H. P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition: The Master of Horror's Influence on Modern Occultism

H. P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition: The Master of Horror's Influence on Modern Occultism

by John L. Steadman
H. P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition: The Master of Horror's Influence on Modern Occultism

H. P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition: The Master of Horror's Influence on Modern Occultism

by John L. Steadman


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Explore Lovecraft's Deep Connections to the Dark Arts

Modern practicing occultists have argued that renowned horror writer H. P. Lovecraft was in possession of in-depth knowledge of black magick. Literary scholars claim that he was a master of his genre and craft, and his findings are purely psychological, nothing more. Was Lovecraft a practitioner of the dark arts himself? Was he privileged to knowledge that cannot be otherwise explained?

Weaving the life story of Lovecraft in and out of an analysis of various modern magickal systems, scholar John L. Steadman has found direct and concrete examples that demonstrate that Lovecraft's works and specifically his Cthulhu Mythos and his creation of the Necronomicon are a legitimate basis for a working magickal system.

Whether you believe Lovecraft had supernatural powers or not, no one can argue against Lovecraft's profound influence on many modern black arts and the darker currents of western occultism.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781578635870
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 09/01/2015
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 802,503
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

John L. Steadman is a scholar of H. P. Lovecraft and western occultism and has been a magickal practitioner for more than thirty years. He is currently a college English professor at Olivet College in Michigan. Visit him at www.johnlsteadman.com.

Read an Excerpt

H.P. Lovecraft & the Black Magickal Tradition

The Master of Horror's Influence on Modern Occultism

By John L. Steadman

Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 2015 John L. Steadman
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57863-587-0



In his magnum opus, Magick (1974), the great twentieth-century occultist Aleister Crowley offers a succinct definition of magick: "Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will." Crowley defines the principle of "change," that the magickian is expected to effect over the course of his magickal career. According to Crowley, the magickian must seek to attain union with his higher self, or Holy Guardian Angel — an experience that is virtually equivalent to the mystical union of man with his God. In fact, as far as Crowley is concerned, all magickal workings are merely particular instances of this ultimate goal. As Crowley states it:

There is a single main definition of the object of all magical Ritual. It is the uniting of the Microcosm with the Macrocosm. The Supreme and Complete Ritual is therefore the Invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel; or, in the language of Mysticism, Union with God. All other magical Rituals are particular cases of this general principle, and the only excuse for doing them is that it sometimes occurs that one particular portion of the microcosm is so weak that its imperfection or impurity would vitiate the Macrocosm of which it is the image, Eidolon, or Reflexion.

Later occultists who have attempted to define magick generally acknowledge Crowley's definition and invariably offer similar definitions. However, there are serious problems with the Crowleyan view of magick. First, Crowley's definition is too broad to be useful in clarifying the difference between an act of magick and any other kind of human action. The application of the proper kind and degree of force can effect any change. Thus, the simple act of getting in the car and driving to the store to purchase a gallon of milk could be interpreted as an act of magick. So could a trip to the movie theater. Essentially, Crowley's definition does nothing more than transform the word "magick" into a synonym for "action" or "acting." The second problem with Crowley's definition is that it applies strictly to the practice of white magick. Historically, white magick focuses predominantly on the goal of spiritual attainment, as opposed to the less rarified goals common among practitioners of black magick. Examples of white magickal organizations include the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, where Crowley received his initial training; Crowley's own magickal organization, the A A (commonly termed the Argenteum Astrum, or Silver Star); and the Thelemic O.T.O. By associating all magickal rites with the ultimate goal of the white magickal systems, Crowley collapses the practice of magick into one particular magickal rite. In doing so, he willfully ignores the complexity and the sheer vitality of the Western magickal tradition in its entirety.

The only way to arrive at a satisfactory definition of magick is to examine the characteristics common to all magickal practices, irrespective of "denomination." When one does this, it is clear that magick can be defined basically as the use of language, gestures, symbolic objects, and stylized settings for the purpose of establishing contact with extraterrestrial entities. The first part of this definition stipulates the elements present in most types of magickal rites. The second part accurately identifies the goal of magickal practice as the linking of human intelligence to intelligences of an order of being much more sophisticated than mankind. At first glance, the phrase "extraterrestrial" may seem inappropriate. This phraseology is typically used in conjunction with the UFO abduction phenomenon that permeated Western popular culture in the 1950s and 60s and dwindled in importance in the new millennium. A more appropriate term might be simply gods, or deities. In the earliest forms of magick, extraterrestrial entities were interpreted as Apollonian deities like the Christian God and the divine beings that acted as his servitors (archangels, angels, and spirits) or as Dionysian deities like Pan or Bacchus. The reason I use the term "extraterrestrial" will become clearer when we examine the nature of the Dionysian gods and goddesses, particularly the amorphous, thoroughly non-human entities envisioned by Lovecraft. All of these entities have little in common with the glamorous deities of the Western tradition. Indeed, an entity like Cthulhu, which Lovecraft describes as a gigantic, gelatinous being with an octopus-like head, sharp claws, and flabby wings, could only be labeled as extraterrestrial; to describe him as "divine" would be a misnomer at the very least. Also, many of the beings contacted via magickal workings aren't really gods or deities at all. For instance, Crowley's Holy Guardian Angel is decidedly not a god — it is more like a glorified human being. Similarly, the Qliphothic entities, important in Kenneth Grant's system, are even further removed from the status of Godliness. These are potent energy sources that guard the Tunnels of Set, closer in nature to elementals than deities.


The theory and practice of black magick is deeply rooted in the Dionysian principle. The Dionysian personifies the mysterious, irrational, and chaotic aspects of the universe. The term is taken from the Greek god Dionysus, son of Zeus and Semele. In Greek mythology, Dionysus was the god of vegetation and was associated with wine and good fellowship. Over time, Dionysus was perceived as a deity who inspired ecstatic, orgiastic worship, and the frenetic celebrations in his honor became occasions for licentiousness and intoxication. "Dionysian" is a perfect label for the principle that runs counter to order, decorum, and the daytime world. In its highest metaphysical development, the Dionysian can be equated with the concept of the Void, or Emptiness, as exemplified in the Buddhist concept of Sunyata. In Qabalistic doctrine, the Dionysian was associated with the Ain Soph Aur, the realm of nothingness that exists outside the known universe. Subjectively, the Dionysian signifies the primal, unconscious elements of the human psyche. The Dionysian is female, and passive, as opposed to the aggressive, masculine elements of the cosmos. In her monumental study of Western culture, art, and literature, Sexual Personae (1991), Camille Paglia describes the Dionysian in a series of eloquent and memorable passages that capture the full range of meanings associated with this principle.

Dionysus is energy, hysteria, promiscuity, emotionalism. The quarrel between Apollo and Dionysus is the quarrel between the higher cortex and the older limbic and reptilian brains ... Dionysus is our body's automatic reflexes and involuntary functions, the serpentine peristalsis of the archaic. Apollo freezes, Dionysus dissolves. Apollo says, "Stop!" Dionysus says, "Move!"

The earliest manifestation of the Dionysian in the Western world appeared in Africa around 10,000 BC, well before the advent of the Egyptian empire. The primitive beliefs and traditions of the ancient African tribes ultimately crystallized into the religious rites and practices known today as Vodou. From Africa, the Dionysian principle was carried into Egypt, where the Dionysian reached its first great apotheosis. During a period of roughly 1,500 years, from 3100 to 1570 BC, the Dionysian deities were worshipped by the Star cults, which rivaled the great Apollonian solar cults that were centered on the sun god Ra. But after this period, the solar cults began to supplant the Star cults in importance, a process that was facilitated by the replacement of stellar time keeping with solar time keeping. The solar cults dominated the religious practices of the Egyptians in the later dynasties. In Greek and Roman culture, the Dionysian tradition was kept alive by the Bacchanali rites, which presented alternatives to the staid, orderly rites of Zeus, Apollo, Artemis, and the other anthropomorphic entities. However, the frenetic orgies of the bacchantes drew criticism from the authorities, and by the second century the Bacchanali rites were banned in Roman Italy. With the advent of Christianity in the fourth century and the implementation of laws and ordinances forbidding the worship of pagan deities, the Dionysian tradition was forced to go underground in order to survive. Yet the original beliefs and practices were kept alive by witch-cults in Western Europe. Ultimately, in the nineteenth century, the laws forbidding magickal practices were abolished. At this point, the Dionysian tradition began to regain its former status in the world.

The black or Dionysian magickian establishes contact with extraterrestrial entities primarily to gain knowledge of different beings and alternate levels of existence. In effect, the black magickian attempts to subordinate the self to the noumenal realms and by so doing, align himself or herself more completely with the entities that inhabit these realms. This type of alignment is particularly evident in the current practices of the Vodou cults, and among the Wiccan covens. The Vodou houn'gans and mam'bos subordinate the self to such an extent that the loa, i.e. Vodou god-forms, are able to possess their bodies and minds. Once this occurs, then and only then is knowledge possible. In a similar fashion, the members of the Wiccan covens are expected to subordinate themselves to Nature, as personified by the Great Goddess, an archetype that is virtually equivalent to the Mother Goddess of the Seven Stars in Egypt, and the moon goddess Mawu in the Vodou religion. In effect, the magical power of the coven stems from the Great Goddess, since this power is utilized by the psychic and intuitive faculties of individual witches. In A Witches' Bible (1996), Janet and Stewart Farrar describe this power as a "gift" from the Goddess.

Wicca, by its very nature, is concerned especially with the development and use of "the gift of the Goddess" — the psychic and intuitive faculties — and to a rather lesser degree with "the gift of the God" — the linear, logical, conscious faculties. Neither can function without the other, and the gift of the Goddess must be developed and exercised in both male and female witches.

Contemporary black magickal systems also instruct their practitioners to subordinate the self to their dark gods and goddesses in order to achieve knowledge. Anton LaVey, the charismatic founder of the Church of Satan, does not speak of psychic and intuitive powers as a "gift," but his magical system is also allied with the spirit of Nature, particularly human nature. LaVey frankly disavowed the possibility of human perfectibility. In his estimation, the self was not meant to be elevated, but it was not meant to be debased either. Quite simply, the self was to be indulged. By such indulging, the Satanist was yielding to Nature and gaining knowledge of himself, and thus becoming more whole and complete. As LaVey states it:

Satanism encourages its followers to indulge in their natural desires. Only by so doing can you be a completely satisfied person with no frustrations ... It is the frustration of our natural instincts which leads to the premature deterioration of our minds and bodies.

Like LaVey, Kenneth Grant felt that a new magickal dispensation was needed to more accurately reflect the realities of the magickal universe. Grant, who started out as a disciple of Aleister Crowley during the last years of Crowley's life, and who, after Crowley's death, became arguably the most original interpreter of Crowley's Thelemic system, set up his own Typhonian New Isis O.T.O. lodge in the 1950s. On the surface, Grant's O.T.O. resembled the traditional Apollonian O.T.O., but Grant truly believed that the O.T.O. system of spiritual attainment, which he dismissed as "unwieldy" and "masonic," was no longer in accordance with New Aeonic consciousness. Moreover, in Grant's estimation, New Aeonic consciousness involved the use of magick for selfless knowledge, and for exploring the shadow-matter dimensions ruled by the Qliphoth. As Grant perceived it, there was no longer any room for the Apollonian merging of the lower self with the higher self; in fact, the self would interrupt the smooth, fluidic link between the god-forms and the magickian.

The sex-magical formulae used in the O.T.O. in connection with the VIIIth, IXth and XIth degrees comport forms of control ... [b]y means of [which] direct contact may be established with the transplutonic radiations of Nu-Isis ... It was the work of the New Isis Lodge to prepare the ground and ... to establish terrestrial outposts for these alien creatures.

Another important difference between the black magickian and the white magickian is the black magickian's emphasis on gaining magickal power. Magickal power can be generated for the purposes of promoting health, well being, and longevity, but it can also be used for more mundane reasons, like attracting a lover, finding a job, or ridding oneself of an enemy. These types of concerns are viewed as instances of "low" magick by the more high-minded white magickians; often, low magick is denigrated as being "evil." However, the concept of light and dark, or white and black, has nothing to do with good or evil, and determining whether or not an action is evil depends solely on impartial judgment of the action itself and its effects. Certainly, a black magickian can be considered good if he acts ethically, while a white magickian can be considered evil if his actions are harmful to others. In Real Magic (1993), Isaac Bonewits, founder of neopagan Druid fellowship Ar nDraiocht Fein, argues that the association of white with good and black with evil is the result of cultural bigotries, and that this type of labeling is beside the point because moral judgments have no place in magickal practice.

There is nothing that we as scientists (and all magicians are scientists) can label "Black Magic" or "White Magic" just as we cannot as scientists label anything "Good" or "Evil." That is the job of ethics, not science ... Magic is a science and an art, and as such has nothing to do with morals or ethics. Morals and ethics come in only when we decide to apply the results of our research and training. Magic is about as moral as electricity. You can use electricity to run an iron lung or to kill a man in the electric chair. The fact that the first is preferable does not change the laws of physics. It would be nice if the words "destructive" and "creative" could be interchanged with "Black" and "White" when describing acts of magic, but the facts of history will not allow it.


The necessary elements for successful magickal working, as identified previously, include language, gestures, symbolic objects, and stylized settings. Of these four, language is the most important. The text of the ritual can be written in any spoken language. However, the actual words that bring about the summoning of an extraterrestrial entity are invariably written in one of the so-called magickal scripts. In the earliest Western magickal rituals, the Hebrew alphabet served as the principal magickal script. Transliterations of Hebrew god-names proliferate in magickal librettos. The most common of these were usually inscribed around the perimeter of the magickal circle as well as spoken during the performance of the ritual. In later magickal systems like the Golden Dawn rituals, and in the black magickal tradition, the words of power — or, as black magickians refer to them, the barbarous names — are combinations of sounds that are unintelligible to the mind in its normal state, yet are nevertheless peculiarly adapted to the unsealing of the unconscious power of the magickian. Frequently used magickal scripts are the Runic or Futhorc alphabet, the Malachim alphabet, the Masonic or Rosicrucian alphabet, the Sumerian alphabet, and the Ogham script, which some occultists believe to have been part of the written language of Atlantis. One of the most influential of these scripts is the Enochian or Angelic alphabet, which originated with the magickal skrying of Dr. John Dee and Sir Edward Kelley in the sixteenth century and was later incorporated into the Golden Dawn knowledge lectures. Dee and Kelley's system was fairly straightforward. They obtained five large, square tablets filled with letters, all of which corresponded to the elements of the ancient world. These were known as the Enochian tablets. Dee would customarily sit at a table with one or more of these tablets in front of him, while Kelley sat in front of a large crystal, or shewstone. Gazing into the crystal, Kelley would see an angel holding its own tablet, and the angel would point with a wand to various letters on this tablet. Kelley would indicate where the angel pointed, and Dee would write it down. Through this process, Dee created a series of magickal invocations called the Forty-Eight Angelic Keys or Calls.


Excerpted from H.P. Lovecraft & the Black Magickal Tradition by John L. Steadman. Copyright © 2015 John L. Steadman. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction xiii

1 The Purposes and Methodologies of Black Magick 1

2 H P Lovecraft: Prophet of the Aeon of the Great Old Ones 27

3 The Spurious Necronomicons 71

4 The Simon/Schlangekraft Necronomicon 93

5 The Great Old Ones 117

6 Lovecraft and the Afro-Haitian Vodou Cults 145

7 Lovecraft and the Wiccan Religion 169

8 Lovecraft and the Typhonian O.T.O 201

9 Lovecraft and the Church of Satan 223

10 Lovecraft and the Chaos Magick Pacts 243

11 Conclusion 263

Notes 267

Index 280

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