Tori Amos


body: Tori Amos And Her Archetypes

The lyrics of Tori Amos are some of the most complicated in music
today. They remain the primary focus of her dedicated fans, as well
as her detractors, despite the media's fixation on her past history of
rape and abuse. They are complicated on many levels, and Tori Amos'
lyrics demand a mythological approach to scratch the surface of her
artistic vision. In several interviews, she has admitted to being much
influenced by numerous books of symbology and others of Jungian
psychology and their archetypal insights. "I don't fall in love much.
I mean, I fall in love every five seconds with something but I don't go
from boy to boy. I go from archetype to archetype" (Rogers 33). Most
dominantly, her lyrics rely on concept of the archetypal woman in all
of her aspects. Motifs of creation and destruction are also
represented in her work. Her ideals of balance for herself and
femininity in general have propelled her into stardom; her uses of
archetypes have led the way.

The allusions to Christian mythology and obscure references in "Father
Lucifer" delve deeper than the casual listener may recognize. Even
Toriphiles, her avid fans like to affectionately refer to themselves in
this way, are pushed to the edge of their comprehension in attempting
to come up with a meaning for every image. Applying a critical
mythological approach works best with "Father Lucifer's" imagery
because the archetypes lurk just below the surface. The title of this
song aids the audience in being able to place the situation -as does
the song's tranquil melody; the speaker treats the Lucifer character
with compassion and appreciation. Lucifer represents more than just
the idea of the Christian Devil; he is the Jungian shadow. "The shadow
is the invisible saurian tail that man still drags behind him" (Guerin
180). He is not unlike other symbolic representations of this
archetype in literature, namely Milton's Satan. "Father Lucifer"
begins with questions and infe! rences from the speaker that seem
encouraging: "Tell me that you're still in love with that Milkmaid/
how's the Lizzies/ how's your Jesus Christ been hanging" (Amos, Boys
for Pele). Toriphiles and new listeners alike might concede that
picking out who or what "the Lizzies" are is a daunting task. It is
clear that they represent something and that their connection is more
than likely appropriate, however, the reference is just not available.
Who "the Milkmaid" may be remains another reference on the same cryptic
plane. We might just be able to expect that the Milkmaid was simply a
milkmaid that Father Lucifer was in love with, despite his place in the
shadow, and that a fleeting relationship might have ensued. It is
interesting to point out that a book that Tori Amos has recommended to
her fans entitled Owning Your Own Shadow by Johnson relates an anecdote
about a milkmaid of sorts, Marie Antoinette. The queen was bored with
life in the most ostentatious palace in the world. One day she decided
she wanted to touch something of the earth and ordered barns built on
the palace grounds where she would keep some cows. She would be a
milkmaid! The best architects of France were employed, the stables were
built, and fine milk cows were imported from Switzerland. On the day
when everything was ready, the queen prepared to sit on a three-legged
stool and begin her career as a milkmaid. Yet at the last moment she
found this distasteful and ordered her servants to do the milking. (54)

Marie Antoinette, within this context, makes a fine milkmaid to match
the character of Father Lucifer. Immediately preceding the Milkmaid
reference is a line about Father Lucifer's demeanor: "you never looked
so sane" (Amos, Boys for Pele). The statement implies that Father
Lucifer should not look sane or even be sane but that he does anyway.
Amos' characterization of Father Lucifer becomes more similar to
Milton's Satan as the song lyrics are uncovered. The character has
been in love and may have problems with his sanity; he is decidedly
more complex than just another devil. Perhaps the largest mark of
compassion on the part of the speaker is what she calls him; he is not
called Satan. The speaker regards Father Lucifer practically as a
priest, however, the complexity of the song is not that she is
confessing to him, but that their roles are reversed to some extent.
"He says he reckons I'm a watercolour stain/ he says I run and then I
run from him" represents the relat! ionship that they maintain (Amos,
Boys for Pele). Father Lucifer acknowledges her only as the stain from
a watercolour -a delicate medium that is difficult to control. A few
lines more and we see how their relationship has changed: "He wiped a
tear/and then he threw away our appleseed" (Amos, Boys for Pele). The
Christian myth brings itself full circle; Father Lucifer suffers from
defeat and can not bear to bring himself up to attempt the same task
again -at least not in the speaker's specific case. They have in
effect made their peace with one another. The duration of the rest of
the song addresses more introspective and personalized images, but
there is another reference to love lost, "does Joe bring flowers to
Marilyn's grave" (Amos, Boys for Pele). The theme of the song is loss
and extracting the relationship between Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe
ends story that Amos wants to tell. In another song, "Professional
Widow" the theme is a bit different, the presentation more harsh, and
the archetype may be more recognizable. Defined best as the Terrible
Mother, the Professional Widow summons almost all of this archetype's
characteristics. She is "the witch, sorceress, siren, whore, femme
fatale -associated with sensuality, sexual orgies, fear, danger,
darkness, dismemberment, emasculation, death; the unconscious in its
terrifying aspects" (Guerin 160). Tori Amos designates the
Professional Widow as her "Lady Macbeth archetype. There are many ways
to play Lady Macbeth. It can be done in a Jackie O. suit" ("Toriphoria
The Voice of Tori Amos"). The Professional Widow speaks to her mate
much in the same way that a black widow spider would: "Slag pit/Stag
shit/ Honey bring it close to my lips . . . Don't blow those brains
yet/ We gotta be big" (Amos, Boys for Pele). She controls him and his
every move in the seedy world they live in; controlled by the men! or
"Stag[s]," the world is also full of "slag" or the hard, dirty elements
found in the bowels of the earth. The Professional Widow not only
acknowledges this but replies with "honey bring it close to my lips"
before she begins the emasculation by commanding orders. She does not
want to just be another spider; she wants to be General Patton in a
Jackie O. suit with perfectly coifed hair. "Starfucker just like of my
Daddy . . . selling his baby . . . gonna strike deal make him feel/
like a Congressman/ it runs in the family" (Amos, Boys for Pele). The
Professional Widow glamorizes herself a "starfucker" and not simply a
whore; she would sell her baby to be like a politician because they
have all of the power. Rumors among the Toriphiles identify the
Professional Widow as Courtney Love though Tori refuses to confirm or
deny the possibility; she only cares to admit that she does not like
Love personally. The "blow those brains" line providing the only
tangible similarity f! or the comparison. Two other songs, "Spark"
and "Siren" also adapt a version of the Lady Macbeth or Terrible Mother
archetype; they are, however, less harsh in their adaptations. "Spark"
may best represent the archetype after she has been injured by the
patriarchy -almost to the point of malfunction and complete
destruction. The speaker in "Spark" is "convinced she could hold back
a glacier/ but she couldn't keep Baby alive" (Amos, From the Choirgirl
Hotel). Her powers have been usurped, but her ideals and struggles are
still similar to the Professional Widow's because she too, believes
herself indomitable. The spark that she is looking for, "are you sure
where my spark is," is the spirit of her life force and illustrated by
Jung's archetype of the anima or in the female psyche the animus (Amos,
From the Choirgirl Hotel). "In the sense of 'soul,' says Jung, anima
is the 'living thing in man that which lives itself and causes life . .
. Were it not for the leaping and twinkling of the soul,! man would
rot away in his greatest passion, idleness'" (Guerin 180). "Spark" is
very much about such idleness. "She's addicted to nicotine patches/
she's afraid of a light in the dark/ 6:58 are you sure where my spark
is," indicates the speaker's compulsive need for artificial stimulants
because of her loss of control and ability to create: she herself does
not even make claims about where her "spark" is. The stimulant of
choice can not possibly control much because it is not a hard drug only
a miserably weak substitute for another drug. Compatible with the
broken Terrible Mother archetype in "Spark," Amos' "Siren" plays upon
the weaknesses in first person perspective. The speaker in "Siren"
distances the siren identity from herself for the purpose of addressing
it in particular terms; she admits to being a liar and to being
broken. "Know know too well/ know the chill/ know she breaks/ my
Siren" set the standards by which she judges herself (Amos, Great
Expectations the! Album). Her siren is "almost" several things. She
begins to address that she suffers, to some extent, from a failure of
personality integration. Siren denies the confrontation of her shadow
until the time of this song. From this denial perspective, she admits
that even her persona "never was one/ for a/ prissy girl/coquette,"
however, from either perspective she acknowledges that neither one is
able to create. She upholds herself as "almost/ Brave/ almost/
pregnant/ almost in love 'Vanilla'" (Amos, Great Expectations the
Album). "Vanilla," the unattainable natural, pure, sweet ideal that
she hungers for despite being a siren and femme fatale. Siren and
Spark destroy any innate abilities to be creators. Developed as
destroyers, they discover themselves self-destructing. They are
inelastic where they believed themselves adaptable. "Siren" directs
this recognition best with "Call in For/ an ambulance/ Reach high/
doesn't/ mean she's/ holy/ just means/ She's got a Cell! ular/ handy
(Amos, Great Expectations the Album). The identities in both songs
wind up singing the chorus in "iieee" -" I know we're dying/ and
there's no sign of a parachute/ we scream in cathedrals/ why can't it
be beautiful/ why does there/ gotta be a sacrifice" (Amos, From the
Choirgirl Hotel). Perhaps the biggest riddle of all five of Tori Amos'
albums is "Talula." The archetype that she utilizes to frame the song
stretches the boundaries of comprehension because it is combined with a
variety of obscure historical allusions. Talula may be best
represented by the archetypal Soul Mate "the incarnations of
inspiration and spiritual fulfillment" (Guerin 160). Complex issues
arise within the dimensions that Talula perseveres to represent: Mary
Magdalene. In Tori Amos' words: I was really drawn to the bloodline
of womanhood. Mary Magdalene, the idea of the Magdalene having been a
blueprint; not the Virgin or the Divine Mother but woman- high
priestess, not just the chick that washed Jesus' feet with her tears.
I've been reading some books that figure she was a high-priestess in
Jerusalem of the Isis cult. ("Toriphoria The Word of Tori Amos)

Talula and this Mary Magdalene archetype elicits "comparable
psychological responses and serve similar cultural functions" (Guerin
157). In an early version of "Talula," the beginning lines make an
obscure allusion to Marie Antoinette: "Said you had a double tongue/
balancing cake and bread/ say goodbye to a glitter girl" (Amos, Boys
for Pele). "It's one thing to be a glitter girl, but it's another
thing to be all woman. And that's what Marie Antoinette desperately
wanted" (Amos, "Toriphoria The Word of Tori Amos"). Marie Antoinette
is placed in juxtaposition to the Talula for the sake of making Talula
truly positive and not to be mistaken for the Good or Terrible Mother
archetypes. "Ran into the Henchman who severed/ Ann Boleyn/ he did it
right quickly a merciful man/ she said 1 + 1 is 2/ but Henry said that
it was 3/ so it was/ here I am" denotes another historical story of
femininity's lineage blocked and taken apart (Amos, Boys for Pele).
"Jamaica/ do you know what I! have done" brings flavor to the setting
and to the whirlwind of historical journey's that Talula undertakes
(Amos, Boys for Pele). It might most appropriately signify another
separate world because it is geographically far away from France and
England, the earlier locations which are referenced. Jamaica
represents the spirit world and the home of Voodoo; "do you know what I
have done" suggests a denial of that world. In another song "In the
Springtime of His Voodoo," the reference of Voodoo is best linked to
the idea of the magical but misunderstood; a positive light is thrown
onto what Jamaica represents if we view it in this way. "Mary M.
weaving on said/ what you want is in the blood Senators/ I got Big Bird
on the fishing line" (Amos, Boys for Pele). The reference to blood is
appropriately linked to the idea of Jung's anima, much like it is in
"Spark." Blood is what Talula is looking for, the bloodline of
femininity within all of its inspirational and spiritual for! ms.
"Senator" is much like "Congressman" in Professional Widow, another
reference to the dominating party which is largely patriarchal. The
riddle of "Big Bird" is solved by its designation next to "Senators."
He is rather simplistic compared to the other more obscure images; he
represents the big goal to be obtained, the special interest or
lobbyist that political candidates cater to. The Talula/Mary
Magdalene/Soul Mate archetype can be applied to two other songs,
"Marianne" and "Jackie's Strength" but within a slightly different
context. "Marianne" is a positive feminine character even though the
song maintains a dismal, mournful tone in comparison to "Talula." Tori
Amos comments on who Marianne is: "Mary Magdalene reference, a young
girl who I knew that died. There's the whole idea of that part of
woman that has been dormant, who's been dead" ("Toriphoria The Word of
Tori Amos). Marianne is the "quickest girl in the frying pan" and one
of the speaker's "traitors of ! kind" (Amos, Boys for Pele). In
Jackie's Strength, the image of Jackie Kennedy, is archetypally
represented as the Soul Mate because, in many ways, she is seen as the
ideal representation of woman based on her "strength" (Amos, From the
Choirgirl Hotel). The song moves through the speaker's childhood and
adolescence with "stickers licked on lunch boxes worshipping David
Cassidy . . . / sleep-overs Beene's got some pot/ you're only popular
with anorexia so I turn myself/ inside out" (Amos, From the Choirgirl
Hotel). As the speaker matures, her respect for Jackie's Strength
increasingly becomes more and more prevalent. Jackie is the Mary
Magdalene archetype accepted by society because she is so identified
with the Soul Mate's qualities of goodness. Jackie offers warmth and
nourishment to the speaker despite her getting "lost on her wedding
day" (Amos, From the Choirgirl Hotel). Tori Amos' lyrics challenge her
listeners to utilize archetypes within the context she has designed for
them. Toriphiles have accepted their task to discover what Tori Amos'
images compound, but some have arrived at another conclusion: the
vocalization in the songs themselves is also a challenge to our
comprension. The two challenges together may be the strongest
objections her detractors have to her work. Her lyrics are some of the
most challenging in modern music -similar musicians such as Fiona Apple
and Sarah McLachlan do not demand the same kind of attention-though
they too may use similar archetypes of woman and creation. To
understand her images, to gain their insight, will keep Toriphiles, or
Ears With Feet as Tori Amos prefers to call her fans, involved in the
albums that she continues to release. Tori Amos' archetypes have led
the way. The most appropriate quote to describe her: "She remains
endearingly harebrained, keen to bewilder, reluctant to compromise, o!
ften hard to stomach, yet periodically magnificent. Just the way, it
would seem, that nature intended" (Rogers 3). All Toriphiles would
replace "periodically" with "constantly."

Works Cited

Amos, Tori. Boys for Pele. Atlantic, 1996.
Amos, Tori. From the Choirgirl Hotel. Atlantic, 1998.
Amos, Tori. Great Expectations the Album. Atlantic, 1997.
Guerin, Wilfred L., et al. A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature. 2nd ed. New 
York: Happer and Row, 1979.
Johnson, Robert A. Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the 
Psyche. New York: Harper Collins, 1993.
Rogers, Kalen. Tori Amos: Images and Insights. New York: Omnibus Press, 1996.
"Toriphoria: The Word of Tori Amos". 1 March 1999 

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