August 18, 2023

August 18: Hungry Ghost and a Signed Contract With The Devil.

On or around August 18th each year the Chinese celebrate the Festival of the Hungry Ghost with offerings for the dead.  It is believed that during this time the gates of hell are opened to free the ghosts, who then wander the Earth seeking food.  The offerings are made to pay them tribute, appease them, and ward off bad luck from the prior year. 

Maybe this is why the gates of hell opened up to receive the likes of Genghis Khan on this day in 1227.  According to legend, when his Mongol troops were approaching a town a pungent stench signaled the approach of death even before you could see the clouds of dust from the drumming hooves.  When Genghis Khan conquered an enemy city he either annihilated the population entirely or sold it into slavery.  In one of his victories he ordered the massacre of all those taller than the height of a cart axle.  By the time of his death he had destroyed the Chin dynasty of China and his empire extended from Peking to the Caspian Sea. 

Another Gates of Hell story on this day in 1644, is of a French priest named Urbain Grandier who was burned alive on this day for sorcery.  According to a post in Bad Days in History written by Michael Farquhar, this was not a typical case of religious fanaticism run amok, no, this was an actual case of a man making a pack with the devil, and they had proof of this in a signed agreement with the devil himself.

The story goes that the authorities had proof of the actual pact Father Grandier had signed with Lucifer and his fellow devils -- obtained after one demon, Asmodeus, was compelled by priestly powers to snatch it right out of Lucifer's private cabinet in hell.  The signed and notarized document produced at the trial and now preserved at the Bibliothèque National de France, read:

We, the influential Lucifer, seconded by Satan, Beelzebub, Leviathan, Elimi, and Astaroth, together with others, have today accepted the covenant pact of Urbain Grandier, who is ours.  And him do we promise the love of women, the flower of virgins, the chastity of nuns, the respect of monarchs, honors, lusts and powers.  He will go whoring three days long; intoxication will be dear to him.  He offers us once in the year a seal of blood, under the feet he will trample the holy things of the church and he will ask us many questions; with this pact he will live twenty years happy on the earth of men, and will later join us to sin against God.   

Okay, it's no surprise that the folks at Columbia College in New York offer a literature class on this subject in which they believe the nuns were either tortured to give false testimony, or had an erotic vision of the Christ which probably happened a lot to sexually deprived people during the dark ages; the class also ask us to distinguish between a genuine divine encounter and a demonic possession?  For, as Descartes asks, how can we be sure that our whole reality is not merely a vision simulated by a malicious demon? 

I'll add here on, that Monsieur Urbain Grandier may have been having a little too much priestly fun with the nuns, but we all know Satan's contracts are never in writing, he's too smart for that one. 

Finally, this historic event became the subject of a book by Aldous Huxley, The Devils of Loudon (1952), which in turn inspired Ken Russell’s film, The Devils (1971). Here is a clip from that film, a fun watch for the Hungry Ghost out and about today.  Oh, don't forget to leave them a few grains of white rice.  That will keep them happy until next year. I'll let you know how it worked for me in tomorrow's post. 

~~ Eso Terry

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Thanks For Being!

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