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Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Safety Tips and Crime Myths


J.D. Valesco
October 28, 2012

Halloween is a time for fear and fright, but some common worries about the ghastly holiday may be overblown, experts say.

There are legitimate safety issues to consider on the holiday - pedestrian-vehicle accidents, fire hazards, dogs who get into chocolate.

But many of the scariest Halloween horror stories - poisoned candy, satanic sacrifices of pets, and rampant criminal activity - have little basis in reality.

The Monsters Among Us


October 30, 2012

With Halloween approaching, people turn their attention to the spooky and the scary, reveling in stories and images of ghosts, ghouls and witches for the holiday. However, while some monstrous characters only come out to play in October; others enjoy attention year round.

For example, in recent years, vampire media has gained popularity, from Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" series of books and films to HBO's "True Blood," which finished its fifth season this summer. Zombies have recently seen a resurgence in popularity as well, evidenced by new takes on the genre, such as Zach Synder's 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead," Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later" and Edgar Wright's "Shaun of the Dead." Zombies have even shambled onto the television screen with AMC's "The Walking Dead."

Hollywood is quick to cash in on what's popular, but why do themes gain popularity in the first place? Does the prevalence of a certain monster reflect what's going on in our society today?

Jesus Likes Halloween a Little Bit, Doesn't He?


Jeff Kinley
October 17, 2011
The Huffington Post

Every year Christians face a cultural dilemma, beautifully articulated by a 5-year-old boy's announcement to his parents upon returning home from school one day.

"Mom and Dad, Jesus hates Halloween!" Then, pausing, he mumbled, "But He likes it a little bit, doesn't He?"

And therein lies the conundrum of the Christ follower -- what to do with Halloween. Traditionally, Christians and anything related to the horror genre have not mixed well. Like oil and vinegar. Church and State. Alcohol and tattoos.

Some Christians even go so far as to claim Halloween is, in reality "Devil's Birthday." Really? Never mind the Bible doesn't say that. Note to self: File under "Christian Superstitions."

What that little boy was really trying to communicate was, "Mom and Dad, can I dress up like a pirate and get some candy this Friday night?"

But the dilemma remains concerning this perennial predicament. What are Christians supposed to do with the hoopla and festivities surrounding this evil holiday? Are we to ignore it? Pretend it doesn't exist? Lob "Gospel Grenades" of condemnation at those who celebrate it? Hand out religious pamphlets instead of candy to trick or treaters? Or offer an alternative, like a Harvest Festival, Fall Carnival or even "Reformation Day Celebration"?

Unfortunately, many people's only exposure to Christianity is when the "religious right" is condemning or complaining about something -- culturally or politically. However, that's changing in a lot of communities. Christians are waking up and engaging culture instead of merely vilifying it. The apostle Paul was a master at observing culture and redeeming it for God's purposes -- using customs, practices -- even idols and quotes from secular poets to illustrate biblical truth. While in Athens, he used a pagan Greek word for 'God' (theos) to build a verbal bridge communicating who the true God (Jehovah) was (Acts 17:23).

In reality, a lot of church members are huge fans of the horror genre in books and movies, and untold numbers wait with baited breath to catch the highly anticipated second season of AMC's The Walking Dead (or TiVo-ing it to watch after Sunday night Church).

Enter a new book: "The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook: Slaying the Living Dead Within." Officially releasing this week worldwide, the title is sure to arouse curiosity, combining two seemingly contradictory terms. I wrote this book, in part because I've always been a fan of the horror genre. But anther dilemma: how to reconcile that to my faith without compromising or stretching the truth?

As it turns out, that part was easy as zombies are a powerful metaphor paralleling a core theological truth. George Romero, legendary director and godfather of zombie films, has said, "I've always liked the monster within idea. I like the zombies being us."

Bingo, George. And that's precisely why zombies are so disturbing. We see a mirror of humanity when looking into their dark sockets. They're messy, smelly and they want to consume our flesh and brains. They don't go away just because you wish it so. They don't even stop chasing you when you shoot them, unless of course you shoot them in the head. They're just pure evil and you never know when they're going to lumber up behind you and bite a bloody hunk of meat out of your trapezoid muscle.

But back to the idea of "stinky Christians." The bite of this zombie metaphor cuts even deeper now. There's a spiritual parallel in their insatiable craving for self-satisfaction. The Bible describes this as the "old man" or "old self" (Rom 6:6), also commonly referred to as the "sin nature." It's the part of us that resists God and runs from Him. It even hates Him. It's the immaterial, mystical part of our soul that wants our own way over God's way. And though as Christians this evil entity has no legal authority over us anymore (Rom 6:6-11), we still feel it creeping up on us. Like, every day.

This creates tension. And confusion. And frustration. But Christianity typically avoids messiness. We don't like friction in our faith. We prefer order and predictability. Smooth sailing is our journey of choice. But God likes to throw a wrench in the gears every now and then, to challenge us. To get us to think. To engage. And to find new ways to live out faith our in the marketplace. In doing this, we Christians discover we aren't really any "better" than anyone else. This zombie inside us smells as putrid as any portrayed by Hollywood. And though we have accepted Christ's atoning sacrifice on our behalf (Col 1:13-14), we still struggle with many of the same temptations and sins as the rest of humanity (Rom 7:15-25). We become acutely aware of an inner beast that constantly moans and gnaws at our spirit.

"The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook" offers escape, survival and a win over the zombie inside. This book shows you how to slay the living dead within. With its unique blend of fiction, graphic novel inspired illustrations, and spiritual guidance, it delivers a fresh, relevant look at the doctrines of sin, grace, salvation and the inner conflict we all face.

In the end, this annual Fall dilemma is much deeper than culture, Halloween, TV shows and trick or treating. The real issue is "What do I do with this rotting corpse?"

For more information: Halloween Resource Page

Tricks in the Treats: The Myth of Poisoned Halloween Candy


Eryn Brown
October 29, 2011
Los Angeles Times

Every year, parents and police departments worry about tricks in their kids' Halloween treats: razor blades in apples, poison in candy bars.

But incidents of candy poisoning are very, very rare -- if they exist at all.

The Truth About Halloween


Despite my articles over the past few years clarifying the true origins of Halloween and a proper Orthodox attitude towards it today, many Orthodox Christian clergy and faithful still embrace and promote a false version promoted by fundamentalists of recent times to senselessly scare people away from ANY participation in the holiday. The only thing we should fear in this instance, however, is falsehood and bearing false witness when presented with the truth. Below is a balanced version concerning the truth about Halloween.

By Catherine Beyer

What is Halloween?

Halloween is a secular holiday combining vestiges of traditional harvest festival celebrations with customs more specific to the occasion such as costume wearing, trick-or-treating, pranksterism, and decorations based on imagery of death and the supernatural. The observance takes place on October 31.

Though it was regarded up until the last few decades of the 20th century as primarily a children's holiday, in more recent years common Halloween activities such as mask wearing, costume parties, themed decorations, and even trick-or-treating have grown quite popular with adults as well, making Halloween an all-ages celebration.

What does the name 'Halloween' mean?

The name Halloween (originally spelled Hallowe'en) is a contraction of All Hallows Even, meaning the day before All Hallows Day (better known as All Saints Day), a Catholic holiday commemorating Christian saints and martyrs observed since the early Middle Ages on November 1.

How and when did Halloween originate?

The best available evidence indicates that Halloween originated in the early Middle Ages as a Catholic vigil observed on the eve of All Saints Day, November 1.

It has become commonplace to trace its roots even further back in time to a pagan festival of ancient Ireland known as Samhain (pronounced sow'-en or sow'-een), about which little is actually known. The prehistoric observance marked the end of summer and the onset of winter, and is said to have been celebrated with feasting, bonfires, sacrificial offerings, and paying homage to the dead.

Despite some thematic similarities, there's scant evidence of any real continuity of tradition linking the Medieval observance of Halloween to Samhain, however. Some modern historians, notably Ronald Hutton (The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, 1996) and Steve Roud (The English Year, 2008, and A Dictionary of English Folklore, 2005), flatly reject the commonly held notion that November 1 was designated All Saints Day by the Church to "Christianize" the pagan festival. Citing a lack of historical evidence, Steve Roud dismisses the Samhain theory of origin altogether.

"Certainly the festival of Samhain, meaning Summer's End, was by far the most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Irish calendar, and there was a sense that this was the time of year when the physical and supernatural worlds were closest and magical things could happen," Roud notes, "but however strong the evidence in Ireland, in Wales it was May 1 and New Year which took precedence, in Scotland there is hardly any mention of it until much later, and in Anglo-Saxon England even less."

Earliest Halloween customs

The earliest documented customs attributable to Halloween proper grew out of the tandem observances of All Saints Day (November 1), a day of prayer for saints and martyrs of the Church, and All Souls Day (November 2), a day of prayer for the souls of all the dead. Among the practices associated with Halloween during the Medieval period were the lighting of bonfires, evidently to symbolize the plight of souls lost in purgatory, and souling, which consisted of going door-to-door offering prayers for the dead in exchange for "soul cakes" and other treats. Mumming (or "guising"), a custom originally associated with Christmas consisting of parading in costume, chanting rhymes, and play-acting, was a somewhat later addition to Halloween.

Again, however, despite the obvious similarities between old and new, it's an overstatement to say these Medieval customs "survived" to the present day, or even that they "evolved" into modern Halloween practices such as trick-or-treating. There's no direct historical evidence of such a continuity. By the time Irish immigrants brought the holiday to North America in the mid-1800s, mumming and souling were all but forgotten in their home country, where the known Halloween customs of the time consisted of praying, communal feasting, and playing divination games such as bobbing for apples.

The secular, commercialized holiday we know today would be barely recognizable to Halloween celebrants of even just a century ago.

Is Halloween Christian, Pagan, or Secular?

The most straightforward answer is "secular." People who celebrate this day in a religious context generally do not call it Halloween, and the common practices associated with Halloween such as costuming and giving of treats are secular celebrations.

Christian Origins – All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day

However, Halloween evolved out of a Catholic holiday called All Hallows Eve, which occurs the day before All Saints Day, a general celebration of the saints on November 1.

In turn, All Saints Day originally was celebrated on May 13, and in the Orthodox Church is continues to be celebrated in late spring on the first Sunday after Pentecost, which in turn is seven weeks after Easter. Pope Gregory III is commonly credited with moving it in the 9th century to November 1, although the reasons for the move are debatable.

Ancient Celtic Origins - Samhain

It is often argued, most commonly by neo-pagans and Christians who are against Halloween celebrations, that All Saints Day was moved to November 1 to co-opt a Celtic Irish celebration called Samhain.

Did the Catholic Church Co-opt Samhain?

There is no direct evidence to say they did. Gregory's reasons for moving it from May 13 to November 1 remain mysterious. A twelfth century writer suggested it was because Rome could support larger numbers of pilgrims in November than in May.

There are similarities. Samhain appears to have connection with the dead and may have involved communication with, placating of, or honoring of those who had died. All Saints is a celebration of dead saints, whom Catholics communicate with through prayer and offerings in the hopes of the saints acting as intermediaries between humanity and God.

However, Ireland is a long way from Rome, and Ireland was Christian by the time of Gregory. So the logic of changing a feast day throughout Europe to co-opt a holiday originally celebrated in a small portion of it has some substantial weaknesses.

What is Samhain and How Does it Relate to Halloween?

Historically, Samhain was an Irish Celtic harvest festival that marked the beginning of the winter season. It is not likely to have been held on a specific calendar day, but rather whenever the harvest was finished for the year.

Connections between Samhain and Halloween

There are a variety of Halloween traditions often credited to Samhain, such as costume wearing and the creation of hallowed out vegetables (predecessors to the jack-o-lantern). Readers are cautioned to be very wary of such claims. The Irish were non-literate before the coming of the Romans and even then left us no documents about their society. Most of what we know of them therefore comes from outside sources, often people who had never actually met the Irish or, more often, were writing hundreds of years after their pagan society had vanished.

In addition, the common claim is that ancient Celtic practices became folklore practices in the Christian period which is how they were transformed into modern Halloween celebrations. Again, the evidence is often sketchy, with most of it dating on a couple centuries back. Many of these claims of Halloween celebrations being ancient are therefore conjecture at best.

Samhain in Mythology

From the mythological stories (again, written many centuries after Christianization), Samhain appears to be a time of transitions when chaos reigns. The are references to the closeness of the Otherworld to the world of the living during this time, and it is commonly associated with divinations and remembrances of the dead. The mythology rarely if ever touches upon specific rituals performed by common people.

Modern Samhain Celebrations

Today, a variety of neo-pagans celebrate Samhain. Many celebrate it the night of October 31, but some calculate the date via other methods such as astrologically or even by when local harvests are completed. Some even refer to the holiday as "Halloween" rather than as "Samhain," which merely further confuses the issue.

Modern celebrations manifest in a wide variety of ways. First, they may reflect mythology and beliefs specific to the celebrating neo-pagans. Wiccans and Druids, who belong to two separate neo-pagan religions, might hold significantly different celebrations, for example. Second, they frequently reference Northern European folklore or Celtic practices as they understand them to have been (which may or may not align with what was actually historically).

Modern Samhain celebrations are certainly not part of an unbroken pagan tradition. In fact, they post-date the secular emergence of Halloween.

Is Halloween Satanic?

Only in certain circumstances, and not historically.

Halloween is most directly related to the Catholic holiday of All Hallows Eve, although it has picked up a variety of practices and beliefs most likely borrowed from folklore. Even the origins of those practices are often questionable, with evidence dating back only a couple hundred years and older records being suspiciously mum about what might have been taking place around the end of October.

None of these things have anything to do with Satanism. In fact, if Halloween folk practices had anything to do with spirits, it would have been primarily to keep them away, not attract them. That would be the opposite of common perceptions of "Satanism."

Satanic Adoption

When Anton LaVey formed the Church of Satan in the mid-20th century, he stipulated three holidays for his version of Satanism, the first organized religion to ever label itself Satanic. The first and most important was the Satanist's own birthday. The other two are Walpurgisnacht (April 30) and Halloween (October 31). Both dates were often considered "witch holidays" in popular culture and thus linked with Satanism. LaVey adopted Halloween less because of any inherent Satanic meaning in the date and more as a joke on those who had superstitiously feared it.

Conclusion

So, yes, Satanists do celebrate Halloween as one of their holidays. However, this is a recent adoption. Halloween was being celebrated long before Satanists had anything to do with it. Therefore, historically Halloween is not Satanic, and today it only makes sense to call it a Satanic holiday when referencing its celebration by actual Satanists.

Sources and Further Reading

• Adams, W. H. Davenport. Curiosities of Superstition and Sketches of Some Unrevealed Religions. London: J. Masters & Co., 1882.
• Aveni, Anthony. The Book of the Year: A Brief History of Our Seasonal Holidays. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
• Hutton, Ronald. The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
• Opie, Iona and Tatem, Moira. A Dictionary of Superstitions. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
• Rogers, Nicholas. Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
• Roud, Steve. The English Year. London: Penguin Books, 2008.
• Roud, Steve and Simpson, Jacqueline. A Dictionary of English Folklore. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
• Santino, Jack. "Halloween: The Fantasy and Folklore of All Hallows." The American Folklore Center, Library of Congress, September 1982.
• Santino, Jack (Ed.). Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994.
• Skal, David J. Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween. New York: Bloomsbury, 2002.
• Wolfson, Jill. "Halloween Handwringing." Salon.com, 29 Oct. 1999.



Source

For more information: Halloween Resource Page

Who’s Afraid of Halloween?


By Fr. Mark Sietsema*

I have a confession to make. And it’s a bad one ….

When I was a kid … I used to get dressed up for Halloween! And it was not always something innocent either, like an astronaut or a cowboy. Once I was even a ghost! Worse yet, I would go door-to-door with my brothers and say “Trick or treat!” Idolatrous! Occultic! Satanic! Over time, of course this demon-glorifying activity caught up with me. Look at me now. I dress in black almost every day …

The Halloween Debate In Russia


Maria Kuchma
October 31, 2011
RIA Novosti

As Western youths flock to Halloween parties dressed as ghosts, zombies and witches, opinion polls show most Russians will ignore the event, with only a few people planning to celebrate a holiday many Russian officials and religious authorities claim is “Satanic."

Sixty-seven percent of Russians said they had no plans to mark one of the world's oldest – and most commercialized – holidays, according to a poll conducted by Russia’s Levada Center in late October.

Popular Christian Myths About Halloween


In the nineteenth century, cultural anthropologist Sir James Frazer studied the practices of the Northern Celtic people on Hallowmas (a term that has come to describe the three day period of October 31st or Halloween, November 1st or All Saints’ Day, and November 2nd or All Souls’ Day). He asserted that the traditions of Hallowmas were rooted in Samhain, and he claimed that the ancient pagan festival had been a day to honor the dead. Many cultural anthropologists after Frazer have repeated and exaggerated this claim ever since, and Protestant Fundamentalists have gone to extreme lengths based on these false studies and myths to distort and demonize Halloween.

How Christians Made Halloween A Satanic Holiday


By John Sanidopoulos

When it comes to religion, Halloween was always viewed as a Christian holy day. Beginning with the 1930's through till the 1950's, Halloween was regarded on a secular level as primarily an innocent children's holiday, and there was never a reason to think otherwise. Halloween festivities were mostly limited to school and family activities, and trick-or-treating became a nationwide custom to bring neighborhoods together after they were devastated with childish pranks during the time of the financial collapse of the 1930's. Even horror movies during this time were primarily moralistic gothic tales where good and evil were clearly delineated.

Ten Things I Won't Do On Halloween


By John Sanidopoulos

Last year (2009) I wrote a controversial piece about Halloween titled "Orthodoxy and Halloween: Separating Fact From Fiction". I want to make it clear that I am not out to defend Halloween or promote its celebration by Christians, though I do find it important to separate fact from the numerous fictions regarding this holiday promoted by Christians, and leave each individual to observe the day as their conscience and taste determines. Personally I see no contradiction between Halloween and Christianity and it is perfectly coherent in my heart the way I celebrate it. The fictional fundamentalist folklore and mythology surrounding Halloween is in my opinion the darkest aspect of the holiday, and it is the truth that I seek to bring to light lest Christianity be undermined, as it so often irresponsibly is in society. However, I also understand it is not within everyone's taste to celebrate Halloween, so mutual respect plays a large role in how I present the topic to Christians.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The True Origins of the Jack O' Lantern


First of all, there is absolutely no evidence behind the alleged pagan use of the Jack O' Lantern, where it is said in modern fundamentalist folklore that they were invented to ward-off evil spirits. In fact, the carved lanterns had practical military use in Ireland and Britain simply as carved lanterns. And stories of Stingy Jack are a later invention.

The Christian, Not Pagan, Origins of Halloween


The following excerpt is from the book The Stations of the Sun by Ronald Hutton (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996). This is to supplement my post titled "Orthodoxy and Halloween: Separating Fact From Fiction". Hutton is a British historian, and his book is a very well-researched study of seasonal festivals in Britain. Some of his observations may be of interest to those who become anxious over Halloween — either pagans who think Christians “stole” it, or Christians who think it must be “demonic”.

Orthodoxy and Halloween: Separating Fact From Fiction


When I wrote this article in 2009 pretty much every Orthodox website was spreading false information and gross fabrications about Halloween based on highly unreliable sources, but after this introductory article was published in Mystagogy (johnsanidopoulos.com), things slowly began to change, though not entirely, which is why this information should still be shared. And more information is available from my Halloween Resource Page.

Orthodoxy and Halloween: 
Separating Fact From Fiction

By John Sanidopoulos

"Man should not be upset about the blasphemies of the devil, but only about his personal sins, and to hope in God's boundless mercy, for where hope in God is absent, the devil's tail is present."

- Elder Paisios the Athonite

Below are some quotes from various Orthodox Christian websites concerning the "satanic panic" over Halloween, though they all pretty much say the same thing and offer the same distorted information:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Review: "The Undead and Theology"


The Undead and Theology (Pickwick Publications) is now available for purchase in digital form for Kindle, MAC and PC through Amazon.com, and in print edition. This is a unique volume that explores various facets of how monsters can provide for theological reflection. It makes the perfect Halloween pumpkin stuffer this holiday season for those interested in monster studies and other disciplines including theology, religious studies, motion pictures, television, literature, graphic novels and comics.

Below is a description of the book:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Zombies and God


5 Religious Questions That Zombie Stories Ask Us

Stant Litore
October 25, 2012

"And he asked me, Son of man, can these bones live?" -- Ezekiel

Since releasing the first novels in "The Zombie Bible," I've heard from a lot of readers asking me what zombies have to do with the Bible -- or what the Bible has to do with zombies. The answer is a lot, and I'm not just talking about the Bible's numerous references to either the risen dead or the restless dead.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lycanthropy (Werewolves) in Byzantine Times


What I find interesting about the contents of the article below was the advanced methods of psychiatry in Late Roman (Byzantine) times which treated symptoms of lycanthropy as a mental disorder, while in the West centuries later, following the Fall of Constantinople in the fifteenth century, it was often seen as a symptom of demonic possession.

"Lycanthropy in Byzantine Times (AD 330—1453)", 
History of Psychiatry, Vol. 20, No. 4, 468-479 (2009).

By E. Poulakou-Rebelakou, C. Tsiamis, G. Panteleakos, D. Ploumpidis 
(all from the University of Athens)

Abstract:

In this paper, the original Greek language texts of the Byzantine medical literature about lycanthropy are reviewed. The transformation of a human being into a wolf and the adoption of animal-like behavior, which were already known from mythology and had been presented in the scientific works of ancient Greek and Roman physicians, were examined by six Byzantine physicians and explained as a type of melancholic depression or mania. In spite of the influence of Byzantine medicine, its rationality in the interpretation of lycanthropy was forgotten in medieval and Renaissance times when it was replaced by explanations based on demonic possession and witchcraft. More recently psychiatry has treated the phenomenon as a subject of medical inquiry and has again explained the condition in terms of a mental disorder.

St. Gregory of Nyssa on the Apparitions of Spirits of the Dead, or Ghosts


In his treatise On the Soul and the Resurrection, St. Gregory of Nyssa is said to have been taught by his sister St. Macrina regarding eschatological topics as she lay on her death-bed following the repose of their brother, St. Basil the Great. Commenting on the details of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, St. Macrina makes the following observation:

Friday, October 24, 2014

St. John Chrysostom on Ghosts and Wandering Spirits


"It came to pass," it is said, "that Lazarus died; and he was carried up by angels" (Luke 17:22). Here, before I proceed, I desire to remove a wrong impression from your minds. For it is a fact that many of the less instructed think that the souls of those who die a violent death become wandering spirits (or demons*).

Thursday, October 23, 2014

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite on Vampirism


Canon 66 of St. Basil the Great

A grave-robber shall remain excluded from Communion for ten years.

Footnote to this Canon by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

It is fitting that we add in the present footnote how great condemnation those priests or laymen deserve who open graves in order to find, as they say, the Vrykolakas*, as they call them, and put them to death.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Halloween: An Orthodox Christian Perspective


By John Sanidopoulos

One of America's most beloved and fastest growing holidays is Halloween, and it is also the most demonized. Many of all ages, both young and old, celebrate it with innocence and a smile, yet some also condemn it with fury as an evil and violent day. The majority see Halloween as a fun children's holiday on which they dress up in costumes and go door to door to get candy, while others view it as a remnant of paganism and a subtle celebration of satanism. Amid this confusion and dichotomy, I will attempt to set the record straight in a short yet concise manner based on the most up-to-date studies, and examine whether or not the Church is called to demonize or sanctify Halloween based on the truth.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Haunted Cell Of A Heretic


By St. John Moschos

Abba John the Cilician told us that while he was staying at the ninth mile-post from Alexandria, an Egyptian monk visited them. He said:

"A brother from foreign parts came to the Lavra of the Cells and wanted to stay there. He prostrated himself before the priest and requested that he might stay the night in the cell of Evagrius*. The priest told him that he could not stay there.

The brother said: 'If I may not stay there, I will go away.'

Saint Gerasimos of Kefallonia and the Demon Possessed

St. Gerasimos of Kefallonia (Feast Day - August 16 and October 20)

By John Sanidopoulos

St. Gerasimos the New Ascetic of Kefallonia (+1579) is known as a renowned healer of the demon possessed. The demon possessed and the mentally ill flock to his holy shrine which contains his incorrupt relics on a daily basis to receive healing. He became a grace-filled exorcist because of his great discipline in fasting and prayer.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

On the Stench of Demons and Sin


By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Among other mysterious perceptions from the world of spirits, the saints also had perceptions of sweet fragrances from good spirits and foul stenches from impure spirits.

During every appearance of luminous, pure spirits, a life-giving and sweet fragrance wafted about; and during every appearance of dark and impure spirits, a suffocating, unbearable stench filled the air.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Monastics Even Pray For Demons!


By Elder Paisios the Athonite

Monks do not only pray for the living and the dead but even for the most miserable creatures, the demons, who, unfortunately, even though thousands of years have passed, have become worse and have progressed in their evilness.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fear of the Devil in the 1980's and Today


 By John Sanidopoulos

Anyone watching TV in the mid-late 1980's remembers the Satanic Panic commercialized by the media. Unable to understand the changing trends in culture that began in the 1960's, blame went to the devil and his "followers". Maybe it was the end of the Cold War and Reagan-era conservatism or maybe it was Heavy Metal music and Horror movies, but back then you could hardly go a day without seeing some overly sensationalized tabloid headline that spoke about shocking satanic rituals, or childhood sexual abuse tied to devil worship. Reports of the latter would later prove to be false, since no evidence was ever found and the only cases reported were the result of so-called repressed memories recovered through hypnosis. Personally, I think all this only made some people more fascinated with "the dark side" and sinister conspiracies, even those who opposed them, and to speak against the devil in society was a way to show this fascination. It also gave society a scapegoat to place blame on when easy answers couldn't be found elsewhere.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Origins of Idolatry (Agapius the Syrian)


By Agapius the Syrian

It is written that when the languages of the tribes of the children of Shem, Ham and Japheth, son of Noah, were divided in all the climates on the surface of the earth; when they had occupied their areas and when each language, each people and tribe had moved away into an unspecified region of a climate of the earth, as we described, the people began to make war on each other, one against another.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"The Raven": Demon of Despair (On Poe and Death)


By Presbytera Juliana Cownie

Soon after the death of a loved one come many visitors to the bereaved. Some arrive early, bearing gifts of food and speaking words of consolation and comfort. Others appear late in the day, unable to say anything, but still comforting in their very presence. But when the comforters have gone away and we sit through the lonely watches of the night, pondering our loss, the last visitor arrives. He comes invited, though not to bring consolation; his words are empty of that. No, his purpose is to smother any desire we may still have for life, to snuff out the smallest spark of hope that may yet gleam within our soul. He is the black-winged demon of despair, sent to bring us swiftly to the realm of everlasting pain and to bring the pain of Hell to us while we yet live.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Review: "Very Short Introduction to Paganism"


Christopher Howse
September 16, 2011
The Telegraph

The new Very Short Introduction to Paganism (Oxford, £7.99) would be scarcely a pamphlet if it was confined to paganism lived as a religion in the modern world. Wicca, the most popular form, goes back as far as 1948.

In that year Gerald Gardner (1884-1964) turned his attentions from the magic of the Ordo Templi Orientis (represented by Aleister “The Beast” Crowley, pictured above) and devoted himself to the witchcraft he claimed was the old religion of Europe.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Book Review: "Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation"


BOOK REVIEW: 'Occult America' Shows What a Fertile Place This Nation Has Been for Homegrown Religious Movements

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen

The first Europeans to arrive in what is now the United States came to practice their religion in peace -- and all too often to deny others the same freedom. Mitch Horowitz explores the influence of spiritualism, Freemasonry and transcendentalism in America in "Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation" (Bantam Books, 304 pages, $27.00).

Exhaustively researched (and yes, there's an index! as well as notes on sources) and written in a very accessible style, "Occult America" devotes much of its space to spiritualism, mesmerism, divination, channeling and other movements that have often been dismissed out of hand by experts, Horowitz says.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Magicians Who Converted to Orthodox Christianity


By John Sanidopoulos

Throughout the history of Christianity, many pagan and occult magicians are recorded to have abandoned their ancient art and accepted the Christian faith, not because magic was found to be "fake" or "debunked", but because they came to believe through the eternal light of the truth of the Triune God that what they thought had spiritual power was in fact darkness, evil, selfish and a demonic lie.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Lives of Saints Cyprian and Justina the Martyrs

Sts. Cyprian and Justina (Feast Day - October 2)

Sts. Cyprian and Justina are the patron saints of those afflicted from spells, curses, witchcraft and magic. St. Cyprian is credited with writing some of the exorcism prayers of the Orthodox Church as well. Often practitioners of magic and especially voodoo who claim to also be Christians invoke St. Cyprian as their patron, though such practices are condemned by the Orthodox Church.

IN THE REIGN of Decius (249-251) there lived in Antioch (of Pisidia) a certain philosopher and renowned sorcerer whose name was Cyprian, a native of Carthage. Springing from impious parents, in his very childhood he was dedicated by them to the service of the pagan god Apollo. At the age of seven he was given over to magicians for the study of sorcery and demonic wisdom. At the age of ten he was sent by his parents, as a preparation for a sorcerer's career, to Mount Olympus, which the pagans called the dwelling of the gods. Here there were a numerous multitude of idols, in which demons dwelled.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Secret History of Satan in America


W. Scott Poole
October 30, 2009
Religion Dispatches

The Devil created by American culture is made in the image of American culture; our beliefs about Satan are part of a theological narrative that has shaped religion, pop culture, and even, in some cases public policy.

Ten Questions for W. Scott Poole on Satan in America: The Devil We Know

What inspired you to write Satan in America? What sparked your interest?

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