From Hell – a detail about infanticide

By Barry Kavanagh, 17 October 2000

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Yeah, From Hell, I’m very proud of it. It’s a big, black, monumental work. Victorian.

There’s a couple of things in the background. There’s one bit, I think it’s chapter 4, where Gull is talking about child sacrifice as a usurpation of a female symbol and then later on –

– Is he? Let me think. Child sacrifice.

Chapter 4. That would be when he’s with –

– He’s with Netley, going around London. I’m trying to remember. I remember there is something about when he’s saying about sacrificing children is a way of kind of negating female power.

I found the page, here [page 24]. He says “Goddesses were replaced by Gods. Next came child sacrifice, killing that first, most awesome female symbol, which is motherhood, their magic and their power.”

This is not necessarily true but this is what Gull, in my opinion, could have believed.

Because then later you have – they’re talking about Ratcliffe Highway, the Marr family murders and he says [a] child [was] killed [and asks was this] a “ritual act, to shape society,” i.e. [the] creation of the police force. I’m just kind of interested in this infanticide taboo as –

Well, it just struck me that – there are probably lots of reasons for child sacrifice – I believe that a lot of sacrifices were done with the best interest of the victim in mind, they were to make people sacred. At the same time, it struck me that sacrificing children would be a way of kind of negating female power.

I kind of think it’s a very deep taboo, it provokes extreme
reactions in society.

Well, look at Myra Hindley. I mean, she’s never going to get out.

Yeah. The recent thing in Britain, Sarah Payne. After that there
were vigilante mobs.

[Laughs] Private Eye did a cartoon about some guy being chased by a mob and the guy shouting “But I’m a paediatrician!” and they reported that within ten days of that cartoon being published, purely by coincidence, somewhere down on the South Coast of Britain, a mob of, one presumes, completely illiterate subnormal News of the World readers, actually drove a woman paediatrician from her home and spray-painted the prefix “paedo” upon her doors and walls and stuff like that. Yeah, it’s not just about child murder, it’s also about child sex. And you’ve only got to really look at British culture. Why do we get so upset about that? I mean, surely, can it be a coincidence that, say, in the Sun newspaper, the ideal of female beauty would seem to be the body – the overdeveloped body – of a nubile woman and, what, the face of a twelve-year-old? Paedophilia is completely ingrained within our culture. In places where they have pornography, Sweden, Denmark, places like that, where they have open pornography, you don’t get kids being raped, murdered and thrown in the canal. It’s something we can keep a pressure-cooker lid on over here and we can talk abo ut deploring this shit but I think a lot of time I’d want to know exactly what the home lives of some of these mob members were like.

Yeah, it seemed to be after the Sarah Payne killing, it seemed to be “Let’s get the paedophiles,” so they automatically made the connection themselves, or so-called connection between –

– Whereas I mean obviously, yeah, children are in danger from paedophiles and strangers, that’s true. They’re in much more danger from their own families, statistically speaking.

Yeah, and from mobs… Actually, the Halifax Slasher case [1938] was preceded by the murder of an eight-year-old girl in Bradford, so that helps kind of raise the consciousness of random attacks and so on.

They all contribute to the hysterias. The Halifax Slasher was an interesting one, though, because there was nobody there. That was just complete hysteria. It was like the Ripper hysteria but there was no actual figure at the centre of it. Just this mysterious absence.

Well, also the Great Witch Hunts, one of the major things that so-called witches were accused of was killing children.

Yeah, and Jews. In a lot of the Pogroms. I mean, what is it, the Blood Libel? They call it the Blood Libel. I know in Northampton in I think the 1300s we had accused Jews of sacrificing Christian babies at arcane kabbalistic rituals. Basically, we probably owed them some money and didn’t want to pay it back and so it was a good excuse to take out all the Jews and stone them to death.

There’s a whole – infanticide is just one – there’s a whole network of these taboos that seem to provoke –

– They’re buttons that you can press in people… The whole British notion of childhood is screwed anyway because we only invented childhood in the late 19th Century, when most of the little bastards were dying of croup on doorsteps.

I thought it was earlier, I thought it was maybe mid-18th Century, or was that just children of the rich?

Probably children of the rich. I know that by the late 19th Century or mid-19th Century the children of the poor were getting married at the age of twelve. They were setting up home on their own, I mean you were kicked out of the nest at the age of about ten because your parents certainly couldn’t – you know, you were expected to work from the moment that you could first sell matches or whatever.

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