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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Understanding the occult

Fascinating transcript of Mitch Horowitz, the executive editor of metaphysical publisher Tarcher/Penguin, from his appearance on Coast-to-Coast:

C2C: Did mainstream religion really start getting people to back away from this word, occult? MH: Absolutely. In fact, the word pagan, which we take to mean a pre-Christian believer in a pantheon of gods, was originally a derogatory term from early Latin that meant something like a country bumpkin. When Christianity began to rise to a place of prominence in the Roman Empire, the news tended to travel slowly to the more outer lying villages and hamlets. People in the more rural parts of the empire still tended to practice the old ways, that is to say the nature-based religions. And these people were called pagans, or villagers. The Church authorities at that time were in a tremendous struggle for the hearts and minds of the populace, and they began to associate the old earth-based religions with something called Satanism, which had never existed for the worshippers of the pre-Christian gods. It was, to a very great extent, an invention of the early Church. It was an attempt to associate the old, nature-based religions with something sinister. And that continues to this day. Just a few weeks ago, I was in the town of Salem, Massachusetts. Everybody knows Salem, which was the site of America’s own infamous witch trials. Now, it so happens that today Salem is a lovely town with a lot of new age shops up and down its main street. There was a mom with her daughter in one of these new age shops, and the daughter want to buy a necklace with the symbol of the pentagram, the five-pointed star. And the mom, being completely well intentioned, said to her daughter: “No, that’s an evil symbol, and I’m not going to buy that for you.” Now, I wouldn’t tell anybody what to bring into their home; that’s a private matter. But, the fact is, this pentagram, this five-pointed star, is symbol of tremendous power and magnetism. There’s a reason, I think, why this young girl was attracted to it. It’s intended to be a symbol of natural man: the five points symbolize our head, our two arms, and our two legs. And yet that symbol, which was really just meant as a representation of the human form, was associated with something malevolent in the early days of the Church, and we’ve never been able to shake that. However, we’ve also never been able to shake the symbol – because there is something in that symbol that draws us back to it again and again and again.
Hat tip to the Daily Grail.


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