I’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately on Occult Facebook that revolve around the ‘I have yet to start my practice, I have a lot to learn’ theme. These are almost always juxtapositioned against the ‘If you don’t practice everyday you aren’t a magician’ type of posts.
If there is any true power in the Lovecraftian Magical Aesthetic is that it recognizes the implements of pen and book as part of the magician’s everyday practice. This is slightly different than the ‘I have a lot to learn’ camp as it doesn’t exactly mean sitting down, instagramming a stack of occult books, declaring you need to ‘go through them,’ reading about twelve pages each, repeat process (if this sounds specific, its because I’ve done it). It means going through those books critically and making notes, filling in your own grimoire with experiments and theory. This isn’t just one of the primary methods of engaging with magical material in a Lovecraftian sense, it is also why we even have the classical grimoires to begin with, because there was a tradition of transcription, of study, of armchairing the literal Hell out of magical experiments and writing down what works. The pen and book are core to magical practice. Even illiterate witches and cunning men held on to grimoires as objects of power.
Experience is nothing without theory just as theory is nothing without experience.
This will be the last week that I will be working-out-loud with Sarah Higley’s work on Hildegard of Bingen’s trafficking in word and language as mystical practice. It needs to be returned to the wonderful library that lent it to me tomorrow.
In concluding my notes on the second chapter of her thesis, we pick up on her discussion surrounding the angelic languages. The author states that:
“angelic languages [have] properties that natural languages do not, being better able to communicate directly with the soul… vocables… chosen for their beauty and ease of articulation… were meant to suggest a language of the angels with the emphasis on liquids, open syllables, and front consonants that are the marks… of a language superior to [the] vernacular…”
If the above holds true, than what of this quote from ‘The Dunwich Horror’:
“N’fai, n’gha’ghaa, bugg-shoggog, y’hah; Yog-Sothoth, Yog-Sothoth…“
There seems here to be the opposite of an angelic language, the consonant clusters, the glottal stops… although there are some similarities, like the iterations of the vowel ‘a’ for an ending. At once related and adverse to angelic languages, the language of the Necronomicon has the same elements of a voice with cosmic origins, but one that creates a sonic environment meant to repel or confuse the human recipient.
From there we move into the third chapter of Higley’s work, where she begins comparing Hildegard’s Lingua Ignota to the wider ecosystem of invented language through timedepth. I’ll let her set the scene:
“Hildegard lived in a fertile time and she dwelled in an especially fertile area of Germany, near the borders of present-day France, in a part of the Rhine that had enjoyed a rich Celtic influence… the building of the first great Gothic cathedrals, and the developing notion of self, individuality, and spiritual growth… The twelfth century was also undergoing an epistemological metamorphosis whereby the notion of God’s unchanging creation was under scrutiny… a new philosophy emerged toward the end of the century that was willing to entertain the possibility that nature’s structures could indeed undergo natural or even artificial metamorphosis… Hildegard… is a kind of chimaera… she is a vehicle of various charismas or spiritual gifts that put her at odds with her original calling as an anchoress… Her charismas led her out of the cell to found other abbeys, and put her in touch with secular authorities… it may have seemed to Hildegard… that if nature can change or be changed, if base metals can be made into gold, could not [the nuns in her charge] anticipate their glory in heaven and language be made green again…”
According to Higley, our saint lived in a time of transformation, where God’s perfection was in question and with that, the notion that we could improve ourselves flowed closely behind. Saint Hildegard questioned and declared herself the counsel of ecclesiastical authority figures, she is the Saint of Speaking Truth To Power. Hildegard, through her language invention, is performing a spiritual alchemy, or rather, was keeping within the alchemical aesthetics as they were understood in her time. She not only spoke truth to power, she brought mysticism and magic into the light of day:
“distortions of language — especially distortions of Scriptural language — may have been regarded with… alarm, especially as they appeared in spells considered pagan. Hildegard’s greatest strength, then, lay in her lack of secrecy. The Lingua, and all of Hildegard’s writings, exposed rather than hid her ideas.”
To exist magically adjacent to Hildegard of Bingen is to bathe in the light of a saint that reveals your belief and practice of magic to the world. Practicing Out Loud, palam usu magicae, is what the use of the Lingua Ignota symbolizes. She is the Saint of the Magically Outed.
At this point, Higley’s thesis takes a very interesting and enriching turn, as she turns her lens towards actual magic and the use of language in these practices. From the text:
“charms are [often] intriguingly ambiguous in calling upon both pre-Christian magic and Christian religion, but they also offer insights into primitive language creation that exhibit some of the features of glossographia and even glossolalia (the repetition is noticeable). Latin, Greek, and Hebrew were hieratical languages known only to the cognoscenti, and therefore imbued with magic or curative powers for the layman. The unintelligibility of charms was a powerful ingredient of their success as potions, divorcing language from everyday meaning and thus increasing the sufferer’s faith in them.”
What the author is saying here is an admission that the mixing of Latin and Greek and Hebrew with invented names is part of what makes spells potent. This poly-xeno-glossia is a revelation of some of the DNA of how magic is, and likely always has been, performed by humans. Polyglossia is also mixed with, as has been mentioned in previous posts, with encryption. Higley name-drops Trithemius on this point:
“In [the Steganographia] Trithemius purportedly found a way to transmit occult messages through the agency of spirits. The messenger writes an innocuous message on a piece of paper or ‘cover letter,’ over which he presumably ‘thinks’ his message; then he invokes a spirit such as Padiel by uttering the following:
‘Padiel aporsy mesarpon ommeuas peludyn malpreaxo. Condusen, vlearo thersephi bayl merphon, paroys gebuly mailthomyon ilthear tamarson acrimy lon peatha Casmy Chertiel, medony reabdo, lasonti iaciel mal arsi bulomeon abry pathulmon theoma pahtormyn.’
The spirit takes the message to the recipient who utters a similar incantation: instantly he can deduce the true meaning of the sender’s letter.
These [types of] spells are a far cry from what Hildegard was doing with her borrowings from German, Latin, and Greek… Nonetheless, we are back to the chimaera: whereas the invented words in the antiphon bespeak a mystical use of language, the taxonomy seems decidedly nonmystical.”
Hildegard strengthened the mystical properties of the Lingua Ignota through creating a linguistic chimaera. The act of cataloging the invented words increase their power, perhaps, enhance their reification, making them ‘more real.’ The same act is done through using spells with barbarous names and mixed languages in one’s praxis and then transcribing the experiments in a grimoire employing spirit lists (taxonomies) and incantations (antiphons). These are the same ‘chimaeric’ acts as Hildegard employed. Hildegard is the Saint of the Grimoirist.
It is at this point that Higley introduces what I find to be a very useful concept, that of cataphasis:
“Hildegard’s visionary knowledge is of explaining and writing. She heard a voice tell her to rise above her timidity and ignorance, and ‘speak and write what she saw and heard’ in her visions: ‘Explain them such that the hearer, hearing the words of his instructor, manifests them in those words, following that very will, revelation, and instruction.’… Her descriptions are followed by her interpretations. This is not a woman who has little faith in the clarifying qualities of language, sound, and vision. Her penchant runs toward explication and cataphaticism [(cata) ‘language’ (phasis): ‘in mystical discourse’], and so does her Lingua with its translations…”
Often it is said that the language of the grimoires, the experiments, the rigor of practice, is conveyed via a spirit that is summoned. Until reading ‘Hildegard of Bingen’s Unknown Language,’ I had made the assumption that this was a type of automatic writing or a physically manifested spirit dictating to the magician (or her scryer) the new knowledge. My conceptualization has changed. I believe now that it is just as likely that daemonic revelatory knowledge can be derived at through working with the text, think Burroughs and his Cut-Ups, think Gysin, these cat’s were on the same line as, if we are to believe Hagley’s arguments, the authors of the gnostic gospels:
“The Acts of Philip… is believed to have been generated circa AD 500, and it has many recensions in Greek, Latin, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syriac, and Arabic… Throughout its versions, we find a number of passages exhibiting a psuedo-Hebrew, which the authors write and translate in several places:
Philip conjures Jesus in a mysterious language — ‘Zavarthan, savathavat, vramanoukh, come quickly!’…
Philip’s sister Miriamne speaks to the wife of the Proconsul who is healed by her faith: ‘Alikaman, ikasame, marmari, iachaman, mastranan, achaman,’ which is translated as ‘O daughter of the father, my lady, who wast given as a pledge to the serpent; Christ has come to thee…’ [In the] Syraic version of [a speech from Miriamne]… ‘When she came to the door of the house, Marianne began to speak to her in the Syriac language: Elikomai kasma hitaa mariakha khamastrai kalimakhaa…’ Further on, Philip curses his tormentors… ‘Abalo, arimouni, douthael, tharseleen, nachaoth, aeidounaph, teleteloein, which is (after many invocations descriptive of God), let the deep open and swallow these men.”
Is this not what Lovecraft is doing with his quotes from the Necronomicon as well? Sometimes we only receive the English translations from the text but at other times we are offered the unknown language of the Necronomicon followed by a translation as we see above in the Acts of Philip. Lovecraft gave his Necronomicon the same shape as the gnostic gospels, fragmented and cataphatic. We find further vector’s into the main subject of our research when Higley once again begins to pull on the work of Johaness Trithemius:
“In the later Middle Ages Hildegard became associated with prophecy and divination, and so it is no wonder that [Johanness] Trithemius, with his interest in magic characters and conjuration, took an interest in her… [In the] Steganographia] Trithemius gives the names of chief spirits and their symbols boldly copied out, but contains within itself a cipher — the original purpose of a steganography (‘covered writing’). The passage summoning the spirit Padiel, then, is an elaborate encryption. Instead of naming a spirit to convey a message magically, the initial word gives a clue to its interpreter, who then highlights every other letter of every other word — one finds the Latin phrase *primus apex* (‘the first point’) in the sentence headed by ‘Padiel’… This book, so feared as a grimoire, was finally printed posthumously in 1606 and throughout the seventeenth century, but was banned by the Catholic Church in 1609…”
This type of encryption is spoken of in Lovecraft’s tales. Often the protagonist has to decrypt fragments of writing in order to come to their true meaning. While this is painted by Lovecraft (or at least seen as such through a modern lens) as a materialist engagement with esoterica, it is in fact a description of one of the oldest magical acts. Encryption and decryption were pioneered by magicians.
What are the implications of this in the twenty-first century? Here’s a question, what happens when we set an AI to the task of what is essentially a magical act as old as writing itself?
Along with the Lingua Ignota, Hildegard also invented her own orthography to go along with it. In Higley’s words:
“[Hildegard’s] letters [the ignotae litterae] are most likely her own invention… certain shapes are popular in simple invented alphabets… What makes her alphabet so ahead of her time, though, is that it is not until centuries later that we find a proliferation of esoteric alphabets published with their Roman equivalences… The curious resemblance of Hildegard’s first three letters to those of ‘Theban Writing’ attributed by Agrippas to Honorius of Thebes and showing some influence by Aramaic script, is striking, especially since in this alphabet Roman characters — ‘a,’ ‘b,’ ‘c’ — like that in Hildegard’s, are written from left to right with their Theban characters, quite unlike the other alphabets Agrippa records that are written right to left with the name of the Hebrew letter: aleph, bet, gimel.”
The way this researcher views it, Hildegard is also the Saint of the Esoteric Alphabet, as hers is the earliest (and possibly first) extant example. In this way she is the divine mother of Austin Spare’s Alphabet of Desire, of Chaos Magic sigils, of Burroughs, of what came after.
Here Higley transitions directly into a discussion of what came after, namely language inventions that arose between the Fifteenth and Nineteenth centuries. One of the best and most influential examples, and one dear to my own literary heart, is that of the satirist Thomas More:
“[Thomas More’s Utopia], published in the original Latin in 1516… [contains] perhaps the first secular and fictional glossopoeia — that is, an invented language (or a portion of a language) [Utopian] with a coherent structure accompanying an imaginary culture that has served as a model for subsequent ‘voyage’ and ‘science fiction’ fantasies and their imaginary languages… besides Hildegard’s Lingua it is one of the earliest glossopoeic productions; it shows More’s… delight in invention… it is one of the first attempts at a grammatical structure such that its parts could be translated into coherent sentences…”
and as I have pointed out before but Higley does in a much more coherent way, is the nature of the work Utopia (and by extension the very wrong way the non-word ‘dystopia’ is used):
“Often misunderstood today as ‘good place,’ the original… meaning of utopia is ‘no place,’ which has furnished early scholars of language invention with the popular term uglossia, ‘no language,’ a language that either cannot be a language by virtue of its isolation and artificiality, a language that has a utopian philosophy in mind, a language that has no place within an outsider’s comprehension of it, or a language that can claim no place even within the speaker’s sense of speaking. Significantly, Hildegard’s own term for her language is ignota [unknown].”
From Utopia we move into the Land of Enoch. Again from the text:
“John Dee… fascinated by secret scripts and languages… collected in his vast library the works of Trithemius, Cornelius Agrippa, and the Voarchadumia contra alchimian of Joannes Antonius Pantheus, which claimed to have discovered the language of Enoch. With the help of his scryer, Dee produced perhaps the most famous invented language of his era, apart from the mysterious Voynich Manuscript… Having consulted Kabbalistic texts, he believed that the angels could… reveal the sacred letters that provided the material elements of Nature… Stephen Skinner, author of the preface to the revised edition of… Laycock’s The Complete Enochian Dictionary, warns us that
‘the Enochian system is… one of the more complex bridges ever built between this world and the world of daemons, spirits, and angels, a piece of spiritual engineering created by one of the most brilliant minds of his age. As such it deserves to be traversed with care…’
[Dee’s] reputation was tarnished in a way that Hildegard’s was not; at her death the Inquisition examined her works, including her Unknown Language and Letters, and found in them proof of her orthodoxy and godliness… Hildegard wrote during a time of intellectual challenge and change, and within the supportive structure of the Church… Dee wrote during a time of tremendous religious turmoil… I prefer to see [language] inventions as extraordinary acts of imagination wherein a revealed world that offers alterity to this one has a foreign language. It is part of the mythopoeic process, so popular in human creation and divination.”
Invented languages are an expression of our imaginal self, of interiority. Viewed through this lens, Lovecraft’s fiction, more than most, is a deeply animist expression, an animist hypersigil that has spread interiority throughout the world, expanding the imaginal selves of all it touches. I love the phrasing of the Skinner quote that Higley offers, a complex bridge, an engineered solution. Magic isn’t a gut feel, or at least, it isn’t just a gut feel. It is the application of long hours of research and planning. Or at least, the best most sustainable magic has those qualities. Before shifting into our examination of Lovecraft, I’ll leave you with one parting quote from Higley:
“For the medievals, language invention was largely divine, demonic, or comic, and many of their examples were copied manually from lost exemplars. For the Renaissance magi, secrecy, magic, and code were the games that were played, accompanied by the new books made available by printing. The bizarre instruments Dee used — the charts, the scrying stone, the backward writing — heavily influenced not only his conception of what he was doing, but its reception by others…”
Secrecy, magic, and code — these are the pillars of Lovecraftian Magic.
Our tale this week is ‘The Nameless City.’
The premise of which is a nameless narrator who strikes out on his own into the desert in order to find a city of rumor and myth that exists in the sands of Arabia. We pick up the tale as the searcher finally stumbles upon his goal, a place that no other living human had ever seen, the others held at bay by the power of rumor and fear:
“When I drew nigh the Nameless City I knew it was accursed. I was traveling in a parched and terrible valley under the moon, and afar I saw it protruding uncannily above the sands… Fear spoke from the age-worn stones of this hoary survivor of the deluge…”
This marks Lovecraft’s mythos as a predecessor (but not precluded from) those that arose after the flood, the flood that every culture and religion, both living and dead has mythic memory of. Upon laying eyes on the city, our searcher, a scholar, cites a phrase quite famous in our modern day Lovecraftian reality:
“It was of this place that Abdul Alhazred the mad poet dreamed on the night before he sang his unexplainable couplet:
‘That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.’”
I’ve mentioned before how much this research journey has unveiled for me about the nature of Lovecraft and his work. This bit of prose is a revelation to me because I have always assumed (and although I can’t quote them here, know others have put this thought in my head) that the couplet of Abdul Alhazred is about Cthulhu and his submerged city of R’lyeh, but here it is, in black and white, that the couplet was in fact inspired by a dream of a city lost in the desert, and not in the sea. A city that existed in a place that remained dry during the flood that took Laurasia, that consumed Atlantis and the rest of the known world in its waves.
Our author then picks up the vein of inquiry we have been engaged in for the past three weeks:
“I heard a moaning and saw a storm of sand stirring among the antique stones… Then suddenly above the desert’s far rim came the blazing edge of the sun, seen through the tiny sandstorm which was passing away, and in my fevered state I fancied that from some remote depth there came a crash of musical metal to hail the fiery disc as Memnon hails it from the banks of the Nile.”
It should be clear now how the mention of music and magic here is timely in my own practice, as my study of the Greek Magical Papyri via the Rune Soup Premium Member course has just taken us through that turn, the place of music and song and moaning and sighs when speaking the barbarous names. Memnon is known as the ‘Son of Dawn,’ and as such could be a metaphor for magical timing, the first hour of the day being the most potent time to invoke celestial spirits. Our narrator continues wrapt in wonder at the Nameless City’s origin in timedepth:
“I saw that the city had been might indeed, and wondered at the sources of its greatness. To myself I pictured all the splendors of an age so distant that Chaldea could not recall it, and though of Sarnath the Doomed, that stood in the land of Mnar when mankind was young, and of Ib, that was carven of grey stone before mankind existed.”
Which trigger another learning moment for me, for I had assumed that Sarnath (and I state as much) was not a city of Earth but of the Dreamlands.
Throughout The Nameless City, Lovecraft places wonder and fear in opposition of each other, as if they were poles on a sliding scale:
“I was more afraid than I could explain, but not enough to dull my thirst for wonder… I crossed into the dark chamber from which it had come. This temple… was larger than either of those I had visited before… On the walls and roof I beheld for the first time some traces of the pictorial art of the ancient race… and on two of the altars I saw… a maze of… curvilinear carvings. As I held my torch aloft it seemed to me that the shape of the roof was too regular to be natural, and I wondered what the prehistoric cutters of stone had first worked upon. Their engineering skill must have been vast.”
This popular thought experiment, attempting to fit a modern (read: flawed) perception of the engineering and scientific skills of the ancient, brings to ‘Nameless City’ a distinct ‘ancient aliens’ feel to it. It also brings to mind a question when wrestling with Lovecraft’s fiction in a non-esoteric (but nonetheless relevant) frame - when Lovecraft speaks of Ancient Aliens, does that place his fiction in the genre of Science Fiction or Fantasy?
The element of Air and indeed, of Aerial Spirits, is strong in the tale of The Nameless City. Our explorer, sliding back and forth between fear and wonder, finds himself at another one of Lovecraft’s barriers, another door, except this one, long abandoned by the world of humans, has been left open.
“Then a brighter flare of the… flame shewed me… the opening to those remoter abysses whence the sudden wind had blown… it was a small and plainly *artificial* door chiseled in the solid rock. I thrust my torch within, beholding… a rough flight of… steeply descending steps [which] I shall always see… in my dreams… I hesitated only a moment before advancing… to climb… down the steep passage… I lost track of the hours… In the darkness there flashed before my mind fragments of my cherished treasury of daemonic lore; sentences from Alhazred the mad Arab, paragraphs from the apocryphal nightmares of Damascius, and infamous lines from the delirious Image du Monde of Gauthier de Metz. I repeated queer extracts, and muttered of Afrasiab and the daemons that floated with him down the Oxus; later chanting over and over again a phrase from one of Lord Dunsany’s tales-
‘the unreverberate blackness of the abyss.’
Once when the descent grew amazingly steep I recited something in sing-song from Thomas Moore until I feared to recite more:
‘A reservoir of darkness, black
As witches’ cauldrons are, when fill’d
With moon-drugs in th’ eclipse distill’d.
Leaning to look if foot might pass
Down thro’ that chasm, I saw, beneath,
As far as vision could explore,
The jetty sides as smooth as glass,
Looking as if just varnish’d o’er
With that dark pitch the Sea of Death
Throws out upon its slimy shore.”
Lovecraft uses this trope, the litany of literature, often, and most every time is introduces me to something new and strange. Such as the William Caxton translation of The Mirror of the World (which can be found digitally reproduced here by the World Digital Library). Where was Lovecraft exposed to Caxton? The closest extant copy I could find today is in the University of Cambridge. It was likely mentioned in his astronomy journals, as that is one of the foci of this epic ‘encyclopedic poem.’
Further, I’d like to point out the codification of this scene in modern horror. I have just recently picked up the graphic novel version of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman from the library this week and as I read through it, found something very familiar in these panels:
Our searcher, upon finding the floor of his descent, is confronted by a silent but terrible codification:
“Time had quite ceased to exist when my feet felt again a level floor… there came a gradual glow ahead, and all at once I knew that I saw the dim outlines of [a] corridor and [wooden] cases… This hall was no relic… like the temples in the city above, but a monument of the most magnificent… art… The cases were of a… golden wood, with fronts of… glass, and contained the mummified forms of creatures… of the reptile kind, with body lines suggesting the crocodile, sometimes the seal… in size they approximated a small man, and their fore legs bore… flexible feet… like human hands and fingers. But strangest all were their heads… I thought of comparisons as varied as the cat, the bulldog, the mythic Satyr… the horns and the noselessness an alligator-like jaw placed the things outside of all established categories… The creatures, I said to myself, were to the men of the nameless city what the she-wold was to Rome, or some totem-beast is to a tribe of Indians.”
The anthropormanteaus in this scene remind me immediately of the decans or other manifestations of spirit-forms in the grimoires and the Greek Magical Papyri. Lovecraft’s deep education and anchoring in pagan Rome shows again in this sentence. It also shows a more than passing familiarity with American Indian tribes too. Note that he is relating the spiritual and cultural practices, particularly the cosmogony, of Indian Tribes with that of his beloved Rome. The context of this sentence is saying that the mythic pagan origins of Rome, of Indian tribes that trace their origins to spirit and heroes in animal form, and his own conceptualization of ancient aliens are all on the same level. Ancient aliens and the she-wolf mother of Romulus and Remus are as animist in Lovecraftian Magic as the loon and bear are to the Ojibwe. He continues, connecting these thoughts to Laurasia:
“Holding this view, I thought I could trace roughly a wonderful epic of the namelss city; the tale of a might sea-coast metropolis that ruled the world before Africa rose out of the waves, and of its struggles as the sea shrank away and the desert crept into the fertile valley that held it… The civilization, which included a written alphabet, had seemingly risen to a higher order than those immeasurably later civilizations of Egypt and Chaldaea, yet there were curious omissions… no pictures to represent deaths of funeral customs… It was as though an ideal of earthly immortality had been fostered as a cheering illusion.”
Even in this slightest mention, we have a glimmer of Lovecraft’s glossopoeia, marking him (Like Austin Spare and Burroughs) as the esoteric and mystical kin of Saint Hildegard. Think on it, without Saint Hildegard’s work on her Lingua Ignota, there would be no Dee, there would be no Agrippa, there would be no Lovecraft. From her pen a fount of magic flooded the world.
And then our archetype is finally confronted by those crepuscular arial spirit forms mentioned in the beginning of the tale, having stumbled upon their final resting place:
“[I] was aware of a great gate through which came all of the illuminating phosphoresence… what lay beyond… was only an illimitable void of uniform radiance… an infinity of subterranean effulgence… in another moment… I received a still greater shock in the form of a… deep, low moaning… Its volume rapidly grew… and at the same time I became conscious of an increasing draught of cold air… I instantly recalled the sudden gusts which had risen around the mouth of the abyss each sunset and sunrise… I looked at my watch and saw that sunrise was near… More and more madly poured the… moaning night-wind into that gulf of inner earth… I… screamed frantically near the last — I was almost mad… Finally reason must have wholly snapped, for I fell to babbling over and over that unexplainable couplet of the mad Arab Alhazred, who dreamed of the nameless city:
‘That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die…’
And as the wind died away I was plunged into the ghoul-peopled blackness of earth’s bowels; for behind the last of the creatures the great brazen door clanged shut with a deafening peal of metallic music whose reverberations swelled out to the distant world to hail the rising sun as Memnon hails it from the banks of the Nile.”
Lovecraft’s work is potent when considered as just fiction. It is even more powerful, however, when considered as a magical aesthetic. The reason for this is due to the depth of his mythopoesis and glossopoesis. We see in The Nameless City a kernel of the cosmogony that builds on itself throughout his ouevre, and we also are given rare secrets to the writing and nature of the Necronomicon itself — inspired by this nameless city that exists before man’s rise (and into his dominance), before the Deluge, but after his Age of Chaos. In the endless Sea of Death that is the desert of the mind, Lovecraft is endlessly greening language and thought, his perennial magic breathing life into the lifeless, haunting the words of storytellers and magicians for a century now and continuing to evolve into the future.
Our tarot card match for The Nameless City is that most potent of Trumps, Justice.
The card offered itself up to me in the Reversed form, displaying the keyword, Le Legiste, or the ‘Jurist.’ Jurist is an older word than Justice. Stemming from the Old Latin ‘ious,’ which is literally translated into the phrase ‘sacred formula’ and is unique to Latin, having its origins in the many religious cults of the time. It stems from the PIE root *yewes- and expands from that point into the Latin ‘iurare,’ or ‘to pronounce a ritual formula, and the Avestan (known better as Zend [the language of the Zoroastrian scriptures]) term ‘yaoz-da,’ or ‘to make ritually pure.’ When we look below the surface of language, as Saint Hildegard and Lovecraft would have us do, we find that the Justice archetype is not as closely associated with our modern conceptions of the separation of Church and State as we thought. It is a wholly religious word, moreover, it is a word associated with religious order. Compare this to the word ‘Decan,’ recalling the anthroportmanteau’s from the tale. Decan is a variation of ‘dean,’ an ecclesiastical title stemming form the Late Latin ‘decanus,’ or the head of a group of ten monks in a monastery. This religious title maps well against *yewes- and its expansions into ritual formulas and purity. The Proto-Indo-European root of decan is *dekm-, meaning ‘ten,’ but when expanded back out maps to, among other terms, the word ‘Pentecost.’ Bringing us full circle.
The Nameless City and its subterranean temple, which is (due to the duplicate mentions of Memnos) probably the chthonic residence of the god Helios, by its description, is defined by the warm wooden cabinets and ornamental glass that display the now ritually pure anthroportmanteu ancient alien race entombed in the earth beneath it. The sterility of the desert, as Hildegard would have viewed it, means that our archetype is a warning to those that might traffic with daemons, that fasting and purity is of the utmost importance. The searcher, who is also nameless, and his litany of quotes and songs from his memory of the dark literature he had studied, show us that the path through the arid Sea of Death to ritual purity, to the Nameless City, is in fact paved with the pages of books.