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Picatrix coverI had the chance a few days back to take a look at Dan Attrell and David Porreca's new translation of the Latin Picatrix, and was pleasantly surprised. Not, mind you, by the fact that it's a capable translation, well introduced and footnoted -- academic standards for such things are pleasantly high these days, and some of the absurd habits that used to pass unchallenged in the history of magic in previous decades have thankfully been put to rest for the time being. 

No, the surprise was that the translators were gracious enough to include the translation of the Picatrix Chris Warnock and I did in their acknowledgments, and also in a footnote, which I can't forbear quoting in full: 

"6. Though there already exists a good translation of Pingree's Latin Picatrix, translated and edited by the respectable duo John Michael Greer and Christopher Warnock, their edition appears to be directed toward practicing 'students of medieval and Renaissance magic' or 'students of the occult' rather than toward an audience of historians. See Greer and Warnock, Picatrix, 19." (Attrell and Porreca, Picatrix, 281)

Of course Attrell and Porreca are quite correct. The translation Chris and I did was specifically intended for people who want to practice the magic of the Picatrix; the introduction, notes, and even in some cases the choice of words in our translation were guided by that intention; and it's quite reasonable that historians, whose concerns are very different from those of magical practitioners, would want a translation of their own. 

For quite a long time, though, it was de rigueur in the end of the academic community that studies magic to pretend that the modern occult scene doesn't exist, or -- when that scene forced its attention on the academy in some way or another -- to look down their noses at those of us who have kept up the habit of practicing these things. I've sometimes thought of this as being akin to the legendary disdain of the physicist for the engineer, or more generally of those who study theory for those who roll their sleeves up and get into the messy realm of practice. That disdain wasn't helpful for either side, and it's good to see it giving way to something a little closer to mutual respect. 

I haven't had the chance to go through Attrell and Porreca's translation in detail yet, but it looks very capable, and I'd encourage anyone whose interest in the Picatrix focuses on history (rather than practice) to pick up a copy. Of course those who are more interested in practice already know where to find a good translation... ;-)

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Cthulhu at the beachThe rulebook for Weird of Hali: The Roleplaying Game is coming along nicely at this point, and one of the remaining tasks is making sure it's well stocked with monsters. Now of course this is Weird of Hali, so the player characters are on the side of the monsters, dodging heavily armed Radiance negation teams and subtler dangers alike, but there still has to be a good collection of eldritch creatures. I've already included everything that appears in the seven novels of The Weird of Hali -- Deep Ones, voormis, shoggoths, the basement-dwelling and obligingly hungry formless spawn of Tsathoggua, and the hideous and not always visible Shambler from the Stars, among many others -- but a Lovecraftian adventure is like a wildlife park: the more critters, the merrier. 

So the question I'd like to toss to the tentacle fans among my readers is this: what hideous creatures out of old-fashioned weird fiction would you like to see in WoH: The RPG

A few terms and restrictions apply: 

a) if it's from movies, TV, anime, etc., I'm not really interested. The raw material for this project is pulp magazine fiction, above all the legacy of the between-the-wars golden age of the weird tale. I may at some point make an exception for kaiju -- that is, Japanese movie monsters of the Godzilla genre -- but that's really a separate project. 

b) On the other hand, anything from the weird tales era is an option, even if it's not part of the Cthulhu mythos. I've already made the Thurian and Hyborian ages -- the parahistorical settings of Robert E. Howard's heroes Kull and Conan, respectively -- part of the backstory, so all of Howard's creations without exception are potential raw material. So are the critters conjured into being by the second- and third-string authors of the same period -- the Shambler from the Stars comes from one of Robert Bloch's very earliest and, um, least distinguished stories. (You have to start somewhere, even if you end up as good as Bloch.) 

So trace the chalk circle, turn the unhallowed pages of the Necronomicon, and conjure up your favorite eldritch horrors from six whole weeks before the beginning of time itself...

(The image of Cthulhu at the beach? That's by cartoonist Patrick Dean, and may be found along with much more of the same kind on his blog Underwhelming Lovecraft Monsters.) 
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HermitixA lively hour of conversation about collapse and occultism. Have a listen here









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Georgie Hyde-LeesIt's getting on for midnight, so here we go with a new Magic Monday. The picture is of Georgie Hyde-Lees.  She's mostly remembered these days as William Butler Yeats' wife, which is unfair; she was an active member and high-ranking initiate of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in its prime, and a gifted visionary whose clairvoyant capacities were responsible for bringing through the material Yeats assembled into his book of occult philosophy, A Vision

Ask me anything about occultism and I'll do my best to answer it. Any question received by midnight Monday Eastern time will get an answer, though it may be Tuesday sometime before I get to them all. If you're in a hurry, or suspect you may be the 712,254th person to ask a question, please check out the very rough version 1.0 of The Magic Monday FAQ here.

I've had several people ask about tipping me for answers here, and though I certainly don't require that I won't turn it down. You can use the button below to access my online tip jar.

With that said, have at it! 

***This Magic Monday is now closed to new questions. See you next week!***

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AscendantI mentioned, a little over a month ago, the imminent release of a new anthology of essays on theology written from a polytheist perspective. It's now available in both print and ebook formats, and can be ordered here. Here's a glimpse at the contents: 

Introduction: Theology: What It Is, Why We Need It by Michael Hardy 
From the Desk of the Editor-in-Chief by Rebecca Buchanan
Why Theology? by Wayne Keysor
Approaching Theology Through the Divine Individual by Brandon Hensley
The One and the Many: An Essay on Pagan Neoplatonism by John Michael Greer 
Two Models of Polytheism by Edward P. Butler
You Can’t Offend the Gods by Patrick Dunn
The Hellenic Gods and the Polis by Gwendolyn Reece 
Of Lying Gods and True Religion by Wayne Keysor
Moral Humans and the Immoral Gods: An Examination of the Problem of Divine Evil in Contemporary Paganism by Wayne Keysor

That is to say, a fine robust banquet of essays on the gods and their relations to us and to the rest of the world. There's going to be a second volume, too, as this first collection has attracted plenty of interest and enthusiasm. Stay tuned! 

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BlavatskyIt's getting on for midnight, so here we go with a new Magic Monday. The picture is of the inimitable Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, co-founder and moving spirit of the Theosophical Society, who played a larger role than any other individual in kickstarting the modern revival of occultism in the English-speaking world, and who was also about half the reason you've heard of a place called Atlantis (and very nearly the entire reason you've heard of a place called Lemuria). 

Ask me anything about occultism and I'll do my best to answer it. Any question received by midnight Monday Eastern time will get an answer, though it may be Tuesday sometime before I get to them all. If you're in a hurry, or suspect you may be the 712,254th person to ask a question, please check out the very rough version 1.0 of The Magic Monday FAQ here.

I've had several people ask about tipping me for answers here, and though I certainly don't require that I won't turn it down. You can use the button below to access my online tip jar.

With that said, have at it! 

***This Magic Monday is now closed to new questions. See you next week!***


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The Conspiracy Bool Another podcast interview with JMG, this time on Jim Harold's Conspiracy Corner podcast. The theme, of course, is the history of secret societies, with reference to JMG's new book The Conspiracy Book. You can listen to it online here











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One of the plot engines in my about-to-be-released novel The Weird of Hali: Chorazin is a folk song, "The Sleeper in the Hill," that includes certain clues that the characters have to follow to make sense of the mystery hidden beneath Elk Hill in far western New York State. I had no trouble hearing the words and the melody of the song, but my musical chops fall short when it comes to finding the chords. It's a modal melody, and I'm pretty sure it begins and ends with an A minor chord, but beyond that I have no idea. Help from my musically literate readers would be greatly appreciated. Here are the dots: 
The Sleeper in the Hill
Thanks to anyone who can help! 
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Evangeline AdamsIt's getting on for midnight, so here we go with a new Magic Monday. The picture is of Evangeline Adams, whose celebrated court case victory made it legal to practice astrology in the US. Among her clients was the immensely rich J. Pierpont Morgan, who is reputed to have said, "Millionaires don't use astrology, but billionaires do." 

Ask me anything about occultism and I'll do my best to answer it. Any question received by midnight Monday Eastern time will get an answer, though it may be Tuesday sometime before I get to them all. If you're in a hurry, or suspect you may be the 154,995th person to ask a question, please check out the very rough version 1.0 of The Magic Monday FAQ here.

I've had several people ask about tipping me for answers here, and though I certainly don't require that I won't turn it down. You can use the button below to access my online tip jar.

With that said, have at it!

***This Magic Monday is now closed to new questions. See you next week!***
 
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ChorazinI'm delighted to announce that the third volume of The Weird of Hali, my epic fantasy with tentacles, is now available for preorder here. Here's the back cover blurb...

Something Sleeps Within The Hill...
 
A last desperate hope brings Justin Martense to the little town of Dunwich in the Massachusetts hills. Justin’s family lies under an ancient curse brought down on them by an ancestor’s terrible deed. Once in each generation, one of the descendants of Gerrit Martense is summoned in dreams to Elk Hill, near the town of Chorazin in western New York, never to return. Now Justin has received the summons; a cryptic message from Nyarlathotep, the messenger of the Great Old Ones, sends him to Owen Merrill, who might be able to solve the riddle of the Martense curse soon enough to save Justin’s life.
As the two of them travel to Chorazin and begin to trace tangled clues reaching deep into the region’s colonial past, strange forces gather, and so do the enemies of the Great Old Ones. Far below the brooding stone circle that crowns Elk Hill, one of the forgotten powers of the ancient world turns in restless sleep—and before they can unravel the secret of Chorazin, Owen and Justin will have to face archaic sorceries, monstrous beings, and the supreme nightmare chronicled centuries before in Ludvig Prinn’s The Mysteries of the Worm...
 
I'm very pleased with the way this one turned out. On to final revisions on the fourth book -- The Weird of Hali: Dreamlands...
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Florence FarrIt's getting on for midnight, so here we go with a new Magic Monday. The picture is of Florence Farr, a famous actress of the late 19th century British stage and a leading initiate of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The instrument is a psaltery tuned in quarter tones, built by musicologist Arnold Dolmetsch, with which she used to accompany poetry readings by fellow GD adept William Butler Yeats. (Yeats' essay on the subject can be read online here.)

Ask me anything about occultism and I'll do my best to answer it. Any question received by midnight Monday Eastern time will get an answer, though it may be Tuesday sometime before I get to them all. If you're in a hurry, or suspect you may be the 128,715th person to ask a question, please check out the very rough version 1.0 of The Magic Monday FAQ here.

I've had several people ask about tipping me for answers here, and though I certainly don't require that I won't turn it down. You can use the button below to access my online tip jar.

With that said, have at it! 

***This Magic Monday is now closed to new questions. See you next week!***
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down the tunnelI'd like to ask for some assistance from those of my readers who are into roleplaying games (RPGs) -- specifically the grand old-fashioned variety that involves a group of players sitting around a table as their imaginary alter egos move cautiously down a tunnel, listening intently for the rattle of six-sided dice that warns of a wandering monster...

A while back there was a certain amount of talk on this journal about the possibility of using the world of my fantasy novel series The Weird of Hali as the setting for a RPG. I'm pleased to be able to say that at this point it's not just talk. I got a polite no thank you from Chaosium, the company that owns the Call of Cthulhu game -- no surprises there, but I thought it was reasonable to talk to them first. Apparently the stars are right, though; maybe a week later, I was contacted by a smaller RPG firm that's interested, and so Weird of Hali: Roleplaying the Other Side of the Cthulhu Mythos is now under development. 

The company in question has a house system -- they're one of several firms that's licensed the Mythras fantasy RPG system, which cognoscenti will know was originally going to be the 6th edition of Runequest. Under the terms of the license, I can't change the rules or mechanics of the basic Mythras Imperative system, but I can add additional rules to my heart's content. I don't mind the restriction, as the rules as given are straightforward and intuitive to use -- you can download a set from this page if you're interested -- but the question of what to add is on my mind, and I figured I'd ask my readers for help here. 

If you've used Mythras, Runequest 6th edition, or any of the burgeoning family of d100 roleplaying games -- or for that matter, if you've done other kinds of roleplaying games and have things you especially love and hate about rulebooks for RPGs -- what would you like to see in a Weird of Hali RPG? The game will be set in the modern world, and characters will start out utterly clueless about the Great Old Ones, the elder races, the real history of the world, and especially about a secret and powerful organization nobody is willing to talk about -- an organization that seeks to impose its bloodstained utopian fantasies on the world once and for all, and will stop at nothing to get its way.

As your characters flee for their lives across the witch-haunted Massachusetts landscape, or venture into a vast and sinister house that one of them has just inherited from a mysterious great-uncle, or head into the swamps of tidewater North Carolina looking for a graveyard where legend has it that a stair leads down to unknown things, or jump down from a helicopter near a research station in Greenland where strange things have been happening...what do you want the rules to do for you? What skills should your characters be able to have, what problems in the  rulebooks need to be patched, what really cool things did a GM you know add to that really memorable Runequest game two years ago? Tentacular minds want to know...
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PapusIt's midnight, so here we go with a new Magic Monday. The picture is of Gerard Encausse aka Papus, one of the most influential French occultists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the author of numerous books. (One of his major works, Elementary Treatise of Occult Science, has just been published in a fine new English translation by my friend and sometime coauthor Mark Mikituk, and can be obtained here. For some reason the publisher slapped my name all over the publicity, even though all I wrote was the foreword.) 

Ask me anything about occultism and I'll do my best to answer it. Any question received by midnight Monday Eastern time will get an answer, though it may be Tuesday sometime before I get to them all. If you're in a hurry, or suspect you may be the 225,854th person to ask a question, please check out the very rough version 1.0 of The Magic Monday FAQ here.

I've had several people ask about tipping me for answers here, and though I certainly don't require that I won't turn it down. You can use the button below to access my online tip jar. 

With that said, have at it! 

***This Magic Monday is now closed to new questions. See you next week!***

 
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Emerson quote...it just hit the news that a Norwegian billionaire, Gunhild Stordalen, who bankrolled a big campaign to convince people to eat a mostly meatless diet to save the planet, spends her time junketing around with her friends to exotic places around the world in her own $26 million private jet. I don't happen to know exactly how many bacon cheeseburgers it takes to equal one of those flights, but I'd be willing to bet that it's a pretty substantial number. 

Now of course it comes as no surprise that some privileged person wants everyone else to change their lifestyles so that she doesn't have to; that attitude is far from rare these days. What I find encouraging, though, is that people are finally starting to point out the hypocrisy involved in this sort of thing. I quote one Christopher Snowdon at the Institute of Economic Affairs, who noted: 

“The hypocrisy of this is breathtaking.This is a campaign telling ordinary people they should be eating less than half a rasher of bacon per day for the sake of the environment, while the patron is flying people around the world in private jets creating one enormous carbon footprint. This is a classic case of do as I say not as I do."

And of course he's quite correct -- and until privileged environmental "activists" realize that they're not leading at all until they start leading by example, we're going to see a steadily growing number of people ignore everything the environmental movement is trying to say. As one of the great underground comics of the Sixties used to say, "Hear the sound of my feet walkin' drown the sound of my voice talkin'..."
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shoggothBy reader request, I'm posting a paper on shoggoths I drew up for a reader who's doing a roleplaying game based on my fantasy series The Weird of Hali. These are not your common or garden variety Lovecraftian shoggoths, of course, nor are they the shoggothoid things that feature these days in anime and manga; they're the shoggoths found as a minor presence in The Weird of Hali and at center stage in my as-yet-unpublished novel The Shoggoth Concerto and its as-yet-unfinished sequel The Nyogtha Variations

Yes, that's a picture of a small shoggoth; yes, I drew it; and yes, that's a coffee cup in its pseudopod. Shoggoths generally don't like coffee -- they dislike strong bitter flavors -- but hot chocolate is quite another matter.  With that said...

Shoggoths

 Originally created in Paleozoic times by the Elder Things as a slave species, shoggoths are masses of living protoplasm that can take any shape they desire. They are currently found on every continent of earth, dwelling underground and rarely appearing on the surface.

 

Description and Biology

At first glance a shoggoth resembles a heap of iridescent black soap bubbles dotted with pale greenish eyes, which appear and disappear at intervals. Closer examination reveals an outer layer, the mantle, which looks gelatinous but is actually cool and dry to the touch, surrounding the black organules within. Shoggoths can reshape themselves at will and produce specialized organs as needed from their organules; they breathe through pores in the mantle, and are equally comfortable living on land or in water.  They produce small mouthlike orifices to communicate, and can feed on any organic matter, which they engulf whole.

Shoggoths were created by the Elder Things in various sizes for different purposes. The largest, found only in Antarctica at present, were created for heavy construction projects and are around fifteen feet in diameter when contracted into a sphere. The most common variety in North America, created for ordinary labor, ranges from eight to ten feet in diameter, but there are also North American populations of small shoggoths, averaging four feet in diameter, which were created as household slaves.

Shoggoths reproduce asexually by budding.(1)  Depending on the available food supply and certain other environmental factors, from one to eight broodlings will bud at a time from a single shoggoth. All shoggoths are potentially fertile from the time of full maturity into advanced old age, though most have one or two broods over the course of their lifespan. Because shoggoths do not have the concept of number, estimates of their lifespan are uncertain at best; Deep One records suggest that a lifespan of something like one century is not unusual.

Broodmates—those shoggoths who bud at the same time from the same broodmother—form close emotional bonds, and have some degree of telepathic contact: for example, if one shoggoth learns to recognize the scent of another being, all its broodmates will be able to do so at once. While shoggoths do not have sex, there are certain forms of intimacy among them that involve an exchange of fluids, and these intimacies are only socially acceptable between broodmates. While it does occasionally happen that shoggoths not of the same budding have such a relationship, it’s considered shameful and not something to be discussed in front of broodlings.

Scent in shoggoths plays much the same role that facial expression does in human beings, as an indicator of emotional state. A scent like Brie cheese indicates ordinary calm; a scent like freshly washed mushrooms indicates happiness, and a scent like bread fresh from the oven indicates affection. On the other side of the spectrum, an acrid smell indicates fear, a sharp bitter scent indicates grief, and an ammonia scent tells of illness. A fetid, choking stench is the “moisture-of-war,” a toxic secretion used in combat situations, and also indicates anger.

Because shoggoths reproduce asexually, and each broodling is literally a separated portion of the flesh of its broodmother, there is no crossbreeding among them and the characteristics of each lineage remain unchanged over geological time spans. Each of the shoggoth kinds, from the huge shoggoths of Antarctica to the small shoggoths of the New Jersey hills, thus has its own distinctive character and traditions.

 

History and Society

As mentioned above, shoggoths were created by the Elder Things as a slave species. They were treated badly enough by their masters that they rebelled during the global troubles at the end of the Permian era, and for more than six thousand years fought an unsuccessful war for freedom. Hundreds of millions of shoggoths were slaughtered during the suppression of the rebellion, using molecular disintegrators and other high-tech weaponry, and the treatment of the survivors was brutal in the extreme.

During the Triassic era that followed, the Elder Things set out to counter the growing influence of Cthulhu and his octopoid spawn by creating a slave-being of roughly the same power as a Great Old One. Their labors succeeded, and they created Nyogtha. Their treatment of Nyogtha was no better than their treatment of the shoggoths, however, and Nyogtha also rebelled against them; the struggle between Nyogtha and the Elder Things brought about the extinction crisis between the Triassic and Jurassic eras. Nyogtha was defeated but he could not be destroyed or forced back to subservience, and he took refuge in the deep places of the earth. The Elder Things, appalled by their own creation, called Nyogtha The Thing That Should Not Be, and he took that title for his own as a sign of his contempt for his creators.

Craving vengeance, he made contact with the shoggoths, and he and they made a pact of mutual assistance. Under his guidance, the shoggoths carried out a campaign of subversion, sabotage, and poisoning against the Elder Things.  This campaign eventually succeeded in driving the Elder Things into extinction.(2) The pact between Nyogtha and the shoggoths is in effect the shoggoth religion; shoggoths perform certain rites that give Nyogtha life and strength, and in return Nyogtha protects the shoggoths against their enemies and advises them. Shoggoths are aware of the Great Old Ones and respect their power, but do not worship them.

Long before the last Elder Thing city in Antarctica was laid waste, shoggoths who escaped from Elder Thing control established colonies in various parts of the world. Shoggoth colonies are invariably underground, and comprise networks of caverns, the walls of which are carved with the bold abstract designs of shoggoth art.  Colonies tend to be located in areas where there are extensive deposits of brown coal, which shoggoths find quite palatable as food; organic matter from the surface is also a significant part of the diet in some colonies. Shoggoth colonies are governed by a loose collection of elders who interpret a body of traditional law.

Shoggoths are sociable by nature and normally live in large groups. Their sense of appropriate personal space involves close physical contact—in a shoggoth colony, those shoggoths not otherwise occupied can typically be found nestled together in a squirming communal heap abuzz with conversation. As a result, where you find one shoggoth, you are likely to find others.

 

Psychology and Culture

Shoggoths are roughly as intelligent as human beings, and thus, like us, fall toward the bottom end of the intelligence spectrum among sentient beings. Their language consists of whistled musical notes across a range of three or four octaves; this language (a simplified form of the language of the Elder Things) is genetically programmed into them, and broodlings can speak within weeks of budding. They can also learn to speak other languages, though this takes them about as much effort as it would take a human adult to learn a new language. Human beings can learn the shoggoth language without too much difficulty, as it is straightforward and logical in its structure; due to its musical nature, human musicians have a particularly easy time.

Shoggoths are literate, using the dot-syllabary of the Elder Things for written records and carvings. Their arts include music and poetry—these two are not distinguished, due to the musical nature of the shoggoth language—and a particular kind of sculpture: shoggoths like to carve long bands of abstract patterns along the walls of tunnels and caverns, borrowing a habit o the Elder Things and repurposing it for their own uses. These carvings are experienced and enjoyed by touch, not by sight; as a shoggoth slides past the carving, a pseudopod pressed against it feels the patterns as vibrations. The experience is apparently something like what humans experience when listening to instrumental music.

The most significant differences between shoggoth and human intelligence are threefold. First, shoggoths are much less fond of innovation than humans. So long as they have safe and comfortable places to live, an adequate food supply, and freedom from interference by other species, they see no need to change. As a result, shoggoth culture remains the same across tens of millions of years: epic songs about their struggle against the Elder Things, which were composed in the Mesozoic, are still taught to shoggoth broodlings as a central part of their education.

The second main difference is that shoggoths have no concept of mathematics, or even of numbers. A very few shoggoths, after long association with other beings, have picked up a basic facility with numbers, but this takes them roughly the same level of effort that you or I would need to understand Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Where we see numbers, they see patterns; a shoggoth artist can carve a precise pentagon on a wall, but could not tell you how many points it has. The pentagon to them is a shape, not a number of angles.

The third difference is a rather more flexible sense of personal identity. Shoggoths have names only when they are around other shoggoths, and take a new name every day—it’s a normal courtesy in shoggoth society to greet a newcomer with “My name today is Across the Cavern,” or whatever it happens to be that day. Shoggoths who are acquainted with humans consider the human habit of having one name throughout one’s life to be exceedingly strange, as strange as always eating through the same orifice or seeing through the same eyes.

 

Combat

Shoggoths are extremely strong and fast, far more so than most beings of equivalent size. Even the smallest variety of shoggoth can disarm, kill, and dismember a human being in a matter of seconds. Their usual method of attack is to seize the nearest available portion of an opponent’s body and tear it off.  They are effectively invulnerable to hand-to-hand weapons such as knives and clubs—they can stiffen their mantles to the consistency of armor plate—and bullets simply annoy them. Flamethrowers can be effective against small and midsized shoggoths, but it takes high explosives, incendiary bombs, or high-voltage electricity to kill them reliably.

Shoggoths in combat secrete a fluid they call “moisture-of-war,” which coats their bodies. It has a fetid, choking scent, and is toxic to most other beings, though not to shoggoths. Its effect on humans is comparable to tear gas; it is also extremely slippery, making attempts to seize even the smallest broodling an exercise in futility. (Attempting to seize a broodling is also foolhardy for another reason, as its broodmother will react the way a mother grizzly would respond to a threat to her cub. Humans who try this can expect to be dismembered quite literally joint by joint.)

Despite their effectiveness as fighters, shoggoths are not especially belligerent. They normally ignore human beings and other intelligent species, though some shoggoth colonies trade with humans, voormis, and Deep Ones. The usual pattern here involves gifts of food to the shoggoths; while shoggoths can feed on any organic matter, they have decided preferences, and so (for example) the colony of shoggoths under Sentinel Hill near Dunwich, MA provides iron ore for the Dunwich forge in exchange for specially desirable foodstuffs.(3)

There are two exceptions to their general policy of disinterest. The first is that shoggoths without exception honor the ancient pact with Nyogtha, their great ally in the long struggle for freedom. If Nyogtha, for his own subtle reasons, requests a shoggoth or a group of shoggoths to do something, they do it without question. Now and again that involves the slaughter of groups of humans who threaten Nyogtha’s human worshipers.

The second exception is commemorated more or less accurately in the pages of Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. While the Elder Things are effectively extinct, small groups of them in suspended animation have occasionally been waked by other beings. When this happens it is the absolute duty of every shoggoth first to spread the word, and then to do whatever it takes to annihilate the Elder Things, no matter what the cost. Three hundred million years of enslavement and brutal treatment left deep scars on their collective psyche, and every shoggoth broodling learns by heart songs of the terrible battles of the late Permian, when the shoggoth war-cry Tekeli-li! was heard over the roar of the Elder Things’ molecular disintegrators.

One who harms shoggoths can expect sooner or later to suffer their formal vengeance. The body will be found decapitated and smeared with the moisture-of-war, and words of reckoning will be written nearby to explain why vengeance was taken. The dead Elder Things found under the city in Lovecraft’s tale were killed in his way. Had Dyer and Danforth been able to read the shoggoth script, they would have learned quite a bit from the writing left beside the Elder Things’ corpses.

Note 1: Shoggoths are thus technically parthenogenetic females. Try thinking of them as “she” rather than “it” and see what that does to your understanding of them.

Note 2: This happened in the late Cretaceous, around 72 million years ago. Lovecraft got his chronology wrong in At the Mountains of Madness.

Note 3: Shoggoths are especially fond of cheese. I have no idea why; they just are. Brown coal seasoned with cheese and molasses is considered fine dining by the Sentinel Hill shoggoths.

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Christine Campbell ThompsonIt's midnight, so here we go with a new Magic Monday. The picture is of Christine Hartley, aka Christine Campbell Thompson, Dion Fortune's literary agent (and a significant writer and editor in her own right), and a leading member of Fortune's Fraternity (later Society) of the Inner Light, the most influential magical order in mid-20th century Britain. 

Ask me anything about occultism and I'll do my best to answer it. Any question received by midnight Monday Eastern time will get an answer, though it may be Tuesday sometime before I get to them all.

I've had several people ask about tipping me for answers here, and though I certainly don't require that I won't turn it down. You can use the button below to access my online tip jar. 

With that said, have at it! 

***This Magic Monday is now closed to new questions. See you next week!***

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Jim KunstlerSomething to keep yourself entertained on these cold winter nights...

James Howard Kunstler and me on his podcast, talking about politics, culture, and imaginative fiction. We always have great conversations and this one was even better than usual -- I think we barbecued a good-sized herd of sacred cows. You can listen to the conversation or download it here
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The Weird of Hali: InnsmouthI need to ask a little help from my readers.

Founders House Publishing, the publishers of The Weird of Hali (and quite a few of my other books), has helpfully provided me with a certain number of complimentary review copies of the e-book editions of the first two books in the series. I'd like to get those to podcasters and online reviewers who are likely to be interested in a quirky Lovevcraftian epic fantasy where Great Cthulhu and his cultists turn out to be the good guys after all.

The one challenge is that I don't happen to know which podcasters and online reviewers those might be. I've spent years doing the podcast-and-website thing with my occult books, on the one hand, and my peak oil books on the other; I've got a fairly good idea who's likely to be interested in that end of my work -- but tentacular fantasy novels? Not so much. 

The one thing that comes to mind is that my readers are an eccentric bunch and have astonishingly diverse interests. If you, dear readers, happen to know of suitable venues that might be interested in reviewing these books of mine, please let me know!

In saying this, I feel rather like the kid with the box full of kittens sitting out in front of the supermarket, hoping to find homes for them. Wouldn't you like to take home a cute little shoggoth broodling? It really will eat anything... ;-)


ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)
 I'm delighted to report that two new anthologies are about to hit the bookshelves -- one of them with a contribution by me, the other entirely my work. 

Ascendant 1Ascendant is the first of a projected series of anthologies on the subject of polytheist theology and philosophy of religion, published by Neos Alexandria, one of the liveliest of the current polytheist religious organizations. It's got essays by some of the leading lights of today's polytheist revival, wrestling with an assortment of Big Questions from the standpoint of belief in many gods. My essay, "The One and the Many: An Essay on Pagan Neoplatonism," takes issue with the common but mistaken confusion that sees Neoplatonism as monotheist, on the one hand, or monist on the other. I think it came out well, but it's far from the best piece in the book. If you're interested in the philosophical and theological dimensions of polytheism, this is not a book you'll want to miss. 

A Magical EducationA Magical Education is the first of three anthologies of my talks and essays, published by Aeon Books. This volume includes nine of the talks I gave at a variety of Pagan and occult conferences  between 2001 and 2010 -- specifically, the nine most popular talks, the one I was asked to give again and again. As a taster, here are the titles of the talks: 

1 - A Magical Education
2 - Magical Ecology
3 - The Secret History of Neopaganism
4 - Victorian Sex Magic
5 - Understanding Renaissance Magic
6 - Magic, Metapolitics, and Reality
7 - Alchemical Initiation
8 - Healing Through the Elements
9 - Paganism and the Future

The two remaining volumes, The City of Hermes and Beyond the Narratives, include between them nearly all of the short pieces I published between 1993, when my first article saw print, and 2015. 

Ascendant will be in print within a matter of days, and I'll post something here as soon as it sees print. A Magical Education will be out in March, but is currently available for preorder here, with free shipping worldwide. 
ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)
Iolo MorganwgIt's midnight, so here we go with a new Magic Monday. The picture is of Edward Williams aka Iolo Morganwg, poet, ritualist, opium addict, and one of the brightest stars in the glittering firmament of 19th-century literary forgery, who was responsible for more of the traditions of the Druid Revival than any other person. Did he make most of it up? Of course. Does that make it somehow inadequately Celtic? Well, Iolo was a Welshman, born and raised in a Welsh-speaking village in rural Glamorganshire, and trained in the exacting disciplines of traditional Welsh poetry -- that is to say, any one of his fingernails was more Celtic than the entire American Celtic Reconstructionist scene.

But I digress.

Ask me anything about occultism and I'll do my best to answer it. Any question received by midnight Monday Eastern time will get an answer, though it may be Tuesday sometime before I get to them all.

I've had several people ask about tipping me for answers here, and though I certainly don't require that I won't turn it down. You can use the button below to access my online tip jar. 

With that said, have at it!

***This Magic Monday is now closed to new questions. See you next week!***

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ecosophia: JMG in lecture mode (Default)John Michael Greer

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