Just a real quick blog post about the movie Mama I just saw which I enjoyed thoroughly. I'm going off of memory here from one viewing so I may miss a few things. As a horror film it'll probably be met with lukewarm reviews but as paranormal and folk magic film it tickled my fancy quite fine. The basic plot of the film can be found on Wikipedia so I’d like to focus more on the films symbolism which is rife with Scandinavian, Greek, and British/Scottish folklore regarding the other-world, cunning-folk tools, and astral doubles using concepts like the Fylgja, Hugr and Hamr. Being that this sort of folklore is laden throughout the film, the film takes on a very “Trad Craft” feel as best it can for Hollywood. I strongly suggest reading the synopsis and seeing the film before reading this blog.
The phantom spirit called Mama is very witch like in her behavior and appearance which blends nicely into the dynamic with the girls. The two feral girls become first class hedge-rider's after the series of deaths from the early plot synopsis and are basically raised by the spirit of Edith aka “Mama” out in the woods. They end up leading a primitive lifestyle in nature until discovered again 5 years later. The older of the two girls Victoria is soon able to balance the two realities and this is symbolized by her glasses. When she puts the glasses on her reality symbolically becomes more focused on this world which she spent the bulk of her early life in and when she takes them off her vision is blurred and her second sight becomes the dominating factor. During one scene "Mama" takes them off and breaks them asserting she belongs in the otherworld.
Styx was the boundary between Earth and the Underworld. Its ancient Greek meaning is hate. Mythologically, the daughter of Styx was Victoria, in other words, the daughter of the bridge between the living and the dead. Lilly, the younger of the two, who’s just as aptly named especially being the purer connection to the transcendental view, is so imbued in the otherworld that she cannot possibly turn off that reality to make room for this one and lead a more human like essence in the third dimensional reality construct. The majority of her life was more of a Pagan one in the woods (which we see on the girls floral headdresses oddly enough while the rest of them is ragged and filthy.) and she ends up knowing "Mama" longer than her actual now dead mother. The lily connection to water is also symbolized at the end of the movie when she dies and finds her return to the land of the dead by being drowned in the same water as “Mama”.
The first obvious symbol I saw in the film was the doorway to the cabin having three lines as windows getting smaller as they reached the floor. Occultists could have a field day with that so I won’t get into it other than saying I feel they represent Mama, Victoria, and then Lilly in a more druidic triple aspect of female deity. Mama’s spirit often takes form in the zoomorphic double of a moth. I’ve also seen this in The Moth Diaries film. This often gets confused with the Monarch Butterfly of occult sites which is a symbol of MK Ultra sexual programming. Reading Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages, we know that the spiritual double can appear in its human form or animal and Mama tends to go back and forth when visiting the children. Aside from the obvious usual symbolism of metamorphoses the Moth in some traditions is a symbol of the spirit of the witch flying from her body. Psyche, the Greek soul was another word for butterfly.
What’s interesting is that all of the main characters are able to access the otherworld through their dreams. Many times they receive messages of past events in the dream state. At times they make the dreadful mistake of trying to rationalize the mythic landscape with logical psychological reasons. Eventually though, the characters are able to see “Mama” during waking life without any psychic abilities which is necessary for a general horror film. Even so emphasis is still put on the astral double aspects in quite a few scenes where the character receives most of their knowledge from their fetch, altar ego, or double in the dreamworld. For instance Annabel can return to the time and place where Edith committed suicide while dreaming, and Lucas can communicate with his dead brother while in a coma. When asked how Victoria knows of Edith’s story she explains it was shown to her in a dream. The most vital aspect of this is at the end of the movie when Annabel is trying to save the children but cannot overpower Mama. Victoria repeatedly keeps telling her to go back to sleep and when she finally passes out from her head wound we see her able to grasp Victoria and save her. Although it appears to the audience that it’s the still conscious Annabel, us trained in the mystical arts know that it is now Annabel's double on the same playing field as Mama and able to now defeat her. Further evidence of this is that Mama is incredibly powerful, and can fly, change shape, possess, and seamlessly murder a living human. How then is Annabel suddenly able to hang on to Victorias robe causing Mama to give her up and solely take Lily instead?
Another symbol in the film is the mommet or poppet made out of twigs and hair and rocks that Lilly clutches to which is a traditional witchcraft tool for binding someone’s soul and for sympathetic magic. The film just barely alludes to this most likely being the way Mama’s soul can enter the children's room. The film also makes mention of a portal in the wall of the house in the woods where the girls were abandoned at. There's a bit of an allusion to channeling with the girls drawing on the walls what they've seen and to top off all this craft folklore Mama possesses several of the characters in the film hijacking their physical bodies.
The film is loaded with interpretation choices, symbolism, and magic folklore. I highly recommended it since it is both an entertaining horror film and also one of interest to people into witchcraft, mythology, and folklore. I wish I had more time to create a proper essay on it rather than a quick blog but feel free to leave comments here, my email, or my facebook with what you think about the film.
Let them come who wish to come, And let them go who wish to go, And do not harm to me or mine. -Ancient Icelandic Invitation Formula for the Elven Folk
Prince of Brats