Hereditary : Decoding the Demon’s DNA

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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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Thanks for reading.

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

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By: Rafael Espadine

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

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Dakota Johnson as Susie Bannion, Suspiria 2018.

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

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

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

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Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion. Suspiria (1977).

The name: Susanna, Suzy, Susie

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

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

“Lilith is the universal rule breaker”

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

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

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The surname: Bannion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is Susie a psychopath or a witch goddess?

Because it really must be one or the other.

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

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

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

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

An artistic rendering of a gruesome goddess.

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

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

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

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

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

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Blindfolding and bondage for initiation into witchcraft.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suspiria Reborn: Revisioning A Vintage Horror Classic

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

A Spoiler-free review

By: H.B. Gardner

“We were truly impressed by what we saw.”

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

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

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

We were truly impressed by what we saw.

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Mia Goth plays Sara.

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

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

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

Guadagnino has stated that:

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

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

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Japanese poster

What we liked about the movie:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeing it in Japan:

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

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Tilda Swinton works magic in three seperate roles !

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

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

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Dakota Johnson is amazing as Suzy.

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

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Tilda Swinton gives compelling performances as three separate characters.

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

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

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

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Tilda Swinton is a phenomenal actress.

Demons: As They Are

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By H.B. Gardner

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Image from Hereditary, 2018. Actress: Toni Collette.

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

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

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Hereditary, 2018.

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

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Onibaba, 1964

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

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

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

“Demons to some, angels to others.”

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

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

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

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

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

Theodicy: the problem with evil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Exorcist was Pazuzu’s worldwide debut.

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

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

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

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

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Night of the Demons, 1988.

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

Thank you for reading and please share if you like.

Please consider following our Devil May Care Facebook page

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.