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Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 2 February, 2021 12:13PM
Ah! How often, over the course of more than 50 years, have my eyes rested upon those vocables --

“Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!"

One feels affection for them.

But I have always assumed that they were worked up for the occasion, kind of like the sounds in the song "Louie Louie" -- useful and appropriate for the purpose; but there's no evidence that Lovecraft actually matched the syllables (other than "Cthulhu" and "R'lyeh") with words or names.

Or is there? I thought that, if there was, someone here might know.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2 Feb 21 | 12:14PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 2 February, 2021 01:22PM
Yes!!!

Louie Louie!!!

Great one Dale!

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 2 February, 2021 01:31PM
Perhaps the bayou cultists originated the "Louie Louie" tune.

"Ph'nglui" -- that could be the source of the "louie."

I'm really not sure it is safe to broadcast that song. Cui bono? Himself of the tentacles?

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 2 February, 2021 05:36PM
The mental imagery, combined with my memory of the song, are too much to ignore. It's funny in at least two distinct ways, like the comedy writing on 30 Rock.

First, I've seen the Kingsmen perform this on TV, the lead singer kinda lurched around like someone on qualudes, smirkingly slurring the words. And indeed I never really understood even 50% of the lyrics, so it could, in fact, be an invocation of the Old Ones.

But let's flip that to where this is a serious invocation, as in the HPL story (that's the one with the police inspector's testimony, right?). So we have the vision of the priest of Cthulu in a swamp somewhere, getting up on a stage in from of the devotees, grabbing his axe, and...and of course this is fine by them--it's how it's done.

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 2 February, 2021 08:27PM
It's enough to make one's hair turn white with horror, it really is.

But in any event no one knows of any evidence that Lovecraft parsed out the notorious vocables?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2 Feb 21 | 08:28PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 3 February, 2021 03:00PM
I'd like to diverge a bit, maybe try to evolve from your original point about HPL's vocalizations.

I'll confess, it's taken me quite a while to get past the laughing fits about "Louie, Louie"... :^(

I'd like to explore the mechanism of incantation as a way to enable cosmic entities like Cthulu, and others of his rather questionable ilk.

In the context of HPL's narrative revelation, I see entities like Cthulu as sort of cosmic wanderers thru space/time/physical dimensions--maybe even refugees. The way it seems to me, from HPL's revelations, the cosmos seem to obey physical laws, but that we, as humans, see only a limited subset of the cosmos, and there are a lot of facets that we have no direct physical contact with, although their existence is revealed by mathematics, in all likelihood.

These others, however, do have access to these hidden parts of the cosmos.

This is my basic understanding of the universe that HPL postulates in his central writings, after he quit trying to be like Dunsany, and wasn't ghost writing.

Now, given this, it's hard for me to see where human invocation of unpronouncable syllables alone would be required to enable these sorts of entities--like awaken them from a nice nap at the bottom of the ocean. It does seem to me that to access or enable them, some kind of artifact, one that has some form of physical contact or interface with the other facets of the cosmos, would be the essential part, and that the chanting is just, well, window dressing, or at most a mnemonic formula that must be followed in proper sequence by certain concrete actions, in conjunction with these ultra-mundane artifacts I postulated. So Colour Out of Space or Dreams in the Witch House seem to have some such cosmic device.

I forget: what was the event that caused Cthulu's estate to arise from the ocean in Call of Cthulu? That event would seem to be the proximate cause of his re-invigoration.

I mean, it's either that, or the foul entities such as Cthulu just made up the chants, simply to see if the gullible humans would do it.

Sorta "Let's see if the rubes will buy *this* one...".

Thoughts/opinions/ideas?

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 3 Feb 21 | 03:11PM by Sawfish.

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 3 February, 2021 04:37PM
Does anyone know if Lovecraft commented on this -- on the way the invocations work, given his postulates?

My guess is that the use of invocations as triggers of entity activity was just something he took over from the horror story tradition. He substituted entities explicable, more or less, on a science fictional basis, for demons, leaving basically intact the idea that such "demons" could be stirred by such vocables.

If one wanted to amuse oneself with an explanation, such as Lovecraft didn't spell out himself, for the vocables that would be consistent with Lovecraft's notions, I'd propose that the underlying basis would be that the entities manifest themselves sometimes when human beings rearrange the electricity of their (the humans') brains in certain ways. This rearrangement is effected by the chanting, etc. A scholar in a library might read the vocables aloud and nothing would happen, but a diligent Cthulhu cultist would deliberately be messing with his own head (brain) in such a way that the material brain could become a sort of portal for the entity to use and pop into visibility and activity.

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 3 February, 2021 05:36PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Does anyone know if Lovecraft commented on this --
> on the way the invocations work, given his
> postulates?

I don't know: I seldom read *about* authors. I read their output and take it from there, usually.

>
> My guess is that the use of invocations as
> triggers of entity activity was just something he
> took over from the horror story tradition. He
> substituted entities explicable, more or less, on
> a science fictional basis, for demons, leaving
> basically intact the idea that such "demons" could
> be stirred by such vocables.

Here's a difference between HPL's cosmos and the cosmos of M. R> James, for example. There is *magic* of the traditional supernatural sort in James. It follows well-established rules of how supernatural entities behave, and they react, like God, to invocation.

The supernatural entities in James occupy the same space as God, apparently, but the entities of HPL don't. They occupy the speculated cosmos of physicists.

There's sci-fi in HPL, but not in guys like James other such traditionalists, who may take their inspiration from folklore.

>
> If one wanted to amuse oneself with an
> explanation, such as Lovecraft didn't spell out
> himself, for the vocables that would be consistent
> with Lovecraft's notions, I'd propose that the
> underlying basis would be that the entities
> manifest themselves sometimes when human beings
> rearrange the electricity of their (the humans')
> brains in certain ways. This rearrangement is
> effected by the chanting, etc. A scholar in a
> library might read the vocables aloud and nothing
> would happen, but a diligent Cthulhu cultist would
> deliberately be messing with his own head (brain)
> in such a way that the material brain could become
> a sort of portal for the entity to use and pop
> into visibility and activity.

Hah! That's a good new twist! Maybe apes could be trained to do this, too!

And looky here! It may then follow that ingesting potions or drugs might amplify this activity.

Boy, I'm glad we're figuring this stuff out. It's earth-shaking! :^)

This is what being retired is all about, I guess...

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 3 February, 2021 08:27PM
Sawfish wrote, "Here's a difference between HPL's cosmos and the cosmos of M. R. James, for example. There is *magic* of the traditional supernatural sort in James. It follows well-established rules of how supernatural entities behave, and they react, like God, to invocation. The supernatural entities in James occupy the same space as God, apparently, but the entities of HPL don't. They occupy the speculated cosmos of physicists."

I believe that M. R. James was an orthodox Christian. Thus he wouldn't have said that God occupied the same space, or is on the same ontological level, as the ghosts and demons in his stories. God is wholly other than any created thing. There is God, uncreated, the "ground of being" if you like but not one "being" among many; and there are human beings (departed this life or not), angels, liver flukes, quasars, roses, etc. The ghosts and demons are created things, creatures, like the things we see, like things we don't see but can detect with instruments, and so on. If Cthulhu and Shub-Niggurath were what Lovecraft conceived them to be, they would, from James's point of view (and mine), have inexpressibly more in common with you and me than with God, being creatures like us. Just a point of clarification.

Sawfish added, "It may then follow that ingesting potions or drugs might amplify this activity."

Aldous Huxley, call your office.

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 4 February, 2021 09:31AM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish wrote, "Here's a difference between HPL's
> cosmos and the cosmos of M. R. James, for example.
> There is *magic* of the traditional supernatural
> sort in James. It follows well-established rules
> of how supernatural entities behave, and they
> react, like God, to invocation. The supernatural
> entities in James occupy the same space as God,
> apparently, but the entities of HPL don't. They
> occupy the speculated cosmos of physicists."
>
> I believe that M. R. James was an orthodox
> Christian. Thus he wouldn't have said that God
> occupied the same space, or is on the same
> ontological level, as the ghosts and demons in his
> stories. God is wholly other than any created
> thing. There is God, uncreated, the "ground of
> being" if you like but not one "being" among many;
> and there are human beings (departed this life or
> not), angels, liver flukes, quasars, roses, etc.
> The ghosts and demons are created things,
> creatures, like the things we see, like things we
> don't see but can detect with instruments, and so
> on. If Cthulhu and Shub-Niggurath were what
> Lovecraft conceived them to be, they would, from
> James's point of view (and mine), have
> inexpressibly more in common with you and me than
> with God, being creatures like us. Just a point
> of clarification.

OK, fine. To me, a nominal Christian, with no Christian upbringing, the whole area looks the same and God and Satan (here we're going all Manichean and Zoroastrian) co-exist as equals and angels are the Jets, and demons are the Sharks.

Or Hatfields and McCoys, or Capulets and Montagues, or Guelphs and Ghibellines, or Bloodz 'n' Cripz...

>
> Sawfish added, "It may then follow that ingesting
> potions or drugs might amplify this activity."
>
> Aldous Huxley, call your office.

Hah! The Doors of perception are cleansed.

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 4 February, 2021 12:02PM
From a literary point of view, there seems to be two distinct belief systems (at least, in terms of presentation) with a third constituting a sort of overlap.

Religious. Ghosts are the souls of the restless dead, denied entry into purgatory/heaven/hell for some infraction or other. Demons are Satan’s representatives on earth, manifesting in a variety of ways, their primary goal being to cause mischief.

Non-Religious. Ghosts are echoes, temporal distortions due to the intense emotional trauma generated by certain events. People imbue certain places or objects with their - generally negative - personalities, with dire consequences for others etc, etc

Religious/Non-Religious. The third category is a fusion of the two. I’ve already cited Green Tea elsewhere on this forum as an example of a story for which there is both a religious and a non-religious explanation. But there are also works which exploit religious tropes but without attaching any religious significance to those tropes - e.g. the creatures inhabiting HPL’s cosmos are clearly reminiscent of demons, but are not demons per se.

All this occurred to me while re-reading M.R. James a while back, funnily enough. James’ world is predicated on a very medieval, religious worldview, a world in which dire consequences await the unwary or the careless. Yet it’s equally clear (especially when you read them again) that James doesn’t believe in any of it. He’s a product of that value system - enough to be familiar with its tropes - but also a sceptic. His primary goal is to scare the reader rather than convince him or her that there are more things in heaven and hell, etc, etc…



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 4 Feb 21 | 01:00PM by Cathbad.

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 4 February, 2021 12:40PM
I realize that you are using the term "Rational" as a label of convenience, bit in truth, it starts with the same assumption that the "Religious" label, and that is that the individual possesses a non-material component that might be called "soul" or "ectoplasm" and this survives the material death of the individual.

But so far as I can see, this is completely speculative, and I would not label it as rational in any normal discussion.

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 4 Feb 21 | 12:42PM by Sawfish.

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 4 February, 2021 01:01PM
Duly noted! (and amended accordingly)

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 4 February, 2021 01:19PM
Sawfish, re Manichaeism -- that's basically strict dualism; there are two "divine" principles, one light, one dark; one spiritual, one associated with matter.

I'd say that the view of traditional, orthodox Christianity includes a "modified dualism." It's dualistic because the diabolus is taken seriously, but is understood as a created being not originally evil. This site probably isn't the place to go into these things, but I would commend to the attention of anyone interested a book by Gregory Boyd called God at War. It should interest Christian fans of Lovecraft.

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 4 February, 2021 01:28PM
Cathbad, there's a book by the Lutheran theologian John Warwick Montgomery that sets out a number of possibilities regarding ghosts. It's called Principalities and Powers (1973). Here's what I wrote about it in the afterword to my book Lady Stanhope's Manuscript and Other Stories (Nodens Books, 2017) --

----Montgomery considers as possible these six or seven ways of interpreting “spectral evidence.”
First, it is possible that impressions, even dreams, from one living person to another may be received telepathically as hallucinations. Of course, the mere existence of telepathy is controversial at best.
Second, apparitions might register in the brains of living persons with their source being “brain radiations” that had been generated by persons now dead. I take it, by the way, that something like this is imagined in Arthur Machen’s late and enigmatic story “The Exalted Omega.” Montgomery is summarizing another writer here and doesn’t seem inclined to give the notion a lot of regard.
Third, a ghost may be a “residual human aura.” If a “subtle body” exists, it might be possible for someone to perceive that of someone else. The apparition need not be understood to be a manifestation of an immortal soul. Residual auras of dead animals might occur.
Fourth, ghosts might be “the dead themselves, on their way to the reward determined once for all by their relationship or lack of relationship to Christ” while they lived in the body, “but not yet entered fully into that reward. …Only the time-lag between death and heaven, or death and hell, is extended to account for ghostly phenomena that show more self-direction than the ‘human aura’ would allow for, and yet do not engage either in angelic or in demonic missions to the living.”
For his fifth category, Montgomery introduces two possibilities, namely “Ghosts as the damned sent back to haunt the living or as Satanic counterfeits of the dead.”
Sixth, some ghosts could be “the saved sent back to earth by God for a special mission.” Montgomery cites the account related by the Bible translator J. B. Phillips, who said (in a book called Ring of Truth) that the ghost of C. S. Lewis had appeared to him to encourage him about a difficulty in his life.
Montgomery adds that his openness to the possibility of ghosts is another matter entirely from being open to attempts by the living to conjure the departed, an activity that is expressly prohibited by the Bible and Christian tradition. By the way, he has a few interesting sentences on the once-famous Episcopal Bishop James A. Pike, with whom Montgomery was a featured speaker at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1967. By then Pike had given himself to attempts to communicate through séances with his son, dead by suicide. Pike himself seems to have come to an unhappy end too, in the Sinai desert.----


My guess is that M. R. James would be sympathetic to this presentation. Would there be room in Lovecraft's thinking for the second and third notions? (I suppose that, in his fiction, he had no scruples about employing literary elements that he wouldn't have accepted as part of his actual outlook.)

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 4 February, 2021 01:31PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish, re Manichaeism -- that's basically strict
> dualism; there are two "divine" principles, one
> light, one dark;

That I knew...

> one spiritual, one associated
> with matter.

That I did not know.

Interesting implication, then.

I'm intrigued with Manichaeism because unlike what I get form my limited exposure to mainstream Christianity, both good and evil exist right from the get-go, rather than God being the creator of his opponent, Satan. There is a sort of divine balance of power, therefore.

You know, one way to look at the Judeo-Christian God is that He is very, very egotistical, much like Donald Trump. Absolutely He was here first, and he's the complete and total boss of everything, Bunky.

So ask no questions.

This is handled in a very comedic way in the original Bedazzled (1967) starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.


BTW, which principal is associated with matter and which with spirit?

>
> I'd say that the view of traditional, orthodox
> Christianity includes a "modified dualism." It's
> dualistic because the diabolus is taken seriously,
> but is understood as a created being not
> originally evil. This site probably isn't the
> place to go into these things, but I would commend
> to the attention of anyone interested a book by
> Gregory Boyd called God at War. It should
> interest Christian fans of Lovecraft.

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 4 Feb 21 | 01:39PM by Sawfish.

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 4 February, 2021 02:39PM
To answer your question, I had to check for something relating to Manichaeism and St. Augustine, since it was in connection with a little reading by and about the latter that, I suppose, I learned most of what I know (or knew) about it. I found this:

"Mani combined impressive teaching, reinforced by hymns and splendidly produced books, with effective organisation. He taught that Good and Evil are equal powers, and both have always existed. Each has a kingdom, Good the kingdom of Light and Evil the kingdom of Darkness. Darkness invaded Light, and fragments of light are still entrapped in the darkness; this world was created in order to free them. Jesus of Light, who is pure spirit, shows humans how the light may be freed, and the Suffering Jesus is the Light which is entrapped in this world. The human soul is a fragment of Light which has fallen from its home, the kingdom of heaven, and is trapped in the body. It can escape by disciplining the body and with the help of saving powers."

[www-personal.umich.edu]

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 4 February, 2021 02:53PM
Thanks, Dale!

--Sawfish

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 4 February, 2021 03:32PM
Thanks very much for posting the extract, Dale! I reckon you’re right about M.R. James, but would also reckon he shared HPL’s perspective as well - ie, that maybe he was both sympathetic and sceptical.

Looking up the definition of Manichaiesm - the notion that light (by which I’m guessing the sublime) is slowly but gradually being separated from matter (the mundane) made me wonder how new life figures in the equation? This in turn, reminded me of an acquaintance, who came from another large Irish family like myself, who reckoned his mother always saw herself in the business of producing more souls for heaven.

Re: Lovecraftian Vocables
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 4 February, 2021 03:47PM
Cathbad, I remember, many years ago on a visit to the West Coast (US), seeing a bumper sticker that said:

SOULS OF GREAT LIGHT ARE WAITING TO BE BORN. HAVE ONE!

--MOTHER



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