Suffumigation of the Black Pyramid

It is meaningless to talk about the force of gravity unless there are at least two material bodies, or their equivalents, between which the force is considered as acting.

G. Patrick Flanagan, Pyramid Power

This is a robomancy project that reimagines technologies of automation and control engineering as media for the art magical. Using components from the fischertechnik Experimenta Computing kit (1994), and a Kitronik interface board for the BBC micro:bit, the talismachine “algoritually” suffumigates the four faces of a stone pyramid while playing music and illuminating a thaumatube. Suffumigation of talismans and other magical artifacts is prescribed in such grimoires as the Picatrix, and continued today in, e.g., Warnock’s Secrets of Planetary Magic. While the talismachine is not entirely autonomous, it is automatic to the degree it suffumigates itself as part of a performed, ritual-mechanical poetry.

This talismachine is an homage to Robert Bloch, who authored a series of weird (and, yes, Orientalist) tales about ancient Egypt, including some of the earliest stories involving Nyarlathotep. The machine alludes to the pharaoh Nephren-Ka, whose religious crimes were so heinous that his name and deeds were eradicated from all known records, and who during his reign became bewitched by a celestial jewel of dark power, that may have had something to do with the origin of the Starry Wisdom Cult. Curiously, he seemed possessed of the prescient knowledge that the Star’s light had reached him some time after the Star’s death and was thus a kind of necromantic beacon, a voice calling from an astral grave (cf. Lovecraft’s Polaris,”winking hideously like an insane watching eye which strives to convey some strange message, yet recalls nothing save that it once had a message to convey”). Indeed, located within the pyramid that Nephren-Ka erected in devotion to the Star were instruments associated with Anubis as the Opener of the Way to Karneter, land of the dead, a place also associated with that avatar of the Demon Messenger, viz., the Faceless God.

No filter.

The pyramid featured in the talismachine is fashioned from shungite, a dark mineraloid from Karelia, Russia, which contains carbon and is electrically conductive, allowing the pyramid to be incorporated into electromagical designs beyond this one device. Contra shungite’s New Age associations as an apotropaic agent against negative energies including harmful electromagnetic radiation, the pyramid here functions as a kind of baetylus, or ensouled stone of worship and divination — cf. Hebrew beth-el (בֵּית אֵל‎), “house of God.” Many baetyli are meteoric, and the baetylus, or fetish-stone (e.g., Dyer 1891), is sometimes identified or conflated with the ‘black stone’ (lapis niger; e.g., Long 1992; cf. Robert E. Howard’s story, “The Black Stone” ). Related to the Omphalos, masseboth, menhirs, and other divine and divinatory stones, the baetylus as Greek oracle may have been given voice using ventriloquism (Mariager 1888), but see also Moore’s objection to the conflation of all divinatory stones as baetyli (1903).

Curious things may appear on the Pyramid’s faces.

The thaumatube encloses a strip of Egyptian papyrus inscribed with the name of the Opener of the Way (as recorded in Culp 1997 [1975]) using a compound of Mars black paint, St. Cyprian ink, and human blood; and anointed with Oil of N. The glyphs shown on the micro:bit are from the Runes of Nug-Soth (Hay 1992), an alphabet of angles, and spell out the dread name NYARLATHOTEP. The melody played is from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, which Bloch’s narrator in “The Secret of Sebek” describes as “superb and sonorously sepulchral,” and which also features in the opening credits for The Mummy (1932). “Death is but the doorway to new life…”

To enhance the audio, I attached two homemade contact microphones to the machine’s electric motors, and patched them through Radio Shack mini amps to a Korg Mini KAOSS Pad running a grain shifter.


Culp, Robert C. “The Papyrus of Nephren-Ka,” in The Nyarlathotep Cycle, edited by Robert M. Price. Hayward: Chaosium, 1997. Originally published by the Esoteric Order of Dagon Amateur Press Association, 1975.

Dyer, Louis. Studies of the Gods in Greece at Certain Sanctuaries Recently Excavated. London: Macmillan and Co., 1891.

Hay, George, editor. The Necronomicon: The Book of Dead Names. London: Skoob Book Publishing, 1992.

Long, Asphodel P. In a Chariot Drawn by Lions: The Search for the Female in Deity. London: The Women’s Press Ltd., 1992

Mariager, Peder. Pictures of Hellas: Five Tales of Ancient Greece. New York: William S. Gottsberger, 1888. Translated from the Danish by Mary J. Safford.

Moore, George F. “Baetylia.” American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 7, No. 2 (1903) 198–208.