Category Archives: The Other Gods

Lovecraft’s “The Other Gods,” Part 2: The Role of the Eclipse

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This article concludes the discussion on H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Other Gods” with an assessment of the role of the eclipse in this tale.  While the story is fairly short, an eclipse is mentioned four times in the text. The first time it is mentioned is when villagers tell how Barzai the Wise “…went up a mountain on the night of the strange eclipse.” The fact that the eclipse is mentioned to occur at night indicates that it must be a lunar eclipse and not a solar eclipse. As previously described, a lunar eclipse is where the sun, Earth and moon are aligned with Earth in the middle. During a total lunar eclipse, direct sunlight is completely blocked by the Earth’s shadow so the only light observed is that refracted through Earth’s shadow. Lunar eclipses give the moon a reddish color and so are sometimes called a blood moon.  This is due to the scattering of more blue light and more red light being received by our eyes.

lunar_eclipse_fb A Lunar Eclipse

Later in the tale it is said, “The moon is dark, and the gods dance in the night; there is terror in the sky, for upon the moon hath sunk an eclipse foretold in no books of men or of earth’s gods…” This statement is particularly strange for two reasons. First, it states that the moon was dark. Lunar eclipses can only occur when the moon is full; in contrast, solar eclipses occur only during the day when the moon is new and thus would be dark. We know that the events in “The Other Gods” occurs at night and we know the moon is visible so I hypothesis that the moon was still full and thus visible (if it was not visible why would it be mentioned). However, the term “dark” may refer to the moon not being as bright as it typically is during a full moon.

The second odd point in the statement above was that the eclipse was not predicted or foretold in any books. Once you understand that relationship between the sun, Earth and moon and know that an eclipse can only occur when the sun is close to a node in the moon’s orbit, such events can be predicted. In ancient times on Earth the appearance of an eclipse was an indication of apocalyptic events since they were not understood and could not be predicted (similar to comets; celestial events that appear to be initially chaotic compared to the movement of the sun, moon, stars and planets). Even if the arrangement of the Dreamlands sun, Earth and moon is slightly different in the Dreamlands multiverse compared to ours, the fact that it states that this eclipse was not foretold indicates that this was a unique event and that eclipses are typically predicted by astronomers in the Dreamlands.

2012-02-13-dreammap-color-small A map of the Dreamlands by Jason B. Thompson (www.mockman.com)

Barzai and Atal travel to the peaks of Hatheg-Kla to observe the Earth Gods dance. Barzai must have had some very secretive information to be able to know when to go to Hatheg-Kla to see the Earth Gods since the eclipse was not predicted. Toward the end of the story when Barzai bears witness to the Other Gods this appears to occur during the eclipse. It is during the eclipse that Barzai falls up into the sky, probably being abducted by the Other Gods.

After the Other Gods take Barzai, the moon comes out of the eclipse and Atal is found on the lower snows of the mountain. Clouds are associated with the strange eclipse in this passage so it may have been caused by the cloud ships of the Earth Gods who visit the mountaintop to dance and observe the Other Gods themselves. However, I hypothesize that the eclipse was actually caused by the Other Gods themselves coming into our universe through an inter-dimensional portal. In fact, the strange, dark, unpredicted eclipse may have been how the Other Gods entered the Dreamlands Universe. While the Earth Gods stayed back and secure in their cloud ships, foolish Barzai the “Wise” actually made himself known to the Other Gods and paid the price.

2015-03-18-theothergods The Other Gods by Jason B. Thompson (www.mockman.com)

At the end of the story it is said that “…to this day the people of Ulthar and Nir and Hatheg fear eclipses, and pray by night when pale vapors hide the mountain-top on Hatheg-Kla…”, I think the fear is of unpredictable eclipses, not of all eclipses. Additionally, if an unpredictable eclipse does open a portal from one universe to another, it would be wise for the residents of the Dreamlands to stay away from the peaks of Hatheg-Kla.

TheOtherGods_JbLee The Other Gods by Jb Lee

Next time we will discuss Lovecraft’s understanding and misuse of the theory of evolution in his tale “Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family.” Much of this information will be based on a presentation I gave on Lovecraft and evolution at the NecronomiCon in August 2017. Thank you – Fred.

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Lovecraft’s “The Other Gods,” Part 1: Earth Gods and Other Gods

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As previously mentioned data collected during the 29th of May 1919 eclipse was used to empirically confirm Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and this had a substantial impact on Lovecraft’s view of the Cosmos. In turn, this provided the foundation for the development of his unique view of cosmic horror.  While eclipses are frequently discussed by Lovecraft in his astronomical writings, in fact he wrote an entire article on eclipses for the Asheville [N.C.] Gazette-News, published 2 March 1915 (Joshi, 2004), eclipses are typically not an important component of his fiction. The exception to this was his short story “The Other Gods,” written in 1921 and first published in in The Fantasy Fan in November 1933.

In the tale Barzai the Wise wants to visit one of the tallest earth peaks, Hatheg-Kla, to witness the Earth Gods dance under a clear moon. Barzai was very knowledgeable on the lore of Earth’s Gods and he thought this knowledge would protect him from their wrath if he was in in their presence. Thus, Barzai decided to travel to the top of Hatheg-Kla on the night of a strange eclipse.  Barzai was accompanied by his young disciple and assistance Atal.

capbarzai                                                                    Barzai the wise on his journey to encounter the Earth Gods

It is said the Gods of Earth visit Hatheg-Kla in their ship of clouds. Lovecraft references this a number of times in “The Other Gods.” For example, in one passage Lovecraft states, “Often the gods of earth visit Hatheg-Kla in their ships of clouds, casting pale vapors over the slopes as they dance reminiscently on the summit under a clear moon.” When I was a graduate student doing research on the sub-alpine lakes in northern California, lenticular clouds frequently appeared over Mount Shasta. These lenticular clouds are essentially stationary, lend-shaped clouds that are typically perpendicularly aligned to the direction of the wind. However, many local residents of the local areas thought of these clouds formations as being “cloud ships” of beings from other worlds or dimensions, frequently called Lemurians. Are the Gods of Earth in Lovecraft’s “The Other Gods” actually extra-dimensional beings who visit the “Dreamlands” world? Are Lovecraft’s Gods of the Earth Lemurians?

Mt. Shasta_CrystallineCitiesofLight_AmorahQuanYin                            Mount Shasta, CA with lenticular clouds; could these be the cloud ships described by Lovecraft? Photo titled Crystalline Cites of Light by Amorah Quan Yin

While Barzai climbed to the very top of Hatheg-Kla, Atal stayed just below the summit, refusing to observe and encounter the Gods of Earth. Barzai did see the Earth Gods dance and howl in the moonlight and actually thought the Gods were afraid him and his wisdom. However, “Whilst Barzai was shouting these things Atal felt a spectral change in all the air, as if the laws of earth were bowing to greater laws…”. Such observed conditions may be indicative of an inter-dimensional breach or portal opening. At a minimum, it may be a weakening of the barrier between two universes.

As Michio Kaku has suggested along with others (Kaku, 1994 and Kaku, 2005), the structure of reality may be an incalculable number of ten-dimensional, soap bubble universes. While space-time would exist within each soap bubble, natural laws would cease to exist outside of these bubble universes. In addition, the natural laws of one universe may be slightly or substantially different than the natural laws of another universe. It is hypothesized that for the majority of these universes life (at least life as we know it) could not exist. For example, if gravity is slightly stronger than in our universe, all matter may be coalesced into one, large universal lump. In contrast, if the electromagnetic repulsion is slightly stronger that the strong nuclear force, atoms may never form. However, slight variations in the natural laws (e.g. a “weaker” weak nuclear force) could still produce a universe that could harbor life. Additionally, with slightly different natural laws the manipulation of matter and energy could be very different in one universe relative to another.

sopabubble                                                                                                           Illustration of a connection between two “soap bubble” Universes.

Of course, the large reveal in the tale is that the Earth Gods are not frightened of Barzai but of the Other Gods. In fact, while frightened, the Earth Gods mockingly laugh at Barzai’s encounter with the Other Gods. Atal’s statement “…a spectral change in all the air, as if the laws of earth were bowing to greater laws…”, may be a hint that while the Earth Gods are part of the Dreamlands Universe, the Other Gods are not. The Other Gods can wield matter and energy in a different manner as the dwellers of the Dreamlands. This would also explain how Barzai ends up “falling into the sky.” The Other Gods have the ability to manipulate matter and energy in a very different manner.

untitled                    An encounter with the Other Gods on the peak of Hatheg-Kla

In conclusion, the Other Gods may be beings from outside of the Dreamlands Universe and under a specific set of circumstances can enter the Dreamlands Universe through an inter-dimensional portal that connects it with their Universe. At least one of these connections or bridges between the two universes may be on the peak of Hatheg-Kla. While the Earth Gods may be aliens from another Dreamlands world, the Other Gods are extra-universal beings that are very different from all of the residences of the Dreamland Universe. Do the Earth Gods worship the Other Gods? Almost nothing is known of this relationship.

lenticularclouds_MtShata Another view of Mt. Shasta with lenticular clouds

Next time we will wrap up our analysis of “The Other Gods” with a discussion of the role of eclipses in the tale. Thank you – Fred.