“He proceeds to put some secret mark upon himself with the point of a needle, as the sign of the Beast or Antichrist, in which mark there is great potency.”
Richard Cumberland, The Observer (1785)
Some opponents of the covid vaccine are equating the jab with the apocalyptic “mark of the Beast,” and some vaccine proponents are lending plausibility to this theory by demanding that only the vaccinated be allowed to “buy and sell.” This theory is, however, embarrassed by the fact that scripture tells us that the “mark of the Beast” will be received on the right hand or forehead, and that the mark will be “the name of the Beast or the number of its name” (Rev. 13:17-18).
My view is that the right hand is a symbol of a man’s works, as it was when Christ observed that amputation of this member is preferable to eternal damnation. The forehead I take to symbolize a man’s faith, and the mark on his forehead to be the mark (St. John says “name”) of the god or gods to which he bows. The true mark is impressed on the mind that has its seat behind his forehead, but the forehead is also a billboard for outward signs. Consider the zabiba or “prayer bump” of a devout Muslim, or the tilak of a devout Hindu. Many Christians, of course, mark the forehead with oil, ashes, and the sign of the cross. Thus, Tertullian wrote in in the first century:
“In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupieth us, we mark our forehead with the sign of the cross.”*
A man who is marked on both his right hand and forehead is, therefore, a man who serves his god in the works his of his right hand and the faith of his mind. He has faith in the promises of his god, and he conducts himself accordingly.
I think it may be significant that the Beast is satisfied with less thoroughgoing votaries and is equally pleased with those who say that they believe his promises and those who only act like they do. But however complete and thoroughgoing it may be, the “mark of the Beast” is an outward sign of submission to the Beast. It is the bestial equivalent of the rites with which the ancient Israelites attested their submission to God.
“This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips” (Exodus 13:9).
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In my epigraph, Richard Cumberland notes that most old authors agree that a witch receives a stigma when she enters Satan’s service (and so does a masculine sorcerer). The word stigma literally means a mark made by a sharp or smoldering stick. This so-called “witch’s mark” is therefore the brand or earmark with which Satan marks his cattle; but it is also the token with which a witch proves that she is entitled to the promises of her god.
You must recall that a witch receives her “witch’s mark” when she binds herself to Satan in a compact. In this compact, Satan promises the witch magical power and puts a lesser demon in her service. Her “witch’s mark” is, in a sense, the receipt or IOU with which she proves to this “familiar” that she has paid for, and is entitled to, his diabolical services. If a witch undertakes extraordinary magic, her “witch’s mark” shows that she has paid for, and is entitled to, the supplemental service of what amount to demonic temp workers.
The old witch hunters believed that the flesh of a “witch’s mark” was preternaturally dead and was therefore cold to the touch and insensitive to pain. This is why we often compare very cold weather to the frigid dug or pap of a witch. It is why a “witch’s tit” is often said to be a dry and shriveled thing. The breasts of a natural woman signify life because they figure so largely in acts of generation and nurture. The breasts of a witch, on the other hand . . .
Well, let us consider the witch Geraldine in Coleridge’s poem Christabel (1800). Geraldine appears voluptuous and lovely, but her true witchy nature sometimes breaks through, like a terrible vision, and apalls Christabel.
“Again she saw that bosom old,
Again she saw that bosom cold”
The old, cold bosom of Geraldine is, as Cumberland says, a “secret mark,” and so is normally concealed under her silken robe and witchery. A witch does not wear her “witch’s mark” on her forehead.
Or rather she does not do so until the day of the Beast arrives.
* * * * *
To carry the mark of one’s god on one’s forehead is to carry it openly, boldly, and for all to see. This is why diffident Christians (such as I) find excuses to postpone the imposition of ashes until the very end of Ash Wednesday. Unlike Geraldine’s cold and withered bosom, a man cannot hide the mark of his god behind a silken robe and witchery when that mark is graven on his forehead.
From this I surmise that St. John’s “mark of the Beast” is really just a witch’s mark worn with pride!
When Geraldine first disrobes before Christabel and the illusion of her witchery fails, Geraldine says to Christabel:
“Thou knowest tonight, and wilt know tomorrow,
This mark of my shame, this seal of my sorrow.”
If Geraldine were living in the day of the Beast, when men and women openly profess and practice worship of the Beast, she might say this instead:
“Thou wilt knowest tomorrow, and know tonight,
This mark of my pride, seal of my delight.”
To wear the mark of the Beast on one’s right hand and forehead is to openly profess one’s faith in the Beast, and to openly act accordingly. On the day of the Beast, the women will boast that no babes will ever suckle at their breasts, and the men will grow lusty when they leer at those “bosoms cold.”
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In the day of the Beast (which may be today), a Christian will be tempted to try a crafty “juggling of faith with idolatry.” The phrase is from Tertullian, who was writing in the first century and explaining how hard it is to avoid idolatry when one is surrounded by idolaters. This is because it is very hard not to tacitly concede their “truth.” Going along with their idolatrous untruths avoids trouble, and this makes it seem like the kind, the decent, perhaps even the Christian thing to do.
Tertullian asks us to imagine that a Christian has performed an act of charity to a heathen, and that the grateful heathen has therefore blessed the Christian in the name of his, the heathen’s, god. Churlish as it may seem, Tertullian tells us that the Christian must expressly, perhaps angrily, refuse that blessing. To receive it is to tacitly concede the heathen’s “truth.” It is to allow that there might be such a god, and therefore that such a blessing might possibly be given.
If you allow the votary of a strange god to bless you in the name of his god, your acquiescence marks you as a casual votary of his god. Thus, Tertullian tells us:
“To be blessed in the name of the gods of the Heathen is to be cursed in God’s name.”**
What is true of the gods of the Heathen must surely be true of the Beast, so to be blessed (rather than cursed) by beastly votaries of the Beast is to become a votary of the Beast and to wear his mark.
“All disowning is idolatry, even as all idolatry is disowning.”**
Bowing to an idol is idolatry, and to do so is to disown God and be disowned by God. When you bow to the Beast, you rise with his mark on your forehead. But Tertullian tells us that refusing to bow to the Beast is not enough, since we wear his mark whenever we do not wear the mark of the Lord on our right hand and forehead.
Therefore, in the slang of today, “going grey” is not an option because the road to heaven does not lead through “strategic ambiguity.”
If a Christian “keeps his mouth shut” when the Beast is praised, that Christian by his muteness “disowns” God and joins in that praise of the Beast. If you are hoping that the beastly ones will mistakenly think you are one of them, Tertullian has this shocking thing to say.
In the eyes of God, trying to pass as beastly is itself a mark of the Beast.
“It is the fault of cowardice, when another bindeth thee by his own gods, through an oath or any other form of testimony, and thou, lest thou be discovered, remainest silent.”**
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How does another bindeth me by his own (false) gods? Most obviously he does this by inviting me to participate in worship of those gods, even if only as a “gesture of respect.” In the case of modern beastliness, he does this by inviting me to celebrate beastly things that I ought to abhor. Most of us have the good sense to refuse this snare of open idolatry, but Tertullian tells us it is not enough to retreat into “respectful silence” because respectful silence is, to put it bluntly, respectful.
When it comes to false gods, and more especially to the Beast, we are required to be loudly disrespectful, since those who do not “disown” the Beast are owned by the Beast, and those who are owned by the Beast will most certainly wear his brand.
*) Tertullian “Of the Crown” (c. 100 A.D.)
**) Tertullian “Of Idolatry” (c. 100 A.D.)