The world is increasingly unthinkable – a world of planetary disasters, emerging pandemics, tectonic shifts, strange weather, oil-drenched seascapes, and the furtive, always-looming threat of extinction. In spite of our daily concerns, wants, and desires, it is increasingly difficult to comprehend the world in which we live and of which we are a part. To confront this idea is to confront an absolute limit to our ability to adequately understand the world at all – an idea that has been a central motif of the horror genre for some time.”
~ Eugene Thacker, In The Dust Of This Planet
FORTITUDE is a British psychological thriller TV series that just concluded its first season. It presents as a straight-forward murder mystery, combining elements of classic British crime drama and the new, popular sub-genre of Nordic Noir; calling attention to that second element by featuring Sofie Gråbøl – from UR Nordic Noir, The Killing (Forbrydelsen)– as the Governor of the town that gives its name to this series. Proving the popularity of this type of television, it aired simultaneously in the UK and US, Canada and shortly thereafter in Australia and New Zealand. It is also full of demons.
This is a show about people haunted by their inescapable past and a town slowly infected by the new face of an ancient evil. And these are the aspects I am going to examine in this review. As the show concludes, the who-dunnit aspect becomes immaterial, but the why and the how of it are more than just a cleverly constructed plot device, they're a metaphor for the future of humanity and the planet.
Which is why I started with the opening paragraph of Eugene Thacker's In The Dust of this Planet. What creator Simon Donald has delivered to his audience is part human mystery, part cosmological puzzle. Connections between events beyond the core plot line are rarely explicitly stated or resolved, and most are only obvious in retrospect. To the frustration of many casual viewers, much is left unexplained. Everything isn't tied into a knot woven of simple causality. Instead, this is a drama about the ripples formed by one singular large scale event, which flows over each person in the town differently, affecting all elements of life, in fact all forms of life too. It is about how those waves are generated by a cold, uncaring universe completely dispassionately, that wash equally over the local citizens seemingly regardless of their character or past.
To paraphrase Thacker: “to watch FORTITUDE is to confront an absolute limit to our ability to adequately understand the world at all.” The innocent are made murderers, victims become killers, the flawed punish the corrupt, the wicked are left as witnesses seeking retribution, two tortured lovers come together only for one to be later shot by the other, and one hero's reward is permanent disfigurement.
I really liked this show. Spoilers follow.
Temperature constrains all life,
In the permafrost,
Hibernating for millions of years or
Decomposing for millions of years.”
My nickname for FORTITUDE's plot device is Checkhov's Mammoth. Events are set in motion by the most harmless of things ... Read More »
Saturday, December 20th. On the last weekend before the Christmas holidays, many people in Mexico are celebrating the traditional posadas: Festivities still clinging to some religious overtones, which for the most part have devolved into an excuse to eat a lot, drink a lot, and watch the kiddies beat the crap out of a star-shaped piñata, so they can afterward wrestle for all the candy and fruit inside of it once it finally breaks.
My own family is also gathered in one of those parties, but I'm not with them. I'm standing instead on a small circle with other people I've just met today, just a stone-throw away from the ancient city of Teotihuacán, whose massive ruins are now being shrouded by the darkness; on the circle's center there is a timid fire straining to illuminate the congregation, who is attentively listening to the voice of a short, elderly man, dressed in a white-cloth suit brightly adorned with colored patterns on the sleeves and the of bottom of his trousers. The words are an almost unintelligible mix of Spanish and indigenous dialect, spoken in a soft yet commanding tone. Standing next to him is his wife, his 18-year-old son, a teenage girl -- the son's girlfriend-- and a cheerful boy who couldn't be more than 7 years old, who is also the child of the elderly man.
The name of the man is Don Clemente, and he is a Marakame --a shaman or medicine man among his people, the Wixárika indians who are also known as Huicholes. His words, which were later translated by his oldest son --also with the same name-- are a salutation to all of us who have gathered around the circle on this fateful evening.
We are gathered here to celebrate a Winter Solstice ceremony ministered by the Marakame, and I am about to ... Read More »
Irish poet William Butler Yeats is perhaps the most well-known member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the influential secret magical society which originated in the late 19th century (and still exists in a number of forms today). Yeats was initiated into the order in 1890, taking on the magical name Demon est Deus Inversus—"the Devil is God Inverted." As the order fell into chaos in the early 20th century, Yeats struggled to keep it intact, but he eventually left the offshoot Stella Matutina temple in 1921.
In 2009, noted Tarot author and scholar Mary K. Greer blogged about an exhibit at the National Library of Ireland showcasing a number of Yeats's Golden Dawn tools and writings, including pages from his private magical journal. The exhibition is still online and I encourage you to view it here (although it is build in Flash and employs a clunky navigation system). Navigate to "Interactive" then click on "The Celtic Mystic" to see the showcase.
I also recently acquired a copy of the out-of-print and rare book, Yeats, the Tarot, and the Golden Dawn by scholar Kathleen Raine (The Dolmen Press, 1972), and was astonished to find it contained several black-and-white photos of Yeats's hand-crafted elemental weapons (magical tools).
In the above image, clockwise from top left, are: the chalice (representing the element of Water); dagger (representing the element of Air) and lotus want (a general "all-purpose" wand); magical sword and sheath; and the Fire Wand.
Another photo, this one from the National Library of Irelands exhibit, shows Yeats's hand-constructed and painted Pentacle, which represents the element of Earth. You can see his magical motto, Demon est Deus Inversus, painted on the pentacle. All of the magical tools are inscribed with Hebrew names of angels, and some (noticeably the cup) feature the sigils constructed from their names (the odd geometrical figures). This image comes from the collection at the National Library of Ireland:
It is still quite thrilling to see Yeats's drawings in the notebook illustrating his progression through the grades of the order. Here, he has sketched and painted the angel
Michael Auriel. [An earlier version of this article stated the angel was the Archangel Michael, but someone on a Golden Dawn forum caught the mistake.]
And a beautiful gallery of pages from a Golden Dawn notebook from Yeats's uncle, George Pollexfen, can be found on Flckr, too.
The full story of Yeats and his involvement with magic and the Golden Dawn is covered in a number of books and online, but seeing these magical tools and drawings—carefully constructed and painted by the great poet himself—really brings the tradition alive.