The Black Tower

ON SOLOMONIC SIGILS

Before we dig into what turned out to be one heck of an exploration into Lovecraftian magic, I wanted to talk a bit more about my 2018 mission to align my practice with the Clavicula, in all of its permutations. I’ve been reading Skinner and Rankine’s Veritable Key since Christmas. It isn’t what I had painted it to be in my mind. I thought that the entire volume would be dedicated to ceremonial magic, particularly that related to the summoning of demons. This isn’t the case at all. It took approximately 350 pages before I started getting into the meat of that type of magic. The majority of the tome is dedicated to the creation of talismans, the appropriate manner in which a magician should conduct herself, and the proper consecration of tools used in creating pentacles and talismans, which by extension leads to the summoning of Goetic Demons, like those found in the Grimoire Verum.

In this magicians mind, this has lead to the conclusion that sigilmancy is much closer to Solomonic Magic then the ceremonial conjuring of spirits. Some might argue against that but I am firm in this assertion, with only around 12% of the books that make up the collective Clavicula being dedicated to invoking demons and the rest focusing on tools and talisman construction, I will stand by my statements. 

Solomonic Magic is primarily Sigilmancy.

The underlying motivation for my deeper study of the Clavicula is my current obsession with 16th c. Venice and the magic that was wrought in that city at that time. The beginning of the 16th c. and the decade just before was a time of prolific printing of magic, cyphered, and magically-adjacent books. This was also a time when, for really the first time in five hundred or more years, the supremacy of Venice in the world of trade and finance was being threatened. Earlier this week, I had some thoughts surrounding the difference between the magic that the elite perform and the magic that, well, the rest of us do. It is a common statement that ‘magic is the strategy of last resort,’ meaning that people often turn to magic after their strategies in navigating a manufactured materialist ‘reality’ fail. That is pretty much all of us. Only 1% of the population has been able to succeed inside the parenthesis of materialism, and it is arguable whether or not the 1% is in fact using their own brand of magic. 

Anyway, I was thinking I would need to explore that difference in magical strategies until I read this bit from Dr. Joseph Farrell’s ‘Financial Vipers of Venice’:

“When Constantinople… fell to the Turks… in 1453, it was inevitable that many Greeks fled to the most Byzantine city in the west, bringing what remained of the library [of Alexandria] and treasures of the Imperial City with them… contributing to the rise of the Renaissance in Italy in the fifteenth century… The fall of Constantinople… also meant that Venice became the frontline state of Christendom… the discovery of the New World meant that ‘At the deepest level, some patricians realized that the lagoon city could now be crushed like an egg-shell, and was not a suitable base for world domination…”

If the above holds true, and I have no reason to no reason to contest Dr. Farrell on this point, if this is true than by the 16th c. Venice was ostensibly on their back foot, at least in comparison to the five hundred years prior. A greater emphasis on magic at this point, perhaps magic that had always existed in some form or another, would still hold to the statement; ‘Magic is the strategy of last resort.’ Additionally, since the discovery of the Americas were the final destabilizing factor in Venice’s centuries of dominance, this could mean that there are long standing and powerful curses or bindings against the New World by Venetian / Byzantine magicians and also plots with deep roots in spacetime for the infiltration and pilfering of the riches of the Americas. 

To further this point, let’s digest a second quote from Farrell that illustrates that, while definently in a different position on the global chessboard after the discovery of America and the fall of Constantinople, Venice still maintained their own Rennaissance internet of influence:

“In the sixteenth century… it was Gasparo Cardinal Contarini who was the center of networks reaching deep into both Catholic and Protestant Europe… Contarini was involved in helping to midwife the Jesuit order into existence… venice’s influence in Lutheran Germany and Bohemia… was the Count Heinrich Mathias of Thurn-Valsassina. This is the senior branch of the family, originally from Venetian territory… known as della Torre… This… is not the only link between the oligarchical families of the northern Italian city-states and the prominent and powerful noble houses of Saxony, Hanover, the Netherlands, and England.”

This history feeds my obsession with rebuilding or rediscovering or reverse engineering Venetian style magic for my own use. If there are five hundred year old bindings on the New World and its inhabitants, magic designed by enchanters at the top of their game to oppress and de-money the inhabitants of America, than it makes the most sense to work in the same style, with the same tools, in order to uncross at least my little corner of America. Think of it, the reduplication of poverty, the cycles of oppression in a quote/unquote classless society that nevertheless reflect a strict set of social classes, maybe I do need a tin foil hat, but I’ll start with a paper crown.

Let us return to the idea of Solomonic Sigils. In my first read through of the Clavicula, a few things bubbled up that I had been doing, that had felt intuitively right. Other instructions in the Clavicula echo some of the instructions surrounding sigils that I encountered in the Rune Soup Premium Member course, or just made plain sense when I read them. Take this excerpt from the section entitled ‘On preparing Extraordinary Experiments and Operations:'

“Anyone who wishes to practice rituals and operations needs to observe the days and the hours… and with virgin paper and other necessary and prepared things… When you have prepared [an] experiment, hold it in front of you and say: ’God, who hath made all things and who hath given us the knowledge to know good and evil, by they holy name and by these holy names, Jod, Jah, Vau, Dalos, Taphor, Sapojor, Incor, Amator, Creator, make it so, Oh Lord that this experiment in my hands may be found true by the holy seat, Adonay, from whom the Kingdom and the Authority endures eternally unto all the Ages, Amen.’”

The mention of experiments on paper, and language later in the Clavicula that explicitly states that virgin parchment can also be made from linen, satin, or silk (as oppossed to animal skin), opens the door to use the above prayer to consecrate and charge sigils after their creation, as anyone who has made them can attest that they can easily be considered ‘extraordinary experiments’ and very close cousins (if not ancestors) of the talismans and pentacles that are explicitly referred to in the Clavicula. 

Some other Clavicula specific instructions on these experiements is that one should always work on them in the hour and/or day that the experiment is associated with. This is a bit of a departure from my sigil creation last year, where I would sketch them out and work on the statements whenever I had time. In order to give my sigils a more Solomonic shape, I am going to adhere to the above as well, working on statements and sketching out the design of the sigil in, say, the hour of Jupiter if it is for wealth creation. 

Leading up to the day and hour that I plan on engaging with the experiment fully, the Clavicula recommends three days of fasting, a bread and water fast being preferred but a normal Lenten style fast being second best, defined as taking one meal without meat in the evening as the only meal of the day, supplementing with broth and allowing liquids for the rest of the day. There is also a prayer associated specifically with these days and other recommendations on how the magician should comport herself  in the section titled ‘In what Manner the Master of the Art should Control and Govern [Herself]’:

“It will be necessary that the Master then abstains for three days from all useless and idle conversations and arguments. Also from impure and salacious words… During these days, [she] will recite this following prayer once in the morning and once more before retiring to bed: “Arachio, Asac, Assara, Bedrimuleal, Silat, Arabonas, Jerablem, Jododoc, Achazac, Zophiel, Plantel, Trebarach, Zamael, Cadat, Gomondomas. Lord God who is in the Heaves and gazes into the abyss, Show they grace upon me, I pray, that which I know by writing, that I may accomplish in my work, I pray you, oh my Sovereign God, who lives and reigns in all the Ages of Ages. [Amen].”

I am reading ’useless and idle conversations and arguments’ as social media and workplace gossip, which really makes perfect sense in our modern context. Why not attach an internet / social media / workplace gossip fast to the physical fast leading up to the creation and charging of a sigil shoal. It sounds like a great way to get into the appropriate headspace for proper Solomonic magic. Now, some might [read: definently do] try to completely seperate the worlds of technology and magic, which creates situations where while they are practicing, technology is nowhere to be found, but after their enchanting is done, it is business as usual back at Occult Facebook. I like to recognize the fact that we are spiritual beings and part of our spiritual make up is our technology. Krista Tippet, in her recent discussion with Kevin Kelly, former editor of the Whole Earth Catalog and current ’Senior Maverick’ at Wired magazine, circle and dive into this thought ocean and bring back some really illuminating ideafish. The Lovecraftian Science blog is another really excellent example of a worldview inclusive of both enchantment and technology. As a final coffin nail, let me offer the below quote from J. W. Gonce III in ‘The Necronomicon Files’:

“the [magical] community is going through twin phases of scientific futurism and historical revisionism — simultaneously reaching forward into the future and back to the ancient past. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, men like Roger Bacon, Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Dr. John Dee could be both scientists and magicians… While technology is not synonymous with science, the two are closely associated and the growing scientific bias of modern occultism has encouraged many [magic] users to become technology users as well.“

So, with this in mind, if one is to give their practice a similar shape to that of the hallowed Renaissance magicians mentioned above, technology should not be shunned by the practitioner, instead its place understood and recognized as a part of who we are as 21st. c magicians.

IMBRICATIONS

I’m pretty happy with this week’s imbrications, they all are fairly well suited to our tale for this week. First up, we have the uber-fuzz group, Monolord, with their tune, Icon. As we will see, icons play an interesting role in our tale and allow us to make some  new connections through time depth.

Our next offering is from the incomparable and seemingly immortal Ice-T. This early video, while out-of-context for our tale, nevertheless shares the same archetype, and symbol that has its roots in the very deepest parts of the collective human psyche.

And finally, the real treat, I present to you Necronomidol. I found this group by plugging in the name of one of the implied antagonists of the tale, The Starry Wisdom cult. Necronomidol are a bit like Baby Metal, but with a clear and positive vector into the work of HP Lovecraft. They even have a song called ‘Starry Wisdom’, but after careful review and consultation with my long-time collaborator, Ghostly Harmless, their track Abhoth is a better introduction. I could really listen to these girls forever, they are that good.

THE FEAST DAY OF ROBERT BLAKE

Our Lovecraft tale for this week is the last one in my collection, The Haunter of the Dark, published in 1936. The atmosphere brought alive by the prose is quite distinct, most likely due to the fact that it takes place in Lovecraft’s native Providence, and without any masking of the landmarks or scenes. For this final offering he gives us a largely unblemished glimpse of the town he called home. 

To help set the scene in our minds, I found the below video from 1947. I realize that ten years can be a long time, but things moved slower back then, to some extent, so I think the video gives us a good idea of the Providence we will be taken through. The video gets to Providence around the 1:50 min mark and even takes us on a short tour of Brown University, just a few blocks from where the primary scenes in Haunter play out.

Throughout this exercise, I have been identifying real places, real gates that one can walk through when performing Lovecraftian rites, real landscapes to visit. While this tale might be very familiar to Lovecraft scholars, it is all fairly new to me, so imagine my surprise and delight when I found that one of the Lovecraftian gates is located right here in Milwaukee, WI. The protagonist of the tale is one Robert Blake, described in the following manner by Lovecraft:

“Cautious investigators will hesitate to challenge the common belief that Robert Blake was killed by lightning… For after all, the victim was a writer and painter wholly devoted to the field of myth, dream, terror, and superstition, and avid in his quest for scenes and effects of a bizarre, spectral sort. His earlier stay in the city — a visit to a strange old man as deeply given to occult and forbidden lore as he — had ended amidst death and flame, and it must have been some morbid instinct which drew him back from his home in Milwaukee.”

Jumping to the end of the tale, one of the final entries in Blake’s diary, a trope used by Lovecraft to draw us further into the narrative, self-reports Blake’s address in Milwaukee, one 620 Knapp Street, located on Yankee Hill between downtown and the lower east side. This address, when it was still extant, was the home of a teenage Robert Bloch, the author of Psycho

Blake, having moved to Providence, is reported to live in an apartment behind the John Hay Library, in the College Hill neighborhood. From the description of the home, the real life location is probably 44 College Street, the mention of the monitor roof and the Georgian style of Blake’s domicile point to this location over other choices on the same block. 

From this campus apartment, Blake is reported to have written five short stories; The Burrower Beneath, The Stairs in the Crypt, Shaggai, In the Vale of Pnath, and The Feaster from the Stars; and to have painted several accompanying canvases. When seeking inspiration, Blake the writer would turn a telescope onto the rest of Providence, his apartment on College Hill giving him a location on one of the highest hills where he could survey the rest of the city. One particular area of reoccuring interest was the Federal Hill neighborhood to the West, and in particular, one structure standing above the immigrant neighborhood of Federal Hill:

“Of all the distant objects on Federal Hill, a certain huge, dark church most fascinated Blake… The style, so far as the glass could shew, was that earliest experimental form of Gothic revival which preceded the stately Upjohn period and held over some of the outlines and proportions of the Georgian age. Perhaps it was reared around 1810 or 1815.”

Now, the editor of my collection calls this church out as the Cathedral of Saint John, and while the time period indicated fits, this church is not in the Federal Hill Area. I assert that it is, instead, the Holy Ghost Church, while not fitting the narrator’s timeline, does fit the architectural style, particularly ‘the outlines and proportions of the Georgian Age’ as well as being in the heart of the Federal Hill neighborhood. To me, this is a better match. It’s architectural features are closer and its tower is much more ‘spire’ like. The Cathedral of Saint John has a steeple, but it also has a large clock embedded in it. I don’t believe that Lovecraft would have left this detail out if Saint John’s was indeed the inspiration for Haunter in the Dark. 

Haunter moves through time, an interesting device of Lovecraft’s, whose stories normally take around half a year to run their course. Walpurgisnact is once again mentioned. For Lovecraftian Magic, I believe this is one of the more powerful times of the year as he is always returning to it in his tales. It is on Walpurgisnacht that Blake, his morbid curiosity having reached its peak, moves from his perch on College Hill to investigate the blackened and deserted church on Federal Hill that had become his obsession:

“At last he saw the tower plain against the southwest, and a huge stone bulk rose darkly at the end of an alley. Presently he stood in a windswept square, quaintly cobblestoned, with a high bank wall on the farther side. This was the end of his quest; for upon the wide, iron-railed, weed-grown plateau which the wall supported — a separate, lesser wall raised a full six feet above the surrounding streets — there stood a grim, titan bulk whose identity, despite Blake’s new perspective, was beyond dispute… Acting almost without conscious initiative, [finding his way to an open cellar window,] Blake crawled through… and let himself down to the dust carpeted and debris-strewn concrete floor. The vaulted cellar was a vast one, without partitions; and in the corner far to the right, amid dense shadows, he saw a black archway evidently leading upstairs."

This quote brings to my memory my experiences in that old church on Milwaukee’s north side, where a corridor was dug between the basement of a back kitchen and the main cellar of the convent. In the dirt tunnel, smashed into the walls, were huge religious icons no longer in use, that gazed at you as you moved through the corridor to the Convent basement. In that basement were more statues, of Mary, Christ, and Saints, placed randomly in a huge vaulted space, covered with dust. That was all the further I had the courage to explore. The convent was a sort of half-way house for criminally inclined women and was run by nuns. I wasn’t keen on being caught in a dark space beneath the institution. I don’t think the saints would have been much help. It is funny how ubiquitous Lovecraft is in one’s life, once one knows where to look.

Once inside the church and out of the cellar, things really start to get interesting:

“Over all [the] hushed desolation played a hideous leaden light as the declining afternoon sun sent its rays through the strange, half-blackened panes of the great apsidal windows… The designs were largely conventional… The few saints depicted bore expression distinctly open to criticism, while one of the windows seemed to shew merely a dark space with spirals of curious luminosity scattered about in it. Turning away from the windows, Blake noticed that the cobwebbed cross above the altar was not of the ordinary kind, but resembled the primoridal ankh… of shadowy Egypt.”

If it isn’t already, it will soon become clear that the archetype for the Haunter in the Dark is that most esoteric and mysterious of Tarot Trumps, The Tower. And with The Tower, we have the deeper archetype of Saint Barbara. The mix of Saintly iconography with Egyptian symbolism calls up the socio-religious environment that Saint Barbara would have found herself in. A pagan land and family, with pagan roots very close to Egypt and sharing many instantiations of the same spirit beings, mingled with early Christian saints, or at that time, they would have just been considered martyrs, martyrs that preceded her out of that pagan-ruled world. The description of the iconography in the church is also an embodiment of the grimoire, which mixes the binding of demons and their horrible visages and prayers to angels and other celestial spirits. Let’s follow Blake and continue our investigation of this unholy place:

“In a rear vestry room… Blake found a rotting desk and ceiling high shelves of mildewed, disintegrating books… He had himself read many of them — A Latin version of the abhorred Necronomicon, the sinister Liber Ivonis, the infamous Cultes des Goules of COmte d’Erlette, the Unaussprechlichen Kulten of von Junzt, and the old Ludvig Prinn’s hellish De Vermis Mysteriis… the Pnakotic Manuscripts, the Book of Dzyan, and a crumbling volume in wholly unidentifiable characters yet with certain symbols and diagrams shudderingly recognizable to the occult student... In the ruined desk was a small leather-bound record-book filled with entires in some odd cryptographic medium. The manuscript writing consisted of the common traditional symbols used today in astronomy and anciently in alchemy, astrology, and other dubious arts — the devices of the sun, moon, planets, aspetcs, and zodiacal signs — here massed in solid pages of text, with divisions and paragraphings suggesting that each symbol answered to some alphabetical letter.”

This sounds very much like a qaballistic table of correspondence. This entry reveals that Lovecraft understood the great importance of exact timing, those tables that are found in many an extant grimoire, and the importance of a magician keeping a personal written record of her experiments. Blake continues his exploration, taking us up into the Tower itself:

“when he attained the top of the stairs he found the tower chamber vacant of chimes, and clearly devoted to vastly different purposes… The room, about fifteen feet square, was faintly lighted by four lancet windows, one on each side, which were glazed within their screening of decaying louver-boards. These had been further fitted with tight opaque screens… In the centre of the dust-laden floor rose a curiously angled stone pillar some four feet in height and two in average diameter, covered on each side with bizarre, crudely incised, and wholly unrecognizable hieroglyphs. On this pillar rested a metal box… its interior holding what looked beneath the… dust to be an egg-shaped… object some four inches through. Around the pillar… were seven high-baked Gothic chairs… while behind them, ranging along the dark-panelled walls, were seven colossal images… resembling more than anything else the cryptic carven megaliths of mysterious Easter Island.”

The Easter Island connection is super interesting, but really it only can be in a post Star.Ships universe. It isn’t too far of a jump to view the hieroglyphics mentioned above as characters from Rongorongo script. This opens up a whole new wide statue lined avenue for Lovecraftian magic and, with a vector connecting Gordon White’s Star.Ships, it really does increase the mythos’ reach in timedepth to well before the dawn of man.

Another method of magical practice that is revealed here is the operations of crystal gazing and using crystals as spirit traps, which appears to be the Starry Wisdom cults primary method of divination and spirit contact. Blake finds such a stone, a trapezohedron (ten sided die for those of us in-the-know), and is deeply effected by it:

“Blake choked and turned away from the stone, conscious of some formless alien presence… watching him… He felt entangled with something — something which was not in the stone, but which had looked through it at him — something which would ceaselessly follow him with a cognition that was not physical sight.”

Along with the inferences to Rongorongo, the fictional language, Aklo, is mentioned in the tale, connecting it [unsurprisingly] to the work of Arther Machen in Lovecraft’s past and to Robert Anton Wilson and the Illuminati in Lovecraft’s future. The spirit contained inside the trapezohedron, or rather, viewing Blake through it, is the Haunter in the Dark. This spirit, according to the pilfered magical diary of the Starry Wisdom cult leader, shuns any type of light. This is a very Solomonic thing to say, actually. I’ve read several times in the Clavicula that the spirits the books are designed to summon also shun the light and can only be effectively invoked at night and in the dark.

The tale ends on August 9th, which in our new Lovecraftian system will be known as the Feast Day of Robert Blake. On the night of August 8th, there is a black out in Providence, something Blake had feared would happen for a long time. This lack of any light in the city set things in motion in the black tower of the ruined church. The narrator recounts that a crowd of men gathered and that one of them ‘roused Father Merluzzo of Spirito Santo Church…”, further evidence that I have the location of the tale right, for Spirito Santo is a cognate for Church of the Holy Ghost, and why would Lovecraft encode its name in the tale otherwise? The night progresses into early morning, as the narrator recounts:

“For what happened at 2:35 we have the testimony of the priest, a young intelligent, and well-educated person; of Patrolman William J Monahan of the Central Station, an officer of the highest reliability who had paused at that part of his beat to inspect the crowd; and of most of the seventy-eight men who had gathered around the church’s high back wall…”

Time of the tin foil hat again, why seventy-eight men, here, in his last published story? Are they all of the cards in Lovecraft’s tarot? Gathered at last to witness the coming of the end:

“It started with a definite swelling of the dull fumbling sounds inside the black tower… Then at last there was a sound of splintering wood, and a large, heavy object crashed down in the yard beneath the frowning easterly facade… Not knowing what happened [the watchers] did not relax their vigil; and a momen later they sent up a prayer as a sharp flash of belated lightning… rent the flooded heavens… IT seems that the great lightning flash and deafening explosion which followed the Federal Hill occurrence were even more tremendous farther east, where a burst… was… noticed… over College Hill, where the crash awaked all the sleeping inhabitants and led to a bewildered round of speculations…”

The Tower and the accompanying lighting in the end of the tale are near transparent nods to the tarot trump of that name. In most any deck you inspect, there will be three windows in the tower, fire and lightning and ruin. This, in turn, and possibly unknown to Lovecraft, is also a path directly to the story of Saint Barbara. Investigate for yourself, her tale from The Golden Legend of William Caxton:

‘Dioscorus had a young daughter which was named Barbara, for whom he did do make a high and strong tower in which he did do keep and close this Barbara, to the end that no man should see her because of her great beauty… St. Barbara… descended from the tower for to come see the work of her father, and anon she perceived that there were but two windows only… she… demanded of the workmen why they had not made no more windows, and they answered that her father had so commanded… Then St. Barbara said to them: Make me here another window… On a time this blessed maid went upon the tower, and there she beheld the idols to which her father sacraficed and worshiped, and suddenly she received the Holy Ghost and became marvellously subtle and clear in the love of Jesu Christ… This holy maid Barbara, adorned with faith, surmounted the devil, for when she beheld  the idols she scratched them in their visages in despising them all… And then she went into the tower and worshipped our Lord. And when the work was full performed, her father returned… and… demanded… Wherefore have ye made three windows… Then he made his dauther to come afore him, and demanded her why she had do make three windows, and she answered… I have done them to be made because three windows lighten all the world and all creatures, but two make darkness.”

and in the end of the Saint’s tale, the fate of her pagan torturer father:

“and when this was said, she came to her father and received the end of her martydom… But when her father descended from the mountain, a fire from heaven descended on him, and consumed him in such wise that there could not be found only ashes of all his body.”

The Tower in the tarot very likely connects to much deeper stories, such as the Tower of Babel, which Lovecraft also connects with through the references of Aklo and the alleged Rongorongo script found inside his black tower. It also connects to another blackened tower, the very first tower ever built, at least according to current archelogical records, the Neolithic Tower of Jericho.

In closing, let’s look at our Ettellia deck and the traditional meaning of the Tower for any final connections. Number 19 in Ettellia’s deck, the number of the Metonic cycle, Ettellia’s Tower Card is named ‘Le Temple Foudroye’, or The Storm Temple. The Haunter of the Dark was reported as a type of blackness against a blackened sky that called down lightning. His keywords are Misere in the upright position and Prison in the reversed. Misery, from Latin miseria, means wretchedness, or one in a condition of mental distress. This was certainly Robert Blake near the end, as his diaries attest. Prison, from early 12 c Old French, is an altered form of prize and is related to captivity. Saint Barbara, due to her beauty, was considered to be a prize to be won, which was the initial reason her father had the tower built, to keep her from any suitors. Her subsequent conversion to Christianity turned the Tower into a real prison, not just a place to keep her out of sight. 

The traditional meaning of the card, from Holistic Tarot, is a downfall as a result of ambition. Blake expressed ambition and obsession when he entered the church, climbed the tower, and woke the Haunter in the Dark. There are, however, new revelations that come after the jolt, or lightning strike, which we find in the tale as well as Blake’s diary entries are investigated. On a more personal note, Wen states that the Tower can also represent an incredibly capable, highly intelligent individual that is fully aware of their capabilities and intelligence, but is cut down to a point lower than their perceived station. This was true of Lovecraft in life, certainly, always writing parts of himself into stories as a scholar and professor, despite never having been able to attend the university at his literal doorstep. In the end, not long after the Haunter in the Dark was published, Lovecraft was cut down by a darkness against another darkness, cut down by cancer in the literal prime of his life and, if this story is any gauge, at the top of his literary game.