The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be – Lovecraft’s Legacy, Part 4

the book of old ones - scorpio.jpgThe Book of Old Ones – Scorpio
Finbarr – 2002

Truly, there are terrible primal arcana of earth which had better be left unknown and unevoked; dread secrets which have nothing to do with man, and which man may learn only in exchange for peace and sanity; cryptic truths which make the knower evermore an alien among his kind, and cause him to walk alone on earth. Likewise are there dread survivals of things older and more potent than man; things that have blasphemously straggled down through the aeons to ages never meant for them; monstrous entities that have lain sleeping endlessly in incredible crypts and remote caverns, outside the laws of reason and causation, and ready to be waked by such blasphemers as shall know their dark forbidden signs and furtive passwords. – from The Diary of Alonzo Typer

When I read a book on Lovecraftian magic, I want to learn about the aforementioned dark forbidden signs and furtive passwords. Unfortunately, this is never what these books contain. The one I’m reviewing today, Scorpio’s The Book of Old Ones, might well be the silliest of all the Lovecraftian grimoires I’ve read.

Imagine what a grimoire would read like if its author had absolutely zero understanding of magic. It’d probably contain powerful spells that are quick and easy to perform and unfailingly effective regardless of whether the person performing them believes in them or not – ‘say this magic word under your breath, and the girl beside you on the train will become your sex slave’ kinda crap. Take 20 pages of that garbage, add a few Lovecraft references and some stories about pathetic losers trying these rituals and then becoming rich, sexy and succesful, and you’ve got Scorpio’s Book of Old Ones.

Much like The Necronomian Workbook, this book shows little understanding of the total apathy of Lovecraftian entities towards human beings. The Old Ones are bigger and older than us. Their children made us for the sake of their amusement. Cthulhu is not concerned with the affairs of mere mortals. He’s plotting revenge on the elder things that imprisoned him. I doubt he’s interested in watching over you as you go on sea voyage, and I really struggle to imagine him helping you find a girlfriend.

cthulhu love spell.jpg
Seriously?

This book is stupid. The author understands neither magic nor Lovecraft’s mythos, but he has written a book combining them. This Scorpio guy seems like a real moron. Then again, this was published by Finbarr, so I’m not quite surprised.

I have made fun of the authors published by Finbarr Publications quite a few times at this stage, and I had initially planned this week’s post on two grimoires written by another of their authors. After doing a little bit of research though, I discovered that this guy actually has a learning disability and has suffered tremendously with his mental health. I’m not being facetious. I decided against reviewing his books, as he uses his real name, and I don’t want to cause any suffering for a person with serious mental problems. I mention it here only to highlight the remarkably low standard of stuff that this publisher puts out. I didn’t find out much about this Scorpio guy, but he’s clearly an imbecile too.

 

lovecraft horror in the museum.jpgH.P. Lovecraft – The Horror in the Museum
Wordsworth
This is the second entry in Wordsworth’s Lovecraft series, and it is comprised of works that Lovecraft worked on with other authors, only one of which I had read before. Most of the stories in the other 3 Wordsworth entries are included in the Penguin editions which I read and reviewed years ago, and after a year of rereading tales I had previously encountered, it was really cool to dive into a fresh batch of unread terror. The quality here is pretty high, and I enjoyed most of the stories in here more the fantasy stuff in Volume 3 and the odds and ends in Volume 4. Picking favourite stories from this collection is quite difficult. The tales in here are really good, and many of them flesh out the Cthulhu mythos – there’s references to Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu every few pages.

This volume contains the following stories:
The Green Meadow, Poetry and the Gods, The Crawling Chaos, The Horror at Martin’s Beach, Imprisoned with the Pharaohs, Two Black Bottles, The Thing in the Moonlight, The Last Test, The Curse of Yig, The Elecrtic Executioner, The Mound, Medusa’s Coil, The Trap, The Man of Stone, The Horror in the Museum, Winged Death, Out of the Aeons, The Horror in the Burying Ground, Till A’ the Seas, The Disinternment, The Diary of Alonzo Typer, Within the Walls of Eryx and The Night Ocean
(Imprisoned with the Pharaohs appears in the Penguin collections as Under the Pyramids.)

Some of these tales are fairly racist. The word ‘nigger’ is thrown around quite a bit. One of the stories, Medusa’s Coil, is particularly nasty. It’s about a very evil woman. I was quite confused when I finished reading it. In this edition, the last line reads; “It would be too hideous if they knew that the one-time heiress of Riverside… was faintly, subtly, yet to the eyes of genius unmistakenly the scion of Zimbabwe’s most primal grovellers.” I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this, so I looked up a summary, and it seems as though the editor at Wordsworth actually cut the final line of the story. The original text ends: “No wonder she owned a link with that old witch-woman—for, though in deceitfully slight proportion, Marceline was a negress.” The final revelation of tale is that the anatagonist is a bit black. This is not made very clear in the Wordsworth edition. In 1944, August Derleth anthologised this story and altered the final line to say “though in deceitfully slight proportion, Marceline was a loathsome, bestial thing, and her forebears had come from Africa.” At least Derleth’s version kept the meaning. The redacted Wordsworth edition makes the ending confusing rather than ugly. This is obviously a horribly racist ending to a horribly racist tale, but I’m pretty disgusted that Wordsworth thought it acceptable to censor it. I absolutely hate when publishers do that. If you choose to publish a dead racist’s work, don’t pretend he wasn’t a racist.

So why do I devote so much of my time to reading and reviewing books by and about this horribly bigoted individual? Well, it has a lot do with passages of writing like this:

These scribbled words can never tell of the hideous loneliness (something I did not even wish assuaged, so deeply was it embedded in my heart) which had insinuated itself within me, mumbling of terrible and unknown things stealthily circling nearer. It was not a madness: rather it was a too clear and naked perception of the darkness beyond this frail existence, lit by a momentary sun no more secure than ourselves: a realization of futility that few can experience and ever again touch the life about them: a knowledge that turn as I might, battle as I might with all the remaining power of my spirit, I could neither win an inch of ground from the inimical universe, nor hold for even a moment the life entrusted to me. Fearing death as I did life, burdened with a nameless dread yet unwilling to leave the scenes evoking it, I awaited whatever consummating horror was shifting itself in the immense region beyond the walls of consciousness.

Come on. That is brilliant. This is from The Night Ocean, the last story in the collection. Of all the stories in here, this one is the least explicit in its horrors, but the sense of gloom and despair that pervades the narrative is perfectly effective. Lovecraft may have been a horrible racist, but damn, his work does a damn fine job of expressing the futility of life. Interestingly enough, the author of The Night Ocean (Lovecraft was mainly an editor for this one) was gay. He was also an anthropologist, and was actually one of William Burroughs’ professors at Mexico City University.

There’s another curious little tale in here called Till A’ the Seas that I really liked. It’s about the last human on an Earth that has overheated. It’s set in the distant future, but by now it could believably be set 60-70 years from today. You should definitely read the full story (link above), but if you’re too lazy, just read this:

And now at last the Earth was dead. The final, pitiful survivor had perished. All the teeming billions; the slow aeons; the empires and civilizations of mankind were summed up in this poor twisted form—and how titanically meaningless it all had been! Now indeed had come an end and climax to all the efforts of humanity—how monstrous and incredible a climax in the eyes of those poor complacent fools of the prosperous days! Not ever again would the planet know the thunderous tramping of human millions—or even the crawling of lizards and the buzz of insects, for they, too, had gone. Now was come the reign of sapless branches and endless fields of tough grasses. Earth, like its cold, imperturbable moon, was given over to silence and blackness forever.

God damn, that’s beautiful.

Originally, the second collection of Lovecraft’s work put out by Wordsworth was titled The Loved Dead, but this story was removed from this collection after the people at Wordsworth decided that Lovecraft’s influence on that tale was only minor. Also, Through the Gates of the Silver Key is curiously absent from this collection despite being a collaboration between Lovecraft and E. Hoffmann Price. Through the Gates… is the only story to appear in the Penguin editions of Lovecraft’s work that is missing from the Wordsworth collections. I’m planning a fifth and final post in this series on the few tales by Lovecraft that are missing from this series, so keep an eye out for that in the near future.

Crawling Chaos Magic – Lovecraft’s Legacy, Part 3

pseudonomicon phil hine.jpgThe Pseudonomicon – Phil Hine
New Falcon Publications – 2007 (Originally published in 1994)

I’ve read quite a few books of Lovecraftian occultism at this stage, and this was the best one yet. It’s a book of chaos magic. Chaos magic, as far as I understand it, is a very open form of magic. It is to free verse as goetia is to writing sonnets. The focus here is on results rather than rules and rituals.

While other books of Lovecraftian magic attempt to mix Lovecraft’s mythos with traditional forms of occultism, the Pseudonomicon encourages experimentation. A true Cthulhu druid should follow their intuition rather than the steps of a ritual. This disregard for traditional sequence fits in with Lovecraft’s tendency to use non-Euclidean mathematics as a method of evoking a weird atmosphere in his tales.

cthulhu.jpg

From the perspective of the layman, the behaviour that this book describes and encourages will seem ridiculous, and a skeptic might fairly describe this as a book on how to pretend that a collection of fantastic stories by a dead lad are based in reality. Neither view would be incorrect, but so what?

The book acknowledges that reading it might lead one to madness, and anyone who takes its advice and smears themselves in shit while dancing around a graveyard at night might well be seen as insane. On the other hand, who am I to act as though my take on reality is any more accurate than that of the Cemetery Scat Man. The more I think about it, the more I believe that what a person perceives IS their reality. If the Pooey Ghoul believes his actions are allowing him to speak to the Great Old Ones, I can’t disagree. Reality, existence and their links to perception are too inherently unknowable for anyone to assume that their take on these concepts is any more sensible than another’s.

This book does get pretty weird. In an appendix near the end, the author describes his experience of being possessed by Tsathoggua, Clark Ashton Smith‘s giant toad god who features in Lovecraft’s Whisperer in the Darkness. Cool.

This book does a pretty good job of balancing the Mythos stuff with a practical way of incorporating it into magical workings. If i was ever going to practice magic, i think i’d go for something like this.

haunter of the dark lovecraft.jpg
The Haunter of the Dark – H.P. Lovecraft

Wordsworth – 2011

This is the second and biggest entry of the Wordsworth Lovecraft editions. It contains the following stories:
Celephaïs, Herbert West – Reanimator, Pickman’s Model, Polaris, The Cats of Ulthar, The Colour Out of Space, The Doom That Came to Sarnath, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, The Dreams in the Witch House, The Haunter of the Dark, The History of the Necronomicon, The Horror at Red Hook, The Other Gods, The Shadow out of Time, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Shunned House, The Silver Key, The Statement of Randolph Carter, The Strange High House in the Mist, The Thing on the Doorstep, The Unnamable, the essay Supernatural Horror in Literature and Fungi from Yuggoth, a collection of weird sonnets.

The items listed in blue are not contained in the Penguin editions of Lovecraft’s work. I’m not going to say much about this collection other than that I really enjoyed reading most of these stories again. The Thing on the Doorstep and The Dreams in the Witch House are so deadly. Also, I’m pretty sure The Shadow Over Innsmouth is tied with Whisperer in Darkness as my favourite Lovecraft story. I’m not mad about all of the Dream Cycle stuff, but parts of it (The Other Gods) are awesome.

At this stage I’ve finished rereading all of the stories that Lovecraft wrote by/for himself that were included in the Penguin editions. It has been very enjoyable, and I feel that I’m now in a much better position to understand a lot of the occult texts that are based on his works. I can now sensibly distinguish a Shoggoth, Yuggoth and Yog-Sothoth. I still have one more entry in the Wordsworth series to read, but that one is comprised of collaborations that Lovecraft worked on. I’m quite excited about that as I’ve only read one of the stories it contains before. After I review that, I’m going to do a post on all of the stories that are not collected in the Wordsworth series. Both posts will also include an obscure work of Lovecraftian occultism. Stay tuned.