A young adult pastor brings to my attention a couple of websites making much of C. S. Lewis use of fauns, nymphs, and a host of other imaginary creatures that had their origins in false religions, even with demonic associations. And there is no denying that some of those mythical beings were indeed so associated.

Many words and names have such tantalizing echoes. I mention that because Tantalus was a figure subject to eternal torment. Chained in a cave, without food or water, where delicious fruit was just out of reach, and where water would rise, but the chain prevented him from bending over and taking a drink, and the water would recede whenever he got close. Echo, of course, was a chatterbox who distracted Zeus’ wife, Hera, with stories, while Zeus was dallying with other nymphs. When Hera found out, she silenced Echo, only allowing her to repeat the shouted words of others.

We may find these simply charming legends—but then the word “charm” itself has origins in the occult. I do not know about other languages, but we can scarcely speak a sentence in English that has no associations with false gods from many other cultures. In my book Torn, Jacob’s Story, I have a scene where a young serving girl loses a talisman from of the false moon god Nanna. When is found, she wants to claim it, but not admit it’s real purpose. I searched for a synonym for “talisman,” or “charm,” that would camouflage its nature. I settled on “mascot,” thinking of a symbol of a college football team, for example. Only later did I discover that mascot itself was originally a kind of charm or talisman.

The more we delve into this, the more convoluted it gets. For example, in the Enuma Elish, Marduk, the god of Babylon, does battle against Tiamat, the chaos dragon/sea serpent that is/rules the oceans. Not only does this language show up in the Bible, it is used to explicitly refer to Yahweh. In Job, it says of God, “By his power he churned up the sea; by his wisdom he cut Rahab to pieces. By his breath the skies became fair; his hand pierced the gliding serpent.” (Rahab is simply another of the many names of the sea serpent). This language is straight from Ba’al/Marduk worship.

Mordecai, famed as the uncle of Queen Esther, is himself named after Marduk. Mordecai means “servant/follower/devotee” of Marduk.

Caduceus.svgThis connection of names/concepts/words to unsavory and yes, demonic connections can go on without end. You may recognize a symbol commonly used for doctors and healthcare. It.is called a “caduceus” which was originally ther magic wand of the Greek god Hermes, inventor of (magical) incantations, conductor of the dead and protector of merchants and thieves. Does that tell us anything about doctors? I hope not.

Actually, the caduceus should not Loma_linda_university_logobe used for medicine. The correct symbol is the rod of Asclepius, the Roman god of healing. It has only one serpent. You can see that in this seal. Does that indicate that Loma Linda is worshiping Asclepius? Of course not. Yet I’m sure some would make that argument. Both these symbols have lost their original associations. They say something quite innocent today.

I could go on and on. There is a simple rule for every word, every name. Context determines meaning. Old Testament pophets commonly commandeer pagan words and imagery, and employ it to communicate truths about God. The Bible is full of pagan language and imagery which has been, as one of my Old Testament professors said, “Baptized by the biblical author.”Are they leading us astray? Quite the opposite.

If you want to know who tamed the sea, and you think it’s a chaos dragon, God says, “You’re looking for me!” If you are a Greek follower of Plato, and believe in the ideal plane, where the organizing ideal of all ideals is the logos, John 1 says, “You’re right: In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God . . .”  As a passing note, for the Greek, the ideal and matter were not only opposites, but incompatible. So when John says, “the Logos was made flesh and dwelt among us,” it is both scandalous (to the Greek) and astonishing.

So, the question that matters to me is not, “What associations do these words and names have with ancient religions?” including the occult, but, “What are they being used for in this work?” What will the reader/viewer/listener get out of it?  Will he/she discover that what they had believed in was a distorted echo of an even greater reality? Or will they be encouraged to delve into systems of belief that will only impoverish their souls?

Frankly, in Harry Potter and Star Wars, I find only threadbare clichés from popular culture’s notions of spirituality. I find nothing that challenges me to look deeper. Indeed, there rarely is deeper in those works. But around every bend in Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia, I find concepts that challenge and even astound me. But this is running long, for a blog, so I will leave an exploration of those insights for next time.