J2.02 An Asmodeus Flight

Annotations for Jerusalem by Alan Moore

Book 2 – Mansoul
An Asmodeus Flight

General: The Demon Asmodeus teases an archangel. Meeting Michael Warren, the devil shows him many things which are technically true, and tricks him into a Faustian bargain.

Page 404 – titled An Asmodeus Flight
For notes on the title see P415p10ff.

paragraph 1

  • “The devil” – Asmodeus is just one of a number of devils (see chapter Mental Fights, Pxxxff), but inasmuch as Moore’s cosmology maps onto popular conceptions of Christianity, he might as well be THE Devil.

    The Great Wall of China at Jinshanling (Severin.stalder)
    The Great Wall of China at Jinshanling (Severin.stalder)
  • “great like a war, a white shark or the Wall of China” – The Great War was the contemporary name for what is now called World War I. Great white sharks are extremely large, and became famed after the 1975 movie Jaws. The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications at the northern edge of China; the most famous section was built in the 14th and 15th centuries.
  • “sweethearts in damnation” – Possibly riffing on the song “Sweethearts in Heaven” (Buck Owens, 1956).

paragraph 2

Cagliostro (wellcomecollection.org)
Cagliostro (wellcomecollection.org)
  • “eighteenth-century French diabolist” – While there were a great number of occultists in both pre- and post-revolutionary France, the most famous was probably “Count Cagliostro” (AKA Giuseppe Balsamo, 1743-1795. He has appeared as a character in numerous books, films, and comics, including one by Moore’s friend Neil Gaiman.
    • Diabolist” literally means “devil-worshipper”. Moore has used the word ironically(?) to describe himself since at least 1997.

paragraph 3

  • “the crux of Angle-land” – It is unclear whether “Angle-land” means England, Upstairs (the land of Angels), neither, or more probably, both. “Crux” definitely means both “center” and “cross”, see the chapter X Marks the Spot.
  • Master Builder” – The Archangel Michael. We will see the source of his injuries in the chapter Mental Fights (Pxxxff).
  • take the piss” – UK idiom, in this context meaning to ridicule or mock. The phrase “sewer-draining” takes the idiom literally, in a typically playful Asmodean way.

paragraph 4

  • pearly gate” is a common way of describing the gates of Heaven, originating in the Book of Revelation 21:21 – “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, with each gate consisting of a single pearl.”

paragraph 5

  • “billiards” – The Builders’ game is sometimes referred to as Trilliards, to distinguish it from the similar mortal pastime. We saw part of a game in the chapter Rough Sleepers (P115-121), and will see more in the chapter Mental Fights (Pxxx).
  • “a fondled choirboy” – The Catholic — and Anglican, and other — churches have had so many pedophile priests in real life that it’s something of a trope in fiction at this point.
  • “Mighty Whitey” – Riffing on both the angel’s local nickname as Mighty Mike, and on the colonialist fiction trope of a “superior” white man “saving” a group of native people.

paragraph 6

  • “the devil’s ball-sack creep” – That Asmodeus should feel an almost sexual pleasure at the opportunity for cruelty is no surprise. But it is interesting that he uses such gendered language to do so. He is, after all, a fallen angel, and angels are usually depicted as genderless. But on the other hand, the Builders in Jerusalem all seem coded as male.

Page 405

paragraph 1

  • “builder, sorry, Master Builder” – This frequent “forgetting” of someone’s proper title is a classic passive-aggressive move for implying that they aren’t worthy of that rank.

paragraph 2

  • OK, the simple version of this is “Mock not me, you cursed thing,” but there’s obviously a lot more as well.
    • “Murck” – Mock, murk, muck (especially as in muck-raking).
    • “naught” – Not, nought (nothing, which is relatively speaking what devils are to angels), naughty.
    • “mye” – Me, my, ye (archaic you), possibly “eye”.
    • “shamfall” – Shamefull, sham fall (Was what happened to the fallen angels a true  or sham fall; were they pushed – see the chapter Eating Flowers (Pxxx), and also the Sandman volume Season of Mists for more exploration of this theme). Moving from the fall of angels to the fall of Man — usually blamed on Eve — we could read “she am fall”. Possibly also “shaman”.
    • “strate” – State, strait (as in “dire straits“, a perilous position). Possibly “rate” or “street”.
    • “thyou” – You, thou. Perhaps a suggestion of a lisp here, evoking the angel’s split lip.
    • “dungcurst” – Dung and cursed are obvious. More interesting though, is the inner, subliminal reading of “uncursed”; again, see Eating Flowers for more on this.
    • “thorng” – Thing, thorn. Possibly thong, wrong, horn, Thor. Accounting for the lip-lisp, possibly song, sore.

paragraph 3

  • No notes.

paragraph 4

  • punch-drunk” – Behaving in a confused manner. Originally, acting “drunk” from being punched too much, which is almost literally true in this case.
  • snooker” – A game similar to billiards, here used metaphorically for the angels’ game of trilliards.

paragraph 5

  • No notes.

paragraph 6

  • hooligan” – While this has a general meaning of “troublemaker” or “violent person”, in the UK it is frequently associated with sport in the phrase “football hooligan”.
  • hopscotch” – A children’s jumping game played on chalked squares. It dates back millenia, though the English word dates to the latte 17th century.
  • “dances on the heads of pins” – “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” was a rhetorical device begun in the 17th century, meant to indicate a foolish and pointless theological argument.

    Angel with wounded soldier (digitalgallery.nlm.nih.gov)
    Angel with wounded soldier (digitalgallery.nlm.nih.gov)
  • “a good excuse for wearing ball gowns” – As the archangel Michael is here gendered as male, this can be taken for a homophobic / transphobic insult.

paragraph 7

  • “wounded grenadiers” – See image right.
  • “sickly tots” – See image below.

paragraph 8

  • No notes.

Page 406

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • Leave it out” – Largely UK dialect: “Stop it!”
  • “Tosh” – Suggest??? Possibly a form of the insult “tosser“? Or a shortening of “pish-tosh“? Or “tosher” (thief, scavenger)? Or the city of Tosh from an Edward Lear poem, which Moore mentions briefly in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, volume 2?
  • “I’ll ’ave yer” – British slang for “I’ll punish you”.
  • “bound in chests of brass” – This seems like a specific reference, but I’ve been unable to identify anything likely. Suggest???
  • “thrown into the lowest depths of a volcano” – Revelation 20:10: “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone” Possibly also a reference to the climax of Lord of the Rings?
  • “for a thousand years” – Revelation 20:2: “And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years”.
  • “Whips, scorpions” – 1 Kings 12:11: “[…] my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.” Possibly also referring to John Webster’s 1612(?) play The White Devil, which includes the line, “I would whip some with scorpions.”
  • “rivers of fire” – See note on volcano above.

paragraph 2

  • “ladies’ special time” – A condescending way of referring to Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, which causes some women to experience mood swings. Again, Asmodeus is using feminine gendering as an insult.

paragraph 3

St. Elmo's Fire (ownyourweather.com)
St. Elmo’s Fire (ownyourweather.com)
  • St. Elmo’s Fire” – A weather phenomenon which can cause tall objects to have an electrical glow or plasma surrounding their top. Sailors took it as a saint’s warning that lightning was about to strike.
  • “his famous luck” – Some accounts of Asmodeus portray him as the “patron of gamblers“, and may bestow luck.

paragraph 4 – 5

  • No notes..

paragraph 6

paragraph 7

  • No notes.

Page 407

Detail of Thomas Cole's The Voyage of Life: Childhood (en.wikipedia.org)
Detail of Thomas Cole’s The Voyage of Life: Childhood (en.wikipedia.org)

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “Romantic” – The capitalization suggests a reference to the Romantic movement of European art in the 18th century. Some of the most famous paintings of this period were a sequence by Thomas Cole collectively titled “The Voyage of Life“, each of which includes an angel figure.

paragraph 2

  • “secretly the devil had a weakness for small children” – I haven’t been able to document this elsewhere, so I guess it is a secret.

paragraph 3 – 5

  • No notes.

Page 408

paragraph 1 – 8

  • No notes.

Page 409

“Mr Satan, Arch-enemy of mankind” (Getty Images)

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • “arch-enemy of mankind” – A typical appellation of the Christian Devil (source??).
  • War & Peace” – A famously lengthy novel by Leo Tolstoy. Jerusalem is slightly longer.

paragraph 3

  • “I’m very fond of handicraft. […] I’m also rather good at sums.” – These are traditional aspects of Asmodeus, possibly originating in the 14th century tale where King Solomon forces him to build the Temple.

paragraph 4 – 6

  • No notes.

Page 410

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “his two penn’orth” – An early form of the expression “my two cents“, usually used to indicate an opinion or expression of little value. Its origin is disputed, but may be biblical.

paragraph 2

  • To reveal one’s true name to a supernatural being is, of course, tremendously unwise, but Michael has apparently not learned that yet.

paragraph 3 – 4

  • No notes.

paragraph 5

  • “Oh, my dears, my cousins in the sulphur” – This seems to suggest that this chapter is being recounted to some of Asmodeus’s fellow devils, albeit talking about himself in the third person.
  • “tricked […] Uriel into revealing where the secret garden was located” – The archangel Uriel was traditionally the guardian of the Garden of Eden. Which in turn suggests that Asmodeus may have been the serpent who tempted Eve.
  • “(it was in a fizzy puddle in Pangaea)” – Pangaea was a supercontinent consisting of most of the Earth’s dry land from about 335 million years ago to 200 million years ago. Moore appears to be suggesting that the Eden story was actually about the first living molecules in the primordial soup. If that is his intent, there’s a bit of an anachronism here, as life existed on Earth at least 3.5 billion years ago, significantly before Pangaea came together. Pangaea was covered in forests and animal life.
  • “when her seventh husband in a year died on their wedding night” – Alluding to a story in the Book of Tobit (3rd century?), which is the first textual mention of Asmodeus. We’ll have more detail on that later in the chapter, Pxxx.

    Seal of Sabnock (fromoldbooks.org)
    Seal of Sabnock (fromoldbooks.org)
  • “Sabnock” – A demon described in the Ars Goetia. “The Forty-third Spirit[…] is called Sabnock, or Savnok. He is a Marquis, Mighty, Great and Strong”.
  • “my genitals have started working” – Angels classically have no gender. Fallen angels apparently get issued genitals, however 🙂
  • “knocked it into a cocked hat” – A colloquial British phrase meaning, per Wiktionary, “To completely demolish, nullify, overthrow, or otherwise defeat”.

paragraph 6

  • No notes.

paragraph 7

  • “Gomorrah?” – Referring to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah from Genesis, chapters 18-19. The story features two angels, and also an argument, though the argument is between Lot and God, not between the angels.
  • “Egypt?” – Presumably referring to the Biblical stories of the Jews’ enslavement in Egypt, starting in the late parts of the book of Genesis, and continuing into the book of Exodus. Angels don’t seem to feature prominently during these events, at least as recounted in the Bible.

paragraph 8

  • “the dragon frills” – Moore is deliberately invoking fractals here, connecting with the earlier image of “the mathematics of a hurricane”. Christian iconography often represents the Devil as a dragon, apparently starting with the Book of Revelations.
  • “the image he was wearing” – In a 2009 interview discussing a mystical experience, Moore says of demons:

    I kinda got the impression that, well actually these things don’t look like anything; they’re, they’re just ideas. So, in a sense, what we perceive them as, it’s like, we’re dressing them up from the wardrobe of our mind. Their, their bodies are like suits of clothes that we put on them so that we can see them.

paragraph 9

  • “You’re the one to blame for all this trouble?” – As mentioned last chapter, this is a seriously unfair characterization of what’s going on — but he is The Devil, after all.

paragraph 10

  • hydrochloric tears” – Apparently the Devil weeps tears that are powerfully acidic.

Page 411

paragraph 1

  • “this is good” – When The Devil says something is good, you should worry.

paragraph 2

Seal of Belial (fromoldbooks.org)
Seal of Belial (fromoldbooks.org)
  • Belial” – Originally a word in the Hebrew Bible which means something approximating “worthless”. Later, it seems to have become a proper name of The Devil. In the Ars Goetia, Belial is listed as “The Sixty-eighth Spirit […] a Mighty and a Powerful King”.
  • “the toad in diamond […] his ring of seven eyes”  -These physical characteristics are based on a personal mystical experience of Moore’s, not any pre-existing source. From a 2009 interview, describing a conversation with a mysterious presence (who later turns out to be Asmodeus):

    I said, “Is it you, Belial?” and I got this vision of a toad, a gigantic toad, quite beautiful in its way, made entirely out of diamonds, which on its brow had a ring of seven eyes, and it had a very aloof expression on its face

  • Beelzebub” – The name given in the Bible to a Philistine god. The name later became associated with Satan, then a demon (also known as Baal or Bael).

    Seal of Bael (fromoldbooks.org)
    Seal of Bael (fromoldbooks.org)
  • “that glaring wall of porcine hatred” – Moore’s physical description comes from the same mystical experience referenced above:

    I said, “Is it you, Beelzebub?” […] At that point I saw, um, an infinite wall made of pink-grey hogflesh with white bristles jutting from it at intervals. It was impossible to judge the scale of this thing but it looked immense, and the wall was studded, all over it, from end to end, from top to bottom, with these glaring hate-filled eyes.

  • Astaroth” – A name ultimately derived from the Phoenician goddess Astarte. It becomes the name of a demon by the 15th century. The Lesser Key of Solomon says “The Twenty-ninth Spirit is Astaroth. He is a Mighty, Strong Duke”.

    Astaroth illustration from the Dictionnaire Infernal (1818)
    Astaroth illustration from the Dictionnaire Infernal (1818)
  • “his human head” – Astaroth is described as having “the form of a hurtful Angel riding on an Infernal Beast like a Dragon”. Moore clearly envisions the ‘angel’ and ‘dragon’ as both being part of Astaroth’s physical form.
  • “screamed like an electrocuted aviary” – A disturbingly precise image. Has Asmodeus experienced an electrocuted aviary?

paragraph 3

  • “The coruscating spider/lizard combination” – From the previously cited interview discussing Moore’s meeting with “Asmoday”:

    I said, “Would it be possible to see what you look like?” and at that point I got this spectacular vision. If you can imagine, […] that three hundred and sixty degrees around your head there is a moving lacework made up of spiders, um, luminous, beautifully coloured spiders that are turning themselves inside out, um, in some kind of, through a dimension that we don’t have, they’re turning themselves inside out and becoming a beautiful lacework of lizards; then back to the spiders again, and somehow in all of this there is a fan of beautiful peacock tail feathers. Um, it was exquisite, bit creepy, um, bit hellish…

  • “the gem of infinite regress” – Not otherwise discussed, as far as I can tell.
  • By Jingo” – Per Wiktionary, an interjection “Used to express determination or surprise.” “Jingo” is used to avoid saying “Jesus”, and thus take the Lord’s name in vain. Naturally, Asmodeus would tend to avoid invoking the celestial powers.

paragraph 4 – 8

  • No notes.

Page 412

paragraph 1 (continued) – 2

  • No notes.

paragraph 3

  • “But they were only ants” – As detailed in the chapter Choking on a Tune (P350p1-4), Alma and Mick played games of exterminating ants. Mick feels some guilt about this, see Upstairs, P398p3.
  • “nineteen to the dozen” – British idiom for “very quickly”, origin unknown.

paragraph 4

paragraph 5

  • “squeaking like a fresh-hatched banshee” – A banshee is a figure from Irish folklore who wails to announce an imminent death. They are usually portrayed as humanoid, not as coming from eggs. Asmodeus is again being playful with language, using “fresh-hatched” to mean very young, and comparing Michael’s screams of terror to the peeping of a chick.

paragraph 6

  • No notes.

paragraph 7

  • “a pocket of himself” – “Of himself” is meant to remind us that everything about Asmodeus, including his clothes, are actually extensions of his self.

paragraph 8

  • No notes.

paragraph 9

  • “3D spectacles” – Old-fashioned 3-D media were created using red and blue filters. Viewers would look at the media through glasses with one red-tinted and one blue-tinted lens, so each eye received a slightly different image, causing the 3-D effect. Moore used this 3-D process a few times in the course of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The devil’s eyes are red and green, not blue, but the image is still evocative.

    3-D spectacles (wikimedia commons)
    3-D spectacles (wikimedia commons)
  • pinions” – Wings or feathers. (Pinion can also mean, intriguingly “to limit”.) Asmodeus has not previously been described as possessing wings or feathers, and there has been no mention of a transformation. Perhaps he is metaphorically referring to the red-and-green flaps of his “coat”.

Page 413

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

Roman candle (photo: Nikol Lohr)
Roman candle (photo: Nikol Lohr)

paragraph 3 – 4

  • No notes.

paragraph 5

  • “over-egg the lily […] gild the pudding” – “over-egg the pudding” and “gild the lily” are both idioms meaning to go father than necessary, to do too much. Asmodeus is switching them around as wordplay, and possibly joking about the origin of the phrase “gild the lily“, which is similarly switched-around. It comes from a Shakespeare phrase: “To gild refined gold, to paint the lily”.

paragraph 6

  • “You caught more flies with honey than you did with vinegar” – A common saying, to the effect that kindness is more effective than cruelty. While I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment, the statement is not literally true.
  • absinthe” – An anise-flavored liquor, green in color. Mildly hallucinogenic, it is sometimes referred to as “the green fairy”.

paragraph 7

  • “I’ve said something to upset you without meaning to” – While Asmodeus doesn’t often lie, this seems to me entirely untrue.

paragraph 8 – 9

  • No notes.

Page 414

paragraph 1

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • “nine billion years” – Possibly the current-as-of-Moore’s-writing estimate for the age of the universe? At the time of my writing this note, the best estimate seems to be 13.787 billion years. Alternately, the solar system is currently believed to have started forming when the universe was about 9 billion years old. In either case, Moore may be implying that Satan is the physical universe of matter.

paragraph 3 – 4

  • No notes.

paragraph 5

  • “devils were reluctant to reveal their names, which could be used to bind them” – This is a common folklore belief.
  • “he would generally employ some form of code, or else engage human interrogators in a guessing game” – Referring again to the 2009 interview in which Moore describes “meeting” Asmodeus:

    I said “You are a fine and mysterious creature. What might you be exactly?” And this voice inside my head which didn’t seem to be my voice, although maybe it was part of my personality that was, um, somehow personified as a separate voice, or maybe it was some sort of external entity, but this voice said, “I am one of the Nine Dukes.” […] And I said, “Okay, which one are you?” And this kind of rich, amused voice said, “You’ll have to guess.”

paragraph 6

  • “mixed-up Sam O’Day” – In the English style of crossword puzzle, a word or phrase like “mixed up” hints at an anagram. “Sam O’Day” is “Asmoday”, another name for Asmodeus. (“Asmoday” is also the specific name that Moore’s demon finally admitted to.)

paragraph 7 – 10

  • No notes.

Page 415

paragraph 1 – 8

  • No notes.

paragraph 9

  • “Some of the wandering ghosts […] were looking up at Michael and the devil” -ee chapter Rabbits, Pxxx.

paragraph 10

  • “the Apocrypha” – Books which were at one time considered part of the Bible, but were later deemed non-canonical by various church councils. Asmodeus is first mentioned in the apocryphal Book of Tobit, from the 3rd or early 2nd century BC.
  • “Adam’s first wife’s second husband” – Before the better-known Eve, God created Lilith as a wife for Adam. She, however, was banished from the Garden of Eden for being too independent. A passage in the Talmud describes Asmodeus marrying Lilith.
  • “I was very close to Solomon […] you wouldn’t guess that from the Book of Kings” – While Asmodeus does not appear in the biblical Book of Kings, accounts in the Talmud and the apocryphal Testament of Solomon describe Solomon’s building of the Temple of Jerusalem as having been accomplished with the aid of a bound Asmodeus.

    An Asmodeus Flight (illustration by Tony Johannot, from an 1879 book)
    An Asmodeus Flight (illustration by Tony Johannot, from an 1879 book)
  • “Shakespeare gives me credit where it’s due. He talks about a kind of trip I can take people on. It’s called ‘Sam O’Day’s Flight’” – And here we begin to discuss the phenomenon that this chapter is named after. The Asmodeus flight is a real (literary) phenomenon, much as described below — but has nothing to do with Shakespeare, originating in 1641, and only reaching the English language in 1708. Shakespeare does have two brief references (both in King Lear) to “Modo” as a “fiend” or “The prince of darkness”. Some scholars see Modo as an abbreviation for Asmodeus. Others, however, trace the name Modo to A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures (Samuel Harsnett, 1603), which does include several names of “devils” that are very similar (though not identical) to names that Shakespeare uses in Lear. Regardless of whether Modo means “Asmodeus” or not, the two appearances of the name in Lear are exceedingly brief, and make no mention whatever of a “flight”. Possibly Moore confused the “Modo” reference with a reference to a (much later) theatrical adaptation?

Page 416

paragraph 1 – 2

  • No notes.

paragraph 3

  • “The Fifth Infernal Duke” – Unclear where this designation comes from. In The Lesser Key of Solomon, however, Asmoday is quiet clearly identified as the fifth of roughly nine Kings, though a few dozen other demons are listed as Dukes. From Moore’s recounting of his visionary experience:

    this voice said, “I am one of the Nine Dukes.” Er, I repeated this to Melinda and she said, “What are the Nine Dukes?” and I said, “I, I’ve no idea”. I said, “I’ve not, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the phrase before. Um, I think that they might, it might mean the Nine Dukes of Hell or s-, or Nine Infernal Dukes or something like that.”

paragraph 4

  • No notes.

paragraph 5

  • “geometeorology” – Moore’s coining, probably meant to be geometry+meteorology. Though one could also find “geology” in there…
  • tesseracts” – Fourth-dimensional analogues to the three-dimensional cube.
  • “ten- or twenty-sphere” – hypershperes of 10 or 20 dimensions.

paragraph 6

  • No notes.

paragraph 7

  • “red and white” – As opposed to “black and white”, as demonic contracts are traditionally signed in blood.

paragraph 8

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paragraph 9

  • “like a crippled bomber” – We will hear about an actual crippled bomber below, at Pxxx.

paragraph 10

  • “a sharp, right-angled swerve” – Possibly alluding to the physically implausible right-angle turns ascribed to some UFOs.
  • “Herberts” – “Herbert” is slang in SE England for “an ineffectual person; a bit of a fool”. The origin is obscure, but seems to go back at least to 1953.

Page 417

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

  • “speeds like these, with all the spare flesh on one’s face rippling towards the rear side of the skull” – A familiar visual trope from films of high g-force tests that pilots and astronauts undergo.

paragraph 3

  • No notes.

paragraph 4

  • “A reverberating peal of layered thunder marked the point where they surpassed the speed of sound” – A sonic boom is caused by shockwaves created when an object surpasses the speed of sound in that medium. One might wonder about why such physics apply to this afterlife-like space. Which may be why Moore follows this with the evocative-but-non-physical “a pocket of unearthly stone-deaf hush when they exceeded even the velocity of silence”.

Page 418

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • No notes.

paragraph 2

paragraph 3

  • “the King of Wrath” – “Asmodeus” is thought to ultimately derive from Middle Persian words meaning “Wrath Demon“.
  • “the groom-slayer” – Again, alluding to a story in the Book of Tobit, which we’ll hear in more detail later in the chapter, Pxxx.

paragraph 4

  • “Cats […] could sometimes scrabble through an aperture into the Attics of the Breath” – Alluding to the way cats sometimes seem to appear or disappear from rooms with no obvious physical means. Robert Heinlein titled a book after a similarly whimsical observation of this phenomenon, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.

paragraph 5

Golden spiral (fibonacci.com)
Golden spiral (fibonacci.com)
  • “a sudden spiral swoop that cleverly combined the Golden Section and the Fibonacci sequence” – The Golden Section (better known as the Golden Ratio) is a mathematical relationship known since the Ancient Greeks that is often used in art and architecture. Spirals based on the Golden Ratio often appear in nature, in the shapes of shells, flowers, even galaxies! The Fibonacci sequence is a simple series of numbers, starting with 1 and 1, in which each subsequent number is the sum of the two preceding numbers (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc). The ratio of the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence gradually approaches the Golden Ratio, so one can also build “golden” spirals based on Fibonacci numbers.

Page 419

paragraph 1 (continued)

A helter-skelter, 1906
A helter-skelter, 1906
  • helter-skelter” – An amusement park ride featuring a spiral slide going down the outside of a tower.
  • Goliath” – The name of a biblical giant, now used to indicate anything of immense size.
  • “Technicolor” – Originally a specific color technology for film, now used to indicate anything brightly-colored.
  • “afterburn” – A combination of “afterimage“, referring to the effect of the trailing images spiritual entities leave behind themselves when “Downstairs”, with the word “afterburner“, a device for temporarily increasing the speed of a vehicle, thus alluding to their tremendous speed.

paragraph 2

  • shell-shocked” – A WWI-era term for what is now termed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

paragraph 3 -6

  • No notes.

paragraph 7

where Spencer Bridge and Crane Hill crossed St. Andrew’s Road (1950 map detail)
where Spencer Bridge and Crane Hill crossed St. Andrew’s Road (1950 map detail)
  • “where Spencer Bridge and Crane Hill crossed St. Andrew’s Road” – See map. They are hovering above the northwest corner of the Boroughs (whose symbol on the pool table is a prick).
  • “Wiggins’s coal yard further up the road” – As mentioned in the chapter Choking on a Tune (P343p1, P345p2), this was directly opposite the house that Michael grew up in.

Page 420

paragraph 1 (continued)

  • “Grafton Street […] the factories and pubs on one side and the wasteland sprawl of earth and bricks that had ten years before been people’s homes upon the other.” – I think this refers to the north and south sides of Grafton Street, respectively, though I’m not certain. Historically, both sides of Grafton Street had many pubs.
    "Up ahead and to their right was [...] Castle Station" (1950 map detail)
    “Up ahead and to their right was […] Castle Station” (1950 map detail)

paragraph 2

  • “Up ahead and to their right was […] Castle Station” – See map.
  • “King Henry the Second’s […] betrayal of […] Becket” – Referring to a trial held at Northampton Castle on October 8, 1164. We’ve touched on this before, and it will come up more fully in the chapter The Steps of All Saints.

paragraph 3

  • Richard the Lionheart […] set off on […] the third crusade” – I can’t find any solid justification for this claim. Northampton: 5,000 Years of History (Mike Ingram, 2020) claims that Richard was in Northampton “often”, but gives no details or sources. Ingram cites a charter that Richard sold to Northampton in 1189 as part of his efforts to raise money for the Crusade, but does not mention anything about “setting off” from Northampton.
  • “the western world’s first parliament, the National Parliament raised in 1131” – Ingram (see above) says that on 8th September 1131, Henry I summonsed “a council of the nobility of England” in order to help Henry reconcile with his wife, Matilda. This doesn’t sound much like a Parliament to me. The official histories of Parliament are more generally held to start at either 1215 with Magna Carta establishing the idea, or at 1236, when the first Parliament was actually held.
  • “the poll tax […] Walter the Tyler and his peasant army back in 1381” – Referring to  The Peasants’ Revolt. The revolt had no direct connection to Northampton, though the poll tax that set it off had been imposed by the Parliament of November-December 1380, which met at Northampton.
  • “Angle-land” – The etymological root of “England”, referring to the Angles, a Germanic people who invaded Great Britain during the post-Roman period. In the context of Jerusalem, the phrase of course has other meanings, relating to geometry and angels.

paragraph 4

  • “counter-clockwise” – Long considered to be an unlucky direction.

Page 421

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  • “the parallel tarmac toboggan-runs of Semilong” – Semilong is the neighborhood north of The Boroughs. In between St. Andrews Road and Semilong Road are 10 parallel streets. These streets are all at an incline, thus the “toboggan-runs” image.

    Miller's Meadow (detail of 1950 map)
    Miller’s Meadow (detail of 1950 map)
  • “Paddy’s Meadow” – The 1950 map (and 2022 Google Maps) identifies this as “Miller’s Meadow”. In the chapter The Trees Don’t Need to Know (Pxxx), we find that this is named after Paddy Moore. Possibly Alan Moore changed (or forgot) the actual name?

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  • “the wall of the St. Andrew’s Priory had once extended” – Those walls are still visible in the map of 1614, see detail below. Michael is now hovering about 1/3 of the way up the west wall’s former location.

    St. Andrews Priory (1614 map detail, street names added)
    St. Andrews Priory (1614 map detail, street names added)
  • “in the 1260s, King Henry the Third sent out a punitive platoon of mounted troops to quash unrest and insurrection” –

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Closing Thoughts

A few lists, just to catalogue some of the verbal games here:

Words for red and green:

  • bloodshed and jealousy
  • hot coals and absinthe
  • poppies and putrefaction
  • a wild rose-garden
  • a rattling carnation cluster
  • the stains of war or else the stains of outdoor love
  • Meccano colours
  • fire engines and gas chamber doors

Names and Titles for Asmodeus:

  • The devil
  • the fiend
  • mixed-up Sam O’Day
  • The Fifth Infernal Duke
  • the King of Wrath
  • the groom-slayer
  • Sideways Sam O’Day

5 thoughts on “J2.02 An Asmodeus Flight”

  1. Damn, this book just keeps getting better and better! Anyway, on to my notes (bear with me, this is a long one haha):

    DATE = 1959

    • This is the same day as the previous chapter, slightly overlapping with the previous chapter’s end.

    P.O.V. CHARACTER = SAM O’DAY/ASMODAY/ASMODEUS/THE FIFTH INFERNAL DUKE/THE KING OF WRATH/THE GROOM-SLAYER/GREG (haha just kidding about “Greg”)

    • He is one of many devils, formerly a Builder, who was “pushed down two or three dimensions to create a plane of physical existence” (page 436, par 6).

    • He feels that he “got off light” compared to Satan, who became “the contorted coral stems that are in fact the living as seen without time,” “every shuddering, mysterious particle of the corporeal universe” (page 437, par 1).

    • Moore drew this incredible picture of Asmodeus following an encounter he had with the entity:

    Here’s Moore explaining the encounter in a 2003 interview:

    “I also had an experience with a demonic creature that told me that its name was Asmoday. Which is Asmodeus. And when I actually was allowed to see what the creature looked like, or what it was prepared to show me, it was this latticework…if you imagine a spider, and then imagine multiple images of that spider, that are kind of linked together–multiple images at different scales, that are all linked together–it’s as if this thing is moving through a different sort of time. You know Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase”? Where you can see all the different stages of the movement at once. So if you imagine that you’ve got this spider, that it was moving around, but it was coming from background to foreground, what you’d get is sort of several spiders, if you like, showing the different stages of its movement.
    Now if you imagine all of those arranged into a kind of shimmering lattice that was turning itself inside out as I spoke to it, and I was talking to my partner at the time and sort of saying, This thing’s showing us it’s got an extra dimension I haven’t got, and it’s trying to tell me that it’s good at mathematics. [laughter] It’s vain. There’s something fourth-dimensional about this. This is all stuff I was actually saying at the time, while I was having the experience, which was pretty extreme.
    Anyway. Over the next couple of weeks I started researching Asmodeus and found out that actually, yeah, he’s the demon of mathematics. [chuckles] Also there is a thing which apparently, traditionally he is able to offer one, and this is called the Asmodeus flight. This is where the demon will pick you up, carry you into the air, into the sky, and you can look down and you can see all of the houses as if their roofs had been removed, so you can see what’s going on inside them. Now that is not a description of being carried through the air. That’s not being moved into a higher physical space. That’s what things would look like if you’d been moved into a higher mathematical space. If you were actually in the fourth dimension, or if your perceptions were in the fourth dimension, looking down at the third dimension, you wouldn’t see places as if the roofs of the houses had been removed, you’d see around the roofs of the houses. [chuckles] In the same way that if you imagine a race of completely two-dimensional creatures living on a sheet of paper, if you draw a square and then put one of those two-dimensional creatures inside it, they are COMPLETELY enclosed, because every direction in their two dimensions is shut off to them. If you then as a three dimension creature were to reach down and pick up this two-dimensional speck because you can see through the roof, which is a dimension that he hasn’t got. So, if you’re a fourth dimensional creature looking at the third dimension, you would be able to see around the walls of a sealed room. This was interesting, because it kind of confirms the fourth dimensional aspect of Asmodeus.”

    https://arthurmag.com/2007/05/10/1815/

    OBSERVATIONS AND QUESTIONS:

    • Page 404, par 5: Is this Builder, pardon me, MASTER Builder, Mighty Mike from Book 1 Ch4?

    • Page 407, last par: This is a good line, as Sam O’Day is trying to decipher whether Michael is a dreamer, part of a dream, or a dead person:

    “In the devil’s judgment, though, this lad seemed to be real. Dreams and the characters from stories had a tidy quality to their construction, as if they’d been simplified, whereas this present nipper had a poorly-thought-through messiness about his personality that smacked of authenticity.”

    • Page 409, par 2: The Einsteinian Block Universe through the metaphor of a book:

    “The world of space and history was big, no doubt about it, but then so was War & Peace, yet both were finite. Given enough time – or, if you liked, given no time at all – then you could easily attain a detailed grasp of either of them. There was no great trick about omniscience, the devil thought. Just read the story through enough times at your near-infinite leisure and you’ll be an expert.”

    Moore discussed this metaphor in a recent conversation with John Higgs, going on to explain the three ways in which time can be considered to exist within a book. (I believe it’s near the end, but it’s a great overall conversation worth watching.)

    • Page 413, par 6: This might be me inferring something that’s not implied, but the following line seems a little meta to me in the sense that Moore has said he chose to write Jerusalem as reader-friendly as possible (in contrast to the opening chapter of Voice of the Fire).

    “Having considered all the aspects and the angles of this novel circumstance, the devil opted for a gentler approach in his communications with the boy.”

    (Moore being “the devil” and the word “novel” having a double meaning.)

    • Page 414, par 4: Devils are “essentially, a field of living information” and are therefore “more or less compelled to answer any direct question and to do so truthfully.”

    This rule doesn’t seem to phase Sam O’Day, as he finds telling the truth to be a much more subtle and effective way of trickery.

    • Page 418, par 4: More insight into the unique nature of pigeons. “The devil knew that this most special family of birds were more or less unique in their ability to pass between the Upstairs and the Downstairs world, and often would take refuge in a tree’s higher dimensions where they knew that they’d be fairly safe from cats.”

    Later it’s noted that pigeons have five times the perception of humans and are one of the only non-mammals who feed milk to their young (page 433, par 2).

    • Page 420, par 2-3: Sam O’Day and Michael approach “the illuminated cobweb knot of Castle Station,” which “was perhaps the devil’s favorite of the many ruined vistas that the Boroughs had to offer,” and he recalls historical moments that that he observed take place there, including King Henry the Second’s betrayal of Tommy Beckett; Richard the Lionheart setting off on the third crusade; and Walter the Tyler’s peasant army in 1381.

    • Page 421: Some info on the carvings found on the billiard/trilliard table’s pockets.

    The Northwest pocket has the “golden penis etched onto it,” and it was in the Northwest of the Boroughs where King Henry the Third’s soldiers robbed and burned in the 1200s. (This event was previously mentioned in Bk1 Ch12).

    The Northeast pocket is Regent Square, which is “the death corner where the severed heads of traitors were displayed once, and its corresponding snooker pocket was emblazoned with a golden skull.” (Severed heads were previously seen by Peter in Bk1 Ch5).

    The Southwest corner is a “gilded turret…representing stern authority.”

    However, there’s no word on the Southeast corner, which bears the cross-like symbol.

    • Page 422, par 7: This entire paragraph is Sam O’Day explaining the four-dimensional Einsteinian Block Universe to Michael. However, he briefly mentions that there are actually ten or eleven total dimensions:

    “In truth, all things in the universe have more than three dimensions, but there’s only three that human being seem to notice. To be honest, there are ten, or at a pinch eleven, but there are just four of them that need concern you at the moment.”

    The idea of the universe consisting of ten or eleven dimensions is consistent with String Theory (and/or Superstring Theory and M-Theory). Per Wikipedia:

    “String theory has been used to construct a variety of models of particle physics going beyond the standard model. Typically, such models are based on the idea of compactification. Starting with the ten- or eleven-dimensional spacetime of string or M-theory, physicists postulate a shape for the extra dimensions. By choosing this shape appropriately, they can construct models roughly similar to the standard model of particle physics, together with additional undiscovered particles.[88] One popular way of deriving realistic physics from string theory is to start with the heterotic theory in ten dimensions and assume that the six extra dimensions of spacetime are shaped like a six-dimensional Calabi–Yau manifold. Such compactifications offer many ways of extracting realistic physics from string theory. Other similar methods can be used to construct realistic or semi-realistic models of our four-dimensional world based on M-theory.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_theory#M-theory

    • Page 427, par 6: “Reconstructed Sam O’Day had heard of Alma Warren. She’d grow up to be a moderately famous artist, doing paperback and record covers, who had intermittent visionary spasms. During one of these she would, in thirty years or so, attempt a portrait of the fifth eternal duke in his full dress regalia, the reptile and arachnid image-wrap with the electric peacock-feather trim. The picture wouldn’t be much of a likeness, and she wouldn’t even bother trying to depict the lizard lining of his tailored aura, but the devil would feel vaguely flattered all the same.

    So Sam O’Day has heard of Alma, and is aware that she will someday draw him – this is funny because Moore has actually drawn him in real life (see image linked above).

    Also, some insight into Alma’s art career: “paperback and record covers.”

    • Page 430, penultimate par: “Each day and every deed’s eternal, little boy. Live them in such a way that you can bear to live with them eternally.”

    This echoes Moore first (and likely only ever) tweet from about a year ago:

    https://mobile.twitter.com/MomentOfMoore/status/666294106608541696

    • Page 443: The deathmonger who saves Michael from Asmodeus could be the deathmonger from Bk1 Ch10 who mentored May Warren in deathmongery.

    Also, and now I’m definitely inferring what’s not implied, but she burns the fish guts in a “brazier” (which is a portable BBQ), which I initially misread and pictured as a “brassiere” (a female undergarment) – and this made me think about how feminists in the 1970s would burn bras at protests. …Yeah I don’t even know why I even shared that dumb thought; my ramblings have gone on long enough already haha.

    THESE LINES MADE ME LAUGH:

    • Sam O’Day to the Master Builder:

    “My dear boy! Have we walked into a pearly gate?”

    “What you ought to do is drop the snooker and go back to organizing dances on the heads of pins. Not half so violent, and you’d have a good excuse for wearing gowns all the time.”

    • Page 406, penultimate par: Sam O’Day’s expertise includes “anger,” “handicrafts,” and “mathematics.” “Oh, and idle hands. He liked those too. And good intentions.”

    • Page 411, par 6: “He felt a flicker of mild irritation at the fact that while people continually identified him as a devil, nobody was ever sure which one he was. It would be like somebody greeting Charlie Chaplin in the street by shouting “You’re the bloke out of that film.”

    (Also – Charlie Chaplin mention!)

    • Page 413, par 6: “You caught more flies with honey than you did with vinegar, and you caught more with bullshit than you did with either.”

    • Page 427, par 6, Sam O’Day reflecting on Alma: “Though the devil would admit that he quire liked the woman, he would also quickly point out that he didn’t like her in THAT way, just in case anybody got the wrong idea.”

    Like

    1. Yes, it’s the car crash. Mick takes actions which (arguably) directly lead to the rapist’s death in exactly the manner Asmodeus describes.

      I personally feel that this is a narratively weak structure. If Mick’s *own* ghost had stepped in front of the speeding car, *that* I would have accepted as a proper fulfillment of the devil’s bargain. But there are too many steps in between Mick’s personal actions and the death for me to find it a satisfying narrative.

      I mean, given the overarching theme of interconnectedness in Jerusalem, you could just as well say that Peter the Monk killed that rapist by his actions in 810 A.D.!

      Like

  2. “Tosh” – Suggest??? Possibly a form of the insult “tosser“? Or a shortening of “pish-tosh“? Or “tosher” (thief, scavenger)? Or the city of Tosh from an Edward Lear poem, which Moore mentions briefly in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, volume 2?

    Tosh is just an english slang way of saying “bollocks” or ‘bullshit”.

    Like

  3. “arch-enemy of mankind” – A typical appellation of the Christian Devil (source??).

    The root of Satan is “adversary”.

    ‘The Hebrew term śāṭān (Hebrew: שָׂטָן) is a generic noun meaning “accuser” or “adversary”‘

    I know we’re talking Asmodeus rather than Lucifer here but I think it’s close enough.

    Like

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