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Dream Gates: the Yuggoth working

The Nyarlathotep Coven was founded to experiment with Lovecraftian or Cthulhu Mythos Magic. Rather than attempting to simply ‘fit’ Lovecraftian imagery and themes into current magical belief systems – such as tabulating mythos entities on the tree of life or writing spurious grimoires - our main approach has been to take our inspiration from the work of H.P. Lovecraft and other authors such as Clark Ashton Smith, Algernon Blackwood, etc., and see where it leads us.

Dreams are highly significant in Lovecraft’s fiction – doubtless this is a reflection of his own propensity for creative dreaming, since we know that many of the images, ideas and even story-lines he developed were culled from his own dreams and nightmares. In Lovecraft’s fiction, the protagonist often experiences strange dreams which serve to gradually ensnare him deeper and deeper into the ‘other’ reality of the Great Old Ones and the machinations of their servants. Examples include the telepathic dream-signals emitted by sleeping Cthulhu in "The Call of Cthulhu" and the terrible experiences of Gilman in "The Dreams in the Witch-House". Through dreams, we can experience other realities and also bring back knowledge and inspiration.

The importance of dreaming has long been recognised by magical cultures. In some tribal cultures, for example, shamans are ‘chosen’ through the significance of their dreams, and vital information – new sources of food, hunting grounds, warnings of calamities etc. can be recognised through dreaming. It is only in ‘civilised’ societies such as ours that the significance of dreams are undervalued, although there has been a great deal of emphasis placed on the psychoanalytic interpretation of dreams using symbolism. Thus one is told that a dream of flying is in actuality, a dream of having sex. What then is a dream of having sex?

What is particularly interesting in Lovecraft’s fiction regarding dreams is that they are not only a point of ingress to other states of consciousness, they are also a point of egress for those entities and ‘forces’ which inhabit those regions. It is as though the dreamer opens (albeit in Lovecraft’s fiction, unwittingly so) a gateway through which he may venture or be drawn, but equally, those on the other side may pass through as well, sometimes using the dreamer as a ‘vehicle’ for themselves – a kind of ‘dream-possession’, perhaps. What can also occur is that the dreamer awakes to find that some strange object from his dream has somehow entered into his physical, waking state. This kind of event is often referred to as an ‘apport’.

It is this facet of dream-magic which we decided to explore, as a development of our earlier work in creating an astral sabbat and exploring the Cthulhu-R’Lyeh axis.

For this working we decided to use the image of ‘Yuggoth’ as the central focus. Yuggoth, often identified with the planet Pluto, may be considered to be a contact-point between human consciousness and the outer spaces which are the domain of the Great Old Ones (see "Cults of the Shadow", by Kenneth Grant.) In the Lovecraftian mythos, Yuggoth is the home of the Mi-Go, a race of crustacean beings who worship Shub-Niggurath. In "The Whisperer in Darkness" we discover that the Mi-Go are able to transport the consciousness of humans and other beings across space and time. Thus they may be considered as a kind of psychopomp – not so much into the realms of the dead, but into a state of consciousness from which there is no turning back.

Like many other denizens of the Lovecraftian Mythos, the Mi-Go are encountered in lonely places such as mountains and forests. For us, this reflects another aspect of Lovecraftian magic which has received relatively little attention. There does seem a tendency for magicians to practice their rites and astral journeys within the safe confines of an indoor temple or safely tucked up in bed. One of the early decisions made by the Nyarlathotep Coven was that, where possible, our workings would be done outdoors, or at least would have a link to the wilderness which features so heavily in Lovecraft’s work. The Great Old Ones and their kin are almost inextricably linked to nature as a key passage from the Necronomicon in "The Dunwich Horror" states:

"They walk unseen and foul in lonely places where the Words have been spoken and the Rites howled through at their Seasons. The wind gibbers with Their voices and the earth mutters with Their consciousness."

Bearing this in mind, we decided to maintain this link by having at least one stage of each major cycle of workings set in a suitable outdoor locale. In working outdoors, we should stress that we were not just finding a suitable forest or hilltop and setting up a circle. What we wanted to find were sites which reflected a particular ambience – the kind of place where one feels that the veil between the worlds has been lifted, or even torn asunder. In this endeavour we were fortunate in that there is a rich store of folklore in the UK which relates to particular locales. In choosing sites suitable for working, we made the following considerations:

  1. Access to the site. This relates purely to considerations of getting to the site, making arrangements for camping etc., and whether the site was visited frequently by tourists, etc., so that we could try and avoid being disturbed whilst we were there.

  2. The history of the site, and folkloric associations – myths and legends around it.

  3. A preliminary assessment of the ‘ambience’ of the site made by members of the Coven who visited it to check it out.

A Note: the Coven’s approach to Magical Exploration

The Nyarlathotep Coven is a collective of magicians, sorcerers, etc., from various backgrounds who decided to work together for a while exploring Lovecraftian magic. Some of us were used to an approach to magical work whereby once an aim had been decided upon, a ritual or pathworking script was drawn up to action that intent. The Coven decided at an early point in its existence that this method of magical exploration had severe limitations. We accordingly decided to make each ‘working’ a project of many stages, with the modus operandi of each successive stage determined by the results of the previous one. The following account demonstrates this method.

The Yuggoth Working

The broad aim of the Yuggoth working was to open up a gateway between the gestalt of the Nyarlathotep Coven and Yuggoth/the Mi-Go. This would serve as a launching point for individual and group astral exploration (ingress) and also the evocation or manifestation of trans-Yuggothian entities and symbols into the group’s magico-mythic space (egress).

We decided that the first stage in this process was to open up a channel of contact with the Mi-Go. For this preliminary stage, we chose a woodland area near Worthing in West Sussex. Since the 1960’s, this area has been the site of sporadic UFO sightings, and according to folklore sources, there have been several mysterious disappearances in the wood – of both animals and humans. Moreover, dogs are said to fear certain spots in the wood and there have also been reports of mysterious ‘clawed’ footprints found, of strange amorphous shapes encountered, and of people suddenly feeling faint and ill for no clear reason. This sounded to us like prime Mi-Go country! We resolved to spend a night in the wood, just getting a ‘feel’ for it, and to take careful note of our observations, dream-experiences, etc.

Although the wood is in close proximity to a village, we encountered no problems with other people during the first evening, and we were careful not to have any obvious ‘occult equipment’ on display. The place had a distinct ‘brooding’ quality to it, and it was interesting to note that there did seem to be an absence of bird calls or the rustlings of small animals that one associates with woodland spaces. Two members of the group who moved away from the encampment during the night reported that they felt as though they were being ‘watched’, and Sor. Kyotto reported that she could discern small elementals flitting about, but one would expect this to be the case in wooded areas.

The following morning, we found that a small onyx pendant, which Fra. Telesis had strung to the branch of a nearby oak tree had vanished – we took this as a good sign and packed up, being careful to leave no litter behind us.

The next stage of the working was a period of a month during which Coven members made individual visits to the wood, and also attempted astral visits and strove to dream themselves there. Having agreed that the onyx pendant had been ‘taken’ by the genius loci of the wood, some members used a drawing of it as a ‘focus’ for their astral and dream-journey explorations. Sor. Kyotto found some very appropriate quotations (in the light of our work) in the book "Spiritwalk", by Charles de Lint:

"All forests are one … They are all echoes of the first forest that gave birth to Mystery when the world began.

… there were two forests for every one you entered. There was the one you walked in, the physical echo, and then there was the one that was connected to all the other forests with no consideration of distance, or time. The forest primeval, remembered through the collective memory of every tree … Legend and myth, all tangled in an alphabet of trees, remembered, not always with understanding, but with wonder, with awe."

It seemed to us that we had found a physical place – a power spot – which could be used as a point of ingress and egress between human space, and what Patrick Harpur calls ‘Daimonic Reality’.

After this period of individual work had elapsed, we again visited the wood collectively to discuss our findings. Fra. Hali for example, recounted a dream which had developed from focusing his mind on the onyx pendant prior to sleep. In the dream, he was travelling above the earth at great speed, and seemed to be entering deep space. Just before he awoke, he said that he became aware of a sibilant hissing in his ear, almost as though someone or something was attempting to whisper something to him. We had all felt very ‘drawn back’ to the wood, and some of us had the distinct impression that there was a presence which, whilst it could be an aspect of the genius loci of the wood, was somehow ‘foreign’ to it, and only visited the wood occasionally.

The next phase was to make some willed, group contact with this presence. Note that by this time, we had stopped talking about the Mi-Go as we realised that trying to frame our experiences entirely within a Lovecraftian framework was counter to the spirit of the Coven. What mattered for us is that using Lovecraft’s images and themes as a starting point, we had ‘opened up’ an exciting adventure – and that the Mi-Go was a useful concept to set imagination and deed afire, but should not be adhered to too rigidly.

We discussed what to do next during our second collective night in the woods. Several suggestions came forth from this discussion, including:

  • That we try and ‘open our minds’ to the ‘presence’ and attempt some form of direct clairvoyant communion.

  • That we continue with our individual dream and astral work until one of receives an image or face which can be created to use as a fetish-object or mask in group ritual.

  • That we remove some object from the wood such as a stone or piece of wood which allows us to make a further remote magical link with the ‘presence’.

In the small hours of the morning, two members of the Coven, Fratres Hali and Telesis, who had elected to maintain an all-night vigil rather than sleep, caught a glimpse of a faint blue light through the trees. Curious, not a little perturbed and also wondering if there were other people in the woods, they moved to investigate. As they moved quietly in the direction of the glow, Hali said that he could feel the hairs on the back of his neck prickling up. Telesis reported feeling suddenly very cold (this is another phenomena which is associated with the wood). Both said that they felt that the beams of their torches were somehow ‘weaker’ as they went further into the wood. They stopped walking after a few minutes and stood in the darkness, debating what to do in whispers. Suddenly, they both heard the distinctive ‘clink’ of metal against stone, very close by. They froze, and Hali later said that for a moment, he was almost overcome with fear. They crouched down, and after a few moments, when it became apparent to them that they were in no immediate ‘danger’, began to shine their torches around. They couldn’t see anything, and both said that the feelings of oppression and weirdness that they had experienced earlier had lifted. They returned to the encampment with some relief. Hali later admitted that he had been very tempted to perform a banishing ritual, but commented that he thought even if he had, he thought it wouldn’t have made much difference. When the rest of us awoke, we heard about their adventure. No one else had experienced anything untoward and no significant dreams had been reported. As we were preparing to leave, some of us went with Hali and Telesis in the direction they thought they had walked after seeing the blue light in the trees.

Whilst this party was looking around, Soror Zirel made a discovery. She was examining a gnarled and twisted tree-stump when she saw something metallic glinting just inside a knot-hole. Reaching in, she drew out Fra. Telesis’ missing onyx pendant! This was not far away from the spot where Telesis & Hali had had their strange ‘encounter’ some hours previously. Zirel said that when she first grasped hold of the pendant, it’s silver base felt cold, and it tingled. We all examined the area but could find no trace of anything ‘unusual’.

This ‘return’ of the pendant, we all felt, was significant. It had gone missing over a month ago and was ‘rediscovered’ some distance from the place where it had disappeared. That, together with Hali & Telesis’ strange experience, seemed to indicate to us at the time that we now had our ‘magical link’ with the woods – an object which had disappeared into that liminal space represented by Yuggoth, and which had then been returned to us. At this point, we felt that the working had reached a point of closure, for the moment.

We decided to add the onyx pendant to our altar of magical objects and images. In our ensuing work, it was used in different ways, including:

  • Being used as a dream-talisman by individual members.

  • Being worn by a celebrant or ‘priest’ in ritual work.

  • Being used to ‘charge’ a sacrament in ritual work.

The wood itself became a gateway for many astral and dream-journeys. Although members did return individually to the wood from time to time, we did not visit it again collectively for some time – knowing how quickly rumours of ‘satanic groups in local woods’ get into the media. This working produced a good deal of astral/dream images which were also used later in subsequent workings. This working also demonstrated to us the effectiveness of both the stage-by-stage approach to evolving a working methodology and of the benefits of working in a suitable locality. Particularly, the strange experience of Hali & Telesis served to reinforce the Lovecraftian ‘reality’ (i.e. the magico-mythic space which provided a backdrop of meaning and interpretation for the Coven’s experiences) we were attempting to create.