Warlock Asylum has asked me to respond to a post entitled “Proof that the Simon Necronomicon is Real”, in which he states:
“A book attributed to the Magus Osthanes was circulated in Greece aboutthe time of the Median Wars, which, from what we know of it, seems to have taught , as the supreme secret of the caste of Magi, invocation of the dead and infernal spirts. The Magian priests spread over the whole of Persia, and it is because they were regarded as enchanters and magicians that the word magic acquired its present meaning.”
Here we see a book of Arabic origin that delt with invoking the dead and infernal spirits that was later circulated among the Greeks. It is interesting to note what was contained in this book was a system of invoking the dead based on the Rites of the Magi, which were based on older rites found among the Chaldeans. This is a strikingly similiar description of what Loveceraft calls the Necronomicon… I am sure that Dan Harms would have us all believe that things of such nature are just a coincidence, in that there actually was a book embraced by the Greeks that was of Arab origin and dealt with invoking powerful spirits and those of the dead.
Coincidence? We’ll see.
First, it’s quite a stretch to go from “proof the Simon Necronomicon is real” to “proof that a book like the Simon Necronomicon is recorded somewhere,” so the title of the post is misleading.
Second, though Warlock’s source – Howey’s The Cat in Magic and Myth – might be fine for cats, it also might not be the first source we should go to on Osthanes. I turned to Daniel Ogden’s Magic, Witchcraft, and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Sourcebook, and worked outward from there.
From those sources, it appears likely that Ostanes was a mythical figure. Herodotus’ Histories, for instance, was written just after the wars, and it does not mention Ostanes. (It does include a wealthy Persian named Otanes who uncovers a plot by two Magi to take the throne, so perhaps this was the origin of the myth.) The longest mention I could find was written in Chapter 30 of Pliny’s Natural History, written four centuries later. Quite a literature supposedly written by Ostanes had built up over the years, indicating that Ostanes might have occupied a position for the Greeks comparable to that of Solomon in the grimoire tradition.
Thus, I think it would fall upon Warlock to find a source from the period of the Persian Wars uncovering a wizard named Ostanes who traveled with the king of Persia. I’ll await his response, but at this point, it doesn’t seem to be too certain that he – and thus, his book – existed.
Third, Lovecraft himself refers repeatedly to a Pliny, thus providing a good chance that the Classically-steeped young man had read the description in Natural History of the book.
Fourth, we can’t really tie the book to Arabic. Arabic has really never been the language of Persia – I’ll leave it to Warlock to figure that one out!