One year ago, Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi made a startling prediction that witchcraft and black magic would make a comeback in the world. A look back at the headlines of 2017 reveals a disturbing trend: the rabbi was undoubtedly correct.
In a sermon in February 2017, Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi, a mystic with a strong following in Israel, warned that dark powers are re-emerging in the world, seeking to usurp God’s rule. He compared the spiritual condition in the world to Egypt just before the Exodus of the Jews.
“After every plague, Pharaoh, his warlocks, and all of the idol worshippers consulted with their false gods and asked them to remove the plague. This did not help them at all until they turned and cried out to Moses and he stopped the plague in one moment. Then they understood that there was one power above which is God, and it is Him that rules the world and not the power of impurity: serving false gods, idol worship, and fortune telling.”
Remarkably, his predictions seem to be coming true. Witchcraft and idolatry are appearing with increasing frequency, sometimes in insidious manners that present this ancient evil under a multitude of guises that make it appear benign, innocent, or even a positive cultural element.
Below are examples of idolatry appearing in the world in the past year.
Just a few weeks after the rabbi’s prediction, a call went out on social media to use black magic to curse newly inaugurated President Trump. A small group gathered at midnight in front of several of the more prominent Trump-owned buildings around the country, but the organizers reported that tens of thousands participated from their homes, using arcane objects and burning candles while reciting a prearranged incantation to cast a “binding spell”. The call to action requested that the ritual be repeated every crescent moon until President Trump leaves office.
What began over 30 years ago as a small campfire gathering of California artists evolved into a massive annual festival bringing almost 70,000 people to the middle of the desert in Nevada. The upcoming festival in August will feature a structure described as a Temple of the Greek goddess Gaia, who also appears prominently in paganism.
Billed as a cultural gathering, the festival attracts artists and celebrities. Touted as a secular event, many of Burning Man’s major elements are rooted in idolatry. Regular Burning Man installments are a Temple to the Hindu goddess Shiva and a bus decorated in the form of a seven-headed dragon which, in the New Testament, represents Satan. The massive camp is set up to form a massive pentagram in the desert.
Named for a massive wood effigy burned at the end of the festival, the burning man is actually a Celtic custom based on the original pagan human sacrifices. This pagan reference came true last year when a man died after running into the flames.
A Burning Man-inspired event brought paganism to the heart of democracy: the Washington Mall. The three-day event was held in November. It featured all of the pagan trappings of its desert counterpart but the organizers also proposed a 45-foot tall, 16,000 pound, steel sculpture of a naked woman titled “R-evolution” that would stand in front of the Washington Monument, deliberately facing the White House. A permit was issued for the sculpture but, blessedly, later revoked.
After the Islamic State (ISIS) destroyed the famous archaeological site in Palmyra Syria, the Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA), a Harvard-based organization for the preservation of archaeological structures, used 3-D printing technology to recreate the 15 meter tall stone arch that had stood at the site for over 1,800 years. The arch was built as a Roman Victory Arch in front of the temple of Ba’al, a pagan god mentioned frequently in the Bible.
The replica arch first appeared in April 2016 in London’s Trafalgar Square for UNESCO’s World Heritage week, which coincided with Beltane, the major festival for pagans who worship Ba’al. It reappeared in New York City in September of that year.
The arch was erected once again to inaugurate the World Government Summit in Dubai in February 2017. The summit brings together leaders in business, technology, and politics from around the world.
The arch was then erected in Italy in May for the G7 Summit, a meeting of the leaders of the seven largest economies in the world representing more than 64 percent of the net global wealth.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was formed to promote peace and security through science and education. Nowhere in its charter does it say the organization should deal in idolatry but last year, pagan gods featured prominently in two of its exhibitions.
In November 2017, The United Arab Emirates, now a sponsor of the Palmyra Arch reproduction, inaugurated the Digital Archaeology Exhibition, “The Spirit in the Stone”, at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York City. The IDA, creators of the arch, used the same 3-D printing process to reproduce a statue of the Roman goddess Athena, which they described as symbolizing the UNESCO values of “reason, refuge and the rule of law”. Athena was, in fact, the Roman goddess of war, as shown by the statue holding a spear.
In January, UNESCO-funded reconstruction of the Lion of al-Lāt, an ancient statue from the Palmyra site partially destroyed by ISIS, was completed with the help of the Institute of Digital Archaeology. The ancient statue, almost 11 feet tall and weighing 15 tons, also stood in the Palmyra Temple and now stands in the National Museum of Damascus.
Biblical scholars associate Al-Lat with the goddess of jealousy and fury despised by the Prophet Ezekiel.
And He said to me, “O mortal, turn your eyes northward.” I turned my eyes northward, and there, north of the gate of the mizbayach, was that infuriating image on the approach. Ezekiel 8:5
In September, a Muslim fashion designer decorated a 1,000-year-old London church in a Satanic motif for her show featuring transvestite models dressed as the devil. The Turkish designer, Dilara Findikoglu, is an up-and-coming star in the fashion world with many celebrities wearing her creations.
A new form of idolatry was added this year, supplementing the myriad forms of sinful worship described in the Bible. Anthony Levandowski, a high-tech millionaire, filed “Way of the Future” with the Internal Revenue Service as an official religion. The new religion is dedicated to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and through understanding and worship of the Godhead contribute to the betterment of society.”
Levandowski’s new religion should not be confused with Jediism, a religion based on the fictitious Jedi beliefs as portrayed in the Star Wars movie series. Jediism was established in 2001 and has hundreds of thousands of adherents worldwide.
The year ended on an idolatrous note with the Asatru Society, the religious organization that worships the Norse gods in Iceland, announcing the imminent completion of construction of the first temple to the Norse gods in 1,000 years. The pagan Norse religion has been making a comeback in recent years, fueled at least in part by its acceptance of homosexuality. A minor tourist industry has cropped up for foreigners who come to Iceland to have Asatru priests perform their same-sex wedding.
The Norse religion, based on Germanic paganism, is now a part of mainstream American pop culture. in 1962 when Marvel Comics began publishing a comic book series featuring the god Thor and other characters from the Norse pantheon. In 2011, Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures released the movie “Thor”, based on the comic book. That was followed by two more movies, the most recent, “Ragnarok”, based on Norse eschatology.