I shouldn’t have to say this, but there will be spoilers on the classic Silent Hills. So, if you’re new and have not played them, ignore this post entirely. Also, this is going to be extremely long.
This is a theory that I have had in my head for the past decade. When I was younger and more active in the Silent Hill community, I also had no balls–so to speak. When I did argue sometimes I would relent just to appease certain people, who shall remain nameless, because I was very young and very dumb. I kept it to myself, agreed to keep peace. Nowadays, I simply do not care at all. Those people are not even in the community anymore and what we could call… assholes. (Bigoted assholes.)
Silent Hill 2, one of the more mysterious of the Silent Hill classics, is at the forefront of every horror game magazine’s list on the greatest horror games. Many people have speculated about many things in the story, and tend to downplay the supernatural overtones of the game because of the game’s inherently agnostic take on gods and magic. Usually, the same people have had a problem with the cult tones of 1, 3, and 4. However, the supernatural was there since the beginning of the franchise in 1999. (I am not a Silent Hill atheist. SO, this post won’t address these concerns, because I am going by evidence and not what *I* wish to project on the games themselves.)
I think Xuchilpaba is behind everything in Silent Hill 2. An invisible force of justice if you will. The town’s need to “punish” sinners, something that was always in the background of the games and has a lot to do with the creation of the Pyramid Head monster that is James’s desire for punishment. Before I get started I will be introducing some concepts in order to present the theory more accurately to the audience, based on gathered lore in the series.
Note: If you’re already a lore fiend, skip this part, and immediately begin with the next section.
We know a substantial amount about God and the Order. The series was quite clear on God and how she created many gods and angels to lead people to obedience to her. (This will be crucial to Xuchilpaba’s role much later.) God is a solar deity. The mythos of her dying-ressurecting as the sun, well that may be the ancient belief of the sun departing into the underworld every night, (sun set) which was common among ancient peoples’. (The Egyptian Ra and Babylonian Shamash come to mind.) This myth is the base core of the Order’s beliefs and is probably misunderstood by the modern cult in SH. If you’re curious about this part, check out my post here, for more info.
I reject the notion that “Xuchilbara” and “Xuchilpaba” are separate gods in this theory. Japanese, as well as other languages, use variations all the time and variations on god names are not all that unique. (Such as Aset vs Isis.) That does not mean they are not the same god, and the theory does not hold up when we take the Crimson Ceremony into account. (Not including the language discrepancies of Japanese to English, or whatever the Native language was in Silent Hill and English.) As of this point, the two names will be used interchangeably.
Of all the gods in the series, we know of Xuchilpaba the most. Thanks in part to memos and text in Silent Hill 2, as well as the conjunction in Silent Hill 3. We know that this god is the “red god” created by God to lead people into obedience, which may be implying sinfulness is far from divinity. (Of course, James himself is just that sinner.) But because of vagueness regarding gender (With “God” being female, and all.) we do not know what the gender of Xuchilbara actually is. (I don’t think it really matters, in any case.)
We know that Xuchilpaba presides over the ‘rebirth’ ceremony, entitled ‘The Crimson Ceremony‘ by believers. This itself may tie into the life-death-rebirth of God when the sun sets and then rises again, like a phoenix. It could even be speculated that Xuchilbara is merely the underworld form of God. (An example of this is Ningal of Babylonian myth and Shamash. Or the Aztec Cihuacoatl having the dead form of Itzpapalotl, because of her ties to the underworld.) In any case, I think it’s fairly safe to say based on passages, that Xuchilpaba is the god of death and rebirth. But also of redemption. An underworld deity in the highest regard and given that connection, probably a night god as well. (As referenced in ‘Born from a Wish’.)
The ‘xuchil’ part of the name, which is based on a dialect of Nahuatl [Aztec] in Mexico, is a corruption of the classical Nahuatl word “xochitl” which means ‘flower’. In Aztec myths, flowers were connected to the underworld [death] and sex. (Hence the erotica gods Xochipilli, and Xochiquetzal.) I am uncertain about the ‘paba’ in the name, but ‘bara’ is Japanese for ‘rose’, and a long standing Japanese symbol of sexuality and love. (Especially, homosexuality in the context of what ‘bara’ means in hentai. I will let the reader Google that one!) In one Aztec story, however, the great god Quetzalcoatl masturbated while bathing. His semen turned into a bat and bit the goddess of sex, Xochiquetzal, on the vagina. Her flesh turned into a flower and the bat gave this to the underworld gods. (Referenced myth.) To this day, people offer flowers during the Day of the Dead in Mexico. Interestingly of all of this, ‘bara’ in Japanese references specifically the white rose. If SH2 is taken into account “red & white” was the color of the feast for the gods that Jimmy Stone was involved in. (By the way, Owaku, did actually say he took Mayan and Aztec motifs and thought up new ones.)
The Crimson Ceremony itself seems to be at best, written by a person possessed by deity or at worst, divinely inspired. Being possessed by a god is not all that uncommon in more ancient religions and is typical of more pagan religions such as Shintoism and Vodun. (Shamanism, too.) There are entire rituals dedicated to purposefully dedicated to being possessed by a god, “Drawing Down the Moon” in Wicca comes to mind. If you’re Western, this sounds extremely foreign because of Abrahamic religions’ long, tight grip on humanity. However, in religions pre-dating that and living traditions in Asia, it can be attested to be quite common. So, too, we are left to assume, it was common among the tribe in Silent Hill. (Priestesses or priests, are supposed to preform such rituals.) If divinely inspired, it takes the same path as the bible.
What about the other gods, though? Well, we simply do not know of them. ‘Lobsel Vith’ is the only other name we are given for ‘the yellow god’ and it’s functions are entirely unknown. The red and yellow gods themselves, seem to be metaphors for the colors of the sun. All were created to lead people to God, but we know next to nothing about how Lobsel Vith does its’ business. We do know that “Xuchilbara” is made up of Aztec words, as stated previously, and may be implying flowers, as well, which are underworld symbols, and that Lobsel is made up of Mayan words. That’s about it. There is also Kwekwaxawe, the old raven god, which raven’s do have a connection to the sun, too. (Silent Hill Downpour) But we know extremely little about it, other than it was used as an old name of Silent Hill’s. (‘Nest of the Raven’)
The Color Red
The color red is very important symbol in Silent Hill 2. Unlike 1, 3, and 4, it is NOT predominately used in the game or even as liberally as the others do. In most cases, as shown above, red is used to highlight specific symbols. The most obvious example of this, is where the red pyramid head is concerned. If we were to just apply the idea of the usage of color in horror games and movies, red is one of the better colors people love to play with. For some reason, despite being a ‘hot’ color, it works really, really well in horror. (Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly comes to mind.)
I think there is a deeper symbolism going on here in regards to red in the game. Red is a pretty sacred color in Asia. It is the color of life, the phoenix, the sun, blood, fire, and the direction of south. It’s auspicious and often used in China and Japan, likewise it symbolizes joy in Hindu traditions. If we think in the context of God’s descent in to the underworld in the myths of Silent Hill, then red makes perfect sense for the rebirth god Xuchilbara. Being the color of blood, given the Natives’ love for human sacrifice, we can apply this, too. It also makes sense that red is really not used as liberally in Silent Hill 2 as it was in the other games because the implication is that the red god is really behind the whole ordeal.
The history of the town makes the red a more ‘sacred’ color. Silent Hill is a town, away from the cities, that specialized in executions. (Memo: ‘Blood Swamp’) Prisoners were transferred there specifically to be executed. Indeed, the Book of Lost Memories, touches on how the prisoners’ dark thoughts led to the distortion of the town’s power. (Along with the epidemic.) It was because of this that many people born in Silent Hill came from a line of executioners and the job was kept in families. The hood was an important aspect of the executioner’s job. The Order, being created from settlers and possibly those same families, naturally incorporated this with their own religious beliefs, which includes the rituals shown in the above photo. Another interesting note, is that the Valtiel’s true functions is of an executioner in the same breath as the Pyramid Head. (Via BOLM.) So, it makes sense for the leader of the Valtiel sect to dress that way….
One of the biggest displays of the power color that is red, and going back to that sexuality/fertility theme, is Maria’s attire. (Also, the pic of the carriage below.) Given the rebirth aspect and Maria, the scantily clad stripper, is likewise the carrier of Mary’s memories (BFAW), Xuchilpaba probably brought her back. The game itself references this in the script:
Ernest: Maria, the Gods are here. Ernest: You know it too. You were born in this town. Maria: I’m not sure “God” is the right word.
Prior to this event, that leads Maria to her gathering of the Crimson Ceremony items, Ernest also vaguely states that since Maria was brought back to life, there is hope for him bringing back Amy, too. (It’s why Maria can hear him.) Just like Pet Cemetery, and reincarnation, (Alessa) Mary, who was symbolized by pink, came back a little different….. (Pink is a mix of white and red, the colors of Xuchilbara.) As the red clad, sexually charged, woman of Maria; the woman James and her wanted because of their inability to be intimate. (And a real stripper she was based on with black hair is mentioned in 3!) It is interesting to note, that women in red are considered more attractive.
James also speaks of old gods. In the Rebirth Ending, he makes mention of them and how people who venerate them are granted powers. These powers can defy even death. He senses them in the town?
Sin and Redemption
Another memo in Silent Hill 3, mentions that the religion ‘extols redemption’. (Memo: Lost Memories.) It goes onto mention human sacrifice rituals in the vein of Aztec religion. However, if we are to believe that Xuchilpaba leads people to obedience to God, and that with the Christian influences, sin is death and ungodly, then it would be perfect in the story of Silent Hill 2. James killed his wife due to the burden of nursing her (His sin.), drove to the town to kill himself in a place of memories, and then had delusions which led him to the game’s events. In such serious endings, you can redeem him of his sin. (Excluding In Water.)
Likewise, the tablets found in the prison with Aztec pictures represent the three sinners of SH2; Angela, Eddie, and James. All have something to do with the sin of murder. Though Eddie is a bit of an exception, Eddie never actually killed anyone. (Ito has outed this on Twitter.) However, his intent would have definitely led him to have killed people if James never stepped in. (Think a mass murderer.) Angela also seems to be more justified in the murder of her father who was sexually abusing her. The solution for the sin according to the game’s puzzle is execution, which is probably how the town would have normally functioned without the divine intervention. (Compare to the puzzle of the sinless one later on, who was innocently executed.)
On top of all this, Laura never sees any monsters because she is innocent, which suggests a ‘higher power’ is controlling the events in SH2 and guiding people down specific paths. (I.e. Try to visit Angela in the mirror room before speaking to Eddie the first time. The game will say a power blocks the door.) There is no reason for the town to make some judgement on people without some sentience involved. The town and it’s power are never noted for having such ‘intelligence’, nor does it ever pass judgement on people in the events of 1 and 3. This invisible intelligence in 2, seems to imply Xuchilbara is pulling strings using the town’s power. Furthermore, we learn people disappear in the town quite often.
To further add to the commentary, let’s take a closer look at the ceremony itself which is most linked to Xuchilpaba. The opening passage states: “Speak. I am the Crimson One. The lies and the mist are not they, but I. You all know that I am One. Yes, and the One is I.” This is the most interesting, since James’s entire fiasco was built upon his delusions/illusions, and monsters most people cannot see. (Ex: “Another World”) The mist is another interesting idea. In Born, the white chism is highlighted as symbolizing the mist in the Crimson Ceremony. Mist is linked to water, the element of purification, and the color white is also linked to the gods in game. The ‘”they” reference, in my own opinion, is a vague interference of the cult, who would likely be blamed for people being called to the town due to sin, after the events of Silent Hill 1. Instead Xuchilpaba seems to be saying to the reader, that it is the red god itself, is responsible for the weirdness that permeates in Silent Hill after 1.
“Believers hearken to me! Twenty score men and seven thousand beasts. Heed my words and speaketh them to all, that they shall ever be obeyed even under the light of the proud and merciless sun.“ I think the most significant passage here is the talk of the sun. This game came out prior to 3’s establishment of the God as a solar deity (and female!) and that the cult even believed in other gods. Meaning, the entire lore was written out, at least in part, by Owaku, way back in 2001. But even more telling is that this reference matches the one in the chapel in Silent Hill 3; “God created beings to lead people in obedience to Her. The red god, Xuchilbara.” This is why the book speaks of the sun. By purifying people (Given the option, to say the least.) of their sins, Xuchilpaba, is leading them on the road to paradise; to God. And to further add to this, Silent Hill 2 is heavily based on Jacob’s Ladder, a movie in which the very idea is your own personal purgatory–to purify you for heaven.
In the part, “I shall bring down bitter vengeance upon thee and thou shalt suffer
my eternal wrath.“, it has an interesting choice of words. “Vengeance” is connected to the word “Justice”, but far more severely. (I.e.You’ll notice that the spirit of Justice becomes Vengeance in Dragon Age 2.) “Punishment inflicted or retribution exacted for an injury or wrong” is the dictionary definition of vengeance. What better “vengeance” then, James’s journey in Silent Hill 2? He even said it himself in the game, that it was punishment for his sins. I don’t think that is a coincidence, nor the Pyramid Head’s exceeding red color.
Note: You’ll notice in Silent Hill 1/3, that the town is never trying to take vengeance on anyone, not Harry, not Heather, not Claudia, [etc] and Heather is literally said to be innocent, yet despite this, she still sees monsters unlike Laura. I do not think the events in those games are Xuchilpaba’s works. Many gods are referenced in the religion. But considering the characters are major players, it’s likely Xuchilbara may delegate its’ rebirthing to the angel the Valtiel to resurrect the Mother of God, if it did anything at all in those games.
“The beauty of the withering flower and the last struggles of the dying man, they are my blessings.”, here is where I consider Xuchilbara not just a god of justice, but also a death god. (Possibly a psychopump?) This ties into the underworld symbology, as most death gods are at work in the underworld. In the bible, which influenced the Order, the punishment for sin is death. (Jewish lore expands on this with Samael as an executioner.) As for the last lines, I will omit them since they reference the town and the subsequent ritual.
The rebirth aspect of Xuchilpaba is far more apparent in Maria’s scenario. Here Maria obtains a memo on Acacia, the plant hinted at as the base of white liquid. Ishtar is mentioned. If you’re unfamiliar with her mythos, Ishtar literally died and came back in the underworld, being resurrected by the gods using a special water/liquid. (Water = Rebirth?) In the memo “Lost Memories”, it speaks of the “Salvation of Xuchilpaba” and “resurrection of the dead”. It couldn’t be more blunt about the whole thing. (It’s probably the only lore in this game which wasn’t vague.)
On another note, in Ernest’s scribblings the obsidian goblet (Obsidian being a long standing Mesoamerican symbol of the night and being referenced in the night god, Tezcatlipoca’s name.) is said to symbolize the night. Black is probably Xuchilbara’s third associated color, and least referenced. If we go back and analyze the aforementioned idea that perhaps Xuchilbara is the underworld [dead] aspect of God, we could link these two together. This would make the rebirthing aspect of Xuchilpaba be reasonable, as God also is supposed to come back and does so with the sun rise everyday. Why can’t people? Even without this, Xuchilpaba must also be linked to the underworld via the night symbols. (Many Aztec underworld gods are likewise deities of the night.)
On the black board, for the puzzle in Born, it makes mention that Xuchilpaba “denies Death”. Similarly, the red board mentions gods in slumber, and the subsequent white board speaks of the “spirit of the mist”, probably in reference to our red god. If we think of Xuchilbara as a god of the underworld, it makes sense that it would “slumber” there. As the mist itself, Xuchilpaba controls the otherworld of Silent Hill 2.
My conclusion is that the entirety of Silent Hill 2, is the work of the red god. There are references in other games that James is not the only one to “disappear” in the town. When God is away, it appears Xuchilbara does what it was created to do; lead people to obedience unto God by offering sinners redemption. This is why the specific targets are sinners such as James, Angela, and Eddie. (I mean if it did that to those three, it would do it to other people, no?)