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Piercing the Veil: Starving the Hellmouth with 2023’s final offering, “N0S4A2”

Friday, December 22, 2023 | News


There’s a simmering brutality to New England, especially in the winter. The bitter cold, the blustering winds and the snow… My last winter in Massachusetts, there was a Nor’easter every other day in February – my birthday month. I spent that solar return isolated in a shitty North Shore apartment with two equally shitty roommates. I spent that month in tears, feeling like the piling snow was laughing at me, fully aware of the hellscape it was helping to fortify. 

There’s a wedge driven between people in places like this. That winter, people were extra mean, and that’s saying a lot for Massachusetts. The cabin fever was real, and it was spilling out onto the streets. So much anger. Frustration. Rage. People lose themselves this way – in the cold. It consumes them. Breaks them down. Creates fissures and cracks in the frozen pavement. The people, too, become frozen. The people also develop fissures. Cracks. These cracks can swallow people whole if they let them. And well, Vic McQueen’s parents seem to have wholeheartedly fed themselves to the Hellmouth of this barren beast.

In the 2019 television adaptation of Joe Hill’s viciously terrifying supernatural novel, N0S4A2, the Hellmouth finds itself well-sated in the old mill town of Haverhill, Massachusetts. Victoria McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings), known to friends and family as Vic, is struggling. A brilliant artist, Vic is the daughter of a pair of Haverhill natives who are also struggling: her father, Chris (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), is a veteran battling alcoholism, while her mother, Linda (Virginia Kull), cleans houses for a living and can frequently be found raging against her husband. Brutalized by her abusive, cheating husband, Linda enjoys shattering any hopes that Vic might have about going to art school, preferring that she join her cleaning houses – preferring that she stay with her, in Haverhill.

Just another offering to the Hellmouth.

But Vic wants more, and as it turns out, there’s a certain more that wants Vic. A strange pull – a vision. A bridge… that only she can see, but this particular bridge was destroyed fifteen years earlier.

“I helped demo that bridge when you were a kid. Felt like I was blowing up my youth.”

Blowing up his youth. The way he’s blowing up Vic’s youth. But Vic’s got help. Her dirt bike carries her away from the yelling and screaming and slamming and punching. It’s her vehicle of independence. It’s her personal chariot, helping her to escape when escape is necessary – helping her leave behind what isn’t hers to carry – what isn’t her burden to bear. And yet, sometimes, it brings her to far and away places where only both the bike and the bridge can take her. And she’s faced with new burdens that she has the very unique ability and capacity to bear.

“You are the brat, right? And I’m guessing the motorbike is your knife, and that old bridge over there is your inscape. Of course. Sorry… This is probably still pretty new to you. You probably think you’re crazy, but you’re not. You’re a strong creative.”

Meet Maggie Leigh (Jahkara Smith). A librarian from Here, Iowa. Maggie Leigh is a powerful medium. Her knife is a magical set of Scrabble tiles in a purple velvet bag. These tiles tell her things – impossible things. They’re her channel, and it’s her job to interpret the messages that they spell when she throws them down. Today, her tiles spell out one thing: The Wraith.

The Wraith is someone else’s knife. Another very powerful creative named Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto) uses the Wraith to transport the neglected children he abducts to his inscape – a place called Christmasland – where he promises love and joy and Christmas every day to the confused, scared children. It’s a place to keep the children as he absorbs their life force to restore his youth. In this way, his knife is a roving coffin, both taking and granting life as the wheels of his chariot traverse the realms of death and ghastly rebirth. And Manx is now Vic’s burden to bear. The children, her responsibility to rescue.

I want to pause now because there’s so much heaviness in this series. So many trigger points. It can be a hard watch, and honestly, it was an even harder read because it touches on hard truths and even harder realities. It touches on brutal family dynamics and nightmarish scenarios that aren’t at all fiction. It focuses on the struggles that come with that territory of escape, of survival, of holding onto who we are in the face of everything we’re not and fight every day not to be. Ever. This time of year, coming face to face with our past, with our families, can bring up… a lot. Especially since we’re currently in the thick of 2023’s final Mercury Retrograde, which is notorious for awakening slumbering ghosts and allowing them another chance to have their say well after their turns have passed. It’s up to us to create and fortify our boundaries around what (and whom) we allow access – what and whom we choose to focus on. The battles that are ours to fight and that never were. Who we see when we look in the mirror versus what’s projected on us. Who’s projecting on us. It can be a charged time, so here are some energies to help ground and protect us as we traverse these last weeks of the Chariot (2+0+2+3 = 7) year.

First, Queen of Swords. This queen is a powerhouse when it comes to standing in and embodying our truth. How do we do that? By setting hard and solid boundaries. This card is the ultimate offering to our self-preservation, helping fortify our sense of self-sovereignty and the unwillingness to budge when pushed. The phrase “No. You move” serves this card’s energy well. Vic McQueen embodies this potent, energetic medicine in spades, and so can we.

Next, Ten of Wands. This card is particularly potent for this week’s astrology. This week marks the solstice – the longest night in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest day in the Southern. In some practices, people honor this pivotal day by releasing what cannot come with them into the next year (which has been the entire focus of this year, a Chariot year). Ten of Wands speaks to burdens and responsibilities and energies and situations we’ve been carrying for so long that our backs are about to break beneath the weight. This card asks us, “What is it time to let go of? What’s not ours to carry? What is it time to put down, once and for all?” Because when we do let go of the extra weight, we gain clarity that we didn’t have space to hold before. We couldn’t see because there was just too much in our way, including parts of ourselves that were ready to be released. We’ve all got resources around us to support this last act of 2023. Identify them, name them, call them in, and allow them to help in this last push of release and relief.

Lastly, The Sun. The nineteenth card in the major arcana, the Sun comes after we face down the longest, darkest night of the year. The dark night of the soul, some may even call it. It’s a return to light and maybe even a return to hope. I like to think of it as a return to self after a time of being lost in the dark. When we truly see ourselves, including recognizing what makes us who we are, we become our own light in the dark. When we tend to the internal flames that keep us going through the blackest, coldest nights, we become our own torches, illuminating the way forward. That light extends above and beyond ourselves, outshining doubt, fear and whatever else stands in the way of our embodying our strongest, most radiant and vital light. When we own our strengths and gifts, we inspire others to do the same. When we own how we live, we truly become a beacon for those still struggling to navigate their own inscapes, those who haven’t yet found their personal knives or the tools to help reveal their most potent, subconscious truths.

“You need to trust your gift.”

As we all know, revisiting the past can take its toll, but we also know there can be valuable lessons to be learned – valuable energies and gifts to be reclaimed. Lost parts of ourselves ache to be found. When Vic travels across the bridge, she’s brought to such places. Places that hold potent clues for the retrieval of lost treasures. First, it starts small. A watch. A credit card. A stuffed animal. But then, when Maggie Leigh informs Vic that a child she knows has been taken and that she needs her help in finding him, Vic must decide what to do with her new abilities to find the lost. Those who have been taken. Those who need her help – specifically her help. She must decide whether she’s going to show up – to rise to the occasion. She must decide whether she chooses strength over fear.

Strength, the eighth card in the major arcana just happens to be the tarot card for 2024 (2+0+2+4 = 8). This archetype speaks to a strength that is grounded and gentle, a quiet, knowing confidence that is cultivated after the trials and tribulations of a Chariot year. We’re human, after all, and sometimes we need to learn the hard way before we see the softer way, the shorter way. Vic hasn’t been able to see herself for who she truly is because she’s been too busy struggling. Surviving. She’s been too busy trying to create a different life for herself away from Haverhill. Away from the noise. The yelling. And to do that, she must believe in herself. She needs to trust herself. Her gifts. Her abilities.

“We’re all magicians with different tricks. What’s yours?”

The Strength year is going to invite us into this question and dare us to answer it honestly and unabashedly. It’s going to offer us opportunities to come into ourselves in ways we dreamt of as children – ways we may have abandoned in the name of survival. It may ask us to believe in our own magick again and to have the courage to live that magic and manifest it in the world. It might ask us to believe we deserve to live the life we’ve always wanted. But, of course, we need to know what we want. The Chariot year has shown us what we don’t want and not only that, what has no right to walk alongside us, anymore. No more space will be given to that which does not serve, and Strength is going to challenge us to live that truth.

“You need to keep it full strength to take on Charlie.”

What is our personal, collective Charlie? What do we need our full strength to meet? To overcome? To build in the space that we made when we let go of all the weight and debris from our Chariots? This is all about choice. About integrity. About change on a level we may never have experienced or anticipated. This is about the impact we can make when we choose to wield our personal knives for good rather than destruction. This is what happens when we choose to face our personal and collective demons, meeting them head-on. This is what happens when we decide that we’re bigger than our own bullshit. This is about hearing the call… and answering.

Light a candle for that calling. Light a candle for yourself. Light a candle for those we’ve lost. And maybe light another for what you’re calling back through the darkness, those pieces of yourself that you’re ready to call home: Your power. Your magic. Your might. You. 2024 wants all of that and more. So let’s stop feeding the Hellmouths. Let’s starve them instead. Let’s stop giving our power away. Let’s throw down those boundaries like our lives depend on them (remember, call on the Queen of Swords!), and let’s meet back here next year ready to slay. Wishing you all the happiest, most wicked of horror-days!

Jillian Kristina
Jillian Kristina blends her love of horror and magic to facilitate healing from the real horrors in the world. Stephen King's movies and books raised her; magic and the occult molded and healed her. Find her on Instagram @root_down, on Twitter @RootDownTarot, and through her website