By September 23, 2013

This four-part series was written by Edje Jeter:

Cephalopods 1 of 4: Cuttlefish

Octopuses, squids, cuttlefish, and nautiloids make up the class Cephalopoda (Greek: head-feet). Cephalopods appear in oceans, horror stories, nineteenth-century polemical literature, and?in their Mormon instantiations?in my next four posts. [1] I begin with the cuttlefish.

Cephalopods 2 of 4: Devil Fish and Octopuses

Last week I posted on the cuttlefish and a few weeks ago I posted on the upas tree. The upas post was prompted by a line from Edgar Folk: ?[Mormonism] is the Upas tree of our civilization, the octopus of our political life.?[1] Having treated the vegetable, I now turn to the animal.

Cephalopods 3 of 4: Octopus Maps

Seeing as how it?s ?Mormonism and Politics? month at JI, let?s talk about spineless carnivores with sucker-covered tentacles. One of the most common forms of octopus propaganda was a labeled octopus on a map representing an ?imperial? power of some sort?a nation or company or, in the Mormon case, a church/theocracy?that controlled various geographic areas politically or economically. Michelle Farran at Vulgar Army provides several examples(see image below).

Cephalopods 4 of 4: The Nineteenth-Century Octopus

The octopus metaphor persists to the present but the cultural milieu has changed.[1] For example, last week I wrote about the image at right. My sense is that most 2013 observers would describe it as ?quaint,? maybe even ?cute.? A century earlier it was an ?inky-black demon? with a ?big black body lying flat, disgustingly spread? or ?a horrible octopus? with ?fiendish goggle eyes? and ?treacherous succer-like tenticles reaching out.? [2] In this post I will try to account for the difference?I will summarize something of what late-nineteenth-century Europeans and Americans thought and felt about octopuses. [3] (Spoiler alert: it casts Mormonism as very bad.)


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