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67 minutes | Jul 17, 2021
Ep. 20 – Ladies of Hell (Kore Workout)
This week we free-associate over the legend of Persephone, AKA Proserpina, AKA Kore. Some disagreement among the hosts as to what the center of her legend is, but we’re all in agreement that pomegranates clearly have some powerful afterlife associations across probably every culture on the planet, including the ones that don’t have pomegranates. The rest of the world may not have Specs, a chain of large booze and high end snack stores in central Texas. The rest of the world may not have nutria, either, although a tragic amount of the world does have the darn things. Apparently they’re also called coypu, which I didn’t know that. In Russia they’re made into burgers. This sounds like a GREAT idea. Jacob has been making LOTS of devilled eggs lately, after reading this article on lifehacker about the perfect deviled egg. Apparently that hasn’t been enough eggs, so Jamin recommends adding smoked salmon and avocado baked eggs to your life. We only have 50 or so listeners, it would be a shame if they all died of cholesterol poisoning. Information about the Exorcist reboot/sequel is mixed. Is it a sequel? Is it a fresh start? It sounds like a sequel is in the works for this classic piece of horror. William Friedkin, who directed the original, isn’t involved, but isn’t specifically coming out in favor of or against the new movie, although he’s not involved. There’s been a few sequels to the movie in the past, some successful, some not, some spectacularly bad. Exorcist II: The Heretic is apparently regarded as the worst sequel ever made. Callout to The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, which sounds like it will be movie night some time soon. Or possibly a few episodes? Now on kickstarter! Well, now a semi-active project on kickstarter: Thirteen Demon Princes, Hell’s Favorite Dating Show. This looks like a fun dinner theater type game, where players take the roles of powerful and strange demons trying to get a date with Lucifer. The campaign ran back in 2018 and has been pretty quiet, but with an update as recent as May 2021, it may still get to a commercial release. But you can take the beta version for a test drive! Play along with the home game! If you need to teach challenging and triggering subjects to 9-year-olds or English as a Second Language students, we have just the resource for you: this vocabulary gem from Liveworksheets.com. It’s probably better for kids than for a room full of snarky Gen-Xers. Persephone/Kore The bone of contention in today’s episode: How much agency did Persephone truly have? Is she a character in her own myth, or more of a way of keeping score? Jamin leans more toward the “Persephone is the last important person in this narrative.” Jacob feels more that she had a strong role in later stories, so while she’s not an active character here, it’s the origin story for a stronger role. One of the reasons she’s called “Kore” is that people don’t speak the name of a death goddess, so the honorific is safer than her actual name. But we never quite got around to having that discussion in the episode. Phaeton is not the child of Zeus and his chariot. Jacob made that up. Phaethon is the son of Helios and some other character, who wanted to drive Helios’s magical sun-car, almost crashed into the earth, and Zeus smote him. Totally unrelated story. To the best of our knowledge, while Zeus has slept with every named female character in Greek myth, he has never slept with his chariot. Please call off the Olympus legal team. Silly Symphonies? Hmm…is that video not working? 1934 Silly Symphonies, “The Goddess of Spring,” was unusually daring for the period, it’s mostly devoid of the pointless, constant joking of the other cartoons from that period.. Instead it’s an operatic version of one take on the Persephone story, with a particularly moustache-twirling Hades and some great visuals of his kingdom. He’s very pointy. An Impossibly Reductionist Summary of the Eleusinian Mysteries With thanks to Nemracc Clearly, this vase will explain everything you could possibly want to know about the Eleusinian Mysteris. Just stop here, thanks. Photo by Sdegroisse. Any attempt to cover the Eleusinian Mysteries as a footnote in a blog post is doomed to failure. Britannica: “Most famous of the secret religious rites of ancient Greece.” A celebration brought over from possibly a much older agricultural festival, the rituals recounted the abduction of Persephone, Demeter’s loss and distress, her reunion, and the cycle of the year. Importantly, Demeter puttered around the earth during her wandering time, and taught agriculture to some of the places she visited. Psychotropics were involved, apparently Demeter also brought poppies to Greece and Eleusia in particular. There is just an awful lot of stuff going on here. Anthropomorphic sunflowers, obscene jokes, mind-altering smoothies, and ever so much more. There was a lot of fertility/rebirth elements in this ritual, but also a bit of the “we shall become as gods” idea…or at least the ritual put people in touch with the idea that their spirits were immortal, even if they were housed in inconveniently mortal bodies. Persephone makes an entrance, from The Wicked + The Divine Kore and the Sacred Book of Abramelin the Mage (Jacob:) I feel like my inability to sit down and enjoy a grimoire is really a shortcoming on my part. Like I’m going to get laughed out of the hell fandom because I can’t read Dr. Rudd, but it’s all just lists of correspondences without any good characters. At least Abremelin has something like a plot: Abraham (no relation) of Worms (no relation) passes his magical secrets to his son, and tells him where he found them, “Princess Bride” style, one assumes. Abraham learned his magic from an Egyptian mage named Abremalin. Lots of divine science and Kaballah, so it became a darling of the Golden Dawn hermetic movement a bit later on (and is cornerstone to Crowley’s “Thelema” magical structure.) While the book doesn’t give her more than a mention, it’s unique in grimoires for giving Kore a place in the demonic hierarchies, and doubly unusual in that she and her husband (?) Magoth share their authority. however, since Kore gets only a mention and Magoth gets a few lines of text at least, it may be more fair to say that she gets to sit beside Magroth at the table. Still, not that many Greek gods survive into the 20th century, so it’s an interesting little mythic thread to follow. Translation over at Sacred Texts, but don’t read it if you’re going to be operating heavy machinery. “Magoth” may be related to the word “miget,” which in French fairy tales was applied to the small, angry sorts of fairies that explode when you guess their names. Also he provides both banquets and musical theater, which makes him my new favorite demon. Next to Buer, of course. How do you say Crowley? The video at below has some very good samples of Crowley’s speech and poetry, but it sadly does not have a reading of “The Convert (A Hundred Years Hence):” There met one eve in a sylvan gladeA horrible Man and a beautiful maid.“Where are you going, so meek and holy?”“I’m going to temple to worship Crowley.”“Crowley is God, then? How did you know?”“Why, it’s Captain Fuller that told us so.”“And how do you know that Fuller was right?”“I’m afraid you’re a wicked man; Good-night.” While this sort of thing is styled successI shall not count failure bitterness. But this, and a few other sources, suggest that Crowley/Holy is the right pronunciation. So mote it be. The hosts have repeatedly pointed out that Jacob’s pronunciation is almost always wrong. However, Jacob edits the audio so there are no witnesses.
73 minutes | Jul 5, 2021
Ep. 19 – Ladies of Hell (Yokai edition)
Sooo many mispronunciations this week. Jacob apologizes in advance. Victoria mentions the very pretty Four Fox Sake line, which has just amazing design. Website is very pretty! We are very, very interested in Joseph Laycock’s demonology course at Texas State University. And he’s got so much work out there that was on our reading list! Road trip to San Marcos in the near future. This week’s episode mostly revolves around yokai, a catch-all category of Japanese mythological creatures that are mysterious, maybe a little threatening…the word has elements of “attractive,” “calamity,” “mystery,” “apparition…” and these spirits are a mix of god-type spirits, tricky shapechangers, urban legends, hauntings, demons, and more. Supernatural and strange phenomena given form…or just playful and punnish interpretations of feelings and ideas. Kitsune and Tanuki fall into that basket, as do the tsukumogami, a broad category of tools and objects that have acquired a spirit after a hundred years. Many were created wholecloth by artists like Toriyama Sekien. If he were alive, he’d be the guest of honor at every yokai convention. For a deep dive, do check out the amazing and encyclopedic yokai.com. In fact, start with their article on Karakasa Kozo, the hopping umbrella priest. Jacob loses pokemon master cred by forgetting the name of “zigzagzoon,” a weaselly pokemon that turns into a flying squirrel–that’s an idea related to the bat-turned-squirrel nobusuma. Yurei are a little more like typical western ghosts, spirits that need to be laid to rest. We don’t talk about them but there’s a lot of overlap. Oni, kind of a catch-all category of male demon. “Shogun Taira no Koremochi battles the female demon Kijo” One of those Jigoku vs Yomi I feel like we’ve already had a conversation about Jigoku? But that was probably Naraka. They have a similar ancestry. For a more in-depth (but fun) article on the various Japanese hells, check out Tofugu. There are two major Japanese underworld ideas: Yomi, or Yomi-no-Kuni, is a very dull land of the dead, in the “gray wasteland” style of underworlds. It’s where the dead are.. Not a lot of information about it, it’s just sort of there. Buddhism isn’t a fan of the land of the dead generally, things tied to death are unclean. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t have a lot of press. Jigoku is much more colorful, a land of appropriate and somewhat amusing torments, illustrated in “hell scrolls” that are pretty much their own subgenre. The tortures are colorful and the list of hells is extensive (64,000 maybe, though there are eight main ones.) However, it’s not eternal. You may stay in Jigoku for what feels like a time longer than the current age of the universe, but you can come out again. Time is funny. Recommended: Hell in Japanese Art, a very weighty book on traditional and modern hell imagery from Japan. Very good read, and a great coffee table book, in that it is about the size of a coffee table. Datsue-Ba Pretty sure we’ve talked about “The old woman who strips clothes” at the edge of the Sanzu, a river much like the Styx. Datsue-ba, and her partner (possibly husband) Keneo, force the recently dead to strip off their clothes, and hang them from the trees on the banks of the river Sanzo, in a “weight of the aspirant’s sins” judgment thing. And if you don’t have clothes, she can just take your skin instead. Not content to simply judge the dead, she has a nice little range of torments she performs, like breaking fingers, tying sinners heads to their feet, and tormenting children with the impossible task of building a rock pile to get them to heaven. She’s nice people. Spoilers! From Lovecraft country, the kumiho takes a victim’s life. Warning: gore, tentacles, more gore, something resembling sex but with tentacles, gore. From Love, Sex, and Robots, two lady-to-fox transformations. Some nudity, FYI. Perhaps a bit off topic, but Victoria mentions Lafcadio Hearn, an Irish writer who had written extensively on Japanese culture and mythology. His book, “Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things” was at least partially adapted into an anthology film, which has recently been remastered and released on bluray. “My Girlfriend is a Nine Tailed Fox”, Korean fantasy-drama, trailer. From Akira Kurosawa’s “Dreams,” the Kitsune Wedding Koro Well, that’s interesting. Koro, or genital retraction syndrome, turns up in a great many cultures, with a female variant (fear that one’s nipples are retracting.) And it tends to occur in waves. There’s usually panic, anxiety, and even an imminent fear of death. Being psychological, exorcism or potions work as well as anything else for treatment. It has slightly different styles in different locations, such as genitalls being stolen by witches in West AFrica and medieval Europe. Wiki notes that treatment is more successful for people with a “relatively uncomplicated sexual life.” So there’s that.
45 minutes | Jun 20, 2021
Ep. 18 – Ladies of Hell Lilith (part 2)
Image note – serpent wine glass for header image from Simon Curtis Antiques, with thanks. This week we return to Lilith with Part 2 of a very long conversation about the mother of demons. We open in media res,talking about incantation bowls, a fairly frequent source of demonological lore. These were used as traps for demons, spiralling prayers/abjurations trap demons in their sometimes amusingly cartoonish illustrations. We talked a bit about them in our last show notes (the one at the right is from a rich and Lilith-bearing article from The Gemara). These bowls were commissioned as wards, and were apparently some of the only written material from the Jewish faith from about 500 BCE to 800 AD when the Talmud was a commonly copied document.) They include some of the legalities for divorce, scripture and rabbinic teachings, blessings, and, of course, incantations. There’s actually a surprising amount of Jewish law in them (and the article talks about legal wizardry in a manner that screams out to be made into a historical fantasy novel). In hindsight (Jacob says) I wish I’d done more research on the incantation bowls, I hadn’t realized they had a role beyond being a somewhat cute cultural artifact with demon cartoons. Live and learn! Here’s the full Lilith abjuration quote that Jacob rattles off later in the episode, from the Gemera article: ““Be you fettered and bound, giants of the darkness, and fettered be your bodies with the strong chains with which smiths fetter monsters. Fettered be your magic and the illusions you create. Fettered be your wives, the Liliths, the salamanders, those deformed figures that are ugly, perverted and misshapen, whose appearance and constant chattering no-one can tolerate.” Lilith II: Return of Lilith Aaand, back to Mesopotamia and the Huluppu Tree (again…) We’re talking about Tablet 12 of the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is an odd one out, a poem fro, ~2000 BCE sourced from some much earlier Sumerian writings, with two main movements. The second involves Gilgamesh and his best buddy/BF Enkidu, and Enkidu’s journey of no return into the underworld to get a frankly confusing artifact that was very pimportant to Gil, his Miku and Pukku (ball and drum? Rod and scepter? Board game pieces? Meat and two veg? No one knows, after 5000 years some meaning has been lost.) In the first part, the great Goddess Inana has a very special magic tree, but it’s infested with wilderness demons, including a few Liliths. This double underlines the idea that Lilith wasn’t “Lilith,” but just a single one of the category of demons called the lilim. Anyway, we’re reiterating. “Ki-sikil-lil-la-ke,” Lila’s Maiden, “gladdener of hearts” and “maiden who screeches constantly” is touched on over at the New World Encyclopedia, along with some discussion of Lilith with bird talons for feet, ardat lili or Lilith’s handmaiden, and some references to Lilitu/Lilith as a sort of ancient succubus myth. Karina Karina is one of the various spirits summoned up by King Solomon, and is, besides being one of the broad categories of child-killing demons, apparently something of a shapechanger, with aspects of dogs, owls, and serpents. Those last two seem to be very common for the Lilith model of demonesses, though the dogs may hearken, or barken, back to the hyenas and howlers from Isaiah. From Lilith – The First Eve, Historical and Psychological Aspects of the Dark Feminine by Siegmund Hurwitz, Karina is a word that means something along the lines of “female companion,” related to the Karin, or “male companion.” The spirit is arabic in origin, possibly see also the Qarinah spirit, which is an invisible night-seducer-type, which also tends to take the form of a domesticated animal. At least when it’s not seducing someone in their dreams. I don’t know. She has this to say about herself: ““I am the Karina. I make discord between man and wife. I cause the woman to have miscarriages. I make her infertile. I make men sterile. I fill married men with love for the wives of other men, married women with love for the husbands of other women. In short, I do the opposite of whatever makes married couples happy.” Silver Age Liliths Jacob had the chance to attend Per Faxneld’s lecture over on Morbid Anatomy, and Victoria read Satanic Feminism: Lucifer as the Liberator of Woman in Nineteenth Century Culture. Both of us were preparing for our little series on the feminine in Hell. Jacob can’t recommend this one as a book on demonology/infernology, it’s not that kind of text…though as a work on the cultural relevance of Lucifer, four stars, absolutely. Much of the discussion here is on…hmmm…embracing a sensuous, voluptuous (in the sense of abundant) lifestyle as a conscious rebellion against the patriarchy and as a way to celebrate the importance of the self for women in the 19th/early 20th century. Hope I’m not simplifying too much [says Jacob]. Lucifer, being recently embraced as the icon of pride and rebellion, seems to be used as a shorthand icon of pride not as a sin, but as a statement of the value of self in a world that seriously undervalues it. Also, there is some crazy amount of decadence and EXCELLENT accessorizing at work. Glorious. Sarah Bernhardt Luisa, Marchesa Casati Theda Bara Sarah Bernhardt (wiki) Sara Bernhardt, 1844-1923, was a French actress, thrust into that position by her family (I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before…) and she remade herself as a part of the work of becoming her stage self. By the 1870s she had truly broken out. She was a contemporary of Oscar Wilde, and took the lead role in his play, “Salome.” She, and the painter Gustave Moreau (who spent a great amount of paint on portraits of Salome, at much the same time), did much to reinvent the conception of Jewish female beauty…in part as a rebellion against the negativity that was splashed on her as a Jewish woman.. Some of her imagery had anti-Christian or satanic elements, she dabbled in a bat and serpent motif, slept in a coffin, and made a demonic self-portrait of herself. We are being incredibly reductionist here, apologies.. Crowley connection:: “upon meeting actress Sarah Bernhardt, Crowley asked her if she would like a ‘serpent’s kiss,’ whereon he bit her hand and licked up her blood.” (findagrave) Luisa, Marchesa Casati (wiki) It would be a pity not to use her full name: Luisa Adele Rosa Maria Amman, Marchesa Casati Stampa de Soncino. 1877-1957. Italian heiress, later wife of the Marquess Casati Stampa di Soncino, although her father was a Count, so she was likely nobility? Fabulously wealthy, and extravagantly, delightfully, eccentric. Through the 30s she was an art patron, muse, and luminary, and perhaps related to her massive art expenditures, by 1930 she had amassed a crippling debt and fled to London. Her tombstone is engraved with a quote from Antony and Cleopatra, “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.” She was buried in black and leopard skin. Perfect. The BBC discusses her in an article, “The extraordinary life of the 1920s Lady Gaga.” A hundred years later, I’m not sure we still have the technology for the level of decadence she achieved. She was known for having a love of the occult, always carrying a crystal ball and keeping wax replicas of herself. Her life, up until that part where it fell apart, was a sustained, self-created piece of art. Crowley Connection: The internet has a number of references which seem to have a common source, that Casati and Crowley had met, but the first just made the other mad. Oh well. Theda Bara (wiki) Of the three, Theda Bara (1885-1955) was perhaps the one most closely associated with the occult, as she was heavily promoted as an exotic Egyptian-born mystery, “the serpent of the Nile,” and encouraged to discuss the occult with the press. She was a silent movie actress, possibly the first film sex symbol. How much of her exotic occult vamp image was how the film studios managed her image, and how much was Bara herself, hard to say. But that image loomed large, the media called her the “queen of vampires,” “the wickedest woman in the world,” “the devil’s handmaiden,” and “the priestess of sin.” It seems sad that she was immortalized in a sandwich of toast, minced ham, and pimentos. No one this magnificent should be debased like that. I can see why Dr. Faxneld neglected to mention the “sandwich” thing in his otherwise excellent lecture. Crowley Connection: None? Though there’s an interesting “six degrees of Crowley” connection, by way of screenwriter Preston Sturges: Sturge’s mother was Mary Desti Dempsey, who, somewhere between her on-again-off-again affairs with Isadora Duncan (!) and Aleister Crowley, lived briefly with Bara. So even if their lives never overlapped, there’s enough there to satisfy an inaccurate movie biography or some such. Misc Moon/Magic Goddesses On Hecate, Circe, and Lilith: Hecate is a three-faced Greek goddess of crossroads, night, magic, necromancy, and ghosts. She might or might not haveoriginally been an aspect of Artemis/Apollo, but was strong enough ultimately to be a fairly major godess. She may or may not have been the same entity as Hqt/Heqet, an Egyptian fertility/magic goddess. which would give her an age that predates Greece by a thousand or so years. Circe (pronounced “Kirke,” rhymes with “turkey,” just an FYI) is a minor goddess, maybe some kind of nymph, sometimes a daughter of Hecate. Interestingly, her sister was the wife of king Minos, which makes her the Minotaur’s auntie. According to some geneologies that makes the minotaur’s great-grandfather the sun. This isn’t really important, Jacob just really likes minotaurs. Circe has some interesting elements that might tie her to the Lilith myth specifically – she’s kind of frumpy, and birdlike but not in a good way…harsh-voiced and dark, and her name may have come from Greek-Latin transliteration “Κιρκη” (kirke) meaning “bird. ” Lilith is very birdish and sometimes harsh-voiced too, so there’s some thematic ties there. Are they the “same”? It’s very, very easy to play mythology connect-the-dots and get something that is factually accurate but still entirely wrong. If one commentator says “X=Y” that doesn’t mean that X universally equals Y in all instances of X, only that it does in one story (and every story that came after it). Hecate has been associated with the Lamia, and sometimes identified as the same creature. Lilith “is” a goddess, a demon, Adam’s wife, and both a devourer of children and protector of same…and the category of demons called “liliths” has been identified with, and shares a common ancestry with, certain antecedents of the monster called the Lamia. And Circe “is” the daughter of Helios, but Hecate also “is” the daughter of Helios, and Circe “is” Hecate’s daughter… So…a net.researcher could probably connect enough dots to say that Lilith, Circe, and Hecate “are” sisters, in a sense, but that feels disingenuous. All three are dark female goddesses/spirits with lunar aspects, connections to fertility and motherhood, and have been described as patron spirits of witches. There’s a number of net.articles saying that the three are the “same,” but that feels like a Golden Bough-esque modern insistence that similarity equals identification. Separated by 2000 years, it seems misleading to say that they’re the same deity wearing different masks, but you could probably put statues of them on the same altar. Aeaea “is” the island Circe hails from, and in at least one dictionary, the “aeaean arts” are magic and necromancy, although it more properly means “of or pertaining to the island of Aeaea,” and really shouldn’t be used in Scrabble. Jacob almost never wins Scrabble games, but very few people challenge him on weird words, which is a moral victory. Life in Quotations and other ungoogleables Ernst Kris (1900-1957) was a psychoanalyst and art historian, and among other things wrote on the art of charicature, so it kind of fits that he’d be a part of a a somewhat tropey psychological concept like “life in quotations.” Juan Felipe Hernandez discusses the idea in “Myth and Performance in Thomas Mann,” that older biographies (particularly those of artists) are characterized by certain repeatedc motifs and patterns…not necessarily because of the biographers, but because the the artist lives their life as a sort of performance, a sort of self-mythologizing: a “ceremonial repetition of archetypical situations which places the individual life in a larger context.” So…the artist tends to make a story out of their own lives, and then lives accordingly. The same idea seems to have been used to discuss racial stereotpying, how someone feels their life has been reduced (or at least simplified) into a series of tropes. Cultural Hegemony is a sort of “secret masters of culture” idea that cultural values and norms are not precisely an organic concept that serves all parties equally, but are instead something that serves the ruling class (Nietzsche talks about how the ten commandments inclusion of “do not steal” and “do not kill” reinforce the rulership of the monied and landed upper class). Successfully rebelling against the cultural elite becomes much more challenging when the entire worldview a person is born into serves that cultural elite. We should get back to demonology, it’s much more lighthearted. Breaking the Mood With Kabbalah Jacob here, apologizing for an extremely long ramble. I strongly recommend the book Lilith: The First Eve by Sigmund Hurwitz. The first half was just excellent, a deep deep dive on Lilith mythology with a heavy slice of Kaballah, and I think that most of this material at least began with this book. The second half was Jungian archetypes, which isn’t my cup of tea, not qualified to judge. The Sefirot are…uh…ten aspects of God the kabbalah which are extremely important, if you’re into them. I’m left with a vague flavor of unnecessarily esoteric occultism, but these ten aspects of god and the soap opera of strange connections and permutations between them tell a variety of stories of how God’s power manifests in the universe. in the diagram here, I spend a fair bit of time on the bottom node, Malkuth/Kingship/the presence of God, and Tifaret, the radiance and beauty of God, two nodes up the tree: The radiance of the sun, reflected in the moon. The Qliphoth are an imperfect reflection of the tree of life, not “evil” per se, but a broken reflection, which over the years (and I think mostly in this century) have become something like the evil twin of the Sefirot, when someone gave them the evil with three “e”s name of the “tree of Death.” I don’t personally think what little I know of the Kabballah backs that interpretation up at all, but that puts us back into what “true” means in mythology. Theomagica.com has a nice article that tours the idea of the dark side of creation’s energy. Oh Wiki, what would I do without you and your useful summaries of all known everything? If you need some more material on the idea of the Hieros Gamos , or sacred marriage of opposites, wicca is there for you. For me, the big obvious one of these, perhaps cartoonishly obvious, is the wedding of the horned god and the mother goddess that’s the fulcrum of an awful lot of wiccan ritual: the male and female principle joining and framing the cycle of life throughout the year (the male principle frequently dies, which is kind of a downer, and isn’t really required by the idea of the sacred marriage). As long as we’re on pointless asides, “Don’t let THEM immanentize the Eschaton” is one of the banners of the Discordian, chaos-worshipping parody faith. It’s an interesting idea that echos “life in quotations,” but on a global level. “The church”, or certain fundamentalist political groups that lean heavily on the church, tends to embrace the idea that the coming of the kingdom of God is a good thing, but it is, in a sense, the end of the world, which according to the bible will go very badly for all but about .0019% of the world’s population, and is, therefore, something that should not be encouraged unless you are very sure of your heavenly meal ticket. Politics and positions that embrace that end-times mentality like it’s a good thing immanentize the Eschaton (the end of the world). This was very briefly a counter-culture catch phrase, Hail Eris.
51 minutes | Jun 3, 2021
Ep. 17 – Ladies of Hell Lilith (part 1)
This week’s recording went into overtime, so rather than have our listeners swerve off the road during their morning commute as Jacob launches into Kabballah minutia, this one’s a two-parter. Logically enough, we begin our conversation about Lilith with a preamble on 17 Magazine, Don Martin’s feet, Mangia’s phenomenal green pig pizza, mixed drinks and the best glasses with which to drink them (with thanks to Dezeen.com), Dante’s Inferno Copyright Infringement, and John Steinbeck’s lost werewolf novel. I don’t understand why we ran over, we’re usually so laconic. Don Martin’s characters were just perfect. Apparently he’s known for “hinged feet.” Yep. The Lilith: Honey and allspice, white wine, and serrano chili liquor. It tastes like heat and honey. With thanks to The Drink Shop. The seven deadly glasses are a celebration of sin manifested through theatrical drinking. Glass by Kacper Hamilton, image used without permission (but with apologies) from Deezen.com. Lilith Hmm…that’s not going to be a really useful subtitle, the entire episode is Lilith. Jamin opens this chapter with Isiah 34.14, which is one of the few biblical Lilith moments, and the most striking. The hard core academic may want to start with this point-by-point transliteration. If you’re interested in the poetics, this comparative translation from Bible Gateway may be more fun to peruse. In context, this quote talks about the fall of Babylon, and the desolation that will almost certainly come to it. In fairness, this was written in maybe 700 BCE, and Babylon fell around 540, so…that’s pretty good prophecy, all things considered. One element of Lilithology that Isaiah illustrations pretty clearly is that she’s associated with the wilderness, and seems to be a demonization of nature, at least in part. And, she’s firmly associated with owls. Etymology, Ululation Wiki, where all scholarship starts, suggests that Lilith is from a cloud of “lil” words, largely boiling down to “night demons/night beings (female form). Earlier, “lil” may just mean “spirit.” There’s some hazy associations with flying spirits, serpents, and so on. Lynne Sach’s “Biography of Lilith” is an interesting take on the “First Eve” narrative, and worth watching from a revisionist-religionist storytelling perspective, but we did find the Greek wailing chorus challenging. Several times we circle back on: Lamassu, a bearded man-bull with old deific roots, possibly in a pair with Aladlammuj, possibly not. “Lamma” becomes a general term for hybrid human-animal deities. I think. Anyway, we’re not clear on this. Your oh-so-scholarly hosts find the story of Inanna, Gilgamesh, and the Huluppu Tree very amusing, mostly for the alien nature of the text after almost 5,000 years of separation. What is a huluppu trree? What is an anzu bird? Why are there Liliths nesting in it? How does Gilgamesh scare them off? WHAT IS A PUKKU?! So many questions. “Lamashtu” is a demon, of the “child-killing night hag” family, opposed to Pazuzu, sometimes with a lion’s head and birdlike talons, sometimes holding snakes. “She constantly howls like a demon-dog.” Apparently. I suspect there’s quite a lot more about the Lilith-Lamashtu connection over at Bone & Sickle and frankly I’m glad we didn’t listen to this episode before recording our own. Plausible deniability! Biography of Lilith by Lynne Sachs 1997 from Lynne Sachs on Vimeo. Lamassu: The man, the beard, the bull Lamashtu amulet, with thanks to the British Museum The Burney Relief, which is thought to represent either Lilith, Erishkegal, Ishtaar, or Lilith. With thanks to the British Museum. Although I actually did steal this image from Bone & Sickle. Don’t tell Al Ridenour. Or do. Abyzou Abyzou is your all-purpose child-taker demon, possibly related to the general concept of the abyss and primeval sea. She has wild hair, she eats babies. Is she lilith? Maybe, maybe not. But she’s from the same geneology, as all female demons came from Abzu and the primordeal sea, and her legend seems to get conflated with Lilith. Both of them have many, many names, possibly thousands of them, and it’s quite reasonable that these two crazy-haired child-stealers exist in each other’s cloud of names. Lamia “It’s complicated.” Lamia was a greek child-eating monster, possibly a beautiful woman who had an affair with Zeus (nothing good comes from having an affair with Zeus). Broadly, Lamia have been associated with half-woman, half-snake creatures, but the myth is completely muddled. Over centuries Lamia sort of merges with vampiric, animal-hybrid figures, and perhaps this story is a part of why, some 1000 years later in the 700s, Lilith has some serpentine elements? In the early middle ages (500-600ish) Lamia had become a broad class of female monsters, and in the Vulgate bible, that Isaiah 34:14 passage uses “lamia” in place of “lilith.” The muddle continues. Incantation Bowls, Fetus Wings The Jewish Woman’s Archive has an excellent article on Lilith with a feminist angle. It’s a solid, general survey of this subject. The hosts puzzle briefly over fetus wings, and how they signify adultery. “An abortion with the likeness of a lilith, its mother is impure because of the birth, for it is a child, but it has wings” (BT Niddah 24b).” Lilith here may actually refer to an owl? Incantation bowls could easily be a deep dive on their own. A few thousand of them exist now, and some of them have really great cartoony demons illustrated within. They often have spiralling text, images of demons and banishing spells, and were perhaps buried or placed in the corner of rooms as demon traps. With thanks to Albert Hastings for this lilith incantation bowl image (flickr) Succubi Not a lot of time spent here because I’m pretty sure we’ll go back to succubi and incubi because sex sells and there’s a William Shatner/Esperanto/shapeshifting goat tie-in that will be good for at least 15 minutes of chatter. But I do want to recommend this nice article, “On Sex With Demons,” from Dr. Eleanor Janega’s blog “Going Medieval” that goes in depth into the Succubus myth and how it ties into modern politics. Alphabet of Ben Sira, The Zohar These two works provided the shape of the modern Lilith myth, which really doesn’t come from anything Biblical or even particularly bible-adjacent. The Alphabet of Ben Sira, 700-1000 ADish. A sairical book that uses a frame narrative of Ben Sira, son of Jeramiah, telling stories to amuse Nebuchadnezzer. Among 21 other stories, the Alphabet contains the story of Lilith as the first Eve, Lilith’s flight from the garden of Eden, push for sexual equality, divine litigation, and infanticide on an epic level. Also she sleeps with Samael, but frankly who wouldn’t. The Zohar is basically the source for Kabbalic lore. It’s an elaborate commentary on the Torah, scripture, mysticism, cosmology, and myth, dating from some time in the 13th century. The ultimate sources of these works is up to debate, but it seems like it’s likely a collection of oral tradition, ideas that were floating around in the 1300s, and the work of a small collection of writers. Somewhere in this one, apparently, Lilith and her (sister? Girlfriend?) Naamah seduce Adam and give berth to all manner of strange and evil creatures. She also seduces Azazel and have a polycule with Samael, Agrat Bat Mahlat, and Eisheth. Jacob wishes he’d learned about those three before recording, but the episode is long enough as is.
57 minutes | May 20, 2021
Ep. 16 – Ladies of Hell (Part the First)
Kicking off a new miniseries, “The Ladies of Hell,” which looks to be a rich and possibly incomprehensible series of passages to explore. But first, drinks! And ice cream! And VUCA. There is no more Victoria this week, There is only Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. Jacob struggles to keep up. Today’s beverage? The Real Housewife, which is specifically designed to be thrown in someone’s face. Though it really sounds like a nice drink. Such a pity. And Jamin has a neat article about the Plutonium, though probably not the Plutonium you were thinking about, this is another Avernus-style hellmouth bubbling with carbon dioxide. The article’s a good read! Who are the hosts’ favorite ladies of the inferno? Jacob is a fan of the Hazbin Hotel universe, particularly the insanely optimistic Charlie. Not entirely worksafe. Followed closely by the Hell’s Library series, with its strange cast of hell-adjacent bibliophiles. Victoria is very pro-Anya, the vengeance demon from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She then goes on to reframe Billie Eilish’s “All The Good Girls Go To Hell” as the “She Works Hard For Her Money” of the realms below. Maybe not the best comparison? Too jarring? Ladies of Hell (Citation needed) Before we get too far down this road, A quick nod to some of the materials we used to build this one: Wikipedia’s article on “Sexuality in Christian Demonology” was one of our starting points, and it’s very dense and rather academic. And a huge debt of gratitude to Michelle Belanger for her Dictionary of Demons, which is about as authoritative as these things get, though it’s more approachable than the grimoires it draws from. Gemory Gemory, AKA Gremory, Gemon, Gemyem, is one of the 56-72 demons of the Goetia, and while all the Goetia are generally given the “he” pronoun, Gemory arguably presents as female more than the rest. As a pattern, demons that give their summoner powers over women appear as women, or at least as serpents with the heads of virgins (this raises the question, what would serpents with the heads of non-virgins look like?) Gemory has powers of prophecy and treasure-finding, and given how close her name is to the word family of grimoire, gramarye, grammar, etc, Jacob wonders if she’s derived in part from the moon-goddess and general magickal goddess, Hecate. It might go a ways to explaining her pointy headdress. Image at right from the 1860s Dictionary Infernal, which has some amazing illustrations. And Buer. The Pleaides (and the Testament of Solomon) I want to pause for a moment for this amazing picture, The Pleiades (1885) by Elihu Vedder. Far from being a smudgy little version of the Big Dipper, the Pleiades have a long history of being trouble-makers, going back to Mesopotamia, where they were associated with a powerful group of demons called “The Seven” (or Sebettu.) Gina Konstantopoulos has made her 420-page thesis on this topic available online, so obviously there’s no real reason to spend time on something we’re all well familiar with. In Greek mythoogy, they seem like nice lesser goddesses who seem to only exist as mothers to various goddesses, mostly by way of Zeus, who is pretty awful. The Pleiades feature in the “Testament of Solomon,” a piece of Solomonic fanfic from 100-200 AE. Read that one here. Jacob noted that the characters sounded kind of like the “unruly chaos beast” type character, and specifically Eris, the Goddess of Strife. Interestingly, the Dictionary of Deities and Demons of the Bible links them to a set of primeval, rebellious heroes, which does give them some of that “combat myth” feel. Hmm. Victoria has a much more lucid and well-developed theory that they’re actually The Real Housewives of Assyria, which is not well-supported by scripture but is much more entertaining. Jacob would like to apologize for confusing “Barachiel” (Blessed by god) and Baraquiel (angel of lightning). Particularly since Baraquiel is a fallen angel, one of the watchers, and it would be rude to cast aspersions on a fairly nice angel. “Benbarkiel” as it turns out was a role playing game character of his back in 2003. Jacob briefly chokes on Victoria’s statement, “I am Error?” Which, it turns out, wasn’t a reference to a classic Legend of Zelda meme. The Farmer’s Curst Wife There’s a fun article, Spotify playlist, mini-history and general love letter to the Farmer’s Curst Wife on the “Sing Out!” folk music blog, and I think (says Jacob) that if I’d read this before I’d done my podcast research, I would have just plaigerized this article entirely, it’s quite good! Broadly, this is the story of the wife of an old farmer, who’s tough as nails and meaner than the Devil himself–so mean that she gets sent back to Earth. The story itself is very old…Robert Burns, 19th century, retells it in “The Carle of Kellyburn Braes,” it possibly went back to the Canterbury Tales in “The Merchant’s Tale,” and there’s an echo of it in the 6th century Hindi story anthology, The Panchatantra. The Alewife A huge thanks to the phemonenal Braciatrix blog, a huge cauldron of myth, recipes, and history devoted to brewing and alewives. “Rebellious alewives, heroic barmaids, renegade beer goddesses, and more inspiring brewsters than hops in a quadruple IPA. Beer history. About women.” After that, Theresa Vaughan’s “The Alewife: Changing Images and Bad Brews,”and Allison Murray’s “Alewives: Brewing Ale, Brewing Controversy” from “Women in Theology.” Couldn’t find any official hot takes on this one, but Nanny Ogg must have been based on the Alewife. She’s dangerously jolly, a brewer of fine weapon-grade cider, a witch but not the curse-throwing kind, and she has an unpleasant black cat. She hasn’t married the devil, to the best of my knowledge, but she may have messed around with the Horned God in her long-ago childhood. Word for the day: “misericord,” a support underneath a folding seat or pew that gives a bit of extra support to an old or infirm person who needed to stand in church. While these were hidden away, they were usually carved and ornate, and…kind of out of character! In Wikipedia’s gallery there’s misericords showing green men, a griffin that may have been the basis for the bird of same in Alice and Wonderland, and others. The “Misericords of St Laurence” shows a nice detail of the famous Dishonest Alewife carving. I forget if I mentioned this or not in the podcast, but there’s an alternate version of the Testament of Nicodemus/Harrowing of Hell where Jesus comes down to hell and saves everyone…but an alewife. However, a demon offers to marry her, so there’s a happy ending. Sort of. – Jacob Nanny Ogg from Terry Pratchett’s “Diskworld” series, art by Phil Kidby, orderable as a festive christmas card! Below, Dishonest Alewife from “Misericords of St. Lawrence,” by Heyjude. Mictēcacihuātl Aztec goddess of the dead, or perhaps queen of the underworld, or maybe goddess of the bones of the dead? Generally shown flayed and skeletal, with huge jaws that swallow the stars during the day. Overall…and kind of like Ereshkigal and Nergal in this respect…there’s more about her bony husband in folklore than about Mictecacuatl herself. One interesting tradition – folks that were too poor to afford a funeral buried the bones of their ancestors under their house, which may have earned them the protection of Mictecacihuatl, She’s very tied up in the Dia de Muertos imagery. There’s a nice meditation on her on Mythcrafts, “She Swallows the Stars: The Day of the Dead.“ And, yes, indeed, The University of Texas Press has quite a number of books in their Precolumbian Studies department. It’s kind of amazing how…specific…a well-funded college’s publishing arm can get.
73 minutes | May 5, 2021
Ep. 15 – #subwaysatanmixtape
So back in March we cheerfully yattered on about the latest infernal news: a fellow in black, mask covering face, attempted to flirt (?) with a subway passenger by handing her his cellphone with the message, “I AM SATAN” on it. We thought, “…well, that’s awkward.” And then we thought, “How could we make this…more awkward?” “I AM SATAN….and I made you a mix tape.” We also wanted to kick back and have some pop culture fun after a very long series of episodes on Mesopotamia, so we hope you enjoy this digression, we had a lot of fun making it. Cards on the table: this mix is very white and very male-driven. Given the story, and the characters we’d built in our heads, this was a nose dive we couldn’t pull out of. Next time, we’re letting Lilith pick the tracks. But we’ll start with some drinks. We’d love to serve up the definitive “Devil’s Haircut” (we think it’s rum, champaign, bitters, Absolut Citron vodka), but the internet is definitely giving us mixed messages there. Devil’s Manhattan from the “Ask My Bartender” blog. with thanks. The “Devil’s Haircut” is a deeply non-photogenic tiki beverage, and dares not show its face. He is Vigo! It is Vigo! Jamin is enigmatically taken with Vigo brand authentic creamy avocado lime rice. With real avocado. Acording to the website, “Vigo Creamy Avocado Lime Rice is a flavor-packed side dish of deliciousness. A powerhouse of nutrients and flavor, avocados are the headlining taste of this dish along with other simple ingredients including real lime and sea salt. Our creamy avocado rice has no preservatives, no artificial colors , no artificial flavors, no MSG* added and is Vegan and gluten free as well. It is versatile and pairs nicely with grilled fish, chicken, seafood and Mexican inspired dishes.” So there. Anyone know if Vigo is taking sponsorship deals? Of course, why pay for what they’re giving away for free? Jacob, meanwhile, is once again blowing his podcasting millions on another demonic kickstarter. This week, it’s Jim Pavelec’s Ars Goetia tarot deck. Pavelec has done a number of pieces for Magic: The Gathering, and his tarot/goetia work has some of that high-end RPG art vibe. The kickstarter runs through 5/8/21 so there may be time to catch it! As a fan of Buer, we are thrilled that Buer is the cover model for this deck. And somewhat saddened that he looks like a man in a funny hat. And sitting at the intersection of science and the occult…or at least the imaginative…Jimena Canales’s book “Bedeviled: A Shadow History of Demons in Science” is going on our wish list, post haste. A history of metaphorical demons used to illustrate thought experiments…is using a demon to solve a scientific riddle so terribly different from using it to execute a magical working? (yes. Yes it is.) Jacob got two books slightly confused – one was “Science in Wonderland, the Scientific Fairy Tales of Victorian Britain,” by Melanie Keene, a little tour through a period when fairy tales were used to illustrate scientific concepts; the second was “The Fairy Tales of Science,” which he learned about from the former. Given that this book has a chapter on the Realms Infernal, this may come back again at some point in the future. #SubwaySatanMixtape This really was a lot of fun…playing with the strange little news story, turning it into a character, and reinterpreting his journey through music, both as the mix tape he might give to his intended (classic awkward demi-romantic gift that it is), and also, the film score to the weird encounter itself. We hope you enjoy the journey with us. Obviously we don’t own the copyright to any of this music, and we hope the very brief samples serve as illustration and encourage you to throw fists of money at both these artists and recording artists in general. Anyone with a microphone really. Anyone. BTW, feel free to press pause on the episode and enjoy the music without our feckless meandering, but with ads, over on Youtube and Spotify. #1: Sympathy for the Devil Where else could we possibly begin? This 1968 classic by the Rolling Stones seemed like the best possible way for an urbane devil to introduce himself. The Legends of Music has an article about some of the literary inspiration for the song and its creation. They don’t specifically name the short story of Baudelaire’s that was part of the inspiration, but “The Generous Gambler” seems like a likely source. #2: I Wanna do Bad Things With You Surely the greatest honor in any musician’s career is to be nominated for a Scream Award. Which Jace Everette’s “Bad Things,” and presumably by extension Jace Everette, was. Or were. Were? The scream awards didn’t even have a category for best song. So they must have really been tickled by this one We are unsure what “bad things” are, as the lyrics do not specify. Identity theft? But you don’t really do identity theft to someone, although I guess you could conceivably do identity theft with someone. It’s nice when couples do things together. (Note: Jacob, please don’t write the show notes at midnight. Ever again.) Callout to the Ramones, “I Don’t Wanna Walk Around With You.” #3: The Devil Went Up to Boston Surprisingly contentious! And don’t blare this one at work, it’s got your daily quote of fuck-words. It was actually quite hard to find ten solid seconds without an F-bomb here. This parody of “Devil Went Down to Georgia” is by the Adam Ezra Group, who’ve been playing Boston bars and venues for 20 years in a very “no major label” way. Jacob was particularly impressed with the story of how they responded to the Covid-10 panic: a full year and continuing of live streaming shows. Wow. Some DWDTG trivia: It’s based heavily on the 1925 poem/song, “The Mountain Whippoorwill (Or, How Hillbilly Jim Won the Great Fiddler’s Prize.”) Nice sung/spoken interpretation of this by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. #4: I Must Be The Devil The Box Tops were formed in 1967, performing a mix of soul and light pop. And they were, indeed, originally called “The Devilles,” though that seems a bit of a stretch, and also there was a band called The DeVilles, which is definitely going to cause search engine optimization problems and there’s no way to emphasize the “V” in that word. And yes, they did cover “Whiter Shade of Pale.” I don’t know what face the guy on the bottom is making, but is the redhead at right trying to do a smouldering “bad boy” or a confused and guilty labrador retriever? #5: Lucifer Rising This very danceable bit of blasphemy is from Rob Zombie’s album, “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor.” It sounds like the critics were generally unkind to Rob, who seems to have had trouble escaping his genre. But he does his genre so well. Members of Mr. Zombie’s band: Zeuss, Piggy D, John 5. Great names. Oh! And over on Youtube there’s a nice compilation of clips from the Flametrick Subs and Satan’s Cheerleaders! Thank you, Sarah, and thank you, The Internet! #6: Kiss the Go-Goat The narrative conceit of this one: Kiss the Go-Goat is a remastered “from the vaults” find from 1969 by Papa Emeritus Nihil. To be a Ghost fan you really have to embrace the fiction, Ghost’s “kayfabe” involves hereditary papal lines, masked ghouls, medieval elemental theory, and kazoos. Originally Tobias Forge was the front man for Stockholm death-metal band “Repugnant,” so do with that what you will The band’s extensive metafiction, according to Tobias, is a way to reconcile and merge the stifling and oppressive world of religion with joyful and magical memories of his childhood, recapturing a dream. Points for references: “osculum obscenum” or “osculum infame” is the alleged “devil’s kiss,” that part of the highly fictional medieval sabbat wherin the devil’s ass was literally kissed. Image from the Compendium Maleficarum, 1608. A few musical callouts from Bedazzled (1967). Bedazzled’s plot is that the looserish character Stanley Moon trades his soul for a handful of typically broken wishes. In the “fame and fortune” wish, the main character is incarnated as a rock star for the desperate number, “Love Me”, and the devil himself plays in the band Drimble Wedge and the Vegetation for the more laconic (and successful) “Bedazzled.” Both here. Jacob willfully misunderstands so that he can mention the leaping nuns of St. Beryl. Interestingly St. Beryl may make a reappearance in Pratchett/Gaimen’s “Good Omens,” as the patroness of the satanic order of the Chattering Nuns of St. Beryl. Coincidence? Uniquely British name? …Continued in Part 2!
63 minutes | Apr 20, 2021
Ep. 14 – Bringing it home with Gilgamesh and Enkidu
Whew! Wrapping up four episodes on Mesopotamia, which was about twice as many as we thought we’d do originally. Hope they were fun! They may have deviated a bit from the central nub of the podcast, but we wanted to get a firm handle on the mythology that underpins…well…pretty much all mythology. And you couldn’t talk about Mesopotamia without talking about Gilgamesh and Enkidu. But we’ll start with some drinks. Like the Lonesome Hero, a complex drink for a complex character. With notes of cough syrup, herbals, possibly the grassy steppes, and a twist of lemon, we’re pretty sure this is exactly what the hero’s journey tastes like. Jacob ponders the existence of an “antihero,” which may be a similar, complex and herbal drink, but with more tequila. Jamin invites you to douse your avocado with sriracha. Gilgamesh statue, Sidney, Australia Today we are all over the place with Lil Nas X’s “Call Me By Your Name.” There is so much here to play with in terms of mythology, messaging, representation, LGBTQ issues….It oculd eat half an episode, no doubt. We started with this Time article on Historians decoding the video’s symbolism. Jacob hit a stumbling block with the “trial scene,” thinking it was probably a Jesus/Pilate moment, but Time suggests that it could represent the broad category of Christian martyrs who were stoned to death, metaphorically at the Colosseum. Glance over the article, there’s no need to list everything, except that he got that one wrong and is writing this paragraph and wanted to make amends. Jacob was very happy about the appearance of Buer, president of Hell and #10 in the Goetia. And thinks that a LOT of people are unnecessarily fond of Buer, because he’s weird. Anyway, Buer appeared on the box of Li’l Nas X’s satanic tennies. If you’re reading this as a time traveller from the distant future, 1) welcome, but you could have done better; 2) the story is that musician Li’l Nas bought 666 pairs of Nike shoes, gussied them up with a pentagram and, allegedly, a very small amount of human blood, and sold them for $1018 dollars (referencing Luke 10:18: The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” A strange digression follows, in which the hosts argue about the Hero’s Journey, a hero’s journey, and whether or not Li’l Nas X’s video suggests one. Maybe? Looking back at the range of tropes that might turn up in the traditional “separation-initiation-return” model of the Campbellian Hero’s Journey structure–think Luke Skywalker, who leaves his home planet, goes into the swamps of Degoba, and returns with lost wisdom. Jacob thinks that there’s a lot of separation and initiation, but not enough “return” to complete the cyclic nature of the Joseph Campbell structure. Am I being too micro? Possibly. But it’s also hard to reference myth without nodding to elements of this structure, which, as you can see from this helpful infographic, is tropetastic. I suspect that we’ll eventually do an episode on Punch and Judy, in which The Devil is something of a recurring character. Sometimes the Devil wins, but usually Punch triumphs over the master of evil, in what is arguably the ultimate underdog victory. In particular, Jacob was reading Christopher Reilly’s “Tragical Comedy of Punch and Judy,” which is both amusing and short and goes through most of the major “plot” points of the full-spectrum Punch and Judy experience. Pazuzu, Enazu, and Dingirs Cuneiform has a punctuation mark that means, effectively, “yes, this is a god.” Interesting. Jamin’s journey of discovery is on the Dispatchist blog now! Gilgamesh in not quite five minutes or less Except for tablet 12, which is weirdly hard to find, we started with the ancienttexts.org translation of Gilgamesh. Enjoy it with the kids. If you like, open up TV Trope’s treatment of this one as well, it’s like a drinking game but with thick, wheaty beer. Tablet 1 In which we establish the main character and the problem. The poet (unnamed) talks about the fabulous city of Uruk, giving us a nice concise wiki description of possibly the world’s first city, and then introduces its kng, Gilgamesh: Amazing, 2/3-god, explorer and adventurer, and kind of a despot, with no regard for the lives of his subjects (his taking each bride on their wedding night comes up a LOT, and it should.) So the gods hear the prayers of the people and make a new demigod, to calm Gil’s heart. This is Enkidu, and he’s kind of a wild man. A local trapper finds him living with the gazelles, drinking from the watering holes, and being a nuisance by setting his trapped animals free. The hunter sends his father to Uruk to ask for help in calming this weird nature-boy, requesting the temple prostitute Shamhat (“The Luscious One“) to tame this hairy, beautiful nuisance. They really must hold sex workers in some high regard, if they’d call Shamhat in for something like a hostage negotiation situation. Sex scene and civilization montage follow. It’s a bit like that old movie, “Walk Like a Man,” but with a week-long sex scene. So nothing like “Walk Like a Man.” Quite a lot of clay was scratched on how Enkidu is tamed, enobled, both enriched and reduced, and how very pretty he’s becom in the process. Meanwhile Gilgamesh dreams about an asteroid from the heavens that he will “embrace as a wife” and “made him complete.” If anyone says there isn’t gay subtext there…the LGBT History Project has a very good article about the linguistic subtext here. which mentions the similarity between the words for “axe” and “meteorite” used to describe this gift from heaven and a few words for male religious sex workers. Thus Jacob’s endless “man-whore” jokes. Funny once, sir. Tablet 2 The Meet-Cute. Shamhat wraps Enkidu up in a piece of her clothing (sort of a sarong?) and takes him to Uruk, or at least the farming community outside Uruk. The people are impressed by his strength and hotness, and a party is held, in which beer is liberally sloshed…another fine product of civilization. Enkidu begins his new life in the farming community, chasing lions away from the livestock. At least until he learns about the fundamental assholery of Gilgamesh and his massive “droit du seigneur” addiction. When he’s invited to a wedding, he lurks outside the couple’s bedchamber and throws himself at Gilgamesh. A very manly wrestling match follows, after which the two kiss and make up, realizing perhaps that they’re bro-mates. They very quickly start talking about their first adventure, which will be cutting down the cedar of the sacred forest to the north which is not to be cut down, and killing the guardian of the forest, Humbaba, who was placed there by the gods to protect the sacred forest. Everyone says this is the worst possible idea, and Gilgamesh makes a very strong show of listening and nodding. Tablet 3 Now the two bold heroes sally forth on an ill-advised quest, and may the gods and the people put their favor in them both. Also this is a terrible idea. There is much semi-ritualized wailing on the part of various mother-figures. We know how this is going to end, since it started in hubris. Tablet 4 This gets a little mystical: Gilgamesh turns to dreams for inspiration on how to defeat the great demon, Humbaba. You really get a sense for how much the ancients relied on cut-and-paste with this one. Tablet 5 There is some serious demonic monologuing here as Humbaba first taunts, then wheedles. Ultimately G and E go full lumberjack on him and cut down Humbaba and the cedar. Epic heroes 1, sustainability 0. Tablet 6 We’re into the very sad bridge on tablet VI: G and E return to Uruk, home of the very, very jealous and very, very powerful goddess, Ishtaar. When Ishtaar sees triumphant Gil she offers him her hand in marriage, and a half-dozen perks besides, but Gil points out that every one of her suiters and husbands has had a rough time of it, real “Henry the 8th” stuff here. She calls up the “Bull of Heaven” to take Gilgamesh down, and this may well be her brother-in-law, husband to the goddess Erishkigal, it’s a bit ambiguous. The battle’s a whole new flavor of epic, but Enkidu is absolutely brilliant and taunts Ishtaar, throwing the “thigh” of the bull at her (is it thigh? Is it penis? You be the judge.) Tablet 7 Hello, heroes, Hubris here. Having taunted the gods, fairly quickly after desecrating their holy site, there’s going to be some kind of cum-uppance. Enkidu falls ill, and there’s some boilerplate poetry copied out of the Descent of Inanna about the living conditions in the Underworld. Enkidu dies alone. Tablet 8 (insert mourning montage here) Tablet 9 Part 2: Gilgamesh confronts his midlife crisis. Suddenly aware of his own mortality, he goes looking for a cure for that condition. Scorpion people are fought, impenetrable darknesses are braved. Tablet 10 A quiet and reflective scene: We meet the goddess Siduri, brewer and divine bartender, who lives by the sea and dispenses sage wisdom and carpe diems. However, Gil is hopelessly epic and cannot be disuaded, he goes to find Urshanabi, the Mesopotamian Charon. You may want to know what the “stone things” are. WE DON’T KNOW. Urshanabi has them, they help run his boat, Gilgamesh destroys them for no really plain reason, the boat doesn’t go. Golems? Warp nacells? We just don’t have a clue. Google for “Urshanabi Stone Things”, no one knows. We’re not even going to discuss urnu-snakes. There are so many mysteries here. Tablet 11 We’re wrapping this one up soon, you can tell…there’s a flashback to the story of Utnapishtim/Noah, the only human to ever become immortal. There’s a few comical moments in this scene, immortality seems within Gil’s grasp, if only he could stay awake for seven days, or find a flower of immortality at the bottom of the lake. But he can’t stay awake, and a snake steals his magic flower. So, he returns to Uruk, and the story comes full circle, the greatness of Uruk will be Gilgamesh’s legacy. Tablet 12 Tablet 12 may not be canon? It’s hard to say. It reads like three pieces of tacked-on fan-fic by different authors. Thanks to Wolkstein and Kramer for the translation. It lifts heavily from an older story, beginning with “The Huluppu Tree,” wherin Ishtaar has a lovely tree in her garden, but it’s infested with monsters, or birds, or Lilith. Unsure. Inanna calls her brother (!) Gilgamesh over, asking for him to get rid of the weird animals in her tree. He does, and scares off the bird, the lilith, and a serpent (?), and then cuts the tree down to make some furniture for Inanna, and Inanna makes some fun toys for Gilgamesh. A fair amount of ink has been spilled on what the hell a mikku and pukku are. I’m enjoying the theory that they’re literally toys, parts of a board game or sporting equipment. Tablet 12 goes over a lot of earlier material, but with an odd comic tone: once again, Gilgamesh oppresses the people of Uruk with his obsessive (drumming, gaming, self-pollution, whatever you do with a pukku). Somehow, probably because of gods, he loses his thingies in the underworld, and Enkidu…poor, doomed twink Enkidu…has to go get them. If he obeys some simple rules he might escape, but no, no one escapes, and Enkidu is captured by the netherworld. Predictably, the LGBT History Project would like you to know about the gay subtext in this scene. At some point the powers of the underworld let Gilgamesh have a sit-down with Enkidu, and they talk about how endlessly dull and bleak the world of the dead is (unless you have lots of kids, of course, but I don’t think Enkidu ever does.) Some readers suggest this passage is a lament of the pleasures that Gilgamesh will lose after death. Others suggest that it’s a sad goodbye between lovers. The jury is out. If you really like Mesopotamian Gilgamesh fanfic, there’s also something like a lament for “Lord Gilgamechas,” but it doesn’t really give much closure. Plato’s Symposium Between attempting to queer Gilgamesh and rewatching Li’l Nas’s “Call Me By Your Name”, we’ve dropped several references to Plato’s Symposium, but not very well. The frame narrative for Symposium: Socrates and friends are at a fancy philosophy party, giving a series of ad-libbed speeches inspired by Eros, broadly, the spirit of love. One of the speeches is (at least in the context of this narrative) given by Aristophanes, who has delivered up an awful lot of extremely bawdy satire over the years, so take this with a grain of salt: humans were once two entities joined in one body, but this made them too much of a threat to the gods, so they were divided. Any lines delivered by a fictionalized version of Aristophanes…well, this is regarded as one of Plato’s best “bits,” though is it a commentary on myth, a eulogy of love, a commentary on gender and the tragic state of mankind? None of the above? Is it just humor? It’s hard to say, but it is a strong meditation on the search for love, regardless. Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a dark comedy on gender, struggling to find love and find one’s self. It’s amazingly strong and very gender-queer. Aristophanes’s speech is kind of the cornerstone of Hedwig (see the cartoon from the movie), and is dropped as a reference in the form of golden letters burned into a tree in Montero/Call Me By Your Name, which is, also, very queer and loaded with smart references. Gilgamesh and Ecclesiastes If you just enjoy rabbit-holing, and who doesn’t, here’s a fun “little” 280-page epic that talks about connections between the story of Utnapishtim and the story of Noah. In fairness, it’s really only a hundred pages or so, much of the essay is taken up with a translation of “Gilgamesh.” Still, good times. Jamin briefly talks about a possible connection between Gilgamesh and The Book of Enoch/Book of Giants: Giants/Enoch lists several of the half-divine giants (I think these are the nephalim – Jacob) killed in the flood, which among their rankes include “Gilgamesh” and “Hobabish”, possibly derived from Humbaba. Other authors note parallels between Enkidu and Nebuchadnezzar, but also that there’s some connections so strong between Sidhuri’s speech in tablet 10 and the book of Ecclesiastes that it seems likely the later book draws inspiration from Gilgamesh. You, Gilgamesh, let your belly be full,Keep enjoying yourself, day and night!Every day, make merry,dance and play day and night!Let your clothes be clean!Let your head be washed, may you be bathed in water.Gaze on the little one who holds your hand,Let a wife enjoy your repeated embrace,Such is the destiny of mortal men. – Sidhari 7 Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do. 8 Let your garments always be white; do not let oil be lacking on your head. 9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun (Ecclesiastes 9: 7-9).
64 minutes | Apr 3, 2021
Ep. 13 – Kicking Down Hell’s Door
Happy Easter! Though this one’s going out on Holy Saturday, and nobody says “Happy Holy Saturday. So that. In some traditions, this is the day where Jesus went to the underworld after he died, so we’re taking a deep dive into the descent to the land of the dead. But first some meandering. Because podcasts are such a vibrant visual medium, we’re going to begin with a photograph of a dog (it’s on topic) (kind of) and a graphic novel. The dog is reasonably self-explanatory (found art: pit bull mix, infernology text). The graphic novel is a very nice one, The Harrowing of Hell by Evan Dahm. This shows a very meek Jesus, no kind of warrior. It cuts back and forth between the realms of the living and the dead, and has no shortage of tragedy and temptation. A very good read. Victoria feels like the Lucifer/Hades figure looks like a Sleestack from Land of the Lost. You be the judge. Very strong recommendation from Jacob for the Inferno: Dante’s Guide to Hell kickstarter. It’s running through April 9 so maybe you can get in the door! The first is a three-volume set (GM’s guide, player’s guide, art book) to help play Dante’s Inferno-type quests under D&D 5th edition rules. And it may be a series, expanding the story through the other two movements of the Divine Comedy (Purgatory, Paradise). Very neat! And then there’s Advocaat, an egg-yolk based liquor. Feel free to buy it from any number of sources. Or, if you’re daring, make your own glass of this “custardy classic. It’s eaten with a spoon. There aren’t that many scooping beverages out there. The Harrowing of Hell This narrative is a story loosely based on scripture, somewhat derived from Jewish millenial/apocalyptic texts and mostly based on medieval bible fanfic. The Harrowing of Hell the story of how Jesus descended into the land of the dead after his crucifixion, and plundered hell of its greatest treasures: the souls of the Jewish faithful who were waiting for the Messiah. Listening to us try to sort out this complex little plot may test anyone who isn’t on their third glass or bowl of Advocaat, so I’d encourage you to press pause and watch the York Players putting on the “Harrowing” as an urban mystery play. Taking it in as a play may get you a bit more in the mood to appreciate the weird. The word “harrowing” has two sets of meanings, though both share a common ancestry. Possibly. Agriculturally it means to rake, to break open, to tear, and metaphorically to distress: breaking up the ground for planting. The other meaning (to ravage, to despoil, possibly to plunder) came from “to harry” in a sort of military sense. The two meanings seem kind of merged in the more modern definition of harrowing, “distressing or disturbing.” The harrowing story became big in the medieval world, it was a great action sequence, and a lot of iconography picks up a “christ the crusader” flavor. Some other recurring parts of the harrowing imagery: the devils are shocked, scared, and abused (my favorite is Satan flattened by the door that got kicked in). Another common note is bits of chain, keys, and locks, representing the chains and gates that JC storms. But it also kind of looks like he accidentally emptied a toolbox into the abyss. Another thing to look for: black voids. This version of hell isn’t fire and brimstone, it’s often simply the grave. In fact, images of Satan and the modern understanding of hell were gently separated from Jesus in this story: he really is conquering death, not Hell…Hell has a long and colorful life ahead of it. Jacob reads from an “ancient homily for Holy Saturday,” possibly written in 180 by Bishop Melito. Then Jamin and Jacob have a back-and-forth over the Apostle’s Creed, and how there’s a fair bit of controversy over the line “…he descended into the dead.” If you’re not familiar, the Apostle’s Creed/Prayer is one of the big foundational statements of what “all” Christians believe, but it turns out there’s some variation in this cornerstone prayer. There’s at least a few allusions to the story of the Harrowing in Dante’s Inferno, as a sort of holy cataclysm that shook up the hellscape in the not-so-distant path. The first mention is in Canto 4, where it explains why Limbo is filled with virtuous pagans and generally benign non-Christian souls, neither in pain nor bliss but in a pleasantly bland region of the underworld probably like the Elysian Fields in Greek myth…it’s even bound on its sides by rivers. Dante, of course, was WAY into classical allusions and raising the Greco-roman content of the afterlife. Canto 4, Inferno My heart at hearing this, for well I knewSuspended in that Limbo many a soulOf mighty worth. “O tell me, sire rever’d!Tell me, my master!” I began through wishOf full assurance in that holy faith,Which vanquishes all error; “say, did e’erAny, or through his own or other’s merit,Come forth from thence, whom afterward was blest?” Piercing the secret purport of my speech,He answer’d: “I was new to that estate,When I beheld a puissant one arriveAmongst us, with victorious trophy crown’d.He forth the shade of our first parent drew,Abel his child, and Noah righteous man,Of Moses lawgiver for faith approv’d,Of patriarch Abraham, and David king,Israel with his sire and with his sons,Nor without Rachel whom so hard he won,And others many more, whom he to blissExalted. Before these, be thou assur’d,No spirit of human kind was ever sav’d.” Canto 12, Inferno THE place where to descend the precipiceWe came, was rough as Alp, and on its vergeSuch object lay, as every eye would shun. As is that ruin, which Adice’s streamOn this side Trento struck, should’ring the wave,Or loos’d by earthquake or for lack of prop;For from the mountain’s summit, whence it mov’dTo the low level, so the headlong rockIs shiver’d, that some passage it might giveTo him who from above would pass; e’en suchInto the chasm was that descent: and thereAt point of the disparted ridge lay stretch’dThe infamy of Crete, detested broodOf the feign’d heifer: and at sight of usIt gnaw’d itself, as one with rage distract.To him my guide exclaim’d: “Perchance thou deem’stThe King of Athens here, who, in the worldAbove, thy death contriv’d. Monster! avaunt!He comes not tutor’d by thy sister’s art,But to behold your torments is he come.” Gimpy Satan Satan changes a lot over the course his/her/their story. In the Old Testament period he’s a troublemaker, able to move around in the physical world. But in a substantial portion of the Midieval period, from 300 onward to 1300ish, he’s kind of broken, not much of a threat as something that’s been vanquished. There’s lots of examples of this bound and beaten devil, but two that stand out to me would be the thousand-armed satan on a grill in “Tundale’s Vision” and, of course, the monstrous, endlessly gnawing, three headed beastie at the end of Inferno. Interestingly this gets picked up in Dungeons and Dragons, if you really read in the corners, where Asmodeus is secretly a hologram created by the broken serpent god Ahriman lurking in the sub-basement of the nine hells. There’s some deep dorkery there. The Gospel of Nicodemus The Gospel of Nicodemus, AKA the Acts of Pilate, is some year 350ish bible fanfic, source unknown, but probably cobbled together from earlier sources. It’s arguably the biggest source of the Harrowing of Hell narrative, particularly since it was translated into Old English and ultimately into the mystery play tradition. Some versions have a rare gender-swapped Hades character (Seo Hell), who has some fun dialog with Satan and may make it into our upcoming “Women of Hell” series. Translation here. The first half isn’t much fun from an infernal lore perspective, and mostly serves to feed the flow of medieval antisemitism and the libel myth. An ineffectual Pilate tries to argue himself out of condemning Jesus, but the Jewish leaders won’t have any of it. This goes on for many pages. The second half is more fun, Jesus storms into Hell and takes over the place. Nicodemus leaves a lasting mark in demonology: Beelzebub becomes the commander of Hell, and this likely elevates him to one of the standard big-name demonic princes, even one of the names of Satan. There really can be multiple satans though, it’s not a proper noun…but his ascendency to chief of Hell in this story may be what gives him the political clout to lead the Order of the Fly. Maybe we’ll talk about him in depth some time. He’s able to gain command over Hell by being really butt-kissy to Jesus, talking about how all innocent he is and how Hell has no claim over him It pays to know what to kiss and when. Sheol, Etc, and Ahnnihilationism/Conditional Immortality There are several words for Hell, and they all get translated into “Hell” in a way that is deeply unhelpful. Sheol is “the grave.” Gehenna may be a place where souls are consumed in fire, and later, interpreted as “the flame which never dies” and a place of eternal torment. Tartarus is a place of eternal torment, but mostly for the baddies. There’s also something like the void. This kind of muddle is why it’s hard to have a clear conception of what hell “is…” I’m looking forward to having a chat with the host(s) of Rethinking Hell, an evangelical Christian podcast about conditional immortality (that is, that no one burns in hell forever…the damned don’t have the same immortality as the saved.) That was my first organized look at the related ideas of annihilationism (all baddies get burned up) and Conditionalism (immortality is reserved for the saved and blessed, however you define them). Probably Jesus wore studded birkenstocks into Hell. That’s our theory and we’re sticking to it.
55 minutes | Mar 20, 2021
Ep. 12 – Mesopotamia – Captain Howdy and Friends
This week’s free-wheeling chat starts and kind of ends with Mesopotamian demonology, but it’s our first talk about demons so we veer all over the millennia. Join us. Bonus points if you can find the narrative thread. As so many discussions about demonology begin, Jamin and Jacob spend way too much time talking about the cleanliness of their kitchen, which is large, weirdly shaped, and has a little vestibule beside the fridge and under the spices, out of sight and out of mind, where we reliably send produce to die. The hosts don’t think this week’s recipe tastes like demon possession. It actually sounds kind of nice. What should demon possession taste like? Copper and gently blackened sulfur? This one tastes like rum and oranges. If you have “Satan” as one of your Google News keywords, you probably got a lot of stories about a Boston man who claimed to be Subway Satan, possibly to get a date with a passenger. This may work on a rom-com, but on a spectrum of “Hot or Not?” the hosts have decided that this will be defining “not.” But we do generally agree that both the Pope Lick Monster and Tom Ellis as Lucifer are exponentially hotter than a man with a hoodie and an “I am Satan” lockscreen. Photo by Fizzybrat! Worth noting, Francis Bacon, who painted monstrous screaming pope images, is NOT the Francis Bacon (1561-1626) who probably wrote Shakespeare’s plays. This caused Jacob some confusion. The Pope Lick Monster and Tom Ellis as Lucifer, who are both hotter than a guy in a hoodie texting you with claims of autosatanism. Zozo Who is Zozo, we hear you asking? He’s the demon of the Ouiji board, perhaps caused by nervous jittering and twitchy muscles during an Ouiji session. A bit of an urban legend. Of little or no relation to Led Zeppelin’s “Four Symbols,” the feather of Ma’at, Jimmy Page’s enigmatic “Zoso” (which according to Jimmy meant “I eat bananas,” but that wasn’t one of his lucid moments). Then there’s a few general purpose Rosicrucian trifoils, for variety. Rabisu Unfortunately, there’s no canonical imagery on the Rabisu. And they’re not QUITE bureaucracy demons. They’re lurkers outside doors, things in the darkness that drag people away, and attack souls who are travelling to the city of the dead. The word comes from “to crouch, to lie in wait, or basically, “one who lies in wait.” It’s both the name of a demon and a government position, kind of like bailiff (Dictionary of Deities and Demons of the Bible), and the two meanings kind of flow into each other, ultimately. St Christopher Cynocephalus True story: St. Christopher is 16 feet tall and has a dog’s head. He is many great things, but “real” is maybe not one of them. It’s likely that there were rumors of far-away tribes of dog-headed people (see “cynocephali“) and having Christopher be a part of this far-away tribe added some exotic charm to his legend. Wiki also mentions that perhaps there was a mistranslation of “Canaanite” as “canine.” A lovely blog post here about Christopher’s dog-headed, gigantic myth. Pazuzu We come and go a lot on Pazuzu, let’s try to get him all in one place here. He had a very powerful family: His father was the god Hanbi, about which we know bugger all but he was apparently a powerful god of evil. His brother was Humbaba, who was, in the spirit of Cerberus, the guardian of the forest wherein the gods lived. He was huge and had seven powerful auras of terror and Gilgamesh killed him for no good reason–Humbaba, that is. He’s definitely a demon, with a lion face, eagle-like talons, wings (interestingly wings that go both up AND down, is that some mixture of heaven and hell elements? Usually underworld wings go down and heaven wings go up…) and of course a snake penis, which is noteworthy because some of the hosts are five year olds. He’s the prince of the demons of the air. He’s also used to drive away other evil spirits, particularly ones that interfere with motherhood and childbirth. He’s got a lively 20th-21st century presence. The Exorcist really kept him alive, and he makes appearances in The Simpsons, Constantine, and any number of et ceteras. In Dungeons and Dragons he’s one of the oldest demons in the game, and exceedingly friendly and helpful, which is never a good thing. The World History Encyclopedia touches on Jeremy Black’s stages of Pazuzu/demonic evolution. There’s a fan theory about whether or not Pazuzu actually possessed Regan in The Exorcist. In the movie, it’s pretty clear that Captain Howdy, Pazuzu, and the possessing demon are the same character. The book is a little less clear, since it doesn’t name the demon directly. The theory hinges on the idea that Pazuzu tends to be protective of girls and is invoked to protect them, but Lamashtu is more of a child-killer, and more likely to speak in a female voice. Since the author of the book assumed Regan was possessed by Pazuzu it’s not a very strong argument, but so far as fan theories go, it’s a good one. Max Von Sydow costarring with Pazuzu. DON’T LOOK LEFT, MAX Ba’al there are an awful lot of Baals out there. For a couple of reasons. First, it was a catch-all word for king/owner/master/husband (pretty similar to “Lord.”) So a number of local gods, categorically, the Baalim, took on that name. So Baal-Berith, Baal-Hermon, several others, and then the feminine form Baalat as well. So first a lot of little gods partook of Baal-ness, and then over the years the relationship flipped, and the little baals became his servants, or aspects of Baal Prime. This late-stage transformation of Baal into a single chief god created a lot of weird paternity issues. Anyway, Baal becomes extremely active in the 1500-1000-ish as a big rival of YHVH and the bugaboo of the Jewish faith. In the Old Testament, there was a conclusive show-down between the prophet Elijah wherein Yahweh was, in the book written by Yahweh’s people, the overwhelming victor, but he stuck around for quite some time, possibly being subsumed into the Roman pantheon as Saturn or Jupiter Belus. As a demon with a very long pedigree, Bael, Beelzebub, and Belphegor all carry his name as demon princes of wrath, gluttony, and sloth, and a number of other demons draw their names from the list of Baalat. Astaroth may be an incarnation of him as well. He was a rival god that gave El/JHVH a run for his money and a major name in the bible, and logically, is a frequent member of Hell’s hierarchies. Baal-Hammon on throne, AlexanderVanLoon Unruly Mystical Beasts The two big names in this catalog, which turn up later in demonologies sometimes as members of the Big Seven princes of hell, are Leviathan (occasionally Prince of Envy or Wrath) and Behemoth (occasionally Demon of Gluttony.) Both are primeval chaos monsters dating from creation. According to Jewish lore both of these would become food for the righteous, so them’s apparently good eating. There’s a third, the Ziz, who is possibly some kind of bird, griffin, or dragon, sometimes related to the legend of the phoenix. It’s probably safe to add to this list Tiamat, who likely figures into Leviathan’s ancestry, and is also a female aquatic chaos beastie. Sadly, these majestic creatures are highly endangered, pushed to the edge of extinction by sky gods and Greek heroes, who prove their legitimacy by means of the “combat myth” motif – forces of order conquering the chaotic forces of nature to establish, say, a new pantheon. In the Baal cycle, Baal and Anat kill Mot, a powerful demon who may or may not have been El’s son, conquering death to establish Baal’s legitimacy as “He’s All That.” Since Mot is sometimes a giant sluglike monster instead of a standard god, this likely puts him into the category of “unruly mystical beasts” as well. Because Baal dies and gets back up, comparisons have been made between him and Jesus. However, in the same legend, Mot dies and gets back up, but for some reason this doesn’t evoke as many comparisons to Jesus. Life’s not fair if you’re a giant tusked slug demon. William Blake, Behemoth and Leviathan Leviathan, Behomth, and Ziz Where the Wild Things Are… It’s unfortunately brief, we don’t spend a lot of time on what’s a really neat piece of old testament: Isaiah 13:20 and 34:14. It will never be inhabited or lived in for all generations; Arabs will not pitch their tents there, shepherds will not make their flocks lie down there. But wild animals will lie down there, and its houses will be full of howling creatures; there ostriches will live, and there goat-demons will dance. Hyenas will cry in its towers, and jackals in the pleasant palaces; its time is close at hand, and its days will not be prolonged. Wildcats shall meet with hyenas, goat-demons shall call to each other; there too Lilith shall repose, and find a place to rest. There shall the owl nest and lay and hatch and brood in its shadow; there too the buzzards shall gather, each one with its mate. If you look at a bunch of these translations side by side, it’s obvious that there’s something weird going on, it’s not just a list of animals. “Wild goats will dance” gets translated as “satyrs will dance,” “the hairy ones will dance,” “devils will dance,” “goat-demons will dance there.” Enigmatically one translation also says “and their houses shall be full of ferrets,” which is kind of cute. Jackals, hyenas, “howlers,” and “doleful creatures” fill the houses. Because this is poetic language, and it picks up parallels with the second Isaiah passage 34:14, there’s a strong suggestion that these are wilderness demons as much as desert animals…although again a lot of that involves looking at how the original language creates parallels in the way these are listed. The jackals are meeting with the seirim (satyrs, goat demons…we mentioned them earlier in our discussion of Azazel, king of hairy goat demons. Overall there’s a sense that there’s an uncanny and spooky assembly dancing in the ruins of Babylon, and the jackals, “howlers,” hyenas, and possibly ferrets and ostriches are meeting with satyrs and Lilitu demons (or maybe Lilith herself) in a sort of dark sabbat. Lilith We did NOT give Lilith the time she deserved, I’m sure she’ll be coming back at some point in time. She’s a major character and deserves more than five minutes. Adam’s second wife is mentioned in the Midrash. Her story’s pretty painful…god (infallible god?) made a tactical error and let Adam see her being constructed, and it freaked the little guy out. She may have been destroyed without ever having a name. Or not. Maybe she has a happy ending. Lilith was also created in the image of god, as much as Adam was, and that didn’t really work out well. She wanted something like equaility, and God/Adam weren’t ready for that. Although I like the idea that she slept with the archangel Samael and that spoiled her for humans forever. In modern times, she’s had a lot of positive press as a heroic figure, a mythic feminist icon. And there’s truth that’s come to be there over the years, but originally she was a demonic, child-snatching bogey monster, more on the order of a night-hag or a vampire than a suffragette. Wiki has a lot of different versions of her legends. Lilith by John Collier Jacob particularly likes Lilith in her incarnation in Steve Jackson Games’ “In Nomine” role-playing game, a modern fantasy game of angels and demons faffing around and disrupting each other’s plans some time before the end of the world. The game has a good sense of humor (although the French original was apparently even more tongue-in-cheek). It’s got a lot of interesting ideas…magic is interpreted with musical metaphors that play well; the game has sliders for humorous/conspiratorial/gritty, and it’s just a lot of fun to read. This game’s take on Lilith is that she’s become one of the demonic princes of Hell, although she’s still technically human. Her goal is to stay out of the politics and life a free life, although that’s extremely challenging when Lucifer is involved as a background character. So instead she trades favors with the best of them. Steve Jackson Games is an Austin company, which is kind of neat. Perhaps because of this the In Nomine setting book “Night Music” was the first RPG to ever detail Austin as a setting. Tonantzin? Broadly this is an Aztec honorific, usually given to goddesses, sometimes to women and sometimes as a given name. Broadly it means “Honored Mother,” and isn’t any one single goddess…so it’s not an unreasonable title for the syncretic Lady of Guadalupe, who may or may not have been a merger of the Virgin Mary and a pre-columnbian Tonantzin, “Coaltlaxopeuh.” No relation to Lilith,although they both seem to have an on-again-off-again relationship with serpents. Gallu The Gallu…these are real underworld terrors, serving as something like the police of the underworld. They’re the origins of the word “ghoul.” There may be only seven of them, and they may serve as seven powerful demons in the Mesopotamian underworld, or possibly they’re the seven gods of the underworld. Everything comes in sevens, that number isn’t particularly meaningful in the final analysis. I don’t entirely know why they specifically “crush no bitter garlic,” although it may fall into the general category of “humans like garlic, and these demons are monstrous, so they don’t.” Victoria suggests that allum plants (onions, garlic, etc.) can increase lactation, and that may be a reason the Gallu don’t particularly like garlic. It stands out as an odd line though. I wonder if there’s some connection between the word “allum” and “alu,” another name for these demons…that’s probably a stretch. Anyway: noteworthy features: They can’t be bribed, they can’t be stopped, they’re generally heartless, and tend to interrupt people having sex. Moloch The myth behind the myth…the common belief is that Moloch is an ancient god that really enjoyed child sacrifice, and took the form of a bull idol. However, this is under debate…any reference to Moloch as a stand-alone entity is from the Bible, and isn’t supported by evidence from outside that specific Judeo-Christian worldview. Maybe Moloch is just a word referring to sacrifice generally, and the “mlk” sacrifice was also offered to Baal, and even Yahweh. The story of Moloch that seems to have the longest shelf-life: the reason the valley of Gehenna was considered unclean was that it was the site of this kind of sacrifice. This hasn’t been resolved either way. Other scholars suggest that he had his own temple, or perhaps that he was an aspect of Nergal. Regardless, he was adopted into the demonologies and made a splash in the middle ages…there’s a lot of drama in his story…so he exists as much as anything else in your typical creepy codex. What you wanted to know about Genesis 38:8 (but were afraid to ask) 8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. 10 What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also. (New International Version) The Straight Dope, which should be everyone’s first choice for old testament exegesis, has a fair bit of stuff to say about the sin of Onan, and it’s not weighted down with too much of a religious agenda. There’s a few possibilities for what the Sin of Onan might be, and no telling how much this weird little passage has informed the discussion of contraception and masturbation over the millennia. But there’s also a lot of marriage law, heirship/property inheritance, and such…it’s possible that if Onan’s brother didn’t have an heir, Onan would stand to inherit half an estate. So that could be seen as betrayal and theft and avoiding a family duty, rather than masturbation or contraception. If masturbation was universally punishable by death we’d have a much smaller population footprint. Why do we have these digressions, I swear… Buer (pronounced “Buer”) A semi-off-topic digression that turned up a few times during the episode: Jacob has recently and inexplicably become fascinated by a weird demon called “Buer,” who looks like a goat-leg pinwheel around a smirky lion face. Which is cute if you’re into that sort of thing, and really, who isn’t. Buer’s weird appearance has earned him a strong place in tattoo art and street posters. Victoria points out the strange congruence of Buer’s legs and an episode of The Muppets, which may not be directly related, but is pretty darn strange on its own. Other favorite demons: Karaoke club owner Krevlorswath “Lorne” of Clan Deathwok (…deathwok?) One of a very few demons who were able to tolerate music, and by logical or illogical extension, karaoke. And of course the Dodge Dart Demon…which is, significantly, almost the exact same color of green as Lorne.
55 minutes | Mar 5, 2021
Ep. 11 – Mesopotamia – Laughs with Erishkegal and Nergal
Another fun week in the ancient near east! Going further down the road of no return in the Mesopotamian underworld with a look at Erishkegal, the goddess of the dead, and Nergal, the god of death. They’re a great couple, give them a hand. Like so many of us, you may be wondering what folks drank for fun in Mesopotamia. Apparently their form of ancient beer was pretty close to “liquid bread,” opaque, yeasty, and drunk with very long straws. Made from wild yeast, Jamin suggests (with no evidence but the photos) that it’d be something like a lambic porridge. This seems fair…There’s a very pretty song of praise/instruction set over at Open Culture. Vegan avocado pancakes, anyone? This week Jacob is in love with the 2007 “Dante’s Inferno” made in a puppet theater style. We found this while researching various Inferno-inspired films, and this one stood out as being the most unusual of the modern era interpretations. This particular version was a puppet theater film based on Sandow Birk’s amazing modern interpretation of the Divine Comedy, she has many of her illustrations on her portfolio website, very worth looking at. Jacob attempts to explain a word without knowing the definition of the word. Tragos is the Greek word for, well, tragedy. It’s also the word for spelt (the grain, not past tense of “spell.”) Fun fact, the word “tragedy” is taken from the word roots for “goat song,” and also suggests a voice changing during puberty. Fun, fun. We found a “new” – well, new to us, podcast: Mark Scarbrough’s “Walking with Dante,” a journey with Dante through the cosmos. The pacing on this one is slow, edging into meditative, with plenty of academic asides and backstory. Apparently it’s the most popular podcast in Sweden! Photo by Kathryn Grossman, Enkibru tasting at Cleveland, Ohio. With thanks to Ancient Near East Today, “Beer and Brewing in Mesopotamia” Begin all serious academic research with TVTropes.com, whose treatment of the marriage of Erishkegal and Nergal is deeply informative and should really be used in your next doctoral thesis. Particularly if you work in theoretical physics or some field otherwise unrelated to mythology. Although you might want to actually read the story yourself. Which, for some reason, I can’t find the link to. Here’s a neopagan-informed interpretation that we used, and this one feels a bit more scholarly. Obviously, we’re playing the story for comedy, and it’s kind of hard to get a clear story of the actual history…even when we were able to find a copy, which…again…still can’t…it was garbled and hard to reconcile the different versions of the translations. Important Wemic Plains and desert-dwelling species that form prides. Favorite food: Wild pig, lamb, and porcupine. Monster Manual II, 1st edition, Dungeons and Dragons. Statistics/instructions for dating a wemic have not been found, but we did find a fan article on marriage customs. Nergal Mesopotamian god of plague, the summer sun, war, and death Nermal The world’s cutest kitten Urkel A character from “Family Matters” More word fun: “l’amour fou“, borrowed from French, literally means “mad love,” uncontrollable or obsessive passion or infatuation.” Glittery Hoo-Ha theory was initially developed by romance writer Lani Del Rich. Who is also a podcaster, so that’s neat. Early GHH theory simply stated how extremely and thoroughly the Male was tamed by the GHH, a powerful force that let writers ignore the importance of motivation and logical action. Jacob encountered the “magic hoo-ha” idea in How To Write Hot Sex, a quite good really book of essays on writing erotica (I actually don’t think that LDR was actually a contributor to this anthology, but she did loan it her idea). This version was more focused on the magical romance and the trope of the Bad Boy, which really kind of extended the concept of the glittery hoo-ha into, textbook example, the leash that lets the female lead in the paranormal romance safely capture the fearsome alpha werewolf, while still garnering all the alleged benefits of dating a fearsome alpha werewolf. Also, while it’s not a major plot point, the lead character in Twilight does mention that she’s prone to falling over, I didn’t make that up. – Jacob Lani Diane Rich, courtesy of LaniDianeRich.com. Erishkegal Mesopotamian goddess of the realm of the dead. (wiki) She’s best known for two stories: Inanna’s Descent into the Underworld and her marriage to Nergal. Interestingly, she’s the secondary character in both of these stories. Moreso than her husband, she had a complex relationship with death, as a death and rebirth goddess who may have originally been more of a mother goddess. Over the course of the 3000-ish years of Mesopotamian culture, the mythology became steadily more patriarchal. Originally she was the sole ruler of her kingdom (The Descent of Inanna and Epic of Gilgamesh both predate her marriage to Nergal, and don’t mention him.) But her initial subjugation by Nergal and then later a more equal marriage to Nergal suggest, according to extremely wise scholars who I can’t quote because I don’t remember their names, outright replacing the goddess of the dead with a warrior king, and then reconciling the two. Tragic Backstory: Should we start by saying what a royal pain it must be to be Inanna’s sister? Always having to take her to rehab sessions, paying bail, and she never remembers you when she gives a speech at the award ceremony. In the Sumerian creation myth, Ereshkigal is kidnapped and taken down to the underworld, as a captive and queen all at the same time. In Samual Kramer’s “Sumarian Mythology” he suggests that it is the dragon, Kur, that does all this kidnapping, but it sounds like he’s the only scholar to really suggest that as a concept, and it looks like the dragon, Kur, belongs to much older myths. She’s had very bad luck with men. Gugalanna died fighting Gilgamesh, that may have been a good relationship, but there wasn’t much in the way of love letters between them. Enlil is listed as her consort, at least briefly, but it doesn’t last (in hindsight, I don’t know if it was a particularly abusive relationship or not, but Enlil was pretty awful to his wife, Sud.) There’s no known pictures of Erishkegal. If you made artwork of or worshipped a god, you might draw their attention. There was no good reason to do this with the goddess of the dead, which must have just sunk her further into the world of “literary background character.” Very sad The “Goddess of the Night” relief may be of Erishkigal, but it may also be an image of Ishtaar/Inanna or Lillith. Ereshkigal as depicted in ancient Mesopotamian art. If you happen to find yourself with an unresolved Queen of the Dead crush, enjoy five or six minutes of EK and Ishtaar’s best anime moments. This discussion of the “Queen of the Night” plaque says that Lilith is associated with owls, but a different kind of owl, and that Inanna is associated with lions generally, one lion specifically, but not multiple lions. The author leaves open the idea that this could be an image of Erishkegal, and lions are something impressive so a powerful goddess might be able to show her power by standing on them…but there’s no other images of EK to compare to, and it’s just unlikely that anyone would make an image of her. So, the jury is out on this one. Was “Roman Holiday” inspired by the story of Erishkegal and Nergal’s courtship? You be the judge. Nergal Nergal is a god of fire and sun, death, plague, war, and destruction. He seems to be a pretty major god as the mythology of Mesopotamia develops. He has a retinue of seven plague gods or plague demons, agents of destruction that served him. One of his older names is “Meslamtaea,” one of twin underworld guardians who were associated with the constellation “Gemini.” One of his many names, or alternate god-incarnations, is Resheph, who is, in another incarnation, one of the destroying angels of of El/Jahweh…who also has a brother, Dever. This is at least a little bit interesting in termns of hell-studies because Resheph manages to sneak into the Egyptian pantheon later, and that general category of “angels of death” strongly feeds into the figure of Satan later on. I’d love to find a direct link between Nergal and Samael, the biggest angel of death (and another name of the devil), but beyond that they’re both plague/sun/war figures, I can’t find a direct line… -Jacob But there is a direct line between another one of Nergal’s names–Erra Aplu–and the god Apollo. Neat! Nergal as not-a-lion. Is that a young Cerberus at right? “Bahumut,” from Wicked and the Divine Nergal from Hellblazer Nergal from “Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy” “The Plaguefather’s Nurglings,” painting by Sam Flagal Unlike his spouse, Nergal got into pop culture and modern demonology in a pretty big way. In comics, he appears in Hellboy, fights both Doctor Fate and John Constantine in the DC universe, and he’s one of the reincarnated gods in the love letter to myth/pop, Wicked and the Divine. In RPGs he turns up in Warhammer 40K as the horrid lord of disease Nurgle (the much cooler Wic/Div version notes this, with disgust). He’s also incarnated as the god of destruction Nerull in D&D. There’s even a strange little callout from the world of Sailor Moon, where there’s a gender-swapped alternate Sailor Scout of Mars with the name Nergal…appropriate as Nergal is associated with Mars. And in demonology, De Plancy lists him as the head of Hell’s secret police. Quite a career! Mot Who is Mot? Mot is generally the personification of death itself. There’s some loose threads that tie him to Pluto and Hades down the road, but by and large, he’s not a member of the Mesopotamian pantheon (because he’s a demon or monster, not a god). Sometimes he’s the enemy of Baal. Like Nergal, he’s sometimes associated with the summer heat and drought. We should probably get back to Mot in the “demons” episode next week.
69 minutes | Feb 22, 2021
Ep. 10 – Mesopotamia (and welcome to it!)
Well! It has been an absolute heck of a week as central Texas turned into our very own Lake Cocytus and we experienced five degree weather, some of us for the very first time. Don’t laugh, it’s not cold by everyone else’s standards, but we’re not rated for this, really. It’s good to be back to what we’ll generously call normal! No drink recipe this time, we recommend grabbing whatever you have on hand that’s safe, we went with lawn ice and everclear. A happy find from the Half Price Books down the street: Mickey’s Inferno! This weird little gem is a 2014 reprint of a 1948 Disney comic from Mouse House’s Italian imprint that lovingly if not faithfully retells Dante’s Inferno for a younger crowd. We have our doubts though. It’s a great comic for members of the hell fandom, and and an interesting cultural artifact, published just after World War II and Italy’s fascist period. More on our blog, but get yourself a copy if you can! Your hosts are divided as to which one of these is sacred music. Patrick Cassidy, who did the score for “Hannibal,” is returning to his remarkable piece, Vide Cor Meum, into an opera of Dante’s life, love, and work. Also, we’ve had the B-52’s song “Mesopotamia” stuck in our heads. I should read a book! And Vic gives a callout to Quincy Jones’s “Bossa Nova” by way of Austen Powers, so…I’ll just throw that into today’s playlist. Since we don’t have any drinks for you, please have some food porn. Feel free to start out with the Gelatin Art Market’s gallery pages, beautiful gelatin art cakes (which Victoria was talking about.) Jamin and Jacob were chattering about “water cakes,” which were briefly trending in 2014. Also called “Unicorn tears.” I love stunt cooking, so I learned to make them, working from this recipe blog. They’re amazing perfect little globes made with spring water and just a pinch of agar gelatin, with a flavor that’s kind of like the smell of a crystal clear pond in a Miyazaki film, or possibly licking ghosts. When you dip a spoon into them, they just melt. Frankly, when you look at them cross-eyed, they turn into puddles. My base recipe uses more agar than the original, and is just a bit opaque but in a nice way: Water Cake (three 2.5-inch servings)1/4 tsp powdered agar, slightly rounded.1 Tbsp granulated sugar1 1/4 C water (spring water recommended) Pour agar into a medium saucepan. Add a few tablespoons of water and mix well. Gradually add the remaining water. Add sugar and mix again. Bring to a moderate boil, stirring occasionally, to thoroughly dissolve the agar. Remove from heat, cool to a temperature that won’t deform your plastic molds. Using a funnel pour into spherical ice molds (I’m using 2 1/4-inch “Prepara” molds. Chill a few hours or overnight. Carefully decant onto plates, serve with toppings of your choice. Toppings should be subtle. I was planning out the menu for my water cake food truck, and from top to bottom we have “Kheerly There” (sweetened condensed milk with saffron, pistachios with a pinch of cardamon), “Green, White, and Blue” (vanilla sugar syrup and blackberry puree, toasted almonds with a bit of matcha powder), “The Princess” (coconut cream and lychee syrup, with some sweetened coconut chopped fine, a bit of sugar, and a few sprinkles), and “The Traditional” (brown sugar syrup and a small scoop of kinako soybean flour, or toast some dried soybeans and blitz them for a few seconds.) The plates are still available from Miya Tableware. Why am I telling you this? – Jacob Mesopotamia – Just the Facts Much of our research came from Wiki, there’s no shame in that, and their articles on the History of Mesopotamia, the Mesopotamian Underworld, Geography of Mesopotamia,and Ancient Mesopotamian Religion really formed the backbone of this episode. I’d also strongly recommend this rich, but somewhat incomplete, Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses project, extremely helpful for contexts. I also leaned heavily on Bienkowski and Millard’s Dictionary of the Ancient Near East. The Ancient History Website has a great constellation of articles, and most of our info on the etemmu came from their work; a phenomenal place to start your research! Later I used these two translations for Inana’s Descent to the Netherworld and Ishtaar’s Descent. Jacob started his research on the reclining sofa, with ice cream, fuzzy paw slippers, and “The Sumerians – Fall of the First Cities.” Share and enjoy. Uruk was pretty amazing. True story. (picture from Tomas Trescak) With numbers ranging from 40,000 to 1.5 million (counting “suburbs”), it may have had as much as 5% of the world’s total population in its glory days. It was Gilgamesh’s home, Ishtaar’s primary temple, and put the “Ur” in Urban. (I wish I’d said that while we were recording…) and was inhabited from at least 3800 BC to 700 AD. It even gets a callout in the Book of Genesis (10:10, ““His kingdom started with Babylon, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.”) A habitation so old that it became myth, even while it was still occupied. I keep going back to it, but so much of our written culture was touched by this empire, and we’ve only been really able to start learning about it in the past 150 years or so. It’s like the mitochondrial RNA of legend. If you’re studying folklore in any way, it’s impossible to know what threads this real city, inhabited long ago by real people, influences. Enough gushing… ,So here’s a fun cartography website: Timemaps.com shows regional maps across history, making it easy to compare “then” with “now.” As a for instance, you can see the shape of the Tigris and Euphrates across 5000 years, from Mesopotamia, 3500 BC to Roman control in 200 BC to Modern Iraq. No doubt you’re terribly interested in how Archbishop James Ussher calculated the age of the world to the month and day. I suspect some creative interpretation was involved, but Creation.Com has a great timeline, at least to the AD marker. Presumably the rest is a doddle. Etemmu So, a bit of a concept word. The etemmu, according to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, is not the soul. Instead, it’s an aspect of the physical body, a thing that sleeps in the ground with the corps. Did it exist before death? Unknown. But at the moment of death, a person changes from a living person to an etemmu. Death marks that transition. Given how shabby life was in the netherworld, maybe the knowledge that your grandma was an echo of herself, rather than herself, gave some solace to the living. Sometimes they come back, of course. Etemmu that didn’t get their fair share of offerings could come back as ghosts, cursing their relatives. But, again, was this the dead person, or just a strange natural function that resembled them? Not even wikipedia truly knows. Infernal Geography Again, start at one of these two very solid resources: Ancient Mesopotamian Beliefs in the Afterlife (Ancient History Encyclopedia), and Wikipedia, Ancient Mesopotamian Underworld. All these resources are a bit of a hodge-podge, since “Mesopotamia” isn’t really a thing, but a retrospective mashup of five-ish empires over 3000 years. The mythology becomes more elaborate as stories accumulate and are absorbed from other culture, so this complex mess below is probably much later in the story. What we know: “As Above, So Below:” The Netherworld (we’ll call it Kur) was a reflection of Heaven, and both were probably a reflection of the great cities: Central focus on a Ziggurat/temple-palace district, seat of both the King and the city’s patron god or goddess; then a somewhat more posh area for traders and education; then a somewhat less posh area for laborerers, then the agricultural outlying region. Cities were bordered and in part defined by a river. “Dark, Bleak, Dusty:” The dead are described as eating clay and dust, sometimes they drink mud. There ARE exceptions, in one story there’s a banquet for a prince. However, the rule is dust and darkness. At times the sun god visits since he has to go under the world at night, but that seems to be technically true without being meaningful. The dust is EVERYWHERE, impossible to escape. We’ll probably talk more about Gilgamesh and Enkidu…Gilgamesh talks to Enkidu (his deceased bestie) and asks, depending on the prudery and heteronormative/lavender agenda of the translator, “do people have sex?” or “can we have sex?” Enkidu responds, basically, “no, my crotch is full of dust.” So there’s an image. Desert: “Desert” is actually one of the many names of the netherworld, emphasizing 1) it’s so far away from the civilized land of the living, 2) it’s kind of far away from the gods (who live in temples), 3) the dust. To get to Ganzir (the city of the dead) or Kur (the underworld) you have to cross a great desert plain or steppe. River: The river Huber is a barrier between the heart of the land of the dead and the empty wasteland plains. It’s also a word for death; Marduk resurrects someone by lifting them out of the Huber, which Yahweh/El does in the bible as well (Ezekiel 47:6). Apparently Huber is in the distant past another name for Tiamat, or at least associated with her, but by and large Tiamat isn’t a part of the glory days of Mesopotamia, mostly absent from 2000-1000 BC. So we’ll ignore that for now. Staircase: Apparently there’s a staircase that goes down below the ocean under the surface of the world, and this is the path to Ganzir proper. In this episode, there’s a brief bit of confusion when Victoria asks if the steps are dangerous. Days later, I realized she was asking about the steppes, which are dangerous. Doh. – Jacob City/Palace: “Ganzir” is one of a number of names for Eriskegal’s palace in the underworld. It’s also the name of the underworld, and it might be a city instead of a palace, the jury is unsure. However, we know that there are 7 gates. Or 14. Probably 7. And at the center of them is the courtyard where Eriskegal and Nergal hold court. And now you know! Okay, does this count? There is TECHNICALLY a car called an Incubus, sort of…but it’s a custom version of the Honda Civic, customized for/by/in the spirit of the rock band “Incubus.” I’m not sure that this counts. Maybe on a technicality. Research has not turned up a car called the “Succubus,” but if anyone sees one please send us a tweet or something. Re: The Eridan: There’s really only a single entry for the Eridan on the internet, all other references use the same language, so perhaps that wasn’t much of a legend in the Levant. Wiki and the generally awesome Theoi website have more information on Eridanos, which is perhaps not quite the same. Though since no one has a real bead on where the Eridanos is and it was possibly non-canon even at the time, it may as well be in the Mesopotamian underworld. In Greek myth, the river is associated with amber (tears of the sun-nymph Heliades), the crash site of Phaeton’s solar chariot, and with the constellation Eridanus which looks like a zigzag line if you connect 11 random stars. Hail Eris. sEnheduanna Enheduanna, or possibly Hedu-Ana who was an En (a very solid title, basically lord or priest), has the first by-line in history. She’s also the first poet anyone can actually put a name to. And she has a statue. And she’s not just known for one good poem, but ha over 40, an entire collection of hymns and devotions, many in honor of Innana. The Tablets of Wiki tell us that Enheduanna was the daughter of the first king of the Akkadian empire (who, in another first, may have been the first person ever to rule an empire.) This fellow, Sargon (great name, very Tolkein) had the politically savvy idea of installing his daughter as the priestess of Innara in the city of Ur, holding down his influence in the south of the kingdom. One could argue that she has a few more literary firsts, as she may have invented author insertion fan-fic…her hymns “The Exaltation of Innana” and “The Curse of Akkade” reference her political ups and downs. Dante would copy this 3000 years later, but she did it before it was cool. Amazingly, she may have even played a part of building the connection between Inanna and Ishtar, which is also impressive. Not many people can add “deicide” to their resume, either. If that’s what that is? Death by synchretism? I don’t know if there’s a word for that one. Me Most of what Jamin knows about Me he got from Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, which is undoubtedly THE best Mesopotamia-influenced cyberpunk novel of all time, and is, in fairness, a really good novel. Hackers uncover a dangerous new religion. The phrase “neurolinguistic hacking” is thrown around. It’s quite good. In Snow Crash Me (wiki) Stephenson treats the me something like software manuals and software for civilization. This isn’t inaccurate. Wiki says they represent “a decree of the divine” and are “fundamental to the Sumerian understanding of the relationship between humanity and the gods.” This seems accurate but not terribly helpful. Personally, I like the way White Wolf’s RPG Scion handles a similar idea, “Relics,” which are magic items that let a demigod channel their divine power. The signature character, a child of Thor, has a gun with a tiny chip of Mjolnir for its hammer, and it is a tool for him to use his Lightning powers. But it’s also a symbol of his powers, and a part of him. Anyway, “me” is-are aspects of divinity and tools for developing culture, all at the same time. I think that if you said someone was the “God of Music,” they would have the me of music, which would be 1) the concept of “music,” 2) instructions for music, 3) probably a musical instrument, 4) the godly powers derived from music. At least, that’s how I’m reading this. In the canonical “me” list (mostly from the myth where Inana steals the me from Enki) there’s some stuff that seems like Stephenson’s “useful tips for building society”…priestship, shepherdship…some seem more like divine powers or aspects of a god…truth, terror, the flood. In the story of Inana’s Descent, she gets dressed up for battle, and it seems likely, though perhaps not absolutely certain, that she’s adorning herself with the best me from her collection of stolen divine portfolios. This translation emphasizes the me-ness of Inanna’s various adornments, which is also obvious if you can find a copy of the Sumarian transliteration back to back with an English copy (I can’t find it, I had it, it’s gone.) The Descent of Inanna There’s a lot of translations of this ancient story, and they don’t tell the same story. As the story of a powerful goddess descending on a journey into the underworld, you could easily read it as a feminist version of the Hero’s Quest: call to adventure, descent into the underworld, return with understanding. Or a goddess who evolves by meeting and reconciling her dark side. Jacob here: those interpretations feel very modern. And don’t feel like it’s the story that we see here. A conquering deity of war descends into the underworld, unwanted, breaching the city’s defenses. Everyone tells her not to, this is a very bad idea. Yet she does. And even when the terrified goddess of the invaded underworld strips off her invader’s auras of power, she’s still overthrown. Only a universal rule protects her: the land of the dead is for the dead. And even that rule is broken, as the most powerful goddess returns to the living world, on the promise that she’ll find a replacement. All rules are broken. I don’t think there’s a compelling case that Inana learned anything. There are no consequences, Enki the pushover resurrects her, and her husband and sister-in-law take Inanna’s place in the hereafter. But this isn’t a story about Ishtaar, it ends with “praise Erishkegal.” More about that in this very solid article, “Inanna’s Descent: A Sumerian Tale of Injustice.” What we’ve learned…the truly privileged are above justice, no matter how much pain their actions cause. but there’s something like honor in seeking justice. Inana/Ishtaar is an unstoppable force…and if you’ve read the Epic of Gilgamesh, you’d be in on the big joke that when Inanna says that she’s going to the underworld to mourn the death of Gugalanna, Erishkigal’s husband and the “bull of heaven,” she’s twisting a knife: Gugalanna died at the hands of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, after Inana summoned him to defend her “honor” when Gilgamesh said he wouldn’t be joining her in bed. Inana is a great goddess, but her dark side isn’t her sister under the earth, it’s the deep, deep well of privilege she carries with her. Life’s not fair, even for the gods. If you’re excited by reading a really neat academic article on this whole mess, Rodrigo Cabrera’s “The Three Faces of Inanna” is pretty rich. Highlights: Inanna representing duality between underworld and heaven (page 54), the aura of terror and magnificence radiated by gods (44-45), the idea of a travelling liturgical performance/passion play moving from Ishtaar’s home in Uruk to the city of Akkad (which, I think, may have been the home of Ekur, the equivalent of Mount Olympus? I’m not sure.) (55) There’s all kinds of rich work in this one, well worth the read, it opens up the depth of this story. As yet another damned aside, way back in 2016 Johnny Depp and Amber Heard made a few choice mistakes involving Australia’s very, very strong laws about importing plants and animals, their pet yorkies, and the importance of declaring everything at Australian customs. What a mess. Through a quirk of fate we ended up dogsitting them, and two of the three hosts have been drooled on by the little crittters. Our very distant, second-hand brush with celebrity. On a lighter note, what music would you pick for Inanna’s “Dressing for Battle” montage? Here’s our selections! Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” is ALMOST PERFECT except that Inanna’s wings point upward, not downward. Someone point this out to her team of 750 enslaved designers. We could easily come to blows over what is a god or goddess’s alignment. However, the good people at TSR Inc. have already done the work for us. Ishtar is Neutral, which is ambivilent or, as the game evolved, simply not taking a side. Gilgamesh, interestingly, is Neutral Good…he’s AWFULLY RAPEY for Neutral Good…seriously how does NG stack up with “Giglamesh is a great king, noted for his tyrannical rule?” Inanna is Lawful Evil, which..h is again kind of weird, though I could see the “evil” part…not the Lawful part, though. Erishkegal doesn’t make the list, at least in the 1980 Deities and Demigods text. She has a brief mention in Dragon #16. However! Way way up in 2005, check out Dragon Magazine #329, which has a nice 3rd edition write-up of the Mesopotamian pantheon, which seems, well, a lot more informed than the 1980s version. Ishtar is Chaotic Neutral, with “Trickery” in her portfolio. Nice! Nergal…well, he should have fire in his portfolio, in my opinion, but not a bad representation. and Ereshkigal is Lawful Evil here, which feels right. “The clerics are taught that success in life is reflected in the afterlife.” That does feel lawful evil. But she’s also a goddess of wisdom, and, importantly, the law. Article by David Schwartz. Bonus! An entire feature on Pazuzu by James Jacobs, page 56 You know we’re fans! with thanks to Alzrius for this very helpful post on the history of Mesopotamian deities in D&D. Oh, the internet is full of wonders.
63 minutes | Feb 5, 2021
Ep. 9 – Satanic Panic Reminiscing
We start with a round of drinks and Japanese gods! Our guest Jason has a few words to say about the popular spiritual figure (God? Not quite? A version of the Buddha?) Jizo. He’s a patron of travellers and children. In our epiosode on the rivers of hell we talked about the Sanzu River, wherethe spirits of children are condemned to stack pebbles to build a tower to heaven, but they can never finish because demons knock them down. Jizo is there to help them out and wrap them in his robes. Generally, he’s a patron of people who suffer in the underworld, so…I’m not sure if we have a place for him in our office. Hmm. But it sounds like we’ll need to talk about his alter-ego Phra Malai someday, a monk who more or less harrowed hell. Beverage-wise, Victoria recommends “Demonic Tonic,” which is either a light golden style Belgian ale, or a robust medicinal remedy and/or marinade from Happy Pantry. It’s fermented and has onion, lemon, horseradish, habanero, mustard, allspice, and some other things in it. It’s got a skull on the label, so you’ve been warned. Dante news, which there’s a surprising amount of, but almost always in Italy. The Uffizi gallery has opened a virtual collection of cartoons and sketches by the 16th century artist Federico Zuccari, illustrations from Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradisio. The exhibit is titled “To See the Stars Again,” and is running…uh…until it isn’t. These pictures are delicate and have only beeen shown twice before, so this is kind of special, particulary if you’re a Dante fan. Article from the Smithsonian with (English) information. (If you’re not a fan, “My God, it’s full of stars” is a line-drop from “2001, A Space Odyssey.” From the Sandman world, seven cast members have been announced for the series so far. Dispatchist favorites: Gwendoline Christie played Brianne of Tarth in Game of Thrones, and will be taking on the role of Lucifer in the upcomign series…and not for the first time, as she played him in a 2010 production of Doctor Faustus. and Asim Chaudry looks just spot on as Abel, at least in the later versions of the character. Gwendoline is NOTHING LIKE Lucifer in the Wicked and the Divine graphic novel series, who is also somewhat androgynous but in a different direction. (Image at right from CBR.com, “Why Gwendoline Christie is the Perfect Choice to Play Lucifer.”) And a callout to period-appropriate “Devil Inside” by INXS. The Satanic Panic An awful lot of ink and pixels have already been spilled on this topic, a cultural obsession over satanism in the 80s and early 90s, leading to something like 12,000 allegations of cult sexual abuse of children…a number of them targeting daycare employees and educators, parents, and other people that children were close to. Some reading resources: the Wikipedia article is good, Victoria recommends Vox’s excellent articcle, “The History of the Satanic Panic in the US – and Why It’s Not Over Yet.” Jacob leans heavily on Jeffrey Victor’s 1993 Satanic Panic: The Creation of a Contemporary Legend, Norman Cohn’s Europe’s Inner Demons: The Demonization of Christians in Medieval Christendom, and FBI agent Kenneth Lanning’s Guide to Allegations of Childhood Ritual Abuse. The podcast “Conviction” on Gimlet was also helpful, as was Uncover’s short series on same. Incidentally there’s a callout to Cohn in the excellent article that traces the whole blood ritual idea into the weird realm of QAnon conspiracy, Talia Lavin’s “QAnon, Blood Libel, and the Satanic Panic.” Drawing from Victor’s “Satanic Panic,” he sets up the timetable of the panic more or less as: 1960s-1970s – A stew of rumors of kidnapping and brainwashing from religious cults in the 60s, a general awareness of the power of counterculture, the creation of the Church of Satan, and high-profile occult-flavored crimes (Charles Manson, Son of Sam, etc.). Cattle mutilation scares transition into “Satanists are killing our cattle” stories. “Stranger Danger,” mostly debunked now as a major threat, heavily marketed. 1980: Michelle Remembers published, and repressed memory, multiple personality disorder, and satanic cult survivor stories enter the mainstream. Early 80s: A few random panics (massively inflated child kidnapping scares, Procter and Gamble Satanism scare) lead to a general haze of low-level threat 1983: First ritual abuse allegations at McMartin Preschool Mid-80s media expose’s: 20/20 “The Devil Worshippers” (1985), Geraldo Rivera “Devil Worship” (1988) Procter & Gamble’s 1982 logo The high point of the satanic panic scare seems to be 1985-1990. The wind-down seems to be a number of factors: rationality seemed to come from a number of sources as the ridiculousness of the accusations grew and became more apparent. The Faith Chapel ritual abuse case in 1991 marked the first major “not guilty” , with amazing accusations (ritual sacrifice of a giraffe and an elephant), and mundane but impossible (a staffer, who because of a genetic disorder wasn’t physically able to drive, accused of driving the children to and from their secret off-site abuse warehouse). Maybe this broke the spell of the “Believe the Children” mindset. Soon after (1994) Lanning released his FBI case studies, and the nation, embarrassed, started to put the entire thing in a box under the bed, although many defendants stayed in prison for years later. One case in Austin, the Oak Hill ritual abuse trial, was tried in 1991, and the defendants were released in 2013, and given an award for damages and a more formal apology in 2017. Later Victoria mentions the nearby San Antonio Four, where four Latina lesbians were jailed based on child testimony in 1998 (!) and acquitted in 2016. An element of the Satanic Panic prosecutions that gets a strong mention in “Uncover” — spoilers — is that prosecuting a case as “satanic ritual abuse” tended to have poorer results than prosecuting a case as simple sexual abuse, so the wild and crazy elements of the child’s testimony that show the entire thing to be a fabrication simply don’t get mentioned because they’d harm the case. A challenge in building a defense against the abuse allegations was the powerful “Believe the Children” idea. The groupthink around this concept was strong enough to force rationality out the window. Lanning has a good quote about children: “children rarely lie, but they don’t always tell the truth.” Lanning talks about this a fair bit, as does Victor, and it definitely did a lot to drag the scare out for as many years as it ran. I wish someone had more information about the “blond hair blue eyes” recurring element, it’s definitely a recurring trope, mentioned in the “uncover” podcast and a few others (1, 2). Kind of the childlike symbol of innocence (as defined by white folks, anyway). Jason shares a callout to “The Last Gospel of the Pagan Babies,” a shortish documentary on the changing world of southern gay culture and the scene in Lexington, Kentucky. Haven’t found a trailer though Jacob follows with a rather more dull book-drop, Elaine Pagel’s “The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics.” The latter was published in 1996, and must have been quite timely in the fading years of the Satanic scare. Victoria recommends against seeing Javier Bardem’s 2017 “Mother!“ Some talk about ways to sacrifice a baby to Satan. The most popular method, which we can’t find a better name for than “baby-tossing,” is as follows: Satanists (or early Christians, depending on who you ask) throw a baby from cultist to cultist. When the baby finally dies, whoever’s holding the child gets to be in charge of the cult. Another much earlier method was to wrap the child in dough, we are unclear on whether or not the child is to be baked at this stage, but I suspect not because of the bloody nature of the descriptions. Victoria suggests “babies en croute.” I googled for a recipe, or at least instructions, and found “Children en croute,” which is popular among bad guys in Narnia (!), but this particular recipe substitutes ham and veal roast. Jacob quotes a very fragmented bit from the actually pro-Christian writings of Menucius Felix, from his Octavio, which has some highly speculative thoughts on early Christian worship, and one of the catchier chapter titles: Chapter 9. Argument: The Religion of the Christians is Foolish, inasmuch as They Worship a Crucified Man, and Even the Instrument Itself of his Punishment. They are Said to Worship the Head of an Ass, and Even the Nature of tTheir Father. They are Initiated by the Slaughter and the Blood of an Infant, and in Shameless Darkness They are All Mixed Up in an Uncertain Medley. And now, as wickeder things advance more fruitfully, and abandoned manners creep on day by day, those abominable shrines of an impious assembly are maturing themselves throughout the whole world. Assuredly this confederacy ought to be rooted out and execrated. They know one another by secret marks and insignia, and they love one another almost before they know one another. Everywhere also there is mingled among them a certain religion of lust, and they call one another promiscuously brothers and sisters, that even a not unusual debauchery may by the intervention of that sacred name become incestuous: it is thus that their vain and senseless superstition glories in crimes. Nor, concerning these things, would intelligent report speak of things so great and various, and requiring to be prefaced by an apology, unless truth were at the bottom of it. I hear that they adore the head of an ass, that basest of creatures, consecrated by I know not what silly persuasion — a worthy and appropriate religion for such manners. Some say that they worship the virilia of their pontiff and priest, and adore the nature, as it were, of their common parent. I know not whether these things are false; certainly suspicion is applicable to secret and nocturnal rites; and he who explains their ceremonies by reference to a man punished by extreme suffering for his wickedness, and to the deadly wood of the cross, appropriates fitting altars for reprobate and wicked men, that they may worship what they deserve. Now the story about the initiation of young novices is as much to be detested as it is well known. An infant covered over with meal, that it may deceive the unwary, is placed before him who is to be stained with their rites: this infant is slain by the young pupil, who has been urged on as if to harmless blows on the surface of the meal, with dark and secret wounds. Thirstily — O horror!— they lick up its blood; eagerly they divide its limbs. By this victim they are pledged together; with this consciousness of wickedness they are covenanted to mutual silence. Such sacred rites as these are more foul than any sacrileges. And of their banqueting it is well known all men speak of it everywhere; even the speech of our Cirtensian testifies to it. On a solemn day they assemble at the feast, with all their children, sisters, mothers, people of every sex and of every age. There, after much feasting, when the fellowship has grown warm, and the fervour of incestuous lust has grown hot with drunkenness, a dog that has been tied to the chandelier is provoked, by throwing a small piece of offal beyond the length of a line by which he is bound, to rush and spring; and thus the conscious light being overturned and extinguished in the shameless darkness, the connections of abominable lust involve them in the uncertainty of fate. Although not all in fact, yet in consciousness all are alike incestuous, since by the desire of all of them everything is sought for which can happen in the act of each individual. In Europe’s Inner Demons Cohn wraps that diatribe up with the great final quote: “Precisely the secrecy of this evil religion proves that all these things, or practically all, are true.” If that doesn’t summarize the entire Satanic scare, I can’t think of a better quote. Remember when ABC aired an exorcism? The year was 1991 and apparently most of the hosts don’t remember this one. Relive the magic on Youtube. A brief pedantry/Male Answer Syndrome apology: Jacob name-checks Victoria, saying that the name of the “good thief” crucified beside Jesus was named “Dismas” the Good Thief. This is correct. He then goes on to correct Victoria on the mount of the crucifixion being not Calvary but Golgotha, it is of course both, and he apologies to all who were saddened, but not perhaps surprised, by this mansplaining. Calvary is actually a transliteration of Golgotha. It means “Skull,” BTW. It’s a testament to the Internet’s amazing ability to store and retrieve absurdity that I was able to find three different essays on whether or not Jesus and Dracula are the same person. Neither is the same person as retired Wiccan constable Kerr Cuhulain, who had some choice words to say about Michelle Remembers, her therapist’s time in Yoruba and some similarities between what Michelle remembered and African ritual, and…well, it’s a long article. Kuhulain later went on to chair the Officers of Avalon, a group of wiccan law enforcement agents, which is pretty neat. Chuck Norris in Satanic ritual abuse scare? No really. Well, not really really. For a fun party ice breaker, we recommend “Who’s your recovered memory Satanic ritual abuse celebrity?” It’s fun. Maybe your therapist dredges Chuck Norris out of your repressed recollections. For our hosts, we’ve picked Martha Stewart (she designs the best summoning circles), Lou Ferrigno’s Incredible Hulk, Anne McCaffrey (who isn’t specifically anti-religion as far as I know, but has a Christian background and did exclude religion from Pern), and, logically, musician Bob Seger. Word of the day: “Legend Trip.” A teen road trip to a destination of some usually scary, usually supernatural, significance. Should be haunted. Ideally at least three people will go. It’s a big, anti-authoritarian road trip rite of passage, and fed the Satanism scare with “satanic” litter and graffiti. Want to know more about investigating occult crimes in your community? The police have some useful instructional films.
55 minutes | Jan 20, 2021
Ep. 8 – Urban Legends (Part 2)
Once again, Jacob proves that he knows nothing about booze. Victoria suggests that a Seven and Seven (with thanks to The Spruce Eats) would be a solid coping mechanism for this episode. The fruity “Gates of Hell” cocktail would be another option. We believe that if you, the audience, were at least a little buzzed, it would be overall better for our ratings. You might also enjoy a zuchinni milkshake? Jamin brings something fictional to the table, but it turns out to be real… Since “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World” is now an 11-year-old reference (!), let’s include a link to the memorable and memeworthy “Vegans are just better” scene. The DispatchIst: your home for cutting-edge cultural references. You can find lots of coverage of the “Sit on Santa’s Lap” on the web, but there’s a sameness to the coverage, that “copied from the press release” look and feel. I wonder if it actually happened, or if people are being irked preemptively? The Antlion Entertainment Art Collective also brought you the Jeffrey Epstein statue and several other projects. I particularly liked their exquisite corpse music under the band name, “The Quarantines.” Have you found Satan? Not surprisingly, he’s on the internet. At right, gaze upon the Baby Baphomet tee from The Satanic Temple’s delightful web shop. To quote Terry Pratchett and/or Neil Gaimen, he’s got the cutest little hoofie-woofies!! The Gates of Guinee So, according to local tradition (and apparently a local tradition of playing “find-the-hellmouth” every year), there are seven gates to Guinee, the Voodoo spirit world, that can be found scattered around the French Quarter of New Orleans. The exact locations of these gates isn’t generally known, although “Marie Laveau’s Tomb” seems to be established by consensus as gate #1. #2 might be either one of the other area cemeteries, or Perseverance Hall, a famous Masonic Temple turned Dance Hall dating from the 1820s. Always happy to confuse religion, culture, and tabletop gaming, Jacob recommends GURPS Voodoo, a fantasized version of Voodoo adapted by Austin game company Steve Jackson Games. Personally, I think it did pretty well to avoid the ickier aspects of cultural appropriation White Wolf stepped in with “Gypsy” and “Mafia” (I swear there was a parody of their product, “Honky, the Whitening,” but I can’t find it now… but maybe it’s impossible to avoid cultural appropriation with this sort of thing. –Jacob) Baron Semedi’s veve, at right, which (according to some) can be mapped loosely over the French Quarter to find the seven gates of Guinee. There are seven stars…or maybe nine… and if gates 1 and 2 are Marie Leveau’s tomb and Perseverance Hall, that’s only five or six blocks apart, so it may not need to be a very big map. But the stars aren’t numbered, which is inconvenient. If it was simple it wouldn’t be occult. There is no direct connection between Baron Lacroix and Lacroix sparling water. We invite you to make one yourself. It’s fun! Victoria wondered what happens if you get the gates out of order or otherwise mess up this particular spirit quest. Googling for the incredibly unhelpful rhyme “Seven nights, Seven moons, Seven gates, Seven tombs,” I found this surprisingly information-dense advertisement for seven gates essential oil, which suggests that the consequences might be as bad as “bad spirits enter the land of the living to drag souls away.” But sitting in our studies in Austin, there doesn’t seem to be any real information on this rhyme or the locations of the gates, nothing authoritative at any rate. As established, Jacob 1) does not drink and 2) writes most of the show notes. So 3) he had to look up what a New Orleans hand grenade is. Apparently it’s a sweet fruity cocktail (vodka, rum, gin, melon liquor) in a very silly tall green glass. I suspect everyone but Jacob already knew this. The question of “is Hinduism polytheistic” goes fun places. “Monism” is the idea of reducing a multiplicity of things to a single one-ness. It’s different from monotheism because it implies a “many” that is of a single source, or of a single existence…like a dualism that’s really two sides of the same coin. So here’s a Big List of Loa, which is really interesting, but how many of these are actually separate entities, and how many are aspects of each other? Other resources seem to suggest that the loa sometimes have aspects of each other. A lot of these entities have multiple names, and that can lead to what no folklorist in their right mind would call “pantheon creep,” so I’ll use that here. Word-drop, “Terrior,” the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate. Rarely applied to paranormal investigation. Hell.com For a really deep dive on the history of “Hell.com,” including more archive.org excavation, creepypasta, and information on the hack-and-export of the site, the podcast “Thinking Sideways” had an extraordinarily thorough episode called “what the heck was hell.com?” which should really be the difinative audio resource on this subject. Follow that up with a 1999 wired.com review of a hell.com event (a nicely positive article), and a two-part interview with hell.com’s creator, Ken Aronson. And take a little youtube journey through the site, at least one version of the site. IIt seems like the hosts generally aren’t fans of conceptual art…The “hell.com” story is at heart a password-locked website that acted like a portfolio and showcase for web-based net.art, in a time before search engines, when the world wide web was frankly a lot more magical. It’s still magical, but we know about how the magic works now. As a modern myth, it hasn’t aged well, it doesn’t seem like this sort of thing would create a stir these days. Hell Gate under Clifton, NJ There is unfortunately a certain sameness to “hellmouth” local legendry…it’s for kids, by kids, to scare kids, and there’s not a lot of “there” there. But so far as awful damned scary places go, the hell tunnels of Clifton…you could easily imagine turning the corner and seeing, if not Satan, at least a freakish cultist in black robes with spikes instead of eyes, or something like that. Check “Exploring with Cody’s” and “Mobile Instinct’s” youtube vids, this is not a place that anyone wants to get lost in. Weird New Jersey’s probably written up the definitive article on this one, with details on Red Eyed Mike. And of course Atlas Obscura has some more details on how, where, and what to expect (glowing skulls, natch.) Devil’s Den, Florida The Devil’s Den is a karst, a cave with a partially collapsed roof over an underground river near Williiston, Florida. It is absolutely beautiful, a deep blue pool lit by a shaft of light filtered through hanging vines. Wow. The “hell” content is pretty minimal…because of its constant 72 degree temperature, steam rising from the crater looked like smoke, and earned it a devilish nickname. The land around it is used to cultivate watermelons, and it doesn’t get any less hellish than “watermelon farm.” Devi’s Den is pretty interesting for other reasons…one of the chambers in its river/cave complex had the remains of a colony of 7500-year-old bog lemmings. And some humans and sabertooth tigers and spectacled bears and other stuff, but the bog lemmings are obviously the stars of the show, here. Myths over Miami This is a fantastic story: a coherent and epic good-vs-evil narrative shared by a community of runaway children in Florida, placing them as messengers and semi-psychopomps in a battle for souls between Bloody Mary and the kind Blue Lady. Angels guarded by giant alligators. Satan patrolling the shores. A strong anti-drug/anti-gang message. That was the 1997 article written for the Miami New Times by Lynda Edwards. If you ever wanted a setting for that gritty urban youth-fantasy RPG, this would be the one, and it’s not really a surprise that the story was cribbed by Mercedes Lackey in “Mad Maudlin” and licensed by Disney/Clive Barker. Unfortunately, there’s never been any follow-up, at least none that I can find…no masters thesis, no “15 years later” interviews with the kids…and when something of this complexity only as a single article, it does raise the question of authenticity. Was this invented wholecloth? Or at the very least, was the reach and epicocity (the state of being epic, thank you) exaggerated by the author? No real way to know now. The story was adapted into a short film, “The Epic of Hershey,” which may be worth tracking down, but it doesn’t seem to have had a very wide release. On the Bloody Mary myth and party game…this one goes back to at least the 1970s, with antecedents in the Victorian era. It wasn’t always “Bloody Mary,” but sometimes “Mary Worth” or a half-dozen other names. The good people at Folklore Thursday have a detailed look at the game’s folkloric history, possibly as a divination.. Laura Winter’s thesis, “Bloody Mary in the Mirror: A Comparative Examination of a Living Tradition” looks at the Bloody Mary apparition as “antithetical play,” a subversive initiation that’s part of the secret world of youth, along with a great many variations on the theme. Her perspective is influenced by her Catholic youth experience, which makes the thesis all the richer, I enjoyed skimming over this one. Jacob mentions the “Strange Face in the Mirror Illusion,” wherein a person’s reflection in a large mirror in a dark room seems to change (appearing to rotate, shift into an entirely new face, even change into other species or monstrous creatures) over a ten-minute session. Victoria mentions the Troxler Effect or Troxler Fading, where objects and sensations fade away when the brain tags them as unimportant. Most relevantly to the Bloody Mary phenomenon, this happens easily in our peripheral vision.
54 minutes | Jan 5, 2021
Ep. 7 – Urban Legends (Part 1)
This week, urban legends! Two plates of hell-adjacent stories circulated by teenagers for teenagers…hellmouths, cryptids, and one dangerous poem. But first, random chatter. As always, two of the three hosts are dedicated to making The Dispatchist the best possible “Sandman” fan podcast we can. So when we found ourselves distracted by a possible appearance of Morpheus’s Dreamstone in Wonder Woman 1984. In the DC film universe, it seems more likely that this particular version of the Dreamstone is something more Norse/Greek in origin. In the Sandman continuity, the Dreamstone was an artifact that contained a large portion of the power of Morpheus, the king of dreams, and is the central McGuffin in what has to be a contender for darkest single-issue comic ever: Sandman #6, “24 Hours.” Fun bonus content: there was a very impressive fan film based on “24 Hours,” called “24 Hour Diner.” It’s very true to the original and quite impressive for a fan product! (Trailer, full film) A few video games caught our eye this week…If you’re a fan of cute, infernal 2 on 2 team play games, this is likely to be your best pick for 2021. It may in fact be a genre-defining game for you. This isn’t saying much. Basic plot seems to be “hell became overpopulated so the leadership turned to media-driven entertainment to deal with several problems at once. Trailer here, January 2021 release! So far as Shin Megami Tensei Liberation Dx2, Jacob thinks he looked upon the full, NSFW glory of Tyrant Mara a little too soon. The franchise is definitely for mature audiences, but it’s a bit more than fighting sex demons, and has been around since 86 or so in different forms, with at least one anime movie. The Liberation Dx2 is a fighting monster game for portables, but most of the rest of the series seems to be Japanese style RPGs. The range of demons, gods, mythicals, and so on in the series is truly vast (and includes YHVH, Metatron, AND Demiurge, so that should cover your creator-of-all bases). We don’t have time for a deep dive into this strange world (yet?) but I definitely didn’t get a full sense of how much and how wide when I took a peek at it… – Jacob Celebrating the morphing and sanguine nature of the urban legend, Victoria recommends a bloody mary…or three, in a dark room. In particular, she likes the zesty and chunky “Angry Red Planet” (with thanks to Unique Culinary Adventures). While it may be true that no one truly knows the origin of the Bloody Mary, it sounds like it originated as a Jazz Age combination of vodka and tomato juice in New York, and was refined into its current form in the 30s-40s (see Difford’s Guide on history and methods). My favorite “sounds fake but good story” is that a Chicago bartender named the drink the “bucket of blood,” after the color of the wastewater of mopping his floor, but it later became the Bloody Mary named after one of his waitresses. Satisfying, so probably false. Enjoy yours with egg yolk crackers for a synesthetic breakfast treat! Kola Penisula Hole to Hell This particular net.legend really was the inspiration for this episode, and it has a complicated history. There really IS 7.5-mile deep hole in Russia, the Kola Superdeep Borehole, dug from 1970-1992. Because of a number of factors (temperatures of 356 °F instead of 212 °F, a change in texture that made drilling much harder, and the collapse of the Soviet Union), drilling stopped in 1992 and the project ended. Of course this wasn’t the end of the story. Around 1989 the stories of The Well to Hell began to circulate: the drill broke into an underground cavity, the temperature rose to 2,000 °F, and before the microphone melted, scientists heard the screaming of the damned. In some versions, gas poured out of the borehole, an apparition of a huge demon appeared, and the government wiped everyone’s memories of the event with some kind of mind-blanking sedative. Classic! The story broke in America on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, but other voices in Christian media debunked it. The story came and went and came and went again (Jacob read it in the Weekly World News, with the serial number filed off, in 1992 and again in 2008) But the surge that carried the legend forward into its current form and current life was from Art Bell’s middle-of-the-night conspiracy and weirdness show, “Coast to Coast AM.” Bell may or may not have believed the weirdness presented by his guests, but gave them a platform and created a surreal “well, maybe?” theater. In 2002 a listener sent in a sample of the sounds of hell, allegedly from his uncle in Siberia. The entire story has been debunked a great many times (with thanks to the Skeptoid Podcast for much of the history here). But is factual accuracy the point? Core sample fangirl callout from Victoria for “Going Deep with David Rees.” In this case the “going deep” is about making deep dives into very narrow topics, like “how to make toast” and “how to dig a hole.” “How to Make an Ice Cube” features an ice core from 16,000 years ago and 1400 meters deep. But I didn’t listen through it to see if this is the one with the “core ice tastes like ghosts” quote. I hope so. Tomino’s Hell You may just want to skip over to Kowabana and listen to Tara Devlin’s minipodcast about “Tomino’s Hell.” The show notes contain the poem itself and go into much more detail than we could…and for a short-and-simple urban legend, it seems to cover all the bases. The poem, “Tomino’s Hell,” was written in 1919 by Saijou Yaso in his collection, “Sakin.” In large part it seems to be an allegorical journey through hell, though what, exactly, it’s allegorizing is an open question…likely war, possibly an internal family struggle. The Tomino legend began to begin in 1974 in the Shuji Teryama film “Pastoral: To Die in the Country,” which took inspiration from “Tomino’s Hell.” The director did indeed die later, but solidly nine years later. 47 is a bit young, but hardly “cursed by a curse” young. The “legend” bit sprouts up around 2004, when author/film historian Inuhiko Yomota describes the curse of Tomino’s Hell, “read it and suffer a terrible fate.” He may or may not have been taking a page from the “Ring” series (1998, English 2002, book 1991), it seems like the same sort of horror. It seems like this snowballed and became the Tomino’s Hell legend. Victoria mentions the curse of The Exorcist, which was adjacent to something like nine deaths, a few injuries (relatives of the crew as well as crew), a fire on the set (followed by a breakdown of the fire prevention sprinklers), Pazuzu’s statue being temporarily lost in shipment, strange film ghosts…and one of the best bits, a Jesuit priest was called in to bless the production to help things move, which seemed to work, but the nearby Jesuit offices caught fire. Jersey Devil Jacob’s only allowing one cryptid for this string of episodes, and Jamin wants to spend it on the Jersey Devil, a flying, wyvern-like goat thing that’s been sighted on again off again since the 1700s. So far as “devils” go, this one seems pretty benign, it’s stolen some livestock and may have crashed into a trolley car, but otherwise hasn’t done much to make the news besides show up and be photographed (recently in this spectacularly bad “sighting” covered by ABC in 2015…) Toad Road and the Hellam Hellmouth There is…a lot of material on the Seven Gates of Hell in York County, Pennsylvania. The area is vaguely near the Hellam township, which of course makes it a prime target for hell-related legendry. In brief, there was either a nasty murder or fire in a mental asylum. The first of the seven gates of hell is just off Trout Run Road. People crossing through the gate may be able to find six more gates (particularly at night), and travelling through all seven will send you to hell. Or something along those lines. Hellam Township would like you to please stop trespassing, thanks. There’s a great exploration of the story in three (four?) parts by Jim McClure, writing for the York Daily Record. (prelude, part 1, part 2, part 3). The series talks about the “toad road” gargoyles, the asylum (or lack thereof), and some related stories–including the movie “Toad Road.” While these posts aren’t much fun for people who want to believe in the supernatural, they do have a lot of details about the variations on this story, and are a good read. Jacob: I did see the “Toad Road” movie, which was challenging for me, drugs are kind of a trigger for me and the movie was very solidly a film that began in drug culture and focused on drugs as a search for enlightenment. It’s not a horror film, although it seems like that’s how it’s been marketed, but more of a mental breakdown/psychodrama. It uses the idea of “seven gates” to suggest both a path to enlightenment and a descent into hell, with some ambiguity as to which is which (although the movie seems to come down on the “hell” side.) It’s experimental, unusual, and feels very real…since it’s only somewhat scripted and the actors in most cases are playing themselves, in a sense it is. We should at some point do more about the connection of seven and hell. This one goes way back: in Mesopotamia, Inanna/Ishtaar passed through seven gateways to hell, and a number of urban legends picked this motif up. There are seven deadly sins (and seven layers of heaven), seven fires of hell in Islam (as well as seven doors to both heaven AND hell), seven hells in Jain mysticism…though in many cases it’s really 8 or 9 “rounded down” (you have to leave off acedia and vainglory to get to seven deadly sins, for instance.) This isn’t anything new, it’s just mildly interesting. Jacob: I feel like I’ve talked about this one before, but maybe in some other non-podcast context…the Ao andon, or Blue Lantern Ghost, is sort of the spirit of the ghost story. It was the final prize of the game, “Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai” (“A gathering of 100 supernatural tales”)…the idea was that 99 candles were lit at night, possibly around a mirror, and players would take turns telling their best spooky stories, and extinguishing candles. The room grew darker and the stories fed upon the building mood of fear. When the hundredth candle was snuffed, the ao andon herself would appear, and, I don’t know, slaughter everyone playing. So it was a good idea to stop playing at 99 candles, if you got that far! Jacob again…this episode is more heteronormative than usual! So if you’re desperately trying to match these show notes up to the episode (poor you), I’m going to add these two pictures which have been associated with the Pope Lick Monster now, even though he appears later in the episode. You don’t have to have your best girl with you in the pickup when the local cryptids are this hot. (though I think someone just recycled pictures from a web page on satyrs.) More about the San Antonio haunted railroad tracks and games you can play with baby powder here. San Antonio has one of Texas’s great and bloody battles in it and is arguably the most haunted place in Texas, if you’re into ghost stories. Wrapping up the York Hellgates with a brief aside on the Collinsville, Illinois gates to hell, which just seemed too similar to warrant a full discussion. The urban legend is some 40 years old, and is specifically one about driving the roads at night to find these gates. If you go through them in order, by midnight, and possibly in reverse (?), you can take a nice visit to hell. Some of the gates have their own unique stories (a suicide, satanic rituals, fatal acid trips.) Nice walk-through video here, but during the day…there are a few road trip videos through the gates at night, but predictably, the quality of the video is kind of murky…
76 minutes | Dec 24, 2020
Ep. 6 – Santa Vs Satan!
Well, maybe Episode 6 is too early in the series to wallow in complete self-indulgence? We don’t know…obviously. Because tonight we’re going to tackle Santa Vs. Satan, which was something of a Christmas classic in 1959, and is, today, solidly in the canon of good-bad Christmas films. Jacob thinks its “much more watchable than Santa Claus Vs. the Martians,” and that this isn’t really saying much. Two out of three hosts enjoyed this movie. On the subject of “movies you may not enjoy,” Dante fans may want to either pursue or avoid the 2018 “Dante’s Hell Animated” (Part 1, Part 2), and the Dante documentary that’s by the same creator (trailer). Either is an appropriate response. Both are by Boris Acosta. Going down the rabbit hole on these two films is…quite weird. There’s a lot of glowing reviews of the two, and honestly, watching these films and then reading the comments feels like experiencing a form of insanity, because it’s obvious the films are, well, not good, but the reviews are just stellar. Imagine a crowd of hundreds, including a few gourmet chefs, raving about Jack in the Box tacos. It’s like that. Is it me? Please tell me it isn’t me. All of this is in some weird orbit around the Dante cryptocurrency slowly slipping down a gravity well of self-hype. Maybe this is the Dante’s Inferno version of “Foodfight!“? You really shouldn’t face “Santa Vs. Satan” sober. Victoria recommends you try a mind eraser, perhaps one before and after the film. A mind eraser is a 1980s fizzy cocktail that’s a layer each of coffee liquor, vodka, and soda water. With thanks to Kahluah for the illustration at left and this recipe. And for the kids, who shouldn’t have to suffer just because they’re too young to have their minds erased, Victoria recommends the “It’s a Schnapps World (after all) advent calendar…but I suspect she made it up. -Jacob Jacob is occasionally interested in science-cooking and molecular gastronomy, and if that’s your algeinate-encapsulated globe of kiwi juice, Herve This’s tome, Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor is a nice primer on the subject. Hervé Villechaize is someone else entirely. Surprisingly (although given that there’s an infinite number of monkeys typing on the internet, maybe not surprisingly) Bon Appetite posted a recipe for pickled french fries. We didn’t try this one though, our experience of pickled french fries is purely fictional. There are a few versions of Santa Claus (1959) online. We recommend this one, for as long as it’s available, it’s got bright color and not too many advertisements. But you might enjoy the Rifftracks treatment of the film, which is a lot more fun to watch. “Santa Claus” is actually watchable, but if you want to look into the extended cinematic universe, their version of the other three shorts, in “Santa’s Village of Madness,” is MUCH more survivable…the original is just an incoherant mess of bad fursuits and freeform rambling. Accept no substitutes. Also, keep a copy of TVTropes’ breakdown of the film open as a companion piece, it actually kind of helps. Re: The extended mythology of the Gordon Murray Santa Claus film: The bulk of the movie was pulled from the 1959 Mexican film, Santa Claus. But not all of the film was used; some portions were repurposed or recycled in a series of shorts used to promote Murray’s line of Christmas theme parks. They’re pretty horrible all around. They’re loud, incoherent, frequently ugly, and just hard to watch, but as far as I know the other films are Santa and his Helpers, Santa’s Enchanted Village, and Santa’s Magic Kingdom. Not sure about Santa’s Fantasy Fair, it sounds like it just adds unrelated short stories to the “Sha Na Na” plot (the three naughty boys side-story.) A few photos from early in the film: The vista of space, an outside view of one of many of Santa’s workshops and offices; the panopticon organ and some shots from toyland, including weird Festive Side of Sears blender product placement from Germany and the American kids’ costumes. The introduction to the “hell” sequence and a couple pics from that scene follow (it is, after all, our justification for watching this…) Victoria suggests that Pitch’s moves could easily be compared to the not technically incomparable Billy Squier, particularly in “Rock Me Tonight.” So watch that one if you need a moment of escape from all this. I word-drop “Panopticon” a few times, but maybe not everyone has this in their memory banks? It’s a particularly dystopian prison design system, where a single rotating or open-face guard tower looks over a huge number of prison cells in a massive layered ring, facing inward. Obviously a related topic, “Mary Had a Little Lamb” has three stanzas, not seven. Arguably its most hellish application was in Thomas Edison’s singing doll product, where a tiny, terribly flawed, recording was placed in a very large dog. It’s eerie. More recently, Florene LaRou and the Fifth Dimension were touring as recently as 2017! We don’t have their original wax cylinder recordings implanted into talking dolls, but they did have a 50th anniversary concert, with highlights on YouTube. Your comic book deep dive for the week: a very in-depth study of the symmetry of Rorshach’s origin story in “Watchmen.” I don’t think “Santa Claus” has this level of deepery, but it’s fun to pretend. Re: Gnosticism and the Demiurge: Wiki’s article on the subject is excellent. Essentially the Demiurge, a word derived from roots of “craftsman,” is the creator of the world, and in charge of maintaining the world itself. Gnosticism holds him as a separate entity from the higher-level, unnknowable God. Because of the Demiurge’s relationship to the corrupt physical world, he’s a lower-level being. Interestingly, the creator of Demiurge (in some myths) is the goddess Sophia, who has female aspects. That’s kind of neat, and might have been a much better basis for society than a patriarchy. Now a quick pause to look at some of Santa’s weird, organic technology… Clearly we’re leaning heavily on photo galleries today…a few key shots here from the lenghty “Preparing for Santa’s Journey” sequences. Billy’s dream sequence is…it is what it is, his dad does have a bit of a “Walt Disney” look though. That may be where all their money comes from. The good folks at Mystery Science Theater 3000 rightly described Lupita’s dream sequence as “nightmare fuel.” The god Vulcan’s chest hair is also kind of frightening. Merlin in this movie serves as “Agent Q” for Santa, and the movie spends a lot of time on a tedious and strange tour of his lab. Finally…more than halfway through the film…Santa takes to the sky. Jacob missed a Star Trek reference here, confusing the episode “Spock’s Brain” with the very weird flying head parasites from “Operation Annihilate!” Jamin drops a throwback reference to Soup Eater from Santa’s Yule Lads, more about them here or in our Krampus episode. At any rate, the film ends up in a chaotic rush of clashing plotlines, leaving Santa just enough time to place one final present, letting the film play up the “true meaning of Christmas/Gift of Faith” angle that’s kind of a trope in the world of Christmas films. Is Santa Claus (1959) good? You could make arguments on either side…it’s dated, it’s an artifact of its time, but it was quite well received, getting replays for decades. Jamin says “it doesn’t deserve the Mystery Science Theater treatment,” but MST3K actually doesn’t play the worst films…necessarily. Most of their movies are at least fun to watch, the truly unwatchable films can’t be redeemed with any amount of commentary. Santa Claus stands the test of time…it’s still entertaining, if a bit garbled. If you haven’t seen it, we hope you enjoy the trip. Stay warm and happy holidays!
69 minutes | Dec 3, 2020
Ep. 5 – Krampus Night
An extra-long, extra-rambly conversation about Krampus this week…happy St. Nicholas’s Day! Okay, it’s a fair cop, Krampus is only tangentially related to hell, and we spend more time talking about how he’s not related to hell than how he’s hell-adjacent, but such is life. Anyway, “The Dispatchist” aims to be a slightly boozy conversation about Hell, and I think we achieved the first part of that mission quite well…We circle back on a lot of topics (particularly the Yule Lads and Perchta), with apologies if the narrative thread is hard to follow. We trust Steve the Bartender’s advice on how to make a Rusted Nail, a mixture of scotch whiskey and a scotch honey-herb liquor from a 1750 recipe. We trust him because his last name is “the bartender.” We do not trust Thrillist’s advice on how to make Pruno. We’re not sure we’d trust ANY advice on how to make Pruno. But special after-the-fact callout for the Krampus Cocktail recipe. It sounds actually kind of special, with a peaty-sweet-bitter flavor, and a cherry and charcoal powder to give it a red and black color palate. Garnish with twigs, serve cold. My sources were, I promise from all over the Internet and several books. But honestly, it didn’t matter, because one person has already won the Golden Goat award in Krampus Research for his book: The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas, and that person is Al Ridenour. As it happens, Ridenour has a really well-produced podcast called “Bone and Sickle,” which sits at the intersection of folklore and horror. It’s also got a fair amount of theater of the mind and campy theater, and is quite fun and quite informative. Obviously, the episodes on Perchta and Krampus Dualism are good starting points! I didn’t plagarize Al Ridenour’s work, I promise, certainly not intentionally, but after this excellent book and podcast all we really had left was some pop culture and net.spirituality to fall back on… Two comic book callouts this episode. The first, “The Mystery of the Meanest Teacher, a Johnny Constantine Graphic Novel,” is a tweenies version of Hellblazer, which looks cute if a little bit too scooby-doo. Constanine is a really edgy character, and he seems like he might be a little…flat…if he was popped into a kid-detective story. Although it would be impressive if they addressed the bisexuality element, which actually is important to his development as a wizard. Probably not Anyway more on this one at DC comics, with preview. And…oh my…Kiddie Constantine makes an appearance on Justice League Action, in what seems to be Sandman’s House of Mystery setting, complete with several appearances by Cain! At least two of the hosts are Sandman fans, so this is a callout that clearly needed to happen. Second comic reference: Image’s “Krampus!” This version of Krampus is overworked, sympathetic, and kind of a hottie. The Santa world is clearly ethically compromised, but Krampus’s clear moral compass and lack of ethical ambiguity looks like it will be particularly useful here. Good and evil are much harder to work with than naughty and nice. Sabrina: Victoria references the Sabrina Christmas Special, wherein a somewhat Perchta-esque sorceress dispatches a very goaty yule demon. Jamin and Jacob were favorably impressed with the episode where a bunch of people ended up in their skivvies. Organizing this episode was challenging. Jacob started on a more academic path, but that wasn’t really satisfying, and there were so many ways to tackle Krampus as a topic, and the different threads wove together in ways that really defied linear storytelling. So here you go. Like many United Statesians, Victoria and Jacob’s first exposure to Krampus was through the vintage “Krampuskarten” (fun gallery here). “Grus Vom Krampus” means “Greetings from Krampus,” it’s not his name. I thought it was his name originally. We’ve all grown older and wiser. -Jacob We spend a fair bit of time bouncing around Austria in this episode, looking at Krampus-Culture from a substantial distance. This video from Bad Gastein takes a fairly family-friendly approach to the topic, with children singing and a St. Nicolaus visit. This one is just a bit darker, look for the mock-brawl “rempler” at 1:25 or so. The sound of the bells is kind of maddening. Both sides are a part of the fun. There may be a better video of this sort of thing, this particular hausebesuche/house-visit is more St Nickolaus than Krampus, but it shows the dynamic (and scared children) well. One issue (?) that gets a fair bit of mention in Ridenour’s book: new-style Krampus that have latex masks that seem more in line with hollywood horror than in a traditional pre-Christmas family visit. These gothy horror masks seem out of place against the carved-wood looking ones. This is definitely not my world, but the house-visit with a hollywood style latex mask seemed quite jarring. Neither here nor there, and now I can’t find the youtube clip, but you can see both styles in these videos. Locally I did find this page about a 2020 Krampus run and contest in Austin, but it does appear to have been cancelled because of the plague. Two Krampus shops that Victoria and Jacob have been window-shopping from afar: Krampusshop, which has a nice range of DIY krampus supplies – and Spitz-Teufels Design, which seems to be more driven by a maker-designer (Jacob loves the bells in particular.) Why don’t we observe Wren Day now? Oh, well, there’s probably a lot of reasons. Wren Day is celebrated on December 26. The way it plays out is that the boys of the town would capture a wren and take it around the neighborhood to get pennies. There’s quite a number of songs based on the hunting of the wren, all of which are difficult to explain to someone who isn’t a hardcore Christmas nerd.. Wikipedia says it was typically a fake wren. I don’t know enough to say boo about that, but another article on the Cutty Wren call-and-response song and tradition says that it was cancelled by the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which sounds a bit more real-bird-oriented. Regardless of cruelty to tiny birds, there’s a host of door-to-door traditions…Wassailing, Knocking Night, and a handful of Perchta-related house visit traditions. Not having a degree in folklore, I’m only left to wonder if there’s some higher-level tradition that these winter house-visits patch into. Maybe just the basic human need to make sure that your neighbors haven’t died of frost. And here’s the legend of the Wren (specifically as King of Birds.) On the “Mary Lwyd” (image at right from Wiki): This is a Welsh tradition that, according to Wiki, goes back at least to 1800., wherein a horse’s skull on a pole bounces around in a very “Punch and Judy” manner. There’s a similar, but massively less creepy, version, “the hoodening.” This (and the Mary Lwyd) are both door-to-door wassail-type traditions, the Hoodening has a much larger cast of characters. Maybe? The Mary Lwyd sometimes came with a flock of Punch and Judies as well, and it seems like when the tradition plays out in full there’s a range of merry men, punches, judies, and etc. Also in the tradition, the full party would go door to door, where they were generally given a number of excuses why they couldn’t come in, until the household ran out of ideas (I love this tradition–Jacob). Then they burst in, and there is chaos, songs, and the usual door-to-door drinking and merriment that makes up a solid Wassail tradition. Jacob’s brief name-drop here: The Feast of Holy Innocents is celebrated around December 28, commemorating Herod’s slaughter of the young children in the Christmas narrative. It’s one of a huge number of inversion holidays; in this case children were temporarily appointed as priests, parents gave up their parenting authority for a fair bit, and the youngest monks and nuns were made Abbot/Abbess for the day. Also, to remind children of the solemn dignity of the day, it was appropriate to whip them. This specific tradition hasn’t been revived. “The Feast of Fools” was around January 1, and had still more misrule and inversion of the natural hiearchical order of church/lay community. The two celebrations overlapped, with some similar foolishness running really from Christmas through Epiphany. Now, stop reading this and watch “Topsy Turvy” from Disney’s Hunchback. This sort of inversion celebration, which reached its orgiastic climax in Carnival/Mardi Gras, was an absolutely necessary safety valve in a world of strict hierarchy. Maybe this link will work: “Wolfauslasser” page in translation. It’s late winter in Bavaria, and there’s no need for shepherds, because the flocks have come home. Along with them, the shepherds and herdsmen have come back, and would like to be paid, thanks. This tradition expands and picks up a fair amount of Wassail-type traditions, the shepherds go door to door. The entire thing gets pretty complex, with “wolves” (groups of mischievous bell-ringers) loosely being steered by “shepherds”, in a sort of managed chaos. This video from captures the solemn dignity of the event. This one has more of a “weird march across the town square” vibe. Both sound like a rugby team rolling a dishwasher downhill. Rankin/Bass Christmas Specials…we’re really all over the map this episode! Rankin/Bass’s adaptation of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is really pretty and hits a few yule/pagan notes that you don’t often see in Christmas TV specials. Baum himself wasn’t particularly Christian, he was a member of the Theosophy/Spiritualist movements popular around 1900, which had a more gnostic view of faith (truth comes from internal revelation, that sort of thing) and were less hierarchal/patriarchal than most of the churches of the day. The “Heat Miser” song from “The Year without a Santa Claus” is just fun. Sadly, Rankin/Bass never did a Krampus special, but Anthony Bourdain did, so there’s that. “The Companions of St. Nicholas” are a collection of characters that travel with St. Nicholas on his journeys . There’s a mixture of positive characters and destructive and dark ones. Knecht Ruprecht: Old man, wears fur, beats children with sticks, may also be the name of a devil (or tied to Robin/Puck). Krampus: Well, we know about Krampus, he’s on the list though. Belsnickel – man, fur-covered, gives candy or coal. Also called Kriskinkle.” Zwarte Piet – Moorish, frequent blackface, colorful renaissance poofy clothing, beats children with sticks. Later in the episode (39:27) Jamin gushes about this Swarte Piet costume. The Yule Lads are a cluster of christmas monsters that live in a cave together and harass children (this is clearly a “thing”.) There are thirteen main ones (after Yule Cat), and then some more obscure ones (after Candle Stealer): Gryla: Giantess, cooks children in pot. Yule Cat: Large, feline, eats children who haven’t gotten new clothes for Christmas. Bjork did a song about him. Her. It? Sheep Cote Clod: harasses sheep (?) but ineffectively because of his little peg legs. Gully Gawk: Hides in ditches, steals milk from cowshed. Stubby: Short, steals pans, eats crust. Pot-Scraper: Steals leftovers. Bowl-Licker: Hides under beds to steal food left in bowls. Door-slammer: Self-explanatory, really. Skyr-Gobbler: Skyr is kind of like yoghurt. Fill in the blanks. Sausage-Swiper: I’m noticing ap attern here. Window-Peeper: Sort of a breaking-and-entering specialist. Doorway-Sniffer: Steals bread. Specifically leaf bread, which you may have seen on the Great British Bakeoff’s holiday special. Seems harmless unless you’ve made major plans around leaf bread. Meat Hook: Steals meat (should have been scarier somehow) Candle-Stealer: Candles used to be made of tallow, and therefore, edible. Yum. Lung-Splatter: Beat children with either sheep’s lungs or his own lungs? Smoke-Gulper: Would inhale smoke from smoked lamb and blow it at people. This is very specific stuff here. Spring-Drainer: Something about blocking up springs so they don’t flow? Fat Sock, Fat Nostril: I don’t know why you’d cover a sock in fat and try to stuff it up your nose. Lamp Shadow and Knot Loosener: Together, this pair would douse the lights and loosten knots, which seems like an excellent combo for a few yuletide broken bones. Skirt-Sweeper: Blows off women’s hats and presumably blows their skirts around. Cliff-Rift (?) Godly Worm? Small Balls? Dung-Channel Licker (something about cow-sheds, not…whatever…) Baggalutur (ambiguous, means either “small boy” or “round rock”) Thorlakur: possibly a misplaced bishop Barn Bundle (?) Kleinusniker: something like “doughnut-begger.” Lots of great yule-lad pictures over on “Christmas is Awesome and So Should You.“ In less absurd news, this article from Smithsonian suggests that, since nice new clothes were a reward for doing your chores in a timely manner (e.g., before christmas eve), the Yule Cat really was eating people who hadn’t done their chores, not simply eating people who didn’t get new clothes for non-chore reasons. I feel a bit better now. – Jacob Perchta the Christmas Crone seems more than anything else like an older, somewhat less entertaining (but still scary) Christmas Bogey. There’s so much to talk about with her, we really can’t even scratch the surface–she’s a shining winter goddess, a terrible christmas troll, a Yule goddess of death and rebirth, the gender-swapped leader of the Wild Hunt…even an early incarnation of Mother Goose, if Al Ridenour is to be believed. She’s also the thread that connects Krampus to Hel, the goddess of the underworld (per National Geographic). Brom has a fun article about Krampus pre-dating his novel AND the National Geographic article, which may be one of the sources of the Krampus-Loki connection, but…it seems quite tenuous, either “Krampus takes children to Hell (spelled ‘Hel’),” or “Krampus is a later incarnation of Perchta, who is related to Holda, who is a Norse goddess of death with a name beginning with “H” and therefore interchangeable with Hel, who is Loki’s daughter.” This…really smacks of net.paganism more than actual mythology. I could be wrong, I’m happy to be wrong. – Jacob A bit later in the episode (46:25) Victoria mentions Perchta’s appearance as a tiny, creepy little angel in the 2017 Krampus movie. This seems like a throw-away reference though, she really doesn’t get any development. Snorri Sturluson looks like a grumpy Santa Klas. He was quite a big name in Iceland around 1200, a historian, politician, and author of the Prose Edda, which is one of the big important compilations of Norse mythology, and quite possibly one of the main vehicles to keep the myth alive into the current year. Hesiod was a Greek poet who might or might not have existed, but did write “Theogony,” which nailed down a lot of Greek myth (accurately or not? Hard to say, but at least it was in one place.) He does not look like Santa. He looks like someone whose goldfish aquarium is being murdered one fish at a time. I only mention them together because they both boiled down massive amounts of myth into a convenient paperback edition. Thank you, Snorri, Hesiod. Wikipedia’s article on Kinderschreckfigure, a collective term for a huge number of awful child-eating/maiming/scaring figures, is fascinating, but hard to read if you aren’t solid on your German. Did you know that smurfs, and by extension Krampus, reproduce parthenogenically on the blue moon? It’s true. However, Brom’s very good Krampus novel may be found on Amazon, see “Krampus The Yule Lord.” And Loki absolutely turned into a mare to distract a stallion with his feminine wiles, giving birth to Sliepner the eight-legged horse. How is this a paragraph? These aren’t even linked concepts. The invention of childhood: Thankfully Wiki has an article on the history of childhood. So we can point at that. Childhood has a brief romantic “age of innocence” period in the 1760s. But modern childhood was a victorian sor of thing, where childhood was sanctified and important as its own period, and children’s literature starts to be a valid literary form (Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz). The idea that children are a special, protected class seems to be post-1800s, when a series of labor and family-protection laws started to end chimneysweeping and long hours at the cotton mill for the kiddies. John Gardner’s Grendel is a monster point-of-view retelling of “Beowulf.” The main character is, indeed, monstrous, but sympathetic as well, and (if I recall correctly, it’s been a few years) the question of “who’s the real monster” becomes dicey at the end. It was made into a sweet if rough Australian animated film, “Grendel Grendel Grendel.” Sad, just a bit touching, particularly since we know how it ends.
36 minutes | Nov 12, 2020
Ep. 4 – The Rivers of Hell (Part 2)
Welcome back to our exploration of the rivers of hell! This is a two-parter, but we recorded it all in one go, so…there’s a few very minor continuity errors. Let’s see if anyone notices… This delightfully green picture of the “LA Water” drink was lifted from Tipsy Bartender, so do go there and experience the joy. Balut, you almost certainly didn’t want to know, is a Filipino street food made with a fertilized and incubated duck egg. I suspect it’s in the category of “we’ll call it a delicacy but will serve it to you as a dare” dishes, but I’ve never had one, so I shouldn’t judge. Anyway, all this is to say “don’t google for ostrich balut.” Huge love for the relatively new book Hell and Damnation by Marq De Villers. De Villers normally writes geographic nonfiction along the lines of “exploring African cultures through history” or more recently “searching for the perfect pinot,” not quite travel, not quite academic nonfiction. This book is a near-perfect journey through Hell. It’s broad but not deep, but is probably plenty deep enough for any but the most hardcore fan. Great read! Also, Jamin discovers the magical world of Mr. Boston bartender guides, let no one say that this podcast isn’t edumacational. Hell Tourism should be more of a thing. And for a time it was, I’m sure we’ll do a deeper dive on the concept of Abominable Fancy (the pleasure derived from watching the suffering of the damned) but for now here’s a solid web page loaded with excerpts on the topic. The Rivers of Hell, made of lego! This is pretty amazing stuff, and certainly the darkest lego artwork I’ve seen to date. A thumbnail of Pyriphlegathon is at left, but check the group’s Flickr gallery for more, this really is a neat project, or this chat on the Eurobricks lego forum of the same. Stylistically, it strongly reminds me of the infernal artwork of Wayne Barlowe. But I don’t want to unpack Barlowe too much right now, I hope we can come back to him later. Re: The rivers Slith, Gjoll, and Van: I don’t have much on these, what I do have is cobbled together from Wikipedia and this article about Norse astrology. I wish I’d had time to read a bit more on the Slith, which may be the Slid or Slidr, which may or may not have swords turning within its waters…unless that’s a metaphor. Maybe it’s made of knives instead of water? Oh well, someday we’ll cover Norse Hell and come back to this one. The word “eitr,” the origin of all living things, drips from the Midgard serpent, the source of all life and a terrible poison…huh. Not an awful lot in English on the Vaitarna River, the river that the souls of the dead cross in Hindu mythology. It’s really interesting though, much more redemptive than your typical hell river. I believe that Johnny Depp’s scene in The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus captures some of this. It’s not the scene that I remembered, though here’s a still from that scene. And Wiki has an engaging list of some of the various hells in Naraka, I feel like there’s more than 38 but I may be getting this conflated with another set of hells. – Jacob So there IS a fan theory that posits that the chocolate river in Willy Wonka is the river Styx, and that the children in “Charlie” connect with the seven deadly sins. But really, you can find anything in Reddit if you look hard enough, it’s magical that way. But let’s talk briefly about Strewwelpeter, a book that inspired “Willy Wonka” in some ways – loaded as it is with obnoxious children getting ironical punishments in rhyming verse. My Strewwelpeter will always be Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, who was a lot nicer. Strewwelpeter – or “shock-headed Peter” – is full of morbid and ghastly stories, children waste away to stick figures after not eating soup, or get their thumbs cut off after too much thumb-sucking. Delightful stuff. -Jacob A little aside about Hari-Kuyō, the festival of broken needles. This is a modest little memorial of needles that have died in service to, well, sewing. A little altar gets set up for the needles, and tofu, or possibly yam jelly, is involved. I don’t know where I got the image of floating the little things down a river, though that seems to be one variation of the festival. Anyway, this is a beautiful and gentle festival, I love it. -Jacob The Sanzu River, or River of Three Crossings, has strong elements of Egyptian style judgment of the dead. Souls have to cross the river Sanzu, and those who rank low on the sinometer may be able to cross on a bridge or by boat. Others have to cross at a narrow ford, or swim across a river filled with snakes and such. And of course the hag of hell, Datsueba (see illustration) will help with the judging by stealing your clothes to weigh them, or possibly by stealing your skin. More info? This article on the river of the dead pursues a number of related ideas, though it’s a bit all over the place. Is it significant that the word “Nirvana” means “the far shore?” Book callout: Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman, which plays with strange ideas about time, space, and possibly the afterlife. From Amazon’s blurb: “Told by a narrator who has committed a botched robbery and brutal murder, the novel follows him and his adventures in a two-dimensional police station where, through the theories of the scientist/philosopher de Selby, he is introduced to “Atomic Theory” and its relation to bicycles, the existence of eternity (which turns out to be just down the road), and de Selby’s view that the earth is not round but “sausage-shaped.” With the help of his newly found soul named “Joe, ” he grapples with the riddles and contradictions that three eccentric policeman present to him.” In particular, the book does strongly play with reality, fiction, and the concepts of death and Hell…I suspect we’ll come back to this one. Maybe someday we’ll come back to the “21 grams” experiment, in which Duncan MacDougall discerned the weight of the soul. But really, the McElroys did a great job on this one over on Sawbones, so maybe just go there instead. I totally failed to remember “Aoandon,” the Blue Candle ghost story ritual, or spirit., I’m not perfectly sure which. It’s tied to the game of Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai…light a hundred candles, tell a hundred ghost stories, and when the final candle goes out, and the spooky is at its highest, something will get called up! It’s comparable to the “bloody mary” game of chanting the name of a murderous ghost into the mirror until your mind conjures up something from the darkness. The Huber River…I don’t think we’ve got a lot to say here beyond what’s covered in, say, Wiki. Souls travel across the desert, and the Huber marks the borderland of Kur, the Mesopotamian underworld, which was a dreary place. No judgment, no reward or punishment, just a dusty bleak waste. Sounds fun. The Huber may have been simply “a long way away, over there,” which sometimes happens with otherworlds. The phrase “huber tiamat” turns up once or twice, possibly connecting the river and the primordial chaos goddess. More of that in John Maier’s essay, “Is Tiamat Really Mother Huber?” This essay is also noteworthy for its author’s use of phonetic notation on a typewriter. Aren’t you glad it isn’t 1982? I’m glad it isn’t 1982. Pazuzu! He has a brief appearance in The Exorcist and is presumably the demon of pea soup. Wiki suggests that he isn’t particularly nice, but he does do a lot of work chasing away other not-nice spirits, so he’s invoked against various evils, despite being a demon of famine and locusts. He also appears in the D&D universe as the guardian of the top level of the Abyss, the realm of demons; this world is covered in portals to other points of interest in this particular hell, which gives him something of a horrible psychopomp role. From a D&D Demon Lord perspective, he’s kind of a hottie. We actually had about 15 minutes of conversation in this episode about the Islamic hell and its rivers. Here’s one article I used about the three rivers, including the Al-Muwbiq, Al-Ghay, and Al-Atham. We went around in circles for most of that time (which is why the end of the episode gets a little rambly). I made an editorial decision that this was too challenging to tackle as a tiny piece of a large episode… we just didn’t have enough foundation yet. But we’ll get there. – Jacob
44 minutes | Nov 11, 2020
Ep. 3 – The Rivers of Hell (Part 1)
First of a two-part chat loosely themed around the rivers of the underworld, which marked the borders of heck in Greek-Roman myth and still have echoes today. Audio challenge of the week, we had to switch back and forth between the better recording and backup recording, oi. So that’s a bit on the variable audio in part one and two. Apologies… Make your own “Gates of Hell” cocktail on Epicurus. Fondue Malfunction is our new band name. BBQ Addicts posts an ACTUAL recipe for a Bacon Explosion. Who knew? A small selection of Naraka/Hindu hellish torments at right. There’s a strong “contrapasso” theme with these: the transgression paired with the torment, sometimes in a way that clearly parallels, others are perhaps more distanced. These torments are a little extreme (idle chatter leads to burning, etc.) but Naraka is a temporary, purgative sort of afterlife, not eternal. Love the easily accessible comic book style of these. Jacob would very much like to know what’s going on here, however, and wonders if this was misfiled under “torment.” Dante suggests that we choose our hell and choose not to leave, but this probably isn’t what he meant. Lowly the Worm’s extremely cute apple car, from the world of Richard Scarry. And Vishnu’s amazing underworld pants. It is REALLY HARD to get agreement on the exact infernal geography of the five rivers of the underworld. Broadly, the Oceanus (the great river/ocean around the world) flows into or borders the Acheron, which flows down to Hell. Because the geology is three-dimensional, these rivers can reasonably run over and under each other, and the Styx or Archeron variously serves as the border marker of the Underworld itself. Searching around for maps of the underworld just leads to more confusion. It’s worth remembering that the myths were made for and by storytellers, not cartographers, and to quote a great poet, “repeat to yourself it’s just a show, you should really just relax.” I do like the more infographic-flowchart map at right, though. Original image post from the excellent Human Odyssey project. So far as “mythic context” goes, I’m not sure the website Theoi.com can be beat, it’s a fantastic aggregator for mythic references. Check their page on Styx, and Pyriphlegathon and the other underworld rivers/potomoi. And then go to Wikipedia for more information on Potomoi, the anthropomorphic personifications of quite a number of rivers, including more than a few fictional/mythical ones. Penny for your thoughts? Jacob says: I first learned about obols in, predictably, a White Wolf game – “Wraith the Oblivion,” where they were the dominant currency in the faintly hellish underworld for the setting. And, also, something that your character could become if they were in the wrong place and wrong time, as a soul could be smelted down to a single obolus coin, later to be redeemed for valuable goods and services or a round of skee-ball at the Stygian arcade. Probably not. Exchange rate: six obols equals one drachma, or a handful (the word comes from drassomai, “to grasp.” Obol is basically “nail,” sort of a unit of money and/or measurement.) Anyway, in Greek funerary practices, a body was buried with an obol in their mouth. Since burial practices were so extremely important mythologically and as a way of emphasizing the importance of society and ritual, an obol seemed to symbolize burial as an act, the price of the ferryman. The coin at right was a special just-for-funerals version of the coin, not for currency (except in a metaphorical sense.) I like the “bee” motif on this one, Victoria’s a beekeeper and this will definitely come up in a later episode! We talk about Mon in this episode and in E4 a bit, it’s the smallest unit of currency in Japan from about 1350 to 1860. I can’t figure out what a single mon was worth…not much. Charon’s Obol, 1st-5th ctry BC, a “no cash value” coin printed for funeral use. (wiki) One mon Where does your soul go when you die (according to the Greeks?) Probably the Fields of Asphodel, which is not particularly awful, although it seems to be at times quite bleak and mirthless (at least in the Odyssey this is the case.) It sounds generally like it’s not bad, if a bit boring. But from the perspective of a military or self-bettering, striving culture (that is, Greek and Roman) it doesn’t sound very desirable…an endless sameness. The Elysian Fields is pretty much the same, but and endlessly pleasant place, untouched by sorrows. The Islands of the Blessed may have been in that same zip code, which are not just pleasant but paradisical. Getting there, though, is the quest of at least three lifetimes. A few less popular locations: the Mourning Fields are where the tragic, or possibly tragically whiney, victims of unrequited love went. The unburied, or those who couldn’t pay Charon, were left on the banks of the Acheron (or possibly the Cocytus or Styx, depending.) All of these locations were broadly in Hades or the proper Greek Underworld. Tartarus was a different case: It’s as far below the underworld as the underworld is below the surface, and is initially reserved for people that have uniquely pissed off the gods (Sisyphus, a couple of giants, and some other people who really irritated Zeus.) Later on, it was also a holding pen for murderers, temple robbers, and presumably people who park in electric car recharging spaces without plugging their car in. Tartarus is also the name of one of the most powerful beings in Greek myth, a primordial along the lines of Chaos and Gaea. Fiddler’s Green, apparently, is a sort of happy afterlife for sailors, a perpetual after-hours party with music and dancing. As Jamin says, it’s reserved for sialors who had spent 50 years at sea, though I suspect that the entry requirements vary. Jacob has it quite confused with a few other related concepts: Cockaigne (a medieval land of plenty where grilled geese fly straight into your mouth), the more fictional than mythical hobo’s Big Rock Candy Mountain, and the legendary Prester John and his kingdom, which is more a story of foreign opulence and allies afar than an afterlife/otherworld, but it was a magical otherworld, and so it probably drew from Cockaigne and the other way around. Book recommendation! “Why Hell Stinks of Sulfer: Mythology and Geology of the Underworld” is a good one. A geologist journeys underground and into “the gobstopper” with Dante. A fair bit of our talk about “otherworlds” comes from Patch’s “The Other World” but it’s kind of hard to order unless you want to buy an overpriced out-of-print academical. If you’d like to get a nice look at the actual-factual Styx, obscured somewhat by privileged youth, visit Youtube. If you’d like a look at the actual-factual River Lethe, you may need to visit Cadiz? The Old Man of Crete: A strange chimerical allegorical statue that shows the progress and decline of man, basically…its head is gold, its feet are clay, something something failure of the church something iron age something. I do like Dante’s image of all the rivers of hell sourced from its tears, that’s powerful and adds a sort of futility to…everything really. Go Dante! Jamin points out that it is quite quite similar to the Dream of Nebuchadnezzar: “the head was made of pure gold…its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay.” Dante does borrow a fair bit, but when a truly great poet does it, it’s allusion. Briefly distracted by Houska Castle! This Czechoslavakian 13th century house on a cliff is…quite strange. Many fake windows, no fortifications, and few amenities that you might expect in a 13th century house or fortress (no water source, no kitchen, and for quite some time, no occupants.) The always fun Geographics channel has a nice “legends of Houska” video. A nice “legends” writeup on McGee’s Ghost Tours. Jacob: I confess, this seems too good to be true, I’d love to see a more scholarly/less sensational tour of the place, though it’s beautiful and strange for sure. Unrelated, Hruska’s Bakery has excellent kolaches and cheeseburgers, and is conveniently located for your next trip to Houston.
41 minutes | Oct 23, 2020
Ep. 2 – The Sight of the Devil
Let’s talk about the devil. Or at least what he looks like. Handsome? Hairy? Horned? Bestial? Blond? Weird face poking out of his butt? So many options. Warning, we do spend a lot of time on medieval perceptions of Jews, so that’s a thing. 1:20 – I joke about the devil as being off-topic for a podcast about hell. It’s not QUITE a joke, hell’s an approachable topic, the devil is a discussion about the nature of evil. Broadly speaking we do agree on the nature of alcohol, although there’s some division of opinion on what the classier brand might be. 3:10 – Feel free to follow Folklore Thursday on twitter, or, hey, TheDispatchist. Information about Gryllii from the finest sources, the weird little critters that populate Hieronymous Bosch’s hellscapes. Euripides’s thoughts on how many bodies Cerberus has. Spoilers, three. 6:00 – Victoria shares some devils from a few of her favorite tarot decks: The Fantastic Menagerie, Zombie Tarot, and Halloween Tarot. 7:04 – Aleteia on “Why is Satan Depicted with Horns, Red Tights, and a Pitchfork?” I also reference Damned: An Illustrated History of the Devil about 75 times this episode. Also, have a fun article about why the devil wears red tights, some great illustrations there. 10:00 – We don’t really have a consensus on why the devil has that distinctive spade tail, but I think it’s really very wyvern-like. I guess I can get the “phallus” idea but that seems kind of after the fact. -Jacob 11:12 – movie references thrown out in a hurry: The Witch, based on witch trials. Shatner’s Esperanto “Incubus.” 13:02 – Neko Moses with cat horns. An article about the Pileum Cornutum, or “Jewish hat.” Woodcut of Jews riding goats and pigs. The hand-out I reference from the Louis Brandeis Center on Anti-Semetism. Below: Victoria’s horns, the devil’s butt mouth. 20:00 – from Folklore Thursday, “The Man with the Chicken Feet.” 23:06 – “Aaron shall take the two he-goats and let them stand before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of Meeting; and he shall place lots upon the two goats, one marked for the LORD and the other marked for Azazel. Aaron shall bring forward the goat designated by lot for the LORD, which he is to offer as a sin offering, while the goat designated by lot for Azazel shall be left standing alive before the LORD, to make expiation with it and send it off to the wilderness for Azazel.” Leviticus 16, your exact translation may vary. Azazel is head of the Se’irim, the goat-demons, although what a goat demon is, we’re not sure. They’re mentioned in Isaiah, “but wild animals will lie down there, and its houses will be full of howling creatures…and there the goat-demons will dance. Lilith gets a mention there, too. He appears in the Sacred Text of Wiki as one of the Canaanite gods, god of the Morning Star (!) (How did I not notice that? It’s another name for Lucifer…) Although whether or not YHVH was a part of that pantheon seems up in the air. I like the theory that he was a god of metallurgy, because that provides a great binary pair with the demon of the wilderness vs the god of civilization. Mount Azazel at right. At some point around here we went through some summary of the development of monotheism, which involved some Terminology. Specifically, monolatry, which generally is the worship of one god to the exclusion of other gods in a set or pantheon (for example, “Israel” breaks down into “the people of the God of El.”) Henotheism is a refinement of that, the exclusive worship of one god without asserting that he is THE god. Religious studies has some remarkably fine word-shaving. 25:44 – the Grigori? We don’t give these folks much time here. They’re a group of angels, mostly fallen, who make an appearance in Enoch and other apocryphal texts. They’re angels that got to close to the earth–very gnostic–and ended up marrying the natives. Azazel is on the list of grigori, and in that role acts as a tempter/educator, much like the serpent in the garden of eden…which he likely is. (more here). I personally think that he’s the demon that tempts Jesus in the wilderness, because that’s very much in his role as the demon of the scapegoat and Jesus was very much a scapegoat. Since Azaz-El was a brother to Yahweh (or something rather like it), that means that Jesus went into the wilderness to listen to his somewhat crazy uncle complain about the family (Matthew 4, “Christ’s Hiking Trip with Satan”) Have a few pictures! Azazel from Sandman #26 or #27, the “Season of Mists” storyline. Leonard from 2019’s Dreaming #10, a very fun issue with a whirlwind trip through Hell and a demonic major incarna, and then Leonard from DePlancy’s Dictionary Infernale. Finally, a luxurious Lucifer from Sandman: Season of Mists. More about Leonard, grand-master of orgies, on DeliriumsRealm.) A few different versions of the gimpy Satan: Tundale’s thousand-arm barbeque, Dante’s frozen gnawer. 31:46 – If you’re into Dungeons and Dragons, you might enjoy this bit of pointless geekery concerning Asmodeus and the couatl deities Jazirian and Arimane. There’s a fairly deep rabbit hole here which I’m sure we’ll cover in Dungeons and Dragons and Hell down the road. 34:38 – “Be watchful! Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour you.” There’s some fun pictures of a literal satan lion in this article from the Watchtower. It includes Satan leaning over someone when they’re at their laptop at night. Actually, he’s looking away. Come on, Satan, you’ll have to be stronger than that. Maybe you’re not up to the 21st century. Okay, this is a pointless aside. Back to the pointed asides. 36:13 – Diablerie, fun word. Reckless mischief, wildness, devil lore, black magic. A sort of playful demonology. It sounds like it’s generally the term for the point in the medieval play where all the demons come out and frolic. I can find support for that, but can’t really prove it. 36:45 – Seven devils, seven deadly sins? This is apparently early 1400s demonology, possibly by John Wycliff. But there are so many of this sort of list, it’s about as official as a list of birth stones… It’s hard to classify “the devil.” Lucifer, Ba’al, Azazel, a bunch of others….I don’t think that there’s one devil. There are, however, seven dwarfs. Music! Intro is from Maurice Burkhart’s 1933 “At The Devil’s Ball.” Outro is from Betty Boop’s “Red Hot Mamma,” 1934.
47 minutes | Oct 23, 2020
Ep. 1 – Great Expectations
It’s episode one! Why hell? What on earth (or under earth) do the hosts think this is a good topic? I mean, right place, right time, for sure… Tonight we talk about expectations, preconceptions, take-aways, and run through the briefest possible history of the realms infernal. Before we really begin, Jacob learns what “plain” is (apparently, beer.) Victoria poem-drops Flann O’Brian’s “A Pint of Plain is your Only Man” (it involves beer). We don’t think that there’s a recipe for Jamin’s absinthe devilled eggs, but there IS a devilled egg cocktail. So that’s a thing. 3:30 – What is hell? There’s a lot of directions you could run with there. We’re focusing primarily on the Judeo-Christian hell because, as Victoria said, “that’s where everyone starts on their hell journey.” I know we’ll move away from that comfortable starting point, but we’ll probably return there, too. We’re making a lot of sweeping generalities and assumptions, and maybe it’s worth saying here: This is an idea we’re here to play with and explore, not necessarily one that’s a part of our lives. 6:00 – short of digging through all my hell books, I’ll reference Sister Mary Kowalska who has a tight little list of the main torments of hell, leading with “seperation from the divine.” But there’s older versions of this list. -Jacob 13:50 – word-dropped “Cocaigne” there, a proverbial land of milk and honey, a good “otherworld” to start a conversation with. Big rock candy mountain, all the hens lay hard boiled eggs, etc. 18:25 – Sweeping generalities! A nice little tour of the history of the Jewish afterlife at haaretz.com… Sometimes it’s a storage room for hollow ghosts, sometimes it’s where you wait for the great resurrection… 20:00 – The number of the beast is not likely 666, and is quite possibly 616. Also I don’t know if Amaranthe’s Austin “Come and Take It” show was cancelled or no. It’s definitely in the past, either way. 21:00 – Down the rabbit hole, a very brief history of hell. Everything springs out of the Mediterranean, it’s amazing how dense the world of the Old Testament was, really. Egypt, Greece, Rome, Israel occupied the same city. Yes, there’s going to be some cultural blending. Much of this comes from Alice Turner’s excellent History of Hell. 23:45 – Gehenna, the fire that consumes (once, not forever), largely from Keith Wright’s The Hell Jesus Never Intended. Mr. Wright was an Austin author, and I am sad to have discovered this nice little book many years after he died A big chunk of this book looks at how eternal punishment wasn’t always a thing, but there’s arguments on either side of that one. I’m definitely oversimplifying! This is the author I’m referencing at 25:55. -Jacob 27:35 – James Mew, Traditional Aspects of Hell, Ancient and Modern (1903) has quite a lot to say about the various hells across the world. It also strongly feels like a book written in pre-WWI Britain, with a strong James Frazery habit of cultural reduction and “everything’s basically Classical Greece” going on. It’s a big book, with a generous dollop of fun and sensational, but it’s hard to miss the author’s cultural lens. Victoria recommends George Saunders’s novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, wherein Honest Abe navigates a ghostly purgatory after the death of his son. I want to pick up Mew’s Drinks of the World too. I wonder if it compares every drink in the world to a John Collins. 31:47 – Cite sources? I don’t think I can, but I’m free-associating from Carus’s History of the Devil and the Idea of Evil and Wiki’s history of religion. The argument here is that religion seems to offer an escape from trembling in caves, but we tend to start by trembling in caves. – Jacob 35:35 – Wiki’s History of the Mystery Play and Morality Play are good places to begin here. Embellished stories from the bible and general Christian legendry that became pop culture. (See also The Golden Legend, a book of saint stories that might as well have been an alternate bible…) Stolen from Luminarium’s “Medieval Drama: An Introduction to Middle English Plays” 37:35 – I have never been able to keep Robert’s Rules of Order and Hoyle’s Rules of Games straight in my head. – Jacob 37:50 – Purgatory and Dante – Again, painting with a broad brush…Purgatory came to being as a way to get out of the “infinite damnation for finite sins” problem, and probably as a dodge to the question that bedevilled theologians probably as long as there was a concept of hell (“what about the babies? WHAT ABOUT THE BABIES?”) Anyway, in the late medieval (1250ish) a third space opened up in the afterlife to purify, rather than punish. It rapidly became quite a cash cow for the Church (see “plenary indulgence.“), though in fairness there was a lot of legit charitable work funded through this sort of thing. Dante did a lot to define Purgatory, and he was writing very soon after the church legitimized the concept, so really getting in on the ground level there. His biggest addition to the concept was that souls can change, grow, and reform. Hell’s modern evangelical apologists tend to assume there is only heavenly reward and eternal hell, with no third location, and that anything good is burned out of hell’s reprobates (I found Anthony DeStefano’s Hell: A Guide good imagination fodder here)…which is an interesting dodge we should examine later. Can anything good be in Hell? DeStefano’s hell is full of horrible sinners that are the worst aspects of “humanity,” which is, itself, kind of a dodge. Grandma’s not burning in hell because whatever was good about “Grandma” died a long time ago. Hmm. Future episode? 38:06 – For Dante, Limbo is the friendliest level of hell, and it sounds pretty nice and pastoral. It’s where unbaptized but virtuous pagans go, so our favorite classicists don’t have to burn forever. (Infernopedia) It’s worth noting that Dante’s Limbo isn’t littered with babies. Aokigahara, Japan’s “suicide forest” (with thanks to Alpsdake) 38:52 – Dante’s Forest of Suicides, part of the circle of wrath and violence, is where the souls of suicides are turned into trees and gnawed by harpies. Japan’s Aokigahara forest is a “sea of trees” that seems to draw suicides to itself, at least that’s its legend. Dante’s Forest of the Self-Murderers (with thanks to Gustave Dore) 40:00 – I will talk about Tundale’s Vision over and over again, it’s likely the best-known tour of hell besides Dante. It’s a fun one, with a proud, sinful knight as its protagonist, and complicated and prurient torments (lecherous monks are, for instance, eaten by a monster. While inside the monster, they’re impregnated with serpents. They’re “deposited” in a frozen lake, where their serpenty children burrow into and out of them. Also their arms, legs, and privates are turned into serpents, too.) There’s also some good comedy. The Vision of Drythelm is a likely source for Dante, though I don’t remember the fine details of this one as well. – Jacob Word for the day: Contrapasso, “suffer the opposite.” Punishments in hell should either reflect or contrast with the sin. 43:11 – Jamin returns to Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith reliably once per episode. 44:34 – The kids love Megan Thee Stallion! Jacob and Jamin are not familiar with her, but three days after recording she was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. Jacob is not-so-secretly a furry and has a minor gripe that Megan is not actually a stallion. Life is full of these disappointments. Music! Intro is from Maurice Burkhart’s 1933 “At The Devil’s Ball.” Outro is from Betty Boop’s “Red Hot Mamma,” 1934.
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