In any case, the Ancient Ones turn up often enough, in mythology and personal experience, that I expect they are a reflection of some archetype of the collective unconscious. Thus we can expect the Greek and Roman tradition to tap the same currents as Lovecraft, whatever his source. The following is offered in (and to) the spirit of HPL.
- John Opsopaus
Some of the Ancient Ones were Giants, others were Dwarfs. The Dwarfs were called Orculi because They dwell in Orcus, the infernal Land of Death. (Some say the Orcades [Orkneys] take the name from the Mouth of Hell hidden in their cliffs.) To this day, their descendants, who dwell unseen in the caves that riddle the body of the Earth like wormholes, are called Orculli (the Dwarfs) and Orchi (the Giants) in northern Italy.
According to Plutarch [Cess. Or.] it was the Ancient Gods who spoke through the Oracles, and with Their death the Oracles have become quiet. Goethe was familiar with the Ancient Ones and named them in Faust Part II. Schelling was obsessed by Them and devoted a monograph to them.
ij. Nigidius Figulus, who knew the gorey secrets of Etruscan soothsaying and magic, swore that it was sacrilege to reveal Their unhallowed story, but some say the Great Ones came to earth in a flaming star, which shattered the rocks when it crashed into the island of Samothrace; there the Great Gods made Their home. They are Lords of the Terrifying Tempest. Their dance is the bedlam of spears rattled against oxhide shields.
iij. Those who are initiated into the Mysteries of the Great Gods are granted the Purple Sash and the Magnetic Iron Ring. In this way Initiates stay in contact with the Great Gods. Artemidorus said that these same Mysteries are held on an island near Britain.
iv. The Romans were under the protection of the Great Gods, for the Romans were descended from Aeneas, who came from Troy, and the Trojans were descended from Dardanos, who came from Samothrace. Dardanos brought sacred images of the Great Ones with him, and these same images were taken to Rome by Aeneas; this was the origin of the Roman Great Gods, the Penates, who protected the state for more than one thousand years.
v. The Samothracian priests who celebrated the frenzied rites of the Great Ones were called Sai, but Servius said that when their cult was brought to Rome, the maniacal dancers for the Great Gods were named Salii. These, twice twelve in number, donned ancient armor and the peaked Phrygian cap. On their left arms they held the mysterious figure-of-eight shields that had fallen from heaven; their right hand held the sacred staff, which they beat against their shields, performing inscrutable ritual gestures. They sang the Carmen Saliare, the incomprehensible syncopations of which were unintelligible to even the earliest Romans; all but a few maddening fragments of these unholy verses have been consigned to the flames.
vi. Some say the Kabeiroi are the same as the Samothracian Great Gods, but They are Chthonian Crab-Beings said to be descended from Hephaistos, who was raised in an undersea grotto, and from Kabeiro, who was a daughter of Proteus. Some say They are Demons who serve Rhea. The principal Kabeiroi are Kabeiros and Kabeiria, from whom came the three male Kabeiroi, who with Kabeiros are the Astral Semina (Star Seeds), and three female Kabeirides, who with Kabeiria are the Elemental Semina (Material Seeds); together They continually recreate the world. Philo Byblius, who called Them the Children of Sudek (or Saduk), says They were the first scribes of Thoth, and recorded the dark secrets He divulged to Them.
vij. Their unutterable names are dark and potent; the youngest He-demon was named Esmounos (Isopsephia = 1035). These Crabs [Karkinoi] walk cockeyed like their father, and like Him live in the sea as well as on land; their claws are like tongs for working metal [karkinoi].
viij. Though Cambyses destroyed the unspeakable sanctuaries of Their worship in Memphis and other places, Strabo said They were still worshipped in desolate areas, the Corubanteion in Hamaxitia and the Korubissa in Skepsia. Nonnus told of two Kabeiroi, Alkon and Eurumedon, transformers of metal, who stood upon the terrible fire-sprouting rock of Lemnos and brandished blazing bolts; streams of sparks issued from Their eyes, like the smokey, ruddy glow of Their father's furnace.
ix. The Idaian Daktuloi are Alchemists and Sorcerers (Goetes), especially skilled in Drugs and Musical Magic, who dwell on Crete and serve Adresteia of the Mountains (who is Rhea). They are in two tribes, the thirty-two of the Left, who are evil Sorcerers, and the twenty of the Right, who banish Spells. Names of the Daktuloi include Kelmis, Damnameneus and Akmon. They dwell with Rhea, the Mother of the Gods, some say in the region of Troy; from Her They learned to transform metals [i.e., alchemy], and She entrusted Zeus, Father of Gods and Men, to Their care.
x. They are associated with the Kouretes, who danced to protect Zeus and hold the bottomless Cretan cave where Zeus was born. They came from Their cave in Mt. Ida in Phrygia to the Cave on Mt. Ida in Crete, for the two are connected. Some of the Kouretes and Karikines (Kabeiroi) came with the Phoenicians to Brittany, whence They spread like a plague to Cornwall and Iberia. The rural folk still fear these dwarfs, and call Them the Korreds or The Old Ones. They have deep-set, red eyes and shaggy dark skin, and They brought the Dolmen Stones to these lands. They still dance in circles so ferociously that the grass ignites beneath Their feet. They live in various caverns and caves, but always below sea-level.
xi. Likewise the Koroubantes made a sound so hideous and danced so demonically that even the Titans were driven away from this cave. Tzetzes says They are Demon Attendants of Rhea, who established their foul grotto on the Samothracian mountain called Saon. There, in an infernal cave, dwells Zerunthos, a gargantuan, abominable serpent, splotched in color, with scales horny like the fingernails of a shriveled corpse. Therein dogs are slaughtered to fulfill obscene rites.
xij. The Telkhines are seal-people descended from Tartaros and Nemesis (Damnation and Vengeance) and were great Sorcerers, especially skilled in the Evil Eye, by which They could transform anything, and They were experts in Craft and Alchemy. Rhea gave Them Poseidon to be raised, and They made His barbed trident as well as the viscous sickle by which Ouranos was so cruelly unmanned. They fought the Gods and were so repugnant to Zeus that He blasted Them with His thunderbolt, submerging and overturning Their island. They also inhabited Rhodes before there were people.
xiij. The Telkhines are related to the Bakkhulides and those most frightening Dead Ones, the Keres, those completely Evil Spirits, shaped like unearthly birds of prey, who pollute everything and bring blindness and other terrifying diseases; They inflict horrible death and disaster.
xiv. No Demon is more frightening than Him whom the Etruscans called Tukhulkha, a Beast with writhing snakes, vulture's beak, enormous tongue, long ears and lipless snarl. He pursues poor wretches even after they have died.
xv. Kharun was the Etruscan name for another hideous demon, who has a hooked nose, obscene pointed donkey ears, flaming eyes [in Greek, kharon means Bright- or Fierce-eyed], a goatee, vicious wolf-fangs, a monkey face, revolting greenish-grey skin, wings (sometimes) and terrifying serpents for hair. He uses his mallet to smash the skulls and splatter the brains of the dead and dying. There are several Kharuns (whom the Italians call Caronte), including Kharun Khunkhulis and Kharun Hut's. Kharun and Tukhulkha (whom we see on the walls of the Tomba dell'Orco in Tarquinia), both have winged feet, which shows they are Angels of Death.
xvi. Do not forget the Dioskouroi.
xvij. The Kimmerioi (Assyrian Gimirri), upon whom the Sun never shines, likewise dwell around foul-smelling, bottomless Lake Avernus, which is a Gate to the land of the Dead Ones. In Book I of The Janid of Apollonius the Adept we read:
The Sibyl led a band not far away,
To Baiae, where they found Avernus Lake,*
[*mod. Lago Averno, a water-filled volcanic crater]
Exhaling hellish airs in gloomy woods,
A lake whose roots reach down to Tartaros.
A giant cavern, Orcus' maw, they took
As their abode, a dark and sunless realm.
The people, called Kimmerioi, put therein
Their smithies, forging famous wares of bronze,
And Orgullae* they named their buried homes.
[*an obscure word that may refer to earthen or clay vessels]
Where flow the vapors and the waters black
From Aita*, there the Sibyl placed her shrine, [*Hades]
Delivering oracles with raving mouth.
Aeneas and Odysseus, wandering each
From Illium, saw the crone, much shrunk with age*.
[*c. 1175 BCE; she would have been in her 80's]
Here are their numbers as calculated by Isopsephia: 351, 672, 100, 766, 796, 222 (or 341). They are inscribed upon the Sceptre of Artemis-Selene, the Ephesian Queen of the Moon Magic, for Epeshu means "to Bewitch" in the Babylonian tongue. Some say these are the Secret Names of the Idaian Daktuloi and come from Phrygia. If thou be daring, invoke Them for benefit and protection.
Aisia Lix Tetrax - the Howling Whirlwind Demon born of the Great One - causes fever and burning, but if it feels kindly toward you, will refresh you with cool breezes and lead you to refuge. Damnameneus, called Woman-mad and Tamer, is a great Idaian Magician (Goes) and said to be one of the Telkhines as well as of the Daktuloi.
ij. Virgil, who was called a great magician, describes in Book VI of the Aeneid the horrendous spells and ritual by which the Cumaean Sibyl, who dwells in the Cavern with One Hundred Mouths, opened for Aeneas the black Jaws of Orcus, the Gate to Dis, the Land of the Dead Ones, which is at Lake Avernus, the Birdless Place. She tells him the savage ritual by which, with bowls of steaming blood and blazing entrails, he must invoke Hecate, Queen of Heaven and Erebus, and call upon Chaos and Phlegethon.
iij. In The Persians [vv. 607-99], Aeschylus describes a shocking Persian ritual to raise the Dead.
ij. In Book X of his Description of Greece [28.1-29.1] Pausanius describes the monumental painting by Polygnotus that depicts the Land of the Dead in all its horror; from it was copied the faded fresco in the gloomy tomb of Orco II of Tarquinii. We see the foul river Akheron and Kharon the cruel ferryman. We even see the loathsome demon Euronomos, with blue-black skin like gluttonous charnel flies, who sits upon a vulture skin and hungrily devours the rotting flesh from corpses newly buried.
ij. A truly courageous one may travel the harrowing path into the Land of the Dead Ones, so that its residents can be interrogated, and with skill and strength the return can be made to the light. This is permitted so long as nothing is taken from the Land of the Dead Ones, for then thou art beholden to the Dead.
Betz, Greek Magical Papyri.
Bonnefoy, Grk. & Egyp. Myth., 85-6.
Bonnefoy, Rom. & Eur. Myth., 41-2.
Cole, Theoi Megaloi, 2-3, 29-30, 100-2.
Gantz, Early Greek Myth, 147-9.
Lewis, Samothrace: Anc. Lit. Sources, 69-73, 75-82, 87.
Luck, Arcana Mundi, 163-75.
McCown, Ephesia Grammata, Trans. Am. Phil. Assoc., Vol. LIV, 1923.
Nonnus, Dionysiaca, XIV.17-22, XXIX.193-96, 213-14, XXXIII.326.
Oxford Classical Dictionary, s.vv. Cabiri, Carmen Saliare, Cimmerians, Curetes, Idaean Dactyls, Keres, Magic, Salii, Telchines.
Pagel & Winder, "The Eightness of Adam and Related 'Gnostic' Ideas in the Paracelsian Corpus," Ambix, Vol. XVI (1969).
Pallottino, Etruscans, 283, 290; pll. 45, 83.
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