Satanism is a group of ideological and philosophical beliefs based on the character of Satan. Contemporary religious practice of Satanism began with the founding of the Church of Satan in 1966, although a few historical precedents exist. Prior to the public practice, Satanism existed primarily as an accusation by various Christian groups toward perceived ideological opponents, rather than a self-identity. Satanism, and the concept of Satan, has also been used by artists and entertainers for symbolic expression.
Accusations that various groups have been practicing Satanists have been made throughout much of Christian history. During the Middle Ages, the Inquisition attached to the Roman Catholic Church alleged that various heretical Christian sects and groups, such as the Knights Templar and the Cathars, performed secret Satanic rituals. In the subsequent Early Modern period, belief in a widespread Satanic conspiracy of witches resulted in mass trials of alleged witches across Europe and the North American colonies. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Satanic ritual abuse hysteria spread through the United States and United Kingdom, amid unfounded fears that groups of Satanists were regularly sexually abusing and murdering children in their rites. In virtually all of these cases, there is no corroborating evidence that any of those accused of Satanism were actually practitioners of a Satanic religion or guilty of the allegations levelled at them.
Since the 19th century, various small religious groups have emerged that self-identify as Satanists or use Satanic iconography. Satanist groups that appeared after the 1960s are widely diverse, but two major trends are theistic Satanism and atheistic Satanism. Theistic Satanists venerate Satan as a supernatural deity, viewing him not as omnipotent but rather as a patriarch. In contrast, atheistic Satanists regard Satan as merely a symbol of certain human traits.
Contemporary religious Satanism is predominantly an American phenomenon, the ideas spreading elsewhere with the effects of globalization and the Internet. The Internet spreads awareness of other Satanists, and is also the main battleground for Satanist disputes. Satanism started to reach Eastern Europe in the 1990s, in time with the fall of the Soviet Union, and most noticeably in Poland and Lithuania, predominantly Roman Catholic countries.
- 1 Definition
- 2 Accusations of Satanism
- 3 Artistic Satanism
- 4 Religious Satanism
- 5 Legal recognition
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
In their study of Satanism, the religious studies scholars Asbjorn Dyrendal, James R. Lewis, and Jesper Aa. Petersen stated that the term Satanism "has a history of being a designation made by people against those whom they dislike; it is a term used for 'othering'."
Elsewhere, Petersen noted that "Satanism as something others do is very different from Satanism as a self-designation". Eugene Gallagher noted that, as commonly used, Satanism was usually "a polemical, not a descriptive term".
The word "Satan" was not originally a proper name but rather an ordinary noun meaning "the Adversary"; in this context it appears at several points in the Old Testament. For instance, in the Book of Samuel, David is presented as the satan ("adversary") of the Phillistines, while in the Book of Numbers it appears as a verb, when God sends an angel to satan ("to oppose") Balaam. Prior to the composition of the New Testament, the idea developed within Jewish communities that Satan was the name of an angel who had rebelled against God and had been cast out of Heaven along with his followers; this account would be incorporated into contemporary texts like the Book of Enoch. This figure of Satan was then featured in parts of the New Testament, where he was presented as a figure who tempted humans to commit sin; in the Book of Matthew and the Book of Luke, he attempted to tempt Jesus of Nazareth as the latter fasted in the wilderness.
The terms "Satanism" and "Satanist" are first recorded in the sixteenth century, when they were used by Christian groups to attack other, rival Christian groups. In a Roman Catholic tract of 1565, the author condemns the "heresies, blasphemies, and sathanismes [sic]" of the Protestants. In an Anglican work of 1559, Anabaptists and other Protestant sects are condemned as "swarmes of Satanistes [sic]". The word "Satanism" was adopted into English from the French satanisme.
Accusations of Satanism
Historically, some people or groups have been specifically described as worshiping Satan or the Devil, or of being devoted to the work of Satan. The widespread preponderance of these groups in European cultures is in part connected with the importance and meaning of Satan within Christianity.
The Inquisition claimed that the Cathars, a Christian sect which rejected Catholic doctrine, had conducted nocturnal orgies in which they had kissed the Devil's anus. The Knights Templar were accused of worshipping an idol known as Baphomet, with Lucifer having appeared at their meetings in the form of a cat.
Within Christian thought, the idea developed that certain individuals could make a pact with Satan. This may have emerged after observing that pacts with gods and goddesses played a role in various pre-Christian, "pagan" belief systems, or that such pacts were also made as part of the Christian cult of saints. Another possibility is that derives from a misunderstanding of Augustine of Hippo's condemnation of augury in his On the Christian Doctrine, written in the late fourth century. Here, he stated that people who consulted augurs were entering "quasi pacts" (covenants) with demons. The idea of the diabolical pact made with demons was popularised across Europe in the story of Faust, likely based in part on the real life Johann Georg Faust.
The accusations that had been levelled at heretics in the Late Middle Ages came to be applied to witches in the ensuing Early Modern period. Most historians agree that the majority of those persecuted in these witch trials were innocent of any involvement in Devil worship. However, in their summary of the evidence for the trials, the historians Geoffrey Scarre and John Callow thought it "without doubt" that some of those accused in the trials had been guilty of employing magic in an attempt to harm their enemies, and were thus genuinely guilty of witchcraft.
In the early 20th century, the British novelist Dennis Wheatley produced a range of influential novels in which his protagonists battled Satanic groups. At the same time, non-fiction like Montague Summers and Rollo Ahmed published books claiming that Satanic groups practicing black magic were still active across the world, although they provided no evidence that this was the case. During the 1950s, various British tabloid newspapers repeated such claims, largely basing their accounts on the allegations of one woman, Sarah Jackson, who claimed to have been a member of such a group. In 1973, the British Christian Doreen Irvine published From Witchcraft to Christ, in which she claimed to have been a member of a Satanic group that gave her supernatural powers, such as the ability to levitate, before she escaped and embraced Christianity. In the United States during the 1960s and 1970s, various Christian preachers—the most famous being Mike Warnke in his 1972 book The Satan-Seller—claimed that they had been members of Satanic groups who carried out sex rituals and animal sacrifices before discovering Christianity. According to Gareth Medway in his historical examination of Satanism, these stories were "a series of inventions by insecure people and hack writers, each one based on a previous story, exaggerated a little more each time".
Other publications made allegations of Satanism against historical figures. The 1970s saw the publication of the Christian Richard Wurmbrand's book in which he argued—without corroborating evidence—that the socio-political theorist Karl Marx had been a Satanist.
- Pagans celebrating Pan, Odin, Perkūnas, or other pagan deities were often claimed by the Catholic Church to be worshiping the Devil and his crones and minions.
- Many gnostic groups have been regarded as Satanic, with its prominent details implying Lucifer, or the serpent, as being a true god or prophet that liberated Adam and Eve while the god of the Old Testament is regarded as a demiurge. Hegemonius accused Mani, founder of Manicheanism, of being Satanic when Mani said that Jehovah is "the devil god which created the world" and that "he who spoke with Moses, the Jews, and the priests, is the [Prince] of Darkness, not the god of truth."
- The witch trials in early modern Europe, in particular, the notion that witches congregated at a Witches' Sabbath in order to serve the Devil.
- Urbain Grandier (17th century, France). Although set up by the Catholic Church, a very famous document, in Latin, of a pact with the Devil he allegedly wrote has been preserved.
- People involved in the Poison Affair, such as Catherine Deshayes and Étienne Guibourg (17th century, France). The documentation from their trial is the principal Early Modern source for information on the Black Mass.
- The Marquis de Sade (18th century, France), described by Iwan Bloch as being a fanatic Satanist.
- Many adherents of the Decadent movement, such as the Polish author Stanisław Przybyszewski, the Belgian artist Félicien Rops, and the French poet Charles Baudelaire (who published Les Litanies de Satan in 1857) either called themselves Satanists, or created overtly Satanist artwork and literature.
- Some French movements widely described as being Satanist by French writers of the time (late 19th to early 20th centuries). The most well-known description available in English is the 1891 novel Là-bas by Joris-Karl Huysmans. However, there were numerous other well-known personalities in France that were related to the circles Huysmans describes, such as Joseph-Antoine Boullan, Stanislas de Guaita, Henri Antoine Jules-Bois, and Joséphin Péladan, who either wrote about Satanism in France, or were accused of being Satanists themselves.
- Freemasonry was described as being Satanist in the completely discredited Taxil hoax.
- In Germany, from about 1910 to 1925, Hanns Heinz Ewers, who was becoming a popular German horror writer (including for film scripts), was giving lectures on Die Religion des Satan (The Religion of Satan), inspired by Stanisław Przybyszewski's 1897 German work Die Synagoge des Satan (The Synagogue of Satan). In 1926, Eugen Grosche founded the Fraternitas Saturni, which dealt with both Lucifer and Satan, and published the book Satanische Magie (Satanic Magic) the same year.
- A French author describing the various sects in Paris in the 1930s, mentions one sect, led by a former Catholic priest, that celebrated an inversion of the Latin Mass (a "Luciferian Mass"), which included the phrase "In nomine Domini Dei nostri Satanae Luciferi Excelsi" (a phrase that re-appeared 30 years later in Anton LaVey's Satanic Bible).
The Yazidis, a minority religion of the Middle East who worship Melek Taus, are often referred to as Satan worshippers by some Muslims. Due to this, they have been targeted for conversion and extermination by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Satanic ritual abuse hysteria
At the end of the twentieth century, a moral panic developed around claims regarding a Devil-worshipping cult that made use of sexual abuse, murder, and cannibalism in its rituals, with children being among its victims. Initially, the alleged perpetrators of such crimes were labelled "witches", although the term "Satanist" was soon adopted as a favoured alternative, and the phenomenon itself came to be called "the Satanism Scare". Promoters of the claims alleged that there was a conspiracy of organised Satanists who occupied many different professions, from the police to politicians, and that they had been powerful enough to cover up their crimes.
One of the primary sources for the scare was Michelle Remembers, a 1980 book by the Canadian psychiatrist Lawrence Pazder in which he detailed what he claimed were the repressed memories of his patient (and wife) Michelle Smith. Smith had claimed that as a child she had been abused by her family in Satanic rituals in which babies were sacrificed and Satan himself appeared. In 1983, allegations were made that the McMartin family—owners of a preschool in California—were guilty of sexually abusing the children in their care during Satanic rituals. The allegations resulted in a lengthy and expensive trial, in which all of the accused would eventually be cleared. The publicity generated by the case resulted in similar allegations being made in various other parts of the United States. A prominent aspect of the Satanic Scare was the claim by those in the developing "anti-Satanism" movement that any child's claim about Satanic ritual abuse must be true, because children would not lie. Although some involved in the anti-Satanism movement were from Jewish and secular backgrounds, a central part was played by fundamentalist and evangelical forms of Christianity, in particular Pentecostalism, with Christian groups holding conferences and producing books and videotapes to promote belief in the conspiracy. Various figures in law enforcement also came to be promoters of the conspiracy theory, with such "cult cops" holding various conferences to promote it. The scare was later imported to the United Kingdom through visiting evangelicals and became popular among some of the country's social workers, resulting in a range of accusations and trials across Britain.
In the late 1980s, the Satanic Scare had lost its impetus following increasing scepticism about such allegations, and a number of those who had been convicted of perpetrating Satanic ritual abuse saw their convictions overturned. In 1990, an agent of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ken Lanning, revealed that he had investigated 300 allegations of Satanic ritual abuse and found no evidence for Satanism or ritualistic activity in any of them. In the UK, the Department of Health commissioned the anthropologist Jean La Fontaine to examine the allegations of SRA. She noted that while approximately half did reveal evidence of genuine sexual abuse of children, none revealed any evidence that Satanist groups had been involved or that any murders had taken place. She noted three examples in which lone individuals engaged in child molestation had created a ritual performance to facilitate their sexual acts, with the intent of frightening their victims and justifying their actions, but that none of these child molestors were involved in wider Satanist groups.
European Enlightenment, some works, such as Paradise Lost, were taken up by Romantics like Byron and described as presenting the biblical figure of Satan as an allegory representing a crisis of faith, individualism, free will, wisdom and enlightenment. Those works actually featuring Satan as a heroic character are fewer in number but do exist. George Bernard Shaw and Mark Twain (cf. Letters from the Earth) included such characterizations in their works long before religious Satanists took up the pen. From then on, Satan and Satanism started to gain a new meaning outside of Christianity.
Black metal has often been connected with Satanism, in part for the lyrical content of several bands and their frequent use of imagery often tied to left hand path beliefs (such as the inverted pentagram). More often than not musicians associating themselves with black metal say they do not believe in legitimate Satanic ideology and often profess to being atheists, agnostics, or religious skeptics. In some instances, followers of right hand path religions use Satanic references for entertainment purposes and shock value. Most of black metal's "first wave" bands only used Satanism for shock value; one of the few exceptions is Mercyful Fate singer King Diamond, who follows LaVeyan Satanism and whom Michael Moynihan calls "one of the only performers of the '80s Satanic Metal who was more than just a poseur using a devilish image for shock value". One early precursor to Satanic metal was the 1969 rock album Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls, which contained numerous references to Satanism that reappeared in later Satanic rock music.
Glen Benton, vocalist and bassist of the band Deicide, once openly claimed to be a practitioner of theistic Satanism, and has spoken publicly to profess staunch anti-Christian sentiment. The controversial Dissection frontman Jon Nödtveidt openly spoke about his "chaos-gnostic" satanic beliefs, being a member of the Misanthropic Luciferian Order, and called his band "the sonic propaganda unit of the MLO". Norwegian black metal artists such as Euronymous from Mayhem and Infernus from Gorgoroth have also identified themselves as Satanists and actively promoted their beliefs. Numerous church burnings that covered parts of Norway in the early 1990s were also attributed to youths involved in the black metal movement, which included people promoting theistic Satanic beliefs and strong anti-LaVeyan attitudes. However, the legitimacy of such actions as Satanic endeavors, rather than simply rebellious actions done for publicity, is something that has been doubted by even some of those who contribute to the genre.
Rather than being one single form of religious Satanism, there are instead multiple different religious Satanisms, each with different ideas about what being a Satanist entails. Dyrendal, Lewis, and Petersen believed that it was not a single movement, but rather a milieu. They believed that there was a family resemblance that united all of the varying groups in this milieu, and that most of them were self religions. They argued that there were a set of features that were common to the groups in this Satanic milieu: these were the positive use of the term "Satanist" as a designation, an emphasis on individualism, a genealogy that connects them to other Satanic groups, a transgressive and antinomian stance, a self-perception as an elite, and an embrace of values such as pride, self-reliance, and productive non-conformity.
Dyrendal, Lewis, and Petersen argued that the groups within the Satanic milieu could be divided into three groups: reactive Satanists, rationalist Satanists, and esoteric Satanists. They saw reactive Satanism as encompassing "popular Satanism, inverted Christianity, and symbolic rebellion" and noted that it situates itself in opposition to society while at the same time conforming to society's perspective of evil. Rationalist Satanism is used to describe the trend in the Satanic milieu which is atheistic, sceptical, materialistic, and epicurean. Esoteric Satanism instead applied to those forms which are theistic and draw upon ideas from other forms of Western esotericism, Modern Paganism, Buddhism, and Hinduism.
Both during his life and after it, the British occultist Aleister Crowley has been widely described as a Satanist, usually by detractors. Crowley stated he did not consider himself a Satanist, nor did he worship Satan, as he did not accept the Christian world view in which Satan was believed to exist. He nevertheless utilised Satanic imagery, for instance by describing himself as "the Beast 666" and referring to the Whore of Babylon in his work, while in later life he sent "Antichristmas cards" to his friends.
LaVeyan Satanism was founded in 1966 by Anton LaVey through the establishment of the Church of Satan. Its central text, The Satanic Bible, was published in 1969. The fundamentals of the religion's creed are synthesized in The Nine Satanic Statements, The Nine Satanic Sins, and The Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth. Contrary to popular belief, LaVeyan Satanism does not involve the worship of deities. It is an atheistic philosophy that asserts the individual as their own god. Adherents instead see the character of Satan as an archetype of pride, carnality and enlightenment. Adherents to the philosophy have described Satanism as a non-spiritual religion of the flesh, or "...the world's first carnal religion".
The Church of Satan
The Church of Satan was established at the Black House in San Francisco, California, on Walpurgisnacht, April 30, 1966, by Anton Szandor LaVey, who was the church's High Priest until his death in 1997. In 2001, Peter H. Gilmore was appointed to the position of high priest, and the church's headquarters were moved to Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan, New York City. The Church is dedicated to the religion of LaVeyan Satanism as codified in The Satanic Bible. The church rejects the legitimacy of any other organizations that consider themselves Satanist.
First Satanic Church
After LaVey's death in 1997, the Church of Satan was taken over by a new administration and its headquarters was moved to New York. LaVey's daughter, the High Priestess Karla LaVey, felt this to be a disservice to her father's legacy. The First Satanic Church was re-founded on October 31, 1999 by Karla LaVey to carry on the legacy of her father. She continues to run it out of San Francisco, California.
The Satanic Temple
The Satanic Temple is an American religious and political activist organization based in New York. The organization actively participates in public affairs that have manifested in several public political actions and efforts at lobbying, with a focus on the separation of church and state and using satire against Christian groups that it believes interfere with personal freedom.
The Satanic Temple does not believe in a supernatural Satan, as they believe that this encourages superstition that will keep them from being "malleable to the best current scientific understandings of the material world". The Temple uses the literary Satan as metaphor to construct a cultural narrative which promotes pragmatic skepticism, rational reciprocity, personal autonomy, and curiosity. Satan is thus used as a symbol representing "the eternal rebel" against arbitrary authority and social norms.
Theistic Satanism (also known as traditional Satanism, Spiritual Satanism or Devil worship) is a form of Satanism with the primary belief that Satan is an actual deity or force to revere or worship. Other characteristics of theistic Satanism may include a belief in magic, which is manipulated through ritual, although that is not a defining criterion, and theistic Satanists may focus solely on devotion.
Third Term of the Trinity
In 1935 the Temple of the Third Term, an esoteric group that included Satanic rhetoric and elements, was established in a room in Paris, France by Maria de Naglowska, a Russian occultist who had fled to France following the Russian Revolution. She promoted a theology centred on what she called the Third Term of the Trinity consisting of Father, Son, and Sex, the latter of which she deemed to be most important. Her early disciplines, who underwent what she called "Satanic Initiations", included models and art students recruited from bohemian circles.
Our Lady of Endor Coven
Our Lady of Endor Coven, also known as Ophite Cultus Satanas (originally spelled "Sathanas"), was a satanic cult founded in 1948 by Herbert Arthur Sloane in Toledo, Ohio. The group was heavily influenced by gnosticism (especially that found in the contemporary book by Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion), and worshiped Satanas, their name for Satan (Cultus Satanas is a Latin version of Cult of Satan). Satanas (or Satan) was defined in gnostic terms as the Serpent in the Garden of Eden who revealed the knowledge of the true God to Eve. That it called itself "Ophite" is a reference to the ancient gnostic sect of the Ophites, who were said to worship the serpent.
Order of Nine Angles
According to the group's own claims, the Order of Nine Angles was established in Shropshire, Western England during the late 1960s, when a Grand Mistress united a number of ancient pagan groups active in the area. This account states that when the Order's Grand Mistress migrated to Australia, a man known as "Anton Long" took over as the new Grand Master. From 1976 onward he authored an array of texts for the tradition, codifying and extending its teachings, mythos, and structure. Various academics have argued that Long is the pseudonym of British Neo-Nazi activist David Myatt, an allegation that Myatt has denied. The ONA arose to public attention in the early 1980s, spreading its message through magazine articles over the following two decades. In 2000, it established a presence on the internet, later adopting social media to promote its message.
The ONA is a secretive organization, and lacks any central administration, instead operating as a network of allied Satanic practitioners, which it terms the "kollective". It consists largely of autonomous cells known as "nexions". The majority of these are located in Britain, Ireland, and Germany, although others are located elsewhere in Europe, and in Russia, Egypt, South Africa, Brazil, Australia, and the United States.
The ONA describe their occultism as "Traditional Satanism". The ONA's writings encourage human sacrifice, referring to their victims as opfers. According to the Order's teachings, such opfers must demonstrate character faults that mark them out as being worthy of death, and accordingly the ONA insists that children must never be victims. No ONA cell have admitted to carrying out a sacrifice in a ritualised manner, but rather Order members have joined the police and military in order to carry out such killings. Faxneld described the Order as "a dangerous and extreme form of Satanism", while Harvey claimed that the ONA fit the stereotype of the Satanist "better than other groups" by embracing "deeply shocking" and illegal acts.
The researcher Gareth Medway noted that in 1995 he encountered a British woman who stated that she had been a practicing Satanist during her teenage years. She had grown up in a small mining village, and had come to believe that she had psychic powers. After hearing about Satanism in some library books, she declared herself a Satanist and formulated a belief that Satan was the true god. After her teenage years she abandoned Satanism and became a chaos magickian.
Luciferianism can be understood best as a belief system or intellectual creed that venerates the essential and inherent characteristics that are affixed and commonly given to Lucifer. Luciferianism is often identified as an auxiliary creed or movement of Satanism, due to the common identification of Lucifer with Satan. Some Luciferians accept this identification and/or consider Lucifer as the "light bearer" and illuminated aspect of Satan, giving them the name of Satanists and the right to bear the title. Others reject it, giving the argument that Lucifer is a more positive and easy-going ideal than Satan. They are inspired by the ancient myths of Egypt, Rome and Greece, Gnosticism and traditional Western occultism.
Temple of Set
The Temple of Set is an initiatory occult society claiming to be the world's leading left-hand path religious organization. It was established in 1975 by Michael A. Aquino and certain members of the priesthood of the Church of Satan, who left because of administrative and philosophical disagreements. ToS deliberately self-differentiates from CoS in several ways, most significantly in theology and sociology. The philosophy of the Temple of Set may be summed up as "enlightened individualism" — enhancement and improvement of oneself by personal education, experiment and initiation. This process is necessarily different and distinctive for each individual. The members do not agree on whether Set is "real" or not, and they're not expected to.
The Temple presents the view that the name Satan was originally a corruption of the name Set. The Temple teaches that Set is a real entity, the only real god in existence, with all others created by the human imagination. Set is described as having given humanity — through the means of non-natural evolution — the "Black Flame" or the "Gift of Set", a questioning intellect which sets the species apart from other animals. While Setians are expected to revere Set, they do not worship him. Central to Setian philosophy is the human individual, with self-deification presented as the ultimate goal.
In 2004 it was claimed that Satanism was allowed in the Royal Navy of the British Armed Forces, despite opposition from Christians. In 2016, under a Freedom of Information request, the Navy Command Headquarters stated that "we do not recognise satanism as a formal religion, and will not grant facilities or make specific time available for individual worship".
Supreme Court Ruling
In 2005, the Supreme Court of the United States debated in the case of Cutter v. Wilkinson over protecting minority religious rights of prison inmates after a lawsuit challenging the issue was filed to them. The court ruled that facilities that accept federal funds cannot deny prisoners accommodations that are necessary to engage in activities for the practice of their own religious beliefs.
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