July 17, 2022
It is fascinating that for more than 900 years the Devil had no uniform description. It was thought that since witches and sorcerers were slaves to him, they must know what he looked like. The Bishops of the medieval period excused their own lack of knowledge about this by saying, that they had never been tempted by evil, so then they could not know what he looked like. Nevertheless, because they were the church, and it was their job to guide folks away from evil, they figured that they had to find out so that he could be recognized when seen. He was of course a dark fallen angel. Pope Gregory had described him as, goat- like with horns and hooves and he was also described as dragon like with scales and claws. The fact that these conflicting descriptions contradicted one another, sent them in search of a definitive answer.
Again, the church thought that their peers from the early days of the church could provide answers. One of the writers that they looked at was Athanasius the Bishop of Alexandria from A.D. 328. He had been responsible for compiling the final short list of gospels and epistles for the New Testament. He had also produced an influential work on diabology entitled, The Life of Anthony. Clearly he was the man to trust on the subject, or perhaps not. Athanasius described the devil as, an enormous giant who was prince of the air, and could shape shift at will. He also had from his mouth and nostrils fire and burning lumps, and from his mouth a blazing furnace. Hmm, since no such creature had ever been seen or described, Athanasius’s document was not much help. The church kept searching and almost landed on a description from the 5th century Gospel of Bartholomew, Bart claimed that he had actually seen the Devil, and he described him as, 1,600 yards long x 40 yards broad , his face like lightening, his eyes like sparks, from his nostril issued a stinking smoke, his mouth like a cleft of rock, and his wings were 80 yards long. Sorry Bart, but your latter day peers found your description too fanciful.
In 1162 comes a strange story, King Henry II was on the English throne and his hated Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket, had just been murdered. Most of the dispute between the church and king had been about how the church thought they should be immune to punishment by secular courts if they committed a crime, the king on the other hand, thought that if a clergyman was guilty of doing it, then he should be punished for it. There too was another source of contention, King Henry was relatively open minded about what religion his subjects followed, and he did not give much thought to the church’s new panic about heretics, and he had no intention of following the church’s orders to pursue them unto death. While churchianity pissed off the King, he had meanwhile listened to the people in his court who were talking about witches, and a recently deceased chronicler William of Malmesbury.
William had told of a sorceress who lived in Berkeley, who was said to practice all the ancient divinations and debaucheries, after she died, her children had sewn her into a stag’s skin, and then had buried her in a stone coffin that was closed shut by iron chains being wrapped around it. Apparently for two nights after her death, a choir of priests had sang hymns over her grave while demons had tried to disinter her. On the third night, the Devil came on a great horse yelling, “I have come for the witch of Berkeley!” and the witch from her coffin had cried out for the Devil, and he ripped off the chain from the coffin, tore the stag’s skin off her, then had thrown her over his horse and had rode off into the night. Tales such as this were not so much as believed, by the general population, paganism was still widely seen as the proper way of living life instead of the drivel of the church. It was an environment where it was all about survival, good weather for the crops and a good harvest, enough food so that the children could eat and survive. They hoped to manifest this by chants, music, dancing, rituals, and masquerades. They hoped that all would be good if the gods were lenient.
These wonderful Pagans, they did not worship Satan, the deities they worshipped were twin fairy gods called the Oak King and, the Holly King. The Oak King
was designated as Lord of the Greenwood and was depicted with antlers. The ancient stag god of Gaul was Kerne, also known as Cernunnos, the horned one. He was god of fertility and abundance, he was born at the winter solstice, marries the moon goddess at the May time feast of Beltane, and dies at the summer solstice, thus representing the cycle of life, death, rebirth, death, and rebirth again. Thus representing immortality. In inquisitional Europe, Cernunnos was vilified by the church, along with Pan, the god of the shepherds,
Pan was usually portrayed as goat like and was another horned one. Horns and antlers were seen by the church as being satanic. In 2800 BC the sacred goat had been introduced by the 2nd dynast Pharaoh Raneb, in the Nile city of Mendes, this came to be known as the Goat of Mendes; it was associated with rest and contemplation, in Greek is called sabaton – sabbatical. Its symbol is the five pointed star or pentagram – two points pointing up – the star of enlightenment. This changed after Pope Gregory’s pronouncement in the 6th century that horns and hooves were satanic. Thus the pentagram became the symbol of Satan.
In about 1140, the the Roman jurist Gratian produced his Concord of Discordant Canons, this lot of laws emphasized the condemnation of heresy and magic, and how magic was an absolute pact with the devil. Because of this, lynch mobs were then empowered by the secular courts to seek out and execute heretics. The Counsel of Verona took place that same year, and cursed all heretics and ordered them to be handed over to secular authorities for capital punishment. March of 1199 saw Pope Innocent III issue his decretum Vergentis in Senium, this said that heresy was treason against god! From then, sin and crime were linked officially in Roman civil and ecclesiastical law. If a person was found guilty of heresy, they would have all of their possessions confiscated, and if they had children, those children would be subjected to permanent deprivation. 1207 saw Pope Innocent say, “I am placed between God and man; lower than God but higher than man, the judge of all men who can be judged by none”. He then went on to say in his decree Cum ex Officii Nostri: Whatsoever heretic shall immediately be taken and delivered to the secular court to be punished according to law, all his goods also shall be sold… The house in which a heretic has been received shall be altogether destroyed, nor shall anyone presume to rebuild it; but let that which was a den of iniquity become a receptacle of filth.1215 saw the Fourth Lateran Counsel take place, there they substantially widened the legal provisions related to heresy, blasphemy, diabolism, and ungodliness.
These new canon laws were adopted into secular law by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1220. After this, the punishment for any sin that was seen as a pact with the devil was death. In a further perversion of the bible, Deuteronomy 13:6-18 was considered an appropriate model: If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or thy wife of thy bosom, or thy friend which is as thine own soul, entice thine secretly saying, Let us go and serve other gods… Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor harken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shall thou spare him, neither shalt thou conceal him, But thou shalt surely kill him.
The only way that they could find out if someone was a heretic was through confession, unfortunately a person’s fate was the same whether they confessed or not. They were tortured and killed because they were a heretic, and conversely, they were tortured and killed for not confessing and for being uncooperative because they were not heretics. A charge of heresy was an almost automatic death sentence. The 8th century liturgist Alcuin asserted that, “He who accuses himself of his sins, will not have the Devil for an accuser on the day of judgment”. He is talking about an early church practice that would eventually become the Sacrament of Penance, or the act of Confession. From the 4th century it had been assumed that the power to forgive extended to all priests, and that God had extended to them the authority to pardon without exception.
Prior to the creation of the Church of Rome, the mood on forgiveness was not quite as forgiving. In around the year 200 A.D., a Christian apologist Tertullian thought that there should be only one type of pardon granted after baptism. He cited apostasy, murder, and adultery in particular, and thought that if these sins were committed a second time, there could be no pardon because clearly the perpetrator was in the service of the Evil one. From about 250 A.D. there was some debate about whether or not priests had the right to pardon sinners, many thought that without confession, people could not enter heaven. As usual with this church, the debate was settled much later by St Thomas of Aquinas in the 13th century, he said: The institution of confession is necessary in order that the sin of the penitent might be revealed to Christ’s minister. Hence, the minister to whom the confession is made must have judicial power as representing Christ, the judge of the living and the dead. This power requires two things, 1, the authority of knowledge, and 2, the right to absolve or condemn. These are called the Two Keys of the Church. But they were not given to Peter to be held alone, but to be handed on through him to others, else sufficient provision would not have been made for the salvation of the faithful.
Obviously this is only one man’s opinion of what Mathew 16:19 says when Jesus said to Peter, “I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatsoever thou shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven”. It is not much of a premise to claim that the Church has somehow inherited the right of divine judgment from Jesus via Peter, but for these liars and cheats, it was sufficient to gain inclusion in doctrinal application since no one else came up with a better idea.