As I often get to do during a few weeks off from teaching college, I have taken a look at various television series that I’ve missed in the previous two weeks. It’s one of the great pleasures of this current age of media technology: being able to sit and watch an entire season or half-season via OnDemand programming in one or two sittings. Although the access to this technology is not something I personally have, I was able to get to places and persons who did have it over the last few weeks, and was able to watch two television shows almost in their entirety (entirely in one case, not-quite-so in the other), and also to listen to the majority of a new album which had some interesting lyrics–some of you may be able to guess it from the above subject line, but also from my own general proclivities as expressed over the last few years at this present blog.
I’ll detail the three pop cultural phenomena alluded to above in order of their relevance to this blog, which is ultimately why I’m doing so at all here, because they have relevance to Antinous, polytheism, or the other esoteric topics that inform and inspire my religious practices.
First off: Da Vinci’s Demons, which is another Starz original series (like Spartacus, which I’ve covered before). While the concept is an intriguing one, I have to rationalize the title in particular to what I suspect some producers pitched at one point: “Everyone likes Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and his Angels & Demons…so, let’s combine the two!” Whether it went like that or not, who can really say…but, I have to say that no matter how one might cringe at some of the historical inaccuracies (e.g. the mention of both tobacco and potatoes in the first ten minutes of the show…when the show is apparently taking place in the late 1470s and thus neither of those substances was yet discovered!), the overall show is rather intriguing, if somewhat misguided or mischaracterizing on a few points. Most of the episode titles take their names from the major arcana of the tarot, and tarot comes into it quite directly in the first few minutes of the first episode. And, in later episodes, Da Vinci’s bisexuality is treated somewhat reasonably (though his relationships with women are far more favored and central to the plot).
Many readers of this present blog will know that I’ve discussed and dedicated poetry to Aion within the last month; and the above statue of Aion is featured multiple times throughout the series at this point. While the series’ writers are correct to connect this statue to Mithras, and there is an organization (though fictional) called the “Sons of Mithras” in the show, it is never made clear who or what the statue depicts, the word or name “Aion” is never mentioned, and the Sons of Mithras seem to have as a kind of identifying password the phrase “I am a son of earth and starry heaven; I am thirsty–please give me something to drink from the fountain of memory.” Many of us, certainly, will recognize that as an interesting redaction of a few lines from the Orphic gold lamellae, and thus from an Orphic Mysteries context rather than a Mithraic Mysteries one (and, I am personally unaware of any suggestions that the two mystery traditions were ever connected).
However, there is another part which is only momentary, and never full-framed, which will interest the readers of this blog especially. Antinous is in it!
In the city of Florence, Italy, there are currently about nine statues of Antinous in the various galleries and collections present there. At least one of them was owned by the Medici family, but it is not known when or how it came into their possession. In the television series, the visiting Queen Isabella of Spain is shown Donatello’s David, and it is flanked by two other sculptures, the one on the right bearing a resemblance to the above statue of Antinous in Florence (though it is not the one that was certainly owned by the Medici family). As mentioned, it never gets shown in its entirety, but to those who know what they’re looking for, Antinous’ shoulder is unmistakable!
Sandro Botticelli is name-dropped, and even shown at one point, in Da Vinci’s Demons, which rather naturally brings us to our next subject: Lady GaGa!
As mentioned in my subject line above, the next pop cultural phenomenon I’d like to discuss is Lady GaGa’s song “Venus” from her new album ARTPOP. I am certainly no mindless fan of GaGa’s, and I can’t say that I love (or even like) all of the songs on her new album; some of them are growing on me, while others have been strangely fascinating. But one that is intriguing from a polytheist perspective is “Venus,” which I can only describe as “science fuction”–and that is no typographical errors, because it is a strange combination of sci-fi and love son/erotica/sex song (i.e. “fiction + fuck = fuction”!).
Note the lyrics in the breakdown:
Now serve Pluto
Mercury, Venus – uh ha!
Don’t you know my ass is famous?
Now serve for the gods
Earth, serve for the stars!
While it is impossible to say what it is she means to convey with the line “Now serve for the gods,” nonetheless, there aren’t too many lines in modern popular music that seem to be endorsing polytheism, eh? Hmm. Well, even if you don’t like “Venus,” I’d highly recommend “Dope,” “Gypsy”, and of course, “Applause.”
Finally, we come to the other television series, Sleepy Hollow, airing on the Fox network. I have not been able to see the first two episodes, but I’ve seen the others (on the recommendation of my high school Honors American Literature teacher, who is not easy to convince of “concept reboots” like this series is!), and have found it sufficiently intriguing to want to follow the rest of it as it comes out. (Alternately, Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane is pleasing enough to look at that I’ll take time out of my day to do so…which do you think is the more likely explanation?) Washington Irving’s original story is tweaked in a large variety of ways, while still being true to it in many respects, but the elements of witchcraft, time travel, the Freemasons, and a quasi-biblical understanding of eschatology is added in to the mix. One episode features what many of us would know as “the goetia” (“The Lesser Key of Solomon”), only in a form that is far sexier than the reality. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and George Washington all get name-dropped as well, and the new take on their history (both actual and fantastic) given by the show is amusing, to say the least; real cultural history of the North American colonies is used at many points. There are some unfortunate choices that have been made, like the inhabitants of the lost colony of Roanoke (which disappeared in the late 16th century) speaking Middle English, but oh well…
But one part of the show made me both double over in pain cringing and simultaneously raised my eyebrows and uttered “OH?!?” That was the episode called “The Necromancer,” which featured a (wait for it) 16th century phiale made by the Thracian druids…!?! This odd object is shown above. That’s wrong in about three different ways, at least, but anyway…perhaps someone will actually look up either the Thracians or the druids as a result of this. Who knows?
In any case, I go back and forth on these matters: are we in a position to have the “no publicity is bad publicity” on some of these things, or are we in the position of “just wait until some 19-year old claims to be following an ancient secret Thracian druid tradition that was handed down by the Sons of Mithras to Lady GaGa, who is a secret Freemason, and we’ll have to school them on how wrong they are”? It could very easily go either way, depending on how intelligent someone encountering these matters happens to be. Time will tell, I suspect…
But, I’ve found these things at least entertaining enough to spend time on, and write about here!