The Occult Messaging at the Heart of Pop-Culture
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The Occult Messaging at the Heart of Pop-Culture


Eighteen years ago on October 26th, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask was released for the Nintendo 64 console in North America.  It is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest video games ever made.  This anniversary affords us an opportunity, but not one to indulge in reminiscences about level design, graphics, etc.  Rather, we can use it to look more deeply than all that - at the esoteric lore undergirding the exoteric game structure.  This particular game offers such a clear example of the occult foundation of much of popular culture today, even that produced by ‘family-friendly’ Nintendo, which goes by unnoticed and is thus passively absorbed into the souls of so many of its consumers, that we thought it good to delve into it. 

The Four Labyrinths and the Four Stages of Alchemy

The overall structure of the game is very much akin to the process of alchemy, which is described by Nigel Hamilton thusly:

Alchemy is best known for its belief that lead can be transmuted into gold. However, the transmutation of non-precious metals into gold is simply a metaphor for the soul being freed from a "dead, leaden state of mind," to that of realising its own light nature and that is derived from pure Spirit (‘The Alchemical Process of Transformation’,

Link, the hero of the game, undergoes just such a transmutation of soul.  The refining apparatus is the repeating three-day cycle he becomes trapped within, during which he must figure out how to save himself and the world from an impending catastrophe.

The goal given to the player in Majora’s Mask is to awaken four giants who will stop the moon from crashing into the world.  Each giant rests within a labyrinth in one of the four main areas of the game.  An examination of these areas reveals the correspondence of each one with one of the stages of alchemy.  Thus, as Link advances through each area, his level of spiritual purification increases accordingly.

Stage 1, Blackening

Hamilton says of the first stage:

In the first stage the fire is "slow and mild" as of the flesh or "embryo," gradually helping to bring about the first stage of the work, culminating in the earthly nigredo or "blackening." This stage involves a purification of the earthly nature in us.

Throughout the first stage, the encounter with the earth nature necessitates a freeing of the sense of self from its identification with the elements earth and water.

This state of things, dark, watery, earthy, is precisely what we find in the first area of Majora’s Mask:  the Southern Swamp and Woodfall.

The talking monkeys that Link interacts with here are accurately described by Hamilton as well:

‘The animus is symbolised by the physical "Tarzan" figure.’

Stage 2, Whitening

After completing this section of the game, it is on to Snowhead Mountain, where once again, the likeness to the second stage of alchemy is pronounced.  The cold, desolate, and silvery landscape is very similar to Hamilton’s use of lunar imagery:

Just as stage one is called the earthly encounter, so stage two is called the stage of the moon. This requires a further purification of our psyche and a receptivity to our soul nature, which originally incarnated free of worldly impressions, of the family, the environment, and society.

Additionally, Hamilton adds this for stage 2:

The fire of stage two is considerably more intense than the preceding stage, even though it is described by alchemists as "moderate and temperate, as of the Sun in June."

Which parallels what happens to Snowhead Mountain after completing its labyrinth:  springtime, the moderate and temperate time of June, appears.

Mr Hamilton ends his section speaking in this way:

The baby-child, representing the newly acquired state of consciousness, is particularly fragile and innocent, reflecting the purely receptive state that the consciousness has reached.

And this is also a major part of the Snowhead Mountain area, the baby Goron:

Stage 3, Yellowing

After Snowhead, it is on to the golden sands of sunny Great Bay.  The pattern we have seen so far holds for this area as well, for Hamilton describes stage three in these terms:

Alchemists refer to Citrinitas as the stage of the sun, or the dawning of the "solar light" inherent in our Being. Now the light is no longer reflective as in the lunar or soul light. Its nature is direct and it is all pervading (we do not experience it as having a source). This light is "great and strong, as of a calcining fire."

Furthermore, both the Great Bay area and the Yellowing stage involve death:

Now in describing the second stage, mention was made only of an alchemical marriage and a rebirth. Stage three begins with the "yellow death," i.e. there is a dying away of the "lunar light" to the point of complete darkness, which is in fact "black light," a light so bright we cannot see it as our inner sight is veiled and it appears as darkness.

— Hamilton

When Lulu's eggs are stolen by the Gerudo Pirates, Mikau pursues the Pirate's to recover and find the eggs. He infitltrates the Fortress and gets caught and tortured. Tossed into ocean, he drifts through Great Bay until Link finds him and pushes his body to shore. With his dying breath, Mikau tells Link about Lulu's eggs and asks Link to construct his grave.


One final element for stage 3 and the Great Bay is the centrality of the female character.

This alchemical marriage reveals the anima figure as corresponding to the Divine Virgin, or heavenly woman, the object of spiritual love. This love is devotional in nature. One example of this would be Dante's Beatrice, who leads the poet on to the spheres of paradise and the marvels of heavenly love.

— Hamilton

Lulu in Great Bay is like the Beatrice character just described, who opens for Link the pathway to the labyrinth he is seeking:

Prior to the events in the game, Lulu gave birth to seven Zora Eggs shortly after the waters around the Great Bay became warm and murky. Lulu mysteriously lost her voice because of this and couldn't speak or sing. She asked the bandleader Evan for help because she didn't want her boyfriend Mikau to find about this. Evan told her to bring her eggs to the Marine Research Lab in the controlled water. Shortly after this, the Gerudo Pirates invaded the lab and stole all of the eggs after being tricked by the Skull Kid into thinking that the eggs had clues about the mysterious events that were happening. The next day, Lulu told Mikau what happened. He wanted to recover her eggs and went out to find them. However, he is mortally wounded and barely alive when he comes to shallow waters after Link finds him. Link helps him out of the water, but it is too late. Link plays the Song of Healing to relieve Mikau of his pain and let him pass on, sealing his spirit in the process within a mask called the Zora Mask.

With this mask, Link is able to switch between Zora and Hylian in order to be able to save Lulu's seven eggs. To do that, Link has to travel deep within the Pinnacle Rock and into the Pirates' Fortress itself. After Link recovers all seven eggs and puts them back in the laboratory, the eggs hatch. The newly hatched Zoras position themselves so that they form notes. Link quickly learns the song of New Wave Bossa Nova. This song eventually lets Lulu recover her voice and awakes the Giant Turtle, who transports Link to the Great Bay Temple.


Stage 4, Reddening

The final stage is like the others. Hamilton says,

In stage four, the alchemist awakens to the desire to return to the earth and to fully incarnate his or her state of "illuminated" consciousness into the mind and body. To achieve this, a purifying fourth fire, "burning and vehement, as of fusion," must be used to bring about a new coagulation of spirit and matter. The culmination of stage three leaves the alchemist completely free in a state of Pure Spirit, Pure Intelligence, beyond space, time and form but without a consciousness of body or mind. Thus the death or "Red death" at the start of stage four involves the death of the freedom inherent in this state and the death of the conscious state of Pure Spirit (and Pure Intelligence) as an individual soul that desires to be embodied without the sense of separation from its original pure state. It is only when the soul is finally incarnated in the mind/body (psyche) that it can realise its state of spiritual completeness.

And Majora’s Mask answers with Ikana Canyon, the red, rocky, ‘return to earth’.

The episode of Pamela and her father in the Canyon also follows closely what Hamilton writes about in Stage 4:

Furthermore the process is incomplete and inherently unstable at the end of stage three as there is no body or psyche as a vehicle to incarnate into, and the mind/body will suffer the fate of eventually regressing backwards towards its original impure, leaden state. However, spirit is not meant to incarnate into the old (leaden) state of mind/body as there would be no purpose in the process if this happened, i.e. the consciousness would revert back to its leaden state or worse still, split off from the psyche and the alchemist would be left in an internally split state. So the psyche needs to be awakened - "Materially spiritualised" is the term used - so that it can be an appropriate vehicle for the soul to incarnate into, i.e. the psyche can now express the soul's qualities and nature because the psyche has become of the same nature as the soul. This uniting of the spirit/soul with the mind/body represents the final and most important alchemical marriage. Now the anima becomes the Mother of God, or Consort of God, the object of mystic love. The corresponding animus figures are Illuminated Ones - Christ, Buddha, the Saints, etc. What this means is that God consciousness, in being born into the world of the earth, realises its Godlike nature consciously - as an enlightened, transcendental individual and in a state of oneness with the Cosmic whole.

Pamela’s father represents the unawakened psyche (who is awakened by Link), and his daughter ‘mystic love’:

Pamela is a young female character from Majora's Mask. She moved from Clock Town to Ikana Canyon with her father, as he wanted to progress with his research in the supernatural. His search for further information lead him to the Gibdos, and uncovering a new song. The song Farewell to Gibdos is used to keep away said creatures, preventing them from treading anywhere near Pamela's house.

Concerned for her father, she protects him from the Gibdos, and thus decides to never let anyone in her house. When Link plays the Song of Storms inside the Spring Water Cave, the water there will stream out through the empty river and the Music Box will start and play the song, Farewell to Gibdos. Because of this, the Gibdos vacate Ikana Canyon. Pamela will sense something happened, and will open the door and walk outside. If Link wears the Stone Mask, Pamela is not able to see him, so Link can then sneak into the house. When Link goes into the basement, Pamela's Father will just out of the closet and approach Link. If Link plays the Song of Healing, Pamela's father will return to normal, and Pamela will run inside and hug him, saying that it was all just a nightmare.


The Moon

A quick word needs to be said about the moon in Majora’s Mask, as it dominates the story.  On one hand, the occult idea of the full moon as a gateway for evil forces to enter the world is shown, as Link actually must enter the moon after awakening the four giants and face the mutated, malevolent Skull Kid.  One formulation of this is as follows:

 . . . I have concluded that the gravitational interaction between earth, moon, and sun causes cyclical variation in the separation between dimensions and densities. Just before and after a new or full moon, the dimensional veil is thinnest and hostile forces from other realms, including the astral and hyperdimensional realms, have an easier time penetrating into the physical plane.

— Tom Montalk,

Another idea ties in more directly with what we have been discussing above with the alchemical rebirth of Link:  the moon as representing the beginning of individual existence.  Rene Guenon writes,

This can be related also to the fact that this same sign of Cancer is the domicile of the Moon of which the relation with the Waters is well known and which, like the Waters themselves, represents the passive and plastic principle of manifestation: the sphere of the Moon is in fact the ‘world of formation’, or the domain of the elaboration of forms in the subtle state, the starting point of individual existence.

—, p. 95

The completion of the quest means the rebirth of Link as true hero and Skull Kid goes from fiend to friend.

But even more important than this is the image of the union of heaven and earth that the moon resting on the world represents.

Returning to what Hamilton was saying a moment ago about the finished process of alchemy, he writes (bolding added),

In stage four, the alchemist awakens to the desire to return to the earth and to fully incarnate his or her state of "illuminated" consciousness into the mind and body.  . . .  It is only when the soul is finally incarnated in the mind/body (psyche) that it can realise its state of spiritual completeness. Heaven and earth in the alchemist are now united.

This is the supreme symbol of the entire Legend of Zelda series, the union of heaven and earth, which is shown in the two intersecting triangles of the Triforce (the smaller, inner triangle pointing down (heaven) and the larger, outer triangle pointing up (earth); see, e.g., that appears on nearly every game cover or box:

This is the end goal of the occult alchemist, the return of the Golden Age (a message reinforced in the Zelda games by the gold coloring used so often for the Triforce and the game covers themselves) through the refining of man via the processes Mr Hamilton laid out above.

This is what lies behind so much of the pop-culture millions of people are blindly filling their souls with.  Is it any wonder that the world is in the state it is?

Author: Walt Garlington