True Detective: Devil’s Trap Mystery Solved

The Devil's Trap from True Detective has been a haunting mystery since the show started. Now, how do you work this thing?

Maybe I should start a cult of the Devil Trap. At the beginning of the True Detective run, HBO sent all the reviewers a twig figure in an evidence box. A voodoo prop from the show. It was fun, it scared the kids. Most of the reviewers ignored it, or they wrote a few words and sold it on eBay. Not me. I put it by the bed and it wouldn’t let me sleep. Other people have contacted me wondering if I want to sell it. Such is the rabidity of True Detective fans. We will travel the nine circles of hell just for a clue.

The other upside of the True Detective fandom is that it brings out the true detective in people. I asked about Telios de Lorca in my last review and, lo and behold, a wonderful scholar and former professor did my homework for me. Thanks doc.

The Devil Trap still keeps me up at night. Last night I was up until all hours of the morning and decided to show it to Genoveva Rossi, a horror scream queen who happens to more than dabble in the esoteric arts. Genoveva practices folk magic and recognized my friend, happily perched atop my TV cabinet. She said “It looks like a fetish we see in Voodoo and Santeria, but the idea of the voodoo fetish supposedly came from European magic and was adopted into Voodoo. This is for protection, to trap bad energy or demons. These sorts of dolls are used a lot in hoodoo, rootwork, voodoo. A doll can curse, heal, protect, etc. It’s interesting that it’s called the `devil’s trap’ since the concept of the Devil doesn’t really exist in Voodoo.”

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I explain that True Detective takes place in New Orleans.

Rossi doesn’t skip a beat, referring to Robert Tallant’s works Voodoo in New Orleans and The Voodoo Queen, saying “In NOLA, Santeria and Voodoo merge. The slaves merged voodoo and Catholicism easy to do, both have one god and lesser Saints or Loas. All can be called on by Saint name or Loa name. One book I read on voodoo claims the first Doctor John brought the Key of Solomon back from Syria and to NOLA voodoo/hoodoo. (It was) supposed to be a symbol of great magic.”

read more: True Detective Season 3 Review

Genoveva, who does not have cable and has never seen True Detective, therefore knowing nothing of the symbols and diagrams True Detective fans have been studying for weeks, pulls out the phrase Key of Solomon. The Key of Solomon is a fourteenth century grimoire, which supposedly holds true magic. There are some who believe it carries the devil’s signature.

The Key of Solomon comes in two books and conjures 72 demons. The Key of Solomon is not known to be a work of god, other grimoires mention the 72 names of the Hebrew gods to call on. This one, not so much. It’s from a place far lower. The first book has spells and curses, conjurations and invocations to dead spirits and demons to force them to the conjurer’s will. The second book is about the practical application of Solomonic magick. It has exorcism instructions for when you get caught in the devil’s trap, but these ain’t the exorcists you call when your kid’s head is spinning, these are the guys who make the kids’ heads spin. It also talks about animal sacrifices. In True Detective, the men in the cult of the Yellow King dress as animals and perform human sacrifice. These are powerful men. As I said before, this sick shit might work.

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The fourteenth century, eh. Why, I was just mocked for falling for the True Detective line about Telios de Lorca who Joel Theriot, played by Nucky Johnson’s brother Shea Wigham, said was a twelfth century Franciscan mystic. Thierot says, “I knocked over a very old volume. The Letters of Telios de Lorca, a 12th century Franciscan mystic. Very obscure. When I picked up the book, this little folder falls out. Little folder of pictures. Pictures of children. Naked.”

One of the people who heeded my call for information on Telios de Lorca was an academic and indie filmmaker named Cynthia Greening. Although now I know it was all just a ploy to free me of my Devil Trap, Greening sent me an essay she wrote on this man of letters. Like many of us did, she googled the name and found nothing except that the Franciscan Order had only one mystic on call in the Twelfth Century, Saint Francis of Assisi, the man who started the order.

Telios de Lorca can’t be found on google search. That didn’t stop the stalwart former educator. Greening’s essay, “Telios de Lorca Unmasked,” says that “unlike the Yellow King, there is no direct historical text that Pizzolatto is referencing when he mentions Telios de Lorca. So, if Telios de Lorca isn’t a “he” then what is it meant to be?” Greening reasons that if Thierot went through the trouble of going through all that detail, and there was only one 12th century Franciscan mystic, that St. Francis must be the guy. Either that or that letter hasn’t been turned into a jpeg on the internet yet.

Greening writes that “Francis was born in Umbria in 1182; he had his mystical experience and religious conversion as a young man right at the turn of the century. Most researchers and biographers put his conversion around 1204 or 1205. Given that, Telios de Lorca, the Franciscan mystic, must be a metaphor or literary construct because St. Francis was barely a mystic in the making at the close of the 12th century.”

St. Francis “was enraptured with the beauty of ALL that God had created.” And his order, The Third Order Franciscans believed “Intimacy with God was the foremost priority for Francis, being in love with the One who loved him first.” Intimacy with God? Are we talking the same thing here? Sure, god would be the ultimate lay, but Francis, a one-god for life kind of guy called himself “a spouse of the Holy Spirit.” When St. Francis prayed “his ecstasy would come in different forms, often experiencing what was beyond human reason.” The rituals in the woods seemed to be some kind of unholy union with something just a little less divine than what St. Francis was talking about. It is a perversion of divine rapture.

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The google search of Telios de Lorca brings up the mystical poet and playwright Federico de Garcia Lorca. Lorca was born in Spain and was gay before gay was accepted. Greening writes “Garcia Lorca was very much like St. Francis of Assisi. He espoused a deep love and appreciation for the natural world and its importance on nurturing and sustaining the creative spirit. In fact, one of Garcia Lorca’s most important works was the Theory and Play of the Duende. Tener duende or duende translates loosely as `having soul.’”

The duende “burns the blood like powdered glass, that it exhausts, rejects all the sweet geometry we understand. All that has dark has duende. And there’s no deeper truth than that,” wrote Federico Garcia Lorca. That’s some hot stuff, there Freddy.

There is a lot of dark in the bayous of True Detective. I have my Devil’s Trap to keep them at bay. Though sometimes I think it’s more of an invitation awaiting an invocation. If the Devil Trap is a representation of an unholy union that can hold a demon and make it do your bidding, it explains the prevalence of them throughout the True Detective landscape. A city held at bay by its most powerful citizens. My Devil’s Trap stands on three legs, pinning devils, gods and monsters like a sumo wrestling Sumerian. So, armed as I am with this Devil’s Trap and the other diagrams in the book, I gotta ask. How do I activate it?

Keep up with True Detective Season 3 news and reviews here.