I grew up Evangelical Christian, and in my mother’s house we had more than a healthy fear of The Devil. That fear was especially keen during the early 1980’s when day care sex abuse hysteria, also known as “the Satanic Panic” (because all of the allegations of satanic ritual abuse that went along with the molestation allegations), made everyday life for a kid full of the potential to get raped, or murdered, by devil worshipers who could be anywhere. It was all over the news, talked about at church, but what was most heavily emphasized was about the sex. Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex. Any thoughts about it made you subject for the Devil. You could invite Him in with just one horny mind. A campaign of shame was hammered into our thoughts to prevent us from getting curious about it, or daring to give in to the natural urge teenage and young adult bodies manifest as they grow. The more we were told that the seat of evil was in our pants, the more it raged. Even when in love, the guilt of heavy petting ruined perfectly innocent relationships. The Devil was everywhere, right in our underwear.
Without getting into all the hoopla of the Book of Revelation (I refuse to quote scripture here because I have an aversion to the Bible, not because I disrespect Christians, but because it’s a religion I don’t identify as my own, and I feel disrespected whenever anyone uses Biblical scripture to defend their beliefs to me because one should not use a book to give me their personal testimony), I’ve always wondered why sex was such a taboo and not a celebrated thing. You would think that people who revere life even in its earliest stages would also be pro-sex! Because how else will we get those babies? Babies come from sex. More specifically, babies are born out of women’s bodies. It’s a woman’s body that is a battle ground in regards to religious morals about sex. You can’t have life without sex, right? So how did sex get so molested? The Devil made men do it. He got up into women’s bodies and made men’s lust evil and twisted so babies come out unhealthy. At some point, I suspect, the Devil was born from the belief that still-borns, sexually transmitted disease, and sexual abuse all originated from one supernatural enemy — a scapegoat to pin the blame on for the sins of men who couldn’t control their urges, especially ones that brought them down into animalistic and brutal practices.
I don’t believe the Devil as molester and rapist was ever a pagan god, or even any god’s adversary, but a personification of the feral side of human sexuality — the kind people greatly fear will take over their bodies while in the throws of lust and euphoria. When we’re naked, we are really stripped down to our true human animal skin, and when it comes to sex, we behave as we truly are, throwing ourselves back to nature.
Getting back to everyday, modern society here, I notice correspondences between symbols, numbers, and the common iconography that people associate with their fears and desires, how we use these images to create good luck and even invite bad things to happen to us. One thing I see repeating throughout pop culture is the Number of the Beast — 666!
I’ve known people who will actually defend the so-called power behind this number, adding so much of their fearful energy to it that they create their own reality of “evil out to get me at every turn”. Why do that? No wonder some people put no stock in other forms of positive ways to fuel their own power and turn to other people for spiritual help. They simply cannot believe that number won’t have any hold on them, especially when I point out that not all cultures on earth consider it unlucky or associated with the Devil.
In light of today being International Women’s Day, I know that the number 6 has a much more benign meaning in Numerology… The number 6 relates to feminine sexuality, family, fertility, domestic duties, womanhood, and home. This makes me wonder if that number has a connection to a fear of the Devil as being a fear of sex, especially as a fear of women having control over their sexuality and being independent of men. My feminist views aside, I must consider the other meanings of this numerical conundrum.
In Kabbalistic Judaism, the 666 number is representative of the awesomeness of all creation because the world was created in six days, and there are six cardinal directions (north, south, east, west, above and below). Also if you add the numbers 666 together they equal 18, the number of life, also known as the Jewish “Hai” or “chai” which means “living, alive”! It’s customary in modern times to give monetary gifts in the number of 18 because of that spiritual significance.
The number six is a lucky number, and a triple six is a triple trinity. Trinities are really considered special in many religions, most representing the three main forms of gods and goddesses, including the Christian God, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. All trinities also represent three stages of life being youth, middle age, and old age, the emphasis on life, not evil or death. You can put whatever power you want on a number, or any type of sigil, and it can work a miracle for you depending upon how hard and well you believe…
I read somewhere once that the number 6 was sacred to the goddess Aphrodite. I believe that the number 666 may have originally been a sign not of “the beast” but of the lust men have for women, or the lust people have for sex, and that the number represented wild sexuality, something that was later considered evil because it related to the temples of the love goddess where ritual prostitution was practiced, and eventually abused. From there it must have grown, especially with the advent of more conservative religious thought (yes, even the Romans before Christianity frowned upon some lecherous behavior) into a major misongynist hysteria that manifested with the mythos of the Devil, especially when it involved the prostitution and rape of young people. What once was a sacred institution became a den of debauchery, where people used religion as an excuse to disguise their true intention to exploit the innocent. Hello, slavery!
Just like so many religious institutions today. We trust our clergy, no matter what god devoted to, to be perfect representatives of our god, trusted to help and educate the innocent in the ways of that god. But can we not see how tempting a position to apply for that makes an already perverted “beast” of a person to want to be in? I can imagine it was the same for followers of Aphrodite to use the excuses of religious worship to take advantage of people, especially ones who were taught that it was okay to be a sexual slave in the name of the goddess.
Such behavior leads to un-wellness — centuries of it — and it’s no fault of any god/dess, or even any Devil, and no one need put a number on it either. 666 triggers all sorts of distortions and demons in the mind, even people who aren’t religious are unnerved by it, as if human beings have conditioned each other to see those three 6’s as three human figures buggering one another — come on, you can see it — and that means we’re all going to meet our doom, or that we have dirty minds.
Thinking beyond numbers and symbols, getting to the heart of their meaning and how they can be used, and realizing no thing has any power over myself except what I give it, helped me grow up. And I’m a Witch, I love the magic of these things, you’d think I was a messed up crazy person over all this, but being what I am is the heart of being wise — we practice the craft of it.
How I survived the satanic panic was that good common sense won out over fear. Faced with other people’s ignorance and all the over-the-top claims of satanic abuse every neighbor and their mother had to the point where anyone, including myself, who wore black was suspected of being a Satanist, somehow I developed patience and tolerance, and I took the time to learn mercy and forgive. And, *gasp!* I even made friends with real Satanists who shared with me their stories, set me right, and really helped me appreciate the world we live in. Anything that could not be answered logically by my mother and other authorities, I turned to the library for help, and that place became my safe haven. To this day libraries are like my church, book stores a spiritual warehouse, and my own reference library at home is like having a chapel at arms-length.
Where did I get my confidence and wisdom to appreciate our differences? You’ll laugh when I tell you that I swear it came from the gods! I escaped into my mind and imagination. I had visions, inspiration, poetry to read, heroes to dream about, and, no, that’s not pathetic, that’s using my mind. It’s a good thing.
Looking back, I’m grateful for the lessons from my childhood, but I’m also grateful to not live in that atmosphere anymore, to not fear sex or be in constant anxiety over the world blowing up, or even being afraid of eternal damnation if I should die (because no one was ever sure of getting to Heaven due to the multitude of sins one could commit without the reassurance of constant absolution). Besides, I’ve always suspected that “the Beast” already lived and died. He was quite possibly Nero or any number of naughty Roman, or other ancient bad boy leader in power at the time the Book of Revelations was written. No matter, I don’t make the Bible my book of choice as to what choices I make in my life.
The real devils are real people who have the nasty problem of seeking power and control over other people, sexually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. They take advantage of our innocence and vulnerability. They don’t come out of the dark wearing horns and black capes and they don’t use magic or cast curses on us. The real devils are far more direct, brutal, bloody. They don’t rape us as part of satanic rituals, nor seek to sacrifice us to the Devil. They charm us into sacrificing ourselves to them. The nicest people are the best murderers because they take advantage of our desire to be nice, not just come at us when we’re vulnerable. I shake my head when I hear people claiming demons are inside them or following them around when we have living people who don’t have to have a devil in them to be completely devilish.
Don’t fear 666, or the Devil, or sex, or preach against all the things young people will naturally do due to being human, and don’t tell anyone they’re possessed by the Devil even if they are selfish and naughty — be sensible and guide them to be wary of real dangers in life. Teach yourself and others to have self esteem, to be physically strong and fit, and to read the psychological signs of people out there who may hurt us. Lead by example. Live in love. Be blessed and give blessings in return.
Can I get a Blessed Be? *giggle* Or how about an Amen?