Forgotten Word Ministries
AWAKENING NARNIA WITH BACCHANALIAN FEASTS
May 14, 2008
"...the girls had waked to see Aslan standing over them and to hear his voice saying, 'We will make holiday.' ... Bacchus [Roman god of wine, madness and debauchery] and the Maenads—his fierce, madcap girls—and Silenus were still with them."[1,p.277] Prince Caspian
A year after their first adventure in Narnia, Peter, Susan, Edmund (Ed) and Lucy are headed for school. Waiting at a railroad station, they're suddenly pulled back to the magical land of talking animals. But no one welcomes them. Their old palace lies in ruins, and the forest seems lifeless. What has happened?
The answer comes from a Dwarf they rescue. He explains that Narnia was conquered by invading Telmar forces long ago. Since the current King Miraz hates supernatural creatures, they've all disappeared from sight.
The good news is that Miraz' nephew Prince Caspian loved the forbidden tales of talking animals, though he had never met any of them until recently. But when his life was threatened, he fled the palace and found refuge in their midst. Dwarfs and fauns, mice and giants accepted him as their true king. They began to prepare for war but were soon discovered by Miraz' spies. Desperate for help, Caspian blew the horn that Aslan gave Queen Susan centuries earlier. (Obviously, Narnian time doesn't match earthly time.)
It worked! The legendary High King Peter and his three royal siblings who reigned during Narnia's "Golden Age" have returned. And Aslan is on his way.
A captivating storyteller, Lewis made his fantasies come alive in the reader's imagination. Many forget that magic, divination and astrology -- both real and imagined -- clash with God's Word. Ponder these statements:
“'Doctor Cornelius!' cried Caspian with joy, and rushed forward to greet his old tutor. ... 'How ever did you find us out?' 'By a little use of simple magic, your Majesty,' said the Doctor.... 'I had a pretty good guess from my crystal as to where I should find you.'"[1,p.243]
"There was no difficulty in picking out the two stars they had come to see.... 'Are they going to have a collision?' [Caspian] asked.... 'Nay, dear Prince,' said the Doctor.... 'The great lords of the upper sky know the steps of their dance too well for that. ...their meeting is fortunate and means some great good for the sad realm of Narnia. Tarva the Lord of Victory salutes Alambil the Lady of Peace.'''[1,p.230]
“'The time is ripe,' said Glenstorm [a centaur]. 'I watch the skies, Badger, for it is mine to watch, as it is yours to remember. Tarva and Alambil have met in the halls of high heaven, and on earth a son of Adam has once more arisen....'"[1,p.239]
MAGIC - often linked to sunrise or a full moon
"'We must go to Aslan’s How [where Aslan was killed]... where there stood... a very magical Stone.'... Before sunrise they arrived.... Caspian saw strange characters and snaky patterns."[1,p.244]
"I would wait for sunrise, your Majesty," said Doctor Cornelius. "That sometimes has an effect in operations of White Magic."[1,p.246]
BLENDING TRUTH AND MYTH
God warned us that the above practices would lead to destruction, but that doesn't stop "Christians" from spreading deception. After all, today's churches tell members to "engage the culture" in order to be more relevant to the world. And why not -- when revered "Christian" authors like Lewis show the way? But this is what God's Words says:
"There shall not be found among you anyone who... practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells.... For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord..." Deuteronomy 18:10-12
There's nothing wrong with learning some sobering facts about the capricious deities of long ago. Actual history -- in contrast to man-made myth and seductive suggestions -- strengthens our discernment. But children who are exposed to enticing pagan fantasies may soon learn to "love evil more than good" (Psalm 52:3) -- especially when the magic is marketed through supposedly "Christian" books.
Since Lewis was a master at blending "Christian" suggestions with ancient myths, his "light" paganism may not even be noticed. And since Aslan has been praised as a model of Jesus, even adults are quick to justify his contrary actions. How, then, can we expect children to resist his message? What clues might they pick up from this next statement?
"[The trees] seemed to be the friendly, lovely giant and giantess forms, which the tree-people put on when some good magic has called them into full life...."[1,p.259]
From a Christian perspective the word "good" is misleading, but not surprising. God's people have been twisting His truth since the beginning of time. That's why God warned us in Isaiah 5:20: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil."
AWAKENING "OLD NARNIA"
Narnia's mystical restoration requires "magical thinking," an acquired skill that has nothing to do with God's Word. It means turning everything God teaches us upside down. The scenes below illustrate it well:
"The moon was bright.... Nearer and nearer came the music, a tune wild and yet dreamy... till at last, out from the wood into the moonlight, came dancing shapes.... Their curly heads had little horns, the upper part of their bodies gleamed naked in the pale light, but their legs and feet were those of goats. 'Fauns!' cried Caspian."[1,p.240]
That description fits Pan, the Greek god of shepherds and sexuality. His "father" was either Zeus or Hermes, the legendary source of Hermetic magic. In fact, Lewis often included such mythical gods in his stories. One disturbing example is in That Hideous Strength, where Lewis linked the ruling Roman god Jove (Jupiter) to our King of kings! "Suddenly a greater spirit came," he wrote, announcing the main source of victorious power. "For this was great Glund-Oyarsa, King of Kings... known to men in old times as Jove..."
But in Prince Caspian, Aslan is the ruling god and the main source of magical power. It's his presence that transforms Narnia. And Lucy was the first to notice. She "began to feel that the whole forest was coming awake" and imagined how the trees would look in their human shapes. She knew that the beech tree "would be a gracious goddess....” while others would be "tree-gods." All would bow to Aslan! [1,p.252, 260]
She didn't have to wait long!
"Aslan, who seemed larger than before, lifted his head, shook his mane, and roared. The sound, deep and throbbing... became louder, and then far louder again, till the earth and air were shaking with it...."
By now, all kinds of creatures are flocking to Aslan, including the "pretty" Bacchus, who looked "extremely wild." So did the girls that followed him.
As in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, there are two sources of magical power: Aslan and the White Witch. Both are enemies to the evil King Miraz who has usurped the throne. Though the witch never makes an appearance, her evil followers prefer her dark magic to Aslan's "good" magic. Both clash with God's Word, but the latter is far more deceptive.
The huge crowd dances around Aslan, but Aslan's favorite disciple seems to be the licentious Bacchus, who produces lots of wine and food for the feast -- "more than anyone could possibly want." And the diners had "no table-manners at all. One saw sticky and stained fingers everywhere and, though mouths were full, the laughter never ceased nor the yodeling cries of Euan, euan, eu-oi-oi-oi-oi...."[1,p.265]
The decadent feast ends shortly before sunrise. But after some plans are made and battles fought, it picks up again. Aslan calls for "a holiday," and his followers are delighted.
“'Come, children,' said [Aslan].'Ride on my back again today.'
“'Oh, lovely!' cried Lucy, and both girls climbed onto the warm golden back.... Then the whole party moved off—Aslan leading, Bacchus and his Maenads leaping, rushing, and turning somersaults, the beasts frisking round them...."[1,p.277]
With flutes playing and "cymbals clashing," they come to a bridge where they meet "the river-god:"
"...out of the water came a great wet, bearded head, larger than a man’s, crowned with rushes. It looked at Aslan, and out of its mouth a deep voice came. 'Hail, Lord,' it said. 'Loose my chains.'
“'Bacchus,' said Aslan. 'Deliver him from his chains.'
By whose power would the wild Bacchus "deliver" this "god"? What kinds of beliefs and values might this scene leave in a child's imagination?
"Bacchus and his people splashed forward into the shallow water.... The walls of the bridge turned into hedges ... [and] collapsed into the swirling water. With much splashing, screaming, and laughter the revelers waded or swam or danced across the ford.[1,p.278]
Their next stop was a girl's school. Since little Gwendolen was staring out the window, the teacher scolded her. But "there's a lion," the girl protested. Miss Prizzle's angry response was interrupted by Aslan's roar. Finding herself surrounded by "wild people," Miss Prizzle "screamed and fled" with her class of "dumpy, prim little girls." But Gwendolen waited.
“'You’ll stay with us, sweetheart?' said Aslan.
“'Oh, may I? Thank you, thank you,' said Gwendolen. Instantly she joined hands with two of the Maenads, who whirled her round in a merry dance and helped her take off some of the unnecessary and uncomfortable clothes that she was wearing."[1,p.278]
The revelry continues with the infamous Midsummer night, which historically was celebrated with a huge bonfire (to protect against evil spirits), and plenty to drink and eat:
"...the Red Dwarfs came forward with their tinder boxes and set light to the pile.... And everyone sat down in a wide circle round it. Then Bacchus and Silenus and the Maenads began a dance, far wilder than the dance of the trees... a magic dance of plenty, and where their hands touched, and where their feet fell, the feast came into existence—sides of roasted meat... and cataracts of fruit. Then... wreathed with ivy, came the wines; dark, thick ones ... yellow wines and green wines."
"...all night Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes." [1,p.282-283]
A DOOR BETWEEN WORLDS
Just as in Pullman's Golden Compass, there are secret openings between worlds. Here, Lewis equates Prince Caspian's call for outside help with Aladdin's invocation of the Jinn.
"'Aren’t there lots of stories about magic forcing people... out of one world—into another? I mean, when a magician in "The Arabian Nights" calls up a Jinn, it has to come. We had to come, just like that.'...
"'And now we know what it feels like for the Jinn,' said Edmund with a chuckle."[1,p.247]
Finally, it's time to go home. Aslan explains the options to the Telmarines,
"'...will you go back to that island in the world of men from which your fathers first came?... The chasm is open for your return, but... it will close behind you forever.'
"...a burly, decent-looking fellow among the Telmarine soldiers pushed forward and said: 'Well, I’ll take the offer.'
“'It is well chosen,' said Aslan. 'And because you have spoken first, strong magic is upon you. Your future in that world shall be good.... Go through it, my son.'"[1,p.284]
All who choose to leave Narnia move through the Door in a long line. The last ones are the four children. They glimpse the new home of the Telmarines, then find themselves back at the railroad station.
Lewis knew how to make pagan fantasy sound like Christian reality. One key to his success is the dialectic process, the formula is simple: Truth (thesis) + myth, opinion or suggestion (antithesis) = a new worldview (synthesis). In this evolving process, even Christian children are drawn away from their Biblical foundations.
This is spiritual warfare, and God gave us His Armor for such a time as this:
not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against
powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against
spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore
take up the whole
armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day...."
C. S. Lewis, Prince Caspian, The Complete Chronicles of Narnia
(HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 1998).