The Red Fog

This week was the first week where I hit all of my daily planetary prayers for quite a long time, and this is the first week in quite a long time where my days have been filled with magic.

Without going into specifics, something large happened at the J-O-B and I moved into a gap of responsibility that it created. Last year I know that I sigiled for more responsibility and position. This gap opened up in the wrong direction as far as what I want my ideal job to be, but there was enough attached to it that it will make that ideal job all the more easy to slip into when that blip in probability presents itself. It is funny, because the effectiveness, or rather, the openness that saying the week’s planetary prayers created was very similar to some of the items that fell in line the very first time I did them. This is interesting because it points (as a Cheshire Cat points) to a possible reality where magic has some kind of diminishing return if not allowed to rest and recharge. Or, it points to the greater effectiveness of magic when attention is paid to timing, as most of my free-form appeals to the planetary spirits this week have been directly in line with what the Hygromanteia Lunar Days list says they are good for also.

It is freezing here in Wisconsin. Like, lose your ears freezing, but this winter has an optimistic air for me. I feel unstuck after the last eclipse. We have twelve inches of snow coming our way and schools and businesses are already sending out closing notices. On the other side of the world, however, there are people I respect and care about that are being threatened by super natural one thousand kilometer long bush fires. The world is changing, and it is changing quickly. Re-enchantment is the only thing helping me to keep up. This boxcar is moving too fast now to hop off and wait for another. There are others in this boxcar, however, and they are eyeing me with distrust. How did I get up here? Why don’t I look as disheveled and hungry as them. Why am I smiling?

Our archetype last week, the necromancer Joseph Curwen, represents standing just inside the threshold of a re-enchanted world, with one foot still (necessarily) planted on the side of ‘normal’ society. Our archetype this week comes with a warning against living as an ‘Other’ among the ‘Normals.’ That gap in responsibility I mentioned, the blip in probability that opened up and allowed me to slip in, that came at the cost of a number of Normal’s prosperity. Enchantments don’t create something out of nothing. They move things around so that the game is more favorable for the magician. This doesn’t always go unnoticed or unpunished.

We resume our examination with the necromancer beginning to adapt more closely to the societal reality around him following his marriage to a well dowered young woman, whose hand he inexplicably stole from a young sailor by the name of Era Weeden:

“Shortly after the birth of his daughter [Anna], Joseph Curwen resolved to sit for a portrait. This he had painted by a very gifted Scotsman named Cosmo Alexander, then a resident of Newport… [Curwen’s] affectation of civic interest did not diminish, and he lost no opportunities for helping such leaders as Stephen Hopkins, Joseph Brown, and Benjamin West in their efforts to raise the cultural tone of the town, which was then much below the level of Newport in its patronage of the liberal arts. He had helped Daniel Jenckes found his bookshop in 1763 and was thereafter his best customer…”

Lovecraft is positioning the necromancer, Joseph Curwen, as one of the principle agents in the formation of culture in Providence, RI. These actions, would of course, reverberate through the city’s modern culture today. The mention of Daniel Jenckes, a judge and a bookseller, is of particular interest. This bookshop was said to lie somewhere near the printer William Goddard’s print shop and to be filled with his imprints (and presumably, Necronomicons). William Goddard’s sister, Mary Katherine Goddard, published the first certified copy of the Declaration of Independence. If her brother William was funded by the necromancer Curwen, it is likely that he was greatly influenced by his patron. This creates a link between the Lovecraftian mythos and the founding document of the United States. Curwen’s forays into local politics and sitting for portraits from internationally reknowned painters, following his marriage, did not go unwatched by the jilted fiance, Ezra Weeden:

“Ezra Weeden… watched [Curwen] closely… The revengeful youth began a systematic study of the man and his doings whenever he was in port; spending hourse at night by the wharves with a dory in readiness when he saw lights in the Curwen warehouses, and following the small boat which would sometimes steal quietly off and down the bay. He also kept as close a watch as possible on the Pawtuxet farm… though his periods of espionage were necessarily brief and intermittent on account of his sea voyaging, [Ezra] had a vindictive persistence which the bulk of practical townsfolk and farmers lacked…”

Weeden is positioned against the archetype of Curwen as a type of check and balance, a cancelling force.

“Weeden… watched the farm with unremitting assiduity; visiting it each night for long periods… Finding his… vigils interrupted by nautical duties, he hired a tavern companion named Eleazar Smith to continue the survey during his absences… It is gathered that Weeden and Smith became early convinced that a great series of tunnels and catacombs, inhabited by a very sizable staff of persons… underlay the farm… [Curwen’s] laboratory [was] a lean-to toward the north… voices [inside the laboratory began to assume] a… terrible cast… betwixt dronings of dull acquiescence and explosions of frantic pain or fury, rumblings of conversation and whines of entreaty… There were voices of a sort that neither Weeden nor Smith had ever heard before despite their wide knowledge of foreign parts [as sailors]… Weeden had many verbatim reports of overheard scraps in his notebook… Once, for example, an alternately raging and sullen figure was questioned in French about the Black Prince’s massacre at Limoges in 1370, as if there were some hidden reason which he ought to know. Curwen asked the prisoner… whether the order to slay was given because of the Sign of the Goat found on the altar in the ancient Roman crypt beneath the Cathedral, or whether the Dark Man of the Haute Vienne Coven had spoken the Three Words…”

The instance being referenced here is known as the Siege of Limoges, which was championed by Edward the Black Prince, the eldest son and heir apparent (until his death) of King Edward III.

The Black Prince

The Black Prince

The Siege of Limoges resulted in the massacre of three thousand men, women and children. The historian Sean McGlynn states in his book ‘By Sword and Fire’ that the evidence for an unprecedented massacre is profound and that urban areas such as Limoges rarely met as complete destruction as the evidence suggests. Some suggest that it was this brutality that led to Edward Plantagenet being recorded in history as ‘The Black Prince.’ What Lovecraft is suggesting is that the cause of the massacre had more to do with politicos in the department [an administrative / geographic division] of Haute-Vienne were in league with unnatural and un-Christian forces. Curwen, it seems, is raising the dead to piece together the story of magic during a period of history where much of it was either destroyed or encrypted.

Having gathered enough evidence on the necromancer, Ezra Weeden moves forward with mobilizing enemies against him. Enemies that were previously only a bit mystified by his recent marriage and soujourns into the public area:

“By the Autumn of 1770 Weeden decided that the time was ripe to tell others of his discoveries; for he had a large number of facts to link together… As his first confidant he selected Capt. James Mathewson of the Enterprise, who on the one hand knew him well enough not to doubt his veracity, and on the other hand was sufficiently influential in the town to be heard in turn with respect.”

USS Enterprise

USS Enterprise

I have a budding theory that the Cthulhu Mythos is, in reality, an extension of the belief systems that first manifested in ancient Poseidon and Neptune cults. One of the characteristics of these cults are that the devotees would leave models of ships as offerings to Poseidon. With the amount of detail and the high percentage of references to frigates, schooners, and other boats of the 18th and early 19th c. in Lovecraft’s fiction, the thought came to me that his oeuvre is a type of literary offering or altar space to Poseidon himself. Another characteristic of the god is his dominion over not just the sea, but also of the earth. He is reported to be quite pleased with altars made of ships oars transported far inland to places with no water, thus extending his realm of influence. There is nothing more portable than an idea and the primary container for transporting and sharing ideas widely is literature. In a way, anywhere there is a Lovecraft tale on a shelf, there is a figurative ships oar altar for Poseidon to inspirit.

Weeden continues his investigations, effectively going full NSA on the aging wizard, and intercepting his communications with a colleague in Salem. Instead of cellphone conversations, however, a bribe is put in from of a receptive postman so that he may produce the mail of the necromancer for further study by the investigators.

“arrangements had been made with the post riders to intercept Joseph Curwen’s mail, and… there was found a letter from one Jedediah Orne of Salem… Parts of it, copied and preserved in… private archives… ran as follows…

I have not ye Chymmicall art to follow Borellus, and owne my Self confounded by ye VII. Booke of ye Necronomicon that you recommende… say to you… doe not call up Any that you can not put downe… Ask of the Lesser, lest the Greater shall not wish to Answer, and shall commande more than you… And againe I ask that you shalle write me as Jedediah and not Simon. In this Community a Man may not live too long, and you knowe my Plan by which I came back as my son…”

There are a couple of insights in this letter. First, where its writer states ‘Ask of the Lesser, lest the Greater shall not wish to Answer…’ is a profound insight into the practical utilization of Solomonic magic, where it is an oft cited practice to conjure and bind lesser demons in an attempt to work up the hierarchy towards their leaders. There is, in this modern day, just as much advice to perform the latter, but perhaps Lovecraft is leaving us a clue as to what the right course for necromantic conjuring is. Second, is the mention of the Necronomicon and the true name of the author of the letter, not Jedediah, but Simon. This hint adds more flesh around the imaginal grimoire and its modern instantiation, the Simonomicon. Instead of this instantiation’s creating being rooted in modern day, we have a centuries old connection to its genesis embedded in the text of Dexter Ward. This is, to my recollection, the only instance of the name ‘Simon’ in the entire Lovecraftian Corpus.

This letter from Simon to Curwen proves to be the tipping point for his nemesis, Weeden and the rest of the group of town officials and sailors that he had conscripted to aid him in doing away with the man who had stole his bride:

“about 100 men met at 10 PM on Friday, April 12th, 1771, in the great room of Thurston’s Tavern at the Sign of the Golden Lion on Weybosset Point across the Bridge… About 10:30 a heavy rumble was heard on the Great Bridge, followed by the sound of a coach in the street outside; and at that hour there was no need of waiting for Weeden in order to know that the doomed man had set out for his last night of unhallowed wizardry. A moment later, as the receding coach clattered faintly over the Muddy Dock Bridge , Weeden appeared; and the raiders fell silently into military order in the street…”

April 12th, on our Lovecraftian Magical Calendar, shall be marked as the Feast of Joseph Curwen. The meaning of the feast is to reflect on the extreme propensity for the mob to rise against the magically adjacent and magic in general. Yes, Joseph Curwen was a particularly dark wizard, using his skills to conjure the dead and extract from them wisdom that aided him in his pursuits of both prosperity and greater magic, but this has always been the way of things. Magic is about bending probability and circumstance to your own benefit. This can be done indirectly — as with intention exercises directed at others in your community that are suffering — or it can be done directly, as when you sigil for a new job or promotion. The antecedent of these acts are the acts of our necromancer. The Feast of Joseph Curwen is a day to remember this. It is also a day to remember our archetype, Ezra Weeden. Ezra was wronged by the necromancer when his fiance was stolen away. Weeden recognized that it was magic that had a hand in the phreaking of his own probability frequency, and he acted to bend the needle back to what he felt was a balance. Weeden is the leader and supplier of evidence to the mob of vigilantes — seamen, employed by the machinations of empire — that finally wipe the aged necromancer from the map of Providence, RI.

After a great deal of musketfire and screams, both human and non-human, the account of the Siege at Pawtuxet Farm continues:

“there were more shots, and… after that came silence for about three-quarters of an hour; at the end of which time little Arthur Fenner… exclaimed that he saw ‘a red fog’ going up to the stars from the accursed farm in the distance… Five minutes later a chill wind blew up, and the air became suffused with such an intolerable stench that only the strong freshness of the sea could have prevented its being noticed… by any wakeful souls in Pawtuxet village… Close upon it came the awful voice… It thundered out of the sky like a doom… It was deep and musical… but evil as… forbidden books… it spoke in an unknown tongue…

‘DEESMEES JESHET BONE DOSERE DUBEMA ENITEMOSS’

Not till the year 1919 did any soul link this crude transcript with anything else in mortal knowledge, but Charles Ward paled as he recognised what Mirandola had denounced in shudders as the ultimate horror among black magic’s incantations.”

The reference here is to Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, the author of the ‘Oration on the Dignity of Man,’ a defense of nine-hundred thesis on religion, philosophy and magic. He is also known as the founder of Christian Kabbalism. Another indicator that Lovecraft has woven deep magical truths into his corpus.

In the end, nearly all trace of Joseph Curwen was wiped out, with only a few fragments of the narrative surviving for Dexter Ward to put to work at reconstructing the story of his ancestor. Ezra Weeden, in effect, got his revenge by removing Curwen from the scale of probabilities altogether.

Our tarot card match for the archetype of Ezra Weeden is the Knight of Swords.

Knight of Swords.jpg

Etteilla offers us two keywords for the knight, military and ignorance. The word military, as an adjective, comes to us from the 14th c. Old French, which in turn is derived form the Latin ‘militaris,’ meaning ‘warlike.’ It is theorized that the term originates with the Etruscans, where a form of the word, ‘miles,’ is thought to mean ‘one who marches in a troop,’ forming a connection with the Greek ‘homilos,’ meaning ‘assembled crowd,’ or ‘throng.’ Weeden assembled a crowd of elders from Providence against Curwen, and it is described in the text that once Weeden joined the throng of one hundred seamen and their leaders, ‘the raiders fell silently into military order in the street.’ In context, this is the conscious or unconscious tendency for the majority of society to convene against magicians, especially once it is discovered that their enchantments are allowing them egress into greater avenues of prosperity. There is something that does not sit right with the common human when an Other begins to rise. This is the oft-cited reason for conducting magical operations or otherwise living a magical life in secret.

The second keyword, ignorance, is a bit more nuanced. it too comes from the Old French, dated around the 12th c. and earlier from the Latin ‘ignorantia,’ which means ‘want of knowledge.’ This is a bit different than our contemporary definition of ignorant, which calls into the mind’s eye a person who does not know the ‘facts’ as they are. For instance, the subset of people that are ‘ignorant’ of the number of humans murdered during the Holocaust. Knowledge is different than facts, which are essentially data and barely information (contextualized data). Ignorance, when broken down, is made up of the prefix ‘in-,’ which means the ‘opposite of’ and the PIE root ‘*gno-,’ meaning ‘to know.’ Ignorance is the opposite of gnosis. It is the state of being inline with and blinded by the archons.

While fully believing in the efficacy of magic, Ezra Weeden is actively aligned with those forces that oppose the necromancer. His motivations are vengeful and the motivations of those he mobilizes against Curwen are similar — all fearing his position in society and ultimately the knowledge he possessed of them and their family. Weeden is the embodiment of a blood red fog of war cast over the actions of empire (the archons) and perpetuated by the colonized, those large tracts of society still unconsciously under the sway of a colonized consciousness as inherited from their parents and their parents parents. This way of looking at the world has no place for the magically-adjacent. Remember the Knight of Swords and his throng and champion those bravest of the Others that put themselves forth and proudly proclaim that they are, in fact, magic-users.