The Mythos: Big in America. Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!!!!!

[The following essay was discovered on a memory stick found down the back of a sofa in North Carolina in the summer of 2012. No information about the author is available at this time, the file called simply 2012revelations.doc, author information; blank.]

Flying makes you see the world differently. Clouds look big. Like, REALLY big. Miles across…

Driving in a straight line for 12 hours, makes you see the world differently. The landscape looks big. Like, REALLY big. Thousands of miles across…

I was lucky enough to visit America recently, courtesy of some pooled airmiles from friends & relations. Whilst there, I got to spend some time with Cthulhu Cultists, who shared their Deep Starry Wisdom with me.

As a long time aficionado of Lovecraft’s writings, I got to thinking, Why? Why does this made-up mythology have such appeal in this new country? The States has existed for more than a hundred years but much of it only goes back a century since it was settled, and even today vast tracts of the continent remain free of the marks of civilisation (despite having been inhabited by humans for longer than most of Europe).

Lovecraft didn’t get out much. As I understand it, the story goes a bit like this: A sickly child, he spent far too much time looking at books, including reports from the Egyptian discoveries of Howard Carter, and his dad’s Egyptian Rite Masonry materials. He corresponded at length with others, and today the interweb would have been heaven for him, constructing conspiracy theories and typing frantically on facebook chat beneath the blankets as eldritch scratching noises came from the youtube tab, despite the video of the vorticitating hypersphere having played in full some moments earlier…

The horror!!! Of those things of which man was not meant to know!

Here, we can start to glimpse what appeals about the Mythos, referred to in this way as a body of work as more than one author has engaged with this ramshackle collection of Elder Gods and dreamrealms. American culture has suddenly appeared, transplanted from the comforting ancient world of Europe and Africa, to a land without a written past. Any ancientness had been swept away wholesale, along with the living remnants of the original population, and the towns sprang up without a past, when the people there expected, at some level, to have one. Into this gap the hole of a vast amount of freedom of belief emerges; for Lovecraft, a stay-at-home paranoiac, it looked terrifying. To people today who marvel at the space this lack of myth provides, it inspires Awe.

But why use the Mythos? Why hark back to this cray rambling lacking in adjective semi comedic tract of works, instead of simply making it up from a blank canvas?

Lovecraft, in magickal terms, cast a circle, within which he conjured shadowy shapes, vague horrors of unnamed dread, and thus banished a space in the imagination for those who came after. His very failure to describe accurately the entities, the occurrences in his tales, provides the room for the reader to add in details ( an essential quality for a good story to survive the years), it delineates a literary and emotional semiotic space, within which impossible geometries and aeonic time play out in a rather chaotic fractal sense of unlimited potential, yet clearly defined. Comfortable existentialism, if you like.

While this bounded finite space, enclosing infinite possibilities of time and space manifestations, appeals to all of us, for those souls who have been born into the cultural void of North America it offers immense appeal. With a national myth constructed by Hollywood for the past century, a Mythos of fictional, and more attractively yet horror based fiction, offers a route straight to the emotions primal in its contents. Lovecraft’s opus taps into the wonder and fascination with The Ancient, the nameless past these people face each day, an unacknowledged knowledge of millennia of human habitation in the lands with few, if any, concrete memorials.

Working with the Mythos then, in a magickal context, provides a group of magicians with a common language to refer to the deep past, the origin/creation myth of a race. As an island nation (albeit big), the US of A fears and loves the sea and its creatures, the deep waters (here be monsters!) both isolating and protecting them from the strange foreigners and their (overt) ancient ways, bizarre rituals and worm eaten ruins, rigid societal structures and intricate, strange geometries.

Placing the Old within the invisible depths of sea and land, Lovecraft semiotically places the aware/unaware psyche explicitly onto the seen/unseen parts of the landscape; for him, the visible world of sunlit fields becomes polluted when visited by objects (are these Things alive? or, merely appear to be so?!) The tentacular element has enormous visual appeal whilst harking back to the octopus cults of eastern Mediterranean, best exemplified by the Marine Style of pottery decoration popular in the Minoan.

Many artists and historians have noted the intense Aliveness of these designs, as if they still contain some of the creature that inspired them within the swirling shapes. Look too closely, for too long, and you find yourself sucked in to the staring, mad eyes… Ph’nglui Mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn

Chaos Magicians seem to have homed in on the tentacles more than most, probably due to the eightfold symmetry they feel so at home with. In addition, the rather vague Elder Gods, dreamworlds and the experimental approaches of the characters to travelling to other dimensions with the aid of chants and actions such as lines drawn with chalk or string and mirrors, gives us accessible foundations upon which to construct a superstructure of whatever we want to without fear of contradiction.

Much as Baphomet works as an ancient sound, around which we can reframe a concept of a Nature deity on a global scale (because of the lack of mythology), the Mythos of Lovecraft works as a mythic cycle with echoes from ‘genuine’ history (filtered via second hand tales, books, drawings) and raw emotional responses twisted together to make a warp to which we can add concepts of the old ways as desired, as rediscovered, in an overtly fictional made up fashion. This last aspect is essential to understanding the visceral appeal of the Mythos; all history, all myth, is fictional. By embracing aand loving this element, we can delight in adding to a myth cycle. Moreover, the metaphor of creating anew where all was old and stagnant, bringing to life an alien culture that once thrived with technology from across the vasty depths of time and space, finds a chord with the current program of reworking our whole culture whether in myth, or in governance.

Old stories have a place, but we should not be afeared of adding to a mythos, or declaring the past fictional, of changing what it means, what we do with it. Lovecraft did not like the old, was in terrified awe of the scale of the universe, of what science, dreaming, and other people had to show. His reactions to these visions, seem quaintly naïve today, to those of us born after man stepped onto the fucking moon, whilst we simultaneously long for a world with mysterious ruins, and dusty tomes with clues to secret arcane knowledge…

…for this is the open secret of Lovecraft’s books and stories, bizarre and odd as they appear; because to the initiated, they have indeed tapped into a true stream of images embedded deep within our brains, dating from before we were human. Memories of subaquatic cyclopean cities, five-fold radial symmetry creatures, alien architectures, hark back to our primeval oceanic past. Evolutionary embedded knowledge possessed by all parts of the human species, wherever on the planet their descendants have reached now.

Most geographical regions have built upon these ancient structures within our bodyminds, with stories, ways of explaining our more recent history. For America though, the majority of the population only appeared a century or two ago, with mixed national cultures they were on the whole trying to escape from. Given this, we can now see that America is uniquely placed to construct an alternative mythology for itself direct from the source, the original emotional reaction of consciousness to finding itself as a self-aware phenomenon.

“Awesome”, I learned recently, is the stock response of an American to virtually anything. The initial meaning of this word was one of awe, terror/amazement, to the natural world.

I content that this provides further evidence of the hold which the Cthulhu mythos has on American society.

As with all successful blockbuster movies, it combines horror, action, comedy, and dread, with a simplistic human tale to carry the narrative trajectory.

While we can admire the project of these people in their endeavours, I see no reason why other places cannot follow the lead of these brave souls in heading off to uncharted worlds, in their quest for unknown .Åqix|ãùô≤∂¡«‘œŸ··ÞÁ‰þýðñÖwy{èìöº≠¬…À·þ„·‰ËþýÁþ·ýêÖÇïíô©∏¥Ã√⁄À”þ··Ÿ⁄Ï„‰ð·ÞñÖfë¢∞∫º¡ŒÂ⁄÷„‚‰„ÈÞÄ‚ÞôÖäö°∂Ã÷’ÿÞ‚ý·‰‰ÎÁÈÈËÈÁ„¤êÖß≥æ√∂ªπƒ¥÷Íæ«–◊Ã÷Œ«ÁÊÞìÖtà•¥¿Ωªß≈≥◊Óªª¡Œ∂“∆∂ý‚¤ìÖwçßÃœœÕ’‘—‚ÿ÷÷¤Þ¤ð¤‰„ÿìÖêèû°¡÷ÿœÄÿ

[The manuscript ends here, with nonsensical symbols continuing for several lines before a long sequence of irregularly spaced dots. NW]

7 thoughts on “The Mythos: Big in America. Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn!!!!!

  1. Schelli says:

    Although I don’t disagree with a lot of what is written in this post, I always find it interesting when America is described as recently populated.
    The east coast seems to toy with the native traditions and people that existed there…in the southwest, you grow up along side it, and the history and legends are deliciously rich, and very much alive.
    The native population of America has dwindled, but was once numerous and thriving. In certain areas you can tangibly feel that sense of “deep old ones” and it was through those experiences that I came to read Lovecraft and feel the true terror of his writing.
    I have seen the skinwalkers in native legend, grew up with bizarre and terrifying “primal” forces in my childhood home (I later learned it was experienced by everyone in my family, no one talked about it until years later).
    At the risk of making this a long response to a blog post (please don’t think me rude!) I would like to share one of the experiences that still feels me with dread on even the brightest day.
    My husband and I used to both work night shifts. On our nights off, there wasn’t much to do, so we would throw a roll of toilet paper in the car, pick a direction and drive. Within 20 minutes we would be out of the city and in to the expansive wild that is the southwest. We would follow exit signs randomly, and just see where we ended up.
    One night, we ended up in a long windy dirt road. We knew we are on native land, but as long as you aren’t being a jerk, they usually don’t care. We rolled down the windows to take in the night air, and enjoyed the bumpy ride. Eventually I heard the sound of water, and knew there was a river near by. I have a thing for water so we decided to find a spot to get out of the car and let me splash my feet. We pulled in to a clearing, and I could smell the river and the plants growing around it. I turned off the car and immediately felt uneasy. We opened our doors, and both of us put a foot out at the same time..then we both immediately pulled our feet back in the car, slammed and locked the doors and I was high tailing it in reverse to go back the way we came. We drove in tense silence for a few minutes before I asked my husband what he had felt. He described exactly what I had felt..something immense, powerful, in no way human and in no way welcoming to human life. It was sentient, it was beyond ancient and it didn’t hate us, that would be was just pure annihilation.
    The feeling of empty desolation was so intense we were both shaking. I was already a practicing magician at that time, and there was certain knowledge that nothing in my “arsenal” could have had any impact on this presence. It would be like spitting at a forest fire.
    We turned on the radio to try and shove the edges of what happened back. We tried to talk about “normal” things and sing along with songs we knew. My husband started playing jokes on the road..he would turn the head lights off and go “wooooo” and turn them back on. We forced ourselves to laugh. At one point he turned the lights back on, just as we drove OVER an enormous king snake stretched across the road. We decided not to back up and look at it.
    We drove some more, and the headlight game started again. After a few flashes on and off, the headlights came on and were shining directly in the face of the largest owl I have ever seen, sitting in the middle of the road, staring at us. I screamed like a bad horror movie actress and told my husband to leave the lights on. (The owl is a symbol of death in native culture.) We sped back home and tried to go to sleep.
    The next morning, I told my husband I needed to drive back there in the hopefully put the feelings of the previous night to rest and see it in light.
    We wound our way back, and found the river again. We got out of the car and walked towards it. My husband wandered off and I sat on the bank and ran my hands through the water. It was completely silent, I heard no birds or insects. Just the water running and the air in the canyon. I stretched out on a big rock and let my arms dangle in the water, closing my eyes and trying to make peace with what happened the night before. We drove back home without any further strange events.
    I went to bed that evening feeling feverish. By my husbands report, I was delirious the entire night, talking in my sleep about “it” being in the river, being as old as the stars and we were nothing but a blink in an enormity we can’t comprehend. I went on about the scales in the water, and the river reaches far, poisoning everything it touches.
    The only think I remember is having a dream I could not wake up from, of my hands dangling in the water, seen from under the water. My fingers floating inches away from dark swirling hair drifting up, and water rotted skin with the pale blue eyes of someone drowned staring blankly up at me.
    I’m not a big fan of repeating the story, but it was also my first introduction in to “cthonic” workings, whether intentional or not.
    And yes, there is a deep fascination with it..along with some caution on my is difficult to explain what “touching” that experience was like, and how it has colored my view of the world since it happened.
    There are experiences like this all around where I grew up. I used to sit up at night with my Navajo co-workers and we would share the stories. That one always made everyone silent.
    America is “new” as far as European history goes, but in areas I would say it is a living link to the primal and old, and the living traditions of the native people keep those threads connected and humming. Flying from east coast to west, you can look down and see crammed human civilization from the air..nothing is untouched by human hands, or not manipulated by human desires. As you cross the Mississippi , those touches become lighter, until you enter vast areas of open land..the outposts you see from the air look fragile and delicate, almost without substance…the perfect ground to experience that primal tentacled howling primordial “other” that the native people will tell you was here long before even they were.

    • Wow, thanks for sharing your story Schelli, that sounds like the kind of event I had suspected; one of the things that lead to writing this, was standing at an overlook for Looking Glass Rock. The information sign said, “This rock has been a landmark for generations.” which, I thought odd considering people have lived here for probably 11,000 years…
      The Old Ones (i.e. peoples) of the North American continent, at least in the part I visited, seemed to be invisible, barely hinted at creatures of whispered legend.

  2. Jez says:

    I need to reread this intriguing post when I’m not so tired, but in the meantime…

    Dear old HPL had an insular childhood, but after he returned to Providence from living in New York he travelled widely, covering all the way up and down the Eastern seaboard of North America, from Canada to New Orleans. It taught him a lot about living history in the landscape and informed all his later tales, widely agreed to be his best work. His budget was limited, and he travelled as much as it allowed, by train and bicycle, staying in cheap hotels and getting by eating crackers and junk food. I suppose to some it may seem like a limited area, but it’s about 1500 miles long, and comparable to half of Europe.

    • Thanks Jez, I (I mean, whoever wrote this mysterious essay 😉 )was somewhat careless in this piece for dramatic effect, but it is important to get the record straight! I agree his later work has a far better sense of landscape to it, and the real world appears vividly in these tales. Colour Out of Space remains my favourite, so atmospheric.

      • Alloy says:

        I know very few who would disagree with you. The Colour is very likely his most perfect piece. It is the very heart of his themes. Lovecraft considered it his best piece as well. It perfectly embodies the notion that Mythos writer John Tynes was talking about when he said:

        “[The Mythos is] so alien and strange that it’s like mental plutonium: get too close, and your mind sickens and dies.”

  3. Alloy says:

    I think one of the big appeals is that, as strange as it may seem, the Cthulhu Mythos is a romantic worldview. Although humans tend to be insignificant on the stage of the Great Olde Ones, the GOO themselves are ABSOLUTELY significant. As such, even the most passive prey-oriented or blindly devotional role gives the devotee a portion of that significance.

    So, for those of us who lived through the bleak nihilism of the 80s and currently toil in the belly of a national beast that just moves way too fucking fast to say anything other than address its own fiscal appetites, this desiccated, homemade scrap of meaning, when felt in any real way, is utterly precious.

    Also, the remarks you make concerning the primordial touchstone the Mythos provides we history-less Yanks is SPOT ON. Who wouldn’t want to run for the bubbling muck when confronted with a history spawned by the displaced puritanical abscesses that you guys had the good sense to send packing?

    Thanks for this article, Nikki. It’s a facet of the work I would never have been able to see through my American eyes. “Awesome” to have your perspective 😉

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