Through the wonders of streaming Netflix on Apple TV, I lately have been catching up one of my childhood favorites: Voltron: Defender of the Universe. For some reason the invincible robot defender of Planet Arus hit a chord with me back in the 80’s. Maybe it was my age; maybe it was my budding love for sci-fi and fantasy.
Or maybe my juvenile, to-be-Pagan brain loved the idea of red, yellow, blue, and green animal guides joining with a larger, black animal to create a powerful, invincible defender of all things good. The occult significance does not escape my adult self.
In fact, Voltron contains a mythology that most of the occult persuasion would recognize. Long ago, Planet Arus developed a secret that would keep its people peaceful and prosperous. The secret involved using their special knowledge to create Voltron, an invincible, super robot that would defend them from all attackers. With Voltron’s help, Arus was a paradise.
Then, a new enemy threatened Arus. The new enemy, King Zarkon of Planet Doom, was able to break Voltron up into five individual, lion-shaped pieces. With Arus’ defenses obliterated, Zarkon was able to lay waste to the good people of Planet Arus and bring about a time of intense struggle. To defend the ravaged planet and bring back Voltron, the Galaxy Alliance sends five space explorers to retrieve Voltron’s five lions, put them back together, and bring back the ultimate power in the universe.
Echoes of Atlantis, Dionysus, the Grail Quest, and Osiris abound.
Just for fun, here’s a video of how the force puts Voltron’s pieces back in place to combat evil. Interestingly, Voltron’s torso includes both a cross and a pentagram:
This is what I expected when I started watching the series again. What I didn’t expect was the extremely valuable moral lessons that this simple, badly animated after-school series could teach. Planet Arus is under constant attack. It takes a warrior to defend its people. The series, therefore, teaches values that seem well aligned with some of the bolder Pagan ethical systems, particularly the Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru.
I do not follow a Northern path, so I hope that my Heathen friends will forgive me if I misinterpret anything here, but I find the Nine Noble Virtues to be a wonderful moral guideline. They succinctly advise on how to live be an honorable life. Little did my sixth grade mind know that Voltron was teaching me lessons on how to live a moral life every day after school.
Consider these examples, all from the first 15 episodes:
Courage: Armed only with his laser pistol and gymnastic skills, Pidge, the smallest member of the Voltron force, runs out to attack an entire invading army of Zarkon’s evil robots.
Fidelity: Princess Alura is unfailingly loyal to her Father’s memory. The team sticks together for their commander, Keith, when his authority is questioned.
Truth: King Zarkon employs many deceptions in his attempt to defeat Voltron. Someone always has to expose the reality, which makes that person quite unpopular with those who are deceived. In one episode, Keith reveals that Alura’s visiting aunt is just a trick of Zarkon’s evil witch (yes, there is an evil witch in Voltron). In another, Lance, pilot of the Red Lion, stands fast against a mysterious but handsome invader, revealing him for the bad guy that he truly is.
Discipline: When the space explorers first arrive on Arus, the planet is desolate. There is little food, no safety, and less comfort. Still, the team dedicates itself to protecting the planet. They were given a charge, and they work to fulfill their orders.
Hospitality: Alura gives to her people. When the planet gains a measure of safety, she opens her stores of precious food and distributes them to her beleaguered citizens. When a guest comes to the castle, she always welcomes them (even when it would be smarter not to).
Industriousness: Coran, the Palace Ambassador, is staunch in his duties. He is up all night watching the monitors for signs of attack. He comes up with creative schemes during desperate situations. Coran is unflagging in his work. His life is dedicated to the defense of his planet and his princess.
Self Reliance: Before his death, King Alphor fitted his castle and his planet with all the defenses it needed to take care of itself. Also, in a fierce display of self reliance, Princess Alura takes over the duties of piloting the Blue Lion when Sven, its original pilot, is injured. Despite resistance from Coran, she insists on defending the planet herself rather than let it get destroyed because she was waiting for a some new hero to arrive.
Perseverance: The people of Arus rise up from the absolute devastation of their planet to resist Zarkon, even when is seems hopeless. The evil king is always sending his nasty army to ravage Arus, but the planet remains strong and always fights back. Just about every episode ends with a proud proclamation that Voltron will always defy its evil enemies.
Honor: Sven saves his teammate, Lance, from the clutches of the evil Hagar despite mortal danger to himself. Later, when challenged to a final duel by evil Prince Lotor, Keith accepts, hoping that his victory will bring peace to the planet, even at his own expense. In probably the most obvious display of honor, Princess Alura surrenders herself to slavery under Lotor in order to save the rest of her planet from destruction.
Beyond the Virtues, there is a heavy dose of ancestor veneration in the series. The explorers begin their quest for the keys to the five lions by visiting the tomb of Alura’a father, whose spirit guides them along the way. The princess herself visits her father multiple times to seek advice and learn new secrets to defend her inherited planet. King Alphor’s spirit is always ready to help his people when they are in need.
I have only caught up on one volume. There are at least 14 more to go. Along the way, I expect many of these same values to be reinforced. I haven’t seen enough of Sponge Bob Squarepants to make a judgment, but I’m pretty happy I was raised on the teachings of Voltron: Defender of the Universe.