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The Elder Sign

The Elder Sign

This subject contains information from the "Lovecraft Circle" Myth Cycles, and while guided by HPL are not based on his work alone. This subject contains information from the Derleth Cthulhu Mythos, and not based on H.P. Lovecraft's works directly. This subject contains information from the Expanded Cthulhu Mythos, and not based on H.P. Lovecraft's works directly. The Elder Sign is a symbol that is used to protect against the Great Old Ones/Outer Gods, who seem to fear it. It is engraved on most of the sealed doors in R'lyeh. Based on Lovecraft's original letters and work it is worth observing that Lovecraft himself at times seemed to consider the sign a hand gesture.

A farmer and his wife "make the Elder Sign" when questioned about the Great Ones by Randolph Carter, and rather than giving any information briefly indicate the way to the town of Ulthar. (HPL: The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath)

Surama, impressed by Dr. Clarendon's anger after losing his position as medical director, "made an elder sign that no book of history records". Clarendon himself also made "a curious sign in the air with his extended forefinger" after reminiscing of how he once heard a man in China summoning Yog-Sothoth. (HPL: "The Last Test")

The Old Ones' sign used to defeat the Deep Ones resembled a swastika. In 1838, stones marked with this sign were found after a group of islanders exterminated the Deep One hybrids of Walakea's island. Apparently, the stones were used as charms by the attackers, to repel the Deep Ones and prevent them from defending their hybrid brethren. (HPL: The Shadow Over Innsmouth)

Kthanid is supposedly responsible for the Great Old Ones' fear of the Elder Sign by burying it in their subconscious. (EXP: Titus Crow)

Star-stones of Mnar[]

He seemed to have been principally concerned in settling by scholarly allusion and quotation that the so-called "Elder Sign" and "Sarnath-sigil", as well as the "Sign of Kish", were all terms which referred to the same object, and that object was none other than the star-shaped artifact of unidentified gray stone from immemorial Mnar. Whether the Elder Sign was the star-stone itself, or merely the cartouche-like emblem carved on the larger specimens of the stone, was left unclear.
~ EXP: "The Horror in the Gallery"


The term "Elder Sign" has also been used to refer to a collection of star-shaped stones carved with the sign of the Elder Gods, although whether the term should be more correctly used to refer to the stones themselves or specifically to the sign on them is unclear. (EXP: "The Horror in the Gallery")

The Necronomicon refers to them as "the five-pointed star carven of grey stone from ancient Mnar" (AWD: "The House on Curwen Street"). They have the power to repel the Great Old Ones' servants, and have been employed by those who oppose the forces of Cthulhu, such as Laban Shrewsbury (AWD: The Trail of Cthulhu), Anton Zarnak (EXP: "Perchance to Dream"), or the members of the Wilmarth Foundation (EXP: The Burrowers Beneath).

While effective against the forces of the Great Old Ones in general, the star-stones seem to have different effects on different creatures:

  • Human / Deep One hybrids are usually repelled by the star-stones, but those who haven't undergone their transformation yet are able to withstand their proximity. Touching the stone won't burn them, but it will feel uncomfortably hot (AWD: "The Black Island"). Full-blood Deep Ones are incapable of approaching the stones even to save their own lives (AWD: "The Watcher from the Sky").
  • For humans who have been physiologically altered by Ithaqua (which makes them capable of surviving in frigid temperatures), touching a star-stone will burn their flesh instantly. Conversely, for those who haven't been altered, having a star-stone in one's possession will prevent Ithaqua from being able to alter one's physiology in the first place. (EXP: Spawn of the Winds)
  • When the Spawn of the Maelstrom touched a star-stone, its body was instantly destroyed, leaving only a few bone fragments behind. Being an immortal being, it wasn't killed, but the destruction of its physical body forced its consciousness back to the oceanic depths it had come from. (AWD: "Spawn of the Maelstrom")
  • Placing a star-stone in contact with one of the statuettes of the Great Old Ones (i.e. idols made of an extraterrestrial mineral, which the Great Old Ones can use to focus their psychic abilities and manifest themselves in various ways) will result in mutual annihilation of both the statuette and the star-stone. (EXP: "The Horror in the Gallery", "Perchance to Dream")

According to Henry Armitage, the reason the star-stones work is related to the alien composition of the Great Old Ones' bodies. He claims that the stones are "harmless to beings composed of normal terrene matter". (EXP: "The Horror in the Gallery")

Conversely, Titus Crow believed that the effect was chiefly psychological, although possibly genetic in origin: an aversion implanted into the minds of the Great Old Ones and their servitors, specifically so that the Elder Gods would have the means to contain them.

The Elder Gods knew that they could never hope to imprison beings as powerful as the deities of the Cthulhu Cycle behind merely physical bars. They made their prisons the minds of the Great Old Ones themselves - perhaps even their bodies! They implanted mental and genetic blocks into the psyches and beings of the forces of evil and all their minions, that at the sight of - or upon sensing the presence of - certain symbols, or upon hearing those symbols reproduced as sound, those forces of evil are held back, impotent! This explains why comparatively simple devices such as the Mnaran star-stones are effective, and why, in the event of such stones being removed from their prisoning locations, certain chants or written symbols may still cause the escaped powers to retreat.
~ Titus Crow (EXP: The Burrowers Beneath)

Stones shaped like five-pointed stars were used as currency by the Elder Things, who were also enemies of Cthulhu. (HPL: At the Mountains of Madness)

Behind the Mythos[]

The Elder Sign is generally represented by a five-pointed star that has been distorted along its lines and contains an eye-flame symbol in the centre. (AWD: The Lurker at the Threshold)

The Elder Sign was also represented as a six-pointed "branch" as drawn by Lovecraft in his letters alongside the Seal of N'gah, referencing the ficitve Dark Cycle of Y'hu. (HPL: Selected Letters of H. P. Lovecraft 3.439)

The Hay Necronomicon also represented the Elder Sign as a gesture which consisted of joining the tips of one's thumb and little fingers. It also described the sign of Voor, of Kisk and of Koth.

An item called the Elder Sign appears in the video game Ogre Battle 64 for the Nintendo 64. It can only be equipped by magic using classes.