With the advent of the new season of Supernatural, I thought it was about time that Scary Ramblings took on a rather demonic turn and what better place to start than with the antagonists from last season – Leviathan.
I mean, who can forget Dick Roman, with his suave good looks and charismatic way? He had many a girl swooning, until he smiled. I’ve seen teeth, but they were ridiculous!
So, dear reader, fact or fiction; myth or reality; heaven sent or straight from hell? As always, I leave it for you to decide.
In biblical terms, Leviathan is a sea monster (Old Testament) and the book of Job (41, 1-34) describes him (for it is usually male) in great detail. Genesis 1:21 states ‘God created the great sea monsters- taninim’ and legend says that ‘taninim’ referred to Leviathan and his mate and that God destroyed the female, as he believed that should the Leviathan procreate, the world ‘could not stand before them.’
In the middle ages, Christianity defined Leviathan as the image of Satan, which endangered both God’s creatures (by eating them) and God’s creation, by ‘threatening it with upheaval in the waters of Chaos.’
This biblical image of the sea monster carried forward into early myth and literature alike. Moby Dick is said to have been Melville’s incarnation of Leviathan. In Jewish literature, Leviathan is seen as a dragon who reigns over the Deep and who, along with the land monster, Behemoth, ‘will be served up to the righteous at the end of time.’
Ancient Near East mythology, as early as the third century BCE, features sea serpents quite prominently, with Sumerian iconography depicting the myth of the God, Ninurta, overcoming the seven headed serpent.
It is believed that Leviathan may originally have represented the Hellmouth. No, not Sunnydale, but a monstrous animal into whose mouth the damned are said to disappear at the ‘Last Judgement’.
In Satanism, Leviathan represents the element of water and the direction of west. The Satanic Bible, however, lists Leviathan as one of the Four Crown Princes of Hell and the Church of Satan has Hebrew letters at the points of the pentagram, which, when read counter clockwise from the lowest point, spell Leviathan.
The theme of a prince from hell is carried on in demonology, where Leviathan is seen as one of the Seven Princes of Hell (envy) and its gatekeeper (Hellmouth). St Thomas Aquinas also referred to Leviathan as the demon of envy.
Clearly, Leviathan was (and maybe still is) a creature to be feared, so much so that it made it into the religious texts. But what about in modern times? How does Leviathan appear in popular culture? Is he still seen as a sea monster; as a messenger of Satan; as the representation of Hell itself? Or, like with many things, have Chinese whispers completely changed his make-up and his integrity?
In 1651, Thomas Hobbes used the name ‘Leviathan’ for his work describing the Commonwealth. This political usage has been carried forward by others too, in more recent years.
The more traditional view, in the biblical sense, has been continued by many writers. Milton, in ‘Paradise Lost’, uses the term Leviathan to describe the size and power of Satan.
The last book of ‘The Illuminatus Trilogy’, by Robert Shea (1978), depicts Leviathan as a colossal, intelligent sea monster, in the shape of a tentacled pyramid. Douglas Niles, in ‘Darkwalker on Moonshae’, also uses the sea monster imagery, with Leviathan fighting the forces of evil, though, on behalf of the Earthmother.
From a scientific point of view, cryptozoologist, Dr Karl Shuker, in his book ‘In Search of Prehistoric Survivors’, says that Leviathan is pure myth, probably inspired by sightings of a Mosasaur (large extinct marine reptile) type sea monster.
But how about film and TV? Leviathan has made many, very different, appearances in film, TV and even in video games.
The gothic soap opera, ‘Dark Shadows’, depicted the Leviathan as an ancient race of beings, who ruled the earth before mankind. When they lost control of the planet, many chose to take human form.
‘Leviathan’ is the title of a 1989 sci-fi horror film, in which a hideous creature stalks a group of people in a sealed environment (Hmmm, sounds familiar…). For Clive Barker, in the ‘Hellraiser’ series of films, Leviathan is the deity that rules Hell and in ‘Once Upon a Time’ (fab show), Leviathan is the battle name for Lancelot.
And now, dear reader, we come to the muse for this blog – Supernatural itself. As always, the imagination and creativity of the writers of this show blow me away. For them, and for Sam and Dean, the Leviathan are an ancient race of monsters, freed from Purgatory by Cas, when he absorbed all the souls, in an effort to become ‘God’. Even Death speaks somewhat in fear of them, describing them as ‘God’s original creatures’ – created before humanity, but locked away because they proved too dangerous.
The Supernatural Leviathan are capable of shape shifting into human form, once they have made contact with the target’s DNA; eat pretty much anything – well, with teeth like that….; and are very nearly indestructible. But where’s the fun in an indestructible monster?
Everyone and everything has its weakness. Even in the biblical references, Leviathan has a weakness – a worm called ‘kilbit’. In Supernatural, the downfall of the Leviathan (although Mr Roman seemed pretty immune) is a basic household chemical, called Borax, which is a bit easier to get your hands on than the bone of a righteous mortal that has been washed in the three bloods of the fallen!
So, do you keep a stash of sodium borate by the front door, to greet visitors? Or, like me, do you prefer the less messy way, of cutting them, to see if they bleed black? I hope my ramblings have taught you something. For, dear reader, you can’t be too careful these days, can you?
May fear protect you when the darkness comes.
Til next time.