Anton LaVey

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Anton LaVey
Anton LaVey photo.jpg
Born Howard Stanton Levey
(1930-04-11)April 11, 1930
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died October 29, 1997(1997-10-29) (aged 67)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Known for LaVeyan Satanism
Religion LaVeyan Satanism
Spouse(s) Carole Lansing (1935–1975) (m. 1951–60)
Partner(s) Diane Hegarty
Blanche Barton
Children Karla LaVey (born 1952)
Zeena Schreck (born LaVey – 1963)
Satan Xerxes Carnacki LaVey (born November 1, 1993)
Anton LaVey Signature.jpg

Anton Szandor LaVey[1] (born Howard Stanton Levey; April 11, 1930 – October 29, 1997) was an American author, carnival and circus performer, musician and occultist. He was the founder of the Church of Satan and the religion of LaVeyan Satanism. He authored several books including The Satanic Bible, The Satanic Rituals, The Satanic Witch, The Devil's Notebook, and Satan Speaks! LaVey was labeled many things by journalists, religious detractors and Satanists alike, including "The Father of Satanism",[2] the "St. Paul of Satanism", [3] "The Black Pope",[4] and the "evilest man in the world".[5]


Early life[edit]

LaVey was born as Howard Stanton Levey in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Michael Joseph Levey (1903–1992), from Chicago, Illinois married LaVey's mother, the former Gertrude Augusta Coultron who was born to a Russian father and Ukrainian mother who had immigrated to Ohio in 1893; both became naturalized American citizens in 1900. LaVey's family moved to California, where he spent his early life in the San Francisco Bay Area. His parents supported his musical interests, as he tried a number of instruments; his favorites were keyboards such as the pipe organ and the calliope. He did covers of instrumentals like Harlem Nocturne by Earle Hagen.[6]

He attended Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, California, until the age of 16.[7][8] According to his biography, he left high school to join a circus and later carnivals, first as a roustabout and cage boy in an act with the big cats, then as a musician playing the calliope. LaVey later claimed to have seen that many of the same men attended both the bawdy Saturday night shows and the tent revival meetings on Sunday mornings, which reinforced his increasingly cynical view of religion. In the foreword to the German version of The Satanic Bible, he cites this as the impetus to defy Christian religion as he knew it. He explains why church-goers employ double moral standards.[9]

His "genius" on keyboards later garnered him work as an organist in bars, lounges and nightclubs.[10] While playing organ in Los Angeles burlesque houses, he allegedly had a brief affair with then-unknown Marilyn Monroe when she was a dancer at the Mayan Theater. This is challenged by those who then knew Monroe, as well as the manager of the Mayan, Paul Valentine, who said she had never been one of his dancers, nor had the theater ever been used as a burlesque house.[11]

According to his biography, LaVey moved back to San Francisco, where he worked for three years as a photographer for the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD). He dabbled as a psychic investigator, looking into "800 calls" referred to him by the police department. Later biographers questioned whether LaVey ever worked with the SFPD, as there are no records substantiating the claim.[1][12] During this period, LaVey was friends with a number of writers associated with Weird Tales magazine; a picture of him with George Haas, Robert Barbour Johnson (whom he had met in the circus as an animal trainer and painter of carnival scenes) and Clark Ashton Smith appears in Blanche Barton's biography The Secret Life of a Satanist.

In 1950, LaVey met Carole Lansing and they married the following year. Lansing gave birth to LaVey's first daughter, Karla LaVey, born in 1952. They divorced in 1960 after LaVey became entranced by Diane Hegarty. Hegarty and LaVey never married; however, she was his companion for twenty-five years and mothered his second daughter, Zeena Galatea Schreck (née LaVey), in 1963.[13] At the end of their relationship, Hegarty sued for palimony.[14][15]

LaVey claimed to have acquired various books on ceremonial magic, such as the Grand Albert and the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, but was dissapointed that they were written from a Christian perspective.[16] Historian of satanism Gareth J. Medway claimed that LaVey had also been inspired by the novels of Dennis Wheatley as well as the books of Doreen Irvine.[17] LaVey claimed that he had searched for other Satanists prior to founding his Church, but that this search had been unsuccessful.[18]

Church of Satan[edit]

Becoming a local celebrity through his paranormal research and live performances as an organist, including playing the Wurlitzer at the Lost Weekend cocktail lounge, he attracted many San Francisco notables to his parties. Guests included Carin de Plessin, Michael Harner, Chester A. Arthur III, Forrest J Ackerman, Fritz Leiber, Cecil E. Nixon and Kenneth Anger. LaVey formed a group called the Order of the Trapezoid, which later evolved into the governing body of the Church of Satan.[19] According to Faxneld and Petersen, the Church of Satan represented "the first public, highly visible, and long-lasting organisation which propounded a coherent satanic discourse".[20]

"Never one for theory, LaVey created a belief system somewhere between religion, philosophy, psychology, and carnival (or circus), freely appropriating science, mythology, fringe beliefs, and play in a potent mix. The core goal was always indulgence and vital existence, based on the devices and desires of the self-made man."

Per Faxneld and Jesper Petersen.[21]

LaVey began presenting Friday night lectures on the occult and rituals. A member of this circle suggested that he had the basis for a new religion. On Walpurgisnacht, April 30, 1966, he ritualistically shaved his head, allegedly "in the tradition of ancient executioners", declared the founding of the Church of Satan and proclaimed 1966 as "the Year One", Anno Satanas—the first year of the Age of Satan. Media attention followed the subsequent Satanic wedding ceremony of journalist John Raymond to New York City socialite Judith Case on February 1, 1967. The Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle were among the newspapers that printed articles dubbing him "The Black Pope". LaVey performed Satanic baptisms (including the first Satanic baptism in history for his three-year-old daughter Zeena, dedicating her to Satan and the Left-Hand Path, which garnered world-wide publicity and was originally recorded on The Satanic Mass LP)[22][23][24][25] and Satanic funerals (including one for naval machinist-repairman third-class Edward Olsen, complete with a chrome-helmeted honor guard), and released a record album entitled The Satanic Mass.[citation needed]

LaVey claimed that he had been appointed consultant to the film Rosemary's Baby, which revolved around a group of fictional satanists, and that he also had a cameo appearance in the film as the Devil, however critics have argued that none of this was true.[26]

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, LaVey melded ideological influences from Friedrich Nietzsche, Ayn Rand,[27] H. L. Mencken, Jack London and Social Darwinism[28] with the ideology and ritual practices of the Church of Satan. He wrote essays introduced with reworked excerpts from Ragnar Redbeard's Might Is Right and concluded with "Satanized" versions of John Dee's Enochian Keys to create books such as The Complete Witch (re-released in 1989 as The Satanic Witch), and The Satanic Rituals. The latter book also included rituals drawing on the work of H. P. Lovecraft which were actually penned by Michael A. Aquino, who would later found the Temple of Set.[citation needed] The Satanic Bible included excerpts from Ragnar Redbeard's Might Is Right and concluded with "Satanized" versions of John Dee's Enochian Keys.[29] Admitting his use of Might is Right, LaVey stated that he did so in order to "immortalize a writer who had profoundly reached me".[30]

Due to increasing visibility through his books, LaVey was the subject of numerous articles in the news media throughout the world, including popular magazines such as Look, McCall's, Newsweek, and TIME, and men's magazines. He also appeared on talk shows such as The Joe Pyne Show, Donahue and The Tonight Show, and in a feature-length documentary called Satanis in 1970. He would be credited for the mainstreaming of Satanism and witchcraft in the U.S. during the 1960s, 1970s and after.[citation needed]

In 1972 the public work at La Vey's Black House in San Francisco was curtailed and work was continued via "grottoes" or subsidiary branches of the Church of Satan located throughout the USA and some in other countries.[citation needed] During the 1970s, LaVey found himself in financial difficulty.[16] In the Churches' newsletter he announced that all higher degrees of initiation would be given in return for a financial contribution.[16] Many of the groups' priesthood were repelled by this act, seeing it as an act of hypocrisy.[16] In June 1975, there was a mass desertion of members from the Church of Satan, with many of the dissenters joining the Temple of Set, which had been founded by Michael Aquino.[31]

In July 1984, Diane issued a restraining order against LaVey, which he did not contest.[32]

In an article published in Rolling Stone magazine in 1991, the journalist Lawrence Wright revealed that through his own investigative work, he could find that many of LaVey's claims about his life had been untrue.[33]

LaVey's third and final companion was Blanche Barton. Barton and LaVey are the parents of Satan Xerxes Carnacki LaVey, born November 1, 1993. Barton succeeded him as the head of the Church after his death, and has since stepped down from that role and handed it to Magus Peter H. Gilmore.[citation needed] LaVey died in 1997.[33] Three months after his death, his estranged daughter Zeena LaVey Schreck and her husband Nikolas Shreck published a nine-page "fact sheet" in which they endorsed Wright's earlier allegations and claimed that many more of LaVey's stories about his life had been false.[33]


Statue of LaVey in Wax Museum, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco.

Anton LaVey died on October 29, 1997, in St. Mary's Medical Center in San Francisco of pulmonary edema.[34] He was taken to St. Mary's, a Catholic hospital, because it was the closest available. A secret Satanic funeral, attended by invitation only, was held in Colma after which LaVey's body was cremated.[7]


LaVey included references to other esoteric and religious groups throughout his writings, claiming for instance that the Yezidis and Knight's Templar were carriers of a Satanic tradition that had been passed down to the twentieth-century.[35] Scholar of Satanism Per Faxneld believed that these references were deliberately tongue-in-cheek and ironic, however noted that many Satanists who had read LaVey's writings had taken them to be literal historical claims about the past.[35] LaVey also described a category of "de facto Satanists" in his work; into this he included such individuals as Galileo and Leonardo da Vinci, stating that although not actively identifying themselves as Satanists they embodied Satanic virtues by becoming the most successful individuals of their time.[36] Although he regularly derided older esotericists, LaVey also relied upon their work; for instance making use of John Dee's Enochian system in The Satanic Bible.[37] Faxneld therefore believed that there was a tension in LaVey's thought between his desire to establish prestigious Satanic predecessors and his desire to be seen as the founder of the first real Satanic society.[38]

Dyrendel argued that LaVey partook in conspiracy culture, particularly as he grew older, for he was greatly concerned with modern society's impact on individual agency.[39]

LaVey supported eugenics and believed that it would be a necessity in future.[40]

Personal life[edit]

Historian of Satanism Gareth J. Medway described LaVey as "a born showman",[16] with anthropologist Jean La Fontaine describing him as "a colourful figure of considerable personal magnetism".[41]

LaVey was conservative in his attitude to law and order, and insisted that the Church abide by state law in all of its actions.[42]

Medway contrasted LaVey from the likes of Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Charles Manson, noting that whereas the latter were the charismatic leaders of apocalyptic communes, within the Church of Satan "no one hung onto [LaVey's] every word, and church members [were] allowed considerable autonomy."[43]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Academic scholars of Satanism Per Faxneld and Jesper Aa. Petersen described LaVey as "the most iconic figure in the satanic milieu",[21] while Asbjørn Dyrendel described him as "the founder of modern Satanism".[44] In his 2001 examination of Satanists, the sociologist James R. Lewis noted that, to his surprise, his findings "consistently pointed to the centrality of LaVey's influence on modern Satanism". As a result he "concluded that – despite his heavy dependence on prior thinkers – LaVey was directly responsible for the genesis of Satanism as a serious religious (as opposed to a purely literary) movement".[45]

His books The Satanic Bible and The Satanic Rituals, have been cited as having "an influence far beyond" the Church of Satan's membership.[41] In 1995, the religious studies scholar Graham Harvey noted that although the Church had no organized presence in Britain, LaVey's writings were widely accessible in British bookshops.[46]

LaVey related books[edit]

Books by LaVey[edit]

Books featuring writings by LaVey[edit]

Books about LaVey[edit]

  • The Devil's Avenger: A Biography of Anton Szandor LaVey by Burton H. Wolfe (Pyramid Books, 1974, ISBN 0-515-03471-1, Out of print)
  • The Black Pope by Burton H. Wolfe (a drastically revised and updated edition of The Devil's Avenger);[47]
  • The Secret Life Of A Satanist: The Authorized Biography of Anton LaVey by Blanche Barton (Feral House, 1990, ISBN 0-922915-12-1).
  • Popular Witchcraft: Straight from the Witch's Mouth by Jack Fritscher ; featuring Anton LaVey (University of Wisconsin Press : Popular Press, 2004, ISBN 0-299-20300-X, hardcover, ISBN 0-299-20304-2, paperback)
  • The 2009 play 'Debate' by Irish author Seán Ferrick features LaVey as a character. He is one of four witnesses in a case between God and The Devil, and events from both his life and after his death are used as evidence. He was portrayed by Mark O'Brien and Fiachra MacNamara

Recordings of Anton LaVey[edit]

  • The Satanic Mass, LP (Murgenstrumm Records, 1968; re-released on CD with one bonus track, "Hymn of the Satanic Empire, or The Battle Hymn of the Apocalypse", by Amarillo Records, 1994; Mephisto Media, 2001)
  • Answer Me/Honolulu Baby, 7" single (Amarillo Records, 1993)
  • Strange Music, 10" EP (Amarillo Records, 1994; now available through Reptilian Records)
  • Satan Takes A Holiday, CD (Amarillo Records, 1995; now available through Reptilian Records)
Religious titles
Preceded by
Church established
High Priest of the Church of Satan
Succeeded by
Peter H. Gilmore after vacancy

Films starring LaVey[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Wright, Lawrence – "It's Not Easy Being Evil in a World That's Gone to Hell", Rolling Stone, September 5, 1991: 63–68, 105–16.
  2. ^ "Contemporary Religious Satanism". 
  3. ^ Lewis 2002, p. 5.
  4. ^ "Anton LaVey, Church of Satan founder". SFGate. 
  5. ^ "ROLLING STONE - SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL - 920S-000-004". 
  6. ^ Video on YouTube
  7. ^ a b Hatfield, Larry D. (November 7, 1997). "Anton LaVey, Church of Satan founder". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 3, 2013. 
  8. ^ Stafford, Matthew (Tam 1978) (August 22, 2008). "Cool for school: For 100 years, it's been one Tam thing after another...". Pacific Sun. Retrieved March 14, 2012. 
  9. ^ LaVey, Anton Szandor (1999). Die Satanische Bible (Satanic Bible). Berlin: Second Sight Books. 
  10. ^ Johnson, Lloyd (September 11, 1959). "Bright Lights". San Mateo Times. p. 17. Anton La Vey, genius of the calliope and organ entertains Sunday afternoon and evenings 
  11. ^ The Church of Satan by Michael Aquino p. 17-19, detailing information from Harry Lipton, Monroe's agent, Paul Valentine and Edward Webber"
  12. ^ Lewis, James R. (2003). Legitimating New Religions. Rutgers University Press. p. 109. ISBN 0813533244. 
  13. ^ Lattin, Don (January 25, 1999). "Satan's Den in Great Disrepair". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-09-16. Both Karla LaVey [sic] and Schreck were the product of LaVey's common-law marriage to Diane Hegarty from 1962 to 1986. One of the highlights of that unholy union was Schreck's 1967 satanic baptism at the Black House, when she was three years old. 
  14. ^ "Palimony Suit Rests on Bed of Nails". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. September 11, 1988. Retrieved 2009-09-16. On paper, the agreement seemed friendly enough: She got the 1967 Jaguar. He got the 1936 Cord, the 1972 Datsun 280 and the 1976 Cadillac limousine. Still to be decided were the medieval torture implements, the crystal ball, the devil bust, the bed of nails and the classic wooden coffin. But now, the whole thing has become a devil of an issue in San Francisco Superior Court, as the nation's first prince and princess of darkness square off in legal proceedings. 
  15. ^ Phillips, Richard (September 13, 1988). "The End is Near". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-09-16. Anton Szandor LaVey, high priest of San Francisco's Church of Satan, lived with Diane Hegarty for 22 years. Now they are squaring off in a palimony suit over household property. 
  16. ^ a b c d e Medway 2001, p. 21.
  17. ^ Medway 2001, p. 164.
  18. ^ Faxneld 2013, p. 88.
  19. ^ High Priest, Magus Peter H. Gilmore. "The Magic Circle / Order of the Trapezoid -". 
  20. ^ Faxneld & Petersen 2013, p. 81.
  21. ^ a b Faxneld & Petersen 2013, p. 79.
  22. ^ "The Satanic Mass/Zeena's Baptism Track A9 go to 3:42". 
  23. ^ "The Satanic Mass, Track A9 (Zeena's Baptism)". Murgenstrumm, 1968 Vinly LP. 
  24. ^ "Satanist Anton LaVey Baptising Daughter". San Francisco, California, USA: Bettmann/CORBIS. May 23, 1967. LaVey [...] said the mystic ceremony was the first such baptism in history. 
  25. ^ "Clippings of Zeena's baptism world wide". 
  26. ^ La Fontaine 1999, p. 96; Lewis 2001b, p. 51.
  27. ^ Lewis, James R. "Who Serves Satan? A Demographic and Ideological Profile". Marburg Journal of Religion. June 2001.
  28. ^ "Satanism: The Feared Religion by Magus Peter Gilmore references Social Darwinism as a satanic philosophy.". 
  29. ^ Gallagher 2013, p. 103.
  30. ^ Gallagher 2013, p. 104.
  31. ^ Medway 2001, pp. 21–22.
  32. ^ Medway 2001, p. 100.
  33. ^ a b c Lewis 2002, p. 6.
  34. ^ "Anton LaVey; Founded the Church of Satan". Los Angeles Times. November 8, 1997. Anton LaVey, who founded the Church of Satan in 1966 and wrote the "Satanic Bible" as a guide for international followers, has died at the age of 67. LaVey was cremated Tuesday after a satanic funeral at Woodlawn Memorial Chapel in Colma. Security concerns led his daughter, Church of Satan High Priestess Karla LaVey, to demand "absolute secrecy from all who knew of LaVey's death and satanic funeral," family spokesman Lee Houskeeper said. ... 
  35. ^ a b Faxneld 2013, p. 78.
  36. ^ Faxneld 2013, pp. 82–83; Dyrendel 2013, p. 133.
  37. ^ Faxneld 2013, p. 79.
  38. ^ Faxneld 2013, p. 81.
  39. ^ Dyrendel 2013, pp. 137, 138.
  40. ^ Lap 2013, p. 95.
  41. ^ a b La Fontaine 1999, p. 96.
  42. ^ La Fontaine 1999, p. 99.
  43. ^ Medway 2001, p. 377.
  44. ^ Dyrendel 2013, p. 124.
  45. ^ Lewis 2001, p. 5.
  46. ^ Harvey 1995, p. 290.
  47. ^


Dyrendel, Asbjørn (2013). "Hidden Persuaders and Invisible Wars: Anton LaVey and Conspiracy Culture". The Devil's Party: Satanism in Modernity. Per Faxneld and Jesper Aagaard Petersen (editors). Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 123–40. ISBN 978-0-19-977924-6. 
Faxneld, Per (2013). "Secret Lineages and de facto Satanists: Anton LaVey's Use of Esoteric Tradition". In Egil Asprem and Kennet Granholm (eds.). Contemporary Esotericism. Sheffield: Equinox. pp. 72–90. ISBN 978-1-908049-32-2. 
Faxneld, Per; Petersen, Jesper Aa. (2013). "The Black Pope and the Church of Satan". The Devil's Party: Satanism in Modernity. Per Faxneld and Jesper Aagaard Petersen (editors). Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 79–82. ISBN 978-0-19-977924-6. 
Gallagher, Eugene V. (2013). "Sources, Sects, and Scripture: The Book of Satan in The Satanic Bible". The Devil's Party: Satanism in Modernity. Per Faxneld and Jesper Aagaard Petersen (editors). Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 103–22. ISBN 978-0-19-977924-6. 
Harvey, Graham (1995). "Satanism in Britain Today". Journal of Contemporary Religion 10 (3): 283–296. doi:10.1080/13537909508580747. 
La Fontaine, Jean (1999). "Satanism and Satanic Mythology". In Bengt Ankarloo and Stuart Clark (eds.). The Athlone History of Witchcraft and Magic in Europe Volume 6: The Twentieth Century. London: Athlone. pp. 94–140. ISBN 0 485 89006 2. 
Lewis, James L. (2001). "Who Serves Satan? A Demographic and Ideological Profile". Marburg Journal of Religion 6 (2): 1–25. 
Lewis, James L. (2002). "Diabolical Authority: Anton LaVey, The Satanic Bible and the Satanist "Tradition"" (PDF). Marburg Journal of Religion 7 (1): 1–16. 
Medway, Gareth J. (2001). Lure of the Sinister: The Unnatural History of Satanism. New York and London: New York University Press. ISBN 9780814756454. 
Petersen, Jesper Aagaard (2013). "From Book to Bit: Enacting Satanism Online". In Egil Asprem and Kennet Granholm (eds.). Contemporary Esotericism. Sheffield: Equinox. pp. 134–158. ISBN 978-1-908049-32-2. 

External links[edit]

Writings by LaVey[edit]

Interviews with LaVey[edit]

About LaVey[edit]