Movies

Hereditary Explained-Meaning of Words: Satony, Zazas, & Liftoach Pandemonium in A24’s Hereditary

We did some digging to find out if the presence of those odd words could give us clues and/or insight into the film — SPOILER ALERT kind of, because this movie is too weird to totally spoil without a shot for shot retelling…

Courtesy of A24

Update:  You can go see this movie right now!!  Go see it.  It’s super scary.  The Blu-Ray Extras are awesome.  Go get it here.  

Tracy and I saw Hereditary last weekend, which is going to take some mental unpacking. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it also…was? what I was expecting? I don’t even know. What I do know is it was one of the weirdest, most creative horror movies that I’ve seen in a long time.  Tracy has a full review of it that you can check out; keep an eye out for some other write ups from Signal Horizon soon as well.   I’ll be honest: I fell down the rabbit hole and got a little, okay a lot, obsessed with all the imagery and occult word use. You’re welcome.

There are several words and phrases used throughout the movie that both provide context and foreshadowing for the shocking ending.  One thing that the movie shows us pretty early on is the word “Satony.” Later, after some seriously messed up stuff starts to happen, we see the word “Zazas”. After even more messed up stuff, the words “Liftoach Pandemonium”. This movie is absolutely precise in its cinematography, coloration, and angle work; it was clear, then, that the words we see scratched into the walls had significance to each part of the film in which they appear.  This film was nothing if it wasn’t deliberate in its choices.  After some mind numbing research and a pounding headache that I sincerely hope was not caused by a demon trying to possess me, this is what I found. 

​Let’s start with “Satony”…a simple Google Search of this word brings up ancestry.com, so it’s definitely a family surname. Trying to add some precision, I added “occult” to my search terms. There isn’t much, but a site called “spellsofmagic.com” actually does list it. How reliable this website is might be in question, but it lists “Satony” as part of a Ritual of Necromancy. That website credits another site called “angelfire.com” which then cites a text called the “Grimorium Verum”. You can get it on Amazon.  I’m not sure how confident I would feel in an occult book bought off Amazon but, you do you man.  The best I can find is kind of a vague invocation of Satony as a word of power of some kind, as it seems to be used to command the dead back to the spirit world. That makes perfect sense with the final moments of the movie.  The demon needed to be called to Peter, and Charlie and Annie out of the way for this to happen. 

The next word, “zazas” is discovered by Steve Graham, etched in to the wall. Learning from my previous search, I went ahead and added “occult” to this search. This immediately brought up a ton of stuff, a lot of which included the name Aleister Crowley. As any good Supernatural fan can tell you, he is the Devil on earth or a really misunderstood guy that can on occasion be a hero.  I digress….From what I can gather on several crappy HTML websites and some wikis, it looks like Crowley was an early 20th century traveler and occultist. He and his partner went on a walking tour of Algiers, where Crowley worked on expanding his consciousness to different planes of reality. During this excursion, he summons a demon called Choronzon. This story and character seem to be fairly well known in the occult world. In order to invoke the demon (I think), he uses the mantra “Zazas Zazas Nasatanada Zazas”. Here’s the most coherent version of the story I found if you want to try to make some meaning out of it.  This chant was also used in The X Files episode titled Terms of Endearment about a demon trying to create offspring with very poor results.  If you’re interested in his backstory (and who wouldn’t be) there is a creepy book on Amazon all about him. 

​The final phrase, “Liftoach Pandemonium” was a tiny bit discernible before any research.  “Pandemonium” is also colloquially used to describe what happens when lots of children get into a room together — bedlam, chaos, etc. The word originates, however, with Milton’s Paradise Lost, as the place that Lucifer creates for those who fall from grace with him (pan = all + demon + ium = makes a noun). This phrase seems to appear in a couple of different spells: the Rite of Insurmountable Strength, and a rite to invoke a demon. Shocker, based on what’s happening in the movie. Interestingly, “liftoach” on its own appears to be Hebrew, meaning “to open; unlock; turn on”. So essentially, “open up for the demons, y’all”, which is basically how I feel before school everyday. Fortunately, those demons aren’t trying to decapitate anyone (that I know of???)

Sadly, it’s hard to find objective information about any of this stuff, beyond hunting down a real demon summoner and uh, no thanks, I’ll pass. I’d love to do some more research on this but I’m feeling a little funny, and there is a line of ants forming in my bedroom.  What do you think that’s all about?  In any case, watch for our next Hereditary installment all about the imagery and occult references later this week.  If you have any other information to add for these terms, let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

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