Devil Worship

                     The meaning of this compound term is sufficiently obvious, for all must be familiar
                         with the significance of its two component parts. But the thing denoted by the
                         name is by no means so easy to understand. For there is such a strange
                         startling incompatibility between the notion of devil and that of an object of
                         worship, that the combination in this case may well present a grave difficulty.
                         And the more we are able to understand about the character and history of the
                         Devil and about the true nature of worship, the more difficult is it to believe that
                         men can have been led, even in the utmost extremity of folly and wickedness, to
                         worship the Devil. Yet, incredible as it may seem, it is unfortunately true that
                         some worship of this kind has prevailed at many times and among widely
                         different races of mankind. The following considerations may help in some degree
                         to lighten the difficulty presented by this singular phenomenon.

                         In the first place it may be well to recall the analogy between the worship given to
                         a divine being and the tribute paid to a king. Both alike are sensible proofs of
                         service and subjection. In the case of kings, besides the willing service paid to a
                         just and legitimate sovereign, there may be tribute paid to some alien oppressors
                         or blackmail grudgingly given to some pirate Chief or marauder in order to
                         deprecate the evils that may be feared at his hands. And so in the case of
                         religious worship, we may find that in the rude polytheism of barbarous races,
                         where the gods were not only many in number but various in character, besides
                         the willing worship given to good and beneficent beings in the service of love and
                         gratitude, there is a sort of liturgical blackmail offered to the evil and malignant
                         gods or demons in order to placate them and avert their anger. In like manner,
                         when we pass from Polytheism to the philosophic Dualism--where the worlds of
                         light and darkness, good and evil, sharply defined, are constantly warring against
                         each other over against the good men, who offer worship to the good god, Ahura
                         Mazda, there are the wicked Daeva-worshippers who sacrifice to the Demons
                         and to Ahriman their chief, the principle of evil.

                         Another source of this strange worship may be found in the fact that in the early
                         days each nation had its own natural gods; hence racial rivalry and hatred
                         sometimes led one nation to regard the protecting divinities of its enemies as evil
                         demons. In this way many who merely worshipped gods whom they themselves
                         regarded as good beings would be called devil worshippers by men of other
                         nations. Such may be the case with the Daeva-worshippers in the Avesta. In the
                         same way the Greeks and Romans may have worshipped their divinities, fondly
                         believing them to be good. But the Christian Scriptures declare that all the gods
                         of the Gentiles are demons.

                         This declaration, it may be added, was not the utterance of a rival race but the
                         teaching of Holy Scripture. For as the Fathers and theologians explain the
                         matter, the fallen angels besides tempting and assailing men in other ways have,
                         by working on their fears or exciting their cupidity, brought them to give worship
                         to themselves under the guise of idols. If not in all cases, it would seem that
                         much of the heathen idolatrous worship, especially in its worst and most
                         degraded forms, was offered to the devils. This may explain some of the
                         manifestations in the old pagan oracles. And something of the same kind occurs
                         in the demonic manifestations among the modern demonolaters in India. Nor has
                         this been confined to heathen nations, for in connection with magical practices
                         and occultism some forms of devil worship appear in the heresy history of
                         medieval Europe. Görres, in his great work on Christian Mysticism, gives some
                         curious and repulsive details of their obscene ceremonial. Of late years there
                         seems to have been a recrudescence of this evil superstition in certain countries
                         of Europe. While there is some authentic evidence as to the existence of these
                         evil practices, the truth is overlaid with a mass of legend, many charges of this
                         kind are false or grossly exaggerated, and a number of innocent persons have
                         been cruelly put to death on charges of witchcraft or devil worship. It is well also
                         to remember St. Augustine's words: "Non uno modo sacrificatur traditoribus
                         angelis"; and possibly calumny and cruelty may be more dangerous forms of
                         devil worship than all the dark rites of African Medicine men or medieval

                         W. H. Kent
                         Transcribed by Rick McCarty

                                           The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IV
                                        Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company
                                        Online Edition Copyright © 1999 by Kevin Knight
                                            Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor
                                       Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York

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