Necronomicon
A grimoire, or textbook of black magic for evoking demons,
supposedly compiled by the ‘‘mad Arab Abdul Alhazred,’’ but
in fact an invention of H. P. Lovecraft, early twentieth-century
writer of supernatural and fantasy fiction. The name Abdul Alhazred
was adopted playfully by Lovecraft around the age of
five, after he read an edition of The Arabian Nights. He later
used it in his fiction. It may also refer to an old Rhode Island
family name, Hazard.
In 1936 Lovecraft wrote a pseudoscholarly essay titled A History
of the Necronomicon, which claimed that its original title was
Al Azif, derived from the word used by Arabs to designate the
nocturnal sound of insects resembling the howling of demons.
There followed an account of various editions of the Necronomicon,
beginning in 730 C.E. Lovecraft claimed that there was a
copy of the work in the equally fictional library of Miskatonic
University, in Arkham (a city he invented in his fiction). Lovecraft’s
essay was published in leaflet form by Wilson H. Shepherd
in 1938 and has since been reprinted. The Necronomicon
was cited in various stories by Lovecraft and gradually acquired
a spurious life of its own.
For example, someone inserted an index card for the book
in the files of the Yale University Library. A New York bookseller
could not resist inserting an entry for a Latin edition in one
of his sale catalogs. Eventually a group of writers and researchers
headed by occult scholar Colin Wilson solemnly presented
The Necronomicon The Book of Dead Names as a newly discovered
lost masterpiece of occult literature.
In an introduction to this publication, Wilson suggested that
Lovecraft’s invention may have had some substance in fact, perhaps
revealed through Lovecraft’s subconscious mind. Wilson
told a story as fabulous as that of the origin of the Golden Dawn
cipher manuscript. Wilson’s story concerned a Dr. Stanislaus
Hinterstoisser, president of the Salzburg Institute for the Study
of Magic and Occult Phenomena, who was said to have claimed
that Lovecraft’s father was an Egyptian Freemason. Lovecraft
Sr. saw a copy of The Necronomicon in Boston (where he
worked), which was a section of a book by Alkindi (d. 850 C.E.)
known as The Book of the Essence of the Soul—so the story went.
Science fiction writer L. Sprague de Camp (who published
a biography of Lovecraft in 1975) is said to have acquired an
Arabic manuscript from Baghdad titled Al Azif. The British occultist
Robert Turner, after researching in the British Museum
Necronomicon Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
1098
Library, claimed that the Alkindi work was known to the magician
John Dee (1527–1608), who had a copy in cipher manuscript.
This book, known as Liber Logaeth, was recently examined
by computer analysis, and so The Necronomicon The Book
of Dead Names has now been researched, edited, and published
(Neville Spearman, U.K., 1978).
No doubt other recensions of The Necronomicon will be discovered
in the course of time. It might seem inevitable that
once The Necronomicon appeared, a group accepting it as a valid
magic text would soon follow. In the 1980s there surfaced on
campuses across the United States flyers from what was termed
‘‘the Campus Crusade for Cthulhu,’’ drawing upon Lovecraft
in a parody of the Evangelical Christian organization, Campus
Crusade for Christ. While the organization appears to be based
in satire, it nevertheless demonstrates the comprehensive nature
of the mythology created by Lovecraft and the seriousness
with which some of his readers have taken the idea of the old
gods enunciated therein.
Sources
De Camp, L. Sprague, ed. Al Azif (The Necronomicon). Philadelphia
Owlswoch, 1973.
Hay, George, ed. The Necronomicon The Book of Dead Names.
UK Neville Spearman, 1978. Reprint, London Corgi, 1980.
Simon, ed. The Necronomicon. New York Schlangekraft, Inc.;
Barnes Graphics, 1977. Reprint, New York Avon Books, 1977.
———. Necronomicon Spellbook. New York Magickal Childe,
1986.

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