Home > Episcopal Labyrinths, Occult > When symbols aren’t symbolic

When symbols aren’t symbolic

3 October 2009

We typically think of symbols themselves as existing in a vacuum, deriving meaning from something else.  I recently ran across something from a Christian website that made me do a double-take on the matter. 

From “Warning Concerning Symbols,” from Crossroad. 

“In the world of the occult, many symbols are imbued with power by the magician working in conjunction with the demonic spirit world. The Wiccan leader Starhawk, founder of the Covenant of the Goddess, knows that well. “To cast a spell is to project energy through a symbol,” she wrote in The Spiral Dance, her popular manual for witchcraft.

Since the occult use of symbols have spread like epidemic across the Western world, we want to exercise caution. Therefore, when we began to add pictures to the original list of symbols, we decided to leave out certain images – particularly satanic symbols that obviously represent evil. Though many were already familiar to children in public schools, we didn’t want to risk implanting those images on a child’s mind. (We will explain why in another note.) We also left out the theosophical symbol, some of the more complex masonic symbols, and other symbols typically used for magic and alchemy. To explain, let me share an important lesson I learned about five years ago.

I was speaking at a Bay Area Sunday School Convention (BASS) in California on the topic, “The Unholy Power of Charms and Symbols.” Parents and teachers were still crowding into the small auditorium, when I began showing transparencies of simple symbols such as the yin-yang, the peace symbol, and the ankh. We discussed why these symbols were important to people long ago – and why their popularity has skyrocketed today.


Finally, we looked at compound symbols. (You can see an example at the end of the current list of symbols.) The day before the conference, I had been searching for a particular combination of symbols found in a Theosophical emblem. By the time I did find it, it was too late to put it on a transparency. Then I had made a foolish decision: I prepared to draw the occult image onto the transparency in front of the class.

Putting the clear transparency on the projector, I drew a large circle, then added two overlapping triangles (one pointing up, one pointing down), forming a hexagram. I began to fill in various single symbols: the pentagram, swastika…. Suddenly, something dark and heavy hit me in the chest. For a moment I lost both my balance and my breath, then, in a flash, I knew what was happening. I had unwittingly performed an occult ritual common to Buddhist and Native Americans traditions as well as to medieval alchemy. By the very act of drawing the symbols, I had invoked a spiritual entity.

Still in front of the crowd and the microphone, I cried out, ” “Forgive me, Lord! Cover me with your blood. In the name of Jesus Christ, I declare Your victory over the evil one. In You, we are ‘more than conquerors!’ Thank you, Jesus, my Lord and my King!”

I apologized to the audience, asking their forgiveness for imposing on them a ritual that brought forth this evil. Then we all thanked God for His lesson and protection.

As fast as the demonic entity came, it was gone…”

I have at the writing of this post, been doing a fair bit of thinking about the statements from the pagan, Grace Cathedral, and St. Alban’s websites concerning the use of labyrinths.  There is this

“The Labyrinth is a symbol of death and rebirth.

Walking the Labyrinth is a mystical journey into the other realms, and back to Earth. It is a symbolic pilgrimage out of the small self, or busy mind, back Home to the Divine. ”

and this

“The Labyrinth is an archetype, a divine imprint, found in all religious traditions in various forms around the world.”

and then this

“Walking into a labyrinth is a symbol of entering into something, learning what is there to learn, and then moving on with life.”

Each speak of symbols, and each speak of a mystical experience.  I had looked at the latter as the source of malevolence, since it clearly proves that meditation is not the goal of labyrinth use.  Now, I’m questioning whether the symbol aspect of the labyrinth might be as bad or worse. 

I am not suggesting that the problem is with the use of symbols;  indeed, Christians use symbols (the fish, the crucifix, e.g.,) in their culture and worship.  But labyrinths are not distinctively Christian in origin.  They are tied to paganism in history, and pagans use them in the present day.  No, I am rather suggesting that we consider that the pagan uses and understanding of symbols to be different than how we use them. 

Perhaps, sometimes, a cigar is not just a cigar.

..Something to think and pray about.

– Elder

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