The Magnum Innominandum (was: The Hastur Cycle)

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Donovan K. Loucks

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Feb 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM2/21/00
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The Magnum Innominandum -- The Great Not-to-Be Named -- has always been my
favorite Lovecraftian entity. Obscurer than the over-used Cthulhu, Shub-
Niggurath, Azathoth, and Nyarlathotep, the Magnum Innominandum is only
mentioned in Lovecraft's fiction once, in "The Whisperer in Darkness":

"I found myself faced by names and terms that I had heard elsewhere in
the most hideous of connexions--Yuggoth, Great Cthulhu, Tsathoggua,
Yog-Sothoth, R'lyeh, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, Hastur, Yian, Leng, the
Lake of Hali, Bethmoora, the Yellow Sign, L'mur-Kathulos, Bran, and the
Magnum Innominandum--and was drawn back through nameless aeons and
inconceivable dimensions to worlds of elder, outer entity at which the
crazed author of the _Necronomicon_ had only guessed in the vaguest
way." ("The Whisperer in Darkness", p. 223)

Lovecraft borrowed the name "Hastur" from Bierce and Chambers. Bierce had
first used Hastur as a god of shepherds while Chambers later borrowed it
for use as both a city and a personal name. August Derleth probably
didn't realize the origins of the name "Hastur" and appropriated it for
his own use. Despite the fact that Hastur and the Magnum Innominandum are
separated by seven other terms, Derleth apparently took these two separate
creations and peculiarly blurred them into one.

Lovecraft wrote "The Whisperer in Darkness" in 1930, but had first "dreamt
up" the Magnum Innominandum in his "Roman dream" of Hallowe'en 1927.
Lovecraft described this dream in letters to Donald Wandrei, Frank Belknap
Long, and Bernard Austin Dwyer. "The Very Old Folk" is taken from
Lovecraft's letter to Wandrei; the letter to Long was incorporated into
the fifth chapter of Long's"_The Horror from the Hills"; and the letter to
Dwyer appears on pages 189 to 197 of volume 2 of _Selected Letters_:

"Just before these semi-annual orgies certain of the townsfolk would
queerly vanish--never to return--and it was held probable that these
persons had been captured by the Strange Folk for sacrifice to their
unknown, unnamable deity. (In the dream, _Magnum innominandum_, a
neuter gerundive form of sound Latin etymology, though not found in the
classics.)" (Letter to Bernard Austin Dwyer, November 1927, II.190)

"Finally they persuaded their aedile (Tiberius Annaeus Mala, of half
Roman and half Celtiberian blood) to visit Calagurris and ask Balbutius
to send a cohort to their aid--a cohort to invade the hills on the
momentous night, and to stamp out for ever whatever monstrous worship
might be found there . . . a perfectly safe and feasible proceeding if
undertaken in the evening, before the evocation of the _Magnum
Innominandum_ produced those developments about which the natives dared
only to whisper." (Letter to Bernard Austin Dwyer, November 1927,
II.191)

In the following months Lovecraft mentioned the Magnum Innominandum in a
more letters:

"And on the walls of the houses are the most peculiar graffiti--MAMERS
- SERVA - IUPPITER - NOS - TUTA - DIANA - NOBIS - PRAESIDUM - FAUNUS -
MONTES - TENE - OPPIDUM - TUTA - CONTRA - MAGNUM - INNOMINANDUM -
MINUTE - NOS - DII - IMMORTALES - CONTRA - MIROS - NIGROS--prayers to
the gods to save the town and people from some vague menace." (Letter
to Frank Belknap Long, December 1927, II.203)

"The Magnum Innominandum does not forget." (Letter to Frank Belknap
Long, December 1927, II.203)

"Graffiti of very puzzling sort on walls--prayers scrawled everywhere,
as if in fear of a terrible doom--
NOS.SERVA.IVPPITER.OPPIDUM.SERVA.EX.PERICULO.
FAVNE.MONTES.TENE.SILVANE.SILVANE.NECA.
MECA.MAGNUM.INNOMINANDUM.NECA.AC.SERVA.
MALITIAM.VETEREM.NECA.APOLLO.NOS.SERVA.
(The phrase _Magnum Innominandum_ must of course excite the keenest awe
and speculation.)" (Letter to Bernard Austin Dwyer, January 1928,
II.217)

Over two years later, Lovecraft briefly mentioned the Magnum Innominandum
in "The Whisperer in Darkness" (1930) but never returns to it in his own
fiction (unless one counts the reference to "the Not-to-be-Named One" on
page 144 of the earlier story, "The Mound"). Lovecraft did, however,
continue to mention the Magnum Innominandum in letters and encouraged his
correspondents to use it in their fiction:

"The sunken Roman city in Morocco appeals especially to my imagination
. . . what would a diver find if he were to lift the trap-door in the
floor of the temple of the _Magnum Innominandum_ & go down those
lightless steps?" (Letter to Clark Ashton Smith, 9 March 1934)

Lovecraft suggested that Robert Bloch include the following "tantalising
fragment of that hellish invocation" in "The Shambler from the Stars":

"Tibi, Magnum Innominandum, signa stellarum nigrarum et bufoniformis
Sadoquae sigillum . . . ." (Letter to Robert Bloch, 30 April 1935)

Bloch did. This translates literally to "To the / Great Not-to-be-Named /
the signs / of the stars / black / and / of the toad-shaped / Tsathoggua /
the seal...". The earlier reference to "the Not-to-be-Named One" in "The
Mound" has led some to think that the Magnum Innominandum is identical to
Yog-Sothoth:

"One squat, black temple of Tsathoggua was encountered, but it had been
turned into a shrine of Shub-Niggurath, the All-Mother and wife of the
Not-to-Be-Named One." ("The Mound", p. 144)

While it is true that Lovecraft occasionally refers to Shub-Niggurath as
the wife of Yog-Sothoth, the above proves little. First, we can't be sure
if "the Not-to-Be-Named One" is the same as the Magnum Innominandum, in
spite of the similarities. Second, Lovecraft elsewhere refers to Yog-
Sothoth and the Magnum Innominandum as separate entities:

"All things rest with the Ultimate Entities . . . with Yog-Sothoth;
with Azathoth; with the Magnum Innominandum." (Letter to Robert H.
Barlow, 11 May? 1935)

In summary, none of this proves anything. It only demonstrates that
Lovecraft didn't have any intention of creating a cohesive mythology.
The Magnum Innominandum was an evocative name whose only purpose was to
add atmosphere to a story (or two). More than Cthulhu, Shub-Niggurath,
Azathoth, and Nyarlathotep, the name "Magnum Innominandum" manages to
achieve this.

Finally, here's my favorite web page about the Magnum Innominandum:

http://www.yankeeclassic.com/miskatonic/mythstud/cosmolog/texts/magnum.htm

That about says it all.

-------------------
Donovan K. Loucks <webm...@hplovecraft.com>
The H.P. Lovecraft Archive: http://www.hplovecraft.com
The alt.horror.cthulhu FAQ: ftp://ftp.primenet.com/users/d/dloucks/ahc

D. E. Kesler

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Feb 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM2/21/00
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Hello Donovan,

I simply had to slip out of lurk mode for a moment or so to write how
very pleased I was to read a post like this one. It was quite
informative. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

Regards and Best Wishes,

Donald Eric Kesler

Richard D Magrath

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Feb 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM2/21/00
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Indeed, the MI is the only Lovecraftian entity to survive the Great Mythos Rush
which ruined such vile blasphemous creatures as Cthulhu and friends by Telling
Too Much! The Magnum Innominandum is probably the scariest Mythos creature
because it is so ambiguous: we know that Cthulhu is the octopus-like great
prophet of the Old Ones, and he sleeps in R'lyeh below the Pacific. However,
while this information (or lack of) would be enough to cause a few sleepless
nights for the 1920s-era Dan Clore, the 1990s-era Dan would also know Cthulhu's
shoe size, postcode, political views and sexual preferences (!?) meaning he
would seem as scary as the Wolfman - not someone he'd want to invite round for
tea, but not someone he'd still be worrying over after closing his battered
copy of The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft and putting it back onto his shelf
next to Encyclopedia Cthuliania (with many, many corrections scrawled into the
margin).

I suppose PC Zone summed it up in one of their Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of
the Earth screenshot captions: "when Lovecraft wrote these stories in the 1920s
and '30s, a lot of the Eath was still relatively unexplored so the existance of
an ancient alien race could have been possible".

Old Ones in Antarctica, Cthulhu beneath the Pacific, Nunya off the west coast
of America - all of these now seem so unlikely. As we are never told where the
Magnum Innominandum lives, however, it is left up to our imaginations to
determine where such a terrible creature could live - deepest, darkest Peru?
(no, not with Paddington Bear you fool) a distant and isolated part of
Australia? an impassable mountain range in China? an as-yet undiscovered island
in the Arabian sea?

Just don't write any stories with the MI in, okay?

Richard D. Magrath (can't spell it, won't even _try_ to pronounce it...)
LtRi...@aol.com

"In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and
bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the
Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of
democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." -Harry Lime,
THE THIRD MAN


James Russell

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Feb 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM2/22/00
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On 21 Feb 2000 15:53:43 GMT, ltri...@aol.com (Richard D Magrath)
wrote:

>Old Ones in Antarctica, Cthulhu beneath the Pacific, Nunya off the west coast
>of America - all of these now seem so unlikely. As we are never told where the
>Magnum Innominandum lives, however, it is left up to our imaginations to
>determine where such a terrible creature could live -

>a distant and isolated part of
>Australia?

OK, OK, time to come clean. I am in fact the Magnum Innominandum,
mysterious resident of a little known and largely forgotten suburb in
Sydney's east. Thanks for blowing my cover, Richard…

--
James

Remove "spam-be-damned" to reply by email.

James Russell

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Feb 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM2/22/00
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On 21 Feb 2000 02:28:37 GMT, "Donovan K. Loucks"
<webm...@hplovecraft.com> wrote:

>Finally, here's my favorite web page about the Magnum Innominandum:
>
> http://www.yankeeclassic.com/miskatonic/mythstud/cosmolog/texts/magnum.htm
>
>That about says it all.

Succinct and to the point. Couldn't have put it better myself.

John Savard

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Feb 22, 2000, 3:00:00 AM2/22/00
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jg...@xoommail.com (James Russell) wrote, in part:

Of course, while the Great Race reside there no longer, that was were
their ruins were hidden...(not in a suburb of Sydney, but in
Australia, a sunny country that makes good movies and has nice
beaches, but is short of water).

John Savard (jsavard<at>ecn<dot>ab<dot>ca)
http://www.ecn.ab.ca/~jsavard/crypto.htm

Alex Strumpf

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Feb 26, 2000, 3:00:00 AM2/26/00
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To be more exact, a Great Sandy Desert; ACK! I gave it away! Now I must flee
to Carcosa or better yet, N'kai. :)

Alex, packing lanterns just in case it's N'kai. :<


--
"YOU HAVE AWAKENED MY BUNGHOLE AND NOW YOU MUST PAY!
THE STREETS WILL FLOW WITH THE BLOOD OF THE NONBELIEVERS!"

The Great Cornholio, "Buttniks"

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