Author's note: This piece was originally written to be included with Chaosium's 1990's Handbook as the opening piece. In the end, however, it was cut for reasons of space and style. I have somewhat revised it from the version which was cut. I wrote it because the lead author, Gregory Rucka, asked me to give a brief summary of the history of the world's political, social, and religious systems to provide Keepers some context for creating adventures in the 1990's. I did my best to provide a narrative imbedded with ideas which might tease the reader's imagination and provide the starting point for some research and writing. I still hope that it can serve that role.
(1994 Keynote Address at The Annual Convention of the International Metaphysics Society)
Dr. Walter Black
The collection of extraterrestrial and extra-dimensional beings known to some scholars as the Cthulhu Mythos has been an ever present menace to Humanity since anatomically modern humans arose some 100,000 years ago. If some texts are to be believed, these alien beings may have had a hand in the development of all life on Earth. Without a doubt, the beings of the Mythos have exercised some degree of influence over human society from its first development. Given this history, I suggest that we must recognize that Humanity bears within it seeds, planted and cultivated throughout its history, which threaten the destruction of our species. We each have within us what the author Joseph Conrad termed "the Heart of Darkness," and only by looking within ourselves may we seek to confront that which exists to destroy us. Paradoxically, our inward journey requires first an outward exploration of our species' role in the history of our planet so that we may start to see the web of events in which our species is trapped.
To do what we can to postpone our prophesied doom, we must seek to understand our place on Earth in relation to these unfathomable powers, to see how we have been shaped by their proximity, and to learn what we can from all of Humanity's past in the hopes of surviving that much longer. The extent of direct control the Mythos may exercise or may care to exercise over Humanity has been uncertain throughout our history, but individual events indicate that the Mythos has empowered both the fringes and the hearts of human societies at one time or another. The history of this influence is the secret history of our species, which each of us, regardless of the risks, must seek to expose.
It would seem that Mythos influence has lurked, from the beginning, latent in any human creation to one degree or another, waiting to take over. The truly terrifying element to this is that now, as we approach the end of the Twentieth Century, technology and social organization has allowed human beings to diffuse ideas, organizations, and artifacts worldwide. There is no isolated society anymore; everyone is touched by the world system, and there is no telling to what extent the various powers of the Mythos manage that system. We must now look at all human creations as potentially suspect, potentially corrupted or corruptible by the powers of the Mythos. As we all are moved towards a world wide conformity, we must beware of what or whose vision we conform to.
In seeking to defeat, deflect, and diffuse the influence of the Mythos, we must always consider our own species' involvement first. The beings of the Mythos themselves are powerful and have goals that humans can only try to interpret. All too frequently, however, our fellow human beings have convinced themselves that these creatures are a means to power. To thwart our alien foes, we must strike at the weakest links in the chains with which the Mythos seeks to bind our species: human beings. Otherwise we face an imminent doom which we may be unable to comprehend. The only defense against the incomprehensible desires of these beings is knowledge. To this end we must explore where we may find the human element of Mythos influence throughout the world because therein lies the Achilles heel of our foes.
To begin with then, I will structure my discussion geographically, using the continents of our planet as reference points to order my observations. For each continent, I offer a survey of the social, historical and political character of each in very broad terms and follow with an overview of the occult elements known or suspected to exist in each region. This can only serve as a primer for research, an index with which deeper investigations can go forward. The sheer weight of 100,000 years of human history, not to mention the churning variation in almost five billion people, cannot easily be summed up. In the end each investigator will need to probe deeper for specifics, utilizing personal experience and the information accumulated by worthy experts.
This continent is the cradle of Humanity. From our species' infancy, Africa was our first testing ground, the first area where we sought out and adapted to diverse habitats. While the earliest civilizations are attributed to the Fertile Crescent in Mesopotamia, basic social relations and social forms came from the small bands of wandering humans who walked across the African continent and eventually wandered out into Asia and Europe.
Of such a vast and important continent, rich in minerals, wildlife and diverse environments, the average person remains remarkably ignorant. The messages that popular culture has given us have been largely from the perspective of the colonialists and imperialists. Much is thought of ancient Egypt, yet rarely is it connected with the vaster African continent whose history is both deeper and wider than that long lived and changing civilization.
To begin to understand we must forget what we think we know about Africa and begin to learn anew. Humanity has a long history here, from our origin, to the heights of ancient civilizations, to our most barbaric cruelties, all played out across this vast continent.
There is a basic dichotomy between North Africa, the continent above and including the Sahara Desert, and Sub-Saharan Africa. North Africa has had a long relationship with Europe and the Mediterranean. It has always attracted a diverse population and has played host to multiethnic societies for thousands of years. Black Africans, Arabs, Phoenicians, Germanic Vandal barbarians, Berbers, Jews, Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians, all have settled at one time or another among the hot sands and verdant river valleys of North Africa. This area has been for many centuries part of the Islamic world, though its past in the Christian, mystic, and pagan traditions has never entirely disappeared or been forgotten.
Sub-Saharan African is that Africa portrayed in the colonialist propaganda. This was the land of Black Africans, where hundreds of languages and many rich and diverse societies lived, prospered, migrated, fought, and traded. There were sedentary kingdoms built on trade, agriculture, and animal husbandry and there were slash and burn agriculturalists, slowly moving across the continent, settling temporarily, using the land, then moving on to new land while the old regenerated. There were nomadic pastoralists who also raided and traded with surrounding tribes, and there were nomadic hunters and gatherers in every kind of marginal environment, living where more settled people thought there was nothing. All of this was arbitrarily parceled up by European colonizers.
The Portuguese, English, French, Germans and Italians seized vast territories, co-opted or destroyed native leadership, and administered large colonies whose boundaries were drawn arbitrarily, without consideration for allied or adversarial relationships between ethnic groups. During the many conflicts between colonial powers, most notably the two world wars, local populations were frequently pressed into fighting for ideals and goals that had nothing to do with their realities, yet they were forced to kill their neighbors (sometimes their enemies, sometimes their friends) because of a line drawn on a European map.
In the Post-World War Two era, continuing up to today, Black Africa has sought to emancipate itself from its colonial past. Vast problems continue because of colonial lines. Many African countries contain ancient tribal conflicts and ancient tribes and kingdoms remain divided by old colonial lines turned to national borders. Traditional life has been forever changed and few people are able to carry on their old way of subsistence. Colonial occupation left relatively little industry and infrastructure, and the raw materials that Africa can produce do not sustain vital economies. The old political structures left by the Europeans, rather than helping to enfranchise
the populations and allow for fair governing under difficult circumstances, have generally left an elite vulnerable to corruption and detached completely from the common people.
Because of the disturbing inference that the Mythos may have had some influence on the origin of our species, we must look to Africa for early intervention by elder races and other alien influences. It is not impossible that millions of years ago this continent was inhabited by a variety of non-terrestrial creatures, attracted by the biodiversity and mineral wealth. Evidence of this may be buried deep, or may, in fact, be virtually eradicated by time. Evidence of their influence on the development of our species should come from East Africa, however.
Later influence of the Mythos focused on the larger conglomeration of Humanity on the continent. This influence may have begun in Egypt, to which Nyarlathotep seems to have almost intrinsic ties, and later seems to have spread to the Phoenician colony at Carthage, and perhaps can be seen in the darker sides of Hellenic, Roman, and Islamic occupations. In both West and East Africa there were vast trader kingdoms such as Ghana, Mali, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe. These places brought travelers and traders from all over the Islamic world and from Asia to exchange goods and ideas.
Their creation was through human inspiration, but the human heart of darkness undoubtedly fell prey to the insinuations of the Mythos. In the end, however, European intervention felled each of these states.
The resources for the Mythos in Africa are vast, for Humanity is old here. Consequently traditions, mythologies, and social relations among the many peoples in Africa are highly complex. Unfortunately, wherever Humanity has been able to create wonderful and complex things, the Mythos has been able to crawl in, to hide behind masks, and to subvert and manipulate human culture to bend towards the inscrutable ends of the Great Old Ones. Tribal culture has always seemed to have ways of dealing with Mythos interference, of discovering it and casting it out, or at worst just escaping from it. However, this tribal life has been marginalized over much of the continent.
Tribal wisdom which has protected generations of Africans from the Mythos is dying, or perhaps better put, is being exterminated by the expansion of "civilized culture" in which human beings have lost their way, falling prey easily to the forces that lurk in the shadows. Certainly, there is a truly dark and corrupt side native to Africa. Africa houses sinister ruins and there are ancient dark ceremonies still practiced. However, the struggling art of tribal shamanism has done more to keep these people clear of the Mythos than civilization has, and there are horrors more terrifying in the security ministries of many governments on the continent that one can find in the most blasphemous ruins.
To our knowledge, Humanity has only begun its invasion of Antarctica within the period of recorded history. Antarctica was first approached by an expedition led by the English sea Captain James Cook between 1773 and 1775. The actual continent was not set foot on until a Norwegian-led party landed in 1895. Most exploration of Antarctica came in the 20th century and it continues today.
While various private concerns and national entities (most notably Argentina and Chile) have advanced claims on the resources and territory of Antarctica, an international compact currently guarantees the integrity of the continent, reserving it as a place of cooperative international research. There are several permanently maintained research facilities on this harsh continent, and while there remains many mysteries about its geology, ecology, and biology, its topography
has been thoroughly mapped, the last major survey having ended in 1964.
The climate is forbidding and harsh over the entire continent. There is a base maintained at the South Pole, however, and both women and men from several nations have proven it possible to walk, sled and fly from one end of the land mass to the other. Still, Antarctica has been the death of many expeditions, some forever lost to the icy embrace of the frozen landscape and slow surging glaciers.
This area is perhaps the most obscure, most forbidding, and most mysterious on the planet. While the continent has been photographed from the air and from space, while tiny expeditions have seen the land up close and plumbed the depths of icy lakes inside glaciers and viewed the life clinging to the underside of twelve foot thick sea ice, Humanity has had almost no impact on the continent. In this landscape is no history of a human heart of darkness. What lingers below the glacial ice, what hides in the blistering eye of the snow storm, what has been taking advantage of continent wide mineral resources, we cannot know until we are confronted with it.
In the 1930's an expedition from the Miskatonic University made outlandish claims upon their return from the continent, recorded in the narrative "At the Mountains of Madness." The narrative described an interior mountain range over 30,000 feet high, and claimed that at one time it had been occupied by an ancient race alien to Earth. That no such range has ever been found and the maps and satellite photos now in existence would seem to conclusively prove that such a range does not exist in Antarctica. The true facts about these "Mountains of Madness" remain unknown. Perhaps knowing that he could not truly hope to discourage further exploration of Antarctica, the author fictionalized their height or their exact location to keep them from the curious. The truth may be that something beyond our comprehension lurks here at the bottom of our world, but whether it be from the beginning of time or from beyond time we can only pray we never find out.
Asia is vast. Asia was the crucible of human endeavor. If Africa was the cradle of the human race, Asia was the cradle of human civilization. Here Humanity built the first cities; here humans first domesticated the horse; here humans first wrote; and here Humanity began to divide up and develop social complexity. It is almost too much to try to comprehend Asia at a glance, for history, culture, topography, and societies are virtually numberless.
One cannot sum up the physical geography of Asia. Mighty deserts, great rivers, vast mountain ranges, deep forests, and jungles. The scope is enormous. In terms of human geography, it was in Asia that Humanity found itself capable of great organizational feats, of building vast physical and social infrastructures, to discover secrets about the universe, to glorify beings greater than themselves (the gods, ancestors, the Buddha, and eventually God as known to Jews, Zoroastrians, Christians and Muslims).
They converted a subsistence agricultural economy to surplus production so that the vast majority of people could produce enough extra for a small segment of the population to become scribes, warriors, priests, and, of course, rulers. Cities spread throughout Asia and also sparked civilizations in adjacent areas (such as Egypt) not long after. Great centers arose and remained influential in Mesopotamia, China, India, and Anatolia. Other populations took to the vast plains and steppes on horseback, and groups such as the Scythians, the Huns, the Mongols, and the Turks remained a menace to urban civilization for millennia.
Out of the vast and varied physical geography of Asia, incredible forces of human geography were brought to bear on almost all of the other continents of our world. Innovative ideas, revolutionary technologies, sweeping migrations and invasions, all born somewhere in Asia, sparked vast changes in the world and can be seen as fundamental factors motivating the modern world as we know it. Pulses and trends from Asia continue to shape our world, from developments in marketing and technology, forms of government and terrorism, and methods of war and peace.
Asia in the modern world offers us a most bewildering and varied panoply of ethnicity, religion, politics, and societies. From the seemingly clockwork society of Japan, to the vast forces of China and India, from the recovering nations of Southeast Asia and the armed camps of the Korean Peninsula, ancient island traditions of Indonesia and the Philippines with their groaning modern ills, to the contentious states of the disintegrated USSR, to the young and mistrustful states of the Middle East, Asia presents us with Humanity rising to its heights of technical innovation and in its depths of misery and meanness. Here, in our modern world, are the human resources for every dream of peace, and the nightmarish capacity and expertise for the final Armageddon of our species.
Irem, the City of Pillars; the Plateau of Tsang; the Nameless City; all these and more are rumored to be somewhere on the continent of Asia, as are many other mythic places such as Shangri-La, Xanadu, and Shamballah. These outlandish and otherworldly places may hide secrets and hold the future or the past of Humanity in their hearts, but the time has largely passed for lonely explorers to seek those distant fables.
Today we find our unspeakable secrets and our secretive cults not far from the centers of population, but rather within them. While some of the familiars of the Elder Gods may still live out in the lonely wilderness and the haunted ruins, the teeming continent of Asia hides its heart of darkness in plain sight. Power now exists where the people are and, as the modern world has dismissed the mystic with the wand of science, the slaves of the Mythos now organize Humanity into gangs and criminal organizations, into political parties and religions, into businesses and corporations. We can hope that they are competing against one another to betray Humanity, but their influence is world wide. What was a short time ago a loose set of uncoordinated global conspiracies, may now be selling us our televisions as it spies into our weaknesses by satellite and prepares to sell us all to the forces which lurk beyond space and time.
For all that it looks like an island on the map, Australia cannot be seen as an unvariegated whole. The continent is as diverse as any other and, in many ways, is much more unique. The land mass of Australia was separated from the other continents in such a way that the flora and fauna of the continent developed without the impact of many species common throughout the rest of the world. Thus Australia has, for example, a vast supply and variety of marsupials (kangaroo, koala, etc.) which do not, and could not exist in other environments due to competition from other life forms.
Humans came to Australia between 60,000 and 40,000 years ago and they diversified into hundreds of cultural groups speaking thousands of languages. Many entire peoples and traditions died out in the first onslaught of the world system, headed by Western "Civilization." Most of the world now sees the original immigrants to Australia, vast diversity and long tenure not withstanding, as a marginalized and undifferentiated group they call Aborigines. Now the members of the conquering peoples define much of the Australian realities, and it is their human geography that is dominant. But many of the old ways are not forgotten, and the land does not forget.
While there are many popular images projected of Australia, none can truly encompass the complexity of this continent. This continent can be seen in its relation to the sea, because it has an enormous coastline with access to tropical and Antarctic waters and includes the great barrier reef surrounded by waters teeming with life. This continent can also be seen as the wild frontier fit for cattle and sheep grazing, where there is mineral wealth, verdant mountains, and fertile
valleys. Through this wild frontier lies the passage into the great interior, the Outback. There in the vast, diverse, and arid wilderness is an untamed land, a land that can be traversed, a land that demands, a land familiar to few "recent" arrivals, but well known to the original inhabitants.
Around the rim of the continent is an overlay of European "civilization." Great urban metropoli, small agricultural towns, suburbia, all exist united around access to the coastline, looking outward. Here live the proud descendants of convicts and their warders, here also are most of Australia's immigrants, and finally here live some of the remnants of Australia's original people, most trying to bridge two worlds in conflict.
On the undefined edge of "civilization" there exist the wild mining towns, the corporate mineral interests, the agro-businesses, and the far flung cattle and sheep stations. This is a land of rugged people, from horsemen in the mountains to migrant workers traveling from station to station on the wide planes. Here is a world held together by radios; flying mail and medical services; scattered one street towns; and long dusty roads. Some Aboriginal tribes have places in this land to continue their traditions and identity, but they are more and more being detribalized and assimilated in some way into the dominant European culture.
Beyond the fringe of European influenced areas is a vast landscape of mostly arid lands. Few Europeans come here except for geologists, anthropologists, biologists and other social misfits. Some Aborigines still walk the great outback, but even here the influence of European society has intruded into the ancient and natural rhythms which Aboriginal culture developed to exist in this harsh landscape which can be both forbidding and rewarding.
Because of its original human inhabitants, residents of this island continent for the last forty thousand years (or more), Australia has been a unique mythological landscape in Humanity's struggle for survival against the Mythos. Though we should not dismiss the modern Europeanized Australians, their realities, backgrounds, and mythic experiences are quite parallel to contexts known in Europe and America. The Aboriginal experience of Australia is quite another thing, however.
While the clans and tribes of Australia are as heterogeneous as the different tribes of Native North American, they have certain shared experiences, the most notable of which is the Dreamtime. Much of this has been detailed already in the monograph Terror Australis, but it can be summarize here. Dreamtime is a complex concept: Dreamtime is both the mythic past, and an alternate reality of the present. Dreamtime is a timeless place of myth, and reflects the physical reality of Australia some 40,000 years ago. It may be derived from the collective unconscious of the inhabitants of Australia interacting with the land. While this timeless dimension exists as a resource for inspiration and a receptacle for collected wisdom, it also houses the horrors and trials of humankind's past, with a unique mix of spiritual and demonic forces indigenous to Australia. It may be that other similar myth/dream dimensions exist throughout the world, but Australia's Dreamtime seems the most potent.
One possible influence in the Dreamtime, as well as in present day Australia, is the presence of an immensely ancient city, reported in the Miskatonic University publication "The Shadow Out of Time." This city apparently existed in the Great Western Desert of Australia and vastly predates the human occupation of the continent. According to the report, the builders were travelers through space and time. These beings eventually abandoned the city to save themselves from creatures which had been long-trapped under the city, but which broke through the barriers which the city-builders had erected. The exact location and total contents of the city, as well as its extent are unknown. It is, in fact, uncertain whether it necessarily completely occupies our dimension.
This continent is a paradox. Attached to Asia and across the middle sea from Africa, it can be seen as the lesser of three sister continents. Humans came later to Europe, as did social and technical advances diffused from parts of Africa and Asia where they were independently developed. Still Europe is a cradle for many great traditions, and proved even better as a crucible for refining foreign elements brought by trade, conquest, and invasion. For in the end, through barbaric periods and dark ages, Europe holds the foundations for the modern world. For better or worst, the dominant forms of economy, urbanization, and modern technology in the world flowed from this continent with its successive world empire builders.
While in the past there have been brighter spots on the globe, and in the future the world may see a swing in the influence of human ideas, the present still belongs to realities dreamed and refined in Europe.
Europe as a continent demonstrates an incredibly diverse human geography, inserted into a varied and yet tiny landscape. Here there are elements that resonate strongly and clearly with what we see as the modern world. London, Paris, Vienna, and Berlin, these are modern cities, with modern culture, enriched by the presence of ancient foundations and landscapes with long memories. At some basic level the essence of the modern Western world exists in Europe.
This is just a superficial reading, however. Europe is a small scale continent in terms of area, but in terms of complexity and diversity of language, culture, and societies, Europe is a rich and unhomogenized collection of very old societies. In the last centuries, much of that diversity has been masked or suppressed by the emergence of the nation-state (a European original), which emphasized territorial integrity, a single national language, and a centralized capital which held predominance as a cultural and social showpiece.
We understand Europe mainly through the image presented through the centers of the powerful nation states, England, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and perhaps Spain and Poland. There are, however, so many more facets to European society: different ethnic groups, traditions, and dialects spread between grand cities and tiny farming villages put there through historical accident or design. Yet, from outside we see these tiny villages and forgotten enclaves fleetingly, or as quaint sideshows. However, these are as much a defining part of European reality as London, Paris, or Berlin. Witness the way reality is bending in the 1990's around the ethnic and religious fragmentation of former nation states like Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, shattering the illusion of the unitary state.
Each foundation laid in Europe seems to rest upon something just a little older. Though much of what built Europe were ideas from Asia and Africa, Europe sustained quite a few innovations of its own, and successfully integrated new concepts to build societies with enduring cultures. One can find incredibly sustained traditions in building sites, libraries, and in ancient family lines. In Europe, the weight of history and tradition are heavy and memories are long. This means that Mythos influence not only is entrenched, but has probably been maintained in any given instance (a building site, a burial ground, a family line, a sacred shrine) for many centuries. Not only that, but this weight of history has frequently cloaked forbidden things in accepted tradition and respectability.
However, the fortunate reality of Europe is that with such enduring institutions, there are frequently enduring records. Literacy was imported to Europe, but once there, was always maintained, sometimes widely, sometimes by a tiny elite, but there are records, observations, chronicles and commentaries which date very, very far back. The matter is one of finding such things, and that is not easy. It is not just that certain forces may not want one to make discoveries, but also that vast libraries and archives are maintained by all to frequently tightfisted governments, private organizations, or scholarly institutions, which, while never having been able to catalog the material themselves, will not easily let others have access.
A final consideration of leads to and influence by the Mythos in Europe is the scope of the European empires. Spain, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, and England, just for starters, all had incredible influence throughout the world with empires of trade and conquest, and they all brought many things home: objects, people, written records. All of these spoils of empire had an impact on Europe at one time, and many residues of that impact, whether material or conceptual, are still to be found buried in the culture of Europe.
This continent consists of three substantial nations: Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Though their history is intimately related, there have been at times, no three stranger bedfellows. The overlay of three nation-states onto the continent, however, fools many people into missing the incredible mix of cultures, histories, and societies ranged across North America, some of which have readily ignored the artificial boundaries maintained by countries. There are millions of stories to be found in North America, for this has been a continent where worlds have collided again and again.
The physical geography of North America is as complex as any on the planet. North America extends from the tropics in southern Mexico to the frozen ice of the Arctic Circle, and in between there are generous swaths of deserts, prairie, forests, and agricultural landscapes, as well as great lakes, rivers, mountains and valleys. The human influence on the land has been pervasive, and North America houses some of the greatest urban populations in the world. Yet there are still broad open spaces, remote natural settings and empty lands to contrast with the vast built environments of New York, Los Angeles, or Mexico City.
The debate of when humankind first entered North America rages on, but a safe bet seems about 35,000 years ago. These peoples came as hunters across the Bering Strait in several waves of immigration. Every habitable environment was eventually filled with people, and many different ways of life became established, from settled agriculturalists, who eventually supported dense urban societies, to scattered hunter-gatherers, who moved in a yearly round, eternally moving with the cycle of the seasons. These peoples altered the landscape of North America, some in subtle ways, others through massive transformations. Most of these alterations harmonized well with the land, though some resulted in catastrophes like agricultural collapse. The people lived as people around the globe have always lived, mostly in fellowship, sometimes in intense conflict.
With the coming of the imperial European powers, conflict intensified and life changed forever. In Mexico the high cultures of the Aztecs and the Maya were crushed and absorbed into the Spanish Empire. England and France played one native people off against the other, though the English were more apt to deport or destroy whole peoples. Eventually, through conquest, and especially through the spread of disease (much unintentional, some very intentional) the native peoples lost the bulk of their populations, and the land became "virtually uninhabited." Those that were left were pushed aside, exterminated, or absorbed, and the colonizers and conquerors defined the modern reality of the nations of North America.
Everywhere on this continent can now be seen the influence of colonial society, of pioneers, of people forced into slavery, and a continuing stream of immigrants, refugees, and exiles. The already complex human landscape of Native America has been scrambled and overlain with an additionally complex set of ideas and objects brought from every corner of the globe. If Europe was able to absorb and refine ideas with which she ruled the world, then North America has gone even farther with the concept. But not without great pain, for the nations of North America are nations made tumultuous through their diversity, held together by vision and promise, torn apart through betrayal and hypocrisy. Every kind of an ideal and horrific human landscape can be found in North America; it is a continent that has it all.
Much like Australia, the original inhabitants of North America, however diverse, had a certain underlying collective unconscious, a link from the past, defining the present and guiding them into the future. Even more so than in Australia, however, these unifying ties were disrupted by the colonialist invaders. The colonial powers brought their own baggage, the old ways from Europe, some of which could blend surprisingly with native beliefs, others which were totally foreign concepts. The conversion of the character of North America from a land laden with meaning grown out of itself, to a land with meanings imposed from the outside, has been continually complicated with the vast array of new meanings imported by immigrants, willing and unwilling. Many Asians and Africans came to North America much against their will and yet they contributed to the mythic landscape, and many more people voluntarily came from Europe, Asia and Africa to escape their old realities and to transform into a new people. These peoples have created new cities, new technologies and many new religions.
For the Mythos this has meant many things. The ways that native peoples coped with the Mythos, after long trial and error, have been suppressed or lost in many cases. Despair and greed has turned many towards the Mythos. However, the diversity of relations to the Mythos has complicated Mythos designs since differing sinister traditions have worked against each other as much as they have worked against Humanity. Also, the diversity of peoples in North America has allowed for many traditional ways of opposing the Mythos to bring their best ideas together and form even stronger shields against the horror of Mythos entities.
These few new hopes notwithstanding, what has been lost still cannot be replaced entirely with what has been gained, and some of the creatures of the Mythos have learned that alloying traditions can work strongly in their favor as well. Added to this is the immensity of urban technological society on the continent. High technology is still relatively new to humankind, and it has turned more and more towards the Mythos as an ally rather than serving as a defense for modern Humanity. The human heart of darkness lurks everywhere in the urbanized landscape of North America, and the Mythos feeds well on it. Further, and of great concern, the involvement of technology in our everyday life advances faster than most humans comprehend its impact, and as North America hurtles into its future we must be wary of what ghosts lurk in our machines.
The vast Pacific Ocean is peppered with a variety of islands, most of which constitute Polynesia. While widely separated, the Islands held within the vast triangle formed between Easter Island, New Zealand, and Hawaii were settled by a single population which, in a vast and long term migration, slowly but resolutely navigated from island to island, creating unique expressions of an underlying common culture.
There are all variety of paradises balanced against truly challenging landscapes within Polynesia. Polynesia began to be settled some 3,500 years ago, but that colonization was not complete until just 1,000 years ago with the settlement of New Zealand. Few ties between islands were ever maintained until European explorers rediscovered the links between these scattered islands. They, of course, divided up Polynesia into spheres of influence, portioning out islands to different imperialist governments, and now the islands of Polynesia pertain to or are administered by European-founded states.
Polynesia has an extraordinary mythology based on concepts of the sacred, royalty, sacrifice, and usurpation. The rulers have often been seen as a separate ethnic group or race from the ruled. Polynesian culture is, of course, intimately linked to the sea. There are fascinating ruins, remains and mysteries, all apparently man-made, throughout this Pacific region. The amount of Mythos penetration into Polynesia may be great, but the Polynesians may also have developed, out of necessity, some of the most active and effective defenses against the watery menaces of Cthulhu's kin. While Harold Hadley Copeland's pioneering studies from the early part of this century (e.g. Polynesian Mythology, with a Note on the Cthulhu Legend-Cycle) opened the scholarship on the interaction of the Mythos and these islands, little research has followed and we have only begun to learn from the history and cultures of the region.
SOUTH and CENTRAL AMERICA
Linked by shared historical experiences and culture, these regions have all to frequently been subjected to offhand generalizations obscuring the large and small regional differences which makes this continental area a place of magic and mystery. These lands house the largest zones of tropical biodiversity in the world and contain vast mountainous regions where humans created unique and enduring ways of life. This is also a region of continuing human conflict and emblematic examples of human cruelty.
Once these areas were the chessboard upon which the struggle of the superpowers played out in the western hemisphere. Now it is an area of uncertain future, with possibilities for economic renewal and utter social disintegration. These are lands of contrasts, of places more European than Europe, of people steadfastly true to their indigenous heritage, of vastly rich and incredibly poor, of virgin forest and stifling urbanism. There are mysteries here, and the map to both heaven and hell drawn out of the human heart.
Central America sits firmly in the tropics and has colorful locales that belie the difficulty of everyday life for the majority of its inhabitants.
South America seems dominated by both the Amazon rain forest and the Andes mountain range, but also has vast deserts, coastal oases, vast pampas (plains), frigid fjords, and coniferous forests. All of these environments were inhabited by well-adapted native peoples who had begun to fill these spaces between 20,000 and 14,000 years ago. There were agriculturalists, hunter gatherers, and pastoralists, many interdependent on one another.
The Andes mountains and the Peruvian coast proved areas which spawned notable high cultures: urban centered theocracies and empires which collected and spread symbols and ideas which became almost universal throughout South America. Central America and northern South America received influence from the high cultures in Mexico and Peru, but most of their societies remained independent and unaligned until the arrival of the Spanish. Groups that lived in the vast rain forests remained largely uncontacted, even through much of the Spanish and Portuguese conquests. These peoples were largely able to escape the impact of invaders whether they be imperial conquerors of the Inka or the Spanish Crown, until the modern era.
The policies of the colonial powers have played an enormous role in creating the societies of these regions. Most models of organization came from the Iberian Peninsula, which created a very stratified society based on a combination of class and ethnicity, with the higher classes living in the cities, the highest class, of European stock, in the centralized capital, and the lowest classes belonging to the indigenous ethnic groups predominantly living impoverished rural or
urban existences. Between the European transplants and the oppressed indigenous populace is the vast bulk of middle and lower classes of mixed ethnicity, the mestizos.
In general the countries are run by an elite from the capital, supported by enormous and corrupt branches of state bureaucracies and the military. Law is applied unevenly, and money and connections are what get one by. Introduced into this for the modern world is the vast scourge of the drug trade, largely based on cocaine. Coca, which is grown throughout the tropical Andean region, is a plant with many medicinal and ritual uses throughout the region, but once chemically
processed, it becomes a potent, addictive, destructive, and lucrative drug. The money generated in most countries by the drug trade rivals that of most of their other exports.
Money buys prestige and power, and the influence wielded by leading drug traders rivals the governments in many countries. Military officials are generally pleased to look the other way if they can have money and arms to fight revolutionaries, and government officials pad their income and often fill Swiss bank accounts, while some terrorists add to their ideological canon a sustaining interest in the drug trade. With all of the other problems of poverty, class and ethnic
oppression, corruption, and militarism, drugs add a deadly factor into the culture and politics of the region.
There were many diverse facets to the mythic unconscious of this region. In Central and South America, the organized cults and spiritual practices were largely destroyed, but the native folk religions combined with Catholicism to form new indigenous belief systems, superficially European, but intrinsically native. Spirit beliefs and Shamanism still exist throughout South America, especially in the Amazon.
In the High Culture centers throughout South America, such as Cuzco, Moche, Chan Chan, and Tiwanaku, there may have been influence from the powers of the Mythos, but this is a largely untested hypothesis. Certainly South and Central America present resources which beings of
the Mythos may desire, such as the rare genetic combinations from the diverse biology, mineral wealth, and human resources. How native peoples have dealt with the Mythos and how they may have been influenced or resisted that influence still requires research.
Certainly all of the urban, impoverished landscape is a hotbed for Mythos activity, as is the drug trade. Violence, suffering and destruction are rife throughout the region, and the negative energy is consequently palpable throughout much of the territory. There are many undiscovered places on this continent; there is a feeling of secrets still, in the mountain peaks, in the deep jungle, buried in the deserts. Whether these secrets are human, pre-human or extraterrestrial, has yet to be seen.
Early students of the Mythos tended to believe that civilized Europeans were the least influenced by the Mythos, while nonwestern cultures, with different moral ideals and values, must be the most Mythos influenced. Now, after decades of historical and anthropological research, we find that Western civilization may simply be the least aware of Mythos influence, while traditional nonwestern cultures are much more aware of the Mythos, and the majority take measures to shield themselves from it.
The landscape of the human heart is reflected in the way that Humanity has shaped its environment. From this brief survey, we can see that the dangers to our world and our species flow most directly from ourselves. Surely the Mythos has had a hand in crafting our doom, but our own participation must be our first concern. Humanity dwells far too often in its heart of darkness, but I believe that with study and perseverance a light of hope may lead us out of darkness long enough to give hope to our children and their children. With knowledge and courage, we can hold back the tide of darkness a little longer by defeating our first and worst enemy: ourselves.
Created: July 1, 1998; Updated: August 9, 2004