Stock Photo Hell
Circle Eight: Fraud
Bolgia Four: Soothsayers, Astrologers, and False Prophets, Oh My!
…in the valley’s circle I saw souls advancing, mute and weeping, at the pace that, in our world, holy processions take. As I inclined my head still more, I saw that each, amazingly, appeared contorted between the chin and where the chest begins; they had their faces twisted toward their haunches and found it necessary to walk backward, because they could not see ahead of them.”
-Canto XX, Mandlebaum translation
Apparently anyone who purported to have any kind of future knowledge was naughty, so they were punished with, like, literal hindsight, get it?! Their heads are on backwards. Oh, the contrapasso. Dante talks to a whole slew of famous folks from myth and history, including Tiresias, the soothsayer from that whole awkward Oedipus situation. Tiresias, it’s mentioned in the text, had a seven-year stint as a woman, and then changed back into a man. Dante also sees a sorceress called Manto who seemed to have a pretty sweet deal (living on an island, studying the occult, having Mantua named after her) until the whole afterlife/head of backwards thing.
If all of these people are punished for trying to see the future, then I think a modern version of the Inferno would include stock market analysts, meteorologists, and advertising agencies. Overall those folks are causing a lot more trauma in this world than the odd Tarot card reader or psychic.
Well, thankfully, Stock Photo Land knows EXACTLY what you need to be a soothsayer or a sorcerer. And it’s balls. By which I mean a large crystal and/or glowing ball. Also possibly a hood. Also some intense fashion and/or makeup choices. And DRAMATIC HAND GESTURES. If you have at least two of those things, you’re set. (Shockingly, none of the actual Tarot card readers, psychics, shamans, or occult dabblers that I know look very much like any of the people below.)
My search terms: “sorcerer,” “false prophet,” “astrologer,” “soothsayer” and then for kicks “sexy sorcerer” a related search that the sites suggested. “Sexy sorcerer” turned out to be mostly cheesy Halloween witches, though, and frankly the rest of my findings were more interesting.
In terms of the gendered things I always look for, I found that sorcerers were likely to be portrayed as either male or female, whereas soothsayers were overwhelmingly female. Usually, they were white women with some vague cultural appropriation going on.
My third favorite result came up under “astrologer”:
My second favorite result came up for “sorcerer”:
My favorite result, though, has to be the picture of the actual sorcerer that was sort of slipped in between the endless parade of balls. It’s an “editorial” stock photo, which loosely translates to “has more to do with the real world than stock photo land.” But anyway, here’s a sorcerer: