B’gnu-Thun – The Soul-Chilling Ice-God. Appears as a cyanotic humanoid, followed by an eerie blizzard.
Welcome to the visual Encyclopedia of the Old Ones
There is a great deal of information scattered across the years on the dark lords of the outer zones, and the expeditionary forces of the Great Order have over eons gathered information on the ancient gods of the beginning. We hope to share this information to the public at large. Certain scribes discovered in certain of the arcane tomes the knowledge of this ancient species in their ornate and elaborate rendering of what appears to be something akin to our Tarot system. Links below will provide further information and details in the coming months.
The Cthulhu Tarot Deck
The descriptions for the Major Arcana also include quotes from the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, H.P. Lovecraft & Zealia Bishop (for the “Yig” card) and one quote from August Derleth (for the “Ithaqua” card).
The Major Arcana cards follow the Golden Dawn tradition. There are twenty-two cards, numbered zero to twenty-one; Strength is at number eight, and Justice number eleven. Many important figures from Lovecraft’s stories are featured here. The Fool has become Azathoth, blind and idiotic, dancing to demonic flute playing. Shub Niggurath the All-Mother, or fertility deity, fittingly, is the Empress; and Cthulhu, the high priest of the Elder Gods, is appropriate as the Hierophant. Many of the Major Arcana choices seem natural, and when they aren’t so obvious, Eric Friedman’s articulate writing makes them immediately understandable. His writing throughout the booklet, especially in the section explaining the Major Arcana, shows an impressive knowledge of tarot concepts, that at times runs deeper than other books on tarot. In two or three paragraphs for each Major Arcana card, Friedman offers an explanation of the Lovecraft and tarot elements, tied together seamlessly, to provide one direct message of wisdom or insight. Card descriptions include passages from Lovecraft works (which are sourced in the back), that introduce deities, etc. and brief interpretations are also listed with each card.
The Minor Arcana consists of four suits, and this is where the set really veers from the traditional. The four suits don’t seem to correspond to the traditional suits of Wands, Cups, Pentacles, and Swords; and each suit contains fourteen cards, numbered one to fourteen, with no court cards. The suit of Man represents people, relationships, and outside influences. The suit of Artifacts reveals possibilities, milestones, and objectives. In the suit of Tomes, we see information, education, wisdom, and communication. The environment is shown in the suit of Sites, which also indicates time and place, or frame of mind.
I’ve begun a revision of the above and will present my own version with new designs linked below.
The Major Arcana
Gods of the Major Arcana
Nodens (The Sun) || Cthulhu (The Emperor) || Nyarlathotep (The Magician) || Shub-Niggurath (The Empress) || Yog-Sothoth (The High Priestess) || Deep One (The Hanged Man) || Great Race of Yith (Temperance) || Hastur (The Hermit) || Ithaqua (The Hierophant) || Shoggoth (The Lovers) || Cthulhu Awakens (The Last Judgment) || Yig, The Serpent God (Justice) || Old One (The Tower) || Hounds of Tindalos (Strength) || Spawn of Cthulhu (The World) || Byakhee (The Star) || Azathoth (The Fool) || Ghoul (Death) || Tsathoggua (The Devil) || Night-Gaunt (The Moon) || Mi-Go (The Chariot) || Servitors of the Outer Gods (The Wheel of Fortune)
The Minor Arcana
The Suit of Man:
H.P. Lovecraft | Randolph Carter | Inspector Legrasse | Charles Dexter Ward | Erich Zann | Herbert West | Captain Obed Marsh | Wizard Noah Whateley | Wilbur Whateley | Wizard | Edward Hutchinson | Dr. Henry Armitage | Crawford Tillinghast | Harley Warren | Keziah Mason
The Suit of Artifacts:
Star Stone | The Colour Out of Space | Silver Key | The Shining Trapezohedron | Guardian of Kadath | The Yellow Sign | EOD Vestments | Resonator | Pickman’s Model | Mi-Go Brain | Cylinder | Bokrug | Stone of Nepemiah Derby | Liao the Plutonian Drug
The Suit of Tomes:
Necronomicon | De Vermis Mysteriis | Unaussprechlichen Kulten | The R’lyeh Texts | The Dhol Chants | Libre D’Eibon | The King in Yellow | Cultes Des Ghouls | The Pnakotic Manuscripts | The Eltdown Shards | The People of the Monolith | The Ponape Scriptures | Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan | The Black Book
The Suit of Sites:
Yuggoth | Irem City of Pillars | Plateau of Leng | Whateley Farmhouse | The Witch House | The Mountains of Madness | St. Toad’s | Innsmouth | Kadath | Exham Priory | Sentinel Hill | EOD Temple | Federal Hill | Arkham
That great benefactor and disciple of the arcane and weird who first opened our eyes to the ancient tales of the eldritch creatures H.P. Lovecraft:
Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large. To me there is nothing but puerility in a tale in which the human form—and the local human passions and conditions and standards—are depicted as native to other worlds or other universes. To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all. Only the human scenes and characters must have human qualities. These must be handled with unsparing realism, (not catch-penny romanticism) but when we cross the line to the boundless and hideous unknown—the shadow-haunted Outside—we must remember to leave our humanity—and terrestrialism at the threshold.
What little we know before the great expansion of the human species into the outer reaches sometime in 3235 C.E. Galactic Time comes from the Cthulhu Codex, a gathering of ancient manuscripts retrieved from the sunken city of R’lyeh in the 22nd century.
What we know so far of the decipherment of these texts and the treasures revealed in the discovery of the city under the Pacific is in essence that the human world and our role in it are an illusion. Humanity is living inside a fragile bubble of perception, unaware of what lies behind the curtains or even of the curtains themselves, and our seeming dominance over the world is illusory and ephemeral. We are blessed in that we do not realize what lies dormant in the unknown lurking places on Earth and beyond. As Lovecraft famously begins his short tale, The Call of Cthulhu, “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.”
Now and then, individuals can, by accident or carelessness, catch a glimpse of, or even confront the ancient extraterrestrial entities which the mythology centers around, usually with fatal consequences. Other times, they encounter by their non-human worshippers and servants, whose existence shatters the worldview of those who stumble across them. Human followers exist as well. Because of the limitations of the human mind, these deities’ appearances are so overwhelming that they can often drive a person insane. They are portrayed as neither good or evil; within the Mythos, these are concepts invented by our species as a way to explain the inexplicable intentions and actions of a demented unknowing as unknown.
The Call of Cthulhu was the premiere tale in which Lovecraft realized and made full use of these themes, which is why his mythology would later be named after the creature in this story, as it defined a new direction in both his authorship and in the horror fiction genre. This is also the first and only story by Lovecraft where humans and one of the cosmic entities called the Great Old Ones come face to face.
You will discover in the encyclopedia a break down on what we know of the Old Ones and the trace elements of illuminated manuscripts, sculptures, artifacts, and unexplained and unexplainable phenomena that our Order has gathered in the Lovecraft Museum of Miskatonic Antiquities. We will add to this site more information and elements of both visual and textual as we are updated in our explorations of the outer reaches of known and unknown space.
Of crucial import for understanding Lovecraft and his Mythos are his dreams. Lovecraft’s accounts of them are nothing short of breathtaking:
Space, strange cities, weird landscapes, unknown monsters, hideous ceremonies, Oriental and Egyptian gorgeousness, and indefinable mysteries of life, death, and torment, were daily — or rather nightly commonplaces to me before I was six years old.1
In another time or culture, Lovecraft’s childhood experiences and intensive dreaming would have led him to great acclaim — or death — as such individuals were often seen as people of great power. As it happened, he was born into Victorian New England, in which the dominant paradigms were either materialistic science or mainline Protestantism. Both of these encouraged the dismissal of Lovecraft’s experiences as childish, ridiculous, or signs of mental disorder. One of the few acceptable outlets for these sentiments was aesthetic expression. (ibid.)
Harold Farnese, a correspondent of Lovecraft’s, claimed that Lovecraft had sent him the following quote:
All my stories, unconnected as they may be, are based on the fundamental lore or legend that this world was inhabited at one time by another race who, in practicing black magic, lost their foothold and were expelled, yet live on outside ever ready to take possession of this earth again. (ibid.)
As Daniel Harms in his own encyclopedia from which much of the text on the site is derived along with the fan based wiki for all things Lovecraftian I hope to convey the spirit and continuity of the mythos. As Harms says,
People can use the Mythos however they wish, of course. Yet I would stress that continuity is the heart of what makes the Mythos so powerful. The force that propels so many readers through Mythos stories is not their arbitrariness, but the sense that a vast and intricate puzzle lies before them. Some pieces may not seem to fit, but perhaps if enough information is gathered — the “piecing together of dissociated knowledge” which Lovecraft champions in “Cthulhu” — everything will make sense. As long-term Mythos fans know, this is an illusion, but it is nonetheless a comforting one. Readers often seek these stories for it, and deliberately changing the Mythos can drive them away from reading these tales. (ibid.)
Maybe my visual explorations of the mythos can become one more piece of the puzzle for Lovecraft fans everywhere. Let us hope…
# 3 Ammutseba, Devourer of Stars
I see my ongoing project as part of a vast tale within tales of an expedition over many generations in the Borges, Lem, and Calvino traditions of the fantastic following Lovecraft, Poe, Smith in their stylistics in creating a scientific cataloguing of artifacts, architectures, temples, landscapes, and all the various aspects of the travels to the homeworld of the ancient Old Ones. As I proceed, I’ll add more and more depth to the site and at some point, transfer it to its own blog.
#26 Cthulhu Master of R’lyeh, The Great Dreamer
I’ll be working through each of the Old Ones in order in the grimoire tradition interspersing text and visual art with commentary and exegesis, explorations and travelogues with various fictitious books, scholars, and detailed storylines. I hope it to be a grand fiction for many to enter and work with in Lovecraftian tradition as he intended. All in fun and a way to explore both fiction and art, scholarship and classic horror of the universe as Lovecraft saw it.
Below I’ll link to the entries for my images and to the knowledge of Lovecraft’s mythos and its pantheon. Have fun!
“In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”
― H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu
S.C. Hickman ©2022
Encyclopedia of the Old Ones
First step is to visit the Temple of the Midnight Sun where the great City of R’lyeh lies in the depths of the oceans. The vast underground labyrinths of this ancient city still house the Old Ones and their vast host of alien beings. Visitors are always welcome: visit here.
The Great Old Ones
An ongoing theme in Lovecraft’s work is the complete irrelevance of humanity in the face of the cosmic horrors that exist in the universe, with Lovecraft constantly referring to the “Great Old Ones”: a loose pantheon of ancient, powerful deities from space who once ruled the Earth and who have since fallen into a deathlike sleep.
Lovecraft named several of these deities, including Cthulhu, Ghatanothoa, and Yig. With a few exceptions, Cthulhu, Ghatanothoa, et al., this loose pantheon apparently exists ‘outside’ of normal space-time. Although worshipped by deranged human (and inhuman) cults, these beings are generally imprisoned or restricted in their ability to interact with most people (beneath the sea, inside the Earth, in other dimensions, and so on), at least until the hapless protagonist is unwittingly exposed to them. Lovecraft visited this premise in many of his stories, notably his 1928 short story, “The Call of Cthulhu”, with reference to the eponymous creature. However, it was Derleth who applied the notion to all of the Great Old Ones. The majority of these have physical forms that the human mind is incapable of processing; simply viewing them renders the viewer incurably insane.
The Great Ones
The Great Ones are the “weak gods of earth” that reign in the Dreamlands. They are protected by Nyarlathotep.
- Hagarg Ryonis
The Outer Gods
As it is known in the Mythos, the Outer Gods are ruled by Azathoth, the “Blind Idiot God”, who holds court at the center of infinity. A group of Outer Gods dance rhythmically around Azathoth, in cadence to the piping of a demonic flute. Among the Outer Gods present at Azathoth’s court are the entities called “Ultimate Gods” in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (called “Lesser Outer Gods” in the Call of Cthulhu RPG), and possibly Shub-Niggurath, the “Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young”. Yog-Sothoth, the “All-in-One and One-in-All”, co-rules with Azathoth and exists as the incarnation of time in the cosmos yet is somehow locked outside the mundane universe. Nyarlathotep, the “Crawling Chaos”, is the avatar of the Outer Gods, existing as the incarnation of space and functions as an intermediary between the deities of the pantheon and their cults. The only Outer God to have a true personality, Nyarlathotep possesses a malign intellect and reveals a mocking contempt for his masters. Lovecraft himself never made reference to them as the Outer Gods, instead calling them the Other Gods or the gods of the outer hells, as noted in his short story “The Other Gods”.
- Aiueb Gnshal
- The Blackness from the Stars
- The Cloud-Thing
- The Hydra
- Mlandoth and Mril Thorion
- Mother of Pus
- The Nameless Mist
- Star Mother (the great mother of all)
The Elder Gods
In post-Lovecraft stories, the Elder Gods oppose the likes of Cthulhu. Derleth attempted to retroactively group the benevolent deity Nodens in this category (who acts as deus ex machina for the protagonists in both The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath and “The Strange High House in the Mist”). Joseph S. Pulver mentions in his Nightmare’s Disciple (2006) a set of original Elder Gods, but offers no descriptions of their true forms. The story introduces entities as Adaedu, Alithlai-Tyy, Dveahtehs, Eyroix, Ovytonv, Urthuvn, Xislanyx and Xuthyos-Sihb’Bz’. Others have a cult title as Othkkartho (Sire of the Four Titans of Balance and Order), which is said to be Nodens’s son, and Zehirete, who is The Pure and Holy Womb of Light. Sk’tai and Eppirfon are both siblings. Eppirfon was originally Cthulhu’s second bride who bore him a son, T’ith, now dead, murdered by Cthulhu himself.
The Great Old Ones
I’ll have a link to a separate page for the Great Old Ones there being a great many of them. Stay tuned…
- Harms, Daniel. Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia: A Guide to the Horros Created and Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. Elder Signs Press.