‘Rosemary’s Baby’: Raped by The Shadow

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In celebration of the 50th Anniversaries of our favorite  diabolical novel and film, we offer our Occult-Horror-geek purport on the abiding myth of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’.

208d03584a685e2121942f28478d2a72Note: This article is one of our studied opinions and interpretations of the novel and closely adapted film version of Rosemary’s Baby. We make no claims or assumptions that the original author, Ira Levin, had the ideas presented below in mind when creating this story; far from. The perspective offered here is that gleaned from our knowledge of comparative religion and mythology and some archetypal psychology. Our occult musings and psychological reflections constellating about these deep and thorny subjects are entirely our own. It is by no means the ultimate interpretation. H.B.G.

Author Ira Levin said in an afterward to the 2003 New American Library edition of his  novel Rosemary’s Baby: “Lately I’ve had a new worry. The success of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ inspired “Exorcists” and “Omens” and lots of et ceteras. Two generations of youngsters have grown to adulthood watching depictions of Satan as a living reality. Here’s what I worry about now: If I hadn’t pursued an idea for a suspense novel almost forty years ago, would there be quite as many religious fundamentalists around today?”

Ira Levin’s worry is a valid one. Has his highly acclaimed (and fiercely excoriated) novel of contemporary Diabolism indeed help motivate a surge in religious fundamentalism since it’s publication as a best seller and release as a hit film? Moreover, as it has often been observed that “life imitates art,” there must be some recognition paid to Rosemary’s Baby (and it’s many imitators) for it’s influence on the modern occult revival. Why the diabolical hangover which has inspired numerous reiterations in popular film and literature? Why has Rosemary’s Baby had such a long lasting cultural effect?

Some of this is due to it’s timely “Age of Aquarius” appearance just prior to the Summer of Love (1967 novel), and it’s delivery as an Oscar worthy film (1968) just after it. See: ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Turns 50 ! on this perspective.rosemarysbabyfirstedition

It is our studied opinion that the great and lasting success of Rosemary’s Baby, as novel and closely-adapted film, comes from the simple fact that it is mythic. Archetypal. It arises from, and touches upon, the deepest layers of Western religious consciousness and spiritual experience. It not only follows threads of ancient patterns of Western spiritual consciousness as exhibited in classical mythic motif – i.e.: Fear of Witchcraft, the Faustian pact with the Devil, the semi-divine child who is secreted away somewhere,  the rejected monster child – but it also successfully encapsulates, quite simply and very believably, the ontological polarity within the Western religious Hebrew-Christian paradigm: Good vs. Evil; and then deftly turns that very concept on it’s head. See: Sympathy for the Devil: The Sublime Satanism of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ on this last perspective.

Furthermore, as a fairy tale very much of it’s time, Rosemary’s Baby brings us face-to-face with a few thousand years of patriarchal Judeo-Christian cultural oppression and  repression of physical human sexual impulses which have long been projected into the Shadow (in the Jungian sense), or “Dark Side” within the human psyche – the suppressed dark drives and creative passions of our lives. The story reflects American society’s  cultural shift towards an awakening to greater sexual freedom.

Let’s see how Ira Levin, probably unconsciously, helped unlatch the hidden closet door at the back of our minds – leading to the dark shadow side reflection of proper, day-to-day,  morally upright consciousness.

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The Devil got much of his character from Pan. (Google Image search attempts to credit this image only leads us to rants about steroids. Sorry. That right thigh though… could, at least in part, be interpreted as a megaphallic image).

The Resurrection of Pan

The Judeo-Christian Devil has been so conflated with various ancient pagan gods that they have become nearly identical in Western consciousness. In psychological terms, many centuries of zealous demonization of (and frenzied fig leaf adding to) the pagan roots of Western culture by puritanical Christians has forced these archetypes to become suppressed within our collective psyche, evidenced by C.G.Jung’s famous saying that the gods have become our diseases.

The image of The Devil of popular imagination is a complex amalgam of ancient pre-Christian gods and daemons, but is borrowed largely from the Greek untamed god of wild nature – the horned, hooved and ithyphallic Pan. Now, the myth of the birth or origin of Pan is part of an ancient recurring mythic motif of the lost, hidden or abandoned, child. This archetype was revived later in the Romantic period which saw a huge revival of Pan, especially in England, with the publication of Peter Pan: and his tribe of “Lost Boys” dressed in animal skins and living in a wild Neverland – a stand-in for Pan’s native heathen Arcadia and his band of merry, hairy satyrs.

“…the myth of the birth or origin of Pan is part of an ancient mythic motif of the lost, hidden or abandoned, child.”

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“What have you done to it?! What have you done to it’s eyes?!” we can imagine her screaming! Image: D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths.

Rosemary’s Baby is a modern reversal of the Christmas nativity story”

While Rosemary’s Baby is a modern reversal of the Christmas nativity story (we find in Rosemary’s Baby Album ((IraLevin.org)) that one original idea for a title was All Is Calm, All Is Bright), the myth of the lost child or the monster child has ancient roots (Zeus, Apollo, Hermes, Dionysus were all hidden as babes. The Minotaur is a perfect example of a monster child). According to ancient myths the god Pan was rejected by his wood nymph mother because of his frightful goatish appearance and uncanny laughter (“What have you done to it?! What have you done to it’s eyes?!” we can imagine her screaming). Besides baby Pan’s hooves and horns, the eyes of the goat (as well as cats and frogs – all associated with witchcraft) are notorious for their uncanny appearance. This trait derives from Pan’s father, the trickster god Hermes (Mercury) who oversaw all forms of trade and commerce, especially that of animal husbandry. Hermes is the patron of herdsmen and always has his eyes upon their interests, which is to say their flocks (as for Pan, a reinterpretation of “He has his father’s eyes.”). Moreover, this Mercurial aspect relates to the Faustian pact, or deal, struck between Rosemary’s satanic neighbors and her  husband Guy, who will do anything to achieve success as an actor, including deceiving his wife and pimping her out to Satan in order to serve his own interests. This reminds us of Hermes’ famous legendary exploits at deception.rgeyes

“…the myth of the monster child has ancient roots.”

Myth tells us the strange babe Pan, upon being rejected and abandoned by his mother, was rescued by his fleet-footed father Hermes,  bundled in a white hare’s skin (associated with fertility, the moon and Venus – indicating some of his attributes), and spirited away to Mt. Olympus where all the gods delighted in him – especially Dionysius (Bacchus), god of wine and religious ecstasy, with whom Pan is often closely connected. The crude and salacious nature of the young he-goat is partly concealed within the gentle appearance of a snowy white hare, much as the young couple’s innocent plan to make a baby conceals an insidious diabolical plot. The abandoned babe Pan, however, is universally accepted by lofty,  omniscient Olympian consciousness – for it is there that his divinity is recognized: the animal nature of human impulse, instinct and sexuality is revered as an essential and sacred component of life, nature and human existence itself by the divine powers. And as we know from the final scene in Rosemary’s Baby, the monster child is hidden away from the mother, and it is accepted – not only by the supernatural, mysterious and powerful coven overseen by Roman and Minnie Castevet – but later by Rosemary herself in a reversal of the expected attitude of horror which is surpassed by gracious and tender mother love, giving this dark tale a significant contemporary twist. See: Sympathy for the Devil: The Sublime Satanism of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

Rosemary’s “Dream” as a visitation by Pan, the Incubus

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Pan is the archetype of the incubus, the bringer of erotic nightmares.

Pan, from whose name we get  our word “panic,” is the god of the wild, shepherds, flocks, hunters and herdsmen; and his solitary, often melancholic, and “rough and ready” nature exhibits this. Pan was considered the instigator of panic, fear, terror, mental disturbances and the bringer of nightmares, prophetic dreams, oracles and possession. He belongs in consciousness as  the original archetype of the incubus. He is the sender of  erotic nightmares. His wild, instinctual sexuality is his most prominent characteristic (beyond the obvious physical signs), and it constellates about masturbation, beastiality, and the pursuit and rape of nymphs and handsome young goatherds. Pan is nature in all it’s fierce and unrelenting natural urge to merge, to couple, to unite.

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A Panic Nightmare Daemon/Incubus appears in The Cell, (2000), a film which explores the reality of dream consciousness.

But Pan is unlucky in love: he never marries (no wedding band on this old he-goat!), and he is always left longing for those just out of reach (Echo, Syrinx, Selene). His divinity is a solitary existence apart from the Olympian gods. He is also the original misunderstood and lonely musician. His music is said to stir the soul of man, beast and god. Pan dwells in the wild, unpopulated areas: where the lonely goatherd plays his pipes and contemplates his erection.

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The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli, 1781, depicts an Incubus squatting upon a troubled dreamer. The Night Mare intrudes from the shadows at left.

When Rosemary’s wedding ring is removed by her husband just before the rape scene we are being told that we are crossing outside the boundaries of morally accepted Apollonian consciousness. A law is being transgressed. Like an inverted cross, it indicates a reversal of what is considered acceptable. The Abyss is traversed as Rosemary, the good but lapsed and doubting Catholic, passes from her sunny, white and yellow apartment (egg colors: fertility), through the secret passage at the back of the closet, where hidden things are secreted or suppressed: remember old Mrs Gardenia’s big heavy furniture used to blockade the hall closet early in the story? Rosemary passes into the shadowy, Dionysian, chthonic and infernal world of the Castevet’s; the “Nightside” of dreaming and erotic nightmare consciousness, where nude witches cast spells and demons dwell. Indeed, Rosemary is young American consciousness with doubts about  organized religion who, after getting caught up in the herbally enhanced spirit of the 1960’s (“Tannis anyone?”), discovers the spiritual archetypal world of gods and monsters.

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pdvd_003As the devilish dream begins with the removal of her wedding ring, it ends with Rosemary being offered a ring (as worn by the pope himself to kiss), a ring in the form of the silver pendant given to her by the Castevets (silver is the metal of lunar consciousness and witchcraft). The marriage vow is broken and a new sacrament is presented to Rosemary for this Panic marriage – bringing us, ring-like, full circle, just as Rosemary’s journey through her diabolical pregnancy comes full circle like the pitted, full moon-like orb of the evil smelling charm which mirrors the full-moon like belly of the puerperal mother: the fulfillment of the Castevet coven’s greatest aim and achievement.Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 7.26.48 PM

A Panic Marriage

On the morning after the “nightmare,” (remember Pan-morphed-into-the-Christian-Devil is an instigator of nightmares and the primal icon of the Incubus) Rosemary awakes feeling pretty awful and complaining of her nightmare of being raped by “someone inhuman.” She discovers scratches all over her body. Guy admits to “doing it” to her while she was unconscious as he didn’t want to miss “baby night,” and  admits to having drank a bit too much himself  (laying the blame on ecstatic Dionysius). Rosemary is not only the victim of rape but also the victim of a mysterious nightmare brought on intentionally through witchcraft via Minnie Castevet’s “chocolate mouse” – an important reference to the Dionysian cultural experience exhibited in the bourgening experimentation with psychedelic drugs which undoubtedly evoked visionary and spiritual revelations  during the 1960’s counter culture movement. This natural narcotic aspect is present as the evil-smelling Tannis Root, and is subtly hinted in the dream in the film by a greenish vapor veiling Rosemary’s face just before she looks up into the eyes of the Devil raping her. “Pharmakeia”, being the Ancient Greek reference for “witchcraft” or “sorcery”, reveals it’s connection to herbalism, veneficium and psychoactive plants as used in magic and ritual.

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Pan and a Maenad

In myths, human women are often visited or seduced by Gods in various guises, and such unions often result in the birth of semi-divine heroes… or monsters; Zeus is notorious for his philandering exploits with mortal women. Rosemary, in an inversion of the Annunciation and Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary by The Holy Spirit, is the victim of witchcraft, and rape – called by some Ancient Greek writers a “Panic marriage,” in reference to Pan.  Rosemary rather weakly complains of this non-concensual coupling to her husband but she remains submissive to her circumstances. However, there is no denying there has been a penetration by the inhuman, the beastial-divine, and that a tremendous upheaval within her has taken place. Mother Earth herself, as The Nymph, has been violated; but the protest has been, at least up to this point, weak: the traditionally accepted submissive attitude of the patriarchally conditioned wife. Just as the unrestrained pollution and exploitation of the Earth’s natural resources went largely uncriticized until the strong push for ecological reforms which started gaining momentum in the “flower power” era of the 1960’s. The “Father” of Rosemary’s baby is conspicuous by his “absence” after the conception, both literally and figuratively, in the forms of both The Devil and Guy Woodhouse respectively.

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Rosemary may be conscious but she has not yet awakened to her circumstances

Rape transgresses the boundaries of most any human law – represented by the removal of Rosemary’s wedding ring in the “dream,” – and is a key element in the story. Reports of sexual assault is a fact we often encounter in the news and, these days, in the #MeToo movement. Rape is also a phenomena which follows in the panic and wake of war and invasion – significant here as the U.S.A.’s direct involvement in the Vietnam War began around the time Rosemary’s Baby as novel (1967) and film (1968) appeared. Pan also appears in connection with war, as for instance his assisting the Athenians by causing the retreat of the  Persians at the Battle of Marathon, and Olympian Zeus’s battle against the monster Typhon, as well as Pan being Dionysius’s shield bearer in his campaign to India  – all occasions in which Pan’s influence, usually by causing panic terror, decided a fortunate outcome.

Rape is an overpowering of animal drives that unfortunately, yet undeniably, occurs within human nature: has ever a day passed upon human-dwelling Earth in which a rape, or sexual assault of some kind or other, has not been committed? Yet, it is such a universally taboo subject that even today it is still barely understood within the study of psychopathology: we all know what rape is, but understanding and charting how it happens within the landscape of the human soul is extremely difficult. It is significant to note here the emergence of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at the start of America’s involvement in Vietnam in which, as in all wars, rape occurred – including G.I on G.I. rape (here: Vietnam war rape), and simultaneously at the heralding of The Summer of Love in 1967, and The Sexual Revolution which followed in Western Culture – about the same time as the first gay pride, feminist and ecology movements.

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 Story: This ancient statue of Pan coupling with a she-goat was unearthed from the Villa dei Papiri in 1752 and the King and Queen of Naples and all the court were present as it was brought to light. They were horrified when they saw what it depicted. The King was so shocked that he ordered the excavation to be halted and the statue was thereafter hidden away and kept under lock and key in the gabinetto segreto. It was not actually viewable  to the general public until the year 2000. We are lucky it survived at all. More info about the sculpture here: Pan: “disreputable objects of pagan licentiousness”

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Nightmare Daemon. The Cell, 2000

PAN, whose name means “All” (e.g.: Panasonic, Panavision, panorama, pandemic etc…) transcends  even human bisexuality and emerges as a kind of omnisexual (Pansexual?) creature: He is God, man and beast. Awareness of Pan touches upon religion and sex. His nature is to force himself upon consciousness – thereby often causing panic – another key factor in Rosemary’s experience in the story. According to psychologist James Hillman, Pan’s rape is not an urge with intent to destroy, nor even to merely “deflower,”  but to force awareness of the primal animal body upon lofty, rational “Apollonian” consciousness. And this is what Rosemary’s Baby did in it’s day: it forced upon Christian, middle class, American consciousness the imminent sexual awakening and changing of traditional religious values. (See: Pan and the Nightmare’  by Hillman).

And this is what Rosemary’s Baby did in it’s day: it forced upon Christian, middle class, American consciousness the imminent sexual awakening and changing of traditional religious values.

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Cult-ivated for great things.

Rosemary is not a virgin – a qualification required as we learn from Minnie Castevet in the novel, but she is, at first, naive and unexperienced with the Shadow.  Rosemary’s condition changes drastically after the diabolical rape and conception. Like a victim of  an Incubus or nightmare daemon, she begins to appear and feel vampirized. She is in constant pain. She cuts her hair boyishly short in a “pixie cut”reminding us of many young actresses who have portrayed Peter Pan. This is the start of her transformation and the gradual appearance of a subtle “masculine” aggression to her character, which before was only hinted at (she initiates sex on the couple’s first night in their dark, empty, cavern-like, new apartment: Pan was worshipped by lovers in caves and grottos. Guy also instills a brief moment of panic fear while they begin making love by referring to a pair of cannibalistic sisters who’d lived in the building). Later, Rosemary instinctually begins to use powers of deception (an art of Pan’s father Hermes) herself as a survival mechanism (the phone call to tease some information from the actor blinded by witchcraft, the lie she tells to Dr. Sapirstein’s receptionist while escaping his office, the spilling of the contents of her purse as a distraction by the elevator, the secreting and hoarding of sleeping pills).

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All of Them Witches is a fictional book created by author Ira Levin.

As a distraction from her excruciating pregnancy, she plans a party for her young friends (a service to Dionysos) which intentionally excludes the strange, elderly neighbors. The women who attend her breakdown in the kitchen during the party offer advice, insight and validation for her unusual circumstances. The kitchen as heart(h) of a home and traditional place of women’s power is the place of Olympian “family” goddess Hestia/Vesta. After the party, when panic over her degenerating condition finally threatens to overwhelm, her anger irrupts and the pain suddenly stops. The “feminine” – finding it’s inner “masculine” strength – has found it’s voice and begins to take on it’s own instinctual power (separate from patriarchal conditioning) from then on in the story: a symptom of Incubus/Pan’s animal influence coursing through her blood at this point. The submissive and assertive qualities are balanced, and the violated nymph is finally transformed into the powerful and avenging Mother Goddess (we seem to be witnessing a related uprising in consciousness in the #Me Too movement of today). Rosemary’s suspicions increase after she attempts to protest when Guy bullies her into surrendering her book on witchcraft before setting it out of easy reach for her on a high shelf – across the tops of a two volume set of Kinsey’s ‘Sexual Behavior in the Human Male/Female’ in both the novel and film.

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Pan o’ Mantic

Pan is also a mantic god, i.e. He is a god of divination and prophecy. He is said to have taught the art to the god Apollo himself – lending some chthonic prestige to the Shining One when Apollo took over the oracle at Delphi. Rosemary’s prudent friend Hutch tries to dissuade her from impending doom, even prophetically appearing in her narcotically induced dream-nightmare to warn her of “Typhoon !” – a reference to the Devil as Typhon. Even from beyond the grave, good ol’ Hutch, in an ironic feat of necromancy,  manages to communicate the awful truth to her in a strange act of divination via a modern spelling game…

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Casting the runes to discover… “The name is an anagram.”

“The great god Pan is dead”

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If the Great God Pan is truly dead, then Is God dead?

Here we must note the appearance in the story of the April 1966 issue of TIME magazine which carried the stark ‘Is God Dead?’ cover. In the history of the god Pan a major event is considered to be recorded by the Greek historian Plutarch ( 45 AD – 127 AD). During the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 14–37), the news of Pan’s death came to one sailor on his way to Italy by way of the island of Paxi. A divine voice hailed him across the salt water, “Thamus, are you there? When you reach Palodes, take care to proclaim that the great god Pan is dead.” Which Thamus did, and the news was greeted from shore “with groans and laments.” The legend of the fateful crying out, and of the news spreading, that “The great god Pan is dead” has inspired many a poet through the ages. Christian apologists such as G. K. Chesterton have repeated and amplified the significance of the “death” of Pan, suggesting that with the “death” of Pan came the advent of theology. To this effect, Chesterton once said, “It is said truly in a sense that Pan died because Christ was born. It is almost as true in another sense that men knew that Christ was born because Pan was already dead. A void was made by the vanishing world of the whole mythology of mankind, which would have asphyxiated like a vacuum if it had not been filled with theology.”

6bb940fe474470ceb6c8fb77addff3f11f3e1c90_hqThe final chapter or scene of Rosemary’s Baby depicts Roman Castevet’s pronouncement that “God Is Dead!” Considering all this, and that the solemn question “Is God Dead?” appears on the cover of TIME as used in Rosemary’s Baby, begs the question whether history really does repeat itself, and if it is not true that “the gods of the old religion will always become the devils of the new.”

“the gods of the old religion will always become the devils of the new.”

Since the publication of Rosemary’s Baby in 1967, there has been a mounting surge in throwing off the shackles of thousands of years of patriarchal Judeo-Christian suppression, especially in the realms of sexuality and women’s bodies. The ecology movements have adopted Pan as a sign under which to rally to save Mother Earth (Pan is himself a devotee of the Great Mother Goddess in Ancient Greek religion, and in classical literature he is even referred to as “Her dog” by other gods). It is a testament to Ira Levin’s creative genius – what the Romans called a “Dæmon,” the Latin word for the Ancient Greek daimōn (δαίμων: “god”, “godlike”, “power,” or “guiding spirit,” that he was able to reach deep into the zeitgeist of his age to stir up such a potent and delicious witch’s brew; one which brings us face-to-face with the ancient shadows of our psyche which have continued their assault and penetration of the consciousness of modern culture’s grappling with religion and sexuality. By crafting a dark modern legend which people still enjoy and analyze 50 years after it’s publication and release, Ira Levin has made us a little bit more aware of just what is going on “down there” in the subconscious.

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The Summer of Love is a perennial affair… Image: D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths.

*One thread we decided not to follow here but offer as a point of consideration is Rosemary’s own complicity in surrendering to her situation by… 1. ignoring the advice of Hutch – a trusted, fatherly friend of upright moral standing (comfortable traditional values) to live somewhere other than in the Bramford apartments and 2. Rosemary’s own longing for motherhood which so often leads to her suppressing her own instinctual misgivings in order to achieve her own desires.

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Pan teaching his eromenos, the shepherd Daphnis, to play the pan flute, Roman copy of Greek original c. 100 BC, second century AD, found in Pompeii,

Sources:

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…and our sick little minds.

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From Matthew 25:31–46: “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” Goats are notorious for their rowdy behavior. While sheep may mindlessly wander, goats will intentionally leap. BAAAAH!!

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‘Rosemary’s Baby Album’: Legacy of a Classic Diabolical Thriller

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IraLevin.org now presents ‘Rosemary’s Baby Album’ on it’s website, and it is a very special treat for Rosemary Fans!

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Screenshot courtesy of IraLevin.org

The novel ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ by renowned author and playwright Ira Levin has had a wide and abiding impact upon all things thriller, mystery, and horror since it was first published 50 years ago in March 1967. Levin himself said in 2002, “I feel guilty that ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ led to ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘The Omen.’ A whole generation has been exposed, has more belief in Satan. I don’t believe in Satan. And I feel that the strong fundamentalism we have would not be as strong if there hadn’t been so many of these books […] Of course, I didn’t send back any of the royalty checks.” 

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of this classic diabolical occult thriller, IraLevin.org now presents ‘Rosemary’s Baby Album’ on it’s website, and it is a very special treat for Rosemary Fans! With Ira Levin’s personal archival materials and notes tastefully arranged and many exciting insights into the writer’s creative process.

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Screenshot courtesy of IraLevin.org

Note: #RosemarysBabyAlbum hashtag for easy sharing via social media.

ONLINE FEATURE “ROSEMARY’S BABY ALBUM”CELEBRATES NOVEL’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY WITH UNPRECEDENTED BEHIND-THE-SCENES LOOK AT ITS CREATION, USING AUTHOR IRA LEVIN’S ACTUAL NOTES, DRAFTS AND ARCHIVAL MATERIALS

(New York, March 20, 2018) Ira Levin’s perennial classic “Rosemary’s Baby” turned 50 in 2017, and in celebration of that milestone, IraLevin.org has released “Rosemary’s Baby Album,” a new 28-page online feature which traces the archetypal work’s development using high-resolution scans of Levin’s actual notes, drafts and related ephemera from its writing, starting with the first known setting-down of its premise on a single notepad page, in 1960.

#RosemarysBabyAlbum provides an unprecedented opportunity to peek over Levin’s shoulder, as the author that Stephen King called “the Swiss watchmaker of the suspense novel” conceives and structures his iconic tale – considering, tweaking, or outright rejecting alternate titles, character names and plot trajectories. The album also reveals some fascinating connections between real life, and the world of “Rosemary’s Baby”.

“Rosemary’s Baby Album” can be viewed online now at http://www.iralevin.org

About IraLevin.org: IraLevin.org is the official Ira Levin website, created and maintained by his estate to serve as a comprehensive source of information about his works.

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Screenshot courtesy of IraLevin.org

Levin’s worth as a literary craftsman is exemplified not only in the perpetual in-print status of his novels or the fact that his best-known play, Deathtrap, holds the record as the longest running comedy thriller on Broadway; his competence as a storyteller is also apparent in the adaptation of nearly every one of his novels (and his play Deathtrap) into popular cinematic film versions. Also to be noted are his novels ‘A Kiss Before Dying,’ ‘Sliver,’ and ‘Son of Rosemary’ (a sequel which he dedicated to Mia Farrow who portrayed Rosemary in the now classic horror film version). A few of his novels have even worked their way into our idiomatic language within popular culture – making  The Stepford Wives, The Boys From Brazil and Rosemary’s Baby into a kind of cultural shorthand for ideas represented in these compelling and believable stories.

Unknown-2 copyAnd that is a skill Ira Levin truly had and which lives on in his work: he made the unthinkable into wholly believable parables of modern existence. We step into an Ira Levin novel on firm concrete, with matter-of-fact details both mundane and familiar, yet somehow he cleverly manages to sweep the rug out from under our very feet, so that we lose our balance with an ever increasing sense of panic-dread at the strange and unforeseeable circumstances which draw inevitably tighter around the characters we encounter there. Indeed, it is due in part to the film maker’s close adhesion to the novel – nearly word-for-word – that gives Roman Polanski’s 1968 film version it’s high quality.

images-6 copy 3We may take “Stepford Wives,” “Boys from Brazil” and “Rosemary’s Babies” for granted today because these premises have been lifted from their novel (and cinematic) sources so often – and repeated in any number of various media formats – from the plethora of Devil Baby movies to TV comedy sketches – that they have become part of our collective consciousness, and have even developed into tropes of their own! But we shouldn’t forget the origins of these stories, or Ira Levin’s ingenuity at placing them so deliberately and carefully packaged on our front doorsteps that we don’t notice the dangers hidden within them until it’s too late (and, by then, you are unable to stop turning the pages)!

Article by H.B. Gardner

#RosemarysBabyAlbum

#RosemarysBaby50thAnniversary 

‘Angel Heart’ Revisited

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By: H.B.G.

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Angel Heart Poster artwork by Renato Casaro (detail).

Note: ‘Angel Heart’ is a difficult film to discuss without giving away key points of the story and spoiling the plot. This is a film to be relished, so we will simply laud the film here, give our Occult Purport, and hopefully not divulge too much. It’s darkly delicious.

Amongst our many favorite Satanic or Occult themed Horror Films ‘Angel Heart’ (1987), which was released 31 years ago this month, still stands among the best. It’s excellent cast and production and it’s sinister, occult-noir atmosphere – deftly blended with a haunting soundtrack – separates this masterpiece of Diabolical Cinema from the many ham-handed attempts at the Diabolical Horror subgenre. The production is pure movie magic of the highest calibre in our opinion. With a Faustian premise set in 1955’s New York City, and a story that takes us to steamy New Orleans, Angel Heart unsettles us from the very start and then proceeds to take us on a journey into the heart of one man’s personal Darkness and, finally, the discovery of an impending evil carrying a one way ticket to Hell.

The film was adapted from William Hjortsberg’s novel Falling Angel. Hjortsberg also wrote the screenplay for Legend (1985), in which Tim Curry so adeptly brought Darkness to life…

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Tim Curry as Darkness in Legend, 1985.

Like our beloved Rosemary’s Baby’ (1968), there are no overt supernatural occurrences taking place in the story (at least, not perhaps until the very end – and even that is subtle and may be up for interpretation), placing the narrative firmly in reality and from the point of view of an unsuspecting protagonist. Our protagonist is one Harold Angel (wink), a gumshoe detective hired by a Mr Louis Cyphere (wink, wink) – an unusual client with some unsettled business. Harold Angel is sent on a manhunt for ‘Johnny Favorite,’ a famous crooner who’s gone missing since the War (WWII). As our Harry Angel falls deeper into a Black Magic Mystery peopled by corruptible characters of dubious interests and backgrounds, we find ourselves intrigued by the suspicious strands of destiny and danger which draw ever tighter around our detective.

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When Harry met Louis. Curious to know whose portrait that is above De Niro.

Occult Purport

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One traditional French title for this Key is: Force majeure,

Every significant relationship our detective discovers about the missing singer – be it physician, lover, or friend – is tainted with unwholesome or diabolical elements, linking the baneful Johnny Favorite and everyone involved with him to Evil Forces.

This strongly reminds us of The Devil XV Arcana in the Tarot. Johnny Favorite and each of his accomplices are bound to Evil. The chains that bind the demons to the black half-cube (unbalanced energy) pedestal of The Devil are of their own making. They choose to remain at the feet of The Devil (notice how loose the chains are about the demon’s necks in the Tarot card shown – they could choose to leave The Devil if they were not so  enjoying being held under His power). Every “evil” act perpetrated – whether out of addiction (Dr. Fowler), Fear, Greed, Anger, Lust, Vanity or Pride – inflicts another  karmic link in the chains binding these characters to Johnny Favorite (and towards an inevitable and sticky end). Johnny Favorite binds himself to Evil and does what he does out of his own self interests without giving any thought to how it effects those around him (who are likewise bound by their choices to involve themselves with such an unsavory character), or for when it comes time for his own eventual atonement.

eac79530007a85c007c0b6ee764f9d9fInteresting to note here is that a traditional French title for The Devil Tarot key is Force majeure, meaning “superior force”, also known as cas fortuit (French) or casus fortuitus (Latin) “chance occurrence, unavoidable accident”, which is a common clause in contracts that essentially frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, such as a war, strike, riot, crime, or an event described by the legal term act of God (hurricane, flood, earthquake, volcanic eruption, etc.), prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract.

Force Majeure, The Devil tarot card (coloured engraving) Above: Two Devil cards from two different Etteilla style French Tarot decks explicitly state Force Majeure. Silly Mr Etteilla felt the need to renumber this key 14 (among other changes made by the demented wigmaker).

In practice, most force majeure clauses do not excuse a party’s non-performance entirely, but only suspend it for the duration of the force majeure. Hmmm…

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Charlotte Rampling as Madame Krusemark spreads the Tarot in a promo shot.

Read our article: The Details In the Devil – Tarot

Did you know???

When Louis (Robert De Niro) blows salt from his egg onto the restaurant table, Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) takes a pinch and throws it over his left shoulder. The superstition is that by doing so you blind the devil (or your evil angel). The Left being the “sinister” side where the demon sits.Angel-Heart-Unsung-Films

And… The law firm Winesap and Mackintosh are two types of apples, traditional agents of the Devil tempting mankind. (Even though the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is not identified as an apple in any Bible translation.)

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Mickey Rourke as Harold Angel with Charlotte Rampling as Margaret Krusemark. Angel Heart, 1987.

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Robert De Niro as the deliciously diabolical Mr Cyphere reminds us of a sober and well-dressed satyr who’s just had a manicure.

The poem about Evangeline and her lover, to which everyone refers, is “Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie” (Link: Evangeline) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

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Lisa Bonet is bewitching in Angel Heart.

The line “How terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise” is drawn from Sophocles“Oedipus The King”. The quote is appropriate as the “final horrific revelation” trope in the story of Oedipus somewhat parallels that in Angel Heart.

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Have one in memory of Toots Sweet…

Twin Sisters Cocktail Recipe: Ingredients: 1/2 oz. light rum 1/2 oz. spiced rum 1 dash lime juice 1 dash Coca-Cola Directions: Shake with ice and strain into shot glass. Best served in a shot glass.

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Sinister Blessings of the limp left hand.

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The original skeleton Key: The Hand of Glory.

Satanic Cinema Sommelier; Our Favorite Devilish Films

An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey and the Dark Goddess; Part 1

“The Year One”: A Rededication

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By: H. B. G.

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Actress Hazel Court, as the Lady Juliana, betrothes herself to Satan in Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death, 1964. This is the first instance in cinema history where an inverted cross is used as a symbol of Satanism.

We have managed to maintain this WordPress-fueled website for one whole year now. We are delighted at this meager accomplishment by one man (who may, or may not, be possessed by many incubi). What started off as an obsession with the film Rosemary’s Baby and an intention to make a single blog post delineating the minor characters in it has expanded into a repository for our occult horror obsession – here: Satanic Cinema Sommelier; Our Favorite Devilish Films and on our Devil May Care Facebook page , as well as our Rosemary’s Baby 50th Anniversary Facebook Page.

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Mia Farrow and Victoria Vetri (aka Angela Dorian) in Rosemary’s Baby.

This past year we have, out of our own zeal, interviewed a surviving cast member of Roman Polanski’s film of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ ( An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ ) and have been keeping a correspondence with the actress Victoria Vetri (aka Angela Dorian) who played Terry Gionofrio – the Castevet’s ill-fated houseguest in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ – from her prison cell in a California Institution, but who is now nearing a release date.

We have never before been a collector of autographs, but 2017 was our year for them due to our commitment to our writing on this site.

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Our Holiday card and an autographed picture from actress Victoria Vetri who is nearing her release from prison.

This month, We rededicate ourselves to this project. So, in the spirit of Rosemary’s Baby (the 50th Anniversary of the Satanic classic film thriller is this year) and “The Year One”:

Black candles are lit, the chalice is filled, and the cross-shaped brand smolders in the brazier…

We remain committed to keeping this site as a means of exploring the diabolical, the occult, and religion (and the things it demonizes) in horror films – and in reality – out of our own pleasure, and as a serious interest in the sway that religion and the mysterious, unseen forces of existence inspire and motivate the minds and hearts of individuals, groups and nations worldwide.

We have managed one year with at least one monthly contribution to our site, some are in-depth articles such as our explorations of Suspiria ( SUSPIRIA: In the Eye of the Peacock , SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey and the Dark Goddess; Part 1SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey & the Dark Goddess; Part 2 etc..)

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We were able to get Jessica Harper’s Suspiria autograph with a modest charitable donation to the Houston Food Bank last year.

and Rosemary’s Baby ( ‘Sympathy for the Devil: The Sublime Satanism of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ , An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ , ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Turns 50 ! ), etc…

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Ernest Harada was very kind to give us an interview as well as autograph a photo for us.

Some other posts are much lighter fare but are hopefully at least entertaining brain candy for the diabolically inclinedAll of Them Witches: A”Who’s Who” in Rosemary’s Baby , Women From Hell: Cinema’s Greatest Ladies from Hades , ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ 2017 Fantasy Remake & Dream Cast.

Indirectly related to all this is the work we started in 2017 with the Arcana Tarot Study Group in Osaka, Japan where we currently reside. This group’s mission is to help spread knowledge of using the Tarot via the medium of English; and to improve the skills of English students via the Tarot, here in Japan.

As a father, husband, teacher, writer, reader, mystic and artist, our energies are rapidly absorbed, day-by-day, by our esoteric interests and the gaping jaws of Time; yet we inevitably find ourselves drawn back to exploring the shadowy realms of occult horror, like a sincere Seeker of Truth…, or a dog to it’s vomit.

“But whatever lies behind the door, there’s nothing much to do,

Angel or Devil, I don’t care,

For in front of that door… is you.”

                                                    – Bowie     ‘My Death’

 

The Details In the Devil – Tarot

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The Red Death prepares to deal some Fate in The Masque of the Red Death, 1964.

By H.B.G.

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A Tarot Death card, from the end credits of The Masque of the Red Death, 1964

Occult: From the Latin meaning hidden or concealed or secret. That which is hidden from view, …or seen only by the few.

A fair number of supernatural, religious, diabolical and occult horror films commonly present occult regalia such as crystal balls, Ouija boards, Tarot cards, magical diagrams, mysterious or forbidden books and all the elements commonly associated with Witchcraft, Voodoo, Black Magic or Satanic ritual. A prime example is Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist plays with a Ouija board which opens her up to demonic possession.

In real life these tropes can trigger – as experience has showed us time and time again – reactions ranging from suspicion to fear, or from derision to curiosity, fascination and even genuine interest. This path opened for us at a tender young age. We got our first printed deck of Tarot cards at age 13 (there was an early attempt at creating our own but the task was quite formidable due to our youth and ignorance) and have a real abiding passion for the Art. Our collection is now around 50 different Tarot packs.

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Many encountering the Tarot cards in person for the first time prove inquisitive. There is a genuine interest in the symbolic imagery – the weird yet somehow strangely familiar hieroglyphic language of the Tarot. The cards first appeared in Medieval Europe and the earliest examples of Tarot cards date back to Northern Italy in the early 1400’s, though their provenance has much earlier origins. Many people have some passing recognition of the cards from either horror films like Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors [1965], or Masque of the Red Death [1964]) or from a unique roommate they knew in college. Others have had a deeply suspicious (i.e. fearful) religious programming inculcated from a young age which, in no uncertain terms, deems such items as Runes, talismans and the Tarot cards as treacherous gateways towards eternal damnation. This idea has been fostered by Hollywood time and again in numerous films and television dramas. Church groups actively work to warn their congregants of the dangers of the Occult. it is their ignorance and misunderstanding of the deeper spiritual mysteries concealed within these divinatory tools that causes such fear.

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The wonderful Peter Cushing spreads the Tarot and deals the fates of men traveling by train in Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors.

For some, the call of the exotic and the taboo can prove both irresistible and upsetting. The twinkle which catches one’s eye can upset the balance of a mind confronted with  the dilemma faced when their firmly held beliefs and religious views are called into question. While trafficking with spirit boards or dabbling with divination can offer a thrill, it can also upset those who find more Truth and Wisdom about themselves than they ever expected, or even guessed, they would discover beneath the veil of mundane life. Whatever preconceived ideas people have of the Tarot cards there is often a dreaded yet curious fascination towards one or two of the 22 Major Arcana “Keys” or “Trumps”: namely XIII DEATH and XV THE DEVIL.

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THE DEVIL from The Aquarian Tarot

A very real Fear of looking into your own shadow-reflection, the darkness within, exists in most people. The Shadow, in psychological terms, is the Ego’s blindspot. Even when one has spent years in spiritual practice, and has done serious meditative work with one’s own psyche, there will always be a risk of being surprised by what lies within the inner abyss of the individual soul. Very, very, few are able to completely transcend the chains of material bondage over which The Devil so delights to lord.

The Shadow, in psychological terms, is the Ego’s blindspot.

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In a manner of speaking, The Devil in the Tarot is one’s own Shadow. Those aspects of our deepest, and most natural or instinctual (dare we say… truest), selves which we hide away from the world – and even from ourselves. All our secret traumas which have been unconsciously repressed. All our unrepentant animal urges and emotional energies we consciously suppress, (yet – to tell the truth – secretly long to exercise). Sometimes a person may seem “possessed” and the “Devil cuts loose”.  We wonder “Whatever could have possessed me?”, and say “The Devil made me do it!” We often cannot accept or even understand our own emotional responses or why we sometimes act in certain ways.

The Tarot Devil usually depicts two people, or satyrs, chained and bound to the Lord of Darkness who stands or squats menacingly above them. But either their chains are of their own making or their collars are at least loose enough to slip off if they chose to do so. But Mardi Gras is fun – though there are good reasons why we cannot have it every day; and some people have difficulty stepping away from the betting table  even when they are about to lose their shirt – or even themselves!!

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” But it lies buried.

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The Devil is numbered XV = 15 in every Tarot deck. Numerology links 15 to 6 (1+5=6). 6 is The Lovers in the Tarot. The comparisons between The Devil and The Lovers are striking in many Tarot decks. The Lovers are often in an ideal setting and are receiving benediction from an angel on high. The Devil card is like the Shadow version of The Lovers card. The blissful situation has soured or sunk to a lower level. This in itself does not indicate “evil,” however.

We will not be delving deeply into divinatory meanings here, but The Tarot Devil can, at times, be seen as inverting or perverting the divine union of The Lovers into a kind of sick co-dependency, or bondage through materialism. It can also offer us a sense of play, mirth and delicious enjoyment. rapture of the flesh rather than the spirit (but the two are really one, you know).

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THE LOVERS illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith

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THE DEVIL illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith

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The Lovers in a Marseilles style deck

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The Devil in the Oswald Wirth Tarot

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STRENGTH card from The Morgan-Greer Tarot.

However, beware of casting out your Devils that you do not lose the best part of yourself, your fundamental creative impulse, your Daemonic genius. As Joseph Campbell said: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” But it lies buried. We find it beneficial to care for and nurture your inner demons just as one would for wild beasts – cautiously and with close attention and strict guidelines. Just as the woman in The Strength card (Arcana VIII or XI – depending on the deck, which Aleister Crowley re-titled “LUST“) tames the lion with gentle ease.

“Be careful when you cast out your demons that you don’t throw away the best of yourself.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche – Thus Spoke Zarathustra

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LE DIABLE from a Marseilles pattern deck

 

Additionally, The Devil in the Tarot can be an addiction to a habit or condition which has become overpowering and possessive of one’s soul, causing the individual to surrender his free will to the whims of a desire grown monstrous or even poisonous. A common example would be when instead of drinking alcohol the alcohol begins drinking you! Intoxicants, stimulants and sex can be used as rocket fuel to the Divine. They can cause ecstasy and transcendence. As stated in the Kularnavatantra: “One reaches heaven by the very things which may lead to hell.”

“One reaches heaven by the very things which may lead to hell.”

– Kularnavatantra

However, as Kenneth Grant points out in his Introduction to ‘Cults of the Shadow’: “if the sexual energies are not properly controlled and polarized, destruction awaits the practitioner who uses them without fully understanding the formula of the Left Hand Path which is, of all paths, the swiftest and the most dangerous.”

This gives credence to the ancient Tantric dictum: “The knower of truth should go about the world outwardly stupid like a child, a madman or a devil.”

– Mahavakyaratnamala

“The knower of truth should go about the world outwardly stupid like a child, a madman or a devil.”

– Mahavakyaratnamala

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Arcana XIII – Card number 13

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From an 18th century Florentine Minchiate Tarot (Etruria)

Most People dread thinking about their own death . Displaying a picture of The Grim Reaper, or turning over the Death card before their eyes will cause them to wince and whine. People hate to be reminded of their own mortality. In early decks this card is often left unnamed, only the image and the number serves to give it’s meaning.

In horror films, the appearance of the Death card inevitably means something terrible is about to occur. In reality, this card usually indicates a tremendous change to one’s circumstances or a metamorphosis taking place from within one’s soul.

But this is precisely the medieval Latin Christian theory and practice of reflection on mortality, Memento Mori – Remember Death, especially as a means of considering the vanity of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits. In our shallow, materialistic culture of today, which celebrates and promotes youth and beauty and shuns acknowledgement of  the aged and our inevitable end of existence, we seem to fear and try to fight off Death as something hateful and bad.

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ARCANA XIII from Jodorowsky’s  restored Marseilles pattern deck.

When one is capable of not only accepting the inevitable disintegration of one’s own organism but to even fully embrace it – and thereby to even more fully live, then we have to ask the question…

“O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?”

“O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?”

1 Corinthians 15:55

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DEATH tramples upon King, Pope, Maiden and child in the Tarot illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith for the Rider-Smith deck.

Here is an instructional video we made for our Arcana Tarot Study Group here in Osaka, Japan. @ArcanaTarotOsaka on Facebook.

Click on link below for youtube video…

How to read the Tarot: Celtic Cross spread

 

‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Japanese souvenir book

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Front cover

As fans of the classic satanic thriller ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ we like to keep our eyes peeled for anything related to the novel or film. Unfortunately, film studios didn’t really think to capitalize on their productions with related merchandise until the mid-seventies; so other than the novel in it’s various forms (hardcover and paperback) and the video releases, we are left with very little official Rosemary’s Baby memorabilia to collect. One item that did not escape our dark-adapted eye is the Japanese souvenir book. These books are commonly sold in all Japanese movie theaters even today, but for some reason have not become widely available in other countries or languages. Filled with pictures, actor profiles, anecdotes and other production related topics, these souvenir books are highly prized by film fans.

Read our Devil In the Details article…

A Japanese view of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

Here we will share images from this 22 page souvenir book we ordered through Amazon Japan. Although the film was released in 1969 in Japan, there is a 1985 Paramount Pictures Corporation copyright on the back cover, which leads us to think that the film ‘Rozumaree-no Akachan’ (in Japanese) had a re-release in Japan in the mid-eighties. Although we have a native Japanese translator on premises here at Devil In the Details,  a full translation would be tedious and largely redundant. When we do find interesting bits we will be sure to share them on our Rosemary’s Baby 50th Anniversary Facebook page . Enjoy!

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This section discusses how Polanski’s films carry the theme of isolation even when surrounded by people as evidenced in his other films like Knife in the Water and Repulsion.

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Polanski’s head is circled here so as not to confuse him with the man next to him (who we believe is a cameraman).

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Mia Farrow holds a sign that says “WARDROBE” and a number beneath it.

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Read our Devil In the Details…

An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

to find out what it was like on the set of Rosemary’s Baby from someone who was there!

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Back cover

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SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey & the Dark Goddess, Part 3

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By H. B. G.

As we seek for the Devil In the Details in the final part of this article on SUSPIRIA, we reach an apotheosis on our meditations upon the  sublime darkness of The Three Mothers

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The Latin phrase sub rosa means “under the rose”, and is used in English to denote secrecy or confidentiality. The rose as a symbol of secrecy and the occult has an ancient history. Jessica Harper, sub rosa, in Suspiria, 1977.

“Who dares misery love

and hug the form of Death?

Dance in Destruction’s dance

To him the Mother comes.”

Kali the Mother (poem) by Swami Vivekananda

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Kali by Raja Ravi Varma. The goddess Kali; naked, black and terrible as the dread realities of life and death.

In Part 1 we saw how Thomas De Quincey, in his exceptional work: ‘Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow’  (a part of his ‘Suspiria de Profundis’ (1845) which gave the name to Dario Argento’s cinematic masterpiece – Suspiria) was able to personify those forces “that incarnate themselves in all individual sufferings of man’s heart;” in the form of The Three Mothers: Mater Suspiriorum – the Mother of Sighs, Mater Lachrymarum – the Mother of Tears, and Mater Tenebrarum – the Mother of Darkness. These powers which afflict every human – sighs, tears, and darkness – were seen by De Quincey as existential conditions which are  a commission from God “to plague the human heart until they have unfolded the capacities of the spirit.”

In Part 2 we noted how this dark, mythic, feminine trinity has an ancient pedigree tied to Witchcraft and goddesses extending back to ancient times. Some of these occult elements have slipped, deliberately or by fortune, into Argento’s Three Mothers trilogy, as well as in other horror tales and films.

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Another diabolical feminine trinity and example of unholy motherhood and the shadowy feminine: The Brides of Dracula. Dracula, 1931. In the novel, the brides are offered a wailing infant by their dark master in order to appease their bloodlust. The Shadow side of the Mother as devourer of her own young.

Dracula: Bram Stoker's Dracula

The Brides of Dracula subject Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) to a Left-Hand Path spiritual  experience in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The Bride on the left, like the Gorgon, the Furies and sometimes Hecate, has serpents wreathed in her hair. The offering of a babe by Dracula (literally: The Dragon) to the three brides (in lieu of Jonathan Harker) is included in this 1992 film version.

 

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“The 3 Beggars”Grief, Pain & Despair – in Lars Van Trier’s Antichrist, 2009. There is a discernible resonance with The Three Mothers motif and the darker aspects of Mother Nature in this film.

Besides inspiring SUSPIRIA’s creator Dario Argento with an excellent trope for his Three Mothers trilogy, we also discover in De Quincey’s Suspiria de Profundis an ancient and profound spiritual truth: “that mighty system of central forces hidden in the deep bosom of human life, which by passion, by strife, by temptation, by the energies of resistance, works for ever upon children – resting not day or night,…” In our development towards adulthood, and with the complicity of goddess Levana, these forces – sighs, tears and darkness, or “The Three Mothers” – work upon each of us at the core of our being, our psyche. That part which forever looks for succor, strength and understanding in the face of adversity experienced in the inevitable crises of human existence.

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Udo Kier and Jessica Harper in Suspiria. 1977.

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Udo Kier in Mother of Tears, 2007.

Seeking succor or understanding in The Three Mothers trilogy often leads to a conversation with the wonderfully talented Udo Kier or Daria Nicolodi.

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Leigh McCloskey and Daria Nicolodi in Inferno. 1980.

Now, when seeking for the Devil In the Details in occult themed horror films, adversity, or the idea of an Adversary, logically leads us to Satan, which is Hebrew: שָּׂטָן‎‎ satan, meaning “enemy” or “adversary.” Any thing which opposes us, or which we fear, or that seduces and leads astray from the Right Hand Path laid out by the traditionally accepted social structures in which one lives, whatever operates as an energy of resistance is exactly what bedevils us. But when we view adversity through the lens of De Quincey’s opium induced revelations in Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow,  the words of Prof. Brené Brown ring true: “The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it.”

Will Tears, Sighs and Darkness crush us? Or, will the opposing forces necessitate an “unfolding of the capacities of the spirit”?

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Mater Lachrymarum (Moran Atias) has a taste for tears and fears. Mother of Tears, 2007.

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Our Lady of Sorrows

Will Tears, Sighs and Darkness crush us? Or, will the opposing forces necessitate an “unfolding of the capacities of the spirit”? Embracing Darkness, tasting our own tears – and the tears of the world. Confronting the Shadow within oneself, and in the outer world in which we walk and work, is required for growth – individually and as a society. As spiritual beings are we not defined by our limitations? Moreover, are we not obliged to ever continue expanding beyond our own limits? Are we not forced to evolve from our narrow or outmoded ways of thought? The Adversary provides the resistance that encourages growth and renewal in the courageous heart and mentally stable. This is what we see happen with the protagonists of the three films in Argento’s Three Mothers trilogy.

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Kali as Devouring Mother

To regress or stagnate for too long is to resist the vital urge to progress, blossom and create, and ultimately to cease living. Life, in all it’s dreary and miserable circumstances, challenges us to transcend our boundaries and to take our path (inwards and outwards) towards the next level. We soon learned that Death and Renewal are the name of the game of life which sets out to devour you – body and soul.

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Inferno, 1980

There are three keys to understanding The Three Mothers, as we learn in the introduction of Inferno…

The first Key: The area around the location of the houses of The Three Mothers becomes blighted and are places of death. There is a miasma around their houses like a sickly-sweet smell. The smell of death and decay. As beings existing in conditioned material existence,  (i.e. the body is my house of flesh), death is certain; it’s earthy odor may be disregarded or disguised but never extinguished. These jars of clay we inhabit reek of the earth and are short-lived. This odor is the ever-present knowledge of our own mortality.

The Second Key: The name and the portrait of the Mother residing in each house is to be found in the cellar. That is to say, behind the outward facade of the personas we parade about in the daylight world, the presence of Sighs, Tears and Darkness often remain below the surface – unacknowledged, in the basement of the subconscious – where the monsters dwell. But these demons may be awakened and summoned under strange circumstances or by forbidden or occult methods, like with De Quincey’s opium dreams.

The Third Key: “Is to be found beneath the soles of your shoes”; that is, where you stand at any given moment of your life. For we are ever standing at the crossroads of Hekate, of past,  present and future, left or right or forwards. Wherever or whenever we find ourselves we are always confronted by a choice of direction, where to go and how we spend our limited amount of time as embodied creatures on earth.

Time is short. The ticking of a clock is the steady footsteps of an assassin approaching.

Mater Tenebrarum states at the conclusion of Inferno…

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Veronica Lazar, Inferno, 1980, as Mater Tenebrarum

Mater Tenebrarum: “Your journey has come to an end. Everything around you will become dark, and someone will take your hand. You’ll be pleased, not unhappy. You’ll enjoy moments of incredible brightness. You think it’s magic. No, I’m not a magician. Now we have to hurry because we still have to pass through a number of strange phases in your change. You were looking for me, just like your sister. This is what you wanted. I’m coming to get you!”

Mark: “Tell me who you are!”

Mater Tenebrarum: “The Three Mothers. Haven’t you understood? Mater Tenebrarum! Mater Lachrymarum! Mater Suspiriorum! But men call us by a single name; a name which strikes fear into everyone’s heart. They call us DEATH! DEATH!”

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Through a mirror darkly. Mater Tenebrarum reflects our greatest fear.

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Death and renewal is the specific work of the Dark Goddess. Death of the outworn habits, or ways of thinking or acting, which constrict or no longer serve us along our chosen paths.

As beautifully expressed by the soul journeying in the afterlife in The Egyptian Book of the Dead:

“I am a long lived serpent; I pass the night and am reborn every day. I am a snake which is in the limits of the earth; I pass the night and am reborn, renewed and rejuvenated every day.” 

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“Mother of the Gods,” Coatlicue, “She of the Serpent Skirt,” a 2.7 metre (8.9 ft) tall statue discovered in Mexico City in 1790. Europeans regarded the statue as a horrible, deformed monster. Mexican Indians on the other hand began to worship it, visiting it with candles and adorning it with flowers. To prevent this, the statue was buried in the patio of the University of Mexico where it could not be seen. Note the garland of severed hands, hearts and skull and compare with the Indian goddess Kali who is similarly adorned. Her head is severed and two serpent heads are emerging and uniting, merging the dual streams of existence. Compare to Kundalini-Shakti, Chinnamasta, et al.

“Gods suppressed become devils, and often it is these devils whom we first encounter when we turn inward.”

– Joseph Campbell

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Three keys are given in Argento’s Inferno, 1980

Reject, Explode, Explore, Unlearn

We mentioned in Part 2 that the snake is a symbol of the Gnostic witch goddess Hecate, whose affinity with the Three Mothers we elucidated. As a symbol, the serpent (or magnified as the dragon) plays an integral part in occultism and is also often associated with other female deities and demonesses acquainted with the chthonic – or cosmic – powers of transformative darkness from various Pagan cultures: Tiamat, Lilith, Lamia, Ceto, Medusa, Kali, Coatlicue, et al.

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Albert-Joseph Penot, Bat woman, 1890. Our image of Lilith.

These goddesses are usually depicted with fierce or horrific embodiments and attributes – often embellished by serpent imagery. The lesson expressed here through all times and cultures is that of transformation. Death and renewal come when we confront our fears and desires and learn to dance with the Shadow.

 

 

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Athena, goddess of wisdom, bearing the Gorgon head on her breastplate (heart chakra) and the owl – a creature with the ability to see in darkness – in her left hand, oversees the rebirth of the hero Jason from the mouth of the devouring serpent- dragon.

A serpent sheds it’s skin when it has become worn out.

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From cloudy husk to renewed beauty.

Just as the moon sheds it’s shadow every month…

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“…we still have to pass through a number of strange phases in your change.” From darkness into light and back around again.

Or a duckling chick outgrows it’s egg.

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It is neccesary to destroy the old form in order to release the new. Ducks and geese take part in the three elemental realms of land, water and air.

“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.”

~ Pablo Picasso

The Dark Goddess resides at the crossroads of transformation.

Offer your sighs, tears and darkness at her altar and be transformed.

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Bengali cult image of Kali

Sex & Death

These are some esoteric icons of Our Ladies of Darkness

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Chinnamasta is a Tantric goddess par excellence.  artist: Daniel Corcuera Nekronikon Temple

When it comes to Dark Goddesses and horror, Indian culture has exhibited some of the most profound examples of the terrible feminine divine. Kali is a goddess widely worshipped. Her name means “The Force of Time,” and “The Black One;” for Time births, sustains, transforms and devours all. This Dark Goddess has various forms and avatars. One which bears relevancy here is a triple formed icon: Chinnamasta, the Beheaded Goddess, who – like Hecate – is 3 goddesses in 1.

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Chinnamasta: A triple goddess, empowered by the primal, foundational sexual energy which is the cause and gateway of existence, decapitates herself in order to nourish her two companions (the dual forces of existence personified within the field of time) with her own blood, and herself as well. The incessant recycling flow of life. Here the goddesses carry shears like Atropos of The Fates.

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The Mother of Darkness demands blood in Inferno, 1980.

In a profound act of self sacrifice we see Chinnamasta decapitate herself. Three streams of blood spout from her neck to nourish her two handmaidens, Varnini and Dakini. The third stream reaches the goddess’s own mouth to be consumed by her own severed head. She stands upon Kama, the god of eros, embraced by his female companion, Rati, who takes the female superior position. This is a mystical truth as a metaphorical image of the sublime horror of life feeding upon death, with sex (and re-birth) and death as the doorways between the worlds.

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Her mantra is: “I bow to Chinnamasta; She who is the Sacrifice, the Sacrificer, and the Receiver of the Sacrifice. May She liberate all beings.” Chinnamasta, Calcutta Art Studio lithograph, c. 1885

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“She” takes the assertive posture in the film Antichrist.

Sex, death, transformation… these are the keys of the Dark Goddess, The Dark Mother. While it may seem that we have strayed far from Suspiria, we have managed, by reading the occult symbols and looking at myths, to obtain some spiritual insight from an occult horror film series. If it is not obvious at first, even to the film makers, it is for the simple reason that “the occult” literally means what is “hidden” or secret, even when it is a plain and open secret. Something which the rational mind often pushes into shadowy corners. Sex and death, sorrows and tears, sighs and darkness are an inevitable part of conditioned (physical) human existence, but their wisdom is “sub rosa.”

We are all limited by time, which restricts us to these material conditions. We can fear and be disturbed by these forces, but we can also permit them to transform us and teach us profound truths.

Sex and death, sorrows and tears, sighs and darkness are an inevitable part of conditioned human existence.

Were these symbols which we’ve examined in this 3 part article used consciously by the filmmakers in bringing these vivid nightmares to the silver screen? Perhaps a few. More likely it is the work of the disturbed, or exalted, human imagination that summons these iconic accoutrements and archetypes forth from the shadows of the subconscious. What we do know is that both Thomas De Quincey’s ‘Suspiria de Profundis,’ and Dario Argento’s Three Mothers Trilogy, whether consciously or unconsciously, have tapped into something primal and eternal, with the ability to evoke humankind’s primal fears at their deepest level… sub rosa.

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The Night of Enitharmon’s Joy, often referred as The Triple Hecate or simply Hecate, is a 1795 work of art by the English artist and poet William Blake

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Indian Yogini with ever-blossoming lotus for head.          stone sculpture

Sub Rosa

If you enjoyed this 3-part article on Suspiria and the Dark Goddess, please feel free to like, share, comment and view our other projects here at Devil In the Details. We hope to have more things of interest in the near future.

Finally, we leave you with these images of the  Headless Yogini, or Flowering or Blossoming Yogini. The ever-blossoming and expansion of cosmic consciousness firmly rooted in the physical plane.

May you break open and blossom to unfold the capacities of your spirit.

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This is a Yogini inspired by Lajja Gauri iconography that was made in Orissa and that is now at the Yogini Temple of Purnima  in Villa de Leyva, Colombia. More info is available at……………. Via Facebook @yoginisoracle