For the past 4 years, on Halloween, I have gone about as Morgog the Lich. “What’s that?” you say? Permit me to explain.
Halloween is a celebration of mystery, of death, of fear and darkness. It’s also one of my favorite holidays (could you tell), second only to New Year’s. Rather than dress as something sexy or funny or ridiculous, I’ve decided to dress as the one thing I fear the most–death.
A lich is a wizard or sorcerer who has removed their soul from their body for the purposes of becoming immortal. A good example of this in recent literature would be Voldemort from Harry Potter, though in truth there have been stories about mystics and mages who have removed their soul for as nearly long as there has been literature.
Typically, the act of removing one’s soul entails some horrific act (murdering children, betraying your family, etc) and then the creation of a phylactery, or container for the soul. Typically well-guarded and hidden, the phylactery becomes the source of the lich’s power, but also its one and only weakness. Brave adventurers who discover and then destroy the phylactery destroy the lich as well. More on Morgog’s phylactery here shortly.
Morgog is inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s Morgoth, the chief antagonist of his Middle-Earth eschatology. To quote The Silmarillion:
Last of all is set the name of Melkor, He who arises in Might. But that name he has forfeited; and the Noldor, who among the Elves suffered most from his malice, will not utter it, and they name him Morgoth, the Dark Enemy of the World. From splendour he fell through arrogance to contempt for all things save himself, a spirit wasteful and pitiless. Understanding he turned to subtlety in perverting to his own will all that he would use, until he became a liar without shame. He began with the desire of Light, but when he could not possess it for himself alone, he descended through fire and wrath into a great burning, down into Darkness. And darkness he used most in his evil works upon Arda, and filled it with fear for all living things.
In The Silmarillion, Morgoth is analogous to the Christian Lucifer. He was originally gifted with all the knowledge, understanding, and beauty that all of his peers were. But through overweening pride, arrogance and misunderstanding he fell to be the lowest of things, cruel and neglectful of his responsibility. He became enamored or darkness, hatred, betrayal, and fire. But Morgoth himself is, essentially, by his own nature redeemed:
He spoke to Melkor saying that although he is mightiest amongst the Ainur, he could not create or play a theme, which does not first come from Eru, nor can the Music be altered.
In a sense, Morgoth’s own nature is his transgression. And his nature, bestowed by god (here named Eru), has its own source in that from which all good comes as well. It all boils down to that “you can’t have light without darkness”, that very black-and-white system that Tolkien loved. But in saying that even god has a plan for evil, and that evil only brings greater glory to god, Tolkien transcends the simple binary system most see him as promulgating.
Back to Morgog. For 4 years now, I’ve been an evil undead wizard with a hidden phylactery. Every year I have a new theme for Morgog, and every year, I present a clue to where the phylactery is hidden. The first year’s clue was the existence of the phylactery itself (not making this easy). The second year, the clue was that this could be found everywhere, and nowhere. And finally, last year’s clue was that “The Indians invented this first.” Without further ado, this year’s clue is:
It once was before all, but then was made noble.
Best of luck, crafty adventurers. Incidentally, this year’s theme for Morgog is torture–expect barbed wire, electrical tape, seeping wounds and chains!