Is the Necronomicon really a dangerous occult text?. Image by selimaksan/E+/Getty Images

The Necronomicon is the title of a work of fiction by horror author H.P. Lovecraft. A master of viral marketing back in his day, Lovecraft allowed other writers to cite Necronomicon in their work, making it appear as though it was in fact an actual grimoire written by the so-called "€œMad Arab," Abdul Alhazred. Throughout the years, many people have claimed that Necronomicon is a real grimoire, translated and published by Lovecraft, who maintained throughout his life (and in writings published after his death) that he just made the whole thing up.

Lovecraft created a lengthy and complex fictional history of the book, including everyone from John Dee to various figures from the Salem witch trials. In Lovecraft'€™s book History of the Necronomicon, he claimed that only five copies of the original manuscript remained in existence, one of which is in the British Museum, and another being held at the fictional Miskatonic University in the fictional Arkham, Massachusetts. He even built cautionary tales into the History, warning that anyone who attempted the rituals contained in the book - or even anyone who tried to study it - would meet a terrible and mysterious fate. References to Necronomicon pop up in several of Lovecraft's short stories and novels, including The Nameless City and Call of Cthulu.

Despite it being a complete work of fiction, several publishers have released books entitled Necronomicon in their occult catalogs, and in the 1970s and 1980s, numerous books claiming to be translations of the original writings of Abdul Alhazred popped up. The best known one is called the Simon Translation, in which the Lovecraftian work is essentially pushed aside in favor of Sumerian mythology. This book has remarkably remained a top seller in the New Age/Occult categories for book retailers.

Peter H. Gilmore, A.S., over at the Church of Satan website, has an excellent article on why Lovecraft's work was actually a complex joke played upon the gullible. GIlmore says,

"A market clearly existed for a ritual book that somehow might be passed off as authentic—if it were somewhat like that mentioned by HPL. The book thus fabricated by the mysterious Simon is an artful blend of pseudo-Sumerian and Goetic ritual, with names crafted to resemble those of Lovecraft’s invented monster gods. More importantly for many would be Black Magicians who bought copies, it had performable rites and plenty of arcane sigils. It was more than enough to sucker-in the gullible and it still sells well today."

Books entitled Necronomicon appear in a number of horror films, most memorably the Bruce Campbell Evil Dead movies. In Army of Darkness, Campbell's character, Ash, travels back to medieval England to recover the Necronomicon from the Deadites.

It's important to note that despite all of Lovecraft's efforts to explain the fictional status of this work, there are a number of people who swear up and down that it is in fact a real grimoire, full of rituals and spells designed to call up demons and evil spirits.

You can read Lovecraft's work over at Sacred Texts, where they explain why, based on scholarly reasons, it is unlikely that Necronomicon is anything other than the product of Lovecraft's imagination:

"The provenance of a text is a set of criteria which scholars use to evaluate its authenticity. First of all, a text is usually referenced in other historic texts. For instance, the Book (possibly Books) of Enoch were mentioned in the Bible. The Gospel of Judas is mentioned in the writings of the Early Church Fathers as a heretical text. Manuscripts of the Book of Enoch were found in Ethiopia in the 17th century, and a papyrus of the Gospel of Judas finally turned up in the 21st century. However, there is no mention of a work called the Necronomicon until the 20th century. Secondly, there must be a manuscript that scholars can examine openly and subject to tests such as carbon dating and pollen analysis. No such manuscript of the Necronomicon has turned up, and until one does, it must be considered fictional. Other characteristics of an authentic text, which the Necronomicon fails to demonstrate, include a chain of ownership, multiple manuscripts with small variations, as well as linguistic and other internal evidence which places its composition in a specific time and place."
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Your Citation
Wigington, Patti. "Necronomicon." Learn Religions, Sep. 12, 2021, Wigington, Patti. (2021, September 12). Necronomicon. Retrieved from Wigington, Patti. "Necronomicon." Learn Religions. (accessed June 10, 2023).