Satanism is a broad term referring to a group of ideological and philosophical beliefs. Satanism includes symbolic association with, or admiration for, Satan, whom Satanists see as an inspiring and liberating figure. It was estimated that there were 50,000 Satanists in 1990. There may now be as many as one hundred thousand Satanists in the world.
Although the public practice of Satanism began with the founding of The Church of Satan in 1966, historical precedents exist: a group called the Ophite Cultus Satanas was founded in Ohio by Herbert Arthur Sloane in 1948.
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.
There are signs that Satanistic beliefs have become more socially tolerated. Satanism is now allowed in the Royal Navy of the British Armed Forces, despite opposition from Christians, and in 2005, the Supreme Court of the United States debated over protecting the religious rights of prison inmates after a lawsuit challenging the issue was filed to them.
Contemporary Satanism is mainly an American phenomenon, the ideas spreading with the effects of globalization and the Internet. The Internet promotes awareness of other Satanists, and is also the main battleground for the definitions of Satanism today. 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 Historical background
- 2 Theistic Satanism
- 3 Atheistic Satanism
- 4 Accusations of Satanism
- 5 Popular music
- 6 Organizations
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 See also
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
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.
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. Unlike LaVeyan Satanism, theistic Satanism believes that Satan is a real being rather than a symbol of individualism.
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.
Palladists are an alleged theistic Satanist society or member of that society. The name Palladian comes from Pallas and refers to the Greco-Roman goddess of wisdom and learning.
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.
LaVeyan Satanism is a religious philosophy founded in 1966 by Anton LaVey, codified in The Satanic Bible and overseen by the Church of Satan. Its core beliefs and philosophies are based on individualism, egoism, epicureanism, self-deification and self-preservation, and propagates a worldview of natural law, materialism, Social Darwinism, Lex Talionis, and mankind as animals in an amoral universe. Adherents to the philosophy have described Satanism as a non-spiritual religion of the flesh, or "...the world's first carnal religion".
Contrary to popular belief, LaVeyan Satanism does not involve "devil worship" or worship of any deities. It is an atheistic philosophy that asserts that "each individual is his or her own god [and that] there is no room for any other god". Adherents instead see the character of Satan as an archetype of pride, carnality, liberty, enlightenment, undefiled wisdom, and of a cosmos which Satanists perceive to be motivated by a "dark evolutionary force of entropy that permeates all of nature and provides the drive for survival and propagation inherent in all living things". He also serves as a conceptual framework and an external metaphorical projection of [the Satanists] highest personal potential. Satan (Hebrew: שָּׂטָן satan, meaning "adversary") is seen as a symbol of defiance to the conservatism of mainstream philosophical and religious currents, mainly the Abrahamic religions, that see this character as their antithesis.
The prefix "LaVeyan" was never used by Anton LaVey or by the Church of Satan, nor does the term appear in any of its literature. The church has stated its contention that they are the first formally organized religion to adopt the term "Satanism" and asserts that Satanism and the 'worship of Satan' are not congruent. 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 reverse-Christians, pseudo-Satanists or Devil worshipers. Today, the Church of Satan promotes itself as the only authentic representation of Satanism, and it routinely publishes materials underscoring this contention.
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.
- 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.
- Gilles de Rais (15th century, France) was a French nobleman who was tried and executed for the murders of hundreds of children in quasi-Satanic rituals.
- Johann Georg Faust. (16th century, Germany) Many instructions, in German and in Latin, for making a pact with the Devil were attributed to him. These were collected and published in Germany in a few of the volumes of Das Kloster (1845–1849).
- 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. His works graphically described blasphemy against the Catholic Church, such as an orgy resembling a Black Mass conducted by Pope Pius VI in the Vatican (in his novel Juliette).
- In 1865, the anti-Vatican Italian poet Giosuè Carducci published his poem Inno a Satana ("Hymn to Satan"), praising Satan as the god of reason and expressing religious hatred towards Christianity.
- 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.
- At least two Satanic (or "Luciferian") sects existed in France in the 1930s. One was led by Maria de Naglowska, and had rituals dedicated to Satan and Lucifer. Another, led by a former Catholic priest, 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.
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.
The Church of Satan
On Walpurgisnacht, April 30, 1966, Anton LaVey founded the "The Satanic Church" (which he would later rename the "Church of Satan"). The Church of Satan is an organization dedicated to the acceptance of the carnal self, as articulated in The Satanic Bible, written in 1969 by Anton Szandor LaVey.
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.
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.
Setianism, in theory, is similar to theistic Satanism. The principle deity of Setianism is the ancient Egyptian god Set, or Seth, the god of adversary. Set supposedly is the Dark Lord behind the Hebrew entity Satan. Set, as the first principle of consciousness, is emulated by Setians, who symbolize the concept of individual, subjective intelligence distinct from the natural order as the "Black Flame". (Some people who are not members of the Temple of Set find spiritual inspiration in the Egyptian god Set, and may share some beliefs with the organization. The belief system in general is referred to as Setianism.)
Members of the Temple of Set are mostly male, between the ages of twenty and fifty.
Order of Nine Angles
The authors Per Faxneld and Jesper Petersen write that the Order of Nine Angles (ONA, O9A) "represent a dangerous and extreme form of Satanism". The ONA first attracted public attention during the 1980s and 1990s after being mentioned in books detailing fascist Satanism. They were initially formed in the United Kingdom and are presently organized around clandestine cells (which it calls traditional nexions) and around what it calls sinister tribes.
The Satanic Temple
The Satanic Temple uses the literary Satan as a mythological foundation for a non-supernatural religion, in order to construct a cultural narrative that can usefully contextualize life experiences and promote pragmatic skepticism, rational reciprocity, personal autonomy, and curiosity. Both of the co-founders are "atheistic Satanists" - they do not believe that Satan actually exists.
The church actively participates in public affairs. This has manifested in several public political actions and efforts at lobbying, with a focus on the separation of church and state and using satire against religious organizations that it believes interfere with freedom and the pursuit of happiness.
The only requirements to be a member are to support the tenets and beliefs of the organization, and to name oneself a member.
The group has held worship services that include dance music, porn rooms, phallic imagery, S&M behaviors and nudity. It also considers gay marriage a religious sacrament, and therefore argues that bans on the practice violate Satanists' freedom of religion.
Because the group regards inviolability of the body as a key doctrine, it also views all restrictions on abortion, including mandatory waiting periods, as an infringement on the rights of Satanists to practice their religion.
In July 2015, the group's Detroit chapter publicly unveiled a 9-foot tall, one-ton statue depicting Satan as Baphomet. The Satanic Temple had previously attempted to put the same statue on display at the Oklahoma State Capitol but failed to get permission, so it was moved to Detroit. The event was widely publicized and attracted many protestors. Ticket holders were required to sell their souls to Satan in order to attend.
Planned Parenthood protests
In response to the 2015 controversies involving Planned Parenthood, The Satanic Temple declared its support for the organization and staged a number of protests, one of which involved bound women being drenched with milk (symbolizing breast milk) while displaying signs saying "America is not a theocracy. End forced motherhood." The group had engaged in similar stunts previously; in 2013, the Satanic Temple brought children to the Texas State Capitol who chanted "Fuck You" and "Hail Satan", while holding signs reading "Stay Out Of My Mommy's Vagina".
According to Kuwaiti media, numerous teenagers in the country have been joining a Satanic sect that is managed from abroad. Every month, the sect's leaders encourage several members to commit suicide to promote Satanism. Members reportedly have piercings and tattoos depicting Satan, stars, or the number 666. Police have conducted raids on cottages allegedly used by the sect.
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- Extensively described in: Zacharias, Gerhard, Der dunkle Gott: Satanskult und Schwarze Messe, München (1964).
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- FAQ About ONA
- Angular Momentum: from Traditional to Progressive Satanism in the Order of Nine Angles
- Sinister Tribes Of The ONA
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- Religious Tolerance page on Satanism
- Satanism at DMOZ
- The Satanic Temple (official national website)