FOLKLORE

Altered Reality: Witchcraft, Lucid Dreaming and Mystery Spots

Supernatural Season 3, Episodes 9-11 cover the Malleus Maleficarum, African dream root, tricksters and hex bags.

 Don’t sabbaths look fun?!  Hexen , or  Witches , by Hans Baldrung, 1508

Don’t sabbaths look fun?! Hexen, or Witches, by Hans Baldrung, 1508

S3E9: “Malleus Maleficarum”

Monster: Witch

Where it’s from: All over the world, including the Middle East, Europe and America

Description: While they sometimes are depicted as being hideous, with long, warty noses and greenish skin, witches are just ordinary people. In fact, many, if not most, of those accused of witchcraft during the medieval Inquisition in Europe were simply natural healers, who fell victim to the patriarchy’s refusal to allow women in influential roles.

 Be careful what you wish for:  The Witch of Endor  by Martynov

Be careful what you wish for: The Witch of Endor by Martynov

One of the first mentions of a witch is the Witch of Endor, in 1 Samuel in the Bible, believed to have been written between 931 and 721 BCE, according to History. King Saul convinces the witch to call up the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel to help him defeat the Philistine army. She’s reluctant to help, as practicing witchcraft at the time was punishable by death. But Saul assures her she’s safe, so she performs her dark arts, and Samuel’s ghost appears.

Things don’t work out too well for Saul, though. Samuel is all doom and gloom, and sure enough, the next day Saul’s sons perish in the battle. Saul, in despair, commits suicide.

 The trouble with predicting the future is that sometimes it sucks:  Saul and the Witch of Endor  by Edward Henry Corbould, 1860

The trouble with predicting the future is that sometimes it sucks: Saul and the Witch of Endor by Edward Henry Corbould, 1860

Even though the Witch of Endor isn’t depicted as a villain — in fact, you could argue that she performs God’s work — there’s another Old Testament verse, Exodus 22:18, which decrees, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”  

The name of this episode of Supernatural refers to a medieval treatise, the Malleus Maleficarum (Latin for The Hammer of Witches) by Catholic clergyman Heinrich Kramer (and possibly Jacob Sprenger). Published in Germany in 1487, it instructed magistrates how to identify, interrogate and convict witches. The writers endorsed executing witches.

 This book, which tells you how to identify and exterminate witches, was all the rage in medieval times

This book, which tells you how to identify and exterminate witches, was all the rage in medieval times

The book was a hit — it was the second-bestselling book, behind the Bible, for almost 200 years.

What it does: “I hate witches,” Dean whines. “They’re always spewing their bodily fluids everywhere.”

On Supernatural, a coven is masquerading as a book club. They cast some Arabic-sounding spells, cut their hand, drip blood onto a victim’s toothbrush — and her teeth fall out and she dies.

 Witches cast spells to get their way and curse their enemies

Witches cast spells to get their way and curse their enemies



Hex bags are used to curse people. On the show, they’re relics of Old World black magic, containing bird bones, rabbit teeth and something the victim owned. Here are a couple of other versions:

How to Make a Hex Bag

Gather four symbolic items to include in the hex bag.

1. Intent: One ingredient that represents the purpose of the hex bag.

After the bag is created, you can “feed” more of these items to it to strengthen its power.

2. Spirit: Something that belongs to the possessor of the hex bag — and has never belonged to someone else.

3. Life: A plant, herb, seed or natural oil associated with the intended purpose of the bag. You can also use once-living items, like bone, hair, fur, antlers, claws or snake skin.

4. Sacrifice: One item that shows what you’re willing to offer to have the bag do its work.

Source: Sorcery and Shamanism

 

Black Magic Hex Bag

You’ll need:

  • Small black fabric bag
  • Pieces of dragon blood resin
  • Dried rue, basil, wormwood and nettle
  • A pentacle made of metal or wood

Focus on your target as you put the items into the bag.

Ideally, bury the hex bag outside their home, but if this isn’t possible, put it in their locker, desk or somewhere close to them.

Source: Spells of Magic

How to defeat it: Burning the hex bag negates its power.

 This shaman might be dreamwalking, but he’s certainly tripping his balls off

This shaman might be dreamwalking, but he’s certainly tripping his balls off

S3E10: “Dream a Little Dream of Me”

Monster: Dreamwalker

Where it’s from: South Africa

Description: Xhosa shamans of the river valleys on the eastern cape of South Africa are said to possess the power to enter other people’s dreams.

 Some shamans can take over your dreams

Some shamans can take over your dreams

What it does: The Winchester Brothers’ buddy Bobby is trapped in a dream. Someone’s entering people’s dreams (dreamwalking) and killing them. As the saying goes, if you die in your dream, you die in your sleep. It’s all very A Nightmare on Elm Street.

 The horror icon Freddy Krueger killed people in their dreams, and they died in real life

The horror icon Freddy Krueger killed people in their dreams, and they died in real life

How does one dreamwalk? It can be surprisingly easy.

A white flower called undlela zimhlophe, which translates to “white paths,” grows in South Africa. Its blooms only open at night, emitting a mesmerizing aroma. The plant, more commonly known as African dream root (Silene capensis), induces psychedelic, prophetic dreams.

 African dream room, which helps you lucid dream, is available for sale. Wally knows what he’s asking for Christmas!

African dream room, which helps you lucid dream, is available for sale. Wally knows what he’s asking for Christmas!

For the Xhosa, dreams are seen as gifts from the ancestors, characterized as drifting white winds or ghosts, in which they impart healing guidance or other knowledge to their descendants, according to World of Lucid Dreaming.

“This dream root is some serious mojo,” Sam says. “You take enough of it, with practice, you can become a regular Freddy Krueger.”

So how do they find this homicidal Sandman? Dean wants to know.

To control someone’s dream, you need to drink part of their body. The boys put in some of Bobby’s hair. Eww.

Bobby’s being tormented by a woman in a white nightgown with holes in her chest — who turns out to be his wife. He had to kill her — she was possessed, rabid. This horrific experience is what got him into hunting.

The villain turns out to be Jeremy, one of the subjects of a medical experiment — he’s basically a god in the dream world.

How to defeat it: Enter the dream and confront the dreamwalker. Remember, he’s dreaming, too. Use his subconscious fears against him.

 Mystery spots defy the laws of nature

Mystery spots defy the laws of nature

S3E11: “Mystery Spot”

Monster: Trickster

Where it’s from: Various parts of the world, though the Greek god Hermes and the Norse deity Loki are two of the best known

Description: There’ve been some strange goings-on at the Broward County Mystery Spot.

What it does: These mystery spots are popular roadside attractions in the U.S. They’re said to defy the laws of physics, where gravity doesn’t work, and perspective is skewed.

 Next time you’re at the Oregon Vortex, try the popular  Titanic  pose

Next time you’re at the Oregon Vortex, try the popular Titanic pose

Dean’s not having any of it: “Sam, joints like this are only tourist traps, right? I mean, you know, balls rolling uphill, furniture nailed to the ceiling — they’re only dangerous to your wallet.”

But Sam thinks locations that bend space and time are a distinct possibility: “There are spots in the world where holes open up and swallow people.” He mentions the Bermuda Triangle, part of the Atlantic Ocean between Miami, Bermuda and Puerto Rico, where dozens of ships and airplanes have disappeared, as well as the Oregon Vortex, one of the most famous mystery spots.

 Numerous vessels have been lost forever in the Bermuda Triangle

Numerous vessels have been lost forever in the Bermuda Triangle

What it does: Sam’s living his own personal Groundhog Day. Could you imagine a more frightening way to repeatedly start each day than your alarm going off to Asia’s “Heat of the Moment”?

Poor Dean keeps dying: He gets shot by the owner of the Mystery Spot; he’s run down at a crosswalk; then he’s smashed by a falling piano. And that’s just the start. This cycle goes on for over 100 days.

It turns out to be the work of a trickster. A man who recently disappeared didn’t believe in wormholes — so the naughty god thought it’d be fitting to throw him in one.

 Mischievous Mercury (the Roman equivalent of Hermes) lulls a watchman to sleep so he can steal a cow:  Mercury and Argos  by Abraham Hondius, late 1600s

Mischievous Mercury (the Roman equivalent of Hermes) lulls a watchman to sleep so he can steal a cow: Mercury and Argos by Abraham Hondius, late 1600s

Bobby says they’ll have to perform a summoning ritual. They’ll just need a gallon of human blood. Sam coldly agrees to kill someone for it — but then stakes Bobby. He knows his hunter buddy would never suggest such a bloodthirsty plan. And sure enough, the trickster god reveals himself.

How to defeat it: Beg. The trickster, in his sick and twisted way, is actually trying to get Sam to accept life without Dean. But Sam doesn’t want to imagine that (awww!), so the trickster lets Sam leave his virtual hell. –Wally

Vampires, Pagan Gods and a Ghost Ship

Belsnickel, the magical uses of meadowsweet and the Hand of Glory play a part in the monsters of Supernatural, Season 3, Episodes 6-8.

 A fiery sunrise could mean a stormy day at sea

A fiery sunrise could mean a stormy day at sea

S3E6: “Red Sky at Morning”

Monster: Ghost ship

Where it’s from: All around the world, particularly England and the United States

 Ghost ships have been sighted for centuries

Ghost ships have been sighted for centuries

Description: This particular spectral ship is a three-masted clipper. There have been reports of ghost ships for centuries, including:

The S.S. Violet, a paddle steamer, ran aground crossing the English Channel in a snowstorm. She was sighted by a lookout at Goodwin Sands at the start of World War II. A lifeboat went out to investigate — but no ship was found.

 The  Griffon ’s maiden voyage was also her last. This ghost ship now haunts northern Lake Michigan

The Griffon’s maiden voyage was also her last. This ghost ship now haunts northern Lake Michigan

The Griffon, one of the first major vessels to sail the Great Lakes, which is said to haunt Lake Michigan. Her maiden voyage in 1679 was also her last. She went down during a storm…but has been seen on the northern part of the lake ever since.



The title of the ep comes from a nautical saying:

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.
Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.

That is to say, that a red sunrise could mean a storm is coming.

What it does: The ghost ship of the Espírito Santo, a three-masted clipper (and an apparent invention of the show), appears every 37 years. Don’t look! If you happen to be one of the poor saps who sees the ship, you’ll end up drowning, like the woman in the shower and the man in the bathtub. The ghost ship will find a way to drown you — even if you’re just sitting in your car.

The Winchester Bros. start detecting a pattern: The ghost ship is targeting those who have spilled their family’s blood.

How to defeat it: There’s a gruesome but super helpful charm known as a Hand of Glory.

(Insert Dean joke here: “A Hand of Glory? I think I got one of those at the end of my Thai massage last week.”)

 This desiccated body part is said to be a genuine Hand of Glory

This desiccated body part is said to be a genuine Hand of Glory

The Hand of Glory has magical properties that make it ideal for thieves: It can open any lock and sometimes makes the holder invisible.

The Hand of Glory

A Hand of Glory is actually the hand (usually the right) of a hanged man who’s still swinging from the gallows — preferably during a lunar eclipse, but any ol’ night will work as well. You pickle it for 15 days, then dry it in the sun. It’s said to have magical properties that make it ideal for thieves: The Hand of Glory can open any lock and allows intruders to enter buildings undetected, sometimes making the holder invisible. The fingers burn as candles that never go out or hold a candle made from the fat of the hanged man in their grip. Once lit, it puts people to sleep or renders them motionless. In some tellings, the thief can only light a finger for each person asleep in the house; those that don’t light reveal that someone inside is awake. The lit fingers ensure that those sleeping won’t be able to be awakened.

Honestly, where can I get one of these for myself?

 A Hand of Glory is a great magical item — especially if you’re a thief

A Hand of Glory is a great magical item — especially if you’re a thief

To break the curse of the spectral ship, the fellas summon the ghost of the brother who killed the captain of the Espírito Santo. The two ghosts destroy each other in a watery sploosh.

 On  Supernatural , vampirism is a blood-borne virus

On Supernatural, vampirism is a blood-borne virus

S3E7: “Fresh Blood”

Monster: Vampire

Where it’s from: Romania

Description: A girl named Lucy gets dosed with vampire blood at a club and turns into a vamp. In the Supernatural universe, vampirism is a virus; if you ingest a vampire’s blood, you become one.

Bright light hurts their eyes — though they do have infrared vision. And they can hear heartbeats from a block away.

What it does: The vampire has a type. He’s turning pretty blondes. He feels misunderstood, that he’s a victim. He even cries when his “daughters” get killed, fearful of facing eternity alone.



A fellow hunter, Gordon, thinks our boy Sam is the Antichrist. So it’s particularly satisfying that a legendary vampire hunter like him gets turned into one of the monsters he so despises. Serves him right, the jerk.

The Winchesters were going to kill Gordon back when he was a human, so it makes it easier on their consciences to off him now that he’s a vampire.

How to defeat it: A shot of dead man’s blood knocks a vampire out.

To kill them, try decapitation or a silver bullet. (Though the novelist Anne Rice, an expert on vampires, told Marketplace, “Vampires are not particularly affected by silver bullets. Traditionally what kills vampires is a wooden stake through the heart.”

 

S3E8: “A Very Supernatural Christmas”

Monster: Pagan gods

Where it’s from: Britain

Description: At first Sam thinks they’re dealing with an evil Santa: “There’s some version of the anti-Claus in every culture. You’ve got Belsnickel, Krampus, Black Peter. Whatever you want to call it, there’s all sorts of lore.”

He continues, “Santa's brother went rogue, and now he shows up around Christmas time. But instead of bringing presents, he punishes the wicked.”

I doubt there’s a demonic counterpart to Santa in every culture, but Sammy’s right that there are quite a few.



 A dark take on Santa Claus, Belsnickel rewards good children but comes up with bizarre punishments for those on the naughty list

A dark take on Santa Claus, Belsnickel rewards good children but comes up with bizarre punishments for those on the naughty list

Belsnickel, a Sinister Santa From Germany

 Santa’s psychotic helper from Germany whips a bad little boy

Santa’s psychotic helper from Germany whips a bad little boy

This Christmas crazy wears a mask and often a wig, dresses in dark furs, lurks outside your house, and knocks on your door or window to announce his presence. He’s been known to give nuts, candy and small gifts to good children — but those who’ve been naughty get whipped and dragged into the woods. Belsnickel makes them pay for their bad behavior by dancing, doing tricks, singing or reciting poems for him.

It’s Sam that makes the connection to paganism.

Sam: Pretty much every Christmas tradition is pagan.

Dean: Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.

Sam: No, Jesus’ birthday was probably in the fall. It was actually the Winter Solstice festival that was co-opted by the church and renamed Christmas. But I mean, the Yule log, the tree, even Santa’s red suit — that’s all remnants of pagan worship.

Dean: How do you know that? What are you gonna tell me next? Easter Bunny’s Jewish?

The Winchester boys come across wreaths made of meadowsweet. Sam explains it as a powerful pagan herb that’s basically chum for their gods. “Gods were drawn to it and they’d stop by and snack on whatever was the nearest human,” he explains.

 Use meadowsweet in spells for love and positivity — or to lure human-devouring pagan gods

Use meadowsweet in spells for love and positivity — or to lure human-devouring pagan gods

Meadowsweet, though, once used to sweeten mead, is actually used in spells for love or creating a positive environment.

 Hold Nickar, the Celtic god of the Winter Solstice

Hold Nickar, the Celtic god of the Winter Solstice

Sam concludes they’re looking for Hold Nickar, the pagan god of the Winter Solstice, who grants clement weather. Ancient pagans (and Wiccans today) worship the Goddess, who takes the form of the Great Mother. She gives birth to the Sun King on Yule, symbolizing a beam of light in the dark of winter, promising renewed life and the return of the sun’s warmth and sustaining energy.

What it does: The Hardy Boys are the pagan gods’ newest tributes. The couple are sticklers for details and are gathering the ingredients they need for their ritual. That includes collecting blood from the Winchesters and prying off one of Sam’s fingernails. After this horrific exercise, we can only hope they’re done. But no: “Sweet Peter on a popsicle, I forgot the tooth!” the god exclaims, heading toward Dean’s mouth.

How to defeat it: Guess these gods aren’t so immortal: Wood stakes kill them…for now, that is. –Wally

Belsnickel wears a mask and wig, dresses in dark furs, and drags naughty kids into the woods, where he whips them.

Gruesome Grimm Fairy Tales

Bettelheim’s Freudian analysis of “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Hansel and Gretel” and “The Three Little Pigs” helps understand the monster of Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 5.

 A little girl’s spirit makes fairy tales come true in this episode of  Supernatural  — revealing just how violent these stories truly are

A little girl’s spirit makes fairy tales come true in this episode of Supernatural — revealing just how violent these stories truly are

S3E5: “Bedtime Stories”

Monster: Spirit that makes fairy tales come true

Where it’s from: Fairy tales were collected by Charles Perrault in France in 1697, then later in Germany by the Brothers Grimm from 1812-1857. 

Description: A cute little girl wearing a white dress that has a red bow with a red ribbon in her hair.

What it does: Something tears apart two brothers, devouring their innards. They were arguing about how to build houses — like the Three Little Pigs. “Actually, those guys were a little chubby,” Dean says with a smirk.

Many adults today tend to take literally the things said in fairy tales, whereas they should be viewed as symbolic renderings of crucial life experiences.
— Bruno Bettelheim, “The Uses of Enchantment”

Talk of fairy tales always makes me break out Bruno Bettelheim’s seminal work The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. And sure, he’s extremely Freudian — his analysis is filled with oral fixations and oedipal complexes — but he helps get at the root of these stories and why they resonate with children on a subconscious level.

“Many adults today tend to take literally the things said in fairy tales, whereas they should be viewed as symbolic renderings of crucial life experiences,” Bettelheim writes.

 “The Three Little Pigs” reveals the dangers of following the pleasure principle

“The Three Little Pigs” reveals the dangers of following the pleasure principle

“The Three Little Pigs”

Bettelheim explains how this fairy tale teaches children that they have to tame their id as they move into adulthood:

The littlest pig built his house with the least care out of straw; the second used sticks; both throw their shelters together as quickly and effortlessly as they can, so they can play for the rest of the day. Living in accordance with the pleasure principle, the younger pigs seek immediate gratification, without a thought for the future and the dangers of reality … Only the third and oldest pig has learned to behave in accordance with the reality principle: He is able to postpone his desire to play, and instead acts in line with his ability to foresee what may happen in the future.
 The third Little Pig acted like a sensible adult — and was able to keep the wolf at bay

The third Little Pig acted like a sensible adult — and was able to keep the wolf at bay

Of course, the bad guys are something within us, according to Bettelheim:

The wolf’s badness is something the young child recognizes within himself: his wish to devour, and its consequences — the anxiety about possibly suffering such a fate himself. So the wolf is an externalization, a projection of the child’s badness — and the story tells how this can be dealt with constructively.
 “Hansel and Gretel” plays upon kids’ dominant fear, according to Bettelheim: being deserted by their parents

“Hansel and Gretel” plays upon kids’ dominant fear, according to Bettelheim: being deserted by their parents

“Hansel and Gretel”

A little old lady invites in two lost hikers — they’re “deep in the woods,” just like Hansel and Gretel — and drugs their cherry pie. Then she grabs a knife, slits the man’s throat and stabs him repeatedly, smiling all the while like a sweet grandma.

Outside the window, the little girl watches, pleased.

“The fairy tale expresses in words and actions the things which go on in children’s minds,” Bettelheim explains.

In terms of the child’s dominant anxiety, Hansel and Gretel believe that their parents are talking about a plot to desert them. A small child, awakening hungry in the darkness of the night, feels threatened by complete rejection and desertion, which he experiences in the form of fear of starvation.

The parents in “Hansel and Gretel” attempt to abandon their children. It’s hard not to imagine Bettelheim is referring to breastfeeding here:

It is the child’s anxiety and deep disappointment when Mother is no longer willing to meet all his oral demands which leads him to believe that suddenly Mother has become unloving, selfish, rejecting. Since the children know they need their parents desperately, they attempt to return home after being deserted.
 The gingerbread house, as seen in this old advertisement, is actually a symbol of… a good mother, who offers up her breast for nourishment?!

The gingerbread house, as seen in this old advertisement, is actually a symbol of…a good mother, who offers up her breast for nourishment?!

There’s a lot of symbolism packed into that gingerbread house, according to Bettelheim:

Carried away by their uncontrolled craving, the children think nothing of destroying what should give shelter and safety. …
The child recognizes that, like Hansel and Gretel, he would wish to eat up the gingerbread house, no matter what the dangers. …
A gingerbread house, which one can “eat up,” is a symbol of the mother, who in fact nurses the infant from her body. Thus, the house at which Hansel and Gretel are eating away blissfully and without a care stands in the unconscious for the good mother, who offers her body as a source of nourishment.
 While the fairy tale is scary, children appreciate the fact that Hansel and Gretel ultimately trick and kill the witch

While the fairy tale is scary, children appreciate the fact that Hansel and Gretel ultimately trick and kill the witch

And then there’s that cannablistic witch:

The witch, who is a personification of the destructive aspects of orality, is as bent on eating up the children as they are on demolishing her gingerbread house. …
A witch as created by the child’s anxious fantasies will haunt him; but a witch he can push into her own oven and burn to death is a witch the child can believe himself rid of. As long as children continue to believe in witches — they always have and always will, up to the age when they no longer are compelled to give their formless apprehensions humanlike appearance — they need to be told stories in which children, by being ingenious, rid themselves of these persecuting figures of their imagination.

The murders on Supernatural are obviously connected to these fairy tales. And in the originals, there weren’t happily-ever-afters; the Grimm tales are gruesome. Originally they had sex, violence and cannibalism. “It got sanitized over the years,” Sam says, “turned into Disney flicks and bedtime stories.”

There’s a frog on the path in front of them. Dean’s finally convinced, though he adds, “I’ll tell you one thing: There’s no way I’m kissing a damn frog.”

When Sam sees a pumpkin and a mouse, he thinks of Cinderella’s carriage. “Dude, could you be more gay?” Dean says. I hope he has to make out with the frog for that comment.

A young woman is handcuffed in the kitchen. Her stepmother went crazy and abused her. Sound familiar?

 Children relate to Cinderella, whose place is in the ashes of the hearth, because they, too, like to get dirty — and they feel guilty about their oedipal desires

Children relate to Cinderella, whose place is in the ashes of the hearth, because they, too, like to get dirty — and they feel guilty about their oedipal desires

“Cinderella”

“Cinderella” has its origins in China even before the 9th century, when it was first written down. Bettelheim points out that that particular Asian country has had a controversial past involving foot fetishism and abuse of women:

The modern hearer does not connect sexual attractiveness and beauty in general with extreme smallness of the foot, as the ancient Chinese did, in accordance with their practice of binding women’s feet.

The conflict in “Cinderella” involves her nasty stepsisters, which Bettelheim justifiably ties to sibling rivalry.

Despite the name “sibling rivalry,” this miserable passion has only incidentally to do with a child’s actual brothers and sisters. The real source of it is the child’s feelings about his parents.Despite the name “sibling rivalry,” this miserable passion has only incidentally to do with a child’s actual brothers and sisters. The real source of it is the child’s feelings about his parents. …
Fearing that in comparison to [a child’s sisters or brothers] he cannot win his parents’ love and esteem is what inflames sibling rivalry. This is indicated in stories by the fact that it matters little whether the siblings actually possess greater competence.

Cinderella acquires her name by hanging out in the cinders of the hearth. Bettelheim posits that children connect with this uncleanliness:

Some of the child’s pervasive feelings of worthlessness have their origin in his experiences during and around toilet training and all other aspects of his education to become clean, neat, and orderly. … As clean as a child may learn to be, he knows that he would much prefer to give free rein to his tendency to be messy, disorderly and dirty.
At the end of the oedipal period, guilt about desires to be dirty and disorderly becomes compounded by oedipal guilt, because of the child’s desire to replace the parent of the same sex in the love of the other parent.
It makes every child identify with Cinderella, who is relegated to sit among the cinders. Since the child has such “dirty” wishes, that is where he also belongs … This is why every child needs to believe that even if he were thus degraded, eventually he would be rescued from such degradation and experience the most wonderful exaltation — as Cinderella does.  

Then again, there might be something actually noble and desirable about Cinderella’s station by the fire:

We are so accustomed to thinking of living as a lowly servant among the ashes of the hearth as an extremely degraded situation that we have lost any recognition that, in a different view, it may be experienced as a very desirable, even exalted position. In ancient times, to be the guardian of the hearth — the duty of the Vestal Virgins — was one of the most prestigious ranks, if not the most exalted, available to a female.

Bettelheim adds that “in many societies ashes were used for ablutions as a means of cleansing oneself.”

 The Fairy Godmother gives Cinderella the means to attend the ball in style — but she has to leave early to keep her virginity intact

The Fairy Godmother gives Cinderella the means to attend the ball in style — but she has to leave early to keep her virginity intact

And it wouldn’t be a Freudian reading of “Cinderella” if there wasn’t a stand-in for the vagina, right?

A tiny receptacle into which some part of the body can slip and fit tightly can be seen as a symbol of the vagina. Something that is brittle and must not be stretched because it would break reminds us of the hymen; and something that is easily lost at the end of a ball when one’s lover tries to keep his hold on his beloved seems an appropriate image for virginity. … Cinderella’s running away from this situation could be seen as her effort to protect her virginity.
The godmother’s order that Cinderella must be home by a certain hour or things will go very wrong … is similar to the parent’s request that his daughter must not stay out too late at night because of his fear of what may happen if she does.

Then again, maybe the shoe means a marriage commitment:

[I]n many stories it is the prince who slips the shoe on. This might be likened to the groom’s putting the ring on the finger of the bride as an important part of the marriage ceremony, a symbol of their being tied together henceforth.
 Bettelheim saw the glass slipper as symbolic of a vagina — more specifically, a hymen

Bettelheim saw the glass slipper as symbolic of a vagina — more specifically, a hymen

And there’s a creepy ending to “Cinderella” that Disney decided to leave out:

For the last time the stepsisters, with the active help of the stepmother, try to cheat Cinderella out of what rightly belongs to her. Trying to fit their feet into the shoe, the stepsisters mutilate them. …
They engaged in symbolic self-castration to prove their femininity; bleeding from the place on the body where this self-castration occurred may be another demonstration of their femininity, as it may stand for menstruation.

Back on Supernatural, the creepy little girl is there, but flickers and disappears, leaving a shiny red apple where she was standing. That’s symbolic of Snow White’s long sleep — sort of like the coma the doctor’s daughter is in.

Turns out he’s reading her Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Why aren’t we surprised? When he reads “Little Red Riding Hood,” the Big Bad Wolf (well, the dude with the Wile E. Coyote tattoo, that is) attacks a grandmother and kidnaps her granddaughter, who happens to be wearing a red hoodie.

 Little Red Riding Hood is given a red cloak, which shows she’s been sexualized at too young an age — leaving her prey to the Big Bad Wolf, a stand-in for lustful men

Little Red Riding Hood is given a red cloak, which shows she’s been sexualized at too young an age — leaving her prey to the Big Bad Wolf, a stand-in for lustful men

“Little Red Riding Hood,” or “Little Red Cap”

In the famous tale, Little Red Riding Hood wanders off the path, is tricked by the Big Bad Wolf and gets swallowed whole. Bettelheim sees this as a coming of age story, rife with sexual metaphors:

Little Red Cap tries to understand, when she asks Grandmother about her big ears, observes the big eyes, wonders about the large hands, the horrible mouth. Here is an enumeration of the four senses: hearing, seeing, touching, and tasting; the pubertal child uses them all to comprehend the world.
“Little Red Cap” in symbolic form projects the girl into the dangers of her oedipal conflicts during puberty, and then saves her from them, so that she will be able to mature conflict-free.

It’s ultimately a story about young women coming to terms with men, who are

split into two opposite forms: the dangerous seducer who, if given in to, turns into the destroyer of the good grandmother and the girl; and the hunter, the responsible, strong, and rescuing father figure.
It is as if Little Red Cap is trying to understand the contradictory nature of the male by experiencing all aspects of his personality: the selfish, asocial, violent, potentially destructive tendencies of the id (the wolf); the unselfish, social, thoughtful and protective propensities of the ego (the hunter).
Little Red Cap is universally loved because, although she is virtuous, she is tempted; and because her fate tells us that trusting everybody’s good intentions, which seems so nice, is really leaving oneself open to pitfalls.

It’s no coincidence that our heroine is wearing red:

All through “Little Red Cap,” in the title as in the girl’s name, the emphasis is on the color red, which she openly wears. Red is the color symbolizing violent emotions, very much including sexual ones. The red velvet cap given by Grandmother to Little Red Cap thus can be viewed as a symbol of a premature transfer of sexual attractiveness …
Little Red Cap’s danger is her budding sexuality, for which she is not yet emotionally mature enough.

Bettelheim, channeling Freud, gets creepy when he starts talking about how Red, standing in for all little girls, really wants to be seduced by her father:

The story on this level deals with the daughter’s unconscious wish to be seduced by her father (the wolf). …
It is this “deathly” fascination with sex — which is experienced as simultaneously the greatest excitement and the greatest anxiety that is bound up with the little girl’s oedipal longings for her father, and with the reactivation of these same feelings in different form during puberty. …
“Little Red Cap” externalizes the inner processes of the pubertal child: The wolf is the externalization of the badness the child feels when he goes contrary to the admonitions of his parents and permits himself to tempt, or to be tempted, sexually. When he strays from the path the parent has outlined for him, he encounters “badness,” and he fears that it will swallow up him and the parent whose confidence he betrayed. But there can be resurrection from “badness,” as the story proceeds to tell.
 When Little Red Riding Hood is cut out of the wolf’s belly, it’s a metaphor for her being reborn as a young woman

When Little Red Riding Hood is cut out of the wolf’s belly, it’s a metaphor for her being reborn as a young woman

I suppose it makes sense that kids would see a pregnant woman (such as Mommy) and think that the baby has to be cut out of her:

Little Red Cap has to be cut out of the wolf’s stomach as if through a Caesarean operation; thus the idea of pregnancy and birth is intimated. With it, associations of a sexual relation are evoked in the child’s unconscious.

By the end of the fairy tale, Red has undergone the sort of hero’s journey Joseph Campbell wrote of:

Little Red Riding Hood’s childish innocence dies as the wolf reveals itself as such and swallows her. When she is cut out of the wolf’s belly, she is reborn on a higher plane of existence; relating positively to both her parents, no longer a child, she returns to life a young maiden.

How to defeat it: Listen to the spirit. Once the message is received, the killings will stop.

Bet you’ll never read (or watch) a fairy tale the same way you did before, will you? –Wally

Azazel, Lucifer, Changelings and Cursed Objects

Protect yourself from The monsters of Supernatural, Season 3, Episodes 2-4 with this cleansing ritual.

 You can tell something’s not right with the baby in this illustration of a changeling by P.J. Lynch

You can tell something’s not right with the baby in this illustration of a changeling by P.J. Lynch

S3E2: “The Kids Are Alright”

Monster: Changeling

Where it’s from: Ireland

Description: It looks like your kid — but it’s an imposter left behind by fairies when they spirited away your real child. You might catch its true form in a reflection: gross raw red and white sinewy skin. Oh, and the Supernatural version has a round sucker mouth with rings of spiral teeth like a lamprey.

There’s documentation of parents from the late 1800s who killed their kids, thinking them changelings. One woman put her child in the oven, while another drowned her 3-year-old son because he couldn’t stand or speak.
 Keep iron by your baby’s crib if you don’t want fairies to kidnap it and replace it with a changeling imposter

Keep iron by your baby’s crib if you don’t want fairies to kidnap it and replace it with a changeling imposter

What it does: Fairies have the nasty habit of stealing away human children and leaving sub-par copies in their stead. What’s up with all this baby-napping?

There are a variety of reasons for this despicable act. Some say that fairy babies are actually quite ugly. Some think that fairies offer human babies to the Devil in a blood sacrifice. And some believe it’s so fairies can cross-breed with humans to enhance their bloodlines. A fairy’s true motives are nearly impossible to know.

A changeling typically exhibits signs of sickness. Even if it has a prodigious appetite, it will still end up weak and unhealthy, with long, bony limbs. Sometimes it’s deformed or has strange features, including a full set of teeth within a few weeks. It may be aloof or unable to talk. And it might cry nonstop, bite or otherwise misbehave.

“To any modern reader the symptoms of a changeling child can be conflated with autism, Down syndrome, and a host of other developmental and congenital disorders,” writes Randomdescent. It sounded like a somewhat condoned means of disposing of disabled children.

You see, parents supposedly could force the fairies to return their child by treating the changeling cruelly. There’s documentation of parents from the late 1800s who killed their kids, thinking them changelings. One woman put her child in the oven, while another drowned her 3-year-old son because he couldn’t stand or speak.

  The Changeling  by Johann Heinrich Füssli, 1780

The Changeling by Johann Heinrich Füssli, 1780

On Supernatural, there have been a series of deadly “accidents,” including a man falling (getting pushed) onto a power saw. They’re the work of changelings, which crawl in through windows and assume the shape of a child.

The mothers get marked with a red bruise on the back of their necks. Turns out it perfectly matches that creepy round mouth lined with razor-sharp teeth. The kids are draining their moms’ synovial fluid.

 Saying that your kid was a changeling used to be a way to get rid of troublesome or impaired offspring

Saying that your kid was a changeling used to be a way to get rid of troublesome or impaired offspring

How to defeat it: It’s tough to kill these changelings. One woman puts her daughter in the car and sends it into a nearby lake. She returns home to find the little girl dripping wet, still wanting that ice cream she was promised.

Fire works, though it might be hard to get away with burning children alive. As Dean points out, “We’ll just bust in, drag the kids out, torch them on the front lawn. That’ll play great with the neighbors.”

The Winchester brothers realize that if you kill the mother changeling, all the others will burn up as well. Luckily, the real kids weren’t taken off to fairyland but were kept underground, and they all get rescued.

In Irish tradition, fairies hate iron, so people would leave something made of this metal near their baby’s crib, such as fire tongs, scissors or a knife. Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me, but I suppose you have to weigh your risks.

Baptizing a baby as soon as possible also prevents fairy abduction.

 Why do we think these grotesque maimed animal parts are so lucky?

Why do we think these grotesque maimed animal parts are so lucky?

S3E3: “Bad Day at Black Rock”

Monster: Cursed object

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: Cursed objects can be a variety of things, including paintings (such as The Hands Resist Him, which you can read about in this post), mirrors, dolls — or tombs, like that of King Tut.

What it does: Curse boxes have binding runes and are meant to keep the bad stuff in, like Pandora’s box. And we all know how well that worked out.

What’s inside the curse box Dean and Sam find in their father’s storage space? A frickin’ rabbit’s foot?!

 They wouldn’t be smiling if they knew those rabbit’s foots might be cursed!

They wouldn’t be smiling if they knew those rabbit’s foots might be cursed!

While that doesn’t sound like much, it’s actually a super powerful token of hoodoo magic. If you have a rabbit’s foot that was cut off in a cemetery under a full moon on a Friday the 13th, you’ll have a run of amazing luck — for about a week. Then you lose the rabbit’s foot, your luck runs out…and you die.

Of course when Dean gets his hands on the cursed object, he says, “I’m Batman!”

 If you really want a lucky charm, cut off the left hind foot of a rabbit on an evil person’s grave at midnight on a Friday the 13th

If you really want a lucky charm, cut off the left hind foot of a rabbit on an evil person’s grave at midnight on a Friday the 13th

Hoodoo lore adds that it must be the rabbit’s left hind foot, and that the meaner the person whose grave you’re on top of, the more powerful the charm will be.

The association with rabbits and good luck supposedly goes all the way back to 600 BCE. It was believed that holding part of an animal would give you that creature’s strengths — in this case, the ability to run swiftly from danger or be extremely fertile, according to WebVet.

How to defeat it: Perform a heavyweight cleansing ritual. The boys use one that involves bone ash and cayenne pepper. It takes place in a cemetery, cuz why not? Here’s another you can try, from Wiccan Spells:

Cleansing Ritual

You’ll need something representing each of the four elements:

  • Air: Sage incense
  • Fire: Silver or gray candle
  • Earth: Sea salt
  • Water: Chalice filled with water

Hold your hands over the incense and say, “With air I cleanse myself.” Let the smoke swirl around your fingers for a few moments. Feel the cleansing properties of sage immerse you.

Hold your hands above the candle (at a safe distance) and say, “With fire I cleanse myself.” Visualize the flame burning away anything unwanted within you.

Take the sea salt and crumble it between your fingers and gently rub it on your hands, saying, “With earth I cleanse myself.”

Dip your hands in the water, again gently rubbing your hands, and say, “With water I cleanse myself.”

Sit in silence for a moment while you let the elements do their work.

Say: “Any energy that no longer serves me, please leave now. Thank you for your presence. Now I am sending you home.” Say it with conviction. Keep repeating it until you feel you’re done — this might be 10 times, or it might be 50. Negativity will shed from you like the skin off a snake. You may experience a pulling sensation or a feeling of suddenly becoming lighter.

After releasing the negative energies, you will have holes in your aura that must be filled with light — otherwise other negative energy will easily latch onto you and you’ll have to start the process again.

Visualize the top of your head opening up, with a funnel going from the heavens into your body. Pull down divine light to fill every gap in your aura as you repeat the words, “I ask that my energy body is filled with pure healing light.” I know that phrasing is a bit odd, but I figured there’s power in words, so just go with it. Repeat a few times, then thank the spirits and elements.

 Lucifer arouses other fallen angels in this  Paradise Lost  illustration by William Blake

Lucifer arouses other fallen angels in this Paradise Lost illustration by William Blake

S3E4: “Sin City”

Monster: Demon

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: These powerful evil creatures are usually distortions of nature — though on Supernatural they tend to be hot chicks.

What it does: Fellow hunter Ritchie goes home with a bartender. He follows her down to the family crypt — and promptly gets his neck snapped.

Demons usually like to possess people. As this demon colorfully describes it: “You know what happens when demons piggyback humans? They leave ’em rode hard and put up wet.”

She most definitely has a superiority complex. “All you got to do is nudge humans in the right direction,” she says. “Some whiskey here, a hooker there, and they’ll walk right into Hell with big, fat smiles on their faces.”

Later, Dean comments, “Demons are evil,” to which she replies, “And humans are such a lovable bunch?” throwing out Dick Cheney as an example. She has a point, especially given our current president.

 In another  Paradise Lost  illustration, this one by Gustave Doré, Lucifer is cast out of Heaven by God

In another Paradise Lost illustration, this one by Gustave Doré, Lucifer is cast out of Heaven by God

She talks of Lucifer like he’s the Second Coming. Lucifer means Lightbringer, she explains. The name is also a reference to the Morning Star, Venus. She says that people believe Lucifer created demons and that he will come again one day.

Although he was once an angel, Lucifer is now associated with Satan. Ezekiel 28:17 describes his downfall: “Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.”

This excessive pride pissed off God, who threw Lucifer down to Earth. Eventually, he ended up in Hell, which he pretty much took over.

 Ancient Israelites sacrificed goats to Azazel to send their sins back to the original source — the demon who corrupted humanity

Ancient Israelites sacrificed goats to Azazel to send their sins back to the original source — the demon who corrupted humanity

It’s in this episode that we finally learn the name of the Yellow-Eyed Demon: Azazel.

Azazel is another fallen angel, this one with the claim to fame of having corrupted humanity. At least Eve with her apple finally gets cut a break.

He’s described as an unclean bird that feeds on carcasses in the Apocalypse of Abraham (which didn’t make it into the Bible’s official version).

Nowadays, he’s depicted as having red skin, glowing yellow eyes and a barbed tail, according to Mythology.net. His favorite fashion accessories are goat skulls and bones. Jewish desert tribes, including the Israelites, would make sacrifices to Azazel at the same time that they made sacrifices to Yahweh. Offerings to Azazel were accomplished by driving a goat into the wilderness or by pushing it into a deep ravine. These sacrifices symbolized sending sins back to their original source, Mythology.net says. This is why Christian versions of the Bible translate Azazel as “Scapegoat.”

Azazel became the leader of the Grigori, a group of rebellious angels who married human women and produced a line of monstrous children.

How to defeat it: Try the trusty Devil’s Trap. But even though a demon is bound within the area, it can still cause destruction, as this one does. She destroys the crypt, which crumbles around Dean, leading to this witty exchange:

Dean: What are you laughing at, bitch? You’re still trapped.

Demon: So are you, bitch.

Dean wants to perform the exorcism rite. Trouble is he’s forgotten it. To be fair, it’s a lot of Latin to memorize. That’s what you should bookmark this page. –Wally

15 Best Articles of 2017

Our top blog posts cover the Paris Catacombs, India’s transsexual hijras, jinns, vintage Halloween, Fès hammans and more.

 

Duke and I tend to be drawn to the bizarre. We’re fans of the strange (chambers lined with skulls and bones, creepy vintage Halloween postcards and photos). We like to meet those who are societal outsiders (like India’s legal third sex, the hijra). We’re obsessed with the supernatural (jinns, gypsy love spells). But we also appreciate a good pampering (at a Fès hamman, say) and architectural beauties (such as the Milan Duomo).

Seems like you do, too. Here are the top 15 blog posts from last year. What was your favorite? –Wally

 

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1. GRUESOME FACTS (AND HELPFUL TIPS) ABOUT THE PARIS CATACOMBS

No bones about it: If you think piles of skulls and hallways formed of bones are pretty effin’ cool (like us), then the Catacombs of Paris are for you.

 

 FHI BANGLADESH

2. SECRETS OF THE HIJRA: INDIA’S LITTLE-KNOWN TRANSSEXUALS

Prostitution, curses and dangerous sex change operations are a way of life for this marginalized community.

 

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3. HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM JINNS AND BLACK MAGIC

Black magic in Islam is a serious concern — and the holy writings offer numerous ways to negate magic jinn.

 

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4. THE BEST PLACE TO MAKE OUT IN PUBLIC IN DELHI

Not a typical tourist stop, the Garden of Five Senses is a whimsical sculpture park worth visiting. It’s also popular with local couples escaping societal judgment against PDA.

 

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5. 24 VINTAGE HALLOWEEN CARDS THAT ARE NOSTALGIC — BUT A BIT CREEPY, TOO

Halloween greetings from the past featured common Halloween symbols: the witch, black cat, jack-o’-lantern, ghost, devil — and one that has been forgotten.

 

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6. 21 VINTAGE HALLOWEEN PHOTOS THAT ARE SO CREEPY THEY'LL GIVE YOU NIGHTMARES

Halloween costumes of the past were scary as hell.

 

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7. WHAT’S THE BEST HAMMAM SPA EXPERIENCE IN FES, MOROCCO?

Reinvigorate yourself at the luxury hammam Les Bains Amani.

 

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8. 7 FUN FACTS ABOUT THE MILAN CATHEDRAL

What to do in Milan, Italy? Visit the gorgeous Duomo di Milano, covered with statues of saints and gargoyles — and don’t miss the amazing view from the rooftop.

 

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9. LOVE SPELLS FROM THE GYPSIES

How to cast a love spell to make someone fall in love with you — or fall out of love with you. Plus, secrets from the Roma that will reveal your future spouse!

 

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10. THE PISHTACO OF PERU

Why one of the world’s creepiest vampire legends lingers to this day.

 

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11. WAT RONG SUEA TEN, THE BLUE TEMPLE

No day trip to Chiang Rai is complete without a visit to this breathtaking wat, between the White Temple and Black Museum.

 

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12. THE BEST AND WORST PARTS OF LIVING IN QATAR

What’s it like living in a Muslim country that fasts for an entire month and limits the sale of booze? What do Qataris think of Americans? And how the heck do you pronounce Qatar?

 

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13. THE INDIAN CASTE SYSTEM EXPLAINED

Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra, untouchable: How did the caste system get started, what is the difference between castes — and how does this shameful practice persist to this day?

 

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14. HOW ST. NICHOLAS BECAME SANTA CLAUS

The surprising origins of jolly old St. Nick include a tie to prostitution, kids chopped into pieces, a devil named Krampus and a racist tradition around his helper Zwarte Pieter, or Black Peter.

 

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15. THE BEST SHOP FOR BLUE POTTERY IN THE ENTIRE FEZ MEDINA

If you’re shopping in Fès, just off of Place Seffarine is a small shop with a friendly owner and great deals.

The Seven Deadly Sins and Binsfeld’s Classification of Demons

Defeat the monsters of Supernatural Season 3, Episode 1 with the help of palo santo.

  The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things  is attributed to Hieronymus Bosch, though some scholars think it might be by one of his followers

The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things is attributed to Hieronymus Bosch, though some scholars think it might be by one of his followers

S3E1: “The Magnificent Seven”

Monster: The Seven Deadly Sins (pride, envy, gluttony, lust, wrath, greed and sloth)

Where it’s from: Egypt, then Italy. In 375 CE, Evagrius Ponticus, one of the so-called Desert Monks, created a list of eight evil thoughts or temptations that lie at the heart of all sinful behavior. A couple of centuries later, in 590 CE, Pope Gregory I, known as Gregory the Great, refined the list to the seven we know today.

“You can repress and deny us all you want,” Envy says, “but the truth is you’re just animals. Hungry, greedy, horny, violent animals.”
 Pieter Bruegel’s  Lechery , part of a series of etchings and engravings from 1558 on each of the Deadly Sins

Pieter Bruegel’s Lechery, part of a series of etchings and engravings from 1558 on each of the Deadly Sins

  Pride  by Bruegel, 1558

Pride by Bruegel, 1558

Description: On Supernatural, the demonic entities look a lot like the Smoke Monster from Lost. They flow into a person’s mouth and possess them, turning their hosts into personifications of the Seven Deadly Sins.

 A page from an illuminated manuscript on the personification of the Seven Deadly Sins

A page from an illuminated manuscript on the personification of the Seven Deadly Sins

 This page shows the personification of lechery

This page shows the personification of lechery

What it does: There’s a cicada swarm at ground zero. How biblical. A family is found rotting away on their couch, having died of dehydration and starvation (that is, sloth). A woman gets touched by a man who puts a suggestion in her mind. She really, really likes a pair of shoes — enough to smash another woman’s head into a windshield (envy). Talk about fashion to die for.

And poor Isaac, another hunter, gets persuaded to chug-a-lug a big ol’ container of Drano (gluttony).

Envy insists that the supposed Deadly Sins are really natural human instincts: “You can repress and deny us all you want,” she says, “but the truth is you’re just animals. Hungry, greedy, horny, violent animals.”

 

Binsfeld’s Classification of Demons

In 1589 the German bishop and notorious witch hunter Peter Binsfeld paired each of the Deadly Sins with a demon who uses it to tempt people.

lucifer

Lucifer: Pride

Lucifer was the first fallen angel (you know what they say about pride goeth-ing before a fall). He’s now the ruler of Hell and the Father of All Devils.

 

mammon.jpg

Mammon: Greed

One of the princes of Hell, Mammon literally means “money” in Hebrew.

 

DEMONS - ASMODEUS

Asmodeus (Asmodai): Lust

There must be some power struggles in the fiery pits, because Asmodeus is known as the King of the Nine Hells. He’s described as being quite the mishmash of animal parts in the Dictionnaire Infernal by J. Collin de Plancy: three heads (a man spitting fire, a sheep and a bull), the torso of a man, one rooster leg and a serpent’s tail. As if that’s not enough, he rides a lion that has a dragon’s neck and wings.

 

satan

Satan: Wrath

One of the highest-ranking demons of Hell and certainly the best-known today (he’s become synonymous with the Devil).

 

beelzebub

Beelzebub: Gluttony

Not surprisingly, the Lord of the Flies looks like a disgustingly large fly.

 

leviathan

Leviathan: Envy

A sea monster thought by some to be a crocodile, though it later came to represent a whale. Its name means “twisted in folds,” leading many scholars to believe it’s a sea serpent.

 

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Belphegor: Sloth

One of the Seven Princes of Hell, Belphegor is connected to sloth by Binsfeld, though others say he seduces people by giving them ingenious ideas for inventions that will make them rich and that he was originally worshiped as a phallus and was associated with orgies. In the Dictionnaire Infernal, he’s Hell’s ambassador to France.

How to defeat it: Palo santo, a holy wood from the coast of South America used by the Inca. It’s a mystical tree that’s part of the citrus family and related to frankincense and myrrh, according to Sacred Wood Essence. Not only is it good for keeping insects away, which is why it’s so popular in Ecuador and Peru, it cleanses an area, much like sage.

“Its smoke is so powerful that it has become a staple in sacred rituals, becoming an essential energy tool for shamans and saints alike,” writes the Energy Muse Blog.

In addition, “it provides an uplifting scent that raises your vibration in preparation for meditation and allows for a deeper connection to the source of all creation,” Sacred Wood Essence says. “It is also said that palo santo enhances creativity and brings good fortune to those who are open to its magic.”

If you’re dealing with someone possessed by a demon, you should always try the rite of exorcism. You’ve been practicing your Latin…right?

Getting saved in the nick of time by a mysterious girl with a magic demon-slaying blade certainly helps, too. –Wally

Norse Mythology "Thor: Ragnarok" Got Wrong

Learn the truth about Thor, Hela, Ragnarok, Loki, Odin and Valkyries.

 There’s a lot going on during Ragnarok, the Norse version of the apocalypse. In fact, practically everyone dies — before the world is engulfed in flames

There’s a lot going on during Ragnarok, the Norse version of the apocalypse. In fact, practically everyone dies — before the world is engulfed in flames

While Thor: Ragnarok was a surprisingly funny intergalactic romp, Marvel’s version doesn’t quite match up to the actual Norse mythology. Here’s a look at some of the big themes from the movie, and how they differ from the legends.

Be warned: Spoilers below.

 Hel, the goddess of death, is actually Loki’s daughter, not his sister

Hel, the goddess of death, is actually Loki’s daughter, not his sister

Who was Hela really?

Cate Blanchett’s badass bitch is more commonly called simply Hel (which means “Hidden”) in Norse mythology. And while she is indeed the goddess of death — an extremely powerful one at that — she’s not Thor and Loki’s older sibling. In fact, she’s Loki’s daughter, her mom being the giantess Angrboda, whose name has the pleasant translation of She Who Brings Grief. Hel’s siblings are the monstrous wolf Fenrir and Jormungand, the Midgard Serpent.

Hel’s putrid stink is a sure sign she’s in the vicinity.
 Hel is half a beautiful woman, half a rotting, skeletal corpse

Hel is half a beautiful woman, half a rotting, skeletal corpse

The goddess doesn’t have Blanchett’s steely beauty — well, at least half of her doesn’t. Hel is usually depicted as being split down the middle, with one half a young woman, the other half a rotting skeleton, according to Northern Tradition Paganism. Hel’s putrid stink is a sure sign she’s in the vicinity.

Hel rules over a dominion that shares her name (much like Hades in Greek mythology). It’s this word that inspired the Christian version of Hell.

 The fire giant Surtur leads the army that battles the Asgardian gods during Ragnarok

The fire giant Surtur leads the army that battles the Asgardian gods during Ragnarok

Who’s Surtur the fire giant?

Perhaps not surprisingly, he’s Loki’s godfather, having helped raise that little troublemaker.

The fire giant is more commonly called Surt (“Black”) due to his charred appearance. Instead of being a cool flaming demon as he’s depicted in Thor: Ragnarok, he’s more humanlike in Norse mythology, with a flowing beard.

He carries a flaming sword and has a destiny to fulfill (everyone in Norse myths seems to be playing out preordained roles): Lead his kin and Hel’s undead minions into battle against the gods of Asgard during Ragnarok, the cyclical destruction of the cosmos. Surt sweeps his sword across the earth, leaving nothing but an inferno. He killed the god Freyr, who in turn offed him. Few survived Ragnarok.

 Everyone seems to kill each other during Ragnarok, including Thor and the Midgard Serpent

Everyone seems to kill each other during Ragnarok, including Thor and the Midgard Serpent

What exactly is the Ragnarok prophecy?

The “Doom of the Gods” is an appropriate name for the Norse version of the end of the world.

Like the Christian apocalypse described in the book of Revelation in the Bible, Ragnarok, too, is foretold by a series of omens, starting with a Great Winter (how very Game of Thrones) that lasts for three years, brought on after humans and even the gods have sunk into nihilism.

Then come the three cocks. One red rooster warns the giants that Ragnarok has begun, while a second alerts the dead. The third, which resides in Valhalla, the majestic drinking hall afterlife for heroes, lets the divine partiers know their fun has come to an end.

Even though Odin could foresee that there was no defeating Surt and his army, he and the gods still fought valiantly. During this epic war, the world is utterly destroyed and sinks into the sea. The end.

And yet it’s not the end. A new world rises from the depths of the water, and two mortals will repopulate the Earth.

 The giant wolf Fenrir kills Odin, swallowing him whole during Ragnarok

The giant wolf Fenrir kills Odin, swallowing him whole during Ragnarok

How does Odin really die?

Though he was prone to wander, Odin doesn’t go off to Norway to die (after his rest home gets destroyed) and dissolve into gold dust. Instead, he perishes during the battle of Ragnarok.

 The naughty Fenrir was kept chained up — until he escaped to wreak havoc during Ragnarok

The naughty Fenrir was kept chained up — until he escaped to wreak havoc during Ragnarok

Fenrir, the massive wolf who’s Loki’s son and Hel’s brother, has been a bit too wild and has been chained up by the gods. He escaped, though, and “ran across the land with his lower jaw on the ground and his upper jaw in the sky, consuming everything in between. Even the sun itself was dragged from its height and into the beast’s stomach,” according Norse Mythology for Smart People. He also swallows Odin whole, ending the life of the Father of the Gods.

 You wouldn’t want to fight Thor, especially when he’s armed with his hammer Mjollnir

You wouldn’t want to fight Thor, especially when he’s armed with his hammer Mjollnir

Do Loki and Thor have a troubled relationship?

In a word, hell yes — though they did bond once in a cross-dressing ruse to win back Thor’s hammer, Mjollnir.

Thor and Loki did bond once in a cross-dressing ruse to win back Thor’s hammer, Mjollnir.
 Loki convinces the manly Thor to dress up as a woman to pretend to be the goddess Freya (it’s a long story)

Loki convinces the manly Thor to dress up as a woman to pretend to be the goddess Freya (it’s a long story)

Loki is a trickster, so you never know what to expect. He’s likely to cause damage — in fact, at the time of Ragnarok in Norse mythology, he’s been chained inside a mountain as punishment for his involvement in the death of the god Balder, a favorite of the Asgardians. (Loki gave his blind brother Hod a mistletoe dart — the only thing that could harm Balder — and guided his aim so it struck and killed the deity.)

But Loki’s also known to actually help the gods as well. The Marvel universe has captured his mercurial spirit; you never know if he’s on Thor’s side — and you know you should never fully trust him.

During Ragnarok, Loki breaks free of his chains and launches an attack on his Asgardian brethren, sailing on a ship that’s somehow constructed of dead men’s nails. Eww.

In some versions of the myth, it’s Loki and not his daughter Hel who leads the army of the undead.

 Thor defeats the massive serpent Jormungand — but perishes from its poison right after

Thor defeats the massive serpent Jormungand — but perishes from its poison right after

Loki’s offspring Jormungand and the god of thunder have an intertwined destiny. The two have always been bitter enemies, and the serpent is a formidable foe: He’s so large that he encircles the Earth, biting his own tail — what’s known as an ouroboros. During the apocalyptic war of Ragnarok, Thor kills the Midgard Serpent — only to die from its poison. There’s a lot of these double deaths going around.

 The Valkyries choose who lives and dies in battles

The Valkyries choose who lives and dies in battles

What’s the truth about the Valkyries?

These fierce, beautiful maidens ride in groups of nine upon flying horses and guide fallen heroes to Valhalla for Odin.

Scandinavians in the Middle Ages believed the gorgeous streaks of the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, were the Valkyries sweeping across the night sky, according to Credo.


LEARN MORE ABOUT THE NORTHERN LIGHTS: Why You Should Consider Visiting Iceland


A common misconception is that the Valkyrie are warriors — probably because they’re decked out in armor, are often depicted holding spears and like to hang out on battlefields.

“The meaning of their name, ‘choosers of the slain,’ refers not only to their choosing who gains admittance to Valhalla, but also to their choosing who dies in battle and using malicious magic to ensure that their preferences in this regard are brought to fruition,” writes Norse Mythology for Smart People.

 The Valkyries were fierce woman who soared over battlefields on flying horses — until they were relegated to waitresses at Valhalla

The Valkyries were fierce woman who soared over battlefields on flying horses — until they were relegated to waitresses at Valhalla

While they started out as dark angels of death swooping over the slaughter of a battlefield, the Valkyries later became associated as Odin’s shield maidens, lovely virgins with golden hair and snow-white skin who serve an all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffet of mead and meat in the great feasting hall in the sky. Dead heroes remained there until called to fight by Odin’s side during Ragnarok.

Marvel’s version of Ragnarok might be a bit off-base, but it’s still a fun one nevertheless. And as much as I’d love to have seen Loki captaining that ship of yellowed fingernails and toenails, I’m glad that hottie Chris Hemsworth’s Thor survives to star in another movie. –Wally

During Ragnarok, Loki launches an attack on Asgard, sailing on a ship constructed of dead men’s nails. Eww.

Ghosts, Demons and Genies

The monsters of Supernatural, Season 2, Episodes 19-22 include a jinni and acheri.

 Are you part of the 45% of the population who believes in ghosts?

Are you part of the 45% of the population who believes in ghosts?

S2E19: “Folsom Prison Blues”

Monster: Ghost

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: How can you tell if a ghost is around? “The clock stopped, the flickering lights, cold spot — I mean, he did everything but yell, ‘Boo,’” Dean says.

What it does: This ghost causes its victims to have a heart attack. Maybe this isn’t so farfetched. A 2012 YouGov poll found that 45% of respondents believe in ghosts, and about a third think that ghosts can harm or otherwise interact with the living.

How to defeat it: You know the drill: The all-powerful salt can dispel it, but burn her bones to get rid of it for good.

 Jinn are mentioned in the Quran — in fact, Allah created them to worship Him

Jinn are mentioned in the Quran — in fact, Allah created them to worship Him

S2E20: “What Is and What Should Never Be”

Monster: Jinni (or as Dean says, “a frickin’ genie”). No one can seem to agree on the spelling: The plural is, alternately, jinn, jinns, djinn or djinns. I guess it’s like Hanukkah/Chanukah.

Where it’s from: the Middle East

Description: “My God, Barbara Eden was hot, wasn’t she?” Typical Dean line. Jinn can change shape at will. This one prefers to appear as a man with a shaved head and tattoos all over his body.

Jinn are supernatural tricksters from Arabian mythology that are below angels and devils in the hierarchy. They’re creatures of air or flame who dwell in inanimate objects. They delight in punishing humans for any harm done. If you know the right procedure, you can force a jinni to do your bidding.

Jinn are actually mentioned in the Quran. As this verse attests, they were created before mankind:

Indeed We created man from dried clay of black smooth mud. And We created the Jinn before that from the smokeless flame of fire. (Quran 15:26-27)

What’s a bit surprising is that Allah (as God is known to Muslims) created them to worship Him:

“I did not create the Jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (Quran 51:56)
 Jinn, or genies as most Americans know them, are powerful creatures who can change their shape and love to trick humans

Jinn, or genies as most Americans know them, are powerful creatures who can change their shape and love to trick humans

There are five types of jinn, according to Alif the Unseen:

  1. Marids: They’re the most powerful jinn, described as “the classic genies of folklore, often portrayed as barrel-chested men with booming voices.” They’re associated with water.

  2. Effrits: These fiery creatures possess spectacular magical powers and are quite cunning. In the Quran, King Solomon gained control over a tribe of effrits, who performed various tasks for him.

  3. Ghouls: Zombie-like, these undead creatures haunt graveyards and prey on human flesh.

  4. Sila: Most often portrayed as female, these talented shapeshifters are known to seduce their victims and are the most intelligent type of jinni.

  5. Vetalas: Vampiric creatures that possess human corpses, they can see the future, gain insight into the past and read thoughts.

What it does: The jinni has created an alternate world, where the Winchester boys’ mom wasn't attacked by a demon. Sam’s a sporty wuss studying law and is engaged to Jessica. And Dean gets to mow the lawn!

 You can make a jinni do your bidding — but be warned: He’s not gonna like it!

You can make a jinni do your bidding — but be warned: He’s not gonna like it!

He’s also scored a dream girlfriend, prompting him to ask, “How’d I end up with such a cool chick?” His girlfriend is so freakin’ cool she’s got a wicked sense of humor. She replies, “I’ve just got low standards.”

There are hints that all is not as it should be, namely visions of a grimy girl in a dowdy dress.

If it all seems too good to be true, that’s because it is. The jinni can alter reality, shaping the past, present or future as it sees fit. The catch to this tempting alternate reality is that the Winchesters aren’t hunters, so all the cases they’ve solved never happened, and all those people weren’t saved.

“Why do I have to be some kind of hero?” Dean wants to know. “Why do we have to sacrifice everything?”

This jinni doesn't actually grant you a wish; it only makes you think it has: You're really tied up somewhere as it feeds upon your blood, slowly draining your life away.

How to defeat it: A silver knife dipped in lamb’s blood. Perhaps it has something to do with the most gruesome of God’s plagues during the time of Moses. Yahweh (the name God went by in the Old Testament) wanted to convince the Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery. So he sent a variety of plagues. But turning water into blood, frogs, lice, wild animals and flies, diseased livestock, boils, horrific hail, locusts and darkness for three days still wasn’t enough for Pharaoh to give up his free labor. So Yahweh decided He’d kill every Egyptian’s first-born son. So the Angel of Death knew which houses to pass over (hence Passover, get it?), the Israelites were told to smear lamb’s blood on the thresholds of their doors:

The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:13)

If you don’t have a sacrificial lamb handy, we can personally attest to this efficacy of this protective chant.

 The acheri casts a shadow of death upon sleeping children so they can suffer a long, painful illness as it did

The acheri casts a shadow of death upon sleeping children so they can suffer a long, painful illness as it did

S2E21: “All Hell Breaks Loose: Part One”

Monster: Acheri

Where it’s from: North America

Description: There’s a demon that disguises itself as a little girl. She’s an acheri, the ghost of a girl who died a horrible, drawn-out death, often from sickness but sometimes the victim of abuse and murder. The monster comes from the folklore of the Chippewa tribe of North America. It returns from the spirit world to live in the hills and mountaintops, flying through the valleys at night to bring a plague of pestilence to sleeping children. No wonder kids get sick so much.

Its daytime guise is that of a frail, gray-skinned girl who’s so pitiful looking you just can’t help but feel sorry for her. But its true form is a hideous monster with a skeletal frame, demonic red eyes and long clawed fingers.

What it does: The acheri suffered a long, painful death, and it wants to inflict that same misery upon others. It doesn’t even need to touch children to pass on its trademark fatal respiratory disease — its shadow merely needs to pass over its victims.

The more lives it claims, the stronger the acheri becomes.

The acheri suffered a long, painful death, and it wants to inflict that same misery upon others.

In this episode, the psychic 23-year-olds all smell sulfur when they awake in the ghost town of Cold Oak, South Dakota, supposedly the most haunted town in the United States. The Yellow-Eyed Demon has gathered the “best and brightest” and wants soldiers in a demon war to bring on the apocalypse. Oops — he really just wants one soldier. A leader. So he’s set up this Hunger Games-like competition. The kids must off each other until only one is left standing.

We meet Lily, a new psychic who kills whoever she touches, including her girlfriend. She tries to leave…and ends up hanging in a noose from the rickety windmill, killed by the acheri.

Ol’ Yellow Eyes says he’s rooting for Sammy. In a high-def dream, he shows Sam the night his mom died. The demon stood over the crib, cut itself and bled into Sam’s mouth. “Better than mother’s milk,” he says. Eww.

How to defeat it: Salt, not surprisingly, is once again the miracle cure. But when a young woman named Ava breaks the protective salt barrier, she lets in the acheri, which tears open a hole in Andy’s chest.

Acheri are also vulnerable to the color red. Amulets, clothing and ribbons of red act as a ward against a visit from this evil demon. Parents would weave red necklaces for their children to wear for protection from the illness the acheri spreads.

Ava, who can control demons, declares herself the “undefeated heavyweight champ” and attempts to kill Sam. But superstrong Jake snaps her neck. She’s undefeated no more. Yet good old’ Sam can't bring himself to kill Jake — and is literally stabbed in the back. And…dies?! Thing is, there are like 18 more seasons, so I’m not too worried.

 Being attacked by a demon is no fun at all

Being attacked by a demon is no fun at all

S2E22: “All Hell Breaks Loose: Part Two”

Monster: Demon

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: They’re perversions of nature, though the ones on Supernatural tend towards hot chicks for some reason.

What it does: Demonic omens include cattle deaths and lightning storms.

In this episode, Dean turns out to be a big softie after all; he’s willing to make a huge sacrifice to get Sam back.

Demons can’t resurrect people unless a pact is made. “I know, red tape,” the demon says.

He wants to make a deal with a demon with the trusty crossroads pact we covered here. He exchanges his soul after one more year of life for Sam to come back from the dead. If he tries to welch out of the deal, Sam will turn back to “rotten meat” and drop dead.

You’ve got to be careful, though: How sure are you that the Sam you brought back is 100% the old one? the Yellow-Eyed Demon asks.

  Supernatural  likes its demons to be hot chicks, but most of the time they’re freaks of nature like these fellows

Supernatural likes its demons to be hot chicks, but most of the time they’re freaks of nature like these fellows

How to defeat it: If you’re not sure if someone’s possessed by a demon, make them do a shot of holy water. That’s what they make Ellen do. (They’re nice enough to follow it up with a shot of whiskey.)

Also consider the trusty Devil’s Trap. This one is supersized, constructed of iron lines (e.g., railways) and frontier churches built by Sam Colt, the guy who made that monster-killing gun. It’s all to protect a Devil’s Gate, “a damn door to Hell.”

Well, the gate opens, but the good news is that Daddy Winchester escapes Hell and battles the demon. Dean shoots it with the Colt, it dies, and their dad glows and disappears in a poof of smoke. It’s hard to imagine he didn’t head up to Heaven.

The bad news? The hunters have unleashed 100 to 200 demons. “The war has just begun.” Gulp. –Wally

Ghosts, Werewolves and Necromancy

The monsters of Supernatural, Season 2, Episodes 16-18: the Poltergeist curse, how to turn into a werewolf and rituals for summoning spirits.

 More than four in 10 Americans believe in ghosts. Do  you ?

More than four in 10 Americans believe in ghosts. Do you?

S2E16: “Roadkill”

Monster: Ghost

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: A ghosts is the spiritual remains of a human who’s dead. They often appear much like the person they once were, though typically stripped of color and substance.

A perhaps surprisingly high number of people believe in ghosts: 42% of Americans, for instance, according to a 2013 Harris poll.

Apparently, there are eight different types of ghosts, as described by Roger Clarke in Ghosts: A Natural History: 500 Years of Searching for Proof.

You’re like a walking encyclopedia of weirdness.
— Dean Winchester, to his brother, Sam

This episode deals with the spirit of Jacob Greely, who haunts the road where he was killed on the anniversary of his death.

We learn that spirits are like wounded animals, lost, in pain. They remain because of their remains — or unfinished business, Sam says. Jacob is trapped in a loop, replaying the same tragedy over and over.

What it does: This one speaks through the radio, disappears in cloud of smoke and kills an innocent person in punishment.  

How to defeat it: Salt, again. “In most cultures, salt’s a symbol of purity, so it repels impure and unnatural things,” Sam says. “Same reason you throw it over your shoulder.”

So the boys are off to dig up another corpse and salt and burn it. They need a new hobby.

But there’s another option: Get the ghost to accept its fate and let go.

Fun fact: It’s an old country custom to plant a tree on a grave, Sam exclaims.

“You’re like a walking encyclopedia of weirdness,” Dean replies.

When a woman from Chesterville, Illinois spoke out against the conservative views of the Amish and Mennonite faith, she was accused of witchcraft and found dead. The townsfolk planted a tree over her grave to trap her spirit inside and prevent her from taking revenge, according to Mysterious Heartland.

Her ghost is said to haunt the area.

 

 Lycanthropy, the fancy word for turning into a werewolf, happens during the full moon

Lycanthropy, the fancy word for turning into a werewolf, happens during the full moon

S2E17: “Heart”

Monster: Werewolf

Where it’s from: Many parts of the world, particularly Europe

Description: “I’m sorry, man, but what about a human by day, a freak animal killing machine by moonlight don’t you understand? I mean, werewolves are badass,” Dean says.

The ones on Supernatural tend to keep their human form (maybe for budgetary concerns) — just with more hair, longer nails and sharper teeth.

In some cultures, individuals born during a new moon or suffering from epilepsy were considered likely to be werewolves, according to an Imgur post.

 That’s a good question. Have you been bitten by a werewolf lately? Eaten wolf brains? Made a deal with the Devil?

That’s a good question. Have you been bitten by a werewolf lately? Eaten wolf brains? Made a deal with the Devil?

There are various means to become a werewolf:

  • Getting bitten by a werewolf
  • Making a pact with the Devil
  • Suffering from a family curse
  • Drinking water from a wolf’s pawprint
  • Eating wolf brains
  • Wearing a wolfskin

What it does: On the week leading up to full moon, the werewolf mauls people to death, removing their heart. Then the werewolf wakes up as a human again, not remembering anything that happened the night before.

“Like a really hot Incredible Hulk?” Dean wants to know.

The connection between lycanthropy and the full moon goes back to the ancient Greeks, according to Werewolves.com:

They noticed the way that the weak gravitational pull of the moon affected the ocean tides and figured that since the human brain contains moisture that the moon could also screw up someone’s mind in the same way, which would cause savage feelings to come forth. The “civilized man” might be gradually transformed by the pull of the moon into a raging, irrational creature — a lunatic. Many of the well-known Greek scholars, such as Aristotle and Hippocrates, agreed with this theory. Then taking in account one of Greece’s moon goddesses, Selene, was often portrayed as a wild and unpredictable woman that would dance unrestrained in the woods, the Greeks felt that they had further proof the moon made people wild and crazed.

Turns out they were on to something. A study performed at the Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital in Sydney, Australia stated that some of its emergency patients admitted with very violent and dangerous disturbances were similar to werewolf behavior. And a quarter of those happened during a full moon — double the number for the other phases of the moon, according to Leonie Calver, a clinical research nurse in toxicology.

 This fellow won’t even remember this in the morning

This fellow won’t even remember this in the morning

How to defeat it: Tie them up — you can’t let them go on an all-you-can-eat buffet, as Dean says.

Lycanthropy might be cured if you can kill the werewolf who bit you. You can sever the bloodline. So posits Daddy Winchester’s theory.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t pan out. So a silver bullet to the heart it is.
 

 Necromancy, which comes from the words for “dead divination,” is a fun, if dangerous, pastime

Necromancy, which comes from the words for “dead divination,” is a fun, if dangerous, pastime

S2E18: “Hollywood Babylon”

Monster: Spirits raised from the dead

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: Certain movie productions are said to be cursed or haunted.

 As if the movie  Poltergeist  wasn’t scary enough — it’s also said to be cursed, with some of its stars suffering untimely deaths

As if the movie Poltergeist wasn’t scary enough — it’s also said to be cursed, with some of its stars suffering untimely deaths

There are some freak deaths associated with the Poltergeist series, for example, including one of the stars being strangled by her ex and the little girl who played Carol Anne succumbing to a sudden illness.

And there’s a famous shot in Three Men and a Baby in which you can make out an image of a young boy…who supposedly is a ghost. (It did give me the chills when I first saw it.)

  Three Men and a Baby …and the ghost of a boy?!

Three Men and a Baby…and the ghost of a boy?!

In this ep, studio executives fake the death of a crewman to drum up publicity.

But then a black and white ghost lures a jerky producer up the scaffolding, puts a noose around his neck and throws him down to his death. It seems connected to a starlet from the ’30s. She was used by a studio exec and hanged herself from the rafters.

Then a ghost from the ’60s of an electrician who died on set caused the same thing to happen to a producer — he was sucked into a giant fan that chopped him up like a blender.

What it does: Turns out a screenwriter named Walter is pissed at the people who ruined his movie. He’s using a necromantic summoning ritual to call forth vengeful spirits.

 You can try summoning a spirit to do your bidding — but it’ll attack you if you don’t have the proper protection

You can try summoning a spirit to do your bidding — but it’ll attack you if you don’t have the proper protection

Rituals to Summon the Dead

Here’s how you too can raise the dead to do your bidding, according to Rituals of Magic. (Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it?) Perhaps it’s best that the ritual is all rather vague:

First, draw a series of concentric circles of power on the ground, on which you’ve inscribed crosses and other symbols, together with the holy names of God. The circle should be blessed and consecrated — be sure to stand in the center so you’re protected from danger. Then, with your wand in hand, call for the dead to rise, using names of power.

Some sorcerers like to strengthen the connection between the living and the dead by using a portrait of the deceased or offering a piece of bread for the ghost to consume. In this invocation, you call the dead by name — and, if it succeeds, you’ll be rewarded with a screaming ghost full of rage at having been forced against its will to return to the realm of the living. Sometimes the dead materialize as furious beasts threatening to tear you to pieces.

Necromancy is a serious business. The dead don’t want to be disturbed.

 

Here’s another invocation that sounds promising, from Encyclopedia Satanica (gulp):

Perform this ritual at midnight at the grave or crypt of the dead person you’d like to summon.

Burn asafoetida incense and use a “dagger of art” and black candle of summoning.

Ia! Shub-Niggurath!
I invoke thee, spirits of the flame!
I invoke thee, spirits of the air!
I invoke thee, spirits of the earth!
Hysorga! Teamon karazan!
Spirits of the earth,
Give up thy secrets,
Release them from the cold grasp of thy bosom!
I invoke thee, spirits of the earth!
Hysorga! Teamon karazan!
By the unholy name, I thus invoke!
From the grasp
Of the roots that choke.
By the name of the She Goat of the Wood,
Who hast a thousand young!
Ia! Shub-Niggurath!
Ia! Tananan Kr’razorda!
Ia! Orkazonar
Zerlkktrayr
Ia! Shub-Niggurath!
Spirit of [dead person]
The name doth compel thee.
I now do call thee forth from the abyss.
Spirit of [dead person]
The name doth compel thee,
Come now to this place,
Into this circle I call thee.
Spirit of [dead person]
The name doth compel thee.
Come unto me, and show thy self.
For thou shalt answer fully and truthfully
And be compelled to do my bidding.
So it is!
Ia! Tananan Kr’razorda!
Ia! Tananan Kr’razorda!
Ia! Orkazonar
Zerlkktrayr
Ia! Shub-Niggurath!

How to defeat it: You can create a magic talisman to protect yourself. As mentioned, the dead don’t like being anyone’s slave. Be sure you always have the talisman that controls them. Silly Walter breaks his, setting the spirits free — and they can’t wait to pounce on him and pummel him to death. –Wally

The Monsters of “Supernatural,” Season 2, Episodes 13-15

Are angels real? Meet Archangel Michael, Archangel Raphael and Beelzebub as well as tricksters like Loki, Anansi, Hermes and Reynard the Fox.

Angels, like Raphael, aren’t typically depicted in artwork as badass and intimidating like the Bible describes them

S2E13: “Houses of the Holy”

Monster: Avenging angel

Where it’s from: Israel and other parts of the Middle East

Description: There’s no such thing as angels, Dean argues. But Sam points out that there’s more folklore about angels than anything else they hunt.

“You know what?” Dean responds. “There’s a ton of lore on unicorns, too. In fact, I hear that they ride on silver moonbeams and they shoot rainbows outta their ass!”

“You mean there’s no such things as unicorns?” Sam jokes. These two should take their comedy act on the road.

“There’s some legends you file under bullcrap,” Dean says.

Despite this contention, 72 percent of Americans said they believe in angels, in a 2016 Gallup poll. I don’t know why that high number surprises me: After all, most Americans think a woman who never had sex gave birth to a man who came back from the dead.

The angels known as seraphim actually have six wings

We have a conception of angels as humanlike creatures with large feathered wings sprouting out of their backs. But there are different orders of angels described in the Old Testament, with seraphim, “the Burning Ones,” at the top of the hierarchy. They’re often depicted as red-skinned and wielding flaming swords. Seraphim have six wings: two for flight, two to cover their faces (for even though they fly above the throne of Heaven, they can’t handle looking upon God’s face) and two to cover their feet (so they don’t step on holy ground — though some scholars think this might actually translate to “genitals”), according to whyangels?com.

This illuminated manuscript depicts a six-winged seraphim above the crucifixion of Christ

In another Bible verse, Daniel 10:5-6, the prophet describes an angel in this manner:

I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.

This doesn’t look like the cute little cherubs we’re used to!

And we know cherubim, or cherubs, as Cupid-esque chubby toddlers with wings. Turns out they’re actually powerful guardians that also carry flaming swords.

Angels are neither male nor female, though they always appear with men’s bodies and never women’s, according to What Christians Want to Know.

Dean’s not buying Sam’s claim that they’re hunting an angel. “You didn't see any fluffy white wing feathers?” the smartass asks.

Many angels, Raphael included, are God’s means of justice and punishment

What it does: When someone’s visited by the angel in Supernatural, the surroundings shake, and the person is filled with religious ecstasy. They’re then driven to kill because it’s “God’s will.”

That’s actually somewhat in keeping with biblical lore: Angels are God’s agents for “bringing punishment and displaying His holy wrath,” according to What Christians Want to Know.

Take that, Satan! The Archangel Michael defeats the Devil

How to defeat it: In the church, Sam points to a painting of Saint Michael, the slayer of demons. He’s almost always depicted in artwork as stepping on a cringing Devil.

In this episode, Father Gregory died a violent death, and the other priest didn’t get a chance to administer last rites.

Father Gregory’s grave is covered in wormwood, which we learn is a sign of a spirit not at rest. Wormwood is a bitter herb that’s a key ingredient in absinthe, which has been banned because it supposedly causes hallucinations. In witchcraft, it’s used to increase psychic powers and perform exorcisms.

If you want to communicate with spirits, a séance is the way to go

Sam performs a séance ritual based on early Christian rites that involves white candles and a large black candle. It’s in Latin, of course.

In the end, Dean just might be right: This isn’t an angel at all. It turns out to be a vengeful spirit that thinks it’s an angel.

Father Reynolds finally performs last rites and puts the spirit to rest. “I call upon the Archangel Raphael, Master of the Air, to make open the way,” the priest chants. “Let the fire of the Holy Spirit now descend, that this being might be awakened to the world beyond.”

Raphael’s name translates to “God Heals,” from the story in the apocryphal Book of Enoch (the apocrypha are the stories that for some reason didn’t jibe with those who chose what would go into the official Bible.) In Enoch, Raphael heals the Earth after it was defiled by the fallen angels, according to Catholic Online.

So maybe there really aren’t such things as angels. It’s still OK for me to believe in unicorns, though, right?

 

I’ve warned you that demons are usually horrifyingly disgusting

S2E14: “Born Under a Bad Sign”

Monster: Sam?! (Possessed by a demon)

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: Demons are powerful perversions of nature. We’ve covered them before here and here.

Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies, spreads disease and rules Hell

One of the most famous demons in the Judeo-Christian tradition is Beelzebub. He’s usually depicted as a monstrous giant fly, which goes along with his title, Lord of the Flies. Because flies are nasty creatures that hang out on shit and corpses, it shouldn’t come as a shock that Beelzebub spreads disease.

He’s also associated with tempting people with the deadly sin of pride.

In the Gospel of Nicodemus, another apocryphal text, Jesus gave Beelzebub dominion over Hell because the demon freed Adam and other unbaptized saints, allowing them to go up to Heaven. Satan was not pleased.

What it does: Demons like to possess people, manipulating them like puppets. And while the Yellow-Eyed Demon doesn’t seem like much fun, some demons are better to be possessed by than others.

Even ol’ Beelzebub has been known to possess people now and them. Back in 1611, in Aix-en-Provence, France, a Father Louis Gaufridi was accused of making a pact with the Devil, in which a group of Ursuline nuns were possessed by Beelzebub.

The priest was burned at the stake. His executioners used bushes instead of logs because they burn slower and hotter. During the execution, onlookers said they saw flies rising from Father Gaufridi’s body.

How to defeat it: Holy water will burn that mofo. If you can slip it into a beer, all the better!

Watch out for a binding link scar. (The one Sam’s got looks a whole lot like a Q.) To break it, destroy the connection. You could try branding over it with a hot poker — just know it’s gonna hurt!

What’s the secret to fighting off a demonic possession? The answer is surprisingly simple: “If I told them to swing a black cat by its tail over their head at midnight, they would do that,” said Father Vincent Lampert, the designated exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Indiana. “People think they have to do something extraordinary, but it is actually the very ordinary things that build up graces and offer protection. If a Catholic is praying, going to Mass and receiving the sacraments, then the Devil is already on the run,” he told the National Catholic Register.

Loki, the tricker god of Norse mythology as played by Tom Hiddleston, is one of the best villains in the Marvel universe

S2E15: “Tall Tales”

Monster: Trickster

Where it’s from: All over the world

Hermes, the Greek god of travel and thieves, is also a trickster

Description: Religions and folktales all around the globe include a trickster deity. The Norse had Loki, while the Greeks worshiped Hermes. In West Africa, there was the spider Anansi. European folklore includes tales of the mischievous Reynard the Fox. And Native Americans tell stories of the Raven and Coyote.

The African trickster Anansi is the star of a well-known children’s book

“Almost all non-literate mythology has a trickster-hero of some kind,” the famous mythologist Joseph Campbell said in An Open Life. “And there’s a very special property in the trickster: He always breaks in, just as the unconscious does, to trip up the rational situation. He’s both a fool and someone who’s beyond the system. And the trickster represents all those possibilities of life that your mind hasn’t decided it wants to deal with. The mind structures a lifestyle, and the fool or trickster represents another whole range of possibilities. He doesn’t respect the values that you’ve set up for yourself, and smashes them.”

Sounds like they’re essentially rebels, eager to disrupt the social order. No wonder I’ve always had a soft spot for Hermes.

Reynard the Fox is surely up to no good, preaching to these birds

What it does: In this episode, urban legends are coming true. A girl’s ghost seduces a lecherous professor, then sends him out the window and down four stories to his death. A sexed-up ET abducts a hazing-crazed frat boy, who’s anally probed again and again. (“Some alien made you his bitch,” Dean says. But it got worse, the boy adds: It made him slow dance to “Lady in Red.”) A shiny watch down a drain lures a researcher who tests on animals to end up mauled to death by a crocodile in the sewers.

Thing is, it only happens to dicks who you could argue deserve punishment. The trickster is getting his ideas from Weekly World News. These deities thrive on chaos and mischief. And it played the boys like fiddles, fellow hunter Bobby tells them.

Loki, like many tricksters, is able to shapeshift

Tricksters are shapeshifters, sometimes taking human form. They can conjure anything out of thin air.

In a climactic final battle, lingerie-wearing vixens on a round bed with red silk sheets toss Dean around while Barry White’s “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” plays. Meanwhile, Sam and Bobby get attacked by chainsaw-wielding psychopaths like something out of a horror flick.

There goes Reynard the Fox, showing off again

How to defeat it: Try tricking the trickster. Sam and Dean fake a fight and then end up staking the trickster. The reality it has constructed fades away.

But this is only temporary. After all, tricksters, being gods, are immortal. –Wally