Von Junzt and The Black Book –- Part Five

More than ever I sensed a deep and sinister wisdom behind the author’s incredible assertions as I read of the unseen worlds of unholy dimensions which Von Junzt maintains press, horrific and dimly guessed, on our universe, and of the blasphemous inhabitants of those Outer Worlds, which he maintains at times burst terribly through the Veil at the bidding of evil sorcerers, to blast the brains and feast on the blood of men.

— Robert E. Howard, “The Hoofed Thing”

After he studied the Necronomicon in Paris, Friedrich Wilhelm von Junzt’s preoccupation with eldritch cults deepened into obsession. Between the ages of 28 and 30, he travelled in Austria, Hungary and the Balkans. He halted in Prague for a time, a city which had been a centre of science and alchemy in the late 16th century. Ludwig Prinn, author of Mysteries of the Worm, had lived there for a decade. The famous English alchemist, astrologer and mathematician (and royal spymaster) John Dee also spent years there in the 1580s, at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II.

Further, in Prague, Junzt encountered Simon Orne, former close associate of the warlock, Joseph Curwen. Orne, perhaps maliciously, wrote Friedrich a letter of introduction to John Grimlan, then living in Providence. Orne was also familiar with Herrmann Mulder.

Von Junzt briefly looked upon the Black Stone, that evil monolith near the mountain village of Stregoicavar in south-western Hungary. He wrote of the Hungarian pillar as one of the “Keys”, and remarked that to believe it was a monument raised by Attila the Hun – as Otto Dostmann had – was “as logical as assuming that William the Conqueror reared Stonehenge” (REH, “The Black Stone”).

Von Junzt gave little space to the Hungarian “Black Stone” in his writings, however. It appears from this that the German scholar never suspected the Black Stone was actually the topmost “spire on a cyclopean black castle,” or he would surely have sought to dig beneath it.

Returning from Eastern Europe, Friedrich set sail for North America, taking his trusted friend, Alexis Ladeau, with him. The pair landed in Nova Scotia early in 1825, went on to Quebec and thence south into Maine. Afterwards they stayed for two months in Boston. Then, in Providence, Junzt met John Grimlan, the most amazing and evil person he was ever to know – perhaps excepting Hermann Mulder.

Grimlan had been born in Suffolk in 1630. He became a sorcerer of considerable power. At the age of fifty, somewhere in the Levant, Grimlan contracted with a monstrous Being for a further two and a half centuries of life. The price was his soul and body once that span ended. The Entity with whom he bargained presented Itself as Malik Tous, the Peacock Sultan, identified by orthodox Muslims with Shaitan. Grimlan knew there was only one “Black Master” though variously named as Erlik, or Ahriman, or Malik Tous – or Nyarlathotep.

Grimlan took Friedrich into his confidence, to a degree, once he knew the German had read the Necronomicon and was an initiate of the Black Goat. Grimlan had been one of the many strange visitors who came by night to Joseph Curwen’s Pawtuxet farm, before Curwen was killed in 1771, by a party of more than a hundred men in a night attack (Lovecraft, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward). Curwen, like Grimlan, had been unnaturally long-lived and given to terrible traffic with nonhuman beings, Yog-Sothoth among them.

The Englishman revealed much to Junzt concerning the darker secrets of the East. In particular, Grimlan spoke of the Zurim, the Hidden Ones, “a pre-Canaanitish race who lived in Syria before the coming of the Semitic tribes … given to heathenish worship and … all kinds of black magic and human sacrifice”(REH, “Three-Bladed Doom”). In their great days the Zurim were the power behind the Assassins, and branches of the cult included Druses, Yezidees and Thugees. He also told Junzt of the “buried cities of the Zurim.” Judging from the veiled accounts given in Nameless Cults, Grimlan may have been referring to the underground complexes of Anatolia.

Grimlan hinted to Friedrich that the origins of the Zurim could be traced back to Yalgahn and the last days of the Hyborian Age. He also spoke darkly of the “brazen towers” which linked the Sinjar Mountains with Mongolia. Like Herrmann Mulder before him, Grimlan chuckled at Junzt’s superficial knowledge concerning the deeper secrets of the Far East.

Wearied of and disgusted with Grimlan’s mocking half-truths and obfuscations, Friedrich and Alexis set out for New Orleans. It was there that unique sources of occult lore were available to Ladeau. The ancient, wealthy and influential de Marignys of Louisiana were his distant cousins.

The two Europeans were warmly welcomed. The de Marigny family had a long history of interest in the occult going back to medieval France. They were able to provide a great deal of assistance to Junzt in regard to voodoo practices in the region.

It was in Louisiana that Friedrich and Alexis encountered the actual cult of Cthulhu. The cult was based in the swamp and lagoon country south of the city, a region of “traditionally evil repute” where there were “legends of a hidden lake … in which dwelt a huge, formless white polypous thing with luminous eyes; and squatters whispered that bat-winged devils flew up out of caverns in inner earth to worship it at midnight” (Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu”).

Friedrich and his compatriots barely made it out alive. Ladeau was injured and, in the bargain, contracted malaria. Junzt, obsessed and driven as always, decided to press on. Ladeau’s recovery and care was given into the capable and compassionate hands of the de Marigny family. That convalescence would bear eldritch fruit a century later.

Through the de Marignys, the Friedrich made contact with Jean Lafitte (Lafitte’s reported demise being, as Twain would say, greatly exaggerated). Lafitte liked Junzt. Both had seen bloody combat, as well as eldritch horrors. However, for various reasons, Lafitte referred Friedrich to a Cuban mulatto, Enrique. Enrique, who claimed to be named for Henry the Navigator, was captain of a Bermuda sloop. In Von Unaussprechlichen Kulten, Junzt would refer to him simply as “der Navigator.”

With Enrique at the helm, Junzt visited many of the islands of the Caribbean. As a result, he was the first occult researcher to publish an account concerning the deeper secrets of Haitian Vodou. The German savant is our initial and primary source regarding the “black drink” ceremony and “zuvembies.” It was during this segment of his journey that Friedrich learned of the primordial “Zemba” and Gol-goroth cults. He also discovered the location, by way of a Taino mestizo shaman, of the Temple of the Toad.

The Temple of the Toad lay in the jungles of what is now Honduras.  Junzt went in search of the temple, landing on the north coast at Tela. Seventy miles inland, in a remote valley near the Rio Sulaco, he found it.

Von Junzt’s passage in the Black Book concerning the temple is one of his most explicit references to “keys”. He entered the site, certainly, and found the desiccated ancient corpse of the last high priest, with a red jewel in the form of a toad hanging around its neck on a copper chain. Using the pendant, Friedrich explored the inner sanctum of the temple. Apparently, he was a bit wiser in doing so than the treasure-hunter, Tussmann, who followed in the German’s footsteps decades later.

After leaving the temple, Junzt traveled in Guatemala and Yucatan. He nearly died of yellow fever, but came through and recovered in Belize. His convalescence, typically for the disease, was a long one, but his constitution was strong. In 1830 Junzt departed from Acapulco on a voyage across the Pacific.

The vessel on which he bought passage was the Joshua, a whaler from Sydney, Australia, under the command of a tough, brutal captain, Davey Arkright. From Mexico, Friedrich headed south to the coasts of Peru, a popular whaling ground, and thence to a brief stop at Easter Island. Junzt went ashore to examine the renowned statues of the island. He concluded that, as Herrmann Mulder had once told him, Easter Island was a former south-eastern extremity of Mu, the lost continent of the Pacific.

Upon leaving the island, the German savant paid Arkright well to search for “Karath the Shining City” of Mu, which REH mentions in his fragment “The Isle of the Eons”. Junzt had heard of it from Mulder, who in turn had read of it in the Ghorl Nigral. The search proved fruitless… and perhaps that is for the best.

Upon reaching Sydney, Friedrich jumped ship, made his way to the Dutch East Indies, and thence to the Philippines. He sailed for the Caroline Islands, where he investigated the massive stone ruins of Nan Madol. Junzt concluded that these were probably of “late Lemurian”  origin, remnants of the semi-barbaric Lemurian pelagic regime which ruled the Pacific after the inundation of Mu.

(Junzt’s mentions of “Lemuria/Lemurian” would seem to antedate any other modern reference, anticipating Haeckel and Blavatsky by decades. Friedrich arrived at his own conclusions and should not suffer for the misapprehensions of later scholars.)

Sailing south, the German savant disembarked in Malacca. While there, he gathered hints of ancient Naacal/proto-Stygian survivals. As was his wont, Junzt infiltrated local cults. It was in the jungles north of Malacca that he first encountered the Tcho-tchos and the tainted ecstasies of the black lotus. The antediluvian drug opened Friedrich’s mind to dream-realms and dimensions he had, heretofore, only guessed at. He staggered back to Malacca and set sail for Zanzibar.

Von Junzt’s obsession with ancient mysteries impelled him towards Africa and Arabia. His investigations concerning the “Zemba” cult, as well as those regarding Cthulhu, Ghatanothoa and Dagon, drove him there. From his youth, Friedrich had dreamed of visiting Yemen, home of the mad poet Abdul Alhazred who had written the Necronomicon. That grimoire referred to a “city in the wastes.”  Junzt made plans to find that city.

During 1832, Friedrich von Junzt halted for a time in the Zanzibar Islands, then under the rule of the Sultan of Muscat and Oman. There, in the slave-pens, Junzt found — and freed — an nganga (Bantu shaman) from the interior. From that shaman, he learned of Cthulhu worship in “Great Zembabwei.” Also, Junzt was tutored in the lore of what the nganga referred to as “very old, old Zembabwei.” Friedrich concluded that the shaman was referring to the Hyborian Age kingdom of Zembabwei, whose ancient northern borders lay just across the Zanzibar Channel. In addition, the German savant gathered information pertaining to the cults of Zemba and Gol-goroth further south and inland.

Boarding a British frigate, Friedrich set sail for the city of Sana’a in Yemen, the ancient birthplace of Alhazred. His attempts to visit the Rub’ al-Khali (and locate an Arabic manuscript of Al Azif) were less than successful. He barely escaped with his life. The Arabian peninsula, since the days of the Prophet, has only welcomed the Faithful.

Von Junzt was pleased at gaining permission to travel in Egypt. Its ancient history had long fascinated him. In one of the plainest, most unambiguous passages in Nameless Cults, Junzt asserted he had seen the Labyrinth of Kish which Nephren-Ka created beneath the hidden valley of Hadoth. His accounts of ghouls and caverns below the Gizeh plateau were more circumspect.

Friedrich returned to Europe by way of Turkey. He was now thirty-eight. He began correlating his vast mass of notes and organizing the material into the basis for a book. He worked intensely on the manuscript which he would call Von Unaussprechlichen Kulten and which would be titled Nameless Cults in the (Bridewall) English translation.

Von Junzt arranged his magnum opus in chapters which followed, in close outline, his actual travels in chronological order. Friedrich frequently rambled in the text, though, and in other places was deliberately obscure or ambiguous. In some passages he wrote as though close to hysteria. The book contains many flat assertions of a bizarre nature, without argument or evidence to support them. These genuine flaws gave many conventional publishers the excuse they greatly desired –considering Friedrich’s social status — for rejecting it.

Von Junzt offered it first to Konigsberg University. The authorities there denounced it, nor was it received any better elsewhere in Germany or France. Spanish scholarly presses refused to even consider it. The cosmology, and presentation of a universe in which there was no supreme moral order and human beings were insignificant, was deemed outrageous. Moreover, the hideous practices of the various cults described, and Junzt’s acquaintance with them, brought much personal vituperation on the German savant.

Von Junzt eventually had Von Unaussprechlichen Kulten printed at his own expense, privately, with an initial run of one hundred copies. Even then there were difficulties. One printer deliberately sabotaged the presses and burned the copy from which he was setting the type; a second killed himself. Eventually, in 1839, Friedrich turned in desperation to Herrmann Mulder’s cousin, Gottfried, who had hand-bound the translated codex of the Ghorl Nigral.

While engaged in this struggle, Junzt carried out further researches. He had long contemplated a journey to Mongolia for other reasons; to learn the inner secrets of the cult of Erlik, the death-lord, for one. Friedrich’s conversations with Herrmann Mulder had hardened his resolve beyond reasoning. He was determined to plumb the deepest secrets of Inner Asia.

He set out in 1836.

Images by Bryan “Zarono” Reagan, Chris Schweizer and Others.

Read Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Six

Tags: alexis ladeau, black lotus, black stone, de marigny, gottfried mulder, herrmann mulder, jean lafitte, john dee, john grimlan, junzt, lemuria, simon orne, tsathoggua, zurim