All Writing & Content © Nick Kushner Unless Noted Otherwise.
In cooperation with Markus Lion of Absinthe.de
And the third angel sounded and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;
And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.
As early as 1998 when he first delved fully into painting, Marilyn Manson has been one of the world's most notorious connoisseurs of the legendary spirit, absinthe. First referenced heavily as being integral to the creation process of 2000's Holy Wood (In The Shadow of the Valley of Death), it was 2003's Golden Age of Grotesque as Manson's homage to art, expressionism, late Nineteenth Century Parisian decadence and Weimar era "Degenerate" Art where Manson could scarcely be seen without a milky glass of the green spirit as his accessory.
Beginning in mid-2005, Manson has been quoted in the press about his desires to produce his own line of absinthe and it was circa this time period in which he and Markus Lion, owner of Absinthe.de, casually began talks about this prospect. Two years later, Mansinthe is finally released, a high quality spirit distilled from grand wormwood, anise, fennel and other fine herbs. With other demagogue celebrity lines of absinthe sold by Absinthe.de such as H.R. Giger and the late Jhonn Balance (of the seminal and highly influential group Coil; see COIL & THE OCCULT), Manson is in good company with the lineage of his brand.
Marilyn Manson in Alternative Press. November 2000
A bottle of France's most potent absinthe adorns one corner, replete with requisite grated spoon; During writing/recording, Manson imbibed a great deal of this exotic, potentially dangerous import, he says, so much that the whole process began to teeter on the brink of self-destruction. The liqueur company - in a show of friendship - even sent its illustrious client a branch of the absinthe base element, wormwood.
"Wormwood tied into the album on a couple weird levels, because it was supposed to be a poison that God sent down to taint the waters to punish mankind. And it's related to King Solomon, who - as legend has it - had a ring that contained a worm which, when unleashed, could supposedly devour the world. Just like the serpent in [Norse mythology's Armageddon] Ragnarok, forever eating its own tail."
The legacy of the insidious alcoholic drink needs little introduction other than the obligatory note of its centuries old influence upon countless artists and poets, that its lucid effects were an inspiration behind the ecstatic visions painted by the Impressionists. It's active ingredient, the herb wormwood, is the cause of its long-term ban in many countries such as the US and France, which is what produces its unique ethereal sensations.
"Absinthe was first mentioned in the 18th century in a Swiss newspaper as a 'cure all diseases medicine'" says Mansinthe producer, Markus Lion, owner of Absinthe.de. Though the spirit itself is roughly two centuries old, controversy and ecstasy surrounding wormwood is as old as the beginning or recorded history. It was the name of the star which fell from the heavens in the apocalyptic Book of Revelation, which poisoned the waters by making them bitter as punishment for the sinful nature of man. Additionally the herb's name appears almost a dozen times throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
Marilyn Manson in High Times. February 2001.
"Making [Holy Wood] the two drugs which were most inspirational were Soma and absinthe."
I ask him about absinthe, the anise-flavored aperitif popularized by French artists in the second half of the 19th century. Absinthe's illicit secret ingredient, wormwood, is said to have fueled the hallucinations of painters Edgar Degas and Vincent Von Gogh, and poets Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud.
"In the Bible wormwood was supposed to be the plant that grew in the path exiting the Garden of Eden, a poison that God sent down to punish mankind," claims Manson. "I thought it was something I should try. There is something nice to the ritual as well," he adds. "Making the album, there were a lot of rituals - whether it was something as simple as absinthe, or just achieving a mindset that took you out of the regular world so that you could concentrate on what you were creating."
The Latin name for wormwood is Artemisia Absinthium, the prefix is derived from the Greek Goddess of wilderness and the hunt, Artemis. As Manson has previously quoted, wormwood was held to have sprung up from the tracks of the Serpent as it was banished from the Garden of Eden. The Greeks used the herb for treatment against parasites such as fleas and worms which is where it's modern-day name, wormwood, originates from. Certain translations hold that the Russian name for wormwood is 'chernobyl'. As such it has been believed by many that the Biblical verse in Revelation that pertains to wormwood as a star falling from the heavens to destroy mankind to be a prophesy for the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine. Chernobyl is in actuality the name for the similar herb mugwort, or Artermisia Vulgaris. Though it is also known as 'common wormwood', 'vulagaris' in Latin meaning 'common'. Absinthe however contains the aforementioned Artemisia Absinthium, or grand wormwood. Absinthe must contain grand wormwood, anise and fennel. If it doesn't contain the 'holy trinity' it's not Absinthe.
Wormwood also appears as the name of a character in C.S. Lewis' 1942 novel 'The Screwtape Letters'. Written in epistle style in which Screwtape, a "senior devil" in the hierarchy of Hell, gives a series of instructional letters to his infernal nephew and disciple named Wormwood on how to best corrupt a wayward soul which he is trying to lead astray from God, further towards Satan. Lewis, most famous for his Chronicles of Narnia series, is a Christian author, with 'The Screwtape Letters' acting as something of a reverse-psychology approach against the many forms of avarice and temptation which man faces on Earth.
Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink.Jeremiah 9:15
Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.Jeremiah 23:15
Absinthe is not merely a recreation for Manson but has frequently been seen as an integral medium within his art. What originally began as an inebriated witching hour painting session, as intoxication set in, according to Manson, he mistakenly dipped his brush not into his cup of water but into his glass of absinthe with surprisingly pleasant results upon applying it to his painting. As the green liqueur made an interestingly hued watercolor stain, Manson has used it in several of his paintings.
Many examples of these painting were posted to his Journal on MarilynManson.com between 2002-2003. (Click here for entire Journal archived on The NACHTKABARETT). Many of those posts which did not contain such were written in stream-of-conscious, Dada-esque free form manner, presumably also absinthe inspired.
|Two early paintings by Manson, circa 2002, using absinthe as a medium in addition to traditional watercolors. Left, 'When I Get Old', the painting which appears on the Mansinthe label, in part an homage to William S. Burroughs. Right, 'Harlequin Jack and the Absinthe Bunny'.|
Absinthe has a wonderful color, green. A glass of absinthe is as poetical as anything in the world. What difference is there between a glass of absinthe and a sunset?Oscar Wilde, 1882
|Manson in a Wilde (and Bowie)-esque pose. Oscar Wilde was one of the foremost influences on Manson's writings throughout composing 2003's The Golden Age of Grotesque.|
Above, still frames from the 1992 remake of Dracula, starring Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder; a relatively recent pop culture cameo of absinthe. A film which has also been inspirational with the surreal and gothic Victorian aesthetic evoked by Manson since The Golden Age of Grotesque era. For more on Manson and evocations from Dracula see The CELLULOID section of The NACHTKABARETT.
Romeo & Juliet. Act I Scene iii
25 'Tis since the earthquake now eleven years, And she was weaned, I never shall forget it. Of all the days of the year, upon that day. For I had then laid wormwood to my dug, Sitting in the sun under the dovehouse wall.
30 My lord and you were then at Mantua. Nay, I do bear a brain. But, as I said, When it did taste the wormwood on the nipple Of my dug and felt it bitter, pretty fool, To see it tetchy and fall out with the dug!
Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwoodDeuteronomy 29:18
0,7l - 66,6% vol.
Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth,Amos 5:7
But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.Proverbs 5:4
|Duplais Balance, to commemorate the memory of COIL's Jhonn Balance, and H.R. Giger's Absinthe Brevans. Duplais Balance won Silver, Best in Classe at the International Wine and Spirits Competition 2007|
He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood.Lamentations 3:15-19
He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes.
And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity.
And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD:
Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall.
|Duplais Verte, with label art by David Tibet of Current 93, and Duplais Blanche, with artwork by Steven Stapleton from the band Nurse With Wound. Duplais Verte won Gold, Best in Class at the International Wine and Spirits Competition 2006|
'Faith, I must leave thee, love, and shortly too;
My operant powers their functions leave to do:
And thou shalt live in this fair world behind,
Honour'd, beloved; and haply one as kind
For husband shalt thou--
O, confound the rest!
Such love must needs be treason in my breast:
In second husband let me be accurst!
None wed the second but who kill'd the first.
[Aside] Wormwood, wormwood.