Coronavirus: Black Magic Goes Viral?

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By H.B.Gardner

In this article on a serious topic, we go a-musing on the themes of occult poisons, satanic plague, and an occult horror theory of the Nova Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a form of Oriental black magic …and the ancient Chinese idea of “Let your food be your medicine.”

“Bugs on a plate”. That’s one interpretation of Gu or Ku, the ancient Chinese ideogram pictured here. The actual strokes of the first character above depicts three “insects” in a “pot” or “bowl. The bottommost portion of the character is the same as for a bowl or dish such as one will find on a menu or in a cook book in Japan or China; but it may be more broadly interpreted as a vessel. The simplified modern form (on the right) depicts one bug in a pot or jar. “Bug” or “insect”  is a rather oversimplified term here as, in this case, the characters also encapsulate a wider range of creatures including snakes, spiders, worms,  scorpions, centipedes, frogs and other creepy-crawly “pests”.

The meaning of Gu or Ku has some various interpretations; but it mostly relates to a slow-working venomous poison of the black magical kind which we may loosely interpret as “Chinese sorcery” or “witchcraft”. This line of thinking may also lead us to extrapolate upon an esoteric interpretation of these Chinese characters as not so much as “bugs in a vessel”, but “worms in the belly / body”, suggesting a nefarious viral or parasitic invasion of the human body. To suggest our theoretical linking of such sinister connections between Chinese black magic and the COVID-19 or new coronavirus, permit us to endarken you on some  ideas in “traditional Asian medicine and sorcery” as we look for the Devil In the Details, and offer some interesting insight into some possible contributing factors to this confounding viral epidemic.

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“This art of black magic …is usually focused on poisoning at a distance, creating disease, controlling a lover or for causing death.”

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1932’s extremely racist The Mask of Fu Manchu (with Boris Karloff as the evil Chinese villain) has a scene with this type of Oriental Black Magic used for nefarious purposes. A “venomous serpent” is caused to bite a black slave whose blood is then drawn to be included in a magical serum to gain control over another character.

“Gu or Ku is an ancient form of oriental black magic in which toxins are concentrated in order to wield occult powers over others.”

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Oracle Script for Gu “Poison” or “Bewitch”.

This Gu or Ku is an ancient form of oriental black magic in which toxins are concentrated in order to wield occult powers over others. This has been depicted onscreen in 1932’s The Mask of Fu Manchu, starring Boris Karloff as the nefarious villain planning to conquer the world.yjimage

The Chinese ideogram itself dates back to the 14th century BCE Shang Dynasty bone oracle inscriptions meaning “poison” or “bewitch”. The typical method of this Ku sorcery is the collecting of various venomous or poisonous creatures such as snakes, lizards, centipedes, scorpions, and worms which are enclosed within a vessel in order to fight it out. The survivor in this death match – having killed and devoured the others – is then considered to be extremely potent in its toxicity by having absorbed the poisons of the others. This creature, the Ku, may then serve as a prized familiar spirit and/or as the main ingredient of either a love potion or toxic poison, usually administered in food or drink to an unknowing victim.

“Its a serious problem. Wild animal farming to supply exotic substances for “health tonics” for China’s wealthy elite – a “small percent” of China’s population which is nearly equivalent to the entire population of Japan.”

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Seal Script for Gu “Poison” or “Bewitch”.

This magical practice is reputedly often accomplished in the southern regions of China in the hot and humid season (5th day of the 5th lunar month),  which certainly provides an ideal condition for the growth of bacteria.

This art of vengeful black magic and it’s particular methods is usually focused on poisoning at a distance (in both space and time), creating disease, controlling a lover, or for causing death. Descriptions in antique Chinese texts report incidents of slow poisoning and death, sometimes weeks after imbibing the toxic dose. Medicinal antidotes are also often cited such as ginger and licorice root. (This makes visceral sense as, here in Japan, sashimi is served with pickled ginger as well as wasabi horseradish as condiments to aid the safe digestion of raw fish).

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The occult works of Kenneth Grant offer some knowledge on The Cult of the Ku.

“Descriptions in antique Chinese texts report incidents of slow poisoning and death, sometimes weeks after imbibing the toxic dose.”

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Above: Chinese coins depicting the 5 poisons.

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1964’s The Masque of the Red Death

COVID-19

The “New Bug” Going Around

Now, another mysterious virus has seemingly arisen to spread rapidly over the globe. With the SARS, MERS and Ebola outbreaks still fresh in memory, the recent news of the Wuhan Nova Coronavirus COVID-19 spreading outwards from China – with over 6,000 reported cases and causing over a hundred to die (update from original time of writing: as of March 17th there are now 7426 deaths reported globally); and the recent estimates pointing to the virus reaching its peak at the end of this April or May (at the time of writing) – we thought it of interest to outline the occult links to this issue because, in our estimation, there are always esoteric links to every imaginable and unimaginable phenomenon.

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Artist: William Blake. Women before a blazing cauldron with a child’s corpse. A magical attempt at resurrection?

There is no telling with 100% certainty where this coronavirus disease originated – whether from a fish and wild animal market in Wuhan, China as many have speculated, or from a nearby infectious disease lab where – much like the Ku spirit nurtured in a vessel containing centipedes and snakes – viruses are cultured and grown in Petrie dishes. We can say that – whether by accident or insidious design – this “New Bug“ has escaped its containment vessel and somehow managed to jump the species barrier.

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Dogs and bunnies for sale at a Chinese food market. This is no pet shop. Feces, urine, blood, pus, parasites etc.. are showered down from cage to crowded cage upon suffering animals.

Note that the viruses mentioned here have all been animal linked diseases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO)  SARS coronavirus (identified in 2003) is thought to be an animal virus from an as-yet-uncertain animal reservoir, perhaps bats, that spread to other animals (civet cats) and first infected humans in the Guangdong province of southern China in 2002. 

MERS = Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome came from camels in contact with humans. These are animal viruses which have somehow been transferred to humans.

The Ebola crisis that happened in Africa is also linked to bats.

“In China it is often the case that animals sold for food consumption in certain open markets are often crammed tightly together in conditions that most would consider unthinkable.”

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A Satanic plague is unleashed upon the world by a circle of wealthy elites in 1973’s The Satanic Rites of Dracula.

In China it is often the case that animals sold for food consumption in certain open markets are often crammed tightly together in conditions that most would consider unthinkable. Its a serious problem. Wild animal farming to supply exotic substances for “health tonics” for China’s wealthy elite – a “small percent” of China’s population which is nearly equivalent to the entire population of Japan. Consider the energy of whatever you imbibe or digest as literally in-forming the substance of your being. The food we consume has an effect on our entire system. This is both magical thinking and scientific fact.

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How about some bat soup?

“Let Your Food Be Your Medicine”

But it isn’t only for rare black magical purposes for which certain exotic creatures are sought as ingredients in Asian culture. There are also medicines and cuisine to consider! It seems to us no mere coincidence that the new corona virus outbreak happened to coincide with celebrations for the 2020 Chinese Lunar New Year holiday of January 25th! A holiday which sees the massive movement of people traveling to visit family and loved ones for special family gatherings …and special meals.

“China has a very ancient and venerable history of traditional medicine.”

The first thing to be understood is that – like most Asian and Eastern cultures – China has a very ancient and venerable history of traditional medicine. In China, one significant idea regarding one’s health is expressed as “Let your food be your medicine”. This is good advice in general. But the lists of rare, exotic ingredients for certain traditional formulae has sometimes led to the hunting and near extinction of certain species of animals such as the black rhinoceros, musk deer, tigers, snow leopards and all manner of rare beasts and birds in order to obtain portions of these creatures and their organs which are reputed to cure particular ailments or illnesses, or to give certain desired health benefits.

“This, in conjunction with the lists of exotic ingredients for traditional medicinal formulae, has sometimes led to the hunting and near extinction of certain species of animals…”

China Outbreak Lessons from SARS

Man looking at raccoon dogs (Yes, there are such things.) at a market in China.

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Fire burn and Cauldron bubble: European Witches adding a cockerel and a snake into a blazing vessel. Sorcery performed for fortune, fame and power, for cursing or for love, appears to be systemic to the human race.

It comes as no surprise that the epicenter of the current corona virus outbreak has constellated around a fish and wild animal market in Wuhan, China – a region which also happens to host a nearby disease lab. This market had all manner of beasts in cramped and dirty cages all stacked together in highly unsanitary conditions where their immediate slaughter for food could also be carried out. Blood, urine, feces, pus and the standard sicknesses, viruses and parasites natural to wild animals all blending and stewing in a melange of filth. This is not so unlike a giant Ku poison pot, an unwholesome alembic or Petrie dish, if you will. Which brings us back around to the poison magic known as Ku. The witches cauldron containing “eye of newt and toe of frog” appears to be a universal phenomenon. Sorcery performed for fortune, fame and power, for cursing or for love, appears to be systemic to the            human race.

“Witchcraft performed for fortune, fame and power, for cursing or for love, appears to be systemic to the human race.”

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Asian centipedes grow large and carry poison.

It is impossible to say how many people engage in the riskier food and health practices constellating about these potential centers of pestilence. But it is likely a smaller portion of the population which knowingly imbibes or absorbs these substances. A simple search online will turn your stomach to watch Asian men eating live baby mice or pretty young women tasting writhing centipedes, for instance. Far fewer are those who dare to dabble in poisons such as in Ku magic. But greedy and intemperate scientists and the administrative powers which support and finance them – not only in Asia but worldwide – know no bounds when it comes to dabbling in these unseen forces which are ever at the ready to exploit a weakness in the human immune system. While many folks are content to try an occasional exotic delicacy, the truly nefarious deeds are being done in labs and factory farms around the globe, with or without government approval. 

We must also admit the deplorable conditions of our own factory farming practices – and of puppy mills – in the good old USA and other Western nations. The wretched un-lives lived out by animals farmed and raised for meat, eggs, dairy and pets are also swarming with filth, disease and suffering beyond the limits of any diabolical horror movie. Until people wake up to these heinous practices, the suffering will continue and the chances for potential outbreaks of disease loom imminently over the land.

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Vincent Price meets The Masque of The Red Death (1964)

The Affair of the Poisons

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Catherine Deshayes, aka “La Voisin” was burned at the stake for being involved in poisoning and satanizing.

Sometimes an outbreak of magical poisoning may be the result of a more amorous type. There is always the possibility of passionate intrigue, occultism and love spells gone awry. Attempts at poisoning, or concocting aphrodisiacs or “Spanish Fly”, such as the Affair of the Poisons (1677 – 1682) is one famous example that scandalized the court of King Louis the XIV. The Sun King’s own mistress, Madame de Montespan, bought aphrodisiacs to remain in the king’s favor and performed Black Masses with Catherine Deshayes, a known fortune teller, poisoner and abortionist, known as “La Voisin”, who was later burned at the stake in 1680. Eventually the scandal and criminal cases surrounding The Affair of the Poisons led to the execution of 36 people while many others received life sentences or were sent to the galleys.

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Habushu is a liquor from Okinawa in which a venomous pit viper has been steeped.

Germ Warfare, Infectious Disease & Pandemic

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Great book on the Plague. Recommended reading!

Germ warfare is nothing new. It’s been going on for centuries. Throughout history, invaders have catapulted the bodies of plague victims over city walls. Wells have been poisoned with animal carcasses. The Black Death, which spread the Plague from Asia and wiped out 30% to 60% of Europe’s population in less than a decade, is a devastating example of the effects of a pandemic. We must ask ourselves if the world is due for another one – whether by nature or by design. Or perhaps certain systems of control and authority wish to reduce the surplus population by eradicating the weaker members of society, such as those with compromised immune systems. It is certainly something that has happened before. The medieval witch hysteria in Europe was sparked by the Plague and sections of society were quickly accused and executed.

 

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A satanic new plague is to released on the world at Dracula’s command! The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)

In Asia, where the serpent – often epitomized as the Dragon – is revered, even worshipped, as well as consumed as a sacramental or potency enhancing meal or beverage, there is definitely a different psychology at work than in the Christianized West. Christianity has long demonized the serpent as an emblem of evil. But the consumption of the flesh and blood of a deity is not unknown in the West as anybody who has attended Holy Mass or communion in a church should be aware.

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Black Magic 1975, Horror film from Hong Kong exhibits Chinese sorcery known as Ku.

Evil certainly exists but the concept of “sin” remains a foreign idea in East Asia; there is more a line of thought of  shamefully “missing the mark” or “failing to achieve” rather than the imposed guilt of “sin”. Christianity is a tree that has never taken firm root in Japanese or Chinese soil. And wherever it has taken root, it is invariably only surface deep and rather frail and sickly. In a way the West has infected the East with its religion just as coronavirus is spreading outwards from Asia.

Whatever the origin of the current COVID-19 outbreak, it is certainly linked to human contact with animal virus. Whether this happened by accident or on purpose (for the record we suspect the inevitable corporate greed and stupidity of humankind over the admittedly more intriguing occult means) the scorpion has crawled / the bat has flown / and the serpent has slithered out of the pot! And it is probably already too late to clap the lid back on.

Gu-Poison

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Hereditary : Decoding the Demon’s DNA

By: H.B.G.

Contains spoilers! (Viewed three times)

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Milly Shapiro makes an impression in an understated performance in Hereditary.

As fans of Diabolical and Occult Horror we dare to stare into the artistic abyss in an effort to understand why we find the theme so appealing. Is it an attempt at psychological self-analysis of the Jungian Shadow? Or is it a floundering fight to wrestle with our own inner demons?

Whatever the reason (not that one is needed), few such films  in recent years have had quite the impact that ‘Hereditary’ has had. While some have compared it with another icon of Satanic Cinema canon by calling it “this generation’s ‘The Exorcist’”  (Time Out New York) – others have ridiculed it for obscuring it’s more subtle elements beneath too much eye candy; or (more bizarrely) claiming that its “predictable” or “supernatural” ending ruined it (!). But in a film in which the supernatural and diabolical elements are the main plot point, what else should one expect, or want, from the ending of such a film? Should the ending be made more ambiguous via: Was it really the Devil or was it all just in her own head?

Why not have a supernatural ending? (Some of us like that sort of thing, you know). And with director Ari Aster‘s latest spiritual folk horror infused film ‘Midsommar’ set for imminent release (and timely Midsummer being the time for the Feast of St. John the Baptist – the famous decapitated prophet), we thought it  time to take a closer occult-geek look at Hereditary.

Let us allow our eyes to adjust to the Darkness within and see what we can read upon the twisted familial tree of Hereditary. Of course, if you have not yet viewed the film, this article will certainly spoil the movie for you; save it for after you’ve seen it.

The Opening Shot Sums It All Up

The opening shot of Hereditary has us looking out from a window of the Graham family’s home at the exterior of a treehouse – which itself is a kind of home in miniature.  It is built upon and supported by the trunks of mighty birch trees, a few of which have had their tops severed off  to form a base for the treehouse structure which is the site of the film’s climax. A fly buzzes around the window’s interior hinting that a germ of corruption is already present. The camera then pulls back to show us an artist’s studio where realistic miniatures are created in minute detail before settling on the interior of one of these miniature houses, steadily zooms in, and the action begins taking place from within a “miniature” house.

The miniatures featured in the story are the work of the artist / mother Annie Graham – played to Oscar worthy heights by actress Toni Collette. Annie tries very hard to maintain control over her world. Her work on miniatures is a reflection of this: Annie’s reality is being reduced to what she is able to hold and manipulate with her own hands, keeping a grip on what is largely beyond her control because, as we come to learn, there are potent occult forces at work.

The trees supporting the treehouse, with either their tops (heads) cropped off or appropriated trunks (torsos), could represent the disintegration and eventual overcoming of the family of four’s natural identity (see below for more on the significance of the decapitation motif). The cropped (decapitated) and appropriated (possessed) trees supporting a smaller house outside the family home could be the sacrifice of the Graham family’s individual lives to support an outside force, a daemonic element. This demonic element we come to discover is the demon King Paimon – an infernal spirit who appears in a number of demonic lists and magical grimoires. This treehouse is a refuge for “outsider” daughter Charlie Graham (Milly Shapiro); it’s a microcosm of, or spiritual battery for, the forces converging upon the Graham family.  Viewing  the treehouse as superseding the family tree element supports the parasitic or false identity element of demonic possession. This treehouse also calls to mind the Spirit houses of Asia and Pacific Islanders; and this treehouse is indeed a “spirit house” as we discover by movie’s end. The artificial house of geometric form and triangulated roof surmounts and replaces the sacrificed tops of God’s  and Nature’s birches; the family tree is capped with an artificial alien construct.

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Inspiration from the film’s final shot: This Xmas, switch up your nativity scene a bit and see if any of your holiday guests notice.

Miniatures, Mannequins and Manipulation

imagesThe mother-artist is a combination which on its own creates a dynamic tension (we know whereof we speak). Indeed, there is an automatic inner struggle for Annie to maintain a balance between supporting these two facets. She is a creator of artificial worlds in miniature. She creates miniature scenes: houses, a daycare, a hospital room, a funeral home, and – in a bizarre pseudo meta revelation – even a replica of her own planned exhibition; and she peoples them with perfectly scaled mannequins which she paints and positions in realistic ways. Annie is fighting to maintain a grip on her world, a world which is steadily and increasingly slipping away from her. The subtle cracks in the edifice of the Graham family are – like the demonic formulas scratched into the walls of the house – showing from the start. Annie and her family are themselves (like miniature mannequins) in the grip of much greater powers than they can possibly realize. It is as if they are themselves being artificially manipulated by the art of unseen hands as they move about their daily existence.

…And Mother

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An uncredited actress portrayed Ellen Leigh.

Motherhood is an essential thread throughout the story but not in the way it usually is represented. We come to suspect – and find unreliable – every mother figure presented in the film. The non-presence of Annie’s recently deceased and manipulative mother Ellen (portrayed by an uncredited actress) is a mysterious key to this occult force; a key we are unable to totally grasp until it is much too late. Annie’s mother  is a mere ghostly presence hinting at the the unspeakable. But the artifacts left behind by Ellen – the necklace with the charming demonic sigil, a disturbed family history recounted by Annie in a grief support circle, a book on demonic spiritualism, personalized hand woven mats with odd geometric configurations, photographs hinting at unsettling connections,  a black triangle on her bedroom floor, a mysterious note referring to their “sacrifices” being worth it in the end, etc. – all these elements are woven into a sinister diabolical plot.

 

On the Significance of Decapitation

There is a fair amount – and effective rendering – of decapitation in this film, and this is no arbitrary horror trope concerning the story’s psychological, spiritual – religious,  or demonic possession (or obsession) aspects. The head is the seat of identity and intelligence, and is considered the best part or member of the body – being indisputably essential for existence. One may survive without any other limb or member, or even a kidney or portions of other internal organs, or with implants to accompany the heart, etc.; but the head is naturally an absolute necessity for a person’s existence.

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Goddess Chinnamasta, Her name means She Who Cuts Off Her Own Head. She stands upon a copulating couple as She nourishes Her two handmaidens which are  aspects of Herself.                                                                                         Calcutta Art Studio lithograph, c. 1885

As a reference to the mystical insights of decapitation let us look East. In her book Chinnamastā: The Aweful Buddhist and Hindu Tantric Goddess, Elisabeth Anne Benard analyzes the myths and outlines the worship of the self-decapitating and blood drinking esoteric goddess Chinnamastā – one of a grouping of Ten Wisdom Goddesses (Dasa Mahavidyas). She recounts a few myths on the theme of decapitated and transposed heads – an important theme to Hereditary. Decapitation is largely interpreted in Asian culture as representing the annihilation of the ego, or false individual self (atman), to unite with the greater Self (paramatman). The Goddess Kali is often depicted as carrying a severed head; and some forms of god Shiva have him carrying the skull of creator god Brahma as a begging bowl. These also point to the dissolving of the false ego identity into The Absolute. The story of elephant headed god Ganesha is also of some relevance but let’s not get lost in Indian mythology here. Chinnamasta is a goddess of tremendous  esoteric significance we cannot even scratch the surface of here, but like witchy Hecate, She is a threefold goddess – of triple form. Hereditary gives us three generations of female energy through Annie Graham, her mother Ellen, and her daughter Charlie. So we are also supplied with the archetypes of the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone of contemporary witchcraft and goddess religion.

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Jan van Eyck’s Annunciation, from the 1432 Ghent Altarpiece, has an inscription streaming towards the Virgin and the dove of the Holy Spirit hovers above.

The young girl, the virgin, usually verging on maturity, as a vehicle for supernatural powers is a natural, almost instinctual,  device in human legend and storytelling. Modern horror interpretations abound (Carrie, Poltergeist and The Craft spring to mind). The character of Charlie Graham (Milly Shapiro) is a disarming take on the theme, and we are left nearly breathless about a third of the way into the film by her sudden and tragic demise.

3068817_0Charlie is apparently a special child, and like her mother and grandmother she has creative artistic gifts. Creative gifts which allow her to bring forth – to birth – art into the world. Her sketching and assembling of figures made from found objects turns  toward the macabre when she severs and collects the head of a kamikaze pigeon and sketches the bird’s head with a crown – indicating murky intimations of the dove of the Holy Spirit of the Annunciation of Maria – heralding the conception of a new incarnation.hereditary-17-gif-that-bird-lost-her-head-wtf-watch-the-film-saint-pauly 

As Peter (Alex Wolff) drives his sister Charlie and himself to a party, the camera lingers upon the fateful roadside post the first time they pass by; a shot in which the discerning eye will note the carved demonic sigil of King Paimon. The three formed Greco-Roman goddess of witches and witchcraft Hecate is also strongly associated with roads, and her shrines were sometimes posts situated at crossroads where masks may be hung to face in each direction the paths would lead. Then, when Peter and Charlie leave the party in a rush to head to the hospital, Peter swerves at high speed to avoid hitting a dead animal, causing his sister to… well, you know, lose her head.

“self decapitation echoes the Chinnamasta motif of sacrifice and feeding or nourishing her “children”.”

hereditary-64-gif-shes-losing-her-head-wtf-watch-the-film-saint-paulyAnnie Graham’s dramatic self decapitation in the final act (did you notice she had nabbed piano wire to accomplish this? It wasn’t until our second viewing that we realized what she was using to sever her own neck) is – in a sick and twisted way in this case – the mother’s ultimate sacrifice for the “betterment” of her children. This self decapitation echoes the Chinnamasta motif of sacrifice and feeding or nourishing her “children”. She is the sacrifice, the sacrificer and (somehow, we are left to suppose) a recipient of shares of some hellish sacrificial boon as her mother’s message implies.

Freud wrote about the castration symbolism of decapitation; but aside from vague intimations of viewing possession as a type of “impregnation” – relating it to genetics or fertility – to shoehorn it into the “hereditary” theme seems unrelated to our present topic.

A Restoration of the Head

The transposition or restoration of a decapitated head provides a vital note of mystical completion in the myths of Chinnamasta and elephant headed god Ganesha. For the Goddess it displays her ultimate power as being the embodied but transcendent energy of the sacrifice, the sacrificer and the receiver of the sacrifice, and as the force orchestrating the entire scope of the perpetual unfolding, sustainment, disintegration and recycling of manifested existence. As a goddess She can survive cutting off and replacing Her own head as a part of Her divine play (Lila). In occult horror we find supernatural manipulation of the head as ghoulish and threatening because it indicates the identity of the person you care about has been overtaken and possessed by a force majeure.

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Annie becomes a sick headbanger in Hereditary.

 

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The Exorcist still causes some heads to spin.

Mr Graham (Gabriel Byrne in another great understated performance) is informed that Ellen’s grave has been desecrated – a ghoulish fact he shields from his family. We come to find (late in the story) that not only has her corpse been stolen but the head removed and the rotting body laid out in the Graham family’s attic in a ritualistic way. By the climax of the film the grandmother’s head seems unaccounted for though her body, along with that of Annie’s, is positioned in an obscene act of hellish reverence in the treehouse. The headless bodies of grandmother and mother are brought into headless/egoless submission and surrender to the Demon King Paimon. tumblr_pe3372oydr1r0btqdo2_500But Charlie’s head (also apparently retrieved by grave-defiling cultists and brought to the treehouse) has been fixed upon a life sized, undressed  mannequin icon – reminiscent of those dressed saints and madonnas paraded through streets on holy days – as a kind of cult effigy and object of worship and devotion. This is echoing both Annie’s mini mannequin figurines and Charlie’s strange sculptures which she seems so preoccupied with fixing heads on. The undressed state of the icon reflects Chinnamasta’s own nudity which is known as digambara or “sky clad” as symbolic of the deity’s transcendent state and accounts for King Paimon’s cultists’ nudity.

A Mysterious Light (& Enlightenment)

Like the strange blooming iridescent light which haunts Susie Bannion in another form of spiritual possession in 2018’s Suspiria remake (directed by Luca Guadagnino), 2018’s Hereditary also signals an occult spiritual presence by the zara like pulsations of light which appear to the characters touched by the hellish forces. It’s a device to inform the audience that something outwardly imperceptible – but actually of a profound nature – is taking place within those who become demonically obsessed. Lucifer as Light-Bearer may also offer us a clue as to the occult enlightenment these dark entities (Mater Suspiriorum, King Paimon) offer to their respective protagonists.

These modern occult horrors, these new stories – these updated and thought provoking tales – are not mere horror films but stories delving into the deeper aspects of human suffering: grief, darkness and despair. For the past forty or fifty some years Satanic Cinema and occult horror has reflected (as in a mirror darkly) modern culture’s shifting attitudes towards the supernatural, religion, the occult, The Devil and the origins of “evil”. Are these most recent cinematic incarnations an artistic reflection of a wider acceptance of having to come to terms with the Darkness apparent within human culture and the human condition? Could this lead us towards greater Wisdom and Understanding? As Pinhead / the Lead Cenobite informs us when asked as to just what he and his kind are in Hellraiser, he replies: “Demons to some, Angels to others.” It’s really all about perspective isn’t it? Are demons and angels both not part of God’s divine plan? Is a demon just an angel in a dark mood, or on a dark mission?

Defenestration …again

We wrote an article not so long ago on the topic of defenestration, which is the act of jumping or being pushed from a window, as it appears in diabolical horror films; and now it appears that ‘Hereditary may be added to the list of films which portray a satanic leap of  faith as Peter Graham panics and jumps from the attic window – perhaps freeing his own soul (?), but with his body becoming a carnal vehicle  for King Paimon to appropriate, enter, possess and utilize. Demon King Paimon is thus finally embodied in his desired male form and crowned and adored by Joan (Ann Dowd) and the other cultists. Could his name Peter relate to Saint Peter? – Holder of the Keys to the kingdom of …well, maybe not Heaven but to Hell?  Or maybe as holder of the keys to the car? The vehicle to enter and transport one around as a demon does a corporeal form?

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Sacrifice

Sacrifice – in one form or another – is a perennial  theme throughout every religion. Life (and Love) is a perpetual flame which constantly needs to be fed in order to maintain itself. “Love dies without sacrifice” as Saint Marie Eugenie said. Existence itself can be seen as a kind of ritual enacted where life is in fact constantly poured forth, killed and consumed in a ceaseless round of birth, consumption and recycling death upon the bloody altar of Mother Earth and Her inhabitants. And sacrifice is what a parent does to ensure the survival of their young. The legacy left by Annie’s mother warns of sacrifice but also promises of some reward to be reaped. By destruction – through sacrifice – a sort of hellish revivification is activated.

“Love dies without sacrifice” as Saint Marie Eugenie said.

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The film’s title implies how a demonic entity may transmigrate from grandmother  to granddaughter to mother to son. It’s a family issue; a trait carried in the blood as a vehicle for a spiritual entity that is pumped and recycled until the opportune avatar is achieved. As Dracula observed long ago: “The blood is the life”. Mr Graham the husband / father is the only family member who is not called to be a vehicle for the entity known as King Paimon, as he is the only one not blood related to Annie’s mother, and so he serves as the final barrier to be sacrificed, sending Annie completely over the edge and into the Abyss.

As Dracula observed long ago: “The blood is the life”.

MV5BNjYwZjkzZWEtYmFjNC00YzA5LTg2NzAtYWQyZmQxZTliNmRlXkEyXkFqcGdeQW1yb3NzZXI@._V1_CR106,0,1705,959_AL_UY268_CR29,0,477,268_AL_The demon King Paimon is presented as an entity which hijacks the bodies of those it possesses until using them up to serve its own purposes. We are witnesses to seeing the demonic force obsess and possess members of the Graham family leading to it (the demon) obtaining its targeted host at the finale. The father, not being blood related to Annie’s mother, is spared the “Hereditary” possession and becomes a mere casualty, a burnt offering made of love, a sacrifice to the greater evil.

In Conclusion: “Demons to Some, Angels to Others”

large_hereditary_ver2Should we have been left with a more ambiguous ending in which the supernatural and psychotic elements could be left up to personal interpretation? Should we have been left guessing if Annie Graham is, after all the spooky ephemera, merely another hardworking American mom in a psychotic midlife crisis? Observing the long-standing successful Unholy Trinity of Satanic Cinema (Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, The Omen) we see that the stories in the first two films ultimately depend upon a belief in the manifestation of the supernatural or diabolical elements – although Rosemary’s Baby keeps the viewer in suspense between belief in the Devil and suspicion in Rosemary’s state of mind – until the final reveal at the climax of the story (or did before it became a well known horror sub-genre of its own). The original ‘The Omen’ left the viewer in doubt as to whether it was all a shared delusion or an actual satanic conspiracy (however, in every Omen sequel or remake thereafter, the presence of a supernatural diabolical force was depended on and taken as a given). It is all pointing us towards a collective revelation, an Apocalypse – a rending of the veil of our delusion by material existence – as human kind awakens to its true spiritual nature – and to our unique and privileged position as stewards and caretakers of this planet and all it’s lifeforms – in all it’s horror and beauty – in all it’s Darkness and Light.

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Demons: As They Are

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.

Falling From Grace: Defenestration within “Cinema’s Unholy Trinity”

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The Exorcist, 1973

defenestration
ˌdiːfɛnɪˈstreɪʃ(ə)n
noun
  1. the action of throwing someone out of a window.
    “death by defenestration has a venerable history”

Any seasoned horror film fan will have vicariously experienced any number of various forms of gruesome death: impalement, eviseration, decapitation, burning in flames, eaten alive & etc. etc.. Whilst we continue to pursue our occult horror kink of pondering The Devil In The Details, we noticed one particular form of death presents itself in the three classic Devil themed horror films widely considered to be Cinema’s original “Unholy Trinity,” namely Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Exorcist (1973) and The Omen (1976). These three films have historically contributed a lion’s share to the satanic cinema vanguard and unleashed a flood of imitators in their sulphuric wake. The form of death exhibited in these three films which we are referring to here is technically known as defenestration, otherwise known as jumping, or being pushed, from a window.

First, let’s start with a quick review of the defenestrations in said Unholy Trinity.

Rosemary’s Baby: Actress and Playboy Playmate Victoria Vetri, aka Angela Dorian, played Terry Gionoffrio, the young houseguest of elderly satanic couple Minnie and Roman Castevet. Terry commits suicide (or so we believe. It is never actually revealed, in either novel or film, whether it was truly suicide or murder; we are left to decide on our own)  by jumping from the 7th floor of the notorious Bramford apartment building where Rosemary and her husband have just moved in as neighbors. We do not see the actual jump onscreen but only it’s immediate aftermath. Terry’s death is the catalyst for Rosemary’s involvement in the Castevet’s insidious, diabolical plot.

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The Exorcist: Two characters in the movie, film director Burke Dennings (Jack McGowran) and Father / Doctor Damien Karras (Jason Miller), are both (at different points in the story) expelled  from the demonically possessed Regan MacNeil’s bedroom window and plummet to their deaths at the bottom of a very steep flight of stairs outside. Father Damien’s death, which is also a suicide rather than a murder, is shown onscreen.

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Nice knowing you, Padre.

The Omen: Lee Remick as Mrs Catherine Thorn, unwitting foster mother to the child Antichrist Damien,  is in hospital recovering from the results of another bad fall which, as with most deaths in The Omen trilogy, appears as the result of an uncanny and tragic accident. As she awkwardly attempts to leave said hospital she meets with foul play and is expelled from a very high window.

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Lee Remick plays the victim in The Omen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Billie Whitelaw as Mrs Blaylock is our favorite Satanic nanny.

You can view Mrs Blaylock’s online dating profile here:

Link:  Bad Date Blaylock

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Mrs. Thorn’s (Lee Remick’s) satanic revelation comes too late in The Omen.

While we’re on The Omen, who can forget the young nanny Holly  (played by Holly Palance, daughter of actor Jack Palance) who made her cinematic debut in perhaps film’s first, and most spectacular, jumping suicide by hanging which ends with her body crashing into (rather than out of) a window?

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The Fall of Lucifer by Gustave Doré

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“It’s all for you!”                                              The spiritual motto of Pope John Paul II was a Marian one, “TOTUS TUUS” meaning: “Totally Thine” or “ALL YOURS”.

Occult Horror Geek Purport

Is it merely our diabolically enhanced imagination which feels some poetic connection may exist between the defenestrations in three of our most highly regarded diabolical horror films and the Fall of Lucifer along with the Rebel Angels from the Book of Revelation (12: 2 – 9) ? Or, the biblical Fall From Grace in the Garden of Eden? Is there not an infernal taint of the soul inherent in such a death? Whether by murder or suicide? This is especially poignant in Father Damien Karras’ savior-like death to save young Regan MacNeil. We might also pause to consider Rosemary’s acquaintance, Terry’s leap (of  faith?) from the seventh floor of the “Black Bramford”, and it’s Qabalistic and spiritually infernal  association with a diabolical “Seventh Heaven” motif.

Of course, plenty of other forms of death occur in The Omen series. The only death from The Exorcist we haven’t mentioned yet is the elderly priest Father Merrin  (Max Von Sydow) who collapses from heart failure during the strenuous exorcism. The only death other than Terry Gionoffrio’s in Rosemary’s Baby is that of Rosemary’s elderly friend Edward “Hutch” Hutchins (death by witchcraft); and that occurs off-screen. But defenestration has a special aura of the satanic. The French have a phrase for it: l’appel du vide, the call of the void. That inexplicable impulse as you stand in a high place to leap. Lucifer rebelled and was cast down (so the legend goes); did He not have the same sort of feeling? Could He not resist the call of the void?

You know: when you’re falling… DIVE!

The significance (if indeed we choose to see it) of defenestration in these black art- flavored movies ends at: 1) the parallel poetic resonance with the biblical Fall of Man, and the Fall of the Rebel Angels. And 2) the case of suicide as a mortal sin in the case of  Terry Gionoffrio in Rosemary’s Baby and Father Damien in The Exorcist. This final point – that of suicide as a mortal sin – we have already examined in a previous article here:

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

Though the motif of hanging as ritual suicide, or as a punishment for witchcraft, also intrigues us, we will save that particular form for a later article.

What movies would you add to cinema’s greatest Unholy films? Do Suspiria (1977), The Sentinel (1977) and Angel Heart (1987), come to mind…? Please view our ever-expanding list of diabolical horror films at the Satanic Cinema Sommelier; Our Favorite Devilish Films

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‘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’

 

My Baby Rose Marie: A meditation on Horror Film and Spiritual Understanding

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Detail from the original cover of Ira Levin’s novel, 1967.

This is not an easy article to write… and there are many ways of getting this wrong, or misinterpreting my intentions. This is a very personal article which does somehow relate to my fascinations with diabolical horror, religion and spirituality in my personal experience; please bear with me.    –   H.B.G.

My obsession with the story Rosemary’s Baby, as popular novel and film, goes way back into my pre-teen days; and my love of diabolical and occult horror in general goes back even earlier. After a brief look at this website my profound interest in Rosemary’s Baby will become quickly obvious. I won’t try to explain this general attraction towards occult horror; but, I first ought to try to express why I think this particular story has had such a lasting and personal significance to me.

I sympathize with the character Rosemary Woodhouse because she is a Madonna figure; or maybe, at first, after the horrific revelation at the end of the story, a reluctant Madonna. She loves her unborn child and does everything within her power to protect it from a perceived threat of harm from a coven of witches. After the discovery of her baby and the revelation of it’s satanic paternity, and after the initial shock wears off a bit, Rosemary comes to accept and love the child just as she always did. As she always knew she would.images-4

This causes sympathy at the end of Rosemary’s Baby for those sensitive souls who contemplate the mystery within the story. This is the main point: the limitless reaches of Mother Love, of complete parental acceptance of a child despite it’s demonic appearance or diabolical destiny. We question if it is not in fact a happy ending, or… what?!

As a youth I felt terribly flawed, imperfect, weak, and worse than worthless. My family loved me but I was “different.” Midwest American society and religion, in the form of my Protestant upbringing in a small city, was ever quick to point out a particular damning spiritual defect I noticed within myself, a defect I was desperate to conceal as much as possible. But to broach  this topic is to open a whole other can of worms I choose not to deal with here.

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Black Sabbath album cover 1983 This image has always reminded us of this line from The Raven: “And his eyes have all the seeming, of a demon’s that is dreaming….”        E.A. Poe

That a mother or father could love such a “damned” thing despite it’s “sinful” nature flies in the face of God and becomes heresy. Therefore, I developed heretical ideas and beliefs at quite a tender age. Stand unashamedly, even defiantly, before The Almighty with your child – whatever his or her nature, is one way of looking at it. After reading and watching Rosemary’s Baby, I wanted to have a devil baby myself, a child which would otherwise be shameful or unwanted, and love it as my own, and bring it up to be whatever it was meant to be, in perfect love and understanding. Like that devil baby image I saw on junior high  classmate’s Black Sabbath t-shirts back in the eighties. I would have loved to care for Rosemary’s Baby. Now, in hindsight,  I know it was my own self I wanted to love… but couldn’t. A monstrous view of myself caused by small-minded religious trauma.

Fast forward through years of spiritual questing, learning, depression, art, a little therapy – professional or otherwise, some very strange and wonderful religious and occult experiences and wide ranging experimentation and different relationships, and I’m now a married father of two beautiful children (one boy, one girl) living in Japan, until the birth of our third child last October, just a couple days before Halloween… It seemed only natural for us to call her Rose Marie, Marie being a family name on my mother’s side, asides from the 50th anniversary of Ira Levin’s diabolical fable.

We knew Rose Marie was a girl. We knew she would be delivered via c-section just as our previous two were because that’s the way it’s done in Japan. We knew the c-section was scheduled to be October 30th – also known as Devil’s Night (natural birth would have been a week later on November 6th – my own birthday). We knew Rose Marie was destined to be a Scorpio – like her daddy. We were a little surprised when the maternity clinic staff decided to do a c-section earlier than scheduled – on the 29th – due to my wife’s condition. We blamed it on the typhoon we were experiencing. What we didn’t know and were totally unprepared for was that Rose Marie had one extra chromosome number 21, technically called Trisomy 21, commonly referred to as Down syndrome.

We were not told right away. Not sure what the standard practice is in Japan but it was two days after the delivery, on Halloween, after they unexpectedly relocated baby Rose Marie from the maternity clinic to a university hospital. Quite possibly nobody on staff wanted the burden of breaking the news to me, the father, in English. We were told there were some  concerns about our baby’s oxygen levels, but she is doing alright. I was so busy looking after my other two that my time with our newest baby those first days was very limited. I thought she looked a bit funny but I thought nothing of it since all newborns look strange.

After being admitted into the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and washing my hands I found two serious faced doctors standing by one of a dozen or so plastic bassinets and incubators waiting to see me. The first doctor spoke English and asked me if I noticed anything different about this baby from my other two children. Somewhat bewildered, I looked at my baby and commented something about her eyes… it wasn’t possible for her to open them yet on her own, and her cheeks seeming swollen. All newborns look funny and squished after all. The first doctor (the second one didn’t speak at all, as I recall, probably not confident enough in his English ability) asked if I noticed something different about her ears, that they were set a little lower than normal. The bridge of her nose slightly squashed, a lack of muscle tone, the presence of extra skin on the back of the neck….

The word “shock” is appropriate here. You could have knocked me over with a feather were I not so numb and dumb. Did I stop breathing? I don’t remember what was said –  something about more tests being needed but that Down syndrome was likely. But that there didn’t seem to be any heart problems or other immediate concerns, and she seemed strong. The doctors faded away into the background to leave me with my baby.

“My explorations into the occult and mysticism have taught me much, one of the greatest and most persistent being to release fear and to embrace the darkness; it has so much wisdom to offer.”

I stood there in the NICU of a foreign land staring down into a plastic bassinet at a little creature resting uneasily with tubes and wires attached. Beeping, crying sounds, and staff speaking in Japanese in the background around me as they tended their precious charges. I was alone with this tremendous revelation, my wife back at the maternity clinic still recovering from c-section surgery – probably very worried. A chair was brought over and I was told to sit down.

I sat there and stared at Marie-chan. I laid my big hand lightly on her little body, above her heart; my hand covered her entire torso. I had no clue as to what to do. I was feeling a very heavy weight being dropped on my shoulders as I looked at her squished and swollen features. After a little time a nurse approached and asked if I’d like to hold her. “Can I ?” I asked, stupidly.

Can I? Can I do this?

I was so careful because of an IV tube and wires attached to monitors. So small and helpless. I held her. She was so light, so fragile. Happy Halloween, Mr Gardner. Trick or treat?

Such darkness. Such heaviness overwhelmed me. An unspeakable darkness. My hands hesitate to type for fear to implicate myself and my own dreadful thoughts. An evil born of fear and ignorance conjured the worst ideas into my head, then. Ideas masquerading as merciful, which must have been fairly common actions in the time of our ancestors a few generations back when faced with such a situation, when there were fields to till and mouths to feed and back-breaking labor and no time or economy for compassionate nursing.

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Artwork: uncredited, please enlighten us.

But this is my baby. The little Scorpio girl I’d been expecting. My little Rose Marie. Were my parents still alive how would they react? They adored their grandchildren.

I wanted to comfort the flawed and helpless little creature in my arms. She was surrounded by strangers, all good staff, I’m sure, but it’s their job. They weren’t family, and could not be completely loving, as such. They have enough to keep them busy. How to do it? I stared at the cartoon fish, frogs and animals on the walls and over at the industrial sink. I tried not to stare at the other babies in the NICU, some looked much weaker and in more need than my little one. Well, I’ve always sung to my babies, or hummed, when so small, a way of affirming to the little consciousness snuggled in my arms that a caring presence was there. But at that moment, believe it or not, I could not think of a single lullaby, not a one could come to mind or memory! My brain and tongue were frozen. Now, of course, I can list them all: Hush Little Baby, Rock-a-bye Baby, Twinkle, twinkle little star…. But nothing, not a lyric or tune came to mind.

Irony of ironies, only one lullaby came to me as I sat holding my youngest in that NICU in Osaka University Hospital: the opening and closing lullaby theme to the film Rosemary’s Baby; the “La la la la….” sung by Mia Farrow herself. I began to hum it quietly, that sad, sweet, haunting and somehow comforting tune, as I looked down at my youngest, my Rose Marie.

Link to listen:

Krzysztof Komeda – Lullaby – (Rosemary’s Baby – 1968) sung by Mia farrow

My explorations into the occult and mysticism have taught me much, one of the greatest and most persistent being to release fear and to embrace the darkness; it has so much wisdom to offer.

Under the respectfully-distant-but-ever-at-hand-presence of the NICU staff I was able to change Rose Marie’s diaper and to bottle feed her that first Halloween. I feared the bond which I felt forming. I wasn’t sure I could nurture this bond. (Can I? Can I do this?) That night, Aidan and Lily, our two others at home with my mother-in-law, danced around a candlelit Jack O’ lantern as I stared numbly at the grimacing face of the flickering pumpkin. Trick or Treat, indeed. But those first few weeks following the birth were very difficult and dark and full of a bleak sadness for us.

“We now consider ourselves lucky, blessed, chosen.”

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Mia farrow in the final scene of Rosemary’s Baby, 1968.

Fast forward to today. Rose Marie is nearly nine months old now and doing very well, despite the regular “irregular” digestive trouble common among Trisomy 21 babies. My wife and I have come a very long way since last Halloween; we have discovered a new kind of normal (whatever that means!). Rose Marie, or Mari-chan, is a special light in our lives and we cannot imagine life without her. We have reached epiphany after epiphany. About half of babies born with Down syndrome require neonatal heart surgery or some sort of digestive tract surgery. It is about a one in a thousand chance to get a baby with Down syndrome. Most do not even make it to full term and birth. We now consider ourselves lucky, blessed, chosen. Rose Marie is an angel who has enlightened our souls, and her smiles and giggles and cuddles are absolutely enchanting. She dispels the darkness and has ushered in so much light and opened us up to a wider world. It is amazing how the human heart can adapt, change, grow… how a tremendous spiritual upheaval which dashes the soul upon the rocks of harsh physical reality, shattering it apart from the frail and selfish ego, can strengthen one and raise the spirit higher.

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Me with Rose Marie

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Mari-chan

Thanks for reading.

You can follow Rose Marie on instagram:

Follow Rose Marie on Instagram

https://www.instagram.com/marie102921/

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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.

If you enjoyed this article please follow our Devil May Care page on Facebook and our Rosemary’s Baby 50th Anniversary page on Facebook

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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!

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

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

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Screenshot courtesy of IraLevin.org

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

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

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Screenshot courtesy of IraLevin.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Screenshot courtesy of IraLevin.org

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

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

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

Article by H.B. Gardner

#RosemarysBabyAlbum

#RosemarysBaby50thAnniversary 

‘Angel Heart’ Revisited

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By: H.B.G.

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Angel Heart Poster artwork by Renato Casaro (detail).

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

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

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

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Tim Curry as Darkness in Legend, 1985.

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

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

Occult Purport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read our article: The Details In the Devil – Tarot

Did you know???

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

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

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

Angel-Heart-Ascensore-per-linferno-di-Alan-Parker-con-Mickey-Rourke-Robert-De-Niro-Lisa-Bonet-Charlotte-Rampling-Brownie-McGhee-streaming-2-300x161Edward Kelley (the fake name used by Mr Krusemark when he bailed Johnny Favorite out of the “nut-hatch” in upstate New York) is also the name of a famous sixteenth century English alchemist and magician (1555-1597/8).

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

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

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Lisa Bonet is bewitching in Angel Heart.

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

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Have one in memory of Toots Sweet…

Two Sisters Cocktail Recipe: Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 ounces Dolin Blanc Vermouth
  • 1 1/2 ounces Dolin Rouge Vermouth
  • 1/4 ounce Tenneyson Absinthe Royale
  • Garnish: orange twist

Add the vermouths and absinthe into a mixing glass. Fill with ice and stir until cold, 15 to 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist and serve straight up.

Not to be confused with the Twin Sisters cocktail! Thank you Iris for the correction!

Twin Sisters Cocktail: Ingredients: 1/2 oz Light Rum; 1/2 oz Spiced Rum; 1 dash Coca Cola; 1 dash Rose’s Sweetened Lime Juice.  Shake with ice and strain into shot glass.

 

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Sinister Blessings of the limp left hand.

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The original skeleton Key: The Hand of Glory.

Satanic Cinema Sommelier; Our Favorite Devilish Films

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

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