Satanism- is it real?

I mean, outside of bored Midwestern teenagers that listen to too much heavy metal (if that even exists). Is there any real tradition of Satan worship? Black masses and the like? Or is it the invention of overzealous fundies?

I’m obviously talking about the Western/Christian conception of Satanism, here.

Well, there’s Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan. This was established in 1966, so I don’t think it’s the same organ that the inquisition was seeking to extinguish.

Welcome to the SDMB.

Have you ever read The Golden Bough or the works of Joseph Campbell?

They each suggest that tehre are common theme that run through religions throughout history all around the globe. One of these themes is the dieing and reborn king associated with the eatingof the his flesh and drinking of his blood. Apparently when Westerners encountered some of the rites of the Aztecs they considered them to be corruptions of the Christian mass.
I suspect that the stories of Black Masses came from similar misconceptions of various other non-Christian rites.
I also suspect that the only Black Masses that are what they are supposed to be are performed by Christians.

From what I’ve read it’s traditionally bored Midwestern teenagers/rich wackos (Hell Fire Club)/etc.
There are those that claim to really worship Satan or another force with the same characteristics and if they truly believe they do in their heart of hearts then who are we to say they don’t? But from what I understand they are a rather new thing and they aren’t usually ones to crucify dogs, drink blood, what have you.

There is the Church of Satan founded by Anton LaVey, but that really has little or nothing in common with the 80s fantasy of baby-sacrificing devil worshippers.

The association of satanic imagery with some heavy metal was real, but it was pretty much just a schtick for most of the bands that did it. Very few of them took it seriously. There really wasn’t much organized Satanic activity going on with the fans either but occasionally some disturbed kid would take it too seriously and kill a cat or something. The trappings and rituals were pretty much made up as they went along by individual kids or little groups.

There was an urban myth created in the 80s about a vast “underground” of satan worshippers which was largely perpetuated by books like (the now discredited) (Satan’s Underground. Geraldo Rivera got huge ratings for a two hour prime time show “exposing” this undergound. I remember Geraldo trying to interrogate a befuddled Ozzy Osbourne about his supposed complicity in inciting kids to Satanism. Poor Ozzy wasn’t really allowed to get a word in edgewise as Rivera harrangued him with ridiculous questions.

I belive that Geraldo has since renounced that whole thing and said that basically that he was sort of gullible and bought into it for a while.

I don’t believe that, aside from the occasional deranged teenager, any actual evidence was ever uncovered to prove Satan’s underground existed, and in fact, many of those who claimed to be “survivors” were exposed as frauds, as mentally ill, or as heavily coached children (ala the McMartin Daycare scandal).

As someone who was one of those headbanging teenagers, I basically just saw the “Satan” thing as just a style thing. Wearing pentagrams annoyed people and it was a way for a lot of kids to rebel against Christianity. I never saw or even heard of anybody actually trying to perform a Satanic ritual, although i did know some who got into LaVey’s Satanic Bible, and I knew one guy who stared taking Satan waaaayy too seriously. He’d yeall out “Hail satan” when he was on drugs. He even started to fraek out the rest of us metal heads, but even he never tried to perform any rituals.

I think the Satan thing was mostly just a fashion thing thing for fans and groups like the PMRC greatly exaggerated and distorted it.


I know of Anton Lavey, but did he make it all up for fun and notoriety, or was there some sort of actual legitimate tradition behind it all. Kenneth Anger, too.

He pretty much made it up to make money, but he plagarized some of the Satnic Bible

Anton LaVey: Fact vs. Fiction

From my personal experience, commercialized mainstream Satanism(Church of Satan and their ilk) are just wankathons for those who want to be sybarites.

Temple of Set is more serious and still, it isn’t about worshipping the Christian devil. They’ve got their own precepts, consider themselves a serious magickal order, and are an offshoot from the Church of Satan by those who wanted to focus more seriously on scholarship and actual practice of magick.

Care to elaborate, Mockingbird? What is this “scholarship and magick”? Am I correct in thinking this means that modern “Satanism” is all derived from Aleister Crowley? This kind of makes sense to me. Aleister Crowley influences Led Zeppelin, which influences a million heavy metal bands, which influence bored Midwestern teenagers to make pentagrams of possum bones out in the cornfield, and this leads to fundamentalist self-appointed moral guardians getting all riled up. Is this what it boils down to?

What was Aleister Crowley drawing on?

I once read the Magick of Thelema which is supposedly a guide to the works of Aleister Crowley. If you need a laugh, buy it. It was one of the unintentionally funniest things I’ve ever read and I would feel very silly indeed trying to carry out any of his routines.

Crowley was a sensationalist, for sure, but unfortunately also rather far up his own behind.

Diogenes- Nice cite! Wow. I knew the guy was sick and sad, but -that- sick and sad? Wow.

Just as people of all sorts of different points of view say they are Christians, there are various sorts of people claim to be Satanists and they make the claim with varying degrees of seriousness, and they mean different things by it.

Aliester Crowley claimed to have been in touch with a Gnostic tradition of “Jersualem Christianity” which he claimed was the true original Christian tradition which was later “perverted” into “Romish” Christianity. There is some discussion of this in Sex and Rockets, a biography from about 1998 of occultist Jack Parsons written under the pseudonym John Carter.

Off and on cynics and freethinkers have invoked the name of The Devil without really meaning much of anything by it. Examples are Bernard Shaw’s character The Devil’s Disciple, who talks about Satan to upset his hypocritical Puritan neighbors, and Ambrose Bierce, who retitled his collection of cynical quips, originally called The Cynic’s Word Book, as The Devil’s Dictionary. A lot of teenagers into heavy metal find they can upset their parents in the same way.

Anton La Vey, who cribbed a good deal of his work from the athiest philosopher Ayn Rand, appears to have used Satan’s name for much the same purpose. Oddly, a good deal of his blather about self interest, ffree will and libertarianism could pass for a sermon on The Trinity Network if one just made a few cosmetic changes, such as substituting “Jesus” for “Satan” now and again.

Michael Aquino of The Church of Set appears to be in deadly earnest about being in contact with Satan, though he describes him as being a much different fellow than the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths make him out to be. It is said that he had his falling out with Anton La Vey when he announced that he had conjured up Satan and talked to him personally, and La Vey told him he hadn’t, because all of that stuff is just make believe.

At least since the 1970s some conservative Protestants have insisted that there is a widespread Satanic conspiracy in the United States, and that it engages in human sacrifice. While living in al college town in Texas in the late 70s I used to see flyers advertising speakers at local funadmentalist churches who would speak on how they used to be devil worshipers who drank blood and witnesses the ritual murders of babies–but they were feeling much better now, and you could take what they said at face value.

A number of writers became celebrities of sorts among evangelical Christians by writing books about how they had been Satanic high priests, or the love slaves of devil worshipers. One such woman was able to maintain excellent attendance records in high school at the time she says she was being forced to bear babies for human sacrifice. As such claims became more repeated and more strident, the main stream media, always glad for a source of lurid panic, picked up on some of these stories uncritically.

There also developed a movement among psychiatrists interested in recovered memories. A number of them found they could get testimony of involvement in such movements from hypnotized patients. In one notorious case, a woman being treated for an eating disorder remembered that her father, a Presbyterian minister in western Missouri, was a Satanic high priest who had gotten her pregnant twice, murdering both babies. It later developed that the woman was still a virgin, and her father had undergone a vascectomy when she was two. At last word he was suing the congregation which fired him.

The FBI published a preport some years ago in which it concluded that there are no well-established Satanic conspiracies, although lone nuts and loosely associated groups of nuts do take to spouting about Satan from time to time.

Summing up: l various people say they are Satanists, and they mean various things by it. Some of these people are dangerous. By contrast, nearly all witch hunters are scary and dangerous.

Cool. Thanks, Slipster!

My experience is that the only people who truly believe in the existence of Satan as the devil are Christians who worship God. Some of the more fundamentalist-leaning among these Christians seem to project their fervor for worshiping God onto unknown others who they believe worship Satan with the same conviction. I know of no objective evidence that there is such worship of Satan (the devil).

A little about Kenneth Anger, and the question of whether he and similar occult enthusiasts are drawing on a “genuine” tradition:

Anger, as is well-known (at least, to the extent that writer/film maker Kenneth Anger is well-known) is a devotee of Aliester Crowley, who was extremely prolific in writing about his occult theories.

As mentioned before, Crowley (whose name is said to rhyme with “holy”), believed he had come up with an authentic “Gnostic” Christianity, and developed a Gnostic Mass. According to Sex and Rockets: The Occult Life of Jack Parsons, this ceremony was modelled largely on the Russian Orthodox Mass, with a good deal of romantic, Arthurian-style talk about “grails” thrown in.

Crowley talked and wrote about invoking the Devil, and once named a frog Jesus, then crucified it and cut off and ate its legs as a symbolic representation of his intention to destroy conventional Christianity. He also liked to refer to himself as The Great Beast 666. From such behavior he has come to be known as a Satanist.

On the whole, his belief system seems to have been a very eclectic and dense muddle, as he also wrote extensively about invoking one’s personal guardian angel, and also believed in the gods of ancient Greece, (he claimed of have once summoned Pan), the gods of ancient Egypt, nature spirits, Native American spirits, alchemy, Tarot, astrology, and the mystical claims traditionally made for yoga exercises. A good deal of his verbiage, especially his famous motto “let do what thou wilt be the whole of the Law”, came from Francois Rabelais.

Crowley also was a great believer in reincarnation, and believed himself to have been Edward Kelly, a 16th Century English occultist. Kelly had claimed to “channel” great reams of occult revelation in the “Enochian” language. This tongue, previously unknown, was said to be the language Enoch and God had spoken on their walks. He also produced an Enochian alphabet, in which Crowley set great store.

Although he claimed to have a direct pipeline to ultimate truths, Kelly lived for years on a small stipend paid him by John Dee. Dee was the astrologer of Queen Elizabeth 1st, and also worked as an intelligent agent for her government, under the code name “007”. Among other services, Kelly purported to raise a man from the dead so that Dee could interview him. Similarly, though he was the fearsome Beast of the Apocolypse, Crowley apparently spent his last years in England as a broken-down heroin addict, dependent on money sent him by supporters, mostly in southern California.

No discussion of Crowley is complete without this information. Thanks for including it, slipster

Dr. Aquino’s account of his time spent with the Church of Satan is available to the public ( Note the pdf extension )[URL=] . Dr. Aquino founded the Temple of Set in 1975.

There are numerous folks who would dispute the “seriousness” of the Temple of Set. You can search on the most likely newsgroup (alt.satanism) if you care to research this area - there are some rather harrowing retellings of clandestine spaghetti dinners.

Was Crowley nuts or something? I’d have a hard time taking someone like that seriously.

Since you mentioned metal, I give you the legendary Norwegian black metal band Mayhem as one band that appears to have taken their beliefs quite seriously.

Click here or here to read more about them.

Crowley took a mishmash of things and wove them together for his own brand of magick which he publicized and sold quite well. A little Golden Dawn, a little AA, and other things all put together with a very self-serving mode.


He did have knowledge as it came to the information he acquired from his different groups and the books he derived information from.

Not a great role model when you see what he became.

I see the Temple of Set as being more Machiavellian in nature. Not 100% self-serving, but a large amount of self interest.

They are big on reading, learning, and studying different theories of belief and the ways they can be used to create effect.

They aren’t the only organization around that also studies the occult, and have the concept of joining them being becoming a member of an order.

Meanwhile, wth all I’ve read of Satanism, Anton LaVey brand, it’s just a wankfest for bored pseudo-nihilists.