10 Secret Reasons Why The Avengers Is the Best Superhero Film
An exploration of the ancient Egyptian myths, Biblical references, and esoteric symbols that smuggled God into the blockbuster.
January 12, 2013 - 8:00 am
7. Black Widow Invokes Multiple Goddess Symbols. But In the Film She Embodies the Daughter Goddess Ma’at, A Deity Who Eventually Evolved Into An Abstraction, Reemerging today As the Avenging Spirit of Law, Order, Blind Justice, Liberty, Freedom, and Morality.
The statue is a classical female figure of Freedom wearing flowing draperies. Her right hand rests upon the hilt of a sheathed sword; her left holds a laurel wreath of victory and the shield of the United States with 13 stripes. Her helmet is encircled by stars and features a crest composed of an eagle’s head, feathers, and talons, a reference to the costume of Native Americans. A brooch inscribed “U.S.” secures her fringed robes. She stands on a cast-iron globe encircled with the words E Pluribus Unum, the national motto at the time of her placement atop the dome.
Scarlett Johannson as the Black Widow acts as a balancing force on the Avengers team. She represents the young goddess mediating the conflicting forces weighing down on the scale, acting as a crucial team member helping to contain the temperaments of Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, and Captain America. She is the cursed spider Arachne, weaving the team together, all while remaining concealed behind her own veil of mystery.
The effect of a deity — or the modern variant, the fictional character — hiding themselves, their weaknesses, and their origins can provoke a gradual evolution from a defined god into an abstraction. The Black Widow as a character is like this — today more Marvel’s embodiment of the James Bond femme fatale persona than a memorable personality like the film’s male protagonists. This kind of evolution from deity to symbol took place in the ancient Egyptian’s polytheistic religion too. The goddess Ma’at, depicted with wings and an ostrich feather, became more of a transcendent spirit that enveloped the entire universe, rather than a deity engaging in battles with rivals:
In the illustration on page 5 for Captain America and the Pentacle, I included an excerpt from Aleister Crowley’s Magick Book IV:
“… the three stages in the history of philosophy, in which the three objects of study were successively Nature, God, and Man.”
Crowley’s philosophical system of Thelema posits that one can understand human history as a series of Aeons based on which of the Egyptian god archetypes dominates. The first three Aeons:
- Aeon of Isis — Worship of a mother goddess. Humanity during pre-history, pre-Biblical, and the hunter-gatherer stage. People lived in harmony and obedience to the tyranny and cruelty of Mother Nature.
- Aeon of Osiris — Worship of a dying-and-rising father god. The Classical and medieval historical eras where humanity was characterized by obedience to such frequently tyrannical authorities as Church, Crown, and State.
- Aeon of Horus — Rebellious, individualistic worship of the childish self. Crowley announced that the Aeon of Horus began in 1904. And when one considers the 20th century as when the Child King began his reign, downgrading the maturity over humanity then a whole lot makes more sense.
Throughout his life Crowley primarily sought to spread the new law of his conception of this Aeon of Horus. He did not spend as much time imagining what Aeons could follow, instead thinking that immature humanity would require centuries to grow up. But he still did lay the seeds for mystics in his tradition to imagine a more mature future. Mark Green wrote on the development of he concept of an Aeon of Ma’at:
Horus is, like Mars, a God of War and Vengeance, and this was seen by Crowley as fitting for an Aeon of the “Law of the Battle of Conquest”. Crowley made only a few mentions of the Aeon following Horus, for example in a diary entry in 1923, where he refers to a “wordless Aeon,” and in a commentary to the Book of the Law where he states that an Aeon of Ma’at would follow that of Horus. However, in 1936, he wrote a letter to Charles Stanfield Jones, a magical student known as Frater Achad, where he admitted the possibility of an Aeon of Ma’at arriving simultaneously with the Aeon of Horus. It is Frater Achad who first claimed that the Aeon of the Daughter commenced in 1948, and would run parallel to the Aeon of Horus. This is known as the “Twin Current”. He explained this apparent overlap by viewing the cycles of time as running in spirals, so each Aeon runs above and below the others at any given time.
This past year saw much speculation about what would happen when the Mayan calendar ran out on December 21 (and how the ideas surrounding the New Age event could be exploited for political purposes). But the day passed more or less without incident. No giant, Monty Python-style deities appearing in the sky to unite humanity and bring about utopia. Likewise, no violent apocalypse, either.
But what if Aeons didn’t stop and start so obviously? What if the Aeons drift gradually into another? How could we tell if we were living through a chaotic time when the rebellious impulses of the son and the responsible justice of the daughter both existed in the same time, warring for supremacy in one very confused body? In the return of weaker, androgynous characters who are the first to become seduced by the false gods of nature…