Susanna Bannion (or the power that lies in a name)

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By: Rafael Espadine

Rafael Espadine is an artist and Philosophy student, researcher on the occult and ancient spiritual cultures. He works in the field of Indian culture. He is our first contributing writer to Devil In the Details. His work may be viewed at: Spadini Arts  and @r.spadini (Instagram).

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Dakota Johnson as Susie Bannion, Suspiria 2018.

Luca Guadagnino’s rebooted Suspiria (2018) has certainly surprised both followers of the cult classic and newcomers alike. It is a beautiful, lengthy, haunting, multi-layered and dreamy depiction or better saying, experience. And it has witches. That’s the very rare combination that every admirer of the occult expects to see when going for a supernatural movie. Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) — I’m not calling it “the original one” on purpose, for both films are too original to be compared — has that quality of attracting the esoterically minded too; and it stands at its own place of honor for that occult taste as well as for its aesthetics, among other reasons. Whereas the first film shows the two sides of the story by clearly dividing the good girls from the bad ones in a more typical representation of good versus evil, the new  take of Suspiria leaves much space for questioning, but it seems that “space”, and how it may or may not be filled, is precisely one of the key words of the reinvented plot. By not totally following the new trend of completely rectifying the story of well-known villains by portraying them as betrayed, and unjustly vilified creatures (as done in the plots of Maleficent and Wicked, for instance), perhaps what Guadagnino’s  Suspiria remarkably does is to show us a type of horror — for lack of a better term — that, we could say, is almost an unavoidable part of Nature itself. This horror is  beyond most any human comprehension of the cosmos and is not just a mere fruit of human cruelty although mixed with it at times. It presents what could be easily seen as opposite sides of a coin, blurring frontiers; and how the two sides really look to be parts of a single coin now!

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After this brief appraisal, what’s presented next is a short analysis that aims to stir a possible new interpretation for the central and unique mystery of the new version of Suspiria out of the symbology present in the name of the character that goes through the deepest transformation, while also causing major changes around her: Suzy Bannion.

I’ll assume that the reader of such a focused analysis is a connoisseur of both films and that the two works can be treated as classics (yes, even the new one already), so major plot details are freely discussed here.

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Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion. Suspiria (1977).

The name: Susanna, Suzy, Susie

Sources are varying in the spelling of the short version of the name, but if we are to trust the official records and the subtitling, the full name of the main character would be Susanna Bannion, with short forms varying from Suzy in Argento’s production and Susie in Guadagnino’s version.

Now Susanna, a feminine personal name widely used across the globe, is itself very interesting. Derived from the Hebrew Shoshannah (שושנה), with the most common spelling coming to us via Greek form Σουσάννα (Sousanna), making the S letters softer, this Hebrew word is also transliterated as shūshan, shōshan and shōshannā, and means simply “lily”, the flower (while lily is derived from the Latin lilium). Many flowers in the past have been designated by that name, including the so-called water lilies. Now the implications of the lily as a symbol, the heraldic fleur-de-lis (which literally means “lily flower” in French), the symbol of the six-pointed star, its connection to moon spirits and deities, the annunciation of the Virgin and Mary herself , Lilith — besides royal families and bloodlines — are endless (and who needs another book on that?). For those acquainted with the plot, the final discovery of the first heroine is through a very similar flower: an iris; whose shape also follows that of the fleur-the-lis pattern, i.e., three petals turned upwards, and three petals turned downwards. The flower seems to be missing in the new version (although one room is named iris in the new film as an obvious reference), but isn’t the new Susie haunted by a nocturnal flowering light in her bedroom that will lead her way to her final discovery/empowerment? A side note: Cinematic-wise we may cite another contemporary dance themed psychological thriller that also hints at Lilith’s disruptive power as a dark independent feminine principle that promotes drastic changes: Lily is the name of the lavishly sensual ballerina from Black Swan that so shockingly contrasts with the fragile and candid Nina and who also paves the way for the latter’s transformation. Her name leaves very little to be revealed…

“Lilith is the universal rule breaker”

The Lilithian theme seems to fit the character of Susie very well, especially the new Suspiria. The theme is that of the shattering of the old order by means of a rebellious behaviour, and that is the biggest fear of Western civilization and it’s created illusions of continuity, valor, and rigid legacy. If it comes from women then, there’s even more to be feared, given the millennia of prejudice against women and against the feminine in itself. Lilith is the universal rule breaker. However, as pointed by the Italian occultist Fulvio Rendhell, a renowned medium and magician still active in Rome, in his ‘Lilith la terrorista cosmica’ (Lilith, the cosmic terrorist ) — part of the book Lilith, la Sposa di Satana nell’Alta Magia a rare and authoritative treatise on the dark feminine — any revolution stiffens, gets institutionalized as norm and establishes new rigid dogmas and therefore, will have to be destroyed in due course by another revolution and so on and on endlessly. In astrology, Lilith is, among many other possible interpretations, an aspect of the non-normative: wherever she rules the aspect she is presiding over must irrevocably be fulfilled by unusual courses of action for the usual ones simply won’t work out.

In various philosophical approaches, the end of something and its transmutation into something new is the very way life itself manifests; and if we could perceive every transformation, we would see it happens all the time, and that every instant is made of that: an eternal “becoming”. The insistence in connecting the basic theme of the Three Mothers and Alchemy, both in Argento’s Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980) are quite revealing: the mothers could be symbols of the alchemic stages of Nigredo, Rubedo and Albedo. Besides that, sighs could be seen as a negative manifestation of air, tears of the inner emotional turmoil, and darkness as the opposite to light and an all-encompassing factor, essential for the symbolism of the dark feminine in various cultural and spiritual backgrounds. Curiously the Kabbalah recognizes three basic elements: air, water and fire. Earth in this interpretation would be a gross manifestation resulting from the amalgama of the other three elements mentioned.

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The surname: Bannion

According to genealogical records, the surname “Bannion” and its other forms are Welsh and derived from the personal name Eignion or Enion — from ‘einion’, stability, fortitude, the name of a clan ancestor — with the patronymic prefix “ab” added to it. The prefix would be later assimilated into the surname itself and from ab-Enion it would become Bannion. As a masculine name Enion may also mean “anvil”. An anvil as a symbol and allegory is very interesting in itself, but we are about to see a feminine version with most appealing implications: we will now briefly step into the very mystical universe of William Blake (1757–1827). In that rich and mesmerizing universe Enion is a character of the Gnostic mythology of Blake. She is an Emanation paired with Tharmas, one of the four Zoas, beings created from the division of the primordial human, Albion. Tharmas is an allegory for the sensations, whereas Enion of the sexual impulses and desires and both should be reunited after the Final Judgement when Enion will then consummate a sexual union. Blake’s Enion seems to be all “why is everyone so ready to think the worst is over?” in her every line, especially here in these selections from ‘The Four Zoas’.

[The Wail of Enion]:
(Four Zoas, Night II, ll. 595–626.)
I AM made to sow the thistle for wheat, the nettle for a nourishing dainty:
I have planted a false oath in the earth; it has brought forth a Poison Tree:
I have chosen the serpent for a counsellor, and the dog
For a schoolmaster to my children:
I have blotted out from light and living the dove and nightingale, 5
And I have causèd the earthworm to beg from door to door:
I have taught the thief a secret path into the house of the just:
I have taught pale Artifice to spread his nets upon the morning.
My heavens are brass, my earth is iron, my moon a clod of clay,
My sun a pestilence burning at noon, and a vapour of death in night. 10
What is the price of Experience? Do men buy it for a song,
Or Wisdom for a dance in the street? No! it is bought with the price
Of all that a man hath — his house, his wife, his children.
Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy,
And in the wither’d field where the farmer ploughs for bread in vain. 15
It is an easy thing to triumph in the summer’s sun,
And in the vintage, and to sing on the waggon loaded with corn:
It is an easy thing to talk of patience to the afflicted,
To speak the laws of prudence to the houseless wanderer,
To listen to the hungry raven’s cry in wintry season, 20
When the red blood is fill’d with wine and with the marrow of lambs:
It is an easy thing to laugh at wrathful elements;
To hear the dog howl at the wintry door, the ox in the slaughterhouse moan;
To see a God on every wind and a blessing on every blast;
To hear sounds of Love in the thunderstorm that destroys our enemy’s house; 25
To rejoice in the blight that covers his field, and the sickness that cuts off his children,
While our olive and vine sing and laugh round our door, and our children bring fruits and flowers.
Then the groan and the dolour are quite forgotten, and the slave grinding at the mill,
And the captive in chains, and the poor in the prison, and the soldier in the field
When the shatter’d bone hath laid him groaning among the happier dead: 30
It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity — 
Thus would I sing and thus rejoice; but it is not so with me.

Yes, dear Enion, we know… it’s all a mess. The one out there, the one in here.
In another interesting passage from the Four Zoas entitled Night the First, Blake’s poetry says a little more about Enion’s powers and strong personality that causes her to hurt her own creations:

“…Then Enion in jealous fear
[240] Murdered her, & hid her in her bosom, embalming her for fear
She would rise again to life. Embalmed in Enion’s bosom.
Enitharmon remains a corse — such thing was never known
In Eden, that one died a death never to be revived.”

While reading this passage it is difficult not to think of the living dead victimized students of both Suspirias, above all those of the new production, kept by the witches in an embalmed intermediary stage between life and death serving the witches mysterious purposes.

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Sara (Mia Goth) falls under the spell of The Three Mothers in Suspiria.

A relation between Enion’s wails and the Mother of Sighs is easy to notice as both are presented as principles that predate all history (“pre-Devil, pre-God”, as explained by the character of Dr Klemperer in Guadagnino’s Suspiria). But a relation between this Enion and our good friend Suzy Bannion can also be made: Both Susie and Enion are anxious to bloom as perfumed lilies and they are making anything possible to achieve that.

I have mentioned Blake as a literary source as his mythology stems from the genius of a writer’s mystical imagination, — the same case as with the mythology that would be created later on by Thomas De Quincey, of which we will be talking soon.

After this small exercise of possible symbolic references, it’s time to get back to the film and stitch together a few parallels between the two scripts. As we wouldn’t be able to cover all possibilities in a platonic dialectic process to reach the aporias of this subject, I’ll briefly go through factors that might have been perceived in the first Suspiria and carried on to the new screenplay by David Kajganich — only explored through a different angle:

The Suzy/Mater Suspiriorum factor was always there.
Yes, in the 1977 film itself, hidden in plain sight, shrouded in delicate mystery. The background for the new version may arise from an interpretation of very subtle facts and passages, some listed below: 

When the newcomer Suzy finally manages to join the dance academy, Mrs. Tanner, one of the instructors, promptly introduces her to Madame Blanc, the vice-Director of the Academy who then says that years ago in New York she knew a great benefactor of arts called Carol Bannion, which Suzy reveals to be her aunt.

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Suspiria 2018’s Susie Bannion is a rule breaker and catalyst for transformation.

Suzy’s name itself, besides the possible symbols it carries as discussed above, could be a good hint as well. The film seems to try to show that when Olga while bullying Sara and the newly arrived Suzy says that she once heard that names that start with the letter “s” are names of snakes, and the snake is referred to later on. Moreover, we can’t deny that Suspiriorum and Susanna share initials.

Suzy decides to find answers and reasons for the strange facts happening around her and while being informed by experts on occult matters about the true nature of the Markos academy and its director Helena Markos herself, Suzy expresses that what is being told to her by Dr. Frank (played by a young Udo Kier) is familiar to her, as if she already knew about all that. The elder expert Dr. Milius (Rudolf Schündler, do you remember him as the butler Karl in The Exorcist? We do; and we know about that crucifix, Karl) also tells her that “a coven is like a serpent”, when explaining that the head of a coven is its source of power and when a coven has no head it is totally inoffensive like a headless cobra.

The final sequence shows an enraged Madame Blanc (played by a marvelous Joan Bennett) on her throne inside the hidden rooms of the academy, saying that the American girl must vanish. In the final confrontation, Helena Markos herself tells Suzy she’s been “expecting her” — now that sounds like more than just an ordinary desire for witness elimination, and maybe the coven had knowledge of an old prophecy of sorts about someone who would come for them, so they were trying to act in Herod’s manner to secure the throne (this Herod factor fits well the Snow-White tale which inspired Argento) — or maybe they just realized how powerful and clever Suzy was and decided to get rid of a potential predator and competitor.

Finally we see the first Suzy also putting an end to a passe order of witches, anyway, however doing it by flames (and you can tell how joyful she is when she leaves the academy in a most perfect “mission accomplished” expression!).

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Suzy (Jessica Harper) escapes at the end of 1977’s Suspiria.

If these and other possible connections are conscious deliberate decisions taken after some genius interpretation of the original plot or if these are some of the finest examples of unconscious manifestations of symbolism, is yet to be known.

Daria Nicolodi, co-author of  Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980) – the stylish continuation of Suspiria which was successful in keeping up with the atmosphere of the first film of the trilogy of the Three Mothers in which Daria also plays the part of a countess – is actually responsible for the plot of a school that hides an occult background (which is, according to her, something that happened in her family) and also for the insertion of the Three Mothers mythology to the plot. She expressed in an interview that she is the only person who knows the end of the story and that there is another Mother to be explored: Levana. Daria says she was not consulted for the making of Mother of Tears, the third episode of the trilogy, and that the film is not the actual conclusion of the story (we dare to say the film is not a conclusion to anything. Period. And let’s not even mention the Levana from the incredibly messy Il Gatto Nero (1989) aka Demons 6: De Profundis, but, oh, we just did…).

Now Levana, this Roman deity that rules over childbirth was associated with the goddess Artemis in her role as protectress of childbirth and is the character that appears in the title of the essay from where the names of the Three Mothers were taken, “Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow”, part of the fragmentary and unfinished collection of fantastic essays from 1845 by the English writer Thomas De Quincey grouped under the title of Suspiria de Profundis’ (sighs from the depths). De Quincey imagines the character of Levana accompanied by three sisters that mimic the triplicity of the Parcae, Furies and Graces: Mater Lachrymarum, Mater Suspiriorum and Mater Tenebrarum, Latin names for Mother of Tears, Mother of Sighs, and Mother of Darkness.

Levana’s role in child birthing is related by Quincey to the reality of sorrows: to be born is to realize the nature of this world. However, Levana, from the Latin levare (to uplift) was represented by the act of raising up the newborn by one of the people present as a life affirming act. De Quincey goes on to explain that Levana was tutelary of human education as well. The plots for the Suspirias (and Inferno, for that matter) surround educational centres and its students, i.e., the dance school and the music college in Rome where Mark (lived by the splendid Leigh McCloskey of whom we should talk one of these days) studies. However, as De Quincey explains, Levana’s educational program is not that of the grammars and schools, but an internal one and she is aided by the ministries of passion, strife and temptation to achieve the ends of her syllabus. “If, then, these are the ministries by which Levana works, how profoundly must she reverence the agencies of grief.” says the text.

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Mark (Leigh J. McCloskey ) is a witness to the agencies of grief in Inferno (1980).

Interestingly, the Hebrew term levanah (לְבָנָה) is a word for “moon”. Notice how similar it is to the Latin name Levana or even to the Latin word for moon itself, luna. This word can also be seen in the monthly Jewish ritual of the sanctification of the new moon, or the Kiddush Levanah, a ritual performed in obedience to Exodus 12:2 as a form of saluting the Shekhinah — the Divine Presence, an aspect long regarded by Kabbalists to be feminine, a concept not be taken lightly in contemporary neopagan or psychoanalytic views, though. Influential occultist Dion Fortune (whose real name, by the way, was also that of a flower, Violet) recorded in her celebrated occult novel The Sea Priestess — yet to be made into a glamorous film one day — that:
“Our Lady is also called the Moon, called of some Selene, of others Luna, but by the wise Levanah, for therein is contained the number of her name.”

The Lilithian theme is visible in De Quincey’s essay when it informs the reader that “every captive in every dungeon; all that are betrayed and all that are rejected outcasts by traditionary law, and children of hereditary disgrace, — all these walk with Our Lady of Sighs”. Well, that we believe could be the very definition of the Lilithian image of witches: outcasts that are powerful by being outcasts.

Back to cinema, we see that both Suspirias – as well as Inferno – are tales about the strife of growing up and the self-blooming through the suffering, the tears and the grief that comes along with being born. In virtually all spiritual currents it is told that initiations bring about some good amount of suffering, for there’s no true learning without pain (Nietzsche has just winked) since the simple fact of becoming aware means being able to see the sorrows of this world in a clear cruel way. In Inferno, Mater Tenebrarum makes clear that she is bringing about Mark’s transformation. De Quincey’s Mater Tenebrarum, the Mother of Darkness, finishes her soliloquy saying:
“So shall he rise again before he dies, and so shall our commission be accomplished which from God we had, — to plague his heart until we had unfolded the capacities of his spirit.”

Yes, we know all of this is a bit of a cathartic textual musing with huge chunks of pure speculation (as is almost any creative exercise) and once again I must go back to the beautiful words of De Quincey, as he wisely puts it: “Theirs were the symbols; mine are the words.”

In the end we all realize that speech is silver, but silence is golden, and that, dear reader, is another fairy tale for another bedtime.

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Hooks, Hair & Blood: Suspiria 2018’s Occult-Horror-Geek Analysis

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This Occult Horror Geek Analysis of Suspiria 2018 contains major spoilers!! If you have not yet enjoyed viewing the film then don’t read this review until after watching it. You were warned.

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Suspiria poster art inspired by Hindu god Nataraja – a form of Shiva as ‘Lord of the Dance’ -whose feminine aspect is Kali. Design by La Boca Design Studio

Let’s face it, there is just no comparing the original classic 1977 Suspiria directed by Dario Argento with the recent reimagining by Luca Guadagnino. The recent remix takes a completely different stylistic approach. So, although Argento’s classic has been praised and analyzed for decades and will ever remain in a special shrine in our black little hearts, there is also much to investigate in the art – and black art – of this recent film version.

Read our occult horror geek analysis of The Three Mothers here: https://devilinthedetailssite.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/suspiria-dario-de-quincey-and-the-dark-goddess-part-1/

The dark feminine is certainly highlighted in 2018’s Suspiria, and aspects of dark goddess imagery can be discerned. We were reminded of the goddess Hecate in the back-to-back-to-back arrangement of the three undead girls at the climactic ceremonial scene. And the goddess Kali – who is nearly always depicted with a sickle-shaped sacrificial sword – came to mind with the theme of destructive dance and rebirth, and the wielding of sickle-shaped hooks in the film.

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As in all Hindu art, every thing carries significance including the black, red and white color symbolism of goddess Kali. The white teeth upon the red tongue and mouth against Her black skin alone would take an entire article.
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With eye-black and mouth-white, and a shibari inspired outfit of knotted red cords like a witch’s ladder, Suspiria brings a modern twist to the image of the witch.
Indian goddess kali.
Silver crescent hook evokes the lunar feminine current of witchcraft and the idea of periodicity.

The hooks employed by the coven as sacred tools may connect to such ideas as “to get one’s hooks / claws into a person” and thus having them at your mercy, or of a feline claw. The sickle shaped sword of the goddess Kali – much like the sickle shaped scythe wielded by the Grim Reaper in Western culture – represents Time (among other things we do not have the space to digress upon here. But Kali means Time in Sanskrit) and mortality. just as the sickle shaped waxing and waning of the moon has served as humanity’s oldest calendar (hence “month” and “menses” shares the same etymology as “moon”).

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Is Susie a psychopath or a witch goddess?

Because it really must be one or the other.

In 2018’s Suspiria, Susie Banion (Dakota Johnson) is very different from Jessica Harper’s Susie in Argento’s 1977 classic. Set in 1977, Susie is a girl obsessed from a very tender age with Berlin and Madam Blanc. She admits to fleeing from her little Mennonite community to see Madam Blanc perform in New York on three separate occasions (hitchhiking twice). She  also steals things: money meant for the Mennonite church is stolen and used to fund her trip to Berlin; she snatches a cosmetic from a drawer at the Tanz company’s reception office in a scene where she even shows Sarah (Mia Goth) how to properly break into the file cabinet (!) in order to look for files on missing fellow students. When Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) asks her how it felt to dance on her first day at the Markos dance company, Susie admits that she thought it felt like what it must be like to get fucked. “To be fucked by a man?” asks Madame Blanc. “No, I was thinking of an animal.” admits Susie, seemingly puzzled that Madame would have considered otherwise. And did you happen to notice that by the end of the film Susie has even appropriated Sarah’s clothing? 

More tellingly, Susie also shows little to zero remorse or emotional response to destruction or the suffering of others – like her dying religious mother, or a bombing outside her lodgings on her second night in Berlin. She giggles when she spies the matron witches teasing the genitals of an entranced police detective with one of their sickle-hooks. She’s immune to Sarah’s injury during the Volk dance performance as well as to Madame Blanc’s sudden demise. Susie cares not a bit for the obsolete religious morality of her family and in fact she transcends all conventional religious morality and sense of right or wrong to get where and what she wants. And she does it all her way, in her own sweet time …almost effortlessly! If timing truly is everything then it was just Fate that brought Susie to her own rebirth. Not the sort of horror movie heroine we’re used to! She hijacks the divided Markos Tanz company in a way echoing the hijacking and political unrest continually broadcast in the news from radio and t.v. throughout the story. She was born to (super)naturally blossom into the goddess she becomes – Mater Suspiriorum.

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Suzy (Dakota Johnson) and Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) share a special kind of relationship.
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Wait! Wait! I feel a sigh from the depths coming on…

Through it all Susie remains Cool, detached, and yet also strangely connected – with Madame Blanc as her spiritual Mother and preceptor – and to the pain and destruction going on all around her like so many reflections from a many-faceted jewel of suffering. Or perhaps she herself is a reflection of sorrow and destruction – of all the miseries of her personal life and of the world-at-large being refracted and focused into and through her as the very soul of sighs, the Mother of Sighs. She brings not only mere destruction but utter upheaval and transformation; out with the old Mother and in with the new one – herself! Like some insect queen which bites the head off of the old diseased queen so that the hive may flourish.

An artistic rendering of a gruesome goddess.

Helena (Mother) Markos, Madame Blanc and the rest of the coven come to believe that they are preparing Susie to become the living vessel for the spirit of Mother Markos, whose spirit they plan to magically transmigrate from Mother Markos’ incredibly diseased body into Susie’s fresh young one in an intentional act of spiritual possession. In order to do this Susie is instructed to become a vehicle for the work of another. Madame Blanc explains: “When you dance the dance of another, you make yourself in the image of it’s creator. You empty yourself, so that her work can live within you.” However, in an ironic twist of Fate – and an act of spiritual aikido –  Susie actually ends up using the coven for her own ends as she blossoms at the climax of the film to fully become and embody Mater Suspiriorum – the Mother of Sighs. Instead of Susie being a tool for the coven’s designs, the coven actually becomes the tool for Susie’s own apotheosis.

Instead of Susie being a tool for the coven’s designs, the coven actually becomes the tool for Susie’s own apotheosis.

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The theme of rebirth and feminine power is hinted as dancers pass through under the legs of Susie who could be imaged as draped in entrails like a bloody mother goddess.
Miss Tanner (Angela Winkler, at left in red) always wears what appears to be a talisman of human hair.
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Did you notice that Miss Tanner (Angela Winkler) always wears a talisman on a chain around her neck – a pouch of human hair?! And some of the coven is dressed in human hair for the final ceremony!

The Volk dance performance scene displays the creatively captivating blend of dance and magick – of art and black art. Everyone knows about the Dance of the Witches and how it’s used as a way to generate magical power. Witchcraft is interpreted here as a late ‘70’s German dance style. Energy is generated within a field of movement set upon a silver starburst-like pattern taped upon the floor. The precise and fierce rhythmic movement of bodies in set patterns – (and the esoteric void spaces in between them, as Madame Blanc teaches Susie in regard to the space created beneath her when she jumps) – creates a living, breathing mandala – a machine of occult force to be harnessed by the coven. This motif reoccurs in the intense ritualistic finale where the dancers are positioned in a physical pattern of rebirth – the shape of the feminine, downward pointing triangle, hands drenched in blood, dressed in the shorn hair of many young women. the coven becomes not only midwives in an attempt to rebirth Mother Markos into Susie’s body – they themselves form a pattern of a bloody womb of rebirth: all knotted flesh, hands smeared in human blood and covered in hair.

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The shibari styled dance costumes made of carefully knotted and artistically arranged red cords are both emblematic of the umbilical cords binding the daughters of the dance company to their sorcerous Matrons (who indeed “pull the strings” in order to channel their collective energy towards their own purposes) and the  well-known witches’ cord, or “witches’ ladder,” used in traditional witchcraft for making and containing magic by the intentional tying of knots and the weaving of spells. The witch goddess Hecate is occasionally depicted holding cords among her accoutrements.

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Blindfolding and bondage for initiation into witchcraft.

Read more about Hecate imagery and the Matrones in the original Suspiria and Three Mothers films in our series of articles on 1977’s Suspiria here: The Three Mothers & SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey & the Dark Goddess; Part 2

Need we state the obvious occult reference regarding the school’s collection of each dance student’s hair and urine? Ostensibly to drug test (or for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections) the school has the student’s urine, and the cuttings of their hair, as magical tools for binding and controlling who they will, how and when they will. A woman’s hair has long been held in esteem as a source of her magical power, her force of glamour. You can witness certain patriarchal religious traditions which enforce a covering of a woman’s hair as a method of attempting to suppress that wily female nature which may cause varying degrees of chaos on masculine order. This is why the goddess Kali always is depicted with long loose flowing hair emblematic of her freedom and her unbridled force. Just as one requires a personal item, or better clippings of hair, nails or the bodily fluids from an intended magical victim in order to cast a spell upon them, so do the matrons of the dance company gather these bits of matter to better serve their Mater… Suspiriorum. Miss Tanner is always wearing a talisman of human hair.

The necromancy employed by the coven manifests as a type of vampirism in which their magic, and probably Witch Queen Mother Helena Markos, is fed and nurtured on the suffering of those who fall onto the witches’ black list. Pat, Olga, and Sarah are made into undead automatons whose blood and internal organs are used in the witches’ black magical workings. Miss Vendegast the Matron who says “Don’t hurt Olga” just before they sink their sickle shaped hooks into her grotesquely twisted and tormented flesh appears to have been reminding them not to damage the internal organs so as to preserve their magical potencies to be used in their spell casting or other necromantic intentions.

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Ingrid Caven as Miss Vendegast warns the witches not “to hurt Olga” just before they sink their hooks into her.

Mirror, mirror on the wall… who’s the strongest witch of all? The mirror is a truly powerful magical instrument and a tool for psychological transformation. Just as Argento credited the influence of Disney’s Snow White upon 1977’s Suspiria we find the magic mirror resurfaces to reflect the soul in all it’s beauty, grace, torment and pain – multiplied – in the new Suspiria in a fractalization of the one into many.

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This coven does things the old fashioned way.
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The moment Susie becomes “Mother” echoes iconography of The Sacred Heart.
The Sacred Heart of Mary is echoed by Our Mother of Sighs – Mater Suspiriorum.

Occult horror geeks such as ourselves may find these reimagined occult symbols of interest in the growing list of occult flavored horror. Especially as we dive into this 21st century – where traditional religious ideology shifts along with the troubled cultural landscape and where Suspiria’s Susie Bannion is a heroine who – instead of defeating a coven of murderous witches – becomes the supreme witch by disposing the old model – it will be interesting to view what this strange world now considers “evil”.

Suspiria Reborn: Revisioning A Vintage Horror Classic

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A witches dance? Hecate Triformis? Goddess Kali? Suspiria (2018) will leave you gasping and sighing.

A Spoiler-free review

By: H.B. Gardner

“We were truly impressed by what we saw.”

Horror remakes have been around since the old days. Dracula, the Phantom of the Opera, Freddy Kruger, The Omen and many others have all been resurrected and redone. But in recent years many filmgoers have understandably balked at the idea of horror film remakes due to the obvious increasing lower artistic quality being sacrificed in favor of quick financial gain by studios which habitually crank out bubblegum films for the masses; films with superficial excitement but no lasting flavor and are disposed of and forgotten in a very short time. It has embittered some genre fans to see their treasured cinematic touchstones smeared as it were by the hand of corporate greed, incompetent acting and shoddy CGI.

Well, we viewed director Luca Guadagnino’s passionate 2018 revisioning of Dario Argento’s 1977 horror classic ‘Suspiria’ on it’s opening weekend here in Japan and will try to write, while still fresh in our minds, our thoughts on the subject of Horror Remakes – without any spoilers! (We plan to do a deeper occult analysis of this new Suspiria in a future article after we’ve had the chance to view it again …and again).

We are not only a longtime fan of Dario Argento’s original 1977 cinematic masterpiece Suspiria, but have spent considerable time meditating upon a key piece of inspirational source material, namely the essay called ‘Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow,’ from ‘Suspiria de Profundis,’ by Thomas De Quincey, where the title of the film and the idea of The Three Mothers were born. These Three Mothers – Mother of Sighs, Mother of Tears and Mother of Darkness are at the dark heart of the Suspiria universe. We being steeped in witchcraft, the occult and the horror genre ourselves ….well, our keen anticipation for the new Suspiria has been considerable. We went in with an open mind and with no expectations but to witness, as in jazz music, an improvisation on a theme.

We were truly impressed by what we saw.

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Mia Goth plays Sara.

Many, if not most of the popular movie-going populace, will not “get” this film, and at least two or three viewings may be needed to fully appreciate it. Suspiria 2018 is an artistic horror film. Those who expect a standard sort of remake, or who prefer their horror to be spoon fed to them with a smattering of jump scares, will likely be disappointed; and those with tastes reared on shallow bubblegum entertainment designed for those with short attention spans will be left impatient and bewildered. Luca Guadagnino’s film represents a deeper artistic turning into the profound regions of psychology, dance (as art), and witchcraft in the sense of The Black Arts than the more  typical horror film fare. The disturbing horror element is lasting in contrast to the superficial jump-scare formula that has long plagued the horror genre and it’s numb audience. Whatever your opinion of this new Suspiria, you must admit it is still a much more sophisticated and worthy sequel than Argento’s own 2007 Mother of Tears.

Learn about The Three Mothers by clicking the link below to another of our occult horror geek articles:

The Three Mothers & SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey and the Dark Goddess; Part 1

Guadagnino has stated that:

“I hope that the movie comes across as a relentless experience that’s going to go deep into your skin all the way down into your spine,” the director shared with The Hollywood Reporter. “I want the movie to perform as the most disturbing experience you can have. The movie is about being immersed in a world of turmoil and uncompromising darkness.”

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This he has succeeded in doing. The film has indeed gotten under our rather jaded and genre toughened skin. The palpable after-effect of this unsettling film reminds us of a few other Art House films with an unsettling vibe.

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Japanese poster

What we liked about the movie:

The Dance scenes. In 1977’s Suspiria, dance was a rather insignificant aspect of the story, and did little more than provide a setting for the murderous mayhem. In the remake the dance is an esoteric key to the story. Art and The Black Arts are melded into a united force of Witchery heretofore undeveloped in film. Esoteric readings of the film abound with occult and witchcraft symbolism in unfamiliar yet traditional manifestations. This aspect will be explored more thoroughly in a future occult-horror-geek article.

The story, in a way seemingly disjointed or random at first (though not quite as so dreamlike as the original psychedelic Suspiria),  is actually held together throughout and underneath it all by an umbilicus of deeper psychological interpretation and esoteric continuity. A Psychological reading of the film will immediately highlight  the mother-daughter complex throughout, and within a few differing configurations (Suzy and her mother, Suzy and Madame Blanc, Helena Marcos and Madame Blanc etc.). The fuller background given for Suzy couldn’t have been better and adds a whole other  dimension to the story. There is also the wider scope offered of interpersonal relationships especially between women: sisters (Suzy is a twin), the status of older and younger woman, the naturally inspired novice and the experienced teacher; all added into the general theme of female empowerment – though mostly in it’s negative, or darkest, devouring Mother sense.

“The fuller background given for Suzy couldn’t have been better and adds a whole other  dimension to the story.”

The witches of the dance company are intriguing characters and deserve a mini-series in their own right.

The perhaps bewildering inclusion of so much focus on Dr Klemperer the character of the psychologist, pining for his loving wife he lost during the Nazi regime, who gets pulled into the web of witchcraft also highlights this psychological interpretation of Suspiria. He spends his time counseling those he meets who have been consumed by the devouring mother of the Markos dance company. He also spends a great deal of time crossing the border between East and West Germany. He is placed in the neither-neither realm of not being firmly in one world or the other: East and West Germany, past and present. He is already situated at the witches twilight crossroads and is thereby already under the sway of Mater Suspiriorum. This split, or division, is also accented within the Marcos Tanz company where a rivalry of sorts is brewing and the developing tension, suspicions and paranoia of listening through walls echoes that of  East Germany at the time of the setting. It was a time of turmoil, much like today.

With an unsettling atmosphere woven through with anxious sighs, fearful tears,  brooding darkness, and a good dose of body horror, Guadagnino has created a chilling and angst-ridden atmosphere of pain evocative of the late 70’s or very early 80’s. The inclusion of the psychologist’s story as a prominent rather than cameo role brings an added measure of De Quinceyan depth and poignancy undeveloped in the original.

Seeing it in Japan:

We are at a disadvantage as far as viewing new horror movie releases here in Japan. It usually takes several months for most films to make their way here to the Far East with their accompanying Japanese subtitles. Also, the cinematic experience in Japan was a little less than we had hoped for in that the theater was of quite a small size, the screen being no bigger than our own living room wall. We had viewed Hereditary just last November in a very nice, new spacious theater with a big screen in another part of Osaka. However, Toho studios must have got exclusive rights to show Suspiria in Japan as it was only viewable in a Toho theater which required a visit to Umeda in the heart of Osaka. We were able to purchase a Suspiria souvenir movie booklet at the cinema (in Japanese). It was a packed theater that first Saturday of it’s release in Japan. We were unprepared for a substantial amount of the dialogue to be in German or French so deciphering these languages amidst the Japanese subtitles was a bit perplexing. Surprisingly, however, this anglophone handicap did not mar the visual storytelling. We are anticipating multiple future viewings on blu-ray.

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Tilda Swinton works magic in three seperate roles !

The acting was the best we’ve seen in any horror film in a while. The performances were believable even amidst the often unbelievable mayhem going on.

The filmmakers took the original ‘Suspiria’ and spun it in the darkest and deepest directions it could possibly go.

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Dakota Johnson is amazing as Suzy.

A lot of thought and passion was obviously put into this rendering of the story and the art and crafting of it. The filmmakers took the original Suspiria and spun it in the darkest and deepest directions it could possibly go. This is a very different Suspiria from Argento’s. There is no comparing the two, each being a very different creature telling the same myth in a different way. While the original Suspiria remains a classic of the genre it may be said to feel a bit dated or even to contain a bit of camp, especially as viewed from our jaded eyes 40 years after the fact (consider the bat scene!). The new Suspiria never descends into the current trend of torture porn or detours into outright camp. The psychological tension is at first subtle but present right from the start; and the horror and mystery wrap slowly and insidiously about and clings like a viscous, membranous veil. There is suspense, mystery, striking imagery, dark fantasy, dread, horror, gore and the grotesque but it never really seeks to terrorize with mere cheap thrills in the way commonly done nowadays. The story is crafted to leave you unsettled and disturbed afterwards, recalling in this way Cronenberg’s films like Dead Ringers,  or like 1999’s The Reflecting Skin, and the more recent Hereditary. It also echoes the original source material from English opium eater Thomas De Quincey who, as already mentioned, originally conjured The Three Mothers in his work Suspiria De Profundis, in a brief essay titled Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow.

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Tilda Swinton gives compelling performances as three separate characters.

Due to our mistrust of Hollywood – having lost faith with expecting studios to deliver quality horror, along with the tastes of the masses of film goers having seemingly devolved to the level of a 14 year old with a superhero fetish – we sadly suspect that this film may be greatly under appreciated. The original Suspiria has two sequels – both directed by Dario Argento, the first of which Inferno (1980) is a worthy successor. Mother of Tears (2007) despite having three Argento family members and Udo Kier involved in the production remains an unsatisfactory conclusion to the baroque, oneiric drama of the first two. Could we see a trilogy develop from this recent Suspiria remix? one that would focus on each of The Three Mothers? Only time will tell.

Guadagnino’s Suspiria has given us hope. While the pacing may feel a little slow or the story seem to try to encapsulate too much, we think it is an epic dark horror fantasy that brings one to meditate on the condition of a world that seems to so often feed off of pain and misery; whether this be on the level of interpersonal relationships, or of the individual to a group, or the warring sides of a fractured society.

…it is an epic dark horror fantasy that brings one to meditate on the condition of a world that so often seems to feed off of pain and misery.

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Tilda Swinton is a phenomenal actress.

Demons: As They Are

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By H.B. Gardner

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Image from Hereditary, 2018. Actress: Toni Collette.

Mea Culpa. We have been so busy as of late with the second semester of teaching at a Catholic school here in Japan that we’ve decided to make one article for Nov. and Dec. to cover our promise of delivering a monthly piece. Hope it is worthy.

We recently were able to view the film Hereditary as it just recently opened in theaters here in Japan where we dwell. We were uncertain what to expect concerning the story as we prefer to go into a movie without knowing too much about it; but we had heard great praise for this film from a few long-time friends who are well acquainted with horror. We were very pleased with the film overall, and even more-so since it contains a satisfactory taste of the demonic. It was the most emotionally harrowing horror film we’ve seen in the past decade and perhaps it deserves some closer attention to discover all the Devil In the Details – which we may find some time to do in a future article. But for now, let us consider – in the widest possible sense – the case and state of the demon.

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Hereditary, 2018.

Demons, or otherwise harmful spirits, or spirits with a doubtful status in regards to their relations and connections with humankind, have held a prominent position in human spiritual and religious experience ever since the most ancient times and from all quarters of the globe. Evil spirits, by whatever name or category – such as we usually refer to as demons, have been regarded as bringers of disease, calamity, misfortune, temptation, pain, damnation, sorrow and all manner of adversarial forces opposing frail human existence. Beyond these many miseries unleashed from Pandora’s box, demons are also believed to have the ability to take possession of people, animals and even objects. But demons are also said to have tremendous powers and have the ablity to grant wishes, bestow boons and make deals …usually in exchange for some very precious commodity or offering.

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Onibaba, 1964

In various cultures throughout the ages a demonology has developed in which all manner of evil spirits have been categorized, codified and ranked according to various hellish hierarchies. Our word “demon” derives from what the Romans called a “Dæmon,” the Latin word for the Ancient Greek daimōn δαίμων: “god”, “godlike”, “power,” or “guiding spirit.” Another example would be the Arabic “djinn” from which we get “genie” and has an etymological relationship with our word “genius.” These we’re not considered evil entities. The pre-Christian concept of these ambiguous spirits was more akin to numinous inspirational forces of various kinds.

Some old Medieval books of magic known as grimoires spill over with lists of these diabolical entities. As just one group of beings existing in this universe shared by all manner of living creatures – both seen and unseen – demons dwell alongside other incarnate and discarnate spirits including humans, animals, ghosts, angels, sprites, elemental spirits and etc. Demons may be seen as beneficial or harmful depending entirely on where one is standing. In the Hellraiser series of horror films based on the work of Clive Barker, the demons are referred to as Cenobites which by definition indicates members of a religious order. Pinhead, the lead cenobite himself, refers to his kind as “Demons to some, angels to others.”

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“Demons to some, angels to others.” Cenobites from Hellbound: Hellraiser II, 1989.

“Demons to some, angels to others.”

And this is something we can truly use to help us relate to demons – if we allow ourselves to open our minds to such an experience. No person is all good just as no person is all bad – no matter how constant and deliberate the demonization may be at times that is directed at politicians, homosexuals, the Russians, Republicans, bosses, teachers, neighbors, retail clerks, screaming SJWs, internet trolls, etc… & ad nauseam. In this world everyone has a job to do, or a duty to perform – whatever their role may be – helpful or adversarial. Everyone and everything from the homeless dog to the jobless alcoholic, from the broom pusher to the busy mother, from the doctor or to the wealthy corporate executive, each is playing their own role in the comic tragedy: Humanity’. Sometimes you play the victim, other times you may be the rescuer, …or maybe you are usually the oppressor; the roles are often switched in the sick triangle of codependency that is material existence to which we are all chained. But we digress…

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The Devil, Key XV in the Tarot, usually depicts two demons chained to their master.

Demons! If these demonic beings are seen as a part of the totality of creation, the work of a Creator, or resulting therefrom, then they surely have a role to play in the grand opera that is human spiritual existence: that is to say, in our daily lives. In Hinduism and Buddhism demons or Asuras are simply one state of existence, along with gods, humans, animals, celestial spirits, hungry ghosts and the denizens of hell. All beings are viewed as bound within The Wheel of Life (bhavachakra) and are chained to it by karma (action) and the fruits of those actions.

Asuras are not exactly demons in the Western Abrahamic sense however; they are more like nature spirits, demigods or Titans; sometimes beneficial, sometimes harmful, to humankind. Indeed, Buddhism just as often categorizes gods (devas) and demons (asuras) together, with gods being placed above the demons as a higher order of the same divine existence. Both are powerful beings  but have different orientations and inclinations, the Devas (gods) representing the powers of Light and the Asuras (demons) representing the powers of Darkness. The distinct realms or dimensions of all these various beings are generally distinct from each other but they certainly overlap and intertwine so that the demonic, the divine, the celestial, the hellish, the ghostly, the animal  and the faerie are all mixed together with our own plane of human existence. By one’s actions it is believed that one may attain to any of these forms of existence in the course of transmigration of the soul, otherwise known as reincarnation. Depending on your actions you may very well be on your way to becoming a god, or a demon, or an animal, or a denizen of Hell, or another human form, or an angel, etc… in your next incarnation.

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Tibetan style Bhavachakra ‘Wheel of Existence’ depicting the six realms of embodied existence between the spokes of the wheel

Theodicy: the problem with evil

(click the text above for a wikipedia article on Theodicy). In Christianity, as in the other Abrahamic traditions, demons (or djinn in Islam, or qlippoth in Jewish and Qabbalistic mysticism) are viewed as an imperfect and evil result of God’s creation. This extreme dualism between good and evil is a bit problematic, philosophically speaking, when considering the cause of evil as it, at the very least, calls God’s perfect omniscience and omnipotence into question. Even if the Fall of Man from the Garden of Eden is counted as being a good reason for mankind being plagued by death, sin and demonic influence as reason to support the concept of “the fortunate fall” in order to make way for a Savior, then does this not call into question an omniscient and omnipotent God’s good will in putting an insurmountable temptation before His glorious but flawed and naive creations: Man and Woman? According to Christian mythology, when the Serpent Satan (or was it Lilith? Or perhaps those are just two sides of one coin) offered the forbidden fruit, neither Eve nor Adam could refuse it, despite dwelling in Paradise and being so close to God. What hope is there then for us here in our present situation?

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Michelangelo’s Temptation of Adam & Eve (Lilith as half woman, half serpent). Notice the positioning of Adam and Eve and consider the meaning of “forbidden fruit” and “The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.”

Oh yes, the solution offered by Christianity is the long dead, desperately anticipated, but oh-so-tardy Nazarene, the King of the Jews; He is presented as the only way towards salvation. According to believers, one needs must only to put complete trust and faith in Him. He sees you when you’re sleeping, He knows when you’re awake, He knows if you’ve been bad or good so you better be good and trust in him only if you want to earn your xmas reward of avoiding Hell, getting your wings, and spending an eternity traipsing along streets of gold strumming your harp among the clouds.

But these demons! Surely if they do indeed exist (and who are we to argue that they do not? What with all the headline news evidence at hand!?) they and all other so-called “mythical” creatures must have their own lives to live: masters to serve, families to care for and raise, duties (dharma) to perform, roles to play… just as all sentient beings have. They must also have a purpose or reason for existing in the scheme of the Wheel of Life; but are likely just as often loathe to contemplate it, as are many humans these days who follow the trend of sneering at religious or spiritual ideas, making the asinine claim that “nothing means anything;” – as brainless a statement as has ever been said on Earth. Our estimable opinion is that this universe is positively swarming with all manner of beings, entities and energies – both seen and unseen.

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Satyr’s Family, by Louis Priou, circa 1876. Satyrs (considered demonic to the Abrahamic religions) generally lack the means to adequately clothe their families.

“…this universe is positively swarming with all manner of beings, entities and energies – both seen and unseen.”

There are rituals and ceremonies for evoking and appeasing demons – from both East and West. From the East there is a stronger compassionate tendency to appease these demonic and chthonic spirits and the unquiet dead and releasing them from their karmic miseries by offering them a path towards the Light- and a better future incarnation – through prayers, offerings and days of remembrance. This is likewise done in the hopes of helping the dearly departed to secure comfortable positions in the afterlife and a fortunate rebirth (nobody wants grandma’s spirit ending up as a hungry ghost unable to find peace). We have something similar in the West with the second of November as All Souls Day and Day of the Dead (Di­a de Los Muertos), when  the departed Christian dead are remembered. The burial of the dead and accompanying funeral rites are also all towards this end of ensuring that the dead will indeed rest in peace. Special attention must be given even to certain directions of the compass that are considered demonic. For example, the West or Southwest wind are noted as a direction of misfortune and illness according to Chinese and Japanese geomancy (Fu hsui or Fung shui) which is opposite the Northeast gate which is also considered a demon gate here in Japan.

“Hell is empty, and all the devils are here”.

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In ancient Mesopotamian religion, Pazuzu (Akkadian: 𒀭𒅆𒊒𒍪𒍪 Dpà.zu.zu; also called Fazuzu or Pazuza) was the king of the demons of the wind. He also represented the southwestern wind, the bearer of storms and drought. Made popular by The Exorcist.

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The Exorcist was Pazuzu’s worldwide debut.

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But there are also sorcerers, magicians, necromancers, witches, aghoris, fakirs and the like, who practice various kinds of magic and / or mysticism in their desire to summon and harness the power of  demons, djinn, and other restless malevolent (or ambivalent) spirits towards their own ends and interests. These are humans such as would dare to rend the veil separating our world from those others, thereby allowing traffic between. Such practices are often categorized  under the Black Arts and are frequently linked with ritual practices usually considered impure or hazardous by the more Apollonian and Abrahamic minded.

Demon summoning you ask? But what need is there for elaborate ceremonies involving months of preparation along with rare and expensive paraphernalia? As Shakespeare wrote in The Tempest: “Hell is empty, and all the devils are here”. Summoning a demon is just one click away these days! Wanting to conjure a Demon of Vengeance? Look no farther than the internet! All the tools you need to evoke misery upon an adversary are there simply by posting and spreading rumors or embarrassing photos of the intended victim! Demons of Corporate Greed leer over your shoulder as your finger hovers over that “order with one click” button. Looking for a Demon of Lust? There’s an app for that! No magical diagrams or complicated incantations in Latin and Greek necessary!

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An Aghori in Varanasi, India enjoys licking a skull. Aghoris spend most of their time getting high and playing around corpses in cremation grounds in order to get closer to the Godhead …or Godhood.

But let us consider that this grand drama being enacted here on the earthly stage in our daily lives – peopled as it is with myriad characters – may include demons in it in the form of humans we know and interact with on a day-to-day basis! Certainly it may be said that some people act as  angels just as others bedevil us. It can be quite an experience getting to know these characters: laughing with little angels at school, socializing with demons online or at the shopping mall, getting the unsophisticated attentions of a horny satyr at the company xmas party, dealing with the denizens of Hell at the DMV… all as part of the daily grind. Perhaps one day you may even find a demon staring back at you from your own bathroom mirror! But one must be honest and admit: No matter where you’re sitting at in the bewildering opera house of Life – whether it’s a comedy, tragedy or a horror (or usually all of the above mixed together) – it’s still a pretty good show!

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Night of the Demons, 1988.

‘This Is No Dream: Making Rosemary’s Baby’ – A Book Review

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‘This Is No Dream; Making Rosemary’s Baby’

Text by: James Munn

Special Photographer: Bob Willoughby

From: Reel Art Press, 2018

206 pages, hardcover. LOTS of photos!

♥♥♥♥♥ 5 Black Hearts (=love it)

The legend behind the making of a horror classic!

Fans of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ have waited 50 years for a collectible item to be made available to the general movie going public – beyond maybe a poster, or the blue ray DVD with it’s extra features.  But all good things come to those who wait! Finally, we are offered a feast that lingers on our favorite devil movie. Famed Director Roman Polanski’s faithful cinematic version of Ira Levin’s bestselling novel was released in 1968. Now, just in time for the golden anniversary of this diabolical classic, Reel Art Press presents us with a treasure of a book guaranteed to carry the merely curious and the serious film fan behind the scenes of this landmark cinematic production.

The book itself is a large quality hardcover of over 200 pages that spills over with marvelous color, and black and white, pictures by lauded film set and celebrity photographer Bob Willoughby. Quite a fair number of these pictures are seen here for the first time! As Polanski’s voyeuristic lens recorded a classic suspense horror thriller for the ages, Willoughby’s camera caught the intimate on-the-set moments of it’s making.

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Mia Farrow and Ruth Gordon on the set of Rosemary’s Baby. Photo: Bob Willoughby.               Reel Art Press.

The text by James Munn takes us on an insider’s journey through the film’s production, from it’s start as the novel was picked up for film rights even before it had barely reached the bestseller list, through it’s troubled production plagued by tensions – both economical and emotional (Good Lord! The drama!), to it’s momentous popular release during the time of a major cultural revolution in American society,  and to the aftermath of it’s wide influence ever since. We are given lots of information and insight from those who were there or directly involved, and encounter the amazing personalities – Roman Polanski, William Castle, Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon and more – that contributed to this tremendously influential film.

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John Cassavetes. photo: Bob Willoughby. Reel Art Press.

Reel Art Press has done a fantastic service in the quality artistic presentation of the photos and text. Fans of Rosemary’s Baby, satanic cinemaphiles, and those interested in the workings of the film industry will all find this book of fascinating interest as much for it’s insights as for it’s delicious photography. A must-have treasure for any serious Rosemary’s Baby devotee in your life. A coffee table art book Minnie and Roman Castevet would adore! Would make a great Christmas present!

Link to video ad for the book :

This Is No Dream; making Rosemary’s Baby

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From the back cover of ‘This Is No Dream, making Rosemary’s Baby’ from Reel Art Press.

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Read our interview with Rosemary’s Baby cast alumnus Ernest Harada:

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

Or some of our other articles on Rosemary’s Baby:

13 Ways You Can Celebrate “Rosemary’s Baby’s 50th Anniversary”

All of Them Witches: A”Who’s Who” in Rosemary’s Baby

‘Rosemary’s Baby’: Raped by The Shadow

‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Turns 50 !

Sympathy for the Devil: The Sublime Satanism of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

 

13 Ways You Can Celebrate “Rosemary’s Baby’s 50th Anniversary”

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Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes in the greatest film ever: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

By: H.B.G.

Some of you know how “our” passion for Rosemary’s Baby goes way beyond any normal level of diabolical decency. Rosemary’s Baby is truly it’s own little world, one we’ve stepped into and walked around in many times (Believe us, we realize how that sounds and the danger we’re in of convincing you of our potential basket-weaving skills).

We have seen Roman Polanski’s film version more times than we can say and our current paperback edition of Ira Levin’s novel (we’ve gone through a few) is highlighted, dog-eared and underlined in. Along with it rests a notebook of details culled from the novel and film, and ideas (culled from our imagination) for every single character in the Castevet’s coven – a sincere (if misguided) attempt at study for a series of prequel related short fiction in relation to the novel, ( i.e. background stories for Adrian Marcato, Minnie & Roman Castevet, Dr Sapirstein, Laura-Louise and all the other coven members). Ideas for a collection of short fiction which would take us on a journey through events in these characters lives up until the very first page of the novel (or frame of the film).

We are pleased to see some recognition beginning to appear regarding this golden jubilee, which we’ve been promoting out of our own enthusiasm, for over a year now in our own little way, via this Devil In The Details site and our Rosemary’s Baby 50th Anniversary facebook page. We started the #RosemarysBaby50thAnniversary hashtag out of a genuine love for the novel and film.

Visit Ira Levin.org where you can enjoy Rosemary’s Baby Album – an online feature that celebrates the novel’s 50th anniversary with unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at it’s creation, using author Ira Levin’s actual notes, drafts and archival materials. There is also a  “making of” book about the 1968 film to be released this July (of course we’ve pre-ordered a copy  through Amazon).

So, how devoted of a Rosemary’s Baby fan are you? How far will you go to celebrate this landmark cultural phenomenon? We have a few ideas… Here are 13 ways (an appropriate number for a witches’ coven) to celebrate Rosemary’s Baby’s 50th Anniversary.

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5oth Anniversary edition

 1. Read the novel by Ira Levin. It is still enjoyable, still relevant, still chilling and very good reading. Reading the novel last year or this year unlocks the Golden Jubilee level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom.

There are several details and insights to be found in the novel which didn’t make it into the film. For example, it describes Rosemary’s get-away to Hutch’s cabin for a week while she deals with feelings of neglect by her husband Guy; the novel also lets us know what exactly is running through Rosemary’s mind during that climactic final scene.

Subtle hints of the diabolical plot, which may go unnoticed in the film, are brought out in reading – like the significance of hearing the Castevet’s door chime is noticed at a certain point in the novel which a casual viewer may miss in the film. Subtle, but telling.

cropped-rosemarysbaby-mia-farrow-paramount.jpg2. Watch the 1968 film. It is truly one of the best suspense thrillers ever made. Make it a drinking game: take a shot of your favorite drink every time Mia Farrow appears in a different outfit. If you make it to the end of the film without passing out you have officially unlocked the “Hail Satan” level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom.

tumblr_oo7nizixwx1v00mydo1_500 3. Play a game of Scrabble. Extra points are due if you manage to spell “witch,” “Tannis,” “Satan,” or “Adrian“. This activity unlock’s the Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom.

rgeyes4. Mix up some vodka blushes. But be sure to spill a little on the carpet in honor of Roman and Minnie Castevet. This unlocks the Minnie and Roman Castevet level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom.

Vodka Blush Recipie:

  • 2 1/2 ounces Vodka
  • 3/4 ounces freshly-squeezed lime juice (strained)
  • Dash Grenadine
  • Fill shaker 2/3 with fresh ice. Add ingredients. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
  • Garnish with a fresh sprig of Rosemary.

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The most exclusive residence in Manhattan

5. Go to New York City and visit the Dakota apartment building (or Alwyn Court apartments building where author Ira Levin once lived and was the original inspiration for the Bramford). Tell the doorman that the Castevets on the 7th floor are expecting you (bonus points if you’re carrying a gift wrapped baby present with a black ribbon). If the doorman gives you grief, ask to speak to Diego because he’s always on duty. You may be forcibly ejected from the premises but you can rest assured that you have officially unlocked the Bramford level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom. Alternatively, visit Yankee Stadium and ask when the Pope is expected to arrive. Consider traveling by Yamaha motorbike.

Unknown-2 6. Go to Vidal Sassoon and get a pixie cut. This officially unlocks the Mia Farrow level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom.

7. Make a chocolate mousse but call it “chocolate mouse” and bring some over to your neighbors. Tell them they’re extra and you don’t need them. This officially unlocks the Minnie Castevet level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom (bonus points if you ask your neighbors how much they paid for items inside their home)From the novel: “The cups were filled with peaked swirls of chocolate. Guy’s was topped with a sprinkling of chopped nuts, and Rosemary’s with a half walnut.” In case you were wondering, that’s how Rosemary got the “mouse” meant for her.

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Ruth Gordon and Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby 1968

8. Trade ties with someone you despise or covet and wish them to go blind. This unlocks the Guy Woodhouse level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom. If the intended victim really does go blind, you have officially unlocked the Adrian Marcato level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom. Alternatively, hide a friend’s glove – only one of a pair – and if your friend goes into a coma, you have officially unlocked the Mrs Gardenia/Hutch level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom (and you really ought to be ashamed of yourself!!).

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Mia Farrow and Victoria Vetri (AKA Angela Dorian).

9. Do your laundry in a creepy basement laundry facility. Bonus points if  “a dead infant wrapped in newspaper” has ever been found on the premises. If you meet a woman of Italian heritage, or hear glass breaking, you have officially unlocked the Rosemary Woodhouse and Terry Gionoffrio level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom.

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Patsy Kelley as Laura Louise

 10. Buy or make a set of black baby clothes, or knit a black baby hat with horns or cloven hoof booties for someone you know is expecting a baby. This officially unlocks the Laura Louise level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom. In the novel we are informed that Laura Louise is knitting a pair of “shaped-all-wrong booties” for Rosemary’s baby.

images-2111. Buy a bunch of red roses for your wife and say “Happy Rosemary’s Baby‘s 50th Anniversary, Darling!” If she spits in your face, you have successfully unlocked the Guy Woodhouse level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom!

Alternatively, invite your friends and throw a loud party but be sure to exclude any nosey old neighbors. Afterwards, get in an argument with your spouse that ends in tearful laughter and an uncomfortably silent cleaning mode. This also officially unlocks the Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom.

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Kitchen Witchin’ : Mia Farrow as Rosemary and Ruth Gordon as Minnie with the “spice garden” in the background.

12. Start an herb garden. Rosemary dreams of having a spice garden of her own someday. Maybe you’ll select a witch’s pharmacy of either psychoactive or poisonous plants, but you should at least get a rosemary plant potted and set in a sunny location – tradition says that rosemary growing by the front door of a home will keep your spouse faithful. Being a green witch is another way to unlock the Minnie Castevet level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom.

rb1013. If you are expecting a child of your own, name him Adrian, or her Rosemary. We did this ourselves last October for our youngest ‘Rose Marie’ (born two days before Halloween) and have thereby successfully unlocked the Adrian Marcato level of Rosemary’s Baby fandom. (Yes, seriously, but Marie also happens to be a family name).

Please visit and “Like” our Rosemarys Baby 50th Anniversary Facebook page:

Rosemarys Baby 50th Anniversary Facebook page

Use your own imagination and celebrate Rosemary’s Baby’s 50th Anniversary any way you choose. Maybe you’ll write a love letter to Mia Farrow, or… you could send a book on witchcraft to a friend along with the cryptic message that “The name is an anagram.” Try arranging to have a screening of the film at a local cinema and have live performers act-out the characters and scenes a la Rocky Horror Picture Show shadow cast style. The possibilities are endless. WOW! 50 years! This is no dream! This is really happening!

Closest  to our hearts are: an interview we did with actor Ernest Harada who portrayed the Japanese photographer in the final scene of the film which you can read here: An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ which we did last year; our correspondence with actress Victoria Vetri, (AKA Angela Dorian)  who portrayed the character Terry Gionoffrio – the Castevet’s young houseguest – in the film, who is now free from prison but is occupied with adjusting to life “on the outside” and for whom we are praying for the best in her continuing rehabilitation; and last but not least, a source very close to departed author Ira Levin who complimented our Devil In The Details site for our efforts toward promoting Rosemary’s Baby‘s 50th anniversaries – novel and film – and who is also responsible for the exquisite #RosemarysBabyAlbum at IraLevin.org. These people, along with Mia Farrow, Roman Polanski, and Charles Grodin (surviving cast and crew of the film) – are due for recognition for their significant contributions to cinematic or literary history.

Let’s hope we see more recognition for this classic diabolical novel and film.

‘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 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. This was a critical time of social upheaval which we’ll delve into more below. See also: ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Turns 50 ! on this perspective.

‘Rosemary’s Baby’ succeeds in turning horror into the sublime by leading us through Rosemary Woodhouse’s harrowing conception, pregnancy and birth to a climactic revelation of a monster child which, we are left to presume, will bring destruction and devastation. And yet here – at this very point – comes the heart wrenching twist: the monster is undeniably and wholeheartedly accepted in love. “Hail Rosemary!” Full of grace; divine grace of The Mother is moved to embrace that which brings certain doom and destruction. We will attempt to show how the mytheme (myth + theme) of the abandoned child Pan – rescued by Divine Grace – is an acceptance of our dark drives and creative (destructive?) passions, and is reflected in Ira Levin’s bestseller. Rosemary exhibits divine grace just as Dionysos and all the Olympians showed when Pan’s father Hermes rescued him from abandonment and took him to Olympus for presentation to the gods and goddesses. In short, a shattering of traditional values, morals and beliefs is presented as part of a “Divine Plan;” uhm… so to speak.

In short, a shattering of values and morals and beliefs.

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Original hardback copy of the novel by Ira Levin.

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 follows threads of ancient patterns inculcated by Western spiritual consciousness as exhibited in folk tales and in classical mythic motif – i.e.: Fear of  the Devil, cannibalistic witches and Witchcraft, the Faustian pact with the Devil, the semi-divine child who is secreted away somewhere,  the rejected monster child. Rosemary’s Baby 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. As this article will attempt to show, Rosemary’s Baby is a story in which 1960’s American society’s  cultural shift towards an awakening to greater sexual freedom is reflected as a reawakening to primal Pagan archetypes suppressed within Western consciousness.

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

It is an old adage that the gods of an old religion will always become the devils of the new one. 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.

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Vintage illustration of Peter Pan

“…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 or hidden divine child, or the monster child, has ancient roots. Zeus, Apollo, Hermes, Dionysus were all hidden as babes, as was Moses. The Minotaur is a perfect example of a monster child that is secreted away in the labyrinth. 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 those of cats and frogs – all associated with witchcraft) are notorious for their uncanny appearance. This trait derives from Pan’s father, the trickster shepherd god Hermes (Mercury) who oversaw all forms of trade and commerce, including thievery, but especially that of animal husbandry. As a son, or extension, of his father, Pan takes part in the sphere of Hermes and is closely connected with beastial providence. Hermes is the patron of herdsmen and always has his eyes upon their interests, which is to say their flocks (as for Pan, you might see this as a reinterpretation of “He has his father’s eyes.”). Moreover, this Mercurial aspect directly relates to the Faustian pact, or economical 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 as a breeding animal, in order to serve his own interests. This also reminds us of Hermes’ famous legendary exploits at deception and as protector of thieves.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 Dionysus (Bacchus), god of wine and religious ecstasy, with whom Pan is often closely associated. 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 the demonic babe is accepted – not only by the supernaturally empowered and mysterious coven of witches overseen by Roman and Minnie Castevet – but later by Rosemary herself in a complete reversal of the initial attitude of horror. A manifestation of Divine Grace is thus an integral part of this satanic tale: accepting the monster within, the child she has loved all along during her pregnancy, despite the painful misgivings experienced. Soul-deep horror is surpassed by gracious and tender mother love, giving this dark fairy tale of the magical child 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, Pitys). His divinity is a solitary existence apart from the Olympian gods. He is also the original archetype of the 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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The Pope appears in Rosemary’s dream to offer a Satanic benediction of forgiveness.

As 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: again reflecting (moon like) the charming young lady who carries something foul and foreboding within her swelling womb: the fulfillment of the Castevet coven’s greatest aim and achievement.

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A charming young woman with a foul-smelling, round silver charm… which she is soon about to, moon-like, reflect within her own swelling body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The image of a burning St Patrick’s cathedral  in Rosemary’s “dream” forebodes a future destruction of Christianity.

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 erotic 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 narcotic, psychoactive “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  narcotic aspect is present as the evil-smelling Tannis Root in the novel, something Rosemary smells, along with sulphur, during the rape, and is subtly hinted in the dream sequence 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’s fierce and sudden couplings.  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. In the dream the Pope says “They tell me you have been bitten by a mouse.” This could be rephrased as: “They tell me you have received The Mark of the Beast.” The rodent is a symbol of plague. Rosemary has been “infected” by the fever dream awareness of religious doubt and repressed sexual urges amid contemporary society, topics which were exploding in the U.S.A. in the Sixties. 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 beginning of her transformation and the gradual appearance of a subtle “masculine” aggression to her character, which before was only hinted at e.g.: 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 in this scene as they begin making love by referring to a pair of cannibalistic, Victorian era sisters who’d lived in the building. Later, perhaps due to her awakened consciousness raising brought on by the Incubus infection, Rosemary instinctually begins to use powers of deception, an art within the sphere of Pan’s father Hermes, herself as a survival mechanism (e.g.: 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 (instinctual) 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 subtle  reference to the Devil as Typhon. Even from beyond the grave, good ol’ Hutch, in a strange and ironic feat of necromantic divination,  manages to communicate the awful truth to her via a clue in a book on witches and a modern spelling game. Thus, Rosemary is pulled ever deeper into Pan’s witchy sphere as she deciphers the name of Steven Marcato in the letter tiles of a game of Scrabble.

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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 noted as 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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The Novel by Ira Levin

 

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Pan and the Nightmare by Hillman and The Cult of Pan in Ancient Greece by Borgeaud.

…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 follow or occasionally wander, goats will intentionally leap!