Morpho - noun - (family Morphidae)… any of numerous very large tropical American butterfly species with dazzling iridescent wings, usually with a pronounced blue luminescence. With wingspans that can reach 8 inches, morphos are among the largest and most iridescent Central and South American butterflies. Their range extends from Mexico south, through Central America to Venezuela and Trinidad and to Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru and includes forests from sea level to 4,600 feet.
Morpho is also the name of a mysterious vending machine that suddenly appeared one fateful night, in Mr. Johnson’s grocery store in the new comedy television series… The Big Door Prize. The series is based on the book of the same name by M.O. Walsh. The Big Door Prize premiered on Apple TV+ on March 29th, 2023.
Set in the mythical anytown of Deerfield, The Big Door Prize conjures the comparison of the Twilight Zone meets Twin Peaks… with a smidgen of Stranger Things sprinkled on top. Not unlike Hawkins, Indiana… Deerfield is populated with quirky-yet relatable people. It has a restaurant, bar, high school and a grocery store. And it is in the nondescript grocery store where Deerfield’s Upside Down manifests…
The Morpho vending machine has the look of an ’80s arcade game, glows blue and bears the image of a butterfly and the words… “Morpho. Discover Your Life Potential.” No one knows how it got there (or if anyone does, they aren’t saying) or what makes it work. But its purpose is to dispense a card that, in a word, maybe two, reveals something essential about the user.
More than mere fortune telling, or even fate, the Morpho card reveals one’s potential… what they could become, or perhaps should become. As the townspeople, one by one, line up for their peek at their life potential, they are confronted with what we at tek-gnostics lovingly call their “Chapel Perilous” moment, where they are compelled to question their lives, their choices, their value. The dispensed card triggers them into reassessing what is, what was… and most compellingly, what has not yet come to pass.
And such is the nature of this cautionary tale. It is both entertaining and compelling precisely because it presents a fresh take on good ole’ Chapel Perilous. The astute readers of this blog need no introduction to the Capel Perilous mythos… but for those intrepid readers who have just stumbled herein, let us recap…
Chapel Perilous is an occult term referring to a psychological state in which an individual cannot be certain whether they have been aided or hindered by some force outside the realm of the natural world, or whether what appeared to be supernatural interference was a product of their own vivid imagination. And as each of the Deerfield townspeople ponder the morphos machine’s cryptic card, they each discover their own personal chapel.
Interestingly, the etymology of the word Morpho is New Latin, from the ancient Greek Morphō, (the shapely one) epithet of Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. The ancient cult of Aphrodite was largely derived from that of the Phoenician goddess Astarte, a cognate of the East Semitic goddess Ishtar, whose cult was based on the Sumerian cult of Inanna.
Astarte in turn, was connected with some combination of the following spheres: war, sexuality, royal power, beauty, healing and hunting. So when the beautiful co-star Cass (played by Gabrielle Dennis) draws the “Royalty” card… the synchro-mystic connotations really begin to fly. Again, we need not remind the astute reader that Astarte is derivative of the goddess Ishtar, whose exploits are brilliantly portrayed in Robert Anton Wilson’s “Ishtar Rising.”
For purposes of this post, if not indeed the series, Morpho also connotates the concept of metamorphosis. Metamorphosis is a recurring theme here, and this is what the morpho machine promises each user... a chance at transformation… a shot at redemption. So drop your two dollars in the slot… fire up the Morpho machine… you never know what card you will get.
Perhaps the doors of Chapel Perilous will open... welcoming you to your next great adventure...
- gleaned in part from the review by Robert Lloyd