Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Spirits Don't Speak Proper English

"The lord whose oracle is at Delphi neither speaks nor conceals, but gives signs."
Heraclitus, on Apollo  

From the very beginning I saw this story as one somehow centered on some kind of possession or channeling. And now that seems to be the only explanation for this endless parade of omen and ancient symbolism of the love goddess and her shepherd-boy consort.

And it only gets stranger and more impossible. 

In truth, I suspected Elizabeth Fraser was channeling something entirely different as soon as I heard "Sugar Hiccup" back in 1983. I grew up around professional musicians- my mother was a trained soprano- and I heard a hell of a lot of music. But somehow I knew something seemed to have come here from somewhere else.

It wasn't just me- you hear the phrase "otherworldly" used quite a lot to describe her singing. 

Even then it felt like something was revealing itself, something very big and strange, through this shy, vulnerable, troubled girl (she was only 19 when she sang "Hiccup") with the mile-wide howl and her art-damaged bandmates.

I just had no idea how big and strange it truly was.


Nope, doesn't look possessed at all. No, sir.

Now, Elizabeth Fraser loved Jeff Buckley. I mean she really loved him. 

I mean she really, really, really loved him. 

This isn't conjecture on my part. She talked about it in interviews, saying her love for him was an "addiction" and that she was "maniacal." She sang that she was a "junkie" for him. Twice

Five years after his death she appeared in the "widow role" on a BBC documentary on Buckley and it was painfully clear that that love still burned inside her.

This is the kind of love that poets used to write epics about. The kind of love that Innana had for Dumuzi, that Selene had for Endymion, that Isis had for Osiris. The kind of love city-states used to go to war over.

She sang about this love. A lot. She wrote an entire EP about it, made a heart-wrenching (and startlingly-prophetic) longform music video about it, dedicated an entire album to it, and eventually wrote the best-known song of her career about it, a song which tens of millions of people have heard. 

And again, she recorded that song the day Buckley died.

So bear all this in mind as we take a deeper look into the prophetic foreshadowing in the Cocteau Twins' music and this increasingly impossible avalanche of omen and symbol, all leading to what very much looks like a real-time god-LARP of the one of the oldest stories known to history- one that's been retold many different times in many different places-  the love of the Love Goddess for a doomed shepherd-boy.

It's a story upon which the world's first great empire rose and fell.


Mapquest calls it "Wolf River Lagoon"

Directly overlooking the spot on the Wolf River Lagoon/Harbor where Jeff Buckley drowned is the Tennessee Welcome Center, which houses a statue of Elvis Presley that is curiously posed in a strange recreation of the same contrapposto stance that Apollo was customarily depicted striking in the Classical world, with a guitar in place of a lyre (same difference, really).

Elvis died in Memphis 20 years before Buckley did so (1977). He is also closely connected to the Carnival Memphis. 

"Kiss Out"- to deprive someone of their share

And of course Apollo is both the god of song and music and the god of prophecy.

 He was also known as Apollo Lyceus, or "Apollo the Wolf God." One of the grand old theaters in Memphis was named in honor of Apollo Lyceus, The Lyceum.

Apollo's powers of prophecy came from a very interesting source, one that will play an important role in the story about to unfold here.
The Homeric Hymn to Apollo acknowledges that Apollo's gift of prophecy first came to him from three bee maidens, usually but doubtfully identified with the Thriae, a trinity of pre-Hellenic Aegean bee goddesses. 
Apollo imparted his prophecies to the rest of us through channeling and his oracles were variously known as the Sibyls or the Pythia ("Pythoness"). The latter of whom, before some asshole had to get all rapey, were originally teenaged girls (like Fraser was when she first recorded Garlands):
The Pythia (or Oracle of Delphi) was the priestess who held court at Pytho, the sanctuary of the Delphinians, a sanctuary dedicated to the Greek god Apollo. Pythia were highly-regarded, for it was believed that she channeled prophecies from Apollo himself, while steeped in a dreamlike trance.  

A Roman historian described how this channeling came about: 
At last Apollo mastered the breast of the Delphian priestess ; as fully as ever in the past, he forced his way into her body, driving out her former thoughts, and bidding her human nature to come forth and leave her heart at his disposal.  
(F)irst the wild frenzy overflowed through her foaming lips ; she groaned and uttered loud inarticulate cries with panting breath ; next, a dismal wailing filled the vast cave ; and at last, when she was mastered, came the sound of articulate speech... ” - Lukan- The Civil Wars
"Elizabeth, we'd like to speak with Apollo now..."

Now, again- see if all of that there- "loud, inarticulate cries with panting breath" and all the rest of it- doesn't sound a bit like this. 

Or this.

Or this.


Perhaps more than anyone else, Elvis is nearly synonymous with Las Vegas. He first played there in 1956 (a month before appearing at the Carnival Memphis) and later began a long residency in the Dog Days of 1969 at the Las Vegas International which would eventually see him give over 700 performances there. 

There was even an Elvis Presley Museum in Vegas. There are still Elvis Wedding Chapels there.

And just as there is one overlooking the exact spot where Jeff Buckley ascended to Heaven, there is also an Elvis statue in Las Vegas.

So if in fact Fraser was first introduced to Buckley backstage in 1991 (and not 1994, when they began seeing each other), it would mean they met during the Heaven or Las Vegas tour.

It would mean Buckley saw the tour where "Wolf in the Breast," "Road, River and Rail" and "Mizake the Mizan" were first played onstage. "Mizake's" lyrics again.

Saw a mermaid in the
Lagoon Klisova

So until the hour
My coeur cheri paiyaa
Grey water
Hoist and throw me down in the water
Hoist and throw me down the waterfall

It would mean that Elizabeth serenaded young Jeffrey with a hit parade of personalized death omens, including 'Blue Bell Knoll', 'Lorelei', 'Road, River and Rail' and 'A Kissed-Out Red Floatboat'.

So just as this love story was beginning we saw a shockingly-specific new set of omens of how it would in fact end. 

I mean, have you read any of the Pythias' prophecies? Bloody amateurs in comparison.


Elizabeth Fraser, Heaven or Las Vegas video
It was quite noticeable that he was borne along by a divine inspiration when he spoke, when from this so wise a mouth flowed in waves the words, which flew like flakes of snow. Then it seemed that his eyes filled with a shining splendor, and all over his face spread rays of a divine illumination. - Marsinus on Proclus, author of On the Signs of Divine Possession
And then there is the question of glossolalia, for which Fraser was world-famous:
Fraser's distinctive singing has earned her much critical praise; she was once described as "the voice of God." Her lyrics range from straightforward English to semi-comprehensible sentences (glossolalia) and abstract mouth music. For some recordings, Fraser has said that she used foreign words without knowing what they meant – the words acquired meaning for her only as she sang them.
So by assembling lyrics out of words in foreign languages she didn't understand, Fraser was literally "speaking in tongues." And it's in this and her use of glossolalia that Fraser was once again acting in the exact same manner as the ancient oracles:
Neoplatonist philosopher Iamblichus linked glossolalia to prophecy, writing that prophecy was divine spirit possession that "emits words which are not understood by those that utter them; for they pronounce them, as it is said, with an insane mouth and are wholly subservient, and entirely yield themselves to the energy of the predominating God."
And again, Fraser herself told the Melody Maker in December 1984 that she felt as if she were channeling some other entity and that her songs seemed to write themselves. Mind you, this is not a woman who was given to hyperbole or self-aggrandizement.


The Sibyl with raving mouth utters solemn, unadorned, unlovely words, but she reaches out over a thousand years with her voice by force of the god within her. - Heraclitus
The breath of God in my mouth
A love you can taste, God, get some paste
He and I, breath to breath -"Seekers who are Lovers"

This is really a work-in-progress here so forgive me as I go over a lot of the material. 

But please be aware we're getting grade-A hits here. This isn't some kind of "well, if A=B, then 5=ham sandwich" kind of leaping and stretching. There's no tortured Gematria wrangling or King Kill horseshoe tossing. 

It's all so right on the nose- past the point of overkill- that it's actually terrifying to me.  

UPDATE: Like this- the flower on the cover of Lullabies is the Calla Lily, a poisonous flower also called "The Green Goddess." (H/T Persephone J)
Calla lilies have become a common favorite in wedding ceremonies, but in contrast, lilies are also associated with death. They were often used on the graves of youths who suffered an untimely death.
When Venus, goddess of love, beauty, and desire, saw the lilies she was jealous of their beauty. She cursed their beauty by placing a large yellow pistil in the middle of the flowers. Because of this story, some associate the calla lily with Venus and thus with lust and sexuality. 
Lullabies is the EP the Cocteau Twins put out in 1982 after Garlands (again, Jeff Buckley died on Garlands Day, when sacrifices used to made to ocean gods). We looked at it before but we really need to look at it again.  

So let's decode these songs in reverse order:

And guess what? That's exactly what Apollo imparted onto his oracles. Exactly like someone or something seems to imparted onto the young Elizabeth Fraser.

And as some have noted- including Federico Garcia Lorca- lullabies have often been associated with death.

Now we get to the truly frightening part of the program.

  "The Pythia resembles a shamaness at least to the extent that she communicates with her [deity] while in a state of trance, and conveys as much to those present by uttering unintelligible words."  Martin Litchfield West, The Orphic Poems

And that's the incredibly-witchy 'Alas Dies Laughing'. What I wrote previously:

After two attempts at conventional choruses, the song breaks down into a bridge that has (a pre-transformation) Fraser moaning like the Pythia as the fumes rise. After the breakdown, she dispenses with the niceties and lapses into a repetitive chant about exactly how Alas died laughing:

Wake takes a lonely one
Wake takes a lonely one
Wake takes a lonely one
Wake takes a lonely one
Wake takes a lonely one
Wake takes a lonely one

(Note: I've listened to this song many times now and am convinced she's singing "Wake takes a lonely one" only she's Liz'ing the hell out of the syllables. It makes more sense with the rest of the lyrics- bone, stone, on)

I really should have taken a closer look at the verses though, because they are absolutely mind-boggling. I had to listen to this song about a hundred times to get the lyrics right but it was worth it. 

And note that like the Pythia, Fraser sounds like she's a trancelike state for the entire EP, even though she belted these songs out live like a trouper. It's actually unnerving. Especially on these lyrics:

Flaxen, the dress is bone
Crush a crushing stone
Tides touching walls
Wake takes a lonely one

Flaxen, the dress is on
Fingers, this dress is torn
Tides touching walls
Wake takes a lonely one

And look! Another handy graphic!

Now about "flaxen" linking us to Memphis:
Flax was cultivated in Mespoptania, Assyria, and Babylonia, but Egypt was known as the "land of linen." Linen was woven at least six thousand years ago; fragments of Egyptian cloth have been dated to 4500 B.C.  
And there's also the association with death ("Flaxen, dress is bone"). Of course.
Mummification, practiced from the first dynasty (2920-2770 B.C), required mountains of linen for bandage.

And just to get back to the ur-myth we're seeing acted out in all this....

The very first stanza of the very first telling of the myth of the Love Goddess and the Shepherd Boy-- the furiously-pornographic Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi-- is about- wait for it, now- flax.

The brother spoke to his younger sister.
The Sun God, Utu, spoke to Inanna, saying:
    “Young Lady, the flax in its fullness is lovely.
    Inanna, the grain is glistening in the furrow.
    I will hoe it for you. I will bring it to you.
    A piece of linen, big or small, is always needed.
    Inanna, I will bring it to you.”
Inanna: “Brother, after you’ve brought me the flax,
    Who will comb it for me?”
Utu: “Sister, I will bring it to you combed.”


Lastly, what connection does "Feathers Oar Blades," a garbled rowing term, possibly have with the Jeff Buckley drama?

It also refers to a paddle wheel mechanism (paddle and oar are synonymous as are paddle, float and blade in a paddlewheel).

A paddlewheel, like you have on a riverboat. 

Or a red floatboat.

So we basically have all the bullet-points of this tragedy as well as a reminder that what we are in fact seeing was a very American Gods-like retelling of that most ancient of ancient dramas. 

Only the stakes are real. And with Chris Cornell now drawn into the vortex it's anyone's guess where and how the story will be told yet again.


"What was essential to Delphic divination, then, was the frenzy of the Pythoness and the sounds which she uttered in this state which were interpreted by the Ὅσιοι [Osioi] and the 'prophet' according to some conventional code of their own."  Lewis Farnell, The Cults of the Greek States 
Then there's 'In The Gold Dust Rush', which features Fraser in full, howling, Pythia/avenging angel mode. Which is really strange because the lyrics don't make a lick of sense. 

On the face of it, I mean. 

Her honey mouth has got me all fool gold
Her honey mouth has got me all fool gold
Her honey mouth has got me all fool gold  

In the gold dust rush I only genuflect
In the gold dust rush I only genuflect
In the gold dust rush I only genuflect

Gold Dust Rush
Gold Dust Rush
Honey is Harbor
Gold Dust Rush
There's locusts in there
She's got the old fool gold
Honey is Harbor
Gold Dust Rush
There's locusts in there
She's got the old fool gold
Gold Dust Rush
She's got the old fool gold

Let's start with the title. Believe it or not, there's only one locality in the entire United States called "Gold Dust." 

Care to guess where it is?

In Tennessee. On the banks of the Mississippi. An hour and change upstream from Memphis.

Rush, of course,  refers to a river's current. And "Gold Rush" refers to the California Gold Rush, in Jeff Buckley's home state. Just an FYI, there.

Let's look at the first verse:

Her honey mouth has got me all fool gold
Her honey mouth has got me all fool gold
Her honey mouth has got me all fool gold  

Which is remarkably similar to this verse from - you guessed it- The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi:

My honey-man, 
My honey-man sweetens me always.
My lord, the honey-man of the gods,
He is the one my womb loves best.
His hand is honey, his foot is honey

But we saw Fraser sing of honey again in a song about drowning in a lagoon, didn't we?

So until the hour
My coeur cheri paiyaa ("sweetheart boy") 

And there is in fact the core issue we've been looking at here- channeled prophecy.
The Homeric Hymn to Apollo acknowledges that Apollo's gift of prophecy first came to him from three bee maidens...
So "her honey mouth" can also refer to the prophecies of the Bee Maidens in the context of well-established prophetic language rules. But "honey" and "mouth" also correspond to food and eating, so what's this "Fool's Gold" this prophetic voice has somebody?

I mean, we're prophesying a rock star's death here, right?

Well, how about the death of Elvis Presley? In Memphis? Will that do?

The peanut butter and banana sandwich with melted bacon grease has been referred as a favorite of Elvis Presley, who was renowned for his food cravings such as the Fool's Gold Loaf, a loaf of Italian bread filled with a pound of bacon, peanut butter, and grape jelly. 

 Huh; Elvis ("the old Fool's Gold") and Apollo's prophecies ("Her honey mouth") all in one verse. How about that? How do you top that?

Honey is Harbor
Gold Dust Rush
There's locusts in there
She's got the old fool gold

Wait- did she actually say "Honey is Harbor?" Yes, indeed she did. Believe me, I checked. Quite a few times.

What does "Honey is Harbor" possibly mean?

 Which reminds me- the mouth of the Wolf River ("her honey mouth") is in Frayser.

So let's add this up: "Her Honey Mouth"- Fraser, Wolf River, Bee Maidens' prophecy, Apollo- "Has got me all fool gold" Elvis' death in Memphis (largely caused by his horrible diet, including the PBJ-bacon combo, "the Fool's Gold").

So what about...

Honey is Harbor
Gold Dust Rush
There's locusts in there

"Honey" and "Locusts" are a cinch for any of you who didn't fall asleep in Sunday School. (Locusts are also famously linked to ancient Memphis- see Exodus 10:3–6)
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  Mark 1:4-8
Baptized in the Jordan River. OK...
While John the Baptist's use of a deep river for his baptism suggests immersion, "The fact that he chose a permanent and deep river suggests that more than a token quantity of water was needed, and both the preposition 'in' (the Jordan) and the basic meaning of the verb 'baptize' probably indicate immersion.
Immersion in a river... Baptism...

Might that have anything to do with the first verse of Elizabeth Fraser and Jeff Buckley's legendary duet, "All Flowers in Time Bend Towards the Sun?"

My eyes a Baptism 
Oh, I am filth 
And sing her into my thoughts 
Oh phantom elusive thing, oh

So I guess "Baptist" is kind of important to this Mystery play, don't you think?

Now how do we put this last verse together?

Her honey mouth has got me all fool gold
In the gold dust rush I only genuflect
Her honey mouth has got me all fool gold 

Well, you genuflect in a church, right? 

How about the famous Historic Baptist Church on Beale St, just six short blocks from where Jeff Buckley's body washed up at the mouth of the Honey-is-Harbor?

Will that do?

So taken together, "her honey mouth has got me all fool gold," prophecy of death in Memphis' Wolf River Harbor ("honey is harbor") and "In the gold dust rush I only genuflect"- current of Mississippi River taking someone to a Baptist ("honey is harbor, there's locusts in there") Church ("I only genuflect"). At the mouth of the Wolf River Harbor ("her honey mouth",  Wolf River honey, "honey is harbor").

This is all either absolute and total insanity or the most ingenious cipher I've ever seen in my life. 

"In The Gold Dust Rush" is the first song on the second side of Head Over Heels. The next song is "Tinderbox of a Heart," which goes something like this:

How heavy you are, it's spitting you out
Tinderbox of a heart left a shell of that's all

It's believed the weight of Buckley's clothes and shoes contributed to his drowning.

The last song on Head Over Heels is a howling firestorm about the most famous doomed lovers of all, Romeo and Juilet.  The chorus is heart-ripping:

Tragedy end
Am I pretty enough?

A musical about Romeo and Juliet using Jeff Buckley's music would have a brief run 30 years after this song was recorded.

OK, I think I've established this woman's prophetic cred. I'd say she grinds Nostradamus into a bloody pulp.

But some of you might be wondering right now if any of this is true, why spend it all on a prophecy of the death of an aspiring rock star twenty years ago? 

Well, there are dozens of other songs and lyrics we're not looking at, many of which are not in English or any other consistent language. 

God only knows what prophecies are hiding in them

And there are some rather more momentous prophecies we've yet to get to.

UPDATE: Think all this is just Internet crazytalk? Reader Disposium drops this Peter Kingsley quote on us that sums it all up better than I could even try to:
"Above anything else (Apollo) was a god of oracles and prophecy - and the oracles he gave out were riddles, full of ambiguities and traps. It was the people who believed everything was bright and clear who ended up in trouble. 
"Often he's associated with bright music and song. And yet, especially in Anatolia, he had a very different side. There songs were sung in his honour that were full of strange words, sung in an incantatory language no one could understand. 
And his oracles were spoken by his prophet in a voice heavy with trance: oracles full of repetitions and riddles, expressed in a poetry that at times hardly seemed poetry at all. For Apollo was a god who operated on another level of consciousness with rules and a logic of its own."
What does Elizabeth Fraser herself have to say about this?  "I had no aspirations at all really. I just had a lot of something – what was it? So much sun, I suppose, running through me. All this wonderful sun! An Apollonian spirit, if that is a word."

Astonishing. I think it's very safe to say Fraser was quite probably prophesying a lot more than the death of her future lover.


PS: Elizabeth Fraser quit the Cocteau Twins shortly after Jeff Buckley died and has produced very little music since. But even this has mythic echoes:

 Lost is her lovely lord, and with him lost her hallowed beauty. When Adonis yet lived Cypris was beautiful to see to, but when Adonis died her loveliness died also. -- Bion, The Fragments