Post Tagged with: "mythology"

Prometheus (the Movie) Deconstructed

Prometheus (the Movie) Deconstructed

I thought Prometheus was an awful movie, but I loved writer Adrian Bott’s analysis of its mythological underpinnings:

Prometheus contains such a huge amount of mythic resonance that it effectively obscures a more conventional plot. I’d like to draw your attention to the use of motifs and callbacks in the film that not only enrich it, but offer possible hints as to what was going on in otherwise confusing scenes.

Let’s begin with the eponymous titan himself, Prometheus. He was a wise and benevolent entity who created mankind in the first place, forming the first humans from clay. The Gods were more or less okay with that, until Prometheus gave them fire. This was a big no-no, as fire was supposed to be the exclusive property of the Gods. As punishment, Prometheus was chained to a rock and condemned to have his liver ripped out and eaten every day by an eagle. (His liver magically grew back, in case you were wondering.)

Fix that image in your mind, please: the giver of life, with his abdomen torn open. We’ll be coming back to it many times in the course of this article.

The ethos of the titan Prometheus is one of willing and necessary sacrifice for life’s sake. That’s a pattern we see replicated throughout the ancient world. J G Frazer wrote his lengthy anthropological study, The Golden Bough, around the idea of the Dying God – a lifegiver who voluntarily dies for the sake of the people. It was incumbent upon the King to die at the right and proper time, because that was what heaven demanded, and fertility would not ensue if he did not do his royal duty of dying.

Now, consider the opening sequence of Prometheus. We fly over a spectacular vista, which may or may not be primordial Earth. According to Ridley Scott, it doesn’t matter. A lone Engineer at the top of a waterfall goes through a strange ritual, drinking from a cup of black goo that causes his body to disintegrate into the building blocks of life. We see the fragments of his body falling into the river, twirling and spiralling into DNA helices.

Ridley Scott has this to say about the scene: ‘That could be a planet anywhere. All he’s doing is acting as a gardener in space. And the plant life, in fact, is the disintegration of himself. If you parallel that idea with other sacrificial elements in history – which are clearly illustrated with the Mayans and the Incas – he would live for one year as a prince, and at the end of that year, he would be taken and donated to the gods in hopes of improving what might happen next year, be it with crops or weather, etcetera.’

Can we find a God in human history who creates plant life through his own death, and who is associated with a river? It’s not difficult to find several, but the most obvious candidate is Osiris, the epitome of all the Frazerian ‘Dying Gods’.

And we wouldn’t be amiss in seeing the first of the movie’s many Christian allegories in this scene, either. The Engineer removes his cloak before the ceremony, and hesitates before drinking the cupful of genetic solvent; he may well have been thinking ‘If it be Thy will, let this cup pass from me.’

So, we know something about the Engineers, a founding principle laid down in the very first scene: acceptance of death, up to and including self-sacrifice, is right and proper in the creation of life. Prometheus, Osiris, John Barleycorn, and of course the Jesus of Christianity are all supposed to embody this same principle. It is held up as one of the most enduring human concepts of what it means to be ‘good’.

Seen in this light, the perplexing obscurity of the rest of the film yields to an examination of the interwoven themes of sacrifice, creation, and preservation of life. We also discover, through hints, exactly what the nature of the clash between the Engineers and humanity entailed.

Full Story: Cavalorn: Prometheus Unbound: What The Movie Was Actually About

I still think the movie was terrible (see also: Prometheus in 15 Minutes), but Bott’s analysis shows how much more interesting it could have been. (Ridley Scott, if you’re reading this, it seems you could do a lot worse than Bott as a screenwriter for the sequel.)

And speaking of the Alien franchise, see also: James Cameron’s responses to Aliens critics

June 17, 2012 1 comment
Grant Morrison’s Indian Mythology Comic 18 Days, Interview and Preview

Grant Morrison’s Indian Mythology Comic 18 Days, Interview and Preview

18 DAYS by Grant Morrison and Mukesh Singh

18 DAYS by Grant Morrison and Mukesh Singh

For the 18 Days version, we took the Mahabharata’s descriptions of vimanas and astras very literally as accounts of ancient advanced technology and created a vision of the battle at Kurukshetra which combines traditional images of the Mahabharata with a kind of Vedic sci-fi approach which adds a new freshness and modernity to the story. This version is less about trying to create a historically-accurate representation of conflict in ancient India and more about emphasising a timeless, universal and mythic vision that has as much to say about the world we live in today as it does about the past. The transmission of the Bhagavad Gita at the heart of the story opens the way for a metaphorical spiritual understanding of the conflict as the war between desire and duty, the material and the spiritual, that is fought every day by every human being.

The Gita, with its direct, no-nonsense guide to living in the odd universe we all share, is at the very heart of the story, in the sense that everything else revolves around that moment when Krishna lays it on the line for Arjuna.

Newsarama: Grant Morrison Wages War Using Indian Mythology for 18 DAYS

June 11, 2010 2 comments
Thunderbird and Heyoka, the Sacred Clown

Thunderbird and Heyoka, the Sacred Clown

http://www.ufodigest.com/news/0508/images/thunderbird.jpg

“The heyoka were different in three primary ways from the other sorts of clowns. They were truly unpredictable, and could do the unexpected or tasteless even during the most solemn of occasions. More so than other clowns, they really seemed to be insane. Also, they were thought to be more inspired by trans-human supernatural forces (as individuals driven by spirits rather than group conventions), and to have a closer link to wakan or power than other clowns. And lastly, they kept their role for life – it was a sacred calling which could not be given up without performing an agonizing ritual of expiation. Not surprisingly, these unique differences were seen as the result of their having visions of Thunderbird, a unique and transforming experience.

Testimony of Black Elk: the heyoka and lightning:

The Oglala Indian Black Elk had some interesting things to say about the heyoka ceremony, which he himself participated in. Black Elk describes the “dog in boiling water” ceremony in some detail. He also describes the bizarre items he had to carry as a heyoka, and the crazy antics he had to perform with his companions. He also attempts to explain the link between the contrary trickster nature of heyokas with that of Thunderbird.

“When a vision comes from the thunder beings of the West, it comes with terror like a thunder storm; but when the storm of vision has passed, the world is greener and happier; for wherever the truth of vision comes upon the world, it is like a rain. The world, you see, is happier after the terror of the storm… you have noticed that truth comes into this world with two faces. One is sad with suffering, and the other laughs; but it is the same face, laughing or weeping. When people are already in despair, maybe the laughing is better for them; and when they feel too good and are too sure of being safe, maybe the weeping face is better. And so I think this is what the heyoka ceremony is for … the dog had to be killed quickly and without making any scar, as lightning kills, for it is the power of lightning that heyokas have.” (quoted in Neihardt 1959: 160)

Today, of course, Western physicists describe the dual nature of electricity. An object can carry a positive or negative electric charge. The electron is simultaneously a wave and a particle. Electricity and magnetism are thought to be aspects of the same force, and as is well know with magnetism, it comes in polarities, with opposite poles (north and south) attracting. Though the Indians did not have access to our modern scientific instruments, they are likely to have observed some of the same properties in lightning. Thus it would have been intuitive to link the dual spiritual nature of the heyoka (tragicomedy – solemn joking – joy united with pain) with the dual nature of electricity.”

(via Heyoka Magazine)

January 22, 2009 3 comments
The Wolf Moon

The Wolf Moon

For those who don’t know, tonight is the first Full Moon of the year. It’s also the biggest Full Moon of 2009. It’s “The Wolf Moon”, so don’t be surprised if you hear some people howlin’.

http://imagecache2.allposters.com/images/pic/EUR/2400-1339~Gray-Wolf-Howling-at-Moon-Posters.jpg

“What does tonight’s first Full Moon of 2009 foretell? This one is called the Wolf Moon, a Full Moon in Cancer, and it is indeed a precursor to a year that will be full of werewolf news.

“Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” – The Wolf Man, 1941.

The word is slipping out.”

(via Cryptomundo. h/t: The Anomalist)

January 11, 2009 7 comments
A Web Guide to the Wisdom of Insanity

A Web Guide to the Wisdom of Insanity

The link to the site “Tons of Trickster,” linked to in the below Utne Reader article, is broken, but can be found in the Way Back Machine. It’s an excellent collection of articles and links to information about the insights and wisdom of the insane.

Tons-o-Trickster

May 17, 2002 0 comments
Borges story in the latest Exquisite Corpse

Borges story in the latest Exquisite Corpse

The latest edition of the weird literary magazine Exquisite Corpse has an Jorge Borges story called “Ragnarök” in it. Short and thought provoking.

In dreams, writes Coleridge, images form the impressions that we believe them to trigger; we are not afraid because we’re clutched by a sphinx, but rather a sphinx embodies the fear that we feel. If this is so, can a mere account of one’s dream–shapes transmit the stupor, the elation, the false alarms, the menace, and the jubilation that is woven into last night’s sleep? I will experiment with this account, without restraint; perhaps the fact that the dream was a single stream of consciousness expunges or mitigates this essential difficulty.

Exquisite Corpose: Ragnarök by Jorge Luis Borges.

May 4, 2002 0 comments