The Key to Evocation: Zodiacal Decans

April 30, 2010 by  
Filed under evocation, magick, qabalah, theory

The Key to Evocation: Zodiacal Decans

Matrix of Possibilities

There are many ways to perform the operation of theurgy and the evocation of spirits. Most of those who practice this kind of magical operation work through one or more of the many available grimoires. However, there are other ways to perform this operation that have little to do with the old grimoires; yet these other methods require the invention of a completely alternative magical technology. A practitioner is generally stuck between using existing information and available materials or creating something entirely new. The path that I took was to create a new methodology for invocation and evocation; but the clues on how to proceed were already well documented, even though they were subtle and obscure.

Ever since I first examined the Goetia of the Lemegeton, or Lesser Key of Solomon, I have been fascinated by those entities called Goetic Demons, but found the methodologies for invoking them to be too abbreviated and incomplete to be entirely useful. Others have made use of this grimoire, but I found it beyond my ability to produce an effective methodology for evocation. I also found the 72 angels of the Shemhemphorasch (ha-Shem) in this same category, even though they were not specifically listed in any grimoire that I had at the time. To me there seemed to be a lot of pieces of occult lore without the ability to pull them all together. So I tended to work with the spirits and powers that I was able to access through my developed ritual systems, and ignore all of the other spirits that didn’t fit into those structures.

However, when I first read Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth and also studied Israel Regardie’s The Golden Dawn (specifically, Book T) there seemed to be a new structure implied that might associate the tarot, astrology, Qabalah and the hierarchy of spirits into one unified system. That structure was found in the 36 Naib cards of the minor arcana of the tarot and the 36 astrological decans.

Aleister Crowley discusses that there is an associated spiritual hierarchy with each of the Naib cards, stating it as such: “It is governed from the angelic world by two Beings, one during the hours of Light, the other during the hours of Darkness. Therefore, in order to use the properties of this card, one way is to get into communication with the Intelligence concerned, and to induce him to execute his function.”1

Crowley goes on to write that these two spirits are the angels of the Shehemphorash and that there are a total of 72 of them, corresponding to the five degree astrological segment of the “quinaries,” or what I refer to as the quinarians.2 Crowley omits relating the astrological decans to these 36 Naib cards, but he does use the old style planetary rulers that are associated with them in assigning the planets to these tarot cards. One can see this illustrated in a table on page 283 of the Book of Thoth.

Book T goes further than Crowley by not only showing that the astrological decans correspond to the 36 Naib cards of the tarot, but also that there is a larger matrix consisting of the 16 court cards and the four aces.3

So it would seem that there is a very tight tabular system consisting of all of the 56 cards of the lesser arcana. This tabular system can also be used to represent a spiritual hierarchy of the four elements, the ten sephiroth of the tree of life and the twelve signs of the zodiac. The one association that is missing is where the decans are shown to be hierarchically related to the quinarians, since the former would represent a ten degree segment of the zodiacal wheel and the latter, a five degree segment.

A decan would therefore be the higher order structure of two corresponding quinarians. What this means is that the decan and its associated spirit correspondences rules over the associated quinarian and its spirit correspondences. If the angels of the ha-Shem and the demons of the Goetia are associated with the quinarians, then the angelic ruler of the decanate would be their hierarchical lord, and the decan would be the key to the quinarian.

Clues to the nature of the astrological structure of these spirits are found in the lore from the Golden Dawn and Alesiter Crowley. In the book 777 (cols. CXXIX CXXXII, CXLV CLXVI), the angels of the Ha-Shem,4 angelic rulers of the decans and demons of the Goetia are organized by the zodiac, using the ascendant, cadent and succeedent parts of the wheel of the zodiac, by day and night.

It would seem that the number 72 would lend itself to occult interpretations, being a multiple of six times twelve, both very sacred numbers in Judaism. Also, there already was an astrological structure for the quinarians as lesser aspects of the decans, so I think that it would fit into a neat hierarchy.

I don’t know where this idea originally came from, but I was using existing schemes for all of this, as well as hints from Aleister Crowley in the appendices of the Book of Thoth, so I didn’t invent it.5 As a system it fits really well together, and it’s better than using the Shemhemphorash as a unique and separate set of spirits without any correspondences. As I have stated above, determining a context for spiritual entities so that they may be defined and highly qualified is important if the magician seeks to invoke them.

When I carefully researched the clues, I found where the angels of the Shemhemphorash were given their astrological correspondences. It was in Agrippa’s Book III of Occult Philosophy, Chapter XXV, paragraph 6. Agrippa writes: “And these are those [angels of ha-Shem] that are set over the seventy two celestial quinaries.” So if the angels of ha-Shem are set over the seventy two celestial quinarians, then their hierarchy would naturally be associated with the 36 decans and the twelve signs of the Zodiac, and also with their associated archangels and angelic rulers. This relation between decan and quinarian is not spoken of either by Agrippa or anyone else, but is alluded to in Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth,6 and also Book T of The Golden Dawn. If you put what he says together with the tables in 777, you come up with the system that I am using. To my knowledge, no else quite makes all of the combinations that I have made; but it seems to be functionally elegant.

Needless to say, I was quite thrilled at how neat and tidy all of these various elements were pulled together through the cards of the Lesser Arcana of the Tarot. I speculated that if one could identify the various correspondences associated with each of these cards, that one could put together a system to invoke and evoke all of the associated spirits. So, after basking in this wondrous revelation, I set to work to build a system of magick that would do just that.

To recap, the angelic ruler of the decan and tarot Naib card has the following hierarchy:

  • Element godhead
  • Qabalistic sephirah
  • Zodiacal base element
  • Zodiacal triple spiritual intelligences (archangel, angel, house ruler) — these qualify the specific zodiacal sign
  • Planetary ruler of the decan
  • Angelic ruler of the decanate
  • ha-Shem angel of day and night
  • Goetic demon of day and night (from Lemegeton — Goetia)
  • Angel of the zodiacal degree (From Lemegeton — Ars Paulina — Part 2)

Obviously, if one were to perform an invocation of the angelic ruler of the decanate, one of the angels of the ha-Shem, or one of the Goetic demons, then one would establish or invoke the associated spiritual hierarchy, beginning with the element godhead. Tools used to assist in the establishment of these qualities would be the pentagram (element), lesser hexagram (astrological triplicities), greater hexagram or septagram (planetary ruler) and the enneagram (sephirah).

My methodology uses a technique that defines a spirit through a matrix of correspondences and generates the elemental body and planetary intelligences of the spirit from them. I will defer that explanation to a future article, but I believe that the above information is enough to get occultists thinking of an alternative method to performing invocation and evocation.

Importance of the Astrological Decans

So, what is the importance and significance of the astrological decans? Even if they seem to fit into a nice tidy structure that defines a whole hierarchy of spirits, why is it such a compelling structure by itself? These are good questions, but in order to answer them, we will need to share some historical information about the decans. Once that is done, I am sure it will be obvious why they are significant.

The decans have a long history in the annals of magical religion — the Egyptians had minor deities associated with each of them and these play an important part in the Book of Gates.7 The decans are used in horary (predictive) astrology to determine the dignity of planets in the divinatory chart and they have been represented in both the Egyptian and Mesopotamian theological systems as sidereal gods of time and destiny. Thus the magician contacts the angelic ruler in order to realize and control his destiny, and to affect the general causality of the world. The decans were also used by the Egyptians to indicate the hour of the night.

What gave me a startling clue to the importance of the decans is when I came across a passage in the book Magic, Mystery, and Science — The Occult in Western Civilization by Dan Barton and David Grandy. That passage said that the Egyptians used the decans (and their associated godheads and marking stars) to determine and qualify the hours of the night sky. During the night, the decan that appeared at the ascendant (eastern horizon) would tell the Egyptians what time it was. A decan period would last approximately 40 minutes, so for each night approximately 18 of the 36 decans could be revealed. During the changing of the seasons, the evening would potentially begin with a different decan over time, passing through the whole zodiacal wheel during an annual period.

So the decans were possibly used as magical hours during the night, but these hours would have lasted 40 minutes instead of 60, and each decan would have been accorded a different minor godhead and quality, not to mention the 12 gates of the diurnal solar boat transit through the underworld.

It would also seem that the Egyptians used a system of reckoning when attempting to determine the hours at night, using the decans passing over the horizon as a kind of clock. Since twilight would have made this reckoning impossible, there would have been 12 hours of night associated with the decans, since making this measurement would have required complete darkness. Dawning light would have also potentially interfered, so there would have been an hour and a half both before full night and before dawn when such reckoning would have been impossible.

A device called a merkhet (plumb line) was discovered in an Egyptian tomb. This tool, whose invention was late, probably around 600 BCE, was used to determine the north-south axis. Two of these devices were set up in a specific measured line from each other, and the subject would observe the rising of the decan star between the line of these two devices. It’s likely that this late tool was based on more primitive technology, which would have been used to perform the same kind of sighting.

Another interesting thing about the decans is that every ten days a new decan would appear at the horizon at the first observable hour of the night. It’s from this array of 36 decans, each lasting ten days, that the Egyptians determined their solar based calendar, where the last decan coincided with the period just before the annual inundation of the Nile river. They had a yearly calendar of 36 decans with five days added to the end to make 365 days in all. The five additional days would probably represent a 73rd quinarian in the Egyptian astrological system, but that is another interesting item to discuss in another article.

As you can see, the decans were used to measure time during the night. They also represented the hours of the domain of the underworld, where the solar boat and its occupants fought the threatening chthonic foes in order to gain passage to the gateway of the dawn in the east. This underworld passage occurred every evening, but to the Egyptians it represented the mythic passage from death and mortality to the immortality of the gods — an initiation cycle of profound consequences.

If we now observe that the decans and the Naib cards of the lesser arcana of the tarot are analogous, then not only do we have an elegant system of occult correspondences, but we also have a map for an aspect of the Inner planes, governed by various spirits and representing the underworld passage of occult initiation.


  • Barton, Dan and Grandy, David Magic, Mystery, and Science — The Occult in Western Civilization (Indiana University Press 2004)
  • Crowley, Aleister 777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley (Samuel Weiser, 1994)
  • Crowley, Aleister The Book of Thoth (Samuel Weiser, 1972)
  • Regardie, Israel The Golden Dawn (Llewellyn — 6th edition, 1995)


  1. See The Book of Thoth p. 43
  2. David Griffin, in his book Ritual Magic calls them “quinants.”
  3. This association was first documented in the Golden Dawn material, particularly Book T — Tarot. See The Golden Dawn by Israel Regardie, 6th edition, p. 87 & p. 551.
  4. Actually, the angels of the ha-Shem correspond to nine of the ten sephiroth of the tree of life for the four suits of the tarot, paired by day and night. Pulling the various pieces together requires a correspondence between the decans and the Naib cards of the lesser arcana of the tarot.
  5. The Goetia of Dr. Rudd has paired the angels of the ha-Shem with the Goetic demons. The relationship of the 72 spirits to the quinarians is quite old, and may be a part of the ancient system of astrological magick, such as that proposed in the Picatrix (11th century). However, there is no precedence for grouping the decans and the quinarians together, and organizing the associated spirits into a hierarchy.
  6. See The Book of Thoth by Aleister Crowley, “Part I — Theory,” p. 40 — 44, and “Appendix B,” p. 283
  7. The Book of Gates, or Am-Tuat, was a hieroglyphic book depicted in Egyptian tombs of the New Kingdom, but may have been conceived from earlier sources. The Tomb of Seti I is a prime example.

    Frater Barrabbas is a writer and practitioner of witchcraft and ritual magick. He has published two books — Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick, and the two volumes of a trilogy, entitled Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Foundation and Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Grimoire. The third volume in this series, Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Greater Key will be published soon. You can contact him at this email address and visit his website.

    ©2010 by Frater Barrabbas.
    Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Necromancy: Dark Art Exemplar?

Necromancy: Dark Art Exemplar?

Amongst all the various names for magical practices, the word necromancy is probably the most foreboding and sinister. No doubt that such a practice was diabolical and associated with the blackest forms of magic. Popular folklore and belief defines necromancy as divination performed through the conjuration and manipulation of the spirits of the dead. The most outrageous form was the exhumation and reanimation of a corpse, which many often think of today when defining this term.

Necromancy has a long history, but during the Christian era it became confused with the conjuration of demons, which was called nigromancy or black magic. Christian leaders believed that since only the Lord had power over the dead, sorcerers who performed necromancy were actually conjuring demons. After a time, the two were used almost interchangeably, which caused the practice of necromancy to lose its meaning. However, spiritualists and mediums who sought to contact the dead and gain from them information about the future were actually unwittingly practicing a form of necromancy. Yet no one ever called them necromancers, which would have meant that one was evil personified. This confusion has not helped to clarify or define this system of magic; instead it has become something of topic of horror stories and low budget films.

The origins of necromancy occurred in the far distant past, long before the time of antiquity. It was a system of divination that was ultimately derived from the pious observances paid to the dead at their tombs. It isn’t hard to imagine a person going to the grave site of some great kinsman and in addition to giving offerings and oblations, to ask for assistance with some family crisis. So the practice of necromancy probably stemmed from a natural desire to seek help from one’s departed ancestors. Thoughts about the value of advice or prophecy given by the dead varied considerably in antiquity. Some believed that the dead had resources beyond the ken of the living; others (like Homer) believed that the dead knew no more about things than when alive. Necromancy may have been derived innocently enough from funeral observations, but it’s also likely that it had a separate shamanic origin.

Necromancy in antiquity, although not considered a legitimate public procedure for gaining intimate knowledge, shadowed the greater centers of divination, such as the Oracle of Delphi and the Temple of Asclepias. It was based upon a procedure that was well represented in folk tradition and literature, going back to Homer’s Odyssey. We will briefly look to the Odyssey for a classic example of a rite called the nekuia.

The Greeks had terms for this kind of magic; they called it nekumanteia (rites of divination from the dead) and psuchomanteia (divination from souls). From the Greek word came the Latin version, necromantea, from which we get necromancy. Typical places where these rites were conducted were tombs, cemeteries or even old battlefields. Such locations were called psuchagogion, which were drawing places of ghosts. Individuals who summoned ghosts or shades were called psuchagogoi, or evocators of ghosts1.

Greeks and Romans believed that the spirit or shade departed the body at death. It wandered around the burial site, visited places habituated in life or ended up in the underworld of Hades or, more rarely, the Eleusinian fields. These visitations of the dead to places of the living occurred only at certain times of the night, when most of the populace had gone to sleep. People of antiquity loved life, so the perception of death was dismal, lonely, a heartbreaking end to everything good. Shades of the dead often were harbingers of gloom and doom, sometimes directed to curse other living people with their unhappy blessings. The most accessible of the dead shades were those who were prone to restlessness, such as the ghosts of untimely or violent deaths.

Archaeological traces have been found at certain locations where necromancy was practiced as a kind of permanent oracle. These special places were called by the Greeks, nekuomanteion. They were usually located in places such as natural mephitic caves or lakes where water and brimstone appeared to mix; offering clues to an intrusion of the stygian underworld. Four famous locations were Acheron in Thesprotia, Avernus in Campania (Italy), Tainaron, which was located on the Mani peninsula of the southern Peloponnese, and Heracleia Pontica, located on the south coast of the Black Sea. Two of these locations had caves, but Avernus was a deep lake formed by a volcanic cone and Acheron was a lakeside precinct with indications of vulcanism. Both lakes were reputed to be without birds, since the mephitic fumes would have killed or driven them away.

Petitioners who visited an oracle of the dead would undergo certain kinds of rites performed in dimly lit caves or at night next to turgid lakes, guided by a leader who would conduct the rituals and speak the incantations. Offerings were given and the petitioner would spend the night in that place to obtain what he sought through incubation, by dreams, visions, or a ghostly visitation. The guide also had the responsibility to explain the dreams and visions later on, helping the petitioner to understand their meaning. However, incubation was one of many different ways of contacting the dead.

In Homer’s The Odyssey, book 11, a classic rite of necromancy is performed by Odysseus under the direction of his lover, Circe. Odysseus and his men dig a pit with their swords, around it pour libations consisting of milk, honey, sweet wine, water and then sprinkling barley over the mixture. He prays to the dead and sacrifices a pair of black sheep so the blood collects in the pit. The carcasses of the sheep are flayed and burned, then he prays to Hades and Persephone. He and his men ward the pit with their swords keeping out any unwanted spirits who are drawn to the offerings. They allow only those to whom Odysseus wishes to speak receive a draft from the fresh blood. After drinking it, a shade can assume a temporary visible appearance and converse with the living. Odysseus talks to several ghosts, but the real purpose of the rite is to consult with the dead prophet Tiresias, seeking to learn the future and the way home. Circe is Odysseus’s divine guide and instructor in the necromantic rite; she assists him in analyzing and deciphering the experience, acting as the archetypal witch. Also, the location of the rite is important, too, for it resides next to a cave leading into the underworld.

This tale was followed by other examples, but it would seem that the necromantic rite, as described by Homer, was already fully formed and traditionally established. By the 5th century, there were professional necromancers who were called goetes — sorcerers, derived from the Greek word goos, which was the mourning wail of the dead. Such individuals were reputed to have the ability to conjure and manipulate ghosts. Pythagoreans also had a reputation of being a kind of shaman who not only used necromantic spells as their stock and trade, but could travel to the underworld themselves. Another kind of magic that was practiced and related to necromancy was a divination called lecanomancy, which was a ghostly scrying into a bowl of liquid.

The Greek Magical Papyri also had some representations of necromancy, particularly papyrus PGM IV (Paris Papyrus), which contains a group of spells associated with an individual called “Pitys.” These spells extracted prophecies from corpses or the heads of corpses, bringing to mind the kind of magic performed by the classic witch. Such an individual might have had skulls or heads that talked, animated by trickery, one’s familiar spirit or a ghost.

Finally, the actual description of necromancy as a method of reanimating and interrogating corpses was first introduced by the poet Lucan, who made it part of the repertoire of the evil Thessalian witch Erictho. She uses it to gain information from a hapless dead Pompeian soldier. Erictho first pours hot blood and a concoction of herbs into the dead body, and then conjures the shade of the soldier, forcing it to enter the corpse to question it. This was a fictitious literary work, and it was followed by others, most notably Apuleius and Heliodorus. However, there seems to be little evidence that this type of working ever really occurred, that oracles of the dead and necromancy usually had much greater respect and veneration for the deceased than what is depicted in these satirical stories. Later on they may have become the primary impetus for judging the necromantic art as nothing more than the conjurations of demons. It passed into the Christian era completely debased and more the stuff of horror stories or propaganda against the practice of witchcraft.


  1. These and other quotes and information were distilled from the book Greek and Roman Necromancy, most notably from the introduction. Ogden, Daniel (2001). Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ

©2009 by Frater Barrabbas
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Goetic Evocation – The New Fad

Goetic Evocation - The New Fad

A few years ago occult students and practicing magicians became enamored of the old grimoires and began to purchase newly translated and annotated copies of them. This may be due in part to published books written by Steve Savedow, Joseph C. Lisiewski and Aaron Leitch. All three authors recommended using the old grimoires in a literal fashion, and seemed to encourage the evocation of Goetic demons. Chaos magic has also lately latched on to Goetic demons, as if the faux gods of H.P. Lovecraft weren’t enough to keep them occupied. So now it’s quite stylish to use the Goetic demons in various workings, and everyone seems to be getting on the bandwagon to engage in this kind of magical working.

I have no intention of engaging this new fad, since my system of magic always had the evocation of Goetic demons as an included part of its overall strategy for magical theurgy and evocation. However, where I differ from the crowd is that I don’t work with these entities individually and in isolation. In a word, I don’t conjure anything without using a very tried and true context. This is because I believe that spirits don’t exist in a vacuum, that they have a very specific hierarchy and I use that hierarchy to work with spirits in combination. So that means that I don’t evoke Goetic demons in isolation, as seems to be the fad out there — instead I work with them as part of a hierarchy that includes the archangels of the 12 zodiacal signs, the angelic rulers of the 36 decans and the 72 angels of the ha-Shem. So if I sought to evoke one of the Goetic demons, it would only be after a series of theurgic workings that would include the archangels and angels that are part of its hierarchy.

The 72 demons of the Goetia have their counter-part in the 72 angels of the ha-Shem, and I would never evoke one of the demons without also invoking the matching angel of the ha-Shem. In this fashion the evocation would be controlled and balanced between light and darkness, which would protect me from potential demonic obsession and allow the dark aspects of my inner self and the inner planes to be worked out through the powers and the intercession of the ha-Shem angel. Pairing Goetic demons with angels of the ha-Shem isn’t new, since we have a record of this methodology found in the book, The Goetia of Dr Rudd. Where I part with tradition is that I choose to build a complete spiritual context using the angelic rulers of the decans and the archangels of the twelve signs as part of the hierarchy of spirits that I engage when working theurgy and goetic evocation. It’s my understanding that the Golden Dawn had proposed this kind of hierarcy, Aleister Crowley hints at it in his The Book of Thoth, and Carroll “Poke” Runyon uses a variation close to what I use. So there is some precedence for this hierarchy — but it’s likely to be recent and is not to be found in the tradition of the old grimoires, as far as I can tell.

If one were to perform the evocation of Goetic demons without use of the above hierarchy, then another hierarchy would implicitly come into play, and that would be the Infernal Hierarchy of Satan and the organization of Hell. This hierarchy is also part of the tradition of the old grimoires, but the demonic hierarchy would not be approached without the power and wisdom of the Holy Guardian Angel to aid and protect the magician. One would assume that because the magicians of the previous epoch would not have attempted to invoke a demon servitor without first going through the infernal hierarchy, then we shouldn’t consider these spirits in isolation either. However, because I am not a Christian or a Satanist, I believe that the infernal hierarchy is kind of contrived and represents a dualistic spiritual philosophy, which I don’t think is workable as a witch and pagan. I also don’t have a deity in my pantheon who is like the devil, even though the Horned God does come close — except that he continually dies and is reborn, which is not a good quality for an angelic adversary. I do believe that the concept of demons does work in a pagan and Wiccan spiritual environment, and I will attempt to explain this theory.

So exactly what are demons, anyway? If they are merely personifications and agents of evil, why would anyone want to traffic with them? One could assume that either magicians want to control the chaotic forces in their lives and apply them in a constructive fashion or they have a perverse desire to engage in malignancy and the exaltation of their own darkness. Others who traffic with them may be doing it out of curiosity, boredom, or because they are jaded and want some kind of new kick in their lives.

I see demons as spiritually negative, but more like a natural negativity — the dark Yin to the light Yang. Angels are like the agents of control who maintain the spiritual status quo, and demons are the agents of chaos who break up the status quo and counteract the laws of nature, including, perhaps, even the physical laws of nature. Where one could see angels as a kind of masculine force, demons would be feminine. They symbolize the archetypal opposition of light and darkness in nature, but without the connotation of good and evil. Angels represent the perfect mathematics of Euclidean space and Newtonian/ Einsteinian physical laws, and demons would represent the curved and distorted intricacies of Non-Euclidean space and the convolutions of Quantum mechanics. One can see by this comparison that demons are an integral part of the natural spiritual world, and that if one works with angels, one should also ultimately work with demons as well — to maintain a holistic approach to magic and spiritual mechanics.

Since demons of any kind represent the opposite quality of angels, then we could assume that they would represent chaotic, disruptive and even stochastic spiritual forces and intelligences. Obviously, we would want to engage such forces and intelligences in a very controlled environment, but conversely, such entities would be useful in breaking through old patterns and dealing with internal flaws within the psyche, or even engaging in processes that would be considered outside of the normal space time continuum. Such a controlled use would require either the assistance of the Holy Guardian Angel, a hierarchy of archangels and angels, or a combination of both.

I have used demons in the past to specifically address my spiritual dark side, to realize myself as a being of light and darkness, and to learn to harness and empower my dark side so that I might be able to master myself. I believe that this is relevant because the physical and social worlds that we live in are neither light nor dark, but rather a balanced gray. Demons help me to determine my limitations, flaws and weaknesses — something that angels would not be capable of doing since they are programmed to aid and assist humanity. Sometimes things need to be broken or even destroyed in order to ensure continued spiritual growth. Magicians, like everyone else, can allow habits and limiting opinions trap them. These habits can carve deep ruts in their lives that seem almost insurmountable. Drastic measures may be required to eliminate them. I believe that demons can do this quite adequately. Similarly, demons can also allow for the incursion of the impossible, assisting one in attracting totally new and completely unrealized possibilities into one’s life.

In the magician’s search for wisdom and power, no stone should be left unturned, and this is also true for the evocation of demons. However, I maintain my argument that one should never evoke demons without also working through the hierarchy and also, hopefully, having a powerful guide such as the Holy Guardian Angel to assist.

©2009 Frater Barrabbas
Edited by Sheta Kaey

Frater Barrabbas is a writer and practitioner of witchcraft and ritual magick. He has published two books — Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick, and the two volumes of a trilogy, entitled Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Foundation and Mastering the Art of Ritual Magic — Grimoire. The third volume in this series, Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Greater Key will be published soon. You can contact him at the email address and his website is at

The Black Book

The Black Book

At this witching time of year, in the chill of lonesome October when the leaves turn brown and pile in drifts, and the frosted pumpkins begin to rot in the fields, we turn our minds to elongated shadows and gloomy pits, deep willow woods and gaping cavern mouths, secret places that elude the sun, chill haunts where spring the roots of black magic. It has always been a part of the Western esoteric tradition, but it is something that is seldom talked about in polite circles. It carries a taint of decay, a discoloration of disease, and most practitioners of the arts are leery of contracting its infection by casual contact.

Central to the black arts is the fabled Black Book that was referred to in hushed and horrified tones by the Christian demonologists of the Renaissance period such as Boden and Remy. It went under various names according to various learned authorities, but its qualities were always the same. It was a book of damnation that taught occult practices for the spreading of evil abroad across the land. Inspired by the Devil himself, it had but one purpose, to corrupt and destroy all those who fell under its influence or used its methods. Even to open the Black Book, or to hold it in the hands, or touch its binding of human skin, was to become a lost soul forever barred from entry into heaven, forever damned to hell.

The reason the book had many names is because it never actually existed in a material form. Various real grimoires, having titles well known but which few men had actually read, were chosen by the Christian demonologists to represent it. Works of dire reputation such as the Grand Grimoire, the Goetia, the Picatrix, the Key of Solomon, were vilified in harsh terms as corrupting tomes to be strenuously avoided, lest those whose idle curiosity led them to read within should be forever lost in the coils of the Evil One, he who is called the prince of shadows and deceiver of the flesh.

The Victorian occultist Arthur Edward Waite studied these books and many others of a similar foul reputation during his researches in the British Museum Library, and he observed rather dryly that when the grimoires were actually read, it turned out that their contents were not nearly so damnable as the references of the demonologists would lead one to suppose. Indeed, the common effect of reading them was more apt to be tedium than damnation. Waite was not the first to condemn and dismiss the supposed black grimoires — the student of Cornelius Agrippa, Johannes Wier, had done much the same two centuries earlier in the course of defending the reputation of his former master.

But these men had actually read the grimoires — it seemed that those most apt to condemn such infamous occult books as soul-searing one-way tickets to hell were those least likely to have actually studied them — the learned divines and inquisitors of the Catholic Church. The fabled black book of the Devil had the uncanny property of becoming smaller and less significant the closer one examined it. The reality was just not up to the task of sustaining the mythology.

Even so, the myth of the Black Book persisted down to modern times. The celebrated writer of horror stories, H. P. Lovecraft, created it anew in the early part of the 20th century in the form of his Necronomicon — which is perhaps the most well-known of its incarnations. In part, Lovecraft’s imaginary black book of evil was based on the equally imaginary book The King In Yellow, invented by the writer Robert W. Chambers and used in several of his supernatural stories. We may have left the era of the quill pen and the ox cart behind us, but the fable of Satan’s Black Book has followed us. Yet always it remains an illusion that vanishes like a mirage when it is approached and investigated.

Even those modern writers who have attempted to actually create the Black Book must be judged to have failed in their purpose. The self-proclaimed Satanist of San Francisco, Anton Szandor LaVey, made such an attempt in his The Satanic Bible, published in 1969, but it was weak plant that bore scant fruit. Several intrepid writers, myself among them, have written versions of Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, but no actual book can begin to approach the mystery or power of the original that existed in the imagination of Lovecraft alone — and perhaps, also in the akashic records of the great library of the astral world.

The Black Book does not yet exist in a cohesive, tangible form despite these attempts, and has never existed intact and entire in our material world. It is an enduring myth that from time to time has been associated with an actual but poorly known text, or a lost text, or even an imaginary text, and that is all. But in this gloaming of the year, when we hang suspended between summer and winter, when the dead are said to leave their graves and walk among us, unseen but not unfelt, we will imagine what the Black Book would contain in its pages, if there actually were such a book.

It is supposed to have been inspired or actually written by the Devil, who is reputed in Christian theology to be the father of all lies. Therefore it must be designed to deceive and mislead those who read it. The grand promises it makes of wealth and power and beauty and eternal life should all be presumed to be untrue. Yet they will be phrased in such a seductive manner that the susceptible reader will find himself unable to resist their siren allure. They will be designed to play upon the weaknesses and impulses of certain human beings who are open to deception and to spiritual corruption, by triggering character flaws in their natures such as greed, lust, envy and hatred.

If these sound familiar, they should — in past centuries they were known as deadly sins — deadly to the soul, not the body — an archaic term we distance ourselves from today. Who talks about sins anymore? Almost nobody, not even the priests and ministers. Yet these weaknesses of human nature still exist and are just as apt to cause the downfall of human hopes as they were when clouds of dark smoke arose from the blackened, crackling flesh of burning women in public squares.

In exchange for the offer of power, wealth and other things desired by the impressionable reader of the Black Book, the crafty author will demand a pledge of obedience and loyalty. In the lore of European witchcraft, as assembled from the confessions under torture of women accused of the black arts, this pledge took place at the sabbat gathering of witches, when the Devil presented his Black Book and demanded the neophyte of witchcraft to impress the print of his thumb in blood beneath the oath. This is all very fanciful, of course, but if the Black Book actually existed, the confirmation of the pledge would take a different form — it would be the requirement that the reader commit some initial act of unspeakable evil and perversity, as a confirmation of his sincerity in his oath, and to forever bind him to evil and prevent him from turning back to the light.

We see something similar among modern street gangs, where the new member of the gang is required to commit a crime, such as a random murder, in order to confirm his sincerity. This may be largely an urban legend, but it illustrates the necessary initiatory act that would be near the beginning of the black book.

The instructions of the text would teach practical methods of black magic, but woven among its rituals and techniques would be a path leading the reader progressively further along in his descent into hell, which in not a locality of space but a state of mind. The reader would be induced by the text to deliberately break all bonds of love and friendship with other human beings by betraying and injuring those he loved. In order to weaken his conscience, he would be encouraged to take “strong drugs” that would open his mind to illegal and immoral acts.

Drugs were used in this manner by Charles Manson to shape the members of his Family, prior to the murders he induced them to commit. Drugs were used in a similar way by Aleister Crowley to weaken the resistance of his followers to sexual acts considered sinful or perverse by society as a whole. Crowley used drugs to aid in destroying his own sense of conventional morality — although he needed little enough help in this effort.

Sexual perversion would play a crucial role in the working of the Black Book. Sex has a powerful hold over most human beings. By inducing its reader to break his sexual taboos, even the strongest taboos among them, the book would addict the reader to such sexual acts, since normal sex seems tame by comparison. When the sexual taboos are broken, it is easier to break other taboos, such as the one against murder.

One of the texts that exists in the real world, and which comes nearest to being a genuine Black Book, is the 18th century work 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade. This book is a catalogue of all the sexual perversions of mankind, arranged in an intensifying level of severity. De Sade was guided in his ordering of the perversions by his own sexual desire over the course of his life. When a perversion ceased to arouse him, he moved on to a stronger perversion, and in this way the catalogue of human depravity was graded from mild to unspeakably vile.

De Sade was a very clever man. He arranged his detailed descriptions of his sexual perversions so that in between each set was a moral diatribe designed to weaken some scruple or moral principle in his reader. Thus, he first sexually aroused his reader, then taught a lesson mocking virtue and faith. In this way he established a conditioned reflex similar to that of Ivan Pavlov’s famous salivating dog, which salivated at the ringing of a bell, because it had been trained to associate the sound of the bell with food. De Sade trained his readers to associate sexual pleasure with mockery and indifference to accepted moral standards. His intentional purpose was to deprave the sexual appetites of his readers and to use that depravity to turn them away from religion.

The final perversions in The 120 Days of Sodom are all descriptions of sexual pleasure derived from torturing, mutilating and slowly murdering innocent victims. This is the final state De Sade hoped and intended his reader to achieve — the state of morals, or lack of morals, that he himself had attained after a long life of debauchery and crime.

The central ritual of the Black Book would also be one of violation, mutilation, and murder. This would be its Great Rite, so to speak, the final and absolute confirmation in evil that is the underlying purpose of the Black Book, its very reason to exist, in comparison with which all its promises of power and wealth, all its teachings of practical magic, are insignificant. The true Black Book is first and last a book of damnation — the damnation of the self, and the spreading of damnation among others by lies and evil acts.

We see an allusion to this Great Rite of damnation in the mythology of the child sacrifice at the witches’ sabbat, where gathered witches were supposed by their Catholic inquisitors, and by the demonologists who wrote about witchcraft, to have sacrificed a baby in order to drink its blood and to harvest its fat for their flying ointments. The French novelist of the 19th century, Joris-Karl Huysmans, described a somewhat similar scene in the climax of his novel Là-Bas (usually translated into English as Down There), which details the descent of a curious man into the depraved practices of Satanists.

As the Devil is the spirit of lies, the promises of the book are all lies, but by the time the reader discovers this to be so, he is already damned in a very real sense — cut off from normal human feelings and normal social interaction by his perversions and crimes. His perverse desires act as an addiction holding him down and preventing the arousal of spiritual feelings or impulses. By his graded initiation into evil, the voice of his good angel is rendered mute to his ears.

As you can see, were the true Black Book to exist, it would be a very wicked text indeed. It is perhaps just as well that it exists only in fable, or at most, only in various detached fragments scattered far and wide, each of them possessing a limited power to do evil. Let us hope it always remains so, and that no individual possessed of sufficient creative ability, and having open communications with the spirit world, ever decided to bring this myth of the true Black Book of the Devil into our world.

©2009 by Donald Tyson
Edited by Sheta Kaey

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.

Artistic Visions #12 – Bnaspol

October 22, 2009 by  
Filed under art, culture, enochian, evocation, magick

Artistic Visions #12 - Bnaspol

Artistic Visions

About the Artist

I started studying in 2004 privately with a studio artist in Maine, then continued with self-study after my arrival in Canada in 2005. In 2008 I began working with my husband, Donald Tyson, illustrating his books, and have continued over the past year. I work with different mediums or even a mix. My favorite so far is watercolor.


The painting attached is of a Hepatarchial king — Bnaspol — based on my vision of him. The image of the vision was initially of a very large giant; I could only see his legs and the end of the very large club he carried. My first thought was, “Now what am I supposed to do with this?” The image then transformed to an elderly man dressed in a red hooded robe with gold trim. He had a very long white beard. He gave instruction on the crystal he holds in his hand, among other things. This image reminded me somewhat of a Father Christmas figure with a gold crown instead of a holly wreath.

This is a painting done in ink and water color.

Bnaspol by Jennifer Tyson
©2009 by Jennifer Tyson. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

©2009 by Jennifer Tyson
Text edited and image resized 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 .


  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

Conjuring Spirits the Old Fashioned Way

June 2, 2009 by  
Filed under evocation, goetia, magick

Conjuring Spirits the Old Fashioned Way

Agrippa is a great resource for all things magical. Using the tables of the scales of numbers in his 2nd Book of Occult Philosophy, you will be able to put together whatever type of ritual you could possibly need. However, the details on how to conjure spirits aren’t in the Three Books. Instead, you find a basic outline in the spurious Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy. This ritual can be used to conjure any of the spirits listed in the Tables of Book 2.

What you need:

  • Something with which to trace or form a large magic circle on the floor around your ritual area. This includes a finger, wand, rope, salt, or spray paint. Please note, spray paint fumes are nasty, and it’s hard to explain to your landlord later. Salt vacuums right up, and if you use your finger or wand, there’s no physical residue to clean up.
  • Pen/pencil and paper
  • A compass (the kind you draw circles with, not a north-pointing magnetic thingy), or something you can trace to make concentric circles. (e.g., different sized coins if you can write small enough, round lids, canned goods, bottles, etc.)

What you don’t need, but are nice to have:

  • Candles
  • Incense
  • Scrying crystals or a bowl of water, a pendulum, or imagination

Some people would say that imagination is a necessary thing, and I agree. However, most people don’t know their imagination well enough to understand how to use it in magic; they think it’s just something used to make pretty mind pictures. Which it is, but there’s more to it. And the magic works regardless of your ability to see it in your mind’s pretty-picture-maker, so I’m counting it as optional.

Now what I’m about to tell you is the bare bones basics of how to conjure a spirit. It’s not complicated, and the main intention is to get people to realize how easy spirit conjuration really is. I have clients that want to know the details of how to consecrate their wands, daggers, cups, incense burners, and even the flames on burning candles. That’s great! Empower your tools! (I anoint mine with holy water once in a while, and say, “Be thou cleansed of all uncleanliness, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” while making crosses over it. Sort of a baptism. It works great.)

But it’s not necessary for spirit work.

All you need is love.

Oh wait, that’s a Beatles song. I get that confused with magic sometimes.

Here’s the real process:

Draw the Spirit’s Symbol

Most of the spirits in the Tables of Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy can be found with a little research on the internet. The Heptameron and the Magical Calendar are excellent resources for the seals of the spirits. If you can’t find the seal of the spirit, you can use its name. Writing it out in some script that you consider holy is good, but it also works in English. Somewhere, some time, someone got the notion that some languages are holy just by virtue of being themselves, and others aren’t. Whatever.

  1. You’ll need to draw the spirit’s symbol inside a hexagram, underneath its name. A hexagram is a Star of David, made of two triangles, one pointing up and one pointing down. Each little triangle formed by the points should be the same size.
  2. Around this hexagram, draw five pentagrams (five-pointed stars). Four of these stars represent the four Angels of the Corners of the Earth. The fifth represents the spirit you are conjuring.
  3. Next, write the spirit’s name above these stars. In the Fourth Book, it instructs you to write them in Hebrew.
  4. Next, draw an equilateral triangle around everything you’ve drawn so far.
  5. Next, draw a circle around the triangle. It should touch the three points of the triangle.
  6. Draw another circle around that circle, about a half-inch or so out from the first circle. In the border you have created, write the Names of God. These Names will vary depending on your source. If you’ve studied the Golden Dawn version of the Tree of Life, and have performed the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram a time or two, and the Middle Pillar on occasion, then you should probably use the Names of God that are assigned to the ten sephiroth.

    In my opinion, you can write IAO, LOGOS, Chronos, Zeus, Apollo, Aries, Aphrodite, Hermes, Artemis, and Hephaestus. You can throw in Hecate instead of Hephaestus, too, but I’d keep Hephaestus in there anyhow. Now, these are Greek manifestations of the faces of God revealed to a set of people that were not given the Law the way God gave it to the Jews. Instead, they were given the Logos in the form of philosophy and other weirdness.1

    Either way (or any other way), you’re representing in the outermost circle the manifestations of God, which represent the different phases He went through in the emanation of the physical world. By listing these secret names, you, the magician, are pointing out to the servants of the Most High that you’re in on the secret, you understand the way things work, and that you’re an initiate. It’s like a badge that a sheriff wears. There’s no magic in the star of the cop; it’s what it represents that makes a criminal have to listen.2

  7. Cut out the circle. That’s your “lamen.” Wear it over your heart whilst you conjure Ye Olde Spirit.

Congratulations! You’re ready to conjure. Yes, it is that easy. You won’t get the really awesome mind-blowing results that you get with a fully detailed rite incorporating all the things that empower and attract and resonate with the spirit, creating a physical space that is so closely in tune with the spirit’s own sphere that manifesting is a simple matter of stepping through a Kleenex-veil. You will, however, get the spirit’s attention, and the more often you do it, the more you’ll be able to see him/her.

The Magic Circle

Now, first thing you’re going to do is draw out the big ol’ magical circle. Look at the Goetia for a nifty example of what a perfect magical circle should include. You’ll note that it’s basically everything that is a God or Angel or Sphere listed in Heinrich Agrippa’s Scale of the Number Ten. These fellows were really covering their bases.

In the circle, you’ve got candles in each of the four corners of the world for the Angels Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael. I base that interpretation on the Adonai written around the hexagrams (“Adonai” is “Lord”) and the Greek Tau cross in the center (representing the Earth, according to Crowley). Put those together and you’ve got the “Lord of the Earth” in each quarter, and that, according to the Scale of the Number Four, refers to the Four Angels of the Corners of the Earth. It could be the Four Princes too, Oriens, Paimon, Egyn, Amaymon, but I’m more inclined to use angels because, well, I know the angels, and I never really got into the elemental kings as much.

You’ve got the Alpha and the Omega listed, referencing the Logos. Then there’s a square in the center, in which the magician stands or sits. Around the square is written El (God name of Chesed/Jupiter) and Jah (God name of Chokmah/Sphere of the Zodiak). You’ve got Vav (Nail) and Hod (Sphere of Mercury), too. If you were into making sentences out of the symbols you find in magical images, you could phrase this as, “The Powers of the Sphere of the Zodiac brought down by God’s Grace to his Messenger, the magician, who Nails it to the physical realm.” Inside the circle is the Tetragrammaton, IHVH, with the letters drawn and the names of the letters written below for good measure.

In the center of it all stands the magician.

Can you see all the things represented in the magical circle? You’re standing in the center, the Divine Darkness from which emanates the infinite Light of the Ain Soph Aur. As you utter the Words (Logos), you’re directing the powers of the spheres of the Zodiac outward to the Four Lords of the Corners of the Earth. Standing beside you are the Ten Manifest Names of God and the Ten Archangels of each Sphere. You are reclaiming your divine heritage, accepting that you are truly the Image of God, and you and your Court of Angels are calling on yet another Spirit, who is compelled by Michael and the additional names of God to appear within the Triangle of Art.

Potent stuff there, eh?

Well, there’s a reason. Here’s a Mystery about working with Spirits. It applies to all of them, even the spirits of the Goetia. The Circle that is all drawn out and detailed is not something that has to be physically represented. It is the image of what you already are as a human being. You were created in the Image of God. You took on flesh to manifest in this world out of love of this world. The Archangels of the Spheres surround you and empower you, because they took one look at you when God made you and fell in love with you. You’re the Image of their creator. They respect you, and honor God by honoring you. They compel the spirits you conjure to come when you call, but even those Spirits love you.

Love is all you need.

But the spirits you’re conjuring have jobs to do, and if you don’t know what the circle represents — that is to say, if you’re not fully, consciously aware of being the Image of God — then no amount of paint, ink, or imagination arranged in appropriate lines and circles and letters will save you from the performance of their duty: to drive you mad with desire for things of the world, until in desperation you return to your Source for salvation. Until you know Who you Are, their only role in your life is to drive you back to the knowledge and understanding of who that is.

Now, I know for a fact that I am made in the Image of God. I’ve had visions and experiences and transformations that have made the Circle of the Goetia become ingrained into my own sphere. I’m aware that I walk in the loving Grace of God and all that he has made.

I try not to take it for granted.

When I trace a Circle, I say, “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I consecrate this ground for our defense.” You can say, IAO, LOGOS, and Spiritus Mundi/Spiritus Sancti if you’re not feeling particularly comfortable with the names of God from the Christian tradition. I strongly urge you to stick with the neoplatonic system though. Spirit conjure books like the Goetia are firmly founded in the neoplatonic tradition. You’ll need a representative of the Monad, the Intercessor, and the Spirit that maintains everything in your world, like the name of your Nativity Angel, Genius, Agathadaimon, or HGA. By touching on these three things, you’re retracing your path up through the spheres, and acknowledging who you are and what your status is. You’re affirming that you are indeed the magician in the center square of the Circle of the Goetia with these simple words.

Well, I am anyway. If you’re not aware of Who you are, What you are, and Why you are, you’d better go back and meditate on the Circle for a while, until you realize that everything I’ve said here is as true for you as it is for me. Or don’t. If you don’t, you’ll sooner or later learn the same thing, because all things work together for the good of those who serve God. And everyone serves God. Because everyone is, in a way, God.

Ok, so you’ve got the Lamen, and you’ve got the Circle; you’re ready to Conjure the Spirit.

A Bit About Spirits in General

(You probably know this already but…)
Most Spirits have a Sphere that they’re related to. Messenger spirits, spirits of knowledge, spirits of intellect, wit, and healing are related to Mercury. Spirits of Love, beauty, hearth and home are related to Venus. Spirits of visions of past and future, of gain and loss, of ebbings and flows are of the Moon. Spirits of boundaries and time are of Saturn. Spirits of enlightenment are of the Sun. Spirits of mercy, grace, abundance are of Jupiter. And spirits of war, wrath, and justice are of Mars. You can find associations of spirits to elements as well, if you’re looking for things to happen on a mundane level without a lot of spiritual gnosis involved. Identify the traits of the Spirit, and you’ll have access to the Name of God that manifests the highest form of that particular class of Spirit.

In the Scales of the Numbers 10 and 12 (Book 1 of Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy), Agrippa lists the three things you need to conjure any Planetary Spirit:

  • The Names of God for each Planet
  • The Archangels of each Planet
  • The Choir (or Rank) of the angels associated with each Planet

In the Scale of the Number Four, Agrippa lists the names of the four Princes of the Earth, and in their names you can conjure the elemental spirits. Armed with this simple resource, you’ve got all the information you need in those tables to come up with a decent ritual.

Conjuring the Spirits

To conjure the Spirit, the basic formula is a statement: “Oh [Spirit Name], I conjure you in the name of [God Name of the Sphere that rules the spirit] and in the name of [Archangel that rules the sphere] and by the powers of the [Rank of the Angels of the sphere] I conjure you; appear now before me.” You can say it a couple of times until you feel the Spirit’s presence.

Getting the Point Across

Next, you simply state the purpose that you called the spirit for. Remember, it’s a person of sorts. It’s smarter than you, older than you, and much more aware of its place in the universe than you are, no matter how much we think we know. But also remember that it loves you, to the fullest extent of its abilities. So don’t just tell it, “I want to win the lotto this Friday at 11:20,” and then say goodbye. There may be some reason it can’t or won’t do so, and if you don’t listen for an answer and actually have a conversation — you know, bi-directional communication with the spirit — you’re not going to get anywhere.

A Note on Offerings

Some modern magicians believe that there should always be an exchange of “energy” when you Work with a Spirit. The way I see it, they’re talking about something similar to what I mean by a conversation. I don’t make a habit of offering things to spirits. Most of my Work is done for knowledge, wisdom, and peace of mind over something that is troubling me.

But when I want a thing to happen or to manifest, I usually provide some form of offering for the spirit, not in an idolatrous way, but as a means of getting what I want done. When I want a spirit to show up and do something in my “real” world, I’ll pour a libation, or run some current through their seal using a box I wired for that purpose.3 I think it helps.

If you’re making an offering of some kind, this would be the time to do it.

Getting on With It

Once you’ve talked with the spirit and made any offerings, you’re almost done. Before the traditional “License to Depart,” I usually ask if there’s anything I need to know from the spirit. I “hear” the voices of the spirits in visions, the pretty-mind-pictures that move by themselves, or as thoughts that originate from outside my head. Sometimes I use a pendulum, and as I hold it, I feel my heart open up, and I just know the answer to my question, without hearing anything. The same thing happens as I scry into a crystal. Sometimes I see a face or a swirl in the occlusions within the crystal, other times I don’t, but I always feel like something inside me has “opened” when the spirits are near. However you learn to communicate with the spirits will likely be different than I describe it. I’m stuck with the words I have to represent what I do. You will have your own words that you’re stuck with.

Wrapping it Up

Finally, thank the Spirit for coming. If it’s the first time I’ve worked with the spirit, I say something like, “In the [Names I conjured in], come again when I call your name, returning in peace and in power. Go now as you came.” When I’m finished, I sometimes ground out by picturing myself sinking into the earth and then returning back to myself (I’m an Earth Sign; I like that), or I just let the mood dissipate on its own.

That’s it. That’s how you conjure a spirit. It’s not hard. As you put it into practice, you’ll find that there are things I’ve missed, things that I probably take for granted, or things I can’t even think of because you’re simply not me. That’s beautiful. However, if you have questions about things I should have mentioned, please feel free to contact me.


1 — As a Christian, I’m fine with this because Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd,” and “I have sheep in other pens who recognize my Voice.” In John, it says, “No man comes to the Father but by me.” A friend pointed that out and asked me how I reconcile my belief that God is in the Greek Gods, and I had to explain that to understand John 14, you have to understand John 1: Jesus is the Word, the Logos. The First Father spoke, and that speech is Christ. Jesus was the Word made flesh. His Father is “the Good” of the neoplatonists. One cannot get to the Father unless you go by way of the Logos. That doesn’t mean that you’ve got to be a Christian. It means Jesus is going to call you as the Logos in whatever way he sees fit, and if you’re a sheep in another pen, or a believer of religions other than Christianity, then you’ll still be getting to the Father through the Logos when you hear his voice and respond to it, however that manifests to you.

2 — You know, like in that movie with Sandra Bullock, Practical Magic. With the witches. And the dude with one green eye that flipped pancakes. And the Romanian cowboy. From Hell. Come on, you totally watched it.

3 — I call it The Box. Because I’m just overflowing with creative juices. It’s a wooden cigar box and an LED lamp that I set up so that you can place a metal talisman across two electrodes to complete a circuit and light up an LED. The LED is under a crystal ball I use for scrying.

©2009 Rufus Opus
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 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 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 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

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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