The Devil in Hannibal Lecter, Part II: Become As Little Children


In our last essay, we spent a lot of time talking about the character of Hannibal Lecter, but what about Will Graham? After all, he’s the man who catches Hannibal in the novels, and in the television series, he is the man who, unintentionally, catches Hannibal’s heart. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an uncommon trait of the Devil, who has, in most all forms of literature, art and magic, a deep and abiding love for the ingenuity and spirit of Man. Prometheus would not have stolen fire for man, were that love not true and deep; the Serpent never would have offered up the apple. But what is it in man that the Devil finds so worth loving? Simply put, it is that spark of God, that gift of Consciousness, found in every man and woman: the ability to create from pure imagination. And Will Graham possesses a level of imagination which makes him, willingly or no, a verifiable magician.

Imagination is the root of all mankind’s magical and technical accomplishments, which means that artists, writers and others with vivid imaginations often make the greatest magicians among us. In the world of NBC’s Hannibal, Will Graham’s imagination might well be considered truly magical. Suffering from an ’empathy disorder’, Graham possess the ability to put himself into the shoes of a killer in a way which is as effective as it is undesirable. Though not mentally ill, per se, Graham has been profoundly troubled by his imaginative abilities, and teaches at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia when our series opens, having long-since retired from policework after being stabbed in the shoulder. His descent into madness—and magic—begins when Jack Crawford recruits him to profile a killer known to the press as The Minnesota Shrike, who has claimed the lives of many girls fitting a particular Midwestern profile.

While, within the show of Hannibal, the events depicted do indeed take place, the work should always be viewed at two simultaneous levels: that is, the ‘literal’ interpretation of events as they are, and the ‘symbolic’ interpretation in which we break down events, characters, etc. all as metaphors. Taken to its furthest extent this always results in the work of art of interest being analyzed as a single mental state, a single psyche’s struggle towards individuation, and the characters within the work become psychic principles. Thus, Will Graham functions as our ego, and when he is drawn into the unconscious, he meets there the Mercurial Spirit, Hannibal, who, like a homunculus produced by an alchemist, or a servitor evoked by a magician, or Mephistopheles called by Faust, takes an immediate shine to the human to whom he is bound. Thereafter, Hannibal acts as Will’s loyal friend, therapist, and helper—whether Will Graham will admit it or not, or even accept that what Hannibal is doing qualifies as ‘help’.


It is worth noting here that Hannibal is brought into the Shrike case because Will Graham is having a difficult time solving a creative problem, in this case using his imagination to resolve the identity of the Shrike—the shadow whose pursuit drove Graham into the pit of his psyche in the first place. Much as the duty of the Spirit Mercurius is to assist the alchemist in the creation of the ultima materia, Hannibal’s duty to assist Will Graham in the ‘purification’ (black sulphur > red sulphur discussed previously) of his shadow soon devolves into an obsession with assisting Will Graham to evolve into his highest self: to experience his Becoming. And that Highest Self, much as the Spirit Mercurius is both prima and ultima materia, is none other than Hannibal Lecter—at least, Will has become convinced of such by series’ end.

One should also note the order of the archetypes. When the Shrike is unveiled by a jump of Will’s intuition to be a man named Garret Jacob Hobbs, Hannibal and Will drive to Hobbs’ house for an interview—but not before Hannibal is able to call Hobbs and tip him off to their arrival, because he is curious what will happen. This action results in two deaths—Mr. and Mrs. Hobbs, the latter killed by her husband while the former is shot to death by Will Graham, but not before he is able to slit the throat of the daughter who so resembles all the girls he has been killing and eating. (This similarity between Hannibal’s elegant cannibalism and Hobbs’ thorough cannibalism further places them as related archetypes: Hobbs is the initial, repulsive confrontation with the shadow which horrifies and shames us to know we feel it within ourselves, much as Graham is haunted in dreams, nightmares and waking fantasy by G.J.H. and the feeling that they are forever connected. Hannibal, meanwhile, represents the final individuation and embrace of the negative qualities of the shadow; ergo, he must also devour flesh, but not in the shameful manner of G.J.H.)

The Devil is the Devil for a damn good reason: he is a consummate trickster figure, no matter how the archetype appears, and Hannibal is no exception. Much as his trickster powers can be used for good, so too are they frequently used for evil. In the Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Jung, whenever describing the Spirit Mercurius, could just as well be describing Hannibal, whose propensity for cannibal puns and truly malicious pranks (such as his torment of Jack Crawford using trainee Miriam Lass) are second to none:

It is no light task for me to write about the figure of the trickster in American Indian mythology within the confined space of a commentary. When I first came across Adolf Bandelier’s classic on this subject, The Delight Makers, many years ago, I was struck by the European analogy of the carnival in the medieval Church, with its reversal of the hierarchic order, which is still continued in the carnivals held by student societies today. Something of this contradictoriness also inheres in the medieval description of the devil as simia dei (the ape of God), and in his characterization in folklore as the “simpleton” who is “fooled” or “cheated.” A curious combination of typical trickster motifs can be found in the alchemical figure of Mercurius; for instance, his fondness for sly jokes and malicious pranks, his powers as a shape-shifter, his dual nature, half animal, half divine, his exposure to all kinds of tortures, and—last but not least—his approximation to the figure of a saviour. These qualities make Mercurius seem like a daemonic being resurrected from primitive times, older even than the Greek Hermes. His rogueries relate him in some measure to various figures met with in folklore and universally known in fairytales: Tom Thumb, Stupid Hans, or the buffoon-like Hanwurst, who is an altogether negative hero and yet manages to achieve through his stupidity what others fail to accomplish with their best efforts. In Grimm’s fairytale, the “Spirit Mercurius” lets himself be outwitted by a peasant lad, and then has to buy his freedom with the precious gift of healing.

-Jung, C. G., The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, pg 255 (emphasis mine)

This quality of being ‘tricked’ and thus trapped will become relevant later on. What is important to note however is that his tricks, while sometimes baselessly cruel, are all done in the name of the ego’s individuation: as mentioned in last week’s essay, Hannibal engages in his zero sum game because of the theatrical aspect, and because of the pathos he attempts to elicit in Will Graham. Thus, our most important point of note is that, no matter what it seems like Hannibal does, he does it all out of love for Will, the ego, and, of course, himself, because Will is in so many senses a part of himself. Indeed, now would be an ideal time to point out the suitability of Will’s name: Will, as in, divine will, the will of man, ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’. In fact, Crowley’s poorly-understood dictatum applies well to this show, for it does not mean, ‘Do whatever you feel like,’ as is so commonly misinterpreted by sneering realists. Rather, it means that one should act in accordance with one’s True Will, the will of one’s Highest Self: a decision which is not always so cut-and-dry, nor, necessarily, socially acceptable, for not all people’s Highest Self is good and kind in this varied world of ours. One need only think of a certain prominent, orange and rather repulsive magician currently at work on Earth right now to know that to be true. So, when the Spirit Mercurius endeavors, season after season, to tempt Will Graham into causing another death, haunted as he is by the thrilling power of killing Hobbs, he is only attempting to do what he perceives is right by the true Will Graham and his Highest Will.


It is also worth noting that, after the shadow is dealt with, he leaves behind a daughter: Abigail Hobbs, arguably Will’s anima, to whom he is attached after killing her father and coming to think of her as something of an adopted daughter. Abigail, for her part, is beloved of Hannibal, as well, and is shown variably afraid of and intrigued by him throughout, especially due to how much she projects her father onto him. After her death, Abigail appears to Will Graham in his imagination and in waking fantasies as an anima-servitor, both that which supports and drives his existence (supplying, in this case, a need for revenge and understanding when Hannibal first makes Will think he has killed her, then actually does).

So, why is it that Will Graham is so involved in his psyche, and why should a chaos magician who doesn’t struggle with the urges to serial murder strangers care at all? Because we all have our own highest Self, our own True Will to which our behavior should strive to confirm. The model lain out here is a model which magicians would do well to follow, and the show and novels even incidentally describe some magical techniques which I’d like to talk about now. Of course, it is important to remember that the map is not the territory, and we are consciousness having a material experience, not humans having a conscious experience. Hannibal says several times throughout the show that “blood and breath are only elements undergoing change to fuel [one’s] radiance,” a phrase which puts favorable emphasis upon pure consciousness, and in appreciation of that I would like to emphasize that when all is mind, consciousness and detachment is the key to success in life. We must be ever-willing to grow and change, often-times in surprising ways. This is true of anyone living, but it is especially true of magicians, who must become open-minded, not just about the world, but about their own definition of themselves.


Everybody loves Hannibal. Who couldn’t! But the practicing magician using Hannibal as their psychic map for their chaos magic should be leery of learning as much black magic as white, for lack of a better phrase. When influenced by the Devil, one can become a victim to the Devil, or better than the Devil, or become the Devil: and the third result is much harder and less desirable than one would think, and far more likely to yield instead the first result. This means you end up like NBC-exclusive character Bedelia DuMaurier, Hannibal’s so-called therapist who, out of all characters on the show, is possibly the worst, certainly the most morally bankrupt and ultimately the most pathetic. Spoiler alert, in the final scene of the series we see her sitting before a table set for Will and Hannibal with her own severed leg lusciously displayed in the center: while some interpret this as a sign that Will and Hannibal survive and go on, now in a perfect union, I prefer the interpretation that Bedelia has done this to herself, and Hannibal has so utterly affected and destroyed her mind that she, only now being capable of doing, pathetically, what Hannibal would do in an effort to pacify him, that she has severed and cooked her own leg and waits, on-guard, in case he does not accept her offering. Bedelia is the unsuccessful magician, who does not understand magic, the imagination, what they are doing with it or what we are talking about here: she does not understand what Hannibal tried for three seasons to teach her before he got around to eating her. Graham, on the other hand, not only maintains Hannibal’s approval and help throughout three seasons, but also benefits from the experience even though he would of course likely have a different opinion, himself—right up until that very last few seconds, when he at last understands. Magic is a harrowing and difficult road: to be highly conscious, and use that consciousness as a tool, is not always an easy task. It is, however, often fun as hell. Don’t talk to your friends and family: save it for your therapist.



The two-story brick home was set back from the street on a wooded lot. Graham stood under the trees for a long time looking at it. He tried to be still inside. In his mind a silver pendulum swung in the darkness. He waited until the pendulum was still.

–Harris, Thomas, Red Dragon, page 9

Fannibals who have only ever watched NBC’s series may never be one hundred percent clear on what exactly Will Graham is doing when he visualizes the murders, particularly the transition into the visualization, which is a strange silver blur sweeping back and forth across the screen, reorganizing, with each swing, the crime scene Will views until it is in its original state—the answer, readers, is that it is a pendulum, and a fine example of a technique for centering the psyche and entering a meditative state.

There are many ways of achieving this. Aldous Huxley had a technique which he called ‘deep reflection’, and a special chair which served him in this function. The psychiatrist, Milton Erickson, who developed the Ericksonian hypnosis technique in which Hannibal so often engages, was a friend and colleague of Huxley’s, and describes deep reflection in an essay found in the book Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M. D., Volume I:

Huxley then proceeded with a detailed description of his very special practice of what he, for want of a better and less awkward term which he had not yet settled upon, called “Deep Reflection.” He described this state (the author’s description is not complete, since there seemed to be no good reason except interest for making full notations of his description) of Deep Reflection as one marked by physical relaxation with bowed head and closed eyes, a profound, progressive, psychological withdrawal from externalities but without any actual loss of physical realities nor any amnesias or loss of orientation, a “setting aside” of everything not pertinent, and then a state of complete mental absorption in matters of interest to him. Yet in that state of complete withdrawal and mental absorption Huxley stated that he was free to pick up a fresh pencil to replace a dulled one, to make notations on his thoughts “automatically”, and to do all this without a recognizable realization on his part of what physical act he was performing. It was as if the physical act were “not an integral part of my thinking”. In no way did such physical activity seem to impinge upon, to slow, or to impede “the train of thought so exclusively occupying my interest. It is associated but completely peripheral activity…. I might say activity barely contiguous to the periphery.” To illustrate further Huxley cited an instance of another type of physical activity. He recalled having been in a state of Deep Reflection one day when his wife was shopping. He did not recall what thoughts or ideas he was examining, but he did recall that, when his wife returned that day, she had asked him if he had made a note of the special message she had given him over the telephone. He had been bewildered by her inquiry, could not recall anything about answering the telephone as his wife asserted, but together they found the special message recorded on a pad beside the telephone, which was placed within comfortable reaching distance from the chair in which he liked to develop Deep Reflection. Both he and his wife reached the conclusion that he had been in a state of Deep Reflection at the time of the telephone call, had lifted the receiver, and had said to her as usual, “I say there, hello,” had listened to the message, had recorded it, all without any subsequent recollections of the experience. He recalled merely that he had been working on a manuscript that afternoon, one that had been absorbing all of his interest. He explained that it was quite common for him to initiate a day’s work by entering a state of Deep Reflection as a preliminary process of marshalling his thoughts and putting into order the thinking that would enter into his writing later that day.

–Erickson, Milton H., Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M. D., Volume I, page 66

This state of deep reflection is not only the state in which Will Graham could be said to be (being, as he is, capable of actions of which he has no conscious awareness while in his visualization state), but it is the state in which magicians should strive to often find themselves. It places us in our imagination, our wellspring of power and potential and self. Artists and very imaginative people will have an easier time, as a whole, utilizing visualization techniques and engaging with their unconscious, but it is something anyone can learn with practice, for everyone’s imagination his a personal gateway into the greater spirit of the whole from which we all oft draw. This is also not dissimilar to the alchemists’ perception of meditation, which involves using the energy from the source of the unconscious to create something new: in this case, the ‘something new’ is the visualization, itself, although as magicians become more comfortable with the technique and exploring their psyche, they will use it to create external things: pieces of art, magical artifacts, spells, sigils, etc. Anything created with intent and whose image and being is drawn from the deep well of visualization could be said to be a kind of magical spell or enchanted object, for the enchantment is all in our psychology, our mental and emotional understanding of the thing.

The greatest success of visualization comes first from an understanding of the act, and then from a ritualization of the act. Whether physical or imaginary, Huxley’s chair or Graham’s pendulum, the magician must condition themselves with a particular stimulus which then causes a specifically-trained mental ‘program’ to run. If the stimulus is imaginary, it can be combined into other techniques as follow, specifically the memory palace: otherwise, it is a convenient method of clearing the mind and putting focus towards the desired goal or problem.

It is important to understand, of course, that there are two steps here: there is the intention, and then there is the action. After visualization provides a solution based on the intention of the thinker, the thinker then must take action. Will Graham does not simply solve the crimes in his head: he is given, in his imagination, a large part of the explanation, and the greater details are hashed out in his doing of the thing, in his active, real-life investigation. Likewise, a writer may be inspired to write a story and have a great, broad overview of said story, but will find that big details are missing and can only be filled in by the writing of the thing. Visualization is a noun, not a verb: it is a starting point, a white sheet of paper upon which our solution is supported. All other magical activities, just like all other creative activities, are reliant upon the basic act of being able to visualize.


Now-equipped with the tool of visualization and a stimulus by which to encourage or initiate it, the magician will want to wander off on a journey with it. Active imagination is a process of dealing with a problem through the imagination: of, say, selecting a memory or subject, and exploring the associations and images attached. It is not an entirely free-form thought process like traditional Buddhist meditation, in that one does not sit and observe one’s thoughts but rather pilots them like the captain of a starship made of consciousness. Many Westerners are deeply discomforted by the zazen notion of clearing the mind and actively choosing not to think: this is the alternative method, then, to that, although being capable of one will help with the other because it all comes down to mental control, which is one of the most important things a magician can have.

The images which arrive in active imagination can be powerful and important, and will recur again later in the process: the sequences may even form the inspiration for stories, drawings, or paintings. The unconscious is a limitless font of inspiration when one spends just a little time with it. This process of bringing the dream-images into the waking life is manifestation, which will be discussed later.


norman chapel

With visualization and rich imagination comes the possibility of using the imagination as a tool, a center and a kind of mental safehouse where the practicing magician can mentally be during times of duress and anxiety. Memory palaces have been utilized as a mnemonic device for centuries and there are many different techniques for building them. Googling ‘how to build a memory palace’ yields a plethora of results, some more helpful than others, but in my own opinion the most helpful thing is to simply pick one point at a location and mentally manifest the location around that point/object. For my part, I use the image of a fire in a fireplace. Consider it a kind of mental ‘transition’ shot in a movie, where the camera pans into a fireplace fire, then away from the fire so the viewers discover they are now in a new room, one which also has its own fireplace: that is the way I focus my mind, the way I transition from extroverted, external living to introverted, internal meditation. Hannibal’s focus point is the skull on the Norman Chapel floor, or seems to be based on how often it is our literal transition shot into the palace, or Hannibal’s focal point once he is there.

The more details you have for your palace, the more ‘real’ it is to you, the more easily you will visualize it and the more useful you will find it to be. Start with a single room and grow it out from there: what does that room smell like? What does it look like? The color of the walls? The type of floor? Are there windows? Doors? How many? What objects are there? Any people? Is there music? Then, once you get the layout and get comfortable there, leave notes or memory objects to yourself or invite desirable psychic principles to inhabit it. You may be surprised how consistent it is. I have reminders stored in my memory palace from two or three years ago, little old ‘to watch’ notes to myself about movies I’ve not yet seen. The deliberate placement of memories helps them in their storage.

The memory palace can also be used as a place of centering during times of panic or external duress. Obstacles and unpleasant external experiences may be thought of as on the other side of the palace door, to help you remember that you have full control over yourself, emotionally and mentally, and all your problems are really external to you. Will Graham is shown using a memory ‘stream’ in the show, where he does imaginary fly fishing and speaks with his servitor when the external world proves unfriendly; Hannibal assures Will that if he is ever caught, his memory palace is more than a mnemonic device, because he will live there, and we see for certain that he does. Will also, whether willingly or unwillingly, incorporates Hannibal’s memory palace into his own psyche, seeing in a dream the skull of the Norman Chapel: Hannibal, in Ericksonian manipulation, tells Will during their season three break-up that Will’s memory palace shares many rooms with his, and that Hannibal has ‘discovered [him] there, victorious.’

There are a lot of ways to construct a memory palace, but ultimately the best way to learn about it is to create it and experience it, yourself. It’s a great tool and very fun, and a useful method for meditation.

For more on the memory palace, here is a description of Hannibal’s, from Thomas Harris’ Hannibal. Our eponymous doctor finds himself on a plane full of annoyances, and wishes an escape.

Dr. Lecter could overcome his surroundings. He could make it all go away. The beeping of the computer game, the snores and farts, were nothing compared to the hellish screaming he’d known in the violent wards. The seat was no tighter than restraints. As he had done in his cell so many times, Dr. Lecter put his head back closed his eyes and retired for relief into the quiet of his memory palace, a place that is quite beautiful for the most part.

For this little time, the metal cylinder howling westward against the wind contains a palace of a thousand rooms.

As once we visited Dr. Lecter in the Palazzo of the Capponi, so we will go with him now into the palace of his mind…

The foyer is the Norman Chapel in Palermo, severe and beautiful and timeless, with a single reminder of mortality in the skull graven in the floor. Unless he is in a great hurry to retrieve information from the palace, Dr. Lecter often pauses here as he does now, to admire the chapel. Beyond it, far and complex, light and dark, is the vast structure of Dr. Lecter’s making.

The memory palace was a mnemonic system well known to ancient scholars and much information was preserved in them through the Dark Ages while vandals burned the books. Like scholars before him, Dr. Lecter stores an enormous amount of information keyed to objects in his thousand rooms, but unlike the ancients, Dr. Lecter has a second purpose for his palace; sometimes he lives there. He has passed years among its exquisite collections, while his body lay around on a violent ward with screams buzzing the steel bars like Hell’s own harp.

Hannibal Lecter’s palace is vast, even by medieval standards. Translated to the tangible world it would rival the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul for size and complexity.

We catch up to him as the swift slippers of his mind pass from the foyer into the Great Hall of the Seasons. The palace is built according to the rules discovered by Simonides of Ceos and elaborated by Cicero four hundred years later; it is airy, high-ceilinged, furnished with objects and tableaux that are vivid, striking, sometimes shocking and absurd, and often beautiful. The displays are well spaced and well lighted like those of a great museum. But the walls are not the neutral colors of museum walls. Like Giotto, Dr. Lecter has frescoed the walls of his mind.

He has decided to pick up Clarice Starling’s home address while he is in the palace, but he is in no hurry for it, so he stops at the foot of a great staircase where the Riace bronzes stand. These great bronze warriors attributed to Phidias, raised from the seafloor in our own time, are the centerpiece of a frescoed space that could unspool all of Homer and Sophocles.

Dr. Lecter could have the bronze faces speak Meleager if he wished, but today he only wants to look at them.

A thousand rooms, miles of corridors, hundreds of facts attached to each object furnishing each room, a pleasant respite awakening Dr. Lecter whenever he chooses to retire there.

…Fearfully and wonderfully made, we follow as he moves with a swift light stride along a corridor of his own making, through a scent of gardenias, the presence of great sculpture pressing on us, and the light of pictures.

His way leads around to the right past a bust of Pliny and up the staircase to the Hall of Addresses, a room lined with statuary and paintings in a fixed order, spaced wide apart and well lit, as Cicero recommends.

Ah…The third alcove from the door on the right is dominated by a painting of St. Francis feeding a moth to a starling. On the floor before the painting is this tableau, life-sized in painted marble:

A parade in Arlington National Cemetery led by Jesus, thirty-three, driving a ’27 Model-T Ford truck, a “tin lizzie,” with J. Edgar Hoover standing in the truck bed wearing a tutu and waving to an unseen crowd. Marching behind him is Clarice Starling carrying a .308 Enfeld rifle at shoulder arms.

Dr. Lecter appears pleased to see Starling. Long ago he obtained Starling’s home address from the University of Virginia Alumni Administration. He stores the address in this tableau, and now, for his own pleasure, he summons the numbers and the name of the street were Starling lives:

3327 Tindal

Arlington, VA 22308

–Harris, Thomas, Hannibal, chapter 48, pg. 286-288


Hannibal’s use of Ericksonian hypnotic techniques throughout the series is as insidious as it is textbook. Take, for instance, a high-tension conversation Hannibal has with Will during the final episode of season 2, to the sound of a ticking clock which draws us ever-nearer the bloody confrontation which was our initial scene. He tells Will, “You sit in that chair, as you have so many times before. It holds among its molecules the vibrations of all our conversations ever held in its presence…The grunts and poetry of life. It’s all still there. Everything we’ve said. Listen. What do you hear?”

This is actually an Ericksonian method utilizing metaphor to regress Will Graham and emotionally manipulate him. Naturally it is not the chair which contains the memories of their conversations, but Will, himself; nonetheless, use of the metaphor provokes the memories in Will and furthers their discussion. Practically every therapy scene involving Hannibal also incorporates, on some level, Ericksonian techniques. The study of the hypnotic techniques and patterns of Erickson are highly-recommended for any magician, and not just by me. And the most important use this has is that of self-hypnosis, because, naturally, the way we talk to ourselves, and about ourselves, guides our perception of the world and informs who we are.


One thing Hannibal does with exceeding caution is: everything. He is aware of every last detail of his life, and that is no more true than of his décor, especially table decorations and wall-hangings. He surrounds himself, with keen intention, with any number of archetypal or religious symbols. The antlers upon which Hobbs and, subsequently Hannibal, mounts the show’s initial victims appear everywhere, from the stag statue in Hannibal’s office—which proves so suggestive a symbol that Will Graham sees it in his dreams, a form of projection—to a pair mounted upon the wall of his foyer, before which he happens to place himself as though consciously emulating the black Wendigo which haunts Will Graham’s fantasies.

Manifestation can happen in many ways: there are many dream images which present themselves to us and wait to be made real, whether in art, writing, or another means entirely. An acquaintance of mine carries around a small gold coin with a sun sigil—an image of the Self, undeniably—which came to him in a dream and then was found washed up on the beach by a friend of his, a poker chip which he used to cast the metal variations. This pentacle has an enormous amount of centering power to bring the two worlds, psychic and physical, together. This is true of physical objects, but also of ourselves: for we can manifest in ourselves the dream-qualities we would like to see, with something as simple as a choice to do so and action taken. For a starting point, the initial action to manifest it can be as simple as writing it down. In Robert Johnson’s Inner Work, a stupendous book for any magician about the process of active imagination, he writes of dream analysis that, “We also need to keep writing. There was an old tradition in the Christian Church that one had not prayed unless one’s lips had moved. This idea expresses a psychological truth: Something physical has to happen. This is why it is so important that you write your [dream association] examples down on paper. When you physically write those examples, the connections with your dream become clear and definite.”

That, my friends, is Magic 101, and why magic is actually as easy as writing down the formula, “When I encounter ‘x’ situation, I will do ‘y’ thing to achieve ‘z’ result,” thus ‘programming the brain’, if you will. The only thing you cane really change in this world is yourself, and from that stem all other changes: we change breath to breath, second to second. “Blood and breath are only elements undergoing change to fuel your radiance.”


The ravenstag as the self, Hannibal as the Devil, Will Graham as Hannibal: all these are projections which Hannibal willfully encourages in Will and, naturally, the viewers. It is a form of black magic and/or manipulation, whichever term you prefer, and it is primarily achieved by the above technique of manifestation. Projection can be used for positive purposes but can be exceedingly dangerous, especially if it is done unconsciously—and, being that most projection is just an amplification of unconscious desires, it is easy for unconscious results to arise. Case in point, Francis Dolarhyde, the serial killer from Red Dragon and the primary antagonist of the second half of the third season: Dolarhyde projects his shadow and sexual desire for the anima upon William Blake’s painting The Great Red Dragon And The Woman Clothed In/With The Sun. He is compelled, possessed by the archetype, and utterly consumed, having long-since lost control of his life. Hannibal, naturally, fosters this projection and exchange of identities, which leads us, finally, to…


great dragon

In the attic of his house, Dolarhyde keeps a shrine to The Great Red Dragon, featuring a framed copy of the painting. It is located next to a broken mirror, a personal motif which Dolarhyde re-enacts at every crime scene, in part because he has issues with his own physical deformation (a cleft lip leftover from childhood surgery) but also, on an unconscious level, because he possesses the kind of psyche in which consciousness can never truly and clearly awaken, like the new day-ringing of a Buddhist singing bowl muffled by a wrapping of thick leather. However, as all serial killers, being caught up as they are in their abominable rituals and self-mutiliation-by-proxy, are prolific black magicians, so too is Dolarhyde: he worships, evokes The Great Red Dragon and so wishes to become it that he at one point eats the original painting. This is perhaps rather extreme. There is no reason evocation cannot be a perfectly civil affair, and no reason why it is not something over which the knowing magician maintains control—though if one is evoking, say, the Devil, one should always take care to be cautious. However, if a magician has already created some sort of memory palace, then there is no better starting platform upon which to evoke. Some manifestation, fictional, historical, etc. of an archetype is selected for evocation, and the preferences of that thing are taken into consideration: the direction of the West for Solomon’s King Philemon and the particular form of address; favored musical tracks or albums, paintings or foods. Each archetype, and each manifestation of an archetype, has preferences just as much as any other creature, and that energy will be attracted by the energy of that which it loves. This is, in essence, summoning. If having one’s psychic space filled up with the motifs and preferences of that which one wishes to evoke are not enough, these things are often easy enough to evoke in real life. Classically, magicians have used gigantic magic circles and so forth, but there are man personal ways of preparing a space for an evocation, and not all of them include esoteric alphabets: looking at Francis Dolarhyde, sometimes it involves doing angry push-ups, watching videos of your recent homicides and growling like a dragon (might want to make sure your giant house is empty for this one). There is even a scene where Alana Bloom catches Will Graham alone in Hannibal’s old house, talking to himself in Hannibal’s voice, having evoked him by proximity to his space. Really, it’s all about getting yourself pumped up. Magic is just psychology, and vice versa, because, of course, both of those are just words, and if you subscribe to one without accepting it’s the other, you’re selling yourself desperately short, and nowhere close to the sum of the truth.

Servitors are much the same and a far safer interpretation of the phenomenon wherein that which is evoked is still considered separate from oneself. Will Graham does this constantly although often struggles with the line between his ego and the psychic contents which he is dissociating and projecting onto G.J.H. and Abigail, who appears several times to Will as a servitor and conversational partner helping him to work through his emotional trauma. Will also evokes Hannibal several times throughout the series, most notably when visiting Castle Lecter: then, he imagines himself in Hannibal’s office, wrapped in deep conversation with the doctor as though he were actually there. This could also be considered a form of active imagination, where the symbol of Hannibal is used to take on the problem of Hannibal: though, if you wanted to, say, conquer your problem of grief, you might evoke a character who represents Grief and talk to them, interact with them, or let them take you on a psychic journey. It is important that you, to a certain extent, release control, and allow the unconscious to produce whatever symbols it knows you to need. At the same time, you can consciously utilize symbols to communicate with the unconscious, both in your imagination and in your waking life. When you surround yourself with unconscious reminders of your abilities, it is far easier to be who you are meant to become. If we could ask him, Hannibal’s favorite Bible verse would likely be the very same as the one favored by Jung: “And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” But, of course, I’ve given you so many imaginative tools, with an imagination strong enough, you practically could ask him yourself. After all: it’s not as if you can’t imagine where to find him.

hannibal 4

If you enjoy Hannibal, you’ll also savor the transgressive serial killer love story, DELILAH, MY WOMAN. Click here to buy on Amazon! In celebration of my birthday next month, I am taking some time off of essays to work on my next-next novel and find an agent for THE LIGHTNING STENOGRAPHY DEVICE, so there will be no new essay until May 26th. Thanks as always for reading, and be sure to follow the blog for the next update!

One Reply to “The Devil in Hannibal Lecter, Part II: Become As Little Children”

  1. Danielle says:

    This is amazing. I am loving your articles here. They really speak to me. Thank you, still trying to find who I will become.

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