Do What Thoust Will Be the Whole Piece of Law: How Adventure Time snuck references to Aleister Crowley, DMT, Kundalini Yoga and all kinds of other mystic strangeness into a mainstream kid’s show
Most kids have been aware at some point of jokes or pop culture references in cartoon shows aimed not at them, but their parents watching these shows with them. Though Adventure Time is ultimately a children’s cartoon, it takes this trend and amplifies it exponentially. Not only does the show include veiled, crude humor that only attentive adult viewers will pick up on, but a plethora of progressive, weird or esoteric content that has attracted audiences across age and gender demographics.
Contributing to this are not-so-subtle references to various occult practices and traditions. For example, in the season five episode “All the Little People,” a mystical character appropriately named Magic Man recites a line almost identical to the first half of Aleister Crowley’s famous Thelemic law, saying “do what thoust will be the whole piece of law.” In the context of the episode, this is a spell that gives life to miniature versions of various characters from the show, that Finn, the show’s protagonist, then obsessively manipulates, before learning that imposing his will upon these smaller versions of his friends and acquaintances will inevitably result in disaster.
While this episode is open to other, equally valid and less mystical interpretations, there is a clear lesson to be learned by practicing occultists about responsibility.
Though more of a fun diversion than a substantial plot point, the season six episode “Nemesis” depicts Peppermint Butler, one of the show’s more significant side characters, reciting chants taken from the central text of Sikhism that are used as protective mantras in Kundalini yoga. He then goes on to say “light of the hermit, reveal my nemesis, and in the folds of Horus, carry me in haste.” While the mystical content of this line is broad and could reference one of a few different occult practices, he’s likely referencing The Hermit of the Tarot in the beginning, who’s connected to light in Crowley’s Book of Thoth.
In an earlier episode, titled “The Suitor,” we see Peppermint Butler engaged in another ritual, surrounded by a lion, a bull, an angel and Cinnamon Bun, another of the show’s side characters, suspended upside down in a manner similar to The Hanged Man—again referencing the tarot.
This is all likely the work of Jesse Moynihan, who acted as lead writer and storyboard artist on all three of these episodes. Outside of Adventure Time, Moynihan publishes an ongoing comic on his website titled Forming, the plot of which is a delightfully bizarre riff on the biblical creation myth, and includes many more overt magickal and mystical moments and symbols. Moynihan also at one point converted his home in Philadelphia into a DIY venue called the Avant Gentlemen’s Lodge, which hosted plays and avant-garde music, as well as Solstice and Equinox parties.
The weirdness doesn’t end with him, though. In the second season episode “The Real You,” after opening a black hole, Finn expresses his excitement that those in danger of being swallowed by the black hole are releasing “dimethyltryptamine from the pineal gland”—very likely the only time a children’s show has mentioned DMT by name.
Adventure Time is subversive in other important ways, as well. The show’s two female protagonists, for example, were said by one of their voice actors to have dated in the show’s past. Both characters have also been depicted in relationships with men, meaning that Adventure Time features two bisexual characters, while many TV shows struggle to represent anything other than heteronormative relationships.
Most of this will probably go over the show’s younger viewers’ heads, and almost exclusively be appreciated by those who already have an existing investment in noticing these sorts of things. That doesn’t mean the overall effect is lost on children, though. It’s a testament to Adventure Time’s general weirdness that moments like these can be seamlessly incorporated into its grander scheme of things. And it’s exactly that general weirdness that is most definitely not lost on children.
Kids growing up on a TV show that nods its head to DMT and Aleister Crowley, rather than ignoring or vilifying them as the pop cultural hegemony tends to do, are far more inclined to grow up and make culture weirder themselves. Knowing that occult rituals can factor just as much into life as the standard ideas about friendship and family that are also a part of Adventure Time is an invaluable lesson on the scope of human potential.
In the grand scheme of things, Adventure Time is a highly marketable brand that has spawned countless toys and video games of questionable quality. But for anything this mass-produced to acknowledge, let alone pay tribute to esoteric tradition is unprecedented, and has the potential to change things in a substantial way from the very core of our culture.
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