The Festival

  1. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    Well, no, it says considerably more than that:

    Or, to break it down:

    Those caverns below (or beyond) caverns (a favorite motif of Lovecraft's) are not good for the living (or that which can see and comprehend) to see; the things they hold are not only beyond our experience, but inimical and dangerous to our well-being. (Lovecraft here is using the word "terrific" in its original sense, of "causing terror, terrifying", from the Latin terrificus (frightening).

    Here is the quote you use above, but you are reading it extremely selectively and out of context, and you also leave out the very important subsidiary clause about "no head". Snakes have heads, or at least notable bony structures which are analogous to them. Worms (at least in common or legendary perception) do not (and they certainly have nothing like a bony skull). And, while the "old man" of the story appears to have such, the lie is put to this at the end of the tale:

    (emphasis added). I quote this entire passage because it makes it plain that what we are dealing with is something not human in any way (hence not a wizard in the usual sense), and indeed is something which (as I have pointed out before) has all the characteristics -- when removed from its masquerade -- of the grave-worm specified in the Necronomicon passage, and hinted at by use of specific signifiers throughout the text of the tale ("pulpy", "flabby", "soft", "verminous", "maggoty", etc.).

    "Happy", or untroubled by such eldritch phenonema, is the place where no wizard's body has been interred; or where it has been burnt to ashes rather than allowed to remain whole. Why? Here is the crux of the matter, which I quoted above, and which, again, makes the connection I have been arguing about quite explicit:

    The "soul" or "spirit", or "life-force", etc., of a wizard, as opposed to a "normal" human being, does not leave the body when death occurs, but, as the Necronomicon goes on to point out:

    That same spirit feeds the "dull scavengers" (and what is more dull in intellect than a worm? certainly not a serpent, often depicted as a symbol for wisdom) and "instructs", or informs them with its own occult knowledge; a form of metempsychosis, until

    Again, the worms, so fed and altered by the spirit of the wizard, gain intelligence (or craft, guile, cunning at least) and enormous size, until their very existence (let alone their actions) can "vex" and "plague" the world.

    Instead of the normal, almost invisible tunnels and paths which the normal graveworms (or worms of any kind) make in their constant burrowing (another word used in the text in connection with the celebrants and the mad descent), the huge size of the tunnels left behind by these worms are themselves the signs of an abomination against the laws of nature, taking the place of all that the sane world we know allows of such creatures... and instead of the proper squirming (yet another signifier used in describing the celebrants) and writhing (ditto), these blasphemies have grown limbs (or extrusions which take the place of limbs) in order to better imitate the sorcerous (but human) mentors from whom they have learned.

    And while knowing about the Egyptian pantheon is certainly worthwhile, it really isn't necessary for an understanding of what goes on in either tale. ("Necronomicon", more properly a prose poem rather than a tale, should really be taken up elsewhere for a full discussion; but suffice to say that, despite the Egyptian motif and certain allusions, a knowledge of Egyptian mythology is by no means necessary for understanding it... though such may indeed add some interesting levels to it.)
     
    May 8, 2010
    #81
  2. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    It looks like the wizards souls refuse to leave their dead bodies (and rose out of that grave site) and they are being rebuilt by worms/maggots, sort of like mummified beings. That could be explained in Egyptian Myth because there is discussion of wizards and souls and spells. I'm not being specific because it is a waste of time since I am too new to that study and anything I say would change. I just flipped through a few pages and noticed that it might be of value.

    I am not arguing for the snake form of the wizards, I just noticed that there are a number of references to a serpent in the story. That can not be denied, it is clear. I'd also describe the last words as compared to God's punishment of the serpent, regardless of what Lovecraft or whoever wrote it intended because it takes precedence.

    I am more satisfied now with this story, and I should look into Mythology. There is some room for other cultures here since it said something about his ancestors coming from the sea and was not specific about his background, although if Lovecraft did pay attention to history, there must be some historical base. He seems to have done his research but I don't think I'd go that far as to try to figure out the heritage of the narrator.

    The story reads better now, that is the main thing. Good luck with Nyarlathotep, I tell myself.
     
    May 8, 2010
    #82
  3. dask

    dask dark and stormy knight

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    Just read it a few days ago. Loved it.
     
    May 8, 2010
    #83
  4. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    I don't get it. It's weird. I didn't understand one word of it.
     
    May 8, 2010
    #84
  5. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    Well, I don't think that's quite accurate (the mummified beings bit), as to me it seems rather plain that it is more a case of (as noted above) metempsychosis... the soul of the wizards taking up residence in the forms of the worms themselves. But it's an interesting thought.

    I'm not sure what you mean by it taking precedence here, as such an idea of one text being applied to another certainly wouldn't be as germane as the text in question itself (that is, if the biblical Genesis is being applied as a mythic template for examining "The Festival", then what is actually in the text of "The Festival" still takes precedence over the Bible, as it is the Lovecraft story that is being examined); but... that being said, I see your point about the references to serpents and the applicability of the passage from Genesis. While I don't think Lovecraft had that connection in mind, it is of course impossible to say for certain, and I do think it's an interesting connection you've drawn there. In that connection, you might want to consider the fact that the serpent in the Garden of Eden had legs before that incident, and the connection between that and the use of the word "worm" to signify not only what we would call such, but also dragons and serpents (cf. Old English wyrm, German Wurm, etc.).

    This is something Lovecraft was certainly aware of, given his fascinating with older texts, etymologies of words, and so forth, so the echo of that may have been intended. One may also think of Robert Bloch's contribution to the library of occult tomes in the Mythos tales, Mysteries of the Worm, for which HPL provided the Latin title De Vermis Mysteriis (not to be confused with the faux occult tome or tomes which have also been released with such a title).

    So, though I don't think this connection was in Lovecraft's mind with the penning of this tale, I do think the connection you draw is a very interesting one, worthy of thought.
     
    May 9, 2010
    #85
  6. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    The serpent references are describing the landscape and also the group of wizards.

    The Biblical parallel; you partially see it when you said that perhaps the serpent once had legs and feet, but I was looking more at the idea of the serpent being punished (and forced to eat the dust, to crawl).

    The mummification is somewhat validated by the appearance of wax or the wax like appearance of the face/mask. Remember also in "Cool Air" how the soul lived on after it was dead and was wrapped up in bandages, so there is another story that he wrote with these parallels. I just read that story last week.

    Anyway, I think that we made some good progress on understanding "The Festival". I'm fairly satisfied. I see that you didn't want to provide an answer to the narrators heritage which I questioned.

    I guess that what I am saying is that with a number of these stories, after reading them for the first time, I am unclear about some of the details.

    Oh, and J.D., you mentioned "The Golden Bough" and I see it here on the Sony Store along with "Age of Fable".

    I would like these stories adapted for easy interpretation and study so long as they are not all the same and the key to understanding Lovecraft is simply to read all of his stories.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2010
    May 9, 2010
    #86
  7. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    From the short story titled "He":
    I noticed that he referred to a serpent here and in another story he mentions Yig as the father of serpents.

    Anyway, since the characters in the story did not seem malicious, the references to serpents was one indication that evil existed, since it would be evil to defy God, but if this Yig being is the father of serpents than it might be true that Lovecraft is relying upon his own so called mythos.
     
    May 10, 2010
    #87
  8. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    On "not wanting to provide" an answer as to his heritage... it isn't a case of not wanting to, simply there isn't enough in the text to provide a good answer. Aside from the Puritan aspect of their history, we are only given the following:

    That leaves their origins quite open, though one may speculate they had at least a strain of gipsy to them, perhaps (cf. "The Cats of Ulthar").

    As for your points about the serpent being punished, etc.... Interesting idea, and certainly that would resonate with the Puritan theology (and hence the reaction of the genuine Puritans toward the people of the elder Kingsport); similar to, though more violent than, their reaction to Thomas Morton and his "Dagon worshippers"....

    And yes, he does go into such things with "The Curse of Yig" and "The Mound", though these were revision jobs written under someone else's name (albeit, in this case, almost entirely original work of Lovecraft's own). It is best, when referring to the revision pieces, to remember that there, as they were ostensibly by someone else, he didn't feel bound to his own previously-laid-out conceptions, as he felt references to such things from supposedly different writers, with their inherent contradictions, increased the air of verisimilitude to a genuine myth-cycle. (Hence, it has been argued, the one mention of Yig in his own acknowledged original fiction, "The Whisperer in Darkness", where Yig is mentioned alongside characters or places invented by his colleagues, Robert E. Howard, Frank Belknap Long, Clark Ashton Smith, etc.)

    Still, it would be interesting to see what you make of his use of the idea of "serpent"/"serpentine", etc., in these cases... what sort of parallels you draw from his varied uses.

    As for The Golden Bough and Age of Fable... the latter is a very good place to garner much mythological information, and told in a simple, but quite lovely, style. The Golden Bough correlates a great number of practices and beliefs from all over the world and, while some of what Frazer has in there has been superseded, there is still a great deal of interest. And, of course, from a Lovecraftian perspective, an enormous amount which you might find helpful as well. Hope you enjoy them....
     
    May 11, 2010
    #88
  9. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    When "it" entered at 11pm, the witches/wizards made the trip to the white church but there is evidence that who or what they were worshiping was this Yig being if there is serpent imagery, which there was, and that supports what I was told here that Derleth claimed that the stories are based on a Mythos, or Lovecraft based Pantheon.

    I didn't see "The Curse of Yig" in the Penguin edition but it seems that you have explained that. I have not read the story, but I see it in the archive.

    ....correct about the reference being in "Whisperer in the Dark" but as far as the "Age of Fable" and "The Golden Bough" are concerned, I don't feel that ambitious, although having covered "The Festival" does help matters.

    There is a footnote in "The Call of Cthulhu" that might clarify the heritage. It says in footnote 12, something about Murray's "The Witch Cult in Western Europe" see the introductory note to "The Festival" (p.387).

    Anyway that piece of information above does not seem to fit well or does it. Were they Europeans? and who exactly were the blue eyed fishers? I do have a book of Mythology here but I would like to read "The Curse of Yig" soon and that might help because I've just found reason to stay within the Mythos/Pantheon of Lovecraft for these answers.

    11pm to midnight must be the witching hour.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2010
    May 11, 2010
    #89
  10. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    Taking things in order:

    I would take anything Derleth says using the terms "Lovecraft" and "Mythos" with a large grain of salt.

    1. Certainly, he wasn't always wrong, but he had his own ideas about that which simply did not jibe with Lovecraft's views of the matter; so what has come to be called "the Cthulhu Mythos" is almost entirely the invention of August Derleth, using Lovecraftian place-, character-, and entity names, not the work of H. P. Lovecraft.

    2. Lovecraft had not created "Yig" at the time "The Festival" was written, nor would he do so for another five years, which makes any connection between the worship of the inhabitants of Kingsport and that deity dubious, to say the least. This does not, however, negate the possibility of some vague sort of connection between his use of the various terms concerning serpents and the creation of Yig, for (as Donald Burleson pointed out some years ago) many of HPL's themes, ideas, and motifs were of long gestation, and were sometimes the result of the coming together of many disparate threads from earlier works.

    Lovecraft's revision (or, in this case, more properly "ghost-written") tales have caused more headaches.....

    It's a good story, a nice bit of grue, but as Lovecraft himself saw it as separate from his own works (see my post above), it has little or nothing to do with his own "theogony" in those tales which were his own acknowledged fiction. This is a thorny issue which would take far, far too long to go into here; suffice to say that, while I recommend reading many of these stories, I would also recommend giving them little weight in influencing your interpretation of Lovecraft's own work. As supporting evidence for things backed by the canonical texts, yes. As in any way overriding same, no.

    It's a pity you've chosen not to read these, as they really are very good; but it isn't surprising that you should so choose, as few people would take them up in this connection unless they were aiming at some serious Lovecraftian scholarly work. However, should you ever get curious, I think you'll find them well worth your time.

    I'm afraid I don't see anything in note 12 to "The Call of Cthulhu relating to Ms. Murray's treatise. What I see is a note on the name Wilcox, which was indeed part of Lovecraft's own family tree.

    However, the headnote to "The Festival" does go into more detail about The Witch-Cult, and explains the connection rather admirably: that Lovecraft, following Ms. Murray's idea of a pre-Aryan fertility cult, built on that idea (much as Arthur Machen built on similar ideas with some of his tales) to provide the "witches" of his story. Which, in turn, answers your second question: The "blue-eyed fishermen" were Aryans (or Teutons; Lovecraft tended to often use the terms interchangeably, and quite incorrectly so). According to the views of the time, the "Aryans" (blond-haired, blue-eyed, etc.), were seen as the epitome of human evolution, the highest form our particular evolutionary process had attained, and hence would have been a more purely human culture than that of the "pre-Aryans" who formed the witch-cult.

    Again, use such sources as "The Curse of Yig" with caution when applying them to Lovecraft's work, for the reasons cited above.

    In common usage, "the witching hour" is midnight, though the actual phrase is of very late coinage (1825-35), and not one Lovecraft was likely to refer to. I have seen it speculated that this hour is so called because it is at the threshold between the old and the new day, and such thresholds have always had a strong significance mystically, whether of season, hour, or the threshold of a house or other structure (hence Janus, the two-faced Roman god of the threshold); a mythic relationship to the threshold between life and death.

    If Lovecraft did have a similar concept in mind, I would imagine it was more influenced by Shakespeare than something quite as recent as this term:

    -- Henry VI, Part II, Act I, Sc. 4, ll. 642-49​

    which could certainly be construed to have some relationship to the events of the tale. (N.B.: I find such a connection also dubious, but given Lovecraft's familiarity with Shakespeare, and his tendency to reference him in various places, it is nonetheless a possibility.)
     
    May 11, 2010
    #90
  11. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    I think that I might opt for one of those chairs that you sit in that gives a person a massage, and that might make reading more enjoyable than ever.....

    I didn't read any Derleth yet. I did purchase "The Age of Fable" and it was only $2 on the Sony Store, so I have it now, but I meant that I would read it if I had a reason, but not for the sake of the knowledge. I ordered "The Golden Bough" as a paperback that is now shipped, but I should maybe have bought that on the Sony Store too. I was not thinking.

    Now, wait a second. If the Witching Hour is midnight until one in the morning, than that might still work with the story, but eleven o'clock is also very significant. I know this myself, since I became left handed after I repented at eleven o'clock, I than became ambi dexterous at midnight, and in this story something did happen before they left the house. That much is undeniable. If he was not relying on his own Pantheon, than he might have learned something from that book on witchcraft. BTW I am reading my Penguin editions on the Sony Reader, and there is a footnote reference to that book in the link in "The Call of Cthulhu" (which I have not finished yet, but it is interesting). I would rather that Derleth was correct because that would eliminate all of this other stuff about this Lovecraft Mythos possibly being real.

    If he wrote "The Curse of Yig" afterward, it does not necessarily mean that he was not thinking of this God/Demon in the back of his mind, and not fully established. It does not eliminate the concept since something did enter the room at before they left the house.
     
    May 11, 2010
    #91
  12. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    There might be something in mythology about the Teutons.

    Wrong one, well it does not matter, actually I did look it up quickly and only found that a river is a boundary between life and death in one of the Celtic myth stories.

    Okay, it is time to prove or disprove Derleth and Zealia Bishop, but first I have to finish "The Call of Cthulhu" which will take me all night I'm sure, so in the next day or two I'll read "The Curse of Yig". That should tell me something.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2010
    May 12, 2010
    #92
  13. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    Tinsel, I'm afraid you're losing me some here... the transitions are without connections that I can follow at times. So I'll just address the points which I am getting from all this:

    1) Your personal experience with this, interesting though it may be, has little bearing on the story, as it is not an experience HPL shared... nor is there any evidence that he knew of any such occurrence. That being the case, it isn't something he would include, even vaguely, in the tale.

    2) "If he was not relying on his own Pantheon, than he might have learned something from that book on witchcraft." Beg pardon? What on earth makes you think he didn't learn anything from it?:confused: It is patent, even from the brief note on it in The Call of Cthulhu volume, that he read it very closely, and in fact incorporated things from it into his work for some time. Though the theory Ms. Murray had has since been largely discarded, it is a very stirring one imaginatively, and Lovecraft was quite keen on such things.

    3) Related to the above... he hadn't really begun to develop his "pantheon" at that point... the only one actually existing was Nyarlathotep, who was (at best) rather vaguely conceived at this juncture.

    Which leads us to the comment about Yig. Unfortunately for this idea, it is a near-certainty such is not the case, as the germ for the story (and thus for the idea of Yig himself) came from his revision client. All the writing was HPL's own, but the actual spark was someone else's... though it is true he took it and ran with it in a direction quite unforeseen by his client....

    Eh? "Real" in what way? as an actual theogony? By no means. Lovecraft himself (as well as his fellow writers who contributed to it in various ways -- Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Derleth himself, Donald Wandrei, Frank Belknap Long, Henry Kuttner, etc.) made it very plain that no credence should be put in this as anything other than an invented mythological background for storytelling.

    This does not mean to say that he didn't take building this stuff seriously, in the sense of doing his best to give it substance and verisimilitude as a myth-cycle... but that's a long way from any sort of "reality" in the usual sense of that word.
     
    May 13, 2010
    #93
  14. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    It is interesting that Margaret Alice Murray was involved in Egyptology. If it was not Yig, than he was describing the Serpent (or Satan...but later Yig) because that imagery is something that I stand by as being significant since there was no indication who or what was being worshiped, and than there was the flute playing, hmmm. There are a lot of Egyptian elements.

    Witchcraft is witchcraft is witchcraft, so it is what it is, always....(who cares about H.P. Lovecraft).
     
    May 13, 2010
    #94
  15. J-WO

    J-WO Pretentious Avatar Alert.

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    ...People who visit his forum?
     
    May 14, 2010
    #95
  16. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    Define people?
     
    May 16, 2010
    #96
  17. J-WO

    J-WO Pretentious Avatar Alert.

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    Us, I guess.
     
    May 17, 2010
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  18. Tinsel

    Tinsel Science fiction fantasy

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    Jun 3, 2010
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  19. Moeror

    Moeror New Member

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    Hello. This is my first post on the forum. I was introduced to Lovecraft three days ago, and I just read The Festival today. The thread really helped me understand the passage from the Necronomicon. But I have something I'd like to ask j.d worthington about. In the phrase "Cursed the ground where dead thoughts live new and oddly bodied", whose dead thoughts is the text talking about? Is it the thoughts of the wizards? Because if they can instruct the worms even after the death of their bodies (I'm considering that the bodies are dead because of the word corruption in"till out of corruption horrid life springs", which I think means the corruption of the body), it means that their intellect (that generates thoughts) lives in their souls. So if their souls are immortal, how can their thoughts be dead? Or is it that the thoughts of the wizards are now entirely passed to the worms, so that we can say that the thoughts have died in the wizards' souls and live now in the worms?

    Thanks
     
    Jun 4, 2010
    #99
  20. j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator

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    Sorry about the delay in answering...

    It's an interesting question, but I fear the answer I have may not quite be what you're looking for. The full quote involved is, of course:

    In this context, I think we have several things going on with use of the term "dead thoughts":

    1) It is intended as a poeticism or bit of figurative poetical description for the thoughts of the dead -- that is, the thoughts which those persons had in life, but have no more, being dead (as Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 has it, "but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun"). In other words, under normal conditions, "dead thoughts" would simply fade away with that person's death (or, at least, the departure of the "soul" from the body following death; see below).

    2) The thoughts of those who are dead -- that is, the thoughts of the ones who are dead but whose soul has not left the body but remains with it, experiencing not only the thoughts they had in life, but thoughts experienced as the body decays to a state of dust. This is where the idea that "the soul of the devil-bought hastes not from his charnel clay, but fats and instructs the very worm that gnaws", while the soul of the normal or average person, those who are not "devil-bought", leaves the decaying body either at or shortly following death, to go to their judgment. (Lovecraft himself, of course, believed that with death the personality or "soul" simply ceased to be, as it was a product of the immensely complex electrobiochemical processes of the brain rather than anything in any way separable from the physical universe.) In other words, as noted above, while the thoughts of most would simply cease -- become a dead letter and nullity -- the thoughts of the wizards, though they be dead, would continue on, but be a species apart from normal humanity, something which only those who have experienced not only dying, but death itself, could have. This would be a very special kind of "forbidden knowledge"; something very few could (or would) ever hope to experience, and would likely have an immense occult significance in itself. It would, by its very occurrence, "blaspheme" the conceived natural order of things, contravening the barriers between life and death.

    There are likely other aspects to this which I have not articulated here; after all, Lovecraft was generally very careful with such ideas to phrase them in such a way that they carried the weight of numerous, sometimes seemingly mutually contradictory, associations and layers of meaning; and such was only increased when dealing with a passage using such poetical language (recall that Alhazred was a poet, as most likely would have been the case with Ibn Schacabao as well, as it would have been with most writers at that period). But, for the moment, these are my thoughts on the matter....
     
    Jun 4, 2010
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