How has fear changed through the ages?
What are humans truly afraid of?
Predators, fire, weather disasters, bad crops, diseases, God, Satan, supernatural beings, technology, failure, punishment, poverty, hunger, losing loved ones, criminals, debt, terrorism, differences, success, DEATH. There’s an endless list of fears we constantly have as a species. With the passing of time, fears have evolved, but also shaped our society. Fear is a common part of our lives, we live with it on a daily basis.
Call it a sense of survival, humanity has managed to deal with fear through art, literature, politics, philosophy, and of course, religion. All of these have used collective and individual fears to give an answer to reality and move on. If we look at historical evidence to understand what has tormented our ancestors, we can learn from them and see new ways to face our own present, and with it, our fears.
Fear isn't a completely "natural" emotion; in other words, it can be induced and used to control and subdue people. For instance, many rural and urban legends, prophecies, or political threats have been created or exaggerated to cause fear in society. No matter our beliefs, one of the greatest institutions that has used this emotion to manipulate has been the Church.
For centuries, humanity’s greatest fears have been related to religious subjects or have been at least supported or based on these precepts. Think of the figure of Satan. Why is he such a fearsome character? We know he was once an angel that was banned from Paradise for thinking he was better that God himself; but didn’t Adam and Eve kind of do the same? We fear Satan because of the demonic characterization built around him, not to mention the fact that, as he, we can be easily tempted to feel superior and subsequently be punished. This fear has been portrayed in many religious texts, but there were also certain types of books that were conceived as satanic or heretic because they were thought to be the link between the devil and humans.
Grimoires, the name of these texts, date back to the Middle Ages. In a fusion of Arab, Asian, and a vision of their own, these books dealt with all kinds of topics left behind by ecclesiastical precepts, like astrology and medicine; however, they also included alchemy studies, lists of unofficial angels and demons, and some even have instructions to summon the devil. Here are 6 texts considered satanic and which reflect the fears human beings have had for centuries.
The Clavicle of Solomon
This text was thought to be a lost manuscript written by King Solomon. During the fifteenth century, many copies were made, since they thought it held the ultimate knowledge of life. Although many believed this was a heretic book –since it was considered a sin to pursue knowledge outside sacred scriptures–, it was very popular among clergymen and scholars, who considered King Solomon as one of the wisest men of all times.
The Voynich Manuscript
Nowadays, the Voynich Manuscript is still indecipherable. But based on the illustrations and structure of the text, it's most likely to be a scientific study specialized on botany and astronomy. However, by the time it was made, anything that was unknown or didn’t stick to the norms of the Church was considered heresy and a work of sorcery, and this book is no exception.
The Sworn Book of Honorius
Attributed to Honorius of Thebes, a mythical ancient figure in Medieval times, this text includes incantations and invocations that were thought to induce visions from Heaven, Hell, and the Purgatory. It’s also believed that the person who manages to decipher all the text will get access to all the knowledge in the world.
The Munich Manual of Demonic Magic
Known better as The Necromancer’s Manual, this text was seen as a guidebook to evoke demonic beings. With a huge variety of spells divided into three themes (Illusionist, Psychological, and Divinatory), it was believed that this book was the perfect tool to gain the power to control people, time, and emotions.
The Red Dragon
This is probably the most famous grimoire of all. Also, known as the Gospel of Satan or the Grand Grimoire, this purported sixteenth century text was also linked to King Solomon, the wisest man, remember? Allegedly, this is not a book of instructions to summon any other demon, but Lucifer himself.
There's always been a huge fear of supernatural beings, especially those that return to earth to haunt the living. Being threatened is one of the most feared emotions we can experience, and vampires were the ultimate demonic representation of that fear, not only because they're living dead creatures, but they intend to lure others into their unholy condition. Dissertatio Historico-Philosophica de Masticatione Mortuorum is an eighteenth-century manuscript that exposes all the types of vampires, the way they live, and how to deal with them.
As we can see, all these books were considered at their time as Satanic and Demonic texts intended to bring evil to life. However, they’re only a proof of humanity’s great fear of the consequences or punishments of God. Although most of these texts are not entirely based on Christian precepts, they were mostly censored by Christianity. While they don’t explain the roots of our fears and are not about Satanism at all, we can certainly read between the lines the fear that’s still tormenting humanity nowadays, and that’s the fear of difference. We are terrified by everything that threatens to change our perception and vision of life.
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