Nephren-Ka, the Black Pharaoh by Mr. Zarono (www.deviantart.com)
As previously mentioned Nephren-Ka is a Pharaoh of ancient Khem who utilized the Shining Trapezohedron to see into the future. In order to obtain an understanding of how to use the Shining Trapezohedron, Nephren-Ka conducted large-scale and mass ritualistic sacrifices to Nyarlathotep and as a result, any recorded documentation of his life was largely expunged from the ancient history. Thus, it is not surprising that Lovecraft knew every little of him and actually mentioned him by name only twice in all of this recorded tales. The first time toward the end of “The Outsider” after the protagonist looks in a mirror realizes exact what he is and states, “Now I ride with the mocking and friendly ghouls on the night-wind, and play by day amongst the catacombs of Nephren-Ka in the sealed and unknown valley of Hadoth by the Nile.” A little more on what this may indicate later.
The second time Nephren-Ka is mentioned by Lovecraft is in “The Haunter of the Dark,” where, “The Pharaoh Nephren-Ka built around it [referring to the Shining Trapezohedron] a temple with a windowless crypt, and did that which caused his name to be stricken from all monuments and records.” There are instances where Lovecraft may have been referring to Nephren-Ka, such as toward the end of “The Haunter of the Dark” when Blake states, “Is it not an avatar of Nyarlathotep, who in antique and shadowy Khem even took the form of man?” In “The Dreams in the Witch-House” there is a reference to the “Black Man” of the witch-cult and the “Nyarlathotep” of the Necronomicon. While Nephren-Ka was obviously of African descent it is unlikely that the Black Man in “The Dreams in the Witch-House” was Nephren-Ka. So what is the relationship between Nephren-Ka and Nyarlathotep? To answer that, he need to re-examine Robert Bloch’s take “Fane of the Black Pharaoh” in a little more detail.
In the Bloch tale, Nephren-Ka renounces all religions except that of Nyarlathotep. It was stated that Nephren-Ka sought the “power of prophecy, and built temples to the Blind Ape of Truth.” Nephren-Ka then performed a series of large-scale sacrifices, killing over 100 of this subjects in favor of Nyarlathotep.” I can find no information on the temple or faith of the Blind Ape of Truth; however, my guess is that this concept is in reference to humans being “blind” to the true nature of reality and the multiverse. I hypothesize that Nephren-Ka incorporated this concept into the dark temple of Nyarlathotep, since he would be the enlightened ape while the rest of humanity would be blind to the truth. Again, since any reference to Nephren-Ka was largely stricken from the historical records little else is known on the temple of the Blind Ape of Truth.
Temple of the Ape God by Mr. Zarono (www.deviantart.com)
However, what is known about Nephren-Ka is that in exchange for knowledge on how to use the Shining Trapezohedron he sacrificed 100 (if not more) of his subjects to Nyarlathotep. So, if Nyarlathotep is an all-powerful Old Ones who knows how to travel through time, space and beyond, as well as manipulate and utilize matter and energy in ways we can’t even begin to understand, why does he need blood sacrifices? I believe it is another piece of supporting evidence for my hypothesis of “The Weakness of the Old Ones.”
While the Old Ones are all-powerful beyond our understanding, they are not originally from our Space-Time, which puts them at a disadvantage. They can enter our Space-Time but they appear to need help from our side such as cultists performing rituals (Cthulhu in “The Call of Cthulhu”) or hybridization with the resident entities (Yog-Sothoth in “The Dunwich Horror”). In the case of Nyarlathotep, blood (possibly DNA?) is required for his manifestation. This appears to be the case in both “The Dreams in the Witch-House” as well as in Bloch’s “Fane of the Black Pharaoh.”. Not being residents from our Space-Time means the Old Ones can be easily defeated; however, if one of them does succeed in establishing themselves in our reality the results will be devastating. In ancient Khem the sacrifice of 100 people for Nyarlathotep may have been a serious attempt for this Old One to permanently secure his physical manifestation in our Space Time.
Avatars of Nyarlathotep by Clone Artist (www.deviantart.com)
An alternative hypothesis is that enough blood was provided to Nyarlathotep in ancient Khem to take the form of Nephren-Ka, or at least take a human form (the Black Man or Dark Man). I do not think Nephren-Ka was originally an avatar for Nyarlathotep. I believe he was a man who wanted power, specifically of prophecy, and was willing to do anything to achieve that goal. However, once he had that power it appears he remained in his sealed tomb for his remaining days, painting the walls of his temple-crypt with his visions of the future. The ambiguous mention of Nephren-Ka at the end of “The Outsider,” playing in the catacombs of Nephren-Ka, may have been in reference to his doomed state of knowing the future of humanity but being trapped in his sealed tomb. He was no long a Blind Ape – he was now an ape who could see but he was also an ape who was trapped.
The Vault of Nephren-Ka by Eldest20 (www.deivantart.com)
Nephren-Ka, Keziah Mason and Walter Gilman may have all been employing various methods, intentional or unintentional, to open the way for Nyarlathotep to enter and establish himself in our Space-Time. Fortunately for us, none of them have succeeded. However, who’s to say who will succeed in the future? Maybe this event is prophesied in drawings on the walls of the tomb of Nephren-Ka.
Next time we will discuss the journey of the Shining Trapezohedron from ancient Khem to Providence, Rhode Island and the sect who more than likely attempted to use it – The Church of the Starry Wisdom. Thank you – Fred.