The chains of religious indoctrination are not the easiest to overcome. I have seen countless documentaries and interviews of people who have left abusive cults and a common theme is that even though they had escaped the cult they still believe in the teachings on some level. I don’t think that this is true solely for abusive cults, but any indoctrinating and dogmatic religious system.
As a child I was raised in a church system (which I won’t name by name), which is sort of like a marriage between two of the most radical denominations of protestant Christianity – Pentecostal and Evangelical. At an early age on Good Friday, I would watch live re-enactment plays of the Crucifixion. They would flicker the lights and random people in the audience (who were playing a small part of the people who gathered around Jesus during the Crucifixtion) would begin screaming things amongst the chaos such as “Crucify him!” in a blood curdling tone. To say the experience was terrifying is an understatement.
At our Sunday School we would play games and they’d do little skits and such and every now and then a man wearing the mask of the Devil would pop out from behind the stage screaming and drag one of the “sinners” of the play “off to hell” when you least expected it. We would sing repetitive songs over and over, drilling ideas into our heads.
During main church services tons of songs were sung, most of them very upbeat and ecstatic. As a witch I can look back and see that they were raising power. After the power was raised it was then wielded like a chaotic energetic weapon throughout the room. People would begin speaking in tongues, being slain by the spirit in which case the Holy spirit would cause people to seemingly seizure on the ground and cry and scream and the pastor would do that thing where he anoints people’s heads and they’d all faint by the holy spirit’s power.
After the trauma was induced upon the room, it was then time to start the indoctrination. Sermons were given mostly on “sins”, the devil and how we’re all in a battle against dark forces that needs to be taken seriously during these apocalyptic times. The latter being a major theme of most of my indoctrination. In fact it was a central theme to the summer camps I’d go to every year.
To get a better understanding of what these camps were like, I highly suggest the documentary Jesus Camp. We were taught to “lay down our lives for Christ” and emphasis was on religious battle songs and being “soldiers for Jesus”. We were divided into groups with names such as “Christian Crusaders”, “Galatian Gladiators”, “Armageddon’s Army” and “Soldiers Against Satan”. We’d be given group “points” similar to the Harry Potter Movies for prizes based on winning games, testifying, reciting bible verses by heart and showing that we were being indoctrinated in various ways.
While we may denounce a previous religion that we grew up with, removing the deeply rooted seeds that paint your world view is much more difficult. Never underestimate the power of brainwashing, even if you think you are free of it. Fear has often been a tool for religions looking to control people, their way of thinking and their actions as it taps deeply into the reptilian portion of our brains. Witches of the past understood this, which gave rise to ritual practices that were used to unroot those deeply rooted seeds and liberate oneself from these shackles.
A popular practice along these lines was reciting the Lord’s Prayer backwards while visualizing chains around you falling off as discussed in Paul Huson’s classic Mastering Witchcraft. The purpose isn’t blasphemy for the sake of blasphemy, it isn’t to necessarily about disrespecting a religion. These practices and personal and private and are meant as a way of embracing a taboo to gain power over it, psychologically reversing the impact of the beliefs and liberating oneself from that bondage. It is entirely possibly that the Black Mass of Satanic traditions had a similar origin.
Witchcraft tends to also be big on contracts with the spirits. When entering into any religious tradition there tends to be contracts that are formed through the practices, although not identified as such. An example would be “accepting Jesus in your heart as Lord and Master” or devoting your life to a deity or practice through prayers.
As such, another effective method is doing a ritual petition spell, where instead of writing what contract you are entering, focusing on what contract you would like to leave. While contracts should not be viewed lightly or broken at a whim, I think when it comes to previous indoctrination it is fully acceptable, especially if you entered into a contract without knowing so or the contract was forced upon you as a child.
An example contract to illustrate this point would be opening ritual space as you normally would and writing on parchment with dragon’s blood the following:
“I, Mat Auryn, ask the God and Goddess of Witches to assist and bear witness to this statement of my own free-will. From this point forward any contracts, commitments or terms connected to the institution, Church, spirits and gods of Christianity made knowingly and unknowingly are hereby void. I renounce the fear, rewards, indoctrination, dogma and beliefs of this religious system. I release and dissolve all thought-forms connected to this religious system as I peacefully part from any and all spirits and gods of the Christian Church, by the power of my Higher Will and the power of the God and Goddess of Witches. I thank the God and Goddess of Witches for assisting and bearing witness to this nullification of past contracts.
As I will it, so mote it be.
Roll up the petition and tie it with a black piece of string or cord. This would be the perfect time to raise energy by performing the Lord’s Prayer backwards and visualizing those chains releasing and knowing that you’re being freed, if you choose to embrace this method. When you’ve raised an efficient amount of energy burn the petition at the climax within your cauldron, which is the tool of transformation, knowing that the petition is moving from this plane of reality to the unseen realities.
This would be best performed on the waning moon during the hour of Saturn for endings. You may also want to follow this up on the waxing or full moon with a re-dedication to your gods and spirits and renewal of your other oaths and contracts during the hour of Jupiter for contracts.
Others may wish to not completely void or release their connection to the spirits and gods of a previous system but rather re-orient and re-define how they wish to work with them. This would be the case for “Christian Witches” who work with a Christian paradigm in their Craft. While this is not necessarily my beliefs or views, I have known many powerful witches and magickians who work within a Christian paradigm.
I also know some people tend to look towards folk traditions of magick that incorporate saints, psalms and the gods of Christianity as a way of reclaiming their past upbringing and reorienting their relationship with those spirits. Of course that isn’t to say that all folk magick practitioners of that flavor are doing it as a reclamation or that they’re witches. If this works for you, go for it. The spirits we work with and the relationships we have with them are extremely personal and no one should dictate those to you.