Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Devil is in the details....

The Magic Bus
Nothing geeks out the gullible like a well-placed Pentagram (aka Pentalpha aka Pentangle).  Pop one into your letterhead and you'll have people accusing you of devil worship faster than it takes to say Beelzebub.  That's just what happened in Memphis, Tennessee earlier this month when a woman spotted a pair of pesky pentagrams integrated into the design of a school bus' brake lights.  Every time the bus brakes, which is quite often given what buses actually do, two flaming-red upside-down pentagrams are flashed to the driver behind.

I don't put any stock in Satanism being behind all this, but it does beg the question "Why’d they put it up there? Why’d they put it upside down?" as one local resident asked.

The Pentagram is an ancient symbol, appearing as a logogram in early Sumerian writing.  In the West, its earliest use is said to have been among Pythogoreans, who were in many ways the well-spring of the Western Occult tradition.  Which is fitting, for the Pentagram has long been and continues to be used by occultists of all stripes.

It was also used by ancient Christians as a symbol of the five senses and/or the five wounds of Christ.  A pentagram decorates the hero's shield in the 14th-century English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  The poet ascribes the symbol to King Solomon and
says the symbol is key to understanding the work. The poet explains that each of the five interconnected points represents a virtue tied to a group of five. Gawain is keen in his five senses, dextrous in his five fingers, faithful to the salvation provided through the Five Wounds of Christ, takes courage from the five joys that Mary had of Jesus, and exemplifies the five virtues of knighthood.
I have a picture of my mother, which must date to around 1940, standing at the doors of a small church, flowers in her hair, some sort of basket in her hand.  Pentangles form the windows of the church doors.  It' a very Pagan scene; indeed the Pentangle is pretty much the symbol of Wicca.

But why then, is it associated with evil?  Well, the Christian use is pretty much forgotten, but it's use by Wiccans, Thelemites and yes, Satanists, is still pretty much current.

As a symbol of evil, it has to be "reversed"; that is to say, the two points have to be facing upward.  This belieif is certainly due to the writing of influential occultist Eliphas Levi, who wrote: 
  • "A reversed pentagram, with two points projecting upwards, is a symbol of evil and attracts sinister forces because it overturns the proper order of things and demonstrates the triumph of matter over spirit. It is the goat of lust attacking the heavens with its horns, a sign execrated by initiates."
  • "The flaming star, which, when turned upside down, is the hierolgyphic sign of the goat of Black Magic, whose head may be drawn in the star, the two horns at the top, the ears to the right and left, the beard at the bottom. It is the sign of antagonism and fatality...."
An engraving of a goat inscribed in the pentagram appears in La Clef de la Magie Noire by Stanislas de Guaita (1897) and in our times this iteration is most widely known as Anton LaVey's Sigil of Baphomet.  LaVey copied the image in La Clef, I mean literally, it's the exact same image.  LaVey merely removed the words "Samel" and "Lilith", reversed the colors, then trademarked it.  But that's pretty much par the course with LaVey.  The Satanic Bible is basically recycled (if not outright plagiarized) material from Ayn Rand, Ragnar Redbeard and John Dee.

Well, if 2 inverted pentagrams are evil, what are we to make of three?  Exhibit 23:  The GOP logo, a stylized red, white and blue elephant.
GOP logo
Discordian founder Greg Hill asked the GOP National Committee the same thing in an open letter dated 1969, found in the recently-published Historia Discordia:
And now I really hate to tell you this, but those three inverted pentagrams on your elephant's riot helmet are specifically used to conjure evil spirits -- when conjuring good spirit one needs must have one point ascending, not one part descending.
Greg's not the only one to have posed that question. To whit:  Mother Claims Stars On School Bus Are Satan’s Symbol, So What’s That Make The GOP?

Good question, chums.  Fnord.

Funny thing is I'd linked to this article on the LoS Facebook page on January 16, just after linking to an article about the conspiracy theories popping up in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders.  That article featured a photo with a logo I somehow missed at first.  Here's a better shot of that logo:

BRI Paris logo
This is the logo of the Brigade de recherche et d'intervention, Paris.  The BRI are elite special police used in robbery or kidnapping situations, usually when hostages are involved, and for capturing gangsters.  They're basically police commandos, à la SWAT, created for pretty much the same purpose. 

Here's a link to brief history of the Brigade, in French.  The logo is basically a target overlooked by a horned and bearded, red-eyed figure, a demon at least, if not Satan himself.  It's an especially evil-looking creature which I figured for a gargoyle.  For some reason it seemed familiar and I guessed it came from Notre-Dame and in fact, I'm right.  This photo describes it as the "famous chimera [or gargoyle] on top of Notre-Dame de Paris".

In the original, the demon overlooks Paris, on the watch, one would suppose, for sinners, taking notes, taking names.  The BRI has turned him into a black figure, like themselves, in black fatigues, body armor and ski masks, ever-watchful, but unseen.  Like at the business end of a scope on a sniper rifle.  A visual ode to the surveillance state.

This logo might indicate something sinister after all....

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

#JeSuisCharlie III: Solidarité

Both the NYT and WaPo are part of my daily news-gathering routine, so they are often both open in my navigator.

I captured this screen-shot quite by accident while trying to figure out how the "Imp écran" (French keyboard!) button works best when there's a second screen (vital when I do translating work) jacked into my laptop.

Anyway, seeing this image pop up unexpectedly made me feel compelled to follow the dictates of chance and share it.

The Gid and I don't want to live in a world where we censor ourselves out of fear -- either fear of insulting someone or fear of reprisals.  I'll go out on a limb and guess most artists and writers feel the same aversion.  So, in solidarity with our extended tribe, on the day Charlie Hebdo bravely hits the newsstands, we'll say "Je Suis Charlie" -- "Nous Sommes Charlie" -- here on LoS one last time.

It ain't much, but it's something.

Lysol & Lettuce: El Hombre Invisible al Supermercado

Kick that Lysol habit, man
I think it was in 2001 -- I'd discovered an interesting piece of Burroughsiana for sale by a guy who'd been Uncle Bill's neighbor in Lawrence, Kansas during Burroughs' twilight years:  A target used by Burroughs and signed in his distinctive-if-shaky scrawl:
William S. Burroughs, 45 Long Colt
7 yards
July 6, 1997, Monday
 [The date and the day don't match though -- 07/06/97 was a Sunday -- peu importe!]

This was approximately a month before Burroughs' death and the shooting is good for a man of 83:   5 shots are grouped vertically within 5 cm around the bulls-eye with two halfway in the bulls-eye itself, top and bottom, dead-center, and two others nearly on top of one another, forming one oblong hole slightly left-of-center. A 5th shot is a bit lower and also slightly left-of center.  Only one of the six shots is out of the group, 7 cm towards the edge of the red part of the target -- but he got points for it.

I was able to verify the legitimacy of the target with a few well-placed phone calls, I was single and had a decent income, so I bought it. I thought I'd been ripped off after a few weeks had passed, but it finally did arrive and with it, a few extras: a bullet casing from one of his shots at this very target, a small square of wallpaper from his bedroom (even the seller acknowledged that was weird, but some fans get into those kids of things), an empty methadone bottle (!), unfortunately with the sticker scraped off, and this, a shopping list.

So, I can say I have an original Burroughs manuscript, in his own hand! hehe. True marginalia, but I'm glad to have it....

The list is pretty un-exotic, just some staples, but I think WOODARD is a reference to artist David Woodard, who lived in Lawrence in '97, collaborated with Burroughs, and produced several custom Dream Machines.

A bit ridiculous, I know, but it's been rolled up in a mailing tube for almost 15 years and since I'm on a framing kick, I thought I'd share this most mundane bit of marginalia before it gets put under glass.

What the hell, right?  Why not?