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Books–The Necronomicon October 25, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Books, Memory, Other.
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This one, purchased at Crow Bookshop, in Burlington Vermont, is apparently by someone who called himself The Mad Arab, or so I am led to believe.  I first became interested in The Necronomicon by reading the works of H. P. Lovecraft, who refers to the book’s writer as Abdul Alhazred.  I didn’t ever expect to see the book itself, because Lovecraft claimed that there were only one or two copies in the world, and many others claimed that it never existed.  The book itself is much more interesting in Lovecraft’s novels, partially, I think because of his prose style and instincts for mystery and horror.  The editors of the issue in my possession (copyright 1977 by Schlangecraft, Inc., and printed as an Avon Paperback) do not claim to know the name of this Mad Arab.

At any rate, the editors claim that this book is in the tradition of a grimoire, a book of spells for a sorceror, and that you should be a pretty accomplished magician to attempt any of them without the requisite background knowledge.  Indeed, they claim that they were visited by poltergeists and had horrible things happen to them while they merely edited and typeset the thing.  More recent sources about all of this stuff disagree (and here, too), concluding that it is more of a history, and perhaps complete balderdash.  So I guess that’s how I’ll have to read it. 

Even as a history there are some things that trouble me about this work (well, duh, right?)  First there is the matter of Alhazred’s motivation.  If this is a history, starring Alhazred and the weird mythos of demons and old ones, etc., then I should be able to understand Alhazred’s motivations.  And he tries to explain them in his introduction, claiming that he “learned the names and properties of all the demons, devils, fiends and monsters listed herein, in this Book of the Black Earth.”  And he “learned of the powers of the astral Gods, and how to summon their aid in times of need.”  These, you’d think, are good things to know, although they are somewhat vague.  I mean, it’s not clear what needs Abdul would have.  Did he need more goats?  He claims that he did not marry, so if he needed a wife or whatever, he did not use their help for that.  So much of the things he learned seem to be unpleasant.  Is it just my modern sensibilities and outlook, or is it a mixed blessing to learn “of the frightful beings who dwell beyond the astral spirits, who guard the Temple of the Lost, of the Ancient Days, the Ancient of the Ancient Ones, whose names [he] cannot write here”?

Mr. Alhazred, according to the book’s editors, wrote this all down at a time when things were not going well for him.  And they claim that he was consumed by these forces and didn’t get to end the book in the traditional manner, signing it with his name and the names of his ancestors.  Indeed, this seems to be the tone of the work, as Alhazred claims that “the Maskim nip at [his] heels, the Rabishu pull at [his] hair, Lammashta opens her dread jaws, AZAG-THOTH gloats blindly at his throne, KUTULU raises his head and stares up through the Veils of sunkun Varloorni, up through the Abyss, and fixes his stare upon me . . .” 

He starts the work by noting how he first came upon this strange knowledge, and it is a riveting and weird story.  But again, there is the problem of motivation to deal with.  He is sleeping in the desert near a rock and is spooked by some strange sights and noises.  Then he rolls into the grass, thinking that it could be robbers.  He sees a weird sight, some people in hoods performing a weird rite near the rock, and the rock rises up.  He screams and one of the hooded figures runs after him.  But he apparently interrupted something in their ritual, and all of these figures are consumed, or possibly melted, by something.  He decides he must find out more about this stuff.  Why?  I am interested in finding things out, but I guess I like to think that much of my self-education tends towards the utilitarian.  If I can’t figure out how to use something, to make my life better, or someone else’s life better, I tend to forget it anyway.  So it seems like a waste of time to learn it in the first place. 

Possibly this is how Alhazred met his end, attempting to remember trivial arcane rituals (although out of self-preservation he might have been more careful, I suppose).  He writes “My fate is no longer writ in the stars, for I have broken the Chaldean Covenant by seeking power over the Zonei. . . . The lines of my life have been obliterated by my Wanderings in the Waste, over the letters written in the heavens by the gods.  And even now I can hear the wolves howling in the mountains as they did that fateful night, and they are calling my name, and the names of the Others.  I fear for my flesh, byt I fear for my spirit more.”  Well, why were you seeking power over the Zonei, then, Abdul?  I really do want to know. 

Next Up: At the Mountains of Madness, by H. P. Lovecraft

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Comments»

1. strugglingwriter - October 31, 2006

Just out of curiousity, do you have a picture of the Necronomicon that you bought. I was just curious what it looked like. I keep picturing The Necronomicon from the Evil Dead movies.


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