Also known as Rutas, Bolutu, Hawaiki, Hiva, and possibly also Mu and/or R'lyeh.
Origin: Proposed by zoologist and biogeographer Philip Sclater in the 1864 article "The Mammals of Madagascar" which appeared in The Quarterly Journal of Science.
"The anomalies of the Mammal fauna of Madagascar can best be explained by supposing that a large continent occupied parts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans that this continent was broken up into islands, of which some have become amalgamated with Africa, some with what is now Asia; and that in Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands we have existing relics of this great continent, for which I should propose the name: Lemuria!"
— Philip Sclater, "The Mammals of Madagascar"
In the Mythos; Heresies and Controversies
Lemuria was originally proposed by zoologist and biogeographer Philip Sclater in the 1864 article "The Mammals of Madagascar" which appeared in The Quarterly Journal of Science, as a way to try to explain the absence of a land bridge that would account for the otherwise seemingly unexplainable distribution of lemur fossils and living specimens around the Indian Ocean; this mystery would later be resolved by the theory of Plate Tectonics, though adoption of the continent by Theosophical mysticism has encouraged Lemuria to live on in pseudoscience, mysticism, and literature as a lost continent long after the zoological/biogeographical "need" for it was cleared up.
However, by that time, Lemuria had already gained traction in the mystical cosmology of Theosophy, where the continent was described in fantastic, breathlessly speculative detail by many Theosophists, most famously including Helena P. Blavatsky (and expanded upon by William Scott-Elliot in a book with which Lovecraft was apparently familiar, at least by reputation).
Lemuria appears at least by allusion in several original Mythos stories, including The Call of Cthulhu", where Theosophical sources about Lemuria and Atlantis were referenced as pieces of the story's puzzle regarding the sunken island/continent of R'lyeh, as if the myth of Lemuria actually refers to R'lyeh, and Lemuria itself is probably a real pre-human location within the greater mythos, whether as a distinct location, or as another name for R'lyeh, its history clouded and distorted beyond recognition in the retelling of the Lemurian legend by thousands of years of myth and mad speculation.
R'lyeh and Theosophical Lemuria
Lovecraft seems to have been greatly entertained and sometimes inspired by the wildly speculative content of Theosophical cosmology, sometimes working allusions and even pastiche and parody of Theosophical concepts into stories such as "The Shadow Out of Time", "The Call of Cthulhu", and others. Lovecraft's R'lyeh appears to be one such parody/pastiche, of Theosophy's version of Atlantis and Lemuria, in which R'lyeh is destroyed not by the wickedness or lack of spiritual development of its people, but simply because time destroys all things, even R'lyeh.
Lovecraft thus alludes to Lemuria and Atlantis in connection to R'lyeh in The Call of Cthulhu (fiction), in connection to a character's researches into the chaos surrounding the temporary rising of R'lyeh from the ocean: "The other manuscript papers were all brief notes, some of them accounts of the queer dreams of different persons, some of them citations from theosophical books and magazines (notably W. Scott-Elliot's [The Story of] Atlantis and the Lost Lemuria), and the rest comments on long-surviving secret societies and hidden cults, with references to passages in such mythological and anthropological source-books as Frazer's Golden Bough and Miss Murray's Witch-Cult in Western Europe."
Lemuria was portrayed by Theosophy as a cradle of humanity, with primitive proto-human beings, newly evolved from the insubstantial material of the Astral Plane in the form of crude, misshapen, gelatinous, quasi-amphibian giants with pineal eyes, being guided into civilization by highly-advanced Venusian Masters of the Universe through the establishment of Theosophical cult lodges on the continent, leading to their conquest of their prehistoric "dinosauric" neighbors (perhaps an allusion not to dinosaurs, but to the Serpent People, or to the other alien beings which peopled the earth even in that epoch, and before it), followed by a golden age for the continent until it was destroyed by volcanic catastrophe in the culmination of a long, slow erosion of the continent over the course of aeons. The Theosophical account may be a distorted version of the truth of the sunken island-continent of R'lyeh, distorted by an imperfect reading of the Akashic Record (an ethereal record of all time and space witnessed in the history of earth's Material Plane, created by illuminated cultists, both human and alien, for the spiritual benefit (or perhaps the deception) of their followers, and accessed and readable only in trance by prophets, madmen, mystics, and dreamers.)
The Deros, "I Remember Lemuria"
Among the many works referred to collectively as the so-called "Shaver Mystery" were those with such titles as I Remember Lemuria!, Thought Records of Lemuria, and The Fall of Lemuria: together, they form a pulp chronicle of Richard Sharpe Shaver's apparently schizophrenic revelations about a secret history of earth, featuring Deros, a hidden race of pre-human maniac sadists dwelling in the cavern labyrinths of a hollow earth who control the destinies of humanity with torments and ills using advanced pre-historic ray-based technologies to project thoughts, control minds, and abduct and torture captives, and their more benevolent space-dwelling cousins, the Teros, who might sometimes choose intervene on behalf of humanity against the tormentors.
Lemuria is barely mentioned by name within Shaver's text, though Mu is frequently referred to as the Dero/Tero name for their colony on planet Earth, with the implied relationship being that the Deros once strode the surface of the Earth like gods in the age of Lemuria, until being driven underground by a deadly alteration of the sun's rays and destruction of of their surface civilization, only picking up their truly evil reputation after slowly going mad and physically degenerating in their immortal darkness and isolation beneath the earth, while their Tero cousins fled "Lemuria" for more friendly stars (or, perhaps, ascending to the "Summer Lands" of the Astral Plane), and a subset of their race remained instead on the Earth's surface, accepting their fates to live short lives, aged and killed within a few short decades by the poisonous effects of solar radiation.
The legend of Lemuria may, then, be taken as a distorted allegory for the solar doom that befell the Earth colony of the Deros, driving them into hiding in their monstrous Cavern World, while the surface-dwelling survivors of the catastrophe went on with life on Earth with the melevolent guidance and interference of the fallen Deros, and the benevolent influence sometimes granted by the ascended but distant Teros.
Mu, Kumari Kandam, Rutas, Bolutu, Hawaiki, Hiva
The legends of many island and other peoples in the Indian and Pacific Oceans refer to a land wracked by volcanic activity that sank into the oceans which has been linked to Lemuria, typically described as the origin of their cultures, and a place which achieved great heights of spiritual enlightenment and advancement before being swallowed by fire and cast beneath the waves.
Mu: See Mu, a place claimed to have been the origin of several seemingly disparate ancient civilizations, such as those of Egypt, India, Meso-America, and Wales, said to have been described in mystical Naacal Tablets describing their ancestor culture as that of "The Exalted", the Naacal, or Nagas.
Kumari Kandam: a legendary sunken landmass said to be located south of India and mentioned in the Tamil literature, claiming that it was the cradle of civilization. The modern version of the claim originated in 1885, when an Indian Civil Service officer, Charles D. Maclean (later often wrongly referred to him as a "scientist" and a "Doctor" by Tamil writers claiming him as an authoritative source) published The Manual of the Administration of the Madras Presidency, in which he theorized Lemuria as the progenitors of ancient Indian civilization; in a footnote in this work, he mentioned Ernst Haeckel's Asia hypothesis, which theorized that the humans originated in a land now submerged in the Indian Ocean. Maclean expanded that theory, concluding that this submerged land was home to the progenitor culture of all the races must have migrated from Lemuria to other places via South India, spreading language and culture and civilization across the world as they migrated. This theory was also cursorily discussed by other colonial officials like Edgar Thurston and Herbert Hope Risley, including in the census reports of 1891 and 1901. The native Tamil intellectuals took up local discussion of the concept of a submerged Tamil homeland in the late 1890s, and in 1898, J. Nallasami Pillai published an article in the philosophical-literary journal Siddhanta Deepika (aka "The Truth of Light") about the theory of a lost continent in the Indian Ocean (i.e. Lemuria), mentioning that the Tamil legends speak of floods which destroyed the literary works produced by the ancient's schools of culture, though he added that this theory had "no serious historical or scientific footing". Nevertheless, the theory would gain traction with Tamil intellectuals, even after the theory of Lemuria was discredited by the newer Plate Tectonic theory, especially among Tamil nationalist movements, who elaborated on the theory to describe Kumari Kandam as a primordial utopian paradise that had reached a zenith of cultural, spiritual, and technological achievement, whose ideals and accomplishments were lost upon destruction of the continent, and corrupted and hidden by other, "lesser" human races in the chaos that followed. In recent years, the continent has been linked by pop culture with ancient alien and ancient astronaut conspiracy theories.
Rutas: The Rig Veda speaks of an immense continent far to the east of India called Rutas. It was said to be home to a race called the Danavas, "dwarfen" sun-worshipers who had descended or traveled to the earth from "heavenly water" (perhaps corresponding to the Nagas or to the Deep Ones), who have acted in both good and evil roles in guiding the development of the humans around them. Rutas was torn asunder by a volcanic upheaval and sent to the ocean depths, but fragments remained as Indonesia and the Pacific islands; a few human survivors reached India, where, according to some local legends, they would become the elite Brahman caste.
Bolutu: Samoans speak of a place called Bolutu. It was stocked with trees and plants bearing fruits and flowers, which were immediately replaced when picked. On Bolutu men could walk through trees, houses, and other physical objects without any resistance.
Hawaiki: The Maoris of New Zealand still talk about arriving long ago from a sinking island called Hawaiki, linked with the Samoan legends of Bolutu (above).
Hiva: The islands within the Ring of Fire have ancient monuments, petroglyphs, and caves that hold clues to one of many ancient civilizations that once existed there – the most famous Easter Island. The legends of Easter Island speak of 'Hiva', which sank beneath the waves as people fled.
Midian, the Ghouls, and the Tcho-Tcho
Associated Mythos Elements
- tomes: may be alluded to in...
- a number of Occult Books of Theosophical and pseudo-scientific nature
- Cthäat Aquadingen
- The Ponape Scripture
- Pnakotic Fragments
- G'harne Fragments
- The Eltdown Shards
- Remnants of Lost Empires
- Unter Zee Kulten
- Cultes des Goules
- Mu: A Scientific Approach to Enlightenment
- My Observances of the Ancients and the Alien Brothers
- Remnants of Lost Empires
- R’lyeh Text
- Zanthu Tablets
- locations: for other lost continents and lands, see also...