12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (95)
January 4, 2023
One in an ongoing, seasonal series via which we cross-post stories originally written — by HILOBROW contributors and friends — for Josh Glenn and Rob Walker’s 2009–2010 anthropological-literary experiment SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS. This 2022–2023 installment of 12 stories will bring the series total to 96. See below for links to more info about both SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS and PROJECT:OBJECT.
Hell, of course, has a hierarchy; it is by definition all hierarchy. As James Blish noted, any act of magic requires harnessing the work of one demon at a time. Those who answer the call are subalterns, grumbling Malebranches whose job otherwise is to stir the pitch into which politicians are tossed. Think of them as the enlisted men.
The officers — the ones who disdain pacts with sorcerers — are demons with actual names. Above them — the majors and colonels — are the 400 primal sinners envisioned by Albertus Magnus in Ein Katalog der Kritiker die Ihren Eigenen Berichten Glauben. Higher still are the 13 evil forms identified by Eliphas Lévi before his mysterious fall from the window of l’abbaye du psellus. Unspeakably powerful, the generals above them are Belial, Othiel, and Qemetial, of whom Aleister Crowley wrote “Let no man see these dark shapes before the final dawn approaches.”
And ruling them all, Lucifuge Rofocale, tyrant of hell. At his fingertips are the powers of the 15,485,863 (a deconsecrated prime number) demons below him. Controlling him? Unlikely.
The possibility of summoning this ur-demon has frightened the most rational of scholars. In the age of the Enlightenment, Athanasius Kircher is said to have torn crucial pages from the Voynich manuscript’s cryptic sections on herbs and astronomy to prevent exactly this evocation. Nonetheless in the course of several generations, the mysterious Eruditi di Nerezza managed to file away the procedures required. When the Collegio Ghislieri located the single necessary talisman, their sanctuary — stone towers and all — burned to the ground with no survivors.
And yet tales of the talisman remained.
Etchings in The Grand Grimoire, assembled in 1522 by Alibek the Egyptian, indicate it would depict one of the pseudo-Solomons, a bald-headed figure, bearded, in supplication. He would show wear on his knees (from prayer) and his bib (from feasting on mysterious flesh). He would hold a hammered copper tray of offerings (four serpent eggs dyed in rosewater) in his left hand. His right would be extended in the anatomically-difficult position of first and last finger splayed, center fingers adjoined, making in other words the sign of the sage bound to Baphomet.
The base would be verdant green, textured grass, representing nature trampled by the self-determination of man (and by extension, of demon). The figure would appear to wear the skin of a golden bear he had slain himself, surmounted with a red silk cloth representing sacrifice, and leather shoes made from the skins of his enemies. His trousers would be blue, and have no significance.
Descriptions at this point traditionally conclude with a warning/exegesis on the nature of desire. An object is only an object unless invested with manna, animal spirit. In short, all authorities from the Deum te Inharmonium onward have noted power does not tend to give itself up. Thus the talisman’s guardian must desire power with a single-minded lust, slaking off any vestige of humanity like a snake shedding its scurf.
In order to use a demon, you must believe in a demon. Which carries its own price. The pact will get you all that you want, but, as it will be provided by demons, nothing that you keep.
CROSS-POSTED FROM SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS: Matthew Battles on CANDYLAND | Patrick Cates on MEAT TENDERIZER | Matthew De Abaitua on PIGGY BANK | Mark Frauenfelder on JUG | Jason Grote on DOME DOLL | Mimi Lipson on HALSTON MUG | Annie Nocenti on JFK BUST | Gary Panter on DIVE MASK | James Parker on KITTY SAUCER | Greg Rowland on MUSHROOM SHAKER | Luc Sante on FLANNEL BALL | Douglas Wolk on PORTABLE HAIR DRYER | Annalee Newitz on COCONUT CUP | Cintra Wilson on TROPHY | Jen Collins on UNCOLA GLASS | Joanne McNeil on GRAIN THING | Jonathan Lethem on MISSOURI SHOTGLASS | Sarah Weinman on UNICORN FIGURINE | Shelley Jackson on CRUMB SWEEPER | Barbara Bogaev on JUST MARRIED CUP | Dan Reines on FRIDAY MUG | Jenny Offill on MINIATURE TURKEY DINNER | Katie Hennessey on WOODEN FIGURINE | James Hannaham on NAPKIN RING | Bruce Sterling on METAL BOOT | Colson Whitehead on WOODEN MALLET | Jenny Davidson on TOY HOT DOG | Kate Bernheimer on PINK HORSE | Lydia Millet on CHILI CAT | Matthew Sharpe on MULE FIGURINE | Meg Cabot on WOODEN ANIMAL | Sara Ryan on POPSICLE STICK CONSTRUCTION | Ed Park on COW VASE | Jessica Helfand on ELVIS CHOCOLATE TIN | Sheila Heti on CAPE COD SHOE | William Gibson on “HAWK” ASHTRAY | Ben Greenman on SMILING MUG | Dean Haspiel on KENTUCKY DISH | Doug Dorst on RUSSIAN FIGURE | Kurt Andersen on SANTA NUTCRACKER | Matt Brown on CRUMPTER | Chris Adrian on KANGAMOUSE | Nicholson Baker on MEAT THERMOMETER| Rachel Axler on FORTUNE TELLING DEVICE | Sean Howe on PABST BOTTLE OPENER | Susannah Breslin on NECKING TEAM BUTTON | Tim Carvell on ROUND BOX | Susanna Daniel on SHARK AND SEAL PENS | Curtis Sittenfeld on SPOTTED DOGS FIGURINE | Matthew Klam on DUCK VASE | Merrill Markoe on FLIP-FLOP FRAME | Blake Butler on UTAH SNOW GLOBE | Neil LaBute on RABBIT CANDLE | Rob Agredo on LIGHTER SHAPED LIKE SMALL POOL BALL | Rosecrans Baldwin on PRAYING HANDS | Rob Baedeker on FOPPISH FIGURINE | Scarlett Thomas on BIRTHDAY CANDLES | Wayne Koestenbaum on DUCK NUTCRACKER | Jeff Turrentine on “WOMEN & INFANTS” GLASS | Joe Lyons on LETTERS AND NUMBERS PLATE | Adam Davies on TROLL NUTCRACKER | Myla Goldberg on HAND-HELD BUBBLE BLOWER | Dan Chaon on COOKING FORK | Jenny Hayes on DOLPHIN BOX | Kevin Brockmeier on ROPE/WOOD MONKEY | Miranda Mellis on BRASS APPLE | Todd Pruzan on GOLF BALL BANK | Toni Schlesinger on 4-TILE | Stacey Levine on BAR MITZVAH BOOKENDS | Margot Livesey on CIGARETTE CASE | Joe Wenderoth on BALANCING BIRD THING | Charles Baxter on CERAMIC SHELL | Thomas Bartlett on DEVICE | Claire Zulkey on FLINTSTONE PEZ | Betsey Swardlick on DILBERT | Sung J. Woo on BIRD FIGURINE | Tom McNeely on CAT MUG | J. Robert Lennon on CHOIRBOY FIGURINE | Matthew J. Wells on BBQ SAUCE JAR | Maud Newton on CRACKER BARREL ORNAMENT | Stewart O’Nan on DUCK TRAY | Meghan O’Rourke on FELT MOUSE | Lauren Mechling on BLUE VASE | Mark Sarvas on AMACO YOYO | Andrew Ervin on IDOL | Rachel Berger on #1 MOM HOOKS | Nomi Kane on ALIEN TOY | Nick Asbury on CLOWN | Lucinda Rosenfeld on CREAMER COW | Ben Katchor on MAINE STATUTES DISH | Mark Doty on FISH SPOONS | Sarah Rainone on IRELAND COW PLATE | Stephen Elliott on HAWAIIAN UTENSILS | Ben Ehrenreich on JAR OF MARBLES | Glen David Gold on KNEELING MAN FIGURINE | Lizzie Skurnick on PEN STAND.
ALSO SEE: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | POLITICAL OBJECTS (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 (4Q2017) | FLAIR (2Q2018) | FOSSILS (4Q2018) | FETISHES (2Q2019) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 2 (4Q2019) | MOVIE OBJECTS (2Q2020) | SEMIO OBJECTS (2Q2021) | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS (cross-posted from Significant Objects website). ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | LOST OBJECTS (Hat & Beard Press, 2022) | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.
CURATED SERIES at HILOBROW: RETRO VIRUS by Douglas Wolk | UNBORED CANON by Josh Glenn | CARPE PHALLUM by Patrick Cates | MS. K by Heather Kasunick | HERE BE MONSTERS by Mister Reusch | DOWNTOWNE by Bradley Peterson | #FX by Michael Lewy | PINNED PANELS by Zack Smith | TANK UP by Tony Leone | OUTBOUND TO MONTEVIDEO by Mimi Lipson | TAKING LIBERTIES by Douglas Wolk | STERANKOISMS by Douglas Wolk | MARVEL vs. MUSEUM by Douglas Wolk | NEVER BEGIN TO SING by Damon Krukowski | WTC WTF by Douglas Wolk | COOLING OFF THE COMMOTION by Chenjerai Kumanyika | THAT’S GREAT MARVEL by Douglas Wolk | LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE by Chris Spurgeon | IMAGINARY FRIENDS by Alexandra Molotkow | UNFLOWN by Jacob Covey | ADEQUATED by Franklin Bruno | QUALITY JOE by Joe Alterio | CHICKEN LIT by Lisa Jane Persky | PINAKOTHEK by Luc Sante | ALL MY STARS by Joanne McNeil | BIGFOOT ISLAND by Michael Lewy | NOT OF THIS EARTH by Michael Lewy | ANIMAL MAGNETISM by Colin Dickey | KEEPERS by Steph Burt | AMERICA OBSCURA by Andrew Hultkrans | HEATHCLIFF, FOR WHY? by Brandi Brown | DAILY DRUMPF by Rick Pinchera | BEDROOM AIRPORT by “Parson Edwards” | INTO THE VOID by Charlie Jane Anders | WE REABSORB & ENLIVEN by Matthew Battles | BRAINIAC by Joshua Glenn | COMICALLY VINTAGE by Comically Vintage | BLDGBLOG by Geoff Manaugh | WINDS OF MAGIC by James Parker | MUSEUM OF FEMORIBILIA by Lynn Peril | ROBOTS + MONSTERS by Joe Alterio | MONSTOBER by Rick Pinchera | POP WITH A SHOTGUN by Devin McKinney | FEEDBACK by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FTW by John Hilgart | ANNOTATED GIF by Kerry Callen | FANCHILD by Adam McGovern | BOOKFUTURISM by James Bridle | NOMADBROW by Erik Davis | SCREEN TIME by Jacob Mikanowski | FALSE MACHINE by Patrick Stuart | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS (cross-posted from Significant Objects website) | UNBORED MANIFESTO by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen | H IS FOR HOBO by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FRIDAY by guest curators