How Doreen Changed Lives
Personal TestimoniesI thoroughly enjoyed reading your review of Doreen Irvine's "From Witchcraft to Christ." I recall this book being my RE text in high school, and I still remember parts of it quite vividly.
This was an ordinary secular high school, back in the late 1980s, in Northern Ireland. As I recall, we had one period of Religious Education per week, and for at least half the year, that period consisted entirely of the class reading "From Witchcraft to Christ." Very poor education, in my opinion, as it wasn't even learning about Christian beliefs per se, just some tabloid-esque autobiography.
As I recall, each pupil had their own copy of the book, so it was obviously school approved, and not the teacher freelancing, as such. I guess the curriculum wasn't quite so strict in those days.
As a fifteen year old living in a Protestant community, I naturally believed Irvine's story without question, and I think it's fair to say that it coloured my views on the occult to a great extent. I'm amazed by how much of the book I remember. I recall about her turning herself invisible, seeing Satan manifest himself. One especially hilarious moment was when she was being exorcised and one of the demons had the name "Lesbian."
I'm actually re-reading the book at the moment, and I will review it shortly at: http://www.youtube.com/darrylsloan.
Anyone else who remembers being frightened out of their wits as a child by Doreen's book might like to add their two-pennyworth. Please email your experiences to Tony Rhodes using the address at the foot of the page.
The Book Which Helped Fuel The Satanic Panic
A Review of Doreen Irvine's
Originally Written For The War on Witchcraft
From Witchcraft To Christ was written for the Christian Pound and embodied what evangelical Christians wanted to hear. Published by Concordia Publishing House Ltd, an offshoot of The Evangelical Lutherian Church of England in Cambridge (itself a mission outreach of the Lutherian Church of America), it was reprinted eighteen (18) times until the 1988 edition co-incided with the embryonic Satanic Ritual Child Abuse Myth which was publicly announced by the NSPCC in July 1989. But that does not explain why this jumble of irrational nonsense was considered relevant to it.
This supposed story of Christian Redemption from Witchcraft was written by self-confessed ex-prostitute and heroin addict Doreen Irvine who in her former life as an exotic dancer had billed herself at Soho strip-clubs as 'Daring Diana'. She says she was imprisoned in Holloway circa 1954 for drug offences when she was aged 21 but the police didn't seem too interested in the occult activities she later claimed she was involved in when she wrote her book.
In fact this is probably the most unbelievable aspect of the whole set of ridiculous allegations. Doreen has been hawking these dastardly tales of Satanic Excess for over thirty years and the police haven't yet been called in to investigate!
There are twenty one chapters in Witchcraft to Christ. Only two of them actually relate her experiences with the occult. The other 19 detail how she became a born-again christian with the help of evangelicals who exorcised her of her 'sinful' past. The book is more a manual of exorcism and evangelical conversion than it is a revelation about a supposed hidden world of the occult yet even though her claims were uncorroborated it was used as a source by journalists and social workers who promoted the Satanic Panic in the 1990s.
Early Childhood Experiences
In her book Irvine includes details of her childhood up to the age of 13 when she ran away from home. She came from a very deprived background, the eldest of a family of six children. Born in 1935 and living her formative years in a sink estate in Uxbridge during the war her story of the poverty her family experienced is shocking to modern ears but unfortunately all too common for lower working class children of the time.
Her family were a classic illustration of the social problems besetting pre and post war England. Dirty, dishevelled, nit-ridden and living in appalling conditions with a drunken father and dysfunctional mother Doreen Irvine , through necessity, became independent and self-reliant at an age when other girls were still playing with dollies.
I will accept the story of this part of her life as being accurate though much of her account during these times seems to have been over-larded by her ghost-writer/editors for dramatic effect. For example Irvine says that there was never any food on the table at home and the kids often ate 'bread and dripping' but during WWII with strict rationing few people had enough to eat and most kids had their share of bread and dripping.
Similarly much of the book does not ring true because it is written in the first person singular using language which no eleven year old would ever use: for example
'Then my sharp eyes noticed my step-mother was expecting a baby. "Oh, I see now, Yer in the club" I said in true Cockney fashion.'and
"Well it's your fault - yer and yer fancy woman" I yelled.
She portrays her father as a wife-beating no-account drunkard but as he also had a job as a dustbin-man and there is never any allegations that he physically abused his kids, what we see between the lines is one family amongst many of the time who were oppressed by a cycle of poverty from which they could not escape.
Despite this Irvine is at pains to stress that she regularly went to Sunday School and was a member of the CAWG Messengers (a kind of evangelical Brownies) so whilst trying to convey the idea that her home life was completely dysfunctional, her parents obviously weren't the worst by any means.
There is a suspicion that this part of the book may have been larded to obtain the sympathies of the reader.
The most important point about her early life for our purposes though is the fact that there is absolutely no suggestion, allegation or inference in her book that Doreen was sexually or physically abused, ritually or otherwise, during her childhood, nor that her parents or anyone she knew had been in any way connected with the occult. This is in stark contrast to all the 'satanic survivor' books which came later which try to establish the idea of a multi-generational satanic conspiracy to abuse and corrupt children.
Doreen Falls Into the hands of Evangelicals
Doreen Irvine was sucked into the evangelical circuit during Billy Graham's first religious Crusade to the UK in 1954. Her deliverance apparently 'didn't work' but afterwards she met Arthur Neil a Bristol Baptist minister who repetitively exorcised her. In the Catholic Times (13th March 1994) a review of Doreen's Book included the statement that to free herself from her 'satanic past' she had to go through more than thirty (30) exorcisms to get rid of forty (40) Demons. (now that's got to hurt!)
In his Preface to From Witchcraft to Christ Arthur Neil claims that he and his evangelical chums spent seven months exorcising and indoctrinating Doreen for Jesus. I know a few psychiatrist who would consider that a form of abuse in itself. According to Neil one Demon called, perhaps appropriately, Dementia, vowed he would destroy Doreen's brain before he would 'come-out'. (I will resist the temptation to say 'if he could find it' - her book is replete with strange statements positied as fact which most folk would find highly irrational )
In an article in Woman magazine (June 1975) Arthur Neil was reported as saying:
"The neurological unit of a Bristol hospital took X-rays showing she had such extensive brain damage they couldn't understand why she was still alive. Later, after all the demons had been exorcised, they took a second set and this time there was no sign of damage. They said she was a living miracle"Arthur Neil didn't mention the demon of Heroin. Doreen had been mainlining it for some time. Heroin destroys brain cells and creates similar affects to Alzheimer's disease. Researchers have recently discovered that brain cells can regenerate themselves over time and breaking her Heroin habit for seven months would help this along so this situation is neither proof of demon infestation or the power of exorcism. What it suggests is that Doreen probably wasn't feeling herself.
Doreen Becomes Infamous
Doreen Irvine first hit the headlines with claims of Satanism (but not child abuse, note) in December 1971 when The Sunday Mirror, published an article titled The Growing Cult of Evil forming a kind of advance advertising for a BBC2 film Power of The Witch to be broadcast the following week. In this article Doreen Irvine was pseudonymed 'Mary' and cooperated with a Church Army Captain, Barry Irons, from Birmingham to counter the claims of witchcraft.
The clue to the atmosphere at the time, which is an important point for those who did not live through those days, is in the title of Doreen's book. Her obvious intention was to warn the public off the then growing interest in Witchcraft and Paganism which the newspapers themselves had created by giving publicity to self-styled Witches who had 'come-out' to explain the issues surrounding their beliefs. Paramount amongst these were Alex and Maxine Sanders and Charles Pace who left a trail of provocative publicity behind them during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Irvine believes there is 'battle for hearts and minds' between Christianity and neo-Paganism. Chapter 13 where she alleges, incorrectly, that Occult Leaders were colluding in a prearranged plan to repackage Witchcraft to make it acceptable to the masses:
Many people, especially the young, were taking a fresh interest in the occult. It was important to give witchcraft a new look... and make witchcraft less sinister. Make it look like a natural, innocent adventure.... NOW was the time to trap people. Once people were involved in witchcraft, it would be too late to get out.... Many new [covens] were springing up and it was important to encourage new members. White witches were swelling their ranks; therefore they also had to attract new members....'
This 'battle' for minds did not actually exist - it was a result of the way that Christian fundamentalists saw the re-emergence of neo-paganism. The interest in alternative beliefs of any kind was seen by them as the fulfilment of biblical prophecy concerning the 'second coming' of Jesus which said it would be marked by a last effort by Satan to take over the world. Denials from Witches were disbelieved. Witches or Satanists did not have to do anything - it was all self-fulfilling prophecy.
Though there were plenty of books dealing with the historical perspective of the occult, From Witchcraft To Christ was the very first Christian book which made allegations that Crime and sexual perversion related to Witchcraft was actually ongoing in modern Britain but the main message of the book was that Witches were on the march, not that they were abusing children.
Irvine's fears were shared by many evangelical christian activists and this synchronised with the then current claims from the newspapers that a hidden witchcraft sub-culture existed in suburbia where ostensibly respectable middle-class couples drew their curtains, took off their clothes, danced naked and had group sex most weekends. In the Swinging Sixtes the 'Witchcraft Orgy' was an inevitable development of 'Sixties Swingers (wife swapping)' which the hypocritical masses could then tut-tut over in the pages of their Sunday newspaper.
This wasn't what genuine witchcraft was about but From Witchcraft To Christ was plainly a missionary strategy not restricted to portraying the truth. The book is a kind of modern parable sensationalised to capture the attention of the masses in order to counteract the publicity which was increasing the public's interest in witchcraft following the freeing up of speech during the 1960s social revolution.
Doreen Doesn't Know Witchcraft from Satanism
Doreen's diatribe was an example of how Christ can save the repentant it was not intended to establish the idea of Satanic Ritual Child Abuse. That term had not even been invented at the time. Indeed claims of SRA or ritual abuse were nowhere to be found in the book. They were developed many years later in the U.S. and then imported into the U.K. whereupon, because Irvine had for years promoted herself as a renegade witch queen, she was called upon to 'rubber-stamp' the allegations that Satanic Ritual Child Abuse existed (even though she had never previously mentioned it!).
In fact if the content of her book is anything to go by Doreen had little if any knowledge of real occultism. Her story smacks heavily of the ingenuine as I will show below. The biggest mistake she makes is the fundamental error, often committed by extremist Christians and the ignorant masses alike, of equating Satanism with Witchcraft.
This is a mistake no trained witch or satanist (even one who later turned to Christianity) would ever make because the two beliefs are completely incompatible. Satanism is the negative aspect of the Christian Religion. Satan is, by their own holy books, a fallen Christian Angel. To be a Satanist you must therefore give credence to both Jehovah and Satan and perforce be a lapsed Christian, not a Pagan.
Witchcraft has nothing to do with Christianity or Satanism. Witchcraft is actually the remnant of a much older pagan religious belief with its roots in prehistoric Celtic tribes. The indigenous people of the ancient British Isles were Pagan for thousands of years before Christian Missionaries appeared on our shores and began to attack the existing religion of Paganism as 'counterfeit' (much in the same way as Doreen is doing here a thousand years later). For goodness sake - Witches do not even have a Devil figure in their cosmology but evangelicals have always distrusted any form of religious competition for offering an alternative world-view to theirs.
Satanism is so different from Witchcraft that there is more common ground between Islam and Christianity than there is between Witchcraft and Satanism. Satanists do not, by and large, fraternise with Witches as Doreen Irvine claims in her book. In fact there is often animosity between these two groups precisely because ignorant people, like Doreen and her mates, confuse one with the other.
Neophyte witches and satanists learn these crucial distinctions right from the start so the claims Irvine makes suggest that she has never ever come into contact with a real coven. This Satanism Vs Witchcraft problem was one the Cook Report had to contend with and they are on public record as confirming the differences between Satanism and Witchcraft. They realised that their Devil's Work TV special had to limit itself to accusations against solely Satanists to be taken seriously because by 1989 Neo-Paganism had been recognised by many people as a genuine non-harmful belief followed by tens of thousands of good and decent people.
Either Doreen Irvine is purposefully confusing Witchcraft with Satanism because she doesn't know the difference or her stories about Satanic linked Witchcraft cults are just the fantasies of an untutored sectarian with an axe to grind. The latter is more likely to be the case as you will see by some of the quotations below.
Book Not Taken Seriously By The Mainstream
Indeed if From Witchcraft to Christ was considered at all by the mainstream during the 1970s it was as an amusing sectarian aberration. It is only with the advent of the Satanic Ritual Child Abuse Myth during the 1980s (which was imported into the U.K. by fundamentalist Christians and backed by leading-edge social work radicals), that Irvine's book began to be taken seriously due to the paucity of other evidence to support these now discredited allegations, key amongst which was the supposed existence of a world-wide network of Satanic groups whose sole intention was to sacrifice babies, abuse children and corrupt adults. Such a network simply didn't exist but Doreen's book had said it did. Who to believe?
The statements made in From Witchcraft to Christ were highly sensational for the time and were generally disbelieved by all opinion makers save for other Christian fundamentalists for whom the book was obviously penned. Which is why it's evil seed lay fallow for a decade until it bloomed upon the importation of the Satanic Ritual Child Abuse Myth in the 1980s.
For example; if we look at the two chapters dealing with her supposed occult experiences we find error compounded on technical error, glaring gaps in the understanding and the knowledge of witchcraft and satanic titles as well as flights of fancy which could not possibly have occurred.
The Praemonstrator of the supposed Satanic Temple is not called by any of his usual appellations (e.g. Praemonstrator, The Man in Black, High Priest, Ipssissimus) but instead is continually titled by her as 'The Chief Satanist'. She obviously doesn't know the traditional titles yet would have had to if she had regularly addressed these people as she claims.
The first Satanic gathering Irvine says she went to was according to her attended by 500 satanists and was under the aegis of 'the most ancient order of Satanism in the world'. There is no current or past Satanic order which lays claim to being The most Ancient Order of Satanism in The World. As the Occult Census statistics show this number of Satanists in one place in the U.K. would be an impossibility in the 1950s. The largest worldwide gathering of Satanists occurred in the USA recently under the Panoply of The Temple of Set and this only managed 700 satanists out of a population of 280 million.
Arise Black Witch Queen!
Irvine claimed to have been elected the Black Witch Queen. This is a meaningless title derived no doubt from the then frequent appearances in the British Press of Alex Sanders who, as a joke, titled himself The King of The Witches. It stuck and his wife Maxine Sanders became billed as 'Queen of The Witches'. There is no such title in Witchcraft, ancient or modern and witch queens are never 'elected' which completely undermines chapter twelve of From Witchcraft to Christ. This chapter contains an imaginary tale of how Irvine was supposedly elected by a clandestine meeting of a thousand witches on Dartmoor gathered there for that purpose. The improbability of 1,000 souls performing a ceremony in secret on the completely open country of Dartmoor without detection beggars belief. It is almost as believable as Irvine's claim to have proved herself to the assembly by walking through a flaming bonfire and meeting 'Diabolos' in its centre!
I walked confidently into the flames of seven feet or more all the time calling my great master, Diablos. Suddenly I saw him materialise before me - a great black figure. I took his hand and walked with him to the centre of the great blaze. There I paused with the great flames leaping around me... not even the smell of burning was upon my loose witch's robe or my long flowing hair. 'It didn't ever happen, and Irvine has never produced any names, dates or other evidence to prove it did. Like the rest of her book, we only have her word for it in fact evidence, locations and names are singularly notable by their almost complete absence throughout From Witchcraft To Christ
As if to sidestep complaints about the lack of corroborative evidence Irvine includes a rider before the Preface.
Author's Note: I have of necessity omitted many details of my former life, the people I was associated with at this time and other personal details....the timing and sequence of events ...covers a very wide period...they should not be read as a continuing sequence with an assumed time span.... The reason for this was to ....avoid having to relate definite dates and situations with known persons living or dead.
Later she gets up more steam and begins to show us who her intended audience really is:
'All meetings [of witches] include awful scenes of perverted sexual acts, as sex plays an important part in witchcraft. Many black witches are Lesbians or Homosexuals.
There is no need to delve further into the MANY mistakes, errors and misleading statements in this book to establish that the claims made with regard to Satanism and Witchcraft in From Witchcraft To Christ are a flight of fancy, but I will end with some nice examples to underline the point.
Be Warned: those who walk down the dark road of witchcraft lose their reason, often going completely insane.' [Ed: There is not one case we know of where witchcraft has caused sane people to become insane but the same cannot be said of evangelical Christianity]
Practices called Voodoo by Black Witches were also followed by white witches. [Ed: Voodoo is the ancestral tribal pagan religion of natives from the West Coast of Africa and has nothing whatsoever to do with Celtic Paganism or Satanism and witches do not 'follow it'.]
In olden times one or two satanic chiefs had power from Lucifer to perform [surgical] operations on themselves and others. No drugs were used n these operations. Furthermore no scar remained where incisions were made. [Ed: Doreen appears to be trying to tie-in claims of Psychic Surgery which were first made around this time. Psychic Surgery is not practiced by Satanists or Witches though the latter do have a tradition of herbal healing. ]
Despite the shock-horror inuendo the only definite criminal Acts which Irvine recorded as taking place during her tenure as The Black Witch Queen was the killing of two Cocks for sacrifice, whose blood Irvine claims to have been made to drink, yet there is absolutely no traditional rite in Witchcraft or Satanism which requires such an offering. Most Pagans are nature lovers and animal lovers. The last thing they would do is harm another living thing.
Doreen's Sectarian Fantasies Gather Momentum
From Witchcraft to Christ continued to indoctrinate extremist Christians as it was sold in most Christian bookshops and by mail. Doreen Irvine promoted it further in travelling crusade shows to already sold audiences on the church lecture circuit both here and abroad whilst becoming a celebrated example of a faith in Christianity being able to defeat 'Witchcraft'.
The British Media consistently gave Doreen publicity wherever she went and promoted her claims about Satanism without checking either the facts or rarely including any balancing quotes or comments from Satanists themselves. It is testimony to the gullibility of the dim-witted British public that these sensational stories, offered without evidence from a pudding faced lady who looked like your average Mrs Mop could have been taken completely on trust.
During the early 1990s Doreen Irvine got caught up in the Satanic Ritual Abuse Myth and amongst other things appeared alongside Maureen Davies and Audrey Harper in Jeremiah Film's rabid video Devil Worshp, The Rise of Satanism which sold in the thousands carrying the message that Satanic Ritual Child Abuse was endemic when as we now all know, it didn't even exist.
By then Doreen wasn't the Queen of Black Witches, She was the Queen of The Holy Rollers. In a massively anti-occult article in She magazine in April 1987, with absolutely no balance, fairness or counter-quotes from anyone involved in the occult, Caitlin Morris, to her eternal shame, compiled a three page special titled Talk of The Devil where she gave fundamentalist bigots the space to vent their hate for another religion. Doreen Irvine's latest work is promoted:
'People come from all over the country and from abroad. Doctors have sent patients who have not responded to any known treatment and Doreen has been able to identify an evil spirit.... So how often did she meet a real case of demon afflication? I was surprised to learn that it was at least once a week - and that numbers are increasing.'This was the kind of dangerous claptrap promoted by the British Media in 1987. Uncorroborated allegations which should never have been reported but which were treated as real and which eventually ended up fostering the hysteria of the Satanic Ritual Child Abuse Myth. Quick resort to the police, doctors and psychiatrists could have ascertained the facts and ended the scare instantly but the British Media couldn't resist running with the lies. This was particularly nauseating from She magazine which was supposed to be a leading edge journal supporting the aspirations of emancipated modern women. Witchcraft is one of the few religions which truly empowers women yet here we find She magazine attacking it mercilously in favour of a paternalistic religion which has at various stages in its history considered women mere chattels. In my eyes and in many others She magazine has never recovered its former reputation.
The first claims of child sacrifice and sexual abuse in witchcraft were actually announced by She magazine (again!). In a five page special in October 1988 titled The Devil Hides Out the appalling hack Bill Williamson whose work in this area shall ever stand as one of the most brilliant examples of non-journalism probably allowed his thirst for a scoop to exceed his duty as a reporter. Timed nicely to coincide with the fundamentalist's perennial attack on Halloween, his She article did serious damage to freedom of belief and set the lowest possible standards of veracity which subsequenty became endemic in most articles on the subject.
Unsurprisingly, Doreen Irvine was one of those in the queue to heap more accusations and derision upon people who held a valid alternative belief. Paraphrasing from From Witchcraft To Christ the weazel Williamson reported that Doreen stated:
'Although I had witnessed evil and ugly orgies in the Satanist's temple, I was to see far worse in the witches' coven....Sadism was practised frequently....some cut themselves with knives... some swallowed poisons...drink and drugs...'At a stroke, Witchcraft, the peaceful and nature loving remnant of this country's oldest religion had not only been smeared by association with Satanism, it had, the British public were told, EXCEEDED the evils of Satanism! Williamson printed this sectarian rubbish without once challenging any of the allegations or even asking a witch, any witch, to answer these very serious charges.
The autobiography of Doreen Irvine is an important document for it helps us track the evolution of the Satanic Ritual Child Abuse Myth. Doreen is obviously an independent woman who admits learning to survive as a child by ducking and dodging. This preparation as a deprived child in the world of hard knocks of the 1950s gave her the courage to overcome many things which might have destroyed a lesser person.
In 1966, when Doreen Irvine was 31 and had already dedicated her life to becoming a crusading Christian, Caroline Marchant was born in West Drayton Middlesex. But times had changed and the school of hard knocks had disappeared in favour of the cloying and insidious 'indulgence therapy' offered today to kids from similar backgrounds to Doreen's.
Caroline Marchant's dysfunctional life was influenced by periods in foster homes, institutionalisation and towards the end of her life heavily influenced by fundamentalist Christians and the now discredited recovered memory therapy which generated most of the hysterical stories during that time. By 1988 Caroline was making up stories to fit the expectancies of believers in Satanic Ritual Child Abuse. Her stories were far more specific and horrific than Doreen's including having been used as a 'brood mare' to produce babies to sacrifice on a satanic altar.
In 1987, shortly before she wrote her unfinished "life story", Caroline had met the author of From Witchcraft to Christ. She spent some time being counselled at the Zion Christian Temple at Yate, near Bristol. One of her tutors was Doreen Irvine. A Ritual Fabrication, Independent on Sunday
Unfortunately Caroline's stories about Satanic Abuse got out of hand and in a cry for help she took an overdose from which she never recovered. Her suicide was portrayed by the British Press as the last resort of a terrified woman being hunted down by Satanists, but there were never any satanists. Her stories were completely untrue as Investigative journalists Dave Hebditch and Nick Anning showed in A Ritual Fabrication, in The Independent on Sunday newspaper
We have no evidence whatsoever to suggest that anything Doreen Irvine did was in any way connected with or promoted the suicide of poor Caroline Marchant. The comparison we are trying to make is that, ironically, the thing which probably saved Doreen Irvine from a similar mental catastrophe was the lack of social care and therapeutic treatments in 1950s Britain.
Caroline Marchant was not the only casualty of the twinning of experimental uber- psychotherapy with mediaevil ideas about possession. There have been many court cases against users of recovered memory therapy in the U.S. as well as astonishing cases like that of Carol Felstead who also committed suicide. It shows how careful reporters have to be when dealing with these allegations.
In March 1991 at the age of 57 Doreen Irvine 'retired' from active duty as a missionary and celebrated by donating over 57,000.00 GBP (a not inconsiderable sum in those days) from the proceeds of sales of her book, to a Christian Charity in Bristol and went to live in Liverpool.
From Witchcraft To Christ is historic in the way that other books which don't deserve the appellation are also considered technically historic. Such as Kramer and Sprenger's Malleus Malleficarum, the church's 15th century handbook on how to torture evidence out of people accused of witchcraft. Doreen can rest assured she has done a good job for her god even if he/she/it failed to bestow upon her the writing skills of a Hemingway to accomplish it.
As for it being a serious social document it is that only in so far as it
reveals the fact that bigots are ready to believe any old tosh if it suits them.
You can see further information about the Malleus Maleficarum and how it is even today influencing and promoting misogynist attitudes by going here.
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