An Analysis of Symbolism in Katy Perry's Dark Horse 
In the music video, Dark Horse, by Katy Perry there appears to be overt symbolism toward black magic, vampirism, and, the Book of Revelation. This analysis is designed to provide information as to how such themes seem to be represented, without claiming that it is necessarily the case and while hopefully allowing "the necessary breathing room" for the reader, to discern objectively, if the interpretations herein be deemed balanced, accessible and worth processing.
First off, for the sake of understanding the relevance of this analysis in 2016, it is worthy of note, that to date, this video has been viewed over 1.5 billion times.
The video takes place in, Memphis, Egypt, 'A Crazy Long Time Ago' (IMAGE_1). Memphis, Egypt was an ancient capital of Lower Egypt, located about 12 miles south of the pyramid of Giza. (IMAGE_2) The overt implication here is that this video takes place in an Egyptian capital, where the ruling class resided.
The opening shot of the video pans across a body of water to an egyptian boat, where Perry - with two Cat like deities on either side of two blue servants - hands forming the typical "Walk like an Egyptian" look, rests in the center in a deified position (IMAGE_3). The egyptian motif suggests we are panning across the Nile river, while the boat itself is of a particularly Greek Styx style, reminiscent of illustrations from Dante's Inferno, where Charon, the ferryman, pushes people across the river into the underworld, (IMAGE_4).
You'll see going forward further Greek infused tropes with respect to Perry's lyrics. The Egyptians also had a ferryman, Kherty, (IMAGE_5) who, was "a ram-headed god of the underworld who ferried the dead on their last journey into the afterlife. In the Old Kingdom (c. 2613-2181 BCE) he was said to rule the afterlife with Osiris." Anyone who bathed in the river was said to become indestructible, which carries an eery un-dead sort of vibe. The symbolism here, by virtue of the filiality between the River Styx and the River Nile, is that Perry, like the ferryman in both Egyptian and later Greek Mythologies, is an immortal, who welcomes you upon arrival into the Underworld.
A potential confirmation of the evocation of Kherty, Osiris, and the Underworld, comes from the close-up of the side of Perry's hair just as she begins singing. It has the Eye of Horus spray painted on it in blue, (IMAGE_6). As Horus is Osiris's son, this is a natural extension from both Kherty and Osiris as ambassadors of the Underworld, as well as an age old symbol for illumination.
The primary implementation of this symbol today is probably the eye on the top of the pyramid on the back of the dollar bill, however, prior to being a tag on fiat currency, or fodder for popular rap group hand gestures, the hieroglyph of the Eye of Horus was depicted on the pyramids of Giza and other Egyptian monuments to indicate Horus the Sun God; his eye symbol, according to wikipedia, is for protection, royal power and good health. Most commonly in modern times, The Eye of Horus doubles as a purported logo of "The Illuminati", a hypothetical power elite with an alleged top down control of the economic system, corporate policy, and pursuant to the implementation of tactics such as the hegelian dialectic, the capacity to puppeteer societal patterns not excluding aspects of the industrial war complex. If so, the most pertinent question on the tip of anybody's tongue, is probably, "If so, why?" Cue the Eye of Horus, this symbol is not only royal power, but a symbol for the all seeing spiritual eye, evocative of one's internal "3rd eye" or pineal gland, through which the floodgates of illumination pour; thus the primary reason for why there may be such forms of 'top-down' control is with respect to regulating access to and knowledge of these floodgates of illumination.
Everyone take a deep breath, this is just a speculative and socio-culturally interpretative essay, nothing more. This analysis is not interested in vetting or debunking the existence of secret societies, or conspiratorial claims, but will suffice itself to stick to the clear elements of symbolism and their historical connotations. For example, Kherty, in Egyptian mythology, ruled over the Hall of Truth, and was the last person you would see when entering the underworld for judgement.
Back to the video, after seeing the Eye of Horus on Perry's hair, (a reference to royal power and potentially control over illumination) she turns her head and delivers the first part of her verse, which as you begin to perceive the intention of her song, can better be understood as a spell.
When she says, "And here you are" the clip jumps to show two of the blue men doing dance moves (IMAGE_7), considering the blue figures are the ones who are pushing her around on the boat, it is plausible to assume that the "you" in this verse, is referencing servants/subjects. A salient element about these blue servants is that their heads are in cages, which reinforces this evocation of cognitive servitude (reads imprisonment from enlightenment) - these are her "candidates", namely, for "new blood", a metaphor quite literalized throughout the music video.
Perry's character initiates her song with a presumption of omniscience, she knew you were coming, and here you are, but choose carefully, because she's capable of anything... The main element to extract from this opening verse is that you've "arrived somewhere", which involves "a choice" and to consider the choice seriously, because she's capable of anything. As the video progresses we'll look deeper into this choice and just what 'of anything' does entail. Perry states:
She declares clearly, "Make me your Aphrodite." (IMAGE_8) Okay, here we have a furtherance of the Greek thread begun with the homage to Charon on the Styx, Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of Love, Beauty and Pleasure, she was the daughter of Zeus. Other Gods were worried that she was so hot that she would start wars. Perry's character is clearly saying, make an idol out of me, make me and only me your leader, but please don't make me your enemy.
On a strictly linguistic level, it can be said that she is preparing for war, and that she is gathering allegiance. This is because she is asking you not to be her enemy. (A footnote here is that you may have thought she said enemy three times because it sounds nice in the song, which it does. But with respect to magical evocation, to say a word three times especially evokes its power, i.e., third times the charm, and at this point in her entreaty, this triple repetition seems not to be merely stylistic).
So to summarize the first verse she said I knew you'd show up and that you have a choice. Now that you're here I'm asking you to worship me, but mostly don't make me an enemy. So we have a deity like character, couched in the context of the journey into Hell, saying worship me and only me, and don't hate. The me and only me aspect is crucial, because historically, and biblically speaking, Gods were always trying to acquire the undivided attention of their people, undivided attention is power, and Perry's character in this video is alleging herself a God, and seeking just that. Moving on...
Wowsers, okay now we're really getting somewhere. Alright, we've been told to choose carefully, that she's capable of anything and everything, and now Perry's character in this video truly tips her hand. When she says, "wanna play with magic?" she waives her hand like she's casting a spell, (IMAGE_9) a small pink light appears on her palm, and then the boy she is addressing (who is a full grown man), smiles and all of a sudden has a diamond in his hand (IMAGE_10).
The diamond appears with a "magic sound" just as Perry's character says, "know what you're falling for." This "offer" to play with magic, is in reference to the age-old Faustian deal with the devil, basically signing one's soul away to acquire riches, fame and/or power in this life in exchange for servitude of the soul in the afterlife. The deal is truly age old and rampant amidst cultures around the world, from its origin in 15th century Germany, when Goethe wrote the play Faust, to a much more modern rendition in an episode of The Simpsons, where Homer signs away his soul for a donut from The Devil (played by Ned Flanders), (IMAGE_11).
So... do you dare to do this? Cuz guess what? Perry's character certainly does, and she ain't rolling half-assed neither, if you follow her and pursue the ideals she's proffering, you'll get them diamonds, but then she's coming at you like a Mother-FU#%ing dark horse! So pardon my French here, but what does that even mean? This is where the song gets Juicy (pun toward the feature rapper intended), and takes a serious jump into eschatological conditions. What's eschatology?, every essay should teach one good word, Eschatology, n. The part of Theology concerned with Death, Judgment and the final destiny of the Soul, and of Humankind. What eschatological conditions are present in her lyrics? The overt statement that she is coming at you like a dark horse.
The most popular reference to the Dark Horse is something known to all religious scholars, in particular of a Christian origin, as it comes from Revelation 6:5, after the opening of the third seal of the Apocalypse. Tiny little background here, the Apocalypse, as written by John in his Revelation, doesn't just happen like blammo, but rather there are seven seals preceding it, the opening of each signaling yet another step closer to its actual occurrence. Also, apocalypse literally means new beginning, so if the word Apocalypse stirs up in you feelings of worry and anxiety, (possibly long haired sign carrying madmen screaming on some street corner?) you might be in need of new programming, perhaps substitute such fear mongering for something more along the lines of 'organic co-op clean drinking water every gets healthy food type of vibe'.
Okay, but staying on track here, the dark horse, and its rider (a figure generally considered to be Satan, or an emissary of Satan), appears in the third of seven seals, with a golden scale and a whack ideology: that the poor should stay poor and the rich stay rich (Illuminati anyone? I ain't pointing fingers. Plz don't kill the messenger). Here's the bible verse Perry's character may be alluding to:
Interestingly, Perry's character seems to be a hybrid of the second and third seal of the apocalypse (IMAGE_12), as the second seal has a rider on a red horse, carrying a sword. Perry's character is on a black horse, not carrying scales, carrying a sword. Much like the Greek/Egyptian hybrid, it seems to be a mashup of metaphors. Here's the bible verse referring to the second seal, which represents war.
Okay not to get too esoterica on ery'body, this first mentioned third seal bible verse translated in modern language and deconstructed into its prominent symbolism is as such: the Lamb (considered Christ), the 3rd seal (of Seven Seals of the Apocalypse), the Black Horse (Dark Horse) has a rider (Satan) with a pair of scales (Judgment) in its hand. The scales are in reference to measuring the food that is distributed amidst the people in the bible verse. This rider with his scales is not measuring fairly, the "wheat bread or three loaves of barley for a day's pay" simply stated, is a shit deal, and a reference to the idea that at this time, one will have to work a whole day for their a piece of bread, or three loaves of barley, which is barely food enough for one; these rations are considered symptomatic of poverty, and represent hordes of poor people having to work super hard for their daily bred (or TV Dinner as it may be).
The don't waste the olive oil and wine, is in reference to this riders preference for the elite class who at the time of the opening of this seal will be the only ones who have access to the finer things in life: olive oil and wine, in a biblically historical sense, was only acquired and enjoyed by the rich and ruling class (again an underscoring of the scene's location, Memphis, Egypt, the Capital - think "Hunger Games". On a side note, that is partly why Jesus turning water into wine for ery'body was so dope, and unprecedented on a - at the very least - allegorical level).
To recap this reference: the rider of the black horse does not want to share with the masses who work hard all day for a mere loaf of bread. Such unjust measurements are represented by the rider carrying a golden scale and saying let's not waste the good shit (olive oil and wine) on them (the working masses). The inequality and injustice of this distribution mentality is representative of the 3rd Seal of the Apocalypse. The war which she is asking allegiance for is evocative of 2nd Seal of the Apocalypse, which is semiotically confirmed by her carrying a sword on the album cover.
Again, here I want to add that I think this alchemical transformation of humanity is occuring on much subtler levels than "shit coming down from the sky" and if we're looking to see these things with "our own two eyes" that we probably won't see them. And yet, as the symbolism of the ruling elite becomes more salient, it is easier and easier to see these things with our own two eyes, even without the spiritual sight necessary (Matthew 6:22) to see them fully for what they are.
Perry's spell continues: "Are you ready for, ready for / A perfect storm, perfect storm / Cause once you’re mine, once you’re mine / there's no going back." Am I ready for a perfect storm? If my memory of the movie/book serves me correctly, a perfect storm is the simultaneous arrival of three hurricanes/typhoons, single-handedly the strongest destructive force ever brought by nature. No, I'm sorry. I'm not ready for that. Right after Perry says a perfect storm twice, the Sphinx character behind her shoots blue lightning out of it (IMAGE_13), and then Perry warns that "once your mine / once your mine" - here she licks her lips hungrily - (IMAGE_14), the blue lighting begins melting the man into red dust (IMAGE_15), then the Sphinx says, "There's no going back" (IMAGE_16), and sonically it cuts to the beat drop, while visually to a pile of red dust (the place formerly occupied by the boy/man wearing gold who accepted Perry's offer for riches), with a piece of bling resting atop of it and a hand in the frame about to retrieve it (IMAGE_17).
Before delving into the meaning of Perry's consumption of the piece of bling it is important to first touch on why the Sphinx is given a speaking roll in the music video at all. The sphinx historically, and in the realm of Egyptology is considered synonymous with the riddle of transformation. In part for the conjecture that its construction may predate the pyramids by a few thousand years (which suggests its builders may not have been Egyptian), but possibly more so for the well known myth of Oedipus The King, as written by Sophocles circa 400 BC.
As the Greek play goes Oedipus unknowingly kills the King, his father, on his way into town, gets to town and discovers the Sphinx now rules tyrannically because the King is dead. Oedipus is given a chance to be the King if he can solve The Sphinx's riddle. Answer it correctly: be crowned king and save the Theban people. Answer it incorrectly: be killed and the fate of his people is sealed. The riddle Oedipus was given is, "What walks with four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three in the evening?" The answer is man. Oedipus got the riddle correct and was able to save himself and his people. The significance of the Sphinx saying there's no going back in the video is representative of this riddle of existence, the purpose of our souls as humans in the world, once we've made a decision, that is tried to answer the riddle of man, there's no going back! Like Perry's upcoming verse, "it's a yes or no, no maybe." In other words there is no grey area when it comes to freedom. You either are free or you aren't.
Now back to the video one of the cat-like deities picks up the bling and brings it to Queen Katy, who sports it like vampire teeth (IMAGE_18 & IMAGE_19). An interesting note is this part of the video originally contained a more anti-religious sentiment, and was edited out and re-released due to a religious petition claiming blasphemy.
Perry continues her spell:
Mark my words. This is a powerfully telling phrase which means the shit I'm about to say is real. So real you can mark it, on the timeline, in the ether, under the eyes of god, essentially. Here is what she promises: This love (the dark horse's love), will make you levitate. You will get powers from me. Like a bird, like a bird without a cage (note "like" a bird not "as" a bird). You'll be free to use these powers and roam the terrain of this world as you please. But. (But, is an important conjunction which contrasts everything that came before it, it is not a conjunction to use lightly, and certainly in this verse which opens with mark my words, it is significant). But down to earth. What does that even mean?
To the ears of a biblical scholar down to earth has a very plane connotation. There are two worlds of spoken of frequently in biblical scriptures, most famously referred to within the lords prayer, "Thy Will be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven." This is probably the most clear cut example to illustrate the catch to Perry's character's proposal: you'll be powerful and free as a bird but down to earth. That is to say you will not enjoy the realms of heaven. The realms of heaven are considered to be located in the firmament. Simply put it the place were holy beings like angels and God resides, and then there is Earth, where the energies of god and heaven are present but not dominant, as they are also competing with satan's control over earth (reads pernicious influence upon earthly bound energy).
In Perry's final line there is a piece of contractual magic. "But down to earth if you choose to walk away, don't walk away." This sentence is actually saying don't do what I'm asking you to do. Litigiously speaking the second "don't walk away" after the comma, is like a disclaimer in a legal contract, which enables it's author to say, "I told them not to do it." To permit a wider lens it so the metaphysical lawyers in a purgatorial courtroom between worlds can say to God, "Look, we told them not to walk away from you, we laid out the terms and what would happen if they did, and they made their choice having chosen carefully with full knowledge of this. Thusly, they were not fooled but are rather contractually bound in accordance with an exercise of their own free will."
If this were not the case, why would Perry's character (which is so overtly clear about her intentions in wanting your undivided attention) say after promising you powers on earth like a bird if you walk away, then add [in the spirit of the fast talking voice at the end of an infomercial, don't walk away? This may be because, when considering the formula for magic, there is not a right or wrong technically, instead a selfish (black) and selfless (white), both functioning within a system of rules and contracts. In the event of selfish magic (i.e., I want your soul biatch!), if the contractors follow the rules of how to present a contract, and the contractee consents after having been presented with an invitation to do otherwise and the terms should they accept, the results are Just (contractually speaking), and theoretically would hold up in any kind of court [even one of things concerning Heaven and Earth].
A salient and appropriate correlation between Queen Perry on her dark horse with a sword is Blind Lady Justice (IMAGE_20), with her sword and scales, whom has her origin in the Greek Goddess Themis. Lady Justice, holding both sword and scales, provides a thematic bridge between this essay's earlier observation of Perry's album cover (See Previous IMAGE_12) and how it is a hybrid of the traits presented in the second and third seal in the book of Revelation, namely the Sword carrying aspect of the Red Horseman (War bringing) and the color of the Black Horseman (Famine bringing who carries Scales).
Just in case you think I've pushed a wee bit too far, and possibly have misinterpreted this part of the verse, "No bro, she's just repeating herself because it sounds hot," or "she's just echoing her previous words that doesn't change the meaning of the whole verse." Just in case you think that, though I would disagree, let's look at her next snippet of verse and see if we can gather any more clues.
Hmm… It's in the palm (IMAGE_21) of my hand now? It's [the fate of my soul] in the palm of my hand? [The power to ally with the earthly domain or the heavenly domain]. Okay, I see what's going on here. You're offering me a contract, somewhat akin to the riddle of the Sphinx, and the fate of my soul lies in the balance.
It's in the palm of my hand, because we know what your palm is doing (IMAGE_22). Perry is telling me I have the power to decide. In case you were wondering what she hopes you decide, check out her countenance (IMAGE_23) as these lyrics ring out, "it's a yes or a no no maybe." Again, this is part of contractual magic, a demon cannot take control over any body (soul), a body must offer it's power (usually in exchange for something, such as of a Faustian nature).
In this part of the music video Queen Katy herself is offered a banquet of ceremonially prepared foods by a large bellied man, and she accepts what appears to be a "hot cheeto" then reacts like she's just consumed a terribly hot pepper (IMAGE_23). The man wishes to present her with a drink, but his chalice is empty. Since she's thirsty but can't quench her thirst, she gets pissed and zaps this guy too with her blue lightning bolts, and he melts into red dust also, which they bring to her in an olympian-sized chalice as a drink, which satiates her heated palate (IMAGE_25).
Just to be clear, in a strictly contractual sense, this offer is a yes, or a no, no maybe. I can't just not understand and participate and claim maybe I think yes, or maybe I think no. In the instance of my life in question, when standing before the Sphinx, I must answer. Queen Katy pleas "be sure before you give it all to me / all to me, give it all to me." Again, the thrice spoken repetition of giving it all to her is an invoking of a charm, but most importantly here, she's covering her contractual bases, if you go in, you have to go all-in. Remember she gave fair warning: Just be sure before you give it all to me, because I'm capable anything, and are you ready for a perfect storm? Because once your mine. There's no going back.
Cue beat drop and a verse featuring rapper Juicy J.
If you're still with me I imagine you need not receive too much unpacking of the opening bars by Juicy J. But let's just shoot through it. She's a beast. Okay, in case you thought the reference to Satan's rule over the earth was a bit overstretched, Juicy J takes care of any confusion. "She's a beast." As in, the mark of the beast, or sign of the beast, or 666. He [Juicy J] calls her Karma (reads come back), well that's contractually accurate. She's not doing anything we, presuming one went along with it, wouldn't be bringing upon ourselves. In that instance it would be our Karma, and her "come back" as in, live your life how you want to, but she's reserving the final "come back", which is [i got you bitch, you're in my legion, fighting my war]. In case you thought this beast reference was a cuddly beast, re: Beauty and the Beast, and we should humanize her and just chill out a bit, Juicy J tacks on, "she'll eat your heart out", and in case you thought that was a colloquial expression of "eat your heart out", as in something kids [gasp] say when taunting each other, that would be incorrect, Juicy J means she will do that. LIke who? Like Jeffrey f'in Dahmer. This is dark shit ya'll. It's important that we acknowledge what's being said at us. I could continue to break down the rest of his lyrics, but they are fairly self-evident. Essentially they culminate in his saying he tried to "hit it and quit it" but "mama" was "so dope" he "fucked around and got addicted".
With all my socio-cultural-relgious-decunstructing and philosophizing aside, let's also introduce the notion that the Juicy J's rap sounds good, as I would expect it should from someone with the powers to fly free in this world (like a bird without a cage). The beats hot as $hit, you can't not dance to it at the club, and Katy Perry, wow, not only extremely sexy (at least in this video), but she sings like an angel (er… maybe not the right word, perhaps a fallen angel?)
In closing, this wasn't in any way meant to be a bible-thumping kind of post, nor to introduce any fear into the reader, nor to express any discontent to the artists involved in the making of this project or those whom its symbolism may affiliate. Hopefully, it just felt like an historical and allegorical analysis of symbolism in Katy Perry's Dark Horse, which is what I mean it to be. My parting advice is to say, "No!" to her offer, and anything like it. Be clear about it. Seek inner peace and cultivate compassion toward your fellow man, and the world, as William Blake reminds us, will be revealed to you as it is, infinite.