LaVeyan Satanism is a religion founded in 1966 by the American occultist and author Anton Szandor LaVey. Scholars of religion have classified it as a new religious movement and a form of Western esotericism. It is one of several different movements that describe themselves as forms of Satanism.
LaVey established LaVeyan Satanism in the U.S. state of California through the founding of his Church of Satan on Walpurgisnacht of 1966, which he proclaimed to be "the Year One", Anno Satanas—the first year of the "Age of Satan". His ideas were heavily influenced by the ideas and writings of Friedrich Nietzsche and Ayn Rand. The Church grew under LaVey's leadership, with regional grottos being founded across the United States. A number of these seceded from the Church to form independent Satanic organizations during the early 1970s. In 1975, LaVey abolished the grotto system, after which Satanism became a far less organized movement, although remained greatly influenced by LaVey's writings. In coming years, members of the Church left it to establish their own organisations, also following LaVeyan Satanism, among them John Dewey Allee's First Church of Satan and Karla LaVey's First Satanic Church.
The religion's doctrines are codified in LaVey's book, The Satanic Bible. The religion is materialist, rejecting the existence of supernatural beings, body-soul dualism, and life after death. Practitioners do not believe that Satan literally exists and do not worship him. Instead, Satan is viewed as a positive archetype representing pride, carnality, and enlightenment. He is also embraced as a symbol of defiance against Abrahamic religions which LaVeyans criticize for suppressing humanity's natural instincts and encouraging irrationality. The religion propagates a naturalistic worldview, seeing mankind as animals existing in an amoral universe. It promotes a philosophy based on individualism and egoism, coupled with Social Darwinism and anti-egalitarianism.
LaVeyan Satanism involves the practice of magic, which encompasses two distinct forms; greater and lesser magic. Greater magic is a form of ritual practice and is meant as psychodramatic catharsis to focus one's emotional energy for a specific purpose. These rites are based on three major psycho-emotive themes, including compassion (love), destruction (hate), and sex (lust). Lesser magic is the practice of manipulation by means of applied psychology and glamour (or "wile and guile") to bend an individual or situation to one's will.
- 1 Definition
- 2 History
- 3 Belief
- 4 Basic tenets
- 5 Rites and practices
- 6 Symbolism
- 7 Demographics
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
LaVeyan Satanism – which is also sometimes termed Modern Satanism and Rational Satanism – is classified by scholars of religious studies as a new religious movement. When used, "Rational Satanism" is often employed to distinguish the approach of the LaVeyan Satanists from the "Esoteric Satanism" embraced by groups like the Temple of Set. A number of religious studies scholar have also described it as a form of "self-religion" or "self-spirituality", with religious studies scholar Amina Olander Lap arguing that it should be seen as being both part of the "prosperity wing" of the self-spirituality New Age movement and a form of the Human Potential Movement. Conversely, the scholar of Satanism Jesper Aa. Petersen preferred to treat modern Satanism as a "cousin" of the New Age and Human Potential movements.
The anthropologist Jean La Fontaine described it as having "both elitist and anarchist elements", also citing one occult bookshop owner who referred to the Church's approach as "anarchistic hedonism". In their study of Satanism, the religious studies scholars Asbjørn Dyrendal, James R. Lewis, and Jesper Aa. Petersen suggested that LaVey viewed his religion as "an antinomian self-religion for productive misfits, with a cynically carnivalesque take on life, and no supernaturalism". The sociologist of religion James R. Lewis even described LaVeyan Satanism as "a blend of Epicureanism and Ayn Rand's philosophy, flavored with a pinch of ritual magic." The historian of religion Mattias Gardell described LaVey's as "a rational ideology of egoistic hedonism and self-preservation", while Nevill Drury characterised LaVeyan Satanism as "a religion of self-indulgence". It has also been described as an "institutionalism of Machiavellian self-interest".
The term "Theistic Satanism" has been described as "oxymoronic" by the church and its High Priest. The Church of Satan rejects the legitimacy of any other organizations who claim to be Satanists, dubbing them "Devil worshipers". Prominent Church leader Blanche Barton described Satanism as "an alignment, a lifestyle". LaVey and the Church espoused the view that "Satanists are born, not made"; that they are outsiders by their nature, living as they see fit, who are self-realized in a religion which appeals to the would-be Satanist's nature, leading them to realize they are Satanists through finding a belief system that is in line with their own perspective and lifestyle.
Although there were forms of religious Satanism that predated the creation of LaVeyan Satanism – namely those propounded by Stanisław Przybyszewski and Ben Kadosh – these had no unbroken lineage of succession to LaVey's form. The sociologist of religion Massimo Introvigne stated that "with few exceptions, LaVey is at the origins of all contemporary Satanism".
LaVey had been born in Chicago as Howard Stanton Levey in either March or April 1930. He was of mixed Ukrainian, Russian, and German ancestry. In the years following the Second World War, he worked in the circus and carnival. In later years, LaVey claimed that he worked at the San Francisco Orchestra, although this never existed. He also claimed to have had a relationship with a young Marilyn Monroe, although this too was untrue. At some point between 1957 and 1960 he began hosting classes at his house every Friday in which lectures on occultism were given. An informal group established around these lectures, which came to be known as the Magic Circle. Among those affiliated with this circle were the filmmaker and Thelemite occultist Kenneth Anger, and the anthropologist Michael Harner who later established the core shamanism movement.
LaVey founded the Church of Satan on Walpurgisnacht 1966. Preparations for its formation had likely started in either 1965 or early 1966. It was the first organized church in modern times to be devoted to the figure of Satan, and according to Faxneld and Petersen, the Church represented "the first public, highly visible, and long-lasting organisation which propounded a coherent satanic discourse". Its early members were the attendees of LaVey's Magic Circle, although it soon began recruiting new members. Shortly after establishing the Church, LaVey began performing weekly Satanic rituals with followers at his house in San Francisco, which was known as "the Black House". Weekly rituals were held every Friday night. LaVey was operating in a milieu dominated by the counterculture of the 1960s; his Church reflected some of its concerns – free love, alternative religions, freedom from church and state – but ran contrary to some of the counterculture's other main themes, such as peace and love, compassion, and the use of mind-altering drugs.
The Church experienced its "golden age" from 1966 to 1972, when it had a strong media presence. LaVey played up to his Satanic associations by growing a pointed beard and wearing a black cloak and inverted pentagram. Describing himself as the "High Priest of Satan", LaVey defined his position within the Church as "monarchical in nature, papal in degree and absolute in power". He led the Churches' governing Council of Nine, and implemented a system of five initiatory levels that the LaVeyan Satanist could advance through by demonstrating their knowledge of LaVeyan philosophy and their personal accomplishments in life. These were known as Apprentice Satanist I°, Witch or Warlock II°, Priest or Priestess of Mendes III°, Magister IV°, and Magus V°.
In February 1967 he held a much publicized Satanic wedding, which was followed by the Satanic baptism of his daughter Zeena in May, and then a Satanic funeral in December. Another publicity-attracting event was the 'Topless Witch Revue', a nightclub show held on San Francisco's North Beach; the use of topless women to attract attention alienated a number of the Church's early members. Through these and other activities, he soon attracted international media attention, being dubbed "the Black Pope". He also attracted a number of celebrities to join his Church, most notably Sammy Davis Junior and Jayne Mansfield. LaVey also established branches of the Church, known as grottos, in various parts of the United States. These included the Babylon Grotto in Detroit, the Stygian Grotto in Dayton, and the Lilith Grotto in New York City.
As a result of the success of the film Rosemary's Baby and the concomitant growth of interest in Satanism, an editor at Avon Books, Peter Mayer, approached LaVey and commissioned him to write a book, which became The Satanic Bible. While part of the text was LaVey's original writing, other sections of the book consisted of direct quotations from Arthur Desmond's right-wing tract Might is Right and the occultist Aleister Crowley's version of John Dee's Enochian Keys. There is evidence that LaVey was inspired by the writings of the American philosopher Ayn Rand; accusations that he plagiarized her work in The Satanic Bible have been disproved, however. The book served to present LaVey's ideas to a far wider audience than they had previously had.
Later development: 1972–present
LaVey ceased conducting group rituals and workshops in his home in 1972. In 1973, church leaders in Michigan, Ohio, and Florida split to form their own Church of Satanic Brotherhood, however this disbanded in 1974 when one of its founders publicly converted to Christianity. Subsequently, members of the Church of Satan based in Kentucky and Indiana left to found the Ordo Templi Satanis. In 1975, LaVey disbanded all grottos, or local units of the Church, leaving the organisation as a membership-based group that existed largely on paper. He claimed that this had been necessary because the grottos had come to be dominated by social misfits who had not benefitted the Church as a whole. He also announced that thenceforth all higher degrees in the Church would be warded in exchange for contributions of cash, real estate, or valuable art. Dissatisfied with these actions, in 1975, the high-ranking Church member Michael Aquino left to found his own Satanic organisation, the Temple of Set, which differed from LaVey's Church by adopting a belief that Satan literally existed. According to Lap, from this point on the Satanic religion became a "splintered and disorganized movement".
Between the abolition of the grotto system in 1975 and the establishment of the internet in the mid-1990s, The Satanic Bible remained the primary means of propagating Satanism. During this period, a decentralized, anarchistic movement of Satanists developed that was shaped by many of the central themes that had pervaded LaVey's thought and which was expressed in The Satanic Bible. Lewis argued that in this community, The Satanic Bible served as a "quasi-scripture" because these independent Satanists were able to adopt certain ideas from the book while merging them with ideas and practices drawn from elsewhere.
During the late 1980s, LaVey returned to the limelight, giving media interviews, attracting further celebrities, and reinstating the grotto system. In 1992 he published his first book in twenty years, The Devil's Notebook, which would be followed by the posthumous Satan Speaks in 1998, which included a foreword from the rock singer Marilyn Manson. LaVey died in 1997, with leadership of his Church being turned over to his personal assistant, Blanche Barton. That year, the Church established an official website. Subsequently, Peter H. Gilmore was appointed the Church's High Priest.
After LaVey's death, conflict over the nature of Satanism intensified within the Satanic community. A legal battle ensued between Barton, who was the mother of LaVey's son Xerxes, and one of LaVey's other children, Karla LaVey. At Halloween 1999 Karla established the First Satanic Church, which uses its website to promote the idea that it represents a direct continuation of the original Church of Satan as founded by Anton LaVey. An early member of the Church of Satan, John Dewey Allee, established his own First Church of Satan, claiming allegiance to LaVey's original teachings and professing that LaVey himself had deviated from them in later life.
The Church of Satan became increasingly doctrinally-rigid and focused on maintaining the purity of LaVeyan Satanism. The Church's increased emphasis on their role as the bearer of LaVey's legacy was partly a response to the growth in non-LaVeyan Satanists. Some Church members – including Gilmore – claimed that only they were the "real" Satanists and that those belonging to different Satanic traditions were "pseudo" Satanists. After examining many of these claims on the Church's website, Lewis concluded that it was "obsessed with shoring up its own legitimacy by attacking the heretics, especially those who criticize LaVey". Meanwhile, the Church experienced an exodus of its membership in the 2000s, with many of these individuals establishing new groups online. Although the Church's public face had performed little ceremonial activity since the early 1970s, in June 2006 they held a Satanic 'High Mass' in Los Angeles to mark the Church's fortieth birthday.
The Satanic Bible
The Satanic Bible has been in print since 1969 and has been translated into various languages. Lewis argued that although LaVeyan Satanists do not treat The Satanic Bible as a sacred text in the way many other religious groups treat their holy texts, it nevertheless is "treated as an authoritative document which effectively functions as scripture within the Satanic community". In particular, Lewis highlighted that many Satanists – both members of the Church of Satan and other groups – quote from it either to legitimize their own position or to de-legitimize the positions of others in a debate. Many other Satanist groups and individual Satanists who are not part of the Church of Satan also recognize LaVey's work as influential.
Many Satanists attribute their conversions or discoveries of Satanism to The Satanic Bible, with 20% of respondents to a survey by James Lewis mentioning The Satanic Bible directly as influencing their conversion. For members of the Church, the book is said to serve not only as a compendium of ideas but also to judge the authenticity of someone's claim to be a Satanist. LaVey's writings have been described as "cornerstones" within the Church and its teachings, and have been supplemented with the writings of its later High Priest, Gilmore, namely his book, The Satanic Scriptures.
The Satanic Bible has been described as the most important document to influence contemporary Satanism. The book contains the core principles of Satanism, and is considered the foundation of its philosophy and dogma. On their website, the Church of Satan urge anyone seeking to learn about LaVeyan Satanism to read The Satanic Bible, stating that doing so is "tantamount to understanding at least the basics of Satanism". Petersen noted that it is "in many ways the central text of the Satanic milieu", with Lap similarly testifying to its dominant position within the wider Satanic movement. David G. Bromley calls it "iconoclastic" and "the best-known and most influential statement of Satanic theology." Eugene V. Gallagher says that Satanists use LaVey's writings "as lenses through which they view themselves, their group, and the cosmos." He also states: "With a clear-eyed appreciation of true human nature, a love of ritual and pageantry, and a flair for mockery, LaVey's Satanic Bible promulgated a gospel of self-indulgence that, he argued, anyone who dispassionately considered the facts would embrace."
Atheism and Satan
LaVey was an atheist, rejecting the existence of all gods. Accordingly, LaVey and his Church do not espouse a belief in Satan as an entity who literally exists, and LaVey did not encourage the worship of Satan as a deity. Instead, the use of Satan as a central figure is intentionally symbolic. LaVey sought to cement his belief system within the secularist world-view that derived from natural science, thus providing him with an atheistic basis with which to criticize Christianity and other supernaturalist beliefs. He legitimized his religion by highlighting what he claimed was its rational nature, contrasting this with what he saw as the supernaturalist irrationality of established religions.
Instead, the image of Satan is embraced because of its association with social non-conformity and rebellion against the dominant system. LaVey embraced the image of Satan and the label of "Satanist" because it shocked people into thinking, and when asked about his religion states that "the reason it's called Satanism is because it's fun, it's accurate and it's productive".
LaVey also conceptualised Satan as a symbol of the individual's own vitality, thus representing an autonomous power within, and a representation of personal liberty and individualism. Throughout The Satanic Bible, the LaVeyan Satanist's view of god is described as the Satanist's true "self"—a projection of his or her own personality—not an external deity. In works like The Satanic Bible, LaVey often uses the terms "god" and "Satan" interchangeably, viewing both as personifications of human nature. Despite this, both LaVey's writings and the publications of the Church continue to refer to Satan as if he were a real being, in doing so seeking to reinforce the Satanist's self-interest.
LaVey used Christianity as a negative mirror for his new faith, with LaVeyan Satanism rejecting the basic principles and theology of Christian belief. It views Christianity – alongside other major religions, and philosophies such as humanism and liberal democracy – as a largely negative force on humanity; LaVeyan Satanists perceive Christianity as a lie which promotes idealism, self-denigration, herd behavior, and irrationality. LaVeyans view their religion as a force for redressing this balance by encouraging materialism, egoism, stratification, carnality, atheism, and social Darwinism. LaVey's Satanism was particularly critical of what it understands as Christianity's denial of humanity's animal nature, and it instead calls for the celebration of, and indulgence in, these desires. In doing so, it places an emphasis on the carnal rather than the spiritual.
Human nature and society
LaVey's philosophy was Social Darwinist in basis, having been influenced by the writings of Herbert Spencer, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Ayn Rand. LaVey stated that his Satanism was "just Ayn Rand's philosophy with ceremony and ritual added". Characterising LaVey as a Nietzschean, the religious studies scholar Asbjørn Dyrendal nevertheless thought that LaVey's "personal synthesis seems decidedly his own creation, even though the different ingredients going into it are at times very visible." Social Darwinism is particularly noticeable in The Book of Satan, where LaVey uses portions of Redbeard's Might Is Right, though it also appears throughout in references to man's inherent strength and instinct for self-preservation.
For LaVey, the human being was explicitly viewed as an animal, who thus has no purpose other than survival of the fittest, and who therefore exists in an amoral context. He believed that in adopting a philosophical belief in its own superiority above that of the other animals, humankind has become "the most vicious animal of all". For LaVey, non-human animals and children represent an ideal, "the purest form of carnal existence", because they have not been indoctrinated with Christian or other religious concepts of guilt and shame. He was anti-egalitarian and elitist, believing in the fundamental inequality of different human beings. His ethical views focused around placing oneself and one's family before others, minding one's own business, and – for men – behaving like a gentleman. In responding to threats and harm, he promoted a policy of lex talionis, for instance reversing a Biblical Christian teaching by stating that "if a man smite thee on the one cheek, smash him on the other." LaVey did not believe in any afterlife.
LaVey believed that the ideal Satanist should be individualistic and non-conformist, rejecting what he called the "colorless existence" that mainstream society sought to impose on those living within it. He praised the human ego for encouraging an individual's pride, self-respect, and self-realization and accordingly believed in satisfying the ego's desires. He expressed the view that self-indulgence was a desirable trait, and that hate and aggression were not wrong or undesirable emotions but that they were necessary and advantageous for survival. Accordingly, he praised the Seven Deadly Sins as virtues which were beneficial for the individual.
Similarly, LaVey criticized the negative and restrictive attitude to sexuality present in many religions, instead supporting any sexual acts that take place between consenting adults. His Church welcomed homosexual members from its earliest years, and he also endorsed celibacy for those who were asexual. He sought to discourage negative feelings of guilt arising from sexual acts such as masturbation and fetishes, and believed that rejecting these sexual inhibitions and guilt would result in a happier and healthier society. Discussing women, LaVey argued that they should use sex as a tool to manipulate men, in order to advance their own personal power. Conversely, non-consensual sexual relations, such as rape and child molestation, were denounced by LaVey and his Church.
LaVey supported eugenics and expected it to become a necessity in future. The anthropologist Jean La Fontaine highlighted an article that appeared in The Black Flame, in which one writer described "a true Satanic society" as one in which the population consists of "free-spirited, well-armed, fully-conscious, self-disciplined individuals, who will neither need nor tolerate any external entity 'protecting' them or telling them what they can and cannot do." This rebellious approach conflicts with LaVey's firm beliefs in observing the rule of law.
Although many of LaVey's ideas are shaped around a secular and scientific world-view, others express the belief that there are various magical forces in existence; rather than characterising these as supernatural, LaVey expressed the view that they were part of the natural world yet thus far undiscovered by science. He believed that the successful use of magic involved the magician manipulating these natural forces using the force of their own willpower, a trait of the religion that has been compared with Christian Science and Scientology. Outlined in The Satanic Bible, LaVey defined magic as "the change in situations or events in accordance with one's will, which would, using normally accepted methods, be unchangeable." In presenting himself as applying a scientific perspective on magic, LaVey was likely influenced by Crowley, who had also presented his approach to magic in the same way. LaVey refused any division between black magic and white magic, attributing this dichotomy purely to the "smug hypocrisy and self-deceit" of those who called themselves "white magicians".
LaVey defined his system of magic as greater and lesser magic. Greater magic is a form of ritual practice and is meant as psychodramatic catharsis to focus one's emotional energy for a specific purpose. These rites are based on three major psycho-emotive themes: compassion (love), destruction (hate), and sex (lust). The space in which a ritual is performed is known as an "intellectual decompression chamber", where skepticism and disbelief are willfully suspended, thus allowing the magicians to fully express their mental and emotional needs, holding back nothing regarding their deepest feelings and desires. This magic could then be employed to ensure sexual gratification, material gain, personal success, or to curse one's enemies. LaVey also wrote of "the balance factor", insisting that any magical aims should be realistic. These rituals are often considered to be magical acts, with LaVey's Satanism encouraging the practice of magic to aid one's selfish ends. Much of Satanic ritual is designed for an individual to carry out alone; this is because concentration is seen as key to performing magical acts.
Lesser magic, also referred to an "everyday" or "situational" magic, is the practice of manipulation by means of applied psychology. LaVey defined it as "wile and guile obtained through various devices and contrived situations, which when utilized, can create change in accordance with one's will." LaVey wrote that a key concept in lesser magic is the “command to look”, which can be accomplished by utilizing elements of “sex, sentiment, and wonder”, in addition to the utilization of looks, body language, scents, color, patters, and odor. This system encourages a form of manipulative role-play, wherein the practitioner may alter several elements of their physical appearance in order to aid them in seducing or "bewitching" on object of desire.
LaVey developed “The Synthesizer Clock”, the purpose of which is to divide humans into distinct groups of people based primarily on body shape and personality traits. The synthesizer is modeled as a clock, and based on concepts of somatotypes. The clock is intended to aid a witch in identifying themselves, subsequently aiding in utilizing the “attraction of opposites” to “spellbind” the witch's object of desire by assuming the opposite role. The successful application of lesser magic is said to be built upon one's understanding of their place on the clock. Upon finding your position on the clock, you are encouraged to adapt it as seen fit, and perfect your type by harmonizing its element for better success.
Dyrendal referred to LaVey's techniques as “Erving Goffman meets William Mortensen”. Drawing insights from psychology, biology, and sociology, Petersen noted that lesser magic combines occult and “rejected sciences of body analysis [and] temperaments.”
LaVey defined magic as "the change in situations or events in accordance with one's will, which would, using normally accepted methods, be unchangeable." LaVey espoused the view that there was an objective reality to magic, and that it relied upon natural forces that were yet to be discovered by science.
The "central convictions" of LaVeyan Satanism are formulated into three lists, which are regularly reproduced within the Church of Satan's written material.
The Nine Satanic Statements
The Nine Satanic Statements are a set of nine assertions made by LaVey in the introductory chapters of The Satanic Bible. They are considered a touchstone of contemporary organized Satanism that constitute, in effect, brief aphorisms that capture of Satanic philosophy. The first three statements touch on “indulgence”, “vital existence” and “undefiled wisdom” which presents a positive view of the Satanist as a carnal, physical and pragmatic being, where enjoyment of physical existence and an undiluted view of this-worldly truth are promoted as the core values of Satanism, combining elements of Darwinism and Epicureanism. Statement four, five and six deal in matters of ethics, through “kindness to those who deserve it”, “vengeance” and “responsibility to the responsible”, painting a harsh picture of society and human relations by emphasizing justice rather than love. Statements seven, eight and nine reject the dignity of man, sin and the Christian church. Humans are characterized as “just another animal”, traditional “sins” are promoted as means for gratification, and religion as mere business. The adversarial and antinomian aspect of Satan takes precedence in support of statements four through nine, with non-conformity being presented as a core ideal.
- Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence.
- Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams.
- Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit.
- Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it, instead of love wasted on ingrates.
- Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek.
- Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires.
- Satan represents man as just another animal who, because of his "divine spiritual and intellectual development", has become the most vicious animal of all.
- Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification.
- Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as he has kept it in business all these years.
The Eleven Rules of the Earth
- Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked.
- Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them.
- When in another's lair, show them respect or else do not go there.
- If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat them cruelly and without mercy.
- Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.
- Do not take that which does not belong to you unless it is a burden to the other person and they cry out to be relieved.
- Acknowledge the power of magic if you have employed it successfully to obtain your desires. If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all you have obtained.
- Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself.
- Do not harm little children.
- Do not kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food.
- When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask them to stop. If they do not stop, destroy them.
The Nine Satanic Sins
- Herd Conformity
- Lack of Perspective
- Forgetfulness of Past Orthodoxies
- Counterproductive Pride
- Lack of Aesthetics
Rites and practices
Magic and ritual
LaVey emphasized that in his tradition, Satanic rites came in two forms, neither of which were acts of worship; in his terminology, "rituals" were intended to bring about change, whereas "ceremonies" celebrated a particular occasion. These rituals were often considered to be magical acts, with LaVey's Satanism encouraging the practice of magic to aid one's selfish ends. Much of LaVeyan ritual is designed for an individual to carry out alone; this is because concentration is seen as key to performing magical acts. In The Satanic Bible, LaVey described three types of ritual in his religion: sex rituals designed to attract the desired romantic or sexual partner, compassionate rituals with the intent of helping people (including oneself), and destructive magic which seeks to do harm to others. In designing these rituals, LaVey drew upon a variety of older sources, with scholar of Satanism Per Faxneld noting that LaVey "assembled rituals from a hodgepodge of historical sources, literary as well as esoteric".
LaVey described a number of rituals in his book, The Satanic Rituals; these are "dramatic performances" with specific instructions surrounding the clothing to be worn, the music to be used, and the actions to be taken. This attention to detail in the design of the rituals was intentional, with their pageantry and theatricality intending to engage the participants' senses and aesthetic senses at various levels and enhancing the participants' willpower for magical ends. LaVey prescribed that male participants should wear black robes, while older women should wear black, and other women should dress attractively in order to stimulate sexual feelings among many of the men. All participants are instructed to wear amulets of either the upturned pentagram or the image of Baphomet.
According to LaVey's instructions, on the altar is to be placed an image of Baphomet. This should be accompanied by various candles, all but one of which are to be black. The lone exception is to be a white candle, used in destructive magic, which is kept to the right of the altar. Also to be included are a bell which is rung nine times at the start and end of the ceremony, a chalice made of anything but gold, and which contains an alcoholic drink symbolizing the "Elixir of Life", a sword that represents aggression, a model phallus used as an aspergillum, a gong, and parchment on which requests to Satan are to be written before being burned. Although alcohol was consumed in the Church's rites, drunkenness was frowned upon and the taking of illicit drugs was forbidden.
LaVeyan rituals sometimes include anti-Christian blasphemies, which are intended to have a liberating effect on the participants. In some of the rituals, a naked woman serves as the altar; in these cases it is made explicit that the woman's body itself becomes the altar, rather than have her simply lying on an existing altar. There is no place for sexual orgies in LaVeyan ritual. Neither animal nor human sacrifice takes place. Children are banned from attending these rituals, with the only exception being the Satanic Baptism, which is specifically designed to involve infants.
LaVey also developed his own Black Mass, which was designed as a form of deconditioning to free the participant from any inhibitions that they developed living in Christian society. He noted that in composing the Black Mass rite, he had drawn upon the work of Charles Baudelaire and Joris-Karl Huysmans. LaVey openly toyed with the use of literature and popular culture in other rituals and ceremonies, thus appealing to artifice, pageantry, and showmanship. For instance, he published an outline of a ritual which he termed the "Call to Cthulhu" which drew upon the stories of the alien god Cthulhu authored by American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. In this rite, set to take place at night in a secluded location near to a turbulent body of water, a celebrant takes on the role of Cthulhu and appears before the assembled Satanists, signing a pact between them in the language of Lovecraft's fictional "Old Ones".
LaVey and the Church of Satan deemed an individual's birthday to be the most important day of the year. Walpurgisnacht (April 30) is celebrated as the date on which LaVey founded his Church. A third annual festival is Halloween, which also has associations with magic and dark entities.
As a symbol of his Satanic church, LaVey adopted the upturned five-pointed pentagram. The upturned pentagram had previously been used by the French occultist Eliphas Lévi, and had been adopted by his disciple, Stanislas de Guaita, who merged it with a goat's head in his 1897 book, Key of Black Magic. In the literature and imagery predating LaVey, imagery used to represent the "satanic" is denoted by inverted crosses and blasphemous parodies of Christian art. The familiar goat's head inside an inverted pentagram did not become the foremost symbol of Satanism until the founding of the Church of Satan in 1966. LaVey learned of this variant of the symbol after it had been reproduced on the front cover of Maurice Bessy's coffee table book, Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural. Feeling that this symbol embodied his philosophy, LaVey decided to adopt it for his Church. In its formative years, the Church utilized this image on its membership cards, stationary, medallions and most notably above the altar in the ritual chamber of the Black House.
During the writing of The Satanic Bible, it was decided that a unique version of the symbol should be rendered to be identified exclusively with the Church. LaVey created a new version of Guaita's image, one which was geometrically precise, with two perfect circles surrounding the pentagram, the goat head redrawn, and the Hebrew lettering altered to look more serpentine. LaVey had this design copyrighted to the Church, claiming authorship under the pseudonym of "Hugo Zorilla". In doing so, the symbol – which came to be known as the Sigil of Baphomet – came to be closely associated with Satanism in the public imagination.
Membership levels of the Church of Satan are hard to determine, as the organisation has not released such information. The historian of religion Massimo Introvigne suggested that it had never had more than 1000 or 2000 members at its height, but that LaVeyan ideas had had a far greater influence through LaVey's books. Membership is gained by paying $200 and filling out a registration statement, and thus initiates are bestowed with lifetime memberships and not charged annual fees.
La Fontaine thought it likely that the easy availability of LaVey's writings would have encouraged the creation of various Satanic groups that were independent of the Church of Satan itself. In The Black Flame, a number of groups affiliated with the Church have been mentioned, most of which are based in the United States and Canada although two groups were cited as having existed in New Zealand. 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". "Reflecting the dominant influence of Anton LaVey's thought", Lewis noted that the majority of those whom he examined were atheists or agnostics, with 60% of respondents viewing Satanism as a symbol rather than a real entity. 20% of his respondents described The Satanic Bible as the most important factor that attracted them to Satanism. Elsewhere, Lewis noted that few Satanists who weren't members of the Church of Satan would regard themselves as "orthodox LaVeyans".
Examining the number of LaVeyan Satanists in Britain, in 1995 the religious studies scholar Graham Harvey noted that the Church of Satan had no organized presence in the country. He noted that LaVey's writings were widely accessible in British bookshops, and La Fontaine suggested that there may have been individual Church members within the country.
- Contemporary Religious Satanism
- Satanic ritual abuse
- Devil in popular culture
- Conceptions of God
- Nontheistic religions
- Religious naturalism
- Secular religion
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- The Invention of Satanism Dyrendal, Petersen 2016.
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- Sexuality and New Religious Movements & Lewis, Bogdan 2014.
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- Official Church of Satan website
- “Satanism as Weltanschauung”, the philosophy of the Church of Satan (presented by Kevin I. Slaughter at the Maryland Institute College of Art)
- "Satan as Rebel Hero: Henry M. Tichenor and the Radical Anti-religious (presented by Kevin I. Slaughter and Robert Merciless at SkeptiCamp DC on October 3, 2010, College Park, MD)
- "What Does Satanism Mean to You?" (Interview with members of the Church of Satan.)
- "Inside the Church of Satan (Documentary)
- 9sense Podcast interview with Peter H. Gilmore on Walpurgisnacht.
- News related to Satanism: An interview with Church of Satan High Priest Peter Gilmore at Wikinews