Friday, October 4, 2019

Relics of Ancient Superstitions in Modern Greece (An Essay from 1856)

By Prof. Henry Martyn Baird (1832–1906)
Author of Modern Greece, A Narrative of a Residence and Travels in that Country (1856)

It is not my intention, in the present paper, to investigate the nature of superstition; nor shall I attempt to account for its origin and prevalence. In some form or other, it has existed in every country with which we are acquainted, and, at the present day, it can boast of as many slaves as in the most remote antiquity. This is a fact which Mr. De Quincey, in his admirable essay on Modern Superstition, has exhibited in a clear light. The European as well as the Asiatic, the inhabitant of Christian England, equally with the pagan, are firm believers in the reality of a vague and mysterious influence exercised over man, and the natural objects with which he is connected, by a superior order of beings.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

How A Famous Greek Astrologer Became an Orthodox Priest

Nikos Chortareas, the self-proclaimed "best astrologer in Greece and Cyprus," was a famous Greek astrologer known to people in Greece and Cyprus mainly through his after midnight psychic television program. Not only would he predict people's future based on their astrological sign, but he would promote other superstitious beliefs popular among the Greek general public like reading coffee cups and warding off the evil eye.

Apart from astrology and divination, another area in which Nikos Chortareas was active in was singing. In fact, he has also released his own album.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

A Miracle of Saint Cyprian of Antioch in 1966

By Archimandrite Haralambos Vasilopoulos

In 1966 there was a 29 year old young man, a soccer player from Athens, who was at the brink of death. He was the victim of a magical spell.

The young man had asked for the hand in marriage of a modest and good maiden. But there was another woman who was a rival that gave into satanic envy, so she went to a sorceress in order to drive the young man crazy and kill him.

The spell attached itself to the young man. This is because the young man had no connection with the Mysteries of the Orthodox Church. At first he no longer wanted to go to work and his large store fell to ruin. He also didn't want to see his family and in the end he suffered from horrible headaches. He even reached the point of attempting to commit suicide.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

How the Prolific Serial Killer Countess Elizabeth Bathory Fits Into a Feast of the Orthodox Church

Portrait of Countess Elizabeth Bathory

In August of 1581 the Russian city of Pskov was held under siege by the Polish king. On August 27th of that year the Virgin Mary appeared in a vision to a holy elder and blacksmith named Dorotheus, and she informed him that the siege was taking place due to the sins of the people of Pskov. When he interceded on behalf of the city, and the people repented and processed a miraculous icon of the Holy Virgin along the city wall for the days leading up to the battle, the Mother of God forgave the people and protected the city from the invading Polish king. To commemorate this event and the deliverance of the city, an icon was painted called the Pskov-Pechersk Icon, and to honor her Protection over the city, the feast was established for October 1st, which is the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

A Brief History of Halloween for Orthodox Christians

By John Sanidopoulos

In one or two words, what do you think of when you hear the word Halloween? This is a question I once asked some Orthodox Christian children, and they responded with the following words: Trick-or-Treating, Candy, Costumes, Fall, Pumpkins, Orange, October, Fun, Scary Movies and Stories, Haunted Houses, Hay Rides, Corn Mazes. For the children, these were all seen as positive things, though some didn't like scary movies. When this was asked of Orthodox young adults and young parents, the answers were very similar, though some added that it was just a holiday for children. But when I asked some Orthodox Christian adults and clergy, sometimes I got a positive answer similar to those above, but other times words like "pagan" and "devil's holiday" and "commercialization" were added. Largely what you get is a positive outlook on the holiday, though some who don't like Halloween, or have outgrown it, especially as adults, tend to express their negative attitudes by demonizing it, even calling it evil, and they justify their opinions with a lot of falsehoods and misinformation that have very little to do with the truth. With this guide, I hope to clear things up in a short summary, without going into all the details.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Saint Who Starved and the Witch Who Devoured

In the Orthodox Church we commemorate a Saint on September 3rd who is relatively unknown to us, except for his name and how he died. His name is Saint Archontios, and he died as a martyr for Christ by being starved to death. The iambic verses composed in his honor in the Synaxarion of Constantinople poetically describes his martyrdom as follows:

Archontios starved and hence was worn out,
The ruler of this world is a noetic lamia.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Ninth Century Rebuke of "Extraterresterial Beings" by Bishop Agobard of Lyon

In the early ninth century, a group of three men and one woman were reported to have come down from “aerial ships” to the city of Lyon. The mob that gathered accused the visitors of being evil magicians who wanted to ruin their crops. But the visitors insisted that they were ordinary, peaceful people from the same country who had been abducted by magical men and taken to a place in the sky called Magonia. Before the mob became violent, Bishop Agobard of Lyon (June 6) came running to the scene. He dismissed the story of the visitors as complete fantasy. Since Agobard was a greatly respected man, the townspeople accepted his skepticism and the strangers were left unharmed.

Friday, August 16, 2019

A Conversation on Psychiatric Illnesses and Demonic Possession with Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos

Elder Epiphanios was asked:

"Many Christians maintain that psychiatric illnesses are due to demonic influence and, with this viewpoint, they reject the use of psychiatric medicines. What do you have to say about this position?"

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Holy Elder That Invited a Demon To Possess Him

By the Preacher Demetrios Panagopoulos

A demon possessed man suffered for man years because of this demon. The fathers of a certain monastery had brought him to many elders to be healed, but no one was able to exorcise the demon. Eventually they brought him to a clairvoyant elder, who was a great faster. The elder said to them:

"Brothers and Fathers, I do not have the gift to expel demons. But I do have love and I ask the demon to leave this man and to come to me, so this brother can find some rest."

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Antidote to Demonic Possession

By St. Theophan the Recluse

"This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting" (Matt. 17:21). If this kind goes out by the prayer and fasting of another person, then it is even less able to enter one who fasts and prays. What protection! Although there are a slew of demons and all the air is packed with them, they cannot do anything to one who is protected by prayer and fasting. Fasting is universal temperance, prayer is universal communication with God; the former defends from the outside, whereas the latter from within directs a fiery weapon against the enemies. The demons can sense a faster and man of prayer from a distance, and they run far away from him so as avoid a painful blow. Is it feasible to think that where there is no fasting and prayer, there already is a demon? Yes, it is. The demons lodging in a person, do not always reveal their presence, but lurk there, stealthily teaching their host every evil and turning him away from every good thing; so this person is certain that he is doing everything on his own, but meanwhile he is only fulfilling the will of his enemy. Just commence prayer and fasting and the enemy will immediately depart, then wait on the side for an opportunity to somehow return again. And he truly will return, as soon as prayer and fasting are abandoned.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

An Old Ascetic Recalls the Greatest Lesson He Learned in the Wilderness

These are the words of Elder Theodore the Cave-Dweller (+ 2016), the last ascetic of Agiofarago in Crete:

'If you asked me to tell you, what I learned after so many years in the wilderness, I would answer you with one word: the power of the Psalter. If I began my life right now, I would strive to do one thing: to memorize the Psalter. This is the parental womb of noetic prayer. This is the fertile soil where the seed of prayer is sown. When I would read, during my vigils, the Psalter, a demon would come, hissing like a wildcat in my ear. Especially when I said the verse: "Let God arise...," and the verse that says: "You are the Lord my God." Enraged, he would grab me by the throat, choking me. He would confuse my words, so I would not say them. So much did they burn him.'

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Alexandros Papadiamantis and Bram Stoker's "Dracula"

Alexandros Papadiamantis was not only one of the most influential Greek novelists, short-story writers and poets, but he was also a translator. One book of the many he translated into Greek was Bram Stoker's Dracula. Papadiamantis titled it Ὁ Πύργος τοῦ Δράκουλα ("Castle Dracula"), and it was translated from the abridged second edition of the book. The second edition of 1901 of the classic vampire tale was abridged by Stoker himself from his 1897 original, with an approximate 15 percent reduction. The publishers wanted to release a cheaper, paperback, easier to read version that would appeal to a wider range of people.

Friday, May 24, 2019

On Ghostly Appearances, or Visitations from the Spirit World (St. Sebastian Dabovich)

By St. Sebastian Dabovich

All mankind, with the exception of a few individuals, believe in the future life. Why should the Creator implant in the spirit of man such lofty aspirations, if they were not to be realized, if such hopes were not fulfilled and desires not satisfied, — i. e., if there were no better, everlasting existence? It would not be according to the goodness, and the wisdom, and the holiness of the Almighty, of which we know.

Therefore, as it is beyond doubt that there is an eternal and all-perfect God, it is also beyond doubt that there will be a life without end for man, in which the longings of his spirit, or soul, will be satisfied.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Five Christian Saints Associated with Werewolves

St. Christopher with the head of a dog

The first mention of a werewolf is in Greek mythology, when Lykaon was turned into a wolf after dishing up a plate of human flesh to Jove, hence the Greek word Lycanthropy (wolf-man) for this phenomena. Before the age of exploration, the belief in werewolves or wolf-people was a common belief, even by the most educated. It was believed that those who lived at the edge of the world, beyond the boundaries of the Roman Empire, had particular traits not normally human, and among these peoples were what is called "dog-headed" people, known in Greek as Cynocephali, whose bodies were human but whose heads were like that of a dog or wolf, and they are often described as cannibals. Thus Saints who came from these unexplored and feared regions, or who were missionaries in these regions, became associated with werewolves.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Escaping the "Bags of Tricks" of Evil Powers

By Fr. Theodore Pantels

With the death and Resurrection of Christ, we are reborn with the grace of the Holy Spirit to be co-workers with our Lord. No longer are we destined to be apart from God; we now have the opportunity to always be with God starting from today and going into eternity. We are now armed with the power of the Cross of our Lord, which is at the same time the power over evil and the power of life itself, since, through the Cross, Christ conquered sin and death.

In the book entitled, How Satan Deceives People by Elder Cleopa, we learn of the power of the Cross in giving wisdom to know the tricks of the devil and the need that we have to avoid his tricks. Accordingly, the following true story is shared, which is edited and paraphrased in the interests of space:

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Movie Review: "Hail Satan?" (2019)

Hail Satan? is a 2019 American documentary film about The Satanic Temple, including its origins and grassroots political activism. Directed by Penny Lane, the film premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and was released in the United States on April 19, 2019, distributed by Magnolia Pictures. The film shows Satanists working to preserve the separation of Church and State against the perceived privilege of the Christian right.

Lane wanted to combat the widespread view of the Satanic Panic of the 1970s through 1990s, during which Satanists were described as rapists and murderers, usually of children. She described the editing for the film occurred in approximately six months, "concurrent with the bulk of shooting." She made the conscious decision to leave out known details about inner conflict within the organization and external criticisms from other Satanists. After completion of editing, Lane joined The Satanic Temple as a member.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

The Devil Fears the Prayer Rope

In the Skete of Saint Anna, Monk Prokopios had a great desire to learn music in order to praise God with his brothers.

Since his singing was a little out-of-tune, the Holy Fathers avoided to teach him a music lesson.

Brother Prokopios had a divine gift to repeat incessantly the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” while always keeping the prayer rope in his left hand.

One day, he was very sad, unable to find anyone to teach him music. He felt great sorrow thinking about it, and he stopped saying the prayer.

Friday, March 29, 2019

On Seeking Manifestations from the Spirit World

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Spiritists of our day accept every manifestation from the spiritual world as though sent by God, and immediately they boast that God has been "revealed" to them. I knew an eighty year old monk whom everyone respected as a great spiritual director. To my question: "Have you ever in your life seen anything from the spiritual world?", the monk answered me, "No, never, praise be to God's Mercy." Seeing that I was astonished at this, he said, "I have constantly prayed to God that nothing appear to me, so that, by chance, I would not succumb to pride and receive a fallen devil as an angel. Thus far, God has heard my prayers." This recorded example shows how humble and cautious the elders were. The devil, clothed in the light of an angel, appeared to a certain monk and said to him: "I am the Archangel Gabriel and I am sent to you." To that, the brother responded, "Think! Were you not sent to someone else, for I am not worthy to see an angel?" The devil instantly became invisible and vanished.

From Prologue, March 29.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"This Kind Does Not Go Out Except Through Prayer and Fasting" (St. Theophan the Recluse)

By St. Theophan the Recluse

“This kind does not go out except through prayer and fasting.” [Matt. 17:14-23]

If this kind goes out by the prayer and fasting of another person, then it is even less able to enter one who fasts and prays.

What protection!

Although there are a slew of demons and all the air is packed with them, they cannot do anything to one who is protected by prayer and fasting.

Fasting is universal temperance, prayer is universal communication with God; the former defends from the outside, whereas the latter from within directs a fiery weapon against the enemies. The demons can sense a faster and man of prayer from a distance, and they run far away from him so as to avoid a painful blow.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Demoniac Who Journeyed to the Kiev Caves Lavra

Kiev Caves Patericon

Discourse 26

Laurence the Recluse
(Jan. 29)

Some time later another brother named Laurence wished to retire into solitude, but the holy fathers absolutely forbade him to do so. Laurence went to the Monastery of St. Demetrios, founded by Prince Izjaslav, and lived as a recluse there. Because of his austere life, the Lord granted him the gift of healing.

A certain man was brought to him from Kiev, who was possessed by a demon which the solitary was unable to cast out. It was a ferocious demon, like wood, which ten men could scarcely carry, and yet this monk single-handedly took hold of him and bound him. He remained there unhealed a long time, and the solitary ordered him to be taken to the Caves Monastery. Then the demoniac began to cry out, “To whom are you sending me? I dare not approach the cave because of the holy ones buried there. There are only thirty in the monastery whom I fear. I'll fight with the others.” Those who were dragging him along knew that he had never been in the Caves Monastery and knew no one there. They asked him, “Who are those whom you fear?” The demoniac gave the names of all of them. “These thirty,” he said, “will drive me out by a single word.” There were then 180 monks in all. They said to the demoniac, “We are going to shut you in the cave.” The demoniac said, "What is the use of me fighting with dead men? For they can now approach God more boldly on behalf of their monks and pray for those who come to them. But if you want to see me fight, take me to the monastery.” Then he began to speak in Hebrew and Latin and also in Greek, in short in languages which he had never heard, so that those tak­ing him were terrified by his change of languages and diversity of tongues.

Monday, January 28, 2019

A Beneficial Reminder When Touring Boston

In Boston at the Granary Burying Ground outside the nearly 200 year old Park Street Church, one can find the tombstones for Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere and the victims of the Boston Massacre. Some of the graves even date as far back as the 1600s.

The fashion of the day was to decorate gravestones with grisly images of winged skulls, reflecting the Puritan consciousness that life was short and fleeting.

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Death of Christ in the Air Cleansed the Atmosphere of Demons (St. Athanasius the Great)

By St. Athanasius the Great

And once more, if the devil, the enemy of our race, having fallen from heaven, wanders about our lower atmosphere, and there bearing rule over his fellow spirits, as his peers in disobedience, not only works illusions by their means in them that are deceived, but tries to hinder them that are going up (and about this the Apostle says: "According to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience" [Eph. 2:2]); while the Lord came to cast down the devil, and clear the air and prepare the way for us up into heaven, as said the Apostle: "Through the veil, that is to say, His flesh" [Heb. 10:20] — and this must needs be by death — well, by what other kind of death could this have come to pass, than by one which took place in the air, I mean the cross? For only he that meets his end on the cross dies in the air. Whence it was quite fitting that the Lord suffered this death. For thus being lifted up He cleared the air of the malignity both of the devil and of demons of all kinds, as He says: "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven" [Lk. 10:18]; and made a new opening of the way up into heaven as He says once more: "Lift up your gates, O you princes, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors" [Ps. 24:9]. For it was not the Word Himself that needed an opening of the gates, being Lord of all; nor were any of His works closed to their Maker; but we it was that needed it, whom He carried up by His own body. For as He offered it to death on behalf of all, so by it He once more made ready the way up into the heavens.

From On the Incarnation.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Documentary Review: "The Devil and Father Amorth"

In a year of excellent documentaries, 2018 saw the release of one of my personal favorites, The Devil and Father Amorth. It is a simple documentary directed by William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist (1973), showing the ninth exorcism of an Italian woman in the village of Venafro in Italy referred to as "Cristina", performed by renowned Italian exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth.

It is divided into four parts. First, William Friedkin introduces us to himself and how he came to direct The Exorcist, as well as introducing the two main characters of the film: Father Amorth and Cristina. Second, with small camera in hand, Friedkin offers us an uninterrupted glimpse into the real exorcism of Cristina performed by Father Amorth. Third, Friedkin interviews various neurologists and psychiatrists to get their opinion on what he filmed. Lastly, it concludes with the aftermath of the event, such as the death of Father Amorth and the current state of Cristina.