Grimoire of the Necronomicon

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Grimoire of the Necronomicon by Donald Tyson.

Tyson Grimoire of the Necronomicon

I have praised occultist Donald Tyson’s Necronomicon pastiche as one of the best of its class. I was therefore a little disappointed with what I found in his book of practical cthulhvian magick Grimoire of the Necronomicon. On the whole, this text represents a hermetically domesticated approach to such sorcery, rife with concessions to make it accessible to the vulgar. Tyson has elaborated a conspicuously tidy pantheon of chaos deities, and burdened it with a quasi-Gnostic theology of his own devising, regarding the redemption of the goddess Barbelzoa, daughter of Azathoth.

Tyson’s introduction is written earnestly in his own voice, but the rest of the book is portentously styled as formal instruction from the (non-existent, when he wrote it) Order of the Old Ones. This postulated organization is a strange case of aspirational invented religion. The author expresses his undisguised hope that practitioners will adopt the codes of ceremony, community, and rank that he sets forth here, but also seems unwilling to admit to any efforts on his part to realize such an eventuality beyond writing the book in hand. His chapter on “The Order of the Old Ones” says it “shall be established” using the imperative tone of a constitutional document and supplies plausible mechanisms by which his proposed system could generate the Order stochastically. There are in fact traces of bloggery and facebooking from professed representatives of the Order of the Old Ones from 2010 forward, including an alleged Temple of Azathoth, but if any real organizing has been done, it has had little visibility on the ‘net. (So much the better for them, if they do exist.)

The four sections of the text are concerned with theology, material trappings, basic practices, and initiatory attainment. The material demands of the system are unambitious, and full of allowances for the limitations and convenience of the practitioner. The routine ceremonies of Nightly Obeisance and daily Rites (cycling through the seven pseudo-planetary Lords of the Old Ones) have a jarringly pious sensibility. The equinoctial Rite of the Dancing Gods has the sterile synthetic feel of much neo-Golden-Dawn-style ceremony. But the operation of “Opening the Gate” is a considered mechanism for private attainment drawing significant inspiration from Lovecraft’s “Dreams in the Witch-House.” It also reminds me somewhat of Stephen Sennitt’s “Liber Koth,” a more interesting astral itinerary for sorcerers of Yog-Sothoth.

A curious internal contradiction of the system of attainment set forth in Grimoire of the Necronomicon involves the requirement that “Lords” of the Order’s highest grade must specialize in one of seven paths. The author does not overtly identify with any of them, and how he could write about them with authority is thus a puzzle.

Tyson has composed an Enochian “Long Chant” for use in his system. I give him good marks for his Enochian proficiency, and the commingling of Enochiana with yog-sothothery is well justified, but the content of the chant is so intrinsically “Barbelzoist” that I am unlikely to find any use for it. In the introduction, Aleister Crowley is mentioned in a discussion of the apparent moral valence of the system, but Tyson wisely avoids any attempt to implicate Crowley himself in yog-sothothery. The only detectable trace of actual Thelemic technique or doctrine in the body of the text is the “93 steps to the Black Throne of Azathoth” repeatedly invoked as a central image of the process of attainment.

For purposes of genuine magical work in a Lovecraftian mode, the Grimoire of the Necronomicon is inferior to Hine’s Pseudonomicon and even to the relevant parts of LaVey’s Satanic Rituals. In my library, this book’s main value will be to document the plan for an esoteric invented religion which seems not to have manifested. [via]

Start the discussion at