December 24, 2016, by Brigitte Nerlich

Ernst Haeckel, Christmas Cards, and Fake News

This is a brief post inspired by a tweet which led me down a rabbit-hole….

I was looking idly through my tweets this morning when my eye landed on one by Mo Costandi saying “Before his ‘Artforms in Nature’ (, Ernst Haeckel designed greeting cards”. This led me to a flickr page where John Holbo had assembled some of Haeckel’s Christmas cards (but where they?), entitled ‘A Very Haeckel Christmas’. I was quite enchanted, as I have always been fascinated by Haeckel’s Kunstformen der Natur.

I mentioned this intriguing story about Haeckel’s cards to my visiting family and somebody told me they remembered something on this from io9. I looked at the 2008 io9 article which led me back to John Holbo!

Two curious things came out of reading John’s post and io9: First, Haeckel used (but did he?) the word ‘twittering’: “All the sweet things that the Squiddies/Twittering in the dewy spray/Wish each other in the springtime/I wish you this happy day.” Second, it appears – from one comment on io9 – that “The interior text on these cards was written by H.P. Lovecraft” (but were they?). Everything became curiouser and curiouser……

Following up on that comment on Lovecraft opened up a whole new can of tentacles, regarding Haeckel’s influence on Lovecraft, Lovecraft’s racism and much more.

Following more links finally brought me to another John Holbo page and, can you believe it, a very topical issue, FAKE NEWS. Here is what John has to say about Haeckel, Christmas Cards and fake news in a blog post from 16 December 2016:

“Years ago I made a parody Christmas book mash-up of Lovecraft/Haeckel/Clement Clark Moore. I called it Mama In Her Kerchief and I In My Madness: A Visitation of Sog-Nug-Hotep. I made print versions but then took them down (they weren’t quite it.) Yet it lived, lurking beneath the surface, in the form of a perennially popular pair of Flickr albums and this old Hilo post. Hidden, winter sun-dappled tide pools of hideous, unfathomable, happy depths for kiddies to dip their toes in! But 2016 is the year of fake news. You can’t spell ‘fake’ without the ‘Haeckel’. So my fraudulent yet innocent concoctions have wandered and, eventually, been mistook for genuine Victoriana.”

John Holbo, who calls his blog “non and/or para-academic”, also has a book out on this and, as he says, “if you buy the book, there’s even more than X-Mas cards! There [is] real pseudo-scholarship you can use”.

Now that is a cheery thought on which to end this decidedly uncheery year!


Image from Google images labelled for non-academic use with modification

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