Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The Necronomicon Files (Revised and Expanded)
To go into the history of the Necronomicon would take up more space than I care to use. Besides, the authors of The Necronomicon Files, Daniel Harms and John Gonce, have done a far better job than I could ever dream. Suffice it to say that the Necronomicon was a book of ancient magick which the writer HP Lovecraft used as a theme in many of his horror stories which he wrote in the 1920's and 30's. Although it never existed in material form, Lovecraft referred to it often enough that many people believed it to be a real book. And in 1979, Avon Books came out with a paperback edition.
I remember seeing the paperback edition because all I could think of was "WTF!?!". I did manage to buy the book, but later got rid of it, having no interest in ceremonial magick. I also considered the book a cheap fraud and a poor way to make money. A number of other people have also bought it. Enough to keep this edition of the Necronomicon in print.
NF is divided into a series of essays concerning this forbidden text. It consists of three parts: Literature, Occultism, and Entertainment. The literary section is authored by Harms. Gonce manages the occult and entrainment ones. Harms lists himself as a Lovecraft scholar, whereas Gonce is a practice occultist. The sections do reflect the interests of the authors.
The first section discusses the Necronomicon's place in literature. Naturally, this is mostly about the Cuthulu Mythos stories which Lovecraft wrote for Weird Tales and other magazines of the pulp era. Harms is mostly interested in the tales of lost grimories and other books which may have influenced Lovecraft on his creation. There's also a lot of biographical information on Lovecraft in this part.
Part two places the Necronomicon as part of the western occult tradition. Gonce has little time for people who want to believe in the actual, physical presence of a historical Necronomicon. He takes great pains to show how the likelihood of such a book existing is low. He also rips into the 1979 "Simon" Necronomicon, the one which Avon published and still publishes. This book he finds to be a bastardization of Sumerian religious beliefs. Gonce has more sympathy for writer Kenneth Grant's concept of an "astral" Necronomicon which would exist in a spiritual void.
The final section, on entrainment, is a lengthy discussion of all the places the Necronomicon has appeared in TV and film. This section would make a book in itself. Gonce has seen plenty of Lovecraftian film adaptations.
So where did this "Simon" Necronimicon originate? The authors feel it was money-making scheme cooked up by several people associated with a New York occult store. Known as The Magical Childe, this place was owned and run by Herman Slater until his death in the 1990's. The authors theorize that several people decided to take the whole Necronomicon idea of a lost book with infinite power and run with it. I wish the authors had spent more time following the clues here. Too much of their theory on the origin of the book is based on secondary sources or speculation. No smoking guns or wands.
Still, a very extensive book and worth reading.