Lovecraft, Mushrooms, Magic


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This is it. This is the last post I am going to formally make concerning this project. I began this research project into the Lovecraftian oeuvre back in July of 2017 and every week for eighty weeks I have ate slept and breathed Lovecraft (not really, I also wrote a YA novel and a business book in that timespan — who says you can’t sigil to be a better writer).

In short, I’m exhausted. I need to put the new writing up for a bit, or at the very least switch into a lower gear. I need to go back through the posts and compile them into something even more valuable than this blog. I want to thank every one of you that have read and commented on the blog in the past two plus years. There are a few gaps, a few posts that came out a bit shorter than I would have liked, but for the most part you have hung in there with me as I mapped every extant Lovecraft tale to the seventy-eight tarot archetypes. I am excited to begin the process of moving back through them, cleaning them up, and creating a usable (if experimental) system of chaos magic that can assist the twenty-first century magic-user with her work of decolonizing and haunting the fuck out of our crumbling, broken world — a world that Lovecraft presaged in his short time on the planet.

There is still work to be done on this project, however, and you will find my attempts here continuing into the future. In order to decolonize Lovecraft, to make him useful in the modern world and not an artifact or foil for materialists, in order to decolonize his work we must compare him to decolonized authors in the weird fiction genre and see where he falls short and where he measures up. In order for his corpus to be useful to those of us that seek to do good in the world and to change it according to the new rules in this swiftly descending Aeon of Magic, it must be pulled apart, the text responded to as the independent entity that it is. Lovecraft’s fiction is the ostensible spirit-on-a-mission. You will find my explorations in this direction here in the coming year, just not with as great as regularity.

I am also toying with a new project that I have affectionally dubbed the Myconomicon. Look for those posts and others that tickle my fancy as I find a new goal to achieve.

For now, let’s get to it, let us see what our final tale, ‘The Shadow Out of Time,’ holds for us. ‘Shadow…’ was written in the winter of 1934 - 35. In it, Lovecraft wastes no time in introducing us to our last archetype, the good Professor Peaslee:

“My name is Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee, and those who recall the newspaper tales of a generation back — or the letters and articles in psychological journals six or seven years ago — will know who and what I am. The press was filled with the details of my strange amnesia in 1908 - 13, and much was made of the traditions of horror, madness, and witchcraft which lurk behind the ancient Massachussetts town then and now forming my place of residence. Yet I would have it known that there is nothing whatever of the mad or sinister in my heredity and early life. This is a highly important fact in view of the shadow which fell so suddenly upon me from outside sources…”

Placing this in juxtaposition with The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. The primary vehicle of that tale was that Ward did, in fact, have a sinister ancestor, the necromancer Joseph Curwen. Lovecraft places great weight on top of ancestry and throughout his corpus, uses bloodlines as highways through which his protagonists travel across time.

Our protagonist, Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee, is a professional academic — a Harvard educated full professor of economics. This choice of protagonist is curious (and it isn’t) given previous treatments of academics in Lovecraft’s work. His relationship with the academy, or at least the idea of academy, seems to bounce from revulsion to a full embrace of the ivory tower.

Professor Peaslee holds mastery over two disciplines, economics and psychology. He is also, we find, an amnesiac:

“It was on Thursday, May 14, 1908, that the queer amnesia came. The thing was quite sudden, though later I realised that certain brief, glimmering visions of several hours previous — chaotic visions which disturbed be greatly because they were so unprecedented — must have formed premonitory symptoms. My head was aching, and I had a singular feeling — altogether new to me — that someone else was trying to get possession of my thoughts.”

May 14th can be marked on our Lovecraftian Magical Calendar as the Possession of Nathaniel Peaslee. Another excellent date to cast retroactive sigils or otherwise enchant across temporal boundaries. During his amnesiac period, as he pieces together for us from tales told to him by his friends and family, he travelled the world in search of knowledge — none of which he overtly recalls:

“In 1909 I spent a month in the Himalayas, and in 1911 aroused much attention through a camel trip into the unknown deserts of Arabia. What happened on those journeys I have never been able to learn. During the summer of 1912 I chartered a ship and sailed I the Arctic north of Spitsbergen, afterward shewing signs of disappointment. Later in that year I spent weeks alone beyond the limits of previous or subsequent exploration in the vast limestone cavern systems of western Virginia — black labyrinths so complex that no retracing of my steps could even be considered.”

Peaslee is shewing us all what a Lovecraftian Magician at the very peak of her power looks like, traveling the world in search of power spots, or rather, in our case, knowledge spots — places in the world that either hide or hold esoteric knowledge in some form. In a way, Peaslee is reading the globe as if it is a forbidden book. He is also visiting places that we have ourselves, in the course of this research. Peaslee is bringing together the disparate narratives of tales like ‘The Beast in the Cave’, ‘The History of the Necronomicon’, and ‘The Mountains of Madness’. In reality, this globe-trotting is only possible for many of us through the vehicle of journeying and dream. Traveling via these reality lenses, however, are just as powerful (if not more so) then visiting these places in the real.

Spitsbergen, for instance, is a new place on our Lovecraftian Magical Map, not mentioned elsewhere in the corpus. It is the only populated island in the Svalbard archipelago and is a gateway to the Arctic Ocean, Norwegian and Greenland Seas. It was discovered in 1596 by the Dutchman Willem Barentsz. A significant fact for us is that Barentsz first voyage into the Northeast Passage was aboard a small vessel christened the ‘Mercury.’ This voyage marks the first time that white men encountered a polar bear, who tried to climb aboard the ship. The brilliant seamen attempted to help it with the thought of subduing it and transporting it back to Holland. Once aboard, however, the polar bear overpowered his would-be captors and rampaged across the trip, his reward, a musket shot.

His amnesiac personality also sought out groups of individuals that hold what is considered esoteric knowledge of the world:

“Other ugly reports concerned my intimacy with leaders of occultist groups… These rumors… were doubtless stimulated by the known tenor of some of my reading — for the consultation of rare books at libraries cannot be effected secretly. There is tangible proof — in the form of marginal notes — that I went minutely through such things as the Comte d’Erlette’s ‘Cultes des Goules,’ Ludvig Prinn’s ‘De Vermis Mysteriis,’ the ‘Unaussprechlichen Kulten’ of von Junzt, the surviving fragments of the puzzling ‘Book of Eibon,’ and the dreaded ‘Necronomicon’…”

Unusual for Lovecraft, all of the tomes mentioned are imaginal grimoires, and are connected to his circle of weird fiction friends. Previous to this, Lovecraft would intersperse his own imaginal grimoires or those channeled by others with a generous sampling of real world texts. Perhaps this tale marks a shift, a temporal point where Lovecraftian Magic having sufficient momentum, begins to break free of its creator and live in the world of its own accord.

In the year of 1913, Nathaniel Peaslee once again regained his normal personality and ceased his strange dealings and studies. In February 1914, he resumed his tenured positioned as an economics professor, although his life was plagued with curious temporal episodes:

“Vague dreams and queer ideas continually haunted me, and when the outbreak of the world war turned my mind to history I found myself thinking of periods and event in the oddest possible fashion. My conception of time — my ability to distinguish between consecutiveness and simultaneousness — seemed subtly disordered; so that I formed chimerical notions about living in one age and casting one’s mind all over eternity for knowledge of past and future ages.

The war gave me strange impressions of remembering some of its far-off consequences — as if I knew how it was coming out and could look back upon it in the light of future information. All such quasi-memories were attended with much pain, and with a feeling that some artificial psychological barrier was set against them… men in the mathematics department spoke of new developments in those theories of relativity — then discussed only in learned circles — which were later to become so famous. Dr. Albert Einstein, they said, was rapidly reducing time to the status of a mere dimension.”

For those among us that have read Eric Wargo’s ‘Time Loops,’ the above description will be very impactful, for it perfectly encapsulates Wargo’s primary examples of premembering — especially with the connection of World War I — a worldwide trauma of the type that Wargo argues is often a trigger for precognitive events. The feeling of ‘remembering far-off consequences’ is an exact match for the experiences Wargo talks about, written eighty years before Wargo would collect his years of research into one very coherent book. Our principal narrator, the good Mr. Peaslee, continues down this path as the tale progresses:

“In the course of some months… the element of terror did figure with accumulating force. This was when the dreams began to unfailingly to have the aspect of memories, and when my mind began to link them with my growing abstract disturbances — the feeling of mnemonic restraint, the curious impressions regarding time, the sense of a loathsome exchange with my secondary personality of 1908 - 13, and considerably later, the inexplicable loathing of my own person…

Piecing together the scattered records, ancient and modern, anthropological and medical, I found a fairly consistent mixture of myth and hallucination whose scope and wildness left me utterly dazed… Cases of amnesia no doubt created the general myth-pattern — but afterward the fanciful accretions of the myths must have reacted on amnesia sufferers and coloured their pseudo-memories. I myself had read and heard all the early tales during my memory lapse… Was it not natural, then, for my subsequent dreams and emotional impressions to become coloured and moulded by what my memory subtly held over from my secondary state? A few of the myths had significant connexions with other cloudy legends of the pre-human world, especially those [Hindu] tales involving stupefying gulfs of time and forming part of the lore of modern theosophists.

Primal myth and modern delusion joined in their assumption that mankind is only one — perhaps the least — of the highly evolved and dominant races of this planet’s long and largely unknown career. Things of inconceivable shape, they implied, had reared towers to the sky and delved into every secret of Nature before the first amphibian forbear of man had crawled out of the hot sea three hundred million years ago.Some had come down from the stars; a few were as old as the cosmos itself; others had arisen swiftly from terrene germs as far behind the first germs of our life-cycle as those germs are behind ourselves.”

Our narrator here is picking on a few familiar themes, such as the primal archetypal architecture of the tower and the deep connection between Lovecraftian Magic and theosophy. Also of interest here is the nod to Darwin and the Theory of Evolution. It seems so remote to us here in the twentieth century, but in Lovecraft’s time, The Origin of Species only predated the publication of ‘The Beast in the Cave’ by a mere six decades. Along with Theosophical doctrine (the above quote and the passages that proceed it in the tale incriminate Lovecraft as a scholar of these works), Darwin’s works can also be placed on our shelf of Lovecraftian tomes. In the process of recovering from his long years of lost memories, Professor Peaslee begins to keep closer track of his inner life:

“I continued… to keep a careful record of the outré dreams which crowded upon me so thickly and vividly. Such a record, I argued, was of genuine value as a psychological document. The glimpses still seemed damnably like memories, though I fought of this impression… In writing, I treated the phantasmata as things seen; but at all other times I brushed them aside… I had never mentioned such matters in common conversation; though reports of them, filtering out as such things will, had aroused sundry rumours against my mental health…”

The keeping of a dream journal is a common practice among both non-magical and magically-adjacent folk. It is (or should be) somewhat of a requirement for those practitioners that want to record and track any spirit contact, premonitions, or transmission of knowledge that might result due to any rituals. I point to the PGM as having copious examples of these types of spells. Eric Wargo makes firm statements towards the necessity of dream journalling if one is to improve premembering or other precognitive events in one’s life.

Famously, Carl Jung was a regular practitioner of dream journaling, the pinnacle of this practice being his Red Book. The scholar and astrologer Dr. Becca Tarnas has evidenced strong connections between Jung’s Red Book and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I have made this assertion before, but the above passage helps to strengthen it so I will make it again. Lovecraft, as can be intuited from his description of dream journaling in Shadow Out Of Time, was experiencing the same thread of collective dreaming that Jung and Tolkien were, and at the same time. The Red Book was written between 1915 and 1930. The Shadow Out of Time gives dates in that same range and the story itself was written between 1934 and 1935. Tolkien’s Hobbit was a year or so previous to this and his Lord of the Rings trilogy followed soon after. Lovecraft is the third point of what amounts to a deep psychic triangulation, performed by three giants of thought and letters, of the spirit world / alien intelligence between the years of 1915 a 1945. This allusion to a type of psychic dream-life triangulation that, with Lovecraft in Providence, Tolkien in England, and Jung in his Bollingen Tower in Lake Zürich, places the center of the triangulation quite nicely somewhere deep in the Atlantic Ocean. This is, in this researcher’s opinion, an excellent mystery to end our exploration with.

Our tarot match for the dream-tortured Professor Peaslee is the Eight of Batons.

Eight of Batons.jpg

Our Etteilla deck offers us two key phrases for the Eight of Batons, ‘Disputes Intestines’ or ‘Intestinal Dispute,’ and ‘Partie de Campagne’ or ‘Part of Campaign.’ These will take some unpacking. Luckily, we are adept at just that skill.

Concerning Intestinal Dispute, ‘intestine’ maps back to the Latin adjective ‘intestinus,’ meaning ‘inward’ or ‘internal.’ This term is derived from ‘intus,’ meaning ‘within,’ or ‘on the inside.’ Further back, the PIE term *entos, is a form of the root *en, meaning ‘in’ — *en expands out into embryo, engine, and imposter. Dispute is from the 12 century Old French and means to ‘fight over’ or ‘discuss.’ It stems from the Latin ‘disputare,’ meaning ‘weigh’ or ‘examine.’ Disputare is made up of the prefix ‘dis-‘ and the PIE root *pau-, which mean ‘to count’ and ‘to strike’ or ‘stamp, in turn — *pau- expands out into account, amputate and compute.

Campaign is a relatively recent word, coming from the 1600s and relating directly to military field operations. It is related to the Old French term ‘champagne,’ which means ‘countryside’ or ‘open country,’ and further back, the Late Latin ‘campania,’ which means ‘level country.’ The term ‘Part’ is ultimately from the PIE root *pere-, which means ‘to grant.’ This PIE root expands out into jeopardy and partisan.

Our archetype, Professor Peaslee, is in jeopardy, or at least his sanity is. He shares his consciousness with an ancient alien race from the vast open country of the Mesozoic Earth. This entity, which amputates Nathaniel Peaslee’s physical form from his consciousness, is highly intelligent, capable of inhuman level of computation. The core key phrase here is internal dispute. This is the driver of the plot of ‘The Shadow Out of Time,’ the conflict that ensues as Peaslee begins to dream and premember the future and deep past. He is the best example contact with our ancestors and contact with our own consciousness backwards and forwards in time. These connections can either increase conflict and hardship, or improve our own probability matrix — making our live easier.

All magic begins inside. This is true for Tolkien’s enchanted world, for Jung’s secret conversations with Philemon, and with the Lovecraft’s cosmically ancient monsters. When we triangulate the work of these three giants we find the center, that lonely spot in the cold ocean, actually resides at our own spiritual and mental core. The Aleph of Lovecraftian Magic resides in all of us.