The Archetype of the Femme Fatale
…dating back to the origin of the Sinister Tradition
She was the elite of the elite, a god in the flesh, the touted female known as the commandant – never seen but worshipped throughout organisation-run territories as a black mistress of death, destruction and imploding schizophrenic blood lust – creeping like a mustard gas mist across the destroyed and devastated plains of a post-nuclear hell.
She was compared to the mother of death, who would nurse her children then destroy them without any mercy whatsoever, keen on the perverse obliteration of their mortal lives and feeding upon the astral lifeforce of the pain spreading around their dying and pained forms, […].
(Iron Gates, p. 125, 127)
- The Femme Fatale
In the Sinister fiction of the TOB we find this particular female described as the Commandant. A monstrous woman for whom the crowd goes crazy and erupts in screams of frenzy as she appears out of the myth that surrounds her in this post-nuclear society. And is this a new kind of woman? Well, of course her cruelty and blood lust are legendary but when we travel back in time to the end of the 19th century, namely the Fin de siècle, we encounter writers and poets such as Théophile Gautier and Algernon Swinburne, the latter having a profound influence on Crowley, who perfected a new kind of woman, namely the Femme Fatale or the Fatal Woman.
The Fin de siècle is an important period because artistically, philosophically and magcially (and I would add numinously) numerous interesting reactions to the desastrous effects of industrialisation, of positvism and the belief in science, to boring realism and naturalism were displayed and have proven to be right. Théophile Gautier, who founded exotic estheticism, developped the figure, the archetype (esoterically: the causal presencing of a certain acausal energie – A.Long) of the fatal woman in his novel ‘Une nuit de Cléopâtre’ (1845).
Like the commandant Cleopatra is seductive, unapproachable and she gets bored quite easily, and therefore she succeeds to seduce the young lion tamer Meïamoun and just like a female spider she kills the young lover, and after the game of seduction she enjoys his suffering and his death: a form of sexual cannibalism monopolized by women. Kali also killed Shiva because of her temper, her deadly nature. The commandant kills without mercy as well. We can see that the Femme Fatale becomes a shameless, ruthless, dominating and cruel beauty to which men subject themselves most voluntarily and she turns out to be a predator who, like the Commandant, is in charge of the Cult.
2. Crowley’s Fatal Woman and his Scarlet one
Crowley who dabbled in poetry (and magick ;-)) wrote several decadent poems. In his poem Jezabel Crowley describes the archetype of the Femme Fatale:
Now let me die, at last desired,
At last beloved of thee my queen,
Now let me die, with blood attired,
Thy servant naked and obscene;
To thy white skull, thy palms, thy feet,
Clinging, dead, infamous, complete
Now let me die, to mix my soul
With thy red soul, to join our hands,
To weld us in one perfect whole,
To link us with desirous bands.
Now let met die, to mate in hell
With thee, o harlot Jezabel.
Crowley’s Jezabel is represented as a Vampire, with a white skin and the embodiment of Death. She only intends to feed on her victim to taste Death itself and thus lacking all compassion. The Fatal Woman enjoys toying with her ‘food’ and at the end of the 19th century this strong female took the place of the Byronic hero. Instead of the woman having to serve the man, now we see that the man kneeling in order to satisfy his masochist needs. The harlot Jezabel is Satanic as she wants to ‘mate in hell’ and as a dominatrix she is more than happy to fulfill the needs of these obedient Homo Hubris type of men.
In Crowley’s occult writings he models his ‘Scarlet Woman’ after the Scarlet Woman of the Apocalyps of John. Crowley’s Scarlot Woman, despite being an intruiging mystical figure, is not at all the strong authoritarian harlot Jezabel or the commandant of Iron Gates, both predators for whom Death is just breakfast. The Scarlet Woman (777) plays an important role in Crowley’s Thelemic system, but it is a passive one. In his Book of the Law we can read:
“I.15 Now ye shall know that the chosen priest & apostle of infinite space is the prince-priest the Beast; and in his woman called the Scarlet Woman is all power given.”
Crowley refers to himself as the ‘chosen’ one (by the Secret Chiefs), while the Scarlet Woman remains his bride, so she is chosen by him. She may be given all power in Crowley’s Thelemic system, albeit being critical of aspects of christianity, the patriarchal roots are abundantly clear and dominant: the need for extravagent ceremonies based on the system of the Golden Dawn, in which the most important roles are attributed to men, Crowley’s positivist interpreation of magick as a set of tools in order to achieve results, Crowley’s belief in a True Will and so on. Crowley’s system is based on security, achieving results, which is clearly in line with the magian religions. The role of the woman is only secondary, for example: the sexual union with Crowley’s Scarlet Woman is not lethal for the male priest is always in control. In his poetry Crowley might have dreamt of a Vampire, but in his system he needs women to be servient, passive, functional. Women become a tool, and have a function which they should fulfill. This is how Bataille described Christiainity as being a ‘religion of work’. Everything has a certain function and salvation is the only reward. Men and women all have to play their part.
3. Swinburne: Dolores
With Swinburne however this is another matter. His female heroes are described as satanic, and esoterically speaking his heroes are in fact Satanic). In one of his poems ‘Dolores’ you can recognise the influence of our good old friend de Sade. Dolores can be therefore be seen as ‘a sadistic Madonna’:
I have passed from the outermost portal
To the Shrine where sin is a prayer;
What care though the service be mortal?
Our Lady of Torture, what care?
All thine the last wine that I pour is,
The last in the chalice we drain,
Fierce and luxurious Dolores,
Our Lady of Pain.
In this poem Swinburne calls Dolores his ‘sister, bride and mother’ which intensifies her sadistic and blasphemous nature for she transgresses all kind of bonds which are dear to the mundanes. The woman has actually transcended her flesh and blood (albeit still enjoying it!), and she has gained a morbid sensuality which makes her immortal and invincible. Men’s love for these beings becomes a form of worship, a form of martyrdom as she will kill them afterwards. In a study on Swinburne, by Snodgrass, the author goes beyond the earthly archetype of a seductive predator and he describes the Swinburnean Dolores as a cosmic figure, “emblem of pure Desire, incarnations of sacred space” which means that she grants access to what Bataille calls the Sacred, as through her the acausal energies flow. The male wishes to become one with her (a mystical union) in order to make his life more authentic (authentic being – Heidegger / Naos) by further evolving as a human being in order to establish new types of communities. As she embodies the Sacred the hero should only ‘will’ or ‘desire’ to tap into those numinous emanations, but this ‘holy insurrection’, mentioned by Swinburne, implies death: “[…] Dolores who redeems also devours, […] man’s ‘life’ is also his death.” (Snodgrass 1979: 73) The hero in Swinburne takes part in a opher ritual for through the erotic union with the Femme Fatale, he gives up his discontinuity, his limited causal existence. He becomes the opher, the sacrifice and through his death a Void opens up, a gateway to the Acausal.
4. Femme Fatales by symbolist painters
Other enigmatic Femme Fatales were created by painters, such as Ishtar by Ferdinand Khnopff:
Here you can see a seductive woman. She is extactic and underneath her one can see a face, (or is it a plant) that phallic-like grows towards her pubic area. A unio mystica!
Another well-known painting is Jean Delville’s L’Idole de la perversity (the Idol of perversité):
This idol is clearly a representation of a Fatal or Dangerous Woman: the crown with the snakes, the nudity, her self-confident even mocking look, a combination of ligth and darkness which she eminates. This is not an ordinary woman, but a depicition of a Dark Goddess. Delville was of course aware of the historical and mythical women of the past such as Lilith, the Sirens, Salome, but his creation is truly Satanic.
5. The Sinister Tradition and Matriarchy
This nicely corresponds to the Dark and violent Goddess Baphomet, of the ancient tradition of the ONA, who holds the bloodied severed head of a sacrificed man in her one hand and the tethrahedon in her other. Baphomet, our Mistress of the Earth, is without scruples as well and stemming from a matriarchal line she holds the power in both hands: Death & Creation, the circle of Life. As stated in the ‘Grimoire of Baphomet’ she is associated with other dark, female, acausal entities and who exist by feeding off the acaual life-force of their male victims entrapped and tested by them. So, it shows then that Tradition has been quite strong and while mostly hidden from the mundanes, has managed to ‘pop up’ through writers and poets such as Swinburne who intuitively – a darker empathy with the energetic waves of the cosmic – were connected to some aspects of this occult significance of our Being, something that has remained from the public and mundane eye. It opens up a genuine focus on Life or a more authentic way of Being. The patriarchal tradition has always managed to corrupt Being by suppressing significant Life forces such as the Sinister Feminine. As we described, ancient traditions have always managed to re-discover that, to un-earth those chtonic forces so that its adepts were able to re-align with them. The Arts have proven to be allies as well, although we will never know in what way poets and writers were effectively ‘in the know’ of these Traditions. Nevertheless the Fin-de-Siècle dealt with the most corruptive aspects of Catholicism, while also acknowledging its more Sinister aspects. By ‘creating’ the archetype, or rather focussing on it, and putting her on a pedestal and worshipping her as a beautiful, powerful and cruel woman, the decadentists and symbolists acknowledged the cosmic importance of the Sinister Feminine.
Agios O Baphomet! Agios O Baphomet! Agios O Baphomet!