This week started out, so so rough. After some utterly sleepless nights, on Tuesday, I had the worst morning. You see, October for me, for a long time, has been a really crossed month. For years my finances have been drained, my cars break down, and generally tons of badness is heaped onto my shoulders from the beginning to the end of October.
I know when this happened. It was maybe, Christos, close to twenty years now, shite. One of my brother’s and I were screwing around on Halloween night with my ‘Treasury of Witchcraft’. As I’ll explain later in the post, we didn’t have much money, rented a small apartment with too many people in it to try and cover the rent, and all in a generally impoverished part of town. We cleaned factory ductwork and grease traps for a living. A life of piss and shit, to put it bluntly. So naturally, as we were flipping through my book, when we came upon a treasure spell that seemed pretty easy to do, we didn’t hesitate.
The spell in the book was as simple as saying a few words. I grabbed one of the black cats we lived with, for good measure.
The spell worked immediately, when I left for work the next night (third shift vacuuming welding exhausts in a factory up North of Milwaukee), I found twenty dollars on the sidewalk! Sweet! Or was it…
That twenty was gone by morning on vending machine coffee and chips, and ever since then, my Octobers have been 100% crossed. I’ve been paying for that treasure ever since. Now that I know a bit more about witchcraft, my mistakes are clear. Halloween night is for feeding the dead, not for treasure spells. And if the Book of Saint Cyprian is any guide, most treasure requires some serious disenchantment if one is ever to enjoy it.
Anyway, this October started out just like the rest. I had this morning last Tuesday, Holy Crow, turned on the Jeep and got a check engine light, but I had to get to work so I drove it anyway, we’ve all been there. The battery had a really low charge and the engine was sputtering and spewing blue smoke out of the recently installed new muffler and tail pipe. I turned around once, thinking I wasn’t going to make it, but the check engine light turned off, so I proceeded as planned.
Stopped at the coffee house to grab an espresso, which is when I found out my bank account was overdrawn. Grabbed my laptop to try and transfer funds from another account, and the sites security certificate was revoked (as was my access to any money). I had to head back home to grab some cash to dump into that overdrawn account before the late fees kicked in… And it goes on like this. One obstacle after another until I had to finally call in and go home, were my warm and loving family were waiting, sit down and figure things out. I got to work eventually, and got everything sorted, but you get the idea, strings of bad luck like that can’t help but give you the feeling that your crossed.
The next morning, I spent over an hour reciting Orison’s from the Book of Saint Cyprian that are designed to uncross one’s life in exchange for renouncing any curses you might have worked in the past. I’ve never really overtly cursed anyone, but being magically adjacent, I have seen people’s lives completely fall apart after they’ve wronged me in some way, so there must be some unconscious cursework going on at some level.
That morning, even though I drove to work and back with a trickle of a battery and a bright red check engine light the day before, that morning after the orisons and the candles and the appeals and the planetary prayers and the Libra III portion of my decan walk, I started the Jeep up to a full battery and no check engine light. It still is sputtering a bit, but by Gods if she isn’t running on divine intervention right now I’ll eat my wizard’s hat.
This week, we’ll be exploring a story from Lovecraft, ‘The Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn’ and it's corresponding Tarot trump. The story and its trump nest perfectly into a dialog for race, poverty, Imperialism, and an implicit Capitalist class structure. Without out hard work, and when I say work I mean spiritual, physical, and magical, without hard work these barriers can never be circumvented.
Maybe that is the lesson of the inexperienced treasure spell gone horribly wrong. There is no short cut, even (especially) with magic. You can change your world, your luck, but you have to do the work.
For this week’s imbrications, I’m going back to our metal theme. Even though, since I started this section of the Gnome School blog, most of the past imbrications have fit this theme, I want to assure you that obscure doom metal is not the only definition that fits the section.
Nevertheless, I’ve got a fun one for you this week, Telekinetic Yeti.
Telekinetic are a stoner doom metal duo from Dubuque, IA. Alex Baumann on guitar and vocals and Anthony Dreyer on drums - these two make SUCH an aligned pair that if you’d have just heard their tracks without the above context, you’d never guess its only two people. Their sound is that big.
The imbrication here is as it’s been before, I think doom is a perfect soundtrack for a 21st c. Lovecraftian haunted world, and these two fit the subject this week’s post, one Arthur Jermyn, just perfectly.
Check em out!
AND THE YETIKIN SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH...
The first quote that jumped out to me when reading through Lovecraft’s ‘Arthur Jermyn’ was as followed:
“Science… will perhaps be the ultimate exterminator of our human species.”
This will be the theme for our exploration of the story, but it is a theme with multiple tentacles. On one hand, it is a perspective that denotes we are on a crash course to exterminating ourselves with our inventions [SkyNet is now booting up…], it also could mean that our continued scientific discovery will eventually uncover our demise as a species. This could be through bio-engineering, GMOs, perhaps our extinction is already written by the tech we already have in use.
The above quote could also mean, and this is probably more correct, science in Lovecraft’s proto-Steampunk retrofuturist Victorian context, science as a tool, a means, and the driving reason for Imperialism.
When we talk about Imperialism in the 21st Century Western World it is impossible to not talk about racism. Critics that talk about Lovecraft and don’t talk about Imperialism or capital R Racism are being obtuse. I am not that kind of theorist and although I have only skirted these subjects to date, it doesn’t mean I’m not ready and willing to throw it down.
A small amount of context about myself is required, however, before I jump in. First, my ancestry is German, Irish, and Swedish. In short, I am as white as a winter night is long, dig? I recognize that as a white cis-male that white privlidge and American exceptionalist structures have played a part in where I find myself in life.
I am not, however, uninitiated in the liminal spaces of class and race and culture in America. I grew up on a dairy farm, as I’ve mentioned, but at twenty, me and my BFF Ghostly Harmless purchased two one-way black market plane tickets in someone else’s names (try that in post 9/11 America) and flew out to Tucson, AZ, where we lived for several years. We steeped in Southwest, Mexican, and Latin American culture for years, lived in the poorer neighborhoods, and existed in that space, albiet in a liminal way seperated by language and by virtue of who we were. Thankfully, Hispanic culture is much more accepting of ‘outsiders’.
After that, returning to the Midwest, Milwaukee to be exact, I lived on the city’s North Side. Milwaukee is the most segregated city in the US. The North Side is dominantly African America, the South Side Latino / Hispanic, and the East and West sides are dominantly white. I lived, again, in a liminal layer as it was impossible not to stand out in this neighborhood.
My wife, who lived on my block (but whom I never met in the neighborhood but only when we got a job at the same hipster coffee roaster on the East Side, thanks to whatever spirit arranged that sync), and her family, and by extension our children together, are Mexican American - so there is an additional decade and a half of now living as part of the culture.
During my undergrad I fell into (another spirit nudge) studying the Ojibwe language, for those readers not familiar, Ojibwe is a large American Indian tribe in the Wisconsin / Minnesota / Ontario area. My instructor, a Bad River Ojibwe elder, became my mentor. He had me participate in ceremonies, do extended research into the language and culture, and had me participate in a community language round table every week at the Congregation of the Great Spirit on Milwaukee’s South Side.
Growing up on a farm, in the poorest county of Illinois meant that there was never a great deal of capital to speak of. Moving from this area to the non-white neighborhoods of Tucson continued an exposure to a world that exists without a lot of material goods (and thrives, nonetheless). The area I lived most of my life in Milwaukee could be described as working Middle to Lower Middle Class, an area surrounded by extreme poverty. While not a member of the cultural / racial in-group in the areas I lived, I am wholly part of the same socio-economic class.
When talking about race and class in Lovecraft, that is my context. Many readers will hit the description ‘white cis-male’, and that will be all the information they need to base their perspective on, the rest of this context will be irrelevant to them - that is 100% OK. I’ve laid out ‘where I come from’ and have made explicit the foundations of my criticism.
With that out of the way, let’s get back to the fun stuff and explore the world of Arthur Jermyn.
This story is, in part, absolutely a commentary on race, as is noted in the mention of Sir Wade Jermyn’s ‘Observations on the Several Parts of Africa’ and its inclusion of theories of prehistoric white inhabitants of the Congo. This thread, that of ‘white man’ having roots all the way back to antiquity, was (and really, in some circles, still is) very popular in Lovecraft’s late / post-Victorian world. Arthur Jermyn can’t be reduced to a origins of the white man myth, however. One can’t ignore the overt mysoginistic tones, such as the mention of Wade Jermyn’s; Arthur’s g.g.g. grandfather; wife, whom he kept in seclusion. Other women are mentioned, other wives, which were gypsies and dancers. This places woman in a liminal other-space and in a context of being somehow less-than, this is clear.
Moving away from race and class, there is a specific date in Arthur Jermyn. I want to pay close attention to these dates because I think they will be important for an ongoing experimental thread with this exercise that will be revealed later, when it is more fully formed. The date is October 19th, 1852.
The Libra III decan dropped this week, and I find it an interesting correlation (maybe not a sync, but maybe it is) that this date falls within the Decan I am working in. According to Lovecraft, on October 19th, 1852, there was a meeting between Jermyn and an explorer by the name of Samuel Seaton, who brought a manuscript to the Jermyn’s home that contained independent corroboration of a lost city in the jungles of Africa, in the area of the Onga’s, a city of human-ape hybrids.
With a minimum of research I found an interesting but maybe not significant event that happened on this day (or maybe it is). October 19th is the feast day of Saint Phillip Howard (yup, a Lovecraftian namesake). Phillip Howard was religiously apathetic (sounds familiar) until he underwent a personal religious resurgence, becoming a Catholic zealot. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1585, where he lived out the rest of his days, dying at the age of thirty-eight. There might be more there, but for now, we will just note the date and its association with Arthur Jermyn.
This story is told, mostly, as a family history. Arthur’s father, it is said, joined the circus as a young man - meeting the singer that would become Arthur’s mother. Carnies, gypsies, singers, and dancers… when reading past the overt psuedo-genetic theories in Jermyn, we begin to get more of a feel of a universal classism than a racism here.
Arthur, it is explained, is of a very unusual appearance. While not explicitly stated, it is fairly clear that Arthur has ‘simian’ characteristics. These are not his only qualities, however:
“It was the mind and character of Arthur Jermyn which atoned for his [simian] aspect. Gifted and learned, he took highest honors at Oxford…”
This seems to indicate that the non-human lineage of Arthur Jermyn had either no effect on his intellectual prowess or had the effect of enhancing it. If one were to take the other mentions of carnies, dancers, etc. into this context, Lovecraft is almost implying that the hinterlands of society are a place of wonder and intelligence, which is in opposition to the more explicit tone in which he describes it. Its nearly a commentary AGAINST the imperialist WASP supremacy mindset, and not for it, as modern criticism would likely state.
Moving further into the tale, we find this line:
“the white-ape godess which the strange [half human hybrids] worshiped…”
This line (and its surrounding context) has hints of an Antarctic race of Yeti’s that migrated to Africa, when the planet was locked in ice and they could move freely across what is now ocean. It also ties it to the story of the Beast in the Cave, and by extension, the Hermit, who is the figure described in that story. When we look for a lineage in the Tarot, it should eventually flow back to this archetype.
There is also ties to the Book of Saint Cyprian here, like when it is mentioned that on August 3, 1913, Jermyn received the crate that contained the mummified ‘white-ape’ goddess that proves his ancestor’s theories and experiences to be correct. The item that finally sends our hero, dripping with fuel oil, out into the English marshland on a mission of self-immolation was a golden locket around the mummified female Yeti-kin’s neck, a locket that was marked with the Arthur’s family crest.
It is mentioned in the epilogue of the tale, that this locket was thrown into a deep well. This tossing into a well is a sign of either invoking a curse or trying to break one. It is familiar to me because, as I've mentioned, I have been reading an Orison from the Book of Saint Cyprian every morning this month in an attempt to uncross this month, and in this orison throwing an item in a well is listed as a type of cursework. The locket being gold and hidden but with its geographic location more or less narrowed down so that the possibility of it recovery is not so remote reminds me of the lists of enchanted treasures in the Book of Saint Cyprian and the stories of disenchantment.
While the location of Jermyn’s home is never explicitly stated, it is mentioned that one of Arthur’s ancestors is committed to an asylum in Huntingdon. If this holds true, the locket is very likely in a well still, somewhere in the region of Cambridgeshire.
Since it was my birthday last week, it stands to reason that this week would be filled with new books filtering into my mailbox. One of those was Nate Carson’s Starr Creek. The chapters are small and quick and filled with action. I had half intended to mine it for details that I could apply to the above analysis of Arthur Jermyn, but didn’t find anything overt in the first four chapters. I did find an undercurrent however, that links the two; living the human life in a liminal space.
Starr Creek begins by introducing a handful of characters and scenes, a biker bar and dog food eating contest is the context for the first character. A Dungeons and Dragons game and the accompanying nerdy cohort is the second. Throughout Arthur Jermyn, Lovecraft recounts details of figures in the Jermyn lineage like a spirit list. All of these we have mentioned, dancers, singers, carnies, sailors… These are all figures that live and work and love in a liminal space. This framing by Lovecraft is the real meaning of the Imperialist socio-cultural commentary within. He takes pains to point out the intelligence, strength, and wealth of the Jermyn clan, a lineage deeply entwined with the animal world and the liminal stages of an Imperialist institutionally racist society.
There is another dimension though, a time-deep ecological frame that intersects with the imperialist social commentary above.
The overarching premise of Arthur Jermyn is the presence of a female Beast-Lady, worshiped as a goddess in the Congo, and is the mother of a race of human-ape hybrids, a population of missing link Yetikin. Donna Haraway makes mention of an ancient intersection between the world of animals and the world of man, another Gorgon by the name of Potnia Theron:
“Potnia Theron, the Mistress of the Animals, [is a] winged goddess wearing a split skirt and touching a bird with each hand. She is a vivid reminder of the breadth, width, and temporal reach into pasts and futures of chthonic powers in Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds and byeond. Potnia Theron is rooted in Minoan and then Mycenean cultures and infuses Greek stories of the Gorgons… and Artemis. A kind of far-traveling Ur-Medusa, the Lady of Beasts is a potent link between Crete and India… Potnia Theron’s… snakey locks and Gorgon face tangle her with a diverse kinship of chthonic earthly forces that travel richly in space and time… Gorgon… is an astralized, patriarchal hearing of much more awe-ful stories and enactments of generation… The chthonic ones are precisely not sky gods, not a foundation for the Olympiad, not friends to the Anthropocene or the Captialocene, and definitely not finished… The Gorgons are powerful winged chthonic entities without a proper genealogy; their reach is lateral and tentacular; they have no settled lineage and no reliable kind…”
Arthur Jermyn, as the uber-intelligent Yetikin whose true lineage is hidden from him, represents this ecologoical archetype whose presence stands against both the Anthropocene and the Capitalocene, but when finding the truth of his role in either, as a Chthonic Yetikin whose success in academics and critical thinking, whose unreliable lineage not only challenges but destroys the Imperialist world he lives in, when this is revealed he makes the decision to snuff out his own life and his line.
What does this mean?
If Potnia Theron is the Ur-Medusa, the Lady of Beasts, then Arthur Jermyn, another far traveling hybrid, can be stretched across the visage of the Man of Beasts.
In the modern Tarot, we have the World as one of our 22 Trumps. The World is generally represented as a beautiful woman, much like Aphrodite or Venus. This was not always the case. An alternate version of the World, of which we see an example in the Eteilla deck, is the L’Homme et les Quadrupeds, or the Man of Beasts. The keyword in the reversed position is Terre, which is related to OE ‘eorpe’, which in turn maps to the territory of Middengeard and relates to the Material World. In the upright position the keyword on the Eteilla trump is ‘Voyage’, from Old French, which relates to movement, mission, crusade, or a road.
The Man of Beasts carries the meaning of fulfillment, completion, the final state of cosmic consciousness, possibly the transcendence from a world governed by the demiurge, from the mortal coil, from humanity. This is a card filled with emotions, ambitions, material goals, synthesis, success, and glory. Reversed it tells us that the above achievements are missed or delayed due to conservatism.
Arthur is a Beast-Man, his tale tells us that if we are too involved with the distraction of the Capitalocene, if we are too attached to our own importance as humans, then our journey towards either a transition or to merely just the recognition of the Cthulhucene as a superior, more enchanted, more haunted lifeway, will end in a fire that ends all things, instead of one that renews and transitions our form.