The last couple of weeks I have been completely mesmerized by the clip and song of Interpol’s Lights. It consists of a couple of seemingly not related parts: the clip, a cryptic message at the introduction and the lyrics of the song.
The clip starts of with the following intriguing message:
Surely beetles have pheromones and these are released at certain times (mating season!), but beetles do not really have chambers and certainly pheromones are released automatically and not by means of ritual.
The clip of the song takes us to this mysterious pheromone-harvesting ritual. A woman in black is carefully prepared by two courtesans (!) for a ritual. At the end of the clip, she has orgasmic movements on an interestingly shaped black stone and milk like substance starts flowing from her eyes and mouth. At the end of the video the complete floor is flooded with the white substance which is collected in a drain.
The lyrics of the song are mysterious. It is like a prayer or an invocation. There is devotion, but there is also something dark and sinister about it. The song ends by repeating: ‘that’s why I hold you’.
What can all this mean?
To be honest, it took me a long time to be able to figure out what the deeper meaning of this song could be. When looking up the origin of the word pheromone, I came to the Greek root pherein, which means to transport / communicate.
Further searching on myths and symbolism of pherein, I finally struck gold: another name for Persephone is pherein phonon (bringer of death). Often pheromones ‘transport’ sexual attraction although they can also transport other messages. In the case of Persephone it is death. Identifying Persephone in the clip shed a completely different light on the song.
What do we know of Persephone? She is once abducted by Hades into the Underworld and separated from her mother Core. Core’s grief was so great that she stops all growth on the earth. By the intervention of Hermes (as the messenger of the Gods, he can be as a pheromone himself) it is agreed that Persephone will stay in the underworld one half of the year and will be on earth the other part of the year. Persephone symbolically represents the seasonality of mother earth. As the clip moves from completely black to the floor covered in white one may conclude that this ritual is about Persephone transforming from winter time to spring time. This ritual is held on the shortest day of the year: at this moment the light is born again. This is reflected in the title of the song: Lights. Why Lights might be in plural is be explained later in this article. The outfit of the courtesans indicate that this is an ongoing process: one has de top of her head black (winter) and the other the bottom part of her head (summer). On the longest day an inverse ritual will be held: from white to black. As always, the courtesans would carefully assist in the transformation.
Two things stand out in this ritual. First, there is a dark serious expression on the face of Persephone in particular and the ritual as a whole. Persephone looks as if she is about to die. And in fact she is: although she went through this ritual millions of times before, it remains scary to give up her current form in order to become another. The ritual is meticulous and the journey remains dangerous.
The second thing is fascinating: the transformation from one form to the other is sexual. The way in which Persephone lies and curls on the black stone and eventually climaxes is like she is performing a hieros gamos with the earth symbolized by the black stone. Persephone experiences a petit mort which turns out to be a grande mort and eventually a grande rebirth. Death takes the shape of divine ecstasy and a cosmic orgasm. By the voluntary sacrifice of her life, she brings life and fertilizes the earth. This is symbolized as the white fluid being captured in … a drain! Those who are familiar with the Cabalistic concept of Earth as Malkuth will recognize the drain symbolism. But how can a female goddess fertilize the Earth?
A clue for this mystery can be found in the tarot card Princess of Disks in Crowley’s Thoth tarot. Here, a Persephone like figure stands in a barren land and decisively points a phallic diamond tipped wand to the ground. The princess has a similar look of intense brooding as Persephone has in the clip. She looks as if she is witnessing a secret wonder. She established her altar in the midst of a grove of barren trees that her fertile presence will restore to health. Persephone’s horny (pun intended!) hairdo of the clip also refer to the horns of the princess of disks. The black stone in the clip has the same symbolism as the barren earth on the tarot card. It is simultaneously a throne and a grave.
Following from the understanding of the periodic ritual of Persephone, the mystery of the Rhinoceros beetle can be understood: when the sexual pheromone message is transmitted, spring starts and as a result the mating season as well. The sperm going down the drain symbolizing the fertilization of the lands for the next spring. In Egyptian mythology Khepri was the scarab beetle god. He way a solar deity and, like sperm, is a fertilizing power. Khepri rules over creation and rebirth. It is quite fitting that within the creation of the world, there the seasonal rites of Persephone are held.
The lyrics point towards a different aspect of the song. The singer is talking to someone and asks for insights, help, and mercy. Could it be that the singer is performing a ritual where he asks for the help of Persephone to help bring forth the light in himself? After a long dark night of the soul? The main sentence of the lyrics is: ‘that’s why I hold you’. He holds Persephone, the bringer of death, in order to be reborn again. Might this be the reason why the song is called Lights instead of Light? Perhaps it is because the Light needs to be reborn every year again and again? Similarly, the Light needs to be reborn in each and every one of us. It becomes clear that the singer longs to be like Persephone: he also longs to make the daring transfer from darkness in order to orgasmically be reborn into Light.
My dance interpretation on Interpol’s Lights
Lyrics Interpol’s Lights:
All that I see Show me your ways Teach me to meet my desires… With some grace
All that I fear Don’t turn away And leave me to plead in this hole of a place… Cause what if I never break Estuary won’t you take me Far away Far away
All that I seek Please police me I want you to police me But keep it clean Uhhh…
How have you been, my day Now let’s take them away (That’s why I hold you) Strong as you’ve seen Old as you behave (That’s why I hold you) You will always obey (That’s why I hold you)
All that I feel Capital ways Teach me to grieve and conspire With my age
All that I can see Domestic spree A seething routine I could never navigate Maybe I like to stray
No heart unseen will be left so clean Not today It’s like you want it that way
All that I see Is peaceful eyes drawn away from me Drawn away from me (Drawn away from me)
We would like to take the sights (That’s why I hold you) And bring silence in disguise (That’s why I hold you, dear) We would like to meet the buyer (That’s why I hold you) That is all your life
That’s why I hold you That’s why I hold you That is why I hold you That’s why I hold you That is why I hold you dear That’s why I hold you That’s why I hold you dear….