In today’s society, spiritism is spreading like wildfire. Through books, magazines, television and movies, the occult reaches into virtually every facet of life. Increasingly, people are turning to spiritism for answers to their problems. What are the implications of this trend? Where is it headed? Will it include you?
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Through a barrage of media influences, the supernatural is spoon-fed to young minds virtually every night on television. Its presence can reach into every home that is plugged into the Internet.
Is society’s fascination with the spirit world just innocent curiosity? Or is it dangerous? Is there a dark side to this trend?
This is the first in a series of articles addressing the growing influence of spiritism around the world.
Meet Sue. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, with her husband and two sons, ages 5 and 10. She is a computer programmer for a nationally-known bank. Like many people, Sue’s life is filled with many roles—wife, mother, employee…Wiccan. Sue is an elder and high priestess in a Wiccan coven.
Last Easter, she joined about 200 marchers in the Bay Area’s first-held Pagan Pride Parade. Since the parade’s official theme was “Return of the Snakes,” Sue brought along her pet, a 10½ foot, 50-pound Colombian boa constrictor named Dora.
According to an estimate by the parade’s leader, there may be as many as 50,000 pagans, witches and Wiccans living in the Bay Area alone. And their beliefs are as varying as denominations of mainstream Christianity. Some pagans view themselves as “ceremonial magicians” or “eclectic pagans.” Some belong to the Covenant of the Goddess; others worship Oshun, a Yoruba goddess.
The Pagan Pride Parade is only one of many attempts to normalize ancient, pagan religions and belief systems into the mainstream.
So far, the plan seems to be working.
Study the world around you. The tentacles of paganism, spiritism and the occult are touching almost everything you can imagine.
Take Harry Potter, for example. Every book in this series about a boy wizard is in the top 20 of Publisher’s Weekly’s list of the all-time bestselling children’s books. Thus far, hardcover and paperback sales for Harry Potter have skyrocketed to almost $37 million. Add that to Harry Potter movie ticket sales and you can see why so many writers, publishers and filmmakers are scrambling to come up with their own kid wizards.
Yet, despite its success, the series has come under fire. Many concerned parents and religionists argue that letting children read Harry Potter is akin to teaching them the inner workings of witchcraft and black magic. On the other side of the fence are those who say that any literature that gets children to read—even if it is about wizards, witches and sorcery—is a blessing.
Which side is right?
Some parents work hard to keep their children from being exposed to any form of spiritism and witchcraft—including Halloween and Harry Potter. Yet, many times, their efforts are undermined by others.
For example, in an attempt to replace Halloween, teachers at McNear Elementary in Petaluma City, California, exposed fourth-graders to the Mexican holiday “El Dia de los Muertos”—the Day of the Dead. The children were encouraged to observe the ancient pagan ritual of honoring the deceased with altars (or tables) surrounded with flowers, food and pictures.
The objections of parents fell on deaf ears.
Now consider the “Hollywood-ization” of the occult: The Exorcist, Carrie, Devil’s Advocate, The Craft, The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project, Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. These and countless other films tantalize, please and ultimately desensitize the senses to demonism, witchcraft and magic, many times with blood and gore.
Now consider television. The minds of young and old alike are entertained by the exploits of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dark Angel, Charmed, The X-files, The Dead Zone, Millennium and Witchblade. Such shows, featuring witches, vampires, voodoo and black magic, have spawned millions of dedicated viewers.
For those who want reality-based shows dealing with spiritism, there is the highly popular TV talk show Crossing Over with John Edward. Its host is a self-ascribed psychic medium who claims to predict future events and communicate with the dead—those who have supposedly crossed over to the “other side.”
As you can see, filmmakers and television producers have learned to market the occult into a highly profitable franchise.
And then there are computer and video games. Virtually every role-playing game sold requires players to get involved with witchcraft, sorcery, casting spells and conjuring up spirits. Many argue that this is nothing more than harmless fun.
But is it?
Picture this: Johnny spends his entire childhood weaned on the occult, via children’s books, television and movies. Should it be a surprise that, upon going away to college, Johnny seeks out even more of the same?
It would help to explain why paganism is alive and well on college campuses across the U.S. An ever-growing number of teens and twenty-somethings are studying more than just English Lit—they are wholeheartedly delving into ancient pagan rituals. Many parents are unaware that they have sent their teens off to colleges (such as Syracuse University) that offer courses in witchcraft.
Wicca, which has been described as a “contemporary neo-pagan religion,” is becoming popular among U.S. college students, especially among young women. Wicca’s goddess-oriented belief system is popular among feminist mindsets. For example, Swarthmore College—an Ivy League school—offers the following course, entitled Women and Religion:
“This course will examine the variety of women’s religious experiences in the United States. Topics will include the construction of gender and religion, religious experiences of women of color, spiritual autobiographies and narratives by women, Wicca and witchcraft in the United States, and feminist and womanist theology.”
Student chapters for Wicca and other practices of paganism have spread nationwide: The University of Arizona, Auburn University, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Penn State, Purdue…the list goes on.
Not to be outdone, universities and schools wholly devoted to the study of mysticism and witchcraft are being established in Europe.
Curiosity in the occult is increasing even in places as remote as northwestern Arkansas. Recently, The Morning News/NWAonline.net published a news report (“Library Board Plans for Future”) about a library announcing plans for future expansion.
According to the article, the Rogers Library Board, in order to meet the growing demands of new readers in the region, planned to spend thousands of dollars on purchasing audio books and electronic books (or e-books). In the middle of the article was a passing, matter-of-fact quote from the library director: “Car-repair manuals and books on witchcraft are books that constantly walk out of the library, and we have to keep buying new copies.”
Spiritism is now as common as giving your car an oil change.
But what is spiritism? How did Wicca originate?
Trickery and fraud among so-called psychics, spiritualists and fortunetellers are nothing new. The renowned magician Houdini regularly exposed such people for what they truly were—scam artists.
The book Psychic Mafia, by M. Lamar Keene, a former “psychic,” revealed the extensive tricks and scams that so-called psychics used to fraud the gullible.
But is there anything genuine to spiritism, witchcraft and the occult? Or is it all “smoke and mirrors”?
Founded in 1954 by Gerald Gardner, Wicca is a modern version of pagan beliefs, practices and rituals handed down from pre-Christian times. Over the centuries, much information was lost, so it has been recreated and restructured. Wicca is a nature-worshipping, goddess-oriented, polytheistic religion.
But not all Wiccans are the same. Just as there are different forms of professing Christianity (Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, etc.), there are different “branches” within the Wiccan religion. These branches are called “traditions.” Within each tradition, there can be variations from coven to coven.
When a coven gathers together at night, its members form a circle and hold hands as they chant and walk around an altar. They welcome the north, south, east and west. They welcome forces with mythological names. Sometimes they cast spells to cast away any “bad energy.”
Wiccan is largely based on symbols, and seasonal days to celebrate and worship ancient deities. Wiccans claim to be in tune with the earth; they use many herbs and roots to concoct spells and potions. Their biggest holiday of the year is Halloween, which they call Samhain (pronounced so-wane).
Modern spiritism began in early 1848, in Hydesville, New York. A farmer, John Fox, along with his wife Margaret and their two daughters, Kate and Margaretta, moved into a house that was said to be haunted. (The prior tenant had moved out due to several unexplainable instances of raps, taps, footsteps and other noises.)
The Fox family soon began to be disturbed by strange sounds and activities, such as spontaneous movement of furniture by “unseen hands.” Believing their home was haunted by some “restless spirit,” Kate Fox cried out to the mysterious unseen power and challenged it to copy her in snapping her fingers. Her sister Margaretta did the same, challenging the spirit to copy her in clapping her hands.
Then Mrs. Fox made a challenge: “I then thought I could put a test that no one in the place could answer. I asked the noise to rap my different children’s ages, successively. Instantly, each one of my children’s ages was given correctly, pausing between them sufficiently long to individualize them until the seventh, at which a longer pause was made, and then three more emphatic raps were given, corresponding to the age of the little one that died, which was my youngest child” (The Ayer Institute).
After asking the spirit several more questions, the Fox family soon invited all their neighbors to come and communicate with the unseen spirit:
“All heard the same questions and answers. Many remained in the house all night. I and my children left the house…On the next Saturday the house was filled to overflowing. There were no sounds heard during the day, but they commenced again in the evening. It was said that there were over three hundred persons present at the time. On Sunday morning the noises were heard throughout the day by all who came to the house.”
The spirit claimed to be Charles B. Rosna, a peddler who had stayed at the house five years previously. Many years later, The Boston Journal reported that the skeletal remains of a man had been discovered at the Fox house, “clear[ing] them [the Fox family] from the only shadow of doubt held concerning their sincerity in the discovery of spirit communication.”
As adults, the Fox sisters, acting as mediums for the spirit world, entertained hundreds of people. This was the beginning of modern-day séances. As their fame grew, the sisters eventually charged fees for their services. Even famous personalities from history sought them out: Horace Greeley, P.T. Barnum, James Fenimore Cooper and many others.
Yet, despite their fame, the lives of Kate and Margaretta Fox were filled with betrayal, accusations, poverty and heavy drinking. Both sisters died prematurely from complications due to alcoholism. They were buried in paupers' graves.
Why are people turning their backs on professing Christianity and seeking spiritual answers through the occult?
Many have felt let down—in some cases, betrayed—by mainstream Christianity. They point to widespread church scandals, such as the recent revelation of child abuse cases among the Catholic priesthood, and then ask, “If so-called Christian leaders can preach from the pulpit one minute and sexually abuse helpless little children the next, then what’s so bad about paganism?”
Man has always been curious to know if there is more to this life than just the physical, material world. Desperately wanting to believe that life is more than simply birth-existence-death, a growing number of people are willing to be open-minded to any religion that appears to fill the spiritual void in their lives.
For many, mainstream Christianity no longer does this. The fruits of Christian religionists, leaders and groups—child abuse and sex scandals, inappropriate use of funds, questionable stances on hot-button political and social issues, active involvement in civil governments—are turning off and driving away believers and non-believers alike.
The voice of a new generation says, “The truth is out there…somewhere.” Spiritism, paganism and the occult are becoming a popular alternative.
In addition, some say that they are tired of rules that restrict their moral behavior. They want to set their own rules, their own standards of right and wrong. This is another reason why paganism is so appealing to so many.
Most witches, Wiccans and pagans embrace the Witches’ Creed: “Do as ye will and ye harm none.” Wrapping themselves around this moral code, they proudly proclaim that not all witches are bad. They claim that, just as there are good and bad Christians, there are good and bad witches.
On the surface, the Witches’ Creed does appear to advocate a simple form of morality (“Harm none”). But when compared to the spiritual excellence found in the laws and teachings in the Bible, the Witches’ Creed falls short.
“Do as ye will and ye harm none” is solely based on individual opinions of what seems to harm others.
In the Bible, the book of Judges records that, after God had delivered the Israelites into the Promised Land, the people soon rebelled. Time after time, they turned their backs on God and His Law—the Ten Commandments, and numerous statutes, precepts and judgments. Collectively, God’s Law taught the Israelites how to live. This Law was founded on two overarching principles:
(1) “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5).
(2) “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).
The first four of the Ten Commandments show how to love and serve God. The remaining six show how to properly love and serve other people. When obeyed, they produce peace and harmony. But when disobeyed, strife and chaos reign. Just one read of any reputable newspaper or news magazine will prove this.
Though God had personally given them the only real way to produce peace and happiness, the Israelites repeatedly relied upon themselves and “did their own thing.” They fell into a miserable and deadly cycle: (1) They rejected God and broke His laws. (2) No longer under God’s rule and protection, the Israelites were invaded and oppressed by enemy nations. (3) They cried out to God for deliverance. (4) Hearing their cries, God intervened and delivered them from oppression. (5) The Israelites obeyed God for a generation or two. But soon they would reject Him and break His laws. So went the cycle.
Throughout Judges, even to its final verse, God summed up this cycle: “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” This attitude has always yielded bloody results.
The Bible plainly shows that the Witches’ Creed of “Do as ye will and ye harm none” is an oxymoron. It is the same misguided idea of “Do what feels good, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone”—the problem is that one man’s pleasure is another man’s pain. People cannot agree as to what “hurt none” means.
This is because “The way of man is not in himself: It is not in man that walks to direct his steps,” and “There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Jer. 10:23; Prov. 14:12).
Ironically, the vast majority who profess to be Christian—who claim to love “every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”—ignore the above verses and follow their own rules and ideas. For example, many professing Christians preach against homosexuality, while quietly giving a nod and a wink to adultery and fornication. Yet the Bible, which they claim to love, condemns all sex outside the holy institution of marriage.
Witches, Wiccans and pagans are not fooled by the hypocrisy. They embrace the Witches’ Creed, which gives them the green light for virtually any sexual relationship, under the guise of moral freedom.
But are they really free? Or has such thinking actually enslaved them to an “unseen power” darker and more dangerous than they can imagine?
Remember Sue, the Wiccan high priestess from the Bay Area? She is not alone in choosing witchcraft as a way of life. There are many more like her. In fact, it would not be a stretch to say that paganism and the occult is firmly entrenched in mainstream modern society.
Take the daily newspaper. At least three-quarters of U. S. newspapers carry daily horoscope columns. According to one report, perhaps about 25% of people worldwide believe in astrology to some extent. About 48% of Americans believe that astrology is valid, and up to 30% believe it to the point of using their astrological sign to mold their self-image. And up to 90% of Americans say they are “open minded” to the authenticity and value of astrology. Every year, some 20 million books on astrology are sold in the U.S. alone.
This is not merely “harmless fun,” as some claim. Astrology has been used to guide the decisions of the most powerful government office on the planet: The Presidency of the United States of America. When he was in office, former President Ronald Reagan regularly consulted astrologers.
Consider the proliferation of advertisements for psychics and other fortunetellers. This marketing of such “services” has greatly increased since the 80s, when it made its debut.
Take the booming market of books offering readers the inside scoop on witchcraft, tarot cards, divination, communicating with the dead, casting spells. These books are not hidden in the back corners of musty used bookstores—they are displayed in plain view in the top bookstore chains nationwide. Even in the children’s section.
Now consider the Internet. Like a contemporary “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” the World Wide Web offers anything and everything to titillate the senses. There are easy to find websites featuring documents such as the “History of Spiritualism.” One such site displays a network of student chapters of paganism at college campuses nationwide. Just one popular search engine lists the following:
“The Art of Casting Spells: To cast a spell is to project energy through a symbol. The most powerful spells are often improvised from materials that feel right or that simply happen to come to hand.
“Candle Magick: How to perform candle magick, including preparation, choosing your candle, colors and properties, and creating candle magick.
“Chants, Prayers and Invocation: A selection of incantations you can use daily to invoke spiritual deities.
“Curses: Here’s [an] article on the history of curses throughout the world, and the current uses of curses and hexes…
“How to Cast a Spell: A simple, easy guide to creating magic for beginners. Magic should not be performed for fun or to fulfill wishes, this article says. It should be performed to improve your life and the lives of those you love by solving needs.
“An Introduction to Voodoo: [This] provides a brief history of voodoo, its beliefs, its rituals and more.
“Love Spells: Five love spells are provided here. You might want to read the lengthy introduction first, however, so you know what you’re getting into.
“Pagan/Wiccan Religion: [This site] features everything you need or want to know about the subject, including insightful articles.
“How to Find the Right Psychic: Expert tips, articles and advice on how to find the best psychics and clairvoyants on the net. Excellent list of recommended psychics, clairvoyants and mediums for advice, love and destiny.”
Children today can learn every minute detail about the occult without ever leaving their bedrooms. No wonder so many are “coming out of the broom closet” upon reaching adulthood. They have been secretly weaned on the milk of paganism—and they want more.
The booming market for paganism and the occult is not limited to just the United States. Citizens in Canada, Britain, Australia and other modern, westernized nations are leaving the “broom closet” too, openly embracing pagan rituals and traditions.
And here is something you may not know: When professing Christians preach against the dark beliefs and rituals of Wiccans and pagans, witches knowingly smile. Why? Because they understand that the holidays embraced by mainstream Christianity—Easter, Christmas, New Year’s and others—originated from ancient pagan beliefs and traditions thousands of years before Jesus Christ was even born! Involving child sacrifices and temple prostitution, these were the same pagan rituals and customs that God had warned ancient Israel to avoid (Deut. 7:1-5, 16).
Amazing, but true!
Not only is paganism alive and well, but it is also thriving.
But are spiritism, witchcraft and practicing rituals from the occult right? Do they truly have the answers to life’s unanswerable questions?
Is there really a spirit world—if so, should you communicate with it?
Is there one source that has the authority to put paganism and the occult into their proper perspective?
These and many more questions will be answered in Part II next month.