mythology

Hauntology and Valhalla

Like many who went through college and then grad-school in the religion / literature / philosophy circles, I’ve read and pondered my share of Derrida and the consequences of ontology on our “demon-haunted world” … another reason I’ve absolutely loved playing AC Valhalla (about 125 hours in at this point since picking it up over the Holidays).

A pun coined by French philosopher Jacques Derrida in the early ’90s, hauntology refers to the study of nonexistence and unreality (so the opposite of ontology). Contemporary philosopher Mark Fisher makes extensive use of this concept, describing hauntology in his book The Weird and Eerie as “the agency of the virtual … that which acts without (physically) existing.”

For me, there’s no greater example of this than in Valhalla’s ruins. While open-world games are often dominated by landscape, mirroring the history of art where scenic oil paintings—once considered inferior—grew into a position of relative dominance, the ruin has seen a similar ascendency. Just as Romantic poets mulled over the allure of rivers and mountains, a passion for ancient ruins bloomed too, with painters like J. M. W. Turner and John Constable touring Britain in search of architectural wreckage among the rolling hills.

— Read on www.wired.com/story/assassins-creed-valhalla-eerie-english-landscapes/

It’s not like Caligula didn’t have some warning…

Between the laughing statue, God kicking me with his toe, and the flamingo incident, I might have considered a course correction in my life’s path had I been in Caligula’s shoes…

While the statue of Olympian Jupiter was being dismantled before removal to Rome at his command, it burst into such a roar of laughter that the scaffolding collapsed and the workmen took to their heels; and a man named Cassius appeared immediately afterwards saying that he had been ordered, in a dream, to sacrifice a bull to Jupiter. The Capitol at Capua was struck by lightning on the Ides of March, which some interpreted as portending another imperial death; because of the famous murder that had taken place on that day. At Rome, the Palace doorkeeper’s lodge was likewise struck; and this seemed to mean that the Owner of the Palace stood in danger of attack by his own guards. On asking Sulla the soothsayer for his horoscope, Gaius learned that he must expect to die very soon. The Oracle of Fortune at Antium likewise warned him: ‘Beware of Cassius!’ whereupon, forgetting Chaerea’s family name, he ordered the murder of Cassius Longinus, Governor of Asia at the time. On the night before his assassination he dreamed that he was standing beside Jupiter’s heavenly throne, when the God kicked him with a toe of his right foot and sent him tumbling down to earth. Some other events that occurred on the morning of his death were also read as portents. For instance, blood splashed him as he was sacrificing a flamingo; Mnester danced the same tragedy of Cinyras that had been performed by the actor Neoptolemus during the Games at which King Philip of Macedonia was assassinated; and in a farce1 called Laiireo1i~s, at the close of which the leading character, a highwayman, had to die while escaping and vomit blood, the understudies were so anxious to display their proficiency at dying that they flooded the stage with blood. A nocturnal performance by Egyptians and Ethiopians was also in rehearsal: a play staged in the Underworld.

Source: Suetonius’ Life of Caligula

Scroll to Top