(The following is pure speculation and observations, possible true and false assumptions, there's nothing definitive in the following points. -MA)
I’m reticent to throw around the word “Synch” for the following points, as “Synchronicity” is so freely misused–that is, if one grasps Jung’s technical definition to use when applicable--yet on the 19th of July, at night, before news of The Dark Knight Rises theatre shooting in Colorado, a song was running in my mind that hadn’t crossed my attention for a spell: the B-Side of Duran Duran’s “Union of the Snake” single, “Secret Oktober”.
At the height of Duran Duran mania in late 1983, they released this rather cryptic single from their third album Seven and the Ragged Tiger. A song, that some argue, holds illuminati references along with their follow-up single “New Moon On Monday”. I have never bought into the argument that Duran Duran was consciously pushing an illuminati agenda, or the more absurdist angle that the band was pushing some Satanist / illuminati meme. The term ‘occult’ which means ‘hidden from view,’ or a system claiming use or knowledge of secret or supernatural powers or agencies, has been so misused to infer Satanism, or as a negative, while it’s historical meanings are more complex. Simon LeBon back in the eighties had described the meaning behind “Union of the Snake” in an 1984 interview with the following:
“I’ll tell ya. The union of the snake is the union of the snake and the man. The snake symbolizes a kind of subconscious power force or strength, and the song is really about the fears of the subconscious mind breaking through to the conscious mind.”
Some have argued this states the song’s outright occult meaning, but I have to say, this certainly sounds like someone (Le Bon) that has a passing understanding of Jung and Freud. Jung offers some interesting distinctions within his “The Psychology of the Child Archetype” – 5. ‘Child God and Child Hero’*;
“Snake-dreams usually occur, therefore, when the conscious mind is deviating from its instinctual basis.
The motif of ‘smaller than small yet bigger than big’ complements the impotence of the child by means of its equally miraculous deeds. The paradox is the essence of the hero and runs through his whole destiny like a red thread. He can cope with the greatest perils, yet, in the end, something quite insignificant is his undoing: Baldur perishes because, and so on.
The hero’s mean feat is to overcome the monster of darkness: it is the long-hoped-for and expected triumph of consciousness over the unconscious. Day and Light are synonyms for consciousness, night and dark for the unconscious…Even among primitives today the possession of a soul of the mistletoe, Maui because of the laughter of a little bird. Siegfried because of his one vulnerable spot, Heracles because of his wife’s gift, others because of common treachery is a precarious thing, and the ‘loss of soul’ a typical psychic malady which drives primitive medicine to all sorts of psychotherapeutic measures. Hence the ‘child’ distinguishes itself by deeds which point to the conquest of the dark.”*
Most people can relate to moments in their lives when things were going well; a good relationship, a good career path, and they will take a course of action that undermines those positive developments. Unconscious self sabotage, this conflict of good, and ill, the struggle to appeal to our better angels, choice and freewill, are age old issues for an individual, but the above points are also relevant to us in society as a collective whole. Some of Jung’s point will be more relevant in the continuing piece. But the fear of the unconscious driving us to self destruction is a very real concern, and why understanding the psyche, as argued by Jung and Freud, becomes extremely important, but I have digressed. Let’s look further into the conflicting meanings of the Duran Duran track.
While there might very well be an esoteric meaning as argued by some, simply on the basis of the “Union of the Snake” single sleeve, which some argue a bonified example, an eye symbol as a reference to the illuminati ‘all seeing eye,’ while many of these proponents are remiss in acknowledging that same symbol had been used on the Rio album sleeve. The company ‘Assorted Images,’ Malcolm Garrett, and Keith Breeden had designed the sleeve. Perhaps there was a directive from the band to design ‘something cool with occult symbols.’ Perhaps those choices came from the stylistic whims of Garrett and Breeden. Nothing operates in a vacuum, and many ideas in pop culture are lifted from historical sources. Nevertheless, there needs to be something more substantial to the argument rather than throwing out ‘illuminati’ at every rock album sleeve design, but a basis of evidence that supports past influence. We’ll get back to this debate in a moment.
Of course the configuration of an eye and snakes is nothing new, think the phrase ‘snake eyes’, the following image, a drawing of a motif from a Roman mosaic on the floor of a house in Moknine, Tunis, represents an apotropaism against the evil eye, as demonstrated from Jung.*
But a key point is the following: Symbols can have one meaning, and re-appropriated into having another meaning, often with negative connotations, the Nazi’s mastery of re-appropriating symbolism is a classic example. Therefore, one should be vigilant when researching the origins of symbols to find out the original meaning, and not take at face value what one initially learns, especially on the internet.
A few other points about Duran Duran should be mentioned. The sleeve design might have been inspired as a byproduct of the Indiana Jones craze following Spielberg and Lucas’ ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, a lot of films, and music pop culture mired from that 30s adventurer sensibility till in the early eighties. As well as a cross influences that were jumbling about, the bulk of the 1982 Rio videos were filmed in Sri Lanka, and the Indiana Jones II production crew were already filming “Temple of Doom” in Sri Lanka in 1983. The “Union of the Snake” video seems to depict a post-apocalyptic, Mad Max desert, where Le Bon descends into an under-ground cavern. There’s even some reference to child sacrifice / abuse.
Yet, the single’s B-side has always resonated for me:
Wise on a birthday party
In a world full of surprising fireworks
And sudden silence
Lies on a stranger's bed
The new day breaks like a speeding train or an old friend
Ever expected, but never knocking
Holding your own in a battered car
All night parties, cocktail bars and smile
When the butterfly escapes the killing jar
Sure eyes awake before the dancing is over
Wise or naked in secret Oktober
Freefall on a windy morning shore
Nothing but a fading track of footsteps
To prove that you'd ever been there
Spoken on a cotton cloud
Like the sound of gunshot taken by the wind
And lost in distant thunder
Racing on a shining plain
Tomorrow you'll be content to watch
As the lightning plays along the wires and you'll wonder
Sure eyes awake before the dancing is over
Wise or naked in secret Oktober
Sure eyes awake before the dancing is over
Wise or naked in secret Oktober...
The actual track itself, that was allegedly put together by Rhodes and LeBon in a late night session--a piece of electronica, sans bass and guitar, with a tribal rhythm that predates their Arcadia project collaboration--seems to touch on something primal. We’ll get back to its personal significance in the next piece. Now, Simon LeBon has admitted his early lyric writing was influenced by Jim Morrison and the Doors, and for the band, David Bowie had been a profound influence. It stands to reason that Bowie’s occult dalliances in the 70s, had compelled the band to mine in the same esoteric milieu. There had been further arguments for the Illuminati references on the front and back cover for Ragged Tiger. The symbol to the left could be a reference to Saturn, the symbol to center right could be a reference to Jupiter, and the symbol to the right a hybrid symbol of Ophiuchus and the infinity symbol?
Actually, no, and therefore there’s a basis in the assumption of Satanic influence. The symbol looks like the Satanic Cross, but as defined in Wikipedia, the satanic cross is a variation of the alchemical symbol for Sulfur. The Sulfur symbol was placed above the Nine Satanic statements in Levay’s Satanic Bible, but it could be interpreted as a combination of the Lorraine Cross and the mathematical symbol for infinity, or as a phallic reimaging, while associated with Satanism due to LeVay. Hermetic alchemists of the renaissance used the emblem of earth and spirit by combining a square cross with the cross of Christ, and when drawn symmetrically, it symbolized the hermetic maxim, “As above, so below.”
There are several other images that need to be cited. The grid is labeled with matching runes, The Glyph on the cover looks like an Eihwaz–the yew–rune of protection, and it is also a mark of the masons. A variation of that glyph, as well, shows up in German heraldry. The Glyph shares similarities with the Wappen Kleinblitterdorf coat of arms. The Glyph also shares similarities to the Wolfsangel or “Wolf-Hook,” which is a term for heraldic changes. While the Wolfsangel is identified with German Nazi symbolism, none of the modern symbols called Wolfsangel are historically part of any runic alphabet.
One of the things that have resonated for me was the pairing, the juxtaposition of "Union of the Snake” / “Secret Oktober.” Let’s review the basics of what had been discussed here and here. Ophiuchus was part of the 13 Zodiac system; it is the thirteenth sign, and is known as the lost sign. The sign falls between Sagittarius and Scorpio, and in mythological terms Ophiuchus was known as the Snake holder. At the time, I drew a specific correlation between Ophiuchus and the Ouroboros, which represents self-reflexivity or cyclicality, that sense of something constantly re-creating itself. Bear in mind that Ophiuchus is known as an interpreter of dreams or premonitions. Between the front and the back of the Ragged Tiger sleeve, one can find thirteen symbols, several barely discernable.
Astrologers have noted a harmonic convergence between the constellation Ophiuchus and Saturn in August 1987 and an Ophiuchus and Jupiter retrograde in April 2007. Yet Liz Durkin, an associate from Christopher Knowles’ Secret Sun, offered up a range of information;
Although it is often called "the thirteenth constellation" it is actually the 10th if you follow the traditional order. It has been combined with the stars of Scorpio because most of it lies above and on the ecliptic, standing over the Scorpion, which swings quite south of the ecliptic under Ophiuchus. Antares, heart of the Scorpion, defines the center of the sidereal sign of Scorpio, and embodies the essence of the Scorpio constellation. Antares lies below the ecliptic as well, in the body of the Scorpion. Because Ophiuchus actually crosses the ecliptic (where the planets transit) its stars should be considered as influential to our local planets that pass by it. As argued by Liz Durkin.
But in India they have it covered. In the Vedic tradition of Astrology, Ophiuchus falls in the 18th nakshatra (lunar mansion) called Jyeshtha, meaning the eldest wife of the moon (opposite its favorite young wife in Rohini). This nakshatra is ruled by the planet Mercury and associated with the deity, Indra, the dragon slayer, and thunderbolt. James Holmes has three planets (Sun, Mercury, and Saturn) in Jyeshtha/Ophiuchus in the 12th house that rules hospitals, prisons and ashrams -- the places outside of mainstream.
In ancient Greek mythology, Ophiuchus was the son of Apollo and Coronis who cheated on the god and was killed by Apollo's sister, Artemis. Little Ophiuchus/Aesculapius was foster by the centaur, Chiron, who taught him the art of healing. Ophiuchus/Aesculapius learned how to raise the dead which threatened Hades, who complained to Zeus, who then killed Ophiuchus/Aesculapius with a thunderbolt. Apollo raised him from the dead and placed him in the stars. So Ophiuchus is really a child of the sun God Apollo and was killed by Zeus (Jupiter).
Tracy Twyman furthered offered some intriguing, yet perhaps tenuous, ideas about Ophiuchus that connects him with Saturn and Abraxas, the Gnostic deity. She had written about the symbolism of child sacrifice and brephophagy (eating of babies) in medieval alchemical manuscripts. She argues that in alchemy, it is symbolized by Saturn, who in roman myth was said to have swallowed his own children. She drew a connection to the most basic concept in the history of religion, the sacrifice of the first-born. Noting that alchemists wrote in coded language about the process of creating the Philosophers Stone, which involved the sacrifice of a baby, while Twyman rebutted the vicious urban legend of Jews sacrificing Christian babies at Passover, and turning the blood into matzo, connecting blood with renewal. She cites that Ophiuchus is associated with the Mesopotamian god, Sagimu, the God of Invocation. She draws some distinctions that the snake between the feet of Ophiuchus could be thought of as an umbilical cord, and that Ophiuchus himself might be a fetus. She adds:
Another word for this constellation is Anguis. That’s a word indicating something that is part snake. Since his sacred animal is the cock, I am reminded of the so-called Anguipede, the cock-headed god of the gnostics, Abraxas, which had legs made of serpents. He is sometimes called Alpheichius, which contains the word Alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet.
Again connecting to the original thread, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end, she further adds:
What we have here is a meme embodying the concept of a sacrificial victim, a fetus, who is killed and then ritually reborn, phoenix-like, as a way of initiating a new age. I think this is why Ophiuchus is being trotted out now as the new zodiac sign: so that the calendar and the monetary system can be changed suddenly on a global scale, to bring us into a new era.
Without trivializing real world matters, one has to wonder with the spate of mass shootings we are seeing in America and Europe, driven by unstable individuals, if this explains the “Blood Libel” sacrifices we seem to be living under through this transitional period. I’m not certain I really accept the notion that blood equals renewal in a literal sense, being that myths and archetypes are figurative symbols to guide. Yet some seem to believe so, or are tragically misinterpreting the signs. Burt Reynolds in his X-Files appearance in “Improbable” argued for learning to read the numbers (or signs) correctly.
Yet, then what about this juxtaposition between the snake figure and October? Was it an unconscious inspiration, or based on certain sources? There may be some basis, although again tenuous. Lacerta, the “lizard”, which has been described as shaped like a small W, is also known as Little Cassiopeia. Lacerta is one of the main constellations that are visible during the month of October. As cited from Masm:
The Demeter goddess looked for its Persefone daughter, who had been raptada by Hades. When it passed by the region of Atica, one felt thirsty and it requested water to drink (from) a woman called Misme. The goddess drank with such avidity that caused the laughter of Ascxabalo, a son of Misme. Angered of which, they smiled themselves of her, threw on him the rest of the water and the boy became lizard or lacerta like Latin nomenclature of the constellation.
Could the myths of Ophiuchus and Lacerta illustrate a way through our transitions? One then has to look at the present state of our society, especially in America, and see if pop culture is reflecting this state, which is why The Dark Knight Rises seems so prescient, for good or ill, which we’ll explore in the next piece.
To be continued…
Special thanks to XScribe for editorial assistance, and to Liz Durkin for some incredible research and resources.
* C.G. Jung – The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, published by Princeton / Bollingen, © 1959, reprint, © 1990.