miércoles, 30 de marzo de 2016

NEEDFUL THINGS, OTHELLO, AND RAGA

When I hit puberty, I became acquainted with Stephen King (among other fictions) for the first time. And the first book that interested me, and that I saw the film of on TV, was Needful Things, the first novel King wrote after going through rehab.
The title of the novel comes from the name of the shop that the (ostensibly) charming yet (actually) sinister stranger Leland Gaunt opens and runs within the quaint, idyllic New England village of Castle Rock (doesn't the name of the place recall the fortress setting of Othello?). The shop, yes, is called Needful Things, and Mr. Gaunt sells anything his customers are looking for (from books or CDs to, let's say, drugs, or sacred relics!) at surprisingly low prices. However, Gaunt expects every single customer to, in exchange for the goods, play a prank on someone else in Castle Rock. Knowing the power dynamics within the community, the shopkeeper expects the practical jokes to escalate and lead to feuds between the various local households, towards utter chaos and violence. And so it happens. Exactly as Mr. Gaunt expected. To add insult to injury, he manages to escape in the heat of the turmoil and set up another shop, called Answered Prayers, in another village in another New England state: just like the Thénardiers, Leland Gaunt thrives and manages to escape every sanction that the laws may impose on him, not regretting anything at all. It is implied that he has followed this MO of granting wishes to sow discord and unreason, and harvest souls, for centuries, maybe millennia, gathering souls in exchange for the things their victims want the most.
My father explained to me his headcanon that Gaunt was Satan incarnate.
As I lay reading essays and thinking of how Iago exploits the desires of others (pretty much like the prototypical "little red demon on your left shoulder"), I thought of Leland Gaunt. Like the shopkeeper, Iago is ostensibly charming, loyal, or concerned, yet always sinister at heart, sowing discord and unreason by offering his victims what they hope for or desire the most. Of course Iago sells "needful things" as well...
Indeed, one of the unique characterististics of Othello is that the final action of the play is so little the result of previous actions, and so much the consequence of changes in opinion wrought in the characters during the play. And perhaps the best way to see what these opinions are is through the activities of Iago. Iago is a villain, no doubt; but his villainy is not shallow; he has a clear grasp of what is most important to everyone (with the possible exception of Emilia), and he acts on all the persons only through their own opinions. In each case, the individual can be justly regarded as responsible for his own troubles; Iago only precipitates something that was already there. He works like a confidence man; only the quality intrinsic to the one he tempts enables him to succeed. He is a faithful mirror of all around him; he adapts himself to those with whom he speaks. In a sense, we would not know the other characters in the play without Iago. We would see them only as they appear in ordinary life, without penetrating the masks that conceal their real natures. Iago alone lets us know from the outset those weaknesses in others that would otherwise stand unrevealed until the crises of their lives. Iago shows the hidden necessity in men, the things they care about most; he has a diabolic insight. He offers men what they hope for, and, in so doing, he causes their characters to undergo the extreme test. For example, it is possible that Roderigo might have forgotten Desdemona and married someone else. But in appealing to Roderigo's defeated suit, in offering him hope, Iago makes him display his petty and absurd nature, full of spite and envy, capable of extreme folly and crime in a spirit of innocent stupidity. Roderigo is such a fool as thinks he can buy the favors of a queen. Iago is only the catalyst of Roderigo's folly. If Roderigo had not come to ruin, his salvation would have been sheer accident. Now, Iago proposes as his supreme task to encompass the downfall of Othello; and it is through Iago's actions and speech that we can see his catalytic agency upon Othello, and thereby see the necessity which shapes the tragic end. 

In last year's blog advent calendar, I wrote about wishes and weakness for a long time:

"The Stoics, enemies of the Epicureans and a great influence on totalitarianisms, said there were four passions to be shunned, and I think the strongest, and my personal favourite, is desire, also called hope. To me, it has got a power that neither joy, grief, nor fear possess. Desire, also known as hope, is the expectation of a future good, the wish for a future good. It can move mountains, start wars, lead to a signature at Runnymede, or to a victory at Breitenfeld, make an unusually intelligent princess meet her intellectual equal and become his partner, but also make a resented non-com betray the young lieutenant who "usurped" his commission. Yes, desire packs the most potent punch of all four passions, and it is also the source of positive emotions... but of disappointment, regret, ennui, fear of the inner emptiness... as well.
But... can a person bereft of emotions and passions be truly virtuous, or an empty shell?"

And I wrapped that essay up with these words:
"To wrap it up, let's reflect on the Tale of the Three Brothers, compiled by Beedle the Bard. As you may know, Death grants each of the titular bros a wish. One chooses invincibility, another chooses resurrection of a loved one, while the third one, who had been ruminating his wish the most, opts for something that will let him escape Death: the Reaper gives him his own invisible cloak. While the two more impulsive brothers, who made irrational wishes thinking only of the short-term effects, died untimely and violent deaths, the third one lived to a ripe old age. Many few people make such sensible wishes: desire is a passion, and thus, usually beyond the limits of reason. Most of us make irrational wishes on impulse and thinking only of instant gratification, as seen in Othello and The Rape of the Lock, the Westeros 'verse and Doki!Doki PrecureZenkiShugo Chara Doki!, and the tales compiled by Beedle the Bard, the Tale of the Three Brothers being the clearest and most extreme example."
We should also add Needful Things and Miraculous Ladybug to this list of narratives, as well as many seasons of Kamen Rider. And Yu-Gi-Oh ZeXal. And the Evillious Chronicles. That makes a whole catalogue of fiction about the pernicious effects of desires. Your Heart's Desire, More Than Mind Control, and The Heartless are among my favourite tropes for a good reason.

In Buddhism, the tempter demon who personifies unwholesome impulses and passions is known as Kama-Mara: Desire-Death. Desire leading to Death, the life-drive and the death-drive as being two halves of a whole, eros kái thánatos. Kama-Mara has three "daughters" or offshoots: Attraction, Aversion, and Attachment. The Attraction, whose original name (tanhä) literally means "thirst," is the desire to hold on to pleasurable experiences and be separated from unpleasant ones. In itself, it can be classified into three kinds:
1) desire for sensory pleasures, power, ideals... (life-drive for pleasant experiences),
2) desire for identity and security (life-drive for the self to exist),
3) desire to escape suffering (death-drive, for escape from negativity).
It's non-deliberate, unsatisfactory, and addictive, hence why it is traditionally symbolized by (ethyl) intoxication, the metaphor that most conveniently embodies all of these aspects.
Desire [i.e. taṇhā] causes suffering by its own nature because it is inherently unsatisfactory. Desire means deprivation. To want something is to lack it, to be deprived of it. We do not want things we have, we only want things we don't have. Desiring means not having, being frustrated, suffering. Desiring is suffering. This is a most important insight, one which we drive into secrecy by our refusal to acknowledge it, thus creating the esoteric knowledge we then seek.
The Attachment, raga or "passion," attachment or desire for what we like, which produces frustration, is, for being grasping, traditionally compared to a so-called sticky trap, such as (to quote the most famous example of one in Western culture) the Tar Baby in Southern US lore: Brer Fox makes this dummy out of tar and attempts to use it to trap Brer Rabbit. Offended by the Tar Baby's ostensible lack of manners, the Rabbit tries to punch the sticky stranger, only to get his left paw stuck in the tar figure. Trying to free himself with the right paw he has free, he subsequently gets his right paw stick into the tar as well. Then, Brer Rabbit tries to free himself with his feet, first the left and then the right: all four of his limbs get, one by one, stuck in the tar trap at the end of the day (Also: in Spain, the tar baby or "muñeco de brea" is a popular folk motif). The tar baby stories refer to problems worsened by intervention. 
Raga is described as being sticky and absorbing, grasping like the tar baby of folklore. It's part of human nature, irrational, and indelible... psychological, yet more primordial and inextricable than reason:
When we experience something like chocolate, for example, as pleasant, we a establish a neuronal connection that equates chocolate with the physical sensation of enjoyment. This is not to say that chocolate in itself is a good or bad thing. There are lots of chemicals in chocolate that create a physical sensation of pleasure. It’s our neuronal attachment to chocolate that creates problems.
The same thing about chocolate can be said for ethanol, or sweets, or fat, or bright colours, or cuteness, or love, or power, or excitement. All seven deadly sins are inherently various forms of raga, which arise from different self-preservation, social, and sexual concerns:
  1. Pride is, at heart, self-esteem, being pleased with one's own status, taken to the extreme.
  2. Envy is a useful tool for comparing one's own status to that of others, and it drives one to surpass others, and thus to rise, in status.
  3. Anger is the fight half of the fight-or-flight reaction, meant to impose on enemies and to defend one's own rights and possessions.
  4. Laziness, or rather apathy, is just the state of mind when one is in a no-mood without any emotions and just needs to relax after too many passions and too much pressure.
  5. Greed is just raising one's number of possessions for extra security. For being extra secured.
  6. Gluttony is just like greed but applied to consumption of substances: overfeeding for extra security. For being extra secured.
  7. Lust is love of the erotic kind that has grown too passionate and beyond the lover's control.
Raga is (together with ignorance and hatred) considered one of the three poisons that cause suffering in the Buddhist tradition (at least, there are three in the mainstream: other traditions, with five or six poisons, also count raga in their ranks), and, likewise, the deadly sins top the charts of human weaknesses in the Judeo-Christian Western tradition.
The Japanese names of some of the Catholic deadly sins (greed and lust, to be more precise) end with the kanji  yoku, "desire," the Japanese equivalent of the Sanskrit raga. This is interesting indeed, showing a confluence/convergence of Western and Eastern hamartiology.
A key offshoot of raga is restlessness or excitement, a mental factor characterised by disquietude, like rippling waters or a fluttering flag. The reason why I dwell upon it is obvious:
Restlessness (or agitation) has the characteristic of disquietude, like water whipped by the wind. Its function is to make the mind unsteady, as the wind makes a banner ripple. It is manifested as turmoil. Its proximate cause is unwise attention to mental disquiet.
It has mental excitement as characteristic like wind-tossed water; wavering as function, like a flag waving in the wind; whirling as manifestation like scattered ashes struck by a stone; unsystematic thought owing to mental excitement as proximate cause; and it should be regarded as mental distraction over an object of excitement.
The commentaries illustrate with similes that when there is uddhacca, there is no steadiness, there is not the stable condition, the calm, of kusala. When there is uddhacca there is forgetfulness of kusala, whereas when there is mindfulness, sati, there is watchfulness, non-forgetfulness of kusala, be it generosity, morality, the development of calm or insight. Mindfulness is watchful so that the opportunity for kusala is not wasted.
What is auddhatya? It is restlessness of mind which is associated with passion-lust (raga) that gets involved with things considered to he enjoyable. Its function is to obstruct quietness.
Excitement is the fascination with an attractive object and belongs to the category of desire. It is a mental incapacity due to the mind moving towards an object, and it causes restlessness. It is a hindrance to calm abiding.
Flightiness of mind (rgod-pa) is a part of longing desire (raga). It is the subsidiary awareness that causes our attention to fly off from its object and to recollect or think about something attractive that we have previously experienced instead. Thus, it causes us to lose our peace of mind.
Excitation is a technical term that specially pertains to meditation: The mind is agitated because it is drawn away compulsively to some object of desire.
Every psychopath, be it Iago, Mr. Gaunt, or whoever it might be, is a master at recognizing this sensation in others and playing upon it. And so are less sinister manipulators, such as the publicist psychologists behind advertising. Restlessness, or excitement, is one of the so-called universal unwholesome mental factors, yet it is deeply rooted within our limbic systems. 
In the present-day Western culture of the Age of Information, raga is the leading keystone and the leading catalyst. Whether publicists or psychopaths, many clever people are sowing seeds of desires in our minds, hearts, or rather limbic systems. Like the messenger in the Forged Letters episode of the Constance saga, or like Iago's victims, or like the villains of the week in Doki!Doki PrecureZenkiShugo Chara Doki!, Miraculous LadybugYu-Gi-Oh ZeXal, and many a season of Kamen Rider, like the two foolish of Beedle's Three Brothers or the residents of Castle Rock, we in real life are prone to be waylaid and walk down the sinister primrose path. The key message in all of these plots is that we humans are weak or flawed, endowed with the potential to do wrong, even if our intentions are good.
We have already mentioned women's immunity to Iago's tricks. Add his mastery of disappointment as a catalyst for his victims' actions. And the way he "grants wishes": granting the wishes of the male cast when he is near (in Dokidoki Precure, most of the victims of the week, whose hearts are corrupted, are significantly male as well, the corrupter also being male, and pitted against an all-female heroine team which purifies the victims and seals the immortal corrupter away!), the wishes backfiring and shattering the lives of those who made them. Does Iago grant wishes to have his own wishes granted? Of course.
I see Iago as a more or less chaotic neutral, leaning on chaotic evil character, a personification of unreason not unlike the Norse Loki, the Spanish Don Carnal, or the Lord of Misrule. Or the Devil on Tarot (arcane XV), which represents the pulsions of the id, passions, unreason beyond good and evil. The keywords are all there: "Chaos is come again". Not evil in a demonic sense, yet a tempter and a trickster who temporarily disrupts and revolutionizes the social order, before and during his own reign as de facto governor, by granting wishes at a great price... but for which reason? There is the lieutenancy mentioned... but is this actually for no reason, Iago's character being unreason (the unreason of wish-making, of intoxication, of insecurity, of paranoia, of passion...) incarnate itself? Mind that his name means "usurper", which, in a story where identity, and the loss of it, are the central themes, is the key word to it all...

Careful the wish you make,
wishes are children.
Careful the path they take,
wishes come true,
not free.
Careful the spell you cast,
not just on children.
Sometimes the spell may last
past what you can see
and turn against you...


After all, this is an unusual play, in which women act and speak their minds, in which military men are insecure and desperate figures losing power at lightning speed, in which chaos is a ladder to a strange fellow who walks about at daylight and moonlight granting wishes at the price of disappointment and regret... The keywords are all there: "Chaos is come again".
Nothing unusual from our own point of view, compared to that of the original Stuart-era audience. Othello is as subversive and as attractive as Game of Thrones for exactly the same reasons. And we hope that our friends in Westeros survive, most of them, their ordeal.
Though the Cypriot fort of Othello is closer to our present-day universe than Westeros is. It's also an huis clos, ie a secluded space, a community crowded within narrow walls (to quote Lew Wallace), far more claustrophobic and easier to map (and thus, to follow the characters within this reduced space) than the thousands of kilometres from Dorne to Winterfell and beyond the Wall. In fact, the setting of Othello is closer to the concept of Noble Academy or Hogwarts. A military encampment with claustrophobic confines, where emotions and power play, with a far more economic cast and space-time frame than in Westeros, are equally intense, and seem even more because they are here concentrated rather than scattered. And a lieutenant's commission can be as wanted and as fought for as the Iron Throne, though at a lower scale.
Do all of these Your Heart's Desire fictions (Othello and The Rape of the Lock, the Westeros 'verse and Doki!Doki PrecureZenkiShugo Chara Doki!, and the tales compiled by Beedle the Bard, the Tale of the Three Brothers being the clearest and most extreme example; Needful Things and Miraculous Ladybug as well as many seasons of Kamen Rider; and the Evillious Chronicles) explore the concepts of kama, tanhä, and raga? Indeed. To me, a seeker of fulfilment, a Seven in terms of the Enneagram, the theme is attractive because it strikes a chord within me.


You may never understand
how the stranger is inspired,
but he isn't always evil
and he isn't always wrong...
Though you drown in good intentions,
you will never quench the fire:
You'll give in to your desire

when the stranger comes along.

Check out this analysis of an advert that equates the right with the norm and life/the left with deviance and death here: http://darksidesubliminal.blogspot.com.es/p/youve-reached-crossroads-in-yourjourney.html#.VvKldVLAq9w

"Alright, this is how evil works. This is why evil loves free will so much. Because humans use it to follow their hearts. And evil takes advantage of that."

Our hearts are, significantly, turned towards the left side (unless we have dextrocardia). Perchance this is the reason why the primrose path is the one most travelled by...


POST SCRIPTUM - SYMBOLISM AND CONSUMERISM
or
THE MASTER OF THE SHIP (GESTA, CHAPTER 101): A PREDECESSOR OF LELAND GAUNT'S
5th of June, 2016

Un navío de mercancías y de paños preciosos había llegado al puerto. Cuando ella se enteró, envió a su servidor para que se informara si la mercancía podía convenirle. Éste regresó efectivamente del barco con todo lo que le gustó.
El capitán del navío, que vino con el ladrón un momento, fue tan maravillado por los ojos de la Emperatriz, que le daría de buena gana todo su cargamento, si ella aceptara acostarse con él. No obstante, el marinero le escondió sus verdaderos sentimientos. Como tampoco obtuvo lo que quiso de ella, se marchó. El segundo día, la señora volvió a enviar de compras a su servidor a la nave, pero esta vez, el capitán llegó a un convenio con él:
—Mi caro amigo, te daré toda la mercancía que quieras, si consigues traerme a tu señora y hacer que se suba al barco, ya que la quiero mucho; cuando haya entrado, tú saldrás.
—Entrégame una recompensa que me guste y te prometo que haré ingresar a mi ama en tu navío. Pero haz de ella lo que quieras solamente una vez adentro.
El marinero le aflojó entonces más de lo que él requería. El servidor fue luego junto a su señora y le dijo: —Mi querida ama, el capitán no quiere separarse de sus paños ni de sus ornamentos fuera de su barco. A no ser que subas tú personalmente a bordo, como te lo pide insistentemente, no te venderá nada. La Emperatriz, que desconocía por completo la estratagema, subió al navío.
Cuando entró, su servidor se marchó. Esto realizado, el marinero, aprovechando el viento vigoroso que soplaba, soltó amarras y se alejó de la costa. La señora le preguntó entonces:
—¿Qué piensas hacerme?
—Te voy a llevar conmigo porque tengo ganas de acostarme contigo. 
—Yo no pienso eso.
—Ofrécete a mí, o serás arrojada al mar. Elige una de estas dos posibilidades.
 —Que sea así. Prepara el sitio para que los demás no miren cuando pasemos a la acción.
El navegante tomó nota de sus palabras e hizo acomodar un lugar en su embarcación. Ella accedió primero y se puso de rodillas para rezar: —Dios nuestro Señor, sálvame de esta circunstancia. Tan pronto terminó su oración, se levantó una tormenta que rompió el navío, matando a todos menos a la Reina y al agresor, que se agarraron cada uno a una tabla. De esta forma, los dos alcanzaron la orilla. 
Cuando la Emperatriz llegó a la costa, distinguió de lejos un monasterio de monjas. Se dirigió hacia él y solicitó allí el descanso por el Amor de Dios. Las religiosas de aquel recinto la albergaron humildemente. Muy pronto la quisieron mucho, ya que se abandonó francamente a ellas. Aprendió todas las virtudes de las plantas en poco tiempo. El resultado le permitió sanar a todos los enfermos que acudían a ella, de manera que empezó a ser conocida en muchas regiones vecinas.
[···]
Finalmente, el capitán que intentara violarla se volvió hidrópico y escabioso.
[···]
—Señor, estoy dispuesta a obedecerle. Sin embargo, debo prevenirle que mi remedio no funcionará, al menos que confiesen todos sus pecados en público.
[···]
Después del resumen del Senescal, el bandolero anunció: —Una señora cabalgaba sola cerca del lugar donde me hallaba. Como me iban a colgar, ella pagó el precio de mi liberación. Pero yo, como un ser ingrato, la entregué al capitán de un barco. 
A continuación, siguió el marinero: 
—Sé que un servidor me cedió a su ama, que era una mujer noble. Quise entonces aprovecharme de ella, pero sus oraciones hicieron levantar una fuerte tormenta que hundió el navío. Yo sólo he sido el único sobreviviente. Ignoro completamente lo que le sucedió a la señora.
[···]
Puesto que todos habían terminado, la curadora dijo:
 —Señor, todos contaron la verdad. En recompensa, los voy a sanar.
..............................................................................................................................
Aparece luego el navío (la vanidad del mundo) donde se hallan las diversas mercancías (los placeres)El comandante del barco representa el pecador que lo invita por medio de su propio servidor (adulación). Este marinero estira a continuación las velas de la iniquidad, le hace navegar (en el pecado), y quiere arrojarle al mar. En semejante situación, cada miserable debe entonces proceder como la señora: rezar. Así, la tormenta vendrá (la vida buena) y podrá reunirse más adelante con todos los enfermos (los sanos de espíritu), que mediante buenas hierbas (las virtudes), etc.
EL LATÍN ORIGINAL REZA ASÍ:
Tunc venit navis, i.e. vanitas mundi, in qua sunt diversa mercimonia, i.e. delectationes.
Magister navis est homo peccator qui invitat te per servum, i.e. adulationem, et clevat vexillum iniquitatis et ducit te in mare, i.e. in peccatum te intendit projicere.
[··· ] et omnes infirmos, i.e. sensus sanos per bonas herbas, i.e. virtutes, etc.

Las enfermedades del magister navis, la rabia (hidropesía) y la sarna (causada por un ácaro), además de causar mucho sufrimiento (la rabia produce disfagia y dolor al tragar; la sarna produce picores muy molestos), podrían (igual que los males que aquejan a los demás pacientes de la reina/curandera) considerarse simbólicas debido a sus síntomas más característicos: la incomodidad al tragar del hidrópico/rabioso contrasta con el disfrute que produce en la garganta la gula; ídem el picor de la sarna pone el contrapunto a la excitación y el calor que produce el tacto de la piel en la lujuria. Los pecados más hedonistas y basados en el disfrute se han trocado, mediante el contrapaso (ley de la literatura alegórica medieval análoga al karma: los castigos de los pecadores reflejan, irónicamente, sus faltas más características), en sensaciones molestas que no cesan y que son un destino peor que la muerte: un sufrimiento del que sólo la confesión podrá librarle.
El magister navis, igual que todos los demás "malos" del cuento, sólo está sano de corazón cuando está enfermo de cuerpo: la carne, análoga al pecado, es vilipendiada: las hierbas que le sanarán simbolizan sin duda la templanza y la castidad, virtudes contrarias a sus sensuales flaquezas, pero estas virtudes, sin embargo, ya están representadas anteriormente como los inagotables sufrimientos que producen la rabia y de la sarna, respectivamente. El dolor al tragar y el picor en la piel ya le han espoleado a llevar una vida más moderada.
Por cierto, la versión inglesa presenta una traducción diferente de este "hydropicus ac scabiosus" como: "and the master of the ship (was) distraught of his wits. (S.XIX)/ "and the master of the ship had lost his reason." (S.XIX) / "and the Master of the Ship was Mad. (S.XVIII)", es decir, que el magister navis perdió la razón. ¿Porqué este cambio de enfermedad? ¿Tal vez porque la rabia suele ir acompañada de síntomas psíquicos (agresividad, lo cual conduce a pensar en el pecado de la ira)? ¿Tal vez porque esta pérdida de la razón representa la sinrazón del pecado que este personaje comete y al que incita a los demás? Me inclino por ambas razones y por una tercera relativa al ciclo de eufemismos: Tal vez el hecho de que "mad" signifique en inglés tanto "loco" como "rabioso" ("mad dog", "mad bat"...) haya provocado esta confusión y, dado a que "mad" pasó a ser una palabra tabú en el siglo XIX, fue eufemizada como "distraught of his wits" o "had lost his reason".

¿La nave como símbolo de la vanidad? En una época en que viajar en barco era inseguro por miedo a los piratas y a las tempestades, y con los barcos tan mal construidos y tan poco seguros (recordemos el hundimiento del Vasa, que, lujosamente decorado de oro y a todo color, era básicamente el gran tablón de anuncios de Gustavo Adolfo), la mayoría de la gente prefería quedarse en tierra firme. Navegar era entonces sinónimo de correr riesgos.
¿Las mercancías como símbolo de los placeres? Ya de por sí, esto remite al actual y omnipresente consumismo, incluso a las estrategias publicitarias, basadas en las emociones positivas y creadas por psicólogos expertos en emociones y motivaciones (la adulación que representa el siervo del magister navis).
¿Y el magister navis? Como símbolo del pecador tentador, recuerda a Leland Gaunt (que, igualmente, ofrece las mercancías que sus clientes desean) y al Yago de Shakespeare (el primer personaje de este tipo que se me viene a la cabeza); que a su vez remiten a dioses del caos y de lo sensual, como Dionisos o Loki. El Señor de la Anarquía (Lord of Misrule), o Don Carnal, representan la forma cristianizada de estos seres. En las fiestas dedicadas a ellos reina el desenfreno sin límites, y los siete pecados pueden practicarse en total libertad... en vísperas de Cuaresma y Pascuas, así como del equinoccio de primavera.

La personificación del mundo y de la carne en la tradición cristiana germana, Frau Welt ("Doña Mundo", personificación, sobre todo, de los placeres sensuales) podría igualmente considerarse una adaptación del personaje de Hela, reina de los infiernos e hija bastarda de Loki. A esta siniestra diosa se la describe como "mitad bella y viva, y mitad muerta y putrefacta". Aunque la mayoría de ilustradores de mitos nórdicos la pintan como viva a la derecha y muerta a la izquierda (similar a Dos-Caras, del "Batverso"), hay representaciones de Hela viva de cintura para arriba y muerta de cintura para abajo (yerma, en consonancia con la austeridad y el frío extremos del inframundo nórdico), o, lo que es más interesante, viva por delante y muerta por detrás: igualita que Frau Welt (cuya mitad posterior, de la nuca a los talones, está infestada de larvas e incluso de serpientes). No es ninguna casualidad. Igual que el que estos personajes de los tentadores correspondan a un arquetipo y Yago, Leland Gaunt y el magister navis desciendan de Loki et consortes, pasados por el tamiz anticarnal y ascético del monoteísmo.

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