Religious Satanism is a valid religion, generally followed by adults. It is essentially unrelated to teen Satanic dabbling and to various other beliefs and practices that have been described as Satanism.
The largest of the many traditions within Religious Satanism is the Church of Satan (CoS), which some people believe was founded on Walpurgisnacht, 1966-APR-30, (I Anno Satanas) by Anton Szandor LaVey (1930-1997). It was actually founded later that year.
The CoS, shares one property with the Church of Scientology: it is so controversial that many versions of "the truth" have sprung up over the years. It is impossible to separate reality from fake history. The following essay is our best shot at describing CoS history.
The beliefs, practices and rituals of the Church of Satan have few, if any, points of similarity with the Christian or Muslim concept of Satan. The CoS' Satan is pre-Christian, and derived from the Pagan image of power, virility, sexuality and sensuality. Satan is viewed as a force of nature, not a living quasi-deity. Their Satan has nothing to do with Hell, demons, pitchforks, sadistic torture, demonic possession, and profound evil. There are references in LaVey' writings to having conducted a few Black Masses for publicity purposes, in which the Roman Catholic Mass was ridiculed. But, it is unclear whether these references were satirical or whether they reflected actual rituals. Assuming that the black masses were fictional, all of their rituals have no connection to those of Christianity or of any other religion.
Some of their beliefs and practices are:
There are probably fewer than 10,000 religious Satanists in North America. The best known Satanic organization is the Church of Satan. Associated with the CoS are many local grottos. CoS membership is kept secret within the group. 2 Many Satanists prefer to work alone as solitary practitioners.
Founding of the Church of Satan:
Many rumors have grown up about Anton Szandor LaVey's (1930-1997) life before he founded the Church of Satan: that he was a lion tamer, sideshow barker, police photographer, student of criminology, "official church organist", etc. It appears that none of this is true. The persistence of these rumors are a testimony to Anton's extensive publicity talents. 1,2
Religious Satanists existed in the 1950's, both in the United States and the UK. But they were little known to the public. Legends describe how modern Satanism burst into mass consciousness on Walpurgisnacht, April 30, 1966, (I Anno Satanas) when LaVey announced the creation of the Church of Satan. 1 In reality, LaVey was teaching weekly lectures on occult topics for $2.00 a person during the spring of 1966. A professional publicist, Edward Webber, suggested that he
Formation of the Church of Satan occurred much later in 1966; it was triggered by a newspaper article that referred to LaVey as the "priest of the Devil's church". 2
LaVey is widely believed to have been the technical advisor for the 1968 movie Rosemary's Baby. He claimed to have played the part of the Devil in that film. Apparently, his only involvement with the movie was that he was once asked by a theatre in San Francisco to make an promotional appearance when the film opened. 2 However, LaVey seems to have been involved as an advisor in a later movie The Devil's Rain which was released in 1975. He appeared in the movie as a Satanic priest. Some chants and symbols in the movie come from his writings.
LaVey wrote the Satanic Bible in 1969. This was followed by The Compleat Witch (1970) (later republished as The Satanic Witch). The Satanic Rituals was published in 1972. These are essentially the only readily available books on Satanism that can be found in most bookstores. Many additional publications have been written by other Satanic groups. However, they are not in wide distribution; one normally has to discover them through specialist publications or Satanic Web sites.
Anton LaVey allegedly died on 1997-OCT-29. Some maintain that the death certificate was forged to read OCT-31 -- Halloween.
Continued in a following essay.
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