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Dahmer update: Jeffrey and the heads

I noted that Dahmer was possessed by a wendigo—a Red Indian spirit. However, particular aspects to his possession were shaped by his blood; indeed, Dahmer’s mother was Welsh and was liable to do things like sit out on a bench for hours and hours in the middle of a snowy Wisconsin winter because this is what Welsh women do (“Of an excitable Welsh temperament.” “Ah, the Welsh,” per Sherlock Holmes). What is salient about this Celtic blood and Dahmer? Answer: the Celts had a cult around heads—they would headhunt and often kept heads on poles outside their little hill forts.

The heads were not just decorative, the heads spoke—the heads made prophecies. This should not be taken to be quite literal, rather they spoke in the same way as the ancient Egyptian magicians animated their statues so that the statues would speak to them. Similar rites, performed with a head, would cause it to symbolically speak prophesy. More than this divinatory aspect, the very representative for the whole island was said to be Brân the Giant—his head was severed and, allegedly, buried under the white tower at the Tower of London; it was said to protect the island from invasion—and this is why they say if the crows leave the Tower of London the country will fall, for Brân’s animal spirit representation was a crow or raven.

This is why the poet Ted Hughes, known for his shamanistic inclinations, produced a poetry book called Crow (1970) about a primordial crow-god; it was about Brân, our island’s god. Indeed, I went for a walk in the fields a few years ago and when I reached a little log-bridge placed a cross a ditch I found my way blocked by a crow—very bold, he never flinched, and seemed intelligent. Doubtless it was Brân himself—his symbolic representation—come to have a chat with me. “Caw! You shall not pass! Caw! You shall not pass!”.

Dahmer notably sought to create an altar from his victims—he particularly wanted to adorn the altar with decorated skulls, he was a great skull-collector. This was an atavistic expression, in the blood, of the Celtic desire to headhunt and to use the skulls for mediumistic purposes—the Druidic rites were said to leave forest glades “splattered with human gore” (a snobby Roman poet reported) and it is not unlikely they also consumed human flesh, just as Dahmer did. So Dahmer’s behaviour can be seen as a mentally disturbed man, inhabited by foreign spirits, returning to the atavistic rites found in his ancestors; and this was why Jeffrey Dahmer was always happy to get a head.


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