Masks of Nyarlathotep
From the secret shrine in the home of Ho Fong:
A red-leather bound royal octavo (10” high x 6¼” wide). The cover is stamped with the title (Le Livre d’Ivon) in faded gold leaf. Includes illustration plates.
This book claims to be a grimoire penned by the sorcerer Ivon of Hyperborea. The main part of the work details his training (under “Xilac du Muthulain”), his travels with his companion Tsalguise, and his pact with the mighty Sathojuè, a great squat being (alternately
described as toad-like or furry and mammalian) with god-like powers and given to strange emotional outbursts. His alliance with this being cements Ivon’s reputation as a great
wizard and grants him access to a vast arsenal of incantations and enchantments, many of
which are discussed in the text.
There are chapters that seem unrelated to the main biographical narrative of the book; a
whole chapter is devoted to the destructive attacks of a vast white serpent (“Relim Sha’coeur”) that laid waste to vast portions of ancient Hyperborea. Another chapter presents a weird discussion mixing mundane astrology with shocking details about the other worlds in our solar system (and beyond).
The illustrations in the work, aside from some graphic capitals, often represent the various entities discussed, including the aforementioned Relim Sha’coeur, Sathojuè itself, and his amoeboid servants, to name a few. They are done in a somewhat irregular style, suggesting the artist was self-taught at best.
The work concludes with a chapter allegedly written by Syron of Varand, a disciple of Ivon,
who claims to have compiled the work from documents granted to him by his former master after he departed Earth to escape persecution by the priests of the elk-goddess Yhoundé.
While presented in a matter of fact tone, the sorts of topics discussed and the unsettling
suggestions made within leave readers disturbed.
A handsomely bound narrow royal quarto (13” by 9 ½”) with the title imprinted on the cover in cracked black ink and gold-leaf; about 250 pages long. The book is bound in white leather and is in nearly pristine condition.
This work claims to be a series of magical instructions by the “famed philosopher Theophilus Wenn,” a purported sorcerer and expert on occult matters. The central focus of
the text is a series of seven enchantments used in the summoning and the control of various supernatural entities, but the discussion often veers off into a range of other topics, including lycanthropes, vampirism, anthropophagy, the efficacy of select minor charms, notable sorcerers in history, sacrificial rites, and lists of demonic beings. The author assumes a high degree of occult erudition on the part of the reader and often makes ambiguous or cryptic allusions. The scattered Chinese notes inserted in the book appear to be explanations of some of the more abstruse passages.
The author’s matter-of-fact description of human sacrifice, self mutilation, torture, and
other dark rites shocks the conscience and will make it clear that Wenn viewed his fellow
humans at most as useful tools in his quest for power. The work is unpleasant at best; at worst, and more often, horrifying.
“The Goddess of the Black Fan”:
More a concertina-like scroll than a book, the beginning and the end of this long stretch of
paper are attached to two thin black-lacquered wooden panels using thread tied through a pair of holes in each block (4” by 10 ½”). Unfurled, the paper runs to approximately 50 pages of text. Folded, accordion-like, it is held shut with a ribbon of coarse black material
The book is a long poem dedicated to a being referred to as the “Goddess of the Black Fan,”
and describes the author’s murderous devotion to her. Over the course of many gruesome and terrible verses the author tells how he engaged in acts of kidnapping, murder, cannibalism, and what can only be described as bestiality, if not something far worse, all in the name of devotion to this Goddess.
The poetic styling marks the author as a person of good education and, if the subject matter was not abhorrent to the extreme, a reader might go so far as to call it beautiful. Even a fleeting skim gives rise to feelings of disgust and self-loathing that will leave the average reader feeling physically ill.
“La Lai Yeh Chi”:
A collection of bamboo strips (each about 11” long) laid out and bound together with thread to form a continuous sheet that can be folded like a modern-day pamphlet. The entire piece is held inside a finely-made hinged jade box (12” x 8” x 5”), affixed with gaudy pearl and gold inlay. The style is curious and its exterior artwork features a stylized
aquatic theme of frogs and octopi, including a central ghastly humanoid figure with a
This is a collection of instructions for the worship of a being called k’e t’u lu, a titanic dragon or god dwelling in a great submarine city in the Pacific (called la lai yeh or –ë) as well as the history of its arrival on our world from distant stars. Parts of the original work equate the being with Shang Ti, the Above Emperor, and Heaven worship as being part of its veneration. As such, the organism is apparently resting until certain propitious astrological events occur; until then it reaches out to individuals via dream-visions and its many offspring or servants (the work is unclear), including a race of amphibious humanoids and
colossal squid-like beings made in its own image. The rites detailed for both worship and contact are cruel, gruesome things, and make frequent use of human sacrifice.
The main text is frequently appended with comments, seemingly from the scribe copying
the original work. These comments have been inserted into the text quite subtly, offering
clarification on obscure and oblique passages as well as sometimes translating some portions of the text in the non-Chinese script, which it refers to as the Chou hsian tongue,
being the place of k’e t’u l’u’s origin.
The authors of both works were at best sociopaths and at worst inhuman; the secondary author seems at pains to emphasize the might and benevolence of the dweller of la lai yeh despite the text’s emphasis of humankind’s insignificance. The descriptions are ageless,
cynical, and oppressively nihilistic; the reader cannot help but feel revolted and withdrawn.
“Tale of the Priest Kwan”:
A neat black-lacquered wooden case (6 ½”×5 ¾”×1 ½”) enveloped in green silk holds this
wrapped back bound work,1 each page printed on heavy linen paper. The cover to which the pages are adhered is made of the same thick linen and left untitled.
A casual glance tells that the book is some sort of religious instructional associated with an
obscure and secretive Chinese society. Dedicating itself to the worship of an entity
known as the Goddess of the Black Fan, the book recounts the acts of an early hero of the cult, a former Buddhist monk who took it upon himself to defend members from the persecution carried out by a powerful noble who aimed to root out the sect.
The book is divided into several sections. In the first, the author decries the weakness and
disloyalty of the cults membership before their persecution. The next section records the
coming of the monk, who is praised for his holy virtues, and his initial confrontations with the noble. The penultimate chapter reports the monks triumph over the noble and, at last, the nobles grisly acknowledgment and self-sacrifice to the Goddess of the Black Fan. A concluding section provides a series of homilies on furthering the worship of the Goddess,
including descriptions of many rites and rituals.
Such a dry summary cannot convey the gleefully murderous tenor of the piece. The entire work is a heartfelt catalogue of violence, malice, cruelty, perversion, and abject horror
masked behind the most beautiful of Literary Chinese verse, and its anonymous author is
undoubtedly a sadist, but one of education and erudition. Even a cursory examination
highlights the book’s poetic horror which only the most fevered of imaginations, or a terrible
reality, could produce.