The Alchemical Devilry Series, Part II: A Brief Survey of the Nature and Appearance of the Archetype in Folklore and Dreams

Now that we’ve clarified some concepts in last week’s essay, distinguishing the Devil from Christ and beginning to shed some light on the distinction between things such as the Black Trinity and the White, or Chthonic Consciousness versus Christ Consciousness, I’d like to focus a little more on the figure of the Devil, himself. As we know, he’s a slippery fellow— like Proteus, when he is grasped, he is transformed. When we cast light upon a shadow it is dissolved, however slightly, by that light which we cast; and the Devil is truly naught but shadow, representing as he does, particularly in the emanation of the Dragon, nothing more than the unconscious itself. Like many dragons, this one has many heads throughout the ages, but there is a root archetype at work here and I do not think the common term ‘Wise Old Man’ does the character justice. I prefer Jung’s more occasional, ambiguous use of the word ‘Spirit’ in reference to the character, though it is little more than a matter of stylistic choice.

Jung already has a tremendous study on the Spirit in Myth and Fairy Tales which is more than worth reading, along with Marie-Louise von Franz’s Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales, given to me by a friend and a wealth of fascinating information. With that in mind, I won’t be going into a great deal of depth of the symbolism at work here so much as tracing the history of the appearance of the archetype, the manners in which it presents itself, and the kinds of things it offers those who would engage with it. These basic questions of ‘what’ to which we refer must be answered before we can build upon practical application.

The initial question becomes that of the Spirit to which one refers, and I answer that it is the Spirit which presents itself in the dichotomy of Son/Beast, which is one in the same. I would propose the use of two new quaternities to describe how these archetypes overlap, if nothing else than for a diagram to help the reader’s thoughts. I would like, however, to re-emphasize something I am not certain I have made clear: these are representations of the same quaternity. It is but a matter of how the quaternity expresses itself, whether in the holy or chthonic aspect, much as the same coin can express itself as heads or tails. Likewise, the coin is only a representation of something else. Do not confuse the map for the territory and do not bind the quaternity or the ogdoad to one particular form of thought; let it be like Proteus and transform in your grip, and pay attention to what remains consistent across the transformations, rather than what is different. The moon is the symbol of the unconscious and of mysticism because, as Jung put it, moonlight dissolves and merges figures into one greater image: it looks for the patterns which bind, rather than the distinctions which sever.


Note first that these quaternities are arranged upon identical crosses; this is because Christ and the Devil are equally trapped in matter, equally crucified, and, being reflections of one another, had ought then to bear resemblance to one another. Indeed, they are identical. I am not a proponent of the inverted cross as an occult symbol because it gives the wrong impression. The demiurge represents as both Yahweh and Ialdabaoth, the archetype which the Son of God bound to matter by this demiurge represents as Christ and, for ease of point of reference when referring to the Chthonic name of the archetype embodied, Samael, and these positions stay the same; but you will notice that the vertical positions, that of the position which represents the ego, has been subtly reversed, and yet in its reversal it still matches. As we discussed previously, there is a parallel between doves and women, specifically women being the harkening entity which heralds the emergence of matter, whether it be the land found after the flood or the resurrection of Christ in corporeal form; however, as the Holy Spirit heralds the arrival of matter, the destruction of the Whore Babylon heralds its end. In the Holy Trinity/Quaternity, it is Mary who represents the ego which is assumed by Heaven in exchange for birthing Christ. In the Black Trinity/Quaternity, it is Babylon who represents the ego which is annihilated by the Beast which it chooses to ride. This is also because the true manner in which the Christian ogdoad had ought to be arranged against one another is as follows:


I have placed a circle to denote a material, ‘earth-bound’ conscious, for a horizon line gives too literal an impression of ascent or descent, when really the truth is that, if you descend far enough, you’ll find you’re really ascending, anyway. (Think of the symbol provided by so many cartoons, of a character digging through from America to China, or of all the times you wondered if you could do something similar as a child— at what point does digging ‘down’ become digging ‘up’?) At any rate, this diagram does give a clearer impression of what I mean: the two manners in which the archetype of the ego represents itself, the holy and chthonic aspects, arise in the appearance of Mary and Babylon, and from there move towards a purified form of themselves, The Holy Spirit/Woman of the Apocalypse. Just as God the Spirit, pictured as a dove, is the spirit of life, so too is the Woman Clothed With the Sun. They both mark the ultimate form of God, the observer which lurks ever within the temple of the body of those faithful fig trees who produce fruit for the passing Lord, which hearkens matter simply by observing light. The Saturnine Dragon, much like Yahweh, is but a manifestation of the demiurge, the God of this world and, ultimately, a deceiver who would have himself the be-all, end all, manifesting as the negative side of the demiurge in Ialdaboath, Abzu, The Dragon of the Apocalypse, Saturn and other chthonic archetypes and representing the darkness of unconsciousness. The righteously judgmental and sometimes unpredictably merciful Yahweh is the like component there, to be delved into at a much later date. But for now I would like to focus on the pair of reflections made up in the Beast and the Lamb, for, at their heart, they are naught but the Spirit Mercurius emerging as either shadow or light. There is little doubt that these archetypes have been found in tandem many times before, and, given this list of appearances, a thoughtful person with a talent for pattern detection should be able to see exactly how the Spirit can contribute its wisdom.

What I would suggest is we, for purposes of this essay, decide universal terms to describe each member of the quaternity. To avoid offending anyone any more than they have already been offended, we shall use ‘Source’ rather than Yahweh or Dragon whenever possible. I would also like to note that there are certain figures who I will skim or not mention at all, and that is because if I were to try to make a conclusive list of appearances of the Spirit, both in ‘bound’ and ‘unbound’ varieties or in whatever other categories one could possibly divide it into, I would lose my mind, I am certain. (And when we divide that which is not existentially divided, remember, we are telling a fiction to ourselves.) Suffice it to say that the Spirit tends to ’emanate’ through generations of Gods. To give an example, it manifests in Greek mythology in the pattern of Prometheus > Hermes > Eros, becoming each time ‘polluted’, as it were, by the process— for this reason the alchemist must distill the polluted substance and extract from it the true nature of the Spirit, just as Psyche, that fine female alchemist described in the Golden Ass, sought to see the face of her beloved Eros and in the end was left with no choice but to pursue him through hell and heaven and into the house of his mother. The same is true of Enki’s descendents in Sumerian mythology, who often adopt from him, with his permission, his traits, and pass them down in obscured form, splitting the qualities among themselves like land divided between noblemen during the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. The route to trace is not forward, but backward, with an eye towards patterns, meanings and the goal of a firsthand experience. Remember: the map is indeed not the territory, but everyone loves a bit of good cartography!


I’ve had a longstanding love affair with Sumerian and Babylonian mythology, specifically the goddess Ishtar. There’s something spectacular about her, and now as an alchemist I have a better understanding of her role, not just as the Mesopotamian goddess of sex and war and what that means as an archetype, but also in the triad of Sulphur-Mercurius-Sal. I bring her up because in a future article we’ll be going into a little more detail about Ishtar/Inanna and other sacred whores, and because she is a feminine manifestation of the feminine Spirit who will be the vehicle by which we experience the masculine Spirit in multiple myths. But for straight-line comparisons, there is no manifestation of the Spirit’s male archetype quite as cut and dry as Enki.

Though there is some debate on the subject, it is thought that Enki’s name means “Lord of the Earth.” In the Sumerian mythos, the role of the Source from whom the Mercurial figure derives his power is Abzu or Apsu, the freshwater lover of saltwater demon Tiamat, who together produce the gods. Enki is chosen to represent and defend the younger gods from their father when Abzu, being the Saturnine, chthonic element, is displeased to find himself disturbed from his sleep by his children and wishes to destroy them. In response to this threat, Enki puts Abzu to sleep deep beneath the earth, which is exactly where the chthonic Source (e.g., The Dragon) is typically described as being found. It is within the dreaming Abzu that Enki makes his home, and from Abzu that he derives his power; so, much as Christ draws from Yahweh and the Beast from the Dragon, Enki draws forth from Abzu. Becoming god of sacred semen and water, Enki is, much like Mercurius, shown bringing water to the thirsty, and also shown engaging in a heiros gamos with the earth by way of ‘pouring his water’ into a dirt furrow. Though of course this is a metaphor which expresses itself sexually, the sexual symbolism is in itself representative of a higher meaning, and when I hear this story I think often of the Temperance tarot card, and the Star, in both the Rider-Waite and Thoth variations. This powerful image is one we will see repeatedly, not only in mythology and visual artwork but also in a great deal of literature, as in in Shakespeare’s Tempest, where the Spirit Ariel retrieves water from Bermuda for the magician Prospero.

Enki is also the one who creates mankind, at the instruction of Nammu, the creatrix of Tiamat and Abzu; Nammu awakens him, inspires him and thus causes Enki to initiate the process of life-giving to man. He plays role as confuser of languages, as well; but what is of primary interest is that Enki is also the original possessor of the Me which are drunkenly given over to Inanna and thus relinquished into the world. In Sumerian myth, the Me are foundational concepts, blueprints, which make up man’s institutions and cultures: an idea not dissimilar to that of the Platonic ideals, the Me include everything from social mores to concepts like music and art. To put it simply, then, Enki is the possessor of all civilized arts, even if, in this variation, he proves its unwilling distributor. There is also a story about Ishtar experiencing Enki which I quite like, which is a very complete description of the alchemical process, in which Enki instructs a raven which behaves like a man in the production of a palm tree, and Ishtar evidently helps in its production as well as acting as its witness. An invaluable image to take into consideration.


prometheus bound

Prometheus is my most beloved manifestation of the Spirit Mercurius, I think, if only because he comes off as being so civilized— though that may simply be the work of Aeschylus, who also puts into the mouth of Hephaistos at the play’s beginning the most eloquent summation of the plight of the Spirit, and also, Man, which has ever been written: “Always the load of what you suffer at the moment will oppress you, since your saviour has not yet been born. This is your reward for your idea of helping men. Yourself a god, you did not shrink from wrath of gods, and gave to man promotion beyond what is right.”

Prometheus and his brother, Epimetheus, were charged with giving gifts to all the animals in the wake of the war against the titans, and, because his name means ‘afterthought,’ by the time Epimetheus had arrived at man he had run out of gifts to give. Prometheus at this point stepped in and decided that man’s talent would be the civilizing arts, and describes in Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound that he gave man everything from writing to cooking to metallurgy. This is all the more likely considering his role as the fire-bringer, an action made necessary as a result of Prometheus’ own deception: at the Trick at Mecone, Prometheus tricked Zeus into, for the benefit of man, choosing worthless bones and fat for a sacrifice rather than hearty meat, which man would ever after be able to eat without giving up to the gods. Angered, Zeus hid fire from mankind in what may well be compared to a deluge myth, and then, in retaliation for Prometheus’ retrieval of the fire, chains Prometheus to a rock, where he is doomed to suffer until his eventual liberation.

A few things are worth pointing out, here: first, the parallel with Enki’s Me and Prometheus’ choice to give man the civilizing arts. There is also very simply the strong connection with the Christian image of the Dragon cast down into the earth from heaven as a result of an uprising of angels; like Samael bound forever in the pit, Prometheus is bound to his rock until he is freed by the bronze-hearted Hercules, that Son of Zeus. It is also worth noting that Prometheus, being named ‘forethought’, is privy to many great and secret prophecies, and in the Aeschylus plays it becomes apparent that Prometheus possesses the secret name of that person who will overthrow Zeus as Zeus once overthrew Cronus. Time and time again, Prometheus is compared unfavorably with Zeus, taking the role of trickster and becoming bound to matter as a result. The final Aeschylus play, in which Prometheus returns to Olympus and reunites with Zeus, has been lost; a compelling symbol, I think, to encourage us to free the Prometheus within ourselves, that he might bring us to Olympus and we together can come to terms with the heavenly father which put us here. Though we will doubtless explore the play Prometheus Bound in a future essay, I will leave you with the plea good Prometheus cries to his visitors, the daughters of Oceanos, that they consider Zeus is not himself without his unreasonable motivations: “You see me a captive, a god ill-fated, Zeus’ enemy, one grown hateful to everyone of the gods who enters Zeus’s palace, because of my excessive kindness to men.”


Hermes, the god of messengers, is the figure sent by Zeus to extract from Prometheus the secret of the prophecy he holds in Prometheus Bound, and so it is appropriate that Hermes should emerge the next, and is indeed known to many as the primary carrier of, the archetype of the Spirit. Among the earliest and most compelling Hermes myths is that which describes his theft of his brother’s cattle. The story ends in an exchange between Apollo, the sun-god, and Hermes; Hermes gives his brother a lyre crafted from tortoise shell, and Apollo gives his brother a rod, the caduceus, by which he might guide the herds. The classic, of course, and the Spirit which named the archetype, Mercurius was himself derived from Hermes and thus shares many similar components. For this reason I will refrain from delving overmuch into either figure, for both are fairly well-known in most alchemical and occult circles, and I would refer the under-informed reader to Jung’s collected works volumes 9.1, 13 and 14, specifically his Spirit Mercurius essay found in volume 13.

Interestingly, Hermes is also considered to be related to the number 4, which is his sacred number; Enki the previously-mentioned Sumerian deity, is oft symbolized by the ideogram for 40, which is considered a sacred number as well. This symbol of the quaternity—indeed, a numerical cross—is a number of considerable value and power to a magician, far and exceeding the number 3.



Yes, I’ve gone and said it.

Well, let’s stop and think about it for a moment. Moses, this displaced prince with staff in-hand, leads, like the spirit of life, the Jews from the Pharaoh’s desert, across the Red Sea, and into Yahweh’s promised land. There, like Enki, he gives water to the thirsty by hitting a rock (an act which Yahweh notably resents having to accomplish). Also, in a manner similar to Prometheus, we see a relation to fire in the form of the meeting with the burning bush, and how this meeting leads to the both the punishment of man and pharaoh alike in the form of the ten plagues, the freeing of man, and to the spiritual figure of Moses giving men the Ten Commandments. I wanted to give you the Hebrew and Judeo-Christian mythology after the mention of Greek mythology simply so that the parallels between the figures of Moses and Hermes would be more self-evident. One will also note that traditional belief held that Moses wrote the original books of the Torah, making him, like Metatron, a scribe of God, and intertwining him further with the idea of writing and language.


The most prominent example of the chthonic Spirit Mercurius in Judeo-Christian mythology is, by far, Samael. Though the term ‘Lucifer’ is naught but a title, ‘light-bringer’, which is a term initially applied to the star Venus and then to Christ in the Bible in his role as the morning star, and only in later theology does it become related to the Devil— though it might be said that Venus is little more than the feminine aspect of Mercury, both figures presenting together in the Hermaphrodite, but that is also an essay unto itself—the fact still remains that something about the title has seemed unconsciously suited to the archetype of the chthonic spirit, enough that ‘Lucifer’ has, in the common tongue, become a name for the devil for as long or longer than they’ve been reading Dante. An especially poignant name, in light of our earlier touching on Prometheus, who brought fire to man! Because of the nature of the term, though, and the morning star’s ambiguous application to both Christ and the Devil, it is better to refer to the chthonic archetype in its Judeo-Christian appearance as ‘Samael’.

I’d also like to be careful here because ‘Samael’ is also taken as the name of the demiurge in some texts, and though it is possible to see the spirit of Samael displace that of Ialdaboath as the demiurge if the occultist who invokes him is weak-minded and proceeds to pay worship to him, Samael is really originally just another name by which the archetype presents itself. Seducer and accuser of man, Samael is beloved of Yahweh despite his wish that men should do evil (and remember what William Blake said about evil, now— evil is naught but energy.) He takes Moses’ soul, notably, and also is mentioned as the guardian angel of the wicked idolater Esau, who is drawn to material and idolatrous things. Much as the Spirit Mercurius is described as being as poisonous as he is restorative, Samael is described routinely as the “venom of God” and, as both God’s wrath and the spirit of death, is tightly associated with the snake.


Though of course there are those who relate Samael to the Serpent in the Garden, this is only because they are comparable manifestations of the same archetype. It can, then, indeed be said that Samael is the Serpent, but only if one is also willing to call him everything else which we are listing here— I am quite certain that, ironically, the group of people who would have the easiest time doing such a thing would be fundamentalist Christians who see the occult in everything and ignore its pleas for them to awaken. Those who view these matters with a skeptical eye may find the idea of relation between the Serpent and Samael dubious at best, but it is, again, not a matter of a literal equivalence: it is as if the same shadowy figure played out both characters, not as if an angel literally transformed himself into a snake.

Although anyone who was born or at any point exposed to Western culture is at least vaguely familiar with the story of the Garden of Eden, there are a few interesting points to make. Again, as described in other stories, the Serpent is, essentially, the keeper of knowledge: he is aware of the true nature of the tree of which he bids Eve eat, and indeed promises that in eating of the fruit of the tree, Eve and Adam will become as gods. As per usual, it is the unjust rage of Yahweh which results in the punishment of both man and chthonic archetype: once whining Adam has pushed the entirety of blame upon his wife, we see women punished by the violence of childbearing, and Serpent punished by being forced to ever crawl upon his belly in the dirt— like Prometheus bound to the rock, like the Dragon cast down to the earth, he is condemned to suffer beneath the psychological gravity of taboo until given once more his legs, perhaps by being carried about by one of those whom he was once so keen to help.

Those who also delve deep into the symbols of gnosticism may also view this myth with fresh eyes to see—or, perhaps more appropriately, feel in an intangible way—the similarities to the story of Sophia’s creation of the demiurge; those who recall the previous essay in this series may also feel similarities in this story to the descent of the Woman Clothed With the Sun. There is a ghostly thread of kinship which runs between these tales and others, because they are all telling you the same thing.


The god of violence, storms, and disorder, Set was an variously important and derided part of the Egyptian pantheon, primarily due to his association with foreigners and the multitude of problems they caused. His role as lord of the red desert balances Horus’ role as lord of the black soil, and following the dismemberment of Osiris, Set and Horus are depicted in many myths together. In one particularly notable myth, Set and Horus engage in racing stone boats, an image which recalls at once the archetype of the chariot, and recalls also the symbol of a statue or stone which is animated by Spirit, important in many creation myths. Although it is true that Set, being a usurper and displaced ruler, bears more resemblance to the Source than the Beast, the nature of the character as a redeemed villain who protects the solar boat from the serpent of chaos places him into a more mercurial role and gives him an opportunity to cover those portions of the archetype which Thoth does not.

Unlike Set, Thoth is morally neutral: rather than being associated with good or evil, he is decidedly neither, simply responsible for making sure that neither gets a particular hand over the other. As the scribe of the gods, he developed the alphabet, and, notably, Thoth is self-begotten and self-produced, much as the Spirit Mercurius is that which guides its own creation. It was with Thoth’s words that the gods were able to exist at all, and, like Prometheus, Enki and others, he is responsible for the creation of all earthly arts and sciences, writing, and magic. Thoth lurks behind the Egyptian pantheon as a well-known presentation of the neutral Mercurial figure, the sort who is a truly neutral ‘animating force’ represented by the god’s relationship with the Word. This is as good a time as any to point out to those of you who may not considered it before that there is a distinct causal connection between the development of language, memory and culture. Were it not for the power of the Word to program our brains, we would have no structure upon which to cultivate our experience of being, and would not have come nearly so far as a species.



Here’s a lesser-discussed one, at least to my mind. The very interesting thing about Japanese mythology is that the nature of the sun and moon are reversed: here, Amaterasu is the goddess of the sun, and Tuskuyomi is the god of the Moon, both having been born of the god Izanagi, when he washed his face clean of the pollutants of the underworld after his failed retrieval of his wife— that is to say, they are revealed when the King Consciousness washes himself free of the muck and bile of the nigrido, the sun from his left eye, the moon from his right eye. But the most significant figure to this essay produced from this act of cleansing is the third, mercurial sibling, the god Susanoo, who is the Shinto god of the sea and storms, produced by Izanagi’s washing of his nose. Of particular detail in most Japanese myths is the rivalry between Susanoo and Amaterasu, which covers not only the same process of psychological and alchemical individuation perpetuated in many Western myths, but also gives us a number of very interesting and readily apparent parallels to Western folklore, such as the prevalence of the number 7 forming a set which is then completed by the number 8, the hidden sun or fire which must be retrieved, etc.

Notably, all of this starts with Izanagi ordering Susanoo to leave heaven to begin with, already indicating that Susanoo will be an earth-bound Luciferian deity regardless of the direction in which the myth will proceed. Before leaving, he went to bid Amaterasu good-bye, and to prove his sincerity, they exchanged objects and created gods and goddesses from them. From Susanoo’s sword, Amaterasu birthed three women, and meanwhile Susanoo birthed five men from her necklace. Amaterasu claimed the five men, since they came from her necklace, and as a result Susanoo accepted the three women; both gods declared themselves the winner of the competition, and in the ensuing campaign to prove his rightness, Susanoo at last threw a half-flayed pony into the goddess’ weaving room and killed her attendant in the process. Grieving and furious, the sun goddess sealed herself in a cave, and must be lured out by the dancing and revelry of the goddess of merriment. This goddess, Uzume, hangs a bronze (a tin/copper alloy[1]) mirror upon a tree across from the cave in which Amaterasu has sealed herself, and proceeds, then, to dance so wildly and, eventually, nakedly, that the laughter of the male gods and the revelry of the music causes her to peek from the cave. As a result, she becomes dazzled by her own reflection in the bronze mirror, and is pulled from the cave by a god of strength while another seals it shut with a sacred rope.

What is most interesting with this myth is that in it we see the spirit Mercurius has already been banished from heaven when it begins: ‘I Am’ has already told him to leave, and so the archetype goes to visit his sister, consciousness, and it is as a result of their siblings’ quarrel that the Spirit is responsible for the hiding of, and thus, the revelation of, his sister. Amaterasu, after all, could not be revealed if she had never been sent into hiding! If the Woman Clothed With the Sun was not threatened with the Dragon, she would not escape into the wilderness, etc. The parallels become vivid and undeniable and point to a discernible and exceedingly universal psychological experience which each human being is capable of having firsthand.

Cast out of heaven, then, Susanoo meets an elderly couple whose 7 daughters have been devoured by the eight-headed and eight-tailed dragon Yamata-no-Orochi, leaving only their 8th daughter, the goddess of rice paddies. Susanoo agrees to help them in exchange for the hand of their daughter in marriage, and they of course agree; so, Susanoo then transforms the daughter into a comb, sets her in his hair and proceeds to order a fence built around the house, in which eight gates shall be outfitted with eight tables with eight casks of eight-times brewed sake, of which Orochi is helpless but to partake. While the drunken dragon is sound asleep, Susanoo brutally butchers it with his sword, cutting it into pieces and, upon reaching its tail, revealing a magical sword later to be given to Amaterasu. The entirety of this story forms an alchemical operation which is perhaps one of the most perfectly-described and unique alchemical operations I have seen depicted.


This is definitely a case where I’d like to explore multiple aspects of the Mercurial Spirit as it presents itself in a culture, if only because it provides a subtle but interesting example of the universality of these symbols. Jung postulated that the appearance of animals in the psyche, myths and dreams tends to represent principles which have not yet achieved full consciousness; an incompleted thought, if you will, or one not yet clarified. The more primitive version of the Navajo Mercurius, then, which also bears the strongest resemblance to Prometheus in terms of initiating events but the greatest variety of bleakly feral tendencies, is Coyote, whereas the ‘completed’ and fully humanized form of the archetype represents itself in Tó Neinilii. Both, notably, were gods of rain.

Much like the Wise Old Man, the Coyote is contradictory, alternately cheerily helpful or abjectly terrifying. In Navajo Mythology, he is involved in a creation myth where, again, due to the interloping of the first woman, he is responsible for the theft of the children of water buffalo and thus responsible for the propelling of the man and woman into the next world, the next phase of incarnation. Likewise, a more popular Native American creation myth explaining the acquisition of fire and of consciousness describes Coyote taking pity on humans, who had no means to survive the winter on their own without freezing to death; through many trials and tribulations, he manages to acquire fire from three Fire Beings which live upon a mountaintop. Yet other myths describe Coyote as being rather senslessly evil and receiving no punishment for it; after tricking Changing Bear into marrying him, having sex with him and making her evil, he incites her to find and kill her brothers. This story is another fantastic example of a very pure alchemical operation as depicted, and involves, like so very many stories of its ilk, the troublesome bride, the endangered child, and the tormented death and dispersal of the Mercurial spirit, which, incidentally, is noted upon its death to have a coat decorated with many colors. The spirit is dispersed specifically in four colors and four directions, and Changing Bear must also search in four directions to kill her four older brothers before she is able to try to find her fifth, youngest brother, himself hidden beneath the earth.

Tó Neinilii, meanwhile, the Navajo rain god, is likewise a trickster god, commonly depicted in myths and tribal dance as a fool. He carries in his arms a pot of water, much akin to Mercurius in his role as bringer of water. It was he who saved the first Navajo from a great water monster, and in fact he represents the more thoroughly neutral aspect of Mercurius, for now that he has been more completely assimilated into consciousness as represented by his human form, he has become more understood and less fearful in aspect. That is not to say he is not still a trickster, and that is not to say he is entirely trustworthy, but the fact remains that the light cast upon him has humanized the Spirit enough that his tricks are described as generally harmless, or for the greater good. It may also be, in part, a matter of the approach and attitude of a given people or person towards the Spirit: those who would view it as a fearful entity will find it expressing its most fearful aspects, just as those who would view it as a helpful entity will find it expressing its most helpful aspects. This is true of the Spirit, just as it is of the world around.


Synonymous with skill in writing and language, Anansi appears as a spider or arachnid-featured man and is indeed credited with the acquisition of all stories from the sky god, who keeps them to himself at a high price. To acquire them, Anansi must capture a mythical python, a magical leopard, and monstrous hornets, which he does through trickery, as per usual. (This is, of course, an interesting metaphor for the individuation process in and of itself, and could be described as fifth-circuit Anansi’s overcoming of first the first-circuit, reptile brain; then the second-circuit, mammalian brain; and finally the hyper-rationalist, insectoid third-circuit brain.) As a result of his conquest, Anansi becomes the god of all stories. He is also, again, on accident, responsible for the dispersal of wisdom to all mankind, having, like Enki, been forced into this act by a child: in this case, it is not the titillation of blossoming Inanna which results in the loss of the Me, but rather the witty observation of Anansi’s son, who points out to his frustrated father that, if he wants to climb the tree to put his pot of wisdom atop, as he’s been struggling to for such a long time, he’d ought to climb the tree with the pot tied to his back, rather than to his front. This revelation, and, indeed, this psychologically significant correction of the Mercurial spirit at the hands of his own child, is the cause of Anansi’s slipping grip, and as a result the pot breaks and distributes wisdom to all mankind. He is also at times responsible for the creation of the sun, moon, and stars, and the creation of agriculture.



Not only does Loki famously sire the world serpent, the wolf and the woman Hel (representing, like the Anansi myth, a gradual increase in consciousness from the undeveloped unconsciousness of Carl Sagan’s reptile brain, to warm-blooded mammalian ‘animal’ instincts which are still unconscious, to human consciousness/awareness of mortality and time-binding as implied by Hel), he also gives birth in the form of a mare to an eight-legged horse which serves as Odin’s steed. Like Prometheus, he is bound to a rock and assaulted by an animal; in this case, Loki is protected by his wife, who collects the venom of the serpent lurking above him in her bowl, though she must occasionally empty the bowl and this results in Loki’s brief periods of agony. This is his punishment for the murder of Baldur, the second son of Odin, and a young man who is said to be so fair of features that light shines from him. Bladur, we are told, will be reborn in the new world; his death, as it happens, was the catalyst for the cycle of events which will lead to Ragnarok and the necessary renewal. Much as ‘Revelations’ is but a veiled story designed to trigger the individuation process, so is Ragnarok a description of the Norse psyche renewing itself, and thus, Baldur takes up the form of the risen/renewed Son.

It should also be noted that, interestingly, it is not Loki who kills Baldur directly, but rather Baldur’s blind brother, Hoor. This happens because both Baldur and his mother, Frigg, have a prophetic dream regarding the boy’s death, and Frigg forces all objects to swear that they will not kill her son, which all do except for mistletoe. Frigg believes this is because the plant is too young to swear, but it matters not the reason, for Loki, feeling mischievous, constructs a spear of the plant and finds the gods where they are engaging in the fun hobby of hurling objects at Baldur and observing how he cannot be hurt by them. Loki hands the blind Hoor the spear, then, and Hoor thus kills his brother, and the blind boy is killed in return for the murder.

Much as other mythologies, Norse mythology splits the aspects of the Spirit Mercurius, and it is to Odin that the other aspects go; appropriate, since Loki so often finds himself in conflict with Odin and his children! Among other myths, Odin is said to have hung himself from the world tree until the runes came to him; he is also said to have sacrificed one of his eyes for wisdom and the mead of poetic inspiration.


Did you think we were finished! But I wanted to give you a very serious something to chew on about Greek mythology, assuming these parallels haven’t crossed your mind already. Looking back on our diagrams, we see that the demiurge, like the other aspects of the quaternity, represents itself in two ways: chthonic, and holy. Ialdaboath, and Yahweh. How do these two aspects play out in Greek myth?

The first and most prominent appearance of Yahweh in Greek mythology is in the form of Cronus, who swallows all the other gods upon hearing he will be overthrown by one of his children, but, due to the craftiness of his wife, Rhea, swallows a rock instead of Zeus, who then rises up to avenge his brothers and sisters and free them, well and alive, from the belly of the senex. But, of course, in defeating the god who the Romans will call ‘Saturn’, an entity in which chthonic and holy archetypes are merged, Zeus only serves to displace him, essentially becoming the new face of the demiurge by oppressing the chthonic aspect and mocking it, rather than striving for a balance with it. The holy archetype displaces the chthonic archetype without respect for their similarities; the archetype of consciousness annihilates the archetype of unconsciousness without giving credit to the fact that it, too, is an archetype of the unconscious. This is the root of the deep conflict between Zeus and Prometheus, just as it is the root of Zeus’ conflict with the titans to begin with. Previously having had a Wotan/Christ role of serving as the archetype of the light Son who liberates from the darkness, over time, the cultural consciousness developed and the role of Zeus became stagnating and oppressive to the psyche. Archetypes must be renewed over the course of a culture’s development.

Meanwhile, on the opposing side of the demiurge’s appearance, we see the arrival of Ialdaboath in the form of Typhon, who, readers versed in true gnostic understanding of the plight of Sophia in the creation of her abortion will note, is born in a similar fashion to Ialdaboath, whose name means ‘Child of Chaos’: like Sophia, who creates the demiurge in some trains of thought by attempting to emanate on her own, without her syzygy, Hera in some way produces Typhon herself, either by slapping the ground in fury or, notably, with the aid of Cronus, who gives her a pair of semen-covered eggs. Either way, Typhon, a beast of the earth and Dweller of the Cilician Caves, is describes as being particularly horrific, noted for the snake coils around his thighs, his great wings, his flaming head and indeed often multiple heads, and a retinue of noises which includes roaring. This is not dissimilar to depictions of Ialdaboath, who is often described as a lion-headed snake with wings.

The demiurge, never being wholly defeated, will always manifest itself again in a new figure; for, as consciousness ever renews itself, it ever finds new monsters with which to make battle. But so, too, does the light-bringer ever renew himself, managing to change his shape as soon as the opposition has dared lay hands upon him. When the archetypes grow weary of their present figures, the figures must find renewal; and it is in the growing generation of writers, artists, musicians and directors by which they will find it. We have no choice in the matter, after all; history has made that much very clear.

Though these explored connections are fairly common trains of thought and have certainly been explored before, it seems like there are no handy and intelligible guide for the curious occultist, who could use this information more than your average folklorist. It is also important that anyone interested in proceeding further into studies of the occult, and, indeed, of the work one might do with the archetype of the Devil, have a thorough and deep understanding of not only the similarities described between the characters here, but also a deep understanding of the intimate connection between the imagination and reality, between the psyche and the flesh, between the mind and the soul. Jung spent an entire career claiming, despite his gnostic masterpiece, The Red Book, that he was not a mystic; that is because he was given no choice by the climate in which he worked. The fact of the matter is that there is no difference between a proficient psychiatrist, a divinely inspired artist, a genius-savant of a scientist, and a cave-bound mystic, save, except, for the matter of articulation. All roads lead to Rome, truly. Now that we have covered the manifestations of the archetype of the Spirit in its more chthonic and neutral aspects and we can see a little better what qualities overlap throughout these many characters, we can move on to next week’s survey of working with the archetype on a personal level, the alchemical principles of writing, and how these two knowledge bases can come together and result in an opportunity the likes of which most people think to be only in the realm of fiction: I’m going to talk to you about how to make a deal with the Devil.

M.F. Sullivan, author of DELILAH, MY WOMAN is presently hard at work at the psychedelic follow-up, ALBEDO. Check back for the next in this series of essays on 7/5/16, and click here to buy DELILAH, MY WOMAN in the meantime.

[1] In terms of planetary alchemical metals, much as Mercurius is represented by mercury, Saturn by lead, etc., Tin is typically associated with Jupiter and Copper with Venus, thus implying that the mirror in which Amaterasu is dazzled by her own reflection is a combination of ‘masculine’ consciousness and ‘feminine’ or emotional matter—that is to say, the mirror is the ego of the person engaging in the individuation process, the person for whom Amaterasu represents Regal Consciousness.

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