Welcome to the fourth installment in my examination of the acclaimed HBO original series True Detective. With the first installment I addressed the backgrounds of the show's two leads, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, as well as the significance of certain key numbers (most notably 5 and 17) that appear throughout the first season.
With the second part I began to focus in on the plot line, beginning with symbolism surrounding the crime scene where Dora Lange's body was found. In the third installment I examined the netherworld of white supremacism, drug and sex trafficking and Christian fundamentalism in which many of the show's character exist and its historical basis. It probably goes without saying, but be forewarned: this as well as prior installments are both spoiler heavy and written with the assumption that the reader is familiar with the plot line of True Detective. If the reader is not, it is strongly advised that they track down a plot synopsis to assist them.
|the Reverend Billy Lee Tuttle (Jay O. Sanders), one of the first season's chief antagonists.|
By 2002, seven years after Marty and Rustin Cohle (McConaughey) officially solved Dora Lange's murder, Hart's oldest daughter has begun to drift down a dangerous path. Decked out in Goth-lite apparel, she begins hanging with a wild crowd that leads to the inevitable teenage debauchery. Martin is deeply hurt by his daughter turning into what he dubs a "slut" despite the fact he has long used young, emotionally unstable women for his own sexual gratification.
|Audrey (Erin Moriatry), Hart's oldest daughter|
More than a few viewers of True Detective, both conspiracy theorists and regular fans alike, have speculated as to whether or not Marty's daughter was being sexually abused by the cult the Tuttle family belonged too. The first indication of this occurs toward the end of the second episode, in 1995, when Marty is going to fetch his daughters for dinner. As he walks to their bedroom he overhears Audrey talking about some type of accident. As he opens the door, he finds that Audrey has arranged several of her toys in a curious fashion: What appears to be a Barbie doll has been stripped of its clothes, and placed spread eagle within a circle of five male action figures. This image of course echoes a picture Cohle saw at Dora Lange's mother's house in which a young child (likely Lange) was surrounded by five men on horse back in what appeared to be KKK outfits.
|the "five horsemen" picture Cohle spots at the home of Dora Lange's mother (top) and the scene Audrey made with her toys (bottom)|
Much has of course been written about the significance of the five pointed star in the occult over the years. Self-described revisionist historian and likely fascist sympathizer Michael A. Hoffman II famously noted:
"The symbol (or, alchemically, sigil) of the armed enforcers of the Code of Hammurabi, which was the law of the empire of Babylon, the successor to Sumer, was the five-pointed star, or pentagram. The distinguished characteristic of the Babylonian law code was that 'the laws were not the same for the rich and the poor.'
"This star also happens to be the symbol of the armed enforcers of modern America's laws, and was also a symbol of the enforcers the Communist regime in Russia. Is it an accident that both the army of the Soviet Union and the policeman of America wear the secret symbol of Sirius?"
(Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare, Michael A. Hoffman II, pg. 30)
|the five figures Rust makes out of beer cans (top) and the five masked figures who appear in a snuff film found in one of Billy Lee Tuttle's houses (bottom)|
Later on Rust interviews a transvestite known as Johnny Joanie who also attended a Tuttle school (addressed in the third installment) with one of the cult's victims. He revealed to Rust that while attending this school as a child he had "dreams" of men wearing animal masks abusing him and the other children. At one point Audrey gets in trouble in 1995 for drawing sexually expletive images in her notebook: one of these images is of a masked man groping a girl while another appears to be of an angel (who are depicted frequently by the Tuttle cult). Also during 1995 a picture of a spiral, another symbol used by the cult, appears on the wall of the Hart's kitchen at one point.
|various possible clues of Audrey's abuse|
|Marty with Jake Herbert (Thomas Francis Murphy), Audrey's grandfather|
The same could potentially be true of Audrey, who certainly displays some of the same social awkwardness that defines Rust as well as reoccurring mental issues. Participants in the show have frequently insisted that Audrey's deteriorating state by 2002 is the result of Marty's abandonment of his family. Is this true in a very literal sense in that she has picked up impressions of both the cases Marty has or had worked as well as his general poor treatment of women? In many ways Audrey seems to craft herself into a manifestation of the cesspool Marty's life has become by this point. In this context, her behavior could be seen as way of dealing with the impressions she is receiving from her father.
And now, on to the Tuttle family and their bizarre cult. While never implicitly stated, it is hinted that the family first arrived in the Gulf region of Louisiana in early Colonial times and that they were involved in piracy. This area of Louisiana would remain rural and attract many Vodun and Santeria practitioners as well as performing a rural version of Mardi Gras known as Courir de Mardi Gras. As for the Tuttles, Cohle notes that they participated in "an annual winter festival, heavy on the Saturnalia, a place where Santeria and voodoo got all meshed together.
|Courir de Mardi Gras revelers|
"The resemblance between the Saturnalia of ancient and the Carnival of modern Italy has often been remarked; but in the light of all the facts that have come before us, we may well ask whether the resemblance does not amount to identity. We've seen that in Italy, Spain, and France, that is, in the countries where the influence of Rome has been deepest and most lasting, a conspicuous feature of the Carnival is a burlesque figure personifying the festive season, which after a short career of glory and dissipation is publicly shot, burnt, or otherwise destroyed, to the feigned grief or genuine delight of the populace. If the view here suggested of the Carnival is correct, this grotesque personage is no other than a direct successor of the old King of the Saturnalia, the master of the revels, the real man who personated Saturn and, when the revels were over, suffered a real death in his assumed character.
"As the Carnival is always held on the last three days before the beginning of Lent, its date shifts somewhat from year to year, but it invariably falls either in February or March. Hence it does not coincide with the date of the Saturnalia, which within historical times seems to have been always celebrated in December even in the old days, before Caesar's reform of the calendar, when the Roman year ended with February instead of December. Yet if the Saturnalia, like many other seasons of license, was originally celebrated as a sort of public purification at the end of the old year or the beginning of the new one, it may at a still more remote period, when the Roman year began with March, have been regularly held either in February or March and therefore at approximately the same date as the modern Carnival. So strong and persistent are the conservative instincts of the peasantry in respect to old custom, that it would be no matter for surprise if, in rural districts of Italy, the ancient festival continued to be celebrated at the ancient time long after the official celebration of the Saturnalia and the towns had been shifted from February to December. Latin Christianity, which struck at the root of official or civic paganism, has always been tolerant of its rustic cousins, the popular festivals and ceremonies which, unaffected by political and religious revolutions, by the passing of empires and of gods, had been carried on by the people with but little change from time immemorial, and represent in fact the original stock from which the state religions of classical antiquity were comparatively late offshoots. Thus, it may very well have come about that while the new faith stamped out the Saturnalia in the towns, it suffered the original festival, disguised by a difference of date, to linger unmolested in the country; and so the old feast of Saturn, under the modern name of the Carnival, has reconquered the cities, and goes on merrily under the eye and with the sanction of the Catholic Church."
(The Golden Bough, James George Frazer, pgs. 634-636)
|a depiction of latter period Saturnalia celebrations|
As noted above, there are indications that in very ancient celebrations of Saturnalia some type of mock king drawn from the peasantry was ritualistically sacrificed at the conclusion of this festival. Earlier Frazer noted:
"...The office of the King of Saturnalia, the ancient Lord of Misrule, who presided over the winter revels at Rome in the time of Horace and of Tacitus. It seems to prove that his business had not always been that of a mere harlequin or merry-andrew whose only care was that the revelry should run high and the fun grow fast and furious, while the fire blazed and crackled on the hearth, while the streets swarmed with festive crowds, and through the clear frosty air, far away to the north, Soracte shewed his coronal of snow. When we compare this comic monarch of the gay, the civilized metropolis with his grim counterpart of the rude camp on the Danube, and when we remember the long array of similar figures, ludicrous yet tragic, who in other ages and in other lands, wearing mock crowns and wrapped in sceptred palls, have played their little pranks for a few brief hours or days, then passed before their time to a violent death, we can hardly doubt that in the King of the Saturnalia at Rome, as he is depicted by classical writers, we see only a feeble emasculated copy of the original, whose strong features have been fortunately preserved for us by the obscure author of the Martyrdom of St. Dasius. In other words, the martyrologist's account of the Saturnalia agree so closely with the accounts of similar rites elsewhere, which could not possibly have been known to him, that the substantial accuracy of his description may be regarded as established; and further, since the custom of putting a mock king to death as a representative of a god cannot have grown out of the practice of appointing him to preside over a holiday revel, whereas the reverse may very well have happened, we are justified in assuming that in an earlier and more barbarous age, it was the universal practice in ancient Italy, where the worship of Saturn prevailed, to choose a man who played the part and enjoyed all the traditional privileges of Saturn for a season, and then died, whether by his own or another's hand, whether by the knife or the fire or on the gallows-tree, in the character of the good god who gave his life for the world. In Rome itself and other great towns the growth of civilization had probably mitigated this cruel custom long before the Augustan age, and transformed it into the innocent shape it wears in the writings of the few classical writers who bestow a passing notice on the holiday King of the Saturnalia. But in remoter districts the older and sterner practice may have survived; and even if after the unification of Italy the barbarous usage was suppressed by the Roman government, the memory of it would be handed down by the peasants and would tend from time to time, as still happens with the lowest forms of superstition among ourselves, to lead to a recrudescence of the practice, especially among the rude soldiery on the outskirts of the empire, over whom the once iron hand of Rome was beginning to relax its grip."
(The Golden Bough, James George Frazer, pgs. 633-634)
|a depiction of the "King of Saturnalia"|
And yet there is one key difference: the Tuttle cult seems to exclusively sacrifice women and young girls. As far as this researcher has found, the victims sacrificed at Saturnalia and like festivals were almost solely males. This custom may have hearkened back to even earlier times when matriarchies were the dominate religious persuasion and the Great Mother reigned supreme. I suspect this discrepancy was intentional and meant as an inversion of the historic custom. In the next installment I'll go more into the possible purpose of this.
|one of the children sacrificed by the Tuttle cult wearing a mock crown|
Much ceremonial magic is of course based around the summoning of various beings to do the bidding of the magician. In some systems, for instance, the magician may try to bond with what is known as a "familiar spirit." Angels were also commonly summoned for various purposes, especially after appearance of the Key of Solomon during the Renaissance. As noted before here, angelic appearances bore more than a few passing resemblances to the daimons of antiquity or even modern UFO encounters. But I digress.
|a depiction of an angel in True Detective|
"... the Ordo Templi Orientis Antiqua or OTOA – allegedly created by a mysterious and possibly non-existent Haitian occultist Lucien-Francois Jean-Maine (1869?-1960), of whom there is very little hard information. The OTOA was evidently a mixture of quasi-Masonic ritual and initiation and traditional Vodun, forming a bridge between European-style ceremonial magic traditions and the Afro-Caribbean Vodun cultus. Jean-Maine was allegedly the inheritor of an ancient Haitian occult lineage that numbers among its lineage-holders the venerable Ordre des Elus-Cohen, which had a branch in Leogange, Haiti. This is not the place to go into the history of the Elus Cohen (or 'Elect Priests'), so suffice it to say that it was a branch of the eighteenth century Martinist order and the branch most closely connected with ritual magic. Martinism began as a Masonic-type society in pre-revolutionary France but it's founder – Martinez de Pasqually – died in Haiti in 1774. Haiti at that time was a French colony. Hence the suggested French Masonic-Haitian Vodun connection."
(The Dark Lord, Peter Levenda, pg. 130)
|the symbol of the Ordo Templi Orientis Antiqua, the order which Lucien-Francois Jean-Maine allegedly fonded|
With some hesitation, I will also note that above-mentioned Jean-Maine has been linked to some type of Sirius worship.
"... Around the turn-of-the-century, Haitian occultist Lucien-Francois Jean-Maine claimed communication with the Sirius star system, made possible by performing Crowleyean rituals. In 1922, Jean-Maine, combined these rituals with voodoo practices to form the Cult of the Snake. Jean-Maine also claimed to be in contact with a disembodied being named Lam, an apparent otherworldly entity that Aleister Crowley had earlier contacted."
(James Shelby Downard's Mystical War, Adam Gorightly, pg. 43)
Regardless, show creator, runner and sole writer Nic Pizzolatto seems to have been aware of these claims. Certainly there's a clear reference to Crowley at the end of episode seven when Errol Childress (one of the Tuttle clan's illegitimate children) gives two detectives directions that involves taking a Route 49 toward a town called Crowley. Liber 49 is one name for a work written by Crowley disciple Jack Parsons more commonly referred to as The Book of Babalon and recounts his notorious "Babalon Working." So it does not seem much of a stretch to suggest that Pizzolatto was aware of some of the more speculative theories concerning Crowley and his followers.
And with that I shall wrap things up for now. In the next and final installment Rustin Cohle's trip into the Labyrinth will be considered in depth. Stay tuned.