Esoteric Order of Dagon
Name(s) of the Cult: Esoteric Order of Dagon (EOD)
First Appearance: "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", H.P. Lovecraft
- 1 History and Scope
- 2 Resources
- 3 Heresies and Controversies
- 4 Keeper Comments
- 5 Quotes
- 6 Appearances
History and Scope
The Esoteric Order of Dagon is based in Innsmouth, Massachusetts, between the 1830s and 1920s, with some possible survival in Innsmouth after the raid in 1928, and perhaps in cells or splinter groups outside of Innsmouth; the cult may also have existed in primitive forms in Polynesia and elsewhere before Obed Marsh discovered it and founded the modern version in the 1830s.
The cult has ancient origins under other names in the shadowy interactions of the amphibious Deep Ones with humanity, but the Esoteric Order of Dagon itself seems to have been formed in the 1830s after privateer Captain Obed Marsh bargained with the Deep Ones of Devil Reef near the fishing village of Innsmouth, Massachusetts, which then was suffering from economic problems as its fisheries dried up (apparently the result of interference from Deep Ones), and Obed Marsh's source of Deep One gold dried up. The Esoteric Order of Dagon soon replaced orthodox religion and Freemansonry in the spiritual and social lives of the folk of Innsmouth, reaching its height of power in that town by October, 1926, when intervention from the United States government put the original cult to a sudden and fiery end.
Offshoots of the original Esoteric Order of Dagon may have been exported to other regions, and degenerate remnants of the original cult may persist to this day among refugees hiding deep under Innsmouth and awaiting their time to rise again, or among the inmates biding their time in secret military prisons and hospitals in lonely places across America. Similar organizations not directly related to the Esoteric Order of Dagon might also have been independently formed under other names in isolated fishing villages around the world.
(Drawn from "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", HP Lovecraft)
- 1820s: Innsmouth fisheries go barren. Obed Marsh contacts a peculiar island tribe in the East, and imports gold traded from them. Obed imports a "peculiar, secret... debased, quasi-pagan" cult "from the East".
- 1830s, Early: Era of prosperity for Innsmouth in refining gold of mysterious origin.
- 1838: Obed discovers that the island tribe is mysteriously wiped out between voyages. The cult imported in the 1920s gains a permanent foothold under the name "The Esoteric Order of Dagon", replacing orthodox churches and Freemasonry, and taking up headquarters in the former Masonic Hall.
- 1845: "devil worship" and awful sacrifices in some place near the wharves (Devil's Reef). In October, Obed Marsh is observed sacrificing Innsmouth children to the Deep Ones. Obed at this point is not willing to cross the line to mixing with the Deep Ones.
- 1846: Obed Marsh and others are arrested. "Big Epidemic" (seems to have been a purge of the last "decent folk" in Innsmouth, after the Deep Ones go too long without contact from the Order.) Now the final line of mixing with the Deep Ones is crossed. Obed is forced to take a Deep One wife.
- 1860s?: Children born under the Third Oath since the 1840s begin maturing, and showing the Innsmouth Look. Innsmouth withdraws more or less completely from the rest of the world. Gold refining is last remaining industry, mills and shops close, last ship stops in Innsmouth, branch railroad line from Rowley abandoned.
- 1873: "Drunken Innsmouth man" pawns a remarkable, alien tiara at a Pawnshop in Newburyport Historical Society, and dies in a suspicious "brawl" a short time later; Marsh family soon afterward try to re-obtain the tiara.
- 1878: Obed Marsh dies, and Innsmouth festers.
- 1927, July: (main story events of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth"); Zadok Allen reveals secrets of Innsmouth and what the Deep Ones are about to unleash upon the world.
- 1927-1928: Raid on Innsmouth.
- 1928, February: Public becomes aware of the raid, and begins inquiring unsuccessfully into the scope and nature of the raid and disposition of the Innsmouth folk detained in the raid.
Oaths of Dagon
- First Oath of Dagon - Secrecy
- Second Oath of Dagon - Loyalty
- Third Oath of Dagon - To take a Deep One mate and sire/bear a child
(As found in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", HP Lovecraft)
All the people of Innsmouth were required to take the First Oath of Dagon, to keep silent about the Order, the Deep Ones, and their plans. All members of the Esoteric Order of Dagon must additionally take the Second Oath, loyalty to the Order. Certain "favored" families (those who seek special favors, and the most powerful, influential, and dangerous families) may additionally be required to take the Third Oath, to mingle the blood of their family with the Deep Ones through interbreeding.
Membership of the Esoteric Order of Dagon in 19th-20th century Innsmouth would have been drawn from the local Innsmouth families, especially the Marshes, Waites, Gilmans, and Eliots, families which would have taken all three of the Oaths of Dagon, taking Deep One husbands and brides and bearing hybrid offspring.
As a result of the intermarrying with the inhuman Deep Ones, many members of the EOD bear the so-called "Innsmouth Look", a degenerative genetic disorder that appears mildly in youth, and grows more extreme as the victim ages and begins looking more and more like their inhuman amphibian Deep One side of the family. The older and least human-looking members tend to be hidden away out of sight, locked in basements and attics, awaiting the time when the change is advanced enough that they may swim into the ocean and dwell among the immortal Deep Ones forever.
The secretive members of the EOD may keep a low profile in daylight or wherever they might be seen by strangers; many of the more visible (typically younger) members may be indistinguishable from normal humans, aside from any mild signs of Deep One ancestry. During religious services, aging priests of the EOD typically wear dark robes and veils to conceal their features, and elaborate golden jewelry and elaborate mitres (tiaras, diadems, or crowns) of alien Deep One workmanship. Well-to-do rank-and-file members of the cult might wear the outdated "Sunday best" outfits of their local towns in combination with jewelry of Deep One workmanship; poorer members may dress in rags, and those showing the most advanced signs of the "Innsmouth Look" might wear no clothing at all.
Psychology and Behavior
The Esoteric Order of Dagon ruled Innsmouth between the 1800s and 1920s with terror, extorting silence from the people of Innsmouth, requiring oaths of loyalty from its members, and forcing many of its members to interbreed with alien horrors. As a result, even the least loyal members of the Order are difficult to trust, have difficulty trusting outsiders, and exist in a shadowy world of secrecy, shame, and horror concerning the Order and about anything involving Innsmouth and the Mythos.
Thus, many members of the Order are motivated to join and support the cult only through terror and shame.
Others willingly join, tempted by Deep One gold and food, magic and knowledge, a chance at immortality, the perverse opportunity to interbreed with monsters, dictatorial power to control, manipulate, and exploit less favored humans under the Deep Ones' control, the chance to transform into an aquatic form, and other benefits of willingly conspiring with the Deep Ones.
Some of the most fanatic and dangerous members are motivated by loyalty to family who are members, or by loyalty to their Deep One ancestry, or by some deeply-held love, belief, or worship for the Deep Ones or their alien gods.
For their part, the Deep Ones seem to benefit the most from their "symbiotic" (or parasitic) relationship with humanity in Innsmouth through the Esoteric Order of Dagon: the Deep Ones extort secrecy and cooperation from the Order's membership for their own sinister ends, enjoy the benefits of trade in goods produced by human hands, and twice a year extort human sacrifices of human youths who are taken away into the darkness and the depths as breeding stock and worse for their Deep One captors, and the Deep Ones use human collaborators to breed an army of more or less terrestrial human servants and warriors who can pass unseen among the Deep Ones' human enemies. In exchange, human members of the Order are allowed to subsist on fish provided through mysterious means by the Deep Ones, and favored servants are granted immortality, gold, spells, power over less favored humans, and other dubious "gifts".
The members of the Esoteric Order of Dagon offer sacrifices of young men and women (and sometimes trade goods) twice a year, May Eve and Halloween, traditional holidays used by the Deep Ones for this purpose even in dealings with isolated Pacific Islander tribes.
- "It was awful to hear them chanting in their churches at night, and especially during their main festivals or revivals, which fell twice a year on April 30th and October 31st." - HP Lovecraft, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth"
Tomes, Artifacts, Sites
- Tomes: Most lore of the Esoteric Order of Dagon may be passed down by oral tradition, but sophisticated, favored members may also have access to tomes of related lore, such as:
- The Deep Ones may grant leaders of the Esoteric Order of Dagon "thingumajigs" (Zadok Allen's colloquial term for an object or device) made of some heavy metal like lead, to be dropped down into the water with the proper prayers, spells and incantations to summon up the Deep Ones; Obed Marsh was known to have owned such an object.
- Deep One Gold: Favored members or their family might own and sometimes wear jewelry fashioned from some strange, shining alloy of Gold and more mysterious metals, worked with designs in bizarre geometric or oceanic themes (including representations of Deep Ones and other horrors of the deep), including tiaras, diadems, crowns, bracelets, rings, necklaces, breastplates, bracers, armlets, anklets, etc., often constructed in proportions suited to use by Deep Ones and modified to fit humans and/or hybrids. These items can generally be considered "mundane", but unique items may be enchanted with Mythos magic.
- Innsmouth: The Esoteric Order of Dagon rules the town of Innsmouth, MA with an iron claw, and has integrated itself into all of the town's institutions.
- Devil Reef, off the shore of Innsmouth, is considered a holy place among members of the Order, and is known as a meeting place where Deep Ones are summoned and bargains and treaties are struck.
- The Old Masonic Hall, headquarters of the Order.
- The churches of Innsmouth, which have basically been turned into extensions of the "cult" of the Deep Ones, used as instruments of control over the population of Innsmouth; the Innsmouth churches are shunned by the rest of their respective denominations elsewhere for enshrining a blasphemous subjugation under the Deep Ones, only given the thinnest veneer of a more conventional religion. These churches might be used to recruit new cult members, both in and beyond Innsmouth, using corrupted religion as a gateway into the cult's deeper "mysteries".
- Other resources:
- Deep One Gold: Obed Marsh constructed a refinery in Innsmouth for the purpose of refining Deep One artifacts into gold, which Obed used for personal profit in the early days of his partnership with the Deep Ones; EOD cultists may use this gold as a resource for issuing bribes, buying goods and services, recruiting new members, etc.
- The Innsmouth fishing industry: at the height of Innsmouth's cooperation with the Deep Ones, the Innsmouth fishing industry flourished, thanks to the Deep Ones manipulation of natural resources to direct fish toward Innsmouth, away from competition; Deep One meddling may have caused the "bad luck" that helped drive Innsmouth fishermen to take the cult's Oaths to begin with, and certainly withdrew their "good luck" after the Innsmouth folk tried and failed to rebel against the EOD. The Deep Ones might use such manipulation of the fishing industry in Innsmouth and other target markets - turning the availability of fishing towns' food and income on and off at a whim - to coerce their "cultists" into cooperating with the Deep Ones and carrying out their will on earth.
Innsmouth, 1927: a town of wide extent and dense construction, yet one with a portentous dearth of visible life. From the tangle of chimney-pots scarcely a wisp of smoke came, and the three tall steeples loomed stark and unpainted against the seaward horizon. One of them was crumbling down at the top, and in that and another there were only black gaping holes where clock-dials should have been. The vast huddle of sagging gambrel roofs and peaked gables conveyed with offensive clearness the idea of wormy decay, and... many roofs had wholly caved in. There were some large square Georgian houses, too, with hipped roofs, cupolas, and railed "widow's walks." These were mostly well back from the water, and one or two seemed to be in moderately sound condition.... The decay was worst close to the waterfront.... The harbour, long clogged with sand, was enclosed by an ancient stone breakwater... at whose end were what looked like the foundations of a bygone lighthouse. A sandy tongue had formed inside this barrier and upon it ...a few decrepit cabins, moored dories, and scattered lobster-pots.... Here and there the ruins of wharves jutted out from the shore to end in indeterminate rottenness, those farthest south seeming the most decayed. And far out at sea, despite a high tide, I glimpsed a long, black line scarcely rising above the water yet carrying a suggestion of odd latent malignancy: Devil Reef. (Paraphrased from "The Shadow Over Innsmouth")
The Old Masonic Hall
On New Church Green, a sort of open concourse or radial point with churches on two sides and the bedraggled remains of a circular green in the centre, is a large pillared hall on the right-hand junction ahead: the Old Innsmouth Masonic Hall. The structure's once white paint was now gray and peeling and the black and gold sign on the pediment was so faded that one can only with difficulty make out the words "Esoteric Order of Dagon". (Paraphrased from "The Shadow Over Innsmouth")
Allies, Creatures and Deities
- Members and Servitor Races:
- Old Ones:
Heresies and Controversies
- "Dagon" is not a real entity:
- Obed Marsh simply borrowed the name of the Mesopotamian fish-god as a familiar image to make the cult more palatable to Innsmouth.
- "Dagon" actually refers to the Deep Ones, or to a submerged "god" worshipped by the Deep Ones (Cthulhu)
- The Mesopotamian Dagon cult itself might be an offshoot of Deep One meddling in human affairs.
- The EOD was not exterminated in the Innsmouth Raid of 1927:
- Small groups of refugees fled Innsmouth, taking their own splinter offshoots of the EOD with them.
- Prisoners captured during the Innsmouth Raid still practice the cult's rites as allowed in captivity in secret government prisons and hospitals to this day. These prisoners even manage to recruit some of their guards and government and military visitors into the cult, and shape the destinies of men to the will of the Deep Ones from prison cellars and remote laboratories....
- Obed Marsh may have founded isolated branches of the Order in other towns in America, some under other names.
- The EOD is not alone: Deep Ones have created similar cults in remote coastal areas around the world, under other, local names tailored to each local population.
- "Those churches were very odd - all violently disavowed by their respective denominations elsewhere, and apparently using the queerest kind of ceremonials and clerical vestments. Their creeds were heterodox and mysterious, involving hints of certain marvelous transformations leading to bodily immorality - of a sort - on this earth." HP Lovecraft, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth"
- Fiction: HP Lovecraft, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth"