Friday, 7 September 2012

A Clash of Beliefs

Bishop, Reading your past comments as it pertains to vampire origins gives me some concern. If I understand correctly you claim vampires have (Christian) satanic origins. This contradicts history however. The Christian devil/satan in the concept we know it as today (a literal not figurative figure) was not formed until the early middle ages. As Satan was (and still is) used as a tool of fear for control. "listen to me and do as I say or the devil is going to get you!" kind of mentality. So I'd like your take on how you feel vampires could come from a fictional character made up by the Catholic church? Thank you. —  Rev. Peter M. White, Salem Wizard, Our Lord and Lady of the Trinacrian Rose Church and Grove

"Our Lord and Lady of the Trinacrian Rose Church and Grove" is a pagan church based in Salem, Massachusetts (USA), which, according to its own self-description, "combines the modern and traditional aspects of the Wiccan Religion and Old World Sicilian Witchcraft of the Strega." It stands to reason that such a group will hold completely different beliefs to someone like myself who adheres to traditional Christian doctrine and teachings. I am a devout English Catholic who obviously disagrees with the beliefs, terminology and perceptions of those who consider themselves wizards, witches and the like.

The story of modern witchcraft definitively began with Gerald Gardner who was born on 13 June 1884 at Great Crosby, near Blundell Sands in Lancashire, England. Gardner definitely accumulated an extensive occult background. His formative years were spent in South East Asia where he became a Mason (in Ceylon) and also a nudist. In 1939 Gardner returned to England an avid occultist. He immediately became a member of the Rosicrucians and through such associations met a certain Dorothy Clutterbuck, known as “Old Dorothy,” who allegedly initiated Gardner into the New Forest Coven in September of that year. However, research suggests that Gardner did not discover a pre-existing witchcraft group. A paper by Gardner disclosed that he took the magical resources he acquired in Asia and a selection of Western magical texts and created a new religion centred upon the worship of the Mother Goddess which is precisely what has become the focus of modern witches and witchcraft.

Ten years after his self-proclaimed initiation, Gardner published a fictional account of witches called High Magick’s Aid. Then, following the repeal of the witchcraft laws in Britain in 1951, he followed this with a non-fiction book, titled Witchcraft Today, published in 1954. His high point must have come when he was invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace in 1960. Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern witchcraft, died on 13th February 1964 while returning from abroad on the SS Scottish Prince.

In addition to Margaret Murray, the influence of Aleister Crowley, Theosophy, Freemasonry, ritual sex magic etc all blended eclectically in the writings of Gerald Gardner. Out of the cauldron of his mind emerged modern witchcraft, or as it is commonly called, wicca. Robin Skelton, himself a witch, confirms in his book The Practice of Witchcraft Today that “Gardner’s work influenced the Old Religion deeply. His rituals owed much to the occult and kabbalistic tradition. His admiration for the occultist Aleister Crowley led him to include some of Crowley’s words and rituals … the sexual rituals and practices of Hindu Tantrism crept into occultism in the late nineteenth century and deeply influenced Aleister Crowley who, in turn, influenced Gerald Gardner and therefore Gardnerian witchcraft.” Gardner’s connection with Crowley has a deeper shared philosophical root. One of the founders of Ordo Templi Orientis was the Freemason Franz Hartmann, a companion of the theosophist Helena Blavatsky. Prior to Gardner’s discovery of witchcraft, he was a member of a Rosicrucian fraternity, the Fellowship of Crotona. This was an offshoot of the Temple of the Rosy Cross which was founded by Annie Besant, the British leader of a second theosophical society that sprang up after the death of Madame Blavatsky. An OTO writer in Pagan News (August 1989) maintains that “Crowley wrote the Gnostic Mass as the public ritual of the OTO … it should be remembered that sections have been incorporated into the Great Rite, the third and highest wiccan initiation.” Some hold that Gardner actually paid Crowley to write the rituals that have become fundamental to modern witchcraft. As far back as 1915 Crowley had advised: “The time is just ripe for a natural religion … be the founder of a new and greater Pagan cult.”

The principal instructions and rituals mingled Crowley’s magic with Masonic symbolism and ingredients from the East. And from this a new generation of advocates for a new feminist spirituality has emerged. Among these are Alexander Sanders, Sybil Leek, Raymond and Rosemary Buckland, Margot Adler, Jim Alan, Jessie Wicker Bell, Gavin and Yvonne Frost, Doreen Valiente, Zsuzanna Budapest, Donna Cole, Ed Fitch, Janet and Stewart Farrar (replaced after his death by Gavin Bone), and numerous others, including many rogues and charlatans. Alex Sanders had the greatest impact in England during the 1960s at the time of the counter-culture, occult explosion, and the fast growing mass media.

Witches practice clairvoyance, divination, astral projection, spells, curses, and herbal healing. They are supposed to follow a principle of ethics known as the wiccan rede where the effects of magic are believed to return threefold upon the person working it for good or ill. Not all adhere to this voluntary code. Their very belief in gods and goddesses, whether symbolic or not, identifies witchcraft groups as embracing a polytheistic conceptualisation of the universe. Modern witches, however, do not necessarily believe in a pantheon of male and female deities, but that reality itself is understood in many different ways. Truth is not a matter of correspondence between language, the world, or any one conceptual model. Put differently, there is no singular expression of truth. Truths that are contradictory are held to simultaneously. Symbols that accompany wiccan lore include the amulet, the talisman, the ankh, the pentagram, the athame (ritual dagger), the cup, the pentacle, the rune, the sigil, the wand, the tarot, the cauldron, the altar, the fith-fath (effigy) etc.

Witchcraft is sharply at odds with Christianity. Divination, spiritism, magic, sorcery, witchcraft, and the occult in general are condemned in the Bible. The polytheism in witchcraft is also a blatant contradiction to the strict monotheism of Christianity. Like most other non-Christian religions and religious cults of the world, witchcraft obliterates the distinction between Creator and creation. Wiccans deify nature in such a way that both God and nature are identified as synonymous. Furthermore, since divinity lies in nature and in the cosmos, it also resides within each person. Here it can be observed that wiccan thought closely parallels Hinduism and other Eastern paradigms. Traditional Christian thought holds that witchcraft has its source in Satan, the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4: 4). Some wiccan groups are indeed an introduction to overt diabolism and devil worship, but by no means all act as a front for fundamentalist Satanism. Principal influence of the occult revival in the twentieth century is undoubtedly Aleister Crowley without whom there would be no modern witchcraft movement today.

Wiccan thought offers a variety of views concerning the existence of evil and very few would deny its existence. However, the most common view among witches is to understand evil, not as a separate reality apart from good, as do Manichaeans, Satanists, and other groups, but rather as a necessary aspect of good. Yet is the evil that human beings encounter in the world and in history an acceptable and healthy aspect of a reality that, according to wiccan thought, has no flaws to begin with? How can such a view of evil be reconciled to the wiccan rede: “That ye harm none, do what ye will”? Is not evil harmful? To the victims and families of a murderer it certainly is. If there is no one absolute standard or set of truths exclusive of all falsities, how can even the wiccan rede be regarded as true? To grant that it is, is to grant that there is at least one absolute truth. Many witches are willing to live with this blatant contradiction because of either naïveté, intellectual dishonesty, or convenience.

For Christianity, God is the source of all truth, and the Bible is God’s revelation of such truth, deemed necessary for the world. There is a clear choice between the paths of darkness and the one true path that beholds the Light of the World.

Satanism is commonly referred to as devil worship and is the general term for worship of the biblical Lucifer, or Satan (Genesis 3: 1 – 15; Isaiah 14: 12). The history of satanic cults and devil worship is a difficult one to recount. Evidence and sources prior to the seventeenth century are scanty; even the post seventeenth century data are difficult to access because of the witch hunts whose victims oftentimes owed no connection to either witchcraft or indeed devil worship. These were frequently political acts, or the behaviour of mean-spirited folk towards those they happened not to like. Devil worship was therefore probably exaggerated when witch hunting was in its heyday. Satanism nonetheless existed then, as it still does today.

Vampires, when correctly defined, do not come from "a fictional character made up by the Catholic Church." They are demonic in origin and manifest as predatory entities, sometimes in corporeal form, as machinations and devices of Satan (the Devil). Reports of such phenomena predate the existence of the Catholic Church. The notion of vampirism has existed for millennia; cultures such as the Mesopotamians, Hebrews, Ancient Greeks and Romans had tales of demons and spirits that indubitably were the same phenomenon as modern vampires. 

"If ever there was in the world a warranted and proven history, it is that of vampires: nothing is lacking, official reports, testimonials of persons of standing, of surgeons, of clergymen, of judges; the judicial evidence is all-embracing." —  Jean Jacques Rousseau, “Lettre à Mgr. de Beaumont, Archevêque de Paris,” (Annex to the Contrat social) Librairie Garnier Frères, Paris, page 489.