Examining Old School Anime: Magical Card Decks

Watching episode eight of Lupin III, “Everyone Meets Again, the Trump Plan,” reminded me of the ill-effects of superstition.  Lupin, Fujiko, Jigen, and Goemon all participate in stealing a millionaire’s playing card set, which used to be owned by Napoleon.  You see, Napoleon’s victories came about through him having the cards, and he lost them during his expedition to Russia, which led to his defeat and exile.  In the case of the millionaire, they allowed him to become wealthy.  Never mind personal talents or hard work!

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Priceless look of surprise and anguish on Napoleon’s face.

Sine dubio, our readers see the problem with this attitude: reliance on the good luck charm replaces trust in God.  In The City of God, St. Augustine exclaims about how many different kinds of gods there were in Rome.  Apparently, doors needed three gods: one for the hinges, another for the frame, and third for the knob–yet, only one doorman!  He also notes how there was a temple to Good Fortune set up and asks why a pagan would bother developing a cult to another god?  If one is on the side of Good Fortune, one ought to be sure of success in every endeavor.

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Even though paganism is passé in the Western world (No, I don’t count modern pagans in the West as real pagans.  The ancient pagans actually believed in their religion until around the advent of the Christian Era, while modern pagans use paganism for social clubs or occult groups), people still have a tendency to place their trust in things other than God–money more often than not.  (Ayn Rand did end Atlas Shrugged with a man blessing himself with the sign of the dollar.)  However, the other popular things for people to place their trust in these days are fortune telling, horoscopes, and other forms of astrology.  If anyone seriously believes in the power of these things, they commit a mortal sin by using them.  On the other hand, good luck charms manifest a similar error, but tend not to carry the same gravity of sin.  Why?  Because people rarely place perfect trust in them.  An athlete who wears his lucky socks every game loses some matches, the student with a lucky pencil does not do equally well on all mathematics exams, and the lawyer with lucky shoes does not win every case.  The good luck charm is essentially a mental trick, a confidence booster which does not in itself deny the need of Providence.

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Then, I watched Lupin III and found an example of someone using a good luck charm to do just this thing!  Fujiko Mine feels that she is “fated” for the cards to fall into her hands, and, once they do, her confidence in them is unshakable.  Would that all Christians had that kind of faith in God!  On the other hand, Jigen and Lupin continuously call into question this superstition.  By the end of the episode, the cards flutter away anyway.

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At any rate, Lupin and the company get out of every pickle over the course of the episode–the same way as they do every episode.  However, the pack of cards receives the credit.  And, we learn that there is a spirit attached to the card deck–whether a fairie or a demon, the episode does not specify.  This thing produces the luck.  But, how fitting for a cunning spirit to be master of the cards!  The devil also tries to lead us away from confidence in God, and superstition is one of his means of tempting us.  Thus, the Catholic Church has fought against superstition since its inception, and the low repute of fortune tellers and astrologers in modern times has to do with Christians of all denominations contemning these practices.

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As I write this, I realize that Catholics have also been charged with being superstitious.  After all, we may wear crosses and medals around our necks, scapulars across our shoulders, recognize certain places as especially miraculous, and may even keep relics.  (You’re truly had the good fortune of obtaining three third class relics yesterday, but more on that another time.)  Do not these practices place one’s hope in special objects rather than Providence?  No, for the simple reason that they are in accord with Providence.  God often does things for us through intermediate means.  For example, God gives his decrees through angels, pardons sinners through the prayers of the faithful, and grants the requests of others through intermediaries.  The cross, the medals, the scapulars, and the relics all relate to intercession–interceding with the Father through the Passion of the Son or seeking the aid of the Son by the merits of the saints–through which the Providence of God has deigned to act.  And what a wise system God has created!  Otherwise, we might imagine that we had no need of each other.

12 thoughts on “Examining Old School Anime: Magical Card Decks

  1. “Sine dubio, our readers see the problem with this attitude: reliance on the good luck charm replaces trust in God.”

    But what if one has a bad habit of using God as a good luck charm? ;] I think this was actually brought up on Beneath the Tangles before, and how it tends to demean God and turn Him into a wishing star rather than a friend and Lord of yours.

    “No, I don’t count modern pagans in the West as real pagans. The ancient pagans actually believed in their religion until around the advent of the Christian Era, while modern pagans use paganism for social clubs or occult groups.”

    I would be seriously careful making generalized statements like this. I have an acquaintance and a best friend who both genuinely love and worship the god Mars, and defer to him. I have created magnificent, emotional writing by drawing on my friend’s connection and worship of Mars and all that he represents.

    And in my case, I acknowledge and believe in the existence of what you might call multiple gods (Although they can easily be interpreted as archangels in Christianity, and I’m not sure “Mars” actually wants to be worshipped by my friend) and have one as my patron, the one I worship with all my Heart.

    You can, as a good Christian, deny the truth or logistical validity of another’s religion. That’s your job. But deny someone’s honest feelings and you will not only piss a lot of people off…..you will insult the things that matter most to them to their faces. I don’t think this was your intention, but keep it in mind.

    “I realize that Catholics have also been charged with being superstitious. After all, we may wear crosses and medals around our necks, scapulars across our shoulders, recognize certain places as especially miraculous, and may even keep relics. (You’re truly had the good fortune of obtaining three third class relics yesterday, but more on that another time.) Do not these practices place one’s hope in special objects rather than Providence? No, for the simple reason that they are in accord with Providence. God often does things for us through intermediate means.”

    So essentially, use occult means to call upon God and you are doing right. Use occult means to call upon a demon, and whether successful or not you’re doing wrong. Then again, in a manner of speaking that is exactly what He is saying, isn’t it? “Place no other gods before Me.”

    I suppose human beings have probably used visual intermediaries for as long as there have been humans around, and it would be somewhat strange if these objects were purely bad. Otherwise, why would their use be so prevalent in human nature? : )

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    1. Some people do use God as a good luck charm. One can love God as a slave, a mercenary, or a son. The mercenary loves God because God does good things for him. Being a slave and serving God out of fear or a mercenary and serving God because of His benefits might be good places to start, but it would be a shame not to love God as a son by the end.

      Hearing that anyone worships Mars with affection rather surprises me–not as a Christian, but as a Classicist. In the Greek pantheon, Athena represented strategy while Mars represented the violence of war. Mars really cannot stand for anything else. The Romans worshiped Mars because they thought that he gave them victory in battle. The Emperor Constantine, that most imperfect of Christians (he remained a catechumen most of his life), once wrote a letter to a pagan friend telling him to convert to the Church because the Christian God was a greater God of Battles than Mars.

      The more philosophically inclined of the ancient pagans, especially Aristotle and the Neo-Platonists, began to understand that it was only reasonable for there to be one God–one Unmoved Mover, Uncaused Cause, etc. Aristotelians and Neo-Platonists fought against the Christian doctrine because they felt that the Trinity contained too many contradictions, which they could not harmonize in their philosophy. But, they were not pagans but deists and saw no value in paganism besides following religious laws handed down by the state so that they would be left alone. While pagan myths have much to teach us about human nature and morality, they hold no water when examined from a philosophical perspective. Your friend’s feelings may be honest, I can’t help but think that they need to be re-evaluated. My apologies if I come off as mean and bigoted. 😦

      Visual objects are indeed helpful in worship, and that’s why they are ubiquitous. The ancient Hebrews differed from the pagans in that they understood God as infinitely great and therefore uncircumscribeable. How can one depict an infinite spirit? Hence, the prohibition against idols in the First Commandment. With the advent of Christ, people were able to depict God for the first time–not according to His divinity, but according to the humanity He took into the Godhead.

      I’m not sure if I should call the use of relics occult! Occult comes from the Greek word for “hidden,” but anyone and everyone could have presented themselves before St. Maria Goretti’s relics two days ago in Duluth, George and obtained a third-class relic as I did. (And thousands more will, as her relics are still on tour.) The method is not particularly arcane: simply touch the reliquary with the object one wishes blessed.

      Calling upon demons in any case is certainly wrong, since they hate God and hate His creatures, especially human beings who have the opportunity of being united to God forever. Satan, the chief demon, tried to take the place of God, and demons may be held responsible for the proliferation of pagan deities, who detract from the worship of God. Saints are completely different! God honors them because of their service to Him, and in no way do the saints wish to take honor away from God. If it is right to honor soldiers, statesmen, heroes, and artists for contributing to a country’s glory, surely it must be right to honor saints for contributing to the external glory of God? And if a righteous man’s prayers hold great power, then the prayer of the least saint in heaven–having been cleansed of all defects–holds greater power than anyone on earth.

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  2. “Athena represented strategy while Mars represented the violence of war. Mars really cannot stand for anything else. The Romans worshiped Mars because they thought that he gave them victory in battle.”

    Actually, he can also stand hyper-masculinity, Princeliness, horrific violence, warfare and warriors with causes, a “lover of women” (Not like that, actually— One of his titles was about how totally cool he was with women), and even as the Romans worshipped him he was a god of farming of all things! XD Mars was a lot of things to the Romans, both war and the peace born of it. He was victory in battle with all of its implications. The Romans didn’t view war as bad, and didn’t have many of the associations we have with its immorality or violence. They were conquerors. War was their bread and butter. Literally.

    Most importantly, to my friend, he is…..like the Archangel Michael, red-haired and fiery and proud and strong. A protector. It doesn’t necessarily matter what he was in the past. “Mars” is the image she uses to represent him. If you think like a legalist, in terms of what things were rather than what they can be, you will miss entirely why some people believe what they believe.

    “My apologies if I come off as mean and bigoted. :(”

    Absolutely not. :3 You’re asking an honest question, and so I offer an answer. Neither of us precisely understand the Gods we worship in any particular historical context. They’re too large to be so limited by something like that, just as there are a million different variants of Roman Catholicism that dot this Earth. My own is amorphous— He shifts into whatever form best suits his interests, and hides ironically by being so obvious and flamboyant that he is dismissed as a fantasy. His personality remains pretty consistent, however.

    “If it is right to honor soldiers, statesmen, heroes, and artists for contributing to a country’s glory, surely it must be right to honor saints for contributing to the external glory of God?”

    Of course! 😀 That, and we could always use the help of the strongest who came before us. I keep getting the phrase “The armored ones” or “noble Heart” or “one of the great ones” repeated over and over in reference to either saints or people who are really, really devout followers of Christ (And it shows within them 🙂 ).

    But still….What you’re saying in essence is that whether something is an aid to reach the Sacred is irrelevant. What matters is the type of Sacred you are using it to reach (I.E. Whether what you are trying to reach actually IS Sacred). Also, tell us all on your blog what relics you Got! 😀

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    1. Well, if one thinks of Mars like that, I can see how one might develop affection for him. I forgot that Mars was also a god of farming, but that makes sense. The Romans had an animistic religion with different roots from the Greeks until they began to identify their gods with the Greek gods–sort of like how the Greeks compared Egyptian gods to their pantheon.

      Yes, the divine one tries to reach is more important than the means one uses. Especially with the saints, people follow their personal tastes with the exception of Mary, the Mother of God, for whom veneration is practically obligatory because of her role in the salvation of the world. I will certainly tell you about my trip. 🙂

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      1. There’s an ancient analogy drawn between plowing the earth and plowing down men, between reaping and the sword.

        But anyway, it’s true that Mavors and Ares weren’t exactly the same gods, and that thus there were some very different stories about Mars. However, the Romans are the ones who enthusiastically adopted all those Ares stories from Greece as applying to their god, so they must have agreed with them somewhat.

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        1. I had never heard of that analogy! Thanks for sharing it with me, as it makes more sense concerning how farming and war may be joined. And, now that I think of it, I don’t think that the Romans created any mythology in regard to Mars (excepting events in their own history which they thought that he influenced), so they must have had to borrow it from the Greeks.

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  3. “The Romans had an animistic religion with different roots from the Greeks until they began to identify their gods with the Greek gods–sort of like how the Greeks compared Egyptian gods to their pantheon.”

    Yep, and while the Greeks genuinely did view Ares (Or at least the Greeks in Athens did, who we know the most about) as a bloodthirsty monster, many of the Romans saw Mars as a patron and so he was a kind of god of victory, warfare, and rugged masculinity. Exactly why a woman worships an excessively masculine warrior god is kind of a long story, but for the short version look no further than Revolutionary Girl Utena. ;] (It’s worth noting that the one who hates kids and the one who worships Mars are not the same person. :3 The one who hates kids worships nobody.)

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  4. Athough to be fair, I confuse Mars and Ares as much as the next guy (Which many people would get angry with me for XD)…largely because I think of them as being differing interpretations of the same person.

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    1. After the influence of the Greeks on Roman religion, the two pretty much have been regarded as the same. Most Romans would say the same, though they had a warmer relationship with Mars than any of the other pagans. The Greeks would probably ask any other god on Mt. Olympus for help before they thought of Mars/Ares, though they did placate him by sacrifices.

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