Thursday, February 28, 2013

Beware the Thrift Store Demons!

Television evangelist Pat Robertson has been on a roll lately. Fresh off proclaiming that Islam is not a religion, he recently warned a viewer asking about thrift store purchases to watch out for demons that might be bound to secondhand items.

A concerned viewer wrote to Pat Robertson for advice on demons and thrift stores:

“I buy a lot of clothes and other items at Goodwill and other secondhand shops. Recently my mom told me that I need to pray over the items, bind familiar spirits, and bless the items before I bring them into the house. Is my mother correct? Can demons attach themselves to material items?”

Robertson’s answer?

”Can demonic spirits attach themselves to inanimate objects? The answer is yes. But I don’t think every sweater you get from Goodwill has demons in it. In a sense your mother is just being super cautious, so hey — it isn’t gonna hurt you any to rebuke any spirits that might attach themselves to those clothes.”

Robertson is technically correct that spirits can be attached to material items. We magicians call them talismans, for example, and there's no reason the sort of spell you use to create one couldn't be cast on a sweater or something. However, the real problem with his risk assessment is a complete lack of understanding about how the process actually works.


Evangelical Christians like Robertson generally have kind of a muddled conception of "demons" that includes (A) all spirits not explicitly identified as angels and (B) personal vices like, say, gambling and alcohol. In reality, (A) and (B) have no relation to each other, but in the evangelical world if you pick up an object that was owned by somebody with what they consider vices (that is, most human beings) the demons that caused those vices could still be on the object. Looked at that way, a possessed sweater doesn't seem that unlikely at all. With what I know as a magician, though, is that what you would really have to do to create such a garment is cast a specific spell on it to bind the spirit and after that give it away. That makes running into such a thing so unlikely as to be practically nonexistent.

Now in the Evangelical world "rebuking" spirits basically means just telling them to leave "in the name of Jesus." For a real, bound spirit of any strength this won't work on its own. You need some sort of actual magical procedure. Particularly talented individuals might be able to use something like concentrated devotional prayer, and the name of Jesus will work as a name of power if you properly connect to it and vibrate it and so forth, but I find it hard to imagine a bound spirit picking up and leaving in response to a simple statement with no magical intent behind it. There's a reason for that - spirits don't just seep onto specific material objects by osmosis. It usually requires either a spell or barring that a powerful, extremely traumatic event like the violent deaths that are associated with many hauntings to create that bond. So piece of clothing that merely sat around the house of someone Robertson would define as "up to no good" (like, say, a magician like me) is not going to cut it.

I'm glad Robertson realizes that not every sweater you find at Goodwill doesn't have demons on it, but he still overstates the likelihood of finding such a thing by a lot by implying that its even possible on a normal day-to-day basis. In a way that's too bad - a demon-possessed sweater might make an interesting target for magical experimentation.

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2 comments:

Morgan Eckstein said...

A demonic possessed robe, maybe. *wink*

Nerine Dorman said...

Damn... Reading this makes me want to create some demonically possessed sweaters... Or maybe even possessed secondhand books to donate to thrift stores near me.