“My way is hot sand. All day long, sandy, dusty paths.” C.G. Jung
I won’t lie, all of the recent mediasyncs with the desert ecology lately have been really pleasing to me. The best example is the launching of the second season of Desert Oracle Radio. The desert has a very special place in my heart, as I suspect it does for anyone who has spent any amount of time there. The desert is the embodiment of mystery and that which is not human. It is the best representation of the landscape-as-spirit, both figuratively and literally. It is the place that Christ entered and where he met with the Devil.
The desert is the crossroads of the real and the unreal.
Jung knew this, which is why he entered the desert when it was presented to him during his psychonautical journeys that resulted in the Red Book. It is Jung that said, in the section of the Red Book titled ‘Experiences in the Desert:
“My way is hot sand. All day long, sandy, dusty paths. My patience is sometimes weak, and once I despaired of myself, as you know.
My soul answered and said, ‘You speak to me as if you were a child complaining to its mother. I am not your mother.’ I do not want to complain, but let me say to you that mine is a long and dusty road. You are to me like a shady tree in the wilderness. I would like to enjoy your shade. But my soul answered, ‘You are pleasure-seeking. Where is your patience? Your time has not yet run its course. Have you forgotten why you went into the desert?… You speak as if you have still learned nothing. Can you not wait? Should everything fall into your lap ripe and finished? You are full, yes, you teem with intentions and desirousness! — Do you still now know that the way to truth stands open only to those without intentions?’”
What does the desert represent, is it a cleansing of intentions? By taking away all of the comfort of a familiar landscape and replacing it with violence, apathy, and indifference, it is the embodiment of aestheticism — and the goal of the aestheticism of the wasteland? Is it to forget our conscious intentions and allow our subconscious to touch reality? For we can change nothing consciously, as magicians this is a known fact. We remove our intentions with sigils, with the abstractions of ritual, we enter the desert of the magic. Intention, what Crowley called ‘Will,’ is the core of all magical acts. Jung continues:
“We tie ourselves up with intentions, not mindful of the fact that intention is the… exclusion of life…
my soul said to me, ‘Do you think little of yourself?’ I do not believe so. My soul answered, ‘Then listen, do you think little of me? Do you still not know that you are writing a book to feed your vanity, but that you are speaking with me?… Have you grasped me, defined me, and made me into a dead formula? Have you measured the depths of my chasms, and explored all the ways down which I am yet going to lead you?’”
This past few weeks I have been studying this exact act, the collection of data in order to understand oneself and how one interacts with a re-enchanted universe, in other words, the quantified soul. Peter Carroll’s Liber Kaos is filled with dead formulas designed to abstract and forget about the soul. I have wandered into the desert of magic and have found a chasm so limitless that no formula, no ritual, can encapsulate its expanse. Jung continues mining the data returned to him via his raw active-imagination connection to his own spirit:
“I received hard but salutary words from [my soul]… ‘The spirit of this time considers itself extremely clever, like every such spirit of the time.
But wisdom is simpleminded, not just simple.
Because of this, the clever person mocks wisdom, since mockery is his weapon. He uses the pointed, poisonous weapon, because he is struck by naive wisdom. If he were not struck, he would not need the weapon. Only in the desert do we become aware of our terrible simplemindedness, but we are afraid of admitting it. That is why we are scornful. But mockery does not attain simplemindedness. The mockery falls on the mocker, and in the desert where no one hears and answers, he suffocates from his own scorn. The cleverer you are, the more foolish your simplemindedness. The totally clever are total fools in their simplemindedness. We cannot save ourselves from the cleverness of the spirit of this time through increasing our cleverness, but through accepting what our cleverness hates most, namely simplemindedness… Cleverness couples itself with intention. Simplemindedness knows no intention…”
Lovecraft is forever presenting us with the simpleminded, and almost always through the lens of the very clever materialist. The simpleminded, whom he calls degraded or deranged, are always in tune with the dark cosmic magic in the towns and hills and forests and wastelands he has painted for us. The clever are always at odds with their surroundings, are always seeking to change or manipulate it through their own cleverness, while mocking the simplemindedness of the hill folk, the others, the immigrants and the non-whites in these worlds. In Lovecraftian Fiction, the materialist always fails in their attempt to control and typically go mad in the process.
This week’s Lovecraft Tale is one of a few that take place in the desert, ‘The Transition of Juan Romero.’ You will recall that the desert is the home of the Necronomicon, and as is true of anything born (or re-born) in the desert, the qualities of this landscape are forever embedded in their metadata.
Lovecraft begins the tale with a familiar trope:
“Of the events which took place at the Norton Mine on October 18th and 19th, 1894, I have no desire to speak. A sense of duty to science is all that impels me to recall, in these last years of my life, scenes and happenings fraught with a terror doubly acute because I cannot wholly define it.”
First, we have another date for our Lovecraftian Magical Calendar, Oct. 19th, the Feast Day of Juan Romero. Second, here we have another instance of the life long materialist using his devotion to the world of science as an impetus to record for the historical record an inexplicable supernatural occurance. The materialists in Lovecraft are the predecessors of the 21st c. Pan-Psychists, they are an early shadow of a scientific field that recognizes magic and the paranormal as a fact in this world that they cannot explain away. Third, the mine mentioned here, the Norton Mine, is now known as the Red Cross Mine and is located on the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range in the Mohawk Mountains between Tacna and Dateland Arizona. The Goldwater Range is a working bombing range for the testing of air to ground bombing, day or night. There is a tangential connection here to those data points found for the Crowninshield family in The Thing on the Doorstep and the Mountains of Madness, as the Crowninshield family has grown in power for the past two centuries, specifically in the areas of naval, missile, and air-to-ground bombing warfare emanating from the Raytheon Company in nearby Tucson, AZ. The Goldwater Range is a field of death, with mass graves peppering the 70-mile expanse along known routes of travel for migrants, and in this capacity, is a particularly gruesome gateway into the Lovecraftian Magical Aesthetic. The amount of biaiothanatoi, ghosts of those who have died violent deaths, must be thick as grass in this stretch of desert. Some possible tech here would be journeying on this most inaccessible wasteland, bringing with you Saints Cyprian and Christopher, in an effort to lead those hungry ghosts to a place of peace. Our converted, half-mad materialist narrator continues:
“I believe that before I die I should tell what I know of the - shall I say transition - of Juan Romero.
My name and origin need not be related to posterity… what I once was is not in the least relevant to my narrative; save perhaps the fact that during my service in India I was more at home amongst white-bearded native teachers than amongst my brother-officers. I had delved not a little into odd Eastern lore when overtaken by the calamities which brought about my new life in America’s vast West…”
Had we not just explored the story of The Terrible Old Man, the references to the East India Company and strange Eastern religions might have been lost on us. As it is, the narrator of ‘Transition’ could very likely be our spirit-trapping hermit at the end of the road in Kingsport, himself. This stint in the American West just being another stop on his veiled journey through the Lovecraftian universe. Moving forward through the tale, our narrator offers us more:
“In the summer and autumn of 1894 I [was] employed as a common laborer at the celebrated Norton Mine… A cavern of gold, lying deep below a mountain lake, had enriched its venerable finder beyond his wildest dreams, and now formed the sear of extensive tunneling… Additional grottoes had been found, and the yield of yellow metal was exceedingly great.”
The aesthetic here is very much the same as the one painted for us in Mountains of Madness, a deep cave of unknown qualities embedded in a hostile wasteland. After our imaginal landscape is laid out for us, the narrator introduces our archetype:
“It was not long after my arrival and employment that Juan Romero came to the Norton mine… of ancient and noble Aztec [stock], whom imagination called to view when [he] would rise in the early morning and gaze in fascination at the sun as it crept above the eastern hills…”
Around this passage one will find the typical Lovecraftian conversation of a degradation of the human species. This is no different then the instances of the same directed at Italians or Germans or the Irish, but it is distinctly more impactful because of our modern sense of morality when it comes to racism. This is not an apologia, far from it, only an observation that this is the same trope that he has employed countless times before. One individual who is the representative of a lost and more potent bloodline, in Juan’s case, the Aztec, surrounded by ‘modern’ peoples whom Lovecraft described as degraded but are almost always the ones more in touch with the magic of this world. The friendship between our miner and Juan Romero deepens:
“The attachment which Romero manifested toward me was undoubtedly commenced through the… ancient… ring which I wore when not engaged in active labour… [He] eyed it was an expression that banished all suspicion of mere covetousness. Its hoary hieroglyphs seemed to stir some faint recollection in his… mind… Though the man Romero had interested me, and though my ring had affected him peculiarly, I think that neither of us had any expectation of what was to follow when the great blast was set off.”
The ring is an interesting artifact in our story and recalls to my mind, thinking in this esoteric critical frame, to lead perhaps back to the classical grimoires and the commanding of spirit-forms through the use of specially prepared magic rings. There is potential here for a full summoning of Juan Romero with the aid of the right type of magical ring. To what purpose will depend on how his story progresses:
“The belief of the Superintendent that only solid rock would be encountered had led to the placing of a prodigious charge of dynamite… The charge, heavier perhaps than had been estimated, had seemed to shake the entire mountain… Upon investigation it was seen that a new abyss yawned indefinitely below the seat of the blast; an abyss so monstrous that no handy line might fathom it, nor any lamp illuminate it…”
To which we are presented with the pinnacle of landscape-as-spirit, Kaos, Azathoth, the Abyss. When the materialists in the story, the Superintendent and his engineers, unsurprisingly fail to grok the Abyss, the rest of the camp turns in for the night. A storm moves in along with the typical sounds of a desert encampment - coyotes in the bush being answered by dogs in the camp. The abyss, deep in the mines, begins to call:
“It was Romero’s voice, coming from the bunk above, that awakened me…
‘Madre de Dios! — el sonido — ese sonido — oiga Vd! lo oye Vd — Senor, that sound?’
I listed… the coyote, the dog, the storm, all were audible… I questioned…
‘El coyote? el perro? el viento?’…
he commenced whispering as in awe:
‘El ritmo, Senor — el ritmo de la tierra…’
And now I also heard… Deep, deep, below me was a sound — a rhythm… Of all its qualities, remoteness in the earth most impressed me. To my mind rushed fragments of a passage in Joseph Glanvill which Poe has quoted with tremendous effect…
‘the vastness, profundity, and unsearchableness of His works, which have a depth in them greater than the well of Democritus’’’
Looking through our lens, the mention of the Well of Democritus takes on an interesting tone. Recalling where we have traced the Norton Mine, to somewhere on the Goldwater Bombing Range, this mention of Democritus — a contemporary of Socrates whose theories laid the foundation of atomic theory, which led us to the atom and consequently, to the splitting of the atom — is potent. Democritus stated that matter cannot be destroyed and space is an infinite void with no limits. The infinite void of space is what Immanuel Kant referred to as the Well of Democritus — the (unobtainable) bottom of which holds the ultimate knowledge. The sound pulsing from this source is what finally drives our two friends from their beds on that lightning-flash illuminated desert night:
“Suddenly Romero leaped from his bunk; pausing before me to gaze at the strange ring on my hand, which glistened queerly in every flash of lightning… I also rose… Then without apparent volition we began toward the door… out into the storm and thence to the gaping blackness of the shaft… As we descended the shaft, the sound beneath grew definitely composite… a sort of… ceremony, with beating of drums and chanting of voices… Romero and I moved… through drifts and down ladders; ever toward the thing that allured us…”
Dante and his Virgil, descend into the mine, seeking the Abyss, where the Devil frozen up to his waist, calls to them both. Once deep in the minds, their paths diverge:
“It was without warning that Romero… broke into a run and left me alone… I heard his repeated shrieks before me, as he stumbled awkwardly along… I yet retained enough of perception to note that his speech… was not of any sort known to me. Harsh but impressive polysyllable… and of these only the oft repeated cry ‘Huitzilopotchi!’ seemed… familiar…”
This is a really exciting addition to the Lovecratian Magic Aesthetic. Huitzilopochtli, otherwise known as the Turquoise Price, is the principal deity of war in the Aztec religion. It also adds hummingbirds, those beautiful and fleeting creatures, to our aesthetic as symbols of the wider Lovecraftian Mythos. The Turquoise Prince is often symbolized as one and it is said that Aztec warriors were all reincarnated as hummingbirds. He was also able to transform into an eagle. Through the Turquoise Prince, we are potentially given access to his four hundred brothers, the Centzon Huitznaua, who are all of the stars in the Southern Hemisphere. His sister is Coyolzauqui, the Aztec instantiation of Selene.
Lovecraft’s work is primarily concerned, astrally, with the Northern Hemisphere. Thus, ‘Transition,’ acts as our gateway into the unexplored Aman, the Undying Lands of the wider Lovecraftian Cosmogony.
“Wizard-like… was the god [Hitzilopochtli]… the derivation of his hame ‘Hummingbird-Wizard,’ makes this plain enough… He was… a necromancer and a friend of disguieses… he was also associated with prophecy… Huitzilopochtli… was the god of war; the deity… most honored by the Mexican… their chief protector… a spirit-born of a woman… without the assistance of a man… a woman called Coatlicue… who was extremely devoted to the worship of the gods.”
Huitzilopochtli has a familiar super-hero origin story, born of a virgin who then became a goddess, he is the indigenous Mexican Christ archetype, but instead of bringing love and compassion this Aztec Helios-Christ manifestation brings war on the enemy of his people. Again, recalling the location of the Abyss which calls Juan Romero in the Turquoise Prince’s name, we find Spence stating that:
“This was the god, who, as they said, becoming the protector of the Mexicans, conducted them for so many years in their pilgrimage.”
Here, he also fulfills the role of Moses, leading a wandering people through the jungle until they find their homeland, where the eagle kills the snake on the cactus. This place is now known as Mexico City and in this context, it is the Jerusalem of the Aztecs. His manifestation here, in the place where so many migrants have tried to cross into a new promised land, is quite a chilling sync, even dampened through (or maybe because of) the immense timedepth between now and when Lovecraft wrote the tale. ‘Transition’ opens up the probability for new avenues of Lovecraftian Magic, new spells and new dark deities to invoke. It also widens and deepens Lovecraftian Magic as a distinctly American, as in the full expanse of the Americas, system. Spence offering us some clues to the tech that might surround this Undying Lands Magic when he states that:
“Nearly all messages supposed to be received from the supernatural came through the medium of dreams or visions… The priests hold it as an article of belief that the glimpse into futurity… was to be gained by purifying the vision through hunger… The basis of Mexican religion, it will be found is… a magical one, the gods are magical figures, their rites arose from magical practice… Beneath the worship of these we can descry one out-standing purpose — the desire to ensure… a supply of rain by magical means as would result in a [plentiful] crop of maize…”
If you’re a magician or witch in America and your rituals do not include corn or squash you are essentially denying sustenance to all endemic spirit-forms. Offerings of corn and squash are not apropriative, they are merely a recognition of what American spirit-forms find most palatable.
Conversely, offering frankincense to Huitzilopochtli is appropriative, as you are denying this ancient magician any sustenance specifically due to an over-identification with human barriers of race, class and geography.
If you need rain in the Mojave, don’t ask Fristmost, ask the spirits who have called that land home since the beginning of time.
In the end, our narrator takes a peak over the edge of the Abyss and sees for himself a red glowing heart deep within it. This image is immediately familiar to me for it is what Jung saw himself when he descended into his desert cave, a glowing red sun being obscured by snakes. This red center, for Jung, is the knowledge of Christ. In the Transition of Juan Romero, the red center in the abyss is the Turquoise Prince, the Aztec Helios-Christ himself, calling Juan Romero home through the language of dreams. A call so potent, that it pulls Romero from one side of the veil to the next.
Our tarot match for this week’s archetype, Juan Romero, is number thirty-eight, the Knight of Cups.
Our Etteilla deck gives up two keywords, Arrival and Knavery. Arrival is from the Old French ‘ariver,’ meaning ‘to come to land’ and also has a sense beginning in the late fourteenth century of ‘coming to a position or state of mind.’ Knave, beginning in the 12th century, has the sense of ‘rogue’ or ‘rascal’ and was first recorded as describing ‘one of low birth.’ The knave, or rogue, is also commonly understood as one that acts uncouth or uneducated, or in other words, in a simpleminded manner. The suffix -ery means a ‘place for, art of, condition of, or quantity of’ so Knavery can be translated as the ‘Rogue’s Place.’ The full interpretation of our two keywords could be the coming to the state of mind known as the Place of Rogues.
If Jung’s simplemindedness knows no intention, and magic is the most effective when our intentions our fully obscured, should Lovecraftian Mages be seeking, as we sail upon the surface of Quiddity, the shore that will lead us to the Rogue’s Place? I believe this is where the bulk of his fiction-as-spells are pointing us.