Captain America. The U.S. government granted Jupitarian blessings on skinny, meek Steve Rogers, but they only did it so they could make him into a weapon. Spider-Man is another example: He was granted amazing powers by a freak accident, but was tasked to responsible use of those powers by the dying wish of his Uncle Ben, the man who raised him.

Wolverine was born a mutant; he was born with his healing factor, his heightened senses, and his bone claws. There was no divine hand to guide him along a quest — he was simply thrown out into the world with the innate ability to destroy.

Wolverine was bestowed with his adamantium skeleton by the clandestine Weapon X program, but there’s not much Jupitarian about having metal surgically bonded to your skeleton. No, this transformation seems much more like Pluto’s work, especially if we consider that the Lord of the Underworld is often known as Lord Pluton, God of Hidden Riches. Adamantium is, after all, a very rare and sought after metal.

As for Saturn, the cornerstone of discipline and self-control, well, it’s plain to see that Wolverine has serious issues with authority.

For these reasons, Wolverine is what we call an “anti-hero.” While there’s less glory and bluster in his story, and while he doesn’t always behave in a manner that society would condone, there is a primal element that we can all relate to. He is human because he is animalistic, and is possessed of a brutality that many of us hideaway deep within ourselves.

We relate to his pain, too. Though our own personal torments are not usually quite on par with his, his suffering and frustration are familiar.

His image has been somewhat softened since his early days, but as much as he as labeled as a “super hero,” his anti-hero nature remains at the core of his character. Which is fine — most of the people he eviscerates have it coming.

Exalted

Logan has a ton of Aries signatures; if we were to assemble a fictional chart for him, it’d probably be where his Sun, Mercury, and Mars all reside. He acts like an Aries, he talks like an Aries, and he sure as hell fights like one.

Aries is Cardinal Fire, represented by the ram in the West and by the dragon in the East. It is the first emergence of divinity, sustained by self-belief and through conflict with others — creating “sparks” with which it can add fuel to its fire.

Like the ram, Aries often seeks out esteem through dominance of others — think of that Aries jerk you know who just savors the experience of butting heads with you. And like dragon, Aries is a paragon of willpower (as evidenced, of course, by its exaltation in the Sun). Though the dragon is a mythical beast, I think we can safely imagine that there’s not much stopping one from doing what it wants. And being possessed of bestial super powers, soaring through the air and affecting the weather, the dragon (like Aries) probably had little regard for the affairs of the other animals down on Earth’s surface.

Wolverine is relatively self-centered. Always standing slightly apart from the rest of the X-Men, always hogging cover space, always taking off at the drop of the hat to explore a lead in the search for his lost past — he’s basically commandeered the entire franchise.

It’s not that he doesn’t care about others. It’s just that he’s the center of his own universe.

Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, as well as the eternal child. In a sense, Wolverine is “first” among the X-Men, being far older than almost any living mutant, but kept relatively young by his mutant healing factor. Despite his age and inflated attitude, his short stature ensures that he’ll always have the nickname of “runt,” another obvious indicator of his eternal childhood. Also like a child, and like a certain other “first man,” Wolverine has a habit of assigning nicknames — “bub” and “darlin'” are his basic means for designations of male and female.

In addition, Wolverine has a tendency to group himself with younger people. Even in a group of young people like the X-Men, he seeks out the youngest as his sidekicks. First there was Kitty Pryde, then Jubilee, and most recently, a young mutant named Armor seems to be soaking up his shadow.

What’s more, straddling the line between totally childish and completely badass, Wolverine is world-famous for his berserker rage, a homicidal frenzy that overtakes him whenever the battle turns serious. While it’s cool to see our angst-ridden anti-hero flip out and kill things, it should also be noted, in correlation with the notion of Aries-as-child, that his berserker rage is a glorified temper tantrum. This is why I, for one, have never really bought Wolverine as a ninja/samurai/master of Japanese martial arts. Because, seriously, when do you ever see him fight in a manner possessed of any discipline? And while one of Aries’ innate qualities is betterment by way of self-mastery, it seems pretty clear that Logan missed a memo somewhere and skipped over all his training to get to the bloodlust.

A final evidence of Aries lies in Wolverine’s most used mutant ability: his healing factor. Unlike Leo, whose fire is sustained by social approval, or Sagittarius, whose fire is simply fueled by excitement and vision, Aries’ runs on self-belief. This can translate into a stubborn “never say die” sort of attitude, so it is appropriate that Logan’s mutation keeps him alive through ordeals that would kill a normal man.

Fallen

While Aries’ signature is certainly the largest zodiacal signature on Wolverine, the Mars war god’s other half, Scorpio, also seems to have a marked presence. Though I believe Logan’s Sun would have its exaltation in Aries, I’d also believe his second luminary, the Moon, to be fallen in Scorpio.

The Moon is the mysterious foundation of our souls — a bundle of intrinsic needs and desires that we are often unconscious of. And while a good understanding of one’s emotional base is healthy, the Moon often contains mysteries that we have unconsciously locked away from ourselves, truths that we cannot deal with. Dredging up painful psychological complexes can be most unsettling, and the Moon — being the foundational structure of the psyche — should not be unsettled.

At first glance, watery Scorpio, notorious for its connection to stories of intrigue, should be right at home in the mysterious structure of the Moon. The problem is that in all those detective or spy stories, the Scorpionic character is the one who works toward unraveling the mystery — in short, Scorpio doesn’t like any mystery that it isn’t at the center of. And so, a Scorpio Moon relentlessly tries to solve itself, which is equal to a drilling of, and eventual negation of, this all-important emotional base.

This circumstance is pretty easy to apply to Wolverine. If the Moon is a mysterious foundation, it can also be a person’s past. A different man might be content to let sleeping dogs lie, and get on with enjoying his new family with the X-Men and finding gratification in super heroics. Not Wolverine. No matter how excruciating the truth is, Wolverine cannot help but delve into his past at every possible opportunity. And this is a past that is most painful to relive, and was probably buried for a good reason. Though he’s lived for ten lifetimes, he’s seen nearly all his loved ones cut down at the start of their lives.

Battle Without Honor or Humanity

Considering his mass appeal, rich characterization, and constant involvement, it seems odd that Wolverine doesn’t get a lot of glory. There’s not too many major villains that he’s toppled — sure, he’ll get a good cut in on Magneto every now and then, but that’s usually only after he’s been nailed by Cyclops, punched by Rogue, and has been mind-raped by Professor Xavier. And even then, he only really tags the super villains when he sneaks up on them. Most of the time, Wolverine’s the guy who’s ripping through henchmen while others rumble with the big fish.

Again, this is an echo of the Greek God, Ares. Ares was bested by Athena, defeated twice by Hephaestus, and was injured by mortals on two separate occasions. There aren’t very many stories about the war god winning important battles. Those big victories usually rely more on clever thinking (Hermes,) a brilliant strategy (Athena,) or raw power (Zeus.) Battle frenzy has its place, but that place is usually reserved for chewing through the ranks of foot soldiers. That’s what Ares was good at, and that’s what Wolverine’s good at.

A Venusian Menagerie

He’s no Remy LeBeau, but Wolverine does all right with the ladies. He usually ends up with long-standing relationships that are ultimately doomed, but which carry explosive emotional weight for him until they disintegrate.

Many of the gods, following Zeus’ example, would just have sex with whomever they pleased with little regard for the consequences. But Ares, despite his gruff function, would have relatively consistent and consensual consorts. The most notable, of course, being with Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty.

Venus is represented in the tarot as The Empress, and Wolverine tends to attract women in that sort of role. His late lover, Silverfox, ended up being the leader of a terrorist organization known as HYDRA. He was betrothed to Mariko Yashida for years, before the yakuza princess was tricked into an untimely death. He had a relationship with another beautiful crime lordess in Madripoor, Tigerlily. His best-known romance, of course, is his unconditional (yet unconsummated) love for Jean Grey …who was in many ways the “Empress” de facto of the X-Men.

©2009 Nick Civitello
Edited by Sheta Kaey

The Rapier’s Edge – Follow-Up Interview with Donald Tyson

The Rapier's Edge - Follow-Up Interview with Donald Tyson

The Rapier's Edge - Exclusive Interviews with Extraordinary Individuals

Nearly a year ago, I interviewed Donald Tyson regarding his then new book, Grimoire of the Necronomicon. Since then, my review partner, Lon Sarver, and I have been working with Tyson’s system and we’ll present our findings in this the next issue. Mr. Tyson was kind enough to agree to a follow-up interview; you’ll find it just below.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

How did you first become acquainted with H. P. Lovecraft’s writings?

Donald Tyson

Pure accident. Way back in 1967 I bought a Lancer paperback titled H.P. Lovecraft: The Colour Out of Space and Others. It was a collection of seven stories by Lovecraft, including “The Call of Cthulhu,” which is generally regarded as the initiator of what is now called the Cthulhu Mythos, although I prefer the term Necronomicon Mythos myself. The stories impressed me with their strangeness — they weren’t like the usual horror stories I was reading at the time. Over the years I read as many other stories by Lovecraft as I could find.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

Did you ever think back then that someday you would write books about Lovecraft?

Donald Tyson

It never even entered my mind. At that time I didn’t even know that I would become a professional writer. I just enjoyed reading his stories.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

Why did you decide to write your own version of the Necronomicon?

Donald Tyson

It was pure hubris. I was participating in a newsgroup where different versions of the Necronomicon were being talked about, and I suddenly thought to myself, “I can write a better version of the Necronomicon than this.” So I did.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

What makes your version better than, say, the Simon Necronomicon?

Donald Tyson

Whether it is better or not is ultimately for readers to decide, but I tried to make my version better by posing the question to myself, “If the Necronomicon really existed, what would it contain?” I figured that it would not be just a collection of spells and sigils — that is not how Lovecraft described it, and it doesn’t match up with the quotations from it that he included in his stories. I figured it would be more of a history of the earth before the rise of the human species, describing all the alien races that had existed on it back then, coupled with a description of the strange places the author of the book, Abdul Alhazred, had encountered during his wanderings around the ancient world.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

So you don’t like the Simon Necronomicon?

Donald Tyson

It’s not that I don’t like it — the Simon Necronomicon is fine for what it is, a grimoire associated with the Old Ones. I just don’t believe it is very much like what the real Necronomicon would be, if it existed in our world.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

There are monsters in your Necronomicon Tarot that don’t exist in any of Lovecraft’s stories. Where did they come from?

Donald Tyson

The short answer to that is, I made them up. As you know, the Necronomicon Tarot is closely based on my version of the Necronomicon. I didn’t want my book to be limited to only what Lovecraft had written about the Necronomicon, because for one thing, Lovecraft didn’t write all that much about it. The total number of words that Lovecraft put into his stories as supposed direct quotations from the Necronomicon doesn’t amount to more than a few pages — it’s not enough for a book. Also, I’m a creative writer, and I wanted my version of the Necronomicon to reflect some of my own creativity. I did try hard to avoid directly contradicting anything Lovecraft had indicated to be in the Necronomicon, and I tried to include in my book everything that he had written about it. In those respects my version is more faithful to Lovecraft than any other version. It contains all that Lovecraft wrote about the Necronomicon, but it also contains a lot he never imagined.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

Talk about some of the monsters you created for the Necronomicon Tarot

Donald Tyson

Well, there’s I´thakuah, an ancient crone who works a kind of witchcraft in front of her fire in the dry cisterns deep under the ruins of the lost city of Irem. She is so old it’s almost impossible to tell whether she is male or female, or even whether she is human. Her hands are like great claws and her arms are long and powerful, the better to catch the rats upon which she feeds in the total darkness. She has lived under the ruins of the city for so long, even she doesn’t remember when she first entered the cisterns. She serves Nyarlathotep, one of the seven Lords of the Old Ones, who communicates with her through his deep-dwelling inhuman agents when they approach and converse with the old hag.

Then there is the Beast of Babylon that lives in the ancient brick sewer tunnels under the ruins of Babylon in Persia. It was upon the folklore of this Beast that the Biblical beast of Revelations was based. It is a great animal the size of a horse, with massive wings that allow it to fly through the air, when it emerges from beneath the ground at sunset to hunt its human prey, and seven heads on seven long, snake-like necks that ceaselessly bud forth and then shrink away by turns. The heads are formed from the heads of all the human beings the Beast has captured and consumed over the millennia, and they are conscious and babble in their own languages about their pain and sorrow, laughing and weeping and screaming during the brief periods of their presence on the necks.

Those are two of my creations, I´hakuah and the Beast.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

Did you scry any of the strange creatures in the Necronomicon Tarot using a crystal or a black mirror?

Donald Tyson

Not in a formal sense, no. I never sat down before my crystal ball and saw images of these beings. But over the months it took to write the book, I had my mind on Lovecraft and Alhazred and the Old Ones night and day. They started to creep into my dreams, and I even began to notice strange things happening around me.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

What sort of strange things?

Donald Tyson

Noises that had no cause. Movements at the corner of my eye that were like flashes of shadow sliding past. Objects that disappeared with nobody around to move them, and then just as strangely reappeared days or weeks later. Strange looks or words from complete strangers I passed in the street.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

What do you think was happening? Were you under some kind of attack?

Donald Tyson

I don’t know. I got the sense that something was trying to communicate with me, but that it was so alien, it didn’t quite know how to even make the attempt. It kept fumbling around, using whatever was available as a conduit. It didn’t so much feel malicious as it felt unnatural — like something out of place, or something that didn’t quite belong in our world. I think maybe when I started to write the Necronomicon, this intelligence took notice of me, and that maybe it communicated psychically some of the creatures I wrote about. But no one can prove a thing like that, it’s just a sense you get, like a kind of feeling.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

Do you believe the Necronomicon really exists in some form?

Donald Tyson

At one time I would have said no, but today — yes, I believe that the Necronomicon does exist. It was never published in the usual way as a book, of course, but I believe that Lovecraft didn’t invent it from nothing. He was a sleeping seer. When he dreamed, he saw visions of astral planes that are deeper and stranger than most people ever visit during sleep, and he brought things back from those planes that he put into his stories.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

What kinds of things?

Donald Tyson

Like the Old Ones, who are invisible creatures that inhabited the earth long before the evolution of the human race. They are so strange, so unlike anything we know in this world, that our eyes can’t even see their color. They floated through the air, and lived in black stone cities without windows — they didn’t need windows because they had no eyes. They perceived the world with senses we wouldn’t even comprehend.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

There is more than one kind of Old Ones in Lovecraft’s stories, isn’t there?

Donald Tyson

Yes, several species are called Old Ones or Elder Things or The Elder Race by Lovecraft. He used the term Old Ones as a general term for those intelligent alien species that inhabited the young earth before the coming of mankind.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

Did the Old Ones write the Necronomicon?

Donald Tyson

According to Lovecraft, the Necronomicon was written around the year 730 by an Arab poet of Yemen named Abdul Alhazred. He went insane, and he wrote the book based on what he had seen in the desert, in abandoned cities and old tombs and caverns deep beneath the sands, and what the creatures that have always lived in these remote desert wastes and deep places whispered to him when he talked with them.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

Maybe writing the Necronomicon drove him insane.

Donald Tyson

The book was written when Alhazred was an old man, so he must have gone insane at some earlier stage in his life, since he was known as the “mad Arab” in Lovecraft’s stories. But whether the process of writing the book drove him mad, or whether it was his madness that allowed him to gather the information that went into his book, there’s no way to know.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

You talk about Alhazred as if he were a real person.

Donald Tyson

That’s how Lovecraft wrote about him, and about his book. That’s one of the reasons they seem so real to us today. But I believe that maybe Alhazred did write the Necronomicon, not while he was awake, but while he was asleep, in his dreams. That is how Lovecraft was able to see the book so clearly. Alhazred created it in the dreamlands, as Lovecraft called them, and Lovecraft in his explorations of the dreamlands was able to see the book and learn its Greek name.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

Your Necronomicon and the Necronomicon Tarot are only two parts of a trilogy of works from Llewellyn Publications. What is the third part?

Donald Tyson

The third part of my Necronomicon Trilogy is my novel Alhazred. I refer to the three works as a trilogy because they are all based on the same content, the text of my Necronomicon. The Necronomicon Tarot illustrates pictorially the things I wrote about in that book, and my novel Alhazred relates the events in the book from Alhazred’s point of view, as he experienced them during his wanderings.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

What about your other book, the Necronomicon Grimoire?

Donald Tyson

The Necronomicon Grimoire is not a part of the trilogy, but it is closely linked. I wanted to create a practical grimoire based on Lovecraft’s mythology of the Old Ones, with a ritual structure that could be used by serious magicians for practical purposes. I based the grimoire on information in my Necronomicon, so the two books are in harmony with one another, but whereas the Necronomicon concerns strange monsters, alien races, and hidden places of the ancient world, the grimoire lays down the precise details of a system of magic, and sets forth the outline for an occult society based on its rituals that I’ve named the Order of the Old Ones, or OOO for short.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

Is the Order of the Old Ones an actual occult society?

Donald Tyson

It will be, if enough people want it to be. I look upon it in much the same way that I regard the Necronomicon of Lovecraft — both are real in an astral sense, and that reality can bring them forth into the world if enough individuals seriously want them to exist.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

Are you planning to write any more books based on the Necronomicon?

Donald Tyson

Yes, I have two more in the works, which I won’t talk about in detail here. It seems that Lovecraft hasn’t finished with me yet.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

Do you get the sense that Lovecraft is telling you to write these books?

Donald Tyson

I get the sense that his ghost is standing at my shoulder as I’m writing, reading what I’ve written. What he thinks of it, I don’t know, but I hope he approves. I’ve done my best to honor his memory and his mythos, and to add to its occult current rather than merely drawing from it. A lot of writers had reason to be thankful to Lovecraft while he was alive, because he was unfailingly generous to young authors. He would write endless letters encouraging them to write, and giving them helpful advice about how to improve their stories. Today, in a strange way many writers still have reason to be thankful to Lovecraft, because they are building upon the foundation he laid down, writing books that are part of a mythos that would never have existed without Lovecraft’s genius.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

Donald Tyson

I always enjoy talking about the Necronomicon and the Old Ones. It’s the thoughts and dreams of all of us that give life on the astral level of the dreamlands to both the book and the things it describes. As long as people continue to read Lovecraft’s stories, the Necronomicon will never die.

The Rapier’s Edge is a semi-regular column featuring interviews with our contributors, other occult authors, and celebrities of interest to RTV readers. If you’d like to be interviewed, please contact admin@rendingtheveil.com and we’ll be pleased to consider such an interview (especially if you have suggestions for questions!).

Donald Tyson is the author of Sexual Alchemy: Magical Intercourse with Spirits, Familiar Spirits, and Soul Flight: Astral Projection and the Magical Universe, among other works. You can visit his website here.

Sheta Kaey is Editor in Chief of Rending the Veil and is working on her first book, Infinite Possibility. You can read her blog here.

©2009 by Sheta Kaey
and Donald Tyson.

The Fairy Godmother

December 30, 2008 by  
Filed under culture, popular culture

The Fairy Godmother

A recurring fixture in the folklore of northern Europe is the fairy godmother. This mysterious woman appears by magic to attend the birth or Christening of an infant, often a child who is seemingly of no special importance. She may be alone, or accompanied by other women. She comes uninvited either to bless or curse the child, displays various magical abilities, and then just as mysteriously departs, perhaps to reappear at some distant future date, or perhaps never to be seen again. This quaint figure of children’s fairy tales has more importance in the history of Western magic than most people realize. Let us take a look at some of her folk characteristics, and then consider her true identity and significance in the context of the Western esoteric tradition.

The first thing that must be observed about fairy godmothers is that they are not nearly so common in ancient folklore as might be supposed, given their modern popularity. They appear in two of the most beloved fairy stories — Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella — both of which were turned into animated films by the Disney Studios. This cinematic treatment helped spread the fable of the fairy godmother far and wide in the 20th century.

Sleeping Beauty

In Sleeping Beauty, the fairy godmother first appears in the version by Charles Perrault (1628 – 1703), published in 1697 in France in his hugely popular Contes de ma Mère l’Oye (Tales of Mother Goose). In the portion of the tale that concerns us, seven fairies are invited to the Christening of a newborn princess by her loving parents, in the hope that they will confer magical gifts upon the child and act as her godmothers. To honor them, the king orders seven plates of gold to be made for them to use at the Christening feast. However, an eighth fairy who is older and unattractive decides to come to the Christening, and when she sees that no gold plate has been made for her, she feels that her dignity has been slighted.

Six of the fairy godmothers bless the infant girl with various life gifts. The crone is the seventh to approach the child, and she curses the baby with the curse that when she touches a spindle, she will prick her finger and immediately fall dead. One of the fairies had observed the crone and has hung back to go last, and although she cannot undo the curse of the evil fairy, she renders it less severe, proclaiming that the girl will not drop dead but will fall asleep for one hundred years, whereupon she will be awakened by the kiss of a prince.

Perrault’s version was based on an older story by the Italian Giambattista Basile (?1566 – 1632), published posthumously by his sister in 1634 under the title Sol, Luna e Talia (Sun, Moon and Talia), in which there is no fairy godmother. In this earlier tale, the name of the baby princess is Talia. At her birth, astrologers cast her horoscope, and predict that she will come to harm from a tiny splinter of flax. Her father, the king, takes every precaution to keep her away from flax, but one day the girl sees an old woman spinning flax on a spindle, and out of curiosity decides to try it. A splinter of flax gets embedded beneath her fingernail, and she falls down in what appears to be death. The king cannot bring himself to bury his beautiful and beloved child, so he lays her safely to rest on one of his country estates.

After some time has passed, another king who is hunting in the forest comes upon the girl and is so enamored with her apparently lifeless form that he has sex with her, then goes away. Still deep asleep, the girl gives birth to twins, a boy and a girl who are named Sun and Moon. One day, when the boy is unable to find the breast of his unconscious mother to suckle, his pangs of hunger cause him to suckle her finger, and he draws out the splinter of flax. She immediately awakes.

The earliest version of the story, Perceforest, published in France in 1528, has goddesses in place of fairy godmothers. In this version, three goddesses visit a female child named Zellandine at her birth celebration. They are obviously intended to bring to mind the three Fates of Greek mythology, although their names are different. The first, Lucinda, confers the gift of health on the infant, but the second goddess, Themis, curses the child because the goddess took the absence of a knife beside her plate at the feast as a personal slight. Her curse is that Zellandine will one day impale her finger on the point of a distaff, and sleep until it is removed. The third goddess, Venus, cannot undo the curse placed on the head of the baby but mitigates it by prophesying that one day the distaff will be removed and the curse lifted.

In the popular version of Sleeping Beauty recorded by the Brothers Grimm, titled Briar Rose and published in 1812, the fairy godmothers number thirteen, twelve who give gifts to the infant princess, and one who curses the child out of spite. The gift of the final good fairy softens the curse of the twelfth. Much was made of this number of fairy godmothers, but since they were only eight in number in Perrault’s older version of the story, the importance of the number thirteen may be exaggerated.

Cinderella

The story of Cinderella goes back as far as the ancient Greek historian Strabo (64BC – c. 24AD), who wrote in his Geographica about an Egyptian girl named Rhodopis who was forced to wash clothes in a stream while the other servants attended a celebration sponsored by the Pharaoh, Amasis. While she was working, an eagle snatched away her rose-gilded sandal and carried it to Memphis, then dropped it at the feet of Amasis. The Pharaoh was enraptured by the fineness and smallness of the sandal, and asked all the women of Egypt to try it on, so that he could locate its owner. When Rhodopis was able to put on the sandal, Amasis married her and made her his queen.

Nothing here about a fairy godmother. This magical figure does not appear in the Cinderella story until the 1697 version of Charles Perrault. In his tale, a widower takes in marriage a proud and cruel woman with two grown daughters. His meek and modest daughter by his first marriage is forced by her step-mother to do all the housework, which she performs without complaint. It is her habit to sit amid the cinders, hence her name Cinderella (Cendrillon, in French). One day the prince of the land decides to host a ball for the purpose of choosing a wife. The stepsisters go, but Cinderella has no dress that is suitable for so grand an occasion.

As she weeps in sorrow, her fairy godmother appears, and tells the girl that she will be attending the ball after all. The fairy turns a pumpkin into a coach, mice into its team of horses, a rat into the coachman and lizards into footmen. She creates for Cinderella a gown and a pair of glass slippers, but warns the girl to be home before midnight, since that is when the spell will be broken. Everything goes well and Cinderella is the belle of the ball, but the next night when a second ball is held, she becomes careless of time and departs in haste just before midnight, leaving behind her one of her glass slippers. The prince searches the kingdom, seeking the girl whose foot fits the slipper. When Cinderella tries on the shoe, he knows he has found her, and this is confirmed when she brings forth the other glass slipper, which has not vanished away along with the coach and her gown.

In the version of Cinderella (Aschenputtel in German) published in 1812 by the Brothers Grimm, there is no fairy godmother. Instead, Cinderella is helped by the ghost of her dead mother, represented by a pair of birds that perch in a tree growing above her mother’s grave. Thus the supernatural element is still present, but it is ancestral spirit in nature rather than fairy.

Role of the Fairy Godmother

These examples should be sufficient to give some notion of the stereotypical role of the fairy godmother in fairy tales, particularly the literary tales written by French writers in the 17th and 18th centuries, such as Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy (1650-1705). These were not true folk tales, but imitations of folk tales, or composed stories based in part on genuine folk tales. In these stories the fairy godmother makes more frequent appearances than she does in true folk tales.

It is the usual role of a human godmother to give a Christening gift, and to watch over the spiritual education of the child. The fairy godmother takes on the same obligations as a mortal godmother, though the reason these obligations are assumed is not always clear. Sometimes it is done as a fair exchange, as when the seven fairies were invited to the feast by the king, and given golden plates as gifts; other times, it seems motivated by some unseen occult requirement. The child is destined from birth by the Fates to receive the gift of its fairy godmother, who is merely an instrument of destiny. Indeed, the Fates of Greek mythology are probably the prototypes of the fairy godmothers of later children’s fiction, as suggested by their thinly veiled appearance in the 1528 French version of Sleeping Beauty, described above.

In mythology, the gifts of the gods can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on the circumstances under which they are received, and the uses to which they are put. Fairy tales simplify this dichotomy by making the gifts of good fairies always good, and the gifts of evil fairies always evil. In life, what seems good may prove to be a curse, and what seems a burden may in the end be revealed as a blessing. Even in fairy tales, good may come of evil, and the curse of the evil fairy godmother results in great happiness in the end, when all problems have been resolved.

An important factor to consider about the role of a godmother is her accepted obligation to watch over the spiritual development and well-being of the child. In Christianity this often takes the symbolic form of the gift of a new Bible to the baby. Spirituality is broader than any particular religion, and if we consider the obligation of the godmother in these terms, she is charged with the general spiritual health of the child. In fairy tales this is symbolized by the various physical and moral virtues that are given to the child as gifts, such as beauty and wisdom.

Nature of the Fairy Godmother

The fairy godmother is a spirit, not a being of flesh and blood. This is seldom made clear in the fairy tales, where she is given a physical body and is made to dine at the Christening feast. In ancient folklore and mythology, spiritual beings often received physical bodies. For example, the angels in the Old Testament were described as being like men in every respect. They eat, drink, sleep, and have material bodies. Similarly, the witch’s familiar was usually described in physical terms, and malicious spirits such as incubi and vampires were credited with physical forms.

The archetype of the evil fairy godmother is Grandmother Lilith, a female demon of the ancient Sumerians and Babylonians who made her way into Hebrew folklore via the Babylonian Captivity of the 6th century BC, during which the Jews were taken as slaves from the Kingdom of Judah to Babylonia. During their stay in Babylonia, they picked up much of the mythology of the Babylonians, including the myth of Lilith, who was fabled to be a horrible old crone with unkempt long gray hair and long, dirty fingernails, yellowed teeth and glaring red eyes, who visited the cribs of newborn infants. Sometimes Lilith merely played with the infant, but at other times, seemingly on a capricious inclination, she would kill the baby by stealing away its breath.

Lilith is not often regarded as a fairy. She is more likely to be classed among the demons of hell, but this is an arbitrary classification, since she is Sumerian in origin and predates the Christian concept of hell, with its orderly demonic hierarchies.

Fairies are indigenous to Celtic lands, although similar nature spirits exist around the world. Perhaps more than any other spirit, they are apt to be regarded as physical by those who believe in them. They live in a kind of parallel universe that has portals into our reality under certain hills recognized as fairy mounds. The doorways to these fairy realms materialize from nowhere to allow the fairies to enter or leave, and just as swiftly vanish, leaving no trace. This transition from the fairy realm to the human realm happens most often at twilight, in the gloaming when the world is caught in a timeless moment between day and night. They are also more frequent at the equinoxes, when the seasons are in balance.

Transitional periods of the day or year facilitate the transition between fairy reality and human reality. A portal of any kind is a transition between one place and another. In the gloaming, fairies become visible to the eyes of those psychic enough to see them, but at other times of the day they are more difficult to see, unless they wish to be seen. The birth of an infant is a kind of life transition, from the spiritual reality into the physical reality, so it is natural that fairies would appear at this time.

It is a mystery as to why fairies should wish to associate with humanity, yet this has always been the case throughout their history. They are known to appear to men, woman and children, and to abduct them into their fairy realm, where they may keep them forever, or may release them after a prolonged time has passed. The fairy practice of kidnapping children, and leaving a fairy child in their place, is frequently mentioned in the literature about these strange and somewhat frightening spirits.

As usual, these events are described as completely material in the accounts of them that have come down to us, but it is more probable that they are spiritual events. A man is not physical taken to fairyland, he falls into a trance or coma, and is taken there on an astral level of reality. There are records of those who, when they lay down and went to sleep on fairy mounds, fell into a coma, or even died. I say that it is “probable” that these are merely spiritual events, not certain, because accounts exist of those who simply disappeared for days or years, and who when they suddenly reappeared, told tales of having lived among the fairies in their world.

The parallels with alien abductions are obvious. But whether these parallels suggest that aliens are fairies, or that fairies are aliens, or that both are something else that has yet to be accurately described, I leave to your conjecture. It seems fairly certain that there is a some underlying connection between fairy abductions and alien abductions.

Can the fairy godmother of folklore be an alien being who confers upon a newborn child certain superhuman abilities? Is this the root of this persistent motif? Children abducted by aliens are sometimes said to be altered or enhanced in various ways — to possess psychic abilities that they did not have before the abduction. There is also the belief that aliens are breeding a race of hybrid children, half-human and half-alien, who possess more than human abilities. Again, this has parallels in the ancient belief that spirits could interbreed with human women and engender offspring. Jesus is one such being, according to this view — half human and half something else.

Tutelary Spirits

A tutelary spirit is a spirit that teaches, guides, and protects a human being. The idea that certain spirits watch over and protect human beings with whom they are in some way linked is universal. This belief has taken many forms, as different human cultures try to come to terms with it. Often it is looked upon as protection by dead ancestors of their descendants. Whole religions exist based on this belief, that the dead watch over their children and children’s children. It is a reasonable explanation as to why a spiritual being would bother to protect a living person, or even take an interest in that individual.

Sometimes, spirits associated with certain places develop links with the people who live there, and come to watch over and guide them. For example, a nature spirit dwelling in a spring might form an attachment to a man who owned the land occupied by the spring; or a house spirit might become fond of a person living in the same house. A fairy associated with a certain thorn bush in a farmer’s field could form some sort of personal interaction with the farmer — although in the case of fairies, that interaction is just as likely to be harmful as helpful. But fairies are capable of affection, and even love, for human beings. Their affection is capricious, and easily turns into jealousy or malice.

The ancient Greeks believed that certain special men, who were by their nature semi-divine, had daemons — tutelary spirits — joined to their lives. The most famous man who was guided by such a daemon was the philosopher Socrates, whose daemon was well known to his contemporaries. Socrates made no secret of the fact that his tutelary spirit often intervened in his life when he was about to make a mistake, to warn him not to do it. The day Socrates drank the hemlock that killed him, he told his friends that he knew it was the right thing to do, because his spirit had not warned him against drinking it.

Some men were even believed to be favored by the gods. Often they were men who were hybrids, half mortal and half divine by nature. The god who was one parent of such a man would continue to watch over him throughout life. These demigods were the heroes of ancient Greek mythology, such as Hercules and Achilles. The belief that one of their parents was divine was just a way of trying to explain why they were favored by spirits in their lives. Some Greek writers held the view that Socrates was semi-divine, as was Aristotle, and Alexander the Great, just because of the great works they accomplished during their lifetimes, which seemed to their biographers to be beyond unaided human abilities. A man capable of miraculous works must have superhuman aid — such was the common opinion among the Greeks.

A more plebian notion arose among the Greeks that every man received at birth both a good daemon and an evil daemon. These two tutelary spirits were at constant war with each other, which canceled out most of their effects on the life of the person to whom they were attached. The good daemon whispered sound and helpful advice, while the evil daemon suggested actions that were worthless or harmful. This idea carried over into Christianity in the form of the good angel that is supposed to sit on the right shoulder of every person, and the evil angel that sits on the left shoulder.

The good daemon and evil daemon take the forms in the fairy tales of the good fairy godmother and the evil fairy godmother, whose efforts to some extent cancel each other out. The good daemon cannot simply banish the evil daemon, but it can to some degree moderate the mischief the evil daemon is able to cause.

Familiar Spirits

Most people recognize the term “familiar” in connection with witches, who were supposed by the demonologists of the Inquisition during the Renaissance to have demons that served their needs and desires. However, the concept of a familiar spirit is much broader than that. A familiar is any spirit that is attached to a human being.

Familiars perform various functions. They teach, guide, protect and also serve. Some were considered to be low spirits, in the nature of servants, while others are looked upon as more sophisticated and powerful. The Church regarded all familiars as subservient demons, who pretended to serve the witch while really working to corrupt the witch’s soul. This is a narrow and simplistic view, dictated by the religious dogma of those who held it. However, familiars do appear to be of varying degrees of power and sophistication. Some are simple beings that fulfill well defined and limited functions. Others are complex and act more as partners in the lives of those human beings to whom they are linked.

Shamans would sometimes take to wife familiar spirits who were, in many respects, their superiors on both power and wisdom. They would also have mortal wives upon whom they engendered children. It would not be unreasonable to assume that the spirit wife of a shaman would confer various benefits and gifts on the head of the newborn child of the shaman by his mortal wife.

Some spirits are associated with entire bloodlines. The best known is the water spirit Melusina, one of the dames blances (white ladies) who watched over the descendants of Raymond of Poitou. The white ladies were considered to be fairies. Raymond married Melusina and had children by her. Even after Melusina abandoned him because he broke his vow to her that he should never look upon her on a Saturday, she continued to watch over their descendants, and would appear wailing with sorrow when some great catastrophe was about to befall the bloodline.

Conclusion

So what exactly is a fairy godmother? She is a spiritual being who either blesses or curses the life of a newborn child. Because she is a spirit with the power of working magic, her blessing or curse has practical consequences. The curse of one spirit may be countered, at least in part, by the blessing of another spirit. These spirits are linked with the lives of the infants they visit, but the exact nature of that connection remains unclear. It may be based on a blood relationship. The infants may be spirit-human hybrids, or descendants of such hybrids; or it may be that the fairy godmother is a dead ancestor of the infant, and is not really a fairy at all.

Most people will dismiss the whole notion of fairy godmothers as absurd. However, it is undeniable that some human beings appear to be born with gifts and abilities that are so far above those of humanity in general that they are looked upon as supernatural. The myth of the fairy godmother is one attempt to explain where such extraordinary gifts come from. It is somewhat simplistic, as are most mythic explanations, but like most myths, it has a seed of truth at its heart that is worth considering.

Donald Tyson is the author of Sexual Alchemy: Magical Intercourse with Spirits, Familiar Spirits, and Soul Flight: Astral Projection and the Magical Universe, among other works. You can visit his website here.

©2008 Donald Tyson
Edited by Sheta Kaey

The Rapier’s Edge – An Interview with Donald Tyson

The Rapier's Edge - An Interview with Donald Tyson

The Rapier's Edge - Exclusive Interviews with Extraordinary Individuals

In 2004, Llewellyn published Donald Tyson’s novel, Necronomicon: The Wanderings of Alhazred, based on the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. While former Necronomicons were written as grimoires, Tyson took a novel (ahem) approach to the text, having fun with it and viewing it, as he told me at the time, as “entertainment.” He followed the following year with Alhazred: Author of the Necronomicon, a much thicker novel relating the travels of the mad Arab from a first-person perspective. Later, he introduced the richly illustrated Necronomicon Tarot, and this year he releases the long-awaited Grimoire of the Necronomicon.

In my talks with Don and Llewellyn publicist Marissa Pederson, I came up with a plan to review the Necronomicon series in a way that readers of Rending the Veil can uniquely appreciate. We begin with an interview with Donald Tyson on his new release. Then I, along with magician Lon Sarver, will test the efficacy of Tyson’s system for a few months. We will follow up with a joint review of the system from the evocation and the tarot angles, and another interview with Don. We’ll keep you posted. For now, let’s see what Don has to say.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

If H. P. Lovecraft invented the Necronomicon, why do so many people think it is a real book?

Donald Tyson

Lovecraft did not invent the Necronomicon, he dreamed it into existence. He saw the book repeatedly in his dreams, and he even dreamed the title without understanding what the title signified. It was only later that he researched the name and was able to offer an opinion as to its meaning — he wrote in one of his letters (Selected Letters: 1929-1931. Edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, V, 418) that the word was Greek and meant “an image of the law of the dead.”

Lovecraft presented the Necronomicon as an actual occult work in his stories, even quoting from it. To make it seem more plausible, he mentioned, alongside it, various genuine works on occult topics, such as The Witch-Cult in Western Europe by Margaret Murray, Daemonolatreia by Remigius, and Wonders of the Invisible World Being An Account of the Trials of Several Witches Lately Executed in New England by Cotton Mather. The titles of the books he referred to were obscure to most readers, so the Necronomicon seemed to fit in with the others, particularly since he described minor details of the book that would only be known by someone who had studied it.

Other writers of horror stories who were Lovecraft’s friends took up the game and began to mention the Necronomicon in their own stories as though it were a genuine work; and to return the favor, Lovecraft included the names of some of their fictional grimoires in his stories. For example, the creator of Conan, Robert E. Howard, created a book on magic called Unspeakable Cults (Unaussprechlichen Kulten) as a plot device for some of his supernatural fiction, and Lovecraft used the title in his own stories as though it were a real work, sharing an inside joke among his writing circle.

Fans of Lovecraft began to also treat the Necronomicon as though it were real. A few rapscallions inserted cards into the card catalogues of various libraries in North America and Europe listing the Necronomicon as one of the works carried by the libraries. Alas! when someone requested it, the librarian who searched for it found it to always be unavailable. Antique book dealers sometimes listed it in their sales fliers, just from a sense of fun. Fans would go into bookstores and ask for the Necronomicon, then pretend to be puzzled when the store clerks could not find the book among their catalogues of books in print.

In this way the myth of the Necronomicon grew. Finally, the inevitable happened, and in 1973 someone published an actual book purporting to be the genuine Necronomicon. The first edition was titled Al Azif: The Necronomicon (the supposed Arab name of the work) and was introduced by the science fiction writer and biographer of Lovecraft, L. Sprague de Camp. Other writers began to do the same, and now there are more than a dozen versions, including my own. The existence of real books that bear the title “Necronomicon” only increases the confusion of those who think Lovecraft may have been writing about a genuine occult work.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

How is your book, Grimoire of the Necronomicon, connected? How would you describe a “grimoire”?

Donald Tyson

The Grimoire of the Necronomicon is connected to Lovecraft’s dream book by the Great Old Ones, who were supposed to figure prominently in Lovecraft’s book. In one of the quotes from the Necronomicon, Lovecraft described the Old Ones. He also mentioned the Long Chant, used to call them forth, as being part of the Necronomicon, although he never actually gave the chant itself. No one knows the exact contents of Lovecraft’s dream book, apart from the few quotations he left in his stories, but the Grimoire of the Necronomicon is based on the contents of my own version of the Necronomicon, so that the two form companion works that may be studied together. In my grimoire I provide the Long Chant in the Enochian language, with a phonetic pronunciation guide and an English translation.

A grimoire (French: grammar) is a magician’s workbook. In it, a magician sets down his personal system of magic, for his own use or perhaps for the use of his son or apprentice. During the times the most famous grimoires were created, there were no printed books in Europe. All books were written out by hand with pen and ink, and unless copied by someone else, were unique. The oldest of the grimoires that survive were just such works. They are highly practical in nature, and contain descriptions of rituals, sigils, names of spirits, incantations, exorcisms, astrological procedures, and similar material for dealing with the spirit world.

My own Grimoire of the Necronomicon is of the same nature — a highly practical guide for summoning and communicating with the Old Ones and their servants.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

What are the Old Ones? Is there any evidence that they’ve ever existed, or were they just figments from Lovecraft’s dreams and imagination?

Donald Tyson

The Old Ones revealed themselves in Lovecraft’s dreams. Edgar Cayce is sometimes called the “sleeping prophet” but I believe that this title should be given to Lovecraft. So much of his fiction was not invented at all, but was merely copied from his repeating nightmares and dreams, which had a visionary or prophetic quality.

The term Old Ones is used loosely by Lovecraft in different stories over a span of years to refer to several races or hierarchies of alien beings who came to dwell on the Earth in the distant past, before the rise of humanity. This multiple use naturally causes some confusion, but most commonly the Old Ones are assumed to be the beings described in the quotation from the Necronomicon that appears in Lovecraft’s story “The Dunwich Horror” (published in 1929). The quotation reads:

Nor is it to be thought … that man is either the oldest or the last of earth’s masters, or that the common bulk of life and substance walks alone. 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.

Mentioned in company with these Old Ones are several great beings that I have characterized as their lords: Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth and Shub-Niggurath. In other stories Lovecraft refers other great and powerful beings, and places some of them in the Necronomicon. Not all of these great beings can be directly linked with the Old Ones of the “Dunwich Horror” but it is not a great leap to suggest that they are related. In addition to the three lords above, I have made use of four others — Azathoth, Nyarlathotep, Dagon and Yig.

As to whether the Old Ones are real, it is my belief that Lovecraft was connected on some deep, subconscious level with higher dimensions of reality, and that he saw things in his dreams that have existence on those higher planes. His creations have a archetypal, mythic quality that gives them resonance in the imagination. I believe they have as much reality as many other astral beings that occultists regard as real, such as fairies and elementals.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

Do you feel that dreams have any connection with astral projection? Could Lovecraft have been encountering these beings on another plane of reality?

Donald Tyson

As I mentioned, I regard Lovecraft as a sleeping prophet. He did not so much invent his stories as dream them, often dreaming them over and over for months or years. One of his strangest and greatest characters, Nyarlathotep, was copied from a repeating dream, which Lovecraft gave almost verbatim in his story “Nyarlathotep” (published in 1920). Dagon also appeared to him in a repeating dream in which a strange island rose up from the midst of the ocean bearing ancient monuments. He described it in his story “Dagon” (published in 1919). Years later, Lovecraft used the same plot device for his story the “The Call of Cthulhu” (published in 1928).

I do think that Lovecraft was unconsciously projecting astrally while asleep, and that his astral experiences came to him in the form of vivid dreams. Lovecraft would never have admitted this to anyone, and probably would not have admitted it even to himself. He was a hard-headed scientific materialist. Even though he wrote about the supernatural, he claimed not to believe in any of it.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

Is the Necronomicon black magick? Are the Old Ones demons? Why or why not?

Donald Tyson

This depends as much as anything on your point of view. Remember, Lovecraft was writing horror stories. His characters encounter alien beings and occult forces as antagonists, ignorant of their true nature. They are naturally terrified of these beings and seek either to flee from them, or destroy them.

Lovecraft himself did not regard the Old Ones as evil. To Lovecraft, they were above human concepts of good and evil. The affairs of humanity were so trivial as to be largely unimportant to them. There are exceptions. Nyarlathotep enjoys the company of men, and sometimes deceives or torments them for sport. Cthulhu relies on his cult of human worshippers to free him from his stone house on R’lyeh, once the stars come right in the heavens, and sunken R’lyeh rises from the depths of the ocean. Shub-Niggurath also appears to welcome the worship and sacrifices of human beings. Lovecraft associated this lord of the Old One with witchcraft and the sabbat.

Just as witchcraft is looked upon as evil by Christians (“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”) but as wholesome and life-affirming by neo-pagans who have embraced the Goddess, so can the Old Ones be viewed in a more positive light by those who serve them and who receive aid from them. The ritual worship of the Old Ones, or their service, would undoubtedly be regarded as black magic by Fundamentalist Christians, but these are the same people who think that witches should be executed, and that any form of magic is the work of the Devil.

The rank and file of the Old Ones might be called daemons in the higher sense that the ancient Greeks used the term, to describe spiritual beings of the air and the earth who are more wise and potent than man, but less in stature than the gods of the firmament. The great beings that I have characterized as the lords of the Old Ones would better be thought of as gods.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

Why should a magician want to contact the Old Ones?

Donald Tyson

We might ask why anyone should wish to contact any spiritual being. Those of us who believe that such beings exist, also believe that they can teach us useful spiritual wisdom, and can in some cases aid us in our daily lives.

The Old Ones, as Lovecraft presented them, are beings from another dimension or plane of reality who have immense knowledge and power, but who are restrained from acting directly on this planet by the natural alignment of the heavens that presently exists. This causes them to seek human beings to serve as their instruments or agents in this world. As agents of the Old Ones, these individuals and groups receive certain gifts of arcane knowledge as a kind of payment, and they are watched over and protected by the Old Ones because they are useful to the purposes of the Old Ones.

Even though the Old Ones are restrained from large displays of direct action in our world, they can act in indirect ways, making their favor worth cultivating. Some of the lords of the Old Ones are more overtly active than others. Nyarlathotep seems to have an unusual degree of freedom, as does Yig and Shub-Niggurath. They prefer to remain unseen and unknown by the greater mass of humanity, so when they do act, it is usually in the shadows and in ways that will remain unnoticed.

There is reason to suspect that the pact entered into by witches with a being generally supposed to have been the Devil by Christian demonologists was in actuality a pact between Shub-Niggurath and her acolytes. Lovecraft identifies Shub-Niggurath as the so-called Black Man who presided over witches’ sabbats throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, to whom witches pledged their service. Shub-Niggurath is hermaphrodite, having aspects of both sexes (consider this in conjunction with the illustration of Baphomet by the occultist Eliphas Levi). She is the sabbat goat, and indeed one of her titles used by Lovecraft is the Goat with a Thousand Young.

So the answer as to why a magician should wish to contact and enter into an arrangement with one or more of the lords of the Old Ones is the age-old answer — knowledge, and power. These are the primary reasons we study magic. We seek self-empowerment.

Each of the seven lords of the Old Ones rules over a certain area of human interest and activity. To invoke and give offerings to a particular lord is to invite and seek wisdom and proficiency in that particular area of life. Cthulhu, who is a warrior, presides over martial arts and fighting skills, the dominance and supremacy of the will. Dagon, the lord of the Deep Ones, presides over arcane and occult knowledge, and is for this reason to be sought by scholars of necromancy and other obscure arts of magic. So for the rest.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

What precautions would you advise for magicians wishing to evoke these beings?

Donald Tyson

In my grimoire I describe a ritual structure that is enacted within a ritual circle of seven stones. This structure is designed to channel communication between the magician and the particular Old One with whom communication is sought. Since it excludes interference by other beings, it insures a measure of safety. It is a kind of ceremonial filter that only allows interaction with the particular entity who is invoked.

Those who fear the lords of the Old Ones should not summon them. They are potent beings, but they are not malicious (with the possible exception of Nyarlathotep, who must be dealt with circumspectly). They are alien, which is to say, their thoughts, emotions and motives are not human. Do not expect them to react as a human being would react.

The primary protection for the magician is the Elder Seal, a sigil in the form of a talisman that may be uncovered to drive away the Old Ones from the circle. This sigil was fashioned aeons ago by a race that waged war against the Old Ones and defeated them — or so the writings of Lovecraft state. Lovecraft himself drew out this sigil in one of his letters — he was addicted to letter writing, and wrote thousands of letters to fans of his work and to other writers. It is reproduced in a more detailed form in my book.

A lesser protection is the Elder Sign, a hand gesture that may be used to ward away the otherworldly servants of the Old Ones, but it is less potent than the Elder Seal. This Lovecraft did not describe, but I have given my own received impression of its shape.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

In your book, you talk about the Great Work of the Old Ones. What is their Great Work, and why should human beings help them achieve it?

Donald Tyson

This is something that lies at the heart of understanding the Old Ones and their purpose on this planet, but even though it is indicated by Lovecraft in his story “The Dunwich Horror” no other writer has focused serious attention upon it, to my knowledge.

The Old Ones did not come to this planet by accident, but to fulfill a purpose. They are here to raise this planet up from its present plane of existence to a higher dimension of reality, a place from which our world fell countless aeons ago. They are here to restore the Earth to her former high spiritual estate. In doing so, they intend to literally wrest our planet from its orbit around the sun and pass it through the gates of Yog-Sothoth to its original exalted and more spiritual dimension.

Before the Earth can be lifted up through the gates of Yog-Sothoth, it must be cleansed of its material lifeforms. This does not necessarily mean sterilization, but rather entails a sublimation or spiritualization of living things from their present condition to a higher and less grossly physical state.

You will immediately see the parallels here between the purpose of the Old Ones, and the Apocalypse described in the biblical book Revelation. In Revelation, the Earth is also to be cleansed and purified, its inhabitants either destroyed or rendered more spiritual in nature.

There are also similarities with the Gnostic teaching that mankind is in his essential nature divine, and will ultimately be stripped of his gross covering of physical matter and elevated to his rightful place among the stars, once the veil of ignorance is lifted from his eyes, and he is made aware of his true god nature.

This Great Work of the Old Ones has been delayed by the chance alignment of the stars, which inhibits them from fulfilling their purpose. However, human beings may pledge their service to the lords of the Old Ones and assist them in preparing for the day when the stars come right, and this purpose is ultimately fulfilled. In return for this service they gain the patronage of the Old Ones, to the improvement of their lives.

It might be argued that the Apocalypse is a bad thing. Perhaps it is, for some, but it will be to the betterment of others. This is what Christians believe and teach, at any rate. They welcome the Apocalypse and constantly search for signs of its imminent commencement. They believe that it will result in a more spiritual world.

Of course, Christians have their own interpretation of this period of cleansing of the planet. The Apocalypse of Christians and the Great Work of the Old Ones are the same future event. It is merely a matter of different points of view. Whether a person welcomes it or hopes that it never occurs largely depends on how they see themselves in its unfolding — either as an active participant, or as an unwilling victim. According to prophecy, the Apocalypse cannot be averted. However, it is possible that it is not going to be quite so grossly destructive in a physical sense as is depicted by St. John the Divine. I suspect that if it does occur, it may be more spiritual in nature, and may involve more inward transformation than outward transformation.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

It’s been said that the real purpose of the Old Ones is to destroy life on this planet. If that is not their purpose, then what is?

Donald Tyson

This gets to the question of what the Great Work will actually involve. We might just as easily ask, what will the Apocalypse entail? They are the same event from two different prophetic perspectives.

In Lovecraft’s fiction, it is said that it will involve the destruction of all life on the surface of this planet (though not necessarily all life beneath its surface). But remember, Lovecraft was writing horror fiction, and his human characters are terrified by the Old Ones and their intentions. Remember, too, that Lovecraft’s Necronomicon was written by a human being, from a human perspective. It is not to be expected that we would find any sympathetic description of the Great Work of the Old Ones in these stories, where the Old Ones are depicted as alien monsters who must be destroyed.

One of the servants of the Old Ones in Lovecraft’s story the “Dunwich Horror,” Wilbur Whateley, does not intend to die when the work of the Old Ones is fulfilled, but expects to be transformed as his gross fleshy aspect is stripped away.

Consider the biblical book Revelation. It seems, on the surface, a completely horrifying and negative series of events, with endless scenes of destruction and mass killing. Yet it is presented as the necessary work of God, that will be presided over by Jesus Christ himself carrying a flaming sword. How can it be all evil if it is required by God? And indeed, when we look more closely at Revelation, we discover that not every human being will be annihilated. Rather, a chosen number will be transformed and rendered more spiritual in their natures, so that they can endure the spiritual world that will arise from the smoldering ashes of the old material world.

I do not wish to whitewash the Great Work of the Old Ones. It will involve destruction and death. It is a period of radical transformation. However, there are indications in prophecy that it is not only necessary, but inevitable. On the bright side of things, it may not take place for many years into the future, and it may not be a rapid series of events, but may occur over such an extended span that its severity is mitigated for those who actually must live during its unfolding.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

Are there connections between Lovecraft’s Old Ones and ancient sources, such as the Bible, the Gnostic, or the Book of Enoch?

Donald Tyson

I’ve already anticipated this question by referring to the Revelation of St. John the Divine, the final book of the New Testament. The Great Work of the Old Ones, and the Apocalypse of St. John are the same event.

This makes the Old Ones and their minions the same angels of judgment, death and destruction described by St. John. We cannot know how accurate the descriptions of these beings in Revelation may be, since prophecy is at best, a distorted mirror of the future, but by considering Revelation we can perhaps form a fuller understanding of the nature of the Great Work that will elevate the Earth from her orbit to a higher spiritual estate.

As for the prophecy of Enoch, it may well be that the men of old who were the result of the interbreeding between the angels known as the Watchers and the daughters of men, were servants of the Old Ones. The Watchers gave their hybrid offspring knowledge of all arts and sciences, including the knowledge of the forbidden arts of magic. It is also said in the Book of Enoch that these children and their descendants were more intelligent and stronger in body than ordinary human beings. This suggests the benefits that may result from a close interaction with the Old Ones. Wilbur Whateley, the servant of the Old Ones in Lovecraft’s “Dunwich Horror,” was the result of breeding between a human woman and one of the Old Ones, perhaps Yog-Sothoth himself.

The Gnostic connection would be in the view that a transformation from a physical body to a spiritual body is not something that is to be feared or dreaded, but is to be welcomed as a liberation from our prisons of flesh. The Gnostics taught that mankind is trapped by incarnation in ignorance of his true divine nature. The ultimate goal of Gnostics is to achieve liberation from this prison of flesh that binds us all to dross matter. The way to this achievement is through gnosis (wisdom). According to Gnostics, the process of gnosis began in the Garden of Eden when the wise serpent gave to Eve the gift of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. It will be consummated when the world we know ends and we cast off our vessels of matter and ascend to the stars as fully aware, spiritual beings.

But as I mentioned earlier, these momentous events may not occur in our lifetimes, or for many lifetimes to come in the future. They need not be feared as imminent.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

You once told me that you believed Enochian angels were intent upon ushering in Armageddon. Is there any similarity between this view and the goals of the Old Ones? Why do you think the alleged “end of the world” is a desirable event?

Donald Tyson

I do tend to think that the Enochian angels believed themselves to be agents in triggering the Apocalypse described by St. John in Revelation. Whether this belief on their part is plausible is for each person to decide, based on a consideration of the existing angelic communications they made with John Dee and Edward Kelley.

If we presume that there is one apocalyptic series of events that is being foreshadowed by prophecies, then the Apocalypse sought by the Enochian angels and the Great Work pursued by the Old Ones, intimations of which Lovecraft glimpsed in his dreams, are at root the same thing. This suggests that the Enochian angels may be agents of the Old Ones.

I don’t view the end of the world as a desirable event, from a purely conventional human perspective. It will cause great disruption in human lives, even if it is not immediately fatal, and disruption and change are always to be avoided, and are almost always viewed with horror and looked upon as disastrous by those they afflict. However, it may be that some form of great transformation, such as that predicted by various prophecies, is inevitable. It may also be that it will be seen as a good thing by those who weather its difficulties and emerge at the other end of it transformed — though exactly what they will be transformed into is a matter of conjecture.

Sheta Kaey for Rending the Veil

Are you planning any more volumes in your work on Lovecraft and the Necronomicon?

Donald Tyson

Yes, I plan at least one more book on Lovecraft’s mythos, that will be a reference work describing and categorizing all the strange beings and races, alien landscapes, and curious objects, revealed to Lovecraft in his dreams, and recorded by him in his stories. I intend this book to be a resource for those who wish to work in a serious way with the magic of the Necronomicon and the Old Ones.

It is also possible that I will write another novel concerning the adventures of Alhazred, the author of the Necronomicon. Writing my novel Alhazred gave me great enjoyment, and was an experience I would like to repeat.

The Rapier’s Edge is a semi-regular column featuring interviews with our contributors, other occult authors, and celebrities of interest to RTV readers. If you’d like to be interviewed, please contact admin@rendingtheveil.com and we’ll be pleased to consider such an interview (especially if you have suggestions for questions!).

Donald Tyson is the author of Sexual Alchemy: Magical Intercourse with Spirits, Familiar Spirits, and Soul Flight: Astral Projection and the Magical Universe, among other works. You can visit his website here.

Sheta Kaey is Editor in Chief of Rending the Veil and is working on her first book, Infinite Possibility. You can read her blog here.

©2008 Sheta Kaey and Donald Tyson.
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Personal Thoughts on the Ethical Implications of Thelema #5/13 – The Ethics of Consumerism and Global Will

Personal Thoughts on the Ethical Implications of Thelema #5/13 - The Ethics of Consumerism and Global Will

Theoretically, having more than one is intended means that someone else is forced to live with less than they are intended. This leads to suffering. One must ponder: How much is enough? Or, at the very least one must consider if that new house, car, or computer that one desires so much is worth having when one understands the effect that pursuing those things will have on oneself, as well as those who already have too little to eat. The goofs1 abhor this idea, for the entire economic well-being in modern times depends on people’s greed and the disregard of their humanity for the convenience of more things. In a way, it is painful for most people to admit that their consumerism may be indirectly responsible for the 20,000 people that die from hunger in this world every day.2

Keeping up with the Joneses and identifying with one’s possessions or income is the result of an illusion that corporate interests perpetuate. Presently, we can see the rewards of following such rotten advice, as the ever increasing number of unemployed in the U.S. find very little comfort in the fact that their jobs are being outsourced to overseas companies so that corporate interests can exploit workers by paying them less, or because the laws in those impoverished countries do not require American corporate giants to provide workers with medical benefits. How nice for them. We are expected to rejoice because now those exploited workers abroad can be consumers and buy Nikes. And when people abroad can buy Nikes, then that is good for America.

But what happens when Americans can’t afford to buy shoes, much less Nikes?

Greed is and always has been responsible for most of the world’s woes, and an ethical person will not perpetuate an evil that causes war, pestilence, hunger and misery to billions of his fellow humans. Instead, he or she will conceive a way to conduct business that is more inline with his or her beliefs, and will refuse to buy into that form of legalized theft and exploitation known as “capitalism.”

Consider how modern society seems to de-emphasize cooperation. Cooperation is dangerous, and the demiurge likes to perpetuate the myth of “rugged individualism” or the idea that every man is an island. Consider to what extent we have bought into this illusion — that we would warehouse our children, leaving them to be raised by total strangers in order to free ourselves to pursue some dream that seems more and more like a nightmare. How did it get this far — that two adults would consider having children in the first place, knowing that they wouldn’t have time to raise them because of the fixation with material things. Again, we must ask ourselves: How much is enough? How much of the violence, racial and religious hatred, and other increasing social ills could have been avoided by raising and educating our own children rather than putting them away like a book we intend to read later? The excuse has always been that we are working hard for their future so that they can have more of those material things we use as a measure of success (and doesn’t this seem to vindicate us?) when what they really need is the love and attention of a parent.

Our neighbors are subjected to human rights violations. Their doors are kicked in and we watch them from the illusory safety of our homes, thanking our gods it isn’t us. We must look out for number one. We mustn’t rock the boat by holding an unpopular thought, because that might interfere with our ability to collect more things. We stand by and do nothing because we are supposed to mind our own business.

We are worker bees, all of us. If we learned to cooperate, got to know our neighbors, and protested when injustices were committed against them, then we might come to realize that we control our own flow of honey, and that the demiurge cannot exist without its honey.

In the U.S., we like to think of ourselves as free. We like to think of Lady Liberty, in New York, as a symbol of that altruistic ideal. Yet, we seem to be collectively unable or unwilling to extend that benefit to others. China does not claim it was founded as a country of the free, but America does, and it resorts to hypocrisy of the worst kind by trading with countries like China. Many Americans don’t seem to give buying goods made by forced prison labor a second thought, since they individually benefit from the exploitation of those people. The less they pay for one toy, the more they have left to buy other toys.

On a very mundane level, we exploit others when we purchase items made by prison labor, occupied territories or the underprivileged because we expect to get these items at a much better price than we would if they were not being exploited. We benefit from their poverty. We even do it to our own countrymen when we patronize stores that exploit their workers by cheating them out of reasonable pay, hours, medical benefits, or when we employ businesses that promote, or pass up, individuals based on color, race, or religious beliefs rather than a good work ethic.

This planet has a Will. It is the Little Sister of Nuit. Should we patronize organizations, special interest groups, or individual wills when their actions violate global wellness? Of course, we could argue (and often have) that since we are all global creatures, any action we make, even actions that destroy our home, are in accordance with the global will. Crowley didn’t think so, and neither do I.

Apparent, and sometimes even real, conflict between interests will frequently arise. Such cases are to be decided by the general value of the contending parties in the scale of Nature. Thus, a tree has a right to its life; but a man being more than a tree, he may cut it down for fuel or shelter when need arises. Even so, let him remember that the Law never fails to avenge infractions: as when wanton deforestation has ruined a climate or a soil, or as when the importation of rabbits for a cheap supply of food has created a plague.

Observe that the violation of the Law of Thelema produces cumulative ills. The drain of the agricultural population to big cities, due chiefly to persuading them to abandon their natural ideals, has not only made the country less tolerable to the peasant, but debauched the town. And the error tends to increase in geometrical progression, until a remedy has become almost inconceivable and the whole structure of society is threatened with ruin.

The wise application based on observation and experience of the Law of Thelema is to work in conscious harmony with Evolution. Experiments in creation, involving variation from existing types, are lawful and necessary. Their value is to be judged by their fertility as bearing witness to their harmony with the course of nature towards perfection. — Duty

Remember: every dollar is a vote. Money is a talisman.

Footnotes:

  1. Noun. From the Hebrew Goph — a reference to the physical body. A derogatory term to explain humans that refuse to acknowledge their spiritual nature or humanity because doing so would mean they’d have to inconvenience themselves with the ethics such beliefs would imply.
  2. In the time it would have taken the average person to finish reading this book, 40,000 people will have died. Tomorrow, 20,000 more will die.

©2006-2013 Gerald del Campo. Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at http://solis93.livejournal.com and his websites at http://thelemicknights.org and http://egoandtheids.com. Gerald formerly served as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.

Necronomicon Magic

Necronomicon Magic

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.

Mighty Cthulhu

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.

Distant Relations

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.”

Astral Portals

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.

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