Saturday, 2 March 2013

Azazel: development and symbolism

Photo, concept, manipulation, frame design: GothicNarcissus
Model, hair, make up: Uriele
Styling: Uriele and GothicNarcissus
Additional resources: Amptone-stock (texture), Thy-Darkest-Hour (wings)

Azazel is one of the most infamous Demons of the Abrahamic franchise and is featured in a form or another in all three derived mythologies. While mutually very different, the three interpretations agree about him being a very powerful Demon, to the point of being often identified with Satan himself (in modern Hebrew, the word “azazel” means “hell”), and specifically a tempter who meticulously corrupts men in their everyday life. He’s so infamous that, beside being featured in such grimoires as Colin De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal, he’s been included in several fictional works, from John Milton’s Paradise Lost up to the TV series Supernatural.
Azazel from the Dictionnaire Infernal
Azazel from the Dictionnaire Infernal.
In Jewish mythology, Azazel is mentioned in several different sources, which are not entirely consistent with one another and are generally rather vague: the Bible mentions an episode that provided the basis for the rite of the scapegoat, in which two goats were sacrificed, one to Yahweh, while the other was left “for Azazel”, which meant it was sent out into the desert; scholars debate what the meaning of this rite was, and whether Azazel was a definite entity, either a Demon or a deity, or not. The Book of Enoch mentions Azazel as one of the Angels who kept residing in Heaven despite being fallen; he was the one who led the fallen Grigori into seducing humans, and when he opposed Metatron’s rise to power he was cast out of Heaven, taking the blame like a scapegoat. Islamic mythology is partly consistent with this view, as Azazel, beside being simply identified with Lucifer, is also said to have advised that two fallen Angels teach mankind the secrets of wizardcraft to actually corrupt them while passing the ordeal out in the eyes of Allah as an experiment to see how adamant men were in their faith. The Christian sources are more scarce: Azazel is simply linked to the scapegoat, goats in general, and is appointed as the standard-bearer in Milton’s Paradise Lost, which is consistent with his representation in Colin De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal. Several Satanist sources identify him with the Baphomet, an androgynous goat-headed idol widely featured in Satanism, and with the planet Saturn.
The Baphomet.
When developing the idea for the work, I tried to keep in mind pretty much all of the above both for the character and the aesthetics. Firstly, I decided to exploit the Baphomet idea for the model’s pose, but making it somewhat more alluring and including the standard-bearing thing. I thought that, given his temper and schemes, Azazel would be something in-between an army general and a diplomat, so the styling would retain a military feel with the hat I had purchased for the series and my grandfather’s medals. As he was depicted as particularly meticulous in bringing about evil among mankind, I decided he would coordinate many efforts including the Faustian pacts (which I called “Goetic” because of the Ars Goetia thing). Similarly to Nergal, I blended the Seal as a decoration on the hat. The theme colour of this work is olive green, similar to Nergal’s asparagus, because it’s widely used in military clothing. The Gate by Tristania was chosen as the theme song because of its amazing lyrics and dark mood, which I gave to the photo itself.
All these things were already clear since a couple of years – indeed, the idea for Mephistophel was developed on Azazel’s basis – but the photo had to wait because choosing a model proved to be quite a challenge. I wanted Azazel to look somewhat “sharper” than most of the other Demons, with a more masculine look. I tried to approach a couple of guys but things didn’t work out until I met Uriele, who agreed to the idea, bringing in his ideas for the styling (such as putting the hat on his leg for a more “relaxed” attire).

On a side note, this is the first Infernal Lord I shot with my Canon EOS 5D and edited on my Macbook: while I feel the improved technical quality shows, I’m glad it did not make the image much different from the rest of the series. This is the fourth year the project is going and it’s really plain to see it hasn’t lost its identity despite the changes in my style and aesthetics.
The next Demon is already shot, but postproduction is proving to be more complicated than I first thought, so it will take a while. In the meantime, enjoy this work, which marks the first time I complete a Demonic Level, the third.

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