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All The Cults And Rituals Shown In ‘Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham’

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Directed by Sam Liu and Christopher Berkeley, “The Doom That Came to Gotham” (2023) is the latest addition to the Batman animated film franchise. It is one of the darkest and most thought-provoking productions to date in the entire DC canon, from the Lovecraftian-horror-induced plot to the several cultish rituals shown on screen. The film has a lot of Eastern and Western mythological elements fused into the storyline, which further adds to its flavor. The story, having been set in a Prohibition-era Gotham, portrays the city as having plunged into trepidation and decadence, leaving it wide open to possession by an ancient cult with insidious intentions. The plot has to do with the summoning of an all-powerful cosmic being (Iog-Sotha) to Gotham by the ancient ‘Cult of Ghul’ and their ungodly leader, Ra’s al Ghul, in order to sacrifice the Earth and all of its beings to appease the so-called deity. Bruce Wayne and his apprentices are faced with the overwhelming task of preventing that from happening, a task that, in the end, would prove fatal for most of the party. There are many cultish rituals and necromantic ceremonies that have been portrayed throughout the course of the film, and some of them have been listed below.

Spoilers Ahead


The Cult Of Ghul

The ‘Cult of Ghul’ is a centuries-old cult created by Ra’s al Ghul to propagate his sinister ideas across the world. Over the ages, it has been responsible for various atrocious acts of aggression against humanity, like slaughtering innocents and practicing the dark arts to further its own means. It is a single organization of black magic practitioners with a deep history with the city of Gotham, as is discovered by Bruce while reading Prof. Cobblepot’s journal. It followed the unholy doctrines of ‘The Testament of Ghul,’ which is a collection of ancient tenets laid down by Ra’s al Ghul centuries ago and closely associated with demonic-summoning rituals and the credo of Iog-Sotha, the celestial deity that they worship. It is this book that Talia al Ghul uses to summon demons like Daitya and resurrect her father, Ra’s al Ghul, who in turn uses it to open the gateway to his master, the amorphous Cthulhuesque god, from the outer realm. It is discovered that Talia was the last surviving member of this cult before resurrecting Ra from the dominion of death and that its members possessed the power to command hellish creatures and several other reptilian life forms, like lizards and serpents.


Motifs Of Necromancy, Resurrection, And The Summoning Rituals

Necromancy is a fundamentally recurring motif in the film. Talia al Ghul performs necromancy to resurrect her father with the help of the demon Daitya. Again towards the end, when Barbara Gordon channels the spirit of Bruce’s father, Thomas Wayne, who has been condemned to hell, he divulges several secrets about the creation of Gotham and how he, accompanied by Oswald Cobblepot, Henry Queen and Bartly Langstrom, had resorted to necromancy with the help of ‘The Testament of Ghul” to sustain the life of their infant colony some centuries prior, which in turn bestowed upon them the gift of immortality, but at a terrible cost. Their act, as narrated by Thomas Wayne, had led to the awakening of Iog-Sotha in the first place and sealed the fate of their bloodlines. Their children would have to carry the weight of their sins till death, and it would ultimately fall upon Bruce to break the linkage of the curse by sacrificing himself to the eternal Bat-Spirit.

We find at the beginning of the narrative when Bruce is led to the cave in Antarctica by Cobblepot, that Grendon is trying to chisel out a deity that is trapped inside the icy cave, who is later revealed to be Yib-Nageroth, the offspring of Iog-Sotha. Grendon’s appearance resembles that of a walking corpse, totally dismembered and held together by the sub-zero temperatures of the frozen desert. He was kept alive by the essence of Yib-Nageroth that resided inside him, and that would later be used by the al Ghuls to birth Poison Ivy out of his corpse. There are various summoning rituals that are performed throughout the course of the film; for instance, Talia al Ghul summons the demonic entity Daitya to prevent Batman from procuring the ‘Testament of Ghul,’ Ra summons lizards and serpents to infest the city of Gotham using the incantations from the Testament, and Bruce performs a ritual using Dr. Kirk Langstrom’s alter to summon the eternal Bat-Spirit.


Prophecies And Visions

Since the beginning of the film, prophecies, and visions of impending ‘doom’ and destruction have manifested into the plot, making it even more interesting and non-linear. As Bruce returns to Gotham, he is visited by Jason Blood, who is the alter-ego of Etrigan, a demonic anti-hero who asserts three prophecies that must be fulfilled by Bruce to prevent the destruction of the world. Firstly, he would have to seek out two spirits to confer, one that exists in the form of the eternal Bat and the other, who is enveloped by fire; secondly, Bruce would have to die to become what he truly is; and finally, Gotham must be burned to the ground before it can be saved. Being a strong believer in rationality and scientific facts, Bruce initially pays no heed to these prophecies but is ultimately forced to accept his fate once he learns of the dark history of his lineage and his beloved city. Ever plagued by the memories of his parents’ murder, it triggers his visions of horror and the impending doom that lurks at the threshold of Gotham. He is taken to suffer flashes of terrifying agony when he glimpses the true form of the cosmic entity, Iog-Sotha, and finally succumbs to the prophecies, offering himself up to the eternal Bat-Spirit in a desperate attempt to prevent Ra’s sinister plan from manifesting.


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Ritam Ghosh
Ritam Ghosh
Ritam is an aspiring writer and filmmaker, having participated in various national and international film festivals. He has recently completed his MA in English Literature from the University of Calcutta and holds a First-Class degree in his graduation with English (Hons). He is currently a certified citizen historian with the 1947 Partition Archives, under the Oral History Program, in association with the Stanford University Libraries.

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