I've doubled-down on armchair magic lately, being overwhelmed with these strong feelings that practice at this moment in cosmic time will not be beneficial to me. I'm am tearing through Peter Levenda's 'The Dark Lord' and am surprised by its readability. You need to be an excellent writer to turn material this fringe and academic into such an easy read. As is the way of things, The Dark Lord has led me to other books. I've purchased my first copy of the Simonomicon and The Voudon Gnostic Workbook (which I had never heard of and am really very impressed by, its huge and the content is intense). I have a fond memory of being, maybe fifteen, and picking up the paperback version of the Necronomicon by Simon up in, I think, a Waldenbooks. My mighty teenage brain scoffed at it at the time, this isn't real, Lovecraft made that book up. Who is this guy pretending to write that horrific and fictitious book. How my practice might be advanced if I had picked it up...
I have been practicing a bit, reciting the invocation to the astrological decan and the daily planetary spirits in the morning following some active imagination exercises. The Decan for the time leading right up to the eclipse this Monday is visualized as a man with the head of a crocodile, holding up one hand and holding a vial in the other. I found this out only very recently, after beginning the bonus Decans course given to Rune Soup premium members. The course details a very long and detailed ritual, but as soon as I began reading through some of the visualizations of the decans, I knew that I had to perform it. You see, that man with the crocodile head, I dreamt of him several weeks before I received the information provided in the Rune Soup course.
This wasn't just any dream, either. It was a dream directly connected with the rituals I performed back in May in San Francisco, at the Mission of Saint Dolores in in the adjacent cemetery. I had made a promise to the dead of that place, the only cemetery within San Francisco's city limits, that I would help them to not be forgotten.
My sister-in-law lives in the city and has some decent occult street cred herself, including her latest art fashion initiative - Handfast Hotel. She came to pay a visit and we were able to exchange a few words between me chasing my kids around, and I got a handshake in as well. A day or two after she had left for other adventures, I had the dream.
I was in the original Mission Dolores chapel, but instead of the bright paint and warm wood, everything was white. A woman whose face was obscured by hair and the white sheet she was wrapped in was laid down on one of the pews. She was whispering and I bent in to hear what she was saying, but at that very moment the chapel changed and was filled with people. I stood up, as did the woman in the white sheet.
Every pew was filled, I was near the front, and every body there was kneeling and standing and sitting in unison, although there was no priest at the pulpit. I couldn't see anyone's face but as I looked around I came to the startling realization that they were all ghosts. As soon as I recognized their nature, they began to reveal their faces. One man in particular turned and headed back down the aisle. I remember his face, human but slightly off, his eyes off center and crossed. I fixated on him and my fear grew, which is when all of the lights went out.
The pews gone, I was still in the chapel but now I am on a bare, I kid you not, Hellraiser-style mattress surrounded by glitter and with the woman, it is so dark that I still can't see her, just a couple of feet away. Horrible dog-sized spiders come out of the shadows and I beat at them with the white sheet she was wrapped in. Realizing. My weapon of choice was ineffective, I reach back, grab the hand of the mystery woman, and run for the double oak doors of the church. I turn half-way and the giant spiders are in pursuit. I yell, and I remember this very clearly:
"I AM UNAFRAID!"
And slam my palms on the ground, which enacts a powerful earthquake. The floor shaking in waves, glitter fills the air, and the spiders are knocked back. I turn back to the door and there he is, or at least, there is his black-on-black form, a giant man with the head of a crocodile. Emboldened by my act of battle magic I charge for him, and he for me. The last I remember, this powerful being is easily wrestling me to the ground.
It is difficult to be a student of Lovecraft and not place a great deal of stock in the world of dreams. Whether it was the handshake with the local artist or something else that triggered it doesn't matter. The coordination with the crocodile-headed Decan and the coming eclipse was too much for me to ignore. The Decan, like so many of Lovecraft's antagonists, is guarding a barrier or door through which I (the hero in this dream) need to find my way through.
Lovecraft was a lifelong astronomy enthusiast, and as such, was an avid watcher of celestial events. I have found record of two total solar eclipses that he viewed. The first in the winter of 1925 he saw from a rooftop in Brooklyn. You can actually watch the same event on YouTube, if you can believe that. The silent film taken of that eclipse can be seen below:
The second record I found of Lovecraft experiencing a total eclipse was in 1931, outside the town of Newburyport, MA. I found his account of the experience here, from a letter he wrote to James F. Morton the following month, and have included it below for the reader's reference:
“We reached Bossy Gillis’s burg long before the eclipse started, and chose an hilltop meadow with a wide view—near the northern end of High Street—as our observatory. The sky was mottled, and naturally we were damn anxious—but the sun came out every little while and gave us long glimpses of the waxing spectacle. The aspect of the land skip did not change in tone until the solar crescent was rather small, and then a kind of sunset vividness became apparent. When the crescent waned to extreme thinness, the scene grew strange and spectral—an almost deathlike quality inhering in the sickly yellowish light. Just about that time the sun went under a cloud,and our expedition commenced cursing in 33-1/3 different languages including Ido. At last, though, the thin thread of the pre-totality glitter emerged into a large patch of absolutely clear sky. The outspread valleys faded into unnatural night—Jupiter came out in the deep-violet heavens—ghoulish shadow-bands raced along the winding white clouds—the last beaded strip of glitter vanished—and the pale corona flicker’d into aureolar radiance around the black disc of the obscuring moon. We were seeing the real show! Though Newburyport was by no means close to the line of maximum duration, the totality lasting for a surprisingly lone time—long enough for the impression to sink ineffaceably in. It would have been foolish if we had gone up to the crowded central line in Maine or New Hampshire. The earth was darken’d much more pronouncedly than in our marrow-congealing ordeal of ’25, (the coldness of this damn train takes my memory back to that harrowing occasion!) tho’ the corona was not so bright. There was a suggestion of a streamer extending above and to the left of the disc, with a shorter corresponding streamer below and to the right. We absorb’d the whole exhibition with open eyes and gaping mouths—I chalking down II whilst Khul-i-N’hari had to be content withI. Too bad about youse poor one-eclipse guys! Finally the beaded crescent reemerged, the valleys glow’d again in faint, eerie light,and the various partial phases were repeated in reverse order. The marvel was over, and accustom’d things resum’d their wonted sway.”
There is one prominent eclipse in Lovecraft's story, 'The Other Gods'. There are threads between The Other Gods and his story Celephais. The protagonist, one Barzai the Wise, is a magician and mystic that is on a quest to view the 'Gods of Earth' that have long since hidden themselves from man. It is mentioned that they were driven up the mountains and into the clouds by a war with man, which brings to mind the brief mention of King Kynaratholis from the story Celephais. The other tendril is the Other Gods vehicle of travel, cloud ships, the same piloted by Captain Athib.
There are two more entries into the dream library of Lovecraft's lost books here, namely the 'Seven Encrypted Books of Hsan' and what is referred to as the Pnakotic Manuscript, which is recorded as holding the epic of a hero by the name of Sansu.
Another thread that I have yet to pull on is a passing reference to black cats and a trip they all take somewhere on St. John's Eve. I'll leave this one here for now, I have a feeling it is significant.
Barzai and his assistant Atal travel a long ways to a mountain called Hatheg-Kla, the last place known to be visited by the Other Gods. The stories, of which Barzai is steeped in, state that when the moon is full and the summit of Hatheg-Kla is obscured by mist, the Other Gods have again set foot on the Earth. There is a line Lovecraft gives us here that I really like:
"Mists are the memory of Gods..."
Barzai climb the mountain and wait for four days until they are rewarded with a night where strange mists grow deep on the nearby summit. Barzai takes off after his quarry, leaving Atal (and the reader who can now only see from the assistant's perspective) trailing behind, listening to his ravings in the clouds ahead. This is the point where the eclipse is mentioned:
"The moon is dark, and the gods dance in the night; there is terror in the sky, for upon the moon hath sunk an eclipse foretold in no books of men or of earth's gods... There is unknown magic on Hatheg-Kyla, for the screams of the frightened gods have turned to laughter, and the slopes of ice shoot up endlessly into the black heavens whither I am plunging... Hei! Hei! At last! In the dim light I behold the gods of earth!"
At this point, for me, so many threads are entangled I am left only with a kind of spiritual Gordian Knot.
Listen to Barzai's warnings:
"The other gods! The other gods! The gods of the outer hells that guard the feeble gods of earth!... The vengeance of the infinite abysses... That cursed, that damnable pit... Merciful gods of earth, I am falling into the sky!"
Here I am, again facing the void, this scene is so familiar to me now, at this writing, because I've witnessed it very recently on David Lynch's Twin Peaks, the sky opening, the hero falling upwards into a world of chaos, madness, and secrets...
The best correlation in the tarot for the story of the Other Gods is the Two of Coins. With one disk obscuring the other, the Two of Coin’s conventional analysis is that all roads are closed, that great difficulty will come and the protagonist will find themselves in a state of being impeded, obstructed, or entangled. The mental landscape painted by this archetype is not unlike Lovecraft's view during the eclipse, with deep-violet heavens and ghoulish shadow-bands racing along winding white clouds above a stark white chapel. Inside the chapel, as I wrestle with my astrological difficulty in an attempt to, like Thomas Malone of Red Hook, break through the door that entraps me, inside this space the last beaded strip of glitter has vanished beneath my palm.
This aligns with my dream of the crocodile-headed Decan. It aligns with my magical nadir since the last new moon and my insights into the nature of power in magic. It aligns with my choice to not seek or petition or demand anything from terrestrial spirits until after the eclipse. Barzai serves as a warning to those that push a barrier that is fated by the mechanics of the universe to be closed.