Greater and lesser magic

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Greater and lesser magic (referred to also as high and low magic or collectively Satanic magic) is a system of magic within LaVeyan Satanism. Outlined in The Satanic Bible, it is described as "the change in situations or events in accordance with one's will, which would, using normally accepted methods, be unchangeable". This definition incorporates two broadly distinguished kinds of Magic: Lesser (manipulative and situational) and Greater (ritual and ceremonial).[1]

LaVey wrote extensively on his theories of magic in The Satanic Rituals and The Satanic Witch.

Theory of Satanic Magic[edit]

Contrary to popular belief, magic and ritual within Satanism does not involve animal or human sacrifice or the act of summoning demons. Because Satanism is an atheistic and materialistic religion, phenomena that would be considered paranormal or supernatural are not applicable within Satanic magic; it is instead asserted that any unexplainable phenomena which might occur as a result should be thought of as "supernormal".[2] Anton LaVey did not describe magic moralistically by discerning "White" (good) or "Black" (evil) varieties. Such neutrality correlates with LaVey's philosophical view of an impersonal, and therefore amoral, universe.[3]

White magic is supposedly utilized only for good or unselfish purposes, and black magic, we are told, is used only for selfish or "evil" reasons. Satanism draws no such dividing line. Magic is magic, be it used to help or hinder. The Satanist, being the magician, should have the ability to decide what is just, and then apply the powers of magic to attain his goals. - Anton LaVey

Much of LaVey's ideas on magic and ritual are outlined in The Satanic Bible. In the The Book of Belial magic is defined as "The change in situations or events in accordance with one's will, which would, using normally accepted methods, be unchangeable." LaVey explains that some of the rituals are simply applied psychology or science, but that some contain parts with no scientific basis. The Satanic Rituals, published by LaVey in 1972, outlines the rituals more precisely.[4]

LaVey explains that, in order to control a person, one must first attract his or her attention. He gives three qualities that can be employed for this purpose: sex appeal, sentiment (cuteness or innocence), and wonder. He also advocates the use of odor.[5] In the Book of Belial, he discusses three types of rituals: those for sex, compassion, and destruction. Sex rituals work to entice another person; compassion rituals work to improve health, intelligence, success, and so on; destruction rituals work to destroy another person.[6] LaVey advocates finding others with whom to practice Satanic rituals in order to reaffirm one's faith and avoid antisocial behavior. He particularly advocates group participation for destruction rituals, as compassion and sex rituals are more private in nature.[7] LaVey goes on to list the key components to successful ritual: desire, timing, imagery, direction, and "The Balance Factor" (awareness of one's own limitations).[8] Details for the various Satanic rituals are explained in The Book of Belial, and lists of necessary objects (such as clothing, altars, and the symbol of Baphomet) are given.[9]

Some Satanists may practice the casting of hexes or curses within and outside of a formal ritual, though the validity of such a practice is subject to the individual doing it, while some dismiss spellcraft completely.

It is possible to curse a person by working up enough adrenal energy so that you create a change in the atmosphere and it breaks through as a sort of gamma radiation. Like a force field.- Anton LaVey

Within this system of magic, the terms warlock and witch are most commonly used by, and to refer to, male and female practitioners, respectively.

Lesser Magic[edit]

Lesser Magic is a system of manipulation that incorporates one or more of three main psychological themes: sex, sentiment, and wonder. The first theme is virtually self-explanatory – sexual seduction is the main aim of the working; the term "sentiment" refers to ideas or impressions of innocence or those inspiring contentment, compassion, or even amusement; and "wonder" often denotes ideas of austerity and awe or impressions provoking fear or submissiveness on the part of the recipient. But these themes can be combined, when appropriate, to multiply psychological impact by increasing the number of complex and simultaneous emotional responses from the recipient. To build his theories concerning Lesser Magic, Anton LaVey seems to have taken inspiration, at least partly, from The Command to Look by photographer William Mortensen and to have capitalized on its strategies, thus prompting the practicing Satanist to expand on whichever of the three major themes he (or she) seems to naturally exhibit.

LaVey later expanded his system of manipulation in The Satanic Witch. The book was written from the woman's perspective because LaVey believed that women could more fully apply his concepts, but much of the book can be applied by men also. He relates ideas worked out from watching the proprietors of carnival stalls and fortune tellers in their manipulation of customers. The Satanic Witch also proposes the LaVey Synthesizer Clock, a form of somatotyping that adds a fourth body type, the "feminine." The synthesizer is used in identification of personality in order to know how best to manipulate a person through traits often associated with their types and what LaVey referred to as their "demonic" personality, or their opposite on the clock.

Greater Magic[edit]

From left to right: Karla LaVey, Diane Hegarty, and Anton LaVey ritualizing in The Black House, the original headquarters of the Church of Satan.

Greater magic is a ritual or ceremonial practice used in order to focus one's emotional energy for a specific purpose. Satanic ritual is highly variable, with a basic format given in The Satanic Bible. Satanists are encouraged to use whatever props and means suit their immediate emotional and psychological needs in order to bring their workings to an exhausting and complete climax. The Church of Satan claims that a mastery of Lesser Magic will contribute to a mastery of Greater Magic.

The Satanic ritual is referred to as an "intellectual decompression chamber." Careful planning of the ritual form according to rational considerations of what means and props are most effective is executed before the rites begin, but during the ritual, skepticism and disbelief are willfully suspended, thus allowing the magicians to fully express their sexual or other emotional needs and frustrations, holding nothing back regarding their true and deep feelings. Also, it is notable that Satanism acknowledges that a Greater Magic working is much more likely to succeed with a few Satanists who are committed emotionally to and focused on what they are doing than with a throng who may all be distracted.

Greater Magic, like Lesser, employs one or more of three major psycho-emotive themes: lust (sex), compassion (sentiment), and destruction (wonder). LaVey elaborates on methods for focusing these motivations. Lust rituals can involve masturbation, with orgasm as the goal. Compassion rituals are designed to evoke overwhelming pathos or sadness, and crying is strongly encouraged. Destruction rites involve the symbolic annihilation of an enemy through the use of "vicarious" human sacrifice often involving a customized effigy representing the intended victim which is then put through ritual fire, smashing, or other representation of obliteration. Greater Magic also resembles Lesser in the possibility of combining more than one of the three broad themes of emotion, when appropriate, in order to maximize the success of the working. In any case, full and exhausting self-expression is encouraged for productive Satanic ritual.

Much emphasis is placed on evocation and music. The last part of The Satanic Bible is dedicated to invocations and the nineteen Enochian Keys, originally written by John Dee. Music is encouraged because it is said to easily manipulate one's emotions, which contributes to the overall success of the rituals.

The Black Mass[edit]

  • When Anton Szandor LaVey published his Satanic Bible in 1969, he wrote that:
    The usual assumption is that the Satanic ceremony or service is always called a black mass. A black mass is not the magical ceremony practiced by Satanists. The Satanist would only employ the use of a black mass as a form of psychodrama. Furthermore, a black mass does not necessarily imply that the performers of such are Satanists. A black mass is essentially a parody of the religious service of the Roman Catholic Church, but can be loosely applied to a satire on any religious ceremony.
— Anton LaVey in The Satanic Bible[10]

He went on in the Satanic Rituals (1972) to present it as the most representatively satanic ritual in the book.[11]

LaVey further explained his stance in an interview with Occult America.[12] He did not, however, go along with the dramatization of evil as performed in the original Black Mass. "Those," he explained, "were psychodramas at a time when people needed them. They had to express their opposition, their rebellion against an established church. Our rituals are suitably modified to express the needs of our particular era."

LaVey went on to call it a redundancy; the equivalent of 'flogging a dead horse.' (See: The Satanic Bible. The 'dead horse' in this case being conservative Christian dogma). Historical Black Masses (as described by the fearfully imaginative) would often involve candles made of baby-fat and the Osculum Infame (kissing the Devil's arse). Both are entirely in opposition to Church of Satan edicts – not bending a knee in acquiescence to any god or devil, and not harming children – and would therefore be both contradictory and hypocritical for a Satanist.

Rather than hold a 'Black Mass,' in 1966 Anton LaVey held a ceremony at his home ('The Black House') before shaving his head and announcing Anno Satanas – the (first) Year of Satan. Afterwards, prominent members of the Church of Satan would hold 'High Mass' on Friday nights at The Black House, as verified in the aforementioned interview.

Ritual vs. Ceremony[edit]

In The Satanic Rituals, LaVey makes a distinction between the ritual and the ceremony, stating that rituals "...are directed for a specific end that the performer desires", and that ceremonies are "...pageants paying homage to or commemorating an event, aspect of life, admired personage, or declaration of faith [...] a ritual is used to attain, while a ceremony serves to sustain".[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ High Priest, Magus Peter H. Gilmore. "On the Role of Ritual in the Life of a Satanist". 
  2. ^ High Priest, Magus Peter H. Gilmore. "F.A.Q. Demonic Possession, Strange Dreams, Diabolical Destiny -". 
  3. ^ LaVey, Anton (1969). The Satanic Bible. Avon. 
  4. ^ LaVey 2005, p. 110.
  5. ^ LaVey 2005, pp. 111–113.
  6. ^ LaVey 2005, pp. 114–117.
  7. ^ LaVey 2005, p. 119.
  8. ^ LaVey 2005, pp. 121–128.
  9. ^ LaVey 2005, pp. 130–136.
  10. ^ There is a chapter in the Book of Lucifer entitled The Black Mass
  11. ^ "The Original Psychodrama — Le Messe Noir", in LaVey, Anton. The Satanic Rituals, 1972.
  12. ^ "LaVey: Occult America". Retrieved 2013-09-09. 
  13. ^ "The Satanic Rituals Spell Book".