by Alexx Kay
When Moore is at his best, his writing is full of multi-layered complexities and allusions. While the narrative surface is usuallyclear, careful examination of his word and image choices often reveals a fascinating rabbit-hole of subtly implied meanings. From time to time, we will put some of these choices under a microscope in their own posts. We start with a particularly rich phrase from Providence #5, P20, p1:
“… cunny is scarce in these accounts”
On the literal level. “Cunny” is a slang form of “cunt”, and quite an old one.
Going deeper, we see some relatively simple elaborations on the literal: By metonymy, cunny stands for “woman” or “women”. “Cunny” also evokes (though is not strictly related to) the word “cunning”; it is no accident that in medieval England “cunning woman” was also a term for “witch”.
Next, a meta-fictional level. In using the word “accounts”, Massey announces her awareness of herself as a character in a story cycle. Moreover, she is clearly aware that “cunny” is not often to be found in the stories. Reading “cunny” as “women”, Lovecraft indeed includes very few. Reading it more literally, “cunny” as “vagina”, Lovecraft completely omits it from his stories, except via the most indirect possible implications. Moore has, to a certain degree, followed Lovecraft in this, as the Stella Sapiente has a largely male membership.
There is (at least) a third level: the magical. Lovecraft briefly discusses the relationship between gender and magic in “The Thing on the Doorstep”. In Lovecraft’s story Asenath Waite (actually possessed by Ephraim) is enraged because “…she was not a man; since she believed a male brain had certain unique and far-reaching cosmic powers. Given a man’s brain, she declared, she could not only equal but surpass her father in mastery of unknown forces.”
Our co-writer, Robert Derie, points out in his book Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos:
Joshi is quick to note that this passage is not quite as openly misogynistic as it appears, and he quotes a 1934 letter to show that Lovecraft believed in a difference in kind of intelligence rather than degree (TD 441): “The feminine mind does not cover the same territory as the masculine, but is probably little if any inferior in total quality” (SL 5.64).
Alan Moore has also said a few things which bear on the relationship between gender and magic.
First, an unusual anecdote in that it does not come to us directly from Moore, but from a fellow comic book creator Dave Sim. In the pages of Cerebus #186 (the last section of Reads, September, 1994), Sim relates the following:
Alan Moore decided some months ago that, rather than have some sort of tedious mid-life crisis, he would endeavour to become a Magician, a Shaman. Alan Moore, needless to say, is very good at everything he attempts. He is a very strong-willed person, very insightful, very balanced, very stable. As these are not, by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, common traits in the Age of the Female Emotional Void Triumphant, I will forgo even the most cursory recitation of the Means by which he set about accomplishing his task. Take it or leave it; in the Viktor Davis scheme of things, the possible repercussions of a member of his readership ignoring a Kids, Don’t Try This At Home disclaimer supersedes the author’s interest in satisfying your curiosity.
Leaving aside the Means, the End (or one of them anyway) was a visit to the Big White Room. They were all there, Alan informs me. Hawksmoor, Crowley, Vitruvius, Thomas Hobbes, this one and that one. All the Mages of the Ages. ‘They are just who they say they are,’ Alan observed. ‘The Illuminati. Not Jewish Bankers and Worldwide Conspirators. The Illuminated Ones.’ I asked if Alan just, you know, saw them or if he had any kind of exchange with them.
‘You know, Viktor, I looked around and I noticed there weren’t any women in the room. And I said to’ (I forget which one he said it was: doesn’t matter), ‘There are no women. Is this some kind of faggy boys’ club or something, then?’
This, according to Alan, generated a good deal of amusement. I laughed as well (which put him off a bit). He offered his opinion that there was probably a Women’s Room somewhere else.
I don’t think so, Alan.
I don’t think so.
Now, on the one hand, Sim is hardly the most reliable narrator, and this anecdote appeared in the middle of a long misogynistic rant. On the other hand, Moore certainly read this when it appeared, and did not feel any need to issue a retraction or correction, nor to cut off his friendship with Sim. A few years later, they engaged in a lengthy mutual interview wherein, among many other topics, they did discuss both gender and magic. They did not, however, discuss their intersection, or directly mention the above anecdote.
A notable Moore use of the word “cunt” in a magical context was in his 1999 performance piece “Snakes and Ladders” (later adapted to comics by Eddie Campbell).
At one point, Moore describes an incident in which he met the fictional sorcerer John Constantine: “…he steps out from the dark and speaks to me. He whispers: “I’ll tell you the ultimate secret of magic. Any cunt could do it.””
(It’s worth pointing out here, as an aside to non-English readers, that the word “cunt” is far less taboo in England than it is in America. It is still considered rude, but not shocking. The closest equivalent in American usage might be “dickhead”.)
So, was Constantine implying that absolutely anyone could do magic? Or was he perhaps implying that in order to do magic, one had to possess, at least at some mystic level, a “cunt”? Or maybe some even more abstruse (or ironic) meaning? These are not questions we can answer with any authority.
We can state clearly, however, that Alan Moore is well aware that Gender and Magic have an often-fraught intersection, and has had such awareness since at least the mid-90s. Moore has embedded that awareness in Providence in five simple words.