“the strangest and maddest of myths are often merely symbols or allegories based upon truth…”
The Shadow Over Innsmouth is an anthropologist’s journey into the soul of a small backwoods town. There are hints of this in the beginning but it isn’t until our narrator meets up with the old Zadok Allen that it becomes most apparent:
“the sight of old Zadok Allen set up new currents in my minds and made me slaken my pace… I had been assured that the old man could do nothing but hint at wild… legends… yet the thought of this aged witness to the town’s decay, with memories going back to the early days of ships and factories, was a lure that no amount of reason could make me resist.”
There are, in our modern age, innumerable documentaries of this sort. The Andrew Douglas film, Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus and its accompanying soundtrack by Jim White being a stellar example of this sub-genre. It isn’t something I expected to find during this project but is an interesting addition to our aesthetic and does fit well within the parameters of the Lovecraftian Magic-User as a type of researcher-magician.
The quote that opens our examination this week lends strength to the premise that the Lovecraftian monsters are based on primal truths, not of the universe (which cares not for truth or lies) but of humankind (whose existence is spent seeking [or making] truth). Our narrator, acting as ethnographer, relays how he begins the business of procuring invaluable data about Innsmouth from his informant:
“A quart bottle of whiskey was easily, though not cheaply, obtained… I attracted [Zadok Allen’s] attention by brandishing my newly purchased bottle… Before I reached Main Street I could hear a faint and wheezy ‘Hey Mister!’ behind me, and I presently allowed the old man to catch up and take copious pulls from the quart bottle… At length I saw a grass-grown opening toward the sea between crumbling brick walls, with the weedy length of an earth-and-masonry wharf projecting beyond… Here, I thought, was the ideal place for a long secret colloquy; so I guided my companion down the land and picked out spots to sit in among the mossy stones… Toward the end of the second hour [of conversation]… My back was toward the… sea, but he was facing it, and something or other had caused his wandering gaze to light on the low, distant line of Devil Reef… He bent toward me, took hold of my coat lapel, and hissed out some hints that could not be mistaken.
‘That’s whar it all began… what the deep water starts. Gate o’ hell… Cap’n Obed done it - him that faound aout more’n was good fer him in the Saouth Sea islands. Everybody was in a bad way themdays. Trade fallin’ off… the best of our menfolks kilt a-privateering’ in the War of 1812 or lost with the Elizy bring an’ the Ranger… Obed Marsh… had three ships afloat — brigantine Columby, brig Hetty, an barque Sumatry Queen. He was the only one as kep’ on with the East-Injy an’ Pacific trades, though Edras Martin’s barkentine Malay Pride mad a venter as late as ‘twenty eight…”
Zadok is describing the tail end of a brief period of opulence and wealth in the region’s history — a blip of a few decades that is a sort of preface to the region’s future role on the chessboard of empire as ground zero for the American instantiation of the industrial revolution. According to this article from Smithsonian Magazine:
“In the two decades following the American Revolution, Salem’s sailing ships returned from China and East India (as Americans then called India, Indochina and the Malay Archipelago) brimming with tea and spices, silks and porcelain, ivory and gold dust. ‘Boston was the Spain, Salem the Portugal, in the race for Oriental opulence,’ wrote historian Samuel Eliot Morison in 1921. Salem’s hugely profitable trade with the Orient transformed this hardscrabble New England seaport into a global powerhouse and, by the early 1800s, the wealthiest city per capita in the United States.”
The article also offers precedence for Captain Obed Marsh’s obsession with curiosities. It turns out, that at that time and in that place, it was the sworn duty of those trafficking goods back from the East to bring back the strangest items they could find. This collection of items is, in fact, still extant and can be found in the charge of the Peabody Essex Museum of Salem, MA:
“In 1799, Salem’s globe-traveling sea captains and traders established the city’s East India Marine Society, whose bylaws charged members to bring home “natural and artificial curiosities.” The giant clamshells, poisoned arrows, silver hookahs and more than 4,000 other curios they collected formed the nucleus of what is now the PeabodyEssexMuseum, the oldest continuously operated museum in the country. Today the Peabody Essex owns one million works of art from around the world, along with 24 historic buildings and a library of 1.4 million books and manuscripts. In addition to maritime art, its vast holdings of Chinese, Korean, Japanese and South Asian art span five centuries. It also holds the hemisphere’s oldest collections of Native American, African and Oceanic art…
The complex’s historic core is East India Marine Hall, a granite edifice built in 1824 by Salem’s ship captains to hold their curiosities. The hall was also the terminus of their society’s annual procession, in which the seamen paraded through town wearing ornamental robes and brandishing weapons from their travels. At a post-parade banquet inside, they offered ringing toasts—to “the strong limbs, hard faces, and free-born manners of our Sailors.
The club’s first inventory, published in 1821, listed a “waistcoat made of the intestines of the Sea Lion,” a “Malay passport, written on a Palm leaf,” a “Model of a Dog, made of shells, by Miss Bell, of Nantucket, when only 6 years old,” and “Three thousand yards of human hair, braided.” Salem native son Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose father was a member of the society, satirized it in an 1841 story (‘A Virtuoso’s Collection’ [the final story in the collection, ‘Mosses from an Old Manse’]) about a museum that housed Nero’s fiddle, Pandora’s box and the wolf that ate Little Red Riding Hood. Still on view is a circa 1820 Falkland Islands penguin, the first of its species ever exhibited in North America; unfamiliar with the bird, the taxidermist gave it a stork’s elongated neck. (In their fascination with exotica, Salem’s merchant sailors were far more open-minded than their forebears, who in 1692 hanged 19 people for witchcraft and crushed a 20th to death.)
‘They called the objects they collected ‘curiosities,’ but not in the way we use the word today,’ says Daniel Finamore, the museum’s curator of maritime art and history. “They considered them to be physical embodiments of knowledge about the world — pieces of information.’”
Old Zadok, continues, offering clues into the personality of Obed Marsh, one of the last of these ’information seekers’:
“Never was nobody like Cap’n Obed — old limb o’ Satan! I kin mind him a-telling abaout furren parts, an’ callin’ all the folks stupid fer goin’ to Christian meeting… Says they’d orter git better gods like some o’ the folks in the Injies — gods as ud bring ‘em good fishin’ in return for their sacrifices, an’ ud reely answer folk’s prayers.”
Let’s pause a moment and focus on our informant, Zadok Allen. The name, quite obviously, is a strange one. The original Zadok was a priest and a descendent of Aaron, the brother of Moses. Zadok was not just any priest, mind you. He was a priest under King David and is known as the one that annointed the arch-magician, Solomon, effectively imbuing him with the holy power and connection to Jehovah that facilitated his subsequent ability to entrap and enslave scores of demons to perform his will. Ezekiel wrote that the sons of Zadok, a line of patrilineal priests known as the Zadokite dynasty were the front line against pagan worship during their ecclesiastical rule.
Lovecraft, in using the name Zadok for our narrator’s informant, is pointing us toward this legend. Zadok, as a High Priest archtype, is an instantiation of Cthulhu — the high priest of the Lovecraftian Pantheon. Zadok Cthulhicus is a bridge between us, the merrow and their primal deity, Dagon.
Zadok also adds to our aesthetic and the connections that Lovecraft’s mythos has with the growth of empire. Consider Handel’s work, ‘Zadok the Priest,’ which has been performed for the coronation of every British monarch since its composition.
Zadok, in his diatribe, meanders through the history of how Captain Obed Marsh came to know of the merrow from a tribe in the South Pacific that had trafficked with them for generations. After winning the leader of the chiefdom’s trust, he was finally given a lead amulet and instructed in the prayers required to summon the merrow:
“he shewed Obed a lot o’ rites an’ incantations as had to do with the sea-things, an’ let him see some o’ the folks in the village as had changed a lot from human shape… In the end he give him a funny kind o’ thingumajig made aout o’ lead or something, that he said ud bring up the fish things from any place in the water they might e a nest of ‘em. The idee was to drop it daown with the right kind o’ prayers an’ sech…”
Lead is, of course, associated with Saturn and defixiones. Saturn / Kronos, as has been mentioned previously, has myths attached to him that state he was ‘banished to an island realm in the West.’ For a less terrestrial connection, consider the planet Saturn’s moon Enceladus, the ocean moon, which is popularly theorized as being old enough to have evolved life in the ocean beneath its icy crust. It is Kronos the Banished, Saturn the Defeated King, that takes on less of his original cosmic-beyond-time-horror traits and begins to reveal a nature more aligned with the ocean, more aligned with being defeated and ultimately left behind by deities who had long forsaken the earth, before humankind began skittering about the landscape. Kronos might be the only god left on earth in his exile and as such, our only real link to those that defeated and banished him.
Zadok, the keeper of Innsmouth history, continues, having finished the bottle of whiskey procured as an offering to him:
“Wal, come abaout ‘thutty-eight — when I was seven year’ old — Obed faound the island people all wiped aout between v’yages. Seems the other islanders had got wind o’ what was goin’ on, an’ had took matters into their own hands. S’pose they musta had, arter all, them old magic signs as the sea-things says was the only things they was afeard of… Pious cusses, these was — they didn’t leave nothin’ standin’ on either the main island or the little volcanic islet excep’ what parts of the ruins was too big to knock daown. In some places they was little stones strewed abaout — like charms — with something’ on ‘em like what ye call a swastika naowadays. Prob’ly them was the Old Ones’ signs…”
The Shadow Over Innsmouth was written in 1931 and published in 1936. By this time, the swastika had been adopted by Hitler’s Nazi party for over ten years. This would not have escaped Lovecraft’s attention. He would have been introduced to the symbol by another source, however, theosophy. The theosophical seal has incorporated the swastika since its inception, one of the earliest examples being the Preamble and Bylaws of the Theosophical Society, published on October 30th, 1875 (a date, you will recall, that corresponds with our tale). There are theories that link theosophy and the occult undercurrents of nazism through the vehicle of the Austrian occultist and so-called ariosophist, Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels. A more plausible tale is told once again by the Smithsonian Magazine, the story of amatuer archeologist Heinrich Schliemann. Schliemann, interpreting clues in Homer’s Iliad, is widely understood to be the discoverer of the city of Troy, and with it terra cotta fragments with the swastika emblazoned on them, this happened in 1871, a few years before Blavatsky published her preamble. Theosophists largely argue for the more ancient Hindu origins of the symbol but the dates here muddy the waters a bit on the origin of the symbol in theosophy.
What do we make of Lovecraft’s clear association with the symbol and the entities in the Lovecratian pantheon known as the ‘Old Ones’? The Old Ones are associated with Yog-Sothoth and the race of beings that built the city found in The Mountains of Madness, another theosophically influenced tale. In The Call of Cthulhu, they are referenced by Inspector Legrasse as beings that ‘lived ages before there were any men, and who came to the young world out of the sky. Those Old Ones were gone now, inside the earth and under the sea; but their dead bodies had told their secrets in dreams to the first men, who formed a cult which had never died.’ In the context of our tale, the Old Ones are the only ones that the Deep Ones pay homage to, the only beings that they fear. With this association in hand, it would be difficult to make the case that the stone amulet-like icons that Zadok speaks of could be a vector into the primary Hindu meaning of the symbol of fortune and vitality. This is, as the modern theosophist posit, the vector that connects with the swastika extant on their seal. The inclusion of the symbol on these remnants mentioned by Zadok are in reference to a race of beings or a pantheon of deities that subjugate another race, the Deep Ones, or the merrow, in our tale. To this researcher, this means that the Old Ones, the slavers of the Soggoths, the oppressors of the Deep Ones, are a closer correlation with the vile race-based occult philosophy of the ariosophists — who were influenced more by the work of the archaeologist Schliemann than they were the esotericist Blavatsky.
Our anthropologist narrator realizes at this point that his informant’s narrative was winding down. In an effort to extract all of the data he could, he offered the remaining moonshine to Zadok, which nudged him into one last piece of recollection:
“Poor Matt [Captain Obed’s first mate] he allus was agin’ it — treid to line up the folks on his side, an’ had long talks with the preachers — no use — they run the Congregational parson aout o’ taown, at’ the Methodist feller quit — never did see Resolved Babcock, the Baptist parson, agin — Wrath o’ Jehovy — I was a might little critter, but I heerd what I heerd an’ seen what I seen — Dagon an’ Ashtoreth — Belial an’ Beelzebub — Golden Faffe an’ the idols o’ Canaan an’ the Philistines — Babylonish abominations — Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin…”
This last bit is from Daniel 5:25. Here is the passage with added context from the King James Bible:
“Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wind, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein… In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance was changed… The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom… Then was Daniel brought in before the king… Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation…
‘And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thing heart, though thou knewest all this; But has lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written. And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered they kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.’
Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.”
You will recall that the biblical Zadok served King Daniel as High Priest. Lovecraft confirms the relationship between this Zadok and his own by including this brief quote near the end of our informant’s diatribe. It also places Zadok outside of the paranormal and political forces tearing at Innsmouth, making his a truly objective lens in relation to these forces. This passage also offers us some very specific Lovecraftian Magical tech, as specific Bible passages of unique power are frequently included in the classical grimoires. We should not overlook this citation when performing our own rituals within our sub-genre of chaos magic. Following Zadok’s narrative further, we connect with the rest of the story that details how Obed’s trafficking with the merrow brought wealth and prosperity to him and the town of Innsmouth. He, of course, did not take the appropriate (and very grimoiric) precautions of also keeping a line open to Jehovah to protect him against the potential fall-out of prosperity magic. Zadok continues, making mention of the swastika charms one more time following a description of Captian Obed’s taking of Innsmouth with the help of the merrow one night following a spate of dissent against the source of the prosperity among the townsfolk:
“nobody left but them as ud jine in with Obed an’ them things or else keep quiet… everything cleaned up in the mornin’… Nothin’ was to be diff’runt on the aoutside… We all hed to take the Oath o’ Dagon, an’ later on they was secon’ an’ third Oaths that some on us took. Them as ud help special, ud git special rewards — gold an’ sech — No use balkin’, fer they was millions of ‘em daown thar… Yield up enough sacrifices an’ savage knick-knakcs an’ harbourage in the tawon when they wanted it, an’ they’d let well enough alone. Wudn’t bother no strangers as might bear tales aoutside… All in the band of the faithful — Order o’ Dagon — an’ the children shud never die, but go back to the Mother Hydra an’ Father Dagon what we all come from onct — Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn—“
The Order of Dagon represents, at its core, the specific trafficking with spirit forms for the purposes of prosperity. The OoD is described here as an initiatory system that privileges a select few, and thus, supports the structure and aims of empire. Thinking back on the individuals that claim to be members of the 21st century instantiation of the order, these are not the same types of individuals as the New England imperialist seamen that are described by Zadok the informant. This new class of membership shows a way forward towards prosperity when Lovecraft’s politically and economically active spirit-forms are successfully decolonized.
Further, the mention at the end of eternal life and returning to ‘Mother Hydra’ is a direct line back to Tiamat, the first being, the embodiment of chaos. She is the marriage of salt and fresh water, and is therefore represented by areas like mangrove forests and brackish marshes, such as those that Innsmouth, built as it is between Rowley and Ipswich, is laid out on top of.
Zadok continues, revealing more on the imperial lineage of Captain Obed of Innsmouth:
“It go waa araound Civil War time, when children born senct ‘forty-six begun to grow up — some of ‘em, that is… I went to war, an’ ef I’d a had any guts or sense I’d a never come back… but folks wrote me things wa’n’t so bad… In forty-six Cap’n Obed took a second wife that nobody in the tawon never see — some says he didn’t wat to, but was made to by them as he’d called in — had three children by her… Barnabas Marsh that runs the refin’ry naow is Obed’s grandson by his fust wife — son of Onesiphorus, his eldest son, but his mother was another o’ them as wa’n’t never seed aoutdoors.
Right naow Barnabass is abaout changes. Can’t shet his eyes no more, an’ is all aout o’ shape. They say he still wears clothes, but he’ll take to the water soon…”
Here Zadok offers us another biblical phrase (more evidence of Lovecraft’s profound knowledge of scripture), this time from Second Timothy:
“The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: But when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: an in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well… I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom… Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known… And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus…”
To be the ‘Son of Onesiphorus’ is to be in a prosperous and blessed lineage. The name Onesiphorus means ‘bringing profit’ and was one of the seventy disciples, an extension of the ministry begun by the original Twelve Apostles. Onesiphorus was the Bishop of Colophon, a city in what is now present-day Turkey. For my book-nerd brethren, the word means ‘summit,’ and is the same origin of the bibliographic colophon, a statement that is included in the back of most books that has information on the publisher and materials used in the book’s construction. The references to Onesiphorus in the passage above are thought to be one of the earliest examples of necromancy, or prayers for the dead. The feast of Onesiphorus is September 6th.
A prayer to Onesiphorus is a useful bit of tech, as it is essentially a prayer for the welfare of the dead that results in prosperity for the necromancer; adapting the prayer by Paul, found in Second Timothy:
“God bless Saint Onesiphorus.
Many times was Paul refreshed in his house and Onesiphorus was not embarrassed that Paul had been kept in jail, bound by chains.
He eagerly sought for Paul and found him.
May God, on the last day, treat Onesiphorus well, as he treated Paul.
God grant him mercy.
This prayer is excellent; for it, as is pointed out in Gordon White’s ‘Pieces of Eight,’ is a prayer for the welfare of a saint rather than a prayer where we badger a saint to perform deeds for us. This is the form that all appeals to higher spirit forms should take (at least their primary content should be along these lines). As is elegantly proven in Lynne Mactaggart’s ‘Power of Eight,’ praying for others has a synergistic effect on our own health and prosperity. Why would this widely documented phenomenon work any differently when we pray for the dead, as Paul did for Onesiphorus? It is plausible that the synergy could be even greater in this context.
The Testimony of Zadok Allen exposes for us several things. First, he is an actor in the role of intermediary, a high priest, an instantiation of the role that Cthulhu fulfills for those non-human denizens still residing on the earth who seek congress with the Elder Gods and the Old Ones. Second, he shows us the role that the Deep Ones and Dagon, the Nome-God of Innsmouth, play in the Lovecraftian spirit-form hierarchy. They are oppressors of humankind who are themselves oppressed by the Old Ones. Zadok’s elucidation of these roles can not be understated. They will be crucial in any future attempt to decolonize (and by extension, fully jailbreak) Lovecraftian Magic. Third, Zadok Cthulhicus teaches us that (once properly decolonized) Dagon, the merrow and even Tiamat herself are spirit-forms that bestow upon their worshipers riches, eternal life and the (ill-gotten and poorly used) power of the imperialist paradigm. To our ends, their tech could (and should) be jailbroken and employed in any prosperity enchantments we might undertake. We deserve those strange gold tiaras and will put them to better use.
Our tarot card match for Zadok Cthulhicus is the Six of Swords.
Our Etteilla deck offers us two keywords for this card. ‘Route’ and ‘Declaration.’ Zadok takes us on a path through history, as any good informant should. Route is from the Old French ‘rute,’ meaning ‘road’ or ‘path.’ It stems from the Latin ‘rupta,’ which means ‘to break.’ ‘Rupta’ in turn comes from the PIE root *runp-, meaning the same. *runp- is the primary word form in ‘corrupt,’ along with the intensifying prefix ‘com-,’ which in synergy with each other create a word meaning decomposing, putrid, and spoiled. To use the word ‘route’ to describe a path is to emphasis the potential and growing putrescence of that path. Further, ‘declaration’ describes an ‘explanation,’ or a ‘statement.’ This is what Zadok, in our brief time with him, offers us. Declaration is formed by using another intensifying prefix, ‘de-,’ in conjunction with the Latin ‘clarus,’ which means ‘clear.’ Clarus is, in turn, from the PIE root ‘*kele-,’ meaning ‘to shout.’ *kele- expands out into words such as calendar, clairvoyance, class, ecclesiastic, and keelhaul.
Zadok Cthulhicus, as the Six of Swords, offers us clarity on the spoiled path that Innsmouth took following its alignment, at the hands of the last imperialist solider, Captain Obed, with the merrow and their god Dagon. In turn, this is a metaphor for the dead-end road that the imperialist power structure provides.