Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Age of Asherah: ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968)

"The creepy nature of the film is not in its special effects, but in its realistic premise. The story takes place in a real apartment building (the Dakota) that has a real reputation of attracting eccentric elements of New York’s high society. The evil coven is not composed of stereotypical, pointy-nose witches but of friendly neighbors, prestigious doctors and distinguished individuals. They are elegant, rational and intelligent and are connected to important people. The realism of the movie forces the viewers to ponder on the existence of such groups, to a point that some feared that the movie, after its release would cause an all-out witch hunt" --Vigilante Citizen
“This is no dream, this is really happening!” - Rosemary Woodhouse

The first film perhaps ever to exploit our deep dread of old folks, 1968's Rosemary's Baby gazes deep and diabolically into the murky waters wherefrom skeletal hands of grandparents reach up to pat their captive breeders' kicking bellies. With real life abominations against women, like the 2012 male-only hearing on women's reproductive freedom in the US, and the stoning to death of women whose hair is accidentally exposed at fundamentalist Muslim markets (so I hear), it's ever-trenchant--and the end goal, conscious or not, is the same: co-opt the womb, destroy the chthonic Kali Durga shell around it before it expands wide enough to envelop you and grind you to pussy-whipped vagina dentata oblivion. At a certain depth, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Satanism become indistinguishable, the same old testament wrath of the 'jealous' god (Moloch disguised as Yaweh), the same flood called in to wipe out the old advanced civilizations and leave us collectively barefoot and pregnant, unable to change a lightbulb for centuries to come, in other words, we learned how to repress the feminine from God his self. Read the Old Testament and it's pretty clear that God, back in those days, was a monster, demanding ever greater blood sacrifices and burnt offerings, thousands of doves nailed to the wall of the church, one of each of the animals on the ark burned alive after waiting a whole extra year in the Ark even though it was dry outside, that kind of thing. Comparatively, Satan seems pretty cool, the Prometheus who turned us onto mind expanding drugs when our creator just wanted our brains docile and unquestioning. 

And that version of God, the old one, had a wife. The Old Testament had female characters like Lillith and Asherah--AKA Mrs. God, Yaweh's female counterpart, all excised from the record.  A million witch burnings had to happen to restore male supremacy, and even then it's in doubt. So who can blame the devil worshippers for being so well-hidden from the public eye?  To the long extinct Asherah worshippers, matriarchal pagans or just women in general, Christianity is as the KKK is to African-Americans, or Nazis to the Jews, Andrew Jackson to the Native American Nation, proof that if you go too far in any direction you become your own opposite. 

A typical early Christian demolishing an Asherah pole (by Dakota O'Leary)

To reach a perspective high enough to see these patterns clearly, let us overlay over the pre-biblical murk of the past, a snapshot of NYC in 1968, a time and place, if there ever was one, for the ashes of Asherah to reform into our realm. Rosemary generated real uncanny paranoia that made the collective unconscious a dangerous place, and finally broke through into the collective consciousness in the Satanic panic of the early-80s. 

But no matter who many women go under man's thumb, Woman, Asherah, Mrs. Old Testament God, never can or will. She can, on the other hand, become a vengeful Medea for being locked out of the men's club Illuminati narrative; are we the brood she bashes for revenge? This feeling of being excluded from knowledge has leaked out into her children too -- if there is an Illuminati they never asked us to join. Like Rosemary with the cult, no one even asks if she wants to be a member. She has to literally break through her own hidden exit to find out what's going on in her own womb. And since we see the entirety of the film from Rosemary's point of view, we have to guess, just as she does, until the very end, where babies really come from. The entirety of the film is absent direct visualization of any devil practices (dream aside), the paintings at the Castavets are removed when Rosemary comes over, like she's a child kept in the dark about why she came from her mother but has her father's features, until she's old enough, or distraught enough, to break through.

Understandably, that paranoid hallucination conspiracy angle was jettisoned for most of Rosemary's imitators, to be replaced by external signifiers like robes, horns, pentagrams, possession, smoke and mirrors and screaming naked virgins. Far from being scarier, this external projection and performative evil came as a great relief, like Hammer's Devil Rides Out (also from 1968). Those films are for more fun than Polanski's. Those are the ones we return to again and again on Halloween. Once we see the horns and the licentious ceremonial dancing, the fear stops, replaced by fond amusement. 

Polanski knew to never show such iconography or mindless externalized malice, and even the "this is really happening" dream sequence is kept surreal and strange. Polanski knew a Satanist with a gentle smile and a natty bow-tie and no real malice in his eyes could be far scarier than one that 'looked' scary, i.e. with a goat horn cowl and black cloak. We're never allowed (not old enough?) to see Rosemary's unholy baby, or the rapist devil (a hand and yellow eyes aside); the old people chanting around her in the dream are naked, no robes (a motif repeated with the witches in Polanski's Macbeth); and no horns or forked tail can compare in uncanny dead to the mystery and horror of the human reproductive system, or a flock of naked old folks standing around your bed while you're writhing in a drugged stupor. It's so creepy it's almost never been repeated in these imitations, yet it's all right there - no wardrobe budget needed.

If you know this blog you know I've had my own drugged demon visitations (see here) -- I believe the boundary line between the real and the vividly imagined is traversable in ways our minds as yet cannot consciously grasp, but who knows if certain ancient cults haven't figured out how to do just that, to creep in through the basement of our psyches and partially manifest? They can't all have been wiped out by the flood and then Attilla the Hun, then Genghis Kahn and then the Christians. 

For instance just last night on Late Night with Craig Ferguson he was talking with an author about how characters sometimes break away from you when you're writing them - they show up in places and do things you don't consciously expect as you're writing - as if they notice you writing about them. I had that happen to me writing my first novel wherein my character realizes some people he met the other night at a coke party are Yaqui crow trickster shamans, and right at that moment I could feel real Yaqui crow trickster shamans sensing me writing about them, and they began to begin to stir in their far-off nests, sending psychic representations forth through the gossamer tubeways of thought to climb out of the page to get me, like they could blind me or destroy me with their unified field of chant just as the coven had done to Tony Curtis in RB. Were these the same shaman who guided Carlos Castaneda? That you only had to start writing about them and they'd flutter up through the interdimensional tubeways into your unconscious and take over the typewriter?

But there's more to the story of Rosemary's Baby than just combined creative unconscious drives commingling to blind God long enough that a dream lover spawn might sneak across the uterine expanse of Mother Gaia's unburnt-at-stake dimensional dividers (after all, souls, even those of non-devil babies, have to come from somewhere)

It wasn't just Polanski's film /cross to bear, and his wasn't the only life it allegedly destroyed. Rosemary had as a producer the legendary master of ballyhoo, William Castle, and, by 1968, Emergo just wasn't gonna cut it. He needed to go deep for a new signature gimmick, one for the turbulent times. He decided to do as the Castavet cult does in the film, to stop with the cardboard horns and skeletons, the axes and insurance politics, and go right for the unconscious, the power of paranoia, of conspiracy and curses. I'm not saying, 'mind' you, that he made up a Macbeth-style curse hanging over the film's production, that his linking of strange on-set accidents and tragedies to the film's subject matter was straight up Castle ballyhoo for the age of Aquarius. But if he did do that, if he started the rumor up, in the vein of Tut's tomb opening curse, then maybe the daemonic tricksters of alternate dimensions noticed him weaving a paranoid associative rumor nexus and sent their Satanic kidney stone calling card across the gossamer web that connects myth, dream, mind, soul, and nerve endings... to 'help' Castle along, as it were. 

David Parkinson writes about the hate mail Castle received for the film, the curses leveled at him, and how Castle and composer Krystof Komeda were both struck down with crippling, painful ailments shortly after the film premiered, and then the murder of Polanski's real-life wife Sharon Tate (who co-starred in Eye of the Devil, see: The Blonde Devils of '66,) and the untimely womb ripping of their child, (he omits the eerie similarity to the violation of Rosemary in the film and Polanski's own rape charges), to end with a link to John Lennon's death in 1980:
John Lennon had spent the spring of 1968 with Mia Farrow at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram in India. During their stay, Lennon had written "Dear Prudence" for Farrow's sister (who shared a name with Sharon Tate's Yorkshire terrier) and it featured on The Beatles' White Album that November. Charles Manson claimed that the LP contained coded messages about the impending race war he hoped to provoke with the Cielo Drive slayings. Lennon himself met a violent end in December 1980 when he was gunned down in New York — outside the Dakota apartments." (more) 
For Polanski, a child survivor of the Warsaw ghetto, the coven aspect of Levin's novel surely tapped into the paranoia of his childhood hardship. Part of the Nazi's rationale for their homicidal anti-Semitism was that Jews were a mystical black magic Protocols of the Elders of Zion cabal, and just as educated women had to lay low for centuries lest they be burned at stake, so too this feeling of a secret conspiracy lingered in the Jewish intellectual community, creating separateness, enforced perhaps by Aryan rivals for Jewish business (or property disputes--as in Salem), or disgruntled employees getting passed over for promotion in favor of some kid fresh out of Yeshiva school, or ghettoization (as in Merchant of Venice), or--if you're goy-learning your Jewish fiancee was being pressured not to marry you by the mother of one of your Jewish friends. So which came first? The secrecy and elitism, or the goy intolerance necessitating a strength in numbers that must be hidden from the non-Jewish population, lets they believe the anti-semitic conspiracy theorists? 

In America, we can't imagine what it's like to be invaded, to have an openly evil and oppressive system turn human compassion and morality upside down, to obliterate all traces of rhyme and reason, to be persecuted for something done centuries before we were even born, all our possessions confiscated or destroyed, starved and beaten. But for Polansk,i this is a formative experience. He knows all we see and hear of 'reality' as Americans constitutes only the tip of a black iceberg. Behind closed doors, who knows what monsters sit, working spells and deals to ensure they win all the marbles before the game is even started? If we knew those spells, wouldn't we use them, too? Didn't we, in a way, already? (we in this case being SWM Christians like myself).

Between 1933-1941, America benefitted indirectly from the Nazi's intolerance. Most of Europe's intellectual Jews, gays, physicists, artists, and filmmakers fled to our shores, bringing their strange occult customs, their atomic bomb formulas and expressionistic lighting designs.

But after the war, America turned away from seances and toward atomic age anxiety, less devil cults and more giant bugs and rockets to the moon. Then the suburbs were born (they didn't exist before WW2), a place where junior could play catch in the back yard and parents with rakes smiled from cross the street and cheered the space race on to the moon. Occasionally a dad could go insane (as in Nicolas Ray's Bigger than Life) or kids could grow up into spoiled brats (as in Douglas Sirk's All that Heaven Allows), but childbirth was holy... and the country club was 'restricted.' 

Babies, housewives, and old people could never be, you know, evil --not in the straight white Anglo-Christian suburbs. 

A few exceptions came and went. There was The Bad Seed, and a spate of crazy old broad movies launched by the success of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? But Jane and Rhoda were psychotic, flash-frozen at childhood, before their brains developed the foundations of the empathetic response --we knew this from the get-go. They might be terrifying in theory, but it was an understandable evil, the suspense was waiting for the rest of the characters to realize it. But they were lone gunmen. And we knew where they lived.

But what about the sane, gentle sweethearts bringing you vitamin shakes to help your pregnancy, or the 'no arguments, young lady' condescension of top shelf pediatricians played by stalwart salts like Ralph Bellamy as Dr. Sapirstein (who tells Rosemary "And please don't read books. Don't listen to your friends either.") Sapirstein could be espousing the Muslin fundamentalist sexist line, or America's before the dawn of the sixties. He might as well add "and for the love of Mike, don't vote or wear slacks." Rosemary's only form of revolt against this trap is her short hair-cut, an expensive 'very chic' affront, which to Guy is tantamount to her drawing on the wall in crayon, defacing his valuable property. As she's getting dangerously thin, pale, and pain-wracked, the effect of the short hair is to evoke the camps all over again... even right there on the UWS.....they're always there. 

In conveying Rosemary's gradual awakening from compliance ("you're gonna think I really flipped,") Polanski exploits our willingness to grant power to unseen forces, almost as if it's in our DNA to do so (and maybe it is). The link between paranoia and pregnancy is made unilateral, and with Polanski's film we see how patriarchal 'big city' condescension and secrecy can completely dominate even a free spirited young woman from Iowa whose determination to be hip is both her saving grace and undoing. Taken in total, "Rome's" story has devils of both the psychoanalytical interpretation variety (paranoia brought on by pregnancy-related estrogen surges) and the physical arrival, up from the subconscious realm, of an actual devil ("Hail Satan!") Like in a Lovecraft story, the womb functions as an interdimensional airport with connecting flights from unconscious hell to conscious reality, on the wings of combined chanting and herb-spiked dreams. Rosemary's Baby is the opposite of a film like Inception - which is a story about people invading other people's dreams. Baby is about a dream incarnated into reality. It happens all the time, like when writing a novel or something and you realize 'you' are really dictating your unconscious's voice, so that the finished product might get that voice's owner, your shadowed anima, closer to actual merging with your daylight consciousness (if only your ego wasn't always in the way, waving its rosary and uttering empty prayers).


When we sense something is being kept from us, that thing gains in power as our conscious fears project onto it (trying to pre-program our response) and projection is exactly how the coven operates: they chant together and use combined mind projection to astral travel along an associative nine-dimensional curve via an item belonging to the victim into that victim's nervous system. This is the same 'reality' that paranoid schizophrenics and remote viewing agents live in. It's an ocean wherein all dreamers are linked together, like fish, drowning sailors, whales, swimmers, and dolphins are all connected via an oceanic matrix of nonlocal conductive consciousness ('salt water'). 

But not everyone swims, drowns, or paddles. The Satanist sails on the surface of this sea (hence Rosemary's dream of being on a boat and seduced by a Naval officer, like Nicole Kidman's fantasy in Eyes Wide Shut - see Make-Up Your Mind Control). The psychedelic shamans surf until they're wiped out (whoa bro, you rode that wave?!); unconscious dreamers snorkel or bob in the waves, and the schizophrenics drown, and the mystic swims. (to paraphrase Joseph Campbell). Rosemary's dream begins on the ship and winds up bobbing in the waves, then sinking, before clawing her way back to land (finding the secret passage between the apartments). In the end, she joins with the cult because her maternal instinct is too strong to resist. The secret passage behind the cupboard at the end of the hall is like a mirror of the interdimensional womb/chanting gateway by which the horny devil entered her boudoir. "What have you done to its eyes?!" she asks, horrified. "He has his father's eyes," Castavet answers. And its the eyes of Guy's rival for his coveted part that are affected by the telepathic sabotage of the coven. The oceanic matrix connects all parts of all things. They should name the child after the blinded rival actor, and close the circuit.

It's interesting to note that in both Rosemary and the Exorcist there is a mother alone with her child and an absentee father (allowing room for a 'new' one), and a kindly older male friend who dies in mysterious circumstances. The males are all either dysfunctional, absent, or very old and full of strange oaths and bearded like the bard. Is God Dead? so trumpets Time Magazine!

The last proper dad we see in the film, played by Maurice Evens, is the proper authority figure of the old school of monster movies, the backstory exposition scientist, the merry fire-toasted Van Helsing type, outlying some grim history: "Adrian Marcata lived there, so did the Trent sisters." It turns out of course that Marcata / Mocata, it's all the same old man in the painting above the Castavet's mantle. 

The name Adrian Marcata should of course remind Hammer fans of The Devil Rides Out and its villain Bob Adrian Mocata, played by Charles Gray (below left), which came out the exact same year but, compared the resonant contemporary realism of Polanski's film, seems to be from a much earlier era. Even Rosemary's utterance "Hey, let's make love," while they're eating dinner on the floor in their empty apartment, is straight out of the 70s, while in Devil Christopher Lee is throwing magic beans at giant spiders. Yet the two evil patriarchs - the same, just manifesting different powers. The devil may be thwarted in Rides but he wins in Baby -- and he does so by keeping a low profile, hiding his deeds even from the camera. 

Mocata / Marcata 

The first time we see Roman Castavet AKA Steven Marcata, he is wearing a Satanic dark red velour shit that contrasts sharply (especially in the recent brilliant hi-def version) with the dark surroundings. He sits off by himself, in a big chair far enough away from the couch whereon Rosemary, Guy, and Minnie are squeezed together to indicate his mastery over them, as if he's on stage, and just his talk about having been all around, every town on earth, makes him seem ageless, omnipresent (even as its folded into his folksy homilies) his ability to seem familiar with Guy's work is standard suggestive manipulation ala fortune tellers at the carnival. And if you've ever been in rich people's parlors where the furniture is all the way across the room, you may may have noted that they don't shout; it's kind of up to you to sharpen your hearing enough to comprehend what they're saying, amazed, perhaps, that you can. You realize you're so used to boorish loud people you've forgotten how to talk in a low voice to someone whose ten or 20 feet away. 

The cynical self-serving unconscious bluster of Guy is apparently sensed by the Castavets, which is why he's brought into their fold and not Rosemary. They sense in her a deep goodness that he--self serving prick that he is--lacks. What she is, on the other hand, is naive and easily smitten - the common thread associated with 'goodness' as mere lack of experience (otherwise she'd wise up to his snake oil charms) When the news announces "Pope Paul VI arrived at 9:47 AM" - he excitedly shouts, "that's a great spot for my Yamaha commercial!" as if he has some say in media buying or that the pope doesn't exist outside the TV, he's just trying to weasel in to anywhere he'll get exposure. We later hear some of his true vitriol come out while he's rehearsing with his crutch, shouting the line "I'm in love with no one, especially not your goddamned fat wife!" as if anticipating Rosemary's swollen belly. He's bad at hiding things, and such a weak actor he can't even commit to the part of the concerned doting husband.

 It's a part that also shows Cassavettes' limits as an artist and actor which fits the character he plays and which would typecast him for decades: the charming swine who genuinely thinks we were all awed by his projected street savvy warmth.(1) Polanski nails all that down around Guy so all Cassavettes can do is squirm and pace the room and seem utterly confused by the fact that Rosemary's growing less and less charmed by his patronizing grin. She's growing out of him, while he doesn't change his act. His is a kind of evil we're familiar with, for it stems from vanity, like the fallout of getting by on your charisma for so long you're no longer able to function without it. When your looks fade, you find yourself without the one thing that masked your dysfunction. Such a person is so ripe for Satan's book it's easy to imagine Satan helped make him attractive to begin with. Any relapsed alcoholic knows too well how the devil is patient, willing to work a long con, planting a seed then coming back when it's a tree and chopping it down. 

But that kind of paranoia leads to madness. As we let ourselves get obsessive over the obscure elements of the film, it begins to take its place in the 'evidence' of a global Satanic conspiracy (for realsies). Take the central dream/rape sequence, a benchmark in how surreal dream sequences can enhance reality rather than diminish it. Most films' dream sequences are cop-outs, places to dump the sexy weird shots or artsy ideas that don't fit the story but which the producers want so they can use them in the poster and coming attractions. Only great surrealists like David Lynch or Luis Bunuel understand that dreams are the real part, it's life that's the mirage. When Rosemary momentarily comes out of her trance to note that "this is really happening" it's terrifying in a way no film has been before or since, because suddenly we can't really fathom which parts of what we see and hear are the dreams and which are reality. Polanski knows the power of the mind and the flexible nature of space and time and that in these areas lurk real horrors.

The blue laser eyes and telekinetic devil children of later films are just the opposite, which is not necessarily bad. In externalizing and materializing the threat, we can laugh at our own fears and so in some small way, allay them (i.e the smiling black man with the yellow eyes in The Devil Rides Out)But with no monster in sight, no matter how far we look, and no 'seen murders' (no blood), there's actually a crisper sense of dread in Rosemary. Of all the horror films of the last 20 years, only The Blair Witch Project has fully exploited this same murky power. 

"death is no dream..." - Rezs┼Ĺ Seress

The conspiracy theories of authors like David Icke, re: the Illuminati and Zionist banking cabals, work on a similar level to these terrifying ambiguous dreams, all suffused with strange symbols and meanings. Irregardless of its authenticity, the Illuminati-Zionist-Rothschild-Bildenberg banking conspiracy is a vibrant, fascinating myth, operating between truth and fiction, allowing us to see through reality until it dissolves into a a series of stages, mirror reflections, or stereograms. As Peter Tork once said: "the mind can't distinguish between the real and the vividly imagined." He said that in HEAD, also from 1968. And the reverse is also true - the mind cannot see itself except through hallucination, and what's the difference between a graphic artist working with a computer to create a hidden 3D pattern in a stereogram and a shaman chanting a spirit into existence? Nada. Just try doing eye surgery on yourself without a mirror, or cubism with one eye shut. This is why we have therapists -- to show us what we really are under all the bluster, make-up, and pageantry.

But there is also the 'anti-therapist;' filmmakers and SRA inflictors --who understand the significance  of performative or mimetic rituals we see today only in indigenous tribes or at Burning Man. It is the ultimate power of self-deception. 


There's a practical reason, apparently, why Satanists and CIA brainwashers inflict sexual abuse and physical torture on their children, The intense trauma creates in their growing minds a dissociative state, resulting in split personalities, where the daytime conscious one has no memory of these rituals. 

I myself noticed the way intense agony creates a split in one's consciousness when I dislocated my knee cap. The extreme sensory pain launched my perspective into a split where one side of me in agony at the slightest movement, screaming involuntarily, on the other me standing slightly back, floating over my prostrate form, hearing my own screams but muffled, as if I had earplugs in. The greater my body's physical distress the more the contemplative serenity increased. 

Surely the breathing exercises of Lamaze also tap into this, as well as Stockholm syndrome: the agony of childbirth shifts the consciousness of a woman into that of 'an' expectant mother to 'the" Mother-- her triumph for enduring the unbearable pain the flush rapture of being finally free of all that weight, floating like an angel in your own loving arms. Torturous initiations for boys becoming men; menstruation for girls; hazing for frat guys--all coincides with the journey from mythic third eye visualization, 'the becoming', the five senses perceiving 'the becomed' sixth in a kind of recoil motion, vomiting the soul up into the mythic outsider "observer" position, the subject moving from being a Rosemary-style child guest, kept out of the adult swim, to being initiated into a cosmic truth too ambivalent and full of surface hostility and danger (such as Christian persecution) for children and innocent Iowa girls to grasp without first heating up their rigidly naive flyover state consciousness through pain and tribulation.

Most devil movies end with the coven being swallowed up in flames (ala Suspiria, Inferno, The Devil's Rain, Ride with the Devil, etc.) which is mocked in Babt bywhy the burning church painting Rosemary finds when she finally breaks through the hidden door into the Castavet's apartment is so wry (and which she recognizes from when it was "really happening" below decks in her dream). There are no flames for the devils, the fiery climax is frozen in amber and it's the Christian church that burns down therein. When Marcata declares that God is dead you feel that he just might be right. At any rate, now that they're in charge, he advises them to accept Rosemary's outmoded belief (her "oh my god" outburst) in order to not become as barbaric as the Christians before them. The party Rosemary bursts in on is, after all, hardly threatening. They're eccentrics - they're funny - such as the miffed old lady trying to rock the cradle, and the weird guy from Japan. In finally solving the mystery, of merging into the unconscious realm, inverse to the way her baby has broken through into consciousness, Rosemary doesn't trigger the usual inferno that burns down the devil's house in all the other devil films, she just realizes God's church is already burned down, metaphysically, in reality, and in memory. Enlightenment isn't always a matter of restoring patriarchal supremacy, or conquering evil on behalf of good, it can also be about finally telling your husband to fuck off, and recognizing no amount of negativity has ever killed a devil yet. But slowly rocking it back to sleep, with a loving, forgiving gaze? Momma, that's murder. 

1.  (He's magnetic as the jazz scene beatnik TV detective Johnny Staccato in 59-60).

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