On recently perusing the fascinating work The Necronomicon Files, by Daniel Harms and J. Wisdom Gonce III, I was intrigued to read that:
In fact, Lovecraft used two incantations in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward that came from a single page in Waite's Levi compendium, The Mysteries of Magic.
— Daniel Harms and J. Wisdom Gonce III, ">The Necronomicon Files (Boston, MA: Weiser Books, 2003), p. 96
I became curious to learn more about Lovecraft's sources for this story, and the occult tradition that spawned those sources. What do these incantations really mean? In what context were they originally used? And to what extent does the story of Charles Dexter Ward adhere to older ideas about necromancy?
The Elements of the Ritual
The ritual that Charles Dexter Ward performed to revive the long-dead Joseph Curwen seems to have had at least four major parts or elements.
- Essential Saltes
The ritual presumably involved the use of Joseph Curwen's ashes, as suggested by the quotation that Curwen had heavily underlined in his copy of Borellus:
The essential Saltes of Animals may be so prepared and preserved, that an ingenious Man may have the whole Ark of Noah in his own Studie, and raise the fine Shape of an Animal out of its Ashes at his Pleasure; and by the lyke Method from the essential Saltes of humane Dust, a Philosopher may, without any criminal Necromancy, call up the Shape of any dead Ancestour from the Dust whereinto his Bodie has been incinerated.
— The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, section II, part 1
- Per Adonai Invocation
The second element seems to have been the repetition, by Ward, of the following invocation for two hours straight:
Per Adonai Eloim, Adonai Jehova,
Adonai Sabaoth, Metraton On Agla Mathon,
verbum pythonicum, mysterium salamandrae,
conventus sylvorum, antra gnomorum,
daemonia Coeli God, Almonsin, Gibor, Jehosua,
Evam, Zariatnatmik, veni, veni, veni.
— Ibid, section III, part 6
At the end of this period, all the dogs in the neighborhood commenced howling, followed by a hideous odor in the Ward house, and a tremendous flash of light.
- Dies Mies Jeschet Invocation
Then a voice of thunderous remoteness, differing greatly from Ward's voice, was heard to intone the phrase:
DIES MIES JESCHET BOENE DOESEF DOUVEMA ENITEMAUS
— Ibid, section III, part 6
Note that since this voice differed from Ward's, it most likely belonged to another being who arrived as a result of Ward's first invocation. This was presumably some demonic entity whose help was required to do the still greater work of helping to revive Curwen. Other possibilities are that Ward's voice was temporarily transformed for some reason, or that Curwen was already revived at this point and pronounced this invocation himself.
- Yi-nash-Yog-Sothoth Invocation
The ritual was not yet over, for Ward's voice resumed again, and was heard to intone:
— Ibid, section III, part 6
This was followed by a "wailing scream which burst out with frantic explosiveness and gradually changed form to a paroxysm of diabolic and hysterical laughter." This was presumably the voice of Joseph Curwen, who was voicing his fiendish delight in having been returned to corporeal life. We know the voice was not Ward, for the latters' shriek resumed and continued concurrently with the evil laughter.
Interestingly, for all his skepticism about occult and supernatural phenomena, Lovecraft had gleaned at least the first three of these elements from traditional sources.
Cotton Mather |
Mather, Borellus, and Essential Saltes
John Dorfman has discovered that the quote ascribed to Borellus actually occurs in Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana. (Dorfman's article "Essential Saltes" appeared in Crypt of Cthulhu 66, Volume 8, Number 7, Lammas 1989.) Cotton Mather was an eminent Puritan preacher of early New England who helped contribute to the frenzy of the Salem Witch Trials, by arguing for the admission of "spectral evidence." His work Wonders of the Invisible World gives his account of the whole ghastly matter, but the Magnalia Christi Americana is a far different kettle of fish. Subtitled "The Ecclesiastical History of New England," the Magnalia consists, for the most part, of hundreds of pages of glowing biographies of various preachers. A couple of portions digress into more Lovecraftian territory by discoursing of witchcraft; notably, in the Second Book, Chapter XII, Section 16 and in the Sixth Book, Chapter VII (titled Theographia Pneumatica).
However, the "Borellus" quote is actually in one of the more mundane sections. In the course of introducing "The Life of His Excellency Sir William Phips, Knt." in Book II, Chapter XII, Mather begins with a few words about the nature of biography. Mather compares the art of the biographer to Borellus's theory on calling up the form of dead ancestors. It is clear, however, that Mather is paraphrasing Borellus' teachings in his own words; so the attribution of the quote directly to Borellus in Charles Dexter Ward is somewhat misleading.
Dorfman quotes Kenneth B. Murdock as stating that Borellus was a French physician and scholar named Pierre Borel (1620-98). The French online encyclopedia Imago Mundi provides the following article on Borel (roughly translated here with help from Babelfish):
Borel (Pierre), erudite doctor, born in Castres in 1620, died in 1689; worked initially in his birthplace, established himself in Paris in 1653, was named physician to the king and entered, in 1674, to the Academy of Science. His works include: les Antiquités de Castres, 1649; Bibliotheca chimica,1654; Trésor de recherches et d'antiquités gauloises et françaises,1655 (his major work); Historiarum et observationum medico-physicarum centuriæ Il; De vero Telescopii inventore; Discours prouvant la pluralité des mondes; Auctarium ad Vitam Peirescii; Vita Renati Cartesii, etc.
I haven't been able to identify which of these works inspired Mather's passage about the "essential Saltes." But with works on chemistry (alchemy?), antiquities, medicine, telescopes, and metaphysics, Borel seems a likely enough person to have written on such a topic.
As quoted by Mather, Borellus seems to imply that a purely chemical process could be used to restore the dead:
. . . from the essential Saltes of humane Dust, a Philosopher may, without any criminal Necromancy, call up the Shape of any dead Ancestour. . . .
As developed by Lovecraft, however, "Borellus" seems to have advocated a process with both chemical and ritualistic components. On the chemical (or alchemical) side, we find Simon (Jebediah) Orne saying:
I have not ye Chymicall art to followe Borellus. . . .
— section II, part 4
Along the same lines, a letter from Joseph Curwen mentions:
Ye Chymical Substances are easie of get'g, there be'g II. goode Chymists in Towne, Dr, Bowen and Sam: Carew. I am foll'g oute what Borellus saith, and haue Helpe in Abdool Al-Hazred his VII. Booke.
— section III, part 1
Yet a letter from Edward Hutchinson cites Borellus on the subject of magic incantations:
You excel me in gett'g ye Formulae so another may saye them with Success, but Borellus fancy'd it wou'd be so if just ye right Wordes were hadd.
— section IV, part 4
Eliphas Levi and The Mysteries of Magic
Speaking of the Per Adonai invocation, Charles Dexter Ward tells us:
. . . experts have told Dr. Willett that its very close analogue can be found in the mystic writings of "Eliphas Levi," that cryptic soul who crept through a crack in the forbidden door and glimpsed the frightful vistas of the void beyond . . .
— The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, section III, part 6
Eliphas Levi was the pen-name of a 19th-Century French occultist, Alphonse Louis Constant (1810-1875) whose works helped to spur the modern occult revival. Of him, Colin Wilson has said:
What should by now be quite clear is that the spirit of magic underwent a complete transformation in the nineteenth century. With Paracelsus it had been a science. With Cagliostro it became the instrument of his religion of the regeneration of mankind. But with Levi and Lytton it became a romantic literary property, surrounded by dense clouds of incense.
— Colin Wilson, The Occult (Random House, New York: 1971), p. 329.
Inspired by Balzac, and himself an inspiration to Bulwer-Lytton, Levi does supply atmosphere in his writing. However, Lovecraft's image of him as a "cryptic soul who crept through a crack in the forbidden door and glimpsed the frightful vistas of the void beyond" is misleading. Levi was a Catholic and a man of faith for whom magic was closely allied with the quest for the Divine. You can get a better idea of his attitude from the following quote:
Never . . . dispute about the essential nature of God. Faith in God should make men better, not lead their reason astray; and how should we define the Infinite? How explain what we cannot understand? The more we dispute, the less we adore. Let us reason as we please on the necessity of adoration, but when we pronounce the name of the Indefinable, let us preserve supreme silence.
— Eliphas Levi, tr. A. E. Waite, The Mysteries of Magic (Pomeroy, WA: Health Research, undated facsimile reprint of London edition of 1886), p. 268
The Mysteries of Magic is a selection of Levi's works, translated into English by the rather ambivalent Occult scholar A. E. Waite, who seems to have been compelled to write manuals of ceremonial magic although he disapproved of the whole practice. While mostly avoiding the topic of Black Magic, Levi does include a single chapter on the subject which includes a general description of infernal evocations. The eldritch preparations include:
A leaden cap blazoned with the signs of the Moon, Venus, and Saturn, two candles of human fat set in crescent-shaped candlesticks of black wood, a magic sword with a black handle, the magic fork, a copper vase holding the blood of the victim, a censer containing incense, camphor, aloes, ambergris, and storax, mixed and moistened with the blood of a goat, a mole, and a bat; four nails torn from the coffin of an executed criminal, the head of a black cat which has been fed on human flesh for five days, a bat drowned in blood, the horns of a goat cum quo puella concubuerit, and the skull of a parricide, are also indispensable.
— Ibid, p. 161
We do not know if Ward's preparations were so elaborate, or so ghastly; but if he followed the pattern described by Levi, he would have proceeded as follows:
A perfect circle must be traced with the sword, an opening or way out being, however, left; in the circle a triangle must be inscribed, and the pantacle [sic] thus traced by the sword must be dyed with blood; then, at one of the angles of the triangle the three-footed chafing-dish must be placed, which should also have been mentioned among the indispensable objects; at the opposite base of the triangle three small circles must be made for the operator and his assistants, and behind the circle of the former, not with the blood of the victim but with the operator's own blood, there must be traced the sign of the labarum or the monogram of Constantine. The operator or his acolytes should have naked feet and covered heads. The skin of the immolated victim must have also been brought, and, cut up into strips, must be placed within the circle forming an inner circle fastened at four corners with the four nails already spoken of. Near these nails, but without the circle, must be placed the cat's head, the human, or rather the inhuman skull, the goat's horns, and the bat; they must be aspersed with a branch of birch dipped in the victim's blood, then a fire of cypress and alder wood must be lighted, and the two magic candles placed on the right and left of the operator circled with vervain wreaths.
The formulae of evocation found in the magical elements of Peter d'Apono or in the Grimoires, whether printed or in manuscript, may then be recited. Those in the Great Grimoire, repeated in the common Red Dragon, have been wilfully altered in printing, and should read as follows :—
"Per Adonai Elohim, Adonai Jehova, Adonai Sabaoth, Metraton On Agla Adonai Mathon, verbum pythonicum, mysterium salamandrae, conventus sylvorum, antra gnomorum, daemonia Coeli Gad, Almousin, Gibor, Jehosua, Evam, Zariatnatmik, veni, veni, veni."
The great invocation of Agrippa consists only in these words:—"DIES MIES ]ESCHET BOENEDOESEF DOUVEMA ENITEMAUS." We do not pretend to understand what they mean, they have possibly no meaning, and can certainly have none which is rational, since they are of efficacy in conjuring up the devil, who is supreme senselessness. Doubtless in the same opinion, Mirandola affirms that the most barbarous and absolutely unintelligible words are the best and most powerful in black magic. Ridiculous practices and imbecile evocations induce hallucination better than rites which are calculated to keep the understanding vigilant. Dupotet affirms that he has tried the power of certain signs over ecstatics, and those in his "Magic Unveiled" are analogous if not absolutely identical with the diabolical signatures found in old editions of the "Great Grimoire." The same causes will always produce the same effects, and there is nothing new under the moon of the sorcerers any more than, beneath the sun of the sages.
The conjurations should be repeated in a raised tone, accompanied by imprecations and menaces till the spirit responds. The spirit is usually preceded by a violent wind which seems to howl through the whole country. Domestic animals tremble at it, and seek a hiding place; the assistants feel a breath upon their faces, and their hair, damp with cold sweat, stands up on their heads.
—Ibid, p. 162
This text thus provides both the Per Adonai invocation and the Dies Mies Jeschet invocation that occurred during Ward's resurrection of Joseph Curwen. The notion that "domestic animals tremble at it" is echoed by the "pandaemoniac howling of dogs" in Ward; the "violent wind" is replaced in Ward by other portents: an "all-pervasive odour" and a "flash like that of lightning."
Charles seems to have drawn diagrams on the floor of his attic room, somewhat as described by Levi, for Dr. Willett observed
. . . the half-erased remnants of circles, triangles, and pentagrams in chalk or charcoal on the cleared central space of the large room.
— section III, part V
Later, in Curwen and Ward's underground laboratory, Willett observed
. . . a huge pentagram in the centre, with a plain circle about three feet wide half way between this and each corner.
— section V, part 4
Ward certainly deviated from Levi's outline in at least one respect: Levi states that "a solitary or prohibited place must be chosen, such as a cemetery haunted by evil spirits, an avoided ruin in the country, the vault of an abandoned convent, the spot where an assassination has been perpetrated, a druidic altar, or a former temple of idols" (Ibid. p. 161). Ward performed the ritual in the attic of his parent's home while his own mother listened on in horror.
A. E. Waite
Lists of Hebrew God Names...
In writing about Lovecraft's familiarity with the occult, J. Wisdom Gonce III makes a persuasive case that HPL's occult knowledge was probably quite shallow, restricted to the cursory perusal of popular works for elements that would lend atmosphere to his stories. In commenting on Charles Dexter Ward, Gonce asserts that:
...Lovecraft never understood the principle of "will" or "intent," which must be trained and developed to focus magickal energy, just as an athlete trains and develops his or her strength or endurance. In The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Lovecraft has Dr. Willett, a man untrained in magick, use an incantation he learned the day before against Joseph Curwen, a powerful sorcerer who had practiced magick for some two hundred years. Of course, Willet, Lovecraft's hero, effortlessly wins this magickal duel. —Daniel Harms and J. Wisdom Gonce III, ">The Necronomicon Files (Boston, MA: Weiser Books, 2003), p. 101
It should be mentioned here that Gonce writes as if he is a magical practitioner himself, or at least a believer. In any case, relative to typical magical beliefs, his criticism appears to be sound. Paracelsus, Agrippa, Levi all stress the importance of the practitioner's will and imagination. By contrast, Lovecraft's pretense that magical words are efficacious, even when used by novices, is also illustrated in The Dunwich Horror, where university professors with no previous magical experience are able to banish Yog-Sothoth's offspring with an appropriate spell.
Regarding the final scene of Charles Dexter Ward, Gonce goes on to make a criticism that is perhaps less fair:
The crowning absurdity of this exchange is that the villainous Curwen uses a Qaballistic incantation that is actually a list of Hebrew God names, while Willet, our hero, uses an invocation to the abominable Cthulhu Mythos monster, Yog-Sothoth.
—Ibid, p. 101
The "list of Hebrew God names" is the Per Adonai invocation. As we have seen, Levi explicitly cites the use of this invocation in raising the devil. So if there is an error here, it would seem to be Levi's rather than Lovecraft's. Yet the notion did not originate with Levi, either. Thus, Agrippa, in his chapter "Of goetia and necromancy," says:
For some endeavour to call and compel evil spirits, adjuring by a certain power, especially of divine names; for seeing every creature fears, and reverenceth the name of him who made it, no marvel, if goetians infidels, pagans, Jews, Saracens, and men of every prophane sect and society do bind devils by invocating the divine name.
— Henry Cornelius Agrippa, Three Books of Occult Philosophy (St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1993), p. 695.
Following are examples of such invocations from A. E. Waite's Book of Black Magic:
I conjure thee, Astaroth, wicked spirit, by the words Christ of Nazareth, under whom all demons are submitted...
— A. E. Waite, The Book of Black Magic (Boston, MA: Weiser Books, 1972), pp. 284-485
I conjure thee, Lucifer, by the living God, by the true God, by the holy God, who spake and all was made, who commanded and all things were created and made! I conjure thee by the ineffable name of God, On, Alpha and Omega, Eloy, Eloym, Ya, Saday, Lux, Mugiens, Rex, Salus, Adonay, Emmanuel, Messias...
— Ibid, pp. 282
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Take heed! Come, all Spirits! By the virtue and power of your King, and by the seven crowns and chains of your Kings, all Spirits of Hells are forced to appear in my presence before this pentacle or circle of Solomon, wherefore I shall call them.
— Ibid, pp. 275
Following are meanings of those words and names in the Per Adonai invocation that I have been able to identify:
Per - By, or because of
Adonai Eloim - "My Lord God"
Adonai Jehova - "My Lord Who Lives"
Adonai Sabaoth - "My Lord of Hosts"
Metraton - Name of an angel; The Key of Solomon refers to "the Great Angel Metratron, Who is the Prince of the Angels, and introduceth the Souls before the Face of God" (S. Liddell MacGregor Mathers, trans., The Key of Solomon the King, Book I, Chapter VII).
On - Uncertain, but it is capitalized in Levi, suggesting it is another name of God or an angel.
Agla - An acronym for Ateh Gibor Le-olam Adonai,"The Lord is mighty forever." See the article "AGLA" at Wikipedia.
Mathon - Name of an angel
verbum pythonicum - "word of magic/prophecy"
mysterium salamandrae - "mystery of salamanders" See the article "Salamander" at The Medieval Bestiary.
conventus sylvorum - Pertains to a meeting or collection of trees, or perhaps of forest dwellers; thus possibly "assembly of forest spirits" or simply "gathering of trees."
antra gnomorum - "Cave of the dwarves" (gnomes) or possibly "Cave of the Knowers," following the root meaning of gnome, which is someone with knowledge of hidden treasure.
daemonia - demons
Coeli - Heaven
Gad - A Hebrew name with several meanings: an Old Testament patriarch, the seventh son of Jacob; a tribe of Israel; a prophet, contemporary with King David; and a pagan god of Chanaan whose name means "fortune". See the article "Gad" at the Catholic Encyclopedia. (This word is rendered God in Lovecraft's version, but Gad in Levi.)
Almonsin - perhaps same as Almouzin, a name of God in the Grand Grimoire. See the article "Index of Angel names, magical words, and names of God" at Twilit Grotto: Archives of Western Esoterica.
Gibor - perhaps the same as Elohim Gibor, a name of God in The Key of Solomon and Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy. See "Index of Angel names..."
Jehosua - Jesus, God-Saviour
Evam - (uncertain)
Zariatnatmik - A name of God, used in the Grand Grimoire. See "Index of Angel names..."
veni, veni, veni - Come, come, come
Enough elements are uncertain to make it difficult to give a connected translation; but the general sense seems to be: "In the name of God and his angels, come to me now." This is consistent with Levi's description of this passage as a "formula of evocation." The evocation is general; it doesn't include the name of the particular being who is being summoned.
Lovecraft may have mistakenly assumed that the various names in this invocation refer to demons. This is suggested by some passing references elsewhere in Charles Dexter Ward. Thus, the nefarious Joseph Curwen and his cohort Simon Orne both use "Almonsin-Metraton" in salutations in their letters:
Sir, I am ye olde and true Friend and Serut. in Almonsin-Metraton. Josephus C.
— section III, part 1
Brother in Almonsin-Metraton:-
— section IV, part 4
Later, Dr. Willett is frightened on recognizing some of the names from the incantation:
. . . such words as Sabaoth, Metraton, Almonsin, and Zariatnatmik sent a shudder of fright through the searcher who had seen and felt so much of cosmic abomination just around the corner.
— section V, part 4
Of the name Zariatnatmik, Lovecraft seems to use it to refer to a deceased sorcerer who had been revived by Curwen:
I was frighted when I read of your know'g what Ben Zariatnatmik hadde in his ebony Boxe, for I was conscious who must have tolde you.
— section II, part 4
Of course, Lovecraft often identified traditional pagan deities with his extraterrestrial entities. In a similar vein, Afro-American religions such as Santeria often identify their traditional Yoruba deities with Catholic saints and worship them under these "Christian" guises. You can always pretend that Curwen and Orne were using these apparently innocent names of God to refer to eldritch entities of their own pantheon.
Generations of Sources
The "mystic writings" referred to are presumably Levi's The Mysteries of Magic and the French originals it was translated from. As 19th century publications, these are plausible sources for Dr. Willett's friends (not to mention H. P. Lovecraft!) to have consulted in the 1920's.
However, this leaves open the question of how Joseph Curwen knew of the Per Adonai and Dies Mies Jeschet invocations back in the 1700s. Fortunately, Levi himself indicates that he drew these incantations from older grimoires.
Image from the Grand Grimoire
The Grand Grimoire and Le Dragon Rouge
As we have seen, Levi introduced the Per Adonai incantation as follows:
The formulae of evocation found in the magical elements of Peter d'Apono or in the Grimoires, whether printed or in manuscript, may then be recited. Those in the Great Grimoire, repeated in the common Red Dragon, have been wilfully altered in printing, and should read as follows :—
— Levi, The Mysteries of Magic, p. 162
Following are descriptions of the grimoires mentioned by Levi:
Also known as the Red Book, the Grand Grimoire is a name given to a collection of invocations, spells and elementary magic, supposedly from the pen of King Solomon, but almost certainly no older than the sixteenth century. This text constitutes one of the more famous and outrageous Grimoires of black magic. A. E. Waite pronounced this the most fantastic of the texts of the Black Magic cycle, and "one of the most atrocious of its class."
— "Grimoires & Spellbooks" (posted by the Rare Book Library, University of Sydney)
Le Dragon Rouge or the Red Dragon is another "black book" that is also known as a Grand Grimoire. It was published in 1822. It allegedly dates back to 1522, however there is no concrete evidence to substantiate this. The Red Dragon is considered by some to be the source of black magic and demonic evocation.
Thus, the Red Dragon is probably from after Curwen's time, but Grand Grimoire predates him and could have been his source for this invocation. It appears that the Le Dragon Rouge is simply a later French version of the Grand Grimoire, anyway.
A search of the Grand Grimoire does not yield the Per Adonai invocation as Levi wrote it, but there are many invocations that are clearly related to it, including the following:
I implore you, O great and powerful ADONAY, head of all spirits, I implore you O ELOHIM I implore you O JEHOVA, O great King ADONAY, condescend to be favorable. So it shall be. Amen.
I beseech you, O great ADONAY, ELOHIM, ARIEL and JEHOVA to be favorable and to give this rod that I am cutting the strength of Jacob and the virtue of Moses and that of the great Joshua; and I beseech you, O great ADONAY, ELOHIM, ARIEL and JEHOVA to enclose in this rod all the power of Samson, the righteous rage of Emmanuel and the Thunderbolt of ZARIATNATMICK who will avenge men's affronts on the day of Judgment.
I supplicate you, O Spirit! by the power of the grand ADONAY, to appear instanter, and by ELOHIM, by ARIEL, by JEHOVA, by AGLA, TAGLA, MATHON, OARIOS, ALMOAZIN, ARIOS, MEMBROT, VARIOS, PITHONA, MAJODS, SULPHAE, GABOTS, SALAMANDRAE, TABOTS, GINGUA, JANNA, ETITNAMUS, ZARIATNATMIX, etc.
—The Grand Grimoire at the Hermetics Library of Magical & Mystical E-Books
Levi's text of the Per Adonai invocation seems to be an attempt to reconstruct an archetypal Latin invocation that could have inspired these various effusions in The Grand Grimoire. Alternatively, the romantically inclined could infer that both Eliphas Levi and Joseph Curwen had access to an older source that inspired The Grand Grimoire.
Henry Cornelius Agrippa |
Agrippa and the Keys of Solomon
We turn now to the Dies Mies Jeschet invocation, which proves to have a long history. As we have seen, Levi attributes it to Agrippa:
The great invocation of Agrippa consists only in these words:—"DIES MIES JESCHET BOENEDOESEF DOUVEMA ENITEMAUS."
— Eliphas Levi, The Mysteries of Magic, p. 162
Agrippa is Henry Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535), author of Three Books of Occult Philosophy, perhaps the most influential single book in the history of Western Occultism. He was a student of Abbé Trithemius, himself a celebrated writer on occult subjects. Agrippa spent most of his adult life wandering Europe in search of a reliable patron. He kept a black dog of which he was inordinately fond, and which was regarded by some as a demonic familiar. Agrippa's writing draws on the Kabbalah and the number mysticism of the Pythagoreans.
However, Grillot de Givry informs us that the spell in question occurs in a portion of the Opera Omnia (vol. ii, chapter xxi) of Cornelius Agrippa that is actually attributed to Pietro d'Abano (1250-1316). d'Abano is best known as the author of the Heptameron, a grimoire associated with invoking the angels associated with each day of the week.
In the Opera Omnia, the Dies Mies Jeschet invocation occurs, not in the context of necromancy, but at the beginning of a spell for detecting the identity of a thief. The spell makes use of Coscinomancy, or divination by the movements of a hanging sieve. de Givry quotes the following portions of the spell:
. . . the sieve is suspended by tongs or pincers [forcipes], which are supported by the middle fingers of two assistants. So may be discovered, by the help of the demon [daemone urgente], those who have committed a crime or theft or inflicted some wound. The conjuration consists of six words—understood neither by those who speak them nor by others—with are DIES, MIES, JESCHET, BENEDOEFET, DOWIMA, and ENITEMAUS; once these are uttered they compel the demon to cause the sieve, suspended by its pincers, to turn the moment the name of the guilty person is pronounced (for all the suspected persons must be named), and thus the culprit is instantly known. . . . More than thirty years since I made use of this manner of divination three times; the first time was on the occasion of a theft which had been committed; the second on account of certain nets or snares of mine used for catching birds being destroyed by some envious one; and the third in order to find a lost dog which belonged to me and by which I set great store. In every said attempt my fortune was to succeed; yet I stopped notwithstanding after that last time for fear lest the demon should entangle me in his snares.
— Quoted in Grillot de Givry, trans. J. Courtenay Locke, Witchcraft Magic and Alchemy (reprinted New York: Dover Publications, 1971), pp. 300-301.
An article on Coscinomancy makes some interesting points about the Dies Mies Jeschet invocation:
Agrippa believed that the movement of the sieve was performed by a demon, and that the conjuration dies, mies, jeschet, benedoefet, dowima, enitemaus actually compelled the demon to perform the task. He further notes that the words of this conjuration were understood neither by the speaker nor anyone else (nec sibi ipsis, nec aliis intellectua). Here Agrippa is asserting one of the most venerable notions of magic, i.e. that there is a language in the spirit world and that this language is powerfully efficacious. The co-called "Enochian language" of the 16th century magician Edward Kelly, later revived by Aleister Crowley, is such a language. Kelly would communicate Enochian messages to his cohort, Dr. John Dee, backwards, for to say them directly would unleash powers beyond control. This concept can further be seen in the Arabian Nights' Entertainments where a sorceress takes some lake water in hand and over it speaks "words not to be understood" (tr. Burton I. xi. 80).
— Coscinomancy article at the personal website of James Lambert
Unfortunately, I have not so far been able to locate the full original spell in Donald Tyson's splendid edition of Three Books of Occult Philosophy, nor in the online text of the book at Wikisource. Nor does it seem to appear in the spurious Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy by pseudo-Agrippa (at the Hermetics Library of Magical & Mystical E-Books), nor in the online text of Pietro d'Abano's Heptameron at the Hermetics Library of Magical & Mystical E-Books.
Happily, the spell recurs in later grimoires, including S. Liddell MacGregor Mathers' edition of the influential grimoire The Key of Solomon the King, also known as The Greater Key of Solomon. The text is available at the Online Magical Library of Hermetics.org (http://www.hermetics.org/ebooks.html). Mathers accepted the tradition that attributed authorship of the work to King Solomon, though the oldest manuscript that Mathers studied dated to the end of the sixteenth century. Mathers' edition in 1889 was the first complete publication of the work, and also the first edition in English.
The Dies Mies Jeschet invocation appears in the spell "How to Know Who Has Committed a Theft" (Book I, Chapter IX), and in the second version of the spell that follows immediately after, "The Manner of Causing the Sieve to Turn, That Thou Mayest Know Who Has Committed the Theft." The invocation appears near the start of each spell, but no translation is provided. The second version of the spell begins:
DIES MIES YES-CHET BENE DONE FET DONNIMA METEMAUZ; O Lord,
Who liberatedst the holy Susanna from a false accusation of crime; O Lord, Who liberatedst
the holy Thekla; O Lord, Who rescuedst the holy Daniel from the den of
lions, and the Three Children from the burning fiery furnace, free the innocent and
reveal the guilty.
These spells also appear in a related grimoire called The Veritable Clavicles of Solomon. The online text of The Veritable Clavicles of Solomon is available at the Esoterics Archive website. According to the editor, Joseph H. Peterson, manuscripts of this text are found in the British Museum and the Bibliotheque Nationale, and are likely to have been created in the mid-18th century. These particular spells are likely to have been copied from Agrippa, for Peterson says:
Besides elements which are unique to this work, it draws on elements of Agrippa's De occulta philosophia, Paracelsus' Archidoxes of Magic, Petro de Abano's Heptameron, the Magical Calendar, and Arbatel Of Magic.
Unfortunately, neither The Key of Solomon the King nor The Veritable Clavicles of Solomon provides any translation of the Dies Mies Jeschet incantation. We can hypothesize that the incantation merely instructs the demon to be obedient and obey whatever more specific instructions are to follow. This would be consistent with the fact that, in the Solomonic grimoires, the incantation is near the start of the spell and is then followed by English instructions to the demon to perform the divination. This interpretation would also admit of the Dies Mies Jeschet invocation being used as a prelude to some entirely different sort of magical work, such as the necromancy practiced by Charles Dexter Ward.
Joseph Curwen and his cohorts could have obtained the Dies Mies Jeschet invocation from any of the above-referenced sources: Agrippa's Opera Omnia, published shortly after Agrippa's death and thus circa 1535; a manuscript version of The Key of Solomon from the late sixteenth century, or perhaps in an incomplete version that Mathers says was published in France in the seventeenth century; or manuscripts of The Veritable Clavicles of Solomon from the mid-eighteenth century.
Dragon's Head and Dragon's Tail |
Yog-Sothothery, Dragon's Head and Dragon's Tail
As we have seen, in Ward's necromantic ritual, the Dies Mies Jeschet invocation was followed by an apparent invocation to Yog-Sothoth. Rather than using any traditional formula, Lovecraft rolled his own spell using one of his invented deities and his usual style of "inhuman" language. Actually, this invocation turns out to be one of a pair of related spells, as Dr. Willett later discovered (section V, part 2):
As Dr. Willett quickly realized, the spells are almost the same except that in the second one, the lines are pronounced in reverse order, and within each line, the words are also pronounced backwards. The name Yog-Sothoth is an exception in that it is not reversed in the second spell, being the name of the deity that is invoked. UAAAH and ZHRO are perhaps suggestive of A and Z, or Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. The prefixed symbols of the dragon's head and dragon's tail, or the ascending and descending nodes of the lunar orbit, complete the impression of two spells that are ritually the reverse of each other. This conclusion is born out in the narrative of Charles Dexter Ward, for Ward recites the first of the spells when reanimating Curwen, whereas Willett uses the second spell to return Curwen to dust.
That Yog-Sothoth should be the deity invoked is consistent with other references in the story. Thus, in one letter, Joseph Curwen states:
I laste Night strucke on ye Words that bringe up YOGGE-SOTHOTHE, and sawe for ye firste Time that fface spoke of by Ibn Schacabao in ye ------------.
— section III, part 1
Simon Orne ended a letter with the salutation"Yogg-Sothoth Neblod Zin" (section IV, part 4). Also, Curwen's notes discovered by Dr. Willett included the statement:
Rais'd Yog-Sothoth thrice and was ye nexte Day deliver'd.
— section V, part 4
Yog-Sothoth is, of course, one of the most important deities in Lovecraft's invented pantheon, though It is not elsewhere associated with necromancy. It is said to embody a gateway between the world of the Old Ones and our own:
Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old... Yog-Sothoth is the key to the gate, whereby the spheres meet.
— The Necronomicon, cited in The Dunwich Horror, section V
Randolph Carter identified Yog-Sothoth with the source of all created universes:
It was an All-in-One and One-in-All of limitless being and self — not merely a thing of one Space-Time continuum, but allied to the ultimate animating essence of existence's whole unbounded sweep — the last, utter sweep which has no confines and which outreaches fancy and mathematics alike. It was perhaps that which certain secret cults of earth have whispered of as YOG-SOTHOTH. . . .
— Through the Gates of the Silver Key, section IV
On the whole, Yog-Sothoth seems like an excessively major being to call upon for such a limited purpose as reviving a single dead human. Perhaps it is not surprising that, after Curwen's death, Ezra Weeden quoted a warning from Simon Orne's earlier letter to Curwen:
I say to you againe, doe not call up Any that you can not put downe; by the Which I meane, Any that can in Turne call up Somewhat against you, whereby your Powerfullest Devices may not be of use.
— section II, part 6
It is interesting to note that Dr. Willett uses the OGTHROD AI'F incantation with immediate effect to destroy Curwen. By contrast, Ward had previously performed a much longer ritual to restore Curwen to bodily form. Before even attempting the Y'AI 'NG'NGAH invocation, Ward spent two hours reciting the Per Adonai invocation, and also recited, or caused to be recited, the Dies Mies Jeschet invocation. There may be an implication here that it takes a lot of energy to resurrect a person, but only a much smaller amount to undo the effects of that resurrection. In any case, the resurrected person is never alive in a completely normal sense, for Curwen's tissues were said to be coarse, and his vital functions greatly minimized (section I, part 1). Similarly, the resurrected Daniel Green had skin with "a coarse, loosely knit texture impossible to account for" (section II, part 4).
A Lesser Pentacle of Solomon |
The License to Depart
Though Charles Dexter Ward's mother listened to the ritual that resurrected Joseph Curwen, her testimony comes to an abrupt end shortly after hearing Curwen's demoniac laughter:
Presently she fainted, although she is still unable to recall the precise and immediate cause. Memory sometimes makes merciful deletions.
— section III, part 6
Because of Mrs. Ward's lamentable lapse, we have no evidence for what followed next. However, in the nature of occult practice, if Ward had invoked an entity such as Yog-Sothoth to assist in his efforts, he would have needed to also dismiss that demon later so as to make it depart.
Then having obtained of the Spirit that which you desire, or being otherwise contented, license him to depart with courteous words, giving command unto him that he do no hurt. If he will not depart, compel him by powerful conjurations, and, if need require, expel him by exorcism and by making contrary fumigations. When he is departed, go not out of the circle, but stay, making prayer for your defence and conservation, and giving thanks unto God and the good angels. All these things being properly performed, you may depart.
— Pseudo-Agrippa, The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy, cited in A. E. Waite, The Book of Black Magic (Boston, MA: Weiser Books, 1972), p. 78
One of the recommended techniques when dismissing the demon is to show the Pentacle [sic] of Solomon, a six-pointed star inscribed with prayers and names of angels:
To dismiss them, the Pentacle of Solomon must be exhibited, at the same time saying as follows:—
Behold your sentence! Behold that which forbids rebellion to our wills, and doth ordain you to return unto your abodes. May peace be between us and you, and be ye ready to come, each and all, as ye are called to do my will.
— The Grimoire of Honorius, cited in A.E. Waite, The Book of Black Magic (Boston, MA: Weiser Books, 1972), pp. 277-278
Necromancy in Occult Tradition
One of the very few occult books in Lovecraft's collection was Lewis Spence's An Encyclopedia of Occultism (per S. T. Joshi in Lovecraft's Library, New York: Hippocampus Press, 2002. Spence's book is also known as The Encyclopedia of the Occult.) The article on necromancy in that volume defines it as "divination by means of the spirits of the dead."
Regarding Curwen, it is clear that he did revive the dead. An example is the incident of the long-dead blacksmith Daniel Green, who escaped from Curwen's Pawtuxet farm, and whose original grave was later found to be vacant (section II, part 4). It seems that Curwen also questioned the revived dead, as the conversations overheard by Ezra Weeden and Eleazar Smith:
The nature of the conversations seemed always a kind of catechism, as if Curwen were extorting some sort of information from terrified or rebellious prisoners.
. . . most of the questions (Weeden) could understand were historical or scientific; occasionally pertaining to very remote places and ages.
— Section II, part 3
Curwen's necromancy aimed at restoring the dead to bodily life, and required corpses as complete as possible to give best results. Letters from Curwen's necromantic friends mention:
Certainely, there was Noth'g but ye liveliest Awfulness in that which H. raised up from What he cou'd gather onlie a part of.
You inform me, that no Part must be missing if the finest Effects are to be had, but you can not but know how hard it is to be sure. It seems a great Hazard and Burthen to take away the whole Box, and in Town (i.e. St. Peter's, St. Paul's, St. Mary's, or Christ Church) it can scarce be done at all. But I know what Imperfections were in the one I rais'd up October last, and how many live Specimens you were forc'd to imploy before you hit upon the right Mode in the year 1766; so will be guided by you in all matters.
By contrast, by far the greater portion of Spence's article discusses various elaborate processes to obtain a vision of the spirit of a dead person, without reviving the body. However, Spence does mention that:
If the ghost of a deceased person is to be raised, the grave must be resorted to at midnight, and a different form of conjuration is necessary. Still another, is the infernal sacrament for "any corpse that hath hanged, drowned, or otherwise made away with itself;" and in this case the conjurations are performed over the body, which will at last arise, and standing upright, answer with a faint and hollow voice the questions that are put to it.
The method is elaborated at greater length in A. E. Waite's The Book of Black Magic, which Lovecraft may have been familiar with when he wrote Charles Dexter Ward. At any rate, he recommended the book to a writer friend in a letter written several years after Ward (as mentioned in Harms and Gonce, The Necronomicon Files, p. 96). Waite quotes a certain Ebenezer Sibley as follows:
But if it be desired to put interrogatories to the spirit of any corpse that has hanged, drowned, or otherwise made away with itself, the conjuration must be performed while the body lies on the spot where it was first found after the suicide hath been committed, and before it is touched or removed.
— A. E. Waite, The Book of Black Magic, pp. 319-320
After various preparations, the necromancer exclaims:
I conjure the, thou Spirit of N., that thou do immediately enter into thy ancient body again, and answer to my demands, by the virtue of the Holy Resurrection, and by the posture of the body of the Saviour of the world, I charge thee, I conjure thee, I command thee. . . .
— Ibid , pp. 320-321
The results are said to be dramatic:
The ceremony being thrice repeated, while the fire is burning with mastic and gum-aromatic, the body will begin to rise, and at last will stand upright before the exorcist, answering with a faint and hollow voice the questions propounded unto it: why it destroyed itself, where its dwelling is, what its food and life are, how long it will be ere it enter into rest, and by what means the magician may assist it to come to rest; also of the treasures of this world, where they are hid. Moreover, it can answer very punctually concerning the places where ghosts reside, and of the manner of communicating with them, teaching the nature of Astral Spirits and hellish beings so far as its capacity alloweth.
— Ibid, p. 321
The magician does not keep the body in a reanimated state for long, however, but inters it in a grave half full of quick-lime, with a little salt and sulphur.
Curwen's procedure, so far as we can make it out, differs from this traditional account in several ways:
- The corpse does not need to be that of a suicide.
- The corpse does not need to be recently deceased, nor must it be revived in the same location where it died.
- The process involves some use of "Chymical Substances," which Curwen obtained from "goode Chymists in Towne, Dr, Bowen and Sam: Carew" (section III, part 1)
- The dead must first be incinerated into its essential "saltes" or ashes before the ritual can be performed. For good results to be obtained, the saltes must be prepared from a complete body.
- The reanimation requires quantities of fresh blood, whether of animals or humans. Joseph Curwen apparently required human blood for three months after his revival; hence he told Ward that he "must have it red for three months" (part IV, section 1) and commenced a string of vampiric assaults.
- Apparently the restored corpse can continue in its state of reanimation for extended periods, though it is not necessarily immortal. Thus, Joseph Curwen lived for more than a year after revived by Ward, and perished only due to the exorcism performed by Dr. Willett. However, the revived Daniel Green, after escaping from Curwen's Pawtuxet farm, was found dead the next morning "on the jams of ice around the southern piers of the Great Bridge" (section II, part 4). Possibly Green succumbed to the cold, or to the lack of ongoing infusions of blood.
These departures from tradition were probably necessary to rationalize the central conceit of Lovecraft's story, that Joseph Curwen, after being revived, was able to impersonate and take the place of his descendant Charles Dexter Ward. It is interesting to compare this plot-germ with another story that Lovecraft much admired:
Deserving of distinguished notice as a forceful craftsman to whom an unseen mystic world is, ever a close and vital reality is the poet Walter de la Mare, whose haunting verse and exquisite prose alike bear consistent traces of a strange vision reaching deeply into veiled spheres of beauty and terrible and forbidden dimensions of being. In the novel The Return we see the soul of a dead man reach out of its grave of two centuries and fasten itself upon the flesh of the living. . . .
— Supernatural Horror in Literature, part IX
Lovecraft's approach in Charles Dexter Ward, whereby the living man is not merely possessed by the dead, but bodily replaced by him, gives a more materialistic and proto-scientific air to the story. This is consistent with Lovecraft's own world-view and also foreshadows his move from supernatural horror to science-fictional horror in later works such as At the Mountains of Madness and The Shadow Out of Time.
© Copyright 2006 by Joseph Morales.