Symbol Literate or... Not?


I am creating this page in advance because anyone who has spent any quality time on the Internet knows that conjecture and speculation run wild. The outside world can and will believe in anything and everything from flat earth to talking snakes. But for fans of Plague of Smiles, when I use a symbol, ken wearing maskupon request or as a favor to you, I will give you the REAL meaning. Upon this page your ignorance will disappear like a lightning strike from heaven to be replaced with knowledge, wisdom, and understanding concerning my controversial RED DEATH CORNUTI mask.

I believe in Symbol Literacy. I am an artist and artists use symbols and allegories to teach and to tell stories. I believe it is better to actually know the history and original meaning of symbols when you use them instead of relying upon conjecture, speculation, an unholy combination of outright lies and ignorance, or the evil of using a symbol just to be "trendy" or "cool."

"Rituals are just a mask we use to maintain the illusion of sanity." --- Ken D. Webber

When it comes to music I love it paired with theatricality, Alice Cooper, KISS, Slipknot, John 5, etc. all use either makeup or masks. I wanted some of that in Plague of Smiles. Most of the time, an artist will pick a character that is their opposite, that is, their alter ego. Vincent Furnier is a really nice guy. His stage character "Alice Cooper" is the complete opposite, an insane murdering madman.

With my dark history and psychology I wanted a character who IS the same exact person as the mask they wear on the exterior. Cue Edgar Allan Poe and his equally dark story The Masque of the Red Death. In the written story, the Red Death IS the Red Death and no one "gets it" until it is too late. In the 1964 Vincent Price movie there is a twist as the Red Death says that "no one knows the face of death, until the moment of their own death." So if you analyze the movie's psychology then you understand that the Red Death is the alter ego of Prince Prospero. Prince Prospero is an evil, lying Satanic Prince so his alter, his opposite would be... a GOOD TRUTH TELLING person who is exactly who he says he is under the mask, and in fact that's exactly who The Red Death is.

Take the above paragraph and store it in your brain housing group as we are about to jump into the real history of a symbol. If you do not like frank explicit sexual language then now may be the time to leave because such language is required to understand this subject. Otherwise, let us begin...


The Cornuti

If you take your hand and hold up only your first finger and your pinky and rest your thumb on or next to the other two folded fingers then you are flashing what the Italians call "The Cornuti." It is an ancient symbol that has meant many different things to many different cultures, the ancient Hindu for example. But for the purposes of my mask and my uses we stick to the Italian origin and meaning.

"Cornuto" is an Italian word derived from Latin (it goes back to the word "Cuckoo" which is a bird that lays its eggs in other nests so others will raise its hatchlings). "Cornuta" in the feminine, "Cornute" in feminine plural. "Cornuti" for the masculine and also in the masculine plural. The word has two meanings 1. Horned, as in sexually aroused, and 2. Cuckold.

For those that do not know, a "cuckold" is a weak old man who can no longer get it up so he instead invites young men, "young bucks" into his bedroom to satisfy his wife in an act of willful humiliation, while he watches and feebly masturbates.

It used to be a shameful evil thing to commit adultery - even if it was a secret the husband allowed. The penalty for adultery was horrific. IF a couple was caught in the act of adultery then the entire town/village would come out to punish them. The crowd would first strip them of their clothes to shame them. They would then strap a pair of dear or elk horns upon their heads and parade them through town naked, lashing their backs and cursing their every step. When they reached the edge of town the evil adulterous couple would be told that they were no longer welcome because what they had done was EVIL and IF they ever returned they would be killed.

don't mess with the bull

There is however a hard truth in that even with such harsh punishment the sex drive is extremely hard to control. Those in love and those who are filled with lust WILL take risks if they believe they can get away with it. But... the watchful eye is ever present, especially in old gypsy women who have nothing better to do but trade in gossip. The gypsy woman would flash The Cornuti at them as a warning to stop committing adultery before their sins catch up with them. A popular phrase developed with The Cornuti which is still in use today, "If you mess with the bull, then you're going to get the horns!" This was usually said as a warning to a young male to stop screwing around, to straighten up, and act right.

Symbols have context. You could flash the symbol to the young as a warning, to say "STOP!" In that context, it is a good symbol with good intent behind it. You could flash the symbol as a terrible insult to an older man to imply that they were impotent and powerless to the point that someone was probably screwing their wife. If a young married woman was tempted she could flash the symbol back to the prowling male as a ward against the evil "lustful" eye. Young alpha males would flash the sign to other alpha males in social settings to basically declare, "What's up my friend?! I am getting laid tonight! That woman is mine!" Symbols that warn frequently turn into curses and when used against an enemy the symbol could be interpreted as, "Fuck you!!!" Sometimes you see Italians wearing either a single horn dangling from a necklace or the hand symbol itself as a ward against evil.

I am not a Luciferian or a Satanist - as Prince Prospero was. I am half Italian (and half Irish). Anyone may use symbols. Context. Context. Context! Just as Prince Prospero was surprised to discover that The Red Death was NOT Satan, most people reading this now are probably surprised to know the real history and truth of The Cornuti. Yes, the symbol does have good uses for the good of society. You've been fed a steady diet of Youtube gossip, and we all know the quote...

"But it must be true... I saw it on the Internet?"

Many people use symbols without knowing their actual meaning, history, or origin. I know the origins of the symbols I use as I believe it is better to be symbol literate and use them with purpose and intent than to be an ignorant trendy dumbass.

So for everyone out there who has previously ASSumed that The Cornuti is always evil, that it is the "devil's horns" - you have been wallowing around in the darkness of IGNORANCE. The Italian gypsies developed The Cornuti long before asswipe Anton LeVay was even a thought in his great grandfather's mind. Welcome to cognitive dissonance! And just as Satanic Prince Prospero erroneously believed that The Red Death was evil, you too may have been in error about what I stand for and represent.


The Red Death is an agent of goodness!

Right now I want you to access your brain housing group and remember that paragraph about the character of The Red Death. There is a phrase in The Bible I picked up on where it is written, "And I shall set my face against you!" What better way for The Red Death to set his face against evil than a face that contains a symbol of WARNING ---> The Cornuti! There it is, right on his face, the silence of a symbol that is screaming to every person who sees it to, "STOP DOING EVIL!" And it is also an immediate insult to all the Prosperos of the world that they are weak and impotent in power. The Red Death is never married. The Red Death will never be a cuckolded Prospero. The Red Death is a loner. No one controls The Red Death for death does as it pleases!

The Red Death does not care if the Prince Prospero's of the world or the Internet-fed masses lack knowledge, wisdom, or understanding. The Red Death only cares for MAAT.

I am a US Marine who took an oath that never ends. My oath does not end just because an ignorant liberal fascist wants to scream "baby killer" and spit on me. My oath does not end when an ignorant Christian or an ignorant Satanist gets it wrong about my character or who I am or what I represent. My oath does not end when I am attacked by LIARS or SLANDERERS on the Internet (cowards). I just keep on doing what I'm doing because my oath never ends. MAAT!

MAAT refers to the ancient Egyptian concepts of truth, balance, harmony, order, law, morality, and justice/severity. I can use my symbol as a blessing, as a good thing. I can use The Cornuti as a curse or an insult. I can use it to signal to other like minds that I too love heavy metal music thank you Ronnie James Dio! Context, context, CONTEXT!


The Red Death Cornuti Mask

gamma knife radiation mask

After brain surgery in 2008 to remove a brain tumor, they scheduled me for gamma knife to get the tiny bits that the surgeon couldn't get to. In 2010 they strapped a plastic mask on my face and bolted me to a table while a huge machine spun around me emitting pin point beams of gamma radiation (which is why there is a radiation symbol in the Plague of Smiles logo). Wherever the beams crossed, those cells died. They let me keep the mask. I got the idea to use it to create a really creepy Halloween mask. I really liked how the paper mache mask came out so I decided to incorporate it into Plague of Smiles as a sort of Plague Doctor character. That finally evolved into a modern day adaptation of The Red Death, as I am a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe and his short story The Masque of The Red Death. In fact, shortly after I created the mask, a Kickstarter project came out to support a Bicycle deck of custom cards based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe. I bought one of the tiers to get a custom card created for the deck and they took my information and created a RED DEATH Joker card with my mask. I thought that was amazing!

Edgar Allan Poe card deck

On March 30th, 2018 I saw guitarist John 5 in concert for the second time on his It's Alive Tour. He used a really cool mask trick during one of the songs that stunned the crowd. I saw that they had one of the latex masks for sell at the merch table and immediately snatched it up. After the concert I saw on the tag that the mask was created by Master Mask Maker Scott Blake of Yordreem Creations. In addition to John's mask, Scott has worked with Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, the heavy metal band Ghost, and all over Hollywood on various movie projects. I shot him an email to see if he could improve upon my mask if I provided the paper mache version and the original radiation mask to build on and Scott said YES! In May I commissioned an initial order of ten latex masks and Scott vastly exceeded all my expectations taking the design to an entirely new level of AWESOME!

wet clay mask

Personally, the mask represents to me the touch of death... that I have, for a short time, successfully escaped. This representation is deep in the territory of the allegories and truths revealed by author Carlos Castaneda (I HIGHLY recommend his books!). He presents death as a teacher, one who sits upon your left shoulder (I prefer mine to sit upon my KRK monitor in my music studio). Every time you feel hopeless, powerless, that you "can't" do something then Death is there to whisper in your ear and remind you that YOU are still here and that there is time to do things still because he hasn't taken you yet. So don't waste your life. Don't waste time. Never lose hope. Never give up. Change. Adapt. Overcome! I believe I have chosen the PERFECT mascot for Plague of Smiles, yes!?

So now you know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about The Red Death Cornuti mask. It has nothing whatsoever to do with "devil" worship or evil. I would like to end by asking you to read Poe's masterpiece The Masque of The Red Death and watch Vincent Price's brilliant performance in the 1964 movie.

All art, design, video, and music copyright 2000-2018 by Ken D. Webber and Plague of Smiles LLC; All Rights Reserved.
The new Red Death Cornuti mask design copyright 2018 by Ken D. Webber and Scott Blake; All Rights Reserved.