Welcome back to Listening Post Alpha! For this last installment of the Superstitions in Twin Peak Series, I’m following up on ideas that are more thematic rather than independent occurrences as well as dealing overall with the prominent numbers appearing therein. I don’t claim to have caught every instance of a 7 for example (there are others out there far more suited to that business than myself) but I am looking rather to discuss, as always, the folklore and superstition behind them that may be relevant to the Twin Peaks lens for understanding.
THUS SPOKE THE PROPHET
Prophecy is an interesting animal in Twin Peaks. Sarah Palmer is widely regarded as the prophet of the show, and I’ve spoken to that on other occasions, as have others. Considering that prophecy appears in folklore all over the world, there are many avenues to pursue here, but one commonality that all share is the belief that prophecy doesn’t lead to beneficial outcomes, but rather, often backs a person into the worst possible outcome. Self fulfilling prophecies, like that of Oedipus Rex, and Odysseus, and even Anakin Skywalker showcase this idea. The superstition here is clear – to believe in a prophecy is the solidify its outcome, despite any attempts made to thwart it.
But Sarah Palmer is special. She makes only one prophecy publicly in the first two seasons. She speaks, as the mouthpiece for someone to tell Jacoby, Briggs and Co. that “I am in the Lodge With Dale Cooper”, and so on. Privately, Sarah’s visions of the white horse constitute prophecy of death. We can’t say for sure what Sarah believes of these visions, but we do know the outcome.
The other person to experience prophecy, of a sort, is Dale Cooper. Dale’s dreams are considered prophetic, as he follows where they guide, and what he saw in them eventually came true – he believed, and they came to pass. We cannot say for sure what would have happened if he did not. Belief is a powerful tool, in this reading, and prophecy a dangerous thing.
MY LOG HAS SOMETHING TO SAY
Similarly, though not quite the same, Spiritualism appears in a few different ways in Twin Peaks, notably in Margaret Lanterman’s Log, which supposedly contains the spirit of her dead husband, and even in Dale Cooper’s communications with the dead in Dreams. Thirdly, it is perhaps not a stretch to say that the woodsmen are also spirit communication. The popularity of Spiritualistic customs and rituals is related directly to the concept of fear throughout history.
The more a person feared something, particularly the unknown, the more likely they were to cling to the supernatural. Initially, this is the result of a lack of scientific understanding of the world, and also correlates with increased spirituality, which is a different thing altogether, relating more closely to religion than divination or a séance. Another such instance, when it is believed spirits are reachable is upon someone’s death, as the veil is ‘thinner’ between worlds.
Margaret’s Log speaks to answer or guide a listener when they are uncertain or afraid. It definitely allows her to expound upon the unknown or, enables the listener to look deep within themselves and gain a better understanding of the human condition. Dale Cooper’s dreams and commune with the otherworldly spirits of the Lodge Spaces, such as the Giant, start from two places – one, a desire to uncover the truth, and two, his near-death experience.
The Woodsmen, it has been speculated, are the spirits of the dead loggers from the fire on the river in Twin Peaks, as discussed in the Secret History of Twin Peaks. Another way of looking at them is via scene association in Part 8, where they are created as a result or byproduct of the Trinity detonation, though we know that at least one location where their convenience store appears in is Twin Peaks, and not New Mexico, or at least, not as far as we know. In either case, death by fire or death by atomic explosion are certainly created in correspondence with moments of great fear, and the spirits appear also near the moments of death or great fear – Doppelcooper’s shootings, Bill Hastings being left to rot in jail, and the harrowing experience of finding the headless Major Briggs in the case of Knox among them
COME IN THREES
In most religions, the number three holds special significance, usually as a holy number. This is not limited by any means to Christianity. Druids, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and the Hindu Brahmins all find special significance in the number. For Twin Peaks, this is also true. There are many instances of trinities in The Return, generally in the form of people: there’s Sandie, Mandie, and Candie, the Brother Detectives Fusco, the Three Cowboys from Judy’s diner, Diane’s Tulpa, Redheaded Diane and her Doppelganger and most importantly Dale, Dougie and the Doppelganger, who combine to create Richard (The three in one, as it were a concept found in Christian and Hindu beliefs to name a few) much like the Constructicons combine to Devastator. These characters work in groups of three, complimenting each other as seeming parts of a whole – such as Richard – though some more overtly than others, and to different ends.
In Seasons 1 and 2 there are different types of trinities. Much like the Ancient Egyptian trinity – Father, Mother, Child – we have Leland, Sarah and Laura, all of whom now are more than what they first appeared to be. And these Three live in One house… This idea springs from the concept that the contact of 2 creates 3 in the miracle of birth. Additionally, we often say that either good or bad things come in instances of three. There are three murders committed by BOB/Leland in Teresa Banks, Laura Palmer and Madeline Ferguson. The three missing FBI Agents – Phillip Jeffries, Chester Desmond and Dale Cooper. Additionally, when 3 bad things happen, it is considered the end of a cycle. This follows in Twin Peaks and The Return – only three murders of the particular type occur in Twin Peaks, and only three agents go missing. Both cycles have ended.
“Symbolically, threes represent the beginning, the middle and the end – which does not necessarily mean the end in the sense of finality, but that the beginning and the middle are a means to an end, and that life begins all over again,” (De Lys 472).
So it is, perhaps and perhaps not with The Return. A means to an end, certainly, and definitely the theme of cyclicality, and of trinity, is present, but is it truly the end? Potentially. It is a sort of end, the end of Dale’s return, and ours, at the very least. As it says in The Dhammapada “Long is the cycle of birth and death to the fool who does not know the true path,”.
For more on threes, check out Brien’s article: Themes of Threes in Season 3
THE DEVIL’S NUMBER
The double of the all important three is of course, the six. Supposedly, multiples of three also multiply the power of the thing. And the most powerful, and decidedly understated element of all in Twin Peaks in the #6 pole. Six has a lot of bad connotations, though none perhaps so strong as the “666” devils number connotation, which is seen as perverting the holy purity of the 6. The Number 6 pole also seems to be connected to evil and violent events. The pole appears near the scene of Teresa Banks’ murder, and on the corner of the road where Laura and Leland were once confronted by MIKE, the little boy is hit and killed by Richard Horne. Finally, the pole’s sinister presence is seen once again outside the house of Carrie Page. And inside, we find a dead man (incidentally played by the same actor as one of the loan sharks who was hassling the Joneses.)
I’ve suggested in the past, though nowhere on the site officially, that the Number 6 pole never actually goes anywhere. Like in Dune, space and time move around it. It isn’t like the white horse. It’s not a warning – it stands as a marker of things already past. A signpost for the damned.
SEVENTH HEAVEN or SEVENTH CIRCLE OF HELL?
A more surprising number to make an appearance in Twin Peaks has, of late been the Seven. The elevator through which Phillip Jeffries appears in Fire Walk With Me is elevator number seven. Dougie/Dale work at Lucky 7 Insurance. Dale wins the slots on triple 7’s. The hotel room that Dale books for himself and Redheaded Diane is number 7. At one point, Janey-E calls her life with Dougie! Cooper “Seventh Heaven” and I have alleged that Dale is in the Seventh Circle of Hell. That’s a lot of sevens. Obviously, an important number.
Seven has a lot of connotations in folklore, but, like Dale’s “number of completion” much of seven’s importance comes from the fact that it is a combination of four and three. The Three, as has already been discussed, works as a symbolic trinity, and the four is related to the cardinal directions, original in direct concurrence with the movement of the sun, and thus, associated with the solar cycle as perceived from earth.
In addition to many believing the world was flat, it was also believed to be square. To put the square (4 sides) with a triangle (3), one created the image of a house the earth being representative of the body and the trinity representative of spirituality. Interesting that such a major player this season would be the Palmer House itself. “It’s in our house now,”.
Seven is a prime number. There are seven days a week, seven seas, seven levels of ‘heaven’, seven graces, seven sins, seven ages in the life of man seven colours in the rainbow and notes on a musical scale. The list could go on infinitely. Before the discovery of the planets Uranus and Pluto (yes, Pluto) there were the five planets plus the sun and the moon, equating 7 heavenly bodies (The Greeks kept the rule of 5, and dis-included the sun and moon), all associated with certain metals. Argent (a silver-based metal) which makes an appearance in The Return is associated with the moon.
The connection between these things might seem tenuous, but it really isn’t. Seven is also a number of completion in some way. It functions generally in a positive sense, and often things come in sets of 7’s, but in tradition and in Twin Peaks. Overwhelmingly, seven is the world’s seemingly favourite number, even if only for these arbitrary reasons. Of the instances of 7 picked from Twin Peaks, three have positive connotations and three have neutral or bad connotations. The case for the positives is that seven is simply seen as a Lucky Number. Everyone likes sevens. The case for the neutrals and negatives is a bit different. I suggest that in the case of Phillip’s elevator and Dale and Redheaded Diane’s motel room, 7 suggests wholeness. Not in the sense of the number of completion, but that a set is complete. Perhaps that the universe is a complete universe – Jeffries has understanding no one else does, and upon entering the number 7 hotel room, Richard and Linda are transubstantiated into being as (potentially) the most whole version of Dale and Diane. Whatever the case may be, seven is something to be on the lookout for.
A Treasury of American Superstitions, by Claudia de Lys, Copyright MCMXLVIII