Devil

PaganGreen Pagan Witches

Christianity’s Prince of Supreme Evil. The Devil,
or Satan, is not a god of Wiccans and Pagans. The association
of witches with the Devil grew in the Middle Ages
and Reformation, when belief in a personal Satan as the
agent of all evil was particularly strong. Accusations of
Devil-worship were not limited to witches. Christians
charged the same of Jews, Muslims, pagans, Cathars,
Albigenses, Waldenses, “Red Indians” and other heretics,
and Protestants and Catholics accused each other of it as
well. Even Martin Luther was said by Catholics to have
given himself over to the Devil.
Devil comes from the Greek diabolos (“slanderer” or
“accuser”), translated from the Hebrew satan. The concept
of the Devil as archfiend of evil developed slowly
over many centuries, becoming a composite of Lucifer,
the fallen angel whose pride and ego got him expelled
from heaven; Satan, the tempter of man; and various pagan
deities such as Pan and Cernunnos.
Satan plays a minor role in the Old Testament as the opponent
of man, dispatched by God to test man’s faith. He is
not evil and is an angel in the kingdom of heaven. In Job,
Satan follows God’s instructions to destroy Job’s family and
possessions and cover him with running sores in an effort
to tempt him into cursing God. In the New Testament, Satan
becomes more personal and is the great antagonist of God
as well as man. The book of Revelation forecasts that Christ,
in his second coming, will bind the Devil for 1,000 years, at
which time the Devil will reappear one final time, as the Antichrist,
before being destroyed. The dualism of Christianity
became firmly established, with a god of light and goodness
and a god of evil and darkness.
By the ninth century, the Devil held a central position
in Christianity. Satan, the Devil, was believed in as a real,
The Devil with his witches and demons (Old woodcut)
98    deosil
potent being who possessed terrible supernatural powers
and was intent upon destroying man by undermining his
morals. In this pursuit, he was aided by an army of evil
demons (a corruption of the Greek term daimon or daemon,
meaning “divine power”). This army was expanded
to include heretics and sorcerers, who were considered
outlaws of the church, and whose magic posed a threat to
the divine miracles of the church. Witches were included
first as associates of sorcerers, then as heretics.
Preachers pounded fear of the Devil into their followers
by constantly inveighing against his attempts to
pervert people and turn them away from God. Satan’s
kingdom was the material world. He would tempt people
with false riches, luxuries and carnal pleasures, only
to claim their souls for eternal damnation in the end.
His chief means of attacking others was through demonic
possession. Pacts with the Devil, which date to
the 6th century, became implied; any consort with the
Devil automatically meant one had entered into a diabolic
pact (see Devil’s pact). John Stearne, the assistant
to Matthew Hopkins, England’s notorious witch-hunter
of the 17th century, was of the opinion that the preachers’
obsession with Satan encouraged witches to worship
him. Agnes Wilson, an accused witch of Northampton in
1612, was asked how many gods she believed in and replied,
“Two—God the Father, and the Devil.” Her answer
was no surprise in light of the prevailing social-religious
climate, but it was taken by her prosecutors as an admission
of Devil-worship.
The Devil was said to appear in many guises in order
to fool people. His most common human shape was that
of a tall black man or a tall man, often handsome, dressed
in black. Henri Boguet (1550–1619), a jurist in witch trials,
stated in Discourse des sorciers (1602) that:
Whenever he [the Devil] assumes the form of a man, he
is, however, always black, as all witches bear witness.
And for my part I hold that there are two principal reasons
for this: first, that he who is the Father and Ruler of
darkness may not be able to disguise himself so well that
he may not always be known for what he is; secondly, as
proof that his study is only to do evil; for evil, as Pythagoras
said, is symbolized by black.
The Devil also could appear in disguises, such as a
saint, the Virgin Mary, comely young women and preachers.
He could appear in a multitude of animal shapes,
most commonly a dog, a serpent or a goat (see metamorphosis).
He also had ugly appearances: as the alleged god
of witches, he was portrayed as half human, half animal,
like Pan, with horns, cloven feet, hairy legs, a tail, a huge
penis, glowing eyes and Saturnine features.
By the 18th century, literalist views of the Devil were
losing power. Enlightenment philosophers and writers
were questioning the origins of evil, and were looking
within the human psyche for answers. The Devil became
more a metaphor in literature.
In folklore, the Devil was often portrayed in a lighter
fashion, perhaps to mitigate the fear inspired by the
clergy. He was often buffoonish and called by nicknames
such as Jack, Old Nick, Old Horny and Lusty Dick. He
could be easily tricked.
The distinction between the Devil as Prince of Evil
and his hordes of demons often blurs. The phrase “the
Devil” has referred to both. Joseph Glanvil observed in
Saducismus Triumphatus (1689) that “The Devil is a name
for a body politic, in which there are very different orders
and degrees of spirits, and perhaps in as much variety of
place and state, as among ourselves.”
The worship of Satan as a god of power and materialism
is practiced by some groups.
Pagans and Wiccans do not worship the Devil. Pagan
deities, and the Horned God of witches, are often confused
in the public mind with the Devil.

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