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

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By H. B. G.

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

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

“Who dares misery love

and hug the form of Death?

Dance in Destruction’s dance

To him the Mother comes.”

Kali the Mother (poem) by Swami Vivekananda

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Udo Kier and Jessica Harper in Suspiria. 1977.

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Udo Kier in Mother of Tears, 2007.

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

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Leigh McCloskey and Daria Nicolodi in Inferno. 1980.

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

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

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

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Our Lady of Sorrows

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

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Kali as Devouring Mother

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

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Inferno, 1980

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

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

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

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

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

Mater Tenebrarum states at the conclusion of Inferno…

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Veronica Lazar, Inferno, 1980, as Mater Tenebrarum

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

Mark: “Tell me who you are!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Joseph Campbell

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Three keys are given in Argento’s Inferno, 1980

Reject, Explode, Explore, Unlearn

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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From cloudy husk to renewed beauty.

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

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

Or a duckling chick outgrows it’s egg.

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

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

~ Pablo Picasso

The Dark Goddess resides at the crossroads of transformation.

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

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Bengali cult image of Kali

Sex & Death

These are some esoteric icons of Our Ladies of Darkness

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

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

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

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The Mother of Darkness demands blood in Inferno, 1980.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sub Rosa

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

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

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

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

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

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By H.B.G.

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

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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…

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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.

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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?

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

Uncanny coincidence, innit?

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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.

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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

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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. 

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“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…

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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

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“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.

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

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

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By: H.B.G.

thremothers‘Suspiria’ (1977) is a singular horror movie that has become a classic of modern cinema. It is impossible to overstate the impact this remarkable film – and the unique stylings it’s director Dario Argento – has had upon artists and writers since it’s release 40 years ago. The mysterious name of the film itself serves as a kind of  wicked enchantment guaranteed to conjure sighs of awe and twinkles in the eyes of horror film buffs. In this special three part article we will stare long and deep into the dark, searching for The Devil in the Details in the art and mythos of Suspiria and attempt to reveal the weird links between horror film fantasy and genuine occult doctrine. In Part 1 we will introduce The Three Mothers and their origins for those yet unfamiliar, and deepen our understanding of them. Part 2 will connect these femmes fatale to the Triple Goddess of Witchcraft and her necromantic symbols and connections in Suspiria and it’s sequels Inferno and Mother of Tears. Part 3 will round it all out with The Three Mother’s taste for tears, misery and sacrifice.

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A symbolically bloody passage leads us over the threshold, towards the inner mysteries of       The Three Mothers.

The vitality of the cult art-house status which this extremely original film has achieved is emphasized by the fact that a remake, directed by Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino and featuring Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton, is due to be released in the not-so-distant future. Hollywood has been grinding out plenty of horror remakes in recent decades and not all have met with much success. Whether or not the Suspiria remix does any justice to  the original film or source material, we can see the Suspiria trilogy (with Inferno (1980) and Mother of Tears (2007)) being elevated to the mythic dimensions of Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy in our collective movie-going unconscious.

But Suspiria is unique in the horror canon; instead of treading the well-beaten path of vampires, mad scientists or undead pharaohs, the storytelling of Suspiria  constellates about (we hesitate to say ‘narrative focuses on’ – because of it’s surrealistic, dream-like nature): witchcraft and black magic, brutal and prolonged ritual murders perpetrated by dark, unseen forces, and the darker side of the feminine principles of motherhood and sisterhood. On film, this heady brew of elements conjures a hallucinogenic kaleidoscope of ingénues in mysterious buildings overseen by shadowy femme fatales, cryptic warnings whispered about witches, a forbidden book by an alchemist, animals that go berserk and unhinged violence complimented by the inevitably mounting supernatural mayhem.

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“Names which begin with the letter S… are the names of snakes!” Suspiria!

Suspiria‘s origins arise like an intoxicating vapor from the Chinese puzzle-box-like literary works of Romantic Era, British essayist Thomas De Quincey. His best known work: Confessions of an English Opium Eater, inaugurated the tradition of addiction literature in the West when it first appeared in 1822. Later he composed Suspiria de Profundis translated as “Sighs from the Depths,” which was first published in fragmentary form in 1845, from which the title for the film Suspiria derives. The work is a collection of short essays in psychological fantasy — what De Quincey himself called “impassioned prose,” (now termed prose poetry). The essays of the Suspiria “are among the finest examples of De Quincey’s or anyone else’s English style.”

“Some critics consider De Quincey’s Suspiria de Profundis the supreme prose fantasy of English literature.”

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“Secret flowers?”                                                                                  Shouldn’t they be opium poppies?

De Quincey conceived of the collection as a sequel to his masterwork, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. Like that work, the pieces in Suspiria de Profundis are rooted in the visionary experiences of the author’s opium addiction. The Suspiria of De Quincey, when taken all together, are a touchingly poignant and beautifully melancholic  excursion into the experiential depths of the sorrows and afflictions of the human heart. He was an extremely sensitive man who suffered deeply from the trials of life, including the premature childhood death of a beloved older sister and his own son, as may be read in his work. A listing of the titles of the pieces in De Quincey’s Suspiria de Profundis will give some indication as to it’s themes (feel free to skip down to The Three Mothers):

  • Dreaming — the introduction to the whole.
  • The Palimpsest of the Human Brain — a meditation upon the deeper layers of human consciousness and memory.
  • Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow — beginning with a discussion of Levana, the ancient Roman goddess of childbirth, De Quincey imagines three companions for her: Mater Lachrymarum, Our Lady of Tears; Mater Suspiriorum, Our Lady of Sighs; and Mater Tenebrarum, Our Lady of Darkness.
  • The Apparition of the Brocken — on an optical illusion associated with a German mountaintop where dark pagan rites were once practiced.
  • Savannah-la-Mar — a threnody on a sunken city, inspired by the 1692 earthquake that sank Port Royal in Jamaica; beginning, “God smote Savannah-la-Mar….”
  • Vision of Life — “The horror of life mixed…with the heavenly sweetness of life….”
  • Memorial Suspiria — looking forwards and backwards on life’s miseries; foreshadowing and anticipation.
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Hekate Triformis, Three-formed Hecate, (with dog and mare heads), offers us an opium seed pod to help illuminate our darkness.

When the collection was reprinted in the collected works in the 1850s, another short essay was added: The Daughter of Lebanon, a parable of grief and transcendence.

The four pieces that first appeared posthumously in 1891 are:

  • Solitude of Childhood — “Fever and delirium,” “sick desire,” and the Erl-King’s daughter.
  • The Dark Interpreter — he was a looming shadow in the author’s opium reveries. (Reminds us of Dexter Morgan’s “Dark Passenger” from the cable drama series Dexter).
  • The Princess that lost a Single Seed of a Pomegranate — echoes upon echoes from an Arabian Nights tale.
  • Who is this Woman that beckoneth and warneth me from the Place where she is, and in whose Eyes is Woeful remembrance? I guess who she is — “memorials of a love that has departed, has been — the record of a sorrow that is….”
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The Ladies of the Academy                                                                                                               Suspiria, 1977

The Three Mothers

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Of all of the pieces in the Suspiria, Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow is arguably the most widely anthologized, the best known, and the most admired. “The whole of this vision is clothed in a prose so stately, intense, and musical that it has been regarded by some.. “as the supreme achievement of De Quincey’s genius, the most original thing he ever wrote.” Before the word “archetype” even existed, De Quincey successfully expressed “the mighty abstractions that incarnate themselves in all individual sufferings of man’s heart; …to have these abstractions presented as impersonations, that is, as clothed with human attributes of life, and with functions pointing to flesh.”

It is also at the the black heart of Dario Argento’s cinematic horror masterpiece, as it is here that we discover the origins of The Three Mothers as fateful companions to the Roman Goddess Levana, thought to oversee childbirth as well as the raising and tutelage of children. By the education of Levana is meant – “not the poor machinery that moves by spelling books and grammars, but that mighty system of central forces hidden in the deep bosom of human life, which by passion, by strife, by temptation, by the energies of resistance, works for ever upon children – resting not day or night,…” Each of these dark goddesses is assigned a specific office; under their dreadful auspices they oversee human misery and sorrow through the powers of sighs, tears and darkness. It will become apparent that Argento took artistic liberties with certain characteristics De Quincey had assigned to each of The Three Mothers as they appear in the films.

The Three Mothers are named and described by De Quincey as:

Mater Lachrymarum – Our Lady of Tears: Because she is the first-born of her house, and has the widest empire, she is Honored with the title Madonna. “She it is that night and day raves and moans, calling for vanished faces.” And, “She it was that stood in Bethlehem on the night when Herod’s sword swept its nurseries of Innocents, and the little feet were stiffened forever…” And, “Her eyes are sweet and subtle, wild and sleepy by turns; oftentimes rising to the clouds; oftentimes challenging the heavens. She wears a diadem round her head.” And, …“she could go abroad upon the winds, when she heard the sobbing of litanies or the thundering of (funereal) organs…”.

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Ania Pieroni appears as Mater Lachrymarum in Inferno, 1980.                                   The oldest sister according to De Quincey.

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Our Lady of Sorrows

“She moves with uncertain steps, fast or slow, but still with tragic grace.” Oftentimes she is stormy and frantic; raging against highest heaven and demanding back her darlings. She carries keys “which open every cottage and every palace.” “By the power of her keys it is that Our Lady of Tears glides a ghostly intruder into the chambers of sleepless men, sleepless women, sleepless children” around the world.

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Moran Atias as Mater Lachrymarum.                                                                      The Mother of Tears, 2007.

Mater Suspiriorum – Our Lady of Sighs: “She never scales the clouds, nor walks upon the winds.” With drooping head on which sits a dilapidated turban, this humble Lady of the Hopeless “never clamors, never defies.” “And her eyes, if they were ever seen, would be neither sweet nor subtle; …they would be filled with perishing dreams, and with wrecks of forgotten delirium. But she  raises not her eyes.” her head droops forever… fastened on the dust. “She weeps not. She groans not. But she sighs inaudibly at intervals.” And, “Hers is the meekness that belongs to the hopeless. Murmur she may, but it is in her sleep.  Whisper she may, but it is to herself in the twilight. Mutter she does at times, but it is in solitary places that are desolate as she is desolate, in ruined cities, and when the sun has gone down to his rest. This sister is the visitor of the Pariah…”

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With drooping head, Veronica Lazar as Mater Tenebrarum in Inferno, 1980; appears rather Mater Suspiriorum-ish.

“She also carries a key; but she needs it little. For her kingdom is chiefly amongst the tents of Shem, and the houseless vagrant of every clime.” She sits amongst the pariahs: with the baffled penitent criminal whose name and condition has been forgotten as he languishes in prison, with every slave bound to a caste system, with the disgraced, the betrayed and all outcasts of society, and with the lonely hearts whose fire of younger years has burned away until it is now a solitary candle that gutters on an unseen ledge.

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Veronica Lazar as Mater Tenebrarum in Inferno, 1980.

and Mater Tenebrarum – Our Lady of Darkness: Is the youngest, cruelest and most frightening of the three. We are cautioned to whisper whilst we talk of her! “Her kingdom is not large, or else no flesh should live; but within that kingdom all power is hers. “Her head, turreted like that of Cybèle, rises almost beyond the reach of sight. She droops not; and her eyes rising so high might be hidden by distance. But, being what they are, they cannot be hidden; through the treble veil of crape which she wears, the fierce light of a blazing misery, that rests not for matins or for vespers, for noon of day or noon of night, for ebbing or for flowing tide, may be read from the very ground. She is the defier of God. She also is the mother of lunacies, and the suggestress of suicides. Deep lie the roots of her power; but narrow is the nation that she rules. For she can approach only those in whom a profound nature has been upheaved by central convulsions; in whom the heart trembles and the brain rocks under conspiracies of tempest from without and tempest from within.” And, “…this youngest sister moves with incalculable motions, bounding, and with tiger’s leaps. She carries no key; for… she storms all doors at which she is permitted to enter at all.”

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Helena Markos aka Mater Suspiriorum is destroyed by Suzy (Jessica Harper) in 1977’s Suspiria.

 Occult Horror Geek Purport:

The idea in De Quincey’s dream vision being that the sorrows and afflictions which so work their adversities and “fearful truths” upon his own heart and mind – but by extension we may make this a universal truth as affecting the hearts and minds of us all as children, forming and molding us into mature adults until our hearts are fully aquatinted with the miseries of human existence – these conditions (sighs, tears, and darkness) are a commission from God to these archetypal, female spirits or deities to plague the human heart until they have unfolded the capacities of the spirit.

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This is an intriguing concept though not entirely new or unique. The idea of suffering as a motivator leading towards atonement or some kind of spiritual fulfillment is an ancient one and widely recognized, in varying degrees, amongst all religions. Here we may note Buddhism in general, and in particular the Catholic Cult of Mary as the Mother of Sorrows, some devotional goddess cults in India (Kali and similar goddesses), as well as Santa Muerte and the Aztec goddesses Coatlicue and Tlazolteotl, to name just a few.

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Santa Muerte

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Our Lady of Sorrows clutches the crown of thorns to her pierced sacred heart.

De Quincey’s dream vision being that the sorrows and afflictions which so work their adversities and “fearful truths” upon the heart and mind… are a commission from God to these female spirits, or deities, to plague the human heart until they have unfolded the capacities of the spirit.

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A brutal piercing of the heart in Suspiria.

Early on in Suspiria, the film presents a graphic display of a murder – a kind of atrocious plaguing of the human heart, a raging cenobitic (in the Hellraiser sense) opening up, or unfolding of, the capacities for suffering of the human spirit. Perhaps not exactly what De Quincey had in mind, but the visceral poetry does not escape us. In that first horrific murder scene, the murderer uses a dagger and cord which have significance as will be seen when we explore Hecate – the triple-formed Goddess of Witches – and her symbols in Argento’s Three Mothers Trilogy… in Part 2.

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Hecate Triformis

Please stay tuned for the rest of this 3 part article. Parts 2 & 3 will be released in September & October.

 

SUSPIRIA: In the Eye of the Peacock

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By: H.B.G.

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Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion in SUSPIRIA

Suspiria (1977) Is a film that stands out in horror cinema and remains perhaps the most artistic horror film ever made. There is so much going on in Suspiria that one blog post cannot cover all the occultism that saturates this film. The Three Mothers motif, inspired by the work of Thomas DeQuincey, will find it’s own exegesis in a separate post. For now, let us focus our dark-adapted eye upon a particular set piece and give the Devil His due. And please, don’t think us entirely mad until you have digested all what we are communicating to you here.

Suspiria 4When looking for the Devil in the Details in Suspiria, you cannot help but notice the sculpture of the Peacock in the film’s climactic scene. That such exquisite yet superfluous beauty as the male peacock exists at all in the world can be seen by some as proof positive of a beneficial Creator – a thumb print, if you will, of the work done by the hand of the Divine Artist. This echoes the Peacock as a symbol of Beauty, Vanity and, of course, Pride – Lucifer’s sin.

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The Fall

The infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stirred up with Envy and Revenge, deceiv’d
The Mother of Mankind, what time his Pride
Had cast him out from Heaven, with all his Host
Of Rebel Angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in Glory above his Peers,
He trusted to have equaled the most High,
If he opposed; and with ambitious aim
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
Raised impious War in Heaven and Battle proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from the Ethereal Sky
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,

From: Paradise Lost by John Milton

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The Fall

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A new opportunity presents itself…

In Suspiria, the presence of the Peacock with several marble spheres at it’s feet recalls certain pre-Islamic religious traditions such as the Gnostic Manichaeism philosophy, or the later Yazidi tradition wherein which the ‘Peacock Angel’ – Melek Ta’usan entity often mistakenly confused with the evil entity known as Shaitan / Satan / Iblis by Judeo-Christian and Muslim interpretation – is responsible for the 7 created worlds, and the 7 Heavens.

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The Yazidis are peace-loving monotheists, believing in God as creator of the world, which he has placed under the care of seven holy beings or angels, the chief of whom is Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel. The Peacock Angel , vowing to bow only to God the Almighty, refused to bow to God’s human creations – Adam & Eve. By refusing this direct order from the Almighty, this so-called “Fallen Angel” is granted rulership over the created world and is given the task of challenging humankind with all the difficulties of incarnated existence with it’s endless parade of Sighs, Tears and Darkness.

In Yazidi (Yezidi) tradition, The Peacock Angel – named Azazel – as world-ruler, is Prince of this world – our created, material world; and if this world, with all it’s “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” is a shadow manifested by the deepest condensation of the divine light emanated by the Almighty, would it then be a complete error to call this entity the Prince of Darkness? Azazel is the one who causes both good and bad to befall individuals, and this ambivalent character is reflected in myths of his own temporary fall from God’s favour, before his remorseful tears extinguished the fires of his hellish prison and he was reconciled with God. As observed by more than one occultist, the Devil’s power lies in that ‘He suffers.”

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A Yazidi emblem with the Peacock Angel presiding over the created world. There are 3 plumes on the head (The Trinity),  7 red feathers (The Heptad of Angels), and 12 plumed eyes (The Zodiac).

In certain Gnostic traditions a reconciliation is made between God and the Devil.

We find a peacock idol presiding over several (five? the number of the Pentagram?) spheres in the climactic scene of Suspiria, just after we witness Madame Blanc, “the Vice Directress,” (wink, wink nod) of the Dance Academy and her coven of wicked witches invoking infernal powers. The presence of  this idol is either coincidence or somebody did their occult homework. Or, perhaps, the art director was influenced by other, unseen forces?

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Count the number of “eyes” on the peacock’s tail.

Archon: Gnosticism will give some insight into The Hebdomad, the Seven Spheres or Heavens, often recognized in popular Occultism and Kabbalah as: Saturn – Cronus, Jupiter – Zeus, Venus – Aphrodite, Moon – Hekate/Diana, Mercury – Hermes, and Mars – Aries all gathered around the Sun/Sol – Apollo. Seven colors are also expressed by the spectrum, the degrees of manifest Light – a peacock’s rainbowed fan of categorized material expression of Spirit.

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Now, sometimes, when seeking out the Devil in the Details, you find the Devil looking right back out at you! Don’t drop your Tarot cards… but after a close observation of Suspiria  it appears the Peacock image in Our Lady of Sighs – Mater Suspiriorum’s – chambers has 15 “eyes” on it’s tail. Fifteen is of course the number of XV THE DEVIL card in the Tarot! 

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Whichever Tarot deck you use…

However you shuffle your cards…

THE DEVIL remains number XV !

The redemptive tears of the Peacock Angel…

Fifteen “eyes” on the peacock sculpture in SUSPIRIA…

THE DEVIL in the Tarot is numbered 15…

and, oh yes, the Hebrew letter attached to the XVth Arcanum of the Tarot – THE DEVIL card – is Ayin, which just happens to mean “an eye”.

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AYIN = Eye

The three DEVIL Tarot cards below (from three different packs) each carry a visible letter AYIN. We know our Tarot thoroughly and highly recomend it’s study.

Charms and decorations with eye-like symbols known as nazars, which are used to repel the evil eye, are a common sight across Armenia, Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Greece, the Levant, Afghanistan, Southern Spain, and Mexico and have become a popular choice of souvenir with tourists. But we digress…

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After crashing into said Art Deco peacock idol, Suzy Bannion – Our heroine in SUSPIRIA – manages to snatch a fallen peacock plumed stiletto from the overturned idol with which to dispatch the powerfully evil and wicked witch Mater Suspriorum, a.k.a. Helena Markos, by stabbing her through the neck. Mater Suspiriorum, Our Mother of Sighs, is pierced in the neck, the throat, the very reservoir of sighs! Silencing forever that corroded, blasphemous craw!

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Something about that Peacock just sticks in my craw !

But of course we do continue to sigh,

and to weep,

and to stare long and deep

into the gaping jaws of Time.

The religious persecutions and genocidal campaigns executed against the Kurdish Yazidi people of Iraq are horrendous and continue today. How often do you hear the name of the city of Mosul in Iraq in the news?  Mosul is the area closest to the largest Yazidi population in Iraq. You may recall the  2007 Mosul Massacre.

Genocide of Yazidis by ISIL

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Yazidi children have also been victims of Islamic terror and genocide.

For centuries the Yazidis have been tormented and accused of being “Devil-Worshippers.” Religious extremism in the form of the zealots of the so-called Islamic State and other forces in the region have caused untold miseries upon these people who have seen their people massacred and their children sold into sexual slavery. We must use caution so as not to pour gasoline on the fire by misrepresenting the Yazidi people as “Devil-Worshippers” in the Horror film sense of the term. Their tradition is an ancient one containing elements of Gnosticism, Sufism, Christianity and Islam – and yet is completely unique. Comparisons from a solely Christian or Islamic perspective can only result in misinterpretation and misunderstandings. It is it’s own Faith.  Please research the topic to educate yourself further.

Yazidi Woman Who Suffered IS Enslavement Lobbies Washington for Help : May 27, 2017

May we suggest:

If you have a taste for the Occult we suggest this video lecture:

Thelema and the Yezidi “Devil Worshippers”

Some few books are available…

‘Survival Among the Kurds; A History of the Yezidis’

by John S Guest

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Yazidi traditions have a strong emphasis on bodily purity.

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Yazidi gathering at their sacred site in Lalish.

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A Yazidi gathering. Yazidi traditions differ from those of their neighbors but they are most certainly not “Devil worshippers” as certain intolerant groups have claimed.

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Displaced Yazidis fleeing from genocide by the savages of the so-called Islamic State

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Islamic extremists give Yazidis only one choice: Convert or die.

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Yazidi genocide by Islamic zealots.

We await the apocalyptic splendor of a world without religiously motivated hate or genocide.

By: H. B. Gardner

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