Black Magic or Redemption? Gargoyles

Gargoyle on St. Vitus Cathedral

“Abashed the Devil stood, and felt how awful goodness is…”

John Milton

This article was prompted by a pair of short films by a documentary film maker whose work I really enjoy. The films are called Black Magic Kingdoms and can by found on the Enigma Channel of Chris Everard. In these films, Chris pans over the masonry of Narbonne Cathedral and both inside and outside of Cologne Cathedral in Germany. What he says is correct: the stone is carved over with demons from the Goetia of King Solomon. To the modern mind, impacted as it is by skepticism towards the supernatural, atheism, and materialistic science, interpreting these figures as evocations to demons rather than to devotions to Christ is an easy mistake to make. But we have to realize that these magnificent buildings were not designed in modern times by people with a post modern mind set. They are visions from the heart and soul of the Middle Ages, and quite early at that —–the 12th century.

I was born into a French Catholic family. My father’s side was intensely religious having emigrated to Quebec in the 1604 and bringing their 1604 religious practices with them. Going to the cathedral in early childhood where both French and Latin were spoken filled my subconscious with powerful, numinous images and an endless attraction to things Medieval. It also implanted with deep spiritual struggle within. As I grew in the Existentialist 1960s, I was forced to question the basic Christian belief that Jesus Christ IS God.

But people in the Middle Ages in Europe had no such struggle. They believed. Only passionate belief could explain the sacrifices that must have gone into creating these massive and intricate temples, these consciousness transformers that send your spirit soaring.  Chris Everard is right that there is no place in the Bible that talks about these demons, though Satan is the constant underlying adversary of the New Testament, lurking between the lines —just as his minions cling to the walls of the cathedrals.

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Medieval Christians really believed that Jesus Christ was God.

I am sure there are people who believe this now, but most  have a hard time with this these days.

Mystical, esoteric Christianity is a doctrine of Immanence—-the awareness that the Divine infuses everything that exists. Everything is alive and has a soul. If you believe in a Creative Intelligence that dreamed the worlds into life,  how could it be otherwise?.

God walked the earth in the form of a man to transform the world, to show  human beings that we too are capable of Higher Consciousness, even of miracles. By taking on human form, God infused His essence directly into humanity,  kindling the Divine Spark. His adversaries were those who ( to this day)  work to reduce humanity to the level of zomboid slaves. This is where the concept that God so loved mankind that He sent his only begotten Son (Himself) to save us comes from, I think: The devil was having a splendid time in the Roman Empire. Corruption, brutality, war, enslavement threatened to devour the world and God took notice.

The story of Paradise Lost by John Milton was based on the old Celtic myths about the War in Heaven that was caused when the archangel, Lucifer, challenged the worthiness of the God’s creation. He didn’t like the human race much and wanted nothing to do with it. Archangel Michael threw him out of Heaven and that was how he came to try to destroy us ever since. So the story goes…

chimera-gargoyle

The Cathedrals are Encrusted with Demons.

Most people in the Middle Ages were illiterate but they understood symbols—-pictures that were worth a thousand words. The cathedrals were referred to as Books in Stone. They were carved over with spiritual lessons: The life of Christ, visions of Heaven and Hell and the hierarchies of the worlds  for a few.

Symbolizes resurrection from death

Symbolizes resurrection from death

The cathedral is the House of God. Often referred as Mother Church, the cathedral was meant to be the body of Mary, Mother of God. The faithful entered the body as sinners and, after receiving the Eucharist, exit reborn in Christ. For Medieval people this ACTUALLY HAPPENED. They really believed in this powerful supernatural event. Clever modern atheists like to point out that the Eucharist is cannibalistic, a vestige of human sacrifice. What they miss is that, to the believer, Christ/ God gave his life to be the LAST human sacrifice. The Resurrection made His flesh divine, no longer human but something higher that when taken into us transferred its power to us to transform our flesh.  Just as corn dollies replace human sacrifices to Goddess at Harvest, the wafer and wine stand in for the transmuted flesh and life force of Christ. The emphasis on the Scared Heart links the blood to the circulation of love and forgiveness through energy center of the heart by which we connect to the highest spiritual dimensions.

What the cathedrals teach us is that, not only was God’s purpose to redeem humanity, but the entire Creation including the seventy-two demons of the Goetia.

Medieval cathedrals have an area called the tympanum, the half moon area above the door with a depiction of Christ at the Last Judgment. On His right the good people are escorted to Heaven with the angels and on his left the bad ones undergo horrific tortures by the devils in Hell.

lt_med_sculpt_lastjdg2Of course the quickest interpretation of why these devils are here is too scare sinners into obeying the Church. I believe that is the role of Last Judgment Hell, though in this depiction from Autun Cathedral there is a touching image of Christ’s mercy as His hands reach down to lift the damned up form the lower depths.

This same compassion must be extended to the seventy-two demons whether they like it or not. Demons have no free will, they are what they are, but are still part of the Creation. This suggests that in order for full redemption to succeed, even they must be transformed to their divine nature. Even the deepest darkness must be returned to God. Indeed some of these grotesques—-for they are not all gargles or gargoyles—- exhibit a kind of longing for the light of understanding, a kind of confused  vulnerability.

I think it is a very beautiful belief that by entering such a place one is transformed form a body of corruption to one of divine fire and that all living things will be brought to that blessed state with you.

Can the Creation be redeemed with any piece of it missing? In Celtic Faery Tradition we learn that even Lucifer himself must be transformed, even he must be brought back to Heaven to sit at the left side of his Father.

Hierarchies of Worlds

“Long is the way
And hard, that out of Hell leads up to Light.”
— John Milton (Paradise Lost)

We can’t leave the Medieval mind set without taking into account the hierarchical view of the Creation. The above and below notions of Heaven and Hell were far more concrete when people believed that the earth was flat. Hell and the demons were under the plate of the earth. earth was like a flying saucer in space and Heaven was above. So we see in the cathedrals: The demonic figure are usually on the bottom and as the building goes higher, the angels and saints go up until, at the very top is often a Crucifix or a cross or a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Demons are in the roof, as in Notre Dame de Paris, I think reveal an awareness by the designers of the many dimensions that surround the Earth, our Paradise Lost. The limitation of stone, and all concrete images, is that they must SHOW things that are abstract by either anthropomorphizing them — as in the case God the Father as a bearded old man—-or must use space in suggestive ways that may not be understandable without an explanation. The explanation for demons being in the upper levels of the cathedrals could be that it was the only way to show that they are all around us in the fourth dimension. That they can see us through the ethers ( the sky) though we may not see them. This does not “elevate” them in status but does depict their power over us, spurring us on to take refuge with Christ—-inside the cathedral —in the body of his Mother, the Church.

As for gargoyles —many of them are not at all demonic, but rather images of peasants and common people –the only characters seen as fit to spew run off from the roofs, the only beings “low” enough to act as  gutters. Just doing their jobs…..

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Freemasonry and the Demonic Cathedrals

The cathedral builders were the first Masons. What was merely the artisans guild of stone cutters has been transformed in modern times to a sinister secret society said, at the very top levels, to worship Lucifer. That being said, it does not mean that the medieval stone masons were into anything of the kind. Of course their emblems and signs are all over the cathedrals just in the way that even today, real silver is stamped Sterling.

Artists, again not readers of words, would have their signs, symbols that stood for their names. That these were co-opted by modern Freemasons does not mean that Medieval masons were worshiping the Devil. An aversion to the Catholic Church does not mean that it is right to interpret some the of the greatest works of art ever created with diabolical intent. These ideas are dangerous. Three-hundred years of the executions of millions of innocent people to such ideas getting out of hand attests to how dangerous these notions can be.

For me, our current escalation into scientific tyranny is far more frightening than the works of the ancient stone-cutters art.

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My Magical Timeline: North

My blog mentor, Yaro Starak says we should tell our life story as is relevant to our blog topic. So here it begins. I intend to use  the four seasons and then the Center to organize my Magical Timeline.

Magical Childhood

I think childhood is a magical time for most people. Most lose their sense of wonder early, others later. I never lost mine. So for what its worth here are my beginnings. I intend the progression of my spiritual path to unfold in these posts, much like the Fool’s journey in Tarot.  Much like the Fool, the first magical person I ever met was a Tarot reader in a carnival.

I begin in the North because I always had a sense that my soul came to Earth from the North Pole. later on I was told by a Blackfoot  medicine woman that, unlike most people who are born in the South, I was born in the North. This explains why I spent so much time out of my body went I entered the airy East at adolescence. People born in the North tend to feel that they are living their life backwards.

My Grandparents Ernest and Pearl Hebert

My Grandparents Ernest and Pearl Hebert

(If I had a scanner that worked I would have a better picture. They came from Quebec after WWI. My grandfather fought in the trenches at Normandy.)

Born in the North

I was born on January 23, 19– (LOL)  in Worcester, Massachusetts. My brother, James, was born on January 22, one year later. We were like twins.
We lived in a tenement on Plantation Street for three years. I have many vivid memories from that time, including a dream.
In trying to escape from my crib, I climbed over the bar and fell down, spraining my arm. I had to go to the doctor’s and get an x-ray. My Grandmother brought me a Bride doll that had waist that turned. This was the first time I had ever seen such a thing. That night I dreamed that the doll was a woman dancing naked in the starry sky and the top of her body went to the right, while the lower half went to the left. It always makes me think of the World card in the Tarot when I remember this dream.

House in the Woods

When I was three, we moved to 4 Lexington Avenue, Leicester, Massachusetts. This house was at the bottom of a hill, one of a string of new houses built into the woods on the former farmlands of Peter Salem, a free black man who had received those acres as payment for his service in the Revolutionary War. All the streets were named after the Revolution. We lived on Lexington Ave that swept around a bend and down a little hill named Bunker Hill. At the bottom of Bunker Hill were our mailboxes as we were and RFD route in those days. Peter Salem Road swept along from Pleasant Street to the Four Corners where Henshaw Street going up to the left. I think it looped back to Pitcairn Ave which joined Bunker Hill at the top. There was a huge chestnut tree around there where we collected horse cobblers and a bridge over a stream where the ‘bad boys’ used to go to sniff glue.
Most beautifully there was a hill that used to be Peter Salem’s blueberry orchard, The bushes were large and, in summer, loaded with huge, juicy berries. On hot summer days the air was fragrant with the smell of ripe blueberries.

Being New Englanders, these little bits of history were important to us, gave us a sense of place.  Behind our houses ran an old sawmill road. It wound through the stands of trees and mountain laurel, opening out to a sand pit and the ruined saw mill long gone to decay. Along with the woods, this was a fantastic playground; our home away from home. There were lots of kids in that neighborhood around the same age. I was an excellent tree climber and could even scale the pine trees with all their needles. Scratches and sappy hands were worth it because the pine smelled so good and the view at the top was superb.

There were clearings off to the side of the sawmill road where logs had been piled  very long ago. They made a pleasant hang out in the summer. The woods always smelled of pine, made more resinous and fragrant by the heat. One day I was there alone wondering about a circle that had been worn into the ground, when suddenly I heard bells coming down the sawmill road, and before I knew it, a tribe of Indians in full regalia including face paint, feathers, moccasins — the whole works, were filing into the clearing. They entered the area with high ceremony, ignoring me completely, and began to dance around the circle. The dance involved throwing out bad spirits. I watched them totally mesmerized and still remember what they did and how they moved. When they finished the dance, they turned and left with the same concentration as when they came. Even though I learned later that were a group of Boy Scouts, that was a strange and magical moment for me.

We were part Indian, Iroquois. My mother used to bring me to what was left of an Indian reservation in the city of Worcester, An old lady lived there alone called Princess White Flower. She dressed in white buckskin and had long white braids. Some days she held barbecues, called Free For Alls that my other took us to.

Iroquois Indians

Iroquois Indians

I will skip a lot now because some of this stuff will be detailed in my blog.

Catholic Mass and Ceremonial Magic

I will mention my Roman Catholic upbringing though as I feel my initiation to ceremonial magic began in church.
My family is predominantly French Canadian and Indian. There is some Irish thrown in for good luck. My father’s side, the Heberts, Roys, LeDoux, Borrassas, etc, are very French to the point of Medievalism. When me and Jim slept over at Meme and Pepe’s house on the weekend, we were up Sunday morning saying rosary beads on our knees before going to church.
Church was Bleeding Heart of Jesus, if I recall, Sacre Couer. The whole Mass was said in Latin and French. I didn’t understand a word of it. It was an incense filled cathedral, lit by candle branches, with a huge Baroque altar from which a life sized crucifix loomed, angled so that Jesus hovered over the congregation like a giant bird. The ceiling was painted with clouds and it seems to me some of them were detached and suspended by chains. The nuns were voluminous black habits and used castanets to direct us when to sit, stand, and kneel. The Priest wore fantastic robes; the choir of monks sang like angels. For a kid like me, it was as if I had entered another dimension full of magic and mystery. I loved not understanding what they said. It increased my sense of having left the mundane world behind.

Avignon Cathedral

Avignon Cathedral

(I can’t find a picture of the Sacred Bleeding Heart of Jesus Church, but it felt something like this.)

Civil Rights Movement: We Knew Abby Hoffman

When I was ten, my mother got involved in the Civil Rights Movement. For a whole summer we went to the poor neighborhoods in Worcester so my mother could teach the black ladies how to knit. All my friends that summer were black and our playground was the street. Instead of climbing trees, we climbed stairs and railings and chain link fences. My mother worked very closely with Sheila Hoffman, Abby Hoffman’s first wife. I played with their kids Elia and Andy.  Once I saw a sign in front of a house that said “Dr.Hoffman”. I asked my mother if Mr. Hoffman was a doctor? She said, “No. He’s a kook.”

Folk music was all the rage: Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary, The Seekers, The Kingston Trio. I was especially drawn to the English and Scottish folk ballads and the Appalachian ones that stemmed from them. They were like Grimm’s Fairy Tales put to music. It may have these influences that caused me to populate the woods with spirits, but it seemed that there was a difference between and fairies I saw in my head and the figures I saw in the woods — some of whom were Indians that were not in Grimm’s nor from the Child ballads.

It was also in my tenth year that I first read the hugely influential, The Lord of the Rings.

Vatican II

1966: Vatican II made my father crazy. My parents fought all the time. My sister, Susan was born. My mother went mad, and my world turned upside down.
My mother went on ‘retreat’ to a convent in Lancaster Massachusetts called the Cenacle.
She stayed there for a week or two, and we went to see her one weekend. This was the most beautiful place on earth! Not only was the Convent house a splendid mansion with shiny banisters and stained glass windows, but there wee several large gardens designed in European styles. There was a shady English garden full of green shrubberies, trees, and lush grass surrounded by a high stone wall, and an Italian garden with broad steps, classical urns filled with bright flowers, sculptures, and carved stone benches, bounded by a wall that let in the light. There was a Spanish Garden, a Topiary, and a French formal garden. I explored them all and the memories have stayed with me all this time finding their way into my novel The Golden Stair about a witch and her magical gardens.
Then at night the nuns sang the sun down, and at dawn they sang the sun up, with the most celestial voices, layering over each other like far away bells, and gongs deep under the sea.

Leaving My Sacred Land

A year later we moved “ closer to town”. “Town” was Main Street with its gas station, grocery store, convenience store, Italian restaurant, and the library.  There were woods all around our house, a lake across the street that used to be a beach until the Castle Restaurant was built. A stream ran from the lake, under the road, and came out through our back yard. The stream wound through what was then bushes, and eventually pooled around a ruined mill where a big brick chimney stood on its own like a tower.

I was deeply miserable for a long time. Not just because I was separated from all of my friends, but because I was separated from the land. The trees and swamps, frogs, fireflies, birds, little stone walls running through the woods, the clearings, the sawmill road, were my friends too. I didn’t know if I would find the same magic in the new place.

To be continued…

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