Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The Innsmouth Tarot, Part 7 - The Major Arcana 4

The Ponape Scriptures

The original copy of this work was discovered in the Carolinas by Captain Abner Exekiel Hoag in 1734. It was scribbled upon a series of dried palm leaves protected by a frame made from the wood of an extinct cycad. With the help of his servant Yogash, Hoag translated the text: some say that Hoag wrote the material himself after talking to the natives; as the original is written in hieratic Naacal, a language which should not have been available either to Hoag or his servant, this point of view is somewhat ameliorated (if only by the existence of the actual text).

Hoag’s attempts to publish the work, which seemed designed for missionary purposes, were thwarted by the religious leaders of the time who were especially concerned by references to Dagon throughout the text. In 1795, it was finally published in a duodecimo format (above), after Hoag’s death by his granddaughter, Beverly Hoag Adams, although prior to this several clandestine manuscript copies had been passed amongst occult circles. The first printed (or “Beverly”) edition is slightly abridged and error-ridden due to cost constraints in its production. The original work is still available for view however, in the Kester Library in Salem Massachusetts, USA. The most voluble proponent for the work was Harold Hadley Copeland who cited the book extensively in his essay “The Prehistoric Pacific in Light of the Ponape Scriptures” (1911) and who published his own translation through the Miskatonic University Press in 1907.

The book deals largely with the lost continent of Mu and the wizard-priest Zanthu who doomed the place in a fiery cataclysm; it discusses Cthulhu, Idh-yaa and their descendants including Ghatanothoa, Ythogtha, Zoth Ommog and (obliquely) to Cthylla. The text has dramatically affected and informed the rites and practices of the Esoteric Order of Dagon, among others.


Card 17 – Cthylla

“In his daughter’s darkling womb
Great Cthulhu will be born
And at his birth the Fabric of
Space and Time will be torn
When he casts away Death’s shroud...”

Much of the legendry associated with the Great Old One Cthulhu makes reference to its kin – its “wives” offspring and other relatives, including a being known as “Zhotha-qquah”. In the Deep One system of worship, the children of Cthulhu - Ghatanothoa, Zoth-Ommog and Ythogtha - are given special veneration, but there is another child whose existence is generally kept entirely secret:

Cthulhu’s daughter, Cthylla, is mentioned rarely in any texts of Deep One lore; there are passing references in a few chap-books (as we have seen) and the Ponape Scriptures invest only a handful of lines of text. Another source is the Necronomicon, but even this mention is veiled and obscure. Where Cthylla’s name does occur in the source material, it is always delivered in the form of a prophecy and, as anyone familiar with the works of Nostradamus is aware, the sense of these passages is typically obtuse and nebulous.

This oracular material seems to foretell a time when Cthulhu is beset by enemies and seemingly destroyed; however, it is fated to be re-born from “his daughter’s darkling womb” and to re-emerge to conquer the planet. This destruction/resurrection scenario is not unusual in well-defined myth-cycles of this type and is not unexpected in Deep One lore. The secrecy surrounding Cthylla, in that it represents the key to Cthulhu’s unexpected re-emergence and subsequent victory, is therefore explained.

Adding to this mystery, no source cards are extant in either the Kester Set of cards or that from Newburyport. This suggests that the card was always removed from the deck and carried separately by the diviner, only being re-incorporated during readings, thus reducing the possibility of an outsider discovering a reference to this entity.

The divinatory meaning of this card is hope and faith. It speaks of promising opportunities, bright futures and favourable prospects. Its appearance in a card spread is always considered a good omen. It may also signal inspiration, insight and satisfaction.

Inverted: When inverted, it betokens bad luck, misfortune, hopes dashed, or a period of contentment soon terminated.

Card 18 – Ghroth

“When ... the time for reawakening is near, the universe itself shall send forth the Harbinger and Maker, Ghroth. Who shall urge the stars and worlds to rightness. Who shall raise the sleeping masters from their burrows and drowned tombs; who shall raise the tombs themselves. Who shall be attentive to those worlds where worshippers presume themselves stewards. Who shall bring those worlds under sway, until all acknowledge their presumption, and bow down.”
-The Revelations of Glaaki

The figure of Ghroth emerges rarely in the literature of the Deep Ones and invariably as a harbinger, or psychopomp. Ghroth’s purpose is to signal the Great Old Ones of the time when the “stars are right” and to travel to each one of them, awakening them to the purpose ahead. In this sense, Ghroth is very much the signifier of the End Times.

Just how this being fits in to the scheme of Cthulhu and its associates is unknown. Some texts state that it is connected in some way to an entity named “Azag-Thoth” while others posit a connection to a distant planet called “Shaggai”. Like Cthulhu and its kin, it is said to impact negatively upon certain sensitive minds and its approach to Earth is claimed to cause widespread distress, anxiety and panic. The Newburyport card set contains a card for this being with an atypical pictorial component.

In a card spread, Ghroth signifies dangers and obstacles of an unexpected nature; unforeseen perils and problems and unknown enemies. Along with this it indicates deceit, trickery and double-dealing; an insincere relationship or false friends. It represents lies, scandal and immorality.

Inverted: When presented upside-down, Ghroth symbolises minor deceits – ‘white lies’ – or trifling mistakes. It can signify the overcoming of temptation or the period of uneasy contentment received after having paid a heavy price for one’s actions.

Card 19 – Y’ha-nthlei

“Whether the dreams and the fancies of Yoharneth-Lahai be false and the Things that are done in the Day be real, or the Things that are done in the Day be false and the dreams and fancies of Yoharnath-Lahai be true, none knoweth saving only MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI, who hath not spoken.”

-Lord Dunsany, 1905

Y’ha-nthlei is an underwater city prevalent in the mythology of the Deep Ones. In much of the lore, this place is where the Deep Ones congregate after their final transformation and where they will spend the rest of their immortal lives. In many ways, it equates to the Christian notion of “heaven” and must, in this regard, be considered a fictional locale – an afterlife habitation not a physical place.

Many commentators have posited the location of Y’ha-nthlei as being “beyond Devil Reef”, and certainly the destructive actions of Government agencies in 1928 seemed to follow up this notion. However, it is unlikely that an entire submarine society – with potentially thousands of citizens and constructions - could be located so close to the American eastern seaboard without having been detected long before now.

Like many similar religions, Y’ha-nthlei is simply a ‘reward’ for a life of faithful devotion to the tenets of Deep One belief; a reason for adherence to the community and its strictures.

This card represents satisfaction, attainment, contentment. It signifies material wealth, good friends and a comfortable existence. It can betoken a favourable marriage.

Inverted: When inverted, this card reveals unhappiness and discontent; it can symbolise plans come to naught or the breaking of an engagement. A clouded future awaits the questioner, but perhaps victory is merely delayed rather than completely destroyed.

Card 20 – The Stars are Right!

“That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons, even death may die.”

-Abdul Alhazred

The name of this card refers to a cosmic event which, according to Deep One lore, will signal the coming of the end times. Such a feature of this complex mythology is certainly not unusual: the Vikings had their Ragnarok, Hinduism foretells the Kali-Yurga, and even Christianity details the end of creation in the Book of Revelations in the Bible. In fact, given the complexity of the Deep One myth cycle, it would be decidedly unusual if an end-times scenario did not appear.

Little is known of what would occur when the “stars are right”; however certain features appear throughout the source material as indicators. As we have seen, the appearance of Ghroth in the heavens is the first sign. It is this entity which will cause the Great Old Ones to revive from their interminable slumber and allow them to burst loose from their imprisonment. Foremost of these, from the Deep Ones’ point of view, is Cthulhu which will emerge from its sunken tomb in the corpse-city of R’lyeh, but other such beings are also prophesied to emerge. Some texts also refer to a twin set of entities called Nug and Yeb, whose job is to clear the Earth of all life by means of their “torch and furnace”; however details are sketchy.

This card indicates rejuvenation and regeneration; it speaks of a change of position, either physically, as in a relocation, or in terms of one’s occupation or role, signalling a material promotion. In all ways, this card foretells development or progress.

Inverted: When displayed upside-down, this card signals a delay, or postponement. It tells of a failure to act or a failure to face facts. It betokens indecision suspension or disillusionment.

Card 21 – The Uncaring Void

“And that inverted bowl we call the sky,
Whereunder crawling coop’t we live and die:
Raise not thy hands to it, for it
Rolls impotently on as thou or I.”

-Omar Khayyam

The last card in the Major Arcana brings us full-circle back to our point of origin. Once more we face a vast emptiness from which anything may emerge, although this time the void is the endlessness of space rather than a submarine dark. The initiate’s progress has passed through all aspects and conditions of earthly existence only to discover that there is a further eternity of learning in the next phase, and possibly even more beyond that - an unending cycle of initiation and mastery.

The Newburyport Set of cards is noteworthy for its lack of pictorial content; however, in this instance the creator has wittily used their standard medium of pen and ink to imbue extra meaning to the card – rather than words, the creator has been content to signify the card with a large blob of ink. This creative approach to the design has thus informed the design of our version of the card in the Innsmouth Tarot.

This card signifies attainment and completion. It speaks of ultimate change and perfection. It indicates success and the admiration of others. It is the final goal to which all the other cards have led.

Inverted: Upside-down, the card tells of imperfection, of the act of quitting when only half done. It reveals an inability to follow through and a profound lack of vision.

To Be Concluded...

Sunday, 19 June 2016

The Innsmouth Tarot, Part 6 - The Suit of Storms

The suit of Storms is the set of cards which govern and reveal the emotions of the world. It equates to the suit of Cups, or hearts, in a traditional card deck and is associated with the Ancient Greek element of water. As before, the court cards comprise various identities from the Cthulhu Cult legends as do the other suits, and the number cards all have their own individual meanings.

Again, unlike the Shadows suit, there remain extant cards in the sets that have been recovered. Because of this, known cards can be reproduced in new forms and not merely speculated upon. The grimoires which have been recovered also speak of the various cards and so they can be regenerated with a fair degree of accuracy; where no cards exist and no reference can be found, we have had to extrapolate upon the rest of the information that we have to hand.


The Ace of Storms

The Kester Library set of cards contains only two of the aces used in the Innsmouth Tarot and this is the second of those (the other being the Ace of Flames). With these two cards we were able to extrapolate how the other aces would appear in the traditional deck.

The divinatory meaning of this card is Joy, Fertility, Opulence and Happiness. It stands for fulfilment and perfection. When inverted, it signifies change, erosion, instability, sterility and unrequited love.

The Two of Storms

Thunder and lightning work together to lend ferocity and empowerment to the storm. They form an ideal partnership and reflect the harmonious working of storm forces.

Likewise, this card represents an ideal working partnership of forces or natures of quite different aspects. This is a card of love and passion, and can signify the start of a new relationship, an engagement or marriage; in business, it betokens a powerful and dynamic working relationship. Upside-down, this card symbolises disunity; a failed or troubled relationship, false friendship, separation, or divorce.

The Three of Storms

When the storm concludes, the world is bathed by the healing balm of the Sun. In rituals for the worship of Dagon, the conclusion of the rite is signified by a blessing and an arm movement by the high priest called the gesture of the Sun Wheel. It is thought that the Kester Library set of cards provides a glimpse of what this gesture might entail, however the information is too scant for it to have formed the basis of this card’s imagery.

This card symbolises a period of healing, or solace after a loss. It speaks of the resolution of a problem; a conclusion and fulfilment. When inverted, it represents excessive pleasures, overabundance and gluttonous excess. It can signify redundancy, superfluity, a loss of prestige and delays.

The Four of Storms

The maelstrom is a colossal barrier to one’s progress. While drawing its victims into its fathomless depths, it forces them to fight constantly to win free, all the while viewing the calamity ahead.

The meaning of this card is weariness, aversion, disgust and disappointment. It speaks of unhappiness in one’s present position; a bitter experience of which one must win clear. Upside-down, it indicates new possibilities or new relationships; it reveals new approaches to old problems.

The Five of Storms

No wind, no current: the doldrums offer nothing in the way of forward movement or progress. The text of the Newburyport set card makes this notion clear.

The divinatory meaning of this card is partial loss and regret. It reveals friendship without real meaning, or marriage without real love. It speaks of an imperfection, or flaw, in one’s life. Alternatively, it can betoken an inheritance. When reversed, it signals a hopeful outlook, favourable expectations and new alliances.

The Six of Storms

The waterspout symbolises a transition from one state to another, specifically from water to the air. In this regard, it talks about memory and things of the past.

The meaning of this card is the influence of memory and past lives: it can speak of a sudden remembrance or re-emergence, nostalgia, or the discovery of things that were lost. It also references the transition from being a child to adulthood. When inverted, this card betokens the future: coming events and new opportunities; new vistas and horizons. It also talks of plans which might fail in their execution.

The Seven of Storms

Fata Morgana are visions which appear in the sky, of objects beyond the horizon, refracted by the light of the Sun to appear as if they are hovering overhead. In ancient days, mariners believed these mirages were the work of witches attempting to lure them overboard with visions of rich cities and floating castles. The legend of the Flying Dutchman is said to have begun due to an instance of one of these illusions, as the card from the Newburyport set indicates.

This card reveals unrealistic attitudes, overactive imaginations at work, daydreams and foolish whims. Inverted, it stands for desire and determination; strong willpower; a goal nearly attained.

The Eight of Storms

The typhoon thrashes everything with which it comes into contact. Anything insecurely anchored will come to ruin.

This card signifies disappointment and the cessation of plans: circumstances which force abandonment of one’s goals and purpose. It also indicates modesty or shyness. Upside-down, it heralds happiness; effort continued until full success is attained.

The Nine of Storms

Heavy rain falls to replenish supplies, to water crops and to soothe the parched soil. This card represents abundance, success, good health and material attainment. When reversed, the card speaks of a loss of well-being; mistakes, loss and imperfection. A misplaced truth or false freedom.

The Ten of Storms

The eye of the hurricane is a break in the discord of one’s life. It represents a momentary pause before re-entering the hurly-burly of existence.

The meaning of this card is happiness, joy and contentment; a time of pleasure, peace and love. Within the circle of one’s family it betokens balance and harmony. When inverted, this card stands for pettiness, unhappiness and rage. It signifies quarrels amid family members or friends and a possible loss of those relationships.

Othuum - The Jack of Storms

The figure of Othuum in the Deep Ones’ myth-cycle is nebulous and hard to pin down. It seems to be a servant of Cthulhu, coming to that entity’s defense when necessary; however certain texts refer to it as a “demon” which has all the expected negative connotations. Even the appearance of the being is vague, with some sources indicating that it has two legs and others four. All sources agree that it is susceptible to attacks by fire and so, a place in the Storms suit is appropriate.

There is a sense that Othuum exists in another dimension and serves Cthulhu from there, as the “Great Master Of Those Who Wait Without”. Certainly, sources talk of Othuum contacting individuals only through dreams and its nebulous description may have something to do with its extradimensional status.

This card stands for a studious and intent person, willing to offer services and effort towards a specific goal. It symbolises loyalty, reflection and deep thought. When turned upside-down it speaks of temporary distractions, deviations from the true course and susceptibility to outside forces.

Ubb - The Knight of Storms

Along with Deep Ones, Cthulhu is served by another race of beings known to us from the Ponape Scriptures as the “Yuggya”. These are a race of deep-dwelling slug-like creatures who burrow through the earth or swim the great depths of the oceans but who rarely emerge into the open air. It is not known from where they came or how they arrived on Earth, but it is likely that they arrived at the same time as their master, the Great Old One Cthulhu.

That these creatures are intelligent cannot be doubted, given that they actively serve Cthulhu and its offspring. The Deep One scriptures talk of Ubb, the leader of the Yuggya, and Deep One legends speak of communication and co-operation between the two races in service of their sleeping deity. It’s possible that certain tales of the Norse Kraken might have given rise to stories about Ubb.

The divinatory meaning of this card is the arrival of an opportunity: an invitation, proposal or challenge will soon appear. This could also take the form of an attraction, appeal, or inducement. Inverted, the card speaks of subtle trickery and artifice; a sly and cunning person, bent upon trickery, deception and fraud.

Nctosa - The Queen of Storms

Along with Nctolhu, Nctosa is one of the twin female entities sired by Cthulhu and now – according to legend – trapped within a huge storm on a distant planet, widely theorised to be Jupiter. Little is known about this enigmatic pair, but, like all of Cthulhu’s kin, they are said to have some dynamic role during the mythical “end times” of this planet.

This card symbolises a warm-hearted and fair person associated with the questioner. Usually female, this person is a good friend, known for their practical nature and honesty. It might signify one’s beloved in a romantic relationship. Upside-down, the card indicates faithlessness and dishonesty, possible immorality, dishonour and unreliability.

“The Father Of All Sharks” - The King of Storms

The third avatar of the Great Old One Cthulhu is a manifestation known as “The Father Of All Sharks”. It appears as a grotesquely oversized Great White Pointer Shark, traditionally as savage as it is gigantic. Interestingly, this creature may not be as mythical as its place in Deep One dogma might indicate.

In the Christian Bible’s Book of Job, a similar entity is referenced as Leviathan, an enormous undersea monster and companion horror to its land-based cousin Behemoth (B’moth?). Once more we are forced to recognise the possibility that the mythology of Deep One religious life has been alive in the world for, not hundreds, but thousands of years.

Cryptozoological researchers have posited for some time that a gigantic species of shark continues to thrive in the deeper oceans of the planet. They theorise that a relict species of a shark forebear – known from the fossil record as Megalodon – has somehow survived to the present day. They cite recent research of the migration patterns of Great White sharks in the waters south of Australia where several tagged and very large specimens have mysterious vanished after entering deep water in the Great Australian Bight. As well, this evocative image from a World War Two German film has been circulating the Internet in recent days and tends to lend support to such a theory having some basis in fact.

This card represents a responsible and professional man in the life of the questioner. This figure might be renowned in business, the law, the arts, religion or science, but whatever field they inhabit, they are reliable effective and kindly. When inverted, the card stands for petulance, a highly-strung nature; double-dealing, dishonesty and injustice. In certain circumstances it reveals a scandal, loss and ruin.


Folklore doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is dependent upon the social life of the communities wherein it thrives and is nurtured. Past lore and present interpretations alter and change the structure of the mythology and much of the information is not written down or recorded in any medium. Most folklore is transmitted orally and, whenever a death occurs in the community, much that is precious vanishes with the deceased.

Book research can only take the student so far. The published work of those gone before –academics who entered the communities to speak with the natives and write down their legendry – can only take the researcher so far. At some point, they must step forth amongst the people and make contact with the lore-keepers in the community directly.

At the Miskatonic Folklore Field Study unit, we depend on a core group of keen interns, tasked with getting out into the field and meeting with the folklore generators of the New England nexus. They are selected for this delicate work, not only for their demonstrated academic rigour, but also for their interpersonal skills and powers of diplomacy and tact. A reasonable level of fitness is also required, as trudging through the back-roads of a New England summer can certainly take its toll!

Our Innsmouth Tarot project would not have been possible without the invaluable research conducted by Abigail Garrison and her diligent team, comprising Eliott Kwong, Emily Brookner, Zhao Zichang, and the twins, Indira and Persis Bhattercharjee.

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The Innsmouth Tarot, Part 5 - The Major Arcana 3

While our main sources for this tarot deck are the commonplace books and chapbooks that have proliferated in the New England nexus – along with what few extant cards have survived the passage of years – there are other texts which have surrendered their secrets in order to help inform the production and revival of the practise. These are texts specifically related to the mythos which underscores the Deep One faith, locally known as the Esoteric Order of Dagon.

These also, have been produced locally as chapbooks, useful as instruction for those new to the faith, or for long-time adherents, in much the same fashion as the Christian faith has its prayer-books, hymnals and psalteries, not to mention Bibles. Copies of these books reside in the Orne Library at Miskatonic University, but are found throughout the Massachusetts and Rhode Island region, as well as in collections overseas.

The Teachings of the Esoteric Order of Dagon
Author unknown
London, nd. (c.1580)

Octavo; quarter-bound in calf with marbled boards with gilt spine titling; 128pp., untrimmed.

Residing in London’s British Museum, this is perhaps the earliest printed version of this work to be found. Written in the language of Shakespeare, it comprises much of the ritual and devotional proceedings relevant to a typical religious service worshipping Dagon, as well as some liturgical views of the organised religion outlining the background to the faith. It is clearly meant to be read by newcomers to the religion and the theological arguments are kept to a minimum.

Within can be found a complete myth-cycle concerning Cthulhu and its extended “family”, with references to other entities such as “The Unspeakable One”, “Azag-Thoth” and “Saint Toad”. As well, the nature of the Deep One life cycle is discussed in relatively fulsome detail.
Originally circulated as chapbook in printed wrappers, this copy was re-bound sometime in the Nineteenth Century and was donated to the Museum by a previous owner, Titus Crow. Another version of this work, translated into Spanish and printed in Toledo in 1610, is also kept within the British Museum holdings.

Invocations to Dagon
Asaph Waite
Innsmouth MA, 1826

Duodecimo; in printed wrappers; 24pp., untrimmed.

This chapbook, printed in Innsmouth in 1826, resides in the Orne Library of Miskatonic University. Its delicate condition means that it is currently on the Restricted List, lest any further damage accrues to it.

The contents of the work are very slight, comprising as they do only the spoken sections of a typical Order of Dagon service. Interestingly, there are far more verses here than can be found in the Teachings of the Esoteric Order of Dagon, including a rare reference to Cthylla, an entity which is seldom mentioned in the canon, if at all. Most of the “Cthulhu family” are mentioned, including Idh-Yaa, Ghatanathoa (as “Ghanta”), Zoth-Ommog and Ythogtha.

The difficult esoteric language of the original text is here “done into” English and verbal responses to the ritual activities of the Dagon service offer subtle insights into Deep One society. Unlike the Teachings, where the verbal elements of the rituals are written phonetically, this is a direct translation of the tongue-twisting invocations.


Card 11 – The Taint

The Taint has many names – locally it is referred-to as “The Innsmouth Look” - but it is a reference to the physically similar appearance that communities of nascent Deep Ones project to the rest of the world. Bulbous, unblinking eyes, weak chins, rubbery features and a receding forehead, are all typical of the Deep One genotype and readily identify the nature of the community.

Government research in the post-1928 era, identified the Taint as an aggressively-dominant chromosomal phenotype, obliterating other hereditary markers with an almost viral ferocity.
Within the tribe, such features are taken as signs of belonging, hallmarks of the community presence; Deep One communities acknowledge and welcome those who express similar features as members of their own race. Within these communities, the Taint is something looked proudly upon, as an indicator of the strength and integrity of the social fabric and its durability.

The Newburyport set of cards has the usual blunt description to offer.

This card symbolises strength and fortitude. It speaks of energy, virility, determination and the ability to endure despite all obstacles. It sometimes indicates spiritual power and zeal. Confidence and self-reliance are the keywords here: the overcoming of material power and the triumph of love over hate.

Inverted: When upside-down, quite naturally this card signifies weakness and pettiness: the succumbing to temptation. At some times it means tyranny or the abuse of power, a lack of faith and the discord that results.

Card 12 – Sacrifice

The strong communal bond of the Deep Ones is often prey to outside pressures: religious bigotry opposed to their faith or ill-informed observers who denounce their lifestyle as too different for their narrow minds to encompass. A threat to any one member of the social tapestry is a threat to all.

Strange then to realise that amongst Deep Ones there is an understanding that sometimes one individual can be sacrificed in order to save the majority. Deep Ones have a fatalistic worldview which can prompt them to great acts of bravery when a hazard to the community can be ameliorated by the sacrifice of a single life. Not that any Deep One would heedlessly throw away its existence: as immortal beings, life is not a cheap commodity.

The interpretation of this card is life suspended; efforts, or a marshalling of forces towards a goal which may well not be attained. It speaks of transition, of the re-evaluation of one’s life and one’s place within it. The sense of the card is one of improvement: the abandoning of ideas or ideals towards a better outcome.

Inverted: When upside-down, this card speaks of a pre-occupation with the ego; an unwillingness to give of one’s self, or to make the necessary effort. It can also indicate a false prophecy.

Card 13 – The Final Death

The physical existence of the Deep Ones is complex and involved; the notion of death has very different connotations within their communities.

A person with the Taint begins life as a normal human being – growing, developing, creating an earthly existence. At some point, this ‘normal’ life begins to come apart: physical changes; mental changes, and a psychic imperative begin to draw the nascent being out of their routine and bring them closer into contact with their imminent lifestyle. The leaving of this first life is sometimes referred to as “the first death”. As mentioned elsewhere, if this initial transformation takes place away from a support network, it can be quite traumatic.

Once the Change has fully taken place, the Deep One heads out to the undersea life in Y’han’thlei, there to begin an immortal existence beneath the waves. Most Deep Ones feel that this eternal life is their reward and to die before attaining this goal is a deeply felt loss by all members of the community; it can fire a strong sense of vengeance within them.

There is another type of death, however, and this is often called the Final Death. Strangely, it hearkens back to a spiritual notion which was current during the Ancient Egyptian civilisation, and once more throws into sharp relief the sheer potential age of the Deep One traditions. The Ancient Egyptians saw death as a matter of degree: one could be mostly dead, somewhat dead, or completely dead, and this last state was much to be feared. Degrees of mortality depended upon the level at which one was recognised within the community: being ‘known’ was to be a functioning aspect of reality and to be alive. In this sense, the Pharaoh was the ‘most alive’ person in Egypt since everybody knew him and contributed to his existence. This helps explain the practice among the Egyptians of effacing monuments to those fallen into displeasure or disrepute – once all signs to remind others of their existence were gone, they too were finally, completely, extinct.

The key to being alive was to contribute. The Egyptians placed much value on helping others and working for others and for the state. In the Books of the Dead, during the ordeal known as the “Weighing of the Heart before Osiris”, one’s deeds were examined and, if found wanting, the essence of the person awaiting admission to the Afterlife - their “Ba” – was thrown into the jaws of an hideous monster to be devoured and removed from Reality forever. With nothing of them left to be recognised, they could no longer be known and therefore became utterly, irrevocably dead.

The Ancient Egyptians recognised this ‘degree of death’ scenario in daily life and were quick to respond to individuals who withdrew from social contact and interaction, due either to depression, despair, or some other cause. Such individuals were considered to have ‘died’ somewhat and to have passed – at least partially – beyond the realm of the living. The Deep Ones also recognise such individuals as being ‘dead to the community’ and often take pains to alleviate the situation if possible. Exile – whether self-imposed or otherwise – and distancing are greatly feared among the Deep Ones. To die alone and without the knowledge of one’s peers is a thing to avoid at all costs. To be unknown is to be unmade, as if one never were.

This card symbolises the clearing away of old structures to make for the new. On some level it can stand for loss, failure or mishap, while on others it can stand for the death of the old self, although not necessarily in a physical sense. While sometimes it means bodily death, at other times it heralds the beginning of a new era.

Inverted: When upside-down, this card indicates stagnation or the unwillingness – or inability – to change. It can also mean death just avoided or the recovery from a severe illness or injury

Card 14 – Calm Waters

Within the typical Deep One community, the true nature of the society is usually kept sub rosa. Obed Marsh encountered his first Deep One settlement on a South Sea island and, in such a time and place, the whole isle must have conducted its business relatively openly. In a coastal settlement like Innsmouth, where an established authority outside of the settlement would have access to the town, things would have to have been kept very much more clandestine.

The Deep Ones are very good at keeping their secrets. They work hard to maintain a low profile in all things, trying not to attract the sort of attention which would bring unwanted investigators; amongst these folk there is a proverb: “Calm waters attract no fishermen”. The community works hard to maintain a balance between its organic needs and an appearance of benignity; maintaining that balance is an onus that falls upon each and every member of the social network.

This card represents moderation and self-control. It speaks of frugality and the bringing together of disparate parts into a seamless whole.

Inverted: When upside-down, the card symbolises discord, hostility and disunion; a conflict of interests in business or personal affairs, or unfulfilled desires. It points to an inability to work alongside others and a spirit of impatience.

Card 15 – The Unspeakable One

Within the legendry of the Cthulhu Cult, there is a great enmity between the Great Old One Cthulhu and another such entity, which is so reviled that its name is never spoken. It is merely referred to as “He Who Must Not Be Named” or the “Unspeakable One”. It too has its cults and manifestations and the followers of Cthulhu, it is said, struggle to oppose the efforts of these minions. In a very real sense it stands as the Satan figure in the belief systems of the Deep Ones.

Little is known of the appearance or attributes of this creature. It is known to have some association with the star Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus and that association has formed the basis of this card. In fact the Kester Library card set shows a strange glyph which we have interpreted as a derivation of the constellation, with the central eye standing for Aldebaran. This star appears above the horizon for only a handful of months in a year and Deep One communities are known to refer to this period as the “season of the Devil”. As well, they have a saying – “not while the Devil is watching” – often used to put off activity during this time, but also uttered when some other reviled authority might act as witness to a clandestine event.

This card represents dominance or subordination to another’s will; it speaks of enslavement. It can mean violence, shock, or a fatality; a disaster or downfall. In some instances it can symbolise a weird or astral experience or the action of black magic.

Inverted: The opposite of this card is release from bondage: the throwing off of shackles or the overcoming of insurmountable obstacles. It can represent the beginning of enlightenment and the start of spiritual understanding, or the overcoming of the fear of one’s self.

Card 16 – The Crumbling Cliff

Weakened by the interminable pounding of the sea, the high cliffs crack and fall into the ocean below. What once seemed lofty and insurmountable – almost permanent – is brought low in a spectacular display of destructive power.

This card suggests the breaking down of old structures to make way for the new. It speaks of a loss of stability, a sudden event which destroys trust. The sense of the card is loss – of control, certainty, money and security. 

Inverted: When reversed, the card speaks of oppression; the continuance of an untenable situation. The card indicates an inability to effect necessary change.


A Note on the Artwork

In compiling the Insmouth Tarot Deck the resources of the Miskatonic University Folklore Field Unit were more than equal to the task, with expertise in literature, anthropology, psychology, philosophy and history; however, the project required more than just the compilation of culled information from various sources – it needed artists to bring the symbolic imagery to life. To that end we looked around for a local, Arkham-based source for our illustrations.

Headed by our artistic director Patricia Swanton, we discovered the Miskatonic Freedom Art Society, a charitable organisation based out of West Church in Main Street, Arkham. This is a mental health initiative which provides free art therapy classes for all those needing the counselling strategies such treatment provides, or just simply seeking mindfulness exercises to help control stress, depression, or anxiety–based dysfunctions. With the help of the staff of this outreach centre, we quickly found a core group of amateur artists willing to take on the challenge of interpreting the images for our tarot deck.

Says Patricia: “The creatures and concepts found in the mythology often have a pleasing radial symmetry which makes them perfect material for a design-centred aesthetic to come to grips with. In a sense, these creatures are no more bizarre than the gryphons or sphinxes, say, of Classical Greek legends.”

We held weekly sessions with our artists, discussing the various cards and their symbolic aspects. At the end of each month we judged the best images presented, thus inspiring a friendly spirit of competition among the illustrators. The winning sketches were scanned, coloured and augmented by our in-house art team and prepared for publication. I’m sure you’ll agree that we’ve managed to distil a striking bunch of visuals from our combined efforts!

To Be Continued...