Written by Eden H. Roquelaire for Twin Peaks Freaks
“BOB and I, when we were killing together, it was this, this perfect relationship. Appetite, satisfaction; a golden circle.” -The One-Armed Man
A circle of trees… A golden ring… A spinning ceiling fan… A gem with a mysterious insignia… A phone with a little ring… A circle of burning candles… A beautiful girl’s ring… A cycle of appetite and satisfaction.
There are many rings, and references to rings, in Twin Peaks; The ring with the Owl Cave insignia on it (which for the sake of brevity we will call the “Owl Ring”); Cooper’s ring, which the Giant takes and returns to him once the killer’s identity is revealed; Audrey’s query to Cooper, “Do you like my ring?” But what does all that mean? Some of them are arguably less significant than others, but, according to my theory, any small reference to “rings” or “circles” is there to reinforce the importance of the more overt ring symbols. In this article, we will focus on the meaning behind these symbols, and what is perhaps the true meaning of the Owl Ring.
We already know that the Owl Ring is associated with BOB, MIKE and their victims: Both Teresa Banks and Laura Palmer were wearing it before they died, and Annie Blackburn returned from the Black Lodge with it on her finger. Agent Chester Desmond, in his investigation into Teresa’s murder, discovers the Owl Ring, and afterwards, disappears. In Agent Philip Jeffries’ flashback, we see the Little Man from Another Place put the Owl Ring on the green Formica table and say: “With this ring, I thee wed,” after which Mrs. Tremond’s Grandson/the Chalfont boy points at BOB and says “Fell a victim,” which may be an order, or a statement. I believe it was an order.
It is my theory that the Chalfonts are the Black Lodge Dopplegangers of the Tremonds: The Chalfonts are working only to aid in the collection of more Garmonbozia, manipulating Laura and making it easier for her to slip into BOB’s clutches (I believe the painting they gave her is designed as a kind of trap), while the Tremonds give Donna clues about the identity of Laura’s killer. In Jeffries’ vision, we are seeing the Chalfont boy participating in the Black Lodge ritual and commanding BOB to go fetch them more Garmonbozia. We know that circles are often used in real-life rituals, and we even see MIKE ritualistically chanting “Fire Walk With Me” as he lights a circle of twelve candle, mimicking the circle of twelve sycamore trees surrounding the entrance to the Lodge in Glastonbury Grove; an entrance which can only be opened by a ritualistic act of either Love or Fear. It seems to me that the multiple mentions of “rings” and “circles” implies a cyclical nature to these ritualistic killings: In these almost ritualistic murders, there is always a Killer (BOB inside of a Vessel) and a Victim, to whom he is wedded. As long as Laura did not put on the ring, she would not be the Victim: She would be the Vessel for the Killer. However, once she put the Owl Ring on, she was ritualistically wed to Killer BOB, and thus had to be murdered, in order to faithfully complete the ritual. It appears that there is some law that the denizens of the Black Lodge must follow, binding them to the rules of this feeding ritual. Once the Owl Ring has been placed upon the chosen Victim’s finger, the Killer must execute them. Agent Chet Desmond finds the Owl Ring in a mound of dirt underneath the Chalfont’s trailer, so presumably another ritual was taking place, had taken place, or was about to take place there. This may have been where Teresa’s sacrifice was made, as she was killed very nearby in her trailer, or it may have been set in order to sacrifice Desmond himself. But if Desmond was not sacrificed, then what happened to him? Why did he disappear after finding the Owl Ring? Judging by what we already know about the Black Lodge, he most likely slipped into that world, and became trapped there, as Agent Cooper eventually would. This is, perhaps, also part of the ritual cycle: A detective investigates the murder of a woman, and the detective goes missing. Theoretical examples of this would be Teresa Banks/Chet Desmond and Sam Stanley, Laura Palmer/Dale Cooper, and Judy(?)/Philip Jeffries.
Taking this theory further, it is a possibility that Audrey’s reference to her ring may have been an early foreshadow to the purpose of the Owl Ring: To indicate who BOB’s next victim would be. This was meant, according to my theory, to reference early on the fact that Audrey would eventually be BOB’s intended victim, after he had possessed Evil Cooper (This is before the character of Annie was made up to take Audrey’s place).
The question is where MIKE fits into this ritual. He refers to BOB as his partner, and says that they killed together, which implies that they both played the role of Killer. Another possibility is that BOB was more of a servant to MIKE; he executed the Victim on behalf of MIKE, and delivered the Garmonbozia to him. In Cooper’s dream-vision, MIKE portrays himself almost as having been enslaved to the killing impulse until he cut his left arm off. The left arm may be a significant choice here, as it references not only the “Left-Hand” or “Sinister” Path, but also the ring finger, which in American tradition is on the left hand. In the final episode, as the path to the Black Lodge is opening up, Cooper, Pete, and a woman at the Double R experience tremors in their hands as a sort of presentiment. Major Briggs also, arguably, experiences this hand tremor when he is picked up after having been injected with truth serum: Both hands (and indeed his whole body) are shaking, but, when he is in the sheriff’s department, he is holding up his left hand, with his wedding ring on it, against his face, which may be reinforcing the significance of the ring finger in Twin Peaks’ symbolism. (Interesting note: Cooper, Pete and the woman at the diner all experience tremors in their right hands.) We have seen that MIKE wore Owl Ring on his right pinky finger while showing it to Laura: Is it possible that, before he cut off his left arm, he wore the evil ring on his own left hand during these times? And is it possible that wearing the Owl Ring is what allowed MIKE to possess Philip Gerard in the first place? We can only speculate.
Two more important elements to note are the cycle of the planets and time loops. The cycle of the planets is of great significance to the Lodges and its residence, as it is by watching for certain alignments that one may know when the portal to the Lodges will open. We may also speculate that it was important to them because certain rituals could or should only be performed during certain alignments (think of the Pagan Sabbats, for example, which are celebrations taking place during certain planetary alignments). Time loops are also a noticeable aspect not only of Twin Peaks, but in many of David Lynch’s films. Fire Walk With Me is notoriously both a prequel and a sequel to the series, as events that occur both before and after the events of the series take place in a very disorienting manner. How is Annie Blackburn seen in Laura’s bed, speaking words she says after the events of the series finale? How is Dale Cooper already in the Lodge, speaking to Laura in her dream? How is Cooper an old man in the Lodge, while Laura is still a young woman? The answer is: Because time is not linear in the Lodges, as it is in our world. When it comes to the Black Lodge, time twists and turns, and when it interacts with this world, it may be that time loops and warps are a symptom of its interferences. This may be how Cooper and Annie are able to speak to Laura across time, and Cooper is seen as old, while Laura appears to still be young (although there may be other explanations for these instances). Hence the “ring” symbolism could also refer to the all-important cycle of the planets, as well as the bizarre time loops cause by the Black Lodge.
A final question: What is the significance of the symbol emblazoned on the ring, and why is it the same as the petroglyphs in Owl Cave? Well, it seems that the Black Lodge’s occupants have been crossing into this world for some time: They seem to have had encounters with the Native Americans, working their way into their folklore, which Hawk recounts to Agent Cooper. In the early days of their journeys into this world, the Dugpas may have had encounters with early humans, who then drew what they had seen onto the walls of what would become Owl Cave. Another possibility is that an early incarnation of the Bookhouse Boys is responsible for the drawings and strange mechanisms in Owl Cave. It is implied that the Bookhouse Boys have known about something deep in the woods for some time now, though they may never have been entirely sure what it was. They may have learned about the Black Lodge and its occupants, and hidden the information in Owl Cave, so that future initiates could find it if need be, and so the information could not be misused by those with an evil heart, such as Windom Earle. Whatever the reason was, it is most probable that the symbol has been used by the Dugpas for ritualistic purposes for centuries. It looks like a stylized owl, and though that interpretation is accurate, we all know that the owls are not what they seem, and therefore, neither is the symbol. I believe that the symbol can also be interpreted thusly: The “wings” are the Twin Peaks which give the town its name, and the diamond shape between them is the portal to the Lodges.
Another important thing of note: Tibetan Buddhism uses the idea of karma, which, among other things, plays a large role in the death experience, and controls what happens to a person when they die. If you are a good person, who chose wisely, acted kindly, and chose the path of love and light, then you would ascend to a higher level when you died. If, however, you lived as a cruel, ignorant or violent person, you could get caught in a karmic circle of pain and suffering, and be forced to reincarnate over and over again, until you evolve spiritually and become a better person. By choosing not to face his shadow self, and instead running from him in fear, Cooper was choosing the lower path; the path of fear and ignorance. Thus, instead of finding his way safely through the Black Lodge, he was trapped in a loop, unable to escape.
In summary: The Black Lodge denizens participate in an ancient ritual; a cycle of blood sacrifices. As part of the ritual, they created a special ring (the Owl Ring) to mark their chosen sacrifices. These sacrifices result in the production of Garmonbozia (pain and suffering), which the Dugpas feed upon. The various ring and circle symbols scattered throughout Twin Peaks reinforce the significance of this object to the central storyline. By taking Cooper’s ring, the Giant was not only giving him a sign that he’d finally found the killer, but was also giving him a visually key with which he could decipher the rest of the mystery. Too bad he didn’t get the chance before the series was cancelled. But with Showtime’s revival of Twin Peaks in 2016, there is a chance the Giant’s clue may not go entirely unnoticed.