The Dark is Rising
Could a children’s book published by Bob Jones University possibly teach pagan concepts? Would its trusted curricula promote feminist spirituality or change the meaning of truth?
To answer that question, Cindy Mutsch, a concerned mother, prayerfully pondered the symbols, lessons, and encounters in Medallion, a popular fantasy reader for elementary age homeschoolers. She had read my 1991 comparison between a sixth-grade reader for public schools called The Dark is Rising and The Spiral Dance, a Wiccan manual by Starhawk. While I was alarmed to discover a nationwide reader that immersed students in witchcraft, Cindy was shocked to see the strange similarities between an explicitly pagan book and a fourth grade reader bearing the Bob Jones labels.
Granted, Medallion leaves out the occult visualizations and rituals that permeate the Dark is Rising. Parents and children could easily read through two-thirds of the story without noticing the subtle signs of a pagan perspective or context. Little red flags that might have aroused concern would be dulled by the assurance that BJU provides safe Christian literature. But the hero’s encounter with the gentle and age-less Lady Enna, whose mystical potions could “cure anything”, should burst that illusion.
Enna is the name of a Philippine goddess. She was suggested as a replacement for God at the infamous 1993 Re-Imagining Conference which gathered over 2000 women from all the main denominations to “imagine” feminist alternatives to biblical “patriarchy”. "The three goddesses I want to share with you are Kali [Hindu], Kwan-in [Buddhist], and Enna [Philippines]. . . my new trinity,"[i] said Chung Hyun Kyung, a Korean theologian educated at Union Theological Seminary. “…I call it a family of gods and... they are together."[ii]
The Medallion presents only one god-like character: Lady Enna. She first “appeared in the glass arch” bathed in the colors of a shimmering rainbow. Like the goddesses summoned by contemporary pagans in their sacred circles, she enters into a circular meadow, “round as a wedding ring.”
“Come with me,” she beckons to young Prince Trave. He follows her into “her glass cave [where] all was light. Trave could not tell where the light came from, but it was a lovely, warm light, like sunshine….” 171
Trave, the hero in Medallion, is mentored by the good King Gris—just as Will, the young hero in The Dark is Rising, is tutored by the older and wiser Merriman. Both boys are on a quest seeking specific symbols that will grant them power and authority. Both meet a spiritual “lady” who heals their wounds, then mysteriously disappear, but continues to help and inspire them in her absence. Notice the amazing parallels in Cindy’s analysis comparing the two books.
The Dark is Rising
Will stood up, and the old lady [with “ageless eyes”] smiled encouragingly at him. He said to her suddenly, “Who are you?” ….
“The lady is very old,” she said in her clear young voice…. 32
Trave could see her well now. She seemed to be both young and old at once. As she drew close, Trave felt he should stand… Gris was already standing. 169
Gris bowed to her…. 171
[Does this agelessness and reverence imply “the lady’s” immortality and divinity?]
The lady smiled… and Will grinned whole-heartedly back. He had no idea why he was suddenly so happy. 29
Trave felt happy at her approach, but he could not tell why…. She smiled at them, and Trave felt more welcome than he had ever felt anywhere. 169
The old lady… took Will’s hurt forearm in both her hands and put her cool right palm over it. Then she released him. The pain in Will’s arm was gone, and where the red burn had been he saw now the shiny, hairless skin that grows in where a burn has been long healed. But the shape of the scar was clear, and he knew he would bear it to the end of his life; it was like a brand. “I’m sorry,” Will said miserably… 39-40
Lady Enna… reached forward, taking one wrists in each of her hands. “This is easily healed,” she said…. [She poured a liquid over his wrists.] Even as he watched, the redness faded. The ache went almost completely away…. Trave’s wrists looked as if they had healed years before. Only white scars remained.
“How did you do that?” Trave asked in awe….
“Enna knows many things,” said Gris.
“Will I always have the scars?” asked Trave.
“Why would you want to be rid of them?” the lady wanted to know, turning to Trave.
“I got them dishonorably,” Trave said.
“Perhaps, then,” she said, “they will remind you to be honorable.” Trave gazed sadly down. 171-173
“Welcome, Will,” the old lady said, in a voice that was soft and gentle, yet rang through the vaulted hall like a treble bell…. 28
“Very good,” she said comfortably in that same musical voice…. 29
Her voice was lighter than the wind and full of music…. 171 She went on speaking in her rich tones, “I do have something special.”
She got up and went in another room, her voice carrying back to the men. [This was the author’s first reference to Trave as a man. Did this divine encounter initiate Trave into manhood?]
Will leapt forward, tugging free of the hands that held his own….
Then great sleepiness came upon him, like a giant hand weighing him down, and he fell forward. The lady caught him against her shoulder. When Trave woke up, he felt that he had slept for hours…. He pulled back, blinking. Enna released his wrists …. 172
Will looked back, dazzled; she [the lady] she seemed tall, bigger and more erect than before…. There was a golden haze about her figure, a glow that did not come from the candlelight… [Then she fades away and disappears.] 42
“None but the lady can overcome the Dark…” said Merriman.
Trave could only nod and bow to her….
Trave looked back to remember the way to the round meadow. But the mountains and the ravines all looked the same. [The vision of the lady had disappeared.] 172-174
….She came back with a small white bottle… “If you take this [the potion in a small bottle], you will be cured of anything.” 173
Astrology: While there is no direct parallel in the narrative, the signs Will seeks correspond to the quartered circle, the Wiccan version of the world’s various astrological circles: the Buddhist wheel of life, the Native American medicine wheel, the Aztec calendar, etc.
The stars shone clearly, most were gold or white. Trave saw a red one… 185
“Follow the red star,” says Gris. “When it is in line with the three bright ones, you are going toward Wrycan.” 185 …. When it got dark, he found his red star and followed it. 188
[New Agers await the age of Aquarius when Jupiter aligns with Mars, the red planet.]
Merriman] handed Will the glittering chain of linked Signs…. Will felt from them suddenly a strange fierce sensation…a strong, arrogant reassurance of power.
The Lady bent down and set the chain of linked Signs around Will’s neck… 207(-209?).
At the end of the chain hung a great medallion. It flashed in the sun…. Trave felt the truth before he heard it…
“Now it is yours,” Gris put the chain over Trave’s head. He felt the weight of it….
“You must be a king and do a king’s duty.”
Trave stood tall before Gris. “I will, sir…” 183, 185
[Both symbols brought feelings of power and authority.]
[Will] thought, this is my family… the Old Ones…
[The Lady, who sometimes appears as a bird, tells Will:] “By your birth and your birthday [on Solstice] you came into your own and the circle of the Old Ones was complete… You achieved a great quest and proved yourself stronger than the testing…”
Merriman gazed down at him….his dark eyes owlish. 206-209.
Trave walked ahead into their little circle of light. His medallion as it swung against his chest caught the firelight briefly…. Every man bowed low to the ground…..
“Your people, Your Grace, faithful and ready,” said the old one. 192-3.
A familiar shadow passed over him… The bird [his pet owl] flew easily, white against the blue sky. Trave turned to Gris. “Has he been with the Lady Enna?” But Gris only smiled. 212
The owl plays important parts in many of the world’s pagan myths. According to Barbara Walker, a much quoted promoter of goddess-spirituality, goddesses such as “Athene, Minerva, Anath, and the staring owl-eyed Goddess Mari were closely associated with the owl or took the owl’s shape…. Female spirits with owl wings were feared as potential kidnappers of infants….”[iii] That owls and a goddess-like deity represent good rather than evil in this story seems to contradict biblical values. Since Dawn Watkins included the myth about birds kidnapping infants, she must have known what she was doing.
When young prince Trave receives the gold Medallion that marks him as king, he reads the words engraved on the back: “To learn what is true - To believe the truth - To act on that behalf.”
The words sound Christian, but they beg a vital and basic question: “Since truth is the all important message, whose truth is taught in this book? What kind of “truth” does Trave actually learn on his journey to the throne? Does his “truth” match biblical truth? Consider these three points:
· Biblical truth is revealed in Scriptures, but the only written text in Medallion are the man-made legends engraved on a stone wall of a shrine. Trave determines to read them later.
· Biblical truth must be trusted and obeyed, but Trave (whether as prince or king) has no authority outside himself—a politically correct concept today. He may listen to counsel, but he does “what seems right in his own eyes”—a formula for failure according to the Bible. (Judges )
· The Bible tells us that truth is an everlasting Person. “I am the way, the truth and the life,” said Jesus. But the only divine personality in Trave’s life is the mysterious healer, Lady Enna. Trave’s only expression of reverence seems directed toward a deity made in the image of the world’s new permissive goddesses, not the authoritative God Christians know.
Learning, believing, and acting on truth seems to be a major theme in Medallion, but what does truth mean to Dawn Watkins, its author? In her story, Trave learns “what is true,” not by discovering God’s Word or corresponding sacred writings, but through—
1. his feelings and personal experiences
2. his encounter with Lady Enna
Christian faith is based on God’s own revelation of Himself as recorded in the Bible. Personal experience follows and confirms God’s truth. But today’s popular feeling-based spirituality reverses that order. Like New Age or feminist spirituality, today’s cross-less “Christianity” ignores God’s authority and prompts people to build their faith on the dubious authority of their own feelings and interpretations of truth.
With feminist influences infusing our culture, children learn early to seek sensual, permissive female models for an imaginary god. Education especially has been targeted as a vehicle to shift cultural loyalties from the “patriarchal” and authoritarian God of the Bible to more permissive and politically correct alternatives. Many homeschooled children who play with public schools peers—or see cartoons such as Captain Planet—are already desensitized to the world’s seductive goddesses and angelic beings that counterfeit Biblical authorities.
We shouldn’t be surprised. God warned us that “the time [would] come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4) It’s sad to see that even Christian teachers and publishers are twisting truth and conforming curricula to the self-focused cravings of our times.
[i]Re-Imagining Conference, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 1993, Tape 2-2, Side A.
[iii]Barbara Walker, The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects (HarperSanFrancisco, 1988), 404.
August 2, 1996
Bob Jones University Press
Greenville, SC 29614-0060
Dear Mr. Davis,
Thank you for sending me Medallion. After reading it, I’m afraid I must agree with Cindy Mutsch that its content is not appropriate for Christian children. Therefore, I would ask you, as someone who shares my appreciation for biblically based Christian education, to withdraw Medallion from your list of available books and curricula. I would also suggest that you write an explanatory statement to schools that have purchased it to counter some of its negative effects.
If you decide not to withdraw withdraw the book and explain why, then it is the duty of those of us who are concerned about its contents to publish our concerns in Christian publication that will reach and warn Christian parents. I believe this a biblical request, based on Matthew 18. Cindy first shared her concern with you. She asked me to join her. I hope this matter will end here. I have no desire to share the problem with the larger body of Christ or to tarnish the reputation of BJU.
I have written the following review of Medallion. I believe it summarizes my main objections.
Serving my Lord with you,