The Order of the Ancient Dawn in ‘Lovecraft Country’ Is Inspired By Real Secret Societies

From Esquire

Lovecraft Country‘s premier was something of a slow burn, as far as monster-filled pulp satires go. But since the action started in earnest during George, Letitia, and Atticus’s road trip, it hasn’t let up. The second episode finds the trio enjoying what’s superficially a major upgrade from the derelict cabin in the woods where they and some racist cops took refuge from massive, slug-like beasts in the show’s debut—now, they’re guests at the manor of the wealthy and unnervingly blonde Braithwhite family. But it turns out that the Braithwhites are members of a menacing occult group. Here’s what you should know.

What’s the Order of the Ancient Dawn?

Tic and his companions are drawn to Ardham, Massachusetts to search for his father, Montrose, who, as we learned this episode, has been held hostage in Braithwhite manor. By coming to find his dad, Tic plays right into Samuel Braithwhite’s hands. Samuel is the leader of a cult called the Adamite Order of the Ancient Dawn, and, because he’s the last living descendent of the group’s founder and an enslaved woman he owned, they need Tic for one of their creepy spells.

The Order of the Ancient Dawn is taken straight from Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country novel, which is the basis for the TV series. Its name could be a reference to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which was a secret society founded in 19th century London. Founded by Freemasons, the organization used elements of masonic traditions—which also clearly influenced Lovecraft Country’s Adamites. The Golden Dawn pursued magic, tarot, and astrology, and counted famed occultist Aleister Crowley and poet William Butler Yeats among its members.

But while the Order of the Ancient Dawn is fiction, the Adamites were very real. In the episode, Christina explains to Tic exactly what her dad is trying to accomplish. “My father intends to open the door to the Garden of Eden, a time when man was immortal,” she says. “He believes he’ll step through it to eternal life.”

Photo credit: HBO
Photo credit: HBO

Now that’s not exactly what the real-life Adamites were about, but there are similarities. The group, which emerged in the early centuries AD and later saw a revival during the Middle Ages, believed that their church was in touch with sinlessness of Adam and Eve. Before the whole snake and apple business precipitated their fall from grace, Adam and Eve lived happily in their altogether, and to recapture that spirit, the Adamites worshipped in the nude.

And while Lovecraft Country‘s Order doesn’t seem to be taken directly from works by H.P. Lovecraft himself, the influential weird fiction writer populated his literary world with tons of occultists. While the Order of the Ancient Dawn has pretty directly Biblical pursuits, Lovecraft’s cults tend to be devoted to the worship of terrifying ancient gods and monsters. The Church of the Starry Wisdom, which worships the god Nyarlathotep, is one of the author’s most famous cultic inventions, and was introduced in his final short story, 1935’s “The Haunter of the Dark.”

What’s the Order up to now?

After getting a taste of what the Order of the Ancient Dawn is all about, Tic, George, Letitia, and Montrose try to make an escape. But they crash into the invisible barrier circling the Braithwhite’s property, and Samuel shoots Leti and George. Leti dies, but Samuel magically revives her—and Christina promises that he’ll heal George too, if Tic plays his part in the Order’s ritual.

The magic’s just getting underway when the spell goes awry, just as it did when Order founder Titus Braithwhite tried to pull it off a hundred years earlier. Samuel and the other present-day Order members are dusted, while the manor crumbles. Tic finds safety by following the footsteps of his enslaved ancestor who made a similar escape from the Braithwhite family decades ago. And while Montrose and Leti also survive, poor George dies of his wounds.

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