Episode 98: The Good Friends swear the oaths of Dagon

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We’re back and we’re getting some of that old-time religion. When we say old-time, we mean pre-Christian. Or maybe we mean dating back to 1917. It can be so hard to tell sometimes. Our subject for this episode is the god Dagon, who had a long history before Lovecraft got ahold of him, so means different things to different people.

Part man, part fish, part wifi repeater.

Our discussion takes us from Dagon’s origins, through his appearances in the Old Testament, on to his rebirth in fiction as the god of the Deep Ones, and finally to his place in popular culture and gaming. While Dagon may not be the only real-world deity Lovecraft used, this reinvention is bolder and more iconic than that of Nodens, Bast or Hypnos.

Also, none of their priests got to wear fish on their heads.

This episode is not just a history lesson. We also talk about how we might use Dagon in our games, finding more interesting angles than “big stompy Deep One”.  The fact that Dagon is so sketchily defined in Call of Cthulhu and Lovecraftian fiction gives our imaginations plenty to space to run free.

And there are few spaces wider than the ocean depths.

If our look at Dagon proves popular, we plan to return to this format and examine other Mythos deities in future episodes. Our recent discussion of The Seven Geases reminded us how much some of these gods have changed between their first appearances in fiction and their entries in the Call of Cthulhu rules. By digging into their histories, we hope we can find new and interesting ways of using them in our games.

Although even we would struggle to make them this different.

The Deep Ones of Innsmouth croak out warbling, blasphemous hymns to their benefactors, and who are we to defy tradition? We have a number of new Patreon backers to sing to, possibly because of the rapidly approaching cut-off for issue 2 of the Blasphemous Tome. Only two of the songs are in this episode, however. You can have too much of a good thing, or whatever it is we do. There will be more song in episode 99.

“Now flap your gill slits and get some vibrato going…”

In the news segment, we make mention of Chaosium’s recent release of our Pulp Cthulhu campaign, The Two-Headed Serpent. This is a huge event for us. We spent three years putting this beast together and we are thrilled to unleash it upon the world.

We also mention the current Kickstarter campaign for Stygian Fox’s new Call of Cthulhu scenario anthology, Fear’s Sharp Little Needles. Matt and Scott both have scenarios in this book, and we have been delighted with the progress we’ve seen on the project as a whole. The Kickstarter has funded and is busy racking up stretch goals. The campaign will wrap up at the end of February, so act soon if you want to back it!

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8 Responses to Episode 98: The Good Friends swear the oaths of Dagon

  1. lee carnell says:

    What a cracking episode! Lots of information and ideas to mull over. I’d definitely like to hear more episodes dealing with other mythos entities in a similar vein.There was so much to take in that I’ll be listening in again later today. Keep up the great work!

  2. Gents,

    I enjoyed the episode but fear you’ve missed an important aspect of Dagon, being the particular connections to New England culture and history that I think informed Lovecraft’s use of the name quite strongly.

    I’ve talked about Dagon and its particular New England association in both Arkham Gazette #2 (hopefully to be re-released this spring) and in a post to the Sentinel Hill Press blog. IN the case of the former I mostly looked at the linguistic questions of the name Dagon, such as how it is human name rather than the name the creature might use for itself. Most importantly, as discussed in this post – https://sentinelhillpress.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/october-ganza-day-23-dagon-in-new-england/ New Englanders, because of their Puritan roots, regarded Dagon as emblematic of Paganism and Oriental/Foreign Paganism especially. Calling your church the Esoteric Order of Dagon was very clearly intended to flag it as “other” – Mount Dagon / Merrymount is the main example here. Mermen weren’t always viewed negatively, of course, vis the so-called Dagon gravestones mentioned above.

    I do think you should have at least mentioned Herbert Gordon’s “A Place Called Dagon” (1927), not just for the mention of the name but the concept of a “Place of Dagon”, being a general reference for a site of Pagan worship, which I think Derleth and possibly Lovecraft made use of. (I’m thinking of Derleth’s “The Lurker at the Threshold”)

    Finally, your repeated a common misnomer about the Shadow Over Innsmouth – that Obed Marsh brought the Deep Ones to Innsmouth. This is not the case. Marsh replicated the rites Walakea taught to him near Innsmouth and discovered that the Deep Ones were present off Devil Reef. While the story mentions Yankee sailors bringing home foreign wives, this was not the case in Innsmouth. Consider this:

    “For eighty thousand years Pth’thya-l’yi had lived in Y’ha-nthlei, and thither she had gone back after Obed Marsh was dead. Y’ha-nthlei was not destroyed when the upper-earth men shot death into the sea.”

    Y’ha-nthlei is the city attacked by the navy off Innsmouth, so it has been there for at least 80,000 years.

    I hope this isn’t too negative – I do enjoy the show, and I think you’d be interested to get more information rather than to think me a hopeless pedant.

    Cheers!

    • Thank you, Bret! That’s a fantastically informative post.

      I’d not made the connection with the Puritan perception of Dagon, but it fits perfectly. I’ll have to look into this in more detail.

      It’s been around 10 years since I last read The Shadow Over Innsmouth and I’m obviously overdue to revisit it. It’s always interesting going back to Lovecraft stories and realising how many elements I’ve misremembered or forgotten completely. I was convinced that there was a reference to Marsh having brought back Deep One wives from the South Seas, but it seems I’d conflated that with other elements. Thank you for putting me right!

      • I’m glad it was of interest. I think the horror realizing that the Deep Ones aren’t some alien presence but were laying dormant just off shore is an important one of the story.

        A couple more bits of trivia:
        Here’s the Place of Dagon quote from Lovecraft’s fragment “Of Evill Sorceries…” reused by Derleth:
        “[Billington] so fell away from good Christian Practice that he not only lay’d claim to Immortality in the Flesh, but sett up in the Woods a Place of Dagon, namely a great Ring of Stones, inside which he say’d Prayers to the Divell”

        Zadok (there were several), in the Bible, was a priest of the Temple and guardian of the Ark and is generally described as a foe of the Pagan faiths encountered by the Jewish people.

        Take a look at Massachusett’s “Sacred Cod” and the Massachusetts license plate from 1927-8 – https://sentinelhillpress.wordpress.com/2016/01/29/the-scacred-cod-a-massachusetts-oddity/

        (I’m ashamed to admit I missed that Lovecraft himself commented on this oddity in the Whisperer in Darkness:
        “It was not the small ancient car I had expected from Akeley’s descriptions, but a large and immaculate specimen of recent pattern—apparently Noyes’s own, and bearing Massachusetts licence plates with the amusing “sacred codfish” device of that year”)

        As for Dagon as a giant Deep One, have you read Dennis Detwiller’s “Black Cod Island”?

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