Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “Seven Swans” — Sufjan Stevens (2004)

We saw the dragon move down
My father burned into coal
My mother saw it from afar
She took her purse to the bed
I saw a sign in the sky
Seven horns, seven horns, seven horns
I heard a voice in my mind
“I am Lord, I am Lord, I am Lord”
He said, “I am Lord, I am Lord, I am Lord”…

You know, one of the wackiest things about Greek Paganism is that you have to come to terms with random Gods descending from the heavens, transforming themselves into bulls or horses or sea monkeys or whatever, and either absconding with or raping helpless young nymphs. All in the name of CLASSICAL ART!

A perfectly odd way to start a post, but I’m going somewhere with this. I’ll figure it out when we get there. But stay with me.

I suppose it’d be more than a smidge reductive to label the title track from Sufjan Stevens’s 2004 album Seven Swans as a “Halloween song”. Like every other track on the indie/folk artist’s record, Seven Swans is a heartfelt and brilliantly rendered exploration of faith, spiritual themes, and some good old-fashioned Old Testament trickery and bloodshed. All good.

But the title track is fascinating to me. A slow, banjo-driven folk tune featuring a repeating descending melody, Seven Swans deals with nothing less than THE FREAKIN’ APOCALYPSE itself, which is just about as Halloween-styled terrifying as religious iconography can get.

Stevens provides it all: fire and brimstone, supernatural creatures destroying the unbelievers, the horns of Heaven blasting, voices out of nowhere proclaiming He has returned… and then He appears.

And like the pagan deities of the Hellenistic era, He comes gunning for you. And there is nowhere for you to escape his clutches.

But, in Stevens’s own words, he is chasing you, not to punish or destroy, but to take you like an aggressive lover. To take you to His home.

And in those final lines, Seven Swans becomes something wholly stunning. It is what any of the faithful would want, to be taken home. Yet it feels cosmic, supernatural, terrifying… and it leaves you helpless. To repeat the signs over and over in your mind, trying to make sense of Rapture. A living fear of God.

Happy Halloween, folks!

He will take you
If you run He will chase you
He will take you
If you run He will chase you
Because he is the Lord…

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