Table of Contents
Introduction to Version 2.0
Introduction to original version
Frequently Asked Questions
INTRODUCTION TO VERSION 2.0
This revision is prompted by several small inconsistencies in the original FAQ 1.3. A preface part has been added containing more hands-on information on how to actually get a hold of the books, as well as ISBN statistics and other fun stuff like that. Also, various fact errors have been checked, re-checked, and glossed over (IE, a lot of stuff has been left to remain, even though the clarity and/or truth is quite questionable). But that's okay, this FAQ is far more useful that its three predecessors.
KKC 20 May 1994
Again, a revision is prompted by a change in the status of the Faraday book. As I said in an eariler post, the Faraday Necronomicon does not exist. It was a spoof that was inadvertantly published by a Massachusetts newspaper, and does not deserve the amount of research I've put into it (you may properly infer that I'm a bit incensed at this find ... ) Anyway, the rest of the introduction comes from v. 1.2, because most the rest of the FAQ is the same. Enjoy.
KKC 20 October 1993
Other than that, I have been able to fill in a few blanks in the original FAQ, a table of contents, and I have added a third part as a sort of appendix. This includes within it the complete text of Lovecraft's fictional History of the Necronomicon, as well as a Pantheon listing of the dieties which are common to Lovecraft and the Simon Necronomicon. If you feel I have left anything out, or that I have made an error, please don't hesitate to send me e-mail. Thanks go out to Lupo the Butcher, who was a tremendous help with the original text and in between revisions, as well as Josh Geller and Thyagi Nagashiva (who is no longer listed as an alias of Aliester Crowley....)
KKC, 29 June 1993
INTRODUCTION TO ORIGINAL VERSION
I sometimes wonder why I have taken it upon myself to become a caretaker of the argument over the "thing" called the Necronomicon. Not the black paperback book, not the concept H.P. Lovecraft invented, and not the big coloring book by H.R. Giger. I cannot bring myself to call it anything but the "thing", because at present, the human race cannot come to a consensus on what the Necronomicon is. People who claim that they are skeptics, people who believe that they practice Magick, people who believe that they are Satanists, and just about everyone else have argued and argued with their voices and their e-mail accounts over the what, why, where, who, how, and the when of the Necronomicon.
Most people who argue whatever viewpoint are reasonably knowledgable about their subject, and are fairly expert in their particular angle of entry into the subject of the Necronomicon. Science fiction and horror fans who have something to say are well-read in their H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth. Pagans and Satanists who join in are reasonably well-read in their LaVey and Crowley. Skeptics know their Colin Wilson and their Sumerian mythology. And so, except for the big flamewar that happens every six months or so, discussion is at best educational and enlightening, but usually leads to no concrete conclusions or new ideas.
Aside from that problem, there are also newbies on Netnews and beyond who may have seen a Lovecraft novel once or twice, dabbled in the occult, or played a role playing game. Innocently asking what the Necronomicon is, they become the butt of numerous jokes, get caught in flamewars, and leave their questions mostly unanswered and their information confused and incomplete. I know, because I was once in this predicament. I have since taken the time to research, filled my disk space with other peoples posts and flames, and created this FAQ for the enlightenment of all.
If you have any comments to make, additions to contribute, or corrections to offer, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks go out to Thyagi Nagashiva, "Grendel" Al Billings, Colin Low, and Josh Geller of netnews.alt.magick, SemHaza and Lupo from alt.satanism, Marc Carlson, and Issac Truder. Also to anyone out there that helped whom I may have forgotten.
Kendrick Kerwin Chua
22 March 1993
Servant of the Dark Lord, and keeper of the decade.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
[Note: Text within [brackets] indicate text which would normally be placed in a footnote or a bibliography. However, since this FAQ is most likely going to be read as a text file on some newsreader, footnotes are unwieldly in the extreme. Therefore, all such information will be bracketed and indented like so. Read them or ignore them. KKC]
1. What is the Necronomicon?
A question not answered easily, quickly, or with any level of assurance. If we may begin at what seems to be the beginning, we will also answer the question:
1a. Who is H.P. Lovecraft?
In the early 1900's, a man by the name of Howard Phillips Lovecraft lived in New England and struggled with an unsuccessful career as a writer. Living as a bachelor and a recluse most of his life, he tried various occupations, journalism, literary criticism, and editing among them. He finally came upon an enjoyable form of composition, writing horror fiction. Like his hero, Edgar Allen Poe, Lovecraft dreamed of creating worlds of wonder and mystery, and is credited with the creation of the modern mystery format by his student, Robert Bloch, the author of Psycho. While Lovecraft published much of his work, most notably in the magazine "Weird Tales", he died with no critical acclaim, and little recognition by the public. It was much later, after World War II and into our decade, that Lovecraft began to receive the publicity that he deserved as a literary figure. Lovecraft is now noted as the logical successor to Poe, and served as the inspiration for many modern horror authors, including Stephen King.
[(1) Most information from Willis Conover's biography of Lovecraft entitled Lovecraft at Last. Published by Carrollton-Clark in 1975 in Arlington, Virginia. ISBN 0-915490-02-1. Conover was a publisher who corresponded with Lovecraft during the height of his writing and during his years of illness before he died. KKC]
What made Lovecraft's works different from other pulp fiction was his method of "legitimizing" the stories he told. Devoid of gratuitous splatter violence or adolescent foolishness, Lovecraft mixed ancient mythology and occult literature by real authors with books and theologies of his own devising. He did this so well that in many short stories, one cannot tell the difference between the two without a lifetime's knowledge of the subject. Take the story "The Rats in the Walls", where Lovecraft creates a fictional family history from the Magna Mater cult, or in "The Dunwich Horror", where Lovecraft freely intermingles books like the Malleus Maleficarum with fictional titles like the Book of Eibon or the Vermiis Mysterius.
[(2) This opinion is expounded upon by Robert Bloch in the introduction to the Lovecraft anthology entitled Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre. New edition published by Ballantine Books, ISBN 0-345-35080-4. KKC]
One of the titles that Lovecraft freely threw around was Necronomicon. Lovecraft denied that the book existed, and wrote as a joke a paper titled A History of the Necronomicon", giving a chronology of the book, names, and places. Supposedly, the book was written around A.D. 700 by an arab by the name of Abdul Al-Hazred, and the original title was Al Azif, which is arabic for the sound made by nocturnal insects. Al-Hazred was supposedly better known as "the Mad Arab", and the name of the book is supposedly bastardized greek and latin, which roughly translates into "The Book of Dead Names" (IE ikon=book, Necro=die or dead, and Nom=name).
[(2a) The nomenclature of the Necronomicon is one of those wonderful topics that can be argued forever, much like the debate over whether Elvis Presley is still alive. Whatever the true linguistic origins of the name, "Necronomicon" is meant to evoke images of horror and suspicious, and so it does. KKC]
Lovecraft told his colleagues that he stole the name "Al Azif" from another author as a joke, and that the name "Al-Hazred" was a pun on his mother's maiden name, Hazard. (The history is reproduced in the Appendix, in part 3 of the FAQ. The archivist is receiving no monetary gain from the publication of the material in this public format.)
[(3) Again, from Conover's Lovecraft at Last. KKC]
From this, we can assume the following: In fiction or in fact, the Necronomicon is a magickal grimoire, or a collection of spells and experiences from the pen of one person, presumably the man called Al-Hazred.
Apparently there are those who believe that Lovecraft lied. Several books are currently in print bearing the title Necronomicon. But whether or not Lovecraft invented the concept of the Necronomicon, it was he who gave it publicity and notoriety.
2. What are the Necronomicons like? What is in these books?
Well, it depends on what you happen to find.
Of the books which are titled Necronomicon:
1) The Necronomicon, by Abdul Al-Hazred
Edited by Simon
Copyright 1977 by Magickal Childe Publications, New York
1980 by Avon Books, third printing
218 pages, illustrations by Khem Set Rising
Standard mass media (paperback) format
$5.99 in the U.S.
Published by the same people who produced Anton Lavey's Satanic Bible, this book has little or nothing to do with Lovecraft, but a great deal to do with Sumerian and Assyrian mythology. One fourth of the book is a large introduction written by Simon that supposedly relates the history and the times of the Necronomicon and of Abdul Al-Hazred. The book seems to be a collection of genuine translations of cuneiform tablets found in Iraq by archaeologists, with the occasional indecipherable line deciphered by Simon, invariably with some reference to Cthulhu or another reference to something vaguely Lovecraftian.
Simon claims that the book was originally written in Greek, and that this volume is not a complete translation, as parts were "purposely left out" for the "safety of the reader".
This book is interesting because of its subtlety in some places, and outright bluntness in others. While Simon attempts in his preface to form a tenuous link between Lovecraft and Aliester Crowley (who never met each other, as far as anyone knows), he dedicates the book in part to a demon named Perdurabo, without telling us who he is. Frater Perdurabo is a name that Crowley adopted for himself, and is a mystical motto of sorts. Also, Simon warns against allowing the text to be used by "novices" in the mystical arts, and the author also states repeatedly something to the effect of "show these words not to the uninitiated". However, neither give any definition of what an expert or an initiate might be. The system of rituals also seems extremely simplistic, compared to, say, the high complexity of the Golden Dawn system.
On the up side, the book does contain some "real" information, most notably the fifty names of Marduk as archetypes, and an abridged version of the Sumerian creation epic, where Marduk kills Tiamat and creates the earth from her corpse. Also, the symbols and sigils are complex and interesting to look at, and form the basis of a "gate walking" ritual that supposedly takes a full year, and is supposed to raise the user's conciousness to a higher state. This sort of ritual is common to many magickal texts. The text also bears a suspicious resemblance to The History of Babylon by Berosus, which is considerably more credible to historical authorities.
This book was also made available in hardback leatherbound, with silver inlay on the cover. The archivist believes that the print run was about 600, and it was made available in an advertisement in Omni magazine in 1989.
1a) The Necronomicon Spellbook, by Simon
Copyright 1987 by Magickal Childe Publications
170 pages, paperback
$6.95 in the U.S.
The Gates of the Necronomicon, by Simon
$14.95 in the U.S
These two books, essentially repeating the material in the "original" Simon Necronomicon, are Simon's efforts towards fleshing out the vague material he originally put forth in 1977.
The Necronomicon Spellbook, originally entitled Necronomicon Report, is a "simplified" guide towards usage of the fifty names of Marduk in divination and prayer, and contains some interesting insight into the meanings of the names. It is interesting to note that many systems of Magick seem to have some diety upon whom many names are conferred; Egyptian and Greek pantheons come to mind.
The Gates of the Necronomicon is a purported "introduction to the system," which supposedly takes one step by step through each part of the gate walking initiation which is described in the Necronomicon. Supposedly, the ambiguities and unavailability of certain materials which are needed in the rituals are explained away by Simon. The book is currently unavailable from Magickal Childe; although they claim to have published a first edition in June of 1992, it was never made available. It was supposed to be released for the first time in December of 1993, as a sort of "sequel" to the first. No evidence of the "Gates" book has yet manifested.
[(4) Short of travelling directly to New York and visiting the Magickal Childe shop, you will find these two very difficult to obtain (and if you don't, please do tell us all how you got them). KKC]
2) The Necronomicon, by Colin Wilson et al.
ISBN 1 - 871438 - 16 - 0
Edited by George Hay
Copyright 1978 Neville Spearman, London
184 pages, illustrated by Stamp and Turner
$9.95 in the U.S.
With about 150 pages of introduction and essay, and about 40 pages of Necronomicon, famed skeptic Colin Wilson gives us the most exhaustive piece of research on how H.P. Lovecraft must have seen the Necronomicon, and evidence for and against the existence of such a book. Wilson calls on the research by Robert Turner and David Langford to form a Necronomicon that they admit freely was fabricated from the works of Lovecraft alone, and seemingly without any real historical base. Notably, Wilson presents a "complete" text on the summoning of Yog-Sothoth and the passage through the gates, the Ibn Ghazi powder, the "adjuration" of Cthulhu, and references to Kadath, Leng, and other names found only in Lovecraft's stories. There is also a poem containing the famous "not dead which eternal lie" couplet.
Wilson claims to have taken the contents of an obscure volume owned by John Dee called the Liber Logaeth, which supposedly contains several tables of enochian-like characters in 49x49 grids. From this, Hay and Wilson claim to have taken the contents of the book that they published.
It can be said with a fair amount of certainty that the Hay book is a fake. In addition to various references to the fictional Miskatonic University as if it were real, there are also plates and photographs which are cunningly faked as if to convince the reader that all the materiel is genuine. Look closely if you have a copy; what they portray is not necessarily what has been "translated."
In toto, the book contains:
A table of working
The configuration of planetary and astrological stones to form a circle
Four hand signs
Ye Elder Sign
Ye Sigil of Koth
To Compuund Ye Incense of Zkauba
To Make Ye Powder of Ibn Ghazi
Ye Unction of Khephnes Ye Egyptian
To Fashion the Scimitar of Barzai
Ye Alphabet of Nug-Soth
Ye Voice of Hastur
Of Leng in Ye Cold Waste
Of Kadath Ye Unknown
To Call Forth Yog-Sothoth
To Conjure of Ye Globes
Ye Adjuration of Great Cthulhu
To Summon Shub-Niggurath Ye Black
The Talisman of Yhe
Ye Formula of Dho-Hna
This book is probably most useful to players of the role playing game Call of Cthulhu, as it is most faithful to the works of Lovecraft.
At the moment, the book is not available on American shelves, so far as the archivist has been able to discern. Every occult shop and speciality bookstore has either been out of stock for years or participated in some elaborate conspiracy to keep it out of American hands (most likely the former, but don't discount the possibility :) To obtain the book, you need to mail order it for $9.95 from the Abyss, a New England occult wholesaler whose address is given in part I of the FAQ.
The Hay Necronomicon was also begetting a sequel in December, called The R'lyeh Text, which supposedly is a translation of the second half of the book (the Necronomicon part is only the first half, so claims Wilson). This book does not seem to be in existence yet either.
[(5) This information owes a great deal to Ashton from the net, who seems to have no last name, but found and bothered to read the book. I have also read the book by this writing. KKC]
3) Al Azif: The Necronomicon, by Abdul Al-Hazred
Copyright 1973 by Owlswick Press
This is an interesting book, if for purely aesthetic reasons. It consists of eight pages of simulated Syrian script, repeated over and over 24 times, in a spiffy hardback cover. No notes, no value, makes a great conversation piece.
It is interesting to note that Wilson says in his introduction to the Hay Necronomicon that it was this book which inspired DeCamp to collaborate on the publication of the Hay Necronomicon. The connection is unclear, as this book is very very unavailable to the general public.
A few copies are available in the rare and uncirculating portions of some university libraries. The University of South Florida, somewhere in Tampa, has one under tight lock and key, according to one anonymous source.
An entry which once deserved a place among these Necronomicons has been proven to be a hoax. Apparently a man by the name of Wollheim sent to the Branford Review (a Massachusetts Newspaper) a fake review of a book called Necronomicon in 1934, supposedly edited by a W.T. Faraday. Interestingly, it was this fake book review which spurred Lovecraft to write his own History of the Necronomicon, according to Willis Conover. Although Lovecraft had invented most of the history prior to this time, it was small scale hoaxes like the Wollheim incident which actually inspired Lovecraft to set the record firmly crooked on one or two relevant points.
A copy of the history is found at the end of this FAQ.
There are also many other books that bear the same title. Modern artist H.R. Giger, of Alien fame, has produced two books of horror art titled Necronomicon. There is also a gaming newsletter in the northeast called Necronomicon. There are also many entries in catalogs, library systems, and cross-references to books with the title Necronomicon, most of which are pranks or inside jokes. If anyone does find a significant book titled Necronomicon not in the above list, please e-mail the archivist.
3. Who is/was Abdul Al-Hazred? Does he exist?
As stated above, Lovecraft created the name as a family joke. His mother's maiden name was Hazard, and taking a common name "Abdul", Lovecraft created the Mad Arab with his scanty knowledge of Arabic nomenclature. Lovecraft had such inside jokes with many of his fictional authors. Comte D'Erlette, author of the fictional Cultes de Goules, was a derivative of the name of Lovecraft's biggest fan, August Derleth. Robert Blake, the writer who was possessed and destroyed by Nylarlathothep in "The Haunter of the Dark," was based on his student Robert Bloch, the author of Psycho.
2) For Real?
Supposedly, there was a wandering Arab who ended up in Damascus after witnessing horrible magical rituals since leaving his home on the bank of the Euphrates river sometime in the mid 1200's. He took the name Abdul Al-Azred, which supposedly but erroneously means Servant of God, He Who Knows the Forbidden (or something to that effect). After writing down an incomplete synopsis of everything he learned and saw, he mysteriously vanished, leaving only a thick, 800 page greek text.
Originally, this wandering Arab was thought by the archivist to be the famous Ibn Khallikan, the biographer and historian from whose works we know many great middle eastern writers and philosophers. Without Khallikan's work, many of these men and women would be forgotten. An exhaustive search of Khallikan's biographies reveals no one with a name even remotely similar to Al-Hazred. Khallikan himself should not be confused with Al-Hazred either.
There is evidence against and for both theories, all of which is too lengthy to include in this already humongous FAQ. But suffice it to say that the above two theories are the prevalent ones, with other minor ones floating around.
[(6) Jason and Laurie Brandt from the University of Oregon are the main contributors to the extremely abridged text above. KKC]
4. Who or what is Cthulhu?
Cthulhu is the main character of Lovecraft's masterpiece, The Call of Cthulhu. Supposedly, in the early days of life on earth, an alien being came to earth and established rule over whatever sentient life was inhabiting earth. However, the lives of Cthulhu and his race are reportedly cyclical, and so at present they are in a hibernation of sorts.
Cthulhu is chief among these entities. Cthulhoid beings resemble a humanoid several hundred feet tall, with a head resembling a squid, claws, and prodigious telepathic capabilities. Supposedly, the cycle is about to end as the 20th century comes to a close, and Cthulhu has maintained a cult of humans to help him return and re-establish his previous rule.
In the Simon Necronomicon, Cthulhu is seen as the great and all-powerful evil that will invade the world with the rest of his "evil" brethren if certain gates are left open or carelessly used. Cthulhu is head of the Ancient Ones, the old gods who were defeated originally by the Elder Gods, who are supposedly the "good guys".
An interesting side note: Kutu is the name of a city in the Sumerian underworld, according to the mythology. Lu is a word in Sumerian which reads as "man", as evidenced by all the Mesopotamian kings whose names were LuGalxxxxx, meaning "Great Man of xxxxx". So KutuLu means man of the underworld. Or so claims Simon, the editor of the Magickal Childe rendering of the Necronomicon.
Those interested should read the netnews.alt.horror.cthulhu FAQ for more information.