The Cthulhu Trinity: Polyphemus

“If the great priest Cthulhu indeed calls to us from the deep, then it is from the unfathomable depths of language that he calls, and he speaks of the cryptic and eternal mysteries of texts.”

Donald Burleson: Disturbing the Universe

My definition of practice has expanded this week. That is the goal of re-enchantment, right? Of haunting your world? Where practice is defined by ever-widening brush strokes until everything takes on magical significance?

I’ve finally shifted into a model of sigil creation that I have been wanting to try for awhile now. All of the indicators and the theory of Hine in the Psuedonomicon have landed me in a place where the act of encoding or encrypting personal practice is of the utmost significance. Following this line I have started at the foundation of my practice, the only bit where I have had results yet that I can not cast doubt on, sigils. 

Hildagard de Bingen was big on encrypting her own practice, going so far as to create her own alphabet, the Lingua Ignota, and her own lexicon of terms that she plugged into her existing latin transcriptions. Hilda is a great mix of the mystic, the herbal hedgewitch, and the dreamer - she matches up with the Lovecraftian Aesthetic well. I’ve begun the process of writing out my sigil statements, and then encoding them into her Lingua Ignota, prior to sketching out the sigil itself. I still feel that timing is important for sigilmancy, so I am going to sit on these for a bit. Ghostly Harmless’ site ‘Luna’ indicates that the next prime day from this writing is today, June 2nd, the next day being June 7th and a Jackpot Day on June 13th.

The one realization I’ve made, or epiphany maybe, I don’t know, is the conjunction of intense physical activity and magical practice. Thus far practice has been in the quiet hours of the morning, in a quiet room, after some meditative breathing. This has normally taken place inside. It has been great weather this week in the morning so I have, for the first time for maybe two years (I’ve got small kids, all normal adulting is suspended for an indertiminate amount of time after kids happen) I got out into the wild, in the cool breeze and mist of the midwestern morning. I’ve ridden my bike along the river corridor trail and, in doing so, the parts in the Psuedonomicon about Lovecraftian Magic being an outside magic have stayed in my forebrain:

“[Lovecrafitan spirit forms display] a recurrent mythic theme; [they] have been cast forth from the earth and ‘forgotten’ by civilized humanity and its narrow, materialistic vision... while they may be forgotten, they are at the same time ever-present, lurking at the frontiers of order, in places where the wild power of nature can be felt. They are chaotic in the same way that Nature is chaotic... they retain their primal power since they cannot be ‘explained’... or anthropomorphized. They exist outside linear, sequential time, at the border of ‘Newton’s Sleep”

Newton’s sleep is a slippery term, first coined by William Blake in the phrase ‘May God keep us from single vision and Newton’s Sleep.’ Better men than I have tried to interpret the poet’s meaning here, landing on something about Newtown’s reliance on his own linear model of nature and the universe, a model disproved by the fractalization and seeming randomness of the river next to my house. The house is a linear space, the square edges of the room and the carpet I had been kneeling on. It is a clean un-Lovecraftian space and this type of American Magic needs the wildness to obscure the ‘materialistic vision,’ to place the magician closer to the frontier between order and chaos.

There are a number of bridges across the river as well, and this morning (I don’t know why I didn’t realize this before) I connected the bridge over water as one of the most potent types of crossroads. A crossing of avenues of movement, of energy, and an interstitial space between the water and the land. Bridges are a perfect Lovecraftian Magic crossroads, I feel. The connection to the waters of the world being so strong in the author’s oeuvre. I’ve been communicating with this small river, and the other bodies of water in the area. Its been one-way communication but it hasn’t been overtly rejected. This is where I will cast my sigils, haunting the hell out of this river near my house, making its very movement the rhythm of my own practice. The physical activity I engage in on the way is a method of preparing myself, for just like meditative breathing, and perhaps more effectively, intense exercise brings calm and focus to the mind, the necessary space for the magician. This is the intensity of Pan, a very active deity that represents the human’s fear of the wild. Again from Hine:

“An early depiction of Pan shows himself hurling himself... upon a young goatherd. This image calls to mind the relationship between fear, [repulsion], and desire... Philippe Borgeaud, in his book, The Cult of Pan in Ancient Greece (Chicago Press, 1998), makes the point that Pan ‘typically attacks a model of order and disrupts it.’ One of the underlying themes in the classical mythos of Pan is the possibility of creative derangement, of moving from one state to another... The threat of Pan is ever-present, and he can leap on you anytime, any place - as William Burroughs says, the sudden realization that everything is alive and significant.”

Pan is probably the earliest Godform called out by Lovecraft in his fiction, preceding most of his mythos. Lovecraft was a lifelong pagan (critics == dismissed, his real truth is in his fiction) and his Pagan journey began with Pan and walking the late nineteenth century forests of New England as a young boy. The bit about Pan being able to invoke ‘creative derangement’ is a fit for this as well. One can easily imagine a young Lovecraft, admidst unspoiled woods, being set upon by Pan and infected with a panspermic derangement of the imagination. 

Pan might well be the chief architect of the entire Cthulhu mythos. The force that attacks the order of the Newtonian universe and fully disrupts it.

The Psuedonomicon continues this theme when it is stated that:

[Lovecraftian Magic manifests] into our world through ‘gateways,’ and... these gateways are often in wild, lonely places... entangled with local myth and folklore.”

Lending strength to the notion that paying attention to, or ‘working with,’ local spirits is the best way to begin a cascade of enchantment towards a Lovecraftian aesthetic. Lovecraftian spirits are alien to urbanity and architecture (which is why they pervert it), but clearly not absent from it. Their presence is more acutely felt, in fact, when they are amongst the stacking concrete ape-caves that we live and work in. They are the disruption to the modern world’s sense of imposed order. They are the disruption of empire, totalitarianism, and other manufactured value systems that deeply impact the natural world. As such, they are easier to contact in an urban environment because they stand out so clearly. It is often argued the the city is the last place spirit-forms can be found, that spirit-contact driven magic is next to impossible amongst the bustle of humanity. I disagree, for this is like saying that urbanism is separate from nature, which is an anthropocentric narcissism. Any natural space will have it’s own spirits. Here is Hine, speaking on the Genius Loci:

“The gestalt of [gateway sites is an] encapsulation of its ecology (terrain, plants, animal movements, seasonal changes, atmosphere, history, myth...) and the consciousness of those who [have entered] the space... commonly known as the Genius Loci... In approaching [gateways sites] The most useful thing you can do... is keep quiet and listen... mesh yourself within it - become a part of it. To find a gate and enter it is not a matter of ritual form, but of entering a state of consciousness.”

The arguments surrounding the need for quiet pristine eden-like nature are almost always tied to ritual. In our context, ritual only serves to assist the mage in finding the right headspace, as Lovecraftian Spirit Forms do not hear when human’s call any more than a bull hear’s a single fly landing on his back. This is borne out in our fiction-as-grimoire. In fact, Lovecraft even offers us a way to project ourselves from an industrialized or urban space into the Genius Loci layered on top of or beneath it, a method described as hypernostalgia:

“a state of consciousness described by Lovecraft... is characterized by an intense sense of nostalgia for that which has long vanished [before the mage herself had ever existed]... This hyper-nostalgia is directionless... a longing for something which, while lost, remains unknowable.”

The other frontier of Lovecraftian Magic can also be reached anywhere, even the middle of a twenty-second century anime megalopolis. This frontier is dreaming:

“One on the most common routes into the gnosis of [Lovecraftian Magic] is through dreaming… In… The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath… [The Dreamlands] have points of contact with the physical world, and could be used to access places of forbidden mystery… elements of an idealized past, fantasy, and the fear of what lies unseen on the borders of this space, serve to create and maintain this [spirit space].”

The nested worlds of our own Dreamlands and the Collective Dreamland imbricate on top of our physical world. Cemeteries, Towers, Libraries and Tunnels are four of the primary urban physical spaces in the Lovecraftian Magical Aesthetic that offer access to the Dreamlands, (caves, deep deciduous forests or swamps being their ‘natural’ counterparts) which in turn, offer access to most Lovecraftian Spirit Forms (such as Night Gaunts [Lovecraft’s Shadow People] and Ghouls [HPL’s Dogmen, which are typically helpful to the dreamer]). One of the most basic practices of Lovecraftian Magic is to journey to spaces like this, in order to find the door or gate. There is always a barrier that needs to be passed through, often with great effort. And once we have passed through them into the nested dreamscape, we once again return to the beginning, to encryption, or to be more specific, the encryption of dream-texts. I adore the following quote from the Psuedonomicon on the most famous of dream books:

“[The] Necronomicon [is a grimoire that has] escaped from the Library of Dream [and has since] appeared in different editions, each purporting to be the ‘real’ thing.”

This is a great explanation of the different models of the Necronomicon in the wild now. Books in dreams, those from the ‘Library of Dream,’ are notorious for having contents that are ever shifting and impossible to recall. If the Necronomicon has escaped into the real, it manifesting as conflicting instantiations would be in keeping with its true nature as it would manifest on the physical plane. Hine takes this line further when he states:

“The idea of Astral books… is well-known to occultists… The book is most commonly seen as a repository of knowledge... For the Present, however, a recurrent dream image where forbidden lore may be encountered is the astral library, where books themselves may be considered sentient… this type of information retrieval [is] a process of meshing new information gestalts whilst in a state of gnosis... the use of sigils... can be used to establish a beachhead... which can be used to weave the appropriate psychocosm.”

And so, through the natural world, even (and maybe especially) as it exists next to, beneath, and despite of our proin metus somnium we are able to blindly feel around our Platonic cave, find portals to dream sight, are presented with knowledge from the library of dream, and bring that gnosis back in an encrypted state, following the path of decryption into multiple conflicting instantiations as a primary ritual of our Lovecraftian Magical Aesthetic.


This concept of divine blindness will come up later in our discussion of the third mystery of the Cthulhu Trinity. Let’s take a bit of a break, get up, walk over to the stereo, and turn up our first imbrication to, at the very least, a volume that will make our neighbor’s ears bleed.

The third mystery is, in a way, a contemplation of the one elemental force that is a primary metaphor for the hidden knowledge in Lovecraftian Magic, the ocean. In fact, my recent trip to San Francisco and my bit of sigilmancy on the pier of the Fort Mason Center, watching the Mother of Waters swell and reach for me, is what inspired me to grapple with this most famous of Lovecraft’s tales in the first place. Our next imbrication is a primary force in the evolution of human music grappling with the progenitor of all life, both spirit and corporeal:

And finally, a real treat, keeping within the thematic elements of our third mystery, here is Dethklok, with a live offering. Dethklok, for those unaware, is a group that primarily lives in the imagination and manifest nearly always in their own cartoon world (and are such, a type of fictional [which in our context means no less real] spirit form). Here they are, however, crossing the barrier between the imaginal and the real, with a live offering of their joint, ‘Into the Water’:


I’d like to begin our descent into the final madness of Cthulhu by using Burleson’s ‘Disturbing the Universe,’ once again, to frame our discussion. His insights are quite fitting to the context which we already have in place. The Call of Cthulhu, through Burleson analysis, is in itself an encrypted text, much like its primary propheteer, the Necronomicon. From ‘Disturbing the Universe’:

“We begin to see, in the bizarre intertwining and nesting of the [text], what the text may mean, self-referentially, by a description of a geometry that is ‘all wrong.’ For wrong we can read ‘irreducible to simple, stable terms.’… Cthulhu is himself framed, indeed is framed several times over: enclosed, bordered by various levels of narration. The notion of a frame or border raises serious problems. A frame both encloses (controls, seals off, exercises dominance over) what it encloses and antithetically, highlights and draws liberating attention to the character of what it attempts to enclose… ‘The Call of Cthulhu,’ the preposition ‘of’ is ambiguous. Primarily one takes it to suggest... Cthulhu... will call telepathically to his faithful... Yet ‘of’ may be read such that call suggests the gerund ‘calling’... the making of Cthulhu into that which is called forth... This bidirectionally of calling... Cthulhu calls and is called... establishes a movement across boundaries and into and out of frames.”

As has been stated, boundaries are the primary feature of the Lovecraftian Magical Aesthetic. I will reiterate (because it is important for our study) practice of this form is designed to smash boundaries, as so many are destroyed or traversed in Lovecraft’s oeuvre. Cthulhu is the pinnacle of metaphors describing the act of traversing boundaries.

We use Lovecraftian Magic to find, pass through, and destroy the boundaries between the human and the unreal. 

and through regular practice of Lovecraftian Magic:

“borders become self-destructing.”

Burleson deconstructs the name of Lovecraft’s primary monster, offering us more insight:

“in Greek... Katholous (from kata-, ‘according to,’ and hollow, a form of holos, ‘whole’ means ‘in general’ and of course is responsible for the word catholic in the sense of ‘universal’... Cthulhu [is described] as a ‘great priest’... here again we arrive at the subversion of containment within borders or frames... If Cthulhu partakes of universality, then he is not confinable, and one sees that the structural frames of the text end up being not so much boundaries as... knowledge-conducting interfaces which transmit Cthulhu in and out and across… “The Call of Cthulhu [is] an exploration of the... nature of borders, of distances, of insides and outside, of the simultaneous necessity and impossibility of centers, of the tendency of textuality to deal in absences that are more powerful than presences. If the great priest Cthulhu indeed calls to us from the deep, then it is from the unfathomable depths of language that he calls, and he speaks of the cryptic and eternal mysteries of texts.”

In fact, we begin the third mystery through the contemplation of an improbable piece of ephemera discovered by our narrator who had, since his investigations of LeGrasse’s encounter of the periphery of Nodens, had allowed his fervor to calm:

“If Heaven ever wishes to grant me a boon, it will be a total effacing of the results of a mere chance which fixed my eye on a certain stray piece of shelf-paper. It was nothing on which I would naturally have stumbled in the course of my daily round, for it was an old number of an Australian journal, the Sydney Bulletin for April 18, 1925. It had escaped even the cutting bureau which had the time of its issuance been avidly collecting material for my uncle’s research.”

As is the way of the Gnome School, I attempted to track down for you, dear readers, a copy of the Sydney Bulletin for April 1925 by contacting the National Library of Australia. I was partially unsuccessful, but mad props to the librarian (to all librarians, actually) for the information I was given. I haven’t the name of the Reference Librarian that helped me out, but here is the result of my inquiry into acquiring a digital copy of the improbable piece of ‘shelf-paper’ that our protagonist found:

“Thank you for contacting the National Library of Australia regarding an April 1925 edition of the Bulletin.

As you may know, the Library is in the process of digitizing the Bulletin, and you can browse copies online here.

For various reasons, the issues have not been digitized chronologically, and unfortunately there is a gap in the 1925 issues, including April (see attached screenshot).

I checked our hard copy holdings only to find that the April 1925 dates are marked as "in use." They are in fact in the digitization process now and will be available online in the near future. I can't give a time frame for this process, as it will include digitizing several issues as part of the batch, quality control and uploading.

Unfortunately 1925 is not on microfilm, so we can't send you the correct reels.

For information, when journals have been digitized, they are available to browse through Trove , and can be searched via this website.”


So I’m afraid all I can offer is a feel for the type of prose and imagery our protagonist was poring over, and not the actual content. It is curious (read: suspicious) that the April 1925 copy is inexplicably ‘in use,’ whereas the issues adjacent to it are already digitized. Is there a Cthulhiod Conspiracy here? Have the Illuminati infiltrated the National Library of Australia? I’ll leave that up to The Higherside Chats to investigate. For now, let’s move deeper into our Ocean of Texts.

The April ’25 issue of the Bulletin recounts an interview (our protagonist recounts a found text recounting an interviewer’s version of the experience of a man…) with a man rescued from being recently lost and sea:

“This man, after recovering his senses, told an exceedingly strange story... He is Gustaf Johansen, a Norwegian of some intelligence... second mate of the two-masted schooner Emma of Auckland... “The Emma... was delayed and thrown widely south... and on March 22nd in S. Latitude 49 51, W. Longitude 128 34… under Johansen’s command, the men sight a great stone pillar sticking out of the sea, and in S. Latitude 47 9, W Longitude 126 43 came upon a coast-line of mingled mud, ooze, and weedy Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less that the tangible substance of earth’s supreme terror the nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh, that was built in measureless aeons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars.”

It is tempting to think of R’lyeh as the Third Mystery of the Cthulhu Trinity. As in The Call of Cthulhu, to make the Deep One as an entity that exists in the same way as Gamaliel or Nodens would not be in keeping with the true Lovecraftian Aesthetic. Cthulhu interacts with mankind only through their dreams and is buried, embedded in R’lyeh. R’lyeh is the physical manifestation of Cthulhu, not the monster itself. We will see, however, as we progress, that there is an even deeper way in which we can approach Cthulhu, a manner that is even more in step with our primary vehicle of engaging with the Cthulhu Trinity, encryption. For now, however, let’s move further into our tale:

“eight [seamen] under... Johansen proceeded to [the] small island, although none is known to exist in that part of the ocean; and six of the men somehow died ashore... falling into a rock chasm.”

This can only be the same island reference in the tale Dagon. We will move further into the Johansen’s account in a bit, but as the author moves in and out of nested texts, so should we, to keep our critical reading within a similar context. The narrator, his passion for investigating our mysteries reignited by the found text, prepares quickly for a trip across the globe:

“That evening, after a day of hurried cabling and arranging, I... took a train for San Francisco.”

San Francisco is a gate, a gate to the navy of ghosts from the Pacific Theater, a gate to the maw of Cthulhu and the third mystery. The City of Forgotten Dead is the gate to the legions and high priest of the undead, the undying. SF as a city represents the concept of undying with its removal of and collective forgetting of all (but one) of its cemeteries. It is likely that the narrator of ‘The Call’ departed from Fort Mason, or somewhere close by. From this gate we are treated to several more locations that can be worked into our global map of vortices; Dunedin, Auckland, Sydney and especially the Australian Museum where our protagonist personally inspected another Cthulhu fetish taken off of the pirate boat he and his Norwegian sailors had commandeered prior to their contact event. This museum is as important a Lovecraftian Vortex as Brown University, due to this association.


On his, what must have been incredibly lengthy (Lovecraft has a way of compressing large amounts of time into a very tight prosespace) boat journey from Sydney to Oslo, Norway to track down Johansen himself, our protagonist continues to give the lengthy account of the sailors Cthulhu Contact Event a critical reading:

“Without knowing what futurism is like, Johansen achieved something very close to it when he spoke of the city; for instead of describing any definite structure or building, he dwells only on broad impressions of vast angles and stone surfaces... the geometry of a dream-place...”

This quote threw me a bit, Futurism? The reason I was placed off-kilter is because it brought into focus a very similar event that sent our protagonist on this journey. While in San Fransisco for an annual work trip this past May, the same trip where I cast my sigils and performed other communication with the spirit ecology there, I visited what is one of my favorite places to find books I never knew existed, the SFMOMA Museum Store. In my book browsing bliss (long live the brick-and-mortar) I happened upon a small tome from the MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series, The Future by Nick Montfort. I primarily picked it up because of chapter titles like ‘Oracles, Prophecies, and Divination’ and ‘Literary Utopias’ as well as the price, which was nominal. When this unrelated book purchase synced up with both the city I was in and this week’s reading, well, the reverberations were palpable. 

Diving into Montfort’s work a bit, specifically his musings on Futurism and Literary Utopias, we find more context for our Lovecraftian Aesthetic when Montfort wrestles with his concept of ‘future-making,’ an activity that HPL certainly indulged in:

“Two... aspects of future-making can be noticed in... literary utopias. First by fictionalizing society in distancing it from news, lawmaking, and other non-fictional frameworks, it is possible to leave aside certain details and make powerful argument but the positive ways in which people can live together. Second, is writing also allows us to see how even extreme and perhaps absurd imagination can factor into our thinking about society.

1) Remove future-making from real world human-constructed constraints, but not universal physical ones.

2) Do not place constraints on radical or absurd ideas
“One way to chart a future is to describe a society that doesn’t exist.

For future making, there are two useful lessons from the utopian fiction: abstracting away from the particularities of present circumstances, while still considering human nature, can help one develop a long-term idea of the future... [And] it can be OK to mix the possible and the impossible in thinking about the future, if there is a reason (satire encouraging critical thought, expanding are thinking) to go beyond what is believable. A future maker might do something clever by coining a term or inventing something specific.”

Lovecraft, I would argue, is a Utopian author within the frame that Montfort places on Futurist literature. And when I say Utopian, I am referring to a pure Morian/Swiftian type of Utopia. You see, and this is a bit of a rant, the original Utopias were deeply flawed. The modern term ‘Dystopia’ is actually describing places that More and Swift dubbed as Utopias. It is a pop culture perversion of the term utopia that calls up a Oregonian hidden valley of Dianic Wiccans living in geodesic domes. The original literary vehicle of the Utopia is of a constructed space that hides something terrible and flawed beneath the veil of a normal functioning society. What could be more Lovecraftian than that? It is in this way that I see the third mystery deeply tied to the concepts of Futurism (which is, itself, deeply flawed as Montfort also points out, building on a foundation of misogyny and racism [again, Lovecraft is a preeminently Futurist author] but building away from that, revealing the terrors of those most human flaws through their exploration), it is a way to understand the immaterial through the deconstruction of the material. Futurism is the only way that humankind can truly conceptualize R’lyeh as a place in the world, and the Lovecraftian Spirit-Form it frames as:

“The Thing cannot be described here is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy... The Thing of idols, the green, sticky spawn of the stars...”

Cthulhu cannot be described. The Pop Lovecraft conceptualization of him is false, it is an encryption that reveals no value without its key, the city of R’lyeh. Cthulhu cannot be understood without the Corpse-City of Madness. It cannot be understood without the aesthetic built by the futurist deconstruction of normal society.

It is at this point, that the text, in the most subtle of ways, reveals our actual archetype for the third mystery of the Cthulhu Trinity:

“the titan Thing from the stars slavered and gibbered like Polypheme cursing the fleeing ship of Odysseus.”

It is through the myth of Polyphemus we can approach an understanding of R’lyeh and the cosmic thing it entombs. The story of Johansen and Cthulhu is the story of Odysseyus and Polyphemus.

[Insert the collective keening of ten thousand Pop Lovecraftian traditionalists here]

To understand how Polyphemus is the progenitor of and in fact, the primary archetype for Cthulhu, we have to make another divergence, this time into phylogenetic recombination of universal mythemes (I figure, if I haven’t lost you 4800 words into this post, that you’re committed enough to push past this sentence). My thoughts are connected through the bridge built by d’Huy’s excellent paper; Polyphemus (Aa. Th. 1137): A phylogenetic reconstruction of a prehistoric tale. I will let the author tee-up the argument:

"Mythology, like genetics and language, provides essentials elements in the understanding of human history; phylogenetic trees based on mythological versions can allow to reconstruct the history and prehistory of human cultures right back the Paleolithic period. Indeed, mythological versions are highly conservative. We also can reconstruct the primitive version of a mythological family using phylogenetic reconstructions of ancestral states… The Finnish school, which has an empirical and positivistic approach, tried to trace, collect and categorize all the variants of a story to reconstruct its history. It tried to establish the pure primeval tale (Urmärchen) from which the versions are originated… computational methods can be used to verify that there is a real tree-like signal in the data… there are at least two additional principles (variation and selection) of the folklore transmission being compatible with both evolutionist and structural treatments: the more two myths diverge or transform each other, the more distant is their genetic relationship, geographically and temporally”

Phew. The human-speak version of this is that it is possible to trace the origin of myths back through timedepth by mapping ‘mythemes,’ or atomic thematic elements across stories in a diversity of cultures. The author of this research used the tale of Polyphemus and Ulysses as the foundational tale to prove the efficacy of this method:

"The most complete attempt for reconstructing the first version of Polyphemus was the [O.] Hackman's historical and geographical approach [in Die Polyphemsage in der Volksüberlieferung]... Hackman supposed that the original form included I/ the blinding of the giant without his consent, II/ the flight of the hero under the belly of a ram, III/ the moment at which the hero gives a false name, IV/ the magic ring episode. According to Hackman, the versions would have travelled to northern Europe via Asia Minor or Greece."

If you aren’t familiar with the details of the tale, I’ve offered the 1954 version featuring a Kurt Russel in a tunic below, you’re welcome.

The author continues, detailing the history of the attempts at reconstruction leading up to the current phylogenetic comparative method:

"The most complete attempt for reconstructing the first version of Polyphemus was the [O.] Hackman's historical and geographical approach [in Die Polyphemsage in der Volksüberlieferung]... Hackman supposed that the original form included I/ the blinding of the giant without his consent, II/ the flight of the hero under the belly of a ram, III/ the moment at which the hero gives a false name, IV/ the magic ring episode. According to Hackman, the versions would have travelled to northern Europe via Asia Minor or Greece… We created a new and bigger database including many typological variations of the Polyphemus versions. The data used came from Ojibwa people, Atsina people , Niitsítapi people, Kootenays people, Jicarilla Apache people, Kiowa people, Lipan Apache, Homer’s Odyssey (book IX), a medieval French text (Li romans de Dolopathos written by Jean de Haute-Seille), from Oghuz Turks people, Berbers, Palestinian- Israelian people, Syrian people, Serb people, modern Greek people, Albanian people, Ossetian people, Abaza people, Mingrelia people, Italian people, Russian people, Sami people, Lithuanian people, Hungarian people, Romanian people, Basque people, Gascon people, Swiss people, English people and West Highlands people... The questions focused on mythemes that are irreducible, unchanging elements in a story. Logically dependent features were eliminated. The mythemes were coded as presence (1) or absence (0) for each version to produce a binary matrix of 98 mythemes...these data provide a strong argument in favour of a deep stability of myths.”

This is a method of research that I understand, as I’ve done similar work in American Indian linguistic reconstruction. The mytheme is an easy correlate to the work of the linguists working in this field such as Morris Swadesh with his ‘Swadesh List’ (a list of words common across many languages that can be used as a barometer for reconstructing proto-languages or inferring connections between seemingly disparate languages) and Edward Sapir. The author leans on Sapir as well when using the above database to identify the oldest version of the Polyphemus myth:

“According to the Sapir's age-area hypothesis, the area of greatest divergence in a linguistic family is said to point to the original homeland of the family; when we look at the tree, the greatest divergence is evidently between Ojibwa version and the rest of the family; consequently, the Ojibwa version is the most archaic Amerindian version. The Valais is probably the most archaic European version…”

I will point out that many status-quo (read: monstrously materialist) researchers actively refute d’Huy’s work stating that the correlations between Ojibwe and other American Indian stories and classical Western myths could only come from transmission from priests. This is, well, flat-out racist, and wholly rejected by American Indian (as in, of those nations) scholars researching their own culture. d’Huy also refutes these claims, but on the soundness of the statistics used in this research. But I digress, continuing with the author’s words on the transmission of the story of Polyphemus through timedepth, we are offered the methodology for and finally the Polyphemus Urmärchen:

“We used two phylogenetic comparative methods (Maximum Likelihood with model Mk1 and Parcimony reconstructions) implemented in Mesquite 2.75 to examine the probable form of the first state of the Polyphemus family. We applied these phylogenetic reconstruction methods to each mythems of the family. Then we only selected highly confident reconstructed mythems with more than 50% probability with both methods. In the text, we underline mythems with more than 75% probability; the logical connective written in brackets remains just suggestions.

There are at least two monsters; they live in a tent and possess a herd of wild animals. Animals are locked. The hero is a hunter. He enters in the homestead of the monster uninvited, with the express purpose of stealing something, animals or treasure. [Then] the entrance is blocked with a great stone or a locked door. A monster tries to kill the hero and checks the animals that go away. The hero escapes by hiding under the belly of an animal.

this abstract is reconstructed as a simplified version of the Urmärchen. Of course, it is important to remember that the real protomyth probably was as rich in complexity as the versions upon which the reconstruction is based. This protomyth informs us about what Palaeolithic European speakers saying. For instance, it documents evidence for a belief in a master of beasts.”

Lovecraft’s mention of Polyphemus is not accidental. Cthulhu is the literary child (as Polyphemus is the child of Neptune) of our cyclopean monster. In mapping our tale to the Polyphemus Urmärchen we find that The Call of Cthulhu has two monsters, Nodens in the New Orleans swamp and Cthulhu in the Ocean. Cthulhu is a master of beasts, but his beasts appear to those that have experienced Cthulhoid Contact events through dreams. The protagonist is a hunter, or sorts, a hunter of knowledge and disparate sources of information across the globe. The role of protagonist fractures and embeds across the different found sources, but Johansen enters the homestead of the monster uninvited. The entrance is blocked with a locked door that Johansen's crew attempts to open. At the point of opening the door, the monster does try to kill the hero. The Call of Cthulhu, thus, is a very close match to the Urmärchen of the Polyphemus myth. 

This has implications for our practice of Lovecraftian Magic. This shows us a way to accurately map the Lovecraftian Mythos to its pagan progenitors. Unlike the work of Donald Tyson who maps the Pop Lovecraftian monsters on top of planetary spirits with little to no correspondence save tenuous character traits; through a critical reading and rigorous reconstruction, we can uncover the actual paganism beneath Lovecraft’s work, a paganism encrypted within a futurist utopian vision and hypernostaligic journeying. Mapping Cthulhu to Polyphemus and, by extension, to the ‘Master of Beasts’ Urmärchen, we not only uncover the true pagan elements but also find a solid cord to pull us back through timedepth, connecting Cthulhu with the paleolithic origins of magic itself. This mapping also opens up a clear line to connecting our Cthulhu/Polyphemus syncretism with the tarot card, the Page of Coins.

Our Etteilla deck reveals to us a youth holding a coin with the key word Prodigality beneath him. 


Prodigal is the root of this term and it stems from the Latin ‘prodigious,’ which means ‘to drive away.’ The Latin term is derived from the PEI root’s *per- and *ag-. *per- is theorized to expand to Sanskrit ‘para,’ which means ‘farther,’ or ‘remote’, pra-, which means ‘before’, the Hittite word ‘para’ which means ‘outside of’ (see paranormal), and even Old Irish ‘ire’, which maps to ‘roar’… A roar from a remote place outside of our world. *ag- expands to the Greek ‘again,’ to lead, or drive, the Latin term ‘actus,’ meaning impulse, and Middle Irish ‘ag,’ or battle. When concatenated, we have a roar from a far off place outside our reality that drives us to battle. This is The Call of Cthulhu.

An alternate view is offered by one of the most magnificent cards in the Sola-Busca deck, featuring a fowler.

SB Fowl.jpg

Fowler, derived from Old English ‘fugel,’ meaning a bird, comes from the PIE root *pleu-. *pleu- means ‘to flow’ and forms part of ‘fleet,’ as in a fleet of ships. It also expands to form the word flood and fly, to move through the air with wings and to the Latin word ‘plovere,’ to rain. While the Etteilla deck is describing Cthulhu/Polyphemus’ nested telepathic and ephemeral contact through timedepth, the Sola-Busca is a symbol of the monster’s promise for humanity, a second flood that will bring in a new age where spirit-forms are once again the dominant members of the planet’s biological and cultural ecology.