21st of Samhain
WARNING: This post contains spoilers for Disney’s 2016 animated movie ‘Moana’.
When ‘Moana’ first came to the cinema a year ago, I was instantly impressed, despite the film not receiving quite the same buzz which 2014’s Frozen had gained. Personally, I much preferred Moana over Frozen, however, this isn’t going to be a movie review. Disney broke quite a few of their cliches with Moana which I feel many seemed to overlook or not give the same praise as many of the supposed ‘groundbreaking’ themes in Frozen. One; no parents died AND were able to raise their daughter to adulthood (there is a family death, yes, Disney couldn’t quite resist). Two; while it’s not the first movie where the ‘Princess’ character has no romance, it is the first where the mention of romance is never once brought up or intended between the two human opposite-gender leads. And three; while she’s not a ‘princess’ exactly (“You have a pretty dress and an animal sidekick – you’re a princess” says Maui), she is destined to lead by her own destiny and merits. Elsa may have been the first main ‘Disney Queen’, but she actually has much less screen-time compared to her sister and is not shown to be the most competent ruler until the very end of the film. We actually get to see Moana as a leader from early on in the film and see for ourselves that it is more than just her birthright which earns her place as the Chief of her tribe.
The other interesting new angle the movie took was with its ‘main villain’. While Disney’s other recent blockbusters – Frozen, Zootopia and Big Hero 6 – all contained a ‘twist villain’ in the form of a ‘good guy’ who turned out to be evil, Moana does the opposite. From the very beginning, the movie sets up its Big Bad in the form of a lava monster called Te Ka. This magma mama is introduced in the opening narrative when Moana’s grandmother tells the story of how Te Fiti, the Mother Goddess, gave birth to all the life on the Earth until the demi-god Maui tried to steal her heart. By doing so, he caused Te Fiti to disintegrate and a blight to spread through the world, before he himself was attacked by Te Ka who also sought to steal the heart. Moana is then chosen by the ocean (in a Déa-smackingly gorgeous scene) to be the one to journey across the sea and restore the heart to Te Fiti before the blight destroys her island.
The twist comes at the very end when Moana, after recruiting and befriending Maui, finally reach Te Fiti’s island only to discover nothing but rock and water. Te Ka appears and Maui fights her as a distraction for Moana. But then Moana sees the spiral on Te Ka’s chest where the heart was stolen from and comes to a realisation.
“I have crossed the horizon to find you,
I know your name.
They have stolen the heart from inside you,
But this does not define you.
This is not who you are,
You know who you are,
Who you truly are.”
The ocean parts, allowing Te Ka to rage violently towards Moana, who walks calmly out to meet her. As she sings the lyrics above, Te Ka begins to calm and her fire dims, before allowing Moana to touch her. Moana places the heart back into the spiral, causing the molten rock to crumble away, revealing the goddess Te Fiti trapped underneath. She regains her divine strength and the blight disappears from the land, saving Moana’s island and the rest of the world.
There is a beautiful moment of subtext here, one that I’m not entirely sure was intentional by the film-makers, especially as the theme doesn’t really play into anything else in the story. If anything it would have probably been better placed in Frozen, had they gone with the original idea to have Elsa become a villain or anti-hero. But the idea of goodness being corrupted, of losing your true self to something wicked, and then being redeemed has been rarely explored in Disney movies. It might not be anything new to adults who are familiar with characters like Darth Vader from Star Wars (pre-Disney times) or Rumpelstiltskin from Once Upon A Time. ‘Family moves’, however, especially those in the Disney princess line, most often have a black & white, clear cut system, with their heroes and villains – even if the villain spends most of the movie masquerading as a goodie. It probably isn’t fair to compare the complex redemption of those other characters with Te Ka; she is essentially a bestial chaotic demon with no other motivation than mindless destruction. And how she is ‘saved’ is very quick as opposed to a developing character arc. However, it seems to be the closest we have so far (not counting any of the Disney sequels, or ‘Maleficent’).
So what does any of this have to do with Sophian Filianism? I shall tell you, people who read this blog. Yes, both of you!
A discussion that comes up a lot in Filianic circles after first reading the Mythos is ‘who is the Dark Queen’? The mistress of the Underworld who tortures and slays the Holy Daughter. Is She the Snake who seduced the First Maid into turning away from the Mother? If not; where did She come from and where did the Snake go? Where did the Snake come from? And finally, a question that came to my mind when first reading the scripture; what happened to the First Maid? We last see Her crying at no longer being able to look upon the Celestial Mother, before disappearing from the narrative (Holy Mythos 3;9).
Now, the following is an interpretation that works within Sophian Filianism, while not necessarily being applied to Orthodox tradition.
Now, truly it must be said that the First Maid is not a single person who existed at the beginning, in the same way Creationists put Eve as the literal first woman of Earth. The First Maid is the united soul which every living being shares, personified as one. In the image of the First Maid, all are equal, for all are Her. All have been born as a once perfect child of Déa. The Sophian Creed states that, at the beginning, our untied soul left the paradise our Mother had created so that we ‘may learn of other things’, such as understanding both the darkness and light, as well as what lays beyond the light. This was a choice that given our Mother’s blessing as opposed to a punishment of exile. Scripture states that Déa bruised the Snake but did not destroy it (HM 2:15-16). This was to stop the chaos that lay beyond Her spreading out of control, in order to keep the balance of creation, so that Her Child might be able to survive and thrive – despite no longer residing in perfect existence.
For Sophians, the Snake does not represent any malevolent spirit. A similar misconception occurs in Christianity when the ‘serpent’ is believed to be Satan, despite nowhere in either the Torah or the New Testament making that implicit. Of course, in the Gnostic version, the Snake is an agent of Sophia who guides the First Woman, Eve, into receiving knowledge. The Snake is not good or evil, it is merely a symbol for Learning. The symbol is common in many Gnostic traditions as the ‘Ouroboros’, the snake biting its own tale, representing an eternal cycle. In Eastern religion also, the Naga is a snake who represents death and rebirth, with each shedding of its skin into a renewed form. The Snake guides us to Learn, and not all lessons are pleasant, but all are necessary for one to gain knowledge (gnosis). And Déa wishes for all of us to gain true gnosis of Her – therefore the Snake is no evil creature. Amoral, possibly. But not a villain.
So what of the First Maid and the Dark Queen? Well, if we look to the Gnostic mythos again, the creation of the Demiurge – who may be another version of the Dark Queen – is described in a gradual process. Sophia arises farthest away from the Limitless Light and wishes to create something on Her own. In some texts, She gives birth to the Demiurge herself. However, in others, it is in fact Her daughter who is at fault for the Demiurge being born:
“But I shall call upon the imperishable knowledge, which is Sophia, who is in the Father, who is the Mother of Achamoth. Achamoth had no father nor male consort, but she is female from a female. She produced you without a male, since she was alone and in ignorance as to what lives through her mother because she thought that she alone existed….” – The First Apocalypse of James
‘Achamoth’ is derived from the Hebrew word for wisdom; ‘Hokhmah’. Achamoth the daughter was believed to have been a fallen version of her Mother Wisdom/Sophia, whose error resulted in the imperfection of existence. This all described in a gradual process of energy, beginning with the Limitless Light, transferring down to the Mother Barbelo, then to the following Aeons, then to Sophia, then Achamoth, before culminating in the creation of the Demiurge who is cut off from the Light and sees itself as the One True God. It is not so much a generation of spirits as it is one spirit descending into a form becoming more separate from the Pleroma (the Fullness of God).
Could it be possible that, in the time between the first night and the Daughter’s descent, that the First Maid has fallen enough to become the Dark Queen and the Mistress of Evil? Well, yes and no. As was said earlier, the First Maid is one soul connecting many. While some souls rise to love and compassion, others fall into ignorance and fear. Truthfully we all share in this descent and rise in the unified soul. As the Mythos takes place outside of time, we see all the stages of the Soul’s journey personified by the First Maid, the Dark Queen and the Holy Daughter. How could the Dark Queen have been created evil when Déa alone is the only Creatrix, whose every creation is Good in its origin?
The Creed states that ‘the darkness must be known to truly know the Light’. Therefore the First Maid descending to the lowest point of kear and becoming the Dark Queen is a tragic but necessary consequence of choosing to gain knowledge. People do not ‘turn to evil’ on a whim. People become convinced within themselves to do wicked things, either because they believe they are right based on the ignorance installed in them, or out of a mental imbalance which causes them to enjoy inflicting harm onto others. Every villain is, in truth, a victim to an extent. No, this is not me attempting to sympathise with the awful dictators, corrupt politicians, or psychopathic killers and rapists of the world. There is always a limit to how much of who we are is a cause of our surroundings and what we choose to do ourselves, as axial beings. If we choose to let the world corrupt us and to do harm when benevolent options are available to us – then those actions will have consequences. Our Mother forgives all; but there must always be justice.
When the Holy Daughter confronts the Dark Queen after descending through the seven gates, She meets Her eye-to-eye and supposedly succumbs to ‘death’. Sophians believe this is not a literal death, as She is part of Déa who cannot die, but rather the case of Her shattering to become the World Soul. The Daughter becomes one with the First Maid; Her Sister and other half. Yet, in the mythos, the First Maid is not seen – unless She lies deep within the Dark Queen. This reconciliation would closely mirror Moana confronting Te Ka in the movie, taking Moana as symbolism for the Daughter. She definitely has a lot of Déa Filia energy around Her character, being the Saviour of Her people and their future
Queen Chief. And while Te Fiti is a ‘Mother Goddess’, Filianists would see Her the same as other ‘Earth Godesses’ in that She is our sister, as She is always part of the Creation. Te Ka is apparently based on the Màori goddess Hine-nui-te-põ, who was also created as a life-giving diety before finding out a disturbing truth about her origin and descending to become ruler of the Underworld. Thankfully, they didn’t include the moment she cuts Maui in half with her vagina in the Disney movie. That may have lost them their G rating.
Going back to the Mythos, notice how there is no confrontation between the Celestial Mother and the Dark Queen? The Mother shatters the gates of Hell and the seven gatekeepers flee in terror from Her light. Yet when She arrives at the chamber to retrieve Her Daughter’s corpse, there is no sign of Her murderer. One would think Déa would be ready to kick some Irkallian butt after what just happened to her child. But no confrontation takes place or is necessary. Is it possible that, when they looked into each others eyes, the Dark Queen transformed back into the First Maid – and did then become one with the Holy Daughter? How else does She carry up our souls into ascension when the Mother renews Her if we did not become One with Her?
Indeed, the image of the Mother cradling and embracing Her Daughter’s ‘corpse’ becomes all the more beautiful when realising that She is also holding the First Maid who wept at having been separated from Her at the dawn of time.
This is the beauty of the Daughter’s Love. She does not just appear to the spiritually elite, to those who are born gifted with wisdom or enduring kindness. No, instead She throws Herself down into the depths of all that is ugly and terrifying. She goes where most people would give up hope. She finds the outcasts, the broken, the wretched and the lost. When we are at the moment when we are certain that Déa’s light cannot reach us, She appears and walks calmly towards us. Not with Her axe ready to fight – but vulnerable and innocent. Trusting. She reminds us that this corrupt shell we have covered ourselves with, this ‘demon’ that we present to the world, is nothing but an illusion. She knows our True Self. She will help us remember how to restore our divine hearts and let the mask peel away.
The Dark Queen is not the ‘Filianic Satan’, not for Sophians. She is merely an illusion. A mask that can take over if we let it. But letting it fall releases us from the grip of kear and let’s us see the Good around us. For even the Seven Hells have been overridden by the grace of Our Lady.
The children of the earth cried: “Lift up your voices in song and laughter, for the princess of the world was dead and is alive again, was broken and is whole; and there is no place whereto Her joyous rule does not extend.” – HM 9:21
No matter where you are, or how far you have fallen, the Daughter can always find you. Let Her restore the heart that has been taken from you by the harshness of this world. Be one with Her.
Remember who you truly are.