Is it possible to be a magician if you fear change? How many spells have been cast to keep things exactly how they are?
Life has been pretty decent lately. The weather has turned, the stress levels have dissipated although I have this tendency to add more wood to that fire instead of kicking back and letting things ride. I’m always pushing, and I’m not sure why. I could say it is for my family but that would only be a half-truth. My intelligent and loving wife comes along for the ride sure, and the kids are now in the back seat, but I’m the one driving, always driving. In the real and in the metaphysical. In my short career, I’ve never cast a spell to keep things the same.
I’ve got this working theory about sigils though, that has been spinning around in my head. I have probably mentioned it before. I really think that sigil results are tied directly to when our brains naturally, passively bring past ‘learning’ back to the surface for a visit from our subconscious. I encountered this when I, after 17 or so years working as a tradesman, finally got into a four year college program. College involves a lot of cramming of information in your head in a short amount of time. Committing and encoding tons of data into short term memory.
I found, that for me, almost a year later, to the day, that information would bubble (it is the most apt description) out of my subconscious where it was stored after moving out of my short term memory, into my waking life. This was most pronounced in my studies in American Indian Linguistics, Japanese, and Spanish, in language learning. I have been able to tie a run of good fortune at work directly to sigils I encoded (I am starting to think this is a better word than cast, or ensigil) a year ago, just a few months into my new magical rennaissance. I (nearly) firmly believe that the subconscious (almost passive) phenomenon of learned knowledge coming back to the foremind spontaneously is the same mechanism that allows sigils to work. I don’t have any evidence, but I imagine that this time frame is different for everyone, for me it is exactly a year, for others it might be six months, or three months, I don’t know. All I know is that if my theory is correct, I need to shift my sigilmancy towards manipulating where I want to be a year from now.
This would explain why my ‘emergency’ sigiling almost always falls flat. The data (no, I haven’t tracked it, but I have ideas how) tells me that I am unable to budge the probability matrix in the short term, it just doesn’t work. This means that sigils take a long term strategy, require that I look out and ask myself, where do I want my family to be this time next year. It changes things. Sigils always change things. Magic always changes things.
And with change inevitably comes fear. Phil Hine (I warned you last week, there will be a lot of Hine’s work in the next few posts) talks about this fear, that specific magician’s fear, when he states:
“At times, the magician may find [herself] struggling with fear; a refusal to accept inevitable change and the consequences of [her] flight to the edge of consensus reality.”
Lovecraft’s protagonists’ always accept change. Fear is a barrier and there is never an instance where a barrier remains forever in Lovecraft’s work. Fear as the barrier is represented by the door or gate in Lovecraft’s tales. The tower, perhaps, is the ritual, the long climb through the dark to the top most chamber, at which contact with the spirit world takes place. Through Lovecraft we are able to understand better the true nature of spirit contact in the real world. Despite the accounts to the contrary on the old Inter Galactic Computer Network, I am of the opinion that 1) Physical manifestations of spirit forms is extremely rare and 2) spirits, other than the human dead, reach out to us on a massive scale, just not in a way that we can recognize because of the sheer un-humaneness of the spirit ecology. The Psuedonomicon states that:
“In the course of working with [Lovecrafitan Spirit Forms], strange perceptions and ideation’s shift through the cracks of linear perception; bubbles which at first are faintly disturbing, yet which may loom threateningly with an obsessive fervor. Odd suspicions begin to gather... Everyday objects... become imbued with a power and purpose... Half-seen shapes flicker at the corners of your eyes.”
The first sign that Lovecraftian Magic is beginning to disrupt your reality is the shadow people, those rare spirit forms that have adapted to regular contact, and the shifting around of inanimate objects, glitches in the matrix and the presence of agents seen in the code. It is up to us to learn to recognize their ‘un-human-ness’. Again from Hine:
“A key to survival when such states creep upon you is to be there fully, yet at the same time... catalogue them.”
The Psuedonomicon, on more than one occassion, likens the magician to a collector or librarian. We are, as Lovecraftian magicians, archivists of improbability and madness. In our role as archivists we can map the ecology of Lovecratian Spirit forms through creating a Taxonomy of Improbabilities. The two finest ways to engage with / align ourselves with the natural improbabilities in our world are through dreaming and sigils. The following passages from the Psuedonomicon were enlightening to me. I have been attempting to sigil for spirit contact, framing that contact as an almost rational manifestation in my reality. The Pduedonomicon combines dreaming and sigils in a way that could optimize exposure and allow the magician to reap a larger harvest of experience:
“One of the simplest approaches to dream control is to use a graphic or mantric sigil, prior to sleeping... Keeping a dream diary is essential to this kind of work. The use of linked associations with scents [can also produce lucid dreams]. Sigils, images and magical objects found in dreams can also be used, in order to try and explore them further. If you have a particularly interesting dream sequence, try using it as a conscious path working performed on the edge of sleep you may find That the sequence is continued as your dream…”
Improbability can be constructed, or summoned, into our in-the-real, through the use of aleatory art, music, or action, according to Hine. An assertion that I agree with. Within a specific magical context:
“The use of strange words of power, barbaric names and twisted languages is also a recurring theme in [Lovecraftian Magic]. The rapid delivery of vowel / consonant sounds at random (glossolalia) can be used to develop a route to gnosis which can climax in possession by nameless masks which speak in words bursts. If such an exercise is practiced with a particular intention, then you develop your own power words for a wide variety of use an application… “The construction of [Frenzy] is rare in western magic where total abandonment is extremely difficult to achieve, particularly in a group setting, where spontaneity and abandonment tend to clash with the linear sequencing of most ritual arrangements. There have been a few experiments in ordered group work arising from chaotic flow... A combination of whirling, low-frequency strobe lights, tape-effects, masks, and sudden shifts in pace of ‘ritual flow’ have been found useful... The sense of unpredictability can be heightened if... not all celebrants know what to expect during the ceremony...”
The use of Tape Effects and Aleatory Tape Music in general is very attractive to me personally. Talismanic audio cassettes played through samplers and effects pedals during more structured rituals could achieve the best of both worlds, as there are very few traditional grimoires that dictate there must be strict silence during a ritual.
I’ve gone on too long about this, let’s take a little break.
The second mystery of the Cthulhu Trinity connects in a number of pretty surprising ways. Our imbrications for this week help to illustrate that, even if some of us might have to squint to see the edges.
First up we have an mellow and haunting tune performed by the Little Unsaid, and as a bonus for those of us that are hopeless necromantic, it is performed at what is argued to be one of the most beautiful cemetery in the world. Here is The Little Unsaid with their song, Fisher King, performed live at Highgate Cemetery:
Let’s take up the mellow hipster vibe, just a notch, and tap into a live offering from a group by the name of Nodens Ictus. You might know the members of this group better as part of the pinnacle of psych rock bands, Ozric Tentacles:
And finally, what sounds like a blast from the past but is really just a contemporary metal band doing it right. Here is Holy Grail with their joint, Sudden Death:
THE INTERSTITIAL DEITY
Burleson’s work on Lovecraft, while a literary investigation, has passed me some of the best possible insights into constructing our singularly American magictype. He helped me understand our second mystery, quite well. For example, from Disturbing the Universe:
“the first thing that one notices about the text, after the title, is the colophon, telling us that the text was found among the notes of the (even more ominously) late Thurston. The colophon is... a self-referential comment... The maker of this comment... would seem to be a kind of exo-narrator...”
Exo-narration could be endemic to the Lovecraftian Magical Aesthetic. There is some tech here as well, a magical exercise where the sorcerer steps outside of her own life and narrates it as if it is being commented on by a third party. This commentary can include specific intentions, future events, improbability enhancement, etc. Burleson continues pulling on this thread when he states:
“We see the repellent Cthulhu through the prism of several layers of indirection.”
Keeping with the quality of encryption that Lovecraftian Magic requires, one of the qualities that distinctly sets it apart from other forms of Western Magic. He peels back all of the layers for us, revealing the text’s overall depth:
“The text itself relates the narrator Thurston’s relating of Professor Angell’s relating (through his notes, and among other matterrs) of Inspector Legrasse’s relating of the New Orleans cultists’ relating of the traditional handing-down of the telepathic impact of Cthulhu. Following another strand, we find an even deeper well of structure: the text’s relating of Thurston’s discovery of Angell’s written account of Legrasse’s exposure to Professor Webb’s remembered account of the account of the degenerate Esquimaux of the handed-down tradition of the telepathic impact of Cthulhu… We never quite get down to Cthulhu, but only to his long handed-down effects.”
This deep embededness is significant. It is like a form of historical trauma. Historical trauma is a great traumatic event that impacted our ancestors, and the changes that it made in them has reverberated down to the present day via a familial transmission of personality traits that would not have existed if it weren’t for that trauma. This is spirit contact manifested as historical trauma. The important part is it is still considered a form of contact in the Lovecraftian Magical aesthetic.
Tilting our head to the other side, Burleson changes the subject to that of fetish making and fetishists, or does he really?
“The fetishists, both in New Orleans and in Greenland, do not have their unseen octopoid master at hand but carven images of him, together with ancestrally transmitted lore... the scene of the [New Orleans] rites involves further nested structure. The statue of Cthulhu, upon its pedestal, rests inside a circular bonfire, outs of which a circle of celebrants dances, and farther out, beyond this revolving circle of dancers, stands a circle of ten gallows from which... human sacrifices hang.... The effect... seems to make Cthulhu central to a telescoped sequence... it is not Cthulhu who rests as a presence within the concentric circles, but his image.”
Through this week’s research I have begun to see fetishism as another form of encryption. Fetishism is a bridge across diverse cultures, connecting them at some point in time depth, encoding one message in a number of different forms, one significant to the Greenlandic Inuit and the other to the follower of Queen Marie in the swamps of New Orleans. When it is stated in ‘Disturbing the Universe’ that:
“We are structurally and linguistically separated from Cthulhu”
We should consider it significant to our practice.
The second part of The Call of Cthulhu is entitled ‘The Tale of Inspector Legrasse’ and takes place, through layers of ephemera and seemingly unconnected documents, in the swamps surround New Orleans, LA. The second mystery begins with a fetish:
“The statuette, idol, fetish, or whatever it was, had been captured some months before in the wooded swamps south of New Orleans during a raid on a supposed voodoo meeting; and so singular and hideous were the rites connected with it, that the police could not but realize that they had stumbled on a dark cult totally unknown to them, and infinitely more diabolic than even the [darkest] of African voodoo circles.”
For context, I offer below the entirety of a 1945 documentary containing footage of Voodoo Ceremonies in Haiti called Divine Horsemen. What we see here in Divine Horsemen is less than twenty years in the future from the time The Call of Cthulhu was written and, being that these traditions likely didn’t change altogether that much in such a short span of time, the film offers us an excellent from for the rites written about in the second mystery of the Cthulhu Trinity:
Lovecraft’s narrator, speaking for himself but with Legrasse’s tongue, comments on the inscription located on the Cthulhiod Fetish:
“The characters along the base were equally baffling; and no member present, despite a representation of half the world’s expert learning in this field, could form the least notion of even their remotest linguistic kinship...”
I assert, that instead of an alien language that no one is able to decipher, that this is, in fact, a form of encryption. Very much like the Voynich Manuscript or the Codex Seraphinainus.
The narration turns from Inspector Legrasse for a moment (this is so House of Leaves, isn’t it?) to a Professor Webb who, according to the text:
“had been engaged... in a tour of Greenland and Iceland... whilst high up on the West Greenland coast had encountered a singular tribe or cult of... Esquimaux...”
This is a (racist, please, don’t use the word Eskimo) reference to the Inuit People, of which nearly 90% of the country of Greenland are a member of. The Greenlandic Inuit have an art form that is primary to their culture that is called tupilaq, which translates as ‘evil spirit objects’. According to the wikipedia entry, tupilaqs were often made in secret, in isolated places, and of materials that were designed to degrade. Tupilaqs are fascinating and more study needs to be done then I have the time for here. Let’s put a pin in them to build into our toolkit in a non-appropriative way a bit later. The bit about Professor Webb also offers us two new spirits to wrestle with:
“Besides nameless rites and human sacrifices there were certain... rituals addressed to a supreme elder devil or tornasuk... Webb had taken a careful phonetic copy from an aged angekok or wizard-priest...”
Along with our location of new Orleans, we are given a new day for our Unholy Calendar, or rather, we are given increased significance to a well-known day of magic, All Saints Day.
Jumping a bit forward, we follow through our newsprint and enjournaled telescope, Inspector Legrasse once again as he and a posse of law enforcement officials investigate stories about a long form ritual coming from communities in the swamps:
“The region now entered by the police was one of traditionally evil repute, substantially unknown and untraversed by white men. There were legends of a hidden lake unglimpsed by mortal sight, in which dwelt a huge formless white polypous thing with luminous eyes; and squatters whispered that bat winged devils flew up out of caverns in inner earth to worship it at midnight. They said it had been there before D’iberville, before La Salle, before the Indians, and before even the wholsesome beasts and birds of the woods... it made men dream, and so they knew enough to keep away.”
The Bat Wing Devils are the Night Gaunts of the Dreamlands, and thus, this ‘white polypous’ thing is a manifestation of Nodens - This, along with the Greenlandic Inuit, is another vector between the Arctic Circle and the swamps of New Orleans.
Nodens is our second mystery. He appears in our tale, in the way that all Lovecraftian Spirit forms manifest, behind layers of darkness, guarded by our own fear and the shadow people that feed on it:
“It may have been only imagination and it may have been only echoes which induced one of the men, an excitable Spaniard, to fancy he heard antiphonal responses to the ritual from some far and unillumined spot deeper within the wood of ancient legendary and horror... He indeed went so far as to hint of the faint beating of great wings, and of a glimpse of shining eyes and a mountainous white bulk beyond the remotest trees...”
Nodens is many things, and not unique to Lovecraftian Magic, but his conceptualization is. I am certain that many will tell you that Nodens appears as an old man, that he is yet another anthropomorphized deity. Nodes is, like Cthulhu, an entity that rules over the waters of this planet. His name in Welsh, Nudd, means fog or mist, so he is also an arial entity, an interstitial deity. The mushroom is an interstitial entity as well, sharing most of its DNA with humans, yet living and destroying in the plant world. He is Mars and he is Neptune, and he is outside of the reality where both of these planetary spirits exist. He is a granter of curses and the keeper of the Holy Grail. He is the original Fisher King.
I argue that a manifestation of a giant white sentient polyp in the middle of the New Orleans cypress swamp and yet actively worship and ‘worked with’ by contemporary Greenlandic Inuit is the perfect blend of impossible. It is a clear set of branches in our Taxonomy of the Improbable and a model that we can grasp with both hands. When you have a spirit entity that manifests in our reality, you can bet that this series of unconnected yet inherently linked facts and practices is how true spirit contact manifest.
Our tarot card this week is Three of Coins. Nodens, as his cousins in timedepth the Titans also do, holds our reality on his shoulders. In the Sola-Busca we see that he is at once part of the trinity of coins as well as being the center pillar that holds up the Cthuloid Mysteries.
Our Etteilla deck reveal that he is a Noble, part of the royal family of ancient divinities, but is also an infant, so deep in time as to have no conception of modern man’s issues or trafficking in the realm of magic.
Noble, from the Latin nobilis, maps to well-known, splendid, superior, and is a child of the PIE root *gno-, making it kin of our first mystery, Gamaliel, the fountainhead of the most evil and depraved paths of gnosis. Infant, from the Latin infantem, connects to in-, the prefix marking of the opposite of something, and the PIE root *bha-, meaning to speak. Calling out in the swamp in a language unknown to all but him, speaking to humans who will never know his true nature, Nodens is a mute gnosis, a representation of the path of encryption.