Steven Kaye

The "Iod Mythos" was first brought to popular attention by the American writer Henry Kuttner (1914-1958), an acquaintance of the writer H.P. Lovecraft and, like him, a contributor to Weird Tales and other pulps of the 1920's and 1930's. Although Lovecraft seems to have been slightly familiar with the legends of Iod 1, the majority of Kuttner's work appears to have been influenced by his readings in the Book of Iod, about which more later.

Iod is first mentioned by Kuttner in his story "The Secret of Kralitz" (October 1936):

. . . and I learned, too, of the unbelievable manner in which Iod, the Source, is worshiped beyond the outer galaxies. 2

Price derives Iod's name from Blavatasky's explanation of the Tetragrammaton, the name of God symbolized by the Hebrew letters yod heh vav heh, but it is uncertain if Iod was known to the ancient Israelites. We will see that Iod was known to the Egyptians prior to conventional dating of the Exodus, so the possibility cannot be rejected out of hand.

The next story to have a connection with Iod is "The Invaders" (February 1939). Pay close attention to the description of the invaders -- we will encounter it again:

At first glance I got the impression of a globe, oddly flattened at the top and bottom, and covered with what I thought at first was a sparse growth of very long and thick hairs. Then I saw that they were appendages, slender tentacles. On the rugose upper surface of the thing was a great faceted eye, and below this a puckered orifice that corresponded, perhaps, to a mouth. 3

Later, we read of a face-to-face encounter with one of the invaders:

As it was, a scream of utter horror ripped from my throat as I saw, through a spinning whirlpool of darkness, a squamous, glowing ball covered with squirming, snake-like tentacles -- translucent ivory flesh, leprous and hideous -- a great faceted eye that held the cold stare of the Midgard Serpent. I seemed to be dropping, spinning, falling helplessly down toward a welter of writhing, glossy tentacles . . . 4

Normally, this story is read as derivative of Frank Belknap Long's "The Space-Eaters," with hints of "The Hounds of Tindalos," in the theme of a writer who takes a drug to project his mind through time and brings back extradimensional horrors with him. However, we find further details of Iod, suggesting that perhaps both tales draw their origins from a common source:

The first human race dwelt in primal Mu, worshiping strange, forgotten gods -- mountain-tall Cthulhu of the Watery Abyss, the Serpent Yig, Iod the Shining Hunter, Vorvadoss of the Gray Gulf of Yarnak.

And in those days there came to Earth certain beings from another dimension of space, inhuman, monstrous creatures which desired to wipe out all life from the planet. These beings planned to leave their own dying world to colonize Earth, building their titanic cities on this younger, more fruitful planet.

With their coming a tremendous conflict sprang into being, in which the gods friendly to mankind were arrayed against the hostile invaders. Foremost in that cyclopean battle, mightiest of Earth's gods, was the Flaming One, Vorvadoss of Bel-Yarnak, and I, high priest of his cult, kindled . . . 5

For the first time, we encounter Iod's customary epithet, the Shining Hunter. This is not the first mention of the god Vorvadoss, however -- that was in Kuttner's "The Eater of Souls," where he appears as the patron god of the Sindara of Bel-Yarnak. Other epithets of Vorvadoss include "The Troubler of the Sands," "Thou Who Waiteth in the Outer Dark," and "Kindler of the Flame."

Vorvadoss seems to be a passive god, as suggested by his title "Thou Who Waiteth in the Outer Dark" and his strictly advisory role in "The Eater of Souls." He is summoned to banish the invaders, then leaves.

The first reference to a Book of Iod appears in "Bells of Horror" (April 1939). Oddly, it does not appear in references to Iod, but to the entity known as Zuchequon (Zushakon?). A copy of the Johann Negus translation is said to be kept at the Huntington Library, while only a single copy of the original volume, written in "the prehuman Ancient Tongue" is said to exist. A sample from the Negus translation follows:

The Dark Silent One dwelleth deep beneath the earth on the shore of the Western Ocean. Not one of those potent Old Ones from hidden worlds and other stars is He, for He is the ultimate doom and the undying emptiness and silence of Old Night.

When Earth is dead and lifeless and the stars pass into the blackness, He will rise again and spread His domain over all. For He hath naught to do with life and sunlight, but loveth the blackness and the eternal silence of the abyss. Yet can He be called to Earth's surface before His time, and the brown ones who dwell on the shore of the Western Ocean have power to do this by ancient spells and certain deep-toned sounds which reach His dwelling place far below.

But there is greater danger in such a summoning, lest He spread death and night before His time. For He bringeth darkness within the light; all life, all sound, all movement passeth away at His coming. He cometh sometimes within the eclipse, and although He hath no name, the brown ones know Him as Zushakon. 6

The parallelisms in the section above are superficially reminiscent of Biblical prose, and some of the phrasing suggests New Testament passages. 7 Kuttner claims that the Mutsune worshipped Zushakon and that they were all dead now. While the first is, at best, unproven, the second is manifestly untrue. 8Are the Mutsune, in fact, the "brown ones" referred to, and what is the "Western Ocean"? Ptolemy, among other ancient scholars, used this term to refer to the Atlantic. "Negus" is the title of the ruler of Ethiopia, from the Amharic negus, king. 9 It is this author's hypothesis that the author of the Negus translation is posing as Prester John, who after the mid-fourteenth century C.E. (Common Era) was believed to have his kingdom in Ethiopia. 10 While Ethiopia was used by medieval tellers of tales in much the same way as India, a land to place marvels such as dog-headed men and the Fountain of Youth, the use of the term "negus" suggests that the actual Ethiopia was intended.

"The Hunt" (June 1939) is the first story of Kuttner's to actually describe Iod, and to give more insight into its nature. We are told that Iod exists in an extradimensional space, that he is known as the Hunter of Souls because of his feasting on souls:

The Greeks knew him as Trophonios; the Etruscans made nameless sacrifices diurnally to Vediovis, the Dweller beyond Phlegethon, the River of Flame.

This ancient god did not dwell on Earth, and a certain apt phrase the Egyptians had coined for him meant, rendered into English, the Dimension Prowler. The evilly famous De Vermis Mysteriis spoke of Iod as the Shining Pursuer, who hunted souls through the Secret Worlds -- which, Prinn hinted, meant other dimensions of space. 11

Trophonios was indeed worshipped by the Greeks, as noted in Herodotus and Pausanias. 12 He had an oracular shrine, where petitioners were lowered into a cave in an elaborate ceremony and afterwards interrogated on the throne of Memory. Similarly, Vediovis (also known as Vaejovis, Veive, Veiovis, Vetis, or Vedius) was a god of the Etruscans, one of the Novensiles (the nine gods who threw thunderbolts). His attributes were arrows and a goat, he was depicted as a naked youth wearing a laurel crown, and depending on which interpretation one favors he was a god of revenge, of the underworld, or a similar figure to Apollo. 13Phlegethon, the River of Flame, was one of the rivers of the Greek underworld, so the second interpretation may be more likely. In Etruscan lands Vediovis' worship seems to have been either rejected in favor of Aplu (the Etruscan Apollo) or fused with the cult of Aplu. Temples were built to him by the Romans, on or around 200 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era). It is unclear what the similarity in names of "Vediovis" and "Vorvadoss" might portend -- my hypothesis follows later.

Another Etruscan god was Summanus, lord of the night sky, and another of the Novensiles. By extension, his domain was extended to thieves (who need concealment) and the underworld. The Romans also built temples to him, circa 278 B.C.E. Brian Lumley, in his story "What Dark God?," depicts Summanus as human in form, with tentacles for a mouth, and living on the blood of humans.

Like Summanus, Iod is a being with tentacles that feeds on the life of humans. We are also told that Iod "did not always retain the same form." Another key to the nature of Iod can be found in Kuttner's story "The Hunt":

It was not a homogeneous entity, this unholy specter, but it partook hideously of incongruous elements. Strange mineral and crystal formations sent their fierce glow through squamous, semi-transparent flesh, and the whole was bathed in a viscid, crawling light that pulsed monstrously about the horror. A thin slime dripped from membranous flesh to the car's hood; and as this slime floated down, hideous plant-like appendages writhed blindly in the air, making hungry little sucking sounds.

It was a blazing, cosmic horror spawned by an outlaw universe, an abysmal, prehuman entity drawn out of fathomless antiquity by elder magic. A great faceted eye watched Doyle emotionlessly with the cold stare of the Midgard serpent, and the rope-like tentacle began to uncoil purposefully as the thing advanced. 14

The above description is remarkably similar to that of the invaders in Kuttner's story of the same name, driven back to their world by Vorvadoss. This similarity is confirmed as identity by the recurrence of an amphitheater in both stories. It would seem that whatever Vorvadoss' other motivations, Iod and Vorvadoss are enemies, like Cthulhu and Hastur in the works of August Derleth, or Horus and Set in Egyptian mythology. "The Eater of Souls," one of Kuttner's stories, tells of the eponymous creature, a creature defeated by the Sindara of Bel Yarnak with the assistance of Vorvadoss. 15

Iod was also known to India, and it is worth nothing that the god of death, Yama, is the child of the sun and takes the souls of the living with his noose. Cultural exchanges between Greece and India have been dated to at least the sixth century B.C.E., with the resemblance of India's animal fables to those of Aesop. In addition, Yamath was the Lemurian god of fire, as attested to by Lin Carter, among others.

Kuttner also has the wizard of "The Hunt" mention that the Elder Key and the Ishaksar provide hints for the incantation which summons Iod. 16 The Ishaksar is obviously identical to the "Ixaxar" mentioned by the nineteenth century Welsh novelist Arthur Machen in his story "The Novel of the Black Seal," a stone carved by the Little People of "Libya" (a reference serving much the same purpose as "India" or "Ethiopia" did in medieval manuscripts). 17 Again we see evidence of an African connection.

It is my hypothesis that worship of Iod spread from Egypt and also to Greece (in the latter case, from India). The Greeks could have learned of Iod through the Achamaenids, and from Greece worship of Iod spread to the Etruscans and later the Romans. Common elements to look for are a solar connection as well as an association with the underworld. The repeated references to a "Midgard Serpent" 18 suggest Kuttner also had a Norse connection in mind -- perhaps Odin, who has one eye and is associated with the underworld tangentially (through the Valkyries and the death of his son Balder)? Evidence for worship of Vorvadoss is much sketchier, and will be the subject of further research. One suggestion is that Vorvadoss is nothing more than the double of Iod -- note the similarity of Vediovis and Vorvadoss, as well as the fact that Vorvadoss is never mentioned apart from Iod.

I look forward to further research on the "Iod Mythos" and hope to hear from other scholars on the subject.



1 "This must be the [unintelligible pseudo-script] mentioned on the seventh Eltdown shard -- & may very possibly be the 'volume that cannot be' hinted at in the Necronomicon (ix, 21 -- p. 598 of the black-letter German copy (in Latin) in the library of Miskatonic University)." -- from an April 16, 1936 letter from H.P. Lovecraft to Kuttner. H.P. Lovecraft, Letters to Henry Kuttner, David E. Schult and S.T. Joshi, eds. (West Warwick: Necronomicon Press), 1990, p. 15. [return]

2 Henry Kuttner, "The Secret of Kralitz," The Book of Iod (Oakland: Chaosium, Inc.), 1995, p. 8. [return]

3 Henry Kuttner, "The Invaders," The Book of Iod (Oakland: Chaosium, Inc.), 1995, p. 90. [return]

4 Henry Kuttner, "The Invaders," The Book of Iod (Oakland: Chaosium, Inc.), 1995, p. 101. [return]

5 Henry Kuttner, "The Invaders," The Book of Iod (Oakland: Chaosium, Inc.), 1995, p. 97. [return]

6 Henry Kuttner, "Bells of Horror," The Book of Iod (Oakland: Chaosium, Inc.), 1995, p. 152. [return]

7 Cf. "He bringeth darkness within the light" with 2 Corinthians 4:6: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness," for example. Also, Vorvadoss' title, "Thou Who Waiteth in the Outer Dark," is clearly a reference to Matthew 8:12: "But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." [return]

8 See, for example, Indian Canyon California - The Mutsun (Costanoan) Indians. The Mutsun band are a currently-unrecognized (in the sense of federal recognition) tribe. [return]

9 "Negus," Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, David B. Guralnik Editor-in-Chief (New York: Simon and Schuster), 1980, p. 952. [return]

10 "Prester John" Britannica Online. [return]

11 Henry Kuttner, "The Hunt," The Book of Iod (Oakland: Chaosium, Inc.), 1995, p. 168-9. [return]

12 Herodotus only mentions the oracle of Trophonios briefly in The Histories - see I.46 and VIII.134. Pausanias' Guide to Greece (particularly Book 9) is much more useful to the scholar. [return]

13 "Vejovis" Britannica Online. [return]

14 Henry Kuttner, "The Hunt," The Book of Iod (Oakland: Chaosium, Inc.), 1995, p. 177. [return]

15 Henry Kuttner, "The Eater of Souls," The Book of Iod (Oakland: Chaosium, Inc.), 1995, pp. 112-5. [return]

16 Henry Kuttner, "The Hunt," The Book of Iod (Oakland: Chaosium, Inc.), 1995, p. 169. [return]

17 Arthur Machen, "The Novel of the Black Seal," The Hastur Cycle, 2nd rev. ed. (Oakland: Chaosium, Inc.), 1997, pp.114-144. The "black seal" of the title is dated circa 2100 B.C.E. Solinus, the Roman author referred to in this story who mentions the Ixaxar, is Caius Julius Solinus (fl. first half of the third century C.E.), author of the Collectanea Rerum Memorabilia. [return]

18 Henry Kuttner, "The Hunt," The Book of Iod (Oakland: Chaosium, Inc.), 1995, p. 177. [return]

© 1999 Edward P. Berglund
"Notes Towards a Study of the 'Iod Mythos'": © 1999 Steven Kaye. All rights reserved.
Graphic © 1999 Erebus Graphic Design. All rights reserved. Email to: James V. Kracht.

Created: December 5, 1999; Updated: August 9, 2004