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The Much-Overlooked Symbolism in Roman Polanski’s “The Ninth Gate”

When “The Ninth Gate” was released in 1999, critics found the movie pointless. But that’s because they completely missed the point of the movie. Through symbolism, “The Ninth Gate” tells a story of occult initiation while commenting on the elite’s obsession with Satanism. Here’s a look at this much-overlooked movie.



Warning: 25-year-old spoilers ahead!

When The Ninth Gate was first released in 1999, it wasn’t a big commercial success. Critics said the movie “meandered aimlessly” and had a “lackluster ending” that not even Johnny Depp’s star power could save.

At first glance, the critics were correct: The Ninth Gate appears to be about Johnny Depp running around various countries while lighting cigarettes at every opportunity he gets. And after about two hours, the movie ends in a rather anti-climactic way.

But at second glance, these critics completely missed the movie’s point. The Ninth Gate is not a Pirates of the Caribbean-style adventure but a highly symbolic story of initiation where the protagonist’s “meandering” is actually an allegorical ritual, and the “anti-climatic ending” is nothing less than spiritual illumination guided by the Whore of Babylon in the flesh.

However, none of this is spelled out in the movie; it is all meant to be decoded. Indeed, the movie’s underlying meaning can only be understood once the symbols and occult references peppered throughout the film are pieced together, like Corso (Johnny Depp’s character) pieces together pages from a Satanic book.

Maybe that explains why, after being panned by critics, the movie is now considered a cult classic. Here’s a look at the much-overlooked meaning of The Ninth Gate.

A Roman Polanski Movie

Roman Polanski and Johnny Depp are long-time friends.

In 1968, Roman Polanski released Rosemary’s Baby – a psychological horror movie about a newlywed woman who is groomed by a Satanic cult to give birth to the Antichrist (read my full article about it here).

In a way, this seminal film announced the coming of a new era. It was the end of an innocent and idealistic America and the “birth” of an era influenced by powerful occult movements.

Strangely enough, the movie was attached to real-world events that would make its “prophecy” come true. Less than a year after the release of Rosemary’s Baby, Roman Polanski’s pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was ritualistically murdered by followers of Charles Manson. The series of gruesome murders carried out by the Manson cult (which reeked of MKULTRA involvement) shocked America to the core and snapped it out of its hippie idealism: The world realized that there were dark forces lurking behind the scenes.

Precisely 30 years after these events – and at the dawn of a new millennium – Polanski released The Ninth Gate. Like in Rosemary’s Baby, Satan is not the “bad guy” but the powerful figure everyone attempts to please. And, like in Rosemary’s Baby, The Ninth Gate‘s subtext is about the coming of a new era.

Roman Polanski did not miss the opportunity to use numerology to convey his point. The Ninth Gate is about a demonic book written in 1666; The movie was released in 1999 (1666 reversed). This numerically significant year had to be underscored by a symbolically significant movie.

Strange fact: Polanski managed to make this movie happen while still a fugitive from the U.S. justice system for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl.

“Polanksi rapist pedophile unpunished!”

Let’s look at the heavy symbolism of The Ninth Gate.

A Movie for the Occult Elite

The symbol of the inverted cross. The message: It’s unapologetically satanic.

The movie’s title references the Nine Circles of Hell as described in Dante’s Inferno. They are:

First Circle: Limbo.
Second Circle: Lust.
Third Circle: Gluttony.
Fourth Circle: Greed.
Fifth Circle: Anger.
Sixth Circle: Heresy.
Seventh Circle: Violence.
Eighth Circle: Fraud.
Ninth Circle: Treachery.

Through the movie’s events, the protagonist experiences these nine circles. He engages in lustful behavior with a rich widow, gets greedy with his clients, gets angry at some people, violent at others, and everything else. In Dante’s Inferno, Satan himself is at the center of the Ninth Circle. Guess what happens to Corso?

The movie’s title is also quite literal. Throughout his investigation, Corso goes through physical gates to access the privileged information he seeks.

During the opening credits, the viewers are taken through nine gates, including the entrances of posh mansions owned by the occult elite. As we’ll see, the movie was filmed in highly significant locations where actual rituals occurred.

Corso is hired by a wealthy collector named Boris Balkan to track down copies of a rare and elusive book.

Behind Balkan is an image of a castle in France that will be the final place of initiation.

Boris Balkan collects rare books that have one point in common: They’re about Satan.

Balkan presses the number 6 three times to grant access to his private collection – one of the many details that are not immediately noticeable in the movie.

Balkan shows Corso his most prized possession: The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows. The cover is adorned with an inverted pentagram, the main symbol of black magic.

The book is centered around nine enigmatic engravings that are said to hold an immense amount of power.

As Balkan explains:

“They form a Satanic riddle. Correctly interpreted, with the aid of the original text and sufficient insider information, they’re reputed to conjure up the Prince of Darkness in person.”

However, there’s a major problem: Balkan cannot conjure up anything. So he hires Corso to fetch the two other copies of that book to compare them.

The Nine Gates‘ first page contains an image of a snake wrapped around a tree.

The engraving above sums up the entire movie. It refers to the serpent from the Garden of Eden that offers Eve an apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In occult circles, this story is of the utmost importance: It is interpreted as Lucifer “saving” humans by passing on to them the knowledge to become gods.

Around the image is written “Sic Luceat Lux,” which is Latin for “Thus shall the light shine.” Lucifer means “light bringer” in Latin. The entire movie is about Corso seeking Luciferian “enlightenment.”

From then on, Corso’s seemingly wacky adventure turns into a process of initiation in which he becomes a “chosen one.” The engravings in the book symbolically prophesize Corso’s journey.

One image depicts a man hanging by a leg. Later in the movie, Corso finds his friend hanging by a leg. The ritualistic pose is a reminder that dealing with the Devil requires human sacrifice.

The engraving is inspired by the Hanged Man tarot card. It represents a sacrifice for “illumination” (see the halo around the man’s head).

Another strong hint that Corso is the “chosen one”: A supernatural woman aids him in his journey.

The unnamed “girl” has magical powers and seems to know everything. Emmanuelle Seigner, Roman Polanski’s wife since 1989, played the role. We’ll later see why this was an odd choice.

The girl marks Corso’s forehead with her blood. Corso definitely the chosen one.

Corso walks around for a while with the girl’s blood on his forehead and a broken lens (one-eye sign). The message: He’s under the spell. This scene is so symbolic that it is used on the movie’s cover art.

At the beginning of the movie, Corso is only interested in money and finds Satanic mumbo-jumbo ridiculous. However, his attitude changes as the movie progresses. Towards the end of his journey, Corso stops caring about money and wants the nine engravings for himself.

His quest took him to some highly symbolic locations.

Gates of the Occult Elite

Corso finds the second copy of The Nine Gates at a highly significant place: Chalet Biester in Portugal.

Like every other occult detail highlighted in this article, the significance of this filming location is not specifically mentioned in the movie. But its backstory is highly relevant to the movie’s narrative.

Chalet Biester is a 19th-century mansion built around occult principles. Some rooms are replete with occult symbolism, as the property was used to conduct actual Masonic rituals. It was conceived by José Luis Monteiro, the same architect behind Quinta da Regaleira, another occult palace in Sintra. This area in Portugal is known for its “mystical” energy that attracted the richest occultists in the 19th century.

Chalet Biester contains a chapel covered in symbolism relating to Freemasonry and the Knights Templar.

Under the chapel is Chalet Biester’s true purpose.

In the basement is a dark and cavernous Masonic initiation chamber meant to replicate the “authentic” rites practiced in Ancient Egypt.

None of this is mentioned in the movie. So why were scenes filmed in this specific location? Was Polanksi attempting to “charge” the movie with authentic occult energy?

Later in the movie, Corso discovers that an occult secret society named The Order of the Silver Serpent has been gathering in honor of The Nine Gates for centuries. When Corso moves to investigate this order, he is led to another highly symbolic gate.

Corso arrives at the entrance of a French château where the Order of the Silver Serpent carries out its rituals.

Inside, people in black robes and black candles recite passages from the Satanic book.

An ex-member of the order told Corso that the order “degenerated into a social club for bored millionaires and celebrities who use its meetings as an excuse to indulge in their jaded sexual appetites.” These people are “under the impression that they owe their money and success to members of the order.”

The scenes involving the order were filmed in Château de Ferrières, near Paris. Guess who built this place? Baron James de Rothschild.

Yes, the occult rituals in the movie were filmed in a château built by the most occult elite family in world history. This specific proprety was the site of some highly bizarre Rothschild events.

Marie-Hélène de Rothschild welcomes guests to her “Surrealist Ball” at Château Ferrières in 1972. In case you were wondering, she’s the one with the horns.

As explained in my article about this occult elite party, the decor alluded to cannibalism and other debaucherous practices.

After the ritual, Corso is led to the final “initiation site.” It is also highly symbolic.

Corso arrives at the final gate.

These scenes were filmed at a site with a relevant history: Château de Puivert.

This 12th-century castle was built by lords who practiced Cathartism, a sect that the Church considered heretical.

Without going too deep into this rabbit hole of history, Cathars reinterpreted Christianity through a Gnostic lens. They believed in dualistic gods where the God of the Old Testament was Satan, and the God of the New Testament was “good.” They rejected the concept of Jesus’ ressurection and interpreted it as a form of reincarnation. In short, Cathars had more in common with occult circles than Christianity. In consequence, they were violently repressed by the Church.

So Corso seeks “illumination” in this spiritually charged place. But before this happens, something else has to happen: Sex. Weird, demonic sex.

As the château burns, Corso copulates with the girl. No, they’re not “hooking up.” It’s a bit more profound than that.

So who is this girl? What does she represent? Her true identity is (subtly) revealed at the very end of the movie when Corso finds the final engraving.

The final engraving depicts the girl sitting on a beast with seven heads.

While it is not clearly mentioned in the movie, the symbolism of this image reveals that the girl is the Whore of Babylon.

An illustration of the Whore of Babylon from Martin Luther’s 1534 translation of the Bible.

Yes, Roman Polanski cast his wife to play the role of the Whore of Babylon, “with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” Weird.

But why does this specific Biblical figure play an important role in the movie? Like in Rosemary’s Baby, The Ninth Gate announces the coming of a new era.

In the Book of Revelation, the Whore of Babylon embodies “spiritual adultery.” She represents fallen humanity’s determination to construct a godless society ruled by greed and immorality. She announces the coming of an age ruled by Satan (the dragon) and the Antichrist (the beast).

The Whore of Babylon is also an important figure in occult circles, such as in Aleister Crowley’s Thelema.

“In her most abstract form, Babalon represents the female sexual impulse and the liberated woman. In the creed of the Gnostic Mass she is also identified with Mother Earth, in her most fertile sense. Along with her status as an archetype or goddess, Crowley believed that Babalon had an earthly aspect or avatar; a living woman who occupied the spiritual office of the ‘Scarlet Woman’. The role of the Scarlet Woman was to help manifest the energies of the Aeon of Horus.”

As stated above, The Whore of Babylon is believed to bring about the Aeon of Horus. According to the Thelema, the last 2,000 years were in the Aeon of Osiris, characterized by the worshipping of a single male deity and patriarchal values. Crowley believed that, during the 20th century, the world entered the Aeon of Horus, characterized by humans wanting to find God within themselves.

And that’s exactly what happens to Corso.

In the movie’s final scene, Corso enters the final gate as a powerful light causes the screen to fade to white.

With the help of the Great Whore of Babylon, Corso has reached godhood.

In Conclusion

In the movie, it is said that The Ninth Gates can only be unlocked with “sufficient insider information.” The movie is built the same way. Like the allegorical tales shared in secret societies, The Ninth Gate has an exoteric meaning for the “profane” and an esoteric meaning for the “initiate.”

Corso’s tale is somewhat similar to Christ’s, but … anti. While the world’s richest people spent their entire lives and wealth attempting to become kings on Earth, the “chosen one” is a humble and unassuming nomad. After being put to the test and going through the nine gates of hell, Corso elevated himself to the level of a god.

Corso symbolically represents the “energy” of a new era dubbed the Aeon of Horus, in which the worship of a single God is replaced by the desire to reach godhood through one’s own means. That is the Luciferian way.


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