Satanism is a broad term referring to a group of Western religions comprising diverse ideological and philosophical beliefs. Their shared features include symbolic association with, or admiration for the character of, Satan, or similar rebellious, promethean, and, in their view, liberating figures.
Particularly after the European Enlightenment, some works, such as Paradise Lost, were taken up by Romantics and described as presenting the biblical 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 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.
Although the public practice of Satanism began in 1966 with the founding of the atheistic Church of Satan, some historical precedents exist: a group called the Ophite Cultus Satanas was founded in Ohio by Herbert Arthur Sloane in 1948. Inspired by Gnosticism and Gerald Gardner's Wicca, the coven venerated Satan as both a horned god and ophite messiah.
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. In contrast, Atheistic Satanists consider themselves atheists, agnostics, ignostics or apatheists and regard Satan as merely symbolic of certain human traits. This categorization of Satanism (which could be categorized in other ways, for example "Traditional" versus "Modern"), is not necessarily adopted by Satanists themselves, who usually do not specify which type of Satanism they adhere to. Some Satanists believe in a god in the sense of a Prime Mover but, like Atheistic Satanists, do not worship it, due to the deist belief that a god plays no part in mortal lives.
Despite heavy criticism from other religious groups, 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 much 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.
Satanism developed in the context of the Christian faith, as an ideological backlash to certain tenets promoted in Christianity. The character of Satan revered by Satanists, therefore, is mainly regarded as the prototypical anti-Christian figure. There have been some Satanists, however, who have shown reverence for the similar, albeit differently-characterized Islamic concept of Satan (Arabic: شيطان Shayṭān), also known as Iblis ( Arabic: إبليس ʾIblīs ) although this is much more uncommon as Satanist philosophy has primarily flourished in the Occident, and has likely not reached any Muslim-majority countries. As he is an antagonist in all of the major Abrahamic traditions, Satan is also mentioned in certain Jewish literature, although he is treated more as a nuisance than the primary enemy of God in Judaism.
- 1 Accusations of Satanism
- 2 Atheistic Satanism
- 3 Theistic Satanism
- 4 Casual Satanism
- 5 Relationship to popular music
- 6 Organizations
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, Athena, Odin, Perkunas or other pagan deities were often claimed by the Catholic Church to be worshiping the Devil and his 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.
- 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 Etienne Guibourg (17th century, France). The documentation from their trial is the principal Medieval 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 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 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 worshipers by some Islamic sectors.
- Mandaeism. A branch of Gnosticism generally not referred by the Islamic sectors as Satanic, but in fact a probable example of Sabians as mentioned in the Quran. As a gnostic sect, it shares principles regarded as Satanic in the Muslim world with Yazidism.
LaVeyan Satanism is a philosophy ( not considered a religion by many of its followers ) founded in 1966 by Anton Szandor LaVey. Its teachings are based on individualism, self-indulgence, and "eye for an eye" morality. Unlike Theistic Satanists, LaVeyan Satanists are atheists who regard Satan as a symbol of man's inherent nature. According to religioustolerance.org, LaVeyan Satanism is a "small religious group that is unrelated to any other faith, and whose members feel free to satisfy their urges responsibly, exhibit kindness to their friends, and attack their enemies". Its beliefs were first detailed in The Satanic Bible and it is overseen by the Church of Satan.
The Symbolic Satanist views Satan as a fictional, mental/mythic archetype, and admire the character as the "Adversary" or the "Light-bringer".
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 the LaVeyan Satanism founded by Anton LaVey in the 1960s, Theistic Satanism is theistic as opposed to atheistic, believing 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 wisdom and learning. It is of no relation to Palladium or the palladian style of Andrea Palladio.
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.
Casual satanism is the use of satanic symbols like the inverted pentagram/Sigil of Baphomet, the trappings of the black mass, or demonic imagery to provide the impression of satanism. This is a liminal experience, reserved primarily for shock value, and does not necessarily indicate actual belief, or even interest, in the rites, symbolism, and philosophies of the various forms of Satanist practice cited above.
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".
Glen Benton, vocalist and bassist of the band Deicide, once openly claimed to be a practitioner of Theistic Satanism, and has spoken publicly on numerous occasions 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
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
On Walpurgisnacht, April 30, 1966, Anton LaVey founded the "The Satanic Church" ( which he would later rename "Church of Satan" ). After his 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 all have the same view 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.
The Order of Nine Angles ( ONA, O9A ) "represent a dangerous and extreme form of Satanism" and 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.