The New Gods

The New Gods Title Spread

This article is excerpted from Darklore Volume 9, which is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK. Darklore 9 features essays from Alan Moore, Mike Jay, Robert Schoch and others, on topics ranging from hidden history to the occult.

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The New Gods

A Short History of the Fictional Origins of Modern Paganism


by Ian 'Cat' Vincent

Many neo-pagans will tell you that their beliefs and practices have been celebrated consistently since before Christianity, although sometimes disguising their intent by adopting – or being co-opted by – the Church. It is a belief system which can offer great beauty and spiritual insight. What it isn’t is ancient, historically accurate or, in most senses of the word, authentic.

The immediate ancestor of modern paganism – Druidry – was pretty much invented wholesale by Romantic poets and historians in the 17th to 19th centuries. Paganism as we know it today is partly a derivation of inaccurate Victorian and early 20th century historical and anthropological theories, mixed with a sizeable amount of plagiarism of the work of Aleister Crowley and then filled out with a variety of secondary sources.
In recent years, this point has been addressed by many, especially Professor Ronald Hutton. Hutton is a historian with great sympathy for the spirituality of pagan belief systems, but no truck with the often speculative, and occasionally downright shoddy, history taken as read by most of its adherents.
Hutton has said...

The real danger is ...the idea that all customs, indeed all superstitions, nursery rhymes, and anything that smacks of ‘folkiness’, are direct survivals of ancient pagan fertility rites, and are concerned with the appeasement of gods and spirits. Although the suggestion of an ancient origin for our folklore was the central tenet of the Victorian and Edwardian pioneers of folklore collection, this notion has only become generally known in the last forty years or so, and has taken hold with astonishing rapidity; the majority of the population now carry the virus in one form or another, while some are very badly infected. The problem here is not simply that these theories are unsupported by any evidence, but that their blanket similarity destroys any individuality. All customs will soon end up with the same story.

Fortunately for neo-paganism, it had a wider range of stories to draw upon in its recently evolved origins. Specifically, it drew greatly on the fictional genres of science fiction and fantasy.

This is a personal overview of their intertwining.

Worlds of Gods and Monsters

A book which is often taken as the starting point for science fiction (SF) is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818). Most people know the origin story of the book: Mary Shelley, her Romantic poet husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Polidori gathered at the Villa Diodante in 1816, trying to out-do each other in creating horror stories on a dark and stormy night. As veteran British science fiction writer Brian Aldiss was first to note, this is a tale where the protagonist “makes a deliberate decision” and “turns to modern experiments in the laboratory” to achieve his aims…certainly within what we would now consider as SF. Nonetheless, Frankenstein’s origins occupy the interface between nascent speculative fiction and Romanticism.

Other early SF works (then called Scientific Romances), such as those by Jules Verne, often involved that basic scheme of a creator going beyond the realms of then-known science, but only slightly…such as the ballistic spaceship launch system of From The Earth To The Moon (1865) or the weaponised submarine of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1870). Verne was far less concerned with the effects his creators had on their world, however, than he was with writing popular adventure stories – a trait that never really left the genre as a whole.

The same could not be said for H.G. Wells. All of Wells’s science fiction works tend towards the didactic. The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) and The Invisible Man (1897) are stern warnings about both hubris and the consequences of meddling with Nature, while The Time Machine (1895) and The Shape Of Things To Come (1933) are explicit warnings as to the possible future consequences of his society, expressed in fiction. It is interesting to note that, of his work, the two which take on SF’s most-often-assumed base story of space travel – The War of the Worlds (1898) and The First Men in the Moon (1901), are his least didactic. Sometimes, less is more…and, always, science fiction is never as much about the worlds of Tomorrow as it is a method of using the fantastic as a tool to examine the world of Today.

Mention here should be also made of Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the man who coined terms like “the great unwashed”, “pursuit of the almighty dollar”, “the pen is mightier than the sword”, “dweller on the threshold” and “It was a dark and stormy night”. His 1871 novel The Coming Race was of enormous yet rarely-spoken influence on the occult and spiritual currents that followed. In this book, he wrote of an

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It’s much, much harder to terrorise a population into submission than official and unofficial purveyors of mass violence always think it is. Normality isn’t a fixed state but a spectrum with a remarkably wide range. Terrorists are contemptible for many reasons, but one of them is the stupidity of not knowing this. They try to magnify themselves with epic acts of cruelty. In the end they are diminished and defeated by the strange ability of human beings to step around the pools of blood, keep going and forget.

Fintan O'Toole

Earth is an Alien Planet: Cuttlefish Disguise Themselves as Crabs to Catch Prey

What kind of nightmare alien planet do we live on? Last week we looked at wasps performing neurosurgery on cockroaches, this week it's cuttlefish pretending to be bottom-feeding crabs in order to sneak up on their prey.

According to New Scientist:

Cuttlefish have been caught on film walking like crabs by moving their tentacles in novel ways.

Kohei Okamoto at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan, and his team first spotted pharaoh cuttlefish (Sepia pharaonis) displaying the unusual behaviour while feeding them in the lab.

“We were surprised to see how closely they resemble hermit crabs,” says Okamoto.

The molluscs would raise their front arms while they bent their other legs, as if they had joints, while quickly moving them up and down independently. Certain parts of their skin also darkened.

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“Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars.”

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Dante Alighieri

WTF? This 1949 Science Fiction Novel by a Legendary Rocket Designer Names the Leader of Martian Civilization as "Elon"

Project Mars book cover

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In recent years entrepreneur Elon Musk has put himself at the forefront of the emerging commercial space industry with his company SpaceX enjoying multiple orbital rocket launch successes (as well as the development of their self-returning, reusable rocket systems).

Just last year Musk dreamt big when discussing the future of space travel, saying it was his goal to see a million people living on Mars within 50 years. But with a population that large, the logistics and planning wouldn't just involve space travel, but would also have to take into consideration a variety of social, economic and political factors. For instance, Who would be in charge? Who would be mayor, or governor, or president of the Red Planet?

Never fear, the answer may have already been given to us: in 1949, rocket scientist Wernher von Braun - former Nazi rocketeer, soon to be NASA's star rocket designer - wrote a science fiction book about humanity's first mission to Mars. Von Braun put his considerable technical knowledge to use (according to many reviewers, perhaps adding *too* much detail) in writing Project Mars: A Technical Tale. In his story, set in the 1980s, ten large space ships make the journey, a project which required "upwards of 1,000 flights into Earth's orbit" in order to "build, supply and fuel these ten ships, and it is an international, cooperative project."

By chapter 22 of von Braun's novel, the human visitors have discovered a peaceful indigenous civilization that resides underground on Mars (remembering when he wrote it, little was known about the planet's habitability). And then, in chapter 24, we are given an outline of how Mars is governed by this civilization. It's here that we come across a wonderfully surprising discovery:

Project Mars Excerpt

The Martian government was directed by ten men, the leader of whom was elected by universal suffrage for five years and entitled "Elon." Two houses of Parliament enacted the laws to be administered by the Elon and his cabinet.

The Upper House was called the Council of the Elders and was limited to a membership of 60 persons, each being appointed for life by the Elon as vacancies occurred by death. In principle, the method was not unlike that by which the College of Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church is appointed. Usually the Elon chose historians, churchmen, former cabinet members or successful economic leaders who could offer lifetimes of valuable experience.

Yes, you heard von Braun - one of the progenitors of human space travel - correctly: the leader of Martian civilization is called 'Elon', the same name as Elon Musk, who is currently leading the field of human space travel. Predestination, time vortex, or just a delicious coincidence? Maybe throw this one in the Mars weirdness file with Jack Kirby drawing the Face on Mars in a comic 17 years before it was discovered...

Wernher von Braun's Project Mars: A Technical Tale is available to download in multiple formats from archive.org.

(via Reddit)

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Thanks to the re-framers of debates.

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"My ego every day is more and more polite. I tame it."

~Alejandro Jodorowsky

New Lovecraft Anthology from the Folio Society Is Sumptuously Gothic and Otherworldly

Artwork from New Lovecraft Anthology

The Folio Society has just published a new anthology of stories from H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos in two absolutely beautiful editions: a limited (750 copy) edition and a 'standard' (though still sumptuous looking) hardcover. The Call of Cthulhu & Other Weird Stories is a collection that spans Lovecraft’s literary career, charting "the development of his ‘cosmicist’ philosophy; the belief that behind the veil of our blinkered everyday lives lies another reality, too terrible for the human mind to comprehend."

The two new editions marry Lovecraft's best-known fiction...

...with two modern masters of the macabre, the acclaimed artist Dan Hillier and author Alan Moore. In his beautifully crafted new preface, Moore finds Lovecraft at once at odds with and integral to the time in which he lived: ‘the improbable embodiment of an estranged world in transition’. Yet, despite his prejudices and parochialisms, he ‘possessed a voice and a perspective both unique in modern literature’.

Hillier’s six mesmerising, portal-like illustrations embrace the alien realities that lurk among the gambrel roofs of Lovecraft’s landscapes. By splicing Victorian portraits and lithographs with cosmic and Lovecraftian symbolism, each piece – like the stories themselves – pulls apart the familiar to reveal what lies beneath.

The edition itself shimmers with Lovecraft’s ‘unknown colours’, bound in purple and greens akin to both the ocean depths and mysteries from outer space. The cover is embossed with a mystical design by Hillier, while a monstrous eye stares blankly from the slipcase.

Here's a promotional video that shows off the artistic work and production values behind this new release:

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Preachin'...

Thanks to Cult of Weird.

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I put things in probabilities, not absolutes... My only originality lies in applying this zetetic attitude outside the hardest of the hard sciences, physics, to softer sciences and then to non-sciences like politics, ideology, jury verdicts and, of course, conspiracy theory.

Robert Anton Wilson

Billionaire Robert Bigelow Tells 60 Minutes There is "an Existing Extraterrestrial Presence on Earth"

Robert Bigelow

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In recent years Robert 'Bob' Bigelow has become a major player in the fledgling commercial space industry, most notably through Bigelow Aerospace's development of inflatable space modules that have since been tested at the International Space Station. Bigelow Aerospace was made possibly by Bigelow's extraordinary success as the entrepreneur who created the hotel chain Budget Suites of America. But before Bigelow became big in extraterrestrial accomodation, he was interested in other extraterrestrial matters: namely, the possibility that aliens had visited - and to this day are still present on - Earth.

Back in the day, Bigelow funded the National Institute of Discovery Studies (NIDS), devoted to studying 'out-there' phenomenon in a scientific manner (at one time purchasing the legendary 'Skinwalker Ranch' outright in order to investigate the odd sightings reported there), and later (controversially) provided financial backing to the Mutual UFO network (MUFON) for field investigators, in return for access to the organization's data. (We've mentioned Bigelow many times here over the years, along with NIDS.)

But if anybody thought Bob Bigelow might be leaving UFOs and the paranormal behind in a bid for respectability, think again. In an interview this week with 60 Minutes reporter Lara Logan, Bigelow came right out and nailed his colours to the mast.

Lara Logan: Do you believe in aliens?

Robert Bigelow: I'm absolutely convinced. That's all there is to it.

Lara Logan: Do you also believe that UFOs have come to Earth?

Robert Bigelow: There has been and is an existing presence, an ET presence. And I spent millions and millions and millions -- I probably spent more as an individual than anybody else in the United States has ever spent on this subject.

Logan, surprised by this up-front revelation, pushed Bigelow, asking him if he thought it was risky for him - as a high-profile businessman, and CEO in the commercial space industry - to say publicly that he believed in aliens. I looooove Bigelow's response: "I don't give a damn. I don't care."

Lara Logan: You don't worry that some people will say, "Did you hear that guy, he sounds like he's crazy"?

Robert Bigelow: I don't care.

Lara Logan: Why not?

Robert Bigelow: It's not gonna make a difference. It's not gonna change reality of what I know.

Lara Logan: Do you imagine that in our space travels we will encounter other forms of intelligent life?

Robert Bigelow: You don't have to go anywhere.

Lara Logan: You can find it here? Where exactly?

Robert Bigelow: It's just like right under people's noses. Oh my gosh. Wow.

Bigelow Aerospace's Alien Logo

Link: Robert Bigelow interviewed by 60 Minutes

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