Tuesday, February 21, 2006


I love that word. Gibbous.

Gibbous is a special word derived from Latin, meaning humped-back. Later, it came to mean to some writers "pregnant". The swollen belly of the woman with child is reminiscent of the curve of the hunchback.

Chris Perridas considers 'gibbous horror' (and hopes that HPL felt the same way) as a walking, loathsome thing near birth. That unnamable evil is so much greater than the stomping around full moon horror of a werewolf or a vampire. The potential of new birth fear is so much more intense that the already born and already known and named fear.

Lovecraft came to the term early through (I believe) Poe and (for sure) his astronomy lessons.

[E A Poe, 1850, The Unparalleled Adventures of One Hans Pfaal] "In examining the boundary between light and darkness (in the crescent or gibbous moon) where this boundary crosses any of the dark places, the line of division is found to be rough and jagged; but, were these dark places liquid, it would evidently be even."

Good old Poe. Surely the teen-aged Howard devoured this story about a charlatan who tried to get everyone to believe he had sailed to the moon.

As a 16 year old, he used the archaic Victorian and classical terms of astronomy because he used very old star atlases and texts. And he liked old words! :)

July 26, 1906 The Heavens for August "Venus is, without doubt, the chief planet for August, shining each night in the West with unrivalled brilliancy. In the telescope it appears gibbous, like the moon a few days from full. Next in order of interest comes Saturn, which rises about 7:30. "

October 19,1906 The Moon "From then on, the illuminated portion becomes more and more convex (or "gibbous," as it is called) until, seven days after the first quarter, our satellite rises at Sunset in the east, a complete circle of light. "

In another decade, he would burst on the amateur journalism scene with weird stories using those funny, archaic, and old fashioned words and terms. And things would never be the same.

Dagon (July 1917) "I know not why my dreams were so wild that night; but ere the waning and fantastically gibbous moon had risen far above the eastern plain, I was awake in a cold perspiration, determined to sleep no more. ... It is at night, especially when the moon is gibbous and waning, that I see the thing. "

Transition of Juan Romero (Sept 1919) "A storm was gathering around the peaks of the range, and weirdly shaped clouds scudded horribly across the blurred patch of celestial light which marked a gibbous moon's attempts to shine through many layers of cirro-stratus vapours. "

The Doom That Came to Sarnath (Dec 1919) "However this may be, it is certain that they worshipped a sea-green stone idol chiseled in the likeness of Bokrug, the great water-lizard; before which they danced horribly when the moon was gibbous. ... And it was the high-priest Gnai-Kah who first saw the shadows that descended from the gibbous moon into the lake, and the damnable green mists that arose from the lake to meet the moon and to shroud in a sinister haze the towers and the domes of fated Sarnath. ... That idol, enshrined in the high temple at Ilarnek, was subsequently worshipped beneath the gibbous moon throughout the land of Mnar. "

The Unnamable (Sept 1923) "Moreover, so far as esthetic theory was involved, if the psychic emanations of human creatures be grotesque distortions, what coherent representation could express or portray so gibbous and infamous a nebulosity as the specter of a malign, chaotic perversion, itself a morbid blasphemy against nature?"

The Call of Cthulhu (Sept 1926) "That tenebrousness was indeed a positive quality; for it obscured such parts of the inner walls as ought to have been revealed, and actually burst forth like smoke from its aeon-long imprisonment, visibly darkening the sun as it slunk away into the shrunken and gibbous sky on flapping membraneous wings. "

It struck me interesting that September stories tended to use the word "gibbous" but I'm sure that is a coincidence. If I missed any gibbous uses or passages, please post below in comments.

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