December 10, 2014
Mythology in American Horror Story: Coven
Today’s entertainment thrives on the theories explained by mythologists. All around us, mythology is present in the shows we watch, the movies we see, the music we listen to, etc.
Without us even knowing, mythology gives inspiration to most creations. Myth exists and is prominent in just about any aspect of our culture. For my exemplar, I chose my favorite show on television, American Horror Story. Although this show has used just about every theory taught to us throughout this semester season after season, I am going to work with the third season: Coven.
This season was heavily structured by creation myths, hero’s quest, scapegoats, the dethroned, and even tricksters. However, more interestingly, it was fueled by rituals, and centered around the triple goddess. These are the two theories I am going to focus on.
American Horror Story: Coven, follows the events that occur to a Coven of Salem descendants who live in a boarding school; Miss Robichaux’s Academy. The school resides in
New Orleans, Louisiana. The academy is under the control of headmistress Cordelia Foxx.
Cordelia has always been belittled by her mother, Fiona Goode, the Coven’s supreme. The supreme is the leader of the Coven, and the only witch able to display the Seven Wonders of
Witchcraft. A new witch is born every generation to take the place of a dying supreme. The plot centers around the four young witches residing Miss Robichaux’s Academy, their quest to find their new supreme, and their desire to protect the Coven from past and present dangers.
For practicing witches, their craft is their religion. Witches perform rituals as a way to practice their gift, and thus exercise their magical abilities. William Robertson Smith, a scottish biblicist, pioneered the mythritualist theory. Smith believes that faith and doctrine is fundamental for modern religion, whereas for ancient religion, rituals are essential. Wicca is an ancient religion, centering around ritual. Smith believes that ancients performed rituals, and myths simply explained how the rituals came to be. Sir James George, a well known anthropologist, claims myth develops from ritual during “the natural process of religious evolution.” This is regarded as the “primacy of ritual” hypothesis. Smith argues the ancients passed down rituals faithfully, but in comparison, the myths that derive from these rituals could change. Rituals are repeatedly used throughout the episodes. This is expected, as witches perform specific rituals, to obtain specific results. If the ritual was changed, it would not be effective. I was fascinated by three specific rituals. The most dramatic, and theatrical was the fertility ritual performed by the voodoo queen Marie Laveau on Cordelia. During this ritual the priestess, Marie Laveau does a ritual dance while eating a hot guinea pepper. This pepper is supposed to attract the spirits who will then listen to her request for a child. A goat is then sacrificed and its blood is spilled on the belly of Cordelia. After the ritual, she sleeps for four days and nights. Another ritual performed was the Reanimation ritual, which causes corpses to rise as mindless puppets.Marie Laveau would levitate above a voodoo symbol with her eyes rolled back as she controlled the zombies. The ritual is completed by sacrificing a snake and drinking it’s blood. Marie Laveau had items that belonged to the corpses in order to link them to her. Finally, the classic injury ritual, also known as pinning, was used by Marie Laveau to hurt
Hank Foxx although he was miles away. The ritual is done through a voodoo doll, voodoo
symbol, and pin. The caster is able to produce pain or movement through the doll. There were many other interesting rituals, but these are the ones that included more than chants and spells.
Perhaps the most important thing to the