The Horror Within by “pigboom” (Reddit).
You know I’m a huge fan of everything “Lovecraftian”. As I read more and more into the occult, what it means, its sources, the culture surrounding it, I realize that many of our greatest writers—from Arthur Machen, to Algernon Blackwood, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Howard Phillips Lovecraft—wrote about subjects steeped in the idea of forbidden knowledge, that which is “hidden”—which is what the term “occult” really means.
Here is a brief yet fascinating look at occult elements in the work of Lovecraft. Read on worshippers, read on!
Lovecraft & the Occult
A major component of cosmic horror in general, and of Lovecraft’s work in particular, is the element of the occult. In many ways, Lovecraft’s occult aspects are true to the origins of the word: much of what various characters in his stories seek is that which remains hidden or concealed from view. By uncovering and practicing secret rituals and speaking ancient words, these characters reveal powerful knowledge and cosmic truths, both awesome and terrifying in their implications and scope. For decades, scholars have explored Lovecraft’s real-life connections to the occult, based on his fiction, his correspondence, and his personal life, in order to unravel whether he had some truly esoteric link to realms beyond ours, or was simply an imaginative dreamer from Providence. He may very well have been a little of both.
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Above: Lovecraft’s “Elder Sign” in Various Manifestations (Pinterest).
Lovecraft’s correspondence with others in his circle of friends suggests that, while he was well-read on the subject, he was not a personal practitioner of magick.6 Much of his knowledge of the occult seems to have come from books on European witchcraft, written by people outside those witch-groups and colored by the perceptions of non-Christian religions during his time, as well as colonial American witchcraft, as described by witch hunters of Salem like Cotton Mather.6 Some of these latter sources contain alleged accounts from accused witches, although the credibility and interpretation of such accounts would necessarily be, at best, somewhat questionable.
A movement toward freer expression of religion in the 1970s has given us some insight, however, into magickal systems. We have come to see that while some of the details of actual occult practice, both modern and traditional, are often misrepresented in Lovecraft’s work, there is much that Lovecraft incorporates that is, surprisingly, close enough to give actual practitioners pause. An examination of the specific words used by Lovecraft suggests that he was not intimately aware of actual occult practices for raising demons or demonic gods, since his language in the rituals more closely resembles protective spells, which include the invocation of various names of the Judao-Christian God (or slightly altered versions of those names), such as Hel, Heloym, Emmanvel, Tetragrammaton, and Iehova, as well as names of archangels, such as Sother and Saboth, referenced in “The Horror at Red Hook” (2, 6). These names are generally used in protective sigils by practitioners of magick against entities summoned against their will for service or information. Such usage would seem counterproductive in the raising of those entities themselves.