This Seems Like a Good Time to Talk About Ulrich as a Horned God (Who Is Tied in Knots)
**Spoilers through Season 2 Episode 8**
Okay, let’s give this a whirl. As you might imagine, Horned Gods aren’t my specialty, so I’ve done some research. But also, by the end of season 2, everything metaphorical in Dark is twisted and tangled together, just like the storylines. In season 1, we had nice, neat metaphors presented in ways that couldn’t be missed, with deeper meanings there if you wanted to search for them.
But, before we go any further, a warning. I can’t ignore current events while I’m writing this, and that’s not what I’m about, anyway. This piece was always going to examine the characters, mythology and their connection to the real world. Then the real world didn’t give me a choice. The creators of Dark didn’t choose to have boys be the ones to disappear simply to give women a break from victimization. The boys of the real world are making themselves disappear, and they’re often doing it while armed to the teeth.
They set the show in a town which was losing its main source of employment and then put that town through a slow dystopia which led to a fast apocalypse. This is what Western culture has put itself through since the 1970s, when corporations began moving manufacturing jobs from their traditional bases, and the towns whose original farming and small business economies were destroyed by the factories in the 19th century were now destroyed by the factories leaving.
We allowed ourselves to be turned into the colonies of the multinational corporations, in the process doing to our own countries what we’d done to the rest of the world in previous centuries. We’ve been going through a slow dystopia since the 70s, as the economy tries to adjust to the change. Now, we’re reaching a point of fast dystopia and fear of apocalypse, as the results of the Industrial Revolution catch up to us.
Nothing epitomizes the hubris of Western culture when it comes to thinking the bill will never come due on making profits while ignoring the effects of your endeavors than nuclear energy. Except for maybe Monsanto and Round Up. Those yellow barrels in the truck and cave symbolize scientific progress used for financial and personal gain at any cost, even one’s children. Even the future.
This season, instead of the triquetra, the tangled knot (or the nearly black scribble) is the most accurate metaphor for Dark. Nothing is simple, or even necessarily what it seems. Most importantly, everything and everyone represents more than one thing. The knot is made from Ariadne’s thread, which can take us into or out of the darkness, toward or away from the monster. It’s the God Particle, one of the ultimate scientific discoveries, but it’s also Michael scribbling himself out of his own life, because he knows he can’t get too attached in order to be able to do what he needs to do.
It’s the male characters as saviors, protectors, sacrifices and as the ones whose greed, aggression, ambition and other forms of desire and attachment led them to be the ones to create the need for sacrifice in the first place.
It’s the triquetra knot of season 1 pulled out of balance until it’s just a tangle.
So, with that disclaimer, onward to the discussion of sacrificial fertility gods of the forest and their ilk. Let’s start with the animals they’re based on- the stag, the ram, the bull. Big, strong male animals who are considered lords and protectors of their domains, who frequently have multiple mates. They are considered hunters because they will chase out any threat to the security of their herd. But they are also prey animals. And they will die to protect their herd. When one alpha male dies, the next in line takes his place, so that there is always a man in charge. Sometimes the males fight for the right to lead the herd.
What I’m saying is, though the Horned God is used to symbolize hunters and warriors, in fact, these male animals aren’t hunters or warriors. They are the defenders and protectors of the females and young. They are the husbands and fathers who are ready to die protecting their families, and frequently do.
These are, of course, idealized descriptions of these animals. They generally get up to other behaviors that aren’t so noble in between attacks on the herd. These idealized traits are what became the God of Nature, and eventually just God. In between, there are many variations, from all over the globe.
There is something in human nature that is drawn to the idea of a strong protector who may fall, but can be trusted to get back up again to defend his loved ones, even after death. Who will be fertile and ensure the continuation of the group, through his own fertility and progeny and through ensuring the food supply, even if he has to die to become the food himself.
That’s the promise of the Horned God. He is the all-father, the infallibly strong, mature man we all wish existed, who may not win every fight (we’re not completely unrealistic wives), but who will die trying and then come back, reborn, to win the next one, while providing prosperity and protection to his community, even in death, as he does in life. He is Cernunnos, Odin, The Dagda and countless other beings of myth and legend.
When we meet Adult Ulrich, he’s already matured into a protector. He specifically became a cop to protect the town from what happened to Mads. He’s a provider. His family lives in a big house, and he even brings them breakfast pastries. He’s virile and fertile, with his 3 children, more than any other character is known to have (except Katharina, obvs).
He has 2 alt wives on the side. Charlotte, his work wife, who is in a sexless marriage of her own but isn’t having sex with Ulrich either. And Hannah, who is Michael’s widow. They have sex, and she needs affection, which he denies her. This keeps her needy and available to him whenever he wants her. (In the first episode, she says, “I love you.” He says, “You’re beautiful.” She’s lonely. He’s playing with fire.) So he’s getting extra mental stimulation from Charlotte and extra sex from Hannah, leaving Katharina, the primary wife, with only the burden of feeding him emotionally. It’s pseudo-polygamy in its most common modern variation. But also a powder keg waiting to blow, since none of the women are getting everything they need.
Which is the problem with the popularized Horned God archetype, where virility becomes hyper masculinity. People aren’t herd animals. We aren’t meant to live in packs with 1 powerful male bossing around several artificially weakened females who prop him up. When viewed as part of something like the Greek Pantheon, the Horned God becomes Zeus, with an equally powerful wife and a large extended family of gods. Then the all-father isn’t all bad, though he can still be overbearing. When viewed as part of a system with an equally strong goddess, the Horned God can be reined in and stays in the balanced role he’s meant for.
We all need to be reined in at one time or another, god or goddess. And we all need the essential role we play in the pantheon to be both respected and appreciated. This is the basis of healthy relationships, families and communities. When we enter into these various human relationships, we trust that we will do this for each other. We all deserve all 3, love, respect and support. A healthy culture engages in all 3 for all citizens.
But the Horned God has a tendency to let his testosterone get to him, and to think he’s in charge of everything, or that he’s the only one who can solve the problem, or that it’s all about him, in whatever way pertains to the situation. And before you know it, a perfectly fine protector and fertility archetype has turned into rape culture, patriarchy, slavery, runaway capitalism, climate crisis and the end of the world as we know it.
This has been building for thousands of years, probably since the beginning of agriculture, but current events should be enough of an example. As I’m writing, on 8/4/19, it’s Lammas, the cross quarter time when the harvest god is sacrificed, and in the US the men are going violently, brutally nuts. 250+ mass shootings this year to date, 2 in the last 24 hours.
In a scary recreation of Gilead, here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a majority Latino city a few short hours from El Paso, TX, where yesterday 22 died and almost 50 in total were shot at a Walmart, our mayor is assuring us that armed police are stationed at the Walmarts and other potential flashpoints.
The ABQ police are notorious for shooting and killing innocent victims, to the point that the federal government intervened during the Obama administration. Ironically, we don’t have an issue with the police using race as an excuse to kill, though there is racism here, of course.
But which angry men should we be more afraid of? The ones in uniform or the ones with a manifesto? Right now, as a white woman, the police will (probably) protect me. But ICE is also out in force, so not everyone is safe, and the border wall is also being built a few hours straight south on US Route 25. Columbine, Colorado is straight north on the same highway. I feel a little boxed in. My own history as a victim of gun-related crime is definitely triggering some reactions. Existentially, I just want to duck and cover.
Yesterday, we here in Albuquerque were being asked to give blood to send to El Paso. This strikes me as very symbolic. In Dark, Adam specifically refers to the bloodlines as Ariadne’s thread, a connection through both space and time. Christ used blood as a symbolic connection between his followers as well. Blood donation in times of crisis is a modern form of communion.
But I digress. I will come back to bloodlines later, though.
In season 1, Ulrich, as an out of control Horned God on a “protection” spree, decides he has to go back to 1953 and bash adorable little Helge’s head in with a rock. Like every man with a weapon, he had other options. He chose to attempt to murder a child instead of talking to Katharina or Charlotte first. Either would clearly have had a better idea.
Even Hannah, who also tends to take matters into her own hands, talked to both Katharina and Charlotte first when she found out the truth, and would have been someone else for Ulrich to run his child murder idea by. At the very least, she would have been an intelligent accomplice who kept Ulrich out of jail.
But frequently, part of the mentality that leads to spiraling out of control is the need to act alone, to believe you are the alpha male who is the only one capable of fixing things. Meanwhile, the father/leader/coach side of the role is forgotten, though its emphasis on community gives men a desperately needed avenue for emotional support and stress relief.
In the 1986 storyline, Egon takes advantage of this aspect of manhood and briefly speaks to Ulrich as an equal when they are both old. He drops their antagonistic history and just speaks to Ulrich as a fellow human being, two old bucks who are past their prime and don’t have to compete anymore. In 2019, Ulrich uses Egon’s files in the same way, but Egon himself, who might have been a stabilizing presence, is gone.
Old Egon and Young Ulrich could have had something meaningful to both of them, with Ulrich as a teen who was interested in becoming a cop and in finding his brother, and Egon as a nearly retired, then a retired, cop who didn’t have a son of his own and who enjoyed passing on his wisdom. They could have had a mentoring relationship that benefited them both.
Possibly it’s another corruption of the timeline that they never had any positive relationship. There were so many interactions between Egon the cop and the Nielsen men- Ulrich, Mikkel and Jonas, while Tronte lived with Egon as a child in a house that both Tronte and Ulrich would later own. Egon is so closely tied to the Nielsen men that I wonder if we’ll discover he is one.
Even with the world the way it is in Dark, Ulrich and Egon could have spoken man to man in the 50s. They were working on the same case. But the tone was already established between them in every time period, and by the time Egon realized his mistake, it was too late.
One of the downsides of the perception of the Horned God archetype, and following it in real life, is the lack of an allowance for men to meet as equals and friends who support each other throughout life, setting aside competition as much as possible. The closest thing to supportive friendship in this paradigm would be the betas in the herd/clan working as teammates, but that still carries an edge of competition which discourages the sharing of vulnerabilities.
It’s that sharing of vulnerabilities that helps keep women on an even keel. Female friends validate each other’s feelings and help each other get things done. We see this between Charlotte, Katharina and Hannah, who aren’t even that close. They sort out half of Winden when given the chance, thanks to Hannah’s insistence on bringing them together after Stranger Jonas tells her the truth. Meanwhile, Egon tries to have that kind of discussion with Daniel about sex, love and marriage, and Daniel gives him a standard “horny” answer.
Hannah and Egon could do great things together.
Symbolically, Egon is tough to figure out. The truth is revealed to him slowly, and he is awakened at the very end of his life. But we don’t understand his history very well. He was an alcoholic whose wife left him in Cycle 1. In Cycle 2, he told Claudia her mother would have been proud of her, too, and never took a drink. He’s patient and understanding with Doris and Claudia, despite their flaws and transgressions. His actions toward Ulrich can be seen as protective actions, hoping to protect the town and especially women from more violent crime. He’s a gentle, loving person, but everyone takes him for granted.
With all of that, I hesitate to put him in the Horned God category. But he does recognize injustice when he sees it, and evil, defined in a very general sense as a lack of balance, which creates chaotic destruction. This would fit teenage Ulrich, who is a bully, and the Adult Ulrich who’s just tried to kill Helge. It fits the Claudia who’s watching him die and coming to terms with what she thinks her life is now. All three have lost their way, in a sense, and need to be brought back to a more centered place where they can see their path clearly. Note – he doesn’t react to Doris and Agnes as if they are evil.
The Egyptians had a female Horned Goddess, Hathor, who fits Claudia, since she is the Great Mother in a mother-father-son trinity. (I can place Claudia in many trinities. One is Tannhaus-Jonas-Claudia. Another is Claudia-Michael-Jonas. Claudia is a mother deity more often than anything else, while Jonas is a savior/son more often than anything else, except possibly a doomed lover. He’s always doomed, though. Help me, Obi Wan.)
Hathor was one of the most ancient, long lasting and widely worshipped Egyptian deities. She was associated with the sun, cattle, lions, snakes and sycamore trees. Her secret agent Agnes Nielsen is also associated with snakes. The Sycamore tree (nehet) is the Egyptian version of the Tree of Life, which is the carving on Michael’s gravestone. Sycamore wood was used to make coffins so that bodies could be returned to the goddess. Claudia is a dark mother, for sure. Ask Regina.
Another aspect of the Horned God is the Christian corruption of the archetype into Satan, the Antichrist and their variations, as the Christians tried to stamp out all other forms of religion but their own. Ulrich identified himself with Satan, through his music, in a confused attempt to sort himself out as an angry teenager. This triggered Egon’s memories of adult Ulrich in the 50s and Helge’s talk of a White Devil. Both Egon and Ulrich absorbed that energy into their relationship and it reverberated through the time periods. Claudia was known as the White Devil, and Egon recognized her as such before he died.
Ulrich’s horns are metaphorical, of course. He is an all-father god, like the Irish deity The Dagda, but he’s closest to Zeus. Look at how majestic Old Ulrich is, with his flowing silver mane and white scrubs. He has an unwavering dedication to his family and protective mission, even though he’s probably too old for it to benefit him much. He was meant to be the patriarch of a large, multigenerational family. I think he craved it, after what happened to Mads.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Ulrich was always going to stay in the asylum until at least 1986. The escape attempt between Old Ulrich and Young Mikkel had to happen. It’s an important part of Egon’s history. It’s probably important for Ines and Mikkel as well. Once we’d seen Ulrich in the future, Hannah couldn’t save him in the past. In Dark’s mythology, he was meant to be a sacrifice.
But we don’t know the end of Ulrich’s story yet. Notice that one of the animals I mentioned was the bull, which is the minotaur’s father. The minotaur, Ariadne’s brother who is imprisoned at the center of the labyrinth, has the head of a bull. Is Ulrich a minotaur? Has he now fully faced the darkness within himself? In Cycle 3, will he find his way out of the labyrinth he’s been stuck in for 33 years? Or will Theseus find him and slay him?
Or is Michael the minotaur, which would make Ulrich the bull god who sired him? This would make sense, since Martha is Ariadne and the minotaur is her brother. But Hannah is also a version of Ariadne this season. Ulrich is many things to Hannah. He’s both the minotaur she leaves in the labyrinth, where he can’t harm innocent people, and he’s the Theseus who used her then abandoned her. She leaves him to his fate, then goes off in search of a new ending to her own story.
Michael also has elements of the Horned God, though not as intensely as his father. His Greek equivalent is Hermes. Hermes’ Roman equivalent, Mercury, is associated with the Celtic horned god Cernunnos. (I never said comparative mythology would be simple.) While Michael is an artist, trickster and magician, he primarily lives his life as a cycle of sacrifice and fertility, all to protect his son. He is also connected to Hannah in her Ariadne guise. As Mikkel, he is the one she leads out of the labyrinth, giving him a reason to live and stay in the past before Jonas is born, then acting as the goddess who gives him Jonas.
But as Michael he’s also the minotaur, stuck in the center of the labyrinth, suffering until Jonas and Claudia show him the way out, through hanging. Then Jonas leads him back into the dark of the cave/labyrinth again, when he becomes the sacrifice as a child. (Don’t try to understand this with logic. This is why these myths were taught in mystery schools. You have to understand them intuitively, with your heart, not as science and real life biography.)
Emotionally, I don’t think Mikkel/Michael ever truly left the cave after Jonas left him there in the middle of the night. Chronologically, the last time we see him is when Stranger Jonas closes the passage in November, 2019. The version of adult Michael whose head is dripping with dark goo sits in the passage all night with Jonas.
Michael makes his sacrifices, but he never recovers and moves on from them. Our culture doesn’t give men a healthy way to accept loss and suffering. Since only winning and appearing strong is okay, we see men turn to anger, addiction and violence to deal with pain. Michael did find a healthy outlet in his art, but he’d already been drugged by Ines in his youth and had a genetic predisposition toward mental illness. We don’t know the original version of his suicide, violence turned toward himself, but the decision was a group effort in Cycle 2, with Claudia arriving to give him a final push.
As culture evolved, the horn became a cup, which was filled with wine, and the sacrificial death of the god to save the herd was linked to the grain harvest. The Greek god of wine and the harvest? Dionysus, who is Jonas. In S2Ep5, when Jonas arrives in 1921, he startles awake in a grain field. The fields are being harvested. The surface story keeps insisting that Michael was the sacrifice, but symbolically, there’s no doubt that Jonas is ultimately the sacrifice. I’m not sure I want to know what that will mean, but Dionysus is a god who dies and is reborn, multiple times, so let’s cling to that.
There is also the whole thing where Jonas keeps throwing himself into the abyss in the form of unknown time travel methods, trusting he’ll come out the other side alive, based on the word of someone he has no real reason to trust. He embraces his role as sacrifice, as we know, and keeps hoping maybe this time he’ll stay dead and Adult Michael will revive.
It should be noted that, unlike the Roman version of the God, Bacchus, Dionysus was not a god of alcoholism. In modern times, we tend to forget that wine/alcohol has medicinal purposes, for example as a water purifier, for sterilization, and as a pain reliever, that are lifesaving for entire communities. People have good reason to celebrate if they are alive because Dionysus taught them how to make wine and it saved their lives, and they did. Dionysus is also associated with art, theatre, and communication between the living and the dead, as well as divine madness, which is distinct from drunkenness.
Jonas can see dead people. 😉 In the case of Dark, he knew where the “dead” people were in Time, and he has begun to spread the word about time travel, as Dionysus spread the word about wine.
I suspect Stranger Jonas, in particular, is going to go through a divine madness in Cycle 3, wandering in the wilderness and wrestling with his inner demons for a period, as saviors are wont to do. We haven’t deeply explored mental illness yet, and sometimes Jonas is barely hanging on.
The flip side of turning outward toward violence is turning inward toward depression. Depression and addiction/obsession are the more typical responses to suffering, since men are taught to repress pain and suffer silently. (Or to become angry and look for a fight. Either way, eventually, the explosions begin.)
(He will either come back as Adam or an imposter will show up and claim he’s Jonas/Adam from the Future while he’s gone. My strong belief is that Jonas is not Adam and is as ageless as Noah, who was at least 80 when he died. Part of Jonas’ confusion with life is that he can’t figure out why he isn’t turning into Adam, even though he’s 120 or something outrageous. As Dionysus, he will never Lose his Innocence.)
(Jonas and Egon balance Michael and Ulrich. Tronte is a cipher who belongs to the Goddess, possibly a pivot point. Magnus is also currently unclear to me, but his energy is closer to Ulrich’s- good heart, too impulsive.)
After much thought, I’m assigning Apollo to Egon as his Greek god counterpart. As the defender of herds and flocks, Apollo is still in the realm of the Horned God, and, like Hermes/Mercury, is associated with Cernunnos. But he is also the God of Truth and a protector of children. There’s that dead herd of sheep from season 1 that’s never been fully addressed. Time for Apollo to circle back to it.
I’m mindful that we’re only 2/3 way through the story Dark is telling. So far, Egon is a healthier version of the Horned God archetype, who serves and protects, loves and supports, and only asks for the same in return. That could change in season 3.
Apollo killed Python, a good serpent demon who was the daughter of Gaea, the Greek Great Mother Goddess who predated the Olympians. Agnes, Egon’s wife’s lover, is associated with the snake and the Goddess. Artemis the Huntress, Apollo’s twin sister, is one of Katharina’s guises. Another of Katharina’s guises is Zeus’ wife Hera, the Queen of Heaven and Goddess of Marriage and Birth. Artemis’ lost lover, Orion the Hunter, would be another of Ulrich’s guises.
While Egon is very much twinned with Ulrich, he’s a lighter mirror held up to the other man. Egon doesn’t cheat on his wife, but she cheats on him, while Ulrich is the cheater with a faithful wife. Egon loves his daughter fiercely, but doesn’t understand her and ultimately realizes she’s very flawed. Ulrich has an emotional distance from his kids before Mikkel’s disappearance, then puts everything into finding him.
Claudia wants Egon to follow her home so that she can save him, but he hesitates and it causes his death. Ulrich impulsively attempts to follow Mikkel through time in an attempt to save him, and gets trapped in a web he can’t escape. Throughout their relationship with each other and their twinned experiences, Egon is the light twin and Ulrich is the dark twin, but their lives are wrapped up in each other. Hannah is also wrapped up with both, in 1986 and in the 1950s. Ulrich, Egon and Hannah are an older version of Michael and Jonas, the main light and dark twins, who are also even more knotted up with Hannah.
But there is another more interesting trio, Ulrich, Michael and Jonas, combined with Adam. Adam is Hades, Lord of the Underworld, which should be obvious. In the seasonal myth, Hades stole Persephone, Demeter’s daughter, and brought her to his lair. She was eventually rescued, but not before she ate some seeds. So she has to spend time in the underworld each year, creating winter, to make up for eating the forbidden fruit. Women and their appetites, y’know. Regina, Martha and Hannah have aspects of Persephone. Claudia and Katharina have aspects of Demeter.
But the really interesting thing is, there is evidence that Zeus, Hades and Dionysus were worshipped as a tripartite deity, meaning they were seen ultimately as one and the same. In some of these versions, Hades got Persephone pregnant, and she gave birth to a second Dionysus. Dionysus basically dies a lot, then gets rescued and reborn a lot. But also, Hades, Zeus and Dionysus change places a lot. Sometimes Hermes raises Dionysus, keeping him in hiding from a jealous Hera. Demeter, Persephone and a mortal named Semele are all Dionysus’ mother at various times, depending on the incarnation and myth.
Blending Hades, Dionysus and Zeus into one deity was seen as a way to link heaven and the underworld while making the cycle of birth, death and resurrection of a single deity clear. The correspondence to Christianity is also clear, with both having a sky father, a dying and reborn but ultimately earth-oriented son, and an underground brother who is in charge of the dead.
In the Gnostic view, the underground brother is Lucifer, the morning star (which is the planet Venus) and fallen angel. Lucifer is the alchemists’ name for phosphorus, a chemical element which glows and is used as fertilizer and many other things. It’s mined from underground. Phosphorus is part of DNA, meaning it also is inside us all and like blood, unifies everyone. If we all glow, it’s because of the phosphorus inside of us. 😘 Both Jesus and Lucifer could be referred to as having light within them because we all have light within us. Jesus told us this. This is a physical fact that leads to a deeper truth.
Egon mentioned phosphorus hand grenades in season 1, when he wondered what could have disfigured Eric and Yasin’s bodies. Experiments with phosphorus could have disfigured Adam. And, recall, just like phosphorus, Cesium 137 glows. The radioactive element is produced by the nuclear power plant and was produced by the accident in 1986. It’s part of the waste stored in the yellow barrels that produced the God Particle. It would be what caused the glowbugs at the end of the season, just before the apocalypse.
In the real world, because of nuclear experimentation, weapons and accidents, Cesium 137 is now found in the environment and our bodies globally. In the 21st century, we all have a faint glow not only because of Lucifer and phosphorus, but also because of Cesium 137.
The nuclear power plant, which connects directly to the caves, is the new purgatory and underworld, the place which diverts the community away from its natural course. It has destroyed the natural flow of time, destroyed the natural bloodlines of the town, destroyed the natural flow of immigration in and out of the town which provides needed genetic diversity, and made the town dependent solely on itself for survival, taking away the town’s ability to fend for itself with a diverse economy which could withstand the ups and downs of history better.
Now, the plant will close and Winden will be left with nothing. It will become a poverty stricken, crime ridden shell, that might as well have been hit by an apocalypse. It will become Detroit or Flint, Michigan or any of the Rust Belt towns of the northeastern US who struggled for decades after the factories and steel mills left in the 70s. Just like the one I grew up in, towns that were once prosperous, that seemingly overnight became worse than ghost towns, because the people stayed and became the ghosts.
The boys and men who grow up in those towns, and in other towns like them, who have lost other industries, are the out of control Horned Gods turned domestic terrorists. The community that would have once supported them was a lie. It was a corporation which pretended to be a person who cared, but it played a shell game with their lives. The people who are left behind are struggling to cope with false promises.
Men have been taught that they shouldn’t back down from an attack. They shouldn’t walk away. They should keep getting back up. They should use those antlers and horns as weapons, and they should die trying. But who and where is the enemy?
On Dark, Aleksander and Bernd have been the faces of the power plant. They have actively lied about about the danger involved with the plant, but they both also take pride in what they perceive the plant as having done for the city.
They aren’t faceless corporate CEOs making financial decisions without regard to how it will affect the people of Winden. They followed the general economic wisdom of the 20th century for capitalist countries, which said that a single large employer was great for a town and continuous economic growth is sustainable and desirable forever. They are both men of their time and succeeded by that measure. I’m not going to criticize them for that. They too were mislead.
Bernd is a shadowy figure who I suspect is much more important than we realize. He loves Helge, but I don’t think Helge is his biological son and I think Bernd knows it. He’s some kind of alchemist/mage who helped instigate the creation of the God Particle to begin with. He may be an ultimate all-father/sky father in the end. He’s positioned that way, living in the big house and working in the top spot in the gated plant, with all the fire and brimstone.
Or maybe he’s the true dark Satanic figure who’s been missing. Adam and Noah as villains have been teases. We’re still waiting for the really big bad, and Bernd has admitted to hiding the evidence. He could be the Greek Cronus, God of Time, who battled Zeus for control of the cosmos, or he could be Uranus, a Titan who was also a deposed ruler of the cosmos.
His true identity is probably going to turn out to be a surprise. He’s the one who got Claudia started on her journey as THE time travel engineer. He told her he knew she’d insist on working on the God Particle. He’s likely someone’s son from the future or distant past. He could be the author of the triquetra diary.
Aleksander is Hephaestus, God of Blacksmiths and other craftsmen. In other words, the everyman God of the Working Class. Hephaestus is also the God of Fire and Volcanoes. Those power plant stacks are nothing if not symbolic volcanoes. He is in an arranged marriage to Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, Beauty and Eternal Youth, which just sets off all kinds of theories about what has happened off camera and will happen in season 3 with Regina.
One of the major goals of the Tiedemanns is to save Regina from her advanced cancer, and a major internet theory is that Aleksander, who showed up in Winden wounded and on the run, is a time traveler who was sent to take care of Regina. Regardless of how their marriage started, they are one of the most faithful, devoted couples on Dark.
Aleksander cares about the workers at the plant, but doesn’t seem to have any answers for how they’ll survive
post-apocalypse after the plant closes. He has so many of his own problems, he can’t get that far in his thinking. Regina is dying, Bartosz is acting strangely, Aleksander himself been blackmailed and is under investigation.
And he has a bullet wound which apparently never healed properly because he never sought proper medical treatment for it, so he’s got chronic pain, which is why he has Hannah work on his shoulder on a regular basis. This also fits with his identity as Hephaestus and a craftsman, since smithing, carpentry, etc take their toll on the body long term.
Aleksander uses a false identity, symbolic of the disposable anonymity of the working class. Though he has reached the heights of management, in today’s employment climate, even management isn’t safe, as Dark is showing us. A man of Aleksander’s age and income level will have difficulty finding another job, unless he wants to move a long distance away. With a dying wife, that’s unlikely.
The flip side of young men with no future is men whose working days were cut short by injury or illness, but who aren’t really that old. They have decades of life ahead of them, but no clear way to be useful. Trust me, I relate. There is no place in our cultural mythology for men in that position either (or women, much of this piece relates to women as well). We are supposed to be self-reliant adults until we die, but what happens when we can still do many things, yet no one will pay us for the things we can do? Or they won’t pay us enough to survive?
Anger is a natural response, but we need a better myth and a better cultural solution. We need the small town tribalism that kept resources in the community, kept most of the members of the community near the same level in the power structure and economic hierarchy, and gave more members of the community a voice in general.
We need a culture that has a safety net, decent pay, and an opportunity for small businesses to thrive. If you can’t handle the stress of working for a large corporation or one doesn’t want to locate itself in your town, chances are you can create enough work for yourselves by supporting each other. But we have to turn to each other again, instead of Amazon, first.
Adam and Noah, theoretically the twinned Dionysuses (Dionysii?), both frequently stare at the painting in Adam’s study, especially when they’re about to be involved in a death. I’ve wondered all along which character in the painting Adam sees himself as. Now, I think it’s all of them.
The painting can be seen as part of a birth, death and resurrection cycle, with the Archangel Michael as the psychopomp/light son who is ushering the rebel angels from heaven, through their short mortal lives and onward to the underworld, where he greets them again as Lucifer/the dark son. The sky father is represented as an omniscient presence signified by bright sunlight.
The red glow of fire/blood is a unifying feature, signifying the family of humanity, in this case probably the passing down of original sin through the bloodlines, but I like to think of it more positively as love, passion/purpose and family. White and black are the other two prominent colors. Along with red, they are Martha’s three colors and the three main colors of phosphorus, which can be used to make bombs or grow food.
The symbolism of white and black is obvious. It’s the light and the dark, the polar opposites of the universe we struggle to balance, with red being the third color that makes it a trio, suggesting love, purpose and family temper both the light and the dark.
Adam, the practically mythological inhabitant of an underground temple, is the culmination of Nielsen bloodline. It’s likely all of the bloodlines of Winden culminate in him. The mythology culminates in him. He surrounded himself in darkness and red fire and killed the thing he loved most.
It doesn’t really matter who he is under the scars. I can make a case for almost every character, male or female, to have eventually been swallowed whole by their own bitterness and anger, and to decide that blowing the whole thing up is the answer.
He is Lucifer, the receptacle for Winden’s sins, the monster in the middle of the dark labyrinth who must be faced before life can go on. But Lucifer is also the morning star, the sign of hope that dawn is coming. The suffering that can feed creativity and growth rather than destruction.
That Adam killed the thing he loves most is obvious no matter who he is under the scars. Adam killed Martha. Martha is important to Ulrich, Mikkel and Jonas as their only daughter, sister and wife. Adam says that killing Martha is the only thing that will turn Jonas into Adam. That may be a mind game, but it’s also a universal truth.
Someone died. It was Adam’s fault and turned him into who he is. He couldn’t live with what was inside himself, so he turned himself inside out. Once his insides became his skin, he became both oversensitive, with raw, exposed nerves, and ready to aim all of his huge feelings at others, to use them as weapons.
It’s a trope with many of the gods that they accidentally kill the thing they love most. Or they have an argument, go to war and kill their former best friend or their wife and her new lover (who is often their best friend) in battle. Once patriarchy gained a foothold on our mythology, men lost their ability to walk away from a conflict and retain their status.
Life for men became a matter of kill or be killed. Everything is a competition to win or lose. Everything is measured in numbers so that we can see whether we’ve won or lost. Boiling life down to money and status makes measuring whether you’ve won or lost easiest of all. Everything in the center, symbolized by Ariadne’s red, is considered feminine and expendable, because it’s more likely to make you lose this never ending battle.
White male culture has traditionally been the winner at this game and has taken the game to such lengths that they’re killing everything. They’re killing their children, their best friends, their wives, their communities and the planet. They have developed the ability to act as the gods did and destroy it all.
They’re killing themselves and each other in the process. They have lost the ability to tune into their emotions and intuition and stop themselves from continuing to do harm. They have so thoroughly become the God Who Sacrifices Himself and Goes to War to Sacrifice Others, that they don’t know how to stop doing that. It’s an addiction and it’s all they know.
Like a prisoner receiving his choice of last meal, they receive material, surface benefits for continuing this cycle, so it’s difficult for them to see the big picture and stop.
Aleksander stood in front of his employees and made a speech about how sad it was that the power plant was closing, right in front of the room where he’d just hidden the radioactive waste he’d been hiding from everyone for decades, even as his beloved wife was dying of cancer.
They can’t bring themselves to acknowledge the cost, even to themselves.
But if you dig deeply into the mythology of every culture, it wasn’t always this way for men. If you go beyond the most popular versions of the myths, the gods had strategies that allowed them to escape without killing everyone or losing everything. The cultures and communities were set up to support men the way women have typically supported each other. The templates are there, just as the templates for a just, sane society are out there, both in our current time and in history. We just need to take Ariadne’s thread and weave it into the tapestry that works best for us now.
But at the same time, Adam can’t be forgotten. He can’t remain a dark secret hidden in the caves like the nuclear waste. He needs to be redeemed, or at least understood the way Noah was before he died.
This is where Torben the Cyclops comes in. Torben has one eye and wears a black eye patch. This gives him some flexibility in mythology. He could be a pirate. He could be the Norse all-father, Odin, but he doesn’t have the other credentials yet. Or he could be one of the 3 Cyclops brothers who are the sons of Gaia and Uranus. These brothers gave Zeus the thunderbolt as a weapon and helped establish him as ruler of the cosmos, overthrowing Cronus, the God of Time, the true enemy of us all in the Dark Mythology.
Note I said overthrowing, not exploding everything and ending time itself.
The Cyclops worked for Hephaestus, just as Torben works for Aleksander. But there was a wild streak which ran through them. They were known for making weapons, building walls around cities and being imprisoned.
Even though Torben has many secrets and a gravestone in the future, I think he somehow holds the key to fixing time without exploding it or waiting too long, which seems to be Claudia’s method. The Cyclops were known as the inventors of many amazing weapons for the gods and goddesses.
Torben and Benni could be the twin or triplet children of Hannah and Egon, or a different father. I haven’t figured out how Clausen fits in, but he’s obviously part of this storyline. He could be Uranus instead of Bernd. In mythology, the cyclops were eventually killed by Apollo, to settle a grudge with Zeus. Zeus used the thunderbolt to kill Apollo’s son, so Apollo killed the weapon maker first.
I fear Dark will go dark, and end with a near miss on a solution, the same way Torben is never allowed to finish his story. Everything will be predetermined and nothing will ever change.
Let’s be better than that in real life.
Everyone in the “ruler of the cosmos” story and the “killing of the cyclops” story is closely related. They are fighting for revenge and power. They are fighting over things that don’t really matter. Fighting is what they do, so they are finding reasons to fight. They are socialized to want more and to want to be on top, so they fight and fight and fight, because nothing is ever enough and even if they reach the top, someone else will try to take what they have away from them. Even when they have everything, they will fight to keep others from getting it too.
I don’t know the answer to this, how to get from this dystopia to a healthy place. I’ve failed in my own life to help boys overcome the lure of white male privilege. Who cares what a woman is saying to you, when the other men and materialism are calling? But I think part of the answer is moving beyond the mystique of the Horned God.
Men have to choose this for themselves and women have to let them.
Let boys and men relax. Explore the concept of “enough,” otherwise known in trendy circles as sustainability. Listen to Jonas/Dionysus when he says everything comes down to dialing back desire and attachment. He’s echoing the wisdom of Buddha, Moses, Jesus, and nearly every great religion I can think of. You don’t have to be the sacrifice and you don’t have to be the winner. Just try to be a decent person. It’s okay to be good enough.
Cernunnos: The Horned God of the Celts at Gnostic Warrior.com
Lammas Men and Other Seasonal Biohazards by Kathryn Theatana
Horned Gods: A Comparative Mythology Perspective by Urmi Chanda-Vaz
Horned Deity at Wiki
Horned God at Wiki
Images courtesy Netflix and their original owners.