When is a Muse not a Muse?

This is another meditation on a theme which is presented as a visual essay in video form as well as this written version here.   I conceived it as a visual essay as it communicates mainly through imagery.  There are some rough edges on the video as I’m still learning these skills so if it seems abrupt the next one will be more polished.  But either way, I never know where the topic will lead me when I start, I just follow the hunch and it evolves accordingly without any particular endpoint.

Muse (2017)

This one started with watching a horror film but veers into mythology, poets and poetry, fairy folk, the language of film, W.B. Yeats’ astrology and muse asteroids and the origins of certain archetypes. It’s mainly about how we define what muses actually are so it is broader in scope that just astrology.

Just to say first, I am the type who will watch any horror film just because it is horror, with supernatural content even better.  I adore the genre and I have a whole list of favourites I can talk endlessly about.  I am even lenient if a film veers into too much gore, or kills off all the characters in the first half hour, or has too many wacky sound effects, but the worst is when it loses its way and the script is muddled. Some may find it a good film- if seen on the level of entertainment. It’s subjective.  But for me it did not make my flesh creep except to see that these are not the muses I recognise.

Any film with the title Muse (2017) grabs my attention, but I did not have high expectations, or so I thought. Still it niggles how muddled this film was.  If you like blood and interiors so dark you can barely see, then it might be for you. It has oodles of blood p, some naked female flesh, and a flash of Dr. Samuel Salomon’s (Elliot Cowan) naked in bed while his seductive young lover does something nasty to her wrists in the bathroom. From there it thrashes forward a breakneck pace which served other than to ramp up suspense in case we might not be feeling any. Cowan plays a literature professor at Trinity College Dublin more like a California slacker than a professor of literature.

Real academics might pause to think first and be cautious before jumping into bed with the first pushy student who jumps into their car on the way home. It seems Dr. Salomon does not pause to think at all, and so in the first few minutes I had questions. The complex issues inherent in the situation were just brushed off a tad too quickly. This is based on the idea that her name Beatriz reminded the professor of the story of Dante and Beatrix his idealised love. It’s a journey into the spirit of love. She was the muse of Dante’s ‘Inferno’.

Salomon finds Rachel a woman who has also had his nightmares revealing the scene of a murder. The film then takes us into a strip club and human trafficking and the story lurches off target into a more hardboiled crime thriller- the supernatural is swept aside. They find what looks like a dragon’s egg that the evil muses want and off the adventure goes in search of what this means.

I have been studying the muses for a while and did a conference workshop on finding them as muse asteroids in the horoscope now and I feel they know me. They have an appeal that’s hard to explain. It might sound odd but I feel I want to speak on their behalf – even if they have the gamut of inspirational inspirational and vengeful aspects.

None of this is necessary to make a good scary film: The Vanishing (Spoorlos in Dutch) made in 1988 (not the remake) is a great example where the tension builds up inexorably to its deadly climax; there is no crash-bang-wallop at all just a slow burn towards a psychological end point that is inevitable. The trouble is that Muse tries to cram in a thriller and a horror and supernatural all into the same tin can. There is a savage murder where Rachel (Ana Ularu) a stripper who also has nightmare dreams about dead bodies stabs her trafficker in the neck and then it is instantly forgotten- the body left lying in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. It is as if the director is saying- well he deserved it didn’t he? Bad man. Then they take off into the dark fairy- infested landscape with these seven evil muses demanding the dragon’s egg. This mingling of genres can be done – as The Rocky Horror Show threw in Musical, Romantic Comedy and Science Fiction as well. But horror blends best with comedy only, not thriller style.  Otherwise it  is comedy at best, otherwise it is bangs, jumps and fake tension

The other thing that bugged me was the interiors so dark it makes you squint to see anything. Muse has all these expected tropes of horror. It could have been done in different ways to explore the fatalism in the relationship to the Liannán Sídhe, so it is interesting José Carlos Somozo, (a Scorpio)  the Cuban author, on whose work this film is based chose to ramp up the evil radiance of muses and make writing a good line of poetry equal to signing a pact with the devil, losing your life so the muse could live hers. But that is just not how it works. As much as I like horror, especially supernatural, the mingled literary references with hard-core thriller sex trafficking murders did not quite work- too many loose ends and I was thinking But? What? How?

Firstly, there are nine muses not seven- at least in Greek mythology- so anyone who has even an inkling of the Greek muses will be thrown off the rails from the start. What about the numerology? The symbolism? Do these threads not matter?  Greece is not the default culture of course. But it is one that I resonate with. But I still went along with the film just to see where it takes the viewer- after events that followed one after another to a happy one parent family. 

Making them seven and not nine echoes Fincher’s Seven (1995) – hinting at the sins of the deadly variety. It’s in the genre to completely ignore that there are also seven Virtues- Virtues are a much harder to sex up for viewers to give enough thrills or to have an evil twist. But that does not mean muses are purely evil either. They have strong virtues and an honour code. To make all the muses about poetry alone and all evil was also misleading. I wondered what Somoza was thinking.

Poetry is the overreaching metaphor of creativity, the Greek muses had multiple skills that range from music to architecture, astrology/astronomy, dance, comedy, tragic drama, and only one is related to Eros, which might be the one precipitate to madness. The fact that this is set in Ireland  gives the clue. The muse in Ireland is a different much darker take on the Greek muses she is the Liannán Sídhe (pronounced Shee as in Banshee) but that could be that there are just different ways to interpret their function. This is where we get a fork in the road- two versions of the muses the Greek and this more evil manifestation.

In Greek mythology …there are NINE muses- shown usually as delightful maidens all singing, dancing frolicking and carefree-  all happy as the consorts of Apollo. They tell us about the arts, sciences and about memory and meditation.

So just to recall who they are:

Calliope – the Epic – Erato –the Love muse- Euterpe– the muse of music Klio of history Melpomene-the muse of tragedy- Thalia– muse of Comedy- Terpsichore– the muse of Dance Polyhymnia– the muse of the sacred –and Urania –muse of astronomy and astrology.  The only demand they make on people who access their wisdom is to not compete, but otherwise they  bestow inspiration liberally. They are not evil but you treat them with respect as a given.

Fuseli
 ‘The Nightmare’ John Henry Fuseli (1871)

The fact that this is set in Ireland  gives the clue. The muse in Ireland is a different much darker take on the Greek muses she is the Liannán Sídhe ( pronounced Shee) but that could be that there are just different ways to interpret their function.  This is where we get a fork in the road- two versions of the muses the Greek and this more evil manifestation.

The Irish version are related to the succubi of the gothic novelists- succubi are ghostly entities posing as lovers who have sex with you in dreams. Incubi are the male form. Fuseli’s painting shows one lurching over the body during the night. The introduction of blood means they steer also into vampire territory. But that could be just the misunderstand of the broad category that is ‘energy vampire’. People forget that the blood is symbolic. If you have ever met one of these they care more about money than blood but they can suck your life force too leaving you diminished.

The male version is called Canconer male version, said to be the ‘love talker’ perhaps another film there, but this concept matches the malignant narcissist who love bombs their victim and then proceed to gaslight them. Yes, a kind of vampire, just without the obvious fangs and cloak. The Liannán Sídhe appears as a young attractive girl who is also cruel as she extracts the life as a sacrifice for the inspiration for the work. It is a trade-off embedded in the lines commonly attributed to Euripides ”those whom the gods destroy, they first make mad.”

There is even a minor sub plot in this film that you might completely miss if you were not paying attention that is that Susan (Franka Potente) Dr Salomon’s colleague at Trinity College is in love with Salomon.  She gazes at him longingly; that is no collegial camaraderie- but it is completely brushed aside- not part of the plot. He treats her as he might a much thumbed-through phone book- find me this, find me that. She obliges more than just the adoring friend. So he unwittingly in his obsession leaves at least one broken heart.

The film poster has the slogan ‘Words Can Kill’ which is a kind of overstretched ramming home of the fear button. Sure they can but they can also heal, poetry especially reaches hidden depths in the psyche on a therapeutic level, so the repeating of great lines of poetry utilises in a sinister way the tool of advertising at its worst-which is to associate them with evil, fusing trauma with certain phrases.  This could subliminally work as association. It could put people off reading Milton, Dante and Shakespeare or any poet of your choice because the beautiful words have been gained from a contract with these succubus-like entities.

Brian O’ Sullivan wrote a first book of short stories. It did very well so in his second edition he decided to remove any reference to these creatures -the Sidhe- and just called the volume ‘The Irish Muse.’ He says that W. B. Yeats’ went overboard in his description of faery folk saying “this act of so fraudulently portraying the Liannon Side as an Irish/Gaelic mythological concept seemed to trigger no sentiment of guilt.” There was never any mention of Liannán Sídhe in Ireland before the 20th century till Yeats mentioned it and it was an English concept related to the ‘dark muse’ of poets like Keats. He means basically that Yeats did not allow anything as trivial as facts get in the way of a good story. This version of the fairy mistress as vampire concubine was filtered through his lens his actions towards women in his life, but it is disseminated across the internet starting with the main culprit the Wikipedia article in which O’Sullivan says there’s “hardly a single correct fact.”

Moirai But knowing Yeats’s work with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn it could be said that he conjured these entities in a romantic fancy and added a dash of malevolence just because he could – poets remember are the “unacknowledged legislators of the world” – and if the Liannán Sídhe didn’t exist before, they do now. He released them into the world like Crowley released the Loch Ness Monster. Some go as far as to blame him and say he ‘invented’ them.

They seem to remind me more of  the Moirae or the Fates who are fearsome enough already Clotho, the spinner, Lachesis the allotter and Atropos the clipper.  All these have muse asteroids that can be located in the horoscope should you want to see where these three points are.

Yeats Chart
astrotheme.com

So we come to the fascinating figure of Yeats himself and  the astrology of this poet.  William Butler Yeats was born in 1865 around about the time that all the muse asteroids were being discovered- Neptune was in Pisces then, just as it is now heralding a new age in creativity and confusion and moral turpitude.  This may even be the reason we are talking about this subject where the boundaries between the divine, the human and lower demonic elemental becomes very messy. His chart has been talked about endlessly elsewhere. But just very quickly, he was airy with an Aquarius Ascendant and the Moon in Aquarius.  He was born on the 13th June. Mercury in Gemini is so strong especially for writers, which I think gave wings to his words. A strong Mercury in its own sign is great for a poet but made him quixotic and changeable- something of the trickster is in there for sure. Uranus is strong next to the Sun so he was unpredictable. That’s Uranus at the most difficult degree too opposing Jupiter, so that implies troublesome grandiosity aplenty. 

There’s a hefty looking T square of Venus conjunct Pluto with Mars and the Moon- which is anything if not volatile and accounting for his dissatisfactions in love. And he had Mars opposite the Moon- so he had the words to fire up the people’s spirit. Whatever else you think of him, he managed to get across that magical liminality in his poems that still resonates today when phrases come to mind to describe the 21st century- ‘mere anarchy is loosed upon the world’ and the ‘ceremony of innocence is drowned’ – these lines from ‘The Second Coming’ are so memorable almost everyone recognises them. Perhaps he paid his price to the muse for that longevity of reputation? 

There is so much more to  a chart and life than this thumbnail so he may have very well been fated to bring attention to the lost history and spirituality of Ireland with his book of Folk Tales as well. But whether you are beset by muses good or bad, muses, fate still has a peculiar habit of folding into our lives in mysterious ways and can have devastating, demoralising or even uplifting effects.

Just to look at Yeats’s actual muse asteroids for a more clues as to what triggered his poetry- they usually give us a clue. He had Erato, muse of Love, and Klio, muse of history conjunct his Moon in Aquarius. Thalia, muse of comedy, and Sappho were conjunct his Pluto in Taurus. Sappho was the tenth muse and created that intimate personal voice in poetry. And the asteroid Harmonia conjunct Uranus, music and the independent spirit, though some say he was more English than Irish, He compiled the book on Fairy and Folk Tales still used to this day- filled with Irish Lore. 

But since the woman he most admired Maude Gonne refused him many times knowingly saying that his unhappy rejections and longing for people just out of reach made for great poetry and that the world would thank her for causing that to happen. It could also have been aphrodisiac. He even proposed to her daughter Iseult but she too turned him down. So he was a man many times refused. Perhaps she was right after all? Now we have the legacy of his poetry.

Graves White GoddessInstead of Yeats we might turn to Robert Graves’ work on the Greek myths and the White Goddess for a more accurate account of how female deities wreak vengeance if they are ignored. He was another muse obsessed poet. Many say this work is high on poetic logic but low on historical accuracy. Poets think in poetic ways and academia does not like it. So best make up your own mind.  

Incidentally, Graves’ story ‘The Shout’ (1978) was made into a film with Alan Bates, John Hurt, Susanna York and Tim Curry. It translated very well into an atmospheric tale of the supernatural. It is one that I’d recommend to watch as it is genuinely disturbing using psychology to build suspense,  yet still elusive in its meaning.

But Yeats’ idea of a malevolent muse is true fictionally only if poets die young and write their most brilliant work before doing so but the fact is that is not what happens. At least not usually.

Poets can lead very dull and ordinary lives – think of W.H. Auden or even nonentities like Fernando Pessoa and Philip Larkin who deliberately de-personalised themselves. One question to ask is was whether Ted Hughes was the  male muse for Sylvia Plath? Hughes was Leo and Plath a Scorpio- both fixed in their ways. Yet, she said she was able to draw upon a ‘single shared mind’ at least while the union was going strong.  It is just that this ‘mad’ form of the muse is possibly rarer than we think.  Or is it?

Viv and Tom

The case of T.S. Eliot is striking. He has a wife  Vivienne Haye-Wood who was sectioned and who always believed his best work and possibly she did.  She was a writer too. That didn’t stop him being the most loved poet during WWII even though Vivienne appeared to behave a little bit like the Liannán Sídhe archetype through her unfortunate bi-polar condition and she was treated harshly as that . was not recognised for what it actually was.

The other case that might fall into this category is Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud– so clearly the  muses is not just female. Here  in that Aries – Libra Cardinal force at loggerheads which  turned out to be super intense and explosive. But another visual essay will be needed to delve more into all of these cases- including Wilde and Bosie– another classic muse gone bad story.

I realise now we‘ve come to the end  I may have only succeed in achieving the opposite of what was intended as the deeper you go into a subject the more complex it can become. This may have whetted your appetite to see the film Muse (2017) and that’s fine as and you may have a totally different view on it.

Someone whose opinion I rate very highly actually loved it but it does not change the uncomfortable feeling it created in me. I want my muses to be divinely inspired not lecherous demonic vampires- maybe it resides totally in the minds of the artists whether it goes in one direction or the other.

Which one do you feed?

And may your muses be ever benign.

 

  © Kieron Devlin, Proteus Astrology, July 11th, 2021.

All rights reserved. LinkTree/Proteus

Kieron is a London-based and trained astrologer at Proteus Astrology on Facebook and my home page: Instagram and Twitter I am now also on Gab, Telegram (as Proteus Astrology), Patreon, MeWe.   Bitchute and Odysee 

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Published by Kieron Devlin

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