Alice in Wonderland (1951)

This is probably the most preeminent portal story of our age, and is part of the prototype upon which the archetypes of my Film Myth Analysis Thesis are based. Alice is enticed down the rabbit hole by the luring of the archetypal trickster in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. When she sees the white rabbit scurrying around, late for his appointment, she becomes curious about where he is going, and follows him down his hole, falling a seemingly infinite distance. (Similarly, a white salamander played a role in Joseph Smith’s initiation, showing him the location of a magic hole where the golden tablets of Mormonism were buried.) As if it were not already clear that this world underground is in fact the underworld, Alice makes it obvious that this is Saturn’s kingdom when she asks:

What if I should fall right through the center of the Earth and end up on the other side, where everything is upside-down?


A shortcut to the Queen’s labyrinth

When she finally reaches the bottom of the hole, Alice learns that in order to follow the rabbit into his lair, she must shrink in size so that she can fit through the door. This indicates the multidimensional nature of the Underworld, which could fit into a single mustard seed, or could be larger than the entire universe. Alice accomplishes her size change by consuming a magical cake that says “Eat me,” and a bottle of magic potion that says “Drink me.” This shows that the initiatory substance, the Philosopher’s Stone, the Apple of Wisdom, is in fact a living intelligence that can be consumed to create transformations in the body.Alice finds a bottle that asks her to drink it, like the alchemical Elixir of Life, or the water of life that is made from the blood of Jesus, flowing as four rivers through Eden and the New Jerusalem.

The rabbit is clearly playing the role of the Psychopompus, the trickster or Judas goat, who lures his prey to initiation through sacrifice via the land of the dead. The concept of fishing for men in this fashion, using subtlety and trickery, is represented in the sub-story of “The Walrus and the Carpenter” that was told to Alice by Tweedledee and Tweedledum. This story seems at first take to be totally nonsensical, but it is actually a metaphor for how Alice herself got down the rabbit hole.

In the story, a walrus and a carpenter (clearly an allusion to Jesus) live in a land where the sun shines at night. For food, they fish for oysters by hypnotizing them with false promises, calling them to come out from their beds beneath the ocean. When they come to the surface they are swallowed up into the belly of the walrus, just as Alice herself had been swallowed up by Wonderland. When Alice spoke aloud the words “Eat me!” and “Drink me!” she was describing what was, in fact, already happening to her.


The Curious Oysters

Perhaps, like Persephone eating the pomegranate seeds offered to her by her captor, Hades, it was Alice’s consumption of these items that obliged her to remain for a spell in the Underworld (a common theme also in Jewish folk tales about the underwater castle of Asmodeus, the king of demons). The earlier story she was told of the oysters being invited by the Walrus and the Carpenter to come to dinner with them, before realizing that the dinner was them, was but foreshadowing of Alice’s invitation to join the tea party. They are both really a coded reference to the Grail service of the Parzival legend, at which, it is implied, the blood and flesh of children was served.

The Mad Hatter character is an alchemist. Hat-makers, like alchemists, were at one time at high risk of developing permanent brain damage as a result of breathing the vapors of the liquid mercury they used in their trade. Significantly, the Hatter’s tea party is being held in celebration of the “unbirthday” of the attendees. The negation of birth is apparently held holy in the topsy-turvy world of Wonderland.

Here we see the mystical concept of preventing the birth of the king’s heir by swallowing the newborn as it emerges from the womb, just as King Saturn did to his children. Thus, while they remained in his belly, they had still technically never been born, but were “unborn.” This is what is meant by the rabbit who is perpetually “late,” a euphemism for being dead. The fact that the rabbit’s watch is said to be “two days slow” indicates that he and the other subjects of the kingdom may never have been born to begin with. So the “unbirthday” cake given to Alice at the party may be a metaphor for the epiphany cake or king cake discussed in the previous installment of this series, which itself was a representation of King Saturn eating his own children.


The Unbirthday Cake

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