The Full Ordeal of Initiation
What it looks like to enter into an eldritch new lodge
Every now and then even I’m weirded out by this shit.
After publishing that 4-part Hellier/Lovecraft series a good friend of mine casually remarked in an email, “Did I ever tell you that I’m a member of the Esoteric Order of Dagon?” to which I replied, “You must tell me everything right this minute, mister!”
It came as no surprise to me that there were magicians working in a Lovecraft current I’ve just never been sure of how to approach that stuff. On the one hand, I’ve long been fascinated by Kenneth Grant’s Typhonian current but that’s really only tangentially Lovecraftian. On the other hand, you have stuff like the Simonomicon which I’ve always thought of as a novelty or your typical grimoire by some clown in guyliner promising you the power of Cthulhu with these simple rituals. So I tend to approach anything with a hint of this current with suspicion. Grant’s Typhonian Trilogies are great reading but it’s all theory and no practice and the other stuff is just your typical cynical cash-grab aimed at edgy teenagers. But when this particular friend, who I hold in great esteem, copped to belonging to this order, I dropped everything and looked them up and couldn’t believe what I was looking at. Their order included the likes of Phil Hine, Coil’s John Balance, and Nema. My eyes bugged out at this list of alumni. I’d later find out that I was looking at the wrong Esoteric Order of Dagon, which made me wonder how many there were and if there was also a Church of Starry Wisdom out there. As it turns out, this order and that order were once the same order but because it really do be like that, they fell out along a line where one group of magicians wanted to take the whole thing in a Typhonian direction while the others wanted to keep it very much their own thing. Their logic is sound, too. If you consign yourself to the Typhonian current you’re no longer working in the Lovecraftian current. You cease to be the Esoteric Order of Dagon.
A bit of email went back and forth between myself and the current Grand Master of the EOD who informed me that after a long period of silence the order was coming back to life. I’m honestly not sure what happened but it sounds like they’ve been radio silent and not terribly active since 2012. I had a sponsor, I had Lovecraft bona fides, and I was told that initiation was mine to take if I wanted it. And I did.
Ceremonial magic is my scene. All the way. The only problem is that ceremonial magic is really hard to do when you’re the on your own. Ceremony implies, you know, ceremony. There’s pageantry, costuming, roles to play, etc. Ceremonial magic is very much like an extra nerdy drama club with horny wizards and chanting but it very much requires a lodge. I also work really well with other people and I kind of crave social interaction with people I can relate to over seriously esoteric matters. I live for learning and teaching. But if that’s the road you want to take, you have to be really lucky nowadays to live in a place where there’s enough weirdos in concentration to:
Form a lodge
Not drive each other nuts because you’re all varying shades of insane
There was a time in the world where this was possible just about anywhere and in surprising places, too. The occult history of Cincinnati, Ohio, for instance, is far richer than you might expect. But it all started to fade following World War 2. We’re coming back, of course, but we’re all still spread quite thin. So you have to keep your options open. I joined Poke Runyon’s OTA as an associate member back when I was still quite new to all this and immediately ran up against the main problem of that order: You still have to be initiated in order to attain the grades and that means going to Los Angeles. I also joined the Sothis Lodge to do Points Chauds work and we really clicked but then Covid happened. There’s been some whispering about getting the band back together, though. The Esoteric Order of Dagon, however, offers a pretty unique model and it’s apropos as fuck, as I once again find myself balls deep in the madness of Michael Bertiaux. It’s all a little on the nose and I find that the longer I do the work, the more sensitive I become to those subtle hints that show me which direction I need to move in. It just happens to help greatly that this current is dressed up in all my favorite horror movie stuff and encourages me to be outrageous and theatrical.
If you’re wondering what I’m even talking about, here’s the deal. One of H.P. Lovecraft’s finest stories is a short called The Shadow Over Innsmouth. It was published toward the end of his life and concerns the fate of a man (a stand-in for himself) who finds himself stranded over night in the decrepit town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts, a place patterned after the marshy seaside cities of Massachusetts’s North Shore. Innsmouth is peopled by a strange population bearing alarming physical characteristics that folks around the area call The Innsmouth Look. They have flat noses and eyes placed wide apart that are fishy and never blink. The town, once quite down on its luck, struck a wicked bargain with a hidden race of fish-people, The Deep Ones, for prosperity but it means giving the Deep Ones sacrifice and occasionally having sex with them to produce hybrids. A religious order grows out of this and takes over the town, replacing all Christian religion and overtaking the local Freemasons. It’s a real trip.
So this order is named after that order and I initiated into it. I won’t lie. I was definitely getting a little comfortable with the safety of solo practice and yakking on the internet because this order managed to literally draw some blood and knock me squarely out of my comfort zone.
I’m going to conceal the specifics of the initiation because a part of this initiation was taking an oath of secrecy but I’m also trying to be better about embracing the silence and secrecy of the occult rather than yakking to anyone who will read my shit on the internet about it. I will talk on the parts that I can, however, because this whole experience was wild. I was very excited about it and it turned out to be one of the most complex and exhausting series of ritual that I’ve ever performed.
The Esoteric Order of Dagon, based on my limited experience with it, thus far, is less like ceremonial outfits that you’re familiar with and more like an esoteric society. Members come together around this rather broadly appealing current, work on common projects as individuals and share their experiences. Right off the bat I was presented with some work to do. The initiation document came with a bare bones outline of how the ritual will go and I, as the initiator and initiate am expected to make it mine and fill in the blanks. You can do it in the comfort of your own home, as so many of us do, but the document strongly encourages you to take it outdoors and really do it up, proper. So I started looking around the Seacoast to find a place that would be appropriate and where interruptions by bystanders and cops would be unlikely. Being that I’m actually in Lovecraft Country, I became obsessed with doing this right and really riding the gestalt hard. Back in the late 80’s there were reports in the local papers of cult activity out by me. I’ve tried to find articles about it in the online versions of these papers but I don’t think the local rags ever got around to digitizing them. Finding evidence of this might mean a trip to the library and looking at actual microfiche. I could also go to the local Athenaeum but I hesitate to go there digging up dirt since my brother and I did a project about the local setting’s dark side some years ago and the dude in charge treated us like shit because he disagreed with out mission. But I digress.
I thought it would be wild to perform this ritual in the spots associated with that activity: a park on the coast that used to house a couple of massive artillery cannons meant to deep-six any of Jerry’s warships that sailed too close to the coast during World War 2. My friends and I used to break into the magazine and poke around and there’s a lot of rumors of the bunker being connected to a deep series of tunnels that run a network around the city. I’ve even seen weird shit like bulkheads that are accessible only at low tide. If you walk around the woods out there you also occasionally find these hatches that are now welded shut that simply descend into the earth. But the more I looked around the maps the less I liked the spot. Secluded locations involved a lot of hiking and none of the spots had a good view of the ocean. So I kept looking.
The EOD has its own deck of oracle cards and I love them. The imagery is nothing to write home about and most of it is too murky to make sense of but its mechanics are unlike any other deck I’ve ever worked with. When trying to divine an outcome, you pull three cards in order. The tops and bottoms of the cards all have phrases on them and when put together, they form these couplets and that’s where you get your inspiration from. It always ends up sounding like a spooky haiku.
A dream-infested daemon city. Nightly sounds of whippoorwills, eldritch primal secrets
Transdimensional shadows, forgotten and shadow-haunted. A pre-terrestrial witch mark
You also add up the value of the cards and consult the EOD cipher which finds hidden meaning in the work of Lovecraft much in the same way that The UFOnaut Cipher finds hidden meaning the Book of the Law. In this case, it equals 94 which returns:
Others’ll worship with us at meetin’ time
A reapplication of the complex key
To reach some land their inner memories know
They was able to live in and aout o’ water
94 in the UFOnaut Cipher returns:
All rituals all
Shall laugh not
My hawk’s head
While meditating on this I kept getting a visual like a cairn or a standing stone and thought that wherever I ended up, I’d need to build such a thing or stand one up. But then, while looking at the map, I found a local spot called the 1614 monument. This is where Captain John Smith landed in 1614 and declared the land “New England”. Not only did this strike me as a highly Lovecraftian detail, the date when presented as a pair of numbers was perfect for the deck. So I pulled the 16th and 14th cards.
All-in-one, blood flows from the dark eye
Crawling through a snake den, an ancestral stargate
These add up to 30 which returns:
This would be the spot. No question. Not only was the scrying bananas, the geographic qualities of the location were perfect. The monument is an obelisk situated on a flat plain that juts out into the ocean. From the monument you can see to the horizon. I checked the weather and the tide schedule. It was going to be clear and cold and I’d get there at low tide.
Other environmental conditions
Sun in Pisces, 3rd house
Waning half-moon in Sagittarius, 20th Mansion
Time of ceremony: 11pm
Other planets in the 3rd house:
Mercury in Aquarius
Jupiter in Pisces
Saturn in Aquarius
Mars and Venus both in Capricorn, 4th house
The two signs, Pisces and Sagittarus, are complimentary, water and fire signs, male and female. It’s a good start. Third house is about communication and moving information. Having the sun there is great. Having Mercury there is better. Jupiter and Saturn just add to it with qualities of authority and community. I’m the only known member of the Order in this part of the world and in some ways I’m my own lodge.
The 20th Mansion is a good spot for chasing goals and making new alliances. These star/planet qualities are fucking perfect! The imagery for this mansion is a centaur with a bow and arrow, based on the Greek myth of Chiron. Chiron is a key in astrology and this is starting to get heavy with meaningful symbolism since the Silver Key will open the Dreamlands to me.
Mars and Venus are both in a constellation that’s half goat, half fish, which strikes me as extremely significant. Action and romance, Will and Love in a constellation all about work.
The stars are right!
The outline names the three rituals for membership named in Lovecraft’s story as a piece of the ceremony. There’s no specific words, it was up to me to fill that part out. So I wrote two that were adapted very heavily from the Freemason Entered Apprentice rituals and then riffed hard on the last one, inspired by the lyrics from Metallica’s The Thing That Should Not Be.
I’d also need:
My wife’s sleepy-time dream tea, chilled
4 road flares
Flares you, say? Indeed! This time of year is always windy and there’s no way in hell that I’d get a candle lit out there. So I bought some road flares. Not only would they withstand the wind, they’d look badass. The staff was a new thing that I’m adding to the ritual gear for EOD-related stuff. I don’t know. It just feels like something I need for this work. Lovecraft’s stuff was born from the same pulp mags that gave us sword and sorcery and his fantasy wizards always had staves and shit. I also needed a robe, which is something I’ve never actually owned. My ritual garb for Sothis Lodge was consistent with Michael Bertiaux’s rituals where operants wear white. Those would not fly. So I actually took my own advice from the previous article and made a robe.
I bought the material, measured my shit, did all the math, drew the pattern, cut the fabric and sewed it all together. Despite my cat Crowley’s best attempt to do what he wilt, mostly in the form of interfering and getting his paws snipped, I put my will in motion and ended up with a janky but perfectly functional robe.
Regarding the tea, I have no idea what’s actually in that stuff. My wife made it one night when a friend of ours dragged her entire apothecary over and it turned out to be perfect for getting to sleep but it also gave her very vivid dreams. I tried to make a similar one but my dedication to the herbal effects took precedence over flavor and the stuff I made was positively vile. So I boiled some water and steeped her magical tea in it all morning before putting into a flask and chilling it all afternoon until it was time to do the ritual.
I also took some time to draw up a version of the order’s symbol before leaving. This isn’t the one I used, though. You can’t see that one. Instead, I made this one for yuks in Figma and I kind of love it.
When the time came, I drove out to the spot in silence but not before gathering up my crap and suffering a rookie mistake while trying to carry it all. When you go out to those witch shops and buy a dagger, you’re likely buying some elaborate but actually quite shabby piece of equipment. The blade is pointy but likely not sharp. Mine is not one of these. Mine is a triangular Iberian dagger and while I’ve long suspected it of being quite sharp I learned the hard way that it is in fact quite god damn sharp. Like a world-class jabroni I took the knife and stuffed it, handle down, into my back pocket. The working idea was that I would be very careful about this and gently remove it when I placed it with my other stuff but I quickly became distracted by all the other stuff I needed to get together and rather forgot that it was there. When I went to stuff my phone into the same pocket I felt a sharp jolt on my middle finger and was painfully reminded that, oh yeah, like an asshole I put one of the sharpest knives I own in a place where I was extremely likely to hurt myself. It only got the one finger and I spent a good deal of time looking at it, waiting for the blood to come but it never did. I thought I got lucky and only hit the top layers of skin. I was wrong.
When I finally arrive to the park, the car in front of me, the only other car I’d seen on the entire ride over also pulled into the park with me, which made me nervous. They parked and I sat there in my car for a few minutes, hoping they’d just leave but people pull into these places all the time. They’re secluded and great spots to sell and buy drugs and have sex. It didn’t look like they were leaving any time soon, so I said fuck it, put on the headlamp and got out. It was fucking freezing there and windy. With the wind chill the temperature was easily below zero but you have to suffer for gnosis so I pressed on. With the red light setting on the head lamp turned on for a lower chance of being seen by bystanders, I walked out to check out the monument and couldn’t believe my eyes. As if it couldn’t have gotten any more perfect, the monument, itself, bore a symbol very similar to the order’s own, etched right into the granite of the base. So I went back, grabbed all my shit and set up for the ceremony.
It began with the LBRP, but instead of the archangel names, I used mythos gods in positions that I felt were appropriate: eg. Shub-Niggurath in the North instead of Uriel. I vibrate the name Azathoth instead of the names of God when drawing the pentagrams and I am freezing my ass off. It’s one hell of a winter night out there and I’m losing feeling in my fingers. The oaths and rituals of the initiation are written in my magical journal for reference and as I read them, I notice spots on the pages that appear to be wet. They glisten in the light a little but being that it’s cold, I assume that my nose is running and has managed to get on the page. Gross, I know, but hang in there. It’s part of the story.
After I have the circle set up but before the meat of the ceremony, I fire up the flares and realize that I have made a terrible mistake with these things. Badass? Absolutely. But I’m also extremely paranoid now. The car that pulled in with me left but I worry that they’ll call the cops or something. Four blazing road flares, in spite of the relative seclusion of the location, are basically a gigantic flashing neon arrow telling anyone who can see them, “Weird cult shit is taking place HERE HERE HERE”. I worry that at any moment, the cops are going to show up and I’m going to have to explain myself, a grown-ass man in a homemade wizard robe performing what can only look like George Soros spirit cooking to the local Trump-crazy MAGA cops. But I press on and things start to get weird. The paranoia is certainly real but I also get a very distinct impression that someone, just beyond the edge of the flare’s lights, is watching me; a whisperer in darkness, a lurker at the threshold. They’re dressed like me but wreathed in shadow. I can’t make out any details beyond that but I keep looking around the monument with that feeling. You know? People say it in movies all the time. That shit is real. I feel like I’m being watched. But there’s no one there. Also, as soon as I started the main body of the ceremony the wind picked up significantly. Like, it was windy to start but now I’m leaning against the wind so that the gales don’t push me out to sea. I cannot make this any clearer. I had to reposition myself several times because the gusts of wind physically moved me. I’m also shouting things like “Ia Shub-Niggurath! The black goat of the woods with a thousand young!” over the wind with a bell in one hand and a staff in the other, arms raised to the sky like a fucking madman and in this moment, I’ve never felt more magical and yes, I realize how ridiculous this all sounds.
Getting to the end, I pour the tea, present it to Sirius and drink it. In this moment, I become dizzy. There’s nothing weird in this tea. Y’all know me. Sober dude, six years running. It’s just tea. But my head swims and I put the cup back down and settle for a couple moments of silence. When I look up again, things about the sky are different. Sirius and Orion should have been to my left but they’re not there anymore. I look around the sky and realize that I can’t find any of the constellations I’m familiar with. I’m starting to get really weirded out by this. As I put the cup down and close out the ceremony, the wind chills out and goes back to being a nuisance rather than an active and ongoing threat. That’s when I turned on the regular light of the headlamp to clean up and I realize that the cut from the knife did eventually bleed. It just took a while and the whole place looks like a crime scene now. There is blood smeared on everything I touched. There is spatter all over the monument. As I sat and took in the scenery, I put hands up in the sleeves of my robe and they warmed up, the feeling returning to them and I now realize how sticky they are from drying blood.
I’ll spare y’all the gory details but if you want to see what bleeding for magic looks like, I posted the pictures over here. Years from now, someone is going to find my crazy-ass magic journal and read over the most maddening pages in the whole thing and wonder, are those streaks blood? Mission accomplished.
After picking up all stuff and stomping out what was left of the flares, making sure that they were completely out, I got back into the car and drove home in silence but not before stashing a Weird Bottle under some rocks on a spot below the high tide line. I was in a weird sort of trance state. I felt at once exhausted but any conscious thought I had felt very far away. The drive from the beach to my driveway was a mere twenty minute trek, and yet this trip felt like it took hours. The whole thing was just weird.
The last part of the initiation was to make note of any relevant dreams, since the heart of this order’s work beats there and while I certainly did have some strange dreams, they were fragmented and hard to remember. I dreamt something about a pyramid for the second night in a row but was also visited by two groups. The first group were a group of fish-men that wore some kind of yellow uniform. The second group was a group of frog-men who the same uniform, but it was green. I gathered up my journals and sent them off to the Order.
This ceremony ranks high among the strangest experiences I’ve had with magic thus far. The current is quite dark and I honestly mark the blood down to one of the material costs of doing business in this current. I’ll let you know if anything else weird goes down.