What’s up Special Ed?!?!
It’s March which means we’re just about a month away from 2021 MOCK DRAFT SEASON!!! We know the real diehards out there are already rocking mocks and best ball drafts in March, but we usually wait 'til after the NFL Draft before we start mocking the upcoming season.
Right now we’re still enjoying our off-season, which is great cause there’s a lotta good streaming TV on right now. We just finished WandaVision and we dug it. All these magic spells and shit got us thinkin’ tho... There still might be a way for a Grand Champion such as ourselves to take our game to the whole ‘nother level:
In 2019 DYM brought you Fantasy Mythopoeia - this year it’s FANTASY DIVINATION!!!
We just thought of it last night and haven’t looked into it too much yet. But we can’t imagine we’re the first person that ever thought to use hexes and chaos magic in fantasy sports or gambling. It actually seems kinda obvious now that we’re thinking about it.
Anyways, for now we’re working on this Fantasy Football Tarot Deck. We figure it should be useful for draft prep even if we can’t get all the incantations figured out. Here’s a little preview:
Kyrie's gonna stop by for more coverage of the 2021 NBA Champion Nets, and the Mets are gonna be good too so we're gonna be watchin' baseball again, AND there's OLYMPICS this year!!
It's gonna be a HOT summer!!!!!
So before we return to our regularly scheduled DYM programming, we gotta finish off the long overdue conclusion of THE DYM ULTIMATE STAR WARS THEORY!!!
When we first wrote it 2 years ago, DYM Scholars surely recognized the irony of the "Ultimate" Star Wars Theory being concocted before the release of the last Star Wars movie. Let's be honest - we had no fucking clue what was gonna happen in Episode IX.
We actually thought broom boy was gonna be a thing.
But really the joke of the original USWT was the same one we always do - if we say we're gonna talk about something next week it'll likely never be mentioned again, and if we say this is the last word on a subject it most certainly is not. Which means we will never be filling in those blacked out [IX] boxes on the Hero's Journey breakdown.
The first edition of the DYM Ultimate Star Wars Theory was actually neither "ultimate" nor an entirely consistent "theory." Hopefully this post will be at least one of those things.
DYM ULTIMATE STAR WARS THEORY PART II:
THE LAST WORD ON EPISODE IX
A lot of things happened in Episode IX. Most of the time when someone asks us about it that's what we say. "It was a lot of things". The movie moves so fast - characters talk over each other, scenes cut frenetically between way too many different planets - it could easily have been 45 minutes longer without adding one line of dialogue. The first time we saw it, it was like a fever dream of a Star Wars movie. We recognized most of the characters and the scenes, but as we left the theater we felt like half the story was rapidly evaporating from our memory. But also like a dream, although we easily forgot the details, a few peculiar images persisted. Things we had never seen in Star Wars before, or never this intimately: A burial, a snake, and a woman in a gold helmet. And like a dream, we now believe those strange and persistent images are keys to the deeper meaning behind the story - the reason why it was told.
There have only been two gold helmets in Star Wars cannon and both of them first appeared in 2019. Our theory is that Zorii Bliss and The Mandalorian Armorer both represent the same mythic archetype - namely the Greek goddess Athena.
Athena is the guardian of heroes, she visits them on their quests, or appears to them in her temple, to bestow knowledge and gifts that they will need to complete their journey.
Precisely same role that Zorii and The Armorer play in Star Wars.
She is also the most powerful war goddess. She was born with a shield and spear in her hands. She killed giants in defense of Olympus. In the Iliad she fought alongside Achilles in the final battle and helped kill Hector to aide Achilles' escape, and even defeated Ares himself.
Perseus kills Medusa and brings the head back to Athena. She uses the head to make a shield and suit of armour.
She is a leader and voice of reason to the journeying hero - calming Achilles' rage when he threatens to kill his own men.
She is also a virgin goddess. The "Parthenon", which translates to "temple of the virgin goddess", was named for her.
When Medusa was beheaded blood poured out of her neck, and from the stream sprang the winged horse Pegasus. Athena was then the original keeper of Pegasus and it is said she invented the first bridle, saddle, and chariot. This is the etymological source of her epithet Hippia (Ἵππια "of the horses"), and the temple mentioned by Pausinias called the temple of Athena Chalinitis ("the bridler").
(Yes, Babu Frik is Hera. We'll do that one next month.)
Lest one think we're grasping straws with this rather opaque jumping off point of "a woman in a gold helmet", allow us to dwell on the minutiae of the aesthetic similarities as well:
Zorii's helmet has a crest extending above and behind her head, similar to the feathered crest of Athena's helmet (or perhaps reminiscent of the Pharoic crowns of Lower Egypt - more on that below).
Later images of "Pallas Athena" show the goddess with a more complex helmet design. Instead of the single crest, there are usually with five points along the top of the helmet.
The name Pallas Athena refers to her role in the war of "Gigantomachy" where the gods of Olympus battled for ten years against the ancient race of "Gigantes". There Athena killed the giant called Pallas, then skinned the giant and dressed herself in it's skin to make herself stronger. That's one weird trick she'd employ habitually throughout the tales of Greek heroes. The Pallas Athena in the statue pictured above has since afixed the face and hair of Medusa to the front of her robes.
The Armorer is the only Mandalorian we've ever seen (since the Clone Wars scenes on the planet Mandalor) that wears anything other than Mando armor. She appears to have at least two layers of armor and an animal skin on top. As of yet we don't have a cannon origin story for the Armorer's pelt, but we bet it's gonna be a trip.
The five "points" on Athena's helmet, as one can clearly see above, are actually a series of miniature figures: a sphinx, flanked by two griffins, and the wings on either side denote this as Hades' cap of invisibility (which she wore to battle Ares in the Illiad). The three figures in the center are interchangeable in Attic art and later antiquity: Sometimes it's a sphinx, sometimes it's an eagle, sometimes it's the dogs of hell - Cerberus and Orthrus, sometimes it's a hydra or sea monster.
She most often is shown wearing images of the serpentine beasts her heroes have slain. Athena continued to be depicted in this attire for the majority of the late classical period and throughout Rome (as Minerva). That's significant, especially considering the history of these gods' relationship with snakes.
SNAKES OF THE UNDERWORLD
Snakes, serpents and dragons are found in the mythology and religion of cultures across the world dating back to the late paleolithic era. For as long as human beings have been writing, they've been writing about snakes. Given the near complete ubiquity of mythic snakes one could say there are just two types of religions in the world: those who worship snakes, and those who fear snakes. Interestingly both sides tend to describe snakes the same way -
Snakes come from the ground, and while in the ground they commune with the dead. When dead people are buried, the snakes know the way to the afterlife.
Loosely interpreted, this image of the snake was part of the founding myths of native cultures of Bali, China, India, Syria, Greece, Egypt, Scotland, Norway, North and South America, and many many others. Snakes are always the keepers of the underworld, whether or not one worships them depends entirely on who is buried in the ground.
Joseph Campbell argued that settled, pastoral cultures have tended to have maternalistic myths where the serpent is more likely to be a helper or protagonist, and nomadic cultures tend to be paternalistic and anti-snake. Jung and Freud both discussed burial rites in classical mythology as being akinto a "solemn marriage" (legal marriage ceremony) between a people and the land on which they live. Once a people have settled in an area they lay a claim to the plot of earth by burying their dead along with sacrifices to their mother goddess. That piece of earth is then their earth, and only then are the snakes friendly to them. Campbell further demonstrated that for both types of culture there is a distinction between the gods of the "chthonic or under-earth, and the telluric or upper-earth, of which we think when we think of Mother Earth. These are the two aspects of the Goddess, appearing as two goddesses."
Campbell had not finished writing Goddesses when he died in 1987, but since then contemporary discoveries in archeology, linguistics, genealogy, and studies of the history of mythological syncretism in the Near East have continued to support his hypotheses.
In 2018 archeologists discovered the region's earliest known snake sculptures in the Ukraine at Kamyana Mohyla. The figures were carbon-dated to about 8000 bc - at least 4000 years before the Sumerians recorded the first written language.
This site, like Çatalhöyük in Turkey, is believed to have been a post-hunter-gatherer society. They were a long-settled, pastoral, and matriarchal culture. Findings at the site indicate they buried their dead in their own homes, even under their own beds, and they seem to have invoked snakes in their burial rites (see wall carving image above).
Historians today trace the roots of written Indo-European languages back to the mid-4th millennium bc when the nomadic Yamnaya warriors raided those pastoral natives and settled briefly in the river deltas north of the Black Sea.
Archeologically, the defining characteristic of the Yamna was their burial rituals - the word "Yamnaya" in Russian and Ukrainian means "related to pits."
In some of the world's largest neolithic burial sites, The Yamnaya are believed to have built underground tombs out in the hills away from their towns. These "kurgans" (burial mounds), unlike the private at-home burials of Kamyana Mohyla, appear to have been reserved for the elite warrior class. Notably, kurgans have been found to contain both human and animal remains, and graves are covered with giant tombstones cut in the shape of a person. They were also amongst the first people of Europe to record their religious fear of snakes.
Historians believe the Yamna conquered the pastoral nations of the region, destroying most records of their ancient goddess religions. Campbell retells the era in Godesses:
Archaeological research proved that the Indo-Europeans’ arrival was a comparatively late development; the modern dating of ancient Sumer and of Egypt, along with what we now know of Old Europe before these people came in—all this has changed the picture considerably. We now see that the Indo-Europeans came in as warrior-ravagers and that in each region they knocked down the civilization that was already there. Then they absorbed the influence of the earlier civilization and out of that synthesis came the high golden period of Greece. The earlier civilizations belonged to the goddess; the later to the gods. There is a perfect parallel in Southwest Asia, with the Semites arriving in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and so forth, as they had as their principal interest a kind of rough nomadic warcraft.
Archeologists and other folks much smarter than us have undertook thorough analyses of the opaque ancient iconography of the early these neolithic and bronze age tribes (check your local library!). Though we think for our purposes it will suffice to say that the Yamnaya, a culture of nomadic herders and warrior kings, did not feel the same kinship with this particular plot of earth as their predecessors had - and so the snakes they found in the Black Sea were not their snakes.
The Yamna split up and began to migrate across Europe and Southern Asia beginning around 3000 bc. This ancient nomadic culture is the earliest known ancestor of the Slavic, Celtic, Balkan, Germanic, Persian, Vedic, and Hellenic peoples. Hence, there are direct cultural and linguistic ties between the classical myths of all these cultures and the story now known as the Chaoskampf. This is a primordial mythic tale, shared in some form by all post-Yamnaya cultures where the national hero or god battles against the agents of chaos, in the shape of a giant snake or dragon.
Around 1000 bc Classical Greek culture as we know it was established. Their founding myth, the tale of Zeus claiming the throne on Mount Olympus, is a battle between he and a giant snake called Typhon. In this story, the snake was, or course, born from Gaia (the Earth) herself.
Zeus slays the beast and buries it under the mountains. Classical sources describe those mountains being in Africa (as the vision of most nomadic myths are oriented westward), but they also may be a reference to their ancestor's kurgans, where they buried their dragons in the hills far away from their cities.
Interestingly, in later Greek sources, we find another version of Typhon's birth where he is the rival of the Greeks national tutelary goddess, Athena.
HELM OF SNAKES
In 1903 archeologist Arthur Evans discovered the remains of the Pre-Hellenic Minoan civilization on the island of Crete. Until this time western history had no knowledge of the native people of the islands before the first millenium bc. Evans believes that they, like the Turkish and Ukranian natives, were a pastoral maternalistic culture.
Very little is known for sure about the role of this goddess, besides that she was very popular (at least 5 statues and several paintings were recovered from the Knossos site), and that she bears a striking resemblance to even older Syrian snake goddess and some older statues found in Mesopotamia. It's a reasonable assumption that this image, or the Neolithic image on that inspired it, helped shape the image of the Greek's saviour goddess as well.
Athena was the protector of the Greek nation, their national god. So as the protector of "heroes" she was first and foremost the protector of Greek armies and kings. Her sidekick is Nike the goddess of victory so, as a warrior goddess she was undefeated. The beautiful pure Athena, the greek goddess of wisdom, was actually military a tactician.
She was born with a spear and shield in her hands. The story goes that Zeus gave birth to Athena alone - without Hera (which we guess is sort of a virgin birth in a way) - and she was born fully grown and equally powerful as Zeus himself. Hera was insulted so she went to make a child for herself who would also be as strong as Zeus and also be evil.
In this version of the story Typhon is a bane on the world of man (not the gods). Typhon married the sea monster Echidna and their children became a rogues gallery for all greek heroes and their patron, Athena.
In our hasty wikipedia browsing over the past week we confirmed that all twelve of Typhon and Echidna descendants were killed (or as Cerberus, captured) by one of Athena's favored heroes. We also found iconic antique renderings of Athena showing her wearing each of the monsters on her hat (the only exceptions being the Nameian Lion who became Heracles' favorite coat, The Calydonian Boar who was sacrificed in Athena's temple, and Cerberus who of course was not killed, merely captured, by Heracles):
You might have noticed there are a lot of snakes, dragons, and sea serpents in Typhon's family tree, and coincidentally the least serpentine among them - the lion, dog and boar (all ancient totem animals representing death, same as the snake) - were given away or sacrificed after they were slain.
She takes the images of the monsters - specifically the serpents - and reclaims them, she makes them a part of her.
Herodotus tells us that when he was a boy Athenians thought their goddess to be incarnated as a snake:
"They have a great snake which guards the Acropolis and to which each month offerings of honey cake are made, and graciously received. But at the time of the Persian invasion, the snake refused to eat the offering. And when the priestess announced this, the Athenians deserted the city the more readily because the Goddess herself had deserted the Acropolis."
In Jungian psychological terms, their corresponding virginal births clearly make Typhon the animus of Athena, and she is his anima.
They are two sides of the same personality. One side conscious, the other subconscious - the rejected, suppressed shadow side. Athena's journey is a recollection of the images of her own subconscious, which is the subconscious of the very zeitgeist of the Greek people. As much as they hate and try to destroy the image of the serpent, deep in their hearts they know it is a part of them; perhaps the most vital original part of them. The image of the snake represents the beginning and end of their earthly lives, the long lost home that the Yamnic nomads left behind, and also the new one that they still seek.
The most popular academic method of interpreting classical myths is by way of political history. The gods and heroes represent the nation that wrote the story, and the monsters represent foreigners. This is another useful metaphor to apply to the images of Athena during Herodotus' day. By 500 bc the Greeks' roots were firm in the Hellenic islands but the journeying nomadic spirit of their Yamnic forefathers begged them to voyage outward once again.
Artifacts from this time from across the Middle East and southern Europe show strong Greek cultural influences. At this time pre-Socratic philosophers often made note of the similarities between their own pantheon and those of the neighboring nations with whom they were becoming more closely acquainted. Perhaps a bit proudly, they most often compared themselves to the Egyptians.
These sorts of comparisons are far easier for us today, with this 10,000 foot view of ancient history. It's unlikely any ancient Greek thinkers recognized the depth of irony in the fact that their people had left the steppe land 3,000 years earlier, after vanquishing the lands' serpent demons and leaving monumental tombs in the hills, only to arrive at the shores of the Mediterranean and find such similar tombs - filled with both animals and men, but reserved for kings - built by people who for the last 3,000 years had been telling a remarkably similar story to their own.
Greek thinkers adored the Egyptians and learned all they could from them - The Egyptians and Ethiopians of the 3rd-1st centuries bc were among the most advanced on earth in mathematics, medicine, astronomy, and other proto-sciences. The great doctors, politicians and philosophers of Greece all studied in the kingdoms of eastern Africa. They learned about Egyptian religion too, and found it quite comprehensible through the framework of their own Pantheon.
By the time of Alexander the Great and the Ptolemaic Dynasty in Egypt, the only real difference between the Greeks and the Egyptians was the Egyptians weren't afraid of snakes.
But comparative mythology, was not just an academic curiosity for the likes of Herodotus, Pseudo-Apollodorus, and the later Pythagoreans. It was a political necessity as well. International relations had both greatly enriched and gravely threatened Greek life by the mid-first century bc.
At the same time as they mingled with the Egyptians, the Greek kings tried to maintain an uneasy peace with the growing Persian empire to their east. But under Cyrus The Great, the powerful Persian empires would expand to overtake all of Greece. Fortunately, Cyrus famously allowed all his subjects to continue practicing their own religions. This allowed another generation to retell the ancient war stories of the Gods and Titans. Those later Greek poets must have felt that those stories had become more important for their nation than they had ever been before. By then, all those snakes adorning Pallas Athena's gown and helmet came to symbolize what they had learned from the Egyptians and the Persians, as well as the protection they would need to begin their next journey.
When the the Persians sacked Athens in 480 bc Herodotus - one of our greatest extant sources on Attic Greek mythology - was just 4 years old. It's no wonder why his version of Athena would feel like she needed a few extra skins for protection.
A couple hundred years later, Alexander the Great would revive the Greek empire and installed Ptolemy as the first Greek Pharaoh of Egypt. Alexander re-conquered all the land from the Mediterranean to what is now Kabul, Afghanistan in the name of Greece. There they became reacquainted with the ancient Babylonian goddess Ishtar. The warrior goddess born from the blood of her castrated father's testicles - just like their own Aphrodite - who was depicted so similarly to their beloved Athena. The cultures blended, and many obscure syncretic cults emerged throughout Greece. Some of these cults even worshipped long-forgotten goddesses of their ancestors on the near-eastern steppe - like Cybele from Çatalhöyük, and Bendis from Thracia.
By the time Athens fell, The Roman Empire was already on the rise.
As we all know, Roman religious texts and rites were borrowed entirely from the Greek Pantheon. No deep allegorical analysis needed to compare these two - the Romans changed very little in the Greek narratives besides renaming the gods in Latin. And the prescriptive message that the myths spoke to the Roman people was, of course, the same as it had been since long before Greece was Greek. The motivating cultural force inspired by the nomadic monomyth has always been, and will always be, providential westward expansion.
The phrase “manifest destiny” was first used in 1845 by American journalist John L. O’Sullivan:
“A manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.”
It is the meaning of the Latin phrase that appears on the back of the US $1 bill: Annuit Cœptis - “God has favored our endeavors.” The latin phrasing comes from a scene in Rome's founding myth the Aeneid. The future king Ascanius asks Jupiter for his help in fighting the war against the native Italians so they can found a nation in Italy.
"Iuppiter omnipotens, audacibus adnue coeptis"
“Jupiter Almighty, favour [my] bold undertakings.”
Jupiter did bless Ascanius and every Roman Emperor after him inherited the blessing. Just like their Yamnic ancestors, the Roman Empire conquered every nation north and west of their homeland, until they - like the eventual Greeks - reached the sea.
Time passes. The Roman Empire falls and is replaced by the Roman Catholic Church.
By this time, The Church had exceeded the Greeks, and even Cyrus the Great, in their adeptness at appropriating pagan rites and gods by way of syncretism. Their imaginative reinterpretation of Judeo-Christian myth would enable The Church to maintain a stronghold on every continent. So much so that even after the French Revolution ushered in the Age of Enlightenment, Napoleon could not truly rule Paris, let alone the rest of his empire without a pact with Rome.
Meanwhile, across the great sea, a “New World” had been discovered and the flame of providential western expansion had already been sparked anew. Europeans ventured to America and became nomads once again.
George Lucas has stated repeatedly that his intent in making Star Wars was to create a mythology for 21st century America.
But of course, 20th century America already had well-established national myths. Lucas grew up watching Westerns, which largely conjure the 19th century American rallying cry of Manifest Destiny. Andrew Jackson's bloody subjugation of Native American peoples, and of the very land of the continent itself, was glorified in the heroic adventures of cowboys on film and television. My parents' generation grew up idolizing Zorro and The Lone Ranger. Iconic actors like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood became synonymous with the genre so even when they appeared in other types of films the audience fully understood that Sgt. Stryker (in Sands of Iwo Jima) and Dirty Harry have both come to lay down the law (and slay the proverbial chaos) - they're still the sheriff in this here town. So it's easy to see how the archetypes and values of the quintessentially American genre - Westerns - naturally persisted into war movies, urban dramas, romances, and sports movies even as the popularity of Westerns themselves waned in the later 20th century.
The pivotal scene in the Hero's Journey of the American West was Davy Crockett joining the battle at The Alamo.
The stories of the heroes of The Alamo were largely popularized on screen in the 1950's by Walt Disney. Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier first aired in 1955, the same year that they built their first monumental castle on the continent's westernmost shore. Disney had then performed their "solemn marriage" with the American continent.
Our collective millenia of westward exploration had come to an end, and Disney had become the keepers and guardians of the American Myth.
That year George Lucas was 9 years old.
That image of The Alamo - the ragtag group of rebels facing impossible odds - must have left an indelible mark on the imagination of a young George Lucas.
The argument for the cinematic influence of Westerns on Star Wars is quite straightforward, and is already very well-treaded ground in the world of film analysis. Moreover, we would not be the first to compare the frontiersman, particularly Davy Crockett, to Achilles and Odysseus; Nor would we be the first to draw the parallels between Crockett joining up at the Alamo and Luke Skywalker joining the battle against the Death Star.
But now that the Skywalker Saga is complete, and Star Wars approaches 50 years of residency in the American imagination, we can bring Star Wars into the fold of American Mythology in much more interesting ways.
By the 1950s America had solidified its own version of the ancient chaoskampf in TV cowboys representing the myth of Manifest Destiny: Tales of rugged individuals braving new frontiers, imbued with divine righteousness, fending off ancient and powerful enemy forces. It was instrumental in the zeitgeist of early 20th century America, and to its children, the story still begged to be retold.
The spirit of the Yamnaya would live on for another generation.
But as Lucas explains, American politics in the 1960s left him and many other young Americans disillusioned with their parents' righteous image of “America”. The cold utilitarianism of the Nixon administration seemed antithetical to the honesty and honor they ascribed to Lincoln, and to the forthright bravery of Roosevelt. By the 1970s America herself had become the great tyrannical serpent that it once fought against.
With Star Wars, Lucas undertook to remove the American myth from the harsh realities of the America he knew. He wanted to retell the myths of his childhood but with new heroes - timeless heroes - as to appeal to contemporary, and even future, audiences. He also sought to make an American myth that itself had a greater sense of history than the starkly nomadic westerns. This is accomplished directly in the text of Episode IV (“For a thousand generations the Jedi were the guardians of peace...”) and thematically by incorporating cinematic tropes of golden age Hollywood and classical music.
It was praised and beloved.
Between 1978 and 2005 (the Lucas Star Wars era) Star Wars became engrained in American culture to the point of ubiquity. It arguably became one of the tutelary myths of millennial American culture.
The original Star Wars was seen at the time as a huge departure from many of the era's established movie-making tropes. Many of these departures were received scornfully by the film industry. Lucas' written narrative introduction appeared on screen where there should have been production credits. He used an original operatic soundtrack of classical music, eschewing modern popular music. These were seen as a slap-in-the-face to the movie-making establishment. But those choices, along with all the very intentional references to classic mythology, were made to both stylistically separate Star Wars from its contemporaries and also to open up the audience's imagination by harkening back to some long forgotten cinematic traditions.
But try as it might to rebel, Star Wars is inescapably American. So clearly it's heroes must be nomads.
Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie have all lost their homes, and throughout the series they are rousted out of every hideout they find. The fact that the heroes are homeless gives a textual explanation for why the beloved dead are always burned in Star Wars movies (I, II, III, IV, VI), and adds an incredible depth of symbolism to the fact that almost nothing* is ever buried until the last scene of Episode IX. The song John Williams wrote for that scene is called A New Home. For Star Wars, that new home is Disney.
The cultural rise of Star Wars (and comic books, and other serialized heroic adventures) did nothing to dissuade Disney from claiming the serpent covered helm of Athena.
For nearly 100 years now Disney has remained the foremost American myth maker. They are still the protector of American heroes. They built another monument on our continent's eastern shore, just like Alexander returning to ancestral Mesopotamia; and then they reconstructed their monument all around the globe, which reminds us of the Roman-Celtic sanctuaries to Sulis-Minerva (the Latin Athena) found at the northwesternmost corner of the Roman Empire.
Disney never stopped telling myths. She communes with the snakes of America's forefathers, and she travels the world collecting all the snakes of the world's cultures. By 2012 Disney had become the awesome and fearsome Pallas Athena wearing the skins of giants, her robes threaded with snake scales, and on top of her helmet sat a mysterious sphinx, flanked by the hounds of Hades.
George Lucas’ myth may have sought to embrace the archetypal Mother Serpent of the underworld when he thought he had rejected and suppressed the anima he felt in Disney’s nomadic myths. But now Disney, as the conquering warrior goddess Athena, is the serpent. And so, now that we see the goddess covered head-to-toe in snake scale she begins to appear less like the terrible serpent of Yamnic chaos she slayed, and more like the heroic Egyptian goddess Wadjet - guardian of the Nile river kingdom.
5,000 years ago our cultural ancestors - the nomadic Yamna people - left behind a land of unfriendly ghosts and serpent demons, only to settle at the seaside next to Egypt - a land protected by great serpents.
And of course, as Campbell has shown us, The Hero always returns to the place where they started - so we now understand why even today the most fearsome gods of our nation appear to us in the form of a snake.
Well, folks, that’s what Episode IX is about. Zorii Bliss is Athena, and Athena is Disney. Rey descending to the underground lair and healing the giant snake, and then burying the lightsabers is a perfect inverse (reflection) of Zeus's foundational victory - Typhon ascended to the heavens where Zeus slayed him with his thunderbolts and then buried the great snake under the mountains. The buried lightsabers are Star Wars' sacrifice to Disney-Athena, now Star Wars may consummate it's sacred marriage with the American Myth.
So if one had been asked to pick just one Greek god to appear in Episode IX, Athena would've been a very good answer. But a better answer would have been Dionysus, because Dionysus always brings the PARTY FAVORS!!!
So far this argument may seem like an apologia for Episode IX.
When we gave the elevator pitch of Ultimate Star Wars Theory Part 2 to the wife she asked "So you're coming around? You like Episode IX now?"
And we said "Well, insofar as it's a fever dream, yea, I suppose... I mean, I've had nightmares that are useful. So I guess that's what Episode IX was like. A productive nightmare."
To keep it 100 with the true DYM Scholars who've made it this far, despite the plethora of problems with Episode IX that we've talked about over the last year, we gotta admit the thing we're still the most salty about is our ONE miss out of ten predictions we made for Episode IX back in the summer of 2019.
To recap, those predictions were:
1) The first scene would feature a hooded figure entering a circular doorway.
2) A hologram appears EXACTLY nine minutes into the film
(in Episode IX the first hologram appears at 7:00, not 9. We're still counting it. Fuck you, JJ. More on that below)
3) The heroes encounter a giant, slimy overlord.
4) A primitive army helps the heroes against a technologically advanced adversary.
5) An epic chase scene ensues.
6) A tearful "goodbye" is had amongst the hero and their family.
7) The hero pilots a new ship.
8) The hero hides from troopers in a hallway.
9) A spy is revealed.
and the only one we got wrong -
10) The heroes' non-human companion gets them in trouble by trying to steal a bite to eat.
You gotta admit that was impressive ("most impressive"). But the more we think about it, we're coming to realize that that one miss might have been the most important archetype in all of Star Wars. The Rise of Skywalker was the longest of the 9 Skywalker Saga movies (155 min) but not one character has so much as a sip of refreshment, which might be the reason why it was among the least enjoyable Star Wars movies.
Our "predictions" were all just things that had also happened in Episodes I, VI, and VII - The episodes that we presumed IX would have the most in common with. But food should have been the easy one. Lucas' heroes either eat something, or are eaten, in EVERY Star War except for Episode III, which was once widely considered the least enjoyable Star War of the Lucas era (66% audience approved on rotten tomatoes). Interestingly Episode VIII was also widely panned by a certain segment of Star Wars fandom (ie: people who are wrong), and it was the only Star War besides Episode III in which the heroes were NOT eaten (or threatened to be eaten) by a monster.
Campbell explains that as archetypes of sacramental tradition the image of a hero eating and being eaten are synonymous. Just as Jesus told his disciples at the last supper - He will become the food and they will eat of him. Combine this with the deeper spiritual knowledge that the divine image is actually an image of ourselves, and we too become the food we eat. We understand that the animal being sacrificed is a part of ourselves, so the very act of eating and drinking is tied to the mysteries of death and birth - the realm of the Mother Goddess.
So what we eat is a killed deity, whether it’s an animal we’re killing and eating or a plant we’re picking. The sense of saying grace before meals has been reduced to thanking God for giving you the food, but the real grace should be thanking God for being the food. That’s the sense of the communion in the Christian Church, where what you eat is God—Jesus, who gave his life that we might live.
In classical mythology the most tumultuous or emotional part of the hero's journey is often punctuated by a surprising or comedic scene. Campbell refers to it as the festival scene:
Demeter had scoured the Earth looking for her lost daughter Persephone. As she sat down, tearful and distraught, the princesses she was staying with drank wine and regaled her with jokes. They were able to coerce some laughter from the goddess, and she is then able to refocus and complete the most difficult part of her journey - the descent into Hades.
The intent is that the audience would laugh as well, and shake them from the stressful emotion of the gripping epic tale.
This allows them to open the playful, creative, and imaginative part of their minds, making them more receptive to the fantastic divine mystery that the story would soon reveal.
Most Star Wars movies have deftly employed this narrative device:
In Episode I, Qui Gon leads his party through the market and into the Skywalkers' home where they sit down for a meal. There he would reveal that he is a Jedi, and Anakin may be as well.
In Episode IV, Han sits down with a drink and a soup bowl to watch Luke take his first steps into a larger world.
In Episode VIII, Chewbacca sacrifices a porg and blesses it in the flames just before Rey makes contact with Kylo through their force-bond.
... and many, many more.
We honestly believe that the reason why Episode III is so off-putting is because there are way too many mystical secrets revealed and not nearly enough snacks. Sure, everybody complains about the acting in Episodes II and III, especially the awkward interactions between Anakin and Padme, but you know you loved that floating fruit scene in Episode II.
The reason we still rank Episode IX as the least enjoyable Star War is because the novelization of Episode III is by far the best of the entire series. The accounts of Anakin and Obi-Wan's inner monologues are strikingly poetic. And, more importantly, there are three deleted scenes in which our heroes are either eatin' or eaten:
About mid-way through, C-3PO serves the senators drinks as they discuss a plan to establish the Rebel Alliance. Then after Order-66 a sea monster tries to eat Obi-Wan but causes a commotion that allows him to escape. The scene cuts to Yoda making his way through the clone army lines to escape Kashyyk. To disguise himself, Yoda covers his head and body with mud and pretends to eat a dead wookie as the clones pass by (tbh that one was pretty weird even for us, maybe it's for the best it didn't make the final cut).
Credit where credit's due: Episode IX had a pivotal scene where the heroes stumble upon a literal festival on the desert planet Pasaana. That scene was immediately followed by the archetypal Magic Flight scene, and then a literal descent into the underworld where they encountered a giant snake who tried to eat them (the second of two giant snakes who try to eat the heroes of Episode IX).
Somehow, through all that the only creature who we see actually having a nosh are these little guys called the Oki-Poki, if you blinked you mighta missed it.
What really bothers us about this is that the writer(s) clearly knew what they were doing with the symbolism in these scenes. They're deeply ironic: There are so many winking, tongue in cheek comments and images that ought to have been foreshadowing but didn't pay off. We've been saying for years that Star Wars writers must be reading DYM, but this time it really felt like they were personally fucking with us.
(The kites were colorful, but the delectability of the sweets is very much in doubt.)
While inside the festival Rey is stopped by a girl who wants to give her something.
"This is it," we thought, "lunch time!"
But no. The kid gave Rey a stupid fucking necklace instead 'cause JJ Abrams is a fucking hack that couldn't think of a better way to demonstrate Kylo's increasing power than to have him snatch a chain off Rey's neck like like he's Aqib fuckin' Talib.
Among the other HIGHLY symbolic images that distracted Rey at the festival but foreshadowed NOTHING were:
A group of young children laughing innocently (Rey does NOT have a child in this movie), and several effigies and mock funeral pyres (There are no funeral pyres for Leia or Ben). Even the first time we saw it, everything about that scene was eyebrow-raising. A few minutes later, when they enter the serpent's lair, 3PO really starts to lay it on thick. But at this point our stomach was growling and we were not in the mood for jokes anymore.
Just after the crew falls through the roof of the Vexis’ lair C-3PO wanders about the cavern muttering to himself: “Is this the afterlife?” He wonders aloud, “Are droids allowed here?” A moment later Poe shudders at the sight of Ochi’s decayed skeleton. 3PO comments: “Bones, never a good sign.” Then, just in case anyone missed it, when Poe becomes outraged at 3PO‘s inability to say the only thing they want him to, the droid muses: “Yes, irony, sir.”
OK, so they're having fun. We're not here to begrudge anybody a good laugh, that's what the festival is supposed to be for. But c'mon!!! Lando showed up to the party, and even he didn't get a drink!!
Fuck Pasaana, yo.
If we were Finn we woulda took Ochi's ship straight back to Canto Bight. Zorii and Poe woulda loved that place.
* As it turns out, there was one (1) other burial in a Star Wars movie before 2019 - Shmi Skywalker. Anakin buried her in Episode II, RIGHT AFTER Padme offers him a bite to eat.
We coulda swore the saber burial was the first ever burial in any Star War, but our brother Syd was dubious so we took a closer look. We were slightly disappointed, to be honest, but we don't think this really disproves the present thesis.