Sunday, April 24, 2011

Darwin's Head

In recent months the media has really begun to play up the decapitations administered by the Mexican drug cartels. Naturally, this has lead to a series of puff pieces trying to explain this phenomenon. And as may be imagined, these pieces are great press for the 'War on Terror.' Let us consider one such work:

"The preferred form of cruelty by drug cartel henchmen is to capture enemies and behead them, a once-shocking act that...

"Decapitations by drug cartels in Mexico first began in 2006, and that year armed thugs swaggered onto the white tile dance floor of the Sol y Sombra discotheque in Uruapan, a town in Michoacan state, and dumped five heads from plastic garbage bags.

"The blood-curdling act shocked Mexico, and evoked images of Islamic terrorism half a world away.

"'These guys are copying the methods of al Qaida (terrorists),' said Jorge Chabat, a criminal justice expert at the Center for Research and Teaching of Economics in Mexico City. He said the Mexican drug lords saw Internet video of beheadings of hostages captured by Muslim extremists in Iraq and Pakistan, and adopted the tactic themselves, down to the posting of video on the internet.

"Experts suggest that the drug gangs have several motives. First, they seek to use beheadings to cow the citizenry from squealing on them and to pressure local authorities to collaborate. Second, the gangs try to out-macho each other with greater acts of macabre violence, frightening rivals in a murderous spiral.

"The only hitch is that all the drug gangs have taken up beheadings."

While it is certainly true that the beheading can be used as an act of terror, this technique is far, far older than al Qaida and other 'Islamo-fascists.' In fact, it has quite a rich tradition in Mexico and the American southwest decades before the 'War on Terror' became a rallying cry. Consider the plight of Prohibition-era, Taos, New Mexico-based gangster Arthur R Manby.
"Manby was an odd amalgram of cultivated English gentleman, secret society adept, and vicious robber baron. Upon arriving in the Southwest in the 1880s, he became involved in a nonstop round of mine swindles and petty shakedowns. He graduated from these to a gigantic and still not completely understood attempt to get legal title to most of the land of present day Taos County, apparently in collusion with shadowy international financial forces in New York and London.

"Manby moved in a homicidal haze where somebody or other seems to have ordered 'Off with his head!' oftener than the Red Queen in Through the Looking Glass. His trail was littered with the decapitated heads of opponents and former associates. But in his semideranged old age, he seems to have lost control of the secret society that he had set up as his private terrorist and rub-out squad. His own decayed body (some said it was not his body) was found locked inside his house in the summer of 1929. It was decapitated. There was a half-chopped-away head sitting in the next room, but nobody was really sure if it was Manby's or not."
(Weird America, William Grimstad, pgs. 148-149)

While Aztec human sacrifices are primarily known for removing the hearts or skins of the victims, beheading was also a key feature of several major festivals. Case in point, Toxcatl, one of the main festivals in which a young man who had been impersonating the god Tezcatlipoca was sacrificed to this being. The grizzly end of this custom went something like this:

"Like the Mexican temples in general, it was built in the form of a pyramid; and as the young man ascended the stairs he broke at every step one of the flutes on which he had played in the days of his glory. On reaching the summit he was seized and held down by the priests on his back upon a block of stone, while one of them cut open his breast, thrust his hand into the the wound, and wrenched out his heart held it up in sacrifice to the sun. The body of the dead god was not, like the bodies of common victims, sent rolling down the steps of the temple, but was carried down to the foot, where the head was cut off and spitted on a pike. Such was the regular end of the man who personated the greatest god of the Mexican pantheon."
(The Golden Bough, James Frazer, pg. 609) 

Aside from festivals, decapitations featured in the ritualistic ballgames of Mesoamerica. From Wikipedia:

"The association between human sacrifice and the ballgame appears rather late in the archaeological record, no earlier than the Classic era.[52] The association was particularly strong within the Classic Veracruz and the Maya cultures, where the most explicit depictions of human sacrifice can be seen on the ballcourt panels – for example at El Tajin (850-1100 CE)[53] and at Chichen Itza (900-1200 CE) – as well as on the well-known decapitated ballplayer stelae from the Classic Veracruz site of Aparicio (700-900 CE). The Postclassic Maya religious and quasi-historical narrative, the Popol Vuh, also links human sacrifice with the ballgame (see below).

"Captives were often shown in Maya art, and it is assumed that these captives were sacrificed after losing a rigged ritual ballgame.[54] Rather than nearly nude and sometimes battered captives, however, the ballcourts at El Tajin and Chichen Itza show the sacrifice of practiced ballplayers, perhaps the captain of a team.[55] Decapitation is particularly associated with the ballgame – severed heads are featured in much Late Classic ballgame art and appear repeatedly in the Popol Vuh. With the Aztec version of the game, the skulls of losing teammembers were even placed in a 'skull rack' besides the field, and their blood was offered as 'food for the gods'.[1] There has even been speculation that the heads and skulls were used as balls.[56]"

Women were not spared from this good stuff either. Consider the festival dedicated to Xilonen, the goddess of the young maize. Here a young woman impersonated the corn goddess and met a similar fate to her male counterparts that impersonated gods:

"Another shook a rattle before the doomed woman as she mounted up the steps of the temple of Cinteotl, the Goddess of the Maize. On reaching the summit she was seized by a priest, who threw her on his back, while the sacrificer severed her head from her body, tore out her heart, and threw it in a saucer. When this sacrifice had been performed in honour of Xilonen, the Goddess of the Young Maize, the people were free to eat the green ears of maize and the bread that was baked of it. No one would have dared to eat of these things before the sacrifice."
(The Golden Bough, James Frazer, pgs. 614-615)
Decapitations and corn have an especially long history that goes beyond Mesoamerica. Consider the tradition of Lityerses in ancient Greece:
"...Lityerses was a bastard son of Midas, King of Phyygia, and dwelt at Calaenae. He used to reap corn, and had an enormous appetite. When a stranger happened to enter the cornfield or to pass by it, Lityerses gave him plenty to eat and drink, then took him to the corn-field on the banks of the Maender and compelled him to reap along with him. Lastly, it was his custom to wrap the stranger in a sheaf, cut off his head  with a sickle, and carry away his body, swatched in the corn stalks. But at last Hercules undertook to reap with him, cut off his head with the sickle, and threw his body into the river. As Hercules is reported to have slain Lityerses in the same way that Lityerses slew others (as Theseus treated Sinis and Sciron), we may infer that Lityerses used to throw the bodies of his victims into the river."
(The Golden Bough, James Frazer, pg. 436

The severed head, and the closely related skull, are symbols that go back to the very earliest rituals of human beings -Many of the earliest ritualized forms of worship are skull cults. In fact, the fixation with the head may even predate human beings.

"We have already viewed the earliest unmistakable archaeological evidence of man's religious thought, in the burials and bear sanctuaries of Homo neanderthalensis. We now add, to complete the picture, the observation that a number of the Neanderthal skulls found at Krapina and Ehringsdorf provide evidence also of his ritual cannibalism. They had been opened in a certain interesting way. Furthermore, every one of the unearthed skulls of Neanderthal's Javanese contemporary, Solo Man (Ngangdong Man), had also been opened. And finally, when skulls opened by the modern headhunters of Borneo fro the purpose of lapping up the brains are compared with those of Solo and Neanderthal -the skulls having served, handily, as the bowls for their own contents -they are found to have been opened in precisely the same way.

"Remarkable indeed -we might observe in passing -how far cultural patterns can survive beyond the periods of the races among whom they first appear!

"What rites were associated with the early headhunt we do not know; but that its spirit was comparable to the head-worship of the bear is likely -particularly in view of the fact that at the five-chambered grotto of Guattari near San Felice Circeo, on the coast of Italy, some eighty miles southeast of Rome, a Neanderthal skull was recently discovered that had been treated much like the skull of a sacrificed bear. The head having been removed, a hole had been tapped in it for the removal of the brain; the remains of sacrificed animals were preserved in receptacles round about the grotto, and the skull itself, placed on the floor of the cave, was surrounded by a circle of stones."
(The Masks of God Primitive Mythology, Joseph Campbell, pg. 373)

Clearly the removal of the head is a very primitive impulse indeed. So, why is it appearing now on a wide scale in Mexico? Is this something that is being instigated by the Cryptocracy, or is the zeitgeist simply taking over? In pondering these questions, I can't help but be reminded of a stellar episode from the final season of Chris Carter's Millennium called "Darwin's Eye." In brief, the episode concerns an escaped mental patient who leaves a trail of decapitated bodies in her wake. Throughout the episode the audience is kept guessing as to whether the girl in question is the murderer, whether a shadowy organization is framing her, or whether she's been programmed to carry out her bloody deeds. Along the way we learn that she had a military father involved in espionage work who also happened to molest his daughter. Yet the show concludes with indications that all these things were simple coincidences.

The female beheader's voice over narration at the beginning of the show is priceless:

"Ok so this is how life is supposed to be. Over millions of years we move forward, we evolve, in a series of tiny incremental steps. And each tiny step is a tiny improvement. It has to be. Survival of the fittest, that's what it's about. If you don't move on, you end.  Or, you're ended. So, we start with the primal ooze, and we end up with Mozart – Hitler – me. Which explains everything. And explains nothing. Because not everything evolves. Some things just happen. Like the eye, even Darwin worried about the eye. The iris, lens, retina. How could any of those things evolve in isolation? How could they be useful on their own? So how did the eye happen? How? Accident, it just happened. We don't know how, we don't know. One minute we're blind, next minute we see. Like the dinosaurs are lords of the earth for millions of years, then a big damn rock hits the Yucatan peninsula, and they're gone. Ended.  One minute we're here. The next minute, we're gone. Accidents happen. That's life. But what I want to know, what I want to know, is what makes the accidents happen."
The show perfectly captures the uncertainty of its opening monologue. How could a waffle-like woman manage to cleanly decapitate several men over the course of the episode without a struggle? Why did her childhood perfectly mirror Monarch programming despite conclusions that the abuse she suffered 'just happened.' And why did this woman perfectly recreate ritualized beheadings when supposedly they had no deep meaning to her?  

As previously noted, "Darwin's Eye" offers three possible conclusions to the killing spree: the girl is simply insane and tapping into a primitive instinct with decapitations, she was framed by an outside organization, or she was programmed. But what if all three are true? Is such a combination what 'makes accidents happen' as the opening monologue ponders? 

An image the killer made on her wall at the hospital

And if so, is something similar at work in Mexico at present? A decapitation has so much meaning, yet it exists at such a primitive level of our consciousness. Perhaps a slight nudge is all that's necessary to instigate full on ritual. 

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