Cults and Sects Accused by the Recipients of Divine Grace

Denise Horton

Denise Horton

One of the first groups accused by the Church of worshipping Satan in the traditionally accepted way were the Paulicians. They were a group of Armenians who lived in the Southeastern part of the Empire, out of the direct control of the Armenian Church.

At a synod in 719, John of Ojun, who headed the church in that area, declared that Paulicians were “sons of Satan.” He asserted that they gathered at night in order to “commit incest with their own mothers” as well as put infant blood in a Eucharist-like mixture.

Also, he said that they paid homage to Satan while prostrating themselves and foaming at the mouth. These ideas were to become a model for later descriptions of the activities of Satanists for they form an integral part of the conception of the Black Mass.

According to Norman Cohn in his book ‘Europe’s Inner Demons’, Western Christendom had been troubled far less than the East by religious dissent.

In the year 1022, however, a group of heretics in the French city of Orleans were among the first in western Europe to be executed for their crimes.

For the first time since the mass executions of maligned Christians by Pagans in that area 800 years before, cannibalism and incest were rumoured to be a part of religious worship.

These heretics, which included the queen’s former confessor, nuns, and others, lived a simple and pious life, and this is probably how they attracted followers. The problem was, according to contemporary reports, that they were tricked into worshipping the Devil by a man who gave them the ashes of unborn children to eat, and took part in ceremonies in which the Devil appeared in the form of an animal.

They were also supposed to have concocted potions (probably hallucinogens), burnt babies, and had orgies.

Here again we see the elements set forth by John of Ojun which were steadily becoming fixtures in any tale of Satanic festivities.

The Orleans group also denied critical elements of Christian doctrine, including the ideas of a virgin birth, the Resurrection, Baptism, the Eucharist, and prayer to the saints. They did feel, however, that they were the recipients of divine grace and would be protected by the Holy Spirit, even while being burnt at the stake for heresy.

After the Orleans heretics had been taken care of, another sect took root in essentially the same area. This movement, known as Catharism, was a blend of Greek and Persian dualist ideas fueled by the dualist elements in Christianity itself (such as the separation of the divine and material worlds, the superiority of the flesh to the spirit).

By 1150, Catharism was present in most of Southern France, as well as Flanders and parts of Germany. There was even a Cathar Bishop in Northern France, and travelling missionaries in Northern Italy.

Cathars believed, as did the Gnostics, that the God of the Old Testament was the Devil, who created this world. He was lord of the physical body, death, and the material world.

In true Dualist fashion, most Cathars believed that he existed as an equal rival of the true God, and would continue to be for all eternity. Morally, they offended Christians by believing that it was a sin to procreate, because the command to be fruitful and multiply was given by the evil God of antiquity.

Higher-ranking Cathars abstained from all forms of sex, violence, lying, property holding, oath-taking, and food of animal origin. They were held up as embodiments of Christ.

Lower echelons of the Cathars, however, believed that the Devil enslaved them and that nothing that they did could possibly hurt them. In addition to encouraging vice in this way, Cathars also denounced the Church and their Baptism at the time of initiation. This was seen as such a threat by the Church that Pope Innocent III preached a Crusade against the Albigensians, as the Cathars of Southern France were called, in 1208.

By 1230, the Albigensians were no longer seen as a threat to the Church. Catharism did last a bit longer in other areas, but the Inquisition wiped out most of what was left.

No one can really say if the Cathars actually worshipped the Devil in earnest, but the idea that the Devil was, in fact, the God of the Old Testament, coupled with the fact that most had been raised to worship this God might have resulted in Devil worship. But whether or not these individuals worshipped Satan, their importance in the area of European Devil worship lies in the fact that the Church said that they did, and persecuted them for doing so in many areas of the continent, thus spreading the conceptions inherent in traditional Devil worship.

In 1179, another group of heretics gained the attention of the Church. The Waldensians, or Vaudois, were accused of cannibalism, holding orgies, worship of the Devil in the form of a dog, and sorcery.

This group originated as a sect of aesthetes founded by a rich young man who disposed of all his worldly goods in imitation of the apostles. Their problems began when, unlike the Franciscans who originated in a similar way, they were denied papal approval to preach. When they continued to do so, they were excommunicated in 1181, and condemned as heretics in 1184.

The actions of the Church caused the Waldensians to wander throughout Europe, being turned out of one diocese after another. Whether some Waldensians were actually advocating the worship of the Devil cannot be proved, however, it is doubtful.

In some areas of Europe, though, the name “Waldensian” was freely applied to any heretic on trial, especially in the Alpine.

There are treatises, such as the Errores Valdensium, that associate this group with a manner of Satanic ritual. Factors such as these probably contributed to the conception of Waldensians as Satanists.

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