Happy All Hallows Eve and Dia de los Muertos
“So Dark the Con of Man”
If you read the book or saw the movie The Da Vinci Code, then you are no doubt familiar with that phrase, although, like me, you don’t remember why. So I went about looking it up on the Google machine.
It’s an anagram for Da Vinci’s painting “Madonna of the Rocks.” So off they go, the characters Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) and Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou), on a treasure hunt to crack the code of Sophie’s grandfather, Jacques Saunière (Jean-Pierre Marielle). It is a very good movie — it’s a Ron Howard film!
This is where it gets even more interesting. Fans of the Matrix films may remember the character in The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions called The Merovingian, played by French actor Lambert Wilson and the Merovingian’s lovely wife Persephone, played by Italian actor Monica Bellucci. There is a reason the character is called the Merovingian, the point of this tangent: There is, in ancient European history — French history most notably — a Frank dynasty that began over 1,500 years ago called The Merovingians. So the Wachowskis weren’t just pulling names out of their collective ass with which to populate their films.
Just as the actual French dynasty did for more than 200 years, The Merovingian of The Matrix has his own little fiefdom, over which he has nearly total control. We say “nearly total control” because Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss), Neo (Keanu Reeves) and in Revolutions Seraph (Collin Chou) force the Merovingian to give up some of his control, if only temporarily. His wife Persephone, betrays him due to his infidelities. If you know your ancient Greek history, you will know Persephone is the daughter of Zeus, by Demeter and she is married to Hades, the God of the Underworld. Beware of Persephone.
Trinity disrespectfully calls the Merovingian “Merv.”
Getting back to The Da Vinci Code and its connection to All Hallows Eve … hell, I don’t even remember. For some reason, on Halloween 2022 the thought that sticks in my brain is, “So Dark the Con of Man,” the anagram for“Madonna of the Rocks” and refers to the greatest con of all: That Jesus Christ is/was divine, as in a supernatural deity. In fact, according to the mythology — which was born in the 20th century by-the-bye — Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and they had a child, a daughter.
There is a lot of speculation as to why there are only four Gospels in the New Testament. Jesus famously had 12 disciples, 13 if you count Mary Magdalene, or 12 if you count Mary Magdalene but push Judas to the curb. Was Judas preordained to be condemned to eternal damnation and therefore had no choice in betraying Jesus? If that were the case and God really exists, sitting on some cloud in another dimension far, far away, I would ask why? Can Judas be redeemed? Was he redeemed? He committed suicide so by Catholic law, he cannot be buried in sanctified ground. Couldn’t Judas be forgiven?
There is a pop culture reference here, further scrambling this tangent. In the Godfather II Don Michael Corleone has his own brother, Fredo, murdered and damped into Lake Tahoe. Michael wouldn’t forgive his own brother, but as we find out in the third Godfather movie, Killing his brother haunts Don Michael Corleone. We can trace the suffering of Michael to the Gospel of Mark, 8:32, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
Back to the Mary Magdalene angle. It’s a good jumping off point for a work of fiction, no matter how discredited the theory is. Just a short tangent here. When we Catholics recite the “Hail Mary,” are we referring to Mary, the mother of Jesus or Mary Magdalene, the disciple of Jesus Christ? Let that stew in your brain a bit. Actually, a lot of Christians were offended by the book and movie, and no doubt my blaspheming ways.
There’s no point in trying to remember why that phrase got stuck in my brain on this day, All Hallows Eve — Halloween. In honor of the supposed holiness of this Catholic holiday (it used to be in the Catholic Calendar) I’m eating a 3 Musketeers chocolate bar.
Actually the holiday predates Christianity’s emergence in Europe. It’s a Celtic holiday that was taken from that spiritual belief system and folded into the Roman Catholic tradition, much the same way Christmas trees, Yule logs, wreaths and boughs of holly were incorporated from the ancient European cultures into the Christian culture.
Talk about cultural appropriation! Apparently, we European-descended white folks have been appropriating the cultures of others for a couple thousand years.
Tomorrow, November 1st, is All Saint’s Day on the Catholic calendar. In Mexican culture it’s Dia de los Muertos — the Day of the Dead. Mexicans honor their ancestors with parades, masks, face paint and food, lots and lots of food. This is a cultural heritage I can adopt! I will fully acknowledge this comes from the Mexican tradition. So, can I have a carne asada fries now? We have some very fine Mexican restaurants in the neighborhood, all of which have Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos decorations adorning their doors, windows and walls. And, as a nod to the Gringos (like me) who want to mix the cultural references whilst having lunch or dinner, they take the ingredients from inside a carne asada taco or burrito and pile it onto a way too big plate of French fries; a meal that could comfortably feed four, or at least two.
There’s also the version of that dish which stays closer to its Mexican heritage: the carne asada ingredients are piled onto a way too big stack of tortilla chips that are most often freshly baked. Once again it could feed at least two people. I like to top either version with plenty of jalapeno slices or, if I’m feeling quite bold, either sliced Thai peppers or — maybe never anymore — sliced Habanero or ghost peppers. It’s the Day of the Dead, why not? Well actually there are some very significant reasons why not. Having tasted both Habaneros and ghost peppers, I will never put them in any food I prepare. They are listed on the Scoville Scale as “super hot.” And for those of you who blanche at the thought of eating jalapenos, according to the Scoville Scale jalapenos are considered mild. Cayenne and Tabasco are considered medium hot.
The pungency of the capsaicin in super hot peppers can linger in one’s mouth for hours, a full day even. The super hot peppers don’t let you forget today’s lunch for the rest of the day and maybe long after you fall asleep. It lingers in your fevered dreams. Be a little sensible and don’t have a meal with super hots after 2 p.m. Just don’t.
At any rate tomorrow, November 1, is All Saints Day, Dia de los Muertos which, if done right, we have pictures of skeletons to stand in for our dearly departed loved ones, or maybe we have a calavera painted on our faces , or we wear a calavera mask. Then we have meals with our dearly departed loved ones — we set places at the table for them. Usually one table setting will suffice for all the dead relatives.
For my All Hallows Eve, I will be retiring early and then on Dia de los Muertos I will have a piping hot plate of carne asada fries, from either Cotixan Mexican Food or Vallarta Express, or maybe even Don Lucio’s. I can walk to Don Lucio’s … not that I would walk. I would jump on the Trusty Trek and ride/walk there. Erma Road and Scripps Ranch Blvd are fairly steep so I would walk up part of those hills. Then freak out as my Trek reached speeds of 40 mph or more going down Erma Rd.
If a car were to come out of a driveway as I’m flying down Erma Rd at 30-35 mph, I could instantly be one of the dearly departed welcomed back to Earth by my living relatives … and maybe a few friends too. It pays to slow down as the Trusty Trek and I go around the curve and close on that hidden driveway entrance.
You can catch up on my previous Halloween features here and here. And I think here — and here.
One last thing, this being Halloween, we need the AC/DC classic, “Highway to Hell.”
Stay safe this Hallows Eve and enjoy Dia de los Muertos.
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the elected government officials and business were so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that.