(Written for KIA #2 by Paula O'Keefe (email@example.com)
(copyright (c) 1999-- Paula O'Keefe)
"There were giants in the earth in those days, and afterward, when the sons of God went into the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. They were the heroes that were of old, men of renown." -- Genesis 6:4
"The Nephilim was something I'd known about since I was really young. If you're familiar with the first book of the Bible, Genesis, you see the sons of God seduce some of the women on the earth and they produce a race of people known as the Nephilim. According to legend they taught man about war, astrology, and magic. I'm fascinated by the idea." --- Carl McCoy in Cornerstone Magazine, 1989
"Nor is it to be thought that man is either the oldest or the last of earth's masters, or that the common bulk of life and substance walks alone." - The Necronomicon
"We convoke the Nephilim and they come to us, strangers with the eyes of men..." -- The Coming of the Watchers
Part I: The Watchers and The Nephilim
The mysterious passage quoted above, one of the Old Testament's most evocative and tantalizing, shines out of the dust of Genesis. It can probably be taken as an attempt by the Bible's authors to explain, and legitimize, the countless tales of gods and heroic demigods which far pre-dated the Scriptures in the ancient Near East and around the world. These mighty beings, Genesis would have us believe, have no connection with older, rival gods and goddesses; they are descended from the One God, fathered by his angels on human women.
The Bible, however, has seen many changes in its few centuries, and many translations throw different lights on the same material. The word given as "giants" in most modern versions is not always so. In several, notably the New English Bible, it is rendered in the original Hebrew: Nephilim. The Puritan theologian and witchhunter Cotton Mather, writing in 1712, called them by this name, and regarded the discovery of gigantic bones (which were probably mastodon) in America as scientific proof of the truth of Scripture; though his reference was strictly to Genesis and not to the books we're about to discuss.
Translation and reinterpretation have not been the only causes of change in the Bible. A wide body of material which was originally accepted as canonical was excised by the Councils of 633 and 637 CE for various reasons, mostly censorious. (For example, the Council banished the Infancy Gospels, wherein a cruelly arrogant Christ Child kills several innocent townspeople who merely got in his way.) Much of this material survives under the collective name of Apocrypha - from the Greek apokryphos, "hidden, secret" - under which name it was commonly included as an appendix in Bibles up to about the year 1600. We are fortunate that it does, as it is not only fascinating work of great antiquity but reflects traditions far older than itself. It is within the Apocrypha, notably the two Books of Enoch(not to be confused with the Liber Logaeth of Dr. John Dee, sometimes called by that name, about which more later) and the Book of Jubilees, that we find the full legend of the Watchers and the Nephilim, banished by fearful and bigoted Church Fathers from the Bible in use today. (Alas, the book that might tell us the most, the Book of Giants, is lost save for a few pricelsss pages - as far as I'm aware.)
The Apocryphal books tell us this: Originally the angels, or Sons of God, all surveyed the world and its beings from on high, and among them were those called the Grigori or Watchers. "The Watchers" can be translated with several shades of meaning, and depending on the translator means "observers" or "sentinels, sleepless ones"; whether they are vigilant or simply curious, they watch. Some texts say they were tempted by the beauty of human women ("the Sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair..."), while others grant them a compassionate Promethean urge to guide and teach or a touching desire for family and companionship; there were, we're told, no female Watchers. Whatever their motive, two hundred of the Watchers, led by the great angel Semjaza-Azazel, defied divine direction, descended to Earth and took a personal hand in humankind's education. Crafts and sciences, arts and letters, and the many skills of magic - all of which are described as "secrets...made in heaven", intended only for the Celestials to know - were shared with our distant ancestors. "And Azazel taught men to make swords and daggers and shields and breastplates...bracelets, and ornaments, and the metals of the earth, and the art of making up the eyes and beautifying the eyelids (...angels invent eye shadow...) ...Amezarak taught all those who cast spells and cut roots; Armaros the release of charms, spells, and magical skills; Baraqiel, astrology...Asradel, the path of the moon...Penemue: this one showed the sons of men the bitter and the sweet; he taught men the art of writing with ink and paper, and through this many have gone astray." Even reproductive choice was granted: "Kasdeyae: this one showed the sons of men the blows which attack the embryo in the womb so that it miscarries."
The lore they taught, however, takes a secondary role to the result of their sexual unions with womankind. (And considering the unrecorded difficulty of carrying a half-human fetus to term, Kasdeyae's may have been the wisest and kindest gift of all.) This was of course the birth of the Nephilim, sometimes called Naphalim or Naphidim, the "giants in the earth" of Genesis: "a monstrous race of giants with spiritual powers and earthly appetites". Some were indeed heroes, like the Biblical "mighty hunter before the Lord," Nimrod. Others were less noble. From I Enoch: "And they [the Watchers] took wives to themselves...and they taught them charms and spells...and [their wives] became pregnant and bore large giants... These devoured all the toil of men, until men were unable to sustain them. And the giants turned against them in order to devour men, and they began to sin against birds and against animals...and they devoured one another's flesh and drank the blood from it. Then the earth complained against the lawless ones."
The Aramaic Greek translation complicates matters further: "And they bore to them three kinds: first large giants, and to the giants were born the Naphalim, and the Naphalim begot the Elioud. And they grew according to their greatness, and they taught themselves and their wives charms and spells." Jubilees agrees, adding that "They were all unalike.." Thus we can imagine three successive generations of angel-progeny co-existing on the earth, all skilled in magickal arts and all apparently peaceable - at least for a time. This correlates with traditions quoted by Davidson and Huson that the Nephilim - not the Watchers - can be credited with works as diverse as the forging, in Beowulf, of King Hrothgar's magical sword, and the building of the Tower of Babel; if the Nephilim existed long enough to master some creative arts, perhaps they also had time to reproduce. Sadly, it was not to last: Jubilees goes on to say, "and they devoured each other; the giant killed the Naphil, the Naphil killed the Eljo [Elioud], and the Eljo humankind, and one man another man..."
The loyal archangels Michael, Gabriel, Sariel and Uriel, who had not followed Azazel and were still faithfully observing Earthly affairs, saw all this and protested to God. It's highly interesting to note the tone of their complaint. "See then what Azazel has done," they say ( I Enoch IX), "how he has taught all iniquity on the earth, and revealed the eternal secrets which were made in heaven...and has made known spells, and has brought knowledge to men...and the sons of men practice his practices in order to know the secrets..." This is not simple righteous wrath toward violence and sorcery; these things were private property, and the archangels are jealously angry at their revelation to mankind. I Enoch (LXV:6-7, quoting the even more ancient Book of Noah) is explicit: "...they [humans] have learnt all the secrets of the angels...and all their secret power, and all the power of those who practice magic arts, and the power of enchantments and...of those who cast molten images for all the earth..." (Could this be one reason for the suppression of the Apocrypha? The chance that no condemnation of divination, astrology, spells, etc., as Devil-inspired would stand if these chapters, plainly claiming them as heavenly lore, remained in the Old Testament? The whole history of the Middle Ages might have been different... maybe. More likely, of course, it would have been asserted that the gift of heaven's wisdom was corrupted and diabolized by the givers' rebellion. Interesting notion at least.)
But it was the unauthorized act of revelation that outraged the archangels, and it was that act which God punished. "I shall restore the Earth, so that not all the sons of men shall be destroyed through the mystery which the Watchers made known." Divinely commanded, the obedient Watchers swept down and defeated their brothers, whose punishment was to watch the death of their children before being themselves imprisoned in the mountains and deserts of the Earth until Judgment Day, when they will be cast into the lake of eternal fire. (Azazel is the only Watcher whose burial place is believed to be known: under a heap of stones at the foot of the cliff of Haradan, in what is now the Sinai, where, regarded as a demon, he received every year the scapegoat driven into the desert with its burden of Israel's sins. --Alternately, he is sometimes said to have hurled himself into the sky and become the constellation Orion.) God sends the prophet Enoch to scold them in their imprisonment, saying that as spiritual beings they were never intended to have wives as mortal men do (of course, their creator could presumably have seen to it that they felt no longing for sex or love, but he apparently neglected to do so) and even scorning the knowledge they shared with humanity - "You were in heaven, but its secret had not been revealed to you and a worthless mystery you knew." - although the Four Archangels' concern surely contradicts this mocking remark. Other Apocryphal books say that even now they are held and tortured in the terrible Fifth Heaven, set aside for just this purpose. (I Enoch XIII describes the Watchers/Grigori as stricken mute with guilt and terror after Enoch's reproof, and indeed in II Enoch the Grigori imprisoned in the Fifth Heaven are voiceless giants.) The world, meanwhile, is swept clean in a great earthquake and flood, destroying the Nephilim's lands, to which many writers trace the worldwide legends of a catastrophic inundation.
But the Watchers' teaching continued to influence humankind in the ages after the Deluge, even though now condemned and studied in secret. In Jubilees VIII:1-5, Kainam, Noah's grandson, "came upon a writing which men of old had carved on a rock...it contained the teaching of the Watchers, in accordance with which they used to observe the omens of the sun and moon and all the signs of heaven. And he wrote it down and said nothing about it..." fearing punishment from Noah, who blamed the Watchers for the Flood and constantly warned his clan against any dealings with them or their descent. (Must have been one blessed huge rock, unless the Watchers' skills included micro-engraving.) This is especially notable because Kainam is the brother of Chesed, father of Ur, who is said in the Apocrypha to have founded the famous Chaldean city of that name. "And [they] grew up and lived in Ur of the Chaldees," says Jubilees (XI:7-8) of Serug and Nahor, Kainam's descendants, "and worshipped idols...and [Nahor's] father instructed him in the learning of the Chaldees, how to divine and foretell the future from the signs of heaven." It's most tempting to conclude that Kainam's grandchildren through generations inherited and studied the written record he had made from the stone; that the legendary wisdom of the Chaldeans, which amazes history, had descended to them from the Watchers themselves.
The Nephilim - and, some say, their children, the Elioud/Eljo - were physically exterminated by the avenging angel horde. But, though their half-mortal bodies could be slain, their half-angel souls could not, nor could they be held in chains. They remain on the earth, wandering at will, and though chaotic and destructive will not be punished for their deeds until the Final Judgment "in which the great age will be brought to an end". Occult tradition holds that now and then a Nephilim spirit will incarnate in human form (the souls of those who quit the body violently, it's said, are most pure...). The Apocrypha claim the disembodied Nephilim are the origin of demons, and accuse them of many crimes. Jubilees places the blame for the Flood squarely upon the fornication of the Watchers and the iniquity and bloodshed of the Nephilim. "And now the giants who were born from souls and flesh will be called evil spirits upon the earth," charges I Enoch XV-XVI, "From the day of...the slaughter and destruction of the giant Nephilim, the mighty ones of the earth, the great famous ones, the spirits that have gone out from their souls as from the flesh will destroy without judgment." Even the mortal women who are their mothers are cursed to become sirens and demonesses. In Jubilees X:1-6, Noah's sons beg him to protect their children from "unclean demons" who are "leading astray, blinding and killing" them; Noah, petitioning God to "let not wicked spirits rule over [my grandchildren] and destroy them", adds, "Thou knowest what thy Watchers, the fathers of these spirits, did in my day..." making it clear that the demonic spirits and the Nephilim are considered one and the same. (One wonders if Kainam was one of these grandchildren being "led astray" by a "demonic" Nephilim familiar. Maybe it was helping him interpret the stone...)
It's interesting to note that, although God commands that all the Nephilim be destroyed, giants continue to appear throughout the Old Testament, always opposing the armies of God. (Godwin does cite, though briefly, a tradition that beings called Gibborim - simply "giants" - were saved by "dark angels" from the Flood.) The Anakim or Sons of Anak, to whom Joshua's forces "were as grasshoppers in their sight"; the Zamzummim; Goliath of Gath and his vengeful brother Lahmi; and King Og of Bashan, he of the nine-foot-long iron bed; all appear and deal direly with such heroes of God as Joshua, David and Moses. All, too, are referred to not simply as giants themselves but as "those born to the giant" or "those who come of the giants" - as descendants of a giant clan or race. Surely these great beings are the remaining children of the angelic bloodline of the Nephilim and Watchers, the last sad traces of which will be found centuries later in the ogres of fairytale.
Paul Huson, in his Mastering Witchcraft, asserts that the Watchers really are the beings the modern witch calls gods, "the parents of giant and human alike", based on prehistoric racial memories of the millennnia-past age when they walked the Earth beside us. Indeed, nearly every human race speaks in its legends of tall, wonderful strangers of amazing skill, who came to their land in ancient times and taught their great-ancestors everything they needed to know; virtually every useful invention still practiced by humanity has been attributed to these visitors. The modern trend is to attribute such influences to advanced alien civilizations, as in the books of von Daniken and others, but our many-greats-grandmothers and -fathers had no doubt that they had walked and spoken with gods and the children of gods. (It's a story we need and love in all its variations: even the Nazi theorist Hoerbiger argued that the great mystery civilizations of the Atlantidean period were built by mutant human giants of vast cosmic awareness and knowledge, the benign and rightful - and, of course, proto-Aryan - kings and teachers of humanity.) More to the point, they are, Huson reminds us, the source of magic: the original spark we cherish at the heart of all our Work is a trace of starry wisdom from beyond Earth. (We'll meet this theme again.)
The Nephilim are thus the youngest members of an old family, descended from the riotous and voracious children of Sumerian Tiamat, the rebel giants of Norse myth (who, it's worth noting, are described in the sagas as skilled in magic, famed for their knowledge of chants, runes and spells), the Greek Titans and Cyclops; and before them the monsters, oldest of all. Even the genies of Arab fable are members of the family: the Djinn, the Firstborn of Fire, are close kin to the Watchers. Considered chaotic entities who must be fettered for the good of the world, they are bottled and cast into the sea even as the Watchers are locked into the mountains of the Earth. -- Elements of the tale vary, but always the central theme is of awesome beings, often fathered or mothered by a Celestial and possessed of great powers, which prove dangerous and untamable and wreak havoc until put down by the combined might of the gods. Always they represent the primordial Chaos, the power born before the gods, which civilized pantheons may subdue and submerge but never destroy. Less than divine, they can be defeated; but, more than mortal, they cannot be killed, and must be exiled or imprisoned for eternity. If they are released it means at least terrible danger, at worst Ragnarok, Apocalypse, Doomsday.
Part II: H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos
We know only partially why the Nephilim so fascinate one particular occult student from Stevenage; as with most things, McCoy's not talking. But we do know another form of this archetypical theme that he seems to have taken to heart, one derived not from world mythology but from an inspired cosmic imagination of the 1920s. We speak of the world of R'lyeh and Yog-Sothoth, of the Necronomicon and the Great Old Ones, we speak in short of the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft.
Though scholars of the field have acclaimed him the greatest American writer of the weird and fantastic since Poe, Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) remains largely a cult hero, not widely read outside fan circles. A recluse, plagued by phobias and ill health and suspicious of the encroaching modern world, he lived nearly his entire life in his home city of Providence, Rhode Island. His work was published primarily in the classic pulp horror magazine, Weird Tales, and has been collected into a number of volumes both hardcover and paperback (most exceptionally by the great American publisher of dark fantasy, Arkham House - a name inspired by Lovecraft's work) which have continued to attract a small but devoted following.
He tried his hand at everything from poetic fantasies to detective mystery-thrillers, but Lovecraft's magnum opus remains the body of work known to fans (not, we should note, to HPL himself) as the Cthulhu Mythos. The Mythos is not large, comprising some dozen stories and a number of short poems, but its influence is immense, as is its theme.
In the most ancient deeps of time, say these tales, the Earth was invaded from outside - from another dimension or level of reality, "not in the spaces we know but between them" - by monstrous beings of unimaginable power which HPL called the Great Old Ones. The masters of the clan were Azathoth - the core of primal chaos, "the Prime Mover in Darkness"; Yog-Sothoth, "the key and guardian of the gate", in whom past, present, and future are combined; "the Crawling Chaos" Nyarlathotep, who can take humanoid form and became Their emissary to cult worshippers; and their High Priest, the sea-titan Cthulhu. Some strike the reader as vast distortions or unformed prototypes of Terrestrial legends, such as Shub-Niggurath, "the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young", whose form, title and forest-centered worship all indicate roots (sorry) in pagan/Wiccan fertility and nature magic. Others are beyond any connection. Most, being extradimensional and cosmic beings, have contacted the Earth only on occasion, when a psychic gate was opened to them; it seems clear that Cthulhu and the legions subordinate to him were the ones who actually came to our world to stay, bringing the cult of the Great Old Ones. These creatures - so unutterably alien that they are undefinable in terms of comprehensible good and evil, whose very geometry is bizarre enough to break human minds - walked the Earth eons before the coming of primitive humanity, preying on all life they found, building mighty cities of stone whose ruins yet stand. Ages passed: dinosaurs arose, reigned, and died in the shadow of the Old Ones' basalt towers.
It's not clear (at least to me) exactly what happened. Two things we know: one, the Great Old Ones are peculiarly sensitive to astronomical influences (indeed, the only protective amulet against them contains the form of a five-pointed star, that most ancient magickal device) and after eons of time "the stars were wrong" - constellational shift, perhaps? - projecting an influence under which they could not live. Two, a great cataclysm, which they must have foreseen, was preparing to shake the world and sink their massive stone citadel of R'lyeh to the floor of the primal sea. Aware that their first era of dominion was ending, they secluded themselves in their stone sanctuary - protected in some form of suspended animation, "dead but dreaming", Lovecraft says, under a spell cast by "the great priest Cthulhu" - able only to think and dream, aware of all that happens in the universe, but powerless to stir forth. And there they rested, waiting for the catastrophe to strike and R'lyeh to pass from the sight of living Earth.
To provide for their future liberation and "glorious resurrection", therefore, the Great Old Ones contacted the first human minds in telepathic dreams and planted the seed of their worship, founding a cult that has never died. Patiently they dictated their rites and rituals, the details of the sacrifices they demand, the eldritch magicks and sciences of a race old when our sun was young. "They came from the stars, and brought Their images with Them," and they distributed those as well, statuettes and devices whose alien hideousness is invariably remarked upon by the uninitiated. When "the stars come right again" Cthulhu will call, and the faithful must be ready to set him free, and he will in turn break the spell he cast upon his clan.
"Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves," a cultist explained to a horrified anthropologist in The Call of Cthulhu, "and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom. Meanwhile the cult, by appropriate rites, must keep alive the memory of those ancient ways and shadow forth the prophecy of their return." The dream-sendings ended when R'lyeh was drowned as foretold; "the deep waters," HPL says, are "full of the one primal mystery through which not even thought can pass...but memory never died." (And the dreams do not end: many a Lovecraft character first encounters the Great Old Ones in strange dreams, and recreates their sculptured figurines or ritual chants upon waking. Verily Cthulhu calls.)
Magicians who happen upon one of the several collected volumes of the Old Ones' magical wisdom - not only the fabled Necronomicon but the Unaussprechlichen Kulten, the Pnakotic Manuscripts, the Livre d'Eibon among others - time and again seek to raise them for the unimaginable power they presumably offer, but are invariably driven mad and killed, stormed and consumed by what they tried to command. "Do not raise up that which ye cannot put down," one Lovecraft protagonist is warned, but it's advice few of them follow, and most meet grisly fates.
In all this we can plainly see echoes of the same story recounted earlier: the arrival of the strangers ("and they were not like us..."), the instruction of early humankind, the destructive titans of vast power, the Earth in chaos under their rule, the cataclysm of earthquake and flood, and the survival of the outsiders, hidden away in the wilderness or the sea. Students of horror, science fiction and the occult have long argued that Lovecraft's work was far less fictional than he claimed, suggesting everything from a secret involvement with magickal lodges to telepathic communication with nonhuman intelligences. Certainly HPL was well-read enough to be aware of his adventures' commonality with this major motif of world mythology, but what else he may have known is still a matter for speculation only. Regardless of HPL's intentions, this body of material - with its secondary theme that the Cthulhu Pantheon is the source of magicks of unthinkable antiquity and indeed possibly of the Art in its oldest Terran form - could hardly fail to fascinate a mind already attracted to the Nephilim legend. When the name of Cthulhu appears in The Watchman and Last Exit For the Lost, or when McCoy summons up "sweet nectar for a thousand young" in Psychonaut and names a track of Elizium (Dead but Dreaming), one's suspicions are confirmed. (In an eye-opening interview with the Christian magazine Cornerstone, McCoy stated that The Watchman is "basically an invocation to Cthulhu", adding that "Several old cultures believed this god is in the form of a sea serpent...it's an ancient, evil god that lived on earth before man existed. The opposing forces battled with it and won. But some books say the ancient gods are going to rule again." - The "opposing forces" he mentions are the Elder Gods, or the gods of Sumer, about whom we'll have more to say anon...)
Part III: The Necronomicon(with a note on the career of Dr. John Dee)
The Nephilim's music, and their mythical similarities, however, are not the only links between these two themes. The British novelist and occult author, Colin Wilson, has written some effective fiction within the Mythos (HPL's writer friends were encouraged to use the Mythos characters and themes within his lifetime, and younger writers have carried on the tradition in the decades since right down to Stephen King). In 1978 Wilson, with Robert Turner and Colin Langford, published an ambitious and interesting study entitled simply The Necronomicon, which gives clues to a heretofore unsuspected human link between the Cthulhu Mythos and the Nephilim: the Elizabethan occultist and astrologer Dr. John Dee (1527-1608).
The Necronomicon is more than just the title of Wilson's own work, of course; it is the title of his subject, the most famous and central icon of the Cthulhu Mythos after Cthulhu Itself. One of the connecting elements of the Mythos tales, the Necronomicon is described as the comprehensive reference work on the Great Old Ones - their names, characteristics, lore, and the magical rites used to summon and foster them. Accursed and terrifying, everywhere it goes it's said to bring madness and horrible death. A fairly comprehensive history of this dark tome has been built up throughout the Mythos, and Lovecraft summarized much of it in his own 1936 essay Chronology of the Necronomicon. Thus we learn that it was written by a Damascene poet, Abdul Alhazred ("the mad Arab"), circa CE 730. Alhazred is said to have composed the text after ten years' solitary travel in the great southern desert of Arabia, the Roba-el-Ahaliyeh or Rub-al-Khali ("emptiness") where he had found the forbidden city of Irem of the Pillars, and records left by a race older than humanity. Originally titled Al Azif, a term referring to the nocturnal rustling of insects thought to indicate the presence of demons, it first acquired the title Necronomicon when translated into Greek about CE 950, and has borne the Greek title in its translations and travels since. (Though this is generally rendered into English as "The Book of Dead Names", Lovecraft himself translated the name, which he found in a dream, as Nekros Nomos Eikon, "Image of the Law of the Dead.") Quotes from its text are scattered through the stories, such as the one with which we opened or the famous "That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange eons even Death may die." And, though it's always alleged to be fabulously rare and near-fatal to possess, copies of it, HPL and friends assert, have the unnerving habit of turning up in dusty little used-book stores and otherwise innocent attics.
Two more notes on the Necronomicon: one, we are assured by literary scholars of the Mythos that it does not exist and never has, for all the horror fans and would-be acolytes of the Old Ones who have bedeviled bookstores and libraries seeking it. It is Lovecraft's invention, no more. Two, Lovecraft states that Dr. Dee - a real person - was the scholar who accomplished the translation of the mad Arab's blasphemous black tome into the English language.
And what does this have to do with the Nephilim? Simple: Dr. Dee was also the man responsible for bringing into our world, in collaboration with the crystal-gazer Edward Kelly (of whom Aleister Crowley claimed to be the reincarnation), the language known as Enochian.
The origins and history of Enochian alone have taken volumes of occult study. Its name derives from the same Books of Enoch in which we find the tale of the Nephilim, and Dee and Kelly called it so because they believed - and theirs is the only testimony we have - that it had been dictated to them by angels. The Golden Dawn considers it to be ancient, with traces of it to be found in the sacred mysteries of oldest time, though Dee and Kelly's source did not specify. (Indeed, the Biblical patriarch Enoch - who is said to have "walked with God" and to have written the Apocryphal books which bear his name with the attendance and help of a company of angels - is identified by some with Egyptian Thoth, and believed to represent a great adept order.) Some occult writers claim it to be the language used by the Watchers and the Nephilim, in which they left their writings and inscriptions (Kainam's stone perhaps?). The set of incantations known as the Enochian Keys or Calls, and the accompanying alphabetic lexicon, have been scrutinized by scholars in every sort of linguistic discipline and have stood the test. (We will here note without comment Dr. Anton LaVey's allegation that the version which generally appears in print has been bowdlerized, and that the Keys are actually paeans to Satan.) It is a true language, with its own consistent grammar and syntax, and it is not based on any human language living or dead of which we have knowledge. It stands as a most impressive piece of evidence that non-Terran intelligences exist and have communicated with humanity.
This, in Lovecraft's universe, makes Dr. John Dee the single most expert human being in the field of intelligence beyond the Earth; the only person who has both transcribed dictation in the language of the Watchers themselves, and translated the book of the Great Old Ones in all its fathomless antiquity. Lovecraft must have read (or at least read of) Dee's work and settled upon him as a likely choice, and he continued to figure in the "modern history" of the Necronomicon, as we'll see.
Wilson's book is devoted largely to tracking down the "true history" of the Necronomicon and Lovecraft's experience with it. He begins with the research of one Dr. Stanislaus Hinterstoisser to the effect that the source manuscript - from which Al Azif and the Necronomicon are derived - is not the work of one man at all, mad poet or otherwise. It is assembled from a potpourri of Akkadian, Babylonian, Sumerian, Persian, and sundry ancient source documents - those in turn, of course, having faithfully transcribed it from yet earlier sources back to the voices of the proto-humans who first heard the Old Ones speak in their sleep. Titled Al-Kitab al-Mani, "The Grand Compilation", it was rendered into Arabic by the mystic Alkindi (Ya'kub Ibn Ishak Ibn-Sabbah al-Kindi, d. CE 850) and, writes Hinterstoisser, "claimed to contain the remnants of a magical tradition predating mankind". (This reminds one of Madame Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine, based on the unimaginably ancient Mani Koumbourm by way of the Book of Dzyan, which similarly describes the pre-human occupation of earth by chaotic beings from another plane, and their banishing by the forces of Order.) --Here again we have the assertion that magic is older than our race, and was brought here by others from Outside.
Sadly, Wilson reports, the Herr Doktor died suddenly during the course of Wilson's writing - as people in these fields of inquiry tend to do in the Mythos - and thus was never able to clarify some of his more puzzling references. Wilson, however, takes this thread plus that of Dr. Dee's involvement and a skein of others and weaves an entertaining yarn. (The course of his study, in fact, much resembles that taken by the protagonist who researches Lovecraft and the Necronomicon in Return of the Lloigor, one of Wilson's own Mythos tales - perhaps a case of art imitating life!).
He argues that HPL's father - allegedly a practicing Egyptian Freemason - was in possession of none other than a copy of the Dee English translation of the Necronomicon, which if true would in all probability have influenced the young Lovecraft in his work if not in his personal beliefs (a staunch materialist, he maintained that occultism was for the feebleminded). Relative to this, it's worth noting that in one of the pivotal Mythos stories, The Dunwich Horror - which explains the importance to the Old Ones' plan of "those They have begotten on mankind" - the wizard Wilbur Whateley owns precisely this volume: "the priceless but imperfect copy of Dr. Dee's English version which his grandfather had bequeathed him". (This grandfather was his mother's sire, I add; Wilbur's paternal grandfather is beyond any imagining, as his blood father is Yog-Sothoth, and his twin brother, the Dunwich Horror itself, "looked more like the father than he did.")
The high point of the book, however, isn't Wilson's work, but rather that of his fellow-researcher Turner and the computer expert Langford. In an enjoyable tour-de-force of technological detective writing, they purport to prove that they have found the Dee translation (or a fraction thereof) in real life, in the British Museum Library, hiding behind the innocent tag of "Sloane MS. 3189". This cryptic 16th-Century manuscript is the Liber Logaeth, also called in Latin Liber Mysterorum Sextus et Sanctus, "Sixth Book of the Holy Mysteries", and sometimes confusingly referred to as the Book of Enoch. ("Book of Enochian" would be better.) Turner describes his discovery of the MS. while studying the Museum's holdings of Dr. Dee's papers; deducing that it was written in an extraordinarily complex cipher, he submitted a copy to Langford to have the code broken by computer analysis. (One has to pity the person trying to decode a phrase which even when unscrambled would read "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" - "In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming".) Langford then takes over and details his exhaustive efforts to decode the text - which, I regret to say, turned out not to be in Enochian (now that would have been something!) Successful at last, he concludes the volume with the alleged results of his work, which do indeed read for all the world like excerpts from the Necronomicon as quoted in the tales of the Mythos.
As astonishing and fascinating as it would be to find a real 16th-Century copy of the material Lovecraft used to such effect, this account and its results contain an element which should make any serious Cthulhu scholar regard it with grave doubt. This is its description of the strong role played by the Elder Gods against the Great Old Ones. Lovecraft himself, though he did use the term "Elder Gods" on occasion, named only one member of the Elder pantheon: Nodens, Lord of the Abyss, a borrowing from Arthur Machen's classic The Great God Pan. Certain of HPL's writing circle, however, especially August Derleth, took the notion up eagerly and created an entire circle of Elder Gods, who had banished the Great Old Ones in wrath and stood ever ready to defend humanity again. (One might almost guess they'd done it to bring the Mythos into line with the ancient form previously described, wherein the evil beings must be banished and imprisoned, overruling HPL's plan wherein their retreat was calm, well-ordered and of their own will.)
One can hardly imagine HPL approving this trite cosmic-war theme or the notion that humankind might sleep secure from future Old One threat, and we do have some evidence that he did not. It was his custom - and his little joke, enjoyed by fans for decades - to show his approval of any new Mythos invention of a writer friend by including it in his own next story, thus officially welcoming it into the canon. The Elder Gods are the dramatic exception to this habit. Though other inventions of Derleth's were warmly welcomed - and Derleth himself, under the antique form of his family name (the Comte D'Erlette) was included as the author of the hideous Cultes des Goules, another tome of dark lore frequently found shelved beside the Necronomicon in those shadowy little bookstores - Lovecraft never used any Elder God besides his own Nodens in a tale. This is so unusual that it is hard to see it as anything but HPL's polite but definite rejection of this radical alteration of the darkness and terror of the Mythos. Given that if any one of the Mythos writing circle had seen the "true Necronomicon" one could fairly assume it was HPL himself, one finds it hard to believe in a Necronomicon which contradicts his version so sharply.
The Wilson Necronomicon is enjoyable and contains some interesting food for speculation, but in our opinion it is deeply flawed, and we do not consider it essential reading for the Nephilim acolyte. (Though we will have much more to say about this Elder Gods/Great Old Ones pattern presently.) Another book on this topic will command our attention for the rest of this essay.
Part IV: The Necronomicon, the Gods of Sumer and the Prelude to the Maelstrom
"S.H. Hooke, in his excellent Middle Eastern Mythology, tells us that the Leviathan mentioned in Job, and elsewhere in the Old Testament, is the Hebrew name given to the Serpent Tiamat, and reveals that there was in existence either a cult, or scattered individuals, who worshipped or called up the Serpent of the Sea or Abyss. Indeed, the Hebrew word for "abyss" that is found in Genesis 1:2 is, Hooke tells us, "tehom", which the majority of scholars take to be a survival of the name of the chaos-dragon Tiamat in the Hebrew text. It is this Tiamat or Leviathan that is identified closely with Kutulu or Cthulhu within the pages of the Necronomicon, though both names are mentioned independently of each other, indicating that somehow Kutulu is the male counterpart of Tiamat, similar to Absu."--Simon, from the introduction to Necronomicon (1977)
"Our work is therefore historically authentic: the rediscovery of the Sumerian Tradition." --Aleister Crowley
In 1977 (paperback 1980) - a year previous to Wilson et al.'s study - one L.K. Barnes and the adept known as Simon released unto the world a volume also bearing the simple title Necronomicon. This one, however, purports to be not a collection of essays containing some relevant material, like the one just discussed, but a translation of the actual Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred. The student of Lovecraft may well approach this book as a skeptic, and may even be disappointed by it. Disregard this response. Whether or not this text is that of the original Necronomicon (or, honestly, whether there even is an original Necronomicon) is immaterial in our context; the study of this invaluable volume will prove immensely rewarding to anyone seriously interested in the Nephilim. It is so true in spirit to the Mythos as HPL presented it that one can almost believe he didread it; while it has little or nothing to do with Lovecraft himself, it has everything to do with Cthulhu.
One's first conclusion upon scanning the work is that Wilson's colleague Dr. Hinterstoisser was onto something. There is no crossover between the material presented in the Wilson Necronomiconand that seen here; indeed, oddly enough, none of the passages quoted by Lovecraft appear herein at all (not even the famous "That is not dead which can eternal lie..."). The text is heavily based upon Sumerian mythology, with virtually all known Sumero-Babylonian material, such as "Inanna's Descent to the Underworld" and the "Enuma Elish", appearing nearly verbatim and other chapters filled with incantations, sigils and prayers calling upon this most ancient of humanly-worshipped pantheons. But side by side with the Sumerian deity-names are references to Kutulu/Cuthalu and Iak-Sakkak and Ishnigarrab, names any Mythos fan can easily decode. The reader will soon realize that this Necronomicon takes the millennia-old Sumerian tale of the war between the forces of the leviathan sea-goddess Tiamat and the warrior-god Marduk, and casts it as the struggle between the Great Old Ones and the Elder Gods. Tiamat stands on the side of Chaos with Cthulhu and his clan, while Marduk's forces - Anu, Inanna, Enlil, Enki, Shamash, and the rest of the gods of Sumer - are the civilizing, protective forces of Order. It is presumably Simon's contention that this is the original version of the Tiamat/Marduk story; that the beings Lovecraft would later adopt into his tales made their first appearance in human literature in this pre-Christian Era epic, and that the version with which we are more familiar has been edited to remove all references to them.
This should prove a revelation to those already aware of Carl's fascination with the lore and mythology of archaic Sumer, oldest of human lands. Even a little close scrutiny will reveal the wealth of gems available in this tome for the Nephilim acolyte. The chant which is central to Psychonaut, for example, and calligraphed on the poster and CD - "zi dingir kia kanpa, zi dingir anna kanpa" is revealed here as pure Sumerian, translatable as "spirit, god of the earth, remember/spirit, god of the sky, remember". The line "may the mountain shake you to the core," appearing earlier in Psychonaut, is likewise found here within The Conjuration of the Mountains of MASHU, as is the derivation of the term "Sumerland" (apparently equivalent to "the Magan", the land where the souls of the dead sleep between incarnations, preparing for rebirth); the quote "We are the lost ones in the company of bright angels"; and much more. And the volume's extensive introduction is extremely valuable and perceptive.
It is a definite belief in the Necronomicon that Man, created from the blood shed by Tiamat's commanding general, Kingu, will always be drawn toward the Ancient Ones/Great Old Ones and their dark ways, and it is suggested that this was an intentional part of some pact between the warring sides. The section of The MAGAN Text known as Of the Forgotten Generations of Man asserts that "the power of Man is the power of the Ancient Ones," that "Man possesses the Sign/and the Number/and the Shape/to summon the Blood of his Parents," and finally that "once again the Ancient Ones shall rule upon the face of the Earth," concluding each passage with "And this is the covenant." The Ancient Ones therefore lost the battle but won the war, so to speak, since although deposed they gained influence over humankind for all ages to come. ("The eternal sea moves silent, its shadow's on mankind...")
This is the crucial difference between this use of the Elder Gods and that in the HPL pastiches by other authors. The Elder Gods of Sumer are portrayed over and over as faraway, forgetful, hardly inclined to hear humanity's pleas for protection from the darkening shadow. The book is filled with desperate prayers for their aid and scant hope of having it, while the Great Old Ones' presence is felt everywhere both from without and within, and Cthulhu calls even in our own tainted blood. An interpretation HPL might well have liked. (Even the guardian-golem creature a magician may invoke, called the Watcher (!), is unreliable and mindless. It will do as told, only as told, and only when properly sacrificed to; it asks only bread, pine resin and olieribos grass, but your life is forfeit if you mistake or forget. --N.B.: Nephilim fans should note that the ritual for its calling involves a ring of flour; other Sumerian rites of purification and invocation do the same.)
The Marduk myth switches the elements of the Judeo-Christian; while the rebel Lucifer falls from Grace and is punished by the Ancient Creator, the rebel Marduk defeats the Ancient and becomes the Creator himself by literally making the world out of the Ancient's flesh. (Tiamat, losing the battle, is literally split through the middle, and Marduk forms the Earth and Sky from her body.) "The Elder Gods (that is, Marduk's generation) evidently possessed a certain Wisdom that was not held by their Parents (the Ancient Ones), yet their Parents held the Power, the Primal Strength, the First Magic, that the Elder Gods tapped to their advantage, for they were begotten of Her." (And, as formed from Kingu's blood, so apparently are we...) Thence we have Leviathan and Behemoth finally as adjuncts of Satan in later Biblical materials, monsters stripped of their past and given as accomplices to the only one who passes for a force of Chaos in Christianized Western culture. The Great Red Dragon, the fabulous beasts of Revelations: the last of Tiamat's monster brood.
Reading of her at a remove of so many centuries and revisions, it is difficult for us to know the feeling that the people of her land had toward Tiamat. Joseph Campbell agrees with most modern mythographers that she was Chaos-Mother, with equal stress on both elements. (A likely derivation of her name is Kia-Ama, "Earthmother". Like tehom, the Hebrew phrase tohu-wa-bohu - "without form, and void", or Chaos, as in the first line of Genesis - is probably derived from her name.) She is the mother of the gods as well as of the brood of war-monsters she creates when threatened; her anger is motivated by threat to her young (whom her spouse, Absu, wished to murder for the small crime of making too much noise) and her reaction appropriately extreme and violent for a chaotic power. Certainly the political machinations that follow and the rise of Marduk are the signpost of the rise of patriarchy, the brutal revision of Goddess theologies as old as the Paleolithic, and the birth of the hero/dragon myth. Patriarchal writers are prone to play her as evil from the start, their sympathies always being with Order and the Hero. In the Necronomicon, likewise, she receives no sympathy, and is cast as the embodiment of destruction and death, "Mummu-Tiamat, Queen of the Ancient Ones", the terrible one who is served by performing the Great Old Ones' rites. And yet there is the epithet Mummu, Mama, oldest of words; Mother Earth seen not as gentle Goddess of flowers and fawns but bloody birthgiver pushing out spawn, no less Mother for that.
The Sumerian Great Goddess as she appears in the Necronomicon, Simon speculates, can be divided into essentially a Great Old One (the dragon Mummu-Tiamat) and an Elder Goddess, Inanna, who meets Ereshkigal (the Queen of the Sumerian Underworld of the Dead, whom Simon also identifies with Tiamat) in her dark realm and rises triumphant as Resurrector of Souls and Queen of the Sumerland. In this context it's marvelous to read a 1500 BCE hymn addressed to Ishtar - Inanna's Babylonian name, and like her a goddess of both love and war - praising her as civilizer and savior in very similar terms: "...the Goddess of the Universe, the One who walked in terrible Chaos and brought life by the law of Love; and out of Chaos brought us harmony, and out of Chaos thou has led us by the hand."
Simon's introduction notes that modern Wicca frequently gives the Goddess pre-eminence, and that Chinese lore refers to two dragon currents, male and female, cognate to Tiamat and her mate Absu (as well as to the yin/yang emblem and the Red and Green Dragons of alchemy). Again the Apocrypha are relevant; from I Enoch: "And on that day two monsters will be separated from one another: a female monster, whose name is Leviathan, to dwell in the depths of the sea...and the name of the male is Behemoth, who occupies with his breast a waste desert".
Plainly we have left H.P. Lovecraft and his tales, fiction or not, behind us now and are far at sea, amongst the archetypes and dream-images that are common to us all and our ancient common mind. But now we approach the point. Central to the idea of an identity between the creatures of the Necronomicon and the Sumerian mythos is the image of a primal, chaotic, cthonic power, the core of the world, which though defeated - like the Nephilim - has never died. It is expressed in the volcano and the earthquake, the rising Serpent Force of Kundalini, the above-mentioned dragon currents of Chinese Feng-shui, the ley lines of Britain, the myths of a thousand ancient goddesses, and sexuality in all its variations.Power=Will=Dragon=Shakti (Wisdom cannot function without Power; "Shiva without Shakti is a corpse") She is the Original One; the submerged, subconscious energy which when summoned rises from below, awesome in its primordial might, to overwhelm what has been structured on her sleeping surface. Tiamat, or Binah or Rahab or Behemoth/Leviathan, is the all-birthing sea (a frequent emblem of sleep, the unconscious mind, "out of the deep my child"...), ever-changing in form, the saltwater of blood and tears: elemental, both creative and destructive, neither evil nor good. Cthulhu, "dead but dreaming" in his drowned city of R'lyeh, speaking to humanity through dreams from the bottom of the sea, could not more clearly be Tiamat's child and heir to this tradition of fathomless raw power.
Simon again: "In both the European and Chinese cultures, the Serpent or Dragon is said to reside somewhere 'below the earth'; it is a powerful force, a magical force, which is identified with mastery over the created world; it is also a power that can be summoned by the few and not the many. ... The orgone of Wilhelm Reich is just as much Leviathan as is the Kundalini of the Tantric adepts and the power raised by the Witches. It has always, at least in the past two thousand years, been associated with occultism and essentially with rites of Evil Magic, or the forbidden Magic, of the Enemy, and of Satan...and the twisting, sacred spiral formed by the Serpent of the Caduceus, and by the spinning of the galaxies, is also the same Leviathan as the spiral of the biologists' code of life: DNA." Virtually every human culture has used the serpentine spiral in its art and religious iconography, coiling into the center and returning upon itself, the return from the labyrinth, the discovery of self, birth and death - the departure from the womb of earth and the return to it.
"(Little demons of day-to-day life may be exorcised but) There is no exorcism of Tiamat, She exists, somehow, just as the Abyss exists and is perhaps indispensable to human life if we think of her as typifying the female quality of Energy. Although Marduk was responsible for halving the Monster from the Sea, the Sumerian Tradition has it that the Monster is not dead, but dreaming, asleep below the surface of the earth, strong, potent, dangerous, and very real. Her powers can be tapped by the knowledgeable, 'who are skillful to rouse Leviathan'. ("You'll see, you'll see her when she starts to form...")
"For ages beyond time, the gods conspired to contain this black power...It was circumscribed, propitiated, and hidden in the pantheon, but its essential nature could not be denied. It alone - she alone - grew in strength as other deities faded from mortal memory, for she alone embodied the dark underside of an essentially benign universe - a universe whose reality had been forged through the millennia by the consciousness of gods and men alike.
But she was not the product of consciousness. She was the focus and residue of all the atavistic thoughts and actions which ten thousand years of conscious strivings had hoped to put behind.
In this century the Song of Kali had become a chorus. The smoke of sacrifice arose to the clouded dwelling place of Kali, and the goddess awoke to hear her song." ---Dan Simmons, The Song of Kali(1985)
Part V: The Maelstrom (wherein we see our Holy Guardian Angels as Dragons of Chaos yet unchanged)
"I maintain, then, that there is a spirit coiling and roiling in the bowels of the earth, radiating out from the mouths of caves, flashing like a slow-motion lightning along fault lines, sprinkling out with the water from springs and wells, pulsing like heartbeats along certain barely-recognized runways across the land." --Jim Brandon, The Rebirth of Pan: Hidden Faces of the American Earth Spirit(1983)
So we take all this in and dream on it and what we see is this:
By its very nature the Chaotic is female, and those who say the serpent is an erotic symbol because of its phallic shape are (typically) missing the point, jealously stealing something they don't understand. (The Y chromosome is only a deformed X after all.) It winds and writhes and spirals underground. Chaotic/erotic: the serpent feeds us the apple and we change. Realize: the Serpentine Fire is in you: human sexual energy is our share of the raw creative power of Earth and Cosmos Herself, riotous and uncontrollable, which made monsters before butterflies. And through it alone or with others we make contact with that power. Despite all the wise and helpful visitors who have opened our eyes, the point is not that magic comes to us from without but that it was given us via sexual initiation; we had the potential to know but we were a maiden race, we knew nothing, we were innocent of our deep nature. The gift of the apple is a long-disguised allegory of erotic and spiritual discovery, and they had to paint it as the Fall from Grace because of its awesome power to unlock the soul, the mind and the heart of the world, horrifying to conventional organized religions. The Watchers could not have taught us without also becoming our lovers. The Great Old Ones could not teach us without also begetting their kind among us. The gods have always taken humans unto themselves - even if all that means is to make contact with your primordial soul, seduce yourself, break through into the transcendent ecstasy of your own spirit - (it is after all altogether possible that we ourselves made all the pantheons that ever were, the incarnation of the fire, let us witness...) and thereby has all knowledge come unto the world; their gift is to make us realize what we already know but have been trained to fear, the conquering will of pure life. (And when you slice an apple in half, not top to bottom but across its center, you will find a five-pointed star.)
All this may seem to do with balance of polarities, Chaos/Anarchy VS. Law/Order. But not even that simple, since physics suggests that chaos obeys natural laws which only look lawless and nothing can fall into anarchy faster than human law. The IOT has it that Chaos is the only sensible name of what most call God. So --
So now we magnify the fractal another step and go deeper.
The Nephilim are the children of angels, wandering lost souls. Ceremonial and Enochian (Dr. Dee again) magic teach that your Holy Guardian Angel is your soul, your True Will, and the IOT links it with Kia, the life-force. Which can be taken to mean that your soul is your spark of the Divine Fire, your bit of god/dess if you like; as angels are the messengers of the Light, your soul/angel self is your direct contact with the Source, part of it, never apart from it. (And the very Seraphim are called "flying fiery serpents"; Chalkydri, the dragon-angels of the Sun, praised be Nakhiel.) To know your True Will is therefore to learn to hear your soul, which will always speak with the original voice (hence is it called "Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel") older than now-reality's idea of God. The shaman's journey is into self; "psychonaut" means "mind-traveller", "soul-sailor". The conscious and subconscious minds acting as one with the Superconscious, as above so below. Not exactly easy. But listen, this music wants you to reach deep inside and hear that voice speak, realize how ancient you are, that the Nephilim remember you. Every soul may be angelfire but the Nephilim are demigods, disembodied sparks...you could yourself be a Nephil, the child of intercourse between your angel soul and your flesh...
So you work your way toward your center, following life to its dragon core. Walk this winding spiral path. Fire and water become allies. The Serpent on the cross is the twist of the helix, the spinal chakras of Kundalini, the World Tree, axis of the world and seat of Yggdrasil. The jewel in the lotus amen...The spiral is the labyrinth, maze of life and death with a pool like a mirror at its center. Marduk kills his mother to become himself, kills the female to prove himself male, kills the monster to prove himself the champion of law and logic, conqueror of chaos - of magic, sex, nature, and all things untamed - which at the same time is a form of sexual initiation, driven into a female body and never quite the same again.
--But he's proven he really is separate from the body he came out of, he thinks. He can go forth independent and whole. So why are we praying for Leviathan all around him unseen?
Because the Sumerians knew humankind was created not from the flesh of the Elder Gods but from the blood of Kingu, Tiamat's own. And they knew what that meant. We are of the blood of the Other Side, of undying dead-but-dreaming Tiamat, and the Light at Center is Creation's chaotic wildfire. The central wild energy we will find in ourselves whether or not we believe it slain. Walk this winding path and at the center of the twisted DNA labyrinth of yourself you will find your soul, your Holy Guardian Angel, which will be a tongue of dragonflame.
Cthulhu Calls: "For behold, I have been with you from the beginning."
Bibliography and suggestions
The Apocryphal Old Testament; paperback, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1987. H.F.D. Sparks, editor. The best compilation I've found. This will be the only one you really need for the history of the Nephilim; however, if you find you enjoy the Apocrypha, two other readily available (at least in America) small compilations are The Lost Books of the Bible (Bell Publishing, 1979, reprint of 1926 edition) and The Forgotten Books of Eden (Bell Publishing, 1981, reprint of 1927 edition). These are hardcovers but often available from remainder dealers. (N.B.: The all-time classic edition of this material is R.H. Charles' massive two-volume set Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, published by Oxford University Press in 1913 and still in print though prohibitively expensive - over $100 last time I looked. For sheer mass of detail and scholarship it's well worth reading. Try a university or college library if you have one available and feel like submerging yourself.)