‘Ware Walpurgis Night

As I write this post, midnight approaches the east coast of the US. This would be an excellent time to reacquaint yourself with the horror writings of H.P. Lovecraft, whose various short stories and novellas often invoked the occult symbology of Walpurgis Night. Like the more widely known All Hallows Eve (Halloween or Samhain), this is allegedly a time of occult power that precedes a holy day. In this case, the holy day is in honor of Saint Walburga (whose name is also rendered as “Walpurgis”).

Lovecraft’s brand of horror has its fair share of nasty things that go bump in the night, but his contribution to the genre lies more in the development of a more intellectually grounded sort of tale. Lovecraft’s monsters are usually not merely creatures that are butt-ugly and kill people right and left; no, in many cases, the monsters are indisputably more intelligent than the human who is left to relate the first-person narratives that Lovecraft often wrote. Their power comes in no small part from upsetting or overturning the comfortable world view of the protagonist and setting his very sanity at risk. (If Lovecraft ever wrote a story in the first person from the perspective of a female protagonist, I missed it.)

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

from The Quotations Page

As entertaining as the frisson of fear that reading Lovecraft induces might be, I’d have to disagree with Lovecraft’s assessment of the general mental stability of mankind. There are a lot of possible reactions to the sorts of horrors that Lovecraft introduces in his stories, but simple retreat into insanity is a lot less likely than I think Lovecraft makes it out to be.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.