Zi Dingir Ana Kanpa, Zi Dingir Kia Kanpa
Spirits of the earth remember, spirits of the sky remember...
Q. What is the Necronomicon?
The Necronomicon of Alhazred, (literally: "Book of Dead Names") is not,
as popularly believed, a grimoire, or sorceror's spell-book; it was
conceived as a history, and hence "a book of things now dead and gone",
but the author shared with Madame Blavatsky a magpie-like tendency to
garner and stitch together fact, rumour, speculation, and complete
balderdash, and the result is a vast and almost unreadable compendium of
near-nonsense which bears more than a superficial resemblance to
Blavatsky's "Secret Doctrine".
In times past the book has been referred to guardedly as "Al Azif", or "
The Book of the Arab". It was written in seven volumes, and runs to over
900 pages in the Latin edition.
Q. Where and when was the Necronomicon written?
The Necronomicon was written in Damascus in 730 A.D. by Abdul Alhazred.
Q. Who was Abdul Alhazred?
Little is known. What we do know about him is largely derived from the
small amount of biographical information in the Necronomicon itself - he
travelled widely, from Alexandria to the Punjab, and was well read. He
had a flair for languages, and boasts on many occasions of his ability
to read and translate manuscripts which defied lesser scholars. His
research methodology however smacked more of Nostradamus than Herodotus.
As Nostradamus himself puts it in Quatrains 1 & 2:
Sitting alone at night in secret study; it is placed on the brass
tripod. A slight flame comes out of the emptiness and makes successful
that which should not be believed in vain.
The wand in the hand is placed in the middle of the tripod's legs. With
water he sprinkles both the hem of his garment and his foot. A voice,
fear; he trembles in his robes. Divine splendour; the god sits nearby.
Just as Nostradamus used ritual magic to probe the future, so Alhazred
used similar techniques (and an incense composed of olibanum, storax,
dictamnus, opium and hashish) to clarify the past, and it is this,
combined with a lack of references, which resulted in the Necronomicon
being dismissed as largely worthless by historians.
He is often referred to as "the mad Arab", and while he was certainly
eccentric by modern standards, there is no evidence to substantiate a
claim of madness, (other than a chronic inability to sustain a train of
thought for more than a few paragraphs before leaping off at a tangent).
He is better compared with figures such as the Greek neo-platonist
philosopher Proclus (410-485 A.D.), who was completely at home in
astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, and metaphysics, but was
sufficiently well versed in the magical techniques of theurgy to evoke
Hekate to visible appearance; he was also an initiate of Egyptian and
Chaldean mystery religions. It is no accident that Alhazred was
intimately familar with the works of Proclus.
Q. What is the printing history of the Necronomicon?
No Arabic manuscript is known to exist; the author Idries Shah carried
out a search in the libraries of Deobund in India, Al-Azhar in Egypt,
and the Library of the Holy City of Mecca, without success. A Latin
translation was made in 1487 (not in the 17th. century as Lovecraft
maintains) by a Dominican priest Olaus Wormius. Wormius, a German by
birth, was a secretary to the first Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish
Inquisition, Tomas de Torquemada, and it is likely that the manuscript
of the Necronomicon was seized during the persecution of Moors ("
Moriscos") who had been converted to Catholism under duress; this group
was deemed to be unsufficiently pure in its beliefs.
It was an act of sheer folly for Wormius to translate and print the
Necronomicon at that time and place. The book must have held an
obsessive fascination for the man, because he was finally charged with
heresy and burned after sending a copy of the book to Johann Tritheim,
Abbot of Spanheim (better known as "Trithemius"); the accompanying
letter contained a detailed and blasphemous interpretation of certain
passages in the Book of Genesis. Virtually all the copies of Wormius's
translation were seized and burned with him, although there is the
inevitable suspicion that at least one copy must have found its way into
the Vatican Library.
Almost one hundred years later, in 1586, a copy of Wormius's Latin
translation surfaced in Prague. Dr. John Dee, the famous English
magician, and his assistant Edward Kelly were at the court of the
Emperor Rudolph II to discuss plans for making alchemical gold, and
Kelly bought the copy from the so-called "Black Rabbi" and Kabbalist,
Jacob Eliezer, who had fled to Prague from Italy after accusations of
necromancy. At that time Prague had become a magnet for magicians,
alchemists and charletons of every kind under the patronage of Rudolph,
and it is hard to imagine a more likely place in Europe for a copy to
The Necronomicon appears to have had a marked influence on Kelly; the
character of his scrying changed, and he produced an extraordinary
communication which struck horror into the Dee household; Crowley
interpeted it as the abortive first attempt of an extra-human entity to
communicate the Thelemic "Book of the Law". Kelly left Dee shortly
afterwards. Dee translated the Necronomicon into English while warden of
Christ's College, Manchester, but contrary to Lovecraft, this
translation was never printed - the manuscript passed into the
collection of the great collector Elias Ashmole, and hence to the
Bodleian Library in Oxford.
There are many modern fakes masquerading as the Necronomicon. They can
be recognised by a total lack of imagination or intelligence, qualities
Alhazred possessed in abundance.
Q. What is the content of the Necronomicon?
The book is best known for its antediluvian speculations. Alhazred
appears to have had access to many sources now lost, and events which
are only hinted at in the Book of Genesis or the apocryphal Book of
Enoch, or disguised as mythology in other sources, are explored in great
detail. Alhazred may have used dubious magical techniques to clarify the
past, but he also shared with 5th. century B.C. Greek writers such as
Thucydides a critical mind and a willingness to explore the meanings of
mythological and sacred stories. His speculations are remarkably modern,
and this may account for his current popularity: he believed that many
species besides the human race had inhabited the Earth, and that much
knowledge was passed to mankind in encounters with being from other
"spheres". He shared with some neo-platonists the belief that stars are
like our sun, and have their own unseen planets with their own
lifeforms, but elaborated this belief with a good deal of metaphysical
speculation in which these beings were part of a cosmic hierarchy of
spiritual evolution. He was also convinced that he had contacted these
"Old Ones" using magical invocations, and warned of terrible powers
waiting to return to re-claim the Earth - he interpretated this belief
in the light of the Apocalypse of St. John, but reversed the ending so
that the Beast triumphs after a great war in which the earth is laid
Q. Why did the novelist H.P. Lovecraft claim to have invented the
The answer to this interesting question lies in two people: the poet and
magician Aliester Crowley, and a Brooklyn milliner called Sonia Greene.
There is no question that Crowley read Dee's translation of the
Necromonicon in the Ashmolean, probably while researching Dee's papers;
too many passages in Crowley's "Book of the Law" read like a
transcription of passages in that translation. Either that, or Crowley,
who claimed to remember his life as Edward Kelly in a previous
incarnation, read it in a previous life! Why doesn't he mention the
Necronomicon in his works? He was surprisingly reticent about his real
sources - there is a strong suspicion that '777', which Crowley claimed
to have written, was largely plagiarised from Allan Bennet's notes. His
spiritual debt to Nietzsche, which in an unguarded moment he refers to
as "almost an avatar of Thoth, the god of wisdom" is studiously ignored;
likewise the influence of Richard Burton's "Kasidah" on his doctrine of
True Will. I suspect that the Necronomicon became an embarrassment to
Crowley when he realised the extent to which he had unconsciously
incorporated passages from the Necronomicon into "The Book of the Law".
In 1918 Crowley was in New York. As always, he was trying to establish
his literary reputation, and was contributing to "The International" and
"Vanity Fair". Sonia Greene was an energetic and ambitious Jewish emigre
with literary ambitions, and she had joined a dinner and lecture club
called "Walker's Sunrise Club" (?!); it was there that she first
encountered Crowley, who had been invited to give a talk on modern
It was a good match; in a letter to Norman Mudd, Crowley describes his
ideal woman as "rather tall, muscular and plump, vivacious, ambitious,
energetic, passionate, age from thirty to thirty five, probably a
Jewess, not unlikely a singer or actress addicted to such amusements.
She is to be 'fashionable', perhaps a shade loud or vulgar. Very rich of
course." Sonia was not an actress or singer, but qualified in other
respects. She was earning what, for that time, was an enormous sum of
money as a designer and seller of woman's hats. She was variously
described as "Junoesque", "a woman of great charm and personal
magnetism", "genuinely glamorous with powerful feminine allure", "one of
the most beautiful women I have ever met", and "a learned but eccentric
human phonograph". In 1918 she was thirty-five years old and a divorcee
with an adolescent daughter. Crowley did not waste time as far as women
were concerned; they met on an irregular basis for some months.
In 1921 Sonia Greene met the novelist H.P. Lovecraft, and in that year
Lovecraft published the first novel where he mentions Abdul Alhazred ("
The Nameless City"). In 1922 he first mentions the Necronomicon ("The
Hound"). On March 3rd. 1924, H.P. Lovecraft and Sonia Greene married.
We do not know what Crowley told Sonia Greene, and we do not know what
Sonia told Lovecraft. However, consider the following quotation from "
The Call of Cthulhu" :
That cult would never die until the stars came right again [precession
of the Equinoxes?], and the secret priests would take Cthulhu from His
tomb to revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth. The time would
be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old
Ones; free and wild, and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals
thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then
the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and
revel and enjoy themselves, and all earth would flame with a holocaust
of ecstacy and freedom.
It may be brief, it may be mangled, but it has the undeniable ring of
Crowley's "Book of the Law". It is easy to imagine a situation where
Sonia and Lovecraft are laughing and talking in a firelit room about a
new story, and Sonia introduces some ideas based on what Crowley had
told her; she wouldn't even have to mention Crowley, just enough of the
ideas to spark Lovecraft's imagination. There is no evidence that
Lovecraft ever saw the Necronomicon, or even knew that the book existed;
his Necronomicon is remarkably close to the spirit of the original, but
the details are pure invention, as one would expect. There is no
Yog-Sothoth or Azathoth or Nyarlathotep in the original, but there is an
Q. Where can the Necronomicon be found?
Nowhere with certainty, is the short and simple answer, and once more we
must suspect Crowley in having a hand in this. In 1912 Crowley met
Theodor Reuss, the head of the German Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O), and
worked within that order for several years, until in 1922 Reuss resigned
as head in Crowley's favour. Thus we have Crowley working in close
contact for 10 years with the leader of a German masonic group. In the
years from 1933-38 the few known copies of the Necronomicon simply
disappeared; someone in the German government of Adolf Hitler took an
interest in obscure occult literature and began to obtain copies by fair
means or foul. Dee's translation disappeared from the Bodleian following
a break-in in the spring of 1934. The British Museum suffered several
abortive burglaries, and the Wormius edition was deleted from the
catalogue and removed to an underground repository in a converted slate
mine in Wales (where the Crown Jewels were stored during the 1939-45
war). Other libraries lost their copies, and today there is no library
with a genuine catalogue entry for the Necronomicon. The current
whereabouts of copies of the Necronomicon is unknown; there is a story
of a large wartime cache of occult and magical documents in the
Osterhorn area near Salzburg. There is a recurring story about a copy
bound in the skin of concentration camp victims.
This F.A.Q. was compiled using information obtained from:
"The Book of the Arab", by Justin Geoffry, Starry Wisdom Press, 1979
Colin Low has never read the Necronomicon, never seen the Necronomicon,
and has no information as to where a copy may be found.