(The Obscene Kiss)
My teen years were troubled, but also very much a time of discovery - both about myself and the world around me. The conservative Christianity that had been so much a part of my earliest years had taken a back seat to my explorations. My parents were "kicked out" of our church upon their divorce and, that being the case, although one doesn't emerge from a worldview overnight, I then felt very much "outside the gate." But my interest in Christianity (the only way I knew it at the time) didn't wane.
Growing up Pentecostal meant an encounter with demonology. I grew up hearing strange and fantastic tales about demons, supposedly from those who had encountered them. For the most part demons were invisible - unless they chose to appear to us. Our pastor told us that the very space surrounding us was filled with invisible demons, so horrid looking that if we could see them as they are we would be too terrified to stare.
Rumor had it that there was an actual cult of Devil worshippers who met in a remote area of Chattanooga's famous Lookout Mountain. So remote, in fact, that I've never been able to find it, despite the fact I've been all over that mountain! I never met anyone who claimed to be a Satanist (I did encounter one self-described Warlock when I worked part-time at a local magic shop, and he claimed to be able to place curses and cast evil spells; I thought he had delusions of grandeur), but I knew many Christians who claimed to have actually stared demons in the eye.
Because Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I grew up and lived for nearly the first forty years of my life, had a fantastic public library, I was able to do a lot of research about subjects that aroused my curiosity. Demonology was one of those subjects. In the summer months when I was out of school I would check out books and often read late into the night, even early into the morning.
There was a surprising amount of information about Demonology at my local library, and I checked these books out and devoured them voraciously. The illustration above came from a book I had checked out (although I can't now recall the title) and which kept me awake into the early morning hours. Was this "obscene kiss" a part of what went on up on Lookout Mountain?
According to our world view, demons were the cause (though not the only cause) of many of the evils of life. Demons could afflict one with illness. I more than once saw "tobacco demons" allegedly "cast out" of people who came forward to pray at our church altar. Demons could even affect the weather and cause natural disasters. Satan was always on the prowl, it seemed, and his minions kept very busy. It's little wonder I grew up with a love of horror movies. These were mostly morality tales about the eternal battle between good and evil.
On reflection after many years thought about the matter, I do think demons are real for the people who believe in them. They are a part of that imaginal realm, from which springs myth and legends. We can laugh at the "stupid and superstitious" people who still hold these "primitive beliefs" in this modern and enlightened age. Or we can try to understand what goes inside the troubled human psyche. Sometimes it may even be helpful to give face to some of the "demons" that trouble our lives. I know I would like to exorcise the demons that have bedeviled me down through the years. Some I think I have, other still torture me with an almost unrelenting fury.