Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Devil is in the details....

The Magic Bus
Nothing geeks out the gullible like a well-placed Pentagram (aka Pentalpha aka Pentangle).  Pop one into your letterhead and you'll have people accusing you of devil worship faster than it takes to say Beelzebub.  That's just what happened in Memphis, Tennessee earlier this month when a woman spotted a pair of pesky pentagrams integrated into the design of a school bus' brake lights.  Every time the bus brakes, which is quite often given what buses actually do, two flaming-red upside-down pentagrams are flashed to the driver behind.

I don't put any stock in Satanism being behind all this, but it does beg the question "Why’d they put it up there? Why’d they put it upside down?" as one local resident asked.

The Pentagram is an ancient symbol, appearing as a logogram in early Sumerian writing.  In the West, its earliest use is said to have been among Pythogoreans, who were in many ways the well-spring of the Western Occult tradition.  Which is fitting, for the Pentagram has long been and continues to be used by occultists of all stripes.

It was also used by ancient Christians as a symbol of the five senses and/or the five wounds of Christ.  A pentagram decorates the hero's shield in the 14th-century English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  The poet ascribes the symbol to King Solomon and
says the symbol is key to understanding the work. The poet explains that each of the five interconnected points represents a virtue tied to a group of five. Gawain is keen in his five senses, dextrous in his five fingers, faithful to the salvation provided through the Five Wounds of Christ, takes courage from the five joys that Mary had of Jesus, and exemplifies the five virtues of knighthood.
I have a picture of my mother, which must date to around 1940, standing at the doors of a small church, flowers in her hair, some sort of basket in her hand.  Pentangles form the windows of the church doors.  It's a very Pagan scene; indeed the Pentangle is pretty much the symbol of Wicca.

But why then, is it associated with evil?  Well, the Christian use is pretty much forgotten, but its use by Wiccans, Thelemites and yes, Satanists, is still pretty much current.

As a symbol of evil, it has to be "reversed"; that is to say, the two points have to be facing upward.  This belief is certainly due to the writing of influential occultist Eliphas Levi, who wrote: 
  • "A reversed pentagram, with two points projecting upwards, is a symbol of evil and attracts sinister forces because it overturns the proper order of things and demonstrates the triumph of matter over spirit. It is the goat of lust attacking the heavens with its horns, a sign execrated by initiates."
  • "The flaming star, which, when turned upside down, is the hieroglyphic sign of the goat of Black Magic, whose head may be drawn in the star, the two horns at the top, the ears to the right and left, the beard at the bottom. It is the sign of antagonism and fatality...."
An engraving of a goat inscribed in the pentagram appears in La Clef de la Magie Noire by Stanislas de Guaita (1897) and in our times this iteration is most widely known as Anton LaVey's Sigil of Baphomet.  LaVey copied the image in La Clef, I mean literally, it's the exact same image.  LaVey merely removed the words "Samel" and "Lilith", reversed the colors, then trademarked it.  But that's pretty much par for the course with LaVey.  The Satanic Bible is basically recycled (if not outright plagiarized) material from Ayn Rand, Ragnar Redbeard and John Dee.

Well, if 2 inverted pentagrams are evil, what are we to make of three?  Exhibit 23:  The GOP logo, a stylized red, white and blue elephant.
GOP logo
Discordian founder Greg Hill asked the GOP National Committee the same thing in an open letter dated 1969, found in the recently-published Historia Discordia:
And now I really hate to tell you this, but those three inverted pentagrams on your elephant's riot helmet are specifically used to conjure evil spirits -- when conjuring good spirit one needs must have one point ascending, not one part descending.
Greg's not the only one to have posed that question. To whit:  Mother Claims Stars On School Bus Are Satan’s Symbol, So What’s That Make The GOP?

Good question, chums.  Fnord.

Funny thing is I'd linked to this article on the LoS Facebook page on January 16, just after linking to an article about the conspiracy theories popping up in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders.  That article featured a photo with a logo I somehow missed at first.  Here's a better shot of that logo:


BRI Paris logo
This is the logo of the Brigade de recherche et d'intervention, Paris.  The BRI are elite special police used in robbery or kidnapping situations, usually when hostages are involved, and for capturing gangsters.  They're basically police commandos, à la SWAT, created for pretty much the same purpose. 

Here's a link to brief history of the Brigade, in French.  The logo is basically a target overlooked by a horned and bearded, red-eyed figure, a demon at least, if not Satan himself.  It's an especially evil-looking creature which I figured for a gargoyle.  For some reason it seemed familiar and I guessed it came from Notre-Dame and in fact, I'm right.  This photo describes it as the "famous chimera [or gargoyle] on top of Notre-Dame de Paris".

In the original, the demon overlooks Paris, on the watch, one would suppose, for sinners, taking notes, taking names.  The BRI has turned him into a black figure, like themselves, in black fatigues, body armor and ski masks, ever-watchful, but unseen.  Like at the business end of a scope on a sniper rifle.  A visual ode to the surveillance state.

This logo might indicate something sinister after all....

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

#JeSuisCharlie III: Solidarité


Both the NYT and WaPo are part of my daily news-gathering routine, so they are often both open in my navigator.

I captured this screen-shot quite by accident while trying to figure out how the "Imp écran" (French keyboard!) button works best when there's a second screen (vital when I do translating work) jacked into my laptop.

Anyway, seeing this image pop up unexpectedly made me feel compelled to follow the dictates of chance and share it.

The Gid and I don't want to live in a world where we censor ourselves out of fear -- either fear of insulting someone or fear of reprisals.  I'll go out on a limb and guess most artists and writers feel the same aversion.  So, in solidarity with our extended tribe, on the day Charlie Hebdo bravely hits the newsstands, we'll say "Je Suis Charlie" -- "Nous Sommes Charlie" -- here on LoS one last time.

It ain't much, but it's something.

Lysol & Lettuce: El Hombre Invisible al Supermercado

Kick that Lysol habit, man
I think it was in 2001 -- I'd discovered an interesting piece of Burroughsiana for sale by a guy who'd been Uncle Bill's neighbor in Lawrence, Kansas during Burroughs' twilight years:  A target used by Burroughs and signed in his distinctive-if-shaky scrawl:
William S. Burroughs, 45 Long Colt
7 yards
July 6, 1997, Monday
 [The date and the day don't match though -- 07/06/97 was a Sunday -- peu importe!]

This was approximately a month before Burroughs' death and the shooting is good for a man of 83:   5 shots are grouped vertically within 5 cm around the bulls-eye with two halfway in the bulls-eye itself, top and bottom, dead-center, and two others nearly on top of one another, forming one oblong hole slightly left-of-center. A 5th shot is a bit lower and also slightly left-of center.  Only one of the six shots is out of the group, 7 cm towards the edge of the red part of the target -- but he got points for it.

I was able to verify the legitimacy of the target with a few well-placed phone calls, I was single and had a decent income, so I bought it. I thought I'd been ripped off after a few weeks had passed, but it finally did arrive and with it, a few extras: a bullet casing from one of his shots at this very target, a small square of wallpaper from his bedroom (even the seller acknowledged that was weird, but some fans get into those kinds of things), an empty methadone bottle (!), unfortunately with the sticker scraped off, and this, a shopping list.

So, I can say I have an original Burroughs manuscript, in his own hand! hehe. True marginalia, but I'm glad to have it....

The list is pretty un-exotic, just some staples, but I think WOODARD is a reference to artist David Woodard, who lived in Lawrence in '97, collaborated with Burroughs, and produced several custom Dream Machines.

A bit ridiculous, I know, but it's been rolled up in a mailing tube for almost 15 years and since I'm on a framing kick, I thought I'd share this most mundane bit of marginalia before it gets put under glass.

What the hell, right?  Why not?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Hip-Hop & Freemasonry: Example 1



If the way all those MCs hold their hands up like triangles is any indication, the Spirit of '76 -- Bavaria-style -- is alive in well in Hip-Hop.

In Freemasonry and Black Nationalism I touched (far too) briefly on Freemasonry in the Hip-Hop community.  I should have said a lot more, but I ran out of steam -- but not out of information.  It seems at quick glance that both pro- and anti-Masonic lyrics are fairly common in Hip-Hop, as are references to the the Illuminati.  Indeed, a whole genre of conspiracy theory has grown up around this subject and a Google or two will bring up scores of videos, articles and even books dedicated to the Illuminati's Hip-Hop hijinx.  A word or two is required to light up the shadows cast by these large-looming and wonky ashlars of bad information.  Or to put it another way, there are a lot of turds caught up in the slick green threads of the Internets!

If my memory serves me well, Public Enemy and X Clan referred to Masonry quite frequently, often echoing the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam.  Quite a few groups had NOI affiliations to some degree or other.  The Five Percent Nation, an offshoot of the NOI with Masonic influences, was a huge influence on the development of Hip-Hop slang.  It's clear some MCs were drawing from a rather deep lyrical well when addressing the subject. 

On the other hand, it almost appears that in recent years dropping references to Masonry or the Illuminati has been a kind of fashion among MCs, perhaps as a way to enhance their mystique, or as another means of projecting power, much like references to firearms and symbols of physical prowess, sexual charisma, financial success and lyrical mastery.

I'm hoping perhaps LoS follower Burger Boy will help us out here!  He had this to say in response to a recent post
Jamaican DJ Vybz Kartel openly displays his Masonic affiliation, especially prior to his recent arrest on murder charges (in no way am I attempting to connect his Masonry with his arrest). He proudly displayed his Masonic ring on one of his most recent CD releases. Vybz is not what dancehall fans would call 'conscious' or 'Rasta.' He's more along the lines of guys like Bounty Killer or Ninja Man, in that they are 'slack' with their themes/lyrics.

The Wu Tang Clan was overtly 5%'er, as were groups like Poor Righteous Teachers. Wu Tang would wear you out with 5% proselytizing, and I've read that ODB was, suprisingly, the most adept at its teachings.
So whaddaya say, BB?  For that matter, it's an open call to anybody.
  • Can you cite us any references to Masonry and/or the Illuminati in Hip-Hop lyrics?  I know a few, but I haven't really listened to Hip-Hop on a regular basis since the 90s.
  • Do you know of any MCs or DJs who are Masons?  What about affiliations or sympathies with the Nation of Islam?? The 5 Percenters?
I'd like to tackle this one in a bit more depth, but I'll be fishing for leads for a while.  For the moment I'll just whet yer thirst with an example by Rick Ro$$, featuring Jay-Z, whose appearances last year in Five Percenter gear prompted a minor media hubbub....not to mention my own post.  This track appeared on Ro$$' album Teflon Don (2010), a critical and modest commercial success.

from Ro$$' Free Mason
Free Mason, freelancer, free agents, we faster
Big contracts, big contractors, built pyramids, period we masters
No caterpillars, it was just a lot of niggas
A lot of great thinkers and a lot of great inventors
I have nowhere near the breadth of knowledge necessary to do this topic full justice, so any advice or references are welcome.  I think my track will be to look at the origin of the conspiracy theory and its variations, a broad overview of lyrical references and finally, try to see if I can compile a reliable list of Masons in Hip-Hop.  But I'm open to suggestions and collaboration on this one.

Zig-Zag-Zig

Many thanks to Fred Milliken at Freemason Information for reprinting our article Freemasonry and Black Nationalism.  Brother Milliken wrote a very thoughtful and encouraging introduction and we were pleased to see that he's sent many new visitors our way.  The (few) comments on the article are pretty much positive, which is nice to see.

Fred reprinted another LoS article in 2013 (Sunshine State) about the KKK and Freemasonry in Florida, so he's been a long-time booster and for that we are grateful.

Freemason Information provides a wide range of thoughtful and open-minded articles, scholarly but accessible, from the mystical to the mundane, from history to current issues, all centered on the Craft.  It's really worth your time to check them out and make it a regular place to visit for quality reading.