At the beginning of October, I was fascinated to read this BBC feature dealing with the active worship of the Devil in certain working mines in South America, then earlier today, by another one of those cosmic coincidences, I learned that my son Jack has been to see one of these mines for himself.
The conditions in the mine in the BBC article sound horrific, so it’s little wonder that one of the workers there is quoted as saying “Outside the mine we are Catholics, and when we enter the mine, we worship the Devil.” My own grandfather worked in the mines in south Wales, but as he went underground in search of coal after he’d fought in the Great War of 1914-1918, I imagine that he regarded the Welsh mines, dangerous as they undoubtedly were, as by far the lesser of two evils.
At the same time as they pray to the Devil, the Andean miners also worship a deity known as Pachamama, a benevolent Earth Mother, to further safeguard them from the dangers they face beneath the ground, while I understand that her effigy or likeness appears in the photograph above, behind the right hand of the Devil and the left hand of a human visitor to their terrible realm.
The dangers faced by the people who are forced to work in these mines as a means of keeping body and soul together are clearly so formidable and ever-present that the workers gladly place their faith in diabolical and pagan entities as a means of ensuring their survival, as the solace and security offered by their Christian faith are clearly insufficient. It reminds me of stories I’ve heard over the last few years of Christian clergy attending pagan ceremonies here in Britain in an attempt to understand why these gatherings hold an increasing appeal for so many people at a time when church attendance continues to decline.
Surprisingly enough, even the Italian mafia in some of their previously secret initiation rites are now known to use what a BBC reporter describes as “an elaborate, neo-pagan” vocabulary. One example of this is where those being initiated are advised to respond, when anyone asks them where they’re from, by saying “My father is the Sun and my mother is the Moon.” Our ancestors who worshipped at Stonehenge millennia ago evidently held very similar beliefs and there are clearly some fantastically potent qualities to the archetypes of pagan gods and goddesses that make them resonate with us still, all these thousands of years down the line, even in our Age of Scientific Enlightenment when we’re landing spacecraft on comets.