Tag Archives: Satan

“The Little Vagabond” by William Blake

LittleVagabond

Dear Mother, dear Mother, the Church is cold;
But the Alehouse is healthy, & pleasant, and warm.
Besides, I can tell where I am use’d well;
Such usage in heaven will never do well.

But, if at the Church they would give us some Ale,
And a pleasant fire our souls to regale,
We’d sing and we’d pray all the livelong day,
Nor ever once wish from the Church to stray.

Then the Parson might preach, and drink, & sing,
And we’d be as happy as birds in the spring;
And modest dame Lurch, who is always at church,
Would not have bandy children, nor fasting, nor birch.

And God, like a father, rejoicing to see
His children as pleasant and happy as He,
Would have no more quarrel with the Devil or the Barrel,
But kiss him, & give him both drink and apparel.

On the surface, this seems like a poem that criticizes the Church for its doctrine of austerity. The speaker asserts that if the Church would be more festive that it would attract more followers. While this is a perfectly legitimate interpretation, I see other symbolism buried within the verse.

Firstly, I see this as a pagan song. The speaker is addressing the Mother, with a capital M. It is a sign of reverence. We also have images of ale and bonfires, which are common in pagan rituals. It is also worth noting that the Christian god is not referred to as the Father, but instead he is “like a father.”

The other thing that struck me was the illustration. At the top, God is huddled with a naked male figure. In the last two lines of the poem, we have an image of God reconciling with the devil and offering him “both drink and apparel.” I believe that this image atop the illustration is God and Lucifer together, especially since the naked figure’s skin is tinted red. Also worth noting is the position of the two figures; it is almost as if they are forming a yin/yang symbol. One could say that the two are not in conflict, but are opposite energies or archetypes that complement each other, and when brought together create a whole.

This universal symbol of God and Lucifer complementing each other then becomes a symbol for humanity. In order to reach spiritual completeness, we must find a way to balance our positive and negative energies. Both are essential and neither should be denied or excluded. It is only when we find our balance between dark and light, male and female, positive and negative, conscious and subconscious, that we will become fully realized beings.

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The X-Files Season 10: Issue #16

XFiles_10-16

This issue is titled Immaculate and is the first installment in a new storyline. It is definitely spooky stuff and sucks you right in. The writing team weaves together science fiction and horror with actual events to create a truly engaging tale. I’m already craving the next issue.

The story is set in a rural North Carolina town that certainly fits the Bible Belt stereotype. A young woman named Joanie Cartwright goes to an abortion clinic and passes the gauntlet of Pro-Life demonstrators. Once inside, she appears to be communicating with an unseen alien entity. A bomb is exploded and it is assumed that she smuggled it in and detonated it, although she emerges unharmed. She continues to speak to this entity with divine reverence and persuades some of the protesters to follow her.

Once Mulder and Scully are assigned, they discover that the girl’s mother and some of the townsfolk have blinded themselves. They also find out that Joanie’s supposed boyfriend, Daniel, is studying a book on demonology. This all works well in building a compelling mystery.

The issue concludes with a twist that deepens the plot. Throughout the issue, an alien-like shadow represents the entity with whom Joanie is communicating. In the final frame, the entity is depicted with horns and what appear to be large wings, a clear implication that this is supposed to be a demonic being. It leaves the reader with a slew of questions. Is Joanie impregnated by some satanic entity? Is there a connection between angelic/demonic beings and alien life forms? Is Joanie an innocent or is there some dark intention behind her actions? In classic X-Files fashion, one is left with more questions rather than answers.

The issue scheduled out next month will be titled Millennial Visions. That intrigues me for a couple reasons. I don’t think our society has truly gotten over our millennial fears. I think as a society, our apocalyptic fears have taken root and are being fed by media hype. Natural disaster, global warfare, and biological threats are all prominent in our collective psyches. I am also intrigued by the possibility that we may see the return of Frank Black. For those who are unfamiliar, Frank Black was the main character in Chris Carter’s other television series, “Millennium,” which explored the darkness and apocalyptic changes associated with the new millennium. The show ended abruptly and Frank Black made his final television appearance on an X-Files episode. I have always hoped that Black would return in a film or something. Maybe this will be it. I suppose we will have to wait until next month to find out.

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“Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

YoungGoodmanBrownI heard that this month is National Short Story month, or something like that, so I decided to reread one of my all-time favorite short stories: “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I love a good horror story and this one is about as good as it gets without having to rely on gore. In addition, there are a lot of thought-provoking ideas woven into the story, which makes it all the more interesting to read.

The story takes place in old Salem, where Goodman Brown takes leave of his wife, Faith, to venture into the forest at night for some unstated work that must be done on this specific night between dusk and dawn. On his journey he meets the devil and follows him to a ceremony, possibly a black mass or a witches sabbat, and there he witnesses all the upstanding citizens from his town, including church elders, participating in the dark ritual. He also meets his wife Faith, but before he takes the plunge into sin, he looks upward and prays for the strength to resist the evil one, and awakens unsure whether it was all real or a dream. He then lives the rest of his life as a cynic, distrusting the hypocrisy that he sees around him.

There is so much that I could write about this story, but I’ll try to keep it short. First, I’d like to talk about Faith. Goodman Brown’s wife symbolizes Brown’s own faith and virtue. But his faith is lost when he realizes that all people are essentially evil. At the ceremony, the devil states: “Now are ye undeceived. Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness.”

One of my favorite metaphors which is prevalent in American literature is wilderness, representing the dark side of the human soul. This tale takes place in the wilderness, down “a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind.” Goodman Brown plunges into the wilderness, into the darkest corners of his own being, with complete abandon: “The road grew wilder and drearier and more faintly traced, and vanished at length, leaving him in the heart of the dark wilderness, still rushing onward with the instinct that guides mortal man to evil.”

In the end he discovers that evil resides within himself, just as it resides within every hypocrite he sees on the streets in his village. He has lost his Faith and no longer finds solace in her bosom. He dies miserably, and “they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom.”

There is not much that is cheerful in this story. It is dark all the way through and ends in cynicism. That said, it is such a great story and it forces one to look around and question notions of morality. Even if this is not the type of story you generally read, I highly recommend it. Click here to read it online.

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Symbolism in “The Cat in the Hat”

CatInTheHatRecently my daughter pulled together a pile of books to give to Goodwill. Among them was The Cat in the Hat. It is such a classic book and I have read it countless times to my children over the years, I just couldn’t part with it. I surreptitiously removed it from the pile and slipped it onto my bookshelf.

Back when I was in college, I had taken an honors-level seminar and one of the books we studied was The Cat in the Hat. That section of the course was fascinating and made me look at this book from a completely different perspective. Even now, reading it again, I discovered more symbolism that I had never seen before. I decided to point out some of them so that the next time you read this book (and you will read it again) you will be aware of the symbolism in this story.

Let’s start with an easy one first: the mom. Have you ever noticed that there is no father anywhere in this book? It is very clearly a single mom raising two children. If you look on pages 42 and 43, you will see the mother’s bedroom, with a twin bed and one pillow. So the first thing to think about when reading this tale is whether the mom is divorced or has chosen to have children out of wedlock. Now, this may not seem like a big deal in today’s society, but consider the fact that this book was published in 1957 and society was much different back then.

Now let’s talk about the Fish. After the Cat, the Fish is the next most prominent character in the book. For me, the Fish is an obvious Christ symbol, not only from an icon perspective but also based upon what the Fish says. The Fish is the voice of morality in the story, cautioning the children about letting the Cat in and about the dangers of participating in the antics. The Fish is constantly warning about the repercussions.

Still not convinced about the Fish? Let’s look a little closer. On page 14, the Cat performs his first trick, balancing the Fish, a cup, and a book. We have a sort of trinity here: the Fish being Christ, the cup representing the Grail, and the book as the Bible. I sincerely doubt that these were random choices on the part of the author.

OK, now let’s look at the Cat. The Cat is a manifestation of the trickster archetype. The trickster has been found in literature throughout the ages, whether Anansi, Puck, or Satan. The Cat is just another interpretation of this archetype, and like most tricksters, the Cat also experiences the proverbial fall. This is shown on pages 18 through 21. The Cat is boastful and full of pride, showing off his tricks and what he can do. Pride and hubris almost always precede a fall, and the Cat immediately falls and everything crashes around him.

Then there is the question of the box. When the Cat opens the box, Thing 1 and Thing 2 emerge and proceed to wreak havoc in the home. I cannot help but connect the box with the myth of Pandora. There is a message here that certain boxes are best left closed.

Maybe you are thinking that I have read too much into this book. I don’t think so. Myths and archetypes are eternal and that is why they continue to recur in art and literature. Just because a book is a “children’s book” does not exclude it from being an expression of these symbols. In fact, one might say that young minds are better able to grasp this type of symbolism.

So that is that, regarding the Cat in the Hat.

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