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Winchester Gospel
                                     
Ever wonder where the writers of Supernatural get their ideas for the series episodes? Well most of the MOTW ideas are from urban legend, folklore, pagan festivals, and even fairy tales. However ideas for the myth arc, according to Kripke & Co, are taken from two main sources, John Milton's classic poem Paradise Lost (1667), and the last book of the bible The Book of Revelation (c.96 CE). Other books include the ancient Jewish apocalyptic The Book of Enoch (200B.C), and Paradise Regained (1671).   So, what are these works and what stories do they tell? Let look at the two major pieces.
 
Paradise Lost
 
John Milton, a Puritan Englishman, wrote Paradise Lost in 1667. He was considered a ‘man of letters’ and a polemical writer. Milton is also believed to have been a Calvinist and the question of predestination and freedom was crucial to his intellectual orientation. He lived (1607-1774) during the 17th century which falls into the Early Modern period of Europe. It was characterized by Baroque culture, the French Grand Siècle dominated by Louis XIV, and the beginning of modern science and philosophy. Milton was well aware of the works of Copernicus (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), and Galileo (The Starry Messenger), and these really influenced his poem. His descriptions of space and planets are very vivid and enjoyable.
 
This poem is actually two stories, both about a fall from Paradise. In the first story (introduced immediately), Adam and Eve are thrown out of the Garden of Eden after eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge. The second story (told in flashbacks) tells the tale of Lucifer’s fall, which apparently started when Christ was born to God. God set his son above the angels for them to worship, causing immediate jealousy in Lucifer.
 
“ … so waked Satan- so called now; his former name
Is heard no more in Heaven. He, of the first,
If not the first Archangel, great in power,
In favour, and pre?minenence, yet fraught
With Envy against the Son of God….”
 
The battle lasted three days after which Lucifer is defeated, and cast down to “the Deep”, along with a third of the legions of Heaven, and all Lucifer’s offspring, even though they had no part in the revolt. God’s forces were lead by Michael and Gabriel (“…these my sons invincible…”), and while Lucifer used many ‘machines of Satan’, Michael, and his sword, really chopped Satan’s forces on the second day.
 
 â€œThe battle hung: till Satan…saw where the sword of Michael smote, and felled
Squadrons at once: with huge two-handed sway
Brandished aloft, the horrid edge came down
Wide-wasting…..”
 
Michael eventually slashed Satan’s side nearly cutting him in half. With the additional successes of Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael on other fronts, God then sends his son, Christ, to ride out in a chariot, by himself, and drive Lucifer and his legions into Hell. 
 
It was then that God created humans. Because He lost a third of his worshipers in the revolt, He created Adam and Eve to fill his need for worshipers, placing them on one of the many crystal orbs he had created. 
 
Meanwhile in Hell, Satan rallies his unhappy legions (who are already beginning the change into demonic forms), and holds a counsel to discuss their options.  After remembering the decisiveness of Michael’s sword, they decide against launching another war. And knowing there is no hope of God’s forgiveness, they decide that being free in Hell is better than serving in Heaven. But, they also can’t tolerate their defeat. So they decide to get revenge, by cause God’s newest children, humans, to revolt as well. (Hmmmm….sounds familiar).   
 
After their decision of revenge, only Satan is brave enough to make the journey to earth. But first he had to get out of Hell, and passed Hell-gates, which he finds shut, locked, and guarded by two creatures that hold the keys. Oddly enough, the two guards God put there just happened to be Satan’s daughter, Sin, and their son, Death. (Yep…Satan had a son by his daughter while in heaven.) He also he finds a multitude of Hell-hounds, the offspring of Sin and Death.
 
Of course, Satan talks Sin and Death into opening the gates for him, promising to eventually take them to “the new world of light and bliss”. It also helped Satan that they were irate at God for casting them out of Heaven when they had no part in the revolt. Sin’s comment:
 
“ Thou wilt bring me soon
To that new world of light and bliss, among
The gods who live at ease, where I shall reign
At thy right hand voluptuous, as beseems
Thy daughter and thy darling, without end.”
 
Satan now transverses the Abyss and sees all the worlds God created. Milton really has a very vivid description of space, as an infinite gulf between Heaven and Hell (“the dark Abyss”) which was populated with many crystal orbs, one of which was earth (World).
 
“Far off the empyreal Heaven, extended wide
In circuit, undetermined square or round,
With opal towers and battlements adorned
Of living sapphire, once his native seat,
And, fast by, hanging in a golden chain,
This pendent World, in bigness as a star
Of smallest, magnitude close by the moon.”
 
Yep…Milton, definitely read Copernicus and Galileo!
 
Unfortunately Satan does not know which planet is earth, so he asked directions from the one in charge of this space, Archangel Uriel, who is just floating around on sunbeams. To get Uriel to spill the beans, Satan assumes the appearance of a meager angel and feigns worship of man. It works, but as Satan departs, Uriel sees Satan’s demon form reappear. He loses sight of him in the gardens and proceeds to the guard at the gates of Paradise, Archangel Gabriel, where he finds Gab passing the time training new warrior angels. He tells him a baddie has escape from hell (not knowing at this point that it is Satan) and is now in the garden. Gabriel says Uriel should have no fear as he will find the evil spirit before morning….and he does. Two of his legion find him tempting Eve with a dream, and takes him back to Gab. Therein the usual testosterone contest ensues between the two, wherein Gab catches Satan lying (imagine that), says he has learned nothing from his fall, and tells him to contemplate his current position, of being alone on earth, and Gab’s position of having all of heaven at his disposal. At this point, Satan decides he has a better place he should be. (Wise move! Be interesting to see Gab and Lucifer meeting in Supernatural.)
 
However that doesn’t stop Satan from returning later and tempting Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Once she has transgressed, Adam agrees to also eat the fruit also, not because he thinks its right, but doesn’t want to be separated from Eve. Because they repent to God for their sin, God only banishes them from paradise, and sends Michael to lead them out of Eden, with his fiery sword waving behind them. Oddly enough, while all the angels appeared to Adam and Eve as celestial beings, Michal assumes the form of a man, with his sword in one hand and his spear in the other.
 
Now during this whole process God isn’t exactly unaware of what’s going on…in fact he was watching the whole thing (can you say Big Brother?). He watches the drama unfold, and lets it all happen because…well…he’s not a nice person in this story. He even sends Archangel Raphael to warn Adam and Eve of their upcoming transgression, and warns them to keep worshiping God and tending the garden, naked, for eternal happiness. (I don’t know, but reminds me of the pilot of Star Trek The Cage.) He feels that Adam and Eve should have choice, and be allowed to err if that’s what they want.   As Raphael said to Adam:
 
“Son of Heaven and Earth,
Attend! That thou art happy, owe to God;
That thou continuest such, owe to thyself,
That is, to thy obedience; therein stand.
This was that caution given thee; be advised
Good made thee perfect, not immutable;
And good he made thee; but to persevere
He left it in thy power – ordained thy will
By nature free, not over-ruled by fate…..”
 
However, God also asks for volunteers to redeem his creations, with all their faults….after a few thousand years of course, and with Satan and his minion on earth the whole time. Of course none of the Heavenly Host speaks up, so, Christ volunteers. And God thinks that’s a splendid idea. 
 
In the meantime, Satan arrives back in Hell, meeting Sin and Death on the way, expecting to be received with praise and adoration for his triumphant task, but instead, arrives to jeers and hisses, as all have been turned into serpents because of Satan’s deed. (And, given the descriptions of the demonic forms they had turned into, especially Sin’s and Death’s, being a serpent is a definite improvement!)
 

Comments  

Randal
# Randal 2010-01-28 13:22
Whew! It's been years since I've read Paradise Lost (and I must respectfully disagree with Donald Sutherland's character in Animal House that Milton is boring, but the herb is alright. :D ).

I don't think that Lucifer, looking at him as clinically as possible, is romantic, and the writers haven't portrayed him as such, but he IS the ultimate rebel, thus quite Romantic, big R, and let's face it, though one can argue he deserves his just desserts, the Big Cheese really is a Grade A dick. Whether the Supernatural version is as such, that remains to be seen, though if he is actually floating midst the cosmic seas, maybe he's simply a manic-depressive.

I'd love to see the writers work in something about the mysterious survivor of an otherwise fatal head wound from Rev 13, though that was from a beasty. Perhaps such a theme has already been transferred to Bobby, that he'll walk again.

Awesome stuff, Sablegreen.
Brie
# Brie 2010-01-28 15:33
Awesome Sablegreen. Haven't read Paradise Lost for a while either, glad to read your review. Seems like we should see a lot of action soon. Thanks
Bevie
# Bevie 2010-01-28 15:47
That was fascinating.

God and his angels really do seem to be dicks as both Dean and Sam accuse them of being.

If going by these two sources, I hope Kripke tweaks it a bit so there will be some hope for the future out there.

Scary to think of the poor humans stuck in the middle of all that. :o
Matilda Jean
# Matilda Jean 2010-01-28 15:54
Been a while Sablegreen since I read any of your comments. Really enjoy your articles. Glad to see you back. Write again soon.
Kate
# Kate 2010-01-28 15:54
Well they don't seem to be on our side! Looks like it's us against both heaven and hell. Nothing like being stuck in the middle! Thanks Sablegreen. Loved it!
gentlesoul
# gentlesoul 2010-01-28 16:52
Great article =) I really enjoyed reading it. I'm gonna go read Paradise Lost now :-)
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-01-28 17:58
Sablegreen, great research piece! Wow!

The writers obviously draw on many sources. When I was researching Lucifer’s history for my article about him, I did not find any connection between Lucifer and Michael,either, except that they are angels. It might be that they are referring to the idea of being brothers in arms or simply brothers (as angels).

And Paradise Lost is, indeed, one of the most influential pieces of work. It has inspired many novels and films (for instance Se7en has a lot of references to it, but also to the Canterbury Tales). And it is – simply- a piece of great art. Don’t you just love the classics!

Thank you for this, great read! Jas
Freebird
# Freebird 2010-01-28 18:42
Wow, Sablegreen, my head is spinning. Kudos to you, this must have been a heavy piece to write!
While watching Supernatural I inevitably look for parts from Revelations, but usually think: ´Now look at this! These writers are crazy geniuses!´ Of course, Supernatural is and will never be a precise copy of any apocalypse story. Only with what you described here, it´s obviously impracticable. The thing is, our Supernatural-Wa l-Mart-apocalyp se is one of the most interesting and thrilling stories ever. Isn´t this awsome? I always knew those writers were geniuses :-)
Thank you for writing this!
Lara
tiny
# tiny 2010-01-28 21:52
WOW... This is a wonderful read! Thank you so much!!
Sablegreen
# Sablegreen 2010-01-28 23:11
Hey everyone thanks for reading! This was longer than I usually write, but there was so much info. Thanks for sticking it out..and for LIKING it!

Randal, I would LOVE to have that 'beasty' be symbolic of Bobby. Would like nothing better than to have him come out of this walking again.

Gentlesoul, Paradise Lost is an excellent reading experience. As Jas said, there is nothing better than the classics.

Jas, Paradise Lost has inspired so many movies, just none seem to do the poem justice.

Interesting side note, Milton wrote both poems after going completely blind. Amazing

Thanks again all.
Sablegreen
# Sablegreen 2010-01-29 09:30
Yep...the writers are going to make it very difficult for our boys, but aren't we glad they are on our side? :D
I'm guessing Amazon would have some version of it. I've had my copy for about 20 years. 8-)
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-01-29 09:36
I guess you can get Paradise Lost pretty much anywhere. I mean, it's kind of THE classic. Amazon certainly is a good choice, they might even have nice editions, if you care about that sort of thing
;-)Jas
Randal
# Randal 2010-01-29 09:40
Dany, I've got the Modern Library's Complete Poetry and Essential Prose (hardcover and only around $30-40 at Amazon I believe) with some nice, informative essays. IMO, completely worth the expenditure. Though I can also support patronizing your local library. 8-)
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-01-29 10:19
I found mine in an antiquarian bookshop in London. Alas, I can't find it right now in all those boxes still standing around from my move - how could I unpack them, when I'm working and visiting this site? I'm a gypsy,...
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-01-29 10:20
Gosh, that sounds preposterous. I wish my edition was as old as it sounds, but it's only from the 1910s... Someday, when I'll have written my first beststeller and gain ridiculous money, I will invest in a first edition.... Sigh :o Jas
Randal
# Randal 2010-01-29 10:42
Pas de problème, Dany, but NO extras? Was this planned or a colossal factory error? I know that used to happen occasionally with movies here (no extras), though usually it was an almost-bare bones single disc, then a few months later, the 2/3/4 disc versions. Though I'll admit I didn't wait for the super-loaded versions of the LOTR flicks. 8-)

Jas, just remember to do a book tour of the states!
Sablegreen
# Sablegreen 2010-01-29 10:55
WOW nice tip Randal. My book already has his complete works, but that's a nice book for anyone who wants to read the poem. Should have asked you about this first. ...could have included it in the article. 8-) My bad!!
Randal
# Randal 2010-01-29 14:21
Sablegreen, if I remember (always an iffy prospect) I'll check to see if there are any good nuggets that might further illuminate what you have here, though if I recall, it was mostly about his particular brand of Christianity and compositional issues (you know, that whole I'm Going Blind thing.) 8-)

Dany, ugh, you guys get saddled with that multiple part crap? Is region one the only region that gets full box sets? Sure seems that way sometimes. Though this makes up for Japan always getting album bonus tracks, those wankers. At least you won't have to spend any more!
Karen
# Karen 2010-01-29 14:42
Hi Sablegreen
Thank-you for this, it was fantastic. I’m afraid I’m not up on all the mythology and I have never read any of these references, so this was a real learning experience.
Ardeospina
# Ardeospina 2010-01-29 17:44
Really cool article, Sablegreen. I hate to admit it, but I've never read either Paradise Lost or The Book of Revelation, so this was a great crash course for me!
Sablegreen
# Sablegreen 2010-02-01 09:39
Thanks..Karen and Ardeospina. It isn't necessary to read either for SPN, but as an art form, both are fascinating.
Thanks for reading!
Cassie
# Cassie 2010-02-01 14:05
Sablegreen, this was great! Thanks so much for putting it together