BOGOTA: Last August, Colombia's beautiful capital hosted the first international gathering of the World Congress of Witchcraft. About 3,000 magicians, sorcerers, and witches, 200 reporters, and close to 150,000 visitors from all over the world attended the meetings. More than a congress on the occult, the conference seemed to be a giant trade fair. There was the same atmosphere, the same type of structure, the same products for sale: washing machines, blenders, encyclopedias, carpets, groceries. There was only one (purported) difference: the devil's presence! A ridiculous little devil was displayed in every stand, either riding a broom, reading an encyclopedia, or eating "Brand X" ham (which, of course, was advertised as "deviled ham"). But this crass commercialism wasn't the most ludicrous aspect of the congress. It was, rather, the devil's own representatives - those fakey magicians who seemed to be fugitives from some child's storybook: gaudy gurus, spouting off their bizarre theology with the same profundity they had previously used to try to sell us a dishwasher; fortune tellers peddling their predictions like street vendors. For some strange reason, the clairvoy-ant charlatans seemed to predict the same future for all their customers: "There are great prospects of success in your future; next year you will take a trip; if you make more of an effort, you will achieve your desired goal." The same bland predictability held true for the much-touted voodoo ceremony. Before a crowd that was ready to be scared at the slightest provocation (after all, that's what they had paid for) and over the shouts of waiters dressed in tuxedos who were selling ham and cheese sandwiches and orange-flavored drinks, the voodoo ceremony began. One could say many things about the ritual - "noisy," "colorful," "Hollywoodesque" - but it certainly was not cruel. Instead of sacrificing a live rooster, the witch doctor "sacrificed" a stuffed one. The services for the press and other visitors were nearly nonexistent. The seats that were provided for the press could very well have passed for torture instruments from the Inquisition, while the information personnel seemed to have been turned into deaf-mutes by some disgruntled sorcerer. Despite Uri Geller's presence, not one of the clocks seemed to work properly, and none of the presentations began on time. In the hall, the sound seemed to emerge from a cavern, and there was no keeping track of the stolen or lost microphones, cameras, film and accessories. There was, however, no dearth of interesting people to meet: Simon Gonzalez, the "Warlocks' Pope" and the chief organizer of the event; genuine witches from the Colombian Sierra Nevada; High Priest Yogakrishnanda, spiritual guide and guru; Latin American UFO expert Enrique Castillo, who claimed to have arrived at the congress after a long trip on a UFO; and a certain promoter who claimed to be a close friend of God, but who erroneously prophesied that a certain reporter would write a cover story about her. All the participants were by no means this bizarre. Just enough science and parapsychology were included to keep up the interest of serious demonologists. Thirty-two experts on parapsychology spoke on various aspects of their specialty. Some of the outstanding participants included Dr. Jean Mayo of Stanford, Dr. J. M. Sanchez-Perez of Mexico, Dr. Thelma Moss of V.C.L.A", and Uri Geller, who was busy bending forks and knives and mysteriously repairing old clocks and appliances through sheer "concentration." On the last day of the congress, the delegates received the following telegram: "To Mr. Simon Gonzalez, Chief Sorcerer, First World Congress on Witchcraft. Bogota. Dear Simon: Have enjoyed congress tremendously. Tail withered. Horns fell out. Hope to be invited to next year's gathering. Your brother and Master, the Devil." Despite the devil's alleged enjoyment of the event, the end result was apparently a financial, moral and intellectual loss for the forces of evil. Although fourteen countries are now competing for the dubious honor of hosting next year's congress, the devil has suffered an irreparable loss of prestige. The joke, it seems, was on Satan, who was ridiculed, abused, and exploited. As a fellow reporter commented, "For heaven's sake! Where are the devil's real representatives? Have they become an extinct species?" In order to answer this reporter's timely question, let us consider what the Bible has to say about Satan the devil.
The Real Devil
From the biblical point of view, the congress was not a joke on Satan, but on the world, for having fallen into a cleverly devised trap. While everyone was busy poking fun at a funny red devil with an old-fashioned goatee, pitchfork, tail and calf-like horns, the Bible speaks of a powerful spirit being who appears as an angel of light. Satan was not always "Satan." He was once called Lucifer, which means "light-bringer" or "angel of light." He was created with perfect beauty and wisdom and was placed by God as second in command over his creation. But Lucifer allowed vanity to get the better of him. He actually thought he could overthrow God himself. As the prophet Ezekiel wrote, "Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God... Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth... Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee... Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground..." (Ezekiel 28:12-17). The prophet Isaiah continues the story: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations. For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.... I will be like the most High" (Isaiah 14:12-14). And so Lucifer became Satan, meaning "adversary." In the New testament, Christ said to his disciples, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven" (Luke 10:18). Satan fell and is now on this earth. Christ calls him the "prince of this world" (John 12:31 and 14:30). Paul called him "the god of this world" (II Corinthians 4:4), and John, in the book of Revelation, categorically states that Satan deceives all nations (Revelation 12:9): How can this be? Paul answers, "...for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness..." (II Corinthians 11:14-15). Satan sways this world by posing as a messenger of light. His representatives, far from being typified by the ridiculous antics and strange attire of the motley group present at the World Congress of Witchcraft, are actually posing as respectable "ministers of righteousness." Where did the witchcraft delegates get the ridiculous notion that a little red devil with a tail and a pitchfork has anything to do with the Satan of the Bible? While such people exploit, abuse, and make fun of a false image of the devil, they're definitely not dealing with the REAL "god of this world."