I’ve been writing about evil for some time now, and my research, curiosity, and desire to discover my own beliefs have taken me down some disturbing paths. After the publication of An Absolute Gentleman, about a serial killer, I delved into other subjects, among them witchcraft and demonology. Some books in these areas I simply couldn’t read and gave away; others I read in patches. Some I felt compelled as a human being to read and to own, long-time own, because they dealt with injustice and inhumanity that should be remembered. (One of those was Anne Llewellyn Barstow’s Witchcraze.) Two years ago, when I purchased Matt Baglio’s The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist—non-fiction—I assumed I wouldn’t read much of it and would have difficulty sleeping. Surprisingly, I found it not only “absorbing and enlightening”—which Publishers Weekly said it would be—but also reassuring. Even comforting.
Given my background, this was an odd reaction. I am an easily spooked adult, and was an easily terrified child. I believed fanciful stories about fairies and elves and giants (always loved giants, even the bad ones), and trolls, and gnomes, and witches. I also believed in God and Satan, who both wanted my soul and were equally frightening entities. I wanted to avoid attracting the attention of either. I preferred they conduct their battle elsewhere. That attitude was somewhat warranted since I was a non-Catholic raised in a very restrictive protestant faith that offered no recourse against Satan’s wiles except to change my ways. Sinful thoughts alone could warrant my damnation. Although I was advised, lovingly, that Jesus would take care of me as he did all little children. I thought his meekness and mildness no match for his adversary or for his adversarial father who was angry, jealous, and violent. True, children were supposed to be exempt, but I didn’t feel exempt. I felt, at the very best, warned, a kind of solitary confinement. At the age of six, when night descended, my bedroom had more than monsters under the bed—the room, house, and the entire outside wereunder watch by all-seeing eyes, and all-knowing powers waited for me to give one sign I was awake. I fell asleep eventually, in a tight knot.
ReadingThe Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, didn’t keep me awake at all. It was soothing. I’ll explain why in future posts.