True Detective Writer Nic Pizzolatto Did His Homework

The Devil's Trap that HBO sent True Detective reviewers is the proper hoodoo talisman.

Last week HBO sent me a mysterious package as part of their promotional campaign for the new True Detective series, which premiered on Sunday and stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as detectives becoming obsessed with a murder they thought they’d solved. HBO apparently sent it to most of the reviewers covering True Detective. It’s a prop that the series calls a “devil’s trap” or a “bird’s nest.” In the series you put these things around your bed to keep the devils away. I put it near my bed but haven’t really been sleeping lately.

But, being the freak that I am, I decided to check a little deeper into the background of the Devil’s Trap. True Detective gave a clue when the preacher who explained what it was to McConaghey’s character, Rust Cohle, told him his grandmother was into a little Santeria. I asked two friends steeped in Santeria to identify the object. They couldn’t place it. But they are going to ask two friends and so on.

I did get a response from a witch named Dove Macob. Macob uses natural magic. She uses her senses, the earth, the atmosphere. Dove Macob confirmed what I originally thought, that the Devil’s Nest “looks like a fetish of some type. Depending on where it was found it could be some type of hoodoo or folk magick. It has a figural look so possibly meant to represent a particular person or spirit/entity.” On True Detective, the victim in the case that Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey are following is displayed in a ritualistic way. The Devil’s Nest is found at the scene.

future reading: A History of the Occult in the Ozarks

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Macob hadn’t seen the episode when she and I spoke, but the more she explained it, the more I realized that Nic Pizzolatto, the writer of the first episode “The Long Bright Dark,” did his homework. I don’t know whether the prop or marketing department went to an apothecary and put this together or just fashioned it out of what was lying around on the set but Macob says “it would be common that the body mass might possibly contain a variety of items massed together. Herbs, bones, hair, etc… all used in the creation of the fetish. It looks to be quite possible the ‘head’ and  ‘hair’ are mandrake root which is used in both old European Magick as well as American Hoodoo and Folk Magick.”

I asked Dove what someone would use this kind of thing for? It’s certainly got a more utilitarian function than catching demons. Macob examined the picture of the figure and theorized “this is a binding spell/fetish of some type. Most likely meant to be female-based on ‘hair’ and form visible in pics. The ‘figure’ appears from the pictures to have two twig ‘legs’ bound to the base of the tripod. Twine is present and appears to be binding the twigs representing the arms-at least one. The figure is bound within the tripod and actually seems a part of it. Because of the tripod and the way it’s peak becomes part of ‘head’ and the figures  ‘legs’ are open within, it most likely represents a ‘male’ energy placing dominance over female. It’s quite possible this is a binding to impose a male’s Will (possibly sexual) upon a female but that is purely a guess at this point. It might be be part of a spell working for a person or it might represent a more abstract binding of a female spirit/entity. Possibly a protective binding to entrap or repel a malevolent female energy or spirit.”

On True Detective, the victim is a woman. She has been brutalized by a man. If that isn’t a male will forcing itself onto a female, I don’t know what is. I don’t want to get into the sexual nature of the crime as told by HBO, because I don’t want to give anything away, but this figure is fully representative of the mind behind the crime.

So, again thanks to the promotional department at HBO for being so creative. I feel like True Detective’s Rust Cohle and Martin Hart.

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