Of Gods and Demons

I woke up the other morning to find this little fellow threatening me with his lightsaber! I had thought he was a wee harmless angel, who just sat there, minding his own business. Had he come to life? What made him so unfriendly, all of a sudden? Or was it, perhaps just me, imagining things?

Many people believe in supernatural beings, nature spirits, cosmic powers, earth forces, etc., which influence their lives in some way: elves, fairies, leprechauns, trolls and the like; angels, demons, ghosts and familiar spirits; witches, shamans and sorcerers; or gods of mountain, river or tree.

Usually, belief in such entities is coupled with a fearful respect for their powers or intents, since they are frequently considered hostile. And so it is that various rituals are performed to placate them: vows, incantations, gifts, sacrifices. Or a model may be carved out of stone or wood, set up in a prominent position as an object of worship or supplication; a shrine may be built, a talisman worn, or a religious symbol, e.g. a crucifix or mezuzah, hung up to protect a person or house from evil influences. In other cases, pilgrimages are made to sacred sites or places of power, in the hope of receiving healing or a particular blessing.

Silvanus was brought up to fear and serve the Roman gods, never failing to commemorate their feast days, complete with sacrificial offerings, mystical rituals and drunken debauchery. In particular Zeus, known locally as Aquila, who inhabited the eagle-shaped rock looming over his hamlet Submonte, caused him great trepidation. The eagle amulet he wore, given to him by his aunt Ceres, priestess of Aquila, at an initiation ceremony when he was twelve years old, was meant to protect him from his anger. He had mixed feelings about wearing it. It didn’t seem to save him from dangers, but he didn’t dare to take it off, in case Aquila became vengeful.

The Bible warns us: “You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 26:1). Instead, we can get to know this God as a loving Father and friend, since “he has spoken to us by his Son (Jesus), whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:1).

I wonder what your experiences and beliefs are with respect to supernatural beings or spiritual forces. Are you afraid of such things? Do you revere them? Or do you despise such old wives’ tales? Please let us know by adding a comment to this post. And sign up if you want not to miss future posts about Silvanus’ adventures and his dealings with Aquila.


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