Tag Archives: The Whisperer in Darkness

How the Universe Expanded in H.P. Lovecraft’s Lifetime: Part 2, The Whisperer in Darkness

o-HUBBLE-UV-1000A view through the Hubble telescope of thousands of galaxies in one small patch of space

As previously discussed, while H.P. Lovecraft was writing his astronomical articles in the early 20th century, primarily between 1906 to 1918 (Collected Essays Volume 3: Science H.P. Lovecraft, edited by S.T. Joshi, 2005), the Galaxy was essentially thought of as our Universe.  However, on 30 December 1924 when Edwin Hubble publicly announced the discovery of other galaxies, the perception of our Universe substantially increased in size.  Searching through Lovecraft’s fiction, his collection of essays associated with Science (Joshi, 2005) and Joshi’s biography on Lovecraft, I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft (Joshi, 2013), I could find no specific reference to Hubble.  However, I have not reviewed all of his letters so Lovecraft may have mentioned Hubble there.  This significant change in our view of the Universe from an Island Galaxy in a starless void to an expanding Universe filled with billions of galaxies, does seem to creep into Lovecraft’s later fiction. Part of this is due to when Hubble made his announcement in late 1924 and part of this due to changes in Lovecraft’s style in writing and his subject matter.

In Lovecraft’s early tales, from 1917 to 1920-21, there is almost no mention of the word galaxy. The exception was a passing reference in “From Beyond,” written in 1920, where once the Tillinghast machine is turned on the protagonist was describing what he observed which included “I seemed for an instant to behold a patch of strange night sky filled with shining revolving spheres, and as it receded I saw that the glowing suns formed a constellation or galaxy of settled shape; this shape being the distorted fact of Crawford Tillinghast.” Even here the word “galaxy” is being used as a descriptive term or metaphysical point of view rather than as a purely scientific term.

It would not be until “The Whisperer in Darkness,” written in 1930, that Lovecraft would use the word galaxy from a scientific perspective. Indeed, this tale may be a pivotal point for Lovecraft in his view of both the Cosmos and cosmic horror and the word “galaxy” may be an indicator of this.

lvcrft_by_terrordelacomarca-d96cprzThe Whisperer in Darkness, artwork by Terrordelacomarca (www.deviantart.com)

The first time the word galaxy is used in “The Whisperer in Darkness” is in a letter Henry Wentworth Akeley writes to Albert N. Wilmarth, professor of literature and folklore at Miskatonic University. In it Akeley is documenting his encounters with the Mi-Go in his remote farmhouse in upstate Vermont. In the letter Akeley states that they Mi-Go may be talking to him, although he also questions whether this is a dream or if he is going mad. At one point Akeley states, “They don’t mean to let me get to California now – they want to take me off alive, or what theoretically and mentally amounts to alive – not only to Yuggoth but beyond that – away outside the galaxy and possibly beyond the last curved rim of space.” This description sounds like the old “one galaxy – one universe” hypothesis proposed by Sir William Herschel and discussed by Lovecraft in some of his astronomical articles (Joshi, 2005).

In sharp contrast to the first time the word galaxy is used, later when “pseudo-Akeley” is speaking with Wilmarth at the farmhouse he states, “There is nothing they [the Mi-Go] can’t do with the mind and body of living organisms. I expect to visit other planets and even other stars and galaxies.” Here Lovecraft is obviously conveying the multiple galaxies in one Universe view, which was firmly established in the scientific community by 1925. So, was this simply a minor grammatical slip up? Or in the tale did the Mi-Go reveal to Akeley and later to Wilmarth, that the Universe was composed of billions of galaxies? Remember according to Akeley the Mi-Go wanted humanity to discover Yuggoth, known to humans as Pluto, on 18th February 1930. Perhaps they were also revealing or at least confirming what Hubble found five years earlier, that the Universe is not simply the Milky Way Galaxy.

the_dreamer_by_brett_neufeld-dbhg32hThe Dreamer by Brett Neufeld

Later, pseudo-Akeley talks about some of the entities in the Mi-Go cylinders, stating that three are human, six are fungoid beings who can’t navigate space corporeally and two are from Neptune. He then states that the rest are “…from the central caverns of an especially interesting dark star beyond the galaxy.” Based on this statement this dark star is out of the Milky Way but not necessarily found in another galaxy.

It is interested that Lovecraft identifies a dark star. Based on Newtonian physics a dark star is a theoretical body of such large mass that any light it emits is trapped by its own gravity resulting in a “dark” star. Eventually, this term dark star was replaced by “black hole” (The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brain Greene, 2011). However, a dark star is also categorized as a proto-star that may have existed in the early Universe before conventional stars were able to form. This type of dark star would be composed largely of normal matter but would also have a relatively high amount of neutralino dark matter. Such dark stars would be composed of clouds of hydrogen and helium with a diameter substantially larger in size than conventional stars. Such dark stars would have a diameter of 4 to 2,000 astronomical units (AUs). Remember, 1 AU is the distance from the Earth to the Sun. In addition, such dark stars would have a surface temperature low enough that the emitted radiation would be invisible to the naked eye. Would such temperatures be conducive for the development and evolution of life?

MikeDubischwww.themikedubischsketchbook.blogspot.com_lovecraft-cthulhu-hp-lovecraft                                        Old Ones from a Dark Star by Mike Dubisch (www.themikedubischsketchbook.blogspot.com)

Back to “The Whisperer in Darkness” in speaking to Akeley, the human in the Mi-Go cylinder states, “Do you realise what it means when I say I have been on thirty-seven different celestial bodies – planets, dark stars, and less definable objects – including eight outside our galaxy and two outside the curved cosmos of space time?” This statement – outside our galaxy and outside the curved space-time – mirrors Akeley’s earlier statement in his letter to Wilmarth. While it may appear that Lovecraft is flip-flopping in the idea of the Universe being composed on the Milky Way or of billions of galaxies, I hypothesize that this was intentional. When a human speaks about the Universe, whether it is Akeley or the human mind in the cylinder, the older concept of the Milky Way essentially being the Universe is cited. However, when pseudo-Akeley speaks about the Universe, it is clear the Mi-Go know the Universe is substantially larger and filled with billions of galaxies. I think this conveys the fact that the Mi-Go have a better understanding of the cosmos than humans.

whisperer                              The Whisperer in Darkness (Nyarlathotep) – the pseudo-Akeley by Michael Bukowski (www.yog-blogsoth.blogspot.com)

Next time we will continue to discuss how Lovecraft uses the word galaxy in his later tales. Thank you – Fred.

More Notes From Yuggoth, Part 7

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High resolution photograph of the surface of Yuggoth (www.nasa.gov).

As NASA continues to analyze the incoming higher resolution photographs and data that are coming from Yuggoth (otherwise known as Pluto by most of humanity) more hypotheses are developed in an attempt to understand this dwarf world. It will take NASA a year to receive all of the incoming data (www.cnn.com); however, one thing is certain – Yuggoth is far more complex than originally thought.

The huge mountains of ice seen on Yuggoth may in fact be floating in massive flows of frozen nitrogen. During the “summer season,” when Yuggoth is closest to the sun, the frozen nitrogen may be turning to liquid and possibly gassing into the Yuggothian atmosphere. During this warmer season the huge chunks of nitrogen ice may be flowing or moving, similar to glaciers. However, during the “winter season” these mountain blocks may re-freeze and remain in place until the next Yuggothian summer season.

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Sketch of a Mi-Go by Steve Maschuck.

In addition to frozen nitrogen, frozen methane has been detected on Yuggoth; in fact it is found all over the dwarf planet. However, most of this frozen methane is concentrated at the equator and a relatively thin is found at the pole. As shown below the ice near the equator is composed almost entirely of methane (shown in red), while the greenish pole is indicative of a mix of methane and nitrogen (www.space.io9.com). Ethane has also been detected on Yuggoth, which is probably produced by charged particles originating from the sun converting the frozen methane into ethane in a process called photolysis or radiolysis.

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Showing the distribution of methane on Yuggoth (www.space.io9.com).

Yuggoth’s thin atmosphere is composed entirely of nitrogen and more than likely originates from geological processes. In addition, while methane can be produced through biological processes, this compound is found, even if in trace amounts, on every planet in the solar system as well as in interstellar gas and on comets.

Maybe the Mi-Go biologically “fix” the atmospheric nitrogen on Yuggoth as a source of energy, similar to the way some blue-green algae “fix” atmospheric nitrogen through the use of specialized cells called heterocysts. Additionally, the Mi-Go may also use methane and/or ethane as a source of energy. Such a biological process can be found on Earth. Methylomirabilis oxyfera is a bacterium that can survive in inhospitable environments, feeding on methane and essentially “breathing” its own oxygen it produces as a waste product. Such bacteria need methane and inorganic nitrogen compounds to survive and are typically found in the sediments of rivers and lakes where oxygen is absent or very low. Such bacteria were more than likely very common on early Earth, before photosynthesis started pumping oxygen into Earth’s atmosphere. Are the Mi-Go using similar biological pathways to exist on Yuggoth? Possibly – the next article will focus on Venus as we go back to discussing “In the Walls of Eryx.” Thank you – Fred.

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A filament of the blue-green alga (also known as cyanobacteria) Anabaena. The clear cell is a heterocyst, where it fixes its own nitrogen from the atmosphere.

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Methylomirabilis oxyfera is a bacterium that can feed off of methane in very harsh environments (from Dr. L Stanndard, UCT / Science Photo Library; http://www.nature.com)

 

 

Notes From Yuggoth, part 2 (based on the New Horizons Voyage)

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New Horizons probe (www.planetary.org) by Dan Durda, SwRI

With New Horizons being mere hours away from Yuggoth, more widely known as the dwarf-planet Pluto, I thought it would be a good time to discuss H.P. Lovecraft’s knowledge of this world.  First, as most know once the discovery of Pluto was officially made on 13 March 1930, Lovecraft correlated that this mysterious world was in fact Yuggoth, “rolling alone in the black aether at the rim…” of the solar system.  In fact in “The Whisperer in Darkness” Lovecraft mentions that the impostor of Henry W. Akeley states that he “…would not be surprised if astronomers become sufficiently sensitive to these thought-currents to discover Yuggoth when the Outer Ones wish them to do so.”

Clyde Tombaugh, a 24 year old astronomer who worked for the Lowell Observatory, discovered Pluto on 18 February 1930.  Tombaugh had no formal training as an astronomer; however, he had a skill for building telescopes.  As a farm boy from Kansas, Tombaugh use to build telescopes from old car parts and other “junk.” (National Geographic, July 2015).  Tombaugh was a very skilled and talented telescope maker and his hard work and persistence paid off in the discovery of Pluto.  However, it does make one think that maybe some Mi-Go “thought-currents” were sent his way in order to find Pluto.  The search for a planet beyond Neptune was underway in one form or another almost as soon as Neptune itself was discovered.  Thus, by the turn of the 20th century the race was on to discover “Planet X.”  Why was Pluto discovered in early 1930?

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Clyde Tombaugh, discover of Yuggoth (better known as Pluto)

One hypothesis is that the Mi-Go were quite uncomfortable with humanity probing the solar system, particularly the outer rim.  Theoretical calculations, astronomical surveys and the eventual development of probes, sent into deep space to actually collect data on these worlds may have made the Mi-Go nervous.  Their outposts and cities were built on some of these worlds, including Pluto and its large moon Charon.

“There are mighty cities on Yuggoth – great tiers of terraced towers built of black stone…”

“The sun shines there no brighter than a star, but the beings need no light.  They have other subtler senses, and put no windows in their great house and temples.”

Thus, the Mi-Go may have thought that by appeasing the curiosity of the humans by allowing them to discover Pluto, further exploration into the outer rim and beyond may have ended or least would have been delayed.

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Mi-Go, Concept 01 by Nathan Rosario (www.deviantart.com)

Other noted observations made by the impostor of Henry W. Akeley on Pluto included the presence of “black rivers of pitch that flow under those mysterious cyclopean bridges – things built by some elder race extinct and forgotten before the beings came to Yuggoth from the ultimate void..”  Thus, while the Mi-Go live on Yuggoth and use it as an outpost they did not construct the existing buildings and infrastructure.  No one knows who or what this elder race was.  Also, what is the black river of pitch?

Pitch is a thick, black, tar-like substance made by distilling coal tar.  There are a number of hypotheses about what New Horizons will find as it breezes past Pluto and one is that it may have a warm planetary core and be fairly dynamic from a geological sense.  It may have active geysers and be covered with frozen methane and other simple carbon-based compounds (National Geographic, July 2015).  Frozen nitrogen is probably present as well and Pluto more than likely has a thin atmosphere.  Maybe the geysers, other geological activity, and “the summer season” warms some of these pool or “canals” so the frozen methane becomes a liquid pitch that either eventually gases off into space or is re-frozen.  Incidentally a Plutonian year is about 250 years.  So one season can be longer than a human lifetime.

Finally, it should be noted that a small vial of Tombaugh’s ashes on on board of New Horizons, sort of our DNA-based ambassador to Pluto, the Kuiper belt and beyond.  If the Mi-Go obtain this vial of Tombaugh’s ashes, will they re-create the mind of this famous astronomer?  Will the consciousness of Tombaugh be confronted with those whose world he revealed to humanity?  Only Tombaugh will know.

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A small “cylinder” or vial containing the ashes of the discoverer of Pluto – Clyde Tombaugh (News Week)

The Weakness of the Old Ones

An excellent and entertaining resource on Lovecraft’s stories is the HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast hosted by Chris Lackey and Chad Fifer.  Over the years they have reviewed and analyzed all of HPL’s stories and currently are doing the same for stories that HPL has cited in his essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature.”  I highly recommend the Podcast.

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What is interesting about going through the Podcast episodes of HPL’s stories, particularly since the stories are presented in chronological order, is you can see themes or trends appear throughout his writings.  One of the ideas that periodically comes up and has been noted by Chris and Chad is that in some respects select entities of HPL’s seem to be easily defeated or relatively weak beings.  In this article I will be discussing this idea and presenting a hypothesis to explain it

First, it should be noted that some Lovecraftian entities seem to be very hardy if not downright immortal.  The Elder Ones (or Elder Things) were described a number of times as being extremely tough yet flexible.  These beings are known to have the capacity to travel interstellar space, live in the deep waters of the ocean or on dry land, which can include the steaming jungles near the equator or the Arctic / Antarctic regions of the poles.  Additionally, they can be put into some type of stasis or coma and can be revived millions of years later.  The Elder Ones are obviously well adapted to surviving a wide variety of environments and are well known to be residents of our universe.  The same can be said of their creations the shoggoths; well adapted and hearty organisms.

ElderOnes_bioytic-9000

Elder Ones by bioytic-9000 (www.deviantart.org)

However, in contrast to the Elder Things and shoggoths, other Lovecraftian entities do not appear to be as well adapted to our universe, let alone a Terran environment.  For example, in “The Whisperer in Darkness” the Mi-Go were described by Henry Akeley as being “clumsy in getting about” and having wings that “are not much use for short flights on earth.”  The Mi-Go are not of this Earth or of our universe, which is why they appear as clumsy in our atmosphere and gravity.

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Mi-Go by Michael Bukowski (www.yog-blogsoth.blogspot.com)

In “The Dunwich Horror,” which is a story I have yet to cover on this blog site, Wilbur Whateley was easily killed by a guard dog while he was attempting to steal a copy of the Necronomicon housed at the library at Miskatonic University.  Additionally, after he was killed Wilbur’s body rapidly decomposed so that by the time the medical examiner came to inspect the body nothing was left except a “sticky whitish mass.”  Two things come to mind on this.  First, while powerful from an inter-dimensional perspective, Wilbur was relatively weak in our reality; he was essentially killed by a dog (he obviously was right to be fearful over dogs).  Second, once dead, Wilbur’s hybridized inter-dimensional biomatter quickly dissolved.  This indicates that a considerable amount of energy was required to keep Wilbur’s body stable and intact while he was alive.

Similar to Wilbur, his twin was defeated by Dr. Armitage through an incantation.  According to Armitage, “The thing has gone forever.”  Thus, this large, invisible, inter-dimensional being was simply obliterated by some phrases from the Necronomicon.

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Wilbur Whateley by Michael Bukowski (www.yog-blogsoth.blogspot.com)

Finally, Cthulhu was presented as a god-like being who could influence people over the world through their own dreams.  In spite of Cthulhu’s god-like status compared to us puny humans, he appeared to be easily defeated.  Johansen drove the vessel the Alert head long onto Cthulhu.  The result of this was Cthulhu popped like an “exploding bladder” in an “acrid and blinding green cloud.”  However, while Cthulhu was defeated, it was not destroyed.  Johansen could see Cthulhu recombining in the water.  Thus, Cthulhu still lies deep in R’lyeh in a deep sleep.

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Cthulhu Rising by Spenzer777 (www.deviant.org)

In each of these examples, these apparently powerful, inter-dimensional entities appear to be have difficulty in our reality or can be easily destroyed or defeated.  How can this be?  Essentially I hypothesize that since their beings originate from other dimensions or are inter-dimensional hybrids, their powers are limited in our dimension or reality.  Thus, the inter-dimensional entities in our reality can be thought of as astronauts or deep sea divers.

Astronaut and deep sea diving suits allow humans to explore non-habitable environments such as space and the ocean.  However, the trade-off to exploring these unforgiving, inhospitable environments is limitations in movement and speed due to their specialized suits.  Additionally, we are entirely dependent on an artificial means of breathing.  Thus, we need to expend a high amount of energy to explorer these environments over short periods of time.  From the perspective of a shark or whale humans in the ocean may appear to be powerful beings, yet at the same time we are weak in that we are slow moving and dependent on exteneral forces / energies to keep up alive.  I believe the same can be said about the inter-dimensional Old Ones.
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An astronaut’s suit keeps them alive but limits mobility, and vision; the suit is both power and a limitation for humans (astronaut.com)

In each case, the Mi-Go, Wilbur Whateley and Cthulhu, are inter-dimensional, or semi-inter-dimensional entities probing or exploring our universe and reality.  For the Mi-Go, they may be a stable form of inter-dimensional life that can do quite well in our universe, however, they obviously are not adapted to many of our physical constants such as gravity.  Additionally, as HPL cites in “The Whisperer in Darkness” the Mi-Go are “composed of a form of matter totally alien to our part of space – with electrons having a wholly different vibration-rate.”  Thus, while possibly not residents of our universe, they appear to be moderately comfortable here.  Maybe they can be thought of as explorers (or miners?) with equipment and gear; although in their case their equipment are their biological modifications.

In contrast, Wilbur Whateley and Cthulhu are entities that appear to require an enormous amount of energy to maintain their status in this universe.  Upsetting this stream of energy killed Wilbur and temporarily defeated Cthulhu.  Thus, their respective forms in our reality may be their astronaut or diving suits – Cthulhu may look very different in its own residential universe.  Also, using the astronaut or diving suit analogy, this would explain the apparent weakness of these entities.  If Wilbur and Cthulhu were successful in opening the way from their universe to ours these circumstances would certainly change.

Next time the discussion will focus on Nyarlathotep.  Thank you – Fred.

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Cthulhu 1790 by Fiend Upon My Back (www.deivantart.org)

The Use of Neptune in Lovecraft’s Fiction

Unlike Uranus HPL did mention the other ice giant, Neptune, in his stories.  It is mentioned a number of times in “The Whisperer in Darkness,” specifically when he is referring to “that the new planet beyond Neptune [that] had not been discovered.”  The new planet in the story was Yuggoth, which was then identified as Pluto.  In turn, Pluto is no longer considered a planet but that is another story.

A brain jar of the Mi-Go with a Terran brain, not a Neptunian brain (by Steve Maschuck)

Later in the Whisperer in Darkness as Akeley is describing to Wilmarth what beings are in the brain cylinders of the Mi-Go, he says the jars contain the minds of…”Three humans, six fungoid being who can’t navigate space corporeally, and two beings from Neptune (God! if you could see the body this type has on its own planet!), and the rest entities from the central caverns of an especially interesting dark star beyond the galaxy.”  After that, the Neptune beings are never mentioned again.

Whisperer in the Darkness is one of my favorite HPL stories and this passage always intrigued me.  What did the Neptunian body look like?  A Neptunian would have to live in a nearly lightless world and frozen environment.  The weather patterns of Neptune generate some of the highest wind speeds measured in the Solar System, up to 1,300 mph (2,00 kilometers per hour) (Suomi, et. al., 1991.  High Winds of Neptune: A possible mechanism.  Science.  251 (4996): 929-932.).  That’s a lot of energy generated.  Is it possible that the Neptunians use the high winds to somehow collect energy or harvest material blown by the winds to live, grow and reproduce?

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A Neptunian by Michael Bukowski (yog-blogsoth.blogspot.com).  Are the strange aerial appendages used to collect material blown by the harsh Neptunian winds?

The only other time Neptune is mentioned in a HPL story is in “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” (co-written with E. Hoffmann Price) where again Swami Chandraputra is describing the travels of Randolph Carter through time and space.  In one passage the Swami states that…”He [Randolph Carter] saw Kynarth and Yuggoth on the rim, passed close to Neptune and glimpsed the hellish white fungi that spot it..”  What is interesting about this passage, is back in HPL’s time very little surface features could be seen on Neptune.  Remember it was HPL who stated that while Neptune was greenish in color like Uranus, it is not diversified by any visible markings.  In spite of this in 1932-1933, HPL talked about some white fungi that spot the planet.

More than half a century later the Voyager 2 spacecraft took photographs showing white wisps of material adjacent to Neptune’s Great Dark Spot (see below).  The Great Dark Spot is thought to be a hole through the methane layer of Neptune (similar to the hole detected in our ozone layer on Earth).  The white clouds are above this hole.  Are these white clouds a strange, endemic, atmospheric community of fungi?  How did HPL know about these cloud-fungi or is this just a coincidence?

A close-up of the Great Dark Spot of Neptune.  Note the white wispy clouds above the spot (www.windows2universe.org)

HPL’s article on the planets was written in 1915, while Through the Gates of the Silver Key was written in 1932-1933.  Maybe HPL, and Price for that matter, had the chance to travel to Neptune and observe the strange white wisps of alien fungi that feed off of the extremely feeble cosmic rays that radiate through the Great Dark Spot from the distance sun.

Next time we will talk about Clark Ashton Smith’s use of Neptune in his stories.  Thank you – Fred.

 

 

 

 

Correction to the Post: Impressions of the Mi-Go on Human Culture and their War with the Elder Ones

Please note I found an error in the previous post:  Impressions of the Mi-Go on Human Culture and their War with the Elder Ones.  Specifically on that post I stated:

“In addition, while this connection between the Mi-Go and sightings of the abominable Snow Men was not explicitly described in The Whisperer in Darkness,…”

It turns out, this is incorrect.  toward the end of the first Chapter in The Whisperer in Darkness it is stated:

“No use, either, to point out the even more startlingly similar belief of the Nepalese hill tribes in the dreaded Mi-Go or “Abominable Snow-Men” who lurk hideously amidst the ice and rock pinnacles of the Himalayan summits.”

Thus, this correlation between the Mi-Go and the abominable Snow Men was first noted in The Whisperer in Darkness.  I stand corrected and apologize for the error.  Thank you. – Fred

Mi-Go by Steve Maschuck

 

Postscript on the Mi-Go

A quick note and illustration I wanted to share on the Mi-Go.  One aspect of Mi-Go (or the Elder Ones for that matter) that I have not touched on was the religious beliefs of these entitles.  Later when we start discussing the larger entities (or Gods) we will get into the relationships between the “minion races” and the Gods such as Cthulhu, Shub-Niggurath and the others.   However, for now I wanted to share this fantastic illustration done by Greg P. Onychuk called “The Black Goat”.  Looks like a Mi-Go providing a sacrifice to her!

The Black Goat, illustrated by Greg P. Onychuk