Now it’s time to address one of the most cliché and tired questions ever directed towards a modern day Witch/Pagan. Do You Worship the Devil? Sometimes it is asked in a tounge in cheek kind of way because, let’s face it, some Pagans seriously overreact to the question and as Alfred from Batman said “some people just want to watch the world burn”.
Sadly it is sometimes asked in a very serious way because there are still people (read Christians) who are still caught up in the Witchcraft hysteria of earlier times. It is difficult to put into words why this is. Fear of the unknown is a great driving force. If it is not explained in the teachings at hand or appear to be taboo for some reason then it is the work of an agency other than God or his Son Jesus ergo it is the work of the Devil.
At the core of this stands Exodus 22:18 which reads as ” Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” in the most commonly avalible format the King James Bible. Even if the alternative translation of Sorcerer/ess s used, side stepping the absolute obsession that James I had with Witches, the text is both clear and obscure at the same time. Exodus make numerous references to the sorcery of Moses and Aaron but this is considered acceptable because these powers come from God. The kashaph, or sorcery, of Exodus 22:18 is of muttered words and incantations; actions learnt through other means beyond the intervention of God Most High and therefore it is baaaaad!
Like many things from the Bible Evangelicals and Christian Fundamentalist take these passages and use them as the foundation of their beliefs and behaviour. You would think this something confined to the 16th century but it is very much alive today. A Pastor performing healing in Church is an agent of God, a practitioner of Reiki on the other hand is an agent of the Devil.
But why the Devil and who is he? Is he an equal to God; the Adversary and Enemy of God? Or is he a fallen Angel; the accuser and questioner of creation? Are they one in the same or different entities entirely? Is the identity and apperance of the Devil set out and clarified from the start or did it evolve over time? Is there a connection between the Devil and modern paganism today?
Devil, Lucifer or Satan; what’s in a name?
Let’s break some names down.
Devil : from Greek: διάβολος or diábolos slanderer or accuser. Root διά- (diá-) “across, through” + βάλλειν (bállein) “to hurl”. According to Christianity and Islam, the primary Adversary of God.
The Devil is also interchangeably referred to as;
Satan : Hebrew: שָּׂטָן satan, meaning “enemy” or “adversary”; Arabic: شيطان shaitan, meaning; “astray”, “distant”, or sometimes “devil”) is a figure appearing in the texts of the Abrahamic religions who brings evil and temptation, and is known as the deceiver who leads humanity astray.
Lucifer : /ˈluːsɪfər/; loo-sif-ər is the King James Version rendering of the Hebrew word הֵילֵל in Isaiah 14:12. This word, transliterated hêlêl or heylel, occurs once in the Hebrew Bible and according to the KJV-based Strong’s Concordance means “shining one, light-bearer”. The Septuagint renders הֵילֵל in Greek as ωσφόρος (heōsphoros), a name meaning literally “bringer of dawn”, for the morning star. The word Lucifer is taken from the Latin Vulgate, which translates הֵילֵל as lucifer, meaning “the morning star, the planet Venus”, or, as an adjective, “light-bringing”.
Let’s get a feel for who we are talking about here. The Devil is the Adversary of God and His Son Jesus. They are, according to religious texts, in tension over the nature of creation and the nature of Man. The repeated theme in this conflict is the attempt to influence and control the actions of Man. To be under the influence of God is to live the just, pious and pure life as defined in the holy texts. To Live in a way at odds or in opposition to these texts is to be under the influence of the Devil.
The Devil is first identified in the Book of Genesis as the Deceiver, leading Eve into temptation and encouraging her to enjoin Adam to do the same. In these passages the Devil is presented as a serpent, either a snake or dragon. In later texts, such as Isaiah, the writers begin to identify him as being a fallen Angel but retain the serpentine language to enhance his image as a Deceiver.
Which God’s were used to give him Form?
The mental image we have of the Devil is pretty much Universal. Firstly the Devil is male, almost universally so. He may appear as a female and have female agents but The Devil, with capitals T & D is always, always depicted as male. Secondly he is shown with horns and/or as half man half beast (usually goat) or in some other hybrid human form. The ‘animal’ aspects represent his sexuality and his lack of civility; he pretends to be human but isn’t quite right. Finally he is shown holding a pitchfork, the instrument he uses to torture the souls of the dead in the bowls if the earth.
Is anything starting to sound familiar? If you are familiar with Greek and Roman mythologies it should. This image of the Devil is a composite of a number of pre-Christian deities , notibly Pan and Hades. As early Christian Theologians sought to reflect the nemesis of God for early concerts unable to access the Bible directly they reached out to the cultures that surrounded them. It gave the listener something to draw from which they could understand whilst also turning them away from any polytheistic faith they may have had before. As Pagans we look to the ancient, pre Christian God’s, particularly horned God’s and Goddesses. Given that early Christianity spent a lot of time and energy blacking the names, images and concepts of those Gods that they couldn’t assimilate it is not surprising that those modern Believers who seek a pure form of Christianity feel the same way.
When He Comes For Us
For all this The Devil will always appear in a form most tempting to you. As Jenkins said to Ezekiel Jones;
“[Think] Katy Perry, wearing the Crown Jewels, holding a wad of cash, with an unnatural attraction to young Aussie boys.”
He is hidden within a form which is pleasing to the eye; he’s a convincing conversationalist and able to compel you to actions forbidden by God as part of their never ending contest over Man and Creation. This is one reason why Christians feel able to condemned even the most benign seeming practices. Take crystal healing as an example; I think even Christians will appreciate the beauty of crystals and their formation but their use as a tool of energy healing will be anathema for some. The concept of the stones containing energy, or interacting with the bodies of the patient and practitioner is completely at odds with the idea that God is the sole source of healing miracles. To them you are influenced by the Devil. Lead astray by him, or his agents, in the form of books, retailers and other practitioners.
This mindset gets applied again and again to all sorts of subjects Ouija, tarot, Reiki, spells casting… The list is seemingly endless when you start looking beyond the scope of modern paganism and into modern society. Anything that is ‘good’ comes from God; anything that is ‘bad’ comes from the Devil. Verse after tenuous verse, with all the varying interpretations and translations, get trotted out in order to help define exactly what ‘bad’ is, with allowances made for acts done in God’s name and grace.
Pagans and the Devil
I cannot stress this enough.
Witches do not worship or acknowledge the Devil in any shape or form.
The Devil is the Adversary entity of Christianity. His form, concept and behaviour are solely there for those who practices Christianity. Whilst I won’t go to the extent of some Pagans and disrespect their beliefs by denounceing him as ‘made up’ he can have no impact or meaning to me as I am a Pagan. To me he is an interesting figure in a religion I do not practice and therefore has no power over me. The mentality that ‘my God is so great that he has power over everyone’ is a opressive mentality unique (in my opinion) to Abrahamic religions. They are entitled to that mentality, but they can keep it. As much as they shout it is as effective as a far in a windstorm.
Many pre Christian pantheons have their Adversary deities, beings that are in conflict with the Supreme deity of that culture or who are seen as opposite in some way. Loki, Hades, Veles; as cultures were Christianised these deities were likened to, or even assimilated into, the image of, the Devil for a variety of purposes. The difference is that unlike the Devil they are not an enemy to over come, they are an intrinsic part of the balance of Creation. They have their purpose and place both in life and in the Craft.
Although many New Age and neo-Pagan streams attempt to sanitise Witchcraft it is important to remember that there are entities and deities who, by the standards of modern society, may appear diabolical and ‘evil’ and that this is no bad thing. These figures does not possess the same interpretation historically as they do today and; just as the darkness doesn’t go away because we ignore it, acknowledging it will not destroy your soul. There are many instances where working with such God’s is a benifit, one major one being the insight into ourselves, psrticularly the shadow self that is so easy to repress and ignore.
This shadow-self scares , with it’s desires and apparently self-destructive nature. It is intimidating to many but failing to acknowledge it is even more destructive. By working with such deities the shafow-self can be confronted, as can the patterns that result from it and drive it, and this can be benificial to personal development as well as our Craft. That is not to say such work is without risk, it is very easy to loose control and descend into the Shadows and allow them to take control. Always seek advice and support when under taking such work.
The Devil and Satanism
I’ve highlighted Satanism from time to time and Satanism is another term that gets throw around by Evangelicals. To them Satanism is found in ideological opposition to the Christian Church and the terms had been applied from everything from the Knights Templar and the Cathars and even to sexual abuse scandals. In all cases there has been no evidence of actual Satanic ritual, that is veneration of the Christian Devil where Christian beliefs are held. In fact in the case of the modern Satanic movement there is no connection with Christianity at all, rather they embrace the Hebrew root of the word “Satan” as “adversary” and view themselves as bring in oposition to the Christian Church whilst being completely removed from it. Satanists view Satan as a positive archetype who represents pride, individualism, and enlightenment. The movement uses Satan as a symbol of defiance against the Abrahamic faiths which LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan criticized for what he saw as the suppression of humanity’s natural instincts. The Church of Satan is incredibly principled, despite the charges often laid against them, and their ethos is firmly laid out in The Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth, The Nine Satanic Statements and The Nine Satanic Sins Whilst they are ideologically opposed to Christianity and openly criticize aspects of the Church, including the acceptance of information and wisdom at face value, pretention and herd conformity, they are not evil in any sense.
Fighting Fear With Fact
Whilst it is almost certain that at some point the seeker will be confronted by someone’s fear and ignorance regarding witchcraft, or find themselves at the butt of someone’s jokes, it is important that respond in constructive, even helpful, manner. Flaring up in anger and disgust will resolve very little, where as calm discourse will normally reveal those who are genuinely confused and those who are blinded by hate.
There is enough information here to begin to develop a calm rebuttal of the accusation but there is more that you could research such as;
- The origin and identity of the Devil
- The true history of the Witch Trials
- Aspects of your Practice
- Diversity of Paths
There are may be times where you will want to filter your information, or gloss over certain subjects. There is no harm in doing this but you may find your listener suspicious if it is not done smoothly. This is one of the reasons it is important to be firm in your knowledge about your own practices and ways that you may be able relay the information in a clear and relevant way. Discernment comes into play here. You will know who you are talking to and what they will be able to identify with and subjects which may crate even more confusion.
Give facts, for the love of the Holies avoid the fluff, and more importantly remain calm. It may not work but at least you tried.