Certain Signs, Swastikas and The Shadow Over Innsmouth

H. P. Lovecraft began to write The Shadow Over Innsmouth in 1931. In one part of Zadok Allen’s history, he mentions “certain signs” belonging to the ‘Old Ones’ which have powers over (or against) the Deep Ones:

“…sarten signs sech as was used onct by the lost Old Ones … them old magic signs as the sea-things says was the only things they was afeard of … In some places they was little stones strewed abaout—like charms—with somethin’ on ’em like what ye call a swastika naowadays. Prob’ly them was the Old Ones’ signs…”

While this use of the swastika may seem incongruous to a late 20th / early 21st century audience, it is in fact a very old symbol, appearing in ancient North America, Europe, Africa and India. What most likely prompted the use of it here (in the Pacific) in HPL’s story were the public speculations of James Churchward from 1926 on:

Popular Science, March, 1928.

We know HPL was familiar with Churchward’s theories because he mentions him by name in Through the Gates of the Silver Key (1932) and Out of the Aeons (1933). Reading the first 3 paragraphs of the article above gives us a clear view at the then popular ‘lost continent’ stories in the public eye at the time, and the ‘evidence’ used to support them.


One thought on “Certain Signs, Swastikas and The Shadow Over Innsmouth”

  1. It is a contentious symbol these days and disconnected with its previous long and wide-spread use in history. A little googling around will find a plethora of information, starting in antiquity up to the present day. The root of this bad press is from the German political organization, the NSDAP, which chose the sun wheel as the shorthand symbol of their political party just before the second quarter of the 20th century. It caused a permanent association with the symbol in the minds of many. Its present use by political pinheads continues to make it anathema.

    A fairly good, short reference you might turn up online is, The Meaning of the Swastika Cross and Other Emblems of the Same Nature (1880) by Henri Martin, translated by Robert K Stevenson

    Also a google will turn up the Swastika Fuel Company of Raton, New Mexico, founded about 1908. There is also a ghost town in NM called Swastika. WWII caused the end of the name use.

    If you ever visit Athens, the pioneering archeologist Schliemann built a home there on 12 Panepistimiou St, between 1878-1880 and it has a cast iron fence around his attached garden, which incorporated the sun wheel in its design. The building now houses the Numismatic Museum of Athens. It’s well worth a visit.

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