John Wisdom Gonce, III


Magic, n. An art of converting superstition into coin.
Quotation, n. The act of repeating erroneously the words of another. The words erroneously repeated.
-- The Devil's Dictionary. Ambrose Bierce


In the first essay of this series I provided a brief overview of the origins of the Necronomicon as an imaginary book of black magick mentioned ominously in the horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and his friends. I then gave a thumbnail account of the Necronomicon as a popular literary hoax and a publishing phenomenon. Most importantly, I promised to deconstruct the pseudo-Mesopotamian elements in the Simon Necronomicon, which is the most popular Necronomicon of all. By the time I have concluded this series, I believe you will agree with me that using the Simon Necronomicon as a sourcebook for Sumerian magick is a bit like using Adolph Hitler's Mein Kampf as a guidebook for the practice of Judaism.

So let us begin by examining a section of the Simon Necronomicon that most scholars agree is one of the most authentically Mesopotamian parts of the book: "The MAKLU Text".
Even before we turn to page 75 of the Simon book to read his version of the so-called "MAKLU Text" (more properly known as the Maqlu Series) we find ourselves facing an Assyriological aberration. Throughout his seemingly interminable introduction (pages vii through lvi, comprising about an eighth of the book) Simon claims that his Necronomicon is a work of authentic Sumerian magick. But the Maqlu Series of tablets, translated into German by Knut L. Tallqvist [1], on which Simon based his "MAKLU Text", date from the Babylonian period and not from ancient Sumer, as Simon would have us believe. Even so, the magickal practices of the Babylonians were inherited from the Sumerians, and Babylonian magickal incantations were often written and spoken in Sumerian, so this is not, by itself, such a terrible mistake from the standpoint of the practitioner who wants to connect with the magickal current of ancient Mesopotamia.

But even in "The MAKLU Text" Simon's scholarship falls wide of the mark. From my careful study of Tallqvist's work compared to "The MAKLU Text" in the Simon Necronomicon, the evidence shows that Simon has merely taken abbreviated forms of some of Tallqvist's translations, mixed them with fictional material of his own creation, and used them in his book.

Before we examine Simon's corrupted version of the Maqlu Series, we should first examine the real Maqlu Series and place it in its proper historical and metaphysical context. The Maqlu Series of eight clay tablets contains some one hundred incantations and accompanying rites. The text reveals a single complex ritual composed of three major subdivisions: Tablets 1 through 5, Tablets 6 through 7, line 57, and Tablets 7, line 58 through 8. The first two divisions were performed during the night, the third during the early morning hours of the following day. The ritual is held at the end of the month of Abu. The two major participants are the incantation priest (ashipu), who presides as the ritual expert and director, and his client, a cursed man (possibly the king), who is the ritual actor. The ritualist was not only acting in his own behalf, but also in behalf of his kingdom or community. In one part of the ritual, he even takes on the identity of a priest and messenger to the Gods. The goal of the Maqlu ritual was to judge, punish and destroy all evil sorcerers and sorceresses, whether living or dead. Dead sorcerers were exhumed and destroyed, live ones were slain, and all were annihilated and deprived of any chance for burial. Thus they were prevented from finding any refuge in the underworld and were expelled from the cosmos [2]. The word maqlu itself means "burning", which refers to the destruction of the effigy of an evil sorcerer by burning or melting a doll or poppet of the sorcerer made of wax, bitumen, wood, dough, or clay [3]. Simon fails to explain any of this in the text of his book, thereby failing to provide a proper context for the incantations he presents.

I arranged to have a small portion of Tallqvist's German translations of the Maqlu Series translated from the German into English by Ms. Bernadette H. Hyner of the German Department of Vanderbilt University. What follows is her translation of the first plate of the first tablet in the series. The reader is welcome to turn to pages 89 and 90 in the Simon Necronomicon and follow along (up to a point) by reading the section entitled "THE BINDING OF THE EVIL SORCERERS":

The Texts of the Maqlu Series
In Conversion and First Plate of the Series Maqlu

Conjuration. I call to you, gods of the night,
together with you, I call to the night, to the covered (?) woman;
I call at night, at midnight, in the morning.
because the wizard (female) has charmed me,
The witch has put me under her spell,
my god and my goddess mourn over me.
Because my sickness (?) painfully plagues me,
I stand upright, neither night nor day do I lay down,
They have filled my mouth with strings,
with upuntu-herb they have stuffed my mouth.
They have reduced the water in my drinks;
my jubilation is lamentation, my joy is sorrow.
Rise, great gods, hear my lamenting,
enforce my right (do me justice), acknowledge my transformation!
I have constructed a picture of my wizard and my wizard (female),
of my witch master and my witch.
I have laid down at your feet and brought forth my lament:
because they have done bad (wrong), they were keen to do that which is unclean,
may they die (each of them); I shall live!
May their magic, their witchcraft, their poison (?) Be dissolved;
.... release me, the disgusting nature (offensiveness) of the mouth may dissolve in the wind!
May the mastakal-herb, of which the earth is full, cleanse me!
May GIS.SE.SA.KU, of which the grain is full, release me!
In front of you I want to shine like the KANKAL-herb,
I want to be sparkling clean like the lardu-herb.
Disastrous is the conjuration of the wizard (female):
let her words return to her mouth, let her tongue be cut off: [4]

If you've been comparing our translation of Tallqvist to the version of the same tablet on pages 89 and 90 in the Simon book, you will have noticed the similarities, showing that both are the works of different translators translating the same text. You will also notice that Simon's version is fairly faithful to Tallqvist's translation of the original tablet until he gets to the seventeenth verse and goes off on a fictional tangent. Instead of "I have laid down at your feet and brought forth my lament." Simon substitutes the sentence; "May the Three Watches of the Night dissolve their evil sorceries!" [5] It, and all the following verses are fictional products of Simon's imagination, not found in the original first tablet of the Maqlu Series.

Ms. Hyner remarked that, while working on the translation, she noticed that Tallqvist "was at times puzzled himself by its meaning as he frequently gave a word-for-word translation while only guessing at the phrase's full implications in their context. Subsequently Tallqvist marked these particular items with question marks."[6] This would seem to compromise the argument that the Simon book contains authentic Mesopotamian magick. "The Binding of the Evil Sorcerers" is a translation of a translation made by a man who was not entirely sure of the meaning of the original ancient text. And even this garbled version is corrupted by elements that are totally fictional. "Another Binding of the Sorcerers" found on pages 90-91 of the Simon book is also translated into English from Tallqvist's German translation and suffers from similar short comings.

All magickal elements in the Maqlu Series of tablets are counter measures and defenses against magickal attack. The fanciful version called "The MAKLU Text", as it appears in the Simon Necronomicon, also contains several conjurations and exorcisms to be used against evil spirits of all sorts, including "THE EXORCISM AGAINST AZAG-THOTH AND HIS EMISSARIES" [7]. This would appear to be in direct conflict with the sober warning on page liii of the introduction to the Simon Necronomicon, which states, "there are no effective banishings for the forces invoked in the NECRONOMICON itself." I should also point out that these extraneous "exorcisms" are not found anywhere in the Maqlu Series tablets, and are entirely the inventions of Simon's imagination.

It is perhaps even more interesting to note what Simon didn't use from the Maqlu Series than what he used. The Maqlu Series includes a marathon ritual of astral travel or "star magick" in which the ritualist travels into the heavens, where he identifies with, or transforms into, a star in the night sky. Like all the rituals in the Maqlu, its purpose was to protect against - or destroy - evil sorcerers. The ceremony took place at the end of the month of Abu [8], when spirits move freely between the underworld and this world, and the living and the dead interact. It was a time when judgments could be brought against evil sorcerers by heavenly and chthonic deities alike. The exorcist, or incantation priest (ashipu), would lead the ritualist in a kind of guided pathworking in which he would travel to the heavens in the form of a star to ask the Gods of the night and the Gods of the sky for assistance [9]. Simon ignored this when he devised his "Gate Walking" initiation, preferring to concoct a series of rituals based on Western Ceremonial magick that is totally alien to Mesopotamian magick and cosmology [10].

Once again, the presence of a few scraps of quasi-authentic magickal text does not constitute a magickal system or tradition. The way the brief snatches of the Maqlu Series are presented in the Simon book is misleading, and seems to at least partially conflict with the original purpose of this ancient text, and the intent of the Mesopotamian sages who wrote it so long ago.



[1] Tallqvist, Knut L. Die Assyrische Beschworungsserie Maqlu, nach den Originalen im British Museum herausgegeben. Helsingfors; Acta Societas Scientiarum Fennicae. 1894.

[2] Abusch, Tzvi. "Ascent to the Stars in a Mesopotamian Ritual" found in Death, Ecstasy, and Other Worldly Journeys. edited by John J. Collins and Michael Fishbane. Albany, NY. State University of New York Press. 1995. p. 18.

[3] Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, Black, Jeremy and Anthony Green. Austin, TX. University of Texas Press. 1995. p. 127.

[4] Hyner, Bernadette H. Translation of the Maqlu Series as rendered by Tallqvist. 1997.

[5] Simon. Necronomicon. New York, NY. Avon Books. 1980. p. 90.

[6] Letter to the author from Bernadette H. Hyner 25 June 1997.

[7] "Azag-Thoth" is Simon's pseudo-Sumerian version of a fictional monster created by H.P. Lovecraft called "Azathoth". Simon concocted what he thought was a Sumerian-sounding name by grafting the name of the Sumerian demon Asag (Akkadian Assaku) onto the name "Thoth", which is a Coptic Greek version of the name of the Egyptian God Tehuti. Simon never explains how the name of an Egyptian God got grafted onto the name of a Sumerian monster.

[8] Abusch, Tzvi. "Mesopotamian Anti-Witchcraft Literature: Texts and Studies. Part I: The Nature of Maqlu: Its Character, Divisions and Calendrical Setting" Journal of Near Eastern Studies 33 (1974) pp. 251-262.

[9] Abusch, Tzvi. "Ascent to the Stars in a Mesopotamian Ritual" found in Death, Ecstasy, and Other Worldly Journeys. edited by John J. Collins and Michael Fishbane. Albany, NY. State University of New York Press. 1995. pp. 18-23.

[10] I deal with this subject in much greater detail in my book The Necronomicon Files, The Truth Behind the Legend. Daniel Harms and John Wisdom Gonce, III. Forthcoming from Red Wheel/Weiser Publishing. Spring of 2003.



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