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

2

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).

24AE946E-1F04-4E70-9C0C-6851FA04824E

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!

F29BC411-8063-4C57-BE79-005ABAABEA2C

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.

D84BDA16-C5A5-43DD-8FFD-F04F4D386F59

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.

975D1684-04D8-46B9-9CAF-D8930C262265

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.

B5ADCBAA-9D8C-4527-BC2F-E17A624F89BF

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.

3DCB66AC-242B-4289-A4D1-CEBF24CD3EE6

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!).

FE47EF42-08F3-4A0C-A761-4440BDE5FE00

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.

7DC7BA89-1BA4-438A-9920-268D7E6DB0CD

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.

80ED16BB-DBB7-4108-A03F-E80CA3E6C760.jpeg

 

Advertisements

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

1

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.

La_Boca_Suspiria_RED_THEATRES-1
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.

1468020723865
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.
MV5BMTlkMzQyYTMtZTUzZC00YWEzLWJiMTMtMDk1NjA4OWQzNGZmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzU4ODM5Nw@@._V1_
With eye-black and mouth-white, and a shibari inspired outfit of knotted red cords like a witch’s ladder, Suspiria brings a modern twist to the image of the witch.
Indian goddess kali.
Silver crescent hook evokes the lunar feminine current of witchcraft and the idea of periodicity.

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

Suspiria

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.

MV5BNWZhNTcxMTMtNDdmZS00M2FjLWEzMWQtZDMwOGEyOGFkNDE3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzU4ODM5Nw@@._V1_
Suzy (Dakota Johnson) and Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) share a special kind of relationship.
tumblr_pl8u8c43yH1r3xxruo1_500
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.

MV5BMDM3NTYwZjYtMjI4OS00NjdlLTk1ZGItOGIxOTZkZTQ5ZWNkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzU4ODM5Nw@@._V1_
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.
suspira-poster-4
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.

MV5BZjMzNWU1MjYtYmRhZC00ZTIwLWJhY2YtMTg0ZjhjMGI1ZjQzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzU4ODM5Nw@@._V1_

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.

bound
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.

MV5BMjgxMTAzNWUtNzAyMy00ZTMwLTk2NzktZmQyZjUxMmQxZDczXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzU4ODM5Nw@@._V1_
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.

Screen-Shot-2018-08-23-at-9.16.53-AM-1500x796
This coven does things the old fashioned way.
tumblr_pl8u8c43yH1r3xxruo7_r1_500
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

1

mv5bmjqynjuznwetyzg1yy00yta1ltg4zjqtm2ixy2mxnwiznmu0xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzu4odm5nw4040._v1_

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.

mv5bnzjkmwi4nzitnmi4mi00mzljltkwzdmtmjdiodgyodbjnge2xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzu4odm5nw4040._v1_

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.”

mv5bzgu0ntzhyzetm2m0zc00ztkwlwiwntctzdrmotyymmvmmgvkxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzu4odm5nw4040._v1_

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.

duzoa0gwsaafqjs.jpg-large

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.

mv5bnzayzgjjmtctyta5nc00mjviltg0owmtmjy4y2i1yty1mjrjxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzu4odm5nw4040._v1_

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.

638

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.

suspiria-trailer

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.

suspiria-2018-red

tilda-swinton-old-man-suspiria

Tilda Swinton is a phenomenal actress.

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

1

04900938-8A72-4727-9A19-D666620AB740

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.

B69B5793-C152-4EF6-8EC0-C78FB18BC056

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.

D3F45285-99B2-41EB-BD2B-5EAA41FD8DB6

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.

the-omen-lg

Lee Remick plays the victim in The Omen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

84CB7F87-FF99-4D44-90CC-4B0804E83BA8

Billie Whitelaw as Mrs Blaylock is our favorite Satanic nanny.

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

Link:  Bad Date Blaylock

3AC7BC0B-B475-4383-A13F-DD9AC540E602

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?

The-Fall-of-Lucifer_credit-Public-Domain

The Fall of Lucifer by Gustave Doré

MV5BMjI3MjY5MjcyMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODU5MTU4Mw@@._V1_

“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

The Three Mothers & SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey & the Dark Goddess; Part 2

1

By H.B.G.

In Part 2, We continue to think way too much about Suspiria, witchcraft and The Three Mothers

sus03

Jessica Harper, Alida Valli and Joan Bennett in SUSPIRIA, 1977

In Part 1 of this article we mentioned how the sensitive and melancholy Romantic Era essayist Thomas De Quincey channeled the concept of The Three Mothers (used later by Dario Argento in his Three Mothers Trilogy) through his own opium expanded brain in his work Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow, where he named them as Mater Lachrymarum, Mater Suspiriorum and Mater Tenebrarum. We also introduced The Three Mothers and hinted at their associations with a deeper layer of mythic origins. Patience please as we prepare to dive deep into the Inferno and take a deeper look at The Devil in the Details…

Oreste-perseguitato-dalle-Erinni-di-William-Adolphe-Bouguereau-1862

Dario Argento plagued by Demons? Or, ‘Orestes Pursued by the 3 Furies,’ by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. The Furies/Erinyes share many attributes with Hekate (triplicity, the underworld, torches and serpents). Much of The Three Mothers may be seen in their relentless pursuit to torment their victims.

The Trine

The Three Mothers in Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980), and Mother of Tears (2007) are a dark feminine trinity akin to female triads known throughout world mythology, literature and religion who are directly referenced in Suspiria’s sequels: The Fates (the Moirai, The Parcae), The Muses, The Graces, The Graeae, The Morrígan, The Sirens, The Norns, The Erinyes/Furies, The Harpies  and The Gorgons. Also there are The Three Witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, 3 Fairy Godmothers in folktales,  The Three Marys at the Empty Tomb  in Christian tradition, as well as the Tridevi in Hinduism.

220px-Bibracte_Deesses

The Three Mothers, each sister bares her right breast. East France, late Roman period.

Interestingly, in direct relation to Suspiria and the Frieburg region of Germany, there was a female trinity worshipped in Germanic  and Celtic regions of pre-Christian Roman Europe commonly referred to as  The Matres or Matronae.  (The Mothers or The Matrons). Data on the widespread cult of The Three Mothers, or Matres, is limited as their cult was viciously suppressed by the incursion of Christianity; but they often appear together in surviving votive shrines, occasionally each one bearing her right breast as in the shrine pictured above. But that’s a small detail which hardly relates to Dario Argento’s Three Mothers Trilogy, ….right?

la_terza_madre_splash

The Mother of Tears, aka La Terze Madre (The Third Mother in Argento’s native Italian). Right breast bared.

Uncanny coincidence, innit?

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 12.29.10

From the very start of SUSPIRIA we are situated in the fairy tale world of  The Black Forest. Note the poster at left as Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) steps from the airport terminal.

220px-AUFAN1

Shrine to The Three Mothers,                     2nd century, Germany

 

The Black Forest near Freiburg Germany seems an appropriate location for the story in Suspiria. It is often associated with the Brothers Grimm fairy tales and is not far from known sanctuary sites to the Three Matres or Matronae. 

“Matronae altars include an abundance of floral and faunal symbols, such as trees, branches and flowers, birds perched in branches, cornucopias, goats, snakes wound around tree trunks, and scenes of sacrifice. All these suggest strong fertility and chthonic connections.”

– ‘The Cult of The Matronae In the Roman Rhineland’ by Alex G. Garman

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 12.30.07

In case you missed it, we are reminded we are in The Black Forest as Suzy leaves the airport and enters the dark stormy night which begins her harrowing journey. Note poster at right, placing us firmly in the fairy tale realm of the supernatural.

“The altars show the Matronae holding fruit, bread, money, and in one case spinning material.” The abundance and wealth symbolism is obvious. The spinning material perhaps links them directly to the power of The Three Fates: Clotho spun the “thread” of human fate, Lachesis dispensed it, and Atropos cut the thread, thus determining the moment of death for each individual. 

Clotho-Lachesis-and-Atropos

“If the Fates allow…” The Three Fates by Paul Thumann. In center is Clotho (as Maiden) spinning the thread of life, at right is Lachesis (as Mother) who dispenses it, at left is grim Atropos (as Crone) with her shears ready to snip the thread of life.

Triplicity is a common motif in myth and magic…

8bf68ff24bc179ee7c2065dee932d2bc--norse-goddess-norse-mythology

The Norns in Norse mythology are female beings who rule the destiny of gods and men. They are usually depicted as stationed at the roots of The World Tree or Axis Mundi. (Artist uncertain. Please enlighten us.)

De Quincey traversed oceans of deepest darkness in his explication of Levana and our Ladies of Sorrow.

the-three-marys-group-of-sculptures-by-the-sculptor-juan-jose-quiros-E9H1NJ

The funereal Three Marys appear at the empty sepulcher in Christian tradition. Group of sculptures by the sculptor Juan Jose Quiros, Elche, Province of Alicante, Spain. Compare with the image below.

Interesting to note how the birth of Christ was attended by 3 Wise Men, whereas his death/resurrection (re-birth?) was attended by 3 women, or funereal midwives. We are reminded of the European fairy tales, like Sleeping Beauty, (in which a spinning wheel figures) and legends  like King Arthur, where births and deaths are attended by 3 fairy godmothers or three women of power.

images-37

Detail from Altar to the Matronae Aufaniae dedicated by Q. Vettius Severus, 164 CE. Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn, Germany.

An unconscious memory seems to have taken hold upon the European mind from the earliest days of human spiritual culture which is echoed throughout art and literature.

Peter_von_Cornelius_-_The_Three_Marys_at_the_Tomb_-_WGA05274

Peter von Cornelius – The Three Marys at the Tomb. Bearing jars of unguents for mortuary duties. Women in the ancient world often oversaw the preparation of the corpse as well as tending to sickness and childbirth, linking them with the powers of The Fates.

The ‘INFERNO’ of HECATE

dc377c1e3e3b4ee2f212fa8731857a36

“Hekate” by Maximilian Pirner (1901).  A singular work depicting the three-formed goddess soaring and twisting round through the night sky of the waning moon. In her multiple hands are key, torch, dagger, and what may be serpents or cords for binding.

One goddess we can easily associate (though not completely identify) with Suspiria‘s terrifying Three Mothers is Hecate, (or Hekate), of the Greeks and Romans, famous for her associations with witchcraft, the moon, magic, crossroads, doorways and thresholds,  necromancy, childbirth, ghosts and unclean lunar rites of sacrifice and expiation, having magical, protective or apotropaic qualities. In the post-Christian writings of the Chaldean Oracles (2nd–3rd century CE) she was regarded with (some) rulership over the three worlds of earth, sea and sky – or heaven, earth and underworld – as well as a more universal role as Saviour (Soteira), Mother of Angels and the Cosmic World Soul. She was also lauded as Kourotrophos (nurse of children), Chthonia (of the earth/underworld), and as Phosphoros,  and Lampadephoros (bringing or bearing light). Black animals, dogs in particular, were her preferred sacrificial animal.

giphy-2

Midnight sacrifice at the crossroads. Suspiria, 1977

Often referred to as Queen of the Witches or Queen of Hell (the Underworld), Hecate is an ancient goddess portrayed in classical literature as haunting crossroads and cemeteries, where she presided over uncanny midnight rites, with her dreadful nocturnal approach heralded by howling dogs. She was attended by a train of torch bearing nymphs from the underworld (the Lampades) who were said to cause madness, along with the ghosts of those unquiet dead who met their ends by suicide, murder or other sudden tragedy, or those who died without receiving the proper funeral rites.

Suspiria

Ghoulish, phosphorescent, unquiet dead – a victim of black magic (note the pins stuck in the eyes and the “pinning” of the wrists (in sacrilegious imitation of Christ) of Sarah (Stefania Cassini) the victim – definitely a member of Hecate’s tribe. Suspiria, 1977.

6283634727_1633325d0a_b

“Her head, turreted like that of Cybèle,” as De Quincey describes Mater Tenebrarum.                 An ancient statue of torch-bearing Hecate who also often appears with turreted head – linking her as The World Tree or Axis Mundi. This one adorned with lunar crescent. 3rd century A.D. on display in the Antalya Museum, Turkey.

Hekate’s common significant identifying attributes, other than her triplicity, are torches, keys, daggers, serpents, and cords/rope or scourges/whips. As “Holder of the Keys,” (Kleidotrophos) we see a definite connection to the Three Mothers as imagined by De Quincey as he describes Mater Lachrymarum and Mater Suspiriorum as keybearers (see Part 1 of this article). Her turreted crown, “like that of the goddess Cybele,” as De Quincey describes Mater Tenebrarum, symbolizes her jurisdiction – (Mother goddess as hypostasis of the World Tree or Axis Mundi) – over the heavens, earth and underworld, thus giving her triple power over the crossroads of the three worlds. She is also strongly identified or equated with the lunar goddess Artemis / Diana, as Diana Lucifera, She Who Brings Light. She is a popular goddess amongst modern Witches, Wiccans and Pagans.

hecate4

The goddess Hecate wielding daggers, scourges and torches and flanked by serpents.               From an engraved Roman gem

In Inferno (1980) the second film in Dario Argento’s Three Mothers Trilogy, the film opens with lingering shots of some common symbols of Hecate, the Greek and Roman goddess of witchcraft.

We see a dagger, 3 keys attached to an ornamental coral snake (venomous – “Red touch yellow, kill a fellow.”), as well as a book of arcane knowledge.

 

The character Rose Elliot (acted by Irene Miracle – what a magical name!) in Inferno has a natural inclination towards the occult as her taste in literature and jewelry indicate (notice her Eye of Wisdom necklace). Just before Rose dives into the submerged underground ballroom, she uses a lighter to illuminate her way through the darkened cellar; the torch is a common attribute wielded by night wandering Hecate.

Inferno-163

Rose Eliot (Irene Miracle) descends into the unconscious fear of the dark… only to be submerged in terror in Dario Argento’s Inferno.

This is the spirit venturing into the darkness of the Underworld. Indeed, it is her serpent ornamented keychain which drops into the aqueous subterranean realm of Mater Tenebrarum, the deep subconscious world of nightmares, thereby “unlocking” the way towards her fateful encounter with the supernatural. Her passage (initiation) into the Mysteries is a submersion into the womb-realm of the Dark Mother (Mater Tenebrarum) herself!

inferno-1980-movie-poster-u

She attains the keys to occult wisdom by diving deep into the darkness. Serpent keychain – Serpent = Wisdom. The keys are to her own apartment within the House of Mater Tenebrarum, a true Temple of Darkness.

But perhaps her fate was already sealed from the moment she used the blade (symbol of Hecate) to unseal the first pages of the book The Three Mothers by Varelli; her curiosity unlocking forbidden secrets better left unknown. A type of premature C-Section made by a fledgling Handmaid of Darkness to birth herself – her own self-initiation – to the sacrificial mysteries of a sudden, terrifying death, thereby joining her spirit to the hordes of Hecate.

 

 

HecateTriformis

Hecate Triformis with scourge, key, cords, and torch, articles such as any professional midwife or witch may carry.

As a liminal goddess of crossroads and threshold guardian between the realm of the living and the dead, the mysterious accouterments of Hekate could serve purposes both mystical and practical. Symbolic tools of powers required, perhaps, for lighting the way along midnight excursions into restricted chambers of difficult childbirth, illness in extremis, death, or other health crises, such as wise women, herbalists or poisoners, midwives, abortionists or morticians (any of which may be labeled “witches”) may have required.

139775-004-7686D64A-1

Hecate Triformis (another view of the statue above?) bearing torches, rope and dagger.

In the ancient world, the maternal and infant mortality rate, and other complications surrounding childbirth, was astronomical compared with our relatively safe and routine procedures today. Childhood death, amongst other pitiable or sorrowful themes, is a discernible motif in De Quincey’s somber writings.

435714A6CD

Ad for the final installment of Dario Argento’s Three Mothers Trilogy.

313a4cc813ad9b53f7d60666fcaa40ec-1-475x567

“The Moon – Goddess of Mystery” ~ by Emily Balivet

Join us next month for the third and final part of this article where we will complete our analysis of The Three Mothers in Argento’s Trilogy.

Three_Graces_Louvre_Ma287

The Three Graces are the light side of the Trine. Goddesses associated with Charm, Beauty and Creativity; or Faith, Hope and Charity.