What transpired is true and cannot be proven.
Once upon a time in the deep dark of night my first wife Margaret and I walked in the door of our home and saw a goat-headed devil sitting in the chair watching us with his legs crossed and his hands in his lap. Scared the bejesus out of us, too. We didn’t know what in Hell this creature was other than it was male. He certainly challenged our religious, psycho-spiritual, and cultural upbringing.
Thick, smoky fog oozed through the woods and draped the open fields. Down the hill beyond the bluffs snaked Big and Little Sandy Rivers. It wasn’t too cold, but the damp chill made the fog drip with hypothermia. Margaret and I arrived home close to midnight. We’d been out at a gathering celebrating Goddess and God with the other Witches of Silverwood Circle. Our group was a Neo-Pagan Celtic Wiccan coven in Prince Edward County, Virginia.
My wife, well, she was my first wife, was the Inner Flamenca or High Priestess of Silverwood. Our close friend, Paul, was the Inner Flamen or High Priest. We preferred “Inner” instead of “High” to promote ideas of going deep into the mysteries rather than someone being superior above others. The terms “flamen” and “flamenca” derived from Latin words for Roman priests and priestesses responsible for the sacred flames of Gods and Goddesses. They’re not as common in Wiccan usage these days, but some Celtic Wiccans preferred the Roman words to distinguish themselves from Neo-Celtic Druids.
The closer we approached our home the colder and clammier everything seemed. We felt open psychically, perhaps too much so, for we had relatively little training in the arts of psychic and spiritual self-defense. We were beginning to encounter spiritual entities for which we were unprepared to meet.
Many of those we came into contact with fell into the category of “good,” but were so powerful as to be dangerous. There were a surprising number of entities as well one may categorize as “bad.” These included spirit critters that behaved in ways considered mischievous, pranksterish, deceptive, or bullyish. Most of these entities exhibited varying shades of “good” and “evil,” similar to the multifaceted complexity of human beings. In the spirit realms, however, apparitions and other spirit entities are much more naked in what they think or feel.
I realize, too, thinking and feeling are biological traits unique to living beings on Earth, especially humans. Thus they may not accurately apply to those entities dwelling in what we the living refer to as the Afterlife or the astral, spiritual, or spirit realms. To recognize as well the nature of at least some spiritual entities is primarily bad or evil feels odd and spooky, yet it was the truth of our experiences in those days of occult exploration as we sought union with the Divine. How much, though, was it all anthropomorphic projection?
All the numerous deities, angels, demons, sprites, faeries, elves, and other entities associated with the spirit realms or fantasy or both are known by their human attributes. Even Allah, the One God beyond All Others and Lord of all the Worlds Who existed before All Time and Who Knows Everything Past, Present, and Future, is recognized by Muslims to have at least 99 attributes. These attributes are all human attributes or created by humans in an attempt to describe the One Who Cannot Be Limited. Among these attributes are mercy, compassion, wisdom, creation, revenge, justice, and destruction. We recognized our own expressions in the Divine, and we amplify them in great magnitudes.
Pagan Gods and Goddesses were and still are ridiculed by the Monotheists for their all too human foibles. They sure spent a lot of time wrecking as much havoc as they did saving the world and often while having as much sex with each other and with humans as they could. Yet one only has to read the Bible to learn the same about a God who raised itself above all others to create and destroy at whim and with incredible inconsistency.
One may read about this God, as He laid down stern moral codes for humans to obey yet broke His own commandments. One will read about chosen peoples and highly esteemed individuals engaged in atrocities and unethical behavior while being lauded for their obedience to God. Even after Jesus preached love, forgiveness, and welcomed the sick, the hungry, and the poor as fellow human beings to the Kingdom of God, his message would be ignored or distorted and abused for centuries.
Regarding the divinity as well as the human attributes of their Gods and Goddesses, many Pagans believe their deities exist as real spiritual entities “alive” in a metaphysical sense. Many others, especially among the Neo-Pagan movements, consider all deities to exist not as real, “living” spirit beings but as thought forms created by human minds over the ages. These thought forms are believed to store energy as if each thought form was some kind of psychic battery. Various powers attributed to these thought form deities wax and wane depending on whether or not these Gods and Goddesses are worshipped or forgotten.
Sorcerers, for example, especially those influenced by Aleister Crowley, consider magick to be the intentional combination of one’s creative imagination, focused willpower, and the capacity to project with intense will what is imagined to generate the desired results. Sorcery is a ritualistic way to access, influence, create, and control the Divine. The rituals and tools of sorcery are but props to help a trained and developed human mind concentrate and manifest the sacred.
None of this can be proven with the science available presently, and yet many experience these matters as true. Which brings us to the necessity to discern distinctions between proof and truth. Proof results from the actions taken to successfully measure and quantify matter, including antimatter and energy, using scientific and mathematical methodologies. Truth results from individual as well as group experiences of the Divine, of Soul and Spirit, of mystical experiences of things that cannot be quantified and verified by scientific methods.
There are also anomalies among both proofs and truths. Nor does proof and truth include dogma and other rigid doctrines. At some point everything may well be made up by our own minds. Perhaps other, more powerful minds, or both in the manner of smaller dolls nesting inside bigger dolls make up our perception of reality. Every belief arises within our brains, and we often confuse and collapse beliefs into “proven truths.” Humans will often kill to impose or defend their beliefs.
Margaret and I would have all our beliefs challenged.
Yes, what transpired is true and cannot be proven.
We walked through the cold, clammy fog to our home. At the time we lived in a metal house trailer in a small yard between a cornfield and a hayfield. Thin rows of trees bordered these fields. Our home was on the outer perimeter of the main cluster of barns and sheds constituting the headquarters of Riverview Dairy Farm. It’s one of two surviving Bass family farms in the countryside around the village of Rice, Virginia. The season was either late autumn, early spring, or during a mild period of winter. The year was most likely 1983 or early 1984 at the latest. I don’t remember such things exactly, and I do recall the exact circumstances.
The outside porch light on our trailer burned a soft yellow. The light diffused through the fog as some lantern of old. Thick, slowly moving fog glowed an eerie, sepia ambience. As it curled lazily about, the fog felt as if it tried to coil around us. We caught ourselves complaining about the dank chill and how spooky everything felt. Margaret and I kept trading glances. We were hyperalert. I then chuckled and muttered how silly this all was, really. Margaret snorted and kicked one booted foot out. She loved wearing tall, lace-up leather boots.
I stepped up the short flight of steps to the trailer and unlocked the front door. Margaret followed behind me. I pulled the door open, stepped inside with my wife behind me, turned to the wall and flicked on the interior lights. We both gasped and froze.
To our left was positioned a reclining armchair in the corner of the living room. A long sofa was to our right with our TV set with a laser videodisc player in the corner opposite from the recliner. We had small tables and many houseplants elsewhere around the room.
A tall, masculine creature sat in the armchair wearing a black tuxedo with a white shirt and a long, black tie beneath the jacket. He had the head of a goat. It was an enormous head far larger than any farm goat I’ve ever seen. His goat head was covered with short, black fur. Two dark, gray horns spiraled upwards from his cranium. On either side of the horns two longish goat ears stood out at relaxed attention. His eyes were the eyes of a goat, but much larger, and gleamed with deep intelligence.
His long, lanky legs were crossed. His shoes were black, polished, and surprisingly large. The goat-man’s arms were crossed loosely in his lap. Each “hand” was a bizarre yet effective hybrid of a hairy goat’s cloven-hoofed front foot with the fingers and opposable thumb of a human. We saw all these immediately with vivid detail.
The goat-headed devil in a tuxedo sat there without moving as he gazed quietly upon us. No words were spoken. In my mind, however, I sensed his voice telling me he had been waiting for us. It sounded as if he calmly said, “I’ve been waiting for you.” His message, however, came more as a thought as if I could feel the thought in my mind yet it wasn’t my thought as much as it was his inner speech. Creeped me out.
He vanished. Not as a sudden poof!, but a surprisingly quick dissolution. The goat-headed man in his tuxedo who moments ago appeared as real and solid as a rock wall dissolved to fade away into nothingness. There wasn’t anything left, not even goat hairs on the chair. Not even smoke.
“Shit!” Margaret exclaimed. “Did you see that!?”
“What the Hell was that?” I blurted out in amazement.
“This is too weird,” Margaret said. “I’m calling Paul.”
“That guy looked everything like the classic stereotype of the Christian devil,” I said. “Didn’t look anything like a Pagan god. Except for the head. And what the Hell was he doing wearing a damn black tuxedo? And his tie wasn’t even a bowtie!”
“I don’t know,” she replied. “I wonder how he got inside here and then disappeared like that.”
“Did you hear what he said telepathically?” I asked. “It sounded like he was sitting here waiting for us.”
“Yeah, I heard that, too! I’m calling Paul right now,” she said as she hunched over the telephone. Paul, remember, was the Inner Flamen of Silverwood Circle.
“I sure hope he doesn’t come back!” Margaret declared as she waited for Paul to pick up.
Neither of us was drunk on alcohol or under the influence of other mind-altering drugs. Nor were we gripped by any psychological crisis.
To further contemplate this mystery one must understand or at least consider several different factors, much of it socio-cultural and psychological. In addition, Margaret and I were clear-minded, highly educated, well-read, open-minded and progressive-thinking individuals. We lived in what felt to us during those times an oppressive, traditionalist, even backward-thinking area infused with racism, class struggles, poor education, and poverty.
While there were certainly exceptions and many good people, the region was dominated in politics, business, and religion by rigid, fundamentalist brands of conservatism. We were living in rural Southside Virginia in the 1980s. Ronald Reagan, a moderate Republican from California, was President after the quasi-civil war type upheavals wracking the United States from the mid-1950s through the ‘60s into the mid-1970s. Those struggles still echoed across this decade as well as reverberated against the legacies of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.
Furthermore, Paul, Margaret, and I were, at that time, former Christians. Margaret, originally from New Jersey, was born and raised in the Roman Catholic Church. She was ethnically Eurasian as she was three-quarters Filipino and one quarter Irish with a dash of Spanish. Paul and I were both White Americans whose ancestors hailed from a mix of Western and Northern European regions. We were raised Protestant. I grew up there on Riverview Dairy Farm outside Rice, Virginia, while Paul grew up deep in Appalachia. He hailed from Bluefield, a small city straddling the Virginia-West Virginia border.
I was the child of a Southern Baptist father and a Southern Presbyterian mother. Paul grew up in Pentecostal churches with a deep love for Jesus. What is the point of all this? If one is not familiar with these subcultures, one must understand much of America is as haunted by the Devil as it is by the Christ. Flannery O’Connor, a famous author from Georgia, once described the South “as a Christ-haunted land.”
You can’t get away from Jesus even if you are an atheist. The Devil is in some ways even more vivid in people’s minds. There is a deeply engrained superstitious terror of Satan the Devil. This fear of Satan is inculcated as the Lord’s fallen archangel as real as rocks and water and existing right here, right now amongst us along with his demonic minions by the permission of a deliberate, patriarchal God who allows the Devil to test our faith in Jesus. During such times it was Jesus our Lord to whom we were taught to turn.
Regardless of how educated and open-minded one may be who was raised in such a religious subculture, this fear of Satan is so deeply programmed into our psyches it still exists even if we declare ourselves atheists or convert to a non-Christian religion. It’s buried there even if we are progressive Christians who scoff as such things as fundamentalist superstition. Our fight or flight or freeze responses programmed by our sympathetic nervous system are triggered by such primal terrors. Hollywood and the film industry reinforce these superstitions and stereotypes with a slew of horror movies. The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Blair Witch Project are among many such notorious films perpetuating myths of Satanic evil.
The three of us young adults, all in our early to mid-twenties, had converted from Christianity to Neo-Paganism. We practiced the religion known as Wicca, also known as Modern Witchcraft or the “Modern revival of the Olde Religion.” For us, the word “Witch” stemmed from “wiccacraefte,” the Wise Craft where one learns to bend the laws of Nature for good purposes. Among such actions were healing the sick, feeding the famished, divining future possibilities, and honoring our sexuality. We Wiccans celebrated the change of seasons and the phases of the moon. It was a Kosmic and festive religion rooted in the earth, air, and waters of our Mother Planet.
Wicca is one of several major variations of Neo-Paganism. These traditions arose from people in Europe and North America creating new religions by reviving the Ancient indigenous religions of Europe and the Middle East. These old practices were often mixed with sorcery, magick, and Modern ethics. Wicca as those of us within Silverwood Circle understood and practiced it was a religion of the creative imagination.
We rejected the Abrahamic interpretations of a monotheistic deity set above all others deemed false gods. We rejected beliefs in the holy books of many religions as dogmatic truths as we considered those books literally manmade and abused by those in power to dominate the masses. Instead we embraced the Goddess and God of the Olde Religion and often used the terms “the Lord and Lady” as synonyms. We considered these manifestations of the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine as primary aspects of the One Unknowable God, aspects we could relate to and identify with as human beings.
As Wiccans, we knew the Olde Religions of Ancient Europe and the Middle East predated the existence of Christianity and then Islam by centuries, even millennia. Many Wiccans considered the Judaism of the time the indigenous religion of the early Hebrews. Modern Witches felt these Hebrews followed a wrathful and despotic god who was jealous of other gods and also engineered mass slaughters of human beings. Even with the radically different messages of first Jesus the Christ and then the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon both of them, many Wiccans felt the angry God and his minions of devils permeated and corrupted the Abrahamic faiths.
Since Neo-Pagans identify with pre-Christian and pre-Muslim religions, there is no Pagan belief in the existence of Satan, a Satanic devil, jinn, or in angels and demons, especially demons as fallen angels. Witches like to chuckle Christians invented the whole idea of Satan the Devil as a tool by theocratic clergy to terrify and control the illiterate masses. There can be no devil in reality. The Monotheists made up the Devil. Wiccans follow a religious path far older than such nonsense and felt themselves wiser than the scaremongers.
There were a few Neo-Pagan scholars and philosophers; however, who granted Satan did exist but not as a real and jealous devil once among God’s top archangels. Instead, they surmised Satan exists only as a human-generated thought form existing merely to the degree people believe in their Devil. These waves of intense psychosomatic terror thus continually recharge the thought form’s “psychic battery” with enormous fear. It is as if the belief in Satan acts as a psychic vampire upon those who believe in the Devil.
Neo-Pagans also studied their history and learned what Christians and Muslims did to eradicate the old Pagan religions. Christianity in particular absorbed and Christianized many of the Pagan holidays as well as Pagan traditions associated with such holy days. Common examples include what are today Halloween, Christmas, and Easter.
The Festivals of Samhain, regarded by the Celts and then the Germanics as their New Year, became the Roman Catholic All Hallow’s Eve. Then Protestants commercialized it into Halloween. Neo-Pagans have since revived it as their Sabbat of Samhain. Another is the Winter Solstice and the associated Sabbat of Yule celebrated among Celtic and Germanic tribes. Over the years it became Christ Mass and then Christmas. Christian Easter arose from Pagan spring fertility festivals such as Eostara.
Churches were built upon many Pagan sacred sites as well. A number even had images of Pagan Gods and Goddesses engraved into door frames and stone walls as the local people intermingled old and new traditions during a time of transition. Many of these Pagan deities carved into Christian churches were endowed with mighty phalluses and open yonis.
As part of the Christianization of Pagan Europe, however, Goddess spirituality was suppressed and denied to the point the Divine Feminine was forgotten to exist. The Goddess, celebrated for her powerful sexuality in pre-Abrahamic cultures, was scorned as a whore and a slut. Sexuality was celebrated and honored by Pagans and Neo-Pagans as sacred, natural, and divine. Christians and then Muslims equated sexuality with sin, weakness, and the temptations of the Devil. They blamed girls and women for the corruption of boys and men.
As Christians imposed Monotheism upon the Pagans, they did something perhaps worse than suppressing the Pagan God. In a demented twisting of religious beliefs, the Lord of the Celts and the Germanic peoples as well as of Greeks and Romans was declared to be Satan the Devil. Lucifer, a deity of light and brilliance, was turned into a red devil with horns and a pitchfork. The mercurial God Loki was also declared to be Satan. Within Islam, the Devil was called Shaitan.
The God of the Olde Religion of Europe was known by various names and appearances. Among the most common terms were the Horned God, the Horned Lord, the Lord of the Hunt, and the Green Man. He was also known as Cernunnos, Pan, sometimes Odin and sometimes Loki, and also the Oak King, the Holly King, and the Sun God. Often this ancient, even prehistoric deity was depicted as a powerful, strong man with the head and horns of a bull or auroch, or of a giant stag, or, yes, a horned goat.
Another common image was of a man with animal horns whose human face was part-plant. The Green Man was wreathed with intertwined vines and leaves. Horns were considered majestic symbols of divinity. Michelangelo Buonarroti, during the Italian Renaissance, sculpted a massive figure of the Hebrew prophet Moses with two horns erupted through the hair of his head. A number of Jews were described as visiting the statue to appreciate its representation of the divine.
Christian churches, however, Catholic as well as Protestant and Orthodox, succeeded in having the Olde Gods collapsed into the Devil and identified as Satan. Often Satan was depicted with a large, horned goat’s head and the cloven hooves of goats and deer. Satanists, those who worshipped the Devil, and Satanism in its various forms arose out of Christianity. Ironically, the Satanists in their own ignorance of history adopted many Pagan images and customs, including the Christian misassociation of Celtic and Germanic Gods as well as Greco-Roman ones such as Saturn with the Devil.
Margaret and I were terrified. Intellectually we knew there was no Satan, as we knew Medieval Christianity created Satan during the time it demonized Pagan religions existing since Prehistoric times. Yet we also knew we didn’t know everything about the spirit realms of the Afterlife. Who knows what really goes on behind the veils of biological death in a physical world?
The energetic ambience of this entity wasn’t outright hostility nor was it friendly and warm. Perhaps it meant well, but left because it discerned we were too frightened to be open for contact. Perhaps it was a pranksterish spirit masking itself in a disguise known to freak out humans. Maybe it enjoyed freaking us out. Or was a demonic devil really sent to warn and persuade us to run back to Christianity? As Modern Pagans we can love and honor the Divine in as many manifestations as we choose, including Jesus, without becoming Christians.
Or did the spooky fog magnify subconscious terrors lurking in the shadows of our imagination? Did our suppressed guilt at leaving the churches in which we were raised and indoctrinated create a hallucination? Then how were Margaret and I able to see and experience its presence simultaneously? What WAS the goat-headed devil in a black tuxedo?
Worse, would it return? Would we wake up in the middle of the night with it leaning over our bed and breathing down on us in the dark?
Even if it was the manifestation of Ancient Cernunnos in a Twentieth Century tux, we still didn’t want such a God poking around our home in the middle of the night and staring down at us in the dark. We sure didn’t want Jesus in there sitting on the edge of our bed either.
Imagine the terror.
Such confused terror, too.
Paul had no answers for us, either. His speculations were similar to ours. We three deliberated upon the matter at length until we chose to identify it as neither Cernunnos, the Horned God of the Celts, or Satan, the fallen archangel of the Christians. We agreed this visitor was most likely a pranksterish spiritual entity of some sort, possibly with some measure of malevolence, sent to spook us or inquire into what was the matter with Margaret and me. It was quite possible, Paul reasoned, this entity was accidentally or unintentionally summoned during recent magickal rituals.
Therefore the most important approach now would be to protect our selves and our home from this “devil.” We did. We smudged the entire trailer inside and out. We prayed to the Lord and Lady. We took purifying baths. Together we laid down circles of salt and sulfur around the house and part of the yard. Finally, we laid down a circle of bent iron nails. These practices were intended to ward off evil spirits and tangle up wicked tricksters. Margaret and I never had any more trouble nor did we ever again experience such visits.
What was true and what was false? What is true is that two people had a shared experience of an anomalous event resulting in terror and religious turmoil.
Since those long ago days, the three of us along with the rest of our fellow Witches of Silverwood have moved on with our lives. Paul moved to the West Coast, eventually rediscovered his relationship with Jesus, and returned to his Pentecostal roots. I lost touch with Margaret, but she resides in Virginia and also returned to Christianity. What denomination I don’t know.
Me, I ended up on the West Coast as well. My research into Pagan history uncovered many gruesome practices as well as all the wonderful things that once appealed to me. All three of us became disillusioned as well with the politics, power plays, crazy people, and fundamentalist strains infecting Wicca and other Neo-Pagan traditions just as much they corrupted the Abrahamic faiths. In our own separate ways, we each came to realize we were at choice in what to believe, practice, and embrace regardless of what other people in the same religion do or don’t. We can wake up into a higher level of conscious awareness and realize we don’t have to be slaves to our conditioning or victims of circumstance.
My own spiritual path led me through the fellowships of several different religions. There was a time I experienced extended spiritual perturbations and back-to-back life crises. I came to appreciate and value much among the messages of both Jesus and Muhammad, as I understand them. Currently and for the past three to four years, I identify more and more with the teachings and practices of the Buddha. Peace and Blessings upon all three of them. Most importantly, be kind to yourself and with one another.
Hmmn . . . I am reminded what is written in The Dhammapada as a warning from the Buddha:
“Don’t disregard evil thinking, ‘It won’t come back to me!'”
Goat-headed devil in a black tuxedo…
William Dudley Bass
Sunday 27 January 2013
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