Necromocracy (Part Two)
"I have to question whether there is an evil force in the world and whether or not I have been influenced by it." - Jeffrey Dahmer.
Much like Gilles de Rais, the sixteenth century Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory is notorious for tearing apart young children to satisfy her sex-magical appetite. Her taste was for girls, more than 600 of them, and she was able to consume so many of them because it was only late in her career that she turned her desires to the daughters of her own kind. Down the hill, beneath her castle, villagers had "often claimed to have heard screams emanating from within this place, and they spoke of disappearing girls and of murder, but no one had dared approach the regal, 50-something countess until now. Word had come to the king that she had kidnapped or killed nine girls from good families."
Naturally she'd had help. Servants and hirelings were employed in abduction and torture, including Elizabeth's own childhood nurse Ilona Joo, who admitted to having killed 50 girls by her own hand. Some claimed to have been forced to act against their will, and some others instructed their mistress in black magic. ("Thorko has taught me a lovely new one," she wrote her husband, Ferencz Nadasdy. "Catch a black hen and beat it to death with a white cane. Keep the blood and smear a little of it on your enemy. If you get no chance to smear it on his body, obtain one of his garments and smear it.")
Twenty-one judges tried Bathory and her accomplices, though in deference to her station she was accused of simple criminal acts, while her common help faced the more scandalous charges of vampirism, witchcraft and occult ritual. They were convicted and tortured, then beheaded or burned alive, but Bathory was again protected by her class and its cognitive dissonance at the atrocities of nobility. She did not even receive a formal decision of guilt, but was under "castle arrest" for the rest of her life, its entrances and windows walled up except for food and circulation. The court declared a life sentence suitable so she could "find time to repent."
Four hundred years later, Bathory remains one of pop culture's favourite monsters, and her name evocative of decadant aristocrats playing at sex and death. Yet her husband, who predeceased her by ten years before the revelation of her crimes, died with even more blood on his hands, but is remembered as something else.
In 1578 Nadasky became the chief commander of Hungary's armies in its war against the Turks, who called him "the Black Prince" on account of both his bravery and his cruelty. (For instance, It's reported that when his troops captured the village of Urmisz he instructed that its priest be beheaded and its women and children raped and burned alive.) Nadasky was notorious for his imaginative methods of torture, which he shared with his apprenticing wife, but his "excesses" were on the battlefield against Muslim invaders and their allies, rather than in the comfort of home against his "own kind," and that's a distinction that is usually enough to tell a national hero from a homicidal maniac.
The sixteenth century seems so long ago we might as well be talking of a different planet and a different species, but we're not, and it's still us. If we had film from the time to view, rather than oil paintings and engravings, we'd recognize ourselves more readily. (Elizabeth's uncle was the famous Stephen Bathory, King of Poland, who hosted occultist-spy John Dee and his scrier Edward Kelly on their visit to the continent. Dee's Enochian magick, relaunched into the world by Aleister Crowley, is so established in the backstory of our culture that it's a key plot point of the "Lonelygirl15" saga, arguably Youtube's greatest viral phenomena.) We should also recognize ourselves from much more distant times. The fossil record of modern humans begins 196,000 years ago. From that point until now, there is nothing that physically distinguishes us from our prehistory. About 50,000 years ago, with the flourishing of art, adornment and symbolic representation, our ancestors' interior lives begin to look familiar. It's all sex and death, which is to say, religion. And if it's primitive, then so are we still.
From a statement of Vietnam war veteran Sgt. Larry J. Cottingham, January 24, 1973: "There was a period when just about everyone had a necklace of ears but as the men were wounded they thought it was bad luck and got rid of them. Scalps were a kick for a time also but there were lice in the hair and they got rid of those too and it didn't last long." Those were modern American boys, adorning themselves like "savages" with fetishes made from the flesh of the enemy.
In New Orleans, a young veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan and Katrina named Zackery Bowen left a five-page suicide note and jumped off a bridge after dismembering his girlfriend and cooking her head and legs in the apartment the shared above a voodoo shop. His victim-lover, Addie Hall, came to national attention last year for flashing her breasts to police cars. ("Female survivors of the storm were urged by government rescuers to flash their breasts in order to receive help in Katrina's immediate aftermath.") Friends of Bowen say he "displayed both pride and bitterness" over his experience of war. ("Somewhere overseas there had been an incident concerning a child that weighed heavy on him, said Donovan Calabaza, another bartender at Buffa’s, 'but we really didn’t get into it.'" Other times Bowen "would grow angry and distraught...talking of how the government [had] 'messed him over.'")
In little more than three years in Iraq, there are more than 600,000 dead who shouldn't be. As with the victims of most serial killers, they remain unnamed and unmissed except by their loved ones, and the occasional justice allegedly undertaken on their behalf means persecuting the odd accomplice rather than the perpetrator. The logic of madness that compells the maniac to kill is the same that drives the maniac state towards mass murder and genocide. The more dead by their hand, the more power they accrue, and it's not a simple equation of slaying one's enemies. It's about the alchemy of turning lives into spent fuel.