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Satanism

History & beliefs of religious Satanists

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Beliefs and practices of Religious Satanists:

There is one main Satanic denominations, many smaller traditions, and many solitary practitioners who are unaffiliated with any Satanic organization. They total perhaps ten to twenty thousand adult followers in North America. They differ somewhat in beliefs. The following list is valid for most religious Satanic groups:

bulletSatan in his original pre-Christian Pagan forms is respected, as a principle rather than a deity. Satanists do not worship Satan just as most Buddhists do not worship Buddha." As Vexen Crabtree has written:

"Satanism is Satanism not due to our worship of any deity, but for the philosophy that we stand for. We recognize ourselves as gods, and we hold our own perspective on life as holy and revere our own experiences as the only truth we can ever know. "

"Satanism is the utter rejection of the spiritual way of theistic religions, and the honest admittence [sic] that we are just animals who evolve as any other complex system." 1

bulletMajor emphasis is placed on the power and authority of the individual Satanist, rather than on a God or Goddess.
bulletThey believe that "no redeemer liveth" - that each person is their own redeemer, fully responsible for their own life.
bullet"Satanism respects and exalts life. Children and animals are the purest expressions of that life force, and as such are held sacred and precious..." 2 Children and animals are not abused or killed.
bulletThose Satanists who believe in Satan or Set as a living entity do not worship or demonstrate their faith in him (as, for example, Christians worship and pray to their God).
bulletThey believe that one should live out their lusts and desires, and enthusiastically explore the "seven deadly sins" with other consenting adults.
bulletThey follow many beliefs, practices and rules of behavior which are in conflict with traditional Christianity, and essentially all other religions.
bulletUniqueness and creativity are encouraged.
bulletMany Satanists use as their main symbol the Sigil of Baphomet. It is a goat's  head, drawn within an inverted pentacle (5-pointed star with one point downward and two up, enclosed by a circle). Although elements within the Sigil have been in use since the 19th century, the version as shown has been a registered trademark of the Church of Satan since 1983.
bulletA second Satanic symbol appears above the Nine Satanic Statements in  LaVey's book: The Satanic Bible, page 25. It is an infinity sign (a figure 8 on its side). A shortened Lorraine Cross is placed on top. [A Lorraine cross is a Roman '' cross, with a second, longer cross piece added below the main cross piece.] This is an ancient symbol which alchemists -- many of whom were Satanists -- used to represent brimstone. 2 Brimstone is the element sulfur, and was long associated with Satan by the Christian church. LaVey might have adopted a brimstone symbol as a humorous gesture to poke fun at Christianity.

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Religious Satanism - its supposed origin:

Modern Satanism is generally (though mistakenly) regarded as a creation of Aleister Crowley (1875-1947). Aleister was in fact a very prominent ceremonial magician who based his rituals partly upon Judeo-Christian principles. He was raised in a Plymouth Brethren family, but developed an early dislike of organized conservative Christianity. After university, he joined the Order of the Golden Dawn, which practiced ceremonial magic based on:

bulletthe Kaballah (a.k.a. Cabbalah, Cabala), a Jewish mystical tradition,
bulletRosicrucianism (a mystical blend of alchemy, Judaism, etc.),
bulletFreemasonry (a men's fraternal organization), and
bulletTheosophy (a Gnostic tradition believing in a common thread that links all religions).

He resigned from the Golden Dawn and later was appointed chief of the British section of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), which blended ceremonial magic, sex Magic and Freemasonry. He remained the Outer Head of the Order from 1922 to 1947. He created a religion, called Thelema. Crowley's story was picked up by two tabloid newspapers, which called him the Wickedest Man in the World and the Great Beast 666 of Revelation. It is mainly from these "yellow press" articles that opponents of Crowley have assembled his present-day reputation. He is alleged to have committed at least one animal sacrifice, experimented with many illegal drugs and engaged in some sexual orgies. It is not known how much of this actually happened, and how much is imaginary -- created to satisfy his insatiable desire for publicity. Nor is it known how much of the time he was serious, and when he was behaving with tongue-in-cheek. Crowley has been accused of many criminal activities; however, he was never arrested, charged, tried or convicted of any crime. His prime aim was to contact his Holy Guardian Angel Aiwaz. The religion The Law of Thelema is largely derived from his work. He is known to have practiced a great deal of consensual sex magic with a single partner in private. His goal was to recapture the ancient pagan and Gnostic Christian mysteries of the Middle and Near East, which, he believed, incorporated sexual activity as part of their religious rituals. He was a prolific writer on Magick, a term that he created. (The term refers to ceremonial magic, and is used to differentiate that form of magick from performances by professional magicians.) Although Crowley did not consider himself a Satanist, many Satanists have incorporated elements from his writings into their own rituals. Many authors and TV personalities have stated that Crowley was the first Satanist, even though evidence points to the contrary. He passed through a Satanic phase, and did identify his guardian angel with Satan. But a number of 19th century literary greats such as Baudelaire, Byron, Shelley, etc. should more properly be regarded as the first Satanists, 

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Religious Satanism - its actual Origin:

Religious Satanists existed in the 1950's, both in the United States and the UK. But they were little known to the public. There are many beliefs about the origin of modern Satanism:

bulletIt is said to have burst into mass consciousness on Walpurgisnacht, 1966-APR-30, (I Anno Satanas) when Anton Szandor LaVey (1930-1997). created the Church of Satan. 3 Actually, he founded the relation later in that year.
bulletAnton is said to have drawn on his previous experience as a lion tamer and sideshow barker, and on his readings into psychology, Magic etc. There does not seem to be any information confirming that he actually held these jobs.
bulletAnton is said to have been the technical adviser for the movie Rosemary's Baby in 1968. Again, there is no confirmation of this.

LaVey did write a series of books which are essentially the only readily available books on Satanism available in most bookstores.  There have been enormous numbers of books about Satanism written by Fundamentalist or other Evangelical Christians. They are readily available through conservative Christian bookstores. However, they are usually unrelated to religious Satanism. They often contain misinformation that is traceable back to the Witch burning times in Europe (circa 1450-1792 CE) rather than to any present or past reality. Another source for their misinformation was the  novel called "Michelle Remembers." This was allegedly a documentary about the sexual and physical abuse of a girl by an underground Satanic group. In reality, the book was a work of fiction. However, it triggered a Satanic Panic in 1980, and helped convince millions of people that Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) was a clear and present danger. It wasn't real then and it is not today. By the turn of the century, belief in SRA had died down, largely because of the absence of hard evidence that any such crimes had ever been committed.

A number of Satanic periodicals exist. Many other Satanic traditions exist in addition to the Church of Satan. These are mainly found in North America and Europe.

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Religious Satanism - today:

Local groups of Satanists may be called grottos, pylons, temples, or by a similar name. They correspond to Christian congregations and Wiccan covens. Many Satanists feel that Wiccans are hypocrites, because the latter restrict their work to positive, healing activities. Many Satanists use Magic and other rituals to benefit themselves and their friends, but also use these same rituals to harm their enemies. Some have incorporated some anti-Wiccan elements in their rituals. However, other Satanists practice their religion free of rituals; they simply live their lives in accordance with Satanic beliefs, statements and rules.

Satanists have been accused of conducting rituals that are specifically aimed at attacking Christian beliefs and practices. Many authors, almost all conservative Christians, have described alleged Satanic rituals in which religious Satanists recite the Lord's Prayer backwards, or desecrate and use the host and wine that they have stolen from a cathedral. This fiction can be traced back to books written during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance periods.

Satanists tend to be highly critical of all other faiths. They are particularly opposed to Christianity, because of its paramount position in Western society and the historical persecution of Satanists and other religious minorities by Christians. 

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References:

  1. Vexen Crabtree, "Who is Satan? Introduction," at: http://www.dpjs.co.uk/serpent.html
  2. The alchemical sign for brimstone comes from from The Book of Signs (1930) by Rudolf Koch.
  3. The Church of Satan has an official home page at: http://www.churchofsatan.com They list web sites of Church of Satan Grottos, Satanic artists, musicians, members and publishers.

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Copyright © 1997 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-APR-04
Author: B.A. Robinson
Links checked: 2002-NOV-27

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