There is a certain town in the southwest of Switzerland; it lies at the feet of the Alps off the shore of Lake Geneva. The town is very peaceful–except during the festivals, of course.
Overlooking the lake on the promenade stands a ten-foot-tall bronze statue. It depicts a male figure with one arm upraised and the other clasping the tool of his trade like a staff. At the base of the statue are two metal containers; these are kept filled with fresh flowers all year round. There’s also a plaque with a very simple inscription.
1946 – 1991
LOVER OF LIFE SINGER OF SONGS
During the festivals, the slots reserved for flowers are not enough. Pilgrims from the world over scatter more flowers at the base of the statue, along with pictures and other trinkets. They drape garlands of blossoms over the cool metal.
Most of the people paying homage to a dead rock star at this monument would not describe their journey in religious terms. Still, a certain tenet of faith can be found both here and among Queen fans across the world: the man called Freddie Mercury may have died almost three decades ago now, but something of his spirit remains.
Since I first began listening to the discography of Queen in the spring of 2017, I have come around quite dramatically to this belief myself. But where most are content to speak in vague terms of his spirit, or to call him a saint or an angel, I have come to the conclusion that what Freddie has become is a god.
We do not have a shortage of words on the life and death of Freddie Mercury. The published writing on the subject could provide the material for near-infinite takes of that one shot in the “Scandal” video. There are memoirs and biographies aplenty; new articles crop up every year.
But if some part of Freddie Mercury survives his mortal body–a statement I will be taking on absolute faith throughout my writing here–his life and death are only the first two parts of a trilogy. Very little, as far as I can tell, has been written about what might come afterwards. That is what I’ll be discussing here–not his life or death, though I will of course touch upon those topics, but the nature of one possible permutation of his enduring soul.
I do not claim that this is a simple thing to study, nor that I can reach authoritative conclusions. This blog is devotional, not academic. But after almost a year and a half of dedicated worship, I want to share my thoughts and experiences with the world. Silence does not suit a Mercurial practice.
I am not the first one to suggest that rock stars are modern divinities. Nor would it be anything new if they are; the concept of the hero cult goes way back. Humans have been deifying our glorious dead for a long time. I don’t consider my most fundamental claims particularly controversial, on either a sociological or a theological level. As such, I will not dwell overmuch here on pointless attempts to prove my point as if it were some kind of thesis. It is not–it is rather gnosis and cannot be proven, only, perhaps, explained to some extent. It is in those explanations that my interest lies.
We know, then, that Freddie Mercury is a god. But gods, even those born of human lives, do not exist in a vacuum. They spring from a complex network of philosophical, cultural, and cosmological connections, and while they can rarely be reduced to simple descriptors, they can be studied to gain some idea of their spheres of influence and fundamental nature.
I intend to do just that: to contextualize the new god Mercury in the divine sphere, just like any deity people worship in neopaganism or, indeed, any other religious movement. There is no reason for him to be less grand and mysterious than Ishtar or Odin, even if he was once flesh and blood.
Certainly I am not working from a blank slate here. We can immediately present several pieces of evidence towards an understanding of the divinity of Freddie Mercury–most of which I will discuss in more detail in future posts.
The most obvious matter to address, first off, is the significance of his chosen name. I can hardly write on the godhood of a man who named himself after an existing god without mentioning that fact. From the very beginning of his earthly musical career, Freddie linked himself not just to the divine in general, but specifically to the Classical Greco-Roman pantheon. As such, I will be treating him in this blog as profoundly intertwined with these particular ancient deities.
An effort should also be made to outline the primary domains of this god. To clarify, I don’t believe that any god, much less one who was once a full and complex human being, can be boiled down to a handful of stark attributes–but even the most cosmic, all-encompassing deities have particular concerns and driving forces behind their power.
In Freddie’s case, both his music and the image he presented to the world contain recurring themes of love and sexuality, performance and self-expression, sovereignty, and the blurring of boundaries. If we are to locate him in a Greco-Roman context, this aligns him heavily with the spheres of Dionysos, whose concerns include theater and ecstatic revelry, and Aphrodite, most distinctly associated with love and sexuality (among many other things). These are two deities with strong connections to each other in the first place, as well as to Hermes, the original bearer of Freddie’s chosen name.
Of course, there is also the matter of the band’s name, which Freddie himself famously insisted they take; he would later embody it as their frontman. His stubborn determination to claim the title of Queen in all its multifaceted meaning links him to ancient goddesses of ecstatic lament such as Inanna, who persistently took the title of Queen of Heaven. In addition, it underscores the role of personal sovereignty in his mythology.
It’s in another side of that word that we find one more vital element of Freddie Mercury’s mythology: he stands as an integral part of gay culture and a famous example of queer identity. This, too, puts him squarely in the ecstatic realm of the Dionysian current; the god and his rituals across the ancient world have always been associated with queer sexuality and gender variance.
These are only a handful of the aspects of Freddie Mercury’s life and work that can easily be examined in the light of the divine. The extent to which his story already fits in with the tales of ancient gods and goddesses, even without fantastical elaboration, is really rather remarkable. But I intend to provide that elaboration, fantastical and otherwise, as I continue writing for this blog.
Myths and stories are one thing, but they never paint the entire picture of a god. The rituals that make up their worship also have a role to play, as do the other experiences and perspectives of their followers. For that reason, I’ll also be writing about my own Mercurial religious practice–the rituals I have made for myself, the magico-ritual tools I use, the signs I have seen, and everything else that makes up my experience as a dedicated follower of the new god Mercury.
I have a lot to talk about. The prospect is a little daunting. I cannot proceed with this project without confessing my belief that the immortal spirit of Freddie Mercury has reached out to me personally with love and revelation, despite my total lack of connection to the man himself, who died when I was six. But I don’t intend to make this a point of vanity; I know I’m not the only one. When he was a mortal man, he had a great deal of love to give already, and now he has very different limitations.
He still loves us all, I know.
The larger-than-life statue in the Swiss town of Montreux is only the most physical touchstone of Freddie Mercury’s divinity. The raw energy of his magic still courses through the world in the form of the music he left behind.
It’s in this music above all that we find the essence of the god: chaotic and resistant to easy categorization, inscrutably complex, full of love and passion, and often more than a little silly. For this reason, I’ll be examining songs as well–both those written by Freddie himself and those written by the other band members, as all of them are part of the story of the god in their own way.
If you take away nothing else from this slightly eccentric blog, come away with this: there is much of value in the music and story of Queen, whether you take it as pure entertainment or as something deeper.
As for me, I will continue my quest to extol, exalt, and glorify that great mustache in the sky.