The Esoteric Meaning of Florence + the Machine’s “Shake it Out” and “No Light No Light”

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 Florence + the Machine obtained commercial and critical success by releasing music with a distinct sound and feel. Although her works are often covered by mass media, one aspect of her act is rarely mentioned: the esoteric symbolism of her songs and videos. We will look at the meaning of the videos “Shake it Out” and “No Light No Light”, two enigmatic videos from the album Ceremonials.

Florence + the Machine is different from most of the singers mentioned on the Vigilant Citizen for several reasons. First, there is obvious talent and artistry involved in her works, making them more profound than most pop songs out there. Second, there is a definite occult influence in her music but it is not hidden or concealed, but rather all out in the open. In an interview with Nylon magazine, Florence stated:

“I wanted to be a witch when I was a kid. I was obsessed with witchcraft. At school, me and my two friends had these spell books; I always wanted a more magical reality. I had a little shrine at home and I did a spell to try and make the boy in the other class fall in love with me.”

Despite this known fact, I never found any review or analysis of Florence + the Machine’s work from an occult point of view, a field Florence Welch is obviously well versed in. The videos of her first album Lungs had some occult concepts infused into them. For example, her hit Dog Days are Over alludes to the dog star Sirius, an all-important celestial body in esoteric teachings (for more information, read the article entitled The Mysterious Connection Between Sirius and Human History). An article on Pseudo-Occult media described some of the occult and MK aspects of the videos from her first album – centered around the imagery of white rabbits, bird cages, Alice in Wonderland and so forth – so I won’t dwell on those. Her second album, Ceremonials, is slightly darker and more focused on profound esoteric concepts that deserve some analyzing.

The videos of Shake it Out and No Light No Light both contain enigmatic imagery (see the confused comments on YouTube) that relate to ancient occult concepts. Analyzed from an esoteric point of view, both videos can indeed by seen as “ceremonies” where symbols and colors describe a story of profound transformation. The imagery of Shake it Out tell the story of an initiation ritual in a strange secret society while No Light No Light describes a profound spiritual change in the context of duality. We’ll look at the esoteric meaning of both videos.

 Shake it Out

Taking place in a strange masquerade ball with masked guests – reminiscent of the secret society orgy in the movie “Eyes Wide Shut” –  Shake it Out follows Florence’s evolution. From being shy and reserved, she becomes ecstatic and almost demented. In an interview, Welch described the video’s setting this way:

“Think of a psychedelic 1920s dress party with a demonic twist. Possession meets The Great Gatsby. (…) We were kind of going for a sort of ‘Gatsby at West Egg’-style house party but with maybe slightly ritualistic and sort of satanic undertones and séances.”

In this strange setting, there are several Florences, with different personalities and wearing dresses with symbolic colors. Each of them tell a different part of the story of Florence’s initiation and its results. As we have seen in previous articles on this site, the theme of initiation is often found in modern pop videos and there is one thing they all have in common: a focus on the colors white, red and black. This video is no exception as the color of Florence’s dresses tell alot about the meaning of the character she is embodying.

At the beginning of the video, Florence wears a pearl/gold colored dress and looks shy and almost reticent as she enters the ball. She is obviously the “guest of honor” but she is unsure of what she is walking into.

Florence shyly descending the stairs to the ball.

As she enters the ball, she is greeted with strange cloaked and mask figures. Some of them are quite weird but interesting.

A mask representing Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep – from which the term “hypnosis” comes from.  He is the twin of Thanatos, the god of death and His palace was a dark cave where the sun never shines. At the entrance were a number of poppies and other hypnogogic plants.

This mask with multiple faces appears to be a favorite in elite “Illuminati balls”…

Baron Alexis de Redé (right) wearing a similar multi-face mask at an actual Rothschild ball in 1972.

The ceremony is centered around her and with good reason: it is her initiation ritual. One of the figures blindfolds Florence.

Florence is blindfolded by a man in a red cape.

The blindfolding of new initiates is an intricate part of Masonic-like rituals and bear a very symbolic meaning: they represent the candidate’s prior blindness and ignorance.

Image taken from Duncan’s Ritual of Freemasonry describing the initiation of a new Mason. He is blindfolded and walked around the Lodge.

The lyrics of the song sustain the overall theme of these kinds of initiations as they pertain to the abandoning of a dark past and the embracing of a new life. Some parts of the song are particularly interesting as they appear to allude to specific aspects to Masonic initiations. This following passage refers to candidates being “in the dark” before the completion of the initiation.

It’s always darkest before the dawn (…)
And I’ve been a fool and I’ve been blind

Other passages of the song are oddly reminiscent of the oaths that are recited during Masonic initiations. For example, these lines:

I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart

can be related to this part of the Masonic initiatory ceremony:

“Oh! that my breast had been torn open, my heart plucked out, and placed upon the highest pinnacle of the Temple, there to be devoured by the vultures of the air …”

Another part of the song refers to several aspects of an initiation, whether it being the “end of a road”, the concept of darkness (most secret society initiations place candidate in dark rooms for a period of time to represent death and rebirth) and preparedness to suffer (during the initiation ritual)

And I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t
So here’s to drinks in the dark at the end of my road
And I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope
It’s a shot in the dark and right at my throat

This last line is also similar to a portion of the Masonic oath.

“I arose, and on my passage around the Lodge was accosted by three Fellow Crafts, who thrice demanded of me the secrets of a Master Mason; and, on being refused, the first gave me a blow with the twenty-four-inch gauge, across my throat”

Whether or not these allusions to secret societies were intentional, they definitely give a sense of “spiritual rebirth” to the song.

In another scene where Florence plays the role of “new initiate”, she is shown taking part of a séance to communicate with spirits, confirming the occult nature of the gathering.

Florence at a séance table with other members.

Is this what engendered Florence in red?

The Florence that is dressed in a red dress is drastically different, as if she was possessed by a spirit.

In another part of the video, Florence is dressed in red – the color of sacrifice and initiation – and has a completely different demeanour. She is  unrestrained, dances frantically and appears to be slightly possessed. While she seems to be having the time of her life, she also appears to be consumed and disturbed by whatever is effecting her.

Another Florence appears to be a result of the initiation: a pure and angelic Florence dressed in white, symbol of purity and innocence. She runs out of the party and climbs on a tree, looking godly and at peace.

Florence in a pure and virginal white dress.

Florence in red is therefore the opposite of the shy and innocent Florence dressed in white. These two personas reflect the occult concept of duality that takes place within her, a concept that is also reflected in the lyrics with passages such as:

Cause looking for heaven, for the devil in me
Looking for heaven, for the devil in me
Well what the hell I’m gonna let it happen to me

A forth persona is shown in the video: a cool, calm and powerful Florence dressed in black formal wear – symbolizing the full-fledged society member.

Florence dressed in black in a private setting – dancing with two masked men.

Florence’s initiation appears to have generated two results: a Florence dressed in red, who appears to be drunk on the world’s materiality and animal impulses, dancing without restraint and embracing her sexuality and a Florence dressed in white who leaves the ball to go on a tree (symbolically leaving the earthly realm to ascend towards the spiritual). The balance between these two opposite forces is at the basis of hermetic concept of duality. This all-important theme also appears to be central to Florence’s second video, No Light No Light.

No Light No Light

No Light No Light has none of the subtlety of Shake it Out. It rather violently clashes two diametrically opposing forces battling for nothing less than Florence’s soul. The imagery of the video is based on contrasts and opposites, using concepts such as light and darkness, good and evil, black and white, civilization and tribalism, church and sorcery and so forth. The two main scenes of the video that are pitted against each other are so clichéd that they border on caricature: an entranced voodoo doctor practicing black magic versus innocent church choir boys. The opposition is vivid, yet both worlds appear to be part of Florence’s experience (she was in choir during her youth, while also dabbling in occultism). The two scenes bring up an almost archetypal sense of good and evil, thus symbolically representing the eternal struggle that is happening within Florence’s soul.

The first scene shows a masked man, sitting in the dark, in front of lit candles and a voodoo doll.

Voodoo guy about to cast a spell on Florence

The shaman is inside a Masonic Lodge. Although it is dark, we can notice the Masonic throne, the Blazing Star above it and the all-important checkerboard-patterned floor.

The shaman sticking a needle inside a voodoo doll. The Masonic checkerboard floor is the space on which occult rituals and ceremonies take place. The black and white pattern represents the coexistence of good and evil repeated in an infinite pattern and is therefore a visual representation of the concept of duality.

Like the checkerboard pattern, the video visually depicts the eternal fight between two opposing forces in the spiritual realm, but it uses human figures instead. Opposed to the voodoo shaman is another evocative image: young choir boys inside a church.

Church choir boys represent the force opposite to the shaman.

So Florence is standing atop of a skyscraper, looking somewhat confused, knowing that she must make a choice, trying to hang on. This sense of uncertainty is reflected in the lyrics:

“I was disappearing in plain sight
Heaven help me, I need to make it right
You want a revelation, You want to get it right
But it’s a conversation, I just can’t have tonight”

Florence appears to be under the spell of the shaman as he hurts her by sticking needles inside the voodoo doll. At one point, Florence lets go and embarks into a gigantic free-fall from the top of a tall building. She crashes through the church’s stained glass ceiling and floats in a burst of light.

Florence enters the church, but not from the front door, by crashing from the ceiling.

Florence enters the church from above, floats in mid-air and takes a position that makes her appear to be Christ-like. This symbolic image refers to the Gnostic concept of “inner-Christ”, where salvation and godhood is obtained from within by illumination. Florence is then caught by the choir boys and carried somewhere. Her embrace of “good” apparently kills the voodoo doctor who begins convulsing. By banishing the evil that had control of her, Florence attained Gnosis and therefore became “like Christ”.

This video has caused controversy because it was deemed racist. These observers claim that the “bad guy” is a stereotypical tribal-voodoo shaman and is, in fact, a “black face”, a non-black person painted black, like they used to do back when media was openly racist. At one point during the video, we see Florence, a red-headed white woman running away from evil that is represented by a black guy. It is also noted that she is saved by a European choir that is exclusively composed of  white boys. With that being said, can we truly say that the video is purposely racist? I honestly cannot say and that is not the point of the article. I can, however, say that race is indeed used in a symbolic way to emphasize the occult concept of duality and to further develop the sense of opposition between the two scenes.

As said above, humans are used in this video to depict abstract the concept of struggle between opposing forces, as depicted by the symbol of Ying and Yang. The struggle is happening inside of Florence, on a spiritual level, hence the spiritual imagery of the video. Everything about these forces is opposed, including their skin color – white and black – as they become an embodiment of the checkerboard pattern floor. White is traditionally associated with good and black with evil. This unfortunately translates very badly when it comes to skin color but the direction of the video appears to have taken this bold step anyways.

The lyrics of the song further accentuate the concept of struggle between good and evil. While it can be interpreted as a song to a lover, the vocabulary that is used, along with the video’s imagery, alludes to a spiritual struggle. The entity she is speaking to appears to have an ethereal quality as she mentions she is witnessing A revelation in the light of day. With that being said, who or what is she talking to? To God (who brings revelation)? The Devil (who is said to have blue eyes)?

“No light, no light in your bright blue eyes
I never knew daylight could be so violent
A revelation in the light of day
You can’t chose what stays and what fades away
And I’d do anything to make you stay”

There is a definite sense of ambiguity which only emphasizes on the concept of duality, where opposing forces are part of a greater whole. In other words, good and evil, God and Satan are considered to be “two sides of the same coin”.

 

In Conclusion

Florence + the Machine’s videos for Ceremonials indeed include a great deal of ceremony and ritual. Through the symbolism and color codes found in the videos, Shake it Out and No Light No Light both tell stories that take place on the esoteric plane, mainly involving the all-important concept of duality. The first video is centered around the concept of initiation in the context of a high-society masquerade ball (sometimes referred to as an Illuminati ball). The second video opposes spiritual figures representing good and evil that border on caricature, where Florence, a soul in peril, frees herself from the spell of a voodoo shaman to be saved by a church choir, which represent her own good and dark side. That being said, one can argue that it was the shaman (her dark side) who pushed Florence towards her own enlightenment. Is he therefore truly evil or simply part of a greater scheme? That is the mystery of duality and these are the esoteric concepts that transpire from Florence + the Machine’s works. Does that make her message good or evil? To quote her words: “Looking for heaven, for the devil in me“.

 

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258 Comments on "The Esoteric Meaning of Florence + the Machine’s “Shake it Out” and “No Light No Light”"


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dsc
2 years 9 days ago

I have to say, I love "Shake it Out" but I completely agree with this article and its analysis of the blatant imagery. However, and maybe I'm just being nitpicky, but the lyrics for "Shake it Out" are "a shot in the dark aimed right at my throat" and "looking for heaven, found the devil in me." I think "found the devil in me" slightly changes the meaning of that part, but ultimately it's all evil anyway.

Get-over-yourselves
2 years 4 months ago

Maybe that's what it is. All this MK stuff and the saturation in the media, someone, something, they , what ever you wanna call it is pushing us towards something. Take for instance gold ore, in order to make it pure you must heat it up really super hot and wait for the impurities to float to the top so you can skim them off. Maybe this is there way of flushing out all of the impurities.

Decon
2 years 6 months ago

Eek, a 'little bit' of the Jessie J about her. Is the name Lucifer? Whatever, she is a lost soul…

Chrissy
2 years 9 months ago

When I listened to this song I had a bad feeling. So I looked up the video. I am now somewhat aware, so I knew there was a problem before it was 1/3 over. Then I looked it up here and lo and behold lots of info. Thanks. I am starting to be able to pick this up on my own now.

Elizabeth
2 years 9 months ago

WOW. This does break my heart a lot. This song was definitely one of my faves and it's such a disappointment to find out the true meaning behind it. I knew something was up when I heard the words "And it's hard to dance with the devil on your back". Too bad now I have to stop listening to this song. Whatta bummer.

CR7
3 years 1 month ago

Another question is it true that there are artists trying to break free of the 'Illuminati' bonds?

André
3 years 9 months ago

I think that there is more than occultism and religion in human culture. There is poetry, psychonalisis and many other ways to undestand human beings. I always interpret florence Lyrics from this other points of view. For example, the rabbit and Alice in Wondeland is a reference to the music "White Rabbit" from Jefferson Airplene, that she said to be the music that have the greatest impact in her live. About Shake Out she said, before what the author of the article select, "And I was thinking of regrets, like, you know when you feel like you're stuck in yourself,… Read more »

beccamarch10
2 months 18 days ago

I. LOVE. HER. You may think that she's satanic or whatever but her music is simply astounding and I truly enjoy the subtle and sinister twist she gives in some of the songs. Her music is truly spiritual (some may find good in it, some bad) but I find it enriching. Her music has touched me in a way few other things in life have managed to change me in a good, fulfilling, find-the-evil-in-you-and-confront-it way. And honestly Shake it out is my all time favourite music video. Ever. like it's so dark but beautiful that it makes me want to… Read more »

Jane
1 year 8 days ago

This song is about a relationship Florence was struggling with, it is stated in her Wiki page.

kcharlie
1 year 8 days ago

I love her music, but I've always noticed the dark side to it. IT makes me wonder if her music is so "infectious" for a reason…? Anyways, please listen to Spectrum and explicate that one! I can't seem to figure it out, but it has something to do with the NWO.

Manatee
2 years 2 months ago

Isn't she MK ultra programmed victim? I believe she is a lovely soul but…maybe…she is programmed. Just like the other singers of today's music industry.

Jess
2 years 4 months ago

did anyone else notice the body hanging from the ceiling shake it out 2:25… I think that's what it is…

2 years 8 months ago

There's no denying that she's not your regular musician. Still, sometimes being different is a good thing, such as in this case. I doubt so many copies of her album would be sold otherwise.

Milk
2 years 8 months ago

I think the Asian guy was painted black to make the emphasis be on color rather than on race.

Allison
2 years 8 months ago

I believe Florence is actually trying to say "Hey guys look, these things exist!" I think it only gives you guys that bad feeling because we are so used to those signs being negative, but she is still trying to almost warn the masses. If you listen to her songs, she goes into depth with topics like these. Florence is using the symbolism in such a way our mind says "No! Bad! Stay away!" It's like she's programming us NOT to accept those symbols like the rest of the industry does.

Rapha
2 years 10 months ago

The correct is :" Looking for Heavn, found the Devil in me."

Chiza
2 years 10 months ago

And what about the line 'And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back So shake him off'? what does that allude to? If anything it seems to me like she is shaking of all her regrets/demons.

Jkinsey
2 years 11 months ago

Amazing article. I read it all while listening to Florence.

True
3 years 20 days ago

Don't leave ur kids watch her music or even listen the masonic worship satan they don't believe in god I'm muslim muslims and christian are no different we believe in god but they don't they role our childrens minds by the music the movies the tv shows the gothic stuff the Q here is that all by herself or there is a masonic group behind her back !!? Now we know that she is one of them but there is alot of famous ppl that joind into the masons wake up people

Music Lover
3 years 22 days ago

Wow. People really believe this? I'm sorry but i think it's just how Florence gets inspiration. The sound and the lyrics and her whole music is interesting and beautiful. I don't think by listening to her music I'm letting devils in my house! Personally I think many things people are saying are illuminati are not! People jump to conclusions because they're scared, you guys should relax, what this is saying is a load of rubbish. I agree that she involved the devil in a lot of her music, but that's just what she get's her inspiration to write emotional songs!… Read more »

bolivar
3 years 1 month ago

HEY this article is great. i hope you keep posting more.. i would like to read also about lana del rey or any other . this is great EYE open :)

Dia
3 years 9 months ago

@Cecile Me too! I know this is very sad, but I loved Never Let Me Go! Yet I know it's not good to listen to it anymore. I stopped listening to her from now on.

Bris Stoanes
3 years 12 days ago

There is nothing bad or evil about Florence. There is nothing wrong with Never Let Me Go. In an interview with Digital Spy Florence has said about Never Let Me Go "The gospel thing comes from my obsession with hymns. I'm drawn to anything that has a hymnal quality, be it Spiritualized or dusty old albums by Georgian choirs." She has a fascination with all things spiritual, and has admitted this on several occasions. I love her song "Only If for a Night" a song she wrote for her grandmother who is deceased.

Music Lover
3 years 21 days ago

why isn't it good? it's music! she even said in an interview she wasn't illuminati!

Forevereverever
3 years 10 months ago

I'm so surprised yet not at the same time. Her music is so enticing and I love the fantasy Per-Raphaelite scenes in her music videos. I hate just getting into these kinds of discussions online because I'm just 15 and I want to keep myself pure in all ways but it's really inevitable at this day and age. I mean, when I went to the cinema with my friends to see the woman in black, there were trailers for exorcisms being screened to an audience from the age of 12! :O

lavina
3 years 10 months ago

The True Illuminati that i have known,were honourable,they never accepted bribes for financial gain to hurt innocent people or friends who are tested.Illuminati cannot be bought,they are tested in severe pychological and physical ordeals over a long period of time prior to being an illuminati,so they have stronger wills,they are sometimes the handlers,but not or certainly at this level no longer illuminati which are Hidden Leaders often in government andso often in occult orders,.If one thinks of freemasonry most think 33 degrees is the highest,infact its only one quarter up the pyramid.All outer hidden realms are hidden in G.D,and O.T.O,.True… Read more »

cecile
3 years 10 months ago

i'm waiting for 'never let me go' video explanation , i hope you'll do – thanks VC :)

Music Lover
3 years 22 days ago

It's about a suicide that happened. Some famous author i think drowned herself.

Bris Stoanes
3 years 12 days ago

I think you are thinking about "What the Water Gave Me" "Lay me down Let the only sound Be the overflow Pockets full of stones" "Pockets full of stones" reminds me of Virgina Woolf, who committed suicide by filling her pockets with stones and drowning herself. But Florence said it was mostly about water that is a great overwhelmer of things. Virginia Woolf was part of it, but she said it was various other things as well. As far as I know, she hasn't really given any kind of meaning for "Never Let Me Go". The only thing I have… Read more »

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