Awakening the Great Old Ones
by Stephen Dziklewicz
On the night of Tuesday, 24th January 1995 e.v., when the moon was waning and in its last quarter, I performed an Invocation of the Great 0ld Ones. This was based on the research and meditations arising from my work on a Mantra for the Great Old Ones, which had in turn been stimulated by Kenneth Grant’s examination of the word ‘Tutulu’ in his book Outer Gateways. The twin foundations of my own work were two inspired texts, which despite their clearly disparate origins and purposes, had served to transmit the same deep and creative, magickal current. I refer to Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu, and to Aleister Crowley’s Liber VII, The Book of the Lapis Lazuli, in the seventh chapter of which is to be found the key mantra of Olalam Imal Tutulu.
Prior to the invocation, I finally had succeeded in devising a satisfactory form for the yantra, or Sigil of Awakening, which was derived from the component letters of the mantra, as in the method made familiar by Austin Osman Spare. Although this technique is of sublime simplicity, it is essential that the symbol evolved should be aesthetically resonant with the perceived purpose of the mantra, or spell, for it to serve as an effective vehicle of magickal energy. Several alternative forms may suggest themselves as being suitable for the same sigil; indeed, in the case of a complex spell, such as the one involved here — in which each word is itself a concentrated focus of magickal energy — it may be useful to visualise the sigil as an evolving sequence of images leading up to the most complete form of symbolic expression that is desired. This will be made more apparent in the course of the description of the invocation, but to give some preliminary indication of what is implied, the following basis may suffice.
The purpose of the mantra is to awaken the Great Old Ones, of which Cthulhu, or Tutulu, is the archetype and primary point of focus. The sigil of Tutulu alone, therefore, is the initial component in the more complex symbol of the Sigil of Awakening as a whole. It is shown below.
Here, the tentacles of Cthulhu, symbolised as the twin towers of Tutulu, are closed together; they await the influx of that magickal energy which will polarise them into activity and release the horizontal bar which seals the pylon of the deep, enabling the star-spawn from the sepulchres of R’lyeh to come into waking manifestation. In combination with the other elements of the Mantra of Release,-the completed sigil becomes the embodiment and celebration of this event.
Invocation of the Great Old Ones
I performed the invocation seated, at a table covered with a dark green cloth. (I was facing due north—west, but the actual, spatial orientation was not considered as being of significance in this simple rite which did not require any invocation of the Elemental Quarters, nor the casting of any Circle of Art). At the rear—centre of the table, on an oval mat, was placed a single blue-green candle; to its right was a small, brass incense burner containing ‘dark musk’ joss; and to its left was a small figurine, in green resin, of a rather spectral Cthulhu. In front of these was the Sigil of Awakening, done in black ink on white, A4 size paper. To the left were the texts to be used in the invocation, and to the right was a glass and bottle of red wine, to stimulate the senses and to provide refreshment.
At 11.30 pm, I commenced the rite by lighting the candle and the incense. Picking up my copy of The Call of Cthulhu, I read Old Castro’s account of the mythos of the Great Old Ones, of how they had come to the earth from distant stars, of their twilight existence — dead and dreaming’ — within their great city of R’lyeh, and of how it had sunk beneath the sea, and of the secret cult which had perpetuated their memory. I read the text quietly, but audibly; I was familiar with the words, and read them with a real sense of warmth and understanding. Then I subdued the electric light altogether, and focusing my gaze on the solitary candle flame, I began to repeat the incantation of Cthulhu:
Ph’nglui inglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.
I continued in this until the mantra became precise and fluid in its modulation; until it had become internalised and fully resonant within my being.
When I had persisted in this for some time and my mouth had become dry, I paused for a drink of wine. Then I took my copy of Liber VII, and placing it within the small circle of light upon the table, I began to read its seventh chapter. Again, my reading was quiet, but audible, and done with the passionate intensity of invocation: enjoying the lyrical beauty of its verses and fully appreciative of the sensual richness with which they described the intimate relations between the Adept and his Holy Guardian Angel. And, although Crowley himself would have been unfamiliar with the Lovecraftian perspective of my own current mode of access to his text, I found that it blended very well with my purpose. There was, of course, the familiar sixth verse which spoke of the mighty sepulchre, and contained the ‘mantra of release’ itself; but there were other verses that aligned themselves with my intent. Of these, the most notable were:
20: Thou hast stirred in Thy sleep, 0 ancient sorrow of years! Thou hast raised Thine head to strike, and all is dissolved into the Abyss of Glory.
29: There shall be a sigil as of a vast black brooding ocean of death and the central blaze of darkness, radiating its night upon all.
At the conclusion of the reading, I made a spontaneous supplication to the Great Old Ones, addressing them as the Mighty Ancestors and calling upon them to illuminate my consciousness with the knowledge of their Ways. Then, after a pause, I began to intone the Mantra of Release:
Olalain linal Tutulu.
This was done as a slow and solemn call, remorseless in its insistence; it was in the manner of a dirge for dead Cthuihu, I soon realised. As I concentrated on the mantra, I looked directly at the candle flame, then gradually I shifted the focus of my gaze to the Sigil of Awakening. At its base, I visualised the citadel of R’lyeh emerging from the Waters of the Abyss, and rising from these were the Twin Towers of Great Cthulhu: tall and steadfast, establishing the Pylon for his emergence into the waking World of Making. Arisen within the Pylon is the Sun at Midnight, towards which is ascending the Whirling Cross of Chaos, the talisman of the Opener of the Ways. As the power of the Great Old Ones rises towards the Sky, the summits of the towers burst into flame and all is dissolved in an effulgence of light, an all-consuming ecstasy of liberation.
Persisting with the mantra, I concentrated on the sigil and closed my eyes and visualised the sigil as engraved upon the dark doorway of the tomb of Cthulhu. I changed my chant to that of the Call of Cthulhu and invoked the deep darkness within that sepulchre of night, summoning the Great Old One into the light. When I resumed the mantra it developed a more insistent tone, a quickening, more joyful rhythm that was reminiscent of a vodoun chant. This was not a conscious decision on my part, but it was clear that the mantra had become a song of celebration for the rising of Great Cthulhu. As I continued with the chant, aware of the light and the perfume of the incense, all sensations focused within a small zone of intimacy surrounded by the darkness of the night, I experienced a strong realisation of the presence of the Ancient Ones and knew that the invocation had achieved its purpose. This had only been a preliminary rite, but I felt that my choice of mantra and sigil had been fully vindicated. I poured myself another glass of wine and began to make some brief notes on the rite: it was approaching 12.45 am.
Later, still seated at the table, I turned to Lovecraft’s tale once again to read his description of "the nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh," and to contemplate the implications of his highly-charged imagery. The main thrust of this is to portray the citadel of the Great Old Ones as a place that is totally alien and loathsome to human understanding, but inevitably, he is obliged to draw upon allusions which have their roots-within the cultural matrices of the human psyche, in order to achieve his aim. Thus, Lovecraft refers to "the cosmic majesty of this dripping Babylon of elder daemons," drawing upon the sexually apocalyptic vision of "Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth" depicted in chapter seventeen of Revelation. But there are more subtle allusions than this, other images which opened up their ornately-crafted locks to the exploratory keys of my invocation.
I identified the "great stone pillar sticking out of the sea" with the blue-green candle upon my altar: the flickering of its solitary corpse-light representing the dark shadows of dream insinuating themselves into waking awareness. This "hideous monolith" is none other than the funerary stela of the great priest Cthulhu, rearing its-cyclopean angles to the sky. It is carved with weird designs, among which I had identified the Sigil of Awakening. Lovecraft says of the scene, that:
"The very sun of heaven seemed distorted when viewed through the polarising miasma welling out from this sea-soaked perversion..." This fusion of images reminded me of a passage in the ancient Ugaritic text known as The Tale of Aqhat:
- To raise a solemn stone for ancestors,
- For the departed, a sun-disk;
- To draw his wraith like vapour from the earth, And guard his shrine from impious hands. (*)
For Lovecraft, the rising of R’lyeh and the liberation of Cthulhu was a cataclysmic event of menacing and unnatural proportions, which he described as "The Madness from the Sea." In contrast, the implication of my invocation was that the awakening of the Great Old Ones is a potent and transformative experience, not a manifestation of madness, but an apotheosis of the Hidden Light.
(*) The Tale of Aqhat: Translated with an Introduction by Francis Landy; The Menard Press, London, 1981. The text, which is very incomplete, dates to c.1365 B.C.