Tag Archives: Aricia

In Thomas Stearns Eliot’s Voice: “And still we call this Friday Good”—a reading from East Coker, part IV

The Dripping Blood our Only Drink, The Bloody Flesh our Only Food, In Spite of which we like to think, that we are sound, substantial flesh and blood.  Again–in spite of that, we call this Friday Good….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-9gcauuboc

Does Comparative Religion show the Gospel of Christ to be false, or to be true? If there are variants of his history in many corners of the world, is this evidence of depth or shallowness?  I beg of you, my friends, whether you are Atheists, Christians, Pagans, or Scientists to read and repeat this to yourself and to read it out loud to your family today.  There is no escape from the basic truth that we feed on death in order to live.  That is renewal, that is rebirth. Pull out a copy of the Bible and Read from the Book of Ecclesiastes, The Preacher.  Read and Meditate on the universal truths that we celebrate on Good Friday, throughout Holy Week—the universal facts underlying how we live: that we are fed and sustained and renewed by death.  The Spanish were mystified and shocked by what they saw when they arrived at the Aztec Capital, what is now Mexico City.  There on the skull racks (as on the hill called Golgotha?) were a people who knew of the Seven Sacraments, and of the divine communion of the Flesh.   As it was at Chichén Itzá and in Tenochtitlán, it is now and ever shall be.  As it was among the Ancient Romans at Diana’s Wood in Aricia by Lake Nemi, it is now and ever shall be.  As it was in so many sacrificial bogs among our ancestors across Northern Europe, it is now and ever shall be.  As it was in the beginning, it is now and ever shall be: World Without End, Amen.

  The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

T. S. Eliot 


“East Coker,” from *The Four Quartets*

I.  

In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth
Which is already flesh, fur, and faeces,
Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.
Houses live and die: there is a time for building
And a time for living and for generation
And a time for the wind to break the loosened pane
And to shake the wainscot where the field mouse trots
And to shake the tattered arras woven with a silent motto.

  In my beginning is my end.  Now the light falls
Across the open field, leaving the deep lane 
Shuttered with branches, dark in the afternoon,
Where you lean against a bank while a van passes,
And the deep lane insists on the direction 
Into the village, in the electric heat
Hypnotized. In a warm haze the sultry light
Is absorbed, not reflected, by grey stone.
The dahlias sleep in the empty silence.
Wait for the early owl.
                       In that open field
If you do not come too close, if you do not come too close,
On a summer midnight, you can hear the music 
Of the weak pipe and the little drum
And see them dancing around the bonfire
The association of man and woman 
In daunsinge, signifying matrimonie—
A dignified and commodiois sacrament.
Two and two, necessarye coniunction,
Holding eche other by the hand or the arm
Whiche betokeneth concorde. Round and round the fire
Leaping through the flames, or joined in circles,
Rustically solemn or in rustic laughter
Lifting heavy feet in clumsy shoes,
Earth feet, loam feet, lifted in country mirth
Mirth of those long since under earth
Nourishing the corn. Keeping time,
Keeping the rhythm in their dancing
As in their living in the living seasons
The time of the seasons and the constellations
The time of milking and the time of harvest
The time of the coupling of man and woman
And that of beasts.  Feet rising and falling.
Eating and drinking.  Dung and death.
  Dawn points, and another day
Prepares for heat and silence. Out at sea the dawn wind
Wrinkles and slides. I am here
Or there, or elsewhere. In my beginning.

II.

What is the late November doing
With the disturbance of the spring
And creatures of the summer heat,
And snowdrops writhing under feet
And hollyhocks that aim too high
Red into grey and tumble down
Late roses filled with early snow?
Thunder rolled by the rolling stars
Simulates triumphal cars
Deployed in constellated wars
Scorpion fights against the sun
Until the Sun and Moon go down
Comets weep and Leonids fly
Hunt the heavens and the plains
Whirled in a vortex that shall bring
The world to that destructive fire
Which burns before the ice-cap reigns

  That was a way of putting it—not very satisfactory
A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,
Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle 
With words and meanings. The poetry does not matter
It was not (to start again) what one had expected.
What was to be the value of the long looked forward to,
Long hope for calm, the autumnal serenity 
And the wisdom of age? Had they deceived us 
Or deceived themselves, the quiet-voiced elders,
bequeathing us merely a receipt for deceit?
The serenity only a deliberate hebitude,
The wisdom only the knowledge of dead secrets
Useless in the darkness into which they peered
Or from which they turned their eyes. There is, it seems to us,
At best, only a limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been. We are only undeceived
Of that which, deceiving, could no longer harm.
In the middle, not only in the middle of the way
But all the way, in a dark wood, in a bramble,
On the edge of a grimpen, where is no secure foothold,
And menaced by monsters, fancy lights,
Risking enchantment. Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire 
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.

  The houses are all gone under the sea.

  The dancers are all gone under the hill.

III.

O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,
The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,
The captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters,
The generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers,
Distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees,
Industrial lords and petty contractors, all go into the dark,
And dark the Sun and Moon, and the Almanach de Gotha
And the Stock Exchange Gazette, the Directory of Directors,
And cold the sense and lost the motive of action.
And we all go with them, into the silent funeral,
Nobody's funeral, for there is no one to bury.
I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre, 
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away—
Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen
Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about;
Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing—
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony 
Of death and birth.

                         You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again,
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
  You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
  You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
  You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
  You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.

IV.

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer's art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

  Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam's curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

  The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

  The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

  The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

V.

So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years—
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l'entre deux guerres
Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt 
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.

  Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment 
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.

Old men ought to be explorers
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

Oz: Mythic Power in the Power of Mythic Deception

Ok, my not so amazing prediction: “Oz, the Great and Powerful,” will not be nominated for any academy awards next year.  The new Oz comes out just over 11 and under 12 months after The Hunger Games (premiered March 23 2012) which is its ideological opposite: Hunger Games is a movie of the people against the government crowds are shown, but closeups of faces in the crowd are not cartoon snapshots of stereotypes—in the new Oz, all the common people are cartoon snapshots). 

Oz is a movie which not only glorifies but presumes that monarchical government and autocracy, a government of “Archons” is both natural and essential.  In Oz: the Great and Powerful, we see only the cartoonish choice between good dictators/kings and bad dictators/kings (reminiscent of the 1939 Glinda’s question to Dorothy: “are you a good witch or a bad witch?”)

“Oz, the Great and Powerful,” may neither be certainly a great or powerful cinematic event, but it is not a bad movie.  It is more than worth seeing and thinking about.  As a statement of political power mythology, it is closest (but superior both as a movie and as a dramatic contribution to mythic evolution) to “Batman, Dark Knight Rises”.   

As a Disney Production and product of the Magic Kingdom, Oz finds pro-monarchist, elitist ideological common ground with The Lion King (June 15, 1994).  But whereas world of Simba and Mufassa was elegantly pure Dumézilian structuralist mythology in support of the absolute monarchy of the lions, Oz merely celebrates Bush-Cheney-Obama low-brow dictatorship by deceit.  

Fair to say I enjoyed Oz: the Great and Powerful more than I thought I would given the almost universally disappointed/disappointing reviews.  It is true that the three witches are pretty much flat, two dimensional, and on the dull side even if they are more conventionally attractive than even Glinda was in the 1939 Classic and each is more beautiful possessing more sex appeal than Elphaba in “Wicked.”  But Elphaba is a MUCH more interesting character, developed with oh so much more depth and dimensions.

“Wicked” has ten to a hundred times more lasting mythological power as a post-modern statement of relativism than anything in “Oz, the Great and Powerful.”   But on the other hand, James Franco’s Oz is more realistic as a portrayal of conservative, monarchical values than Batman or Bruce Wayne was in the last installment of the Dark Knight Trilogy.  Oscar Diggs is not exactly Scar from the Lion King either.  He is really closest to any of the past four U.S. Presidents Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama.  His personality comes nowhere close to as engaging as Ronald Reagan or as articulate and humble as Carter.

There are really only three ways to portray political power in a story:  (1) as natural and necessary—so that the struggle is between good and bad “rulers”, (2) unnatural and not only unnecessary but oppressive and therefore evil—so that the struggle is between the people and the power structure, and (3) natural or at least “a given” —“always with us” (kind of like “the poor”) but essentially trivial and irrelevant.

Movies of the third type used to be fairly common in the American cinematic repertoire, but they have all but vanished in modern times.  The third type of movie was the “heroes ride off into the sunset” variety of “Western” or “rugged individualist” myth embodied and exemplified seriously as in (1) Casablanca, (2) High Noon, and (3)  The African Queen or comically as in (4) Cat Ballou.  

Recent years have seen Hunger Games and Serenity in the “Government is the Enemy” category pitted against Batman: Dark Knight and now Oz: the Great and Powerful.  Oz and Batman presume the paradoxical necessity of autocratic rule in society, with “Good” Autocrats guaranteeing “Freedom & Justice” while “Bad” Autocrats are just like the Good Autocrats only “Bad.”   Television series such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,”, “Angel”, and “Dexter” tend to vacillate between “Government as the Enemy” and “Government is always there but Irrelevant.”  

In “Oz: the Great and Powerful”, we see a very specific “real world” dramatic retelling of the story of the disembodied leader becoming more powerful after death, as an Icon and a Myth, than he ever could have been as an earthly individual.  The Character of the Wizard Oscar Diggs is not even “intriguingly” Banal and Ordinary.  He is really kind of uninspiringly banal and ordinary—much like the real life Bill Clinton or George W. Bush.   Like George W. Bush, Diggs is a master of illusion and deceit, and that is his primary qualification as a leader.  Like Clinton, Oscar Diggs’ “Oz” is attractive to the ladies and that makes the movie at least somewhat pleasant to watch.  But as with last year’s somewhat deadly dud “Dark Shadows” with Johnny Depp, stories involving beautiful but jealous witches are really so awfully unoriginal as to be boring—and I’ve not only watched too many I’ve lived the story in real life just several too many times….ahem, but I digress…

Unlike the stories of both Dorothy Gale (or her as yet cinematically almost unknown friend and colleague in adventure in most of L. Frank Baum’s later stories, “Ozma”) and Elphaba, there is hardly a hint of feminism or “girl power” in any of the three witches.  (No “Buffy” or “Willow” or even “Anya” on the scenes of this Oz).   Even Glinda (Michelle Williams) is at best a kind of exquisitely delicate, weak, very pretty and attractive but only marginally talented “second rate” witch outshown and outperformed by Oz’ mechanical illusions which ultimately succeed in vanquishing and exiling the evil sisters to the East and West of the Emerald City.  [It made sense to see Oz on St. Patrick’s Day weekend since Oz, like Ireland and Ancient Maya Yucatán, is a magic land divided into four color-coded cardinal direction (NSEW) quarters of the world with Green at the Center—the Emerald City = the Yaxché at the Center of the Maya universe and Tara at the cosmic and ritual center of the Emerald Isle itself].  

[The beautiful witch who turns green and ugly (the future W.W. West, Mila Kunis) reminds me ever so much of my own former wife Elena K….. beautiful and ambitious in the beginning, looked really good in red, but ultimately deadly and green   for all the wrong reasons (Elphaba was green for “good” reasons).]

What are interesting from the standpoint of mythic deconstruction in “Oz, the Great and Powerful” are Oz’ assertions that he is more powerful as a disembodied image than as a man, that illusion is more powerful than reality.  This IS a valid post-modern deconstruction of the American Presidency, and of Institutional “Corporate” government and economy in general.

Does the generalization apply to the life of Julius Caesar, or merely to the post-mortem TITLE of Caesar, which endured for a thousand years as the Supreme Emblem of “Imperial” Authority in the non-Latin monarchs (Kaisers & Tsars) of Germany, Austria, and Russia?  

A certain kind of post-modern deconstructionalist will tell you that Jesus Christ and Julius Caesar both planned their deaths for the purpose of Apotheosis and Institutionalization of Power.  This is exactly what Oscar Diggs does in “Oz: the Great and Powerful.”  

Power by deception and illusion is the political science of Machiavelli’s Il Principe and Cardinal Richelieu’s dictum “to dissemble is to rule” as well as the apparent embodiment of the theory underlying American foreign policy probably since the sinking of the Battleship Maine. Power by deception and illusion is a very anti-democratic theory of the origin and nature of power, totally opposed to the Katniss Everdeen or Buffy Summers schools of “Divine Kingship through Combat and Sacrifice.”  Katniss and Buffy were both pitted against dictatorships built on bloody lies and concealment of the truth, as were the “Wild West” type heroes on the Crew of “Serenity” (paired with Buffy and Angel, also by Joss Whedon).  As I have been writing for more than ten years, Buffy Summers’ death in Season Five of her series was a classic “Golden Bough” moment, though after Buffy’s resurrection in Season Six she was not quite “divine” after all.  Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark in Hunger Games together played the game of the Rex Nemorensis in Diana’s Wood at Aricia very well as a team (a wonderful team unprecedented in history or myth).

Essentially, the lesson we should learn from “Oz: the Great and Powerful” is that all institutional (aka “Corporate” = permanent but impersonal, perpetual) government originates in and works best when founded on lies. In this political theory, lies and falsehood and illusion are sources of strength, and the secrets must be kept by those in the “inner circle” of government, even by China Dolls….(a reference to the “Dainty China Doll” in L. Frank Baum’s original book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” which did not make it into the 1939 Judy Garland “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” musical movie).

Batman: Dark Knight surely reflects the same ideology, but never states it quite so bluntly.   So Oz now joins with certain deconstructionist interpretations of the lives of Julius Caesar, Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy…. in articulation the rule by deception explanation of the origin and nature of political power.  I can only pray for the ultimate triumph of the poor man’s “Divine Kingship” model of weak government, an essentially anarchical theory of government as a model of or metaphor for nature red in tooth and claw…. wherein the King (or Queen) is normally only a symbol of nature rather than an actual wielder of power.  

In which connexion, long live Buffy Summer & Katniss Everdeen.

Confessions of a Lifelong-Heroine Addict….(oh well, since I was 6 or 8 I guess, probably not so much before that…)…from Dorothy Gale to Katniss Everdeen

The California Secretary of State having quite literally locked the doors to my running for Senate this year (at least in Tulare and Fresno Counties)—and the California Courts not seeming to offer a sufficient or accessible remedy—I now have time to indulge other (if related) obsessions my life, such as my sufferings from a lifetime of heroine addiction….  

Like almost every other aspect of my life, I blame my mother Alice and grandmother Helen almost equally….

It was my mother and father who, when I was very small, used to take me down by the Thames in Westminster near the Houses of Parliament and show me the statue of Boadicea (aka “Budica”), the last independent Iceni Queen of East Anglia who rebelled and died trying to evict the Roman Conquerors, in whose memory it was said and sung that “Britons never shall be slaves.”  We also took one trip out to Norwich to visit one of the woods where the Iceni supposedly worshipped their own goddess of Victory….called “Budika” in the Ancient British language of the Druids….(my parents were both heavily into historical and comparative linguistics).  Budika/Boadicea in A.D. 60-61 apparently burned Roman Londinium to the ground along with several other cities before being defeated and poisoning herself by the long Roman Road called “Watling Street” which we also visited…. She was a heroine and supposedly a great archer….  

Of course my parents also tried, as heart as their own agitated and addled lives would permit them, to make me aware of a very different heroine, regarding whom they required me to memorize “the Magnificat” from a very early age….”My soul doth magnify the Lord….Abraham and his seed forever…” And yes, the Virgin Mary was indeed a rebellious heroine… and she has remained a heroine to hundreds of millions of people up to the present time….  Later on, I learned to sing the Magnificat and other pieces of Anglo-Catholic “Maryolatry” as a choirboy in the junior Choir at the Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, under the tutelage of the late, Great Russell J. Brydon (who died just a few months after this post was originally written, in September 2012 at the age of 88:

http://www.dallasnews.com/obituary-headlines/20120906-russell-j.-brydon-jr.-longtime-dallas-church-and-temple-organist-dies-at-88.ece

But it was my grandmother Helen who was something of a heroine in my young eyes herself, and it was Helen who introduced me to the very first literary  (as distinct from Historical or Biblical) heroines of whose stories I ever learned in detail: namely Dorothy Gale, Scarlett O’Hara, and the Roman Goddess Diana and her Sacred Temple by Lake Nemi  near Ariccia (Diana was also an archer…)

The path of fictional heroines from Dorothy Gale’s grey home in Kansas to Katniss* Everdeen’s equally grey home in District 12 of Panem took 108 years….from the first publication of the Wizard of Oz in 1900 through the appearance of archer Katniss Everdeen  Hunger Games in 2008**….is really the history of the idealistic dreams and ultimate failure of the 20th century (idealist dreams in Baum’s time giving way to a more cynical realism by 1939, passing through the somewhat confused “liberation” of the 1960s, sinking into the dark, pessimistic world of Buffy and Angel and finally coming to rest in the despair of District 12 in Panem in 2008—the year Barack Hussein Obama took over from George W. Bush…two different faces for the heartless, soulless, President Snow….)

But the difference in spirit between those two places traces indeed the tragic story of the Decline and Fall of Western Civilization (and of the American Dream) in the 20th Century. Major stopping points along the way (for me at least) include 1939 with the Dorothy Gale’s transformation in the person of Judy Garland and Scarlett O’Hara’s complete redefinition of the concept of “progress” in the late 19th century, Jane Fonda’s comic Cat Ballou and Barbarella in the 1960s, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer in movie and television from 1992-2003.  

At each of these intervals, the world is more cynical and darker, and the heroines more complex.  Many critics have observed that the “head injury/dream sequence” aspects of the 1939 Movie Wizard of Oz and the metathesis of real individuals to “dreamtime” residents of the Land of Oz (which was COMPLETELY absent from L. Frank Baum’s book) resulted directly from Freudian psychoanalysis and the early popularity of psychology.  The general effect is to radically weaken the power of Oz as metaphor or lesson—but the movie was a wonderful hit—a lightly comic Wagnerian gesammtkunstwerk of acting, visual art, and music, so nobody really cared.  

A lot of the verbal banter and humor in the movie likewise showed a certain “worldly” sophistication with which I think Frank Baum would only have been somewhat congenial. E.G. the Cowardly Lion’s song “there’s just no use denyin’, I’m just a DANDYlion…” and the Wizard’s closing comment to the Scarecrow:

Back where I come from we have universities, 
seats of great learning 
-- where men go to become great thinkers. 
And when they come out, they think deep thoughts -- 
and with no more brains than you have .... 
But! They have one thing you haven't got! 
A diploma!

As a former denizen of the great academic halls of Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 and Chicago, Illinois 60637 (from various halls of which august institutions I did, for all the good that it’s done me or the world, get diplomas), and a regular visitor to many other such places, I can tell you that the Wizard here is absolutely right: 

And when they come out, they think deep thoughts -- 
and with no more  brains than you have.... 

But such cynicism simply was not part of the original vision of Oz, and although Baum occasionally did occasionally turn such comments to ridicule life back in North America in later books, he did not at all in his first installment in which he remade European folk mythology and archetypes and reshaped them in a very idealized panorama of a world where death was rare if non-existent and even the most evil of men and creatures did not kill for sport or pleasure.

For all of L. Frank Baum’s futuristic visions, I do not think he could have foreseen the transition from the naïve and hardworking life of Kansas to the nightmarish dreamworld of Suzanne Collins’ grim opera—neither a soap opera nor a very lyric, although even in the written version (which I finally got around to reading), music plays an immensely important part in the methathesis of metaphor and character, from Katniss’ Father to Peeta, from Prim to Rue… as between the unnatural National Anthem of the Conquering Capitol and the free world of nature and the poor of the “outlying districts.”

L. Frank Baum’s Oz books in so many was shaped and defined the culture of early-to-mid 20th Century of a predominantly White Christian America, especially after the release of Judy Garland’s movie….***  The spirit of Dorothy Gale’s Kansas was stiflingly dull and harsh—the American dream had already, at that point, apparently kind of run aground and needed new life— The spirit of Dorothy Gale’s Oz was half atavistic throwback to the Middle Ages, half filled with futuristic wonders (such as Glinda the Good’s Magic Picture, which permitted her what we would now call “live video access” to whatever was going on in Oz or elsewhere earth she was interested.

Dorothy Gale was a simple, pre-teenage girl (Judy Garland was at least ten years older than the original character was portrayed as being in the First Oz Book, but Dorothy Gale remained essentially a-sexual throughout the series, never had a boyfriend or a beau…. perhaps recapitulating some archaic notion of “the Virgin Goddess”,  e.g. Diana Nemorensis or the Virgin Mary or the “Virgin Queen”, Mary again or Queen Elizabeth I) whose strength derived from common sense, great courage, love, and determination.  Dorothy Gale was a generalist who never specialized in anything or focused on any particular trade, profession, or way of earning a living (all throughout the long series of Oz books, in fact).  She was just flexible, imaginative, and practical—kind of a “Renaissance girl” in a very low tech way.

Being a non-specialized generalist seems to be the primary role of all feminine heroes.  Of the earliest three I knew (Dorothy Gale, Scarlett O’Hara, and Diana Nemorensis), if Dorothy Gale had the purest and most asexual identity, Scarlett O’Hara surely had the most impure and sexual.  

It was perhaps for that reason that I was never really taken with her until I was a teenager, even though with my grandparents I religiously had watched Gone with the Wind at every possible opportunity and my grandmother compared the mythic South with the real South over and over again.   Scarlett O’Hara was beautiful, flirtations, and OWNED men in a way that is both fairly realistic and quite cynical.  But the book and movie Gone with the Wind were brilliantly timed between the First and Second World Wars to show that the American War Between the States of 1861-1865 was the first really and truly modern war of total destruction.  

Throughout history, up until Abraham Lincoln loosed Sherman on Georgia and Grant on Virginia, the goal of Conquest Warfare had been to preserve as much of a conquered land’s wealth as possible—so that it could be stolen and appropriated for the victors.  There might have been a lot of talk in Ancient Rome about how “Carthage must be destroyed” and about Salting the Earth once it was vanquished, but Carthage was not only not burnt to the ground and left to rot by the Roman Conquest, it became one of the Great Cities of the Roman Empire, as 20-30 years of Harvard Archaeological excavations in Tunisia have so clearly shown.  Gone with the Wind showed something else when Sherman’s “wind blew through Georgia.”  The purpose was indeed, as the opening lines of both the movie and the book suggested, to wipe out an entire civilization, a way of life—to replace what Marxists call one “mode of production” with another.   NONE of Baum’s villains in Oz were as bad as that, although the movie version of the Wicked Witch of the West was pretty murderous in her general attitude….

One major innovation of Jane Fonda’s heroines Cat Ballou and especially Barbarella in the 1960s was the advent of “free love”, which never appeared even once in any of Baum’s pre-1920 writings, which was only very obliquely alluded to in Gone with the Wind, but which by the 1960s was all anyone really cared about.  

Like Dorothy Gale and Scarlett O’Hara before her, Cat Ballou and Barbarella were unspecialized generalists who could adapt to almost any situation.  They were strong, intelligent, sexy, deadly in a good cause, and then Jane Fonda went to Hanoi….  In retrospect she may have been right to do it because the Vietnam War was totally wrong, a seriously failed experiment in 1984-type “perpetual war”….but Jane Fonda’s actions did not seem positive at the time.  

In this defiance of the outward semblance of world order sense, Jane Fonda’s characters of both Cat Ballou and Barbarella somehow came to life as defiant outlaws….crossing boundaries that no one else would cross, and doing so with both impunity and (what seemed most shocking at the time) complete immunity from real official sanction.  Like the righteous killer Catherine Ballou who avenged her father’s death in the Wild West—Jane Fonda first enacted herself as a mythic reality and then, by going to Hanoi, remade herself as a historic metaphor—walking through the image of a treacherous act, unscathed, in essence to show that Vietnam was all a staged event….. a dramatic diversion to keep the masses simultaneously afraid, amused and absorbed….  

Fast forward 24 years from Jane Fonda as Barbarella and you arrive the first incarnation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a completely modern LA County San Fernando Valley girl with no hints of modesty or virginity about her…. followed by the much more intriguing evolution of Buffy Summers in the TV Series from virginal high school freshman to intensely sexual college freshman, in a world which is increasingly dark and where reality is increasingly concealed….. Buffy’s Sunnydale was a mythic place, a lot like Los Angeles, while her first boyfriend and lover Angel eventually goes to the real Los Angeles and sets up shop as first as a private detective and then director of a large law firm—two professions which, in Los Angeles at least, possibly in the movies generally, have almost acquired the status of modern Jungian archetypes….  

The increasingly dark and brooding, sad and depressed Buffy Summers never lost her general adaptability—she could never specialize in any profession or line of work any more than Dorothy Gale or Scarlett O’Hara or Catherine Ballou… but the realization that the dark forces of the world were effectively unbeatable and had pre-existed anything good in the world—these were major transformations of the American Dream from the Early 20th Century.  And it was during the 7 televised seasons of Buffy that the 20th Century, which came in with a little girl magically transported by a tornado from dull grey Kansas to a bright and beautiful alternative universe which knew no death, went out during Buffy’s Freshman year at UCLA with a young adult barely out of her teens who was alone in the world, with her small circle of more specialized friends, fighting vampires and the forces of darkness.

And five years after Buffy ended, Katniss Everdeen picked up the bow from her archetypal ancestors the Goddesses Inanna and Diana and Queen Boadicea, and began to hunt for meagre food in the desperately hunger fringes of District 12 (in what was once called Appalachia in what was once called North America).  

The gruesomeness of the Hunger Games apparently shocks some people—I would have thought that Americans had long since forgotten how to be shocked about or by anything.  Children murdering children for sport isn’t the most pleasant of ideas, to be sure. But in that 17-19 year olds have gone off to fight in every war America has ever seen….along with a few 16 year olds here and there, and since the History Channel periodically shows authentic news clips of 15-16 year old resistance “werewolves” in 1945 Post-World War II Germany being shot by firing squads of American Troops, and countless tens of thousands of teenagers have been silently snuffed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam, it is hard to believe that the idea of children fighting and dying is really such a big deal to our ever hypocritically squeamish population.

The Hunger Games resonate with so much in our history and culture—with the original Victor Hugo version of Les Miserables (hopelessly buried and lost in the Broadway Musical of the same name), and in Suzanne Collins’ own account with the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.  

But above all the Hunger Games resonates with the year 2012 in which America has taken so many steps towards being a brutal, repressive dictatorship like Panem, already—with idiot fake and fraudulent “Conservatives” like Lindsey Graham and Newt Gingrich competing with idiot truly fraudulent “Liberals” like Carl Levin, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama competing with one another to see who can shred the Constitution fastest.  

Interesting to me, given that I based my own doctoral dissertation at Harvard in large part on revisiting Frazer’s the Golden Bough and with it Diana’s Temple by Lake Nemi near Ariccia, are the parallels between the Hunger Games and the myths and rituals of Divine Kingship.  There is nothing in the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, however, about games or about Tributes being well-fed and allowed every luxury leading up to their deaths.  But precisely this treatment is common in the rites of Divine Kingship, where sacrificial victims, like the individual selected for sacrifice during the rites of Toxcatl among the Aztec, are equated with the God Tezcatlipoca (“Smoking Mirror”) during the last year of their lives, given wonderful food and drink, and then sacrificed.  Similar paradigms of sacrifice are found throughout the world—

And the sacrifice of children, likewise, is extremely common: to the rain gods in Mesoamerica, relic traces of this existed even among the modern Yucatec Maya who tie small children to the legs of the altar during the cha-chaac or rain ceremony—although the children have to do nothing more that happily chirp like rainy season frogs (but woe to the boy who croaks like a dry season Toad—he will be beaten, not sacrificed, but beaten).  The Hebrew Bible itself is filled with child sacrifice (all through the Books of Kings and Chronicles, in particular, are Kings who make their children “walk through the fire”—perhaps most famously the daughter of Jeptha…), and by way of archaeological parallel—the excavations at Carthage have revealed hundreds and thousands of child sacrifices…. Among the Natchez of Mississippi, families sacrificed their children in order to rise in social status from commoners (“Stinkards”) to “Honored” Nobility according to the French records by Dupratz and recounted by John R. Swanton….

And in this sense it is perplexing: sacrifice almost always lead either to elevation in status or to outright deification: why the elite of Panem would not have recognized the risk embodied in Golden Bough-Divine Kingship type of analysis: the sacrificial victim—like the Rex Nemorensis at Ariccia who becomes King by killing the old one in combat, will always become the next king.  

At the end of the first book of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, Katniss Everdeen is poised to become (with Peeta), Queen and King of Panem.  This was not only foreseeable, it was in comparative mythological terms inevitable—and yet Suzanne Collins’ trilogy does not allow this drama to evolve that way.  In part, this may be because technology and traditions of oppression have obliterated the natural succession of Divine Kingship….

But Sir James G. Frazer’s point in writing the Golden Bough was to show that Divine Kingship involving the deification of sacrificial victims and their elevation as Kings is a nearly world-wide phenomenon.  I sit here puzzling at the significance of all the trappings of Divine Kingship and the Golden Bough in the Hunger Games.  

Frank Baum had either borrowed or unconsciously recreated so many motifs from ancient mythology—the Four World Quarters with colors Winkie-yellow Quadlin-red Munchkin-blue and Gillikin-purple with Green for the Center of the Emerald City are like nothing so much as the mythological and symbolic organization of (1) Ancient Mesopotamia, “Land of the Four Quarters” centered on Uruk, (2) Celtic Ireland, Ulster, Munster, Connaught, Leinster, and centered on Midhe (Meath) at Tara, and (3) pre-Hispanic Yucatan which, at several Classic sites, is divided into quarters dominated (as recorded on Stelae A & H at Copan) by Tikal, Calakmul, Palenque, and Copan and which even now is divided into four quarters (Yucatán, Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Petén, with Belize claimed by Guatemala and Geographically appearing to be a southern extension of Quintana Roo).

But in Frank Baum’s Oz, kingship is never strong and is always frowned upon, as are all attempts at centralization or standardization of culture, customs, or laws among the four/five regions of Oz.  For that reason, I would assume, there are no hints or traces of divine kingship in Oz—it is a Federal egalitarian Democracy of sorts (even though no one ever votes).  

But by the time of Buffy, as the 20th century closes, the need for a leader has brought forward the Slayer—“one girl in all the world” who fights the Demons.  Now Joss Whedon optimistically ended his series with a devolution of power and prowess from Buffy through the magic of Willow to Millions of “potential” slayers—-but it didn’t quite ring true, in a Television series where even the most outrageous vampiric and magic witchcraft was somehow made to feel “emotionally authentic.”

In the Hunger Games, Dictatorship is the reality and the two victors of the Hunger Games, Katniss & Peeta, are set to become the Divine Kings and possibly the real sovereigns of their land.  Perhaps the need for leadership, the need for someone to save the population, is not yet great enough, but in terms of the political and emotional significance of our story-telling, I think that the journey from Dorothy Gale’s Grey Kansas to Katniss Everdeen’s Grey District 12 tells us the story of the loss of hope and impending doom and despair which was the 20th Century.

*  Katniss is named after a plant called Sagittaria, and my grandmother was born under the sign of Sagittarius—it could be that Katniss reminds me a great deal of my grandmother Helen—similar complexions and faces…. Actress Jennifer Lawrence certainly fits very precisely the image in Suzanne Collins’ book…. and the younger pictures I’ve seen of my grandmother with long hair as a teenager in the time before the U.S. entered WWI….growing up in a place very much like the defeated districts of Panem in the Southern USA.

** In some New Age texts, 108 years is said to be a Venus Cycle, the more ordinary astrological cycle is one of 104 years.  108 is used, but oddly enough, is four years longer than longest calendrical cycle and planetary identity of the Ancient Goddess of Love, namely Inanna/ Ishtar/Aphrodite/Venus.  The calendrical cycles of Venus and the sun are said to “bind” (i.e coincide) every 2920 days, but the ultimate binding of 5 Heliacal Cycles of Venus with 8 Calendar years …. (365 x 8 = 5 x 584 = 2920 x 13 = 37,960 = 2 x 52 years (my current age) = 104 calendar years/105 “tuns” or 360 day periods—the root of the Maya and Aztec Calendars).  Like her Roman Counterpart Diana, Aphrodite and Inanna were both archers—it seems to be the feminine weapon of choice, possibly for purely sexual Freudian reasons, possibly for some mixture of Freudian sexual and Jungian archetypal causation.

*** In the 1970s, Broadway Musical and 1978 movie “the Wiz” the just recently departed Diana Ross and the late Michael Jackson did their best to reframe and appropriate the Baum story for African-America in the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement (or Fraudulent Civil Rights Fiasco) of the 1950s-60s…. I have never been comfortable Easing on Down the Road with them in that direction…. although my grandfather was a great supporter of alternative all black productions (now almost extinct) because they upheld and even developed, really and truly, the old segregationist’s doctrine of Separate but Equal (we actually attended the Wiz at the Majestic Theater on Broadway as well as an all black revival of Guys & Dolls in my one major summer with him (ever in my life) in 1976.