Monday, 23 September 2013

The Infernal Lords XXIV: Naamah

Listen to the angels scream.
Round your body cages rost.
So warm the venom in your veins,
You are there?

Are you ready to dream, my sweet boy?
Are you ready to dream, my sweet child?
Come with me and taste your flesh, boy.
Are you ready to sleep?

Do you wanna have a dream or two?

[ Lullaby – Leandra ]
Naamah by *GothicNarcissusFourth-Level Marquise Naamah is the sister of Princess Lilith, whom she followed during the Great Heavenly War, and was once a prominent member of the Archangels. She was gifted with the power of Precognition, which she developed into a very accurate, albeit not definitively exact, art. Her powers greatly surpass those of Marquise Anamelech, whose precognition is less precise and limited to ill news and bad happenings. After her Fall, Marquise Naamah worked hard to turn Divination into a separate branch of Magic, inventing several different methods to aid her Inner Eye to know the future, thus becoming the Demon of Divination.
Her powers have proved pivotal on several occasions, both during the War and afterwards: her predictions helped her sister, Princess Lilith, to retain her powers when she was deprived of her wings by Yahweh and sent over to the Eden to be Adam’s first wife, as well as convincing Emperor Lucifer to retreat just in time when the War was going to be lost, saving many Fallen Angels from their doom. When Duke Azazel set up the Goetic Deals scheme, she was one of the first Demons to join his ranks and agree to lend her powers to Mortals for a price: when summoned she can grant the gift of Precognition and teach any divination method to the Mortals who call upon her, in exchange for their soul.
Since her powers are purely mental, she needs to draw energy from other beings’ minds in order to keep them functional. Thus, as part of Princess Lilith’s fellowship, she flies to the Earth at night as a Succubus to prey on the Mortals’ nightmares. While her good friend Duke Astaroth, who often acts as an Incubus himself, indulges hunting with her to feed on Mortals’ sleep, she is the one true Nightmare Eater, who feeds off nefandous dreams. Beside the preys she goes hunting for, she also regularly feeds on the nightmares of those who summon her for her powers, as Precognition often comes during sleep at the price of vivid nightmares.
She has a good comradeship with fellow Incubus Marquis Rosiel as well as with Marquis Leonard, the Demon of Witchcraft, with whom she is often summoned when Mortals seek both gifts for themselves. Other good friends of hers are fellow former Archangels Duke Xaphan and Marquise Decarabia, whom she knew since before the Fall. Her sister, though, is her favourite mate when it comes to wrecking havoc on Earth, and the two ofter work together even against Heaven, such as when they seduced Great Angel Samael, leading him on the brink of his own downfall.

Naamah: development and symbolism

Photo, concept, manipulation, frame design: GothicNarcissus
Model, hair, make up: Arianna Clarimonde
Styling: Arianna Clarimonde and GothicNarcissus
Assistant: Deborah Luna
Additional resources: Amptone-Stock (texture), Thy-Darkest-Hour (wings), (wallpaper, dreamcatcher)

I can positively say that no Demon in my series was conceived, shot, postproduced and published as quickly as Naamah. The whole process didn’t take longer than a month, which is a record by the standards of my ages-long project.
Okay, I’ll be honest: Naamah was a last minute addition I included to replace Sandalphon. I mentioned in the development post how unsure I was about his inclusion since he wasn’t listed as a Demon in any source, what made me decide to go for him, and how difficult it had been to complete that work. Despite heavily retouching it even after its publication, I was never fully satisfied with the outcome, not to mention it really was a bit of a stretch to have him there in the first place.
While at first I justified it with the story I’m writing about my Demons, as I started refining some plot elements that became another argument against Sandalphon being an Infernal Lord at all. Thus, the idea of replacing him started tempting the Hell out of me, so to say.
The final decision was triggered by the combination of two events: while looking for totally unrelated things on Wikipedia, I ended up on Naamah’s entry and read a few details that had initially escaped my attention; meanwhile, Arianna Clarimonde, whom I would have loved to include in my project for quite some time, jokingly asked me which Demon was best suited to her.
Back then, the female Demons I wanted to do were all taken, which was why I didn’t ask Arianna to join the club; on the other hand, I had been repeatedly asked by my watches about Naamah and whether I would include her in the series, which I declined because I felt she was too similar to Lilith to be developed into a separate character. Well, the detail which had escaped my notice was that she was considered the Mother of Divination and often fed on sleeping mortals’s energies rather than simply preying on their sexual force. Gosh, there I had my Nightmare Eater, with the bonus of Divination. Thus, my reply to Arianna was, “If you were a fortune teller, which method would you use to predict the future? I’m asking, you know, ‘cause you’re going to be Naamah”. Boom, there we were.
A seance in the Twenties. Roar!
I’m positive Naamah would have taken even less time to be done if I hadn’t been cut off the world during summer holidays, but Arianna and I used that time to discuss the aesthetics. When thinking of a “psychic” Demon, the first thing that came across our minds was the photos above: since we both love the Roaring Twenties very much, that kind of look was our first choice, which influenced the make up and hairstyle. As for the outfit, it was Arianna who suggested to use her black kimono completed by some Art Déco-inspired jewellery. That made me decide to make an Art Déco background, which would have been nice to publish right after the Art Nouveau-inspired Decarabia.
Admittedly, this time I planned less stuff than usual and simply let the inspiration flow free, similarly to what happened when Arianna and I shot World Of Make-Believe. We just lighted something like five incense sticks to have some smoke (although it sickened me a bit, and had to be shot separately aftermaths due to the wind that kept blowing it away), and found the right idea for the pose there and then, which had me decide the editing details after I got back home. The part of the postproduction which took me longest was creating the crystal ball entirely on photoshop. My graphic designer friend Uriele helped me a lot with many useful tips about how to make it realistic, and my painter friend Katia gave me some advice about how to make a convincing refraction of the surroundings inside the ball. Of course, that is a reference to Naamah’s precognitive abilities, while the Dreamcatcher halo alludes to her nightmare-eating nature.
As Naamah is not listed in The Lesser Key Of Solomon, I had to borrow her a seal, choosing Balam’s because his looked like a stylised N. I retained the fandango colour from Sandalphon because it perfectly fit the photo, and kept Lullaby by Leandra as the theme song because that’s where I got the nightmare-eating idea in the first place. And honestly, since it is one of my favourite songs, I’m glad it is now associated with a work I like and I’m truly proud of.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Infernal Lords XXIII: Decarabia

Je sens comme une odeur de lis, mes muscles se retissent
Et j’attends la floraison.
Mais qu’a-t-il pu bien arriver entre septembre et mai?
J’en ai oubliÈ mon nom.

Je ne sortirai pas encore de la mousse,
Pas plus qu’une autre fleur de saison.

[ Fleur De Saison – Emilie Simon ]
Decarabia by *GothicNarcissusFormerly a member of the Archangels (the second-lowest Angelic Choir), Marquise Decarabia is now a Higher Demon of the Fourth Level. She was quick to join Emperor Lucifer’s followers because her light-hearted nature made it difficult for her to cope with the strict, oppressive rules of Heaven; now she is known as the Demon of Plants, as her powers allow her to master the Secondary Element Wood and, consequently, vegetables themselves. She has an extremely vast knowledge about their uses and proprieties and, as a Goetic Demon, she’s often conjured on the Earth by Mortals who want her to grant them her notions in exchange for their souls. As for her powers, not only can she influence the growth of existing plants, being able to create a full-grown tree out of a little seed in few seconds, but she can create them even out of herself, turning her body parts into wood, branches, leaves or flowers. She’s the one who first adorned the Garden of Pandemonium working under the direction of Duke Belial, who takes a particular liking to her and often hires her to decorate the Imperial Palace for banquets and celebrations.
She’s a very cheerful, nice and friendly person, to the point of looking (and probably being) slightly tipsy or high most of the time, which makes her very popular among fellow Courtiers – even the notoriously unfriendly ones such as Countess Agares and Viscount Legion – who cherish her presence also because she can make very good alcoholics and hallucinogens out of her plants. But she’s not always on the brighter side as she can be very mischievous, in particular with Mortals, often acting with her fellow Fourth-Level Demon and dear friend, Countess Jezebeth, much to the annoyance of the severe Marquis Nergal.
Beside being part of Duke Beelzebub’s Order of the Great Fly and having a strong bond with him due to her Element being a secondary form of his, she particularly enjoys Marquis Adramelech and Marquis Leviathan’s company, as their powers boost her own. The eccentric and bohemian Count Naberius has a particular liking to her and it’s almost needless to mention that notoriously alcohol and women loving Count Asmodeus greatly enjoys her company.

Decarabia: development and symbolism

Photo, concept, manipulation, frame design, styling: GothicNarcissus
Model, make up: Deborah Luna
Dress: DamaInNero
Hair: Arianna Clarimonde
Additional resources: Amptone-Stock (texture), BiSnarkian (Art Nouveau frame), Sinag-Stocks (branches), Princess-Of-Shadows (texture), (wings)

Once upon a time, GothicNarcissus went to Milan. It was a rainy and gloomy January afternoon and he tried to shoot Decarabia, the Demon of Plants, with one of his favourite friends. He just had her pose with the brand new Art Nouveau dress his mother had sewn aptly for the shooting in front of a very dim and bad frontal light from the window hoping he could do all the magic in Photoshop later. Months passed, he kept working hard and fiercely on the photo, tried to add some ivy in postproduction, to correct the light, to blend the model with the wings and the background, but to no avail. For the first time since he started the project, he had to come to terms with the fact that he needed to shoot that Demon again.
And so, dearies, this is how my Infernal Lords project hit a standstill for months: I stubbornly refused to admit the photo wasn’t right no matter what I did to it – also because I did not want to waste Deborah’s excellent modelling – and, while I kept working on it, I did not even try to organise other Infernal Lords shootings. How very clever of me. Oh wait, this is also how I screwed up my university career.
Enough complaint, let’s get back to the work. Reading again The Lesser Key Of Solomon, I’ve found that Decarabia is more closely associated with birds and gemstones than plants, but I read on other sources that he (or, in our case, she) also giveth thee knowledge about herbs and their properties. I always wanted a plant-related Demon and I distinctly remember that, out of all of those I could pick a name from, that was the prettiest (because let’s say it, Decarabia is a Hell of a beautiful name!), and this is how I chose him. Which immediately became a her, ‘cause that name sounds totally feminine.
Fleur de Saison by Emilie Simon
Fleur De Saison by Emilie Simon.
Looking back, my first idea for this Demon would have never worked. I basically wanted to copy the front cover of Emilie Simon’s Fleur De Saison single with a model who was not even really photogenic – and I’m honestly still wondering how that ever crossed my mind. Fortunately, while I was busy not organising the shooting for months, I met Deborah and, like the road to Damascus, I realised that she was the one.
Of course, changing the model I had to reconsider the aesthetics and overall mood of the work. Working on the Demon of Plants made the symbolism quite immediate, so a great deal of the photo would rely on its looks. Given how classy and elegant Deborah is, I immediately decided I would make an Art Nouveau image with a flowery frame, a Mucha-inspired pose, a fancy dress and a lot of ivy. Initially I also wanted to keep the red berries motif as some sort of “crown” or Elizabethan neckpiece of sort. Even before I asked Deborah to model for the project I made the background, which turned out gorgeous, and the rest of the ideas followed soon. I also asked my mother to sew a custom-made, Art Nouveau-inspired dress for Deborah to wear during the shooting, which looked gorgeous too. Everything was ready, I only needed to go to Milan and do the shooting.
As I mentioned above, Deborah an I originally shot Decarabia back in January, the week end I did Azazel with Uriele. While the latter turned out perfect, there was no way on Earth Decarabia could look fine with that photo. Deborah was gorgeous and I truly felt sorry for wasting her work, but mine just wouldn’t do. The ivy I added digitally looked as fake as it could be, the branches and berries were even worse and the bad light was beyond digital correction. I eventually scrapped the idea of the branches with red berries altogether because the photo was rich enough in details but it still looked horrible, so I took a deep breath and admitted it: I had to shoot it again. In that moment it felt like a defeat. I still have the old version of Decarabia, but it won’t go out of my computer, where I will keep it as a monument to my fruitless stubbornness and a reminder that I must not settle down for the easiest solution, but fight to get the best results.
This time around, I bought a few branches of artificial ivy to have all the props there for a natural look and I waited for the sun to set to have a very soft sidelight. Arianna Clarimonde, with whom I had set a shooting for Naamah, helped with the hair and everything turned out gorgeous, way beyond my expectations. So, Decarabia is here at last.

Amy Lee in Evanescence’s Everybody’s Fool video.
Now a few funny things about this work. Deborah and I had the very same idea about the pose: we both thought of Amy Lee’s perfume campaign photo from the Everybody’s Fool video; she mentioned it right when I was about to send her the link, and that was a good laugh – even though, eventually, we did a slightly different thing. I also wanted this demon to have the wings of a Luna moth, and Deborah’s artistic name is indeed Luna, so that was a nice coincidence too. Also, Decarabia is traditionally represented as a pentagram with an eye. Thus, I tried to arrange the work so that the combination of the background, wings and model made up an approximate five-pointed star.
Modern depiction of Decarabia as described in the Lesser Key Of Solomon.
As I had already used Decarabia’s seal for Anamelech because it featured several crescents, I borrowed Marax’s because it looked like it had small berries in the design. Throughout the conception of this work, Végétal by Emilie Simon remained a strong influence, so I chose Fleur De Saison as the theme song. As for the colour, pale green was surely the best fit for the Demon of Plants.
Oh, and here is a nice backstage I seriously considered for the official photo at some point. I might really decide to release it as part of the Evil In The World series, someday.