Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne Theory: Who Was the Lady in Black?

I’d been meaning to write about this for awhile, but hesitated and in the end, I’m glad that I did because I found a much more likely candidate for one of the longest running mysterious of the Shin Megami Tensei series. In celebration of the HD Remaster of SMT Nocturne that was announced to be released next year in 2021, I thought this would be an opportune time to take a crack at it. Who was the Lady in Black? We never get a definitive answer to this mystery and most people are content to either cite Paimon (the longest held theory, which is so old that it had existed before I had become a fan of the series), Lucifer his/herself, or to just shrug their shoulders and simply accept it as a mystery. Unfortunately for me, due to my boundless curiosity, these answers didn’t quite satisfy me. I had actually been the one to come-up with the alternate fan theory of The Morrigan (or some form of The Morrigan), but thanks to doing research into Christian Kabbalah’s Qliphoth to debunk a certain other blogger, I’ve come across some interesting information that I’m 90 percent sure josses my original theory of The Morrigan and provides a much stronger candidate than either Paimon or even Lucifer her/himself. I say 90 percent, because theories of this nature are always a form of betting and my bet could be off the mark. I’m not so arrogant as to think that I can’t be wrong here. Nevertheless, if you’re intrigued by this mystery as I’ve always been, then perhaps you’ll find this an enjoyable read. I’ll be going through the candidates in reverse order from who I believe is least likely to the most likely.

There are a few caveats that I believe are necessary to go over before I truly begin though. First and foremost, this’ll obviously contain Major Spoilers for Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne Maniax edition. There’s no way I can talk about this topic in full depth without spoiling the True Demon Ending of the game. Second, this may contain bizarro images of the television show Twin Peaks and it will spoil the major twist of a 1987 Occult film known as Angel Heart because – to the best of my knowledge – both comprise of homages that Kazuma Kaneko and his writing staff used in creating the Lady in Black. As a final content warning, one of the links to the final candidate features nudity in the Tumblr link. The Mainline series is filled with mature content, but I thought the notice should be added just in case. Finally, I’d like to make it clear that if you believe with good literary evidence that my conclusions here are false or that I’ve missed the mark somehow, then please respond in the comment section to inform me of if you’ve found candidates who you believe fit the Lady in Black’s motifs much better than the ensemble of candidates that I’ve listed and I can update this blog post if I find your arguments regarding literary motifs and themes convincing. Furthermore, I’ll be sharing my thought processes for how and why I came to the conclusions that I did in the hopes that it’ll either be convincing or you can point to flaws in my logic that I didn’t see and can provide information ameliorating my doubts on each of them.


Paimon

Paimon, known alternatively as King Paimon, Paimonia, Poymon, or Paymon is described as follows from the Wikipedia article “List of Demons in the Ars Goetia”:

one of the Kings of Hell, more obedient to Lucifer than other kings are, and has two hundred legions of demons under his rule. He has a great voice and roars as soon as he comes, speaking in this manner for a while, until the conjurer compels him and then he answers clearly the questions he is asked. When a conjurer invokes this demon he must look towards the northwest, the direction of Paimon’s house, and when Paimon appears he must be allowed to ask the conjurer what he wishes and be answered, in order to obtain the same from him.

  1. Paimon teaches all arts, philosophies and sciences, and secret things; he can reveal all mysteries of the Earth, wind and water, what the mind is, and where it is, and everything the conjurer wants to know. He gives good familiars, dignities and confirms them, and binds men to the conjurer’s will.
  2. If Paimon is cited alone, some offering or sacrifice must be done, and he will accept it; then two kings called Beball (Bebal or Labal) and Abalam (Abalim) will go to him together with other spirits, often twenty-five legions; but these other spirits do not always come unless the conjurer call upon them.
  3. Paimon is depicted as a man with an effeminate face, wearing a precious crown, and riding a dromedary. Before him often goes a host demons with the shape of men, playing trumpets, cymbals, and any other sort of musical instrument.

In general, this seems to be the most complete information on Paimon, I’ve searched for more information, but there’s barely much else that isn’t already described up above. This is who I had first been led to believe was the Lady in Black, but over the years I began to notice glaring problems. First of all, this never explained why Paimon would be able to alternate between a young and old lady’s appearance. Why was Paimon able to change between a Young and Old Lady in body shape? Nothing in Paimon’s mythology indicates he has such a power. Second, neither the Old Lady nor Lady in Black were wearing a crown, they were wearing a bride veil and mourning veil respectively. Third, and the one that made me seriously doubt this theory, was that the Lady in Black and Lucifer clearly transform into dark birds at the end of the True Demon ending. There is nothing in Paimon’s mythology to indicate that he has such a power. I searched what shapeshifting powers or symbols are commonly related to Paimon and nothing about dark birds, crows, or ravens came-up at all. Here’s the kicker though: Other demons in the Ars Goetia do have crow, dark bird, and raven symbolisms and they fit better than Paimon. Here’s just a few:

The demon Naberius (also Naberus, Nebiros and Cerberus, Cerbere) was first mentioned by Johann Weyer in 1583.[16] He is supposedly the most valiant Marquis of Hell, and has nineteen legions of demons under his command. He makes men cunning in all arts, but especially in rhetoric, speaking with a hoarse voice. He also restores lost dignities and honors, although to Johann Weyer he procures the loss of them. Naberius appears as a three-headed dog or a raven. He has a raucous voice but presents himself as eloquent and amiable. He teaches the art of gracious living. He is depicted as a crow or a black crane. Concerning his name, it is unclear if there is an association with the Greek Cerberus. It is said that in 1583, Johann Weyer considers both of them to be the same demon. He claimed:

Naberius [Naberus], alias Cerberus, is a valiant marquesse, shewing himselfe in the forme of a crowe, when he speaketh with a hoarse voice: he maketh a man amiable and cunning in all arts, and speciallie in rhetorike, he procureth the losse of prelacies and dignities: nineteene legions heare (and obeie) him.

Phenex (also Pheynix, Phoenix, Phoeniex) is a Great Marquis of Hell and has twenty legions of demons under his command. He teaches all wonderful sciences, is an excellent poet, and is very obedient to the conjuror. Phenex hopes to return to Heaven after 1,200 years, but he is deceived in this hope. He is depicted as a phoenix, which sings sweet notes with the voice of a child, but the conjurer must warn his companions (for he has not to be alone) not to hear them and ask him to put in human shape, which the demon supposedly does after a certain amount of time. Johann Weyer’s Pseudomonarchia Daemonum describes this spirit as follows:

Phoenix is a great marquesse, appearing like the bird Phoenix, having a child’s voice: but before he standeth still before the conjuror, he singeth manie sweet notes. Then the exorcist with his companions must beware he give no eare to the melodie, but must by and by bid him put on humane shape; then will he speake marvelous of all wonderfull sciences. He is an excellent poet, and obedient, he hopeth to returne to the seventh throne after a thousand two hundredth yeares, and governeth twentie legions.

Raum (also Raim, Raym, Räum) is a Great Earl of Hell, ruling thirty legions of demons. He is depicted as a crow which adopts human form at the request of the conjurer. Raum steals treasures out of kings’ houses, carrying them where he wishes, and destroys cities and dignities of men (he is said to have great dispraise for dignities). Raum can also tell things past, present and future, reconcile friends and foes, and invoke love.

The major problem with Paimon is that the description just doesn’t fit the Lady in Black’s motifs. Any of these other demons could fit better because what Paimon “teaches” is far too general of a description to be useful as an indicator of anything. You could switch out all the many subjects that Paimon teaches with “secret knowledge” and potentially every demon in the Ars Goetia could be a candidate. It would obviously be fallacious to say that Atlus Japan absolutely meant to depict Paimon and the reason the evidence doesn’t fit is because Atlus Japan failed at depicting Paimon’s mythology correctly. The reason it doesn’t seem to fit is because Lady in Black probably isn’t Paimon. Paimon doesn’t have alternating forms of age, Paimon doesn’t have a bride veil or mourning veil in his mythology, Lady in Black never uses any musical instruments, Lady in Black never sits atop any camel or camel-like monster, and the dark bird transformation doesn’t fit at all when other potential candidates in the same demonic mythology could explain it better. At best, Atlus Japan’s artwork for Paimon with his double-cubed colored cape is the only possible similarity to anything related to the Lady in Black and I would argue that even this is too general.

Perhaps I am missing something major here, but I’ve not found any compelling literary analogies, motifs, or inferences to suggest that the Lady in Black was ever Paimon. It seems as if whomever created this idea just searched online for Lucifer’s most loyal Goetia demon, confused Lady in Black’s face veil for a crown, and decided that it was Paimon. However, perhaps I am mistaken, and if so please provide me with evidence of any of Lady in Black’s physical qualities, commentary, or indications of her potential resemblance to Paimon that I may have missed. As of my research into it thus far, I’ve found no evidence to support that Paimon has any shapeshifting ability or age-changing powers of any kind.

Of the other demons I indicated, I found one in particular from around the same 17th and 18th century mythology that I believe fits the best, which is why I’ve left it as the last person on the list.


Lucifer

Lucifer is entirely possible. In fact, everything the Lady in Black does, Lucifer is actively shown to also do in SMT III: Nocturne. The Lady in Black being Lucifer makes perfect sense in the context of the Shin Megami Tensei series. But . . . my own personal dislike for this choice notwithstanding, what would have been the point? If they wanted to go for mystery, why not just have Lucifer appear as the Old and Young Lady, with the TDE revealing the true from of his/her demonic form in the Superboss fight after you defeat Kagutsuchi? If they wanted to make it obvious, why not just have Lucifer appear as the Young Boy and Old Man in the Wheelchair? In future games, Lucifer appeared as a woman such as in Strange Journey and Lucifer wasn’t with anyone when appearing that way.

If that answer is mystery for mysteries sake, or some vague sense of grandeur or to just seem cool, then it seems completely pointless and doesn’t add anything to either the symbolism or the themes. It would just be vague homages to Twin Peaks as can be seen in the comparison images below:

I suppose my main contention is . . . why not just have either Lady in Black / Old Lady as Lucifer’s appearance or just Lucifer’s Young Boy / Old Man in the Wheelchair variations as the only ones to appear? Why bother with both? And if it is so devoid of meaning, why hasn’t the depiction of Lucifer as two people standing together been in other games in the series? Of course, we see Young and Old Lucifer transform into the demonic form in SMT III Nocturne’s True Demon Ending. After their defeat, they shapeshift right in front of the Demifiend, so it is not out of the norm. Yet, there’s still an issue, why were there two birds flying past Demifiend instead of just one bird in the True Demon Ending itself? If it was simply meant to show various forms of Lucifer, were the two birds also just to pointlessly look cool without any greater significance? If the four different forms of Old Lady, Lady in Black, Young Boy, and Old Man were all suppose to be Lucifer, then why not have just one bird fly past the Demifiend? Overall, it is entirely possible, but I’m not completely convinced.


 

The Morrigan / Variation of The Morrigan

As it has been a long time ago when I made this theory, I think its best to just copy and paste what I posted in the Gamefaqs forums many years ago regarding why I thought this theory was viable. One particular issue that made me doubt it was that The Morrigan was depicted as a Law demon in SMT lore, so I had assumed it was some variation of The Morrigan and not The Morrigan itself due to that. The Morrigan is a Triple Goddess with 3 different deities being part of the one (similar to Christianity’s Holy Trinity), but with different Irish deities being part of The Morrigan’s trinity depending upon the particular Irish myth, so I had assumed one of the aspects of The Morrigan was the Lady in Black for many years up until a month ago. Here was my justification when it was still fresh in my mind, but with a few touch-ups:

I looked-up Cu Chulainn’s background and found something interesting. There was a triple Goddess (‘triple’ meaning three deities in one body) named ‘The Morrigan’ who appeared to Cu Chulainn as a young woman to give him her love and aid. Cu Chulainn rejects her for sexist reasons (he didn’t believe a woman could be of any help to him) and she transforms into a dark bird and threatens his life. Later, after she’s failed to kill him in a battle, she tricks him into healing her by appearing as an old hag. Near Cu Chulainn’s death, she appears again as an old lady washing bloody armor (this apparently symbolized death). When Cu Chulainn dies, it’s only when a raven (presumably Morrigan) lands on his shoulder that his enemies believe he is really dead.

You might be wondering what this has to do with the Lady in Black. Well, in one of the first meetings in the peephole, she gives the main character words of love and consistently promises to aid him if he joins Lucifer’s side. She appears as an Old Lady to scorn him and you’re never really 100% sure that the Old Lady is the Young Lady until the end of the game in the TDE route (many probably made the connection but you’re not given a direct confirmation until the end).

Here’s what I found most interesting: After beating Lucifer in a fight, Lucifer calls forth the army and then both he and the Lady in Black disappear into darkness. You see two dark birds fly toward New Kagutsuchi in the ending.

Morrigan’s raven form is known to incite armies into battle (this can arguably be depicted by the glowing eyes of the entire army of Chaos including HitoShura). That, combined with the Old-Young lady routine throughout the game, seems to at least make this theory plausible.

Morrigan is the goddess/demon of death, strife, war, and fertility. She’s closely connected to the idea of fate too. Her whole existence is pretty open with conflicting accounts and many names attached to her (though she is NOT Morgan La Fey from King Arthur). Her ‘sisters’ are connected to sovereignty, horses, war, and foreshadowing carnage in war. The themes all fit the Candelabrums that you collect throughout the True Demon Ending route of the game. Also, The Morrigan is typically depicted as a red-haired woman but some accounts do say she has black hair. Now, I’m not saying this idea of mine is 100% true or without flaws but I do think it’s just as plausible as the Paimon idea. Paimon was thought to be the Lady in Black for her effeminate features (though the Old Lady sort of contradicts that), her obvious loyalty to Lucifer, and her knowledge of so many things. I do think everything I mentioned about Morrigan is significant to the TDE ending especially the black birds that fly overheard of the army (one of Morrigan’s most well-known traits as a War Goddess). The fact she can shape-shift from a Young and Old lady bears significance. Both ideas are arguably superficial though. I think the creators may have just wanted the players to interpret who she was on their own just like the backgrounds of all the human characters. I think it’s fun and interesting to speculate over.

The main reason I had concluded The Morrigan was because of the two black birds in the game that I had thought the Lady in Black could transform into, one was Yatagarsu who was always depicted as a Law deity (even in the PS2 era with the Raidou games) and the other was Badb Catha who is an aspect of The Morrigan’s War Goddess traits:

In Irish mythology, the Badb (Old Irishpronounced [ˈbaðβ]), or in Modern Irish Badhbh (Irish pronunciation: [ˈba̠u]Munster Irish[ˈba̠iv])—also meaning “crow“—is a war goddess who takes the form of a crow, and is thus sometimes known as Badb Catha (“battle crow”).[1] She is known to cause fear and confusion among soldiers to move the tide of battle to her favoured side. Badb may also appear prior to a battle to foreshadow the extent of the carnage to come, or to predict the death of a notable person. She would sometimes do this through wailing cries, leading to comparisons with the bean-sídhe (banshee).

With her sisters, Macha and the Morrigan or Anand, Badb is part of a trio of war goddesses known as the three Morrígna.

The general description of The Morrigan is what made me think it could be her, since the themes of her mythology tied in so well with the True Demon Route, the Candelabra, Sovereignty and Fate, and the Fiends. Additionally, the Lady in Black and Old Lady’s appearances popping up everywhere seemed like a plausible reference to The Morrigan’s phantom queen moniker, so I had thought perhaps one of the many variations of her “triple Goddess” forms could have been The Lady in Black. The floral patterns that The Morrigan is known for also seemed to fit the details of the face veil on the Lady in Black while the mourning veil seemed to fit The Morrigan’s Old Lady myth as being present before someone’s death. The increased significance of Irish deities like Danu (who has similar myths to The depiction of the Lady in Black) made me think it was even more plausible, but what I had unfortunately done was use future information to support past information which was a fallacy on my part. Here’s a general description of The Morrigan from the Wiki to better understand why I had thought The Morrigan fit as the Lady in Black:

The Morrígan or Mórrígan, also known as Morrígu, is a figure from Irish mythology. The name is Mór-Ríoghain in Modern Irish, and it has been translated as “great queen” or “phantom queen”.

The Morrígan is mainly associated with war and fate, especially with foretelling doom, death or victory in battle. In this role she often appears as a crow, the badb.[1] She incites warriors to battle and can help bring about victory over their enemies. The Morrígan encourages warriors to do brave deeds, strikes fear into their enemies, and is portrayed washing the bloodstained clothes of those fated to die.[2][3] She is most frequently seen as a goddess of battle and war and has also been seen as a manifestation of the earth- and sovereignty-goddess,[4][5] chiefly representing the goddess’s role as guardian of the territory and its people.[6][7]

The Morrígan is often described as a trio of individuals, all sisters, called “the three Morrígna”.[4][8][9] Membership of the triad varies; sometimes it is given as BadbMacha and Nemain[10] while elsewhere it is given as Badb, Macha and Anand (the latter is given as another name for the Morrígan).[11] It is believed that these were all names for the same goddess.[4][12] The three Morrígna are also named as sisters of the three land goddesses ÉriuBanba and Fódla. The Morrígan is described as the envious wife of The Dagda and a shape-shifting goddess,[13] while Badb and Nemain are said to be the wives of Neit.[4] She is associated with the banshee of later folklore.[4

Unfortunately, I now think this theory is not true because I found greater evidence to support the final candidate. I’d say that the likelihood of The Lady in Black being the Morrigan or a variation of The Morrigan has shot down to a 60 percent chance at best for me. The next candidate is someone who I have a 90 percent confidence level as the true identity of the Lady in Black:


Archdemon Naamah (?)

Naamah is alternatively named Na’amah, Naama, and sometimes even with her locale of Nehemoth. She is the sister of Lilith and shouldn’t be confused with the sister of Tubal Cain nor the wife of Moses who both share the name. When researching information to verify Eirikrjs’s arguments about Kabbalah in SMT Nocturne, I had found that he seemed to have made errors in his mistaken belief that SMT Nocturne was referencing the Sephirot when it was obviously the Qliphoth, but imagine my surprise when I came across this when researching Malkuth’s Qliphoth from Christian Kabbalah on the Wikipedia:

The Qliphah of Malkuth is represented by the demonic order Nehemoth, ruled by the Archdemon Naamah. Symbols associated with this sphere are a Bride (a young woman on a throne with a veil over her face) and a double cubed altar. Where Binah is known as the Superior Mother, Malkuth is referred to as the Inferior Mother. It is also referred to as the Bride of Microprosopos, where the Macroprosopos is Kether.

The double-cubed altar, the woman with a veil over her face, and the first Candelabra / Menorah that the Lady in Black gives you all fit the description of the Qliphoth of Malkuth’s representative of Archdemon Naamah. It’s almost a direct reference. The double-cubed altar is representative of the general floor patterns where she and Lucifer stand on the stage, the double-cube may even be referenced by the cubical structure that the Demifiend rides which lands on another cubical of the same type when he’s in front of the Lady in Black and Lucifer to complete the ritual in front of the stage (which is an Altar, judging from the Christian Kabbalah mythos), and the Inferior Mother and Superior Mother seems to be referenced via the Lady in Black and Old Lady shape-shifting. Thus, symbolizing all aspects of the Christian Kabbalah’s Qliphoth and being a guide for the Demifiend to acquire strength out of personal passion and to suffer for his own gradual self-overcoming over all obstacles.

Naamah’s Qliphoth symbolism of the demonic legion seems to fit neatly with the True Demon Ending too:

Malkuth (hebrew, Kingdom) is the tenth Sephira and the only point outside of or below the three Triads at the very end of the Etz Chiim. Malkuth therefore cannot be described as a single reflection of any specific Sephira but has to be understood as a reflection or point of culmination of all nine Sephiroth above her. The last Sephira in the Tree doesn’t express a tenth quality of divine forces of creation, yet it is the expression of all focussed and manifested powers above her: Malkuth is the concentration and materialization of all preceding emanations of the divine in a single point. Thus the forces of divine creation take shape in Malkuth just like a king in his kingdom.

Just like the positive forces of the nine Sephiroth above Malkuth are condensed in this single point, the Qliphoth of Malkuth equally is a culmination of all preceding demonic forces. The shape and influence of this Qliphoth is therefore one and many at the same time; just like it is stated in the Bible “My name is Legion, because there are many of us.” (Mark 5:9). The name of the Qliphoth of Malkuth is ‘Lilith’ or ‘Nahemoth’ which can be translated as ‘Queen of the Night’. The Zohar explains “the disgracing spirit of nature” (Sohar I. fol. 55a) as the source or reason of Lilith and her sister demons ‘Naama’ and ‘Igrith’.

Back when I had thought that Triple Goddess Morrigan was the best candidate, it always confused me how Atlus Japan could have gone from their initial concept prior to the making of the Amala Labyrinth. The Debug room from Vanilla Nocturne shows an incomplete cut scene of Lilith guiding Demifiend into an underground passage in Ikebukuro which was the original idea for what later became the Amala Labyrinth:

Source of debug video is from The Cutting Room Floor.

It confused me how they could have gone from Lilith to the Triple Goddess Morrigan, I suppose I rationalized it from later games giving Irish deities more prominence in their narratives. However, when I consider Archdemon Naamah, it makes a lot more sense for Atlus Japan to have gone from Lilith as a guide to Lilith’s own sister in Biblical mythology. Atlus Japan has referenced Christian Kabbalah before, but what about the dark birds? I hadn’t found any references to crows, ravens, or dark birds for Archdemon Naamah just as I hadn’t for Paimon. However, this was quickly resolved when I considered Lilith’s mythology. Since Lilith and Archdemon Naamah are indeed sisters in their mythology, it makes sense that references to Lilith being a nightbird or “night-spectre” and even “night hag” which all fit Naamah in SMT Nocturne. In some interpretations of their mythologies, Lilith and Naamah are considered the Nightbird race. It seems, similar to Lucifer and Satan, they fit the sexual and snake-like mythology to Lilith while Naamah was given the nightbird and night-whisperer set of mythology. This makes sense, since mythologies almost always manage to self-contradict. For example, in the full scope of Greek Mythology, Kronos is both Zeus’s Father as a Titan and his Son as a God. This may also explain why Atlus opted to have Gods separate into different entities as an explanation in SMTIV Apocalypse as it helps ameliorate the self-contradictions and potential confusions. So, insofar as SMT Nocturne, for Lilith, they seem to have given the sensual and snake-like mythology and for Lady in Black, they gave the mentorship, night-whisperer, and nightbird aspects of mythology.

For more on the specific Qliphoth mythology used… The Qliphoth Wikipedia showing Malkuth’s dark side of Nehemoth points to excitation:

Nehemoth: Whisperers (or Night Specter)

“These are responsible for frightening sounds in strange places. They excite the mind and cause strange desires.” This corresponds with Malkuth as well.

Naamah: Pleasant

Naamah “is traditionally a demon and the sister of Lilith, possibly a remembrance of the Egyptian Nephthys and Isis. It is conceivable that Nehema is the same as Naamah, the sister of Tubal Cain.”

As mentioned before, mythology can be self-contradictory. If Atlus Japan is indeed referencing Archdemon Naamah, then it is probably from the Christian Kabbalah interpretation which to my knowledge rejects the Archdemon Naamah being the same person as the sister of Tubal Cain. It seems Atlus Japan changed the inferences to sexual pleasure to instead mean self-empowerment and a passion for acquiring knowledge and strength. Based on my previous research into Yesod, they most certainly changed the meaning of sexual pleasure in the Qliphoth to excitement over physical combat against fellow competitors as a reverse of the Sephirot’s theme of cooperation. In this specific instance, Archdemon Naamah seemed to have her references to passionate sexual relations ignored (or otherwise given to Lilith exclusively) and the focus instead was strictly placed on her Occult stories of being nurturing, instructive, and guiding those condemned to hell to take a step back and examine their problems. Some of the Occult descriptions of what Naamah symbolizes and how she helps people from what I found on Tumblr blogs of Goddess worshippers:

 In addition to Her rulership of the tenth Sephirothic and anti-Sephirothic spheres of Malkuth and Lilith, Naamah is also aligned with the 31st Path known as Sekhel Temidi or the Path of Perpetual Intelligence upon the Tree of Life and the Element of Fire, indicating Her association with sexuality and passion. Naamah’s nature may thus be seen as primarily aligned with Earth, but secondarily incorporating aspects of both Fire and Water. Naamah is perhaps the most nurturing of the Four Queens and is ever-eager to provide comfort and reassurance to Her children. Thus I attribute to Her nature the Element of Earth as the primary Element and the Element of Water as the secondary Element—acknowledging the role of Fire within Her nature as a goddess of passionate love. Naamah also offers serenity to those who are troubled by worry and indecision. She helps us to slow down and examine the obstacles before us, reminding us of our strengths and abilities to solve all of life’s problems by having faith in our own Selves. She helps us to recognise those things in our lives which are detrimental to our wellbeing as well as those which benefit us or will do so in the future.

Naamah has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the most sensual and virtuous Demonesses of sacred sexuality. She has even been depicted within fictional literary works such as the novel Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey as a gracious divine mother goddess, inspiring within Her children passion, desire and an appreciation of sexual pleasure. This portrayal of Naamah is rather accurate as She is a goddess to whom all matters of human sexuality are sacred gifts. One is reminded of the line delivered by the Great Goddess of Wicca in which She says “all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals”. This is perhaps a perfect sentiment for Naamah. Those who seek Her mysteries should bear in mind that to appreciate the joys of the flesh is to pay homage to Naamah.

While it may seem bizarre to reference an enthusiastic Goddess worshipping tumblr blog, they’re largely interpreting from the same sources of Jewish-Christian Kabbalah like Atlus Japan. As mentioned, Atlus draws much from the Occult and in particular, Christian Kabbalah which itself took from the Lurianic Kabbalah of Jewish theology and reinterpreted it into Christian themes. If this is hard to believe, take note of the prayer referenced in SMT games from an intriguing blog I had linked in my prior blog posts:

That’s all fine and dandy, but what does that block of all-caps text actually mean? For one reason or another, I couldn’t find a single resource on this in English. It didn’t seem like anyone had tried their hand at translating it since then. All Google turned up for me was the information I summarized above… and a post by a blogger named innocent_sin.

I’ll state here for the record that since I have no idea where innocent_sin got their information, I have no way of knowing how accurate their translation of this text is. I’ve added some notes I found to the terminology, but that’s about it. What follows is also a translation from Hebrew to Japanese to English, or possibly even Hebrew to Chinese to Japanese to English, considering that it’s presented in both Japanese and Chinese on their website. Regardless, here’s what innocent_sin has to say about the text in the SMT intro:

 

It’s actually a little different from what’s used in the story, but here’s a little information on the summoning of demons. I’ll start out with the words written on the pentagram that appears in the opening.
AGLA: You, O Lord, are mighty forever [Atah Gibor Le-olam Adonai]
TETRAGRAMMATON: Lit. “the four letters”, refers to YHWH/YHVH
AΩ: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end
QVODINFERIVS [Quod inferius]: The Supreme One [My reserch says it means “that which is below,” which comes from the Emerald Tablet: “That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing”]
MICROPROSOPVS [Microprosopus]: The All-Knowing Lord [I found that it refers to one of the aspects of God]
QVODINFERIVS and MICROPROSOPVS are written alternatingly around the perimeter of the pentagram.

After performing the chant [I won’t translate this because it’s reproduced more fully above], you continue with the following words:

el elohim eloho elohim Sebaoth
elion eiech adier eiech Adonai
jah sadai Tetragrammaton sadai
agios O theos Ischiros Athanaton
Agla amen

(Our eternal Lord, our God Sebaoth
Glorious things are spoken in the name of our God Adonai
And in the name of the Tetragrammaton that cannot be spoken
O Theos, Ischiros, Athanaton
You, O Lord, are mighty forever. Amen)

Now, if that seemed a bit too obscure and circumstantial, especially since the blogger added the caveat that they couldn’t be sure of its authenticity, well it was in SMT Nocturne too, but it was censored in the Western releases. Assuming the fan translators were not the same people who translated this obscure text in this blog post, then that would be two independent references that suggest that Atlus Japan did indeed reference Christian Kabbalah and it leads significant credence to the possibility of the Lady in Black’s identity being Archdemon Namaah. From the fan-translated Maniax Chronicle edition of SMT Nocturne:

If you’re questioning the authenticity, here’s a link to an imgur website that shows the same uncensored material as above and a Youtube video of the fan-translated Maniax Chronicle (be sure to slow down the video as the person who recorded this swept through it very quickly):

As of now, I believe that Archdemon Naamah fits best in terms of symbolism, themes, and literary analysis in answering the identity of the Lady in Black. She’s probably best understood as the equivalent of the Archangels but for Lucifer. As the Archangels Michael, Uriel, Gabriel, and Raphael serve YHVH, the Archdemon Naamah serves Lucifer. Interestingly, the non-sexual references in Christian Kabbalah seems to suggest that her affection for the Demifiend is genuine.


For more on SMT Nocturne, consider checking out the archived One Up Interview with Kazuma Kaneko on inspiration for making SMT Nocturne, such as the influence of the Red Hot Chili Peppers band on the making of the Demifiend.

Or consider checking out a tumblr blog on how SMT Nocturne brilliantly does dungeon mechanics as metaphor.

 

2 thoughts on “Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne Theory: Who Was the Lady in Black?

  1. Congratulations on the theory, it’s a pretty well rounded up text. I just wanna give you some insights as of the translated text, since my native language bears heavy latin and greek influence.
    As far as I can see, it is pretty close to an accurate translation, but the final words (o theos, ischiros, athanaton) can be translated as well. The original text would be “agios theos, agios ischiros, agios athanaton”, which would be something like “holy god, strong god, immortal god”.
    Other than that, you can get deeper into some of the motifs presented on Qabbalah archetype spheres, as well as the chant, by doing some research on Hermetic Principles. The whole “as above so below” part and the Emerald Tablet are direct references to Hermetism. When you harness the knowledge of the Hermetic Principles and associate them to the archetypes of the spheres you can pretty much get to the underlying mythological themes that all religions have in common. When you think of Persona games, for example, Orpheus and Izanagi being the Personas of the main characters is no mere coincidence. They both share the same archetype and are represented by the same sphere.
    Anyways, hope I helped somehow!

    • Oh, thank you! That does explain certain concept decisions on Atlus Japan’s part and some of the explanations in their interviews.

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