Read Before Providence #4: Meet the Wheatleys

Only a couple days before Providence #4 is out, and all signs point to Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows tackling one of the major building blocks of Lovecraft’s Mythos, “The Dunwich Horror.”

Providence #4, Portrait cover, by Jacen Burrows
Providence #4, Portrait cover, by Jacen Burrows

In the last comic pages of Providence #3, Robert Black was on the bus from Salem to Athol, Massachusetts, the real-life inspiration for the fictional town of Dunwich, with its looming Sentinel Hill, crowned with ancient megaliths and hose to strange rites. Black is on the trail of an English translation of Hali’s Booke of the Wisdom of the Stars, the central text of the Stella Sapiente cult and its various fractions, said to be held by the Wheatley family, who had provided a copy of the text to Robert Suydam, who ultimately sold it to Dr. Alvarez in Providence #1. This parallels Lovecraft’s own artificial mythology, where the degenerate Whateley family of Dunwich own a rare English language translation of the fabled Necronomicon, as translated by Dr. John Dee – a figure Moore has something of an affinity for in several of his works, as touched on briefly in Road to Providence.

Dee, from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, art by Kevin O'Neill
Dee, from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, art by Kevin O’Neill

In his recent interview ‘Lovecraft Never Said That His Entities Were Evil’ – Alan Moore On Myth, Magic, And The Elder Gods, Moore expands on his approach to Lovecraft and the occult in Providence:

I asked myself, “If that was true, how would it all link up?” Then, I started a process, tracing back to Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, to some of the early New England wizards in Lovecraft’s fiction who must have known each other. Who were living in such a relatively small area at more or less exactly the same time, so that I thought it would do no violence to Lovecraft’s work if you said, “Yes, these three people, they knew each other”. […]

The magic that appears in Providence is that which appeared in Lovecraft’s stories. There were some very dodgy occult incantations mentioned in, I think, “Horror at Red Hook”, cribbed from Encyclopedia Britannica without really understanding them, and it showed. And, of course, there are references to Cabbalists in a few Lovecraft stories. This is not a book about magic. This is a book about Lovecraft. Without going too far into it, I’ve made sure that those references in Providence are credible and realistic.

Moore’s efforts so far have tied together Lovecraft’s various witches and wizards with a credible work of medieval Arabic, the aforementioned Hali’s Booke, which appears to be effectively equivalent to real-world manuscripts like the Picatrix. While the details are still maddeningly vague, so far the works of the group combine invocation of Lovecraftian entities with Wilhelm Reich’s concept of orgone (most prominent in the chamber in Salem that links Providence #3 and Neonomicon) and some allusions to Qabbalah and Hermeticism in Suydam’s mystical paraphernalia in Providence #2. Where all this will lead in Providence #4 remains to be seen, but we can make three reasonable guesses.

First, the translation of the Necronomicon by John Dee; the Wheatley’s English translation may also be by Dee, in which case it could connect to or reference Dee’s work with Enochian magic. Second, there is a connection with Arthur Machen – Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” is essentially a pastiche of Machen’s “The Great God Pan,” and Lovecraft placed considerable emphasis on Machen’s stories of strange, non-human aboriginal races surviving to the modern day and intimations of witchcraft, tying those into Margaret Murray’s theories on the survival of a great European witch-cult; Machen was also, briefly, a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Finally, the act of magic which resulted in the conception of William Whateley in “The Dunwich Horror” has parallels with another magical conception, a sort of planetary magic described by Aleister Crowley in his novel Moonchild, a parallel briefly explored by Robert M. Price in his story “Wilbur Whateley Waiting.”

The Necronomicon Files
The Necronomicon Files

Whether any or all of these make it into the following product, we’ll find out in a few more days. Readers interested in some of the background research by Moore, the recent interview references a number of works, from hoax Necronomicons, Satanic murders, and chaos magicians using Lovecraftian entities in their workings to the essays of Lovecraft scholar Dirk W. Mosig. While Moore doesn’t mention them by name, the two works that would cover most of the material he discusses would include The Necronomicon Files: The Truth Behind the Legend by Daniel Harms and John William Gonce III, and Mosig at Last: A Psychologist Looks at Lovecraft by Dirk W. Mosig.

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3 thoughts on “Read Before Providence #4: Meet the Wheatleys

  1. “He never said that his entities were evil. He said that ideas like good and evil must be left at the door when you’re dealing with an indifferent cosmos. His entities simply, if they even notice us, do not care. They would seem inimical from a human perspective, but it would be absurd to say that they were evil. So I think that we have connected up Lovecraft and we have also connected it up to the America of the time to make a credible picture. And also, to a certain extent, that plays into Lovecraft’s own life, of course.”

    Putting aside all those times when Lovecraft does use the word “evil” in connection with Outside things, Moore’s point is well taken. Although I’d point out that Nyarlathotep genuinely does come off as actively malicious and evil, and that sorcerors and witches who traffic in Yog-Sothothery are uniformly horrible people (Joseph Curwen, Hekeziah Mason, Wilbur Whateley, Ephraim Waite, etc.).

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  2. You might also have noted that Moore himself became intrigued with Crowley’s “Moonchild” concept throughout the latest three volumes of “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”.

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  3. true enough, although for once moore seems to have got himself confused on that one. in *century: 1969* haddo (crowley) makes it quite clear that the moonchild project and the antichrist project are two entirely different undertakings; by *2009* the two plans have become completely conflated

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