The Devil Made Me Do It

Ever since the devil came to embody evil during the transition period between the Old and the New Testament, he has been avidly used as an excuse and a scapegoat.  No wonder he is often depicted as half goat, although this is actually related to the Greek god Pan, the horned half goat creature who represented anything to do with fertility, pleasure and nature, not least a rampant sex drive – hence the word ‘horny’.  Pan was also a trickster, who’d sneak up behind people and freak them out, so they would pan-ic.  Ah, Pan, a god of lust for life more than anything else, he should sue for slander having had his image stolen, spray-painted red and used as the poster boy for evil  (click here for an in-depth history of Pan).

The devil was great for pointing a finger at: an excuse not to have to take responsibility for our own actions and weaknesses, and also a way to explain the unexplained.  For years devil-based scaremongering kept the church in business, and in that sense the devil has been the church’s best friend – a necessary evil for its popularity and credibility.

While making this documentary, it seemed the idea that the devil is the driving force behind things is still very real.

Example 1: just after I started my research for this documentary, my flatmate’s laptop gave up the ghost.  “It’s you!  You’ve brought the devil into our home and now he has cursed my computer!”

Example 2: just before filming, I hurt my back and was stuck in bed for a week.  “It’s the devil!  He’s using your spine as a ladder so he can pick apples in Hell!” someone said.  Apples in hell?  Are they flame-grilled?  I had never heard that one before, but apparently it’s an old saying, and here is an illustration I found that seems related.

Example 3: a fellow student had a nightmare about the devil chasing her with a dead baby, saying she had to get rid of it.  She could do it anyway she wanted, but whatever she’d do, he would then tell the whole world about it.  When I next saw her the first thing she said was “That’s all your fault!  It’s because of your devil documentary!” and got pretty worked up.  “It was horrible!”

You could question whether they truly believed this or not, but what’s interesting is the emotional weight of such superstition.  The idea that the devil is ‘out there’ doing stuff, or somehow working through us, seems to really strike a chord, which is no surprise after 2000 years of propaganda and portrayal.  But if we are all responsible for our own actions, can we ever say that the devil made us do it?

Comedian Flip Wilson shows a light-hearted take on the idea in this clip from the Ed Sullivan show:

On a more serious note, pointing a finger or blaming is one of the easiest ways to identify your own personal demons.  The Jungian psychotherapist I interviewed said that looking at where you put the blame for something is really a little confession about yourself and your own (perceived) limitations.

Take the devil away and suddenly life becomes a lot less clear-cut or easy to explain.  It also means we need to take a closer look at ourselves, and the less attractive aspects of human nature that may be the real driving force in question, instead of the devil.  And that, of course, is one of the main reasons he was invented in the first place – to give a face to something we’d rather not recognise as human, let alone be accountable for.

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A sneak preview of today’s shoot!

Hurrah, just finished an afternoon of shooting in Crystal Palace Park!  Just checked the footage and there should be some good stuff to work with there for the ‘search scenes’ of the documentary.  Here are some screen grabs.

Face Of The Devil Day shoot screenshots

I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do any shooting this week as I’ve got a back injury (some people are saying I’ve cursed myself by doing a documentary on the devil, but that was not the deal I made with him…).  The painkillers I’ve been given have worked wonders, so whether the pain has gone or I simply can’t feel it I don’t know and I’ll probably pay for it all tomorrow, but we got a lot of stuff done in a short amount of time.  Many thanks to Stephen Olson for his creative eye and camera work.  Check him out on http://www.behance.net/monolution.

We shot in the maze, which is the biggest in London, bigger than Hampton Court, and probably also the driest…  I was hoping for some lush vegetation but you could look right through it!  Still, the barren look added to the spookiness which I hope will come through.

We nearly didn’t get to shoot as permission from the council and the park ranger came through at literally the last minute, so as soon as we got the go ahead we packed the camera, mike, props etc and headed out.  Men have entered the maze before only to ask little children to do some special tricks on camera so there is a procedure to follow before they let you in…  I also told them it was for a film called ‘Reflections of the Soul’, for as soon as I say it’s called ‘The Face Of The Devil’ people seem to freak out and don’t want anything to do with it.  Especially churches.  O ye, of little faith!

It was pretty quiet so we could just do our thing, although some unsuspecting people did jump when I suddenly popped up from the bushes in a black cloak with a lantern.  They probably thought it was a Scottish Widows ad.  And there was a guy who used the centre of the maze to propose to his girlfriend…awww!

Then off to the pub for some much deserved grub.  Now I’m gonna pop another pill before the back pain comes back with a vengeance…

If the shoe fits…

The Devil Wears Prada Film Poster

When the Devil Wears Prada was released in 2006, the poster featured a simple yet striking image of a red high heel with a pitch fork detail.  No horns, no hooves, no scary face or pointed tail are needed to identify the nature of the film’s main character – the simple use of this detail in combination with the colour red immediately makes a clear statement as to who this shoe belongs to, even without the me of the film.  It goes to show just how ingrained the image of the devil has become.  But how did a three pronged fork become his key accessory?  Is it related to the three pronged fork or ‘triton’ associated with the Greek mythological character of Poseidon, god of the sea (Neptune in Roman mythology)?  Or more with Hades, god of the underworld (Pluto in Roman mythology), although the latter is also often depicted with a two pronged fork or a wand.  There are also theories that the triton symbolises the idea of ‘holy trinity’ often found in mythology and religion, as well as being echoed in the field of psychology.  I’m off to investigate…

Poseidon & Hades image

A Peck On The Cheek

As I’ve been conducting research for this documentary, I’ve found that the devil really is in the details, especially when it comes to language.  While the subject matter of “Better the devil you know” is rather obvious, I was wondering if that popular adage of “Kiss my ass!” also has its origins with the Prince of Darkness, after finding depictions of witches kissing his bottom.

Wood carving of witches kissing the devil's bum

Witches kisses the devil’s bum at the Sabbath (from The Compendium Maleficarum, 1608)

Before “kiss my arse” became Americanised, it was already more of an insult than a kind invitation, and its use is dated back to the early eighteenth century by Mark Morton in his book ‘Dirty Words – The Story Of Sex Talk’.

Other sources link it back to the late 1300s, to Chaucer’s “The Miller’s Tale”, where it was used as a prank played on a foppish parish clerk.  Thinking he was about to kiss the young and beautiful Alison’s face, he “kiste her naked erse full savory” when she presented her posterior instead, the clerk erupting in rage as he realised he had been the butt of a joke.

Seen as depraved and debasing, it is no surprise that it became included in the increasingly elaborate and grotesque reports about witches when the witch hunts began to sweep medieval Europe.  One popularly held belief was that they would literally kiss ass to pay their respects to the devil at the Sabbath.  Apparently, Martin Luther was known to say “Tell the devil he may kiss my arse!” although it is not clear whether that was him defiantly challenging evil, or, as the catholic church at the time would rather have people believe, him wanting to indulge in some devilish delight.

Whether it was witches allegedly kissing the devil’s bum at the Sabbath that originated these expressions or not, if you image all the arse kissing that is happening around the world today as a show of respect or to secure / advance status, it seems that not all that much has changed!  Probably not what Jesus had in mind when he said to turn the other cheek…

Lucifer’s Fall From Heaven

This is a statue of Lucifer by Ricardo Bellver (1845–1924) , a Spanish sculptor, on display in Madrid’s Retiro park.  Statues of Lucifer or fallen angels are usually depicted at the mercy of Saint Michael’s feet and sword, so it’s unusual to see such a work where the forces of Heaven are implied rather than shown. It’s even more unusual to have such a figure on display in a public park, as Bellver’s is.

But did Lucifer really fall from heaven after rebelling against God?  Is this Lucifer the same as the Satan from the Old Testament, or the Devil from the new testament?  If you take a closer look (the devil is in the details) you’ll find they are all very different…

Info taken from http://www.johncoulthart.com/feuilleton/2010/05/01/ricardo-bellvers-el-angel-caido/

The devil rides out as the annual Krampus fests begin…

The Krampus Lauf (or Devil Run) is a yearly event that takes place in Austria, Germany and other European countries.  A 500-year-old tradition based on the Christian figure of St. Nicholas, the Krampus is a devil that the saint unleashes to punish the bad.  At the Krampus Lauf, people dress up in the most elaborate costumes and wear cow bells, chasing others down the streets, some even breathing fire. Imagine some poor unsuspecting tourist whose had a schnapps too many…

Here is a video from a previous year, skip to 2:33 to see a devil emerge from a huge fire.