Warlocks and Witches

Hello Donagh,
Bit of a strange question here, but I couldn't think of anyone else to ask (I've been reading - and relishing - your monthly updates for a few years now after a friend recommended them to me!).
I'm a self-employed illustrator and I've been asked to do 15-20 illustrations for a book (the author is self-publishing) about a witch and wizard and their neighbour, a little boy, who's curious about them and their house full of mysterious objects and books.

It's beautifully written, very visual, almost lyrical (the author has a song-writing background which might explain that!).  In one part of the story (and the author really wants this scene illustrated), the boy sees them kneeling or bowing in front of the fireplace chanting, Om Na Mah Shi Va Ya.  I don't know what this means so I googled it! It translates as giving worship to a Hindu God - I think! I can't explain it, but I feel wary about taking this commission on because of this! 

I illustrated a book last year for this author, and he knows that I'm a practising Catholic. I think he's into Buddhism....we've had a few small discussions (I find these things hard to talk about!), because he wanted to know why I didn't believe in re-incarnation etc. like he does.

Would it be wrong for me to be part of a story that has that "Om na....." quote in it?
I'm tempted to take the job as I'm self-employed - but a friend of mine thinks it might be inviting bad spirits into my life?!?!  I'm a very simple, quiet person and I don't like thoughts about bad spirits....!  I'm confused - and worried! 

Thanks Donagh and all the best,

Dear Catherine,
Witches and wizards have never been scarce on the ground, as you know.  Most children today are familiar with Harry Potter and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!  There are people who have reservations about that, just like your friend who worried about bad spirits.  But on the other hand, there was also C.S. Lewis – a very Christian writer – who wrote seven volumes of the Chronicles of Narnia, the first of which came out in 1950 and was called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  I remember my nephew totally engrossed in those books when he was about ten.  They didn’t do him the slightest harm, nor could anything written by C.S. Lewis.  Fantasy is home territory for children. 

In the book you are illustrating, those grown-ups (how long does it take witches and wizards to reach adulthood?) are not trying to convert the little boy or involve him at all in their chanting.  The only thing that surprised me was that the author put a respectable mantra on the lips of a witch and a wizard!  That would tend to suggest that Hinduism is connected with the occult.  There are more than a billion Hindus in the world, and it would be the purest madness to associate them with the occult. 

To answer your question I'll quote a paragraph from Nostra Aetate (Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to non-Christian religions), a 1965 document from the Second Vatican Council.  

“The religions which are found in more advanced civilisations endeavour by way of well-defined concepts and exact language to answer [fundamental] questions. Thus, in Hinduism people explore the divine mystery and express it both in the limitless riches of myth and the accurately defined insights of philosophy.  They seek release from the trials of the present life by ascetical practices, profound meditation and recourse to God in confidence and love…. The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.  It has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which, although differing in many ways from its own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men and women. Yet it proclaims and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is the way, the truth and the life (Jn 1:6).  In him, in whom God reconciled all things to himself (see 2 Cor 5:18-19), people find the fullness of their religious life.  The Church, therefore, urges its sons and daughters to enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions.  Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians, together with their social life and culture.” (paragraph 2, my italics)

Did you notice: it said “enlightens all men and women.”  Clearly, this is straight from John’s gospel: “All things came into being through him [the Word]” (John 1:3); he is “the light of all people” (1:4), “the true light that enlightens everyone” (1:9).  Therefore Christians should not only acknowledge the existence of Hinduism but should expect to find useful insights in it.  I remember an article by the same C.S. Lewis many years ago (but I don’t have it to hand), in which he said it would be very surprising if the truth of the Christian faith were not reflected (with varying degrees of brightness) in every genuine religion of the world.  Light falls on everything around; it would be puzzling if it didn’t.  The Council repeated the teaching of Nostra Aetate in other documents such as Ad Gentes, Lumen Gentium, Gaudium et Spes.  Ad Gentes speaks about “the seeds of the Word hidden in the religious traditions” of various peoples. 

I spent some time in India a couple of years ago, teaching in a college run by (originally Irish) Dominicans.  At the lower end of the property there was a spare piece of ground.  Years ago a very devout Indian Catholic neighbour had a strong desire to visit Lourdes, but was unable to do so, for some reason, so he asked the Dominicans if he could lay out a shine on the patch of spare ground.  It is easily the most beautiful shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes that I've ever seen.  He left the trees standing, and that made a remarkable difference somehow.  I used to go down there in the evenings.  There were always a lot of people coming to pray.  It was wonderful to see the spontaneous reverence and devotion that Indians have.  After a few days I discovered, to my surprise, that most of them were Hindus!  There are far more Hindus than Catholics in India, of course, but it was still surprising to see Hindus doing homage to Our Lady of Lourdes.  She’s very big in the Hindu pantheon! – at least in Nagpur.  It is said that Hinduism never rejects a religious idea; it just adds it in.  It is said that there are 300 million divinities in Hinduism.  Think of it as light fractured in 300 million ways. 
I don’t think you need to be afraid of inviting bad spirits, Caitriona.  For one thing, Hinduism is not a source of bad spirits; and secondly, we have the Holy Spirit who protects us by reminding us, at just the right time, of things that Jesus taught us (Jn 14:26).  I've met several people in my time who seem to have a far livelier faith in the devil than they do in Jesus.  The Holy Spirit is the one to sort us out. 

God bless the good work, Catherine, and God bless your talent. 


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