Monday, October 29, 2018

Why Bother to Save Halloween? (Richard Seltzer)

A 1984 essay by Richard Seltzer, frequently referenced in other sources, titled “Why Bother to Save Halloween?”, argues as I do that reverence for Halloween is good for the soul, both for the young and the old. He writes:

Halloween is in trouble. Each year editorials in magazines and newspapers and on television warn of dangers to children. And each year more communities "ban" Halloween.

So what? Who needs it? What is Halloween anyway? It's just an excuse for big kids to make trouble, little kids to eat too much candy, and candy companies to peddle their wares. Bah, goblin-bug!

Or so I thought until, despite all the warnings, I took my three children out last Halloween. Nine-year-old Bobby was the boldest. Seven-year-old Heather held back and was reluctant to approach houses of near neighbors she didn't know well; but curiosity and pride in showing off her home-made witch's costume won out in the end, and she'd go racing after Bobby up the walk, and be just as delighted as he was at the smiles and words of praise and handfuls of candy that greeted them. Three-year-old Mikey held me tight and wouldn't let me put him down, but he wouldn't let me take him home either, watching all the doings intently.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Saints Lucian and Marcian: Two Former Magicians Who Died for their Faith in Christ

Sts. Lucian and Marcian the Martyrs (Feast Day - October 26)

The Holy Martyrs Lucian and Marcian, living in the darkness of idolatry, applied themselves to the vain study of the black arts; but were converted to the faith of Christ by finding their charms lose their power upon a Christian virgin, and the evil spirits defeated by the sign of the cross. Their eyes being thus opened, they burned their magical books in the middle of the city of Nicomedia and, when they had effaced their crimes by baptism, they distributed their possessions among the poor, and retired together into solitude, that by exercising themselves in mortification and prayer, they might subdue their passions, and strengthen in their souls that grace which they had just received, and which could not safely be exposed to dangers, and occasions of temptations in the world till it was fenced by rooted habits of all virtues, and ascetic exercises.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Angry Stone Throwing Demons

By John Sanidopoulos

There are a few ways demons express their anger in physical form. One of the more characteristic ways, recorded many times throughout history till the present day, is by throwing stones. Demons throw stones at people in order to hurt those who anger them.

Anglo-Saxon demons seem to have had a particular penchant for throwing stones. Venerable Bede’s prose Life of Cuthbert records Saint Cuthbert (+ 735) mentioning the stone-throwing tendencies of demons: "How often have the demons tried to cast me headlong from yonder rock; how often they have hurled stones as if to kill me." In the tenth century Life of Saint Dunstan, the devil is blamed for hurling not one but two stones at the saint. The first incident occurs, rather interestingly, in a church, where the devil attempts to kill Dunstan and the bishop accompanying him with a large stone – ‘the stone was hurled down in a fit of madness by the malign enemy of every just work, drawing upon the armory of his wickedness’. In the second instance, the stone comes even closer, managing to ‘project the cap he wore a perch measure or so from his head’. Curiously, Dunstan elects to preserve this second stone in a church, in memory of the impotence of the devil’s schemes.1

Friday, October 19, 2018

A Witch Trial in Eighth-Century Constantinople

By John Sanidopoulos

Though we know the belief in witches was an issue in the Eastern Roman Empire of the eighth century from the short treatise of Saint John of Damascus titled On Witches, little known is that there was an actual witchcraft trial in Constantinople at around the same time the Damascene wrote his treatise. Iconoclasm provides the context for this episode, and it is recorded by Ignatios the Deacon (c. 770-c. 845) in the Life of Patriarch Tarasios, who had ordained him to the diaconate. The chief protagonist is not Tarasios, but his father George, who was an iconophile that served the iconoclast emperors Leo (717-741) and Constantine V (741-775). George had been promoted to the highest judicial seat and had an irreproachable reputation as a just judge who treated all equally and fairly before the law. On account of George's moral integrity, he himself was once made to stand trial on account of his correct observance of the laws. George's straight judgment and procedure had been disputed by the rulers who chose not to exercise justice. The case, briefly, was this.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

On Witches (St. John of Damascus)

On Witches (Περὶ Στρυγγῶν = Peri Stryggōn, Migne PG 94 1604) is perhaps the shortest treatise among the written works of John Damascene (676-749), and perhaps the earliest ecclesiastical text on the subject of the folklore surrounding witches, though this, along with his treatise On Dragons, may have been part of a larger treatise addressing such subject matter. As far as I know, though it is very short, it has never been fully translated before into English. Even the best known and the most important treatise on witchcraft, the Malleus Maleficarum, usually translated as the Hammer of Witches, published in 1487, does not even mention this text, although it does quote John Damascene as an authority on other subjects about a handful of times. Perhaps it doesn't mention this text because it refutes the myths and folklore about witches, as opposed to the contents of the Malleus Maleficarum, which was used to justify belief in such things and led to the deaths of thousands of falsely accused witches in both Europe and North America (most notably in Salem, Massachusetts during the Salem Witch Trials from 1692-1693).

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Young Monk Who Was Cast Out of His Grave After His Burial

By St. Gregory the Dialogist

(The Dialogues, "Life of Saint Benedict", Bk. 2, Ch. 24)

On a certain day, a young boy that was a monk, loving his parents more than reason would allow, went from the Abbey to their house, without asking the holy father Benedict's blessing beforehand. The same day that he came home to them, he departed this life. Being buried, the next day after, his body was found cast out of the grave. They caused it to be put back in, but again, the day following, they found it as before.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Filmmaker Scott Derrickson Interviewed on Horror and his Christian Faith

By Steven D. Greydanus

Scott Derrickson is a very nice guy who makes movies about things that aren’t very nice.

Articulate, thoughtful and disarmingly frank, Derrickson is a rare outspoken Christian in Hollywood. He’s also a horror filmmaker and aficionado probably been best known for the 2005 supernatural thriller The Exorcism of Emily Rose — though his recent deal with Marvel to bring the comic-book character Doctor Strange to the big screen changes that in a big way.

I recently caught up with Derrickson in Manhattan, where he held forth at length on horror, faith, art and Catholicism. (Our sprawling 45-minute interview covered more ground than I can do justice to in this article; you can watch the full video review on my blog.)