We here at Signal Horizon have been waiting not so patiently for Mandy these last several months. We were not disappointed.
This is what it looks like when the right director and actor get together. No other combination could have produced this same effect of over-the-top, off the wall freakiness like those two. Mandy, the Panos Cosmatos directed, Nic Cage fueled fever dream was amazing but also full of so much mystical nonsense and symbolic imagery it was hard to decipher the real from the imagined. It did get us what are the roots of all of this occult imagery.
OK, so what the hell is Abraxas?
First, we can safely assume that the Abraxas of Mandy is not the same as Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe, the absolute garbage Jesse Ventura movie released in 1990. The truth behind Abraxas is a bit more mundane but still very interesting and a little bit mysterious.Abraxas is a Greek term that shows up on quite a few ancient amulets andMXLLSgemstones, usually dating from around the first century BCE until about the third or fourth century CE. Abraxas seems to be connected to a thread of Greco-Roman numerology, similar to the term Abracadabra, in which the Greek letters add up to a certain number or follow a pattern.
In the case of Abraxas, the original Greek characters when substituted with numerals added to 365, a powerful number is given that there are 365 days in a year. Scholars do have some debate about the origin though, some pointing toward Greek, others to Hebrew, and some to Egyptian origins. I think it is safe to assume that the Abraxas of Mandy isn’t from Hebrew extraction given the particular scene with an unclothed Jeremiah Sand, but all kidding aside it is weird that the term shows up from Egypt to Britain, right?
The weirdness is mitigated a bit when we consider the Roman Empire and its relationship with the Greek language and Egyptian culture.
Much of the Roman Empire, particularly the more elite classes and a large chunk of the Eastern Roman Empire, spoke and were also familiar with Greek texts. The elite of Egypt, likewise, all spoke Greek and it is claimed that Cleopatra was the first Egyptian ruler in a good long while that spoke Egyptian. Why is this? After Alexander the Great’s conquest of Egypt and his death shortly thereafter, Ptolemy became the ruler of Egypt while he and his heirs did assume many of the trappings of prior Egyptian elites, Greek was the primary language of their rule. In the ancient Roman world, anything that was in Greek had an added air of authenticity and anything from Egypt an added bit of mysticism. Egypt was a land of ancient magic, so it isn’t too far a stretch to see the term Abraxas either originating there or claiming to be.
Abraxas later became co-opted by early Christain Gnostics, particularly the Gnostic teacher Basilides who was from, guess where… Egypt.
Abraxas fit heavily into his philosophy and the philosophy of other Christian Gnostics, but frankly little is known about them. Severe persecution campaigns by both the early Christian Church and the Roman Empire led to the destruction of most of their texts along with other Greek texts that may have contained clues to Abraxas. Abraxas was later declared a false, pagan god by the Christian church and it only took a few centuries for Abraxas to make the transition into full-fledged demon. Some Abraxas texts did survive, including the Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit (found in 1945) and the Greek Magical Papyri (a loose collection of ancient texts that started appearing in the 1700’s). Abraxas was later added to the official, totally legit, pantheon of made-up demons and devils by J. Collin de Plancy in his 1818 text, Infernal Dictionary.
Still with us?
So exploring the rabbit hole of the Gnostic Gospels helps provide even greater insight into the demon called Abraxas. Our boy Abrax (that’s what the cool kids call him) is considered a trickster demon. He takes on many forms and seeks to confuse, confound, and control humans through a form of spiritual subterfuge. Some scholars also make the argument that while he may not be considered THE eternal god by many theologians he is seen as the temporal form of THE God’s present form. So like he is not the all-powerful God we need, he is the all-powerful God we have right now.
Enter Mandy and the Horn of Abraxas.
The horn is clearly phallic and completely in line with an interpretation of Abraxas as a demigod at least partially responsible for the creation of everything. There is also a fair amount of research about the existence of reality as constructed under the rule of Abraxas. Clearly blowing the horn is a way to call into existence Abraxas and his minions and all of the realities in which he exists. We also associate Abraxas with snakes and serpents. If we pay careful attention to the beginning of the movie we are treated to the titular Mandy reading from the Eye of the Serpent. A clear reference to the importance of serpents in demon lore generally and Abraxas specifically. The Gnostics believed Abraxis had two serpents as legs and often drew images of him having reptilian features. As things go from kind of strange to completely bonkers we are introduced to the demon bikers. These actual Hell’s Angels are clearly servants of Abraxas by way of Jeremiah Sands, who might just be Abraxas. Shortly after defeating the demon bikers but before confronting Sands and company Cage visits a tiger keeping, drug-making, guru who shows Cage the darkness around him by way of hundreds of large black centipedes. Those could easily be considered serpents for our purposes.
The Gnostic’s believed in a form of separate realities, not unlike quantumentanglement.
One interpretation of the movie could offer that the blowing of the horn ushered in a period of quantum deconstruction labeled “The Pleroma”. Its as if all the possible quantum realities folded in on themselves to create the scenario the movie posits. Moreover, the use of LCD leaves open the idea that the drugs help increase the speed and intensity of “The Pleroma”. The demon bikers are fast-forwarded versions of everyone and everything as different realities collide together. That’s some dark shit man. Given the trippy way the movie ends and the surreal final shot it’s decidedly possible this is exactly what Cosmatos intended.
Finally, there is some connection to the famous psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung. Jung was super into a few things that seem relevant. Dr. Jung evidently really liked psychotropic drugs and was a big proponent of their use in the treatment of mental illness. He encountered a number of lesser demons and demigods along his trips and Abraxas was among them. There is certainly a Jungian approach to the symbolism in this movie that could warrant its own article.
Given Jeremiah Sand’s “unique” worldview, it is likely that the Gnostic interpretation has an additional level of meaning that the filmmaker might have been hinting at. Plus, The Horn of Abraxas just sounds hella cool and kind of magical. Blow your horns, everyone. This was one crazy movie.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.