“ἱερὸς γάμος” [Hieros Gamos]

Alix Branwyn

“ἱερὸς γάμος” [Hieros Gamos] was published in Cthulhusattva: Tales of the Black Gnosis, which was edited by Scott R. Jones and published in May 2016 by Martian Migraine Press.

It’s basically the origin story for the leader of a cult worshipping an unnamed entity from some forgotten corner of the Cthulhu Mythos, one residing at the site of the temple of the old cult of Eleusis. (Because, yes, the original Eleusis cult actually worshipped it.)


Believe it or not, this story was inspired by my studies of Ezra Pound’s massive poem titled The Cantos, which contains many references to the occult; among them, the fixation Pound had on the erotic-esoteric dimensions of pagan ritual, magic, and religion was most striking, particularly his interest in the Mysteries of Eleusis.

Little is really known about the rituals performed by initiates and hierophants in the Eleusinian mystery cult, though it seems to have been an important one—one of the last great pagan cults, really—and likely involved some kind of component related to the concept of hieros gamos, or “sacred marriage” with an overtly and integral sexual dimension that may have been represented or enacted in the rites themselves. Among the goddesses who may have been invoked at Eleusis are Aphrodite (who was, after all, a goddess of beauty and love, but also linked to the harvest) and Persephone, whose rape by Hades and abduction into the underworld (and her annual return, bringing spring to the world) seem to have been Pound’s favorite contender for the Eleusinian rites.

Bandyopadhyay is well-versed in the annals of English crackpottery—mainly because he was the beneficiary of my studies of Pound’s encounters with crackpots. Péladan, Blavatsky, the Manicheans… all of this was stuff floating around in the circles within which Ezra Pound (and Yeats, and to some degree Eliot) moved in the first couple of decades of the 20th century: such crackpottery was, as scholar Leon Surette demonstrates in his text The Birth of Modernism (which I discussed here), pretty common among literary types.

But imagine for a moment that the crackpots had it right… and that the gods described by their American contemporary, H.P. Lovecraft, were the true personae of the gods we know by Greco-Roman names today. What, then, would the “sacred marriage” of hieros gamos—the sexual union of the divine and the human—look like? And what would it take to survive such an encounter?

This story is an attempt to answer that question.

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