Friday, October 31, 2014

On the Far Side of the Psychosphere Part IV

Welcome to the fourth installment in my examination of the acclaimed HBO original series True Detective. With the first installment I addressed the backgrounds of the show's two leads, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, as well as the significance of certain key numbers (most notably 5 and 17) that appear throughout the first season.

With the second part I began to focus in on the plot line, beginning with symbolism surrounding the crime scene where Dora Lange's body was found. In the third installment I examined the netherworld of white supremacism, drug and sex trafficking and Christian fundamentalism in which many of the show's character exist and its historical basis. It probably goes without saying, but be forewarned: this as well as prior installments are both spoiler heavy and written with the assumption that the reader is familiar with the plot line of True Detective. If the reader is not, it is strongly advised that they track down a plot synopsis to assist them.

the Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle (Jay O. Sanders), one of the first season's chief antagonists. 
For the present installment I plan on tackling the bizarre belief system employed by the Tuttles (the wealthy and politically-connected Louisiana family that seems to be behind a cult that is responsible for the murder of Lange and many, many others) clan. But before getting there I would likely to briefly address Martin Hart (Harrelson)'s curious home life.

By 2002, seven years after Marty and Rustin Cohle (McConaughey) officially solved Dora Lange's murder, Hart's oldest daughter has begun to drift down a dangerous path. Decked out in Goth-lite apparel, she begins hanging with a wild crowd that leads to the inevitable teenage debauchery. Martin is deeply hurt by his daughter turning into what he dubs a "slut" despite the fact he has long used young, emotionally unstable women for his own sexual gratification.

Audrey (Erin Moriatry), Hart's oldest daughter
Things come to ahead after Mandy is found in the backseat of a car at the age of sixteen with two boys, ages 19 and 20. Marty reacts as one might expect and administers some vigilante justice to the two youths after he's left alone in a jail cell with them. But this marks the beginning of what will become a decade-spanning estrangement with his oldest daughter (and the rest of his family, for that matter).

More than a few viewers of True Detective, both conspiracy theorists and regular fans alike, have speculated as to whether or not Marty's daughter was being sexually abused by the cult the Tuttle family belonged too. The first indication of this occurs toward the end of the second episode, in 1995, when Marty is going to fetch his daughters for dinner. As he walks to their bedroom he overhears Audrey talking about some type of accident. As he opens the door, he finds that Audrey has arranged several of her toys in a curious fashion: What appears to be a Barbie doll has been stripped of its clothes, and placed spread eagle within a circle of five male action figures. This image of course echoes a picture Cohle saw at Dora Lange's mother's house in which a young child (likely Lange) was surrounded by five men on horse back in what appeared to be KKK outfits.

the "five horsemen" picture Cohle spots at the home of Dora Lange's mother (top) and the scene Audrey made with her toys (bottom)
This scene is repeated throughout the series: During his interrogation by detectives Gilbough (Michael Potts) and Papania (Tory Kittles) Rust curves several beer cans into five human-like figures and arranges them in a circle; a videotape of the one of the cult's ritual sacrifices shows a scene of five masked figures surrounding a child. Its also interesting to note that five pointed stars, a black version of which seems to be one of the cult's symbols, also appear throughout the first season. The black stars are one of the most direct allusions to Robert Chambers' The King in Yellow, a classic piece of weird fiction that was superficially incorporated into the first season. Reggie Ledoux (Charles Halford), one of Dora Lange's murderers, repeatedly mentions the black stars and Carcosa (another reference to The King in Yellow) repeatedly before Marty executes him in 1995. The use of Chambers in True Detective will be addressed at greater length in the next installment. Back to the five-pointed stars.

Much has of course been written about the significance of the five pointed star in the occult over the years. Self-described revisionist historian and likely fascist sympathizer Michael A. Hoffman II famously noted:
"The symbol (or, alchemically, sigil) of the armed enforcers of the Code of Hammurabi, which was the law of the empire of Babylon, the successor to Sumer, was the five-pointed star, or pentagram. The distinguished characteristic of the Babylonian law code was that 'the laws were not the same for the rich and the poor.'
"This star also happens to be the symbol of the armed enforcers of modern America's laws, and was also a symbol of the enforcers the Communist regime in Russia. Is it an accident that both the army of the Soviet Union and the policeman of America wear the secret symbol of Sirius?"
(Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare, Michael A. Hoffman II, pg. 30)

the five figures Rust makes out of beer cans (top) and the five masked figures who appear in a snuff film found in one of Billy Lee Tuttle's houses (bottom)
By linking the five-pointed star to Sirius, Hoffman is citing the famed reference by Freemason Albert Pike in his infamous Morals and Dogma though other numbered stars have been linked to Sirius. The Star trump in Tarot represents Sirius, as noted before here, but uses a seven-pointed star, for instance. But the association of five-pointed stars with Sirius seems especially relevant to True Detective considering how frequently they appear.

Later on Rust interviews a transvestite known as Johnny Joanie who also attended a Tuttle school (addressed in the third installment) with one of the cult's victims. He revealed to Rust that while attending this school as a child he had "dreams" of men wearing animal masks abusing him and the other children. At one point Audrey gets in trouble in 1995 for drawing sexually expletive images in her notebook: one of these images is of a masked man groping a girl while another appears to be of an angel (who are depicted frequently by the Tuttle cult). Also during 1995 a picture of a spiral, another symbol used by the cult, appears on the wall of the Hart's kitchen at one point.

various possible clues of Audrey's abuse
So, was Audrey being abused by the cult? Certainly the show present enough indications to draw these conclusions. Many viewers seem to believe that Audrey was being abused either by her grandfather (her mother's father), who appears to be a wealthy man who lives near a lake (wealth and bodies of water are linked to the cult throughout the first season), or possibly at a Tuttle school she attended. Audrey's grandfather is generally depicted as a rather buffoonish figure during his brief time on the screen while there is no indication whatever that she attended a Tuttle school, however. So it is certainly ambiguous though the fact remains that Audrey seems to have a very detailed knowledge of the rituals of the cult.

Marty with Jake Herbert (Thomas Francis Murphy), Audrey's grandfather
Another possibility, one that this researcher has not seen mentioned, is that Audrey is what is commonly referred to as an "empath" or "sensitive." In the first installment of this series I suggested that this was most likely the case with the character of Rust Cohle: he witnesses visions throughout the show which he dismisses as chemical damage in his brain but which seem to assist him in solving the Lange case; and he displays an almost supernatural ability to illicit confessions from criminals that seems to suggest he's telepathic on some level.

The same could potentially be true of Audrey, who certainly displays some of the same social awkwardness that defines Rust as well as reoccurring mental issues. Participants in the show have frequently insisted that Audrey's deteriorating state by 2002 is the result of Marty's abandonment of his family. Is this true in a very literal sense in that she has picked up impressions of both the cases Marty has or had worked as well as his general poor treatment of women? In many ways Audrey seems to craft herself into a manifestation of the cesspool Marty's life has become by this point. In this context, her behavior could be seen as way of dealing with the impressions she is receiving from her father.

And now, on to the Tuttle family and their bizarre cult. While never implicitly stated, it is hinted that the family first arrived in the Gulf region of Louisiana in early Colonial times and that they were involved in piracy. This area of Louisiana would remain rural and attract many Vodun and Santeria practitioners as well as performing a rural version of Mardi Gras known as Courir de Mardi Gras. As for the Tuttles, Cohle notes that they participated in "an annual winter festival, heavy on the Saturnalia, a place where Santeria and voodoo got all meshed together.

Courir de Mardi Gras revelers
Mardi Gras has it origins in the European Carnival festivals that unfold prior to Lent in most Catholic countries. It has long been noted, however, that the Carnival festivals, especially those held in rural areas, bore a striking resemblance to the ancient Roman winter festival known as Saturnalia that historically began on December 17 (as noted above, the number 17 appears through the first season of True Detective) and concluded on the twenty-third (though the dates changed periodically and varied in different regions). The legendary mythologist James George Frazer noted:
"The resemblance between the Saturnalia of ancient and the Carnival of modern Italy has often been remarked; but in the light of all the facts that have come before us, we may well ask whether the resemblance does not amount to identity. We've seen that in Italy, Spain, and France, that is, in the countries where the influence of Rome has been deepest and most lasting, a conspicuous feature of the Carnival is a burlesque figure personifying the festive season, which after a short career of glory and dissipation is publicly shot, burnt, or otherwise destroyed, to the feigned grief or genuine delight of the populace. If the view here suggested of the Carnival is correct, this grotesque personage is no other than a direct successor of the old King of the Saturnalia, the master of the revels, the real man who personated Saturn and, when the revels were over, suffered a real death in his assumed character.
"As the Carnival is always held on the last three days before the beginning of Lent, its date shifts somewhat from year to year, but it invariably falls either in February or March. Hence it does not coincide with the date of the Saturnalia, which within historical times seems to have been always celebrated in December even in the old days, before Caesar's reform of the calendar, when the Roman year ended with February instead of December. Yet if the Saturnalia, like many other seasons of license, was originally celebrated as a sort of public purification at the end of the old year or the beginning of the new one, it may at a still more remote period, when the Roman year began with March, have been regularly held either in February or March and therefore at approximately the same date as the modern Carnival. So strong and persistent are the conservative instincts of the peasantry in respect to old custom, that it would be no matter for surprise if, in rural districts of Italy, the ancient festival continued to be celebrated at the ancient time long after the official celebration of the Saturnalia and the towns had been shifted from February to December. Latin Christianity, which struck at the root of official or civic paganism, has always been tolerant of its rustic cousins, the popular festivals and ceremonies which, unaffected by political and religious revolutions, by the passing of empires and of gods, had been carried on by the people with but little change from time immemorial, and represent in fact the original stock from which the state religions of classical antiquity were comparatively late offshoots. Thus, it may very well have come about that while the new faith stamped out the Saturnalia in the towns, it suffered the original festival, disguised by a difference of date, to linger unmolested in the country; and so the old feast of Saturn, under the modern name of the Carnival, has reconquered the cities, and goes on merrily under the eye and with the sanction of the Catholic Church."
(The Golden Bough, James George Frazer, pgs. 634-636)
a depiction of latter period Saturnalia celebrations
Its interesting to note that Courir de Mardi Gras was said to originate from the rural Carnival festivals held in Medieval France as opposed to the urban celebrations. If Frazer above is to be believed, then these rural Carnival traditions of France that were transferred to rural Louisiana by the Cajuns would be the direct descendants of the Roman Saturnalia festival in its most ancient and primitive form.

As noted above, there are indications that in very ancient celebrations of Saturnalia some type of mock king drawn from the peasantry was ritualistically sacrificed at the conclusion of this festival. Earlier Frazer noted:
"...The office of the King of Saturnalia, the ancient Lord of Misrule, who presided over the winter revels at Rome in the time of Horace and of Tacitus. It seems to prove that his business had not always been that of a mere harlequin or merry-andrew whose only care was that the revelry should run high and the fun grow fast and furious, while the fire blazed and crackled on the hearth, while the streets swarmed with festive crowds, and through the clear frosty air, far away to the north, Soracte shewed his coronal of snow. When we compare this comic monarch of the gay, the civilized metropolis with his grim counterpart of the rude camp on the Danube, and when we remember the long array of similar figures, ludicrous yet tragic, who in other ages and in other lands, wearing mock crowns and wrapped in sceptred palls, have played their little pranks for a few brief hours or days, then passed before their time to a violent death, we can hardly doubt that in the King of the Saturnalia at Rome, as he is depicted by classical writers, we see only a feeble emasculated copy of the original, whose strong features have been fortunately preserved for us by the obscure author of the Martyrdom of St. Dasius. In other words, the martyrologist's account of the Saturnalia agree so closely with the accounts of similar rites elsewhere, which could not possibly have been known to him, that the substantial accuracy of his description may be regarded as established; and further, since the custom of putting a mock king to death as a representative of a god cannot have grown out of the practice of appointing him to preside over a holiday revel, whereas the reverse may very well have happened, we are justified in assuming that in an earlier and more barbarous age, it was the universal practice in ancient Italy, where the worship of Saturn prevailed, to choose a man who played the part and enjoyed all the traditional privileges of Saturn for a season, and then died, whether by his own or another's hand, whether by the knife or the fire or on the gallows-tree, in the character of the good god who gave his life for the world. In Rome itself and other great towns the growth of civilization had probably mitigated this cruel custom long before the Augustan age, and transformed it into the innocent shape it wears in the writings of the few classical writers who bestow a passing notice on the holiday King of the Saturnalia. But in remoter districts the older and sterner practice may have survived; and even if after the unification of Italy the barbarous usage was suppressed by the Roman government, the memory of it would be handed down by the peasants and would tend from time to time, as still happens with the lowest forms of superstition among ourselves, to lead to a recrudescence of the practice, especially among the rude soldiery on the outskirts of the empire, over whom the once iron hand of Rome was beginning to relax its grip."
(The Golden Bough, James George Frazer, pgs. 633-634)
a depiction of the "King of Saturnalia"
Obviously more than a few elements of the rituals practiced by the Tuttle clan bear a passing resemblance to some of the more ancient aspects of the Roman Saturnalia festival. And, as noted above, the link between Saturnalia and Carnival and between Carnival and Mardi Gras, is well established.

And yet there is one key difference: the Tuttle cult seems to exclusively sacrifice women and young girls. As far as this researcher has found, the victims sacrificed at Saturnalia and like festivals were almost solely males. This custom may have hearkened back to even earlier times when matriarchies were the dominate religious persuasion and the Great Mother reigned supreme. I suspect this discrepancy was intentional and meant as an inversion of the historic custom. In the next installment I'll go more into the possible purpose of this.

one of the children sacrificed by the Tuttle cult wearing a mock crown
Despite the seeming roots the Tuttle's system appears to have in European tradition, its surface is steeped in Vodun and Santeria. This is most evident in the "devil nets" that appear throughout the first season. These contraptions, while described as make-work for children, are said to trap evil spirits. In this case True Detective is likely being direct --drawings of pale skinned beings with monstrous faces, described as "angels", are frequently shown in conjunction with the devil nets and I suspect these creatures are what is trying to be trapped.

Much ceremonial magic is of course based around the summoning of various beings to do the bidding of the magician. In some systems, for instance, the magician may try to bond with what is known as a "familiar spirit." Angels were also commonly summoned for various purposes, especially after appearance of the Key of Solomon during the Renaissance. As noted before here, angelic appearances bore more than a few passing resemblances to the daimons of antiquity or even modern UFO encounters. But I digress.

a depiction of an angel in True Detective
The fusion of Vodun and European traditions depicted in True Detective may have been partly inspired by the likely fictitious figure known as Lucien-Francois Jean-Maine.
"... the Ordo Templi Orientis Antiqua or OTOA – allegedly created by a mysterious and possibly non-existent Haitian occultist Lucien-Francois Jean-Maine (1869?-1960), of whom there is very little hard information. The OTOA was evidently a mixture of quasi-Masonic ritual and initiation and traditional Vodun, forming a bridge between European-style ceremonial magic traditions and the Afro-Caribbean Vodun cultus. Jean-Maine was allegedly the inheritor of an ancient Haitian occult lineage that numbers among its lineage-holders the venerable Ordre des Elus-Cohen, which had a branch in Leogange, Haiti. This is not the place to go into the history of the Elus Cohen (or 'Elect Priests'), so suffice it to say that it was a branch of the eighteenth century Martinist order and the branch most closely connected with ritual magic. Martinism began as a Masonic-type society in pre-revolutionary France but it's founder – Martinez de Pasqually – died in Haiti in 1774. Haiti at that time was a French colony. Hence the suggested French Masonic-Haitian Vodun connection."
(The Dark Lord, Peter Levenda, pg. 130)
the symbol of the Ordo Templi Orientis Antiqua, the order which Lucien-Francois Jean-Maine allegedly fonded 
I've already noted before here that there were ties between Haitian Vodun and European Freemasonry dating back to the late eighteenth century at the latest.

With some hesitation, I will also note that above-mentioned Jean-Maine has been linked to some type of Sirius worship.
"... Around the turn-of-the-century, Haitian occultist Lucien-Francois Jean-Maine claimed communication with the Sirius star system, made possible by performing Crowleyean rituals. In 1922, Jean-Maine, combined these rituals with voodoo practices to form the Cult of the Snake. Jean-Maine also claimed to be in contact with a disembodied being named Lam, an apparent otherworldly entity that Aleister Crowley had earlier contacted."
(James Shelby Downard's Mystical War, Adam Gorightly, pg. 43)
Again, the historical basis of this is highly, highly debatable, especially the part about Sirius: As far as this researcher can tell, Gorightly's source for the above-mentioned information on Jean-Maine was Jim Keith's Saucers of the Illumanti, which makes the same claim but offers no citations either. It is quite possible that this claim was made by Michael Bertiaux, a long time friend of Crowley disciple Kenneth Grant, but I have yet to find it.

Regardless, show creator, runner and sole writer Nic Pizzolatto seems to have been aware of these claims. Certainly there's a clear reference to Crowley at the end of episode seven when Errol Childress (one of the Tuttle clan's illegitimate children) gives two detectives directions that involves taking a Route 49 toward a town called Crowley. Liber 49 is one name for a work written by Crowley disciple Jack Parsons more commonly referred to as The Book of Babalon and recounts his notorious "Babalon Working." So it does not seem much of a stretch to suggest that Pizzolatto was aware of some of the more speculative theories concerning Crowley and his followers.

And with that I shall wrap things up for now. In the next and final installment Rustin Cohle's trip into the Labyrinth will be considered in depth. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

On the Far Side of the Psychosphere Part III

"If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward then, brother, that person is a piece of shit."
--Rustin Cohle

Welcome to the third installment in my examination of the HBO original series True Detective. During the first part I briefly considered the curious backgrounds of the first season's two stars, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, as well as the significance of the numbers seventeen and five, which appear throughout the season. With the second installment I began to focus in on the plot line, beginning with the ritualistic murder of Dora Lange and the symbolism behind many of the articles left with her body.

Dora Lange
With this installment I would like to consider the world in which detectives Martin Hart (Harrelson) and Rustin Cohle (McConaughey) find themselves knee deep in. With the discovery that Dora Lange was a prostitute Hart and Cohle venture into the underbelly of the feel-good 90s (as personified by Hart's suburban life) and experience a world defined by rampant misogyny, racism, class oppression, corruption and religious zealotry. Women born into poverty find themselves as easy targets for predators, more than a few of whom turn out to be police officers, who use their social status to force these women into prostitution and drug trafficking.

Many of the men who inhabit this world on the lower levels seem to have ties to the white supremacist underground: Charlie Lange (Brad Carter), Dora's ex-husband, is a member of the Aryan Brotherhood; a picture of what is possibly a young Dora Lange in her mother's house shows her surrounded by five men on horses who appear to be outfitted like Klansmen (a variation on this image appears throughout the first season, as will be discussed in a future installment); members of the Iron Crusaders, a biker gang linked to Lange's murder, are heavily outfitted with white supremacist and neo-Nazi symbols on their patches and tattoos; Reggie Ledoux (Charles Halford), one of Dora Lange's murderers and a meth cook for the Iron Crusaders, is shown with two swastika tattooed on his chest, among other things. African-Americans, who are shown in even more severe poverty than the lower class whites, are frequently described as subhuman if addressed at all in this subculture.

besides the two swastikas (one in the form of an octopus), Reggie Ledoux also has "SWP" (which stands for "Supreme White Power"), "AB" (an abbreviation for the Aryan Brotherhood) and what appears to be a German eagle tattooed on his torso as well 
At the heart of it all is the rampant Christian fundamentalism that had become a major political and cultural force by the 1990s. The personification of this in True Detective is the Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle (Jay O. Sanders), a wealthy and powerful evangelist whose cousin is Louisiana's governor at the time of Dora Lange's murder. The devastating effect the movement has had on Louisiana is displayed most prominently via Tuttle's involvement with the state's school system. Education is of course a long standing obsession of the Christian right.
"The 'pro-family' issues are derived from an ongoing ideological struggle over which sector the U.S. public will draw the official American portrait, both in the history books and in legislation. To a large extent, the Christian Right is engaged in a drive to reinvigorate fading symbols representing marital relations, parental authority and the sanctity and purity of the neighborhood movie theatre and public school. The right to determine how and by whom the minds of children are molded is the most valued prize in the tug of war between the Christian Right and secular society.
"Nowhere has the struggle for the minds of children been so great as in the Christian Right's battle against 'secular humanist' education. The term 'secular humanism' is a catch-all phrase for a human-centered rather than God-centered philosophy. Secular humanist, according to their Christian detractors, believe that human being shape their own destiny and solve their own problems through concrete physical means rather than through reliance on the supernatural."
(Spiritual Warfare, Sara Diamond, pgs. 84-85) 

It is hinted at that the Wellspring program Tuttle's ministry supported led to countless children from impoverished families being shipped off to under-funded Christian schools in which they received a Bible-based education. This type of thing certainly happens in the real world and whether it is a boon to the families that receive this type of education is rather debatable.
"Students in Christian schools are being inculcated with intolerant, heavy-handed political doctrine on display at the rally. The Accelerated Christian Education curriculum, one of the country's three major publishers of Christian textbooks, defines 'liberal' in its schoolbooks as 'referring to philosophy not supported by Scripture' and 'conservative' as 'dedicated to preserving of Scriptural principles.' And 'Conservative Christian schools,' identified by their affiliation with one of four national school organizations that define themselves as evangelical and Christian, are the fastest-growing segment within the private school system. Such schools now represent 15.4 percent of all private school enrollment. The National Center for Education Statistics shows a 41 percent growth in the total enrollment at conservative Christian schools between 1992 and 2002...
"In texts published by A Beka, one of the big fundamentalist publishing houses, African religious beliefs are described as 'false.' Hinduism is 'pagan' and 'evil.' The lack of Christian conversion among Africans is blamed on 'Satan's stronghold on these people,' according to Bob Jones University press history textbook for seventh graders. A Beka's high school world history textbook blames the poverty and political chaos in most of Africa on a lack of faith. It skips over the repressive colonial European regimes that exploited the continent and decimated the population in countries such as the Congo, explaining:
"For over a thousand years, there was no clear Christian witness in the vast heartland of Africa; the fear, idolatry, superstition, and witchcraft associated with animism (the belief that natural objects and forces are inhabited by mostly malignant spirits) prevented most Africans from learning how to use nature for man's benefit and thus develop high culture like that of other African empires
"Another A Beka textbook argues that 'witchcraft and spirit worship' caused most postcolonial self-governments in Africa to descend in the dictatorships. Hinduism is described as 'devastating to India's history.' Hindus are 'incapable of writing history because all that happens is dissipated in their minds into confused dreams. What we call historical truth and veracity – intelligent comprehension events, and fidelity in representing them – nothing of the sort can be looked for among the Hindus.'
"The Muslim prophet Muhammad is portrayed as deceiving followers about his 'supposed encounters with angels,' and Buddha is criticized because he desired to 'leave his wife and newborn son' in search of enlightenment. The deaths of Muhammad and Buddha, set against the risen Christ, are taken as proof that Islam and Buddhism are false religions. And while the movement works alongside right-wing Catholic groups, within its own circle it spits venom at the Catholic faith. The A Beka textbook calls Catholicism 'distorted' and explains that in Catholic country such as Ireland children 'grow up believing the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church without knowing of God's free salvation.' The Catholic empires of France and Spain failed to colonize the United States, students are told, because God wanted to make America a Christian nation. 
"The college protesters of the 1960s were largely the instruments communists 'seeking to exploit youthful rebellion in order to advance their own goals.' Riots occurred in black neighborhoods because 'power-hungry individual stirred up the people.' Those dependent on welfare programs of the 1960s 'became more susceptible to politicians that preyed on economic insecurity.... In this way politicians literally bought the votes of millions of Americans. And Joseph McCarthy becomes a patriot, with a textbook stating, 'McCarthy's conclusions, although technically unprovable, were drawn from the accumulation of undisputed facts.'"
(American Fascists, Chris Hedges, pgs. 153-154)
I daresay the curriculum of Tuttle schools probably bore some similarities to that described above. In 2002, when Cohle confronts Tuttle after he has begun investigating Lange's murder again, the holy roller boasts that the Wellspring program will be used as a model for charter schools in Louisiana. Tuttle notes that: "The whole idea was to provide an alternative to the kind of secular, globalized education that our public schools were promoting. When we get the school voucher program instituted, we'll reintroduce the idea. People should have a choice in education, like anything else."

Show creator, runner and sole writer Nic Pizzolatto, a native Louisianan, no doubt meant his incorporation of Tuttle's chartered school scheme as a jab at the voucher program initiated in New Orleans shortly after Katrina.
"... The administration of George W. Bush backed up their plans with tens of millions of dollars to convert New Orleans schools into 'charter schools,' publicly funded institutions run by private entities according to their own rules. Charter schools are deeply polarizing in the United States, nowhere more than in New Orleans, where they are seen by many African-American parents as a way of reversing the gains of the civil rights movement, which guaranteed all children the same standard of education...
"In sharp contrast to the glacial pace with which the levees were repaired and the electricity grid was brought back online, the auctioning off of New Orleans' school system took place with military speed and precision. Within nineteen months, with most of the city's poor residents still in exile, New Orleans' public school system had been almost completely replaced by privately run charter schools. Before Hurricane Katrina, the school board had run 123 public school; now it ran 4. Before that storm, there had been 7 charter schools in the city; now there were 31. New Orleans teachers used to be represented by strong union; now the unions contracted been shredded, and its forty-seven hundred members had all been fired. Some of the younger teachers were rehired by the charters, at reduced salaries; most were not."
(The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein, pg. 5)

Throughout True Detective the exploitation of Louisiana by corporate interest is ever present via the constant appearance of oil rigs and refineries. These interests ensure the comfortable lifestyles police officers like Marty Hart enjoy in exchange for their suppression of the masses. This occurs in different ways, such as the prostitution ring supported by a county sheriff near Spanish Lake; or the numerous cover ups officers at all levels of local and state law enforcement engage into to protect the wealthy and powerful. The great unwashed masses, who find their children to be easy prey for police-protected pimps and drug dealers, are fed Christian fundamentalism to soothe their discontent. This is about par the course in the real world.
"The movement has sanctified a ruthless unfettered capitalism. In an essay in Harper's magazine titled 'The Spirit of Disobedience: An Invitation to Resistance,' Curtis White argued that 'it is capitalism that now most defines our national character, not Christianity or the Enlightenment.' Although the values of capitalism are antithetical to Christ's vision and the Enlightenment ethic of Kant, the gospel of prosperity – which preaches that Jesus wants us all to be rich and powerful and the government to get out of the way – has formulated a belief system that delights corporate America. Corporations such as Tyson Foods – which has placed 128 part-time chaplains, nearly all evangelicals or fundamentalist, in 78 plants across the country – along with Purdue, Walmart, and Sam's Wholesale, to name a few, are huge financial backers of the movement."
(American Fascists, Chris Hedges, pgs. 22-23)
an "prosperity theology"... 
Most disturbing of all, however, is the fact that the world depicted in True Detective has a clear historical basis. During the aftermath of the JFK assassination one of the most enigmatic figures to appear in it, prostitute and some time drug mule Rose Cherami, alleged that a ring engaged in drug and arms trafficking as well as prostitution existed throughout the Gulf States and was protected by powerful figures.
"... On 20 November 1963, Rose Cheramie was found on a Louisiana Road, dazed and bruised. She was taken to a private hospital where she told the doctor the JFK was going to be killed during his forthcoming visit to Dallas. Later that day, Cheramie was released in the custody of Louisiana state policeman Francis Fruge, and while Fruge was taking her to the state hospital Cheramie said she'd been traveling from Florida to Dallas with two men who 'were Italian or resembled Italians.' She didn't know their names, but they'd stopped at a lounge for drinks. An argument ensued, Cheramie was evicted and, as she stood outside the lounge, she was struck a glancing blow by a car. She also repeated to Fruge her claim that President Kennedy was going to be killed. But because she was a prostitute and a drug addict, neither Fruge nor the doctor believed her – at least, not until the afternoon of 22 November. 
"On 27 November, Fruge interviewed Cheramie again, and she expounded on her story. She said the Italians were taking her to Dallas to obtain $8000, so they could buy eight kilograms of heroin from a seaman. The seaman was to meet them in Houston after disembarking in Galveston. Cheramie gave Fruge the name of the seaman and the ship. As they were on the way to Houston to check out her story, Cheramie told Fruge that she was a stripper at Jack Ruby's nightclub in Dallas, and that she had seen Ruby and Oswald together. She said she was part of a Mafia operation in which call girls were rotated between cities, and that Ruby had sent her to Miami on 18 November. 
"When contacted by Fruge, the Customs agents in charge of Galveston verified that the seaman was being investigated for drug smuggling. The Coast Guard likewise confirmed that it was interested in the ship named by Cheramie regarding its role in drug smuggling operations. But the state narcotics bureaus in Texas and Oklahoma found Cheramie's information 'erroneous is in all respects,' and when the HSCA asked Customs to produce the agents she had name, and their reports, Customs officials said that neither the agents nor reports could be found. 
"The HSCA let this promising lead drop without attempting to talk to Customs agents like William Hughes, who vividly recalls 'Nutty Nate' Durham as the feckless agent in charge of Galveston in 1963. Nate may have been alive in 1978, but the CIA did not allow Customs to identify him or provide his reports to Congress. The reason for this subterfuge comes as no surprise: some of Nutty Nate's colleagues on the Galveston case were CIA officers operating under Customs cover, as part of the special unit organized in Houston by David Ellis. Members of this unit facilitated the activities of anti-Castro drug smuggling terrorist groups in the US, which is why the FBI also 'decided to pursue the case no further.
"Neither Customs, nor the Coast Guard, nor the FBI, nor any state narcotics bureau revealed the existence of the Galveston drug ring to the FBN. But Fruge did tell congressional investigators that the Cuban Revolutionary Council's delegate in New Orleans, Sergio Arcacha Smith, may have been one of the men who had accompanied and abused Rose Cheramie. Smith's CRC office was located in the same building as Oswald's notional Fair Play for Cuba office at 544 Camp Street in New Orleans, and Guy Banister, a former FBI agent in Chicago, had gotten Smith his office space. Smith and one of Banister's employees, David Ferrie, 'were also believed to have ties with organized crime figure Carlos Marcello.'"
(The Strength of the Wolf, Douglas Valentine, pgs. 312-313)
a young Rose Cherami during better days
Much more information of this Gulf Coast-based crime ring, which allegedly involved the prostitution and trafficking of underage girls, and its ties to the Kennedy assassination can be found here.

While we're on this topic, its also interesting to note the use of the Texas town of Beaumont in a key episode of season one. Beaumont was said to be a key base of operations for a cult known as the "Hand of Death" by serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. It was alleged by another convicted serial killer, David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz, to be a location used by members of a cult he claimed to have been involved with, sometimes referred to as "the Children". Beaumont is also one of the only areas in Texas to possess the ever mysterious Indian mounds, which have attracted so much high weirdness throughout this nation's history. The Native American tribe who built them there seem to have been cannibals to boot.
"... Another mound site, of possibly less importance, lies in Beaumont, Texas – a site that shows up in both the Son of Sam case, as well as in the Henry Lee Lucas case. According to Lucas, the 'Hand of Death' cult that he insisted existed in Texas, and was responsible for murders throughout the United States, was based in or around Beaumont at one point, and was responsible for the murder of a lawyer there. Beaumont, a suburb of Houston, and is where Sam cultist John Carr's ex-wife lived with her daughter. Berkowitz visited Beaumont when he obtained the famous .44 Charter Arms Bulldog revolver that was used in the Sam killings. Houston has been identified in the same literature is a cult center for the group rivaling Los Angeles; Minot, North Dakota; and New York City.
"According to Beaumont: A Guide to the City and Its Environs 'compiled and written by the Federal Writers' Project of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Texas' and published circa 1939, the area had been home to a tribe of Native Americans known as the Attacapas. This name, we are informed, comes from the Choctaw words hatak (man) and apa (each). In other words, they were cannibals. On page 25, the anonymous but federally-funded writers go on to state,
"'They told of a deluge that once destroyed the world except for those people who live on high land. The women of the tribe, using the shoulder blades of buffalo for spades, were made to build great earthen [sic] mounds with their hands, and atop these mounds the big chiefs had their lodges.'
"Some of these mounds still exist in the Beaumont area, or did at the time the book was compiled. 
"Thus, we have cannibals and mound-builders in the same breath. We are told that the Attacapas (like the ancient Sumerians) believe their origin was in the sea, so they tended to stay near the water as much as possible, building their mounds on the banks of the Neches River that winds through Beaumont like gentle persuasion. In fact, the Attacapas mounds are the only evidence of a mount-building culture in the entire State of Texas, aside from a set of mounds on a farm near Nagodoches." 
(Sinister Forces Book III, Peter Levenda, pgs. 421-422)

More information on the mysteries of Indian Mounds can be found here while I touched briefly on Berkowitz's alleged "Son of Sam" cult before here.

Needless to say, it would seem that Nic Pizzolatto has more than a passing knowledge of some of this nation's strange history. But beyond the use of the Louisiana Gulf and Beaumont as locations, there's also the fact that, as noted in the second installment, the cult behind the ritualistic murders is dominated by the Tuttle family. Indeed, its hinted at that at the heart of Tuttle's ministry is some type of occult underground. Consider, for instance, the tale former Tuttle minister Joel Theriot (Shea Whigham) tales Rust Cohle concerning the fictious grimoire called The Letters of Telios de Lorca he discovered in the library of minister close to Tuttle that also contained photos of nude children.

For years the conspiratorial right and Christian fundamentalists have been obsessed with the notion of an occult underground spanning across the United States and dealing in drug and sex trafficking, especially children. During the late 1980s and early 1990s this notion reached a fever pitch and spawned a "Satanic cult hysteria" that ruined more than a few lives and careers during that era. True Detective mocks this frenzy via the task force the Tuttles have created to investigate alleged Satanic crime in Louisiana. These crimes include things such as dead cats nailed to church doors and "Satanic graffiti" and it is here a major push is made for the Dora Lange investigation to be turned over too.

the West Memphis Three are one of the more notorious examples of the Satanic cult hysteria
While this researcher has found very little evidence for the conventional claims made by the conspiratorial right in this regard, there is some evidence of an underground network involved in the trafficking of minors with ties to the national security apparatus. As noted above, the outline of such a network can be discerned in the Kennedy assassination and one of the players in this network seems to have been the American Orthodox Catholic Church, as noted before here.

This is of course hardly the only instance of a Christian institute turning up in such bizarre circumstances. Consider, for instance, Colonia Dignidad --the "Colony of Dignity" or "Dignity Colony." Based out of Chile, this compound was founded in the early 1960s by a German immigrants led by Paul Schafer, a man who seems to have had some type of tie to the Nazi regime. For decades there were rumblings that a host of strange things were happening at the Colony: torture of Chile's political prisoners involving a host of strange methods that bore more than a few passing resemblances to "techniques" being explored by the CIA's Artichoke and MK-Ultra programs during the same era; inhabitants whose behavior was described as "robotic" by more than a few visitors to the Colony; allegations of bizarre occult-centric ceremonies and rituals; and claims of child abuse and abduction.

the Colony
Many of these claims were later proven in Chile's criminal justice system, most notably that Herr Schafer was an arch pedophile. It is important to note, however, that rather than posing as some type of New Age commune the Colony in fact presented itself to the world as a community dedicated to pure Christian living along the lines of the Mennonites. Day to day life at the Colony was based around the wearing of traditional German attire, fourteen hour work days, a rigid separation of the sexes during the night time and regular church services. The weird stuff was kept very, very far from the eyes of the public. More information on the Colony can be found here.

And of course this is only scratching the surface. There is the celebrated Franklin incident (which may have been slyly referenced by Pizzolatto via the use of Franklin, LA as the site of Joel Theriot's Friends of Christ Church Tent Revival) which deeply involved the legendary Catholic orphanage Boy's Town. And then there's the Unification Church, an only somewhat superficially Christian sect with ties to the US intelligence community and indoctrination methods also bearing a resemblance to CIA behavior modification techniques. While there is no damning evidence of sexual abuse with the Unification Church, there have also been rumblings there for some time. More information on the Moonies (including the possibility that they funded rather obscene amounts of the Christian fundamentalist movement with drug money) can be found here.

Sun Myung Moon, the highly controversial founder of the Unification Church
What I'm getting at here is that there is compelling evidence of some type of pedophilic ring within elements of the Christian right and aligned forces. Of course few would dispute that such a thing would exist within the Vatican in this day and age, but "traditional" Catholic (as my article of the American Orthodox Catholic Church noted) and Protestant sects have also been implicated. Some of the more extreme Protestant sects such as the highly politically connected and oh-so cultic Dominionists only stoop to mere "Biblically-based" child abuse.

Needless to say, some very strange things have been happening to children within Christian fundamentalist sects of all stripes for quite some ties and the inevitable military and intelligence figures are frequently lurking nearby. And these were of course the same people behind the "Satanic cult panic" and the myopic gaze it cast upon the New Age movement.

And as True Detective seems to present just such a scenario throughout its first season, I don't feel much hesitation in suggesting that Pizzolatto is also aware of this peculiar history. And with that I shall wrap things up for now. In the next installment I'll address Marty's increasingly bizarre home life and the rites of the Tuttle clan. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 17, 2014

On the Far Side of the Psychosphere Part II

Welcome to the second installment in my examination of the acclaimed first season of the HBO series True Detective. In the first part I briefly gave a rundown of season one's primary characters, detectives Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rustin Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), as well as the actors who played them. I also touched on the importance of two numbers, 17 and 5, that appear throughout the season from an esoteric perspective.

Rust and Marty
With this installment I would like to begin focusing in on the show's plotline. It probably goes without saying, but huge spoilers will be proclaimed from here on out. And with that disclaimer out of the way, let us begin...

The show opens with Hart and Cohle, in separate interviews, recounting a bizarre murder investigation they conducted in 1995 to detectives Gilbough (Michael Potts) and Papania (Tory Kittles) in 2012. The investigation began with the discovery of the body of prostitute Dora Lange in Vermillion Parish, LA, on January 3. The date of January 3 is significant to Cohle as it was the day his daughter died on several years earlier in a tragic accident. Written numerically, the date of January 3 is 1/3. This could be an allusion to the number 13, which of course has a host of nefarious associations about it. 13 has some compelling links to cycles of time in some traditions, however, and time is certainly a notion speculated upon throughout the first season of True Detective. They are:
"The Aztecs considered thirteen to be the number of time itself, the figure which stood for the completion of a temporal series. It was associated with figure fifty-two, the Aztec age (13 × 4), the 'bond of the years' during the course of each of the Aztec 'Suns.' The first and fourth of these Suns each lasted for 676 years and were the most perfect since they comprised these two numbers only – 13 × 52 = 676.
"An Aztec week, too, lasted thirteen days.
"The thirteenth major arcanum in the Tarot, death, does not mean an end, but a fresh start after the completion of the cycle – 13 = 12 + 1 – and to this, generally speaking, the number would correspond. It does, however, carry with it the pejorative hint of being less a completely fresh birth than starting the same thing all over again. It would, for example, stand for Sisyphus' unceasing efforts to roll the rock to the top of the hill or the cask which the Danaids could never fill to the brim."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pg. 989)
the Thirteenth Major Arcana
That 13, according to the Aztecs, stands for time itself is interesting in the context of the show as the perpetrators behind the Dora Lange killing are eventually shown to be involved in a cult said to concerned with "eating" time. Lange is also very much the completion of one cycle and the start of another, as the Death card refers too.

The sequences involving the Lange crime scene have been much celebrated and rightfully so for its ritualistic presentation is quite striking. Perhaps the most eye grabbing aspect of this sequence are the deer antlers placed upon Lange's head while she was posed as if kneeling in prayer. As Cohle later notes, this use of antlers is in reference to a crown. This allusion echoes what the legendary poet and mythologist Robert Graves refereed to as the "stag cult" of antiquity.
"The fate of the antlered king – of whom Cernunnos, 'the horned one' of Gaul, is a familiar example – is expressed in the early Greek myth of Actaeon whom Artemis metamorphosed into a stag, and hunted to death with her dogs. She did this as her anodos, or yearly reappearance, when she refreshed her virginity by bathing naked in a sacred fountain; after which she took another lover. The Irish Garbh Ogh with her pack of hounds was the same goddess: her diet was venison and eagles' breasts. This ancient myth of the betrayed stag-king survives curiously, in the convention, which is British as well as Continental, the gives the cuckold a branching pair of antlers. The May-day stag-mummers of Abbot's Bromley in Staffordshire are a keen to the stag-mummers of Syracuse in ancient Sicily, and to judge from an epic fragment concerned with Dionysus, one of the mummers disguised as an Actaeon stag was originally chased and eaten. In the Lycaean precinct of Arcadia the same tradition of the man dressed in deer skins, who is chased and eaten survived in Pausanias' day, though the chase was explained as a punishment for trespassing. From Sardinia comes a Bronze Age figure of a man-stag with horns, resembling the foliage of an oak, a short tail, an arrow in one hand, and in the other a bow that has turned into a wriggling serpent. His mouth and eyes express an excusable terror at the sight; for the serpent is death. That the stag was part of the Elysian oracular cult is shown in the story of Brut the Trojan's visit to the Island of Leogrecia, where the moon-oracle was given him while sleeping in the newly flayed hide of a white hart whose blood had been poured on the sacrificial fire.
"The stag cult is far older than the Cretan Minelaphos: he is shown in paleolithic paintings in the Spanish caves of Altamira and in the Caverne des Trois Freres at Ariege in the French Pyrenees, dating from at least 20,000 B.C. The Altamiran paintings are the work of the Aurignacian people, who have also left records of their ritual in the caves of Domboshawa, and elsewhere in Southern Rhodesia. At Domboshawa a 'Bush-man' painting, containing scores of figures, shows the death of a king who wears an antelope mask and is tightly corseted; as he does, with arms out flung and one knee upraised, he ejaculates and his seed seems to form a heap of corn. An old priestess lying naked beside a cauldron is either mimicking his agony, or perhaps inducing it by sympathetic magic. Close by, young priestesses dance beside a stream, surrounded by clouds of fruit and heaped basket; beasts are led off laden with fruit; and a huge bison bull is pacified by a priestess accompanied by an erect python. The cults of stag and bull were evidently combined at Domboshawa; but the stag is likely to have been the more royal beast, since the dying king is given the greater prominence. The cults were also combined by the Aurignacians. In a Dordogne cave painting a bull-man is shown dancing and playing a musical instrument shaped like a bow."
(The White Goddess, Robert Graves, pgs. 217-218)
Dora Lange
In antiquity a crown of antlers was typically worn by a male and I have found few instances of women wearing them. The deer and stags were sacred to the goddess Artemis, some times known as the Lady of the Beasts, however. Artemis was what was known as a threefold goddess, personifying woman in the three stages of the female lifespan: maiden, mother and crone. Artemis was the maiden personification while Selene was the mother and Hekate the crone. Even during the Classical period there were hints that human sacrifices had been performed in Artemis' honor such as her insistence that the Greeks sacrifice a maiden to her so that they can sail for Troy as recounted in the Iliad. This is likely an allusion to earlier forms of worship involving the goddess:
"The Lady of Beasts was never a huntress among the Minoans. She and the male deity who would later become her twin brother were originally Lady and Consort, Rulers of the Labyrinth, and their fearful and sinister identities as recipients of human victims there required the most strenuous evolution of myth to isolate the two of them from their Minoan pasts and to remodel them both into their Classical identities as the most perfect examples of Greek female and male pubescent usefulness. Artemis, despite her sexual maturity, was even made into a perpetual virgin, denied forever her former role as Mother..."
(The World of Classical Myth, Carl A.P. Ruck & Danny Staples, pgs. 31-32)
The association that Artemis has with labyrinths will be quite significant later on, so do keep it in mind dear reader. But moving along.

While women are forced to wear these crowns of antlers throughout True Detective's first season a mysterious figure, presumably the "Yellow King" (more on this later), is also shown sporting a massive pair of antlers in drawings that appear throughout the season. Its noted that the cult members who perform these rituals also wear animal masks during the proceedings, which hints that antlers are present on men as well during the sacrifices.

While deer and their antlers are present in folklore throughout the world, such motifs are especially prevalent in Celtic mythology.
"A clear sign of the importance of the stag in Celtic symbolism is its comparatively frequent appearance in legend and iconography. There was a Gaulish god called Cernunnos, 'he whose head is crown like the stag's'. He is depicted on the silver Gundestrip Cauldron, seated in a Buddha-like posture, holding a torque in one hand and a serpent in the other, and surrounded by animals of all descriptions including, most notably, a stag and a serpent. Perhaps the antlers which crowned the god's head should be regarded as a radiation of heavenly light...
"Another notable monument is that from Rheims, on which Cernunnos is depicted as the god of plenty. And other monuments, too, are known. Despite this, it would seem that the god really should be regarded as the Lord of the Beasts. In Ireland the son of Finn, the great hero of the Ossian cycle, was named Oisin (fawn), while St Patrick changes himself and his companions into stags (or deer) to escape the trap laid by the pagan King Loegaire. He succeeded in so doing, thanks to a magical practice called feth fiada, normally used to confer invisibility. In the Celtic world the symbolism of the stag is widespread and undoubtedly goes back to the dawn of time. Lacking an overall study, one must provisionally confine the symbolism to its relation to longevity and plenty. The Celts used stag-horn to carve many of their charms and, in burials in Switzerland, the Alemanni interred stags alongside horses and humans. Comparisons have been drawn with the stag-masks found in fifth- and sixth- century BC horse-sacrifices in the Altai. The Breton St Edern is depicted riding a stag...
"Like reindeer and hinds, stags seem to have played the part of conductors of souls in some European traditions, especially Celtic. Morholt of Ireland, Yseult's uncle, slain in single combat by Tristan, was shown lying wrapped in deerskin..."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pg. 922)
the Gaulish god Cernunnos as depicted on the Gundestrup Cauldron
The "Lord of the Beasts" was the above-mentioned consort of the Lady of Beasts. Later this figure was made the twin of the Lady and this pair was commonly depicted as Artemis and Apollo in Ancient Greece. Their later association as siblings will be interesting as we get deeper into the show. But moving along.

Its interesting to note that one of the families revealed to be involved in the cult Hart and Cohle pursue is named Tuttle. The Tuttle's have been a powerful and influential family in Louisiana since Colonial days and it is hinted that they originally settled there so as to use the Gulf region as a hideaway for their piracy. Tuttle is an English name dating back to the Norman Conquest but it has some ties with Ireland as well. notes:
"English and Irish: from the Old Norse personal name þorkell, a contracted form of a name composed of the elements þórr, name of the Scandinavian god of thunder (see Thor) + ketill ‘cauldron’. The personal name Thurkill or Thirkill was in use throughout England in the Middle Ages; in northern England it had been introduced directly by Scandinavian settlers, whereas in the South it was the result of Norman influence. This surname and its variants are especially common in East Anglia. In Ireland the Old Norse name was adopted as a Gaelic personal name (Thorcall), which generated the surnames McCorkle and Corkill."
As noted above Cernunnos, the Celtic stag-crowned god, was commonly associated with a cauldron. Perhaps we are meant to assume that the Nordic Tuttles learned a thing or two from the native Celts as the pressed on into Ireland?

a modern depiction of Cernunnos (top), who is associated with the "Horned God" of modern Wicca, and an image of the "Yellow King" from True Detective (bottom)
While some may feel I'm reaching, there is more evidence of a connection to the ancient Celts at the murder scene: the spiral, which is the symbol of the cult the Tuttle family belongs to. Spirals appear frequently in ancient Celtic works.
"With it dual meaning of contraction and expansion, the symbolism of the spiral is linked to that of the wheel and is found as often or even more frequently in Celtic carvings or as a decorative motif in metalwork, pottery, coinage and so on. Modern scholarship has attempted to make it the equivalent of the Latin fulmen and a Celtic symbol for the thunderbolt, but this explanation is inadequate since the spiral is in fact a cosmic symbol. It was motif which the Celts often carved on dolmens and megalithic monuments."
(Dictionary of Symbolism, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pgs. 909)

the spiral used by the Tuttle family in True Detective (top) and one type of spiral used by the Ancient Celts (bottom)
There spirals appear at the mysterious Celtic megalithic site known as New Grange. According to the legendary mythologist and poet Robert Graves, the site at New Grange had an early association with a Triple Goddess.
"New Grange is the largest, and is said to have been originally occupied by The Dagda himself, the Tuatha de Danaan Father-god who corresponds with the Roman Saturn, but afterwards by his Apollo-like son Angus who won it from him by a legal quibble. The Dagda on his first arrival in Ireland was evidently a son of the Triple Goddess Brigit ('the High One'); but the myth has been tampered with by successive editors. First, he is said to have married the Triple Goddess. Then he is said to have had only one wife with three names, Breg, Meng and Meabel ('Lie, Guile and Disgrace'), who bore him three daughters, all called Brigit. Then it is said that not he, but three of his descendants, Brian, Iuchar and Iuchurba married three princesses who together owned Ireland –Eire, Fodhla and Banbha. He was the son of 'Eladu' which the Irish glossaries explain as 'Science or Knowledge,' but which may be a form of the Greek Elate ('fir-tree'); Elatos ('fir-man') was an early Achaean King of Cyllene, a mountain in Arcadia sacred to Demeter and later renowned for its college of learned and sacrosanct heralds. The Dagda and Elatos may thus both be equated with Osiris, or Adonis, or Dionysus, who was born from a fir and mothered by the horned Moon-goddess Isis, or Io, or Hathor."
(The White Goddess, Robert Graves, pgs. 101-102)
New Grange
Of the spirals Graves goes on to write:
"On the side of the mountain, diametrically opposite the entrance, a stone was discovered in 1901 which has three suns carved on it, two of them with their rays enclosed in a circle as if in prison, the other free. Above them is a much rougher, unenclosed sun and above that, notched across a straight line, the Ogham letters B and I – which, as will be explained presently, are the first and last letters of the ancient Irish alphabet, dedicated respectably to Inception and Death. The case is pretty plain: the sacred kings of Bronze Age Ireland, who were solar kings of a most primitive type, to judge by the taboos which bound them and by the reputed effect of their behavior on crops and hunting, were buried beneath these barrows; but their spirits went to 'Caer Sidi', the Castle of Ariadne, namely Corona Borealis. Thus the pagan Irish could call New Grange 'Spiral Castle' and, revolving a fore-finger in explanation, could say, 'Our king has gone to 'Spiral Castle': in other words, 'he is dead'. A revolving wheel before the door of the castle is common in Goidelic legend. According to Keating, the magic fortress of the enchantress Blanaid, in the Isle of Man, was protected by one – nobody could enter until it was still. In front of the doorway of New Grange there is a broad slab carved with spirals, which forms part of the stone hedge. The spirals are double ones: follow the lines with your finger from outside to inside and when you reach the center, there is the head of another spiral coil in the reverse direction to take you out of the maze again. So the pattern typifies death and rebirth; though, according to Gwion's poem Preiddeu Annwm, 'only seven ever returned from Caer Sidi.' It may well be that oracular serpents were once kept in these sepulchral caves, and that these were the serpents would St. Patrick expelled, though perhaps only metaphorically. Delphi, the home of Apollo, was once an oracular tomb of this same sort, with a spiral python and a prophetic priestess of the Earth Goddess, and the 'omphalos' or 'naval shrine' where the python was originally housed, was built underground in the same beehive style, which derives originally from the African masabo, or ghosthouse. The antlers of New Grange were probably part of the sacred king's head-dress, like the antlers worn by the Gaulish god Cernunnos, and the horns of Moses, and those of Dionysus and King Alexander shown on coins."
(The White Goddess, Robert Graves, pg. 103)
the spirals at the entrance to New Grange
Obviously there are some differences, most notably: the Tuttle cult uses a single spiral as opposed to the triple ones found at New Grange and typically a sacred king wearing the antlers seems to have been sacrificed in this structure. There is no evidence of women being so attired therein. Still, given all the overlap, it would be rather surprising to this researcher if True Detective creator, showrunner, sole writer Nic Pizzolatto was not aware of The White Goddess. Certainly there are more than a few elements from the work present in the show's first season: Both the spiral and the antlers appear at the initial Dora Lange crime scene; in the final episode both Hart and Cohle wander into a bizarre, ritualistic labyrinth in search of the killer, who refers to Cohle as "little prince" during his hunt. But more on that later.

Let us move along now to the tree that Dora Lange was posed kneeling before. According to this website, the actual tree used for the filming of the scene was an oak and I believe this is what the viewer is meant to perceive it as. Certainly the oak has many interesting associations, especially in Celtic culture.
"In many traditions the oak was a sacred tree to which the privileges of the supreme sky-god were attributed, doubtless because it attracts lightning and is symbolic of kingship. Oaks were dedicated to Zeus at Dodona, to the Capitoline Jove in Rome, to Ramow in Prussia and to Perun among these Slavs. Herakles' (Hercules') club was made of oak. It is an especial indication of strength, power, longevity and height in both the spiritual and the material senses of the words.
"In all ages and among all peoples the oak has been synonymous with strength, the overwhelming impression made by the fully grown tree. Furthermore, in Latin the same word, robur, is used for both 'oak' and 'strength' and it may as easily symbolize moral as physical strength.
"Among both Greeks and Celts the oak was the prime representative of the World Axis or Tree, and the same is true of the Yakut in Siberia.
"It should further be observed that both at Sichem and at Hebron Abraham received the divine revelation at an oak grove. Here again, therefore, the tree played its axial role as a channel of communication between Heaven and Earth... In Homer, Odysseus on his return went twice to Dodona 'to hear the will of Zeus from the high-crested oak of the god'... The Golden Fleece, guarded by a dragon, hung from an oak-tree, the latter having the properties of the temple.
"Pliny the Elder drew a comparison between the Greek word for oak (drus) and the word 'druid'; in consequence druids were called 'oak-men', an etymological relationship which has often managed to slip into works of modern scholarship. However, all Celtic languages have a different word for 'oak', including the Gaulish dervo. Nonetheless, this is a valid symbolic relationship in the sense that the druids' priestly quality entitled them to both wisdom and strength and the oak symbolizes both these properties... The oak was worshiped by the Celts, for whom its trunk, knotty branches, thick foliage and the symbolism it possessed, made it the emblem of hospitality and the equivalent of the temple."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pgs. 709-710)

In The White Goddess Robert Graves would hint at the possibility that the site of New Grange (which he linked with the mythological "Castle of Arianrhod") was connected to the oak-cult of the druids.
"The month, which takes its name from Juppiter the oak-god, begins on June 10th and ends on July 7th. Midway come St. John's Day, June 24th, the day on which the oak-king was sacrificially burned alive. The Celtic year was divided into two halves with the second half beginning in July, apparently after a seven-day wake, or funeral feast, in the oak-king's honour.
"Sir James Frazer, like Gwion, has pointed out the similarity of 'door' words in all Indo-European languages and shown Janus to be a 'stout guardian of the door' with his head pointing in both directions. As usual, however, he does not press his argument far enough. Duir as the God of the oak month looks both ways because his post is at the turn of the year; which identifies him with the Oak god Hercules who became the door-keeper of the Gods after his death. He is probably also to be identified with the British god Llyr or Lludd or Nudd, a god of the sea – i.e. a god of a sea-faring Bronze Age people – who was the 'father' of Creiddylad (Cordelia) an aspect of the White Goddess; for, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth the grave of Llyr at Leicester was a vault built in honor of Janus. Geoffrey writes:
"'Cordelia obtaining the government of the Kingdom buried her father in a certain vault which she ordered to be made for him under the river Sore in Leicester (Leircestre) and which had been built originally under the ground in honour of the god Janus. And here all the workmen of the city, upon the anniversary solemnity of that festival, used to begin their yearly labors.'
"Since Llyr was a pre-Roman God. This amounts to saying that he was too headed, like Janice, and the patron of the new year; but the Celtic year began in the summer, not in the winter. Geoffrey does not date the morning Festival but it is likely to have originally taken place at the end of June...
"What I take for a reference to Llyr as Janus occurs in the closing paragraph of Merlin's prophecy to the heathen King Vortigern and his Druids, recorded by Geoffrey of Monmouth:
"'After this Janus shall never have priests again. His door will be shut and remain concealed in Adriadne's crannies.'
"In other words, the ancient Druidic religion based on the oak-cult will be swept away by Christianity and the door – the god Llyr – will languish forgotten in the Castle of Arianrhod, the Corona Borealis...
"Here at last I can complete my argument about Arianrhod's Castle and the 'whirling round without motion between three elements'. The sacred oak-king was killed at midsummer and translated to the Corona Borealis, presided over by the White Goddess, which was then just dipping over the Northern horizon..."
(The White Goddess, Robert Graves, pgs. 177-179)
Thus, Graves seems to be suggesting that New Grange (a labyrinth-like structure that was originally associated with The Dagda, the supreme Irish god who was also associated with the oak-tree) was potentially a location where sacrifices were performed involving a stand in for the oak-king over midsummer. Presumably the would be oak-king would have worn a crown of antlers during this process, as noted above.

During the final episode of True Detective's first season it is indicated that the cult sacrifices are performed at "Carcosa" (the labyrinth-like structure the Tuttle family built centuries ago) with a victim wearing a crown of antlers, which is consistent with what Graves is suggesting of New Grange. But there are two distinct differences: the sacrificial victim used by the Tuttle clan seems to be female (though this may not always be the case) whereas the "oak-king" the ancient Celtic priests sacrificed was presumably male; and the ancient sacrifices were performed over Midsummer while True Detective suggests that the Tuttles make their sacrifices during the winter solstice.

This is in stark contrast to many traditions that placed the oak king's death at Midsummer. The Roman god Janus (which Graves also linked to the oak), however, was associated with the winter solstice and honored in Ancient Rome on January 1. Dora Lange's body was found on January 3, but it is indicated that she was murdered elsewhere and at an earlier date. This inversion of the oak-king rites is interesting and a point that shall be addressed in greater depth in a future installment.

Before moving on from the oak its interesting to note that the Tree of Life, which the oak is sometimes used as a stand in for, is also linked to the stag.
"Because of the spread of its antlers, which regularly drop and grow again, the stag is often compared with the Tree of Life and symbolizes fecundity and the rhythms of growth and rebirth. These properties are to be found as commonly in the decorations of Christian baptisteries as, for example, in Muslim, shamanistic, Mayan or Pueblo Indian tradition. It is 'one of the symbols of continual creation and renewal'..."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pg. 920)
a depiction of the Tree of Life
Interestingly, antlers are commonly worn by shamans in certain regions of the world during their rituals as well.
"To most of the tribes peopling the steppes of central Asia the deer was a conductor souls. The robes of the shamans were often made from deerskin and some shamans wore on their heads or their backs iron copies of deer's or stag's antlers..."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pg. 282)
an early depiction of a Siberian shaman
Some of the rituals performed by these shamans of course involved entheogens. Reindeer in Central Asia are closely associated with the use of psychedelic mushrooms in particular.
"... The hind is an animate manifestation of the power residing in the sacred plant of the ancient Indo-Europeans' shamanism, for Amanita is an inebriating mushroom that the reindeer is fond of grazing upon, and the animal's branching horns, supposedly of the same golden color as Amanita, easily suggest botanic affinities with a magical tree..."
(The World of Classical Myth, Carl A.P. Ruck & Danny Staple, pgs. 30-31)
a reindeer inspecting a Amanita muscaria mushroom
Thus, the reindeer's antlers were specifically associated with the legendary Amanita muscaria mushroom. As noted above, Dora Lange was drugged with methamphetamines and LSD during her murder. Later on it is suggested that she may have been dosed with LSD for an extended period of time before her death.

The presence of deer antlers would certainly be consistent with ancient ritualistic use of hallucinogens. There has been some speculation that some type of hallucinogenic was used during the rituals of New Grange. In a highly romanticized account John Michell notes:
"The first stage in the process of initiation involved, by all accounts, an experience capable of inducing the deepest form of terror, that of being forever lost in the outer darkness of space. This experience took place in a dark, still cavern or subterranean chamber. No doubt some potion was mixed, as in the Cauldron of Keridwen, a brew of fruits, herbs and fungi, henbane, belladonna, aconite, the thorn apple, the spotted skin of the red birchwood mushroom, the various narcotics whose effects and seasons of potency were for along the study of native witches. The aspirant then descended into the bowels of the earth, into the passages of New Grange or into the catacombs below Glastonbury Tor. Those who survived the ordeal, the fearful encounters and the threat of eternal lingering death, returned to the surface, and were reborn to a new life."
(The New View Over Atlantis, John Michell, pg. 201)
Obviously Dora Lange was not one of the fortunate few. While Michell is suspect, several compelling researchers have indicated that many of the ancient Mystery cults of the Mediterranean used entheogens during their rituals, which typically were performed in some subterranean region. So there is certainly a historical basis for what Michell suggests and what True Detective dramatizes.

And with that I shall wrap things up for now. In the next installment I'll focus in on Hart and Cohle's first effort to bring Dora Lange's killer to justice and the wholesale corruption they encounter. Stay tuned.