Here’s an odd bit of news: media reports suggest that during Friday’s opening Olympic ceremonies in London, arch Harry Potter villain Voldemort will do battle with none other than cheeky sorceress Mary Poppins. Here’s how one outlet describes the showdown:
The sequence is said to feature a bevy of the best-loved literary characters in Britain’s history, including representations of Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Captain Hook, and Cruella de Vil. Rumor has it that they will all be chased away by Voldemort — or a 40-foot-tall representation of him — as he ascends out of a bed (?!) in the center of the Olympic stadium.
For the dramatic conclusion, the evil wizard will be surrounded by 40-odd Mary Poppinses (grammar?) who will banish Voldemort and restore goodness to the Realm. Or something like that.
What the reports don’t mention is that this is not the first epic clash between Mary Poppins and a Potter wizard. An earlier scrap sprung from the fantastic imaginings of comics writer/mystic Alan Moore, whose League of Extraordinary Gentlemen began as a Victorian riff on detective and gothic horror tales, but soon grew to become a centuries-spanning rumination on culture, conflict and the occult. Moore’s books describe a parallel reality where our world’s fictional characters are “real,” and in which an array of historic and cultural curiosities dizzyingly intersect. The final entry in the series, Century: 2009 features a decidedly Potter-like character who, instead of resisting Voldemort, becomes his malevolent lackey. More specifically, the Voldemort figure (the latest incarnation of Oliver Haddo — W. Somerset Maugham‘s piss-taking proxy for Aleister Crowley) at long last delivers his Moonchild: an Antichrist embodied by a boy wizard with a curious birthmark on his forehead.
But what about Mary Poppins? Well, not to spoil anything, but when the Antichrist/Moonchild/Boy Wizard makes his move to usher in the End of Days, he is confronted by a certain umbrella-wielding marm with some magick of her own.
The MP in Moore’s tale is clearly more than a witchy cleaning lady. Actually, I read her to be nothing less than the feminine aspect of Godhead, Abraxas or what-have-you — perhaps even the Almighty Herself. As Moore’s Poppins relates, “I rocked the baby gods to sleep before time started… and I am companion to the women who paste up the stars. The quarters of the world are bound unto my compass. I have taken tea with earthquakes. I know what the bee knows…”
The English nanny has been depicted as a divine avatar before. Moore’s fellow comic auteur Neil Gaiman once wrote a short story called “The Problem of Susan,” which includes a reference to a posthumous work by Poppins creator P.L. Travers called Mary Poppins Brings in the Dawn. Here, MP was Jesus’ nanny “and therefore exists outside of God’s creation.” Which makes us wonder: were the Lord’s diapers immaculate?
Now, it’s hardly a novel conceit to paint Poppins as some kind of witch. In fact, one might suggest that the character’s creation was a reaction to both the disempowerment of working class women as well as the persistence of a protestant Christian patriarchy. But to portray her as the reification of the Divine Feminine is an entirely new jam. Moore’s lit-hack goes further by putting MP in conflict with a phallus-wielding wizard, all the while making subtle digs at a certain millionaire fantasist.
Is Alan Moore is aware of the similarities between his story and the Olympics spectacle? It’s certainly easy to see the opening ceremony as a kind of ritual projection of English mystical archetypes. I’m sure this view would not be lost on our favorite comics wizard.
I don’t typically catch the games unless it’s by accident. But I might watch this. The power of Poppins compels me.
Oh, and remember this?