The song “Moonchild” (Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, 1987) has two namesakes, the novel by English occultist Aleister Crowley (1917) and a Spanish song called “Hijo de la Luna,” the son of the moon (well, I count this as close enough to be a namesake). All three share one plot element, the sacrifice of a child. The Maiden version, however, is more complicated. It multiplies this plot-element and spins a new tale around several babies. This song is fragmentary and open to several readings as well as full of occult and Biblical references. All of this makes it very difficult to even get the gist of it. If you feel like joining for a lot of speculations of which only a few can really be nailed to the text, this is your lucky day.
The Spanish Song
[Listen to an auto-generated record by YouTube, sung by Monsterrat Caballé]
“Hijo de la Luna” is a Spanish song telling the story how the moon tricked a woman into getting her child. The woman pines for a man, who does not return her affections, and asks the moon to grant her wish. The moon demands her firstborn in return and the woman agrees to this pact. This parental betrayal leads to catastrophe and leaves the child an unwanted orphan. The child is adopted by the moon which changes its shape to become a cradle once the child cries. This song is thus a rather crafty explanation for the phases of the moon, linking them to myth. What is interesting for us is how willingly the mother has sacrificed her child for her own gain. I do not know if Crowley had this song in mind, but his novel tells a similar story.
Aleister Crowley’s Novel
Here, the moonchild is also a child of the moon, insofar as a moon spirit, a spirit bound to the moon, is attracted with magical means to enter an unborn. This mother too is all too happy to agree to this plan because it allows her to be with her love interest who is supposed to father the child. Once the child is born it becomes a burden and is given away to a shady woman who takes the child with her for her own means. The father was never interested in the child, either. He has staged the whole operation as a decoy to fool his opponents. In the end, no-one is interested in a child that gives its name to the novel and we do not even learn what will become of it.
The song follows this pattern insofar that an evil power, Lucifer, claims the baby of a mother. Yet, as pointed out in the introduction, this does not seem to be a sinlge occurence. Lucifer wants to have all babies who are cursed.
We do not only meet Luficer, we meet more personnel of hell. One of them is the Prostitute of Bablyon. She is part of the Biblical chapter Revelations, the chapter describing the visionary dream that revelealed the Apocalypse. The Prostitute of Babylon will seduce the world rulers and put them on a wrong path. We should not be too surprised to see her here, because she is a friend in league with a scarlet Beast. This Beast is not our friend 666, but the eighth king. (cf. Revelation 17) Another reference to Revelation are the seven seals. (cf. Revelation 6 and Revelation 8) I argue that Lucifer compares the mother he is talking to to the prostitute and also says that he will turn her thankfulness sour. This would be congruent with the two stories I have discussed before. It may be argued that something similar has happened here, but the song does not clarify why Lucifer claims these babies out of others. The only thing that is clear is that they were cursed before they were even born. Have all their mothers done a demon deal of sorts? This is the case in another franchise following the plot – line that a mother bargains her child to a demon for selfish reasons: the American TV show Supernatural (2005-2020). (Funfact: One of its main characters is named Crowley.)
This song so very fragmentary and confusing because it it cannot be said for sure whom the narrator, Lucifer, is talking to. At the beginning he is clearly talking to the mother, but the chorus is directed at the child. The second stanza remains open to speculation as it may be directed at both. As this seems to refer to the future, however, I argue that it is directed at the son.
The actual narrative is no less hazy. Which babies is Lucifer claiming for himself: are they twins born of the same mother or is it babies of two mothers born under the zodiac Gemini? I think that the song is actual open to both readings. In every case one baby dies, whereas the other one is cursed. This bears semblance to the story of Castor and Pollux, the twins of Ancient Greek, who were immortalised in the respective zodiac. (cf. Gemini (astrology) – Wikipedia ) One of them died; the other lived. To be together again, they were lifted to the stars. Either we are talking about real twins or two babies that are compared to the twins that inspired Gemini.
It is also not clear if Lucifer actually wants the baby to die to save the others or if he does cunningly count on the disobedience of the mother to curse the son. And what are the seven demons and angels battling about? Is this a question of life and death or is it a question of good or evil? I am sorry, but this time I can only offer more questions than actual answers. I mean, if there is one thing the song does not explain, it is the question why this child is dedicated or linked to the moon. Was this baby too intended as a spirit linked to the moon as the one in Crowley’s novel? But why would Lucifer then be so interested in it? Every answer produces like five more questions.
We have another Biblical reference in the song which is a reversion of a part of the Christmas story. The archangel Gabriel visits Mary and informs her about her pregnancy. ( cf. Luke 1: 26-38) Gabriel is here, too, but he is fast asleep and the baby is thus doomed. I think that it is not only the role of Gabriel that has been reveresed, but also that of the mother. I mean, the virgin Mary is replaced by the prostitute of Babylon. The contrast between these two women is probably the strongest opposition possible. This may indeed infer that this baby was not so lucky, in the meaning that its mother was evil. She may either also have done a deal for her own gain or she may have seduced someone and brought something bad about. Whatever it was, it makes her comparable to the prostitute of Babylon and brings Lucifer into the story.
I argue that possibly Lucifer took over once Gabriel was sleeping to visit the soon-to-be mother. The song references a ritual, the bornless one, that is considered to be part of a gremoire which is a manual how to summon 72 demons (yes, I guess the last cypher was erased for the song), the Ars Goetica which is a part of The Lesser Key of Solomon (compiled of older material, age thus unknown). It was translated into English by one Aleister Crowley (so we are finally getting somewhere after all). (cf. The Lesser Key of Solomon – Wikipedia) This ritual is preliminary, a sort of preparation and is meant to link the conjurer to the forces of Heaven. Because this ritual, the heart girt with a serpent, does not summon a demon. It summons an angel, a protector. (cf. Bornless Ritual – Wikipedia) So, if Gabriel lies sleeping, we get the next best (fallen) angel stepping in, Lucifer. Probably this is just a summoning that got horribly wrong. Yes, maybe. But, I still have two questions for you. Why does Lucifer compare the mother to the prostitute of Babylon and why did the mother need this ritual in the first place if it was not her intention to raise the other 72 demons afterwards?
What all stories do have in common is the innocence of the child. All stories are stories about the sins of the parents. All parents have bargained without taking their unborn into consideration. They do not consider what the future of the child, once conceived, may look like. The song differs in two important aspects. It it the only narration to take the fate of the child into account and it links all of this to the Apocalypse, giving it an underlying air of fate. These references to the Apocalypse spin the narratuve further, implying that the child has already been touched by evil and thus raising the question if he will become evil himself. The end of this story is of course lost in time, because the album is not a concept album in the meaning that it would tell a narrative, at least not for my money. Don’t tell me that he lived forever because he was evil and that this was the end of the story. Or did he die young because he was good? I have tried, again and again, but I cannot make out a coherent story in this album. The complexity of this song does not exactly make this any easier, as we do not even know how this story starts… This song takes a straight forward plot-line and makes it much more complex by adding numerous references, multiplying the babies, and introducing the question of fate. I mean, an ending that tells us that a baby is born and damned at the same time is cliffhanger at best. Innocent child cursed by Lucifer at birth…Will he be able to get rid of it? This song does indeed raise more questions than give answers.
The motif of twins of which one dies during birth and only one survives as well as the reference to an absent holy entity reappear in the title track of Bruce Dickinson’s solo album Accident of Birth (1997).
- Dickinson, Bruce and Adrian Smith. “Moonchild.” Iron Maiden. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. EMI, 1988.
- José María Cano. “Hijo de la Luna.” Montserrat Caballé. Autogenerated by YouTube. Hijo de la luna – YouTube (13.01.2003) [20.05.2021]
- Crowley, Aleister. Moonchild. Amazon Distribution
- “Revelation 17.” The Bible, New International Version. BibleGateway.com Revelation 17 NIV – Babylon, the Prostitute on the Beast – Bible Gateway [20.05.2021]
- “Revelation 6.” The Bible, New International Version. BibleGateway.com Revelation 6 NIV – The Seals – I watched as the Lamb – Bible Gateway [21.05.2021]
- “Revelation 8.” The Bible, New International Version. BibleGateway.com Revelation 8 NIV – The Seventh Seal and the Golden Censer – Bible Gateway [21.05.2021]
- Supernatural. Kripke Enterprises. 2005-2020
- “Gemini (astrology).” Wikipedia. Gemini (astrology) – Wikipedia (13.05.2021) [20.05.2021]
- “The Birth of Jesus Foretold.” Luke 1: 26-38. The Bible, New International Version. BibleGateway.com Luke 1 NIV – Introduction – Many have undertaken to – Bible Gateway [21.05.2021]
- “The Lesser Key of Solomon.” Wikipedia. The Lesser Key of Solomon – Wikipedia (10.05.2021) [20.05.2021]
- “The Bornless Ritual.” Wikipedia. Bornless Ritual – Wikipedia (09.04.2021) [20.05.2021]
- Dickinson Bruce. “Accident of Birth.” Bruce Dickinson. Accident of Birth. Raw Power / Castle, CMC International, Victor, 1997.