the NachtKabarett

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Nine Inch Nails 'Eraser' shirt, circa 1995, bearing two occult symbols

Aside from Trent's lifelong interest in horror/sci-fi films and the macabre, there have not been any overtly occult references throughout Nine Inch Nails' work aside from the dark and implied esoteric nature of much of the early imagery. After all, the name 'Nine Inch Nails' itself sounds inherently occult along with the NIN logo which just genuinely looks like an occult seal. Most likely taking influence from John Balance and Peter Christopherson of Coil, who are themselves adepts of the occult, co-founders of Industrial music and long-time audio/visual collaborators, briefly during the Self Destruct era was where two actual occult seals were employed in the form of the 'Eraser' tour t-shirt. What is additionally noteworthy in this case is that Coil later contributed three remixes of 'Eraser' to the remix EP 'Further Down The Spiral.'

Plate 542-Symbol Of Vehmic Courts (Germanic)
Signs, Symbols & Signets -Ernest Lehner

To two circular images which appear on either side of the shirt are genuine symbols of occult antiquity which represent each half of the song lyrics. 'Eraser' as a dual sided lyrical composition begins with one extreme (the longing and romantic desire for a partner), reaches its apex after the conquest (the betrayal and hurt) and comes full circle back to destitution (guilt ridden, empty and once again broken, under another's whim). The two symbols within the 'Eraser' shirt illustrate this; one representing desire as the first and more placid half of the lyrics, the other illustrating guilt, punishment and death for betrayal as the second half.

The first symbol on the front of the shirt, as depicted above, is the emblem of the Vehmic Court, a 12th Century German tribunal who ruled through terror, much in the style of Vlad the Impaler in Romania only a few centuries later, to impose order on the lawless feudal society of medieval Northern Europe. Thus in itself the symbol denotes punishment and retribution for the sins incurred.

The sentences, as prescribed by the secret courts of the Vehmic, were generally death for infractions ranging from the serious, such as murder, to that of heresy, witchcraft and rape. The emblem then represents in symbolic form the second half of 'Eraser' as the punishment for the betrayal by means of death, as the repetition of 'kill me' until the song's close articulates in an increasingly inaudible scream of anguish, even if that fate was initiated by self sentencing.


Lose me / Hate me / Smash me / Erase me
Kill me / Kill me / Kill me / Kill me / Kill me / Kill me / Kill me / Kill me


Plate 539- Ginnir-Divine, Demonical (Old Icelandic)
Signs, Symbols & Signets -Ernest Lehner

The symbol on the reverse side of the shirt is a Norse rune. 'Ginnir' is an Icelandic word meaning 'seduction', 'to temp' and 'to entice'. Though antiquated today it finds its origins in Old Norse and also appears in the Icelandic Bible. Thus illustrating the first half of 'Eraser' in its aspect of longing and desire to lull a partner toward with a rune meant to seduce.


Need you / Dream you / Find you / Taste you
Fuck you / Use you / Scar you / Break you


"Ginnir" is derived from the noun "ginning" which translates to "seduction" or "entrapment". Ginning has long been an archaic word and only turns up 75 results on Google (in Icelandic context), most of whom are excerpts from the Bible; the only widely published literary work of modern Icelandic in which it appears. The word has its roots in Old Norse, but even at the time it was used by the Vikings, it was only on rare occasions.

Thanks to Magnus Thor Johannsson, who is working on the Icelandic translation of The NACHTKABARETT, for providing the translation of 'ginnir' and the brief etymology of the word.

Cover artwork by Russell Mills for David Sylvian's 'Pop Song', 1989, which features a similar symbol known as 'The Helm of Awe'. Its origins are also that of Northern European, runic Norse tradition being symbol often adopted by the Vikings that dually acts as a protective seal worn between the eyes to make one invincible during battle and being additionally known as the,

"Aegishjalmur, said to render the wearer irresistible to others".
The Complete Book of Amulets & Talismans
Migene Gonzalez-Wippler

Mills is additionally the abstract conceptual artist who created the aesthetic and cover art for 'The Downward Spiral', 'March of the Pigs', 'Closer', 'Further Down the Spiral' and the 'Closure' home video boxed set. With other Downward Spiral artworks appearing on shirt designs it could be just as probable that Mills, as a seeming dabbler in the occult, integrated the Ginnir and Vehmic symbols into the 'Eraser' shirt.

'Dissonance' tour shirt from the same era which also featured the Vehmic Court and Ginnir/Seduction seals.


The Icelandic Ginnir symbol has also been linked to the post-punk, goth/industrial pioneers Killing Joke, who themselves were one of the many inspirations in sound and direction to NIN, with Charlie Clouser later remixing then band's 1996 single 'Democracy'.

In the mid 80's, founding members Jaz Coleman and Geordie Walker (long time adepts of the occult, symbolism, numerology and Crowley) went on a hiatus to Iceland in belief that the apocalypse was looming. Upon returning to their homeland of England (when the world evidently did not come to an end) the band gave a public lecture at the Courtauld Institute of London on their studies of the occult while abroad, a portion of the September 19, 1987 lecture was documented on their release 'The Courtald Talks'.

On 15th & 16th of February 1992 the band additionally gave another sitting known as the 'Holland Park Lectures' in the same vein of discource on their occult inspirations.

Lecture attendee Miche Marcisz accounts:

Fond recollections of the Holland Park Lecture, given by Jaz Coleman on the 15th & 16th of Feb. 1992:

The Gathering of the 40 or so Killing Joke fans for each day wasn't like a gathering of strangers at a concert. It was more like a meeting of distant family; many of us have never met, but we knew it was a special, privileged occasion.

All geniously conducted be the one & only, Jaz Coleman. Abdel Al Aboud-(An Arabic violinist ), JC-001 (Jaz's cousin who is a rap artist), & Mick Brown (Red Lorry Yellow Lorry/The Mission) were also present for their input. Not to mention a wonderful Lebanese chef for the day, named Tony Attar! Excerpts were given from Jaz's incomplete, personal writings: "An Irrational Domain"; & we were given the reasons & forces behind the formation of Killing Joke. And everyone present felt their personal connection. Killing Joke is a band with alot of fire influence, it is in essence the sound of fire!

The psychology of one's own potential, daydreams/night dreams, symbols (such as the personal attraction to the Ginnir symbol which coincided with a trip & ritual; leading Jaz & Geordie to Iceland, (influenced by a dream, Alchemist manuscripts, scriptures leading to an island, & map dowsing with a pendulum). The "Revelations" album reflected the mood of this time.

Jaz described the Ginnir symbol as "irresistibility" & used it as a talisman.

No other band has ever given such an education!

For the complete transcripts of this Lecture, please go to Follow ODIC Materials link.

The Holland Park Lectures never made it to vinyl/cd.

The difference between the two was that the Courtald Talks mostly centered around the fact that dreams and visions are a more authentic source of info, than fact or reason. Numerology, the force that formed the band, the past magickal & planetary influences on society are discussed.

The Holland Park Lecture was more about the band & how this irrational thought process has progressed events surrounding the band. It was a more personal account by Jaz combined with the Courtald Talk subjects, the trip to Iceland and more symbolism.

Miche Marcisz
Nov. 2007
Very much a remote tangental note but several symbols visually similar to the spokes on the Ginnir symbol which appear in room of the occult obsessed Dr. Channard in Hellbound: Hellraiser II.