The Truth about the Necronomicon

The Truth about the Necronomicon
by Michael Szul on 2008-03-28 08:13:44
tags: hp lovecraft, necronomicon

There is an obsession in the occult world with a text known as The Necronomicon thanks to the literary works of H.P. Lovecraft. It is an obsession that survives and grows with each passing day despite constant refutation of its existence.

To chronicle its history we must first look at the closest thing we have to a source. Namely, Lovecraft's own essay :

Original title Al Azif - Azif being the word used by the Arabs to designate the nocturnal sound (made by insects) supposed to be the howling of daemons.

Composed by Abdul Alhazred, a mad poet of Sanna, in Yemen, who is said to have flourished during the period of the Ommiade Caliphs, circa A.D. 700. He visited the ruins of Babaylon and the subterranean secrets of Memphis and spent ten years alone in the great southern desert of Arabia - (The Roba El Khaliyeh or “Empty Space ” of the ancients and “Dahna” or “Crimson” desert of the modern Arabs) - which is held to be inhabited by protective evil spirits and monsters of death. Of this desert many strange and unbelievable marvels are told by those who pretend to have penetrated it. In his last years Alhazred dwelt in Damascus, where the Necronomicon (Al Azif) was written, and of his final death or disappearance (A.D. 738) many a terrible and conflicting things are told. He is said by Ebn Khallikan (12th century biography) to have been seized by an invisible monster in broad daylight and devoured horribly before a large number of fright-frozen witnesses. Of his madness many things are told. He claimed to have seen the fabulous Irem, or City of Pillars, and to have found beneath the ruins of a certain nameless desert city the shocking annals and secrets of a race older than mankind. He was only an indifferent Moslem, worshipping unknown Entities who he called Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu.

In A.D. 950 the Azif, which had gained considerable, though surreptitious circulation amongst the philosophers of the age, was secretly translated into Greek by Theodorus Philetas of Constantinople under the title Necronomicon. For a century it impelled certain experimenters to terrible attempts, when it was suppressed and burnt by the patriarch Michael. After this it was only heard of furtively, but (1228) Olaus Wormius made a Latin translation later in the Middle Ages, and the Latin text was printed twice - once in the 15th century in black letter (evidently in Germany) and once in the 17th (probably Spanish); both editions being without identifying marks, and located as to time and place by internal typographical evidence only. The work, both Latin and Greek, was banned by Pope Gregory IX in 1232 shortly after its Latin translation, which called attention to it. The Arabic original was lost as early as Wormius' time, as indicated by his prefactory note; (there is however, a vague account of a secret copy appearing in San Francisco during the present century, but later perished in fire), and no sight of the Greek copy - which was printed in Italy between 1500 and 1550 - has been reported since the burning of a certain Salem man's library in 1692. A translation made by Dr. Dee was never printed and exists only in fragments recovered from the original manuscript. Of the Latin texts now existing one (15th century) is known to be in the British Museum under lock and key, which another (17th century) is in the Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris. A 17th century edition is in the Widener Library at Harvard, and in the library at Miskatonic University at Arkham; also in the library of the University of Buenos Aires. Numerous other copies probably exist in secret, and a 15th century one is persistently rumored to form a part of the collection of a celebrated American millionaire. A still vague rumor credits the preservation of a 16th century Greek text in the Salem family of Pickman; but if it was so preserved, it vanished with the artist R. U. Pickman, who disappeared in 1926. The book is rigidly suppressed by the authorities of most countries, and by all branches of organized ecclesiasticism. Reading leads to terrible consequences. It was from rumors of this book (of which relatively few of the general public know) that R.W. Chambers is said to have derived the idea of his early novel “The King in Yellow.”

If the Necronomicon is nothing more than a fictional tome (which many surmise), it is undoubtedly the most well researched hoax in the history of humankind. Lovecraft was extremely precise in his work; and his orchestration of a history for his infamous book was no exception to this rule. Rather than fiction peppered with bits of fact, Lovecraft's History is a large portion of historical places, names, and facts thrown together in a coherent lineage and speckled with what most see as his own fictional stylings.

From Pope Gregory's attitude towards heretics to Olaus Wormius' skill at translations, Lovecraft constructed one of the most true to life historical fiction accounts you're ever likely to come across. Which then bears the question: Is is really fictional?

This question cannot be answered by looking at Lovecraft's texts alone. He was too skilled in his writings. He would drop some historical hints to keep you intrigued and guessing, but would never reveal enough for you to be sure. And he always insisted that the Necronomicon was fake.

Where does this leave us? Any great fiction writer tends to use historicity to warp their work into a semi-reality conforming ode to the here and now. Whereas the main events in the story may be completely false, many of the personal characteristics, back story, and pertinent objects are based on people or things in everyday reality. The chance still remains that Lovecraft based his Necronomicon on a real tome, but what evidence do we have of this? The answer may lie in the works of an obscure 20th century occult writer.

Kenneth Grant is much the red headed step-child of the occult revival of the 19th and 20th centuries. A follower of the infamous Aleister Crowley, Grant's reputation does not follow along the path of, say, Crowley's other famed disciple: Israel Regardie. Grant is often ridiculed, even by followers of Crowley, for being paranoid and delusional in life, and severely complicated and outlandish in his works.

However, even with that said, Grant was a very close student of Crowley's. And Grant does have a legimate claim that Crowley wanted him to take over the leadership role in Crowley's secret society. If Grant were a complete crackpot, nothing of the sort would even have a chance of being mentioned.

All of Grant's works were highly influenced by Crowley's Thelemic tradition. One particular work, which holds considerable interest, is Nightside of Eden in which Grant proceeds to describe what he refers to as the Tunnels of Set.

A close examination of the Tunnels of Set will bring the reader to a realization that Crowley might not have been Kenneth Grant's only influence for this darker side of occult mysticism. It seems that Grant's Nightside of Eden is also somewhat rooted in the works of H.P. Lovecraft and his often referred to tome the Necronomicon.

It is interesting to note that H.P. Lovecraft writes in his celebrated fictionalization of cosmic myth-cycles - The Necronomicon - as follows concerning the Great Old Ones: “Ye Gates are for Them ev'rywhere, but ye 1st was… in Irem, ye City of Pillars, ye city under ye desert…” The pillar is an emblem of Set, one of the meanings of that god's name being a “standing stone or pillar”, and the desert is the abode of Set (i.e. Daath). Irem, then, was the First Gate established by the Old Ones and this Gate was at the place of Daath, or Eden. (Grant, Nightside of Eden, p. 69).

Ithell Colquhoun correctly places this cult [Zos Kia Cultus] in its contemporary setting as an offshoot of the O.T.O. and “Traditional Witchcraft”, but Zos Kia Cultus comports another strand which stems from influences older than any that can be attributed to merely “traditional witchcraft”, whatever that term may signify. These influences emanate from cults such as those that Lovecraft contacted in New England via Salem Witchcraft which - in turn - had contacts with vastly ancient currents which manifested in the Amerindian astral complex as the “eldritch” entities described by Lovecraft in his tales of horror. (Grant, Nightside of Eden, p. 128).

[The] symbolism of the leaper typified by Hekt, the frog-headed goddess of the voltiguers of the backward paths, is emphasized by the ascription to this kala 29 of the Mangrove, the swamp-tree haunted by frogs and other members of the batrachia. Lovecraft has alluded to these creatures as those that foregather in the proximity of the Great Old Ones or their minions.(Grant, Nightside of Eden, p.244).

Grant may be paranoid and delusional, but one thing he is not is stupid. We are talking about a highly intelligent, deductive mind that writes texts that parallel Immanuel Kant in complexity. Why then would he so blatantly reference the fictional works of H.P. Lovecraft? Could a shady connection exist between Grant's mentor Aleister Crowley and Lovecraft himself?

Though the Necronomicon is considered a fictional book even by Lovecraft himself, there lies a possible connection between Lovecraft and the infamous occultist Aleister Crowley that often isn't brought to light.

Many have suggested (but not proven) that Crowley had an association with a young lady named Sonia Greene who would eventually become Lovecraft's wife. It wasn't until after Greene and Lovecraft met that the Necronomicon first began to appear in his works. It isn't clear what, if any, information may have passed from Crowley to Greene and then Greene to Lovecraft, but there are plenty of speculations that the Necronomicon has an unmistakeable Sumerian influence. Crowley was well versed in Sumerian mythology and lore, and one of Grant's many obsessions dealt with tracing our occult heritage back to its Sumerian influence.

Despite the best laid speculations among scholars and occultists, it still remains that although not named, the imposing presence of an ancient evil book loomed in Lovecraft's work before he had even met Sonia Greene. Though it's possible that she, and her high society connections, could have influenced its development, it's impossible to conclude that her unverified relationship with Crowley was a sole proponent in the tome's creation.

In addition, Grant, well versed in both Crowley and Lovecraft, never mentioned such an obvious connection between the two. And with Grant always being one to exploit even the smallest advantage that his knowledge and intellect have to offer, I have to believe that he would have exploited just such a connection to further develop his philosophical works.

However, even if Sonia Greene never met Aleister Crowley, it would be foolish to assume that Crowley and Lovecraft were not aware of each other. As noted above, Lovecraft was a very learned man who did his research to make his works all the more terrifying. We've already heard Grant speculate Lovecraft's contact with New England cults. He would have definitely been aware of Crowley and his occult writings. Crowley, in turn, as an aspiring writer, would also have been aware of the pulp work of the struggling Lovecraft. Though neither's personality would have allowed one to socialize with the other.

I think it is safe to assume that Lovecraft's Necronomicon is undoubtedly based on actual occult and mythological lore - the same lore that Crowley would have had access to, and which Grant, being a student of Crowley's would have been greatly influenced by. Grant, coming after Crowley, would have been intelligent enough to see the connections between Lovecraft's work and the knowledge gained from Crowley, and therefore, would have been very comfortable referencing Lovecraft's “fictional” work in Nightside of Eden.

All of this is of course, at best, speculation. We don't know for sure. For all we know it could have been a stroke of genius by Lovecraft as he created a fictional work that haunts many people to this day. Or it could be that Lovecraft actually was in possession of such a diabolical tome and he insisted that it was merely fictional for the betterment of humankind.

Over recent years, a further monkeywrench has been thrown into the geneology of the Necronomicon by Colin Low's Necronomicon Anti-FAQ. In true Lovecraftian tradition, Low melded factual occurrences and well documented occult lore with some ficticious circumstances and events to come up with a history of the Necronomicon that rivals the Necronomicon itself in the truth category.

Low, who much like Lovecraft will be the first to tell you that his essay is a fake, fails to give himself credit for a well researched paper that, under a scholarly microscope, would be less likely to be called a fake and more likely to be called a hypothesis.

The problem isn't in Low's essay. The problem is in the readers who naturally assume in the reality of every word without questioning the essay. Despite his ficticious pitfalls, Low makes some good points concerning Lovecraft's (well researched) mythology and current Judeo-Christian lore.

One such point takes into account the Biblical story of the Nephilim - half-human, half-angel creatures that were the result of the Watcher Angels' forbidden union with humanity. Low equates the Watchers with Lovecraft's Great Old Ones; and the Nephilim as the monsterous sub-races of many Lovecraftian stories.

A much better point, however, is in the mention of the Qlippoth. An old Kabbalistic legend states (Kabbalah being Jewish mysticism) that when God first attempted to create the world, there were several attempts that produced not the world we know today, but shattered visages of life - sparks of life often referred to as Qlippoth and seen as demons in the Judeo-Christian tradition. These Qlippoth existed before humanity and lie outside of the current Space-Time dimension. The story of the Qlippoth sounds vaguely familiar when you start to research the Great Old Ones of Lovecraft's stories.

In addition, we are again brought back to Kenneth Grant, whose Tunnels of Set represent a descent into the Abyss in which an individual overcomes these Qlippothic forces. The Qlippoth reside in these Tunnels which exist outside the normal everyday world of human consciousness.

Is it too much to assume that Lovecraft, with his possible contact with New England cults, was well versed in Jewish mysticism and based his Great Old Ones on the Qlippoth of Kabbalistic lore and mixed it with ancient Sumerian mythology? Grant had no problem using Lovecraft as a valid reference in his work. Did he know something that we didn't?

The reality of the Necronomicon and the fictitiousness of writer H.P. Lovecraft's tome are wrapped around each other to form one masterful book of horror. Regardless of the facts of Lovecraft's greatest creation, it remains that the Necronomicon is viewed as an actual book of the damned and is a much sought after text by curious students of the arcane worldwide. Which actually is a bit foolhardy if you think about it. In Lovecraft's works it seemed that anyone in possession of the book was destroyed in one way or the other.

But anyway, there are two forms of the Necronomicon currently floating about in print for everyone's “enjoyment.” The first, entitled Necronomicon: Book of the Dead, by George Hay, is actually of compilation of several other peoples works, ideas, and opinions on the book with about a handful of pages that are actually considered to be at least a part of the Necronomicon. The pages themselves seem to be of no use whatsoever and actually seem to be a complete rip-off of Lovecraft's ideas.

The second Necronomicon simply entitled Necronomicon, and edited by an individual called Simon, seems to at least try to differentiate itself from Lovecraft's version. It tries to establish a known basis for Lovecraft's mythology emphasizing the Sumerian lore present in it and known Middle Eastern legends. This book, though a little more workable than the first, is still of little practical use, and the fact that like Lovecraft's tome, this one also stresses the maddening abilities of the entities and the threat to human existence, leaves little desire to want to mess with its contents.

Both of these books have been revealed to be fakes and not the actual texts of either Lovecraft's Necronomicon or the mythological true Necronomicon. They were just attempts to exploit a certain niche in the current horror genre and possibly make a cash cow out of it.

The Necronomicon, as a legend, continues to persist because of an overwhelming promise of power. But it's not without a promise of death and destruction as well. In a world of gloom, The Necronomicon exists as an even darker gem waiting to be plucked from the mines of oblivion. And when it arrives, Hell will exist in greener pastures.


Lovecraft was definitely familiar with Kabalah. he mentions it in at least one of his stories used by a reincarnated sorcerer who runs out of old “Old Ones” spells. I believe it was in the case of Charles Dexter Ward.

by templeward on 2008-04-01 14:20:33

HPL occasionally scoured library references in order to add verisimilitude to his stories. for instance, a ritual passage from The Horror at Redhook was more or less lifted verbatim from an occult encyclopedia. so he might have had a passing familiarity with Kabalah after digging for “esoteric lore” in some random book.

HPL was more of an intuitive sorcerer, in my opinion. someone sensitive enough to receive certain vibrations from outside our singular dimension.

nice article, Michael.


by VengerSatanis on 2008-04-09 18:14:05