A Spell to Break: the Belief in Transubstantiation


Transubstantiation – the ritual act of consuming bread and wine which are believed to transform into new substances, specifically the blood and body of Jesus Christ. This practice was defined as doctrine by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 then reaffirmed by the Council of Trent in 1551. Primarily a Catholic ritual, it is practiced among Protestant cults as well.

The idea is that the ritual reenacts, through a priest, the event where Jesus is alleged to have said, “this is my body,” and “this is my blood” to his disciples while having bread and wine at the Last Supper [1].

Interestingly enough, the act of endocannibalism, a method of incorporating the dead into the living by consuming substances that are of them isn’t limited to just Christianity. Amazonian natives once drank (and perhaps still do) a cocktail of cremation ashes of deceased villagers. For those that believe that the bread and wine truly transform into the new substances of flesh and blood, this is philosophically no different.

I doubt many of those that believe in transubstantiation would be unwilling to scoff at the South American Indian that drank a beverage for the sole purpose of ingesting the cremated ashes of the dead.

While there are doubtless many Christian adherents that view transubstantiation as a symbolic or commemorating gesture, through Christian doctrine it most definitely is not. Transubstantiation is the complete change of a substance.

This is an example of the types of superstitions held by devout, and even moderate, religious believers. And its the type of “spell” that ought be broke if we are to truly progress as a global society cease violence and bigotry in the name of two thousand year old books. My intent is to post a series of “Spells to Break” in the coming months as a way of disseminating information, hopefully to those who might be believers but have an inquiring mind. Maybe with enough outside perspectives on enough “spells” of religion and other paranormal beliefs, those that simply accepted the doctrines of their families and cultures without question might begin to have questions of their own. I’ll leave with quote from Sam Harris’ book, The End of Faith [2].

Is there any doubt that lone subscriber to these beliefs would be considered mad? Rather, is there any doubt that he would be mad? The danger of religious aith is that it allows otherwise normal human beings to reap the fruits of madness and consider them holy.


[1] Jones, Lindsey, ed. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd ed, Vol. 3. New York: Thomson – Gale, p. 1669.

[2] Harris, Sam (2004). The End of Faith. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., p. 73.