What is a Satanist?
Most names of religions (like Christianity, Hinduism, Islam) have well
defined meanings. One exception is Satanism:
Such definitions create great confusion. The following are recommended
terms and descriptions for four essentially unrelated religions that
have been called Satanism:
- Some people feel that all non-Christian religions and all Christian
denominations other than their own are forms of Satanism. This would
imply that all Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims - in fact
at least 75% of the world's population are Satanists.
- Others feel that all religions other than Judaism or Christianity
are inspired by Satan and are thus forms of Satanism.
- Large numbers of people feel that a wide variety of unrelated, benign
religions (such as Santeria and other Caribbean
religions, Druidism, New Age, Wicca, etc) are forms of Satanism.
- Religious Satanism: This faith includes the recognition of
Satan, either as a deity or as a principle. Three main denominations
exist: the Church of Satan, the Temple of Set and the Church of Satanic
Liberation. Other short lived Satanic groups currently exist and have
existed in the recent past. According to Statistic Canada, the 1991 census
found 335 Canadians who identified themselves as Satanists. The actual
number is probably significantly larger. A US Department of the Army
pamphlet #165-13 "RELIGIOUS REQUIREMENTS AND PRACTICES OF CERTAIN SELECTED
GROUPS - A HANDBOOK FOR CHAPLAINS" (1978-April) estimated that there were
10 to 20 thousand members of the Church of Satan in the US. Accurate data
is impossible to estimate, since the largest group (the Church of Satan)
does not release its membership totals.
It is important to realize that the Satan that they recognize has few if
any points of similarity with the Christian concept of Satan. The Satanists'
concept of Satan is pre-Christian, and derived from the Pagan image of power,
virility, sexuality and sensuality. To most Satanists, Satan is a force of
nature, not a living quasi-deity. Their Satan has nothing to do with Hell,
demons, pitchforks and profound evil.
- Gothic Satanism: It is an imaginary, profoundly evil
religion that was invented during the late Middle Ages. Concepts included
ritual killing of children, selling their soul to the devil, breaking
crucifixes, conducting black masses, etc. It has never existed in the
past, and does not exist today, except in the imagination of the public.
- Teen Satanism: A syncretistic religion which blend of elements
taken from Religious Satanism, Gothic Satanism, ceremonial magick, and any
other useful sources of ritual that they can find. It is practiced by
rebellious teenagers or young adults- typically for a short interval. They
probably number in the tens or hundreds of thousands at any one time in North
America. An exact estimate is impossible to obtain, since they are totally
devoid of any central organization. They occasionally engage in minor
criminal activities such as vandalizing cemeteries and graffiti involving
Satanic symbols. In rare instances, a few have been known to sacrifice
- Other types of Satanism: Occasionally, serial murderers
will claim to be Satanists in order to justify their horrendous
activities. Police investigation reveals that they know little about the
religion. A small percentage of child molesters will abuse
children in a Satanic setting as a means of controlling the victims. The
molesters are not actual Satanists; they are simply using the facade of
Satanism to further their criminal acts. Some heavy metal rock bands
pretend to be associated with Satanism. Their main reason is to
gain notoriety in order to sell more records. These three
quasi-Satanic groups will not be dealt with further in this
Religious Satanism - Brief Description
Religious Satanism (or Satanism) involves:
- the recognition of the Christian devil, Satan in his original
Pagan form, or of the ancient Egyptian God Set, either as a deity
or as a principle.
- those 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 their God).
- the belief that one should live out their lusts and desires, explore
the "seven deadly sins" with enthusiasm.
- many beliefs, practices and rules of behavior which are in conflict with
traditional Christianity, and essentially all other religions.
- a Baphomet symbol, which is a goat's head, drawn within an
inverted pentagram (5 pointed star with one point downwards and two up).
It is often surrounded by a circle.
- a second symbol which is an infinity sign (a figure 8 on its side).
A Roman cross is placed on top with a second, longer cross piece added.
- two main Satanic denominations, and a few small ones, totaling perhaps
10,000 adult followers in North America.
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 Christianity. After university, he joined the
Order of the Golden Dawn, which practiced ceremonial magic based on:
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 magick and Freemasonry. He later left the OTO and
formed a schismatic branch of the order, based on the Law
of Thelema. Crowley's story was picked up by two tabloid newspaper,
who called him the Wickedest Man in the World and the Great Beast
666 of Revelation. It is from these "yellow presses" 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 and 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
consentual 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, who incorporated sexual activity as part of their religious
rituals. He was a prolific writer on magick, a term that he
created. Although he did not consider himself a Satanist, many Satanists have
incorporated portions of his books 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 literary
greats such as Baudelaire, Byron, Shelley, etc. should more properly be
regarded as the first Satanists, at the end of the 19th century.
- the Kaballah (or Cabbalah), a Jewish mystical tradition,
- Rosicrucianism (a mystical blend of alchemy, Judaism, etc.),
- Freemasonry (a men's fraternal organization), and
- Theosophy (a Gnostic tradition believing in a common thread that links
Religious Satanism - Its Real Origin and Organizations:
Modern Satanism really begins with Anton Szandor LaVey (b. 1930).
On Walpurgisnacht, April 30, 1966, (I Anno Satanas) he created the Church of Satan.
Anton drew on his previous experience as a lion tamer and side show barker,
and on his readings into psychology, magick etc, and wrote the Satanic
Bible in 1969. This was followed by The Compleat Witch (1970)
(later republished as The Satanic Witch) and The Satanic
Rituals (1972). These are essentially the only available books which
accurately describe Satanism. There have been enormous numbers of books about
Satanism written by Fundamentalist or other Evangelical Christians. However,
they are usually filled with misinformation derived from the Witch burning
times in Europe (circa 1450-1792 CE) rather than from any present or past
In 1975, one of LaVey's followers, Michael Aquino left the Church
after a disagreement, and organized the Temple of Set. This form of
religious Satanism is recognizes a pre-Satanic deity, the Egyptian God
Set as an entity which stands separate and apart from the forces of
the natural universe. He was typically portrayed as a man with the head of
an animal (perhaps a hyena). Set was copied by the Chaldeans who called him
Had or Hadit; this later became Shaitan, and still
later the Satan of Christianity.
Religious Satanism - Its Beliefs and Practices:
At the core of the Church of Satan are the nine Satanic Statements, written
by Anton LaVey. In abridged form, they state that Satan represents:
- indulgence, not abstinence
- vital existence, not spiritual pipe dreams,
- undefiled wisdom, not hypocritical self-deceit
- kindness to those deserving of it, not love wasted on ingrates
- vengeance, not turning the other cheek
- responsibility to the responsible, instead of concern for psychic
- man as just another animal - the most vicious of all
- gratification of all ones desires
- the best friend that the Christian Church has had as he has kept it in
business for centuries
LaVey's theology contain the following concepts:
- People have created Gods in many forms; pick one that might be useful to
- Heaven and hell do not exist.
- Satan is unrelated to the modern (post 1400 AD) concept of the Christian
devil. They look upon him as a God who represents the carnal, earthly, and
mundane aspects of life.
- Satan is not a being; he is a force of nature.
- Ritual killing (of humans or animals) are not allowed. Blood drawn from
a victim is useless. Victims are killed symbolically not actually.
- Human life is held in sacred regard.
- The highest of all Satanic holidays is the birthday of the Satanist.
Of less importance are
- Walpurgusnacht (evening of April 30) and Halloween (evening of October
- Solstices in June and December,
- Equinoxes in March and September,
- Satanic Revels are held five to six weeks after each equinox and
- Black Masses (parodies of the Roman Catholic religious service) are not
normally performed by Satanists (except perhaps for their entertainment or
LaVey's rituals and ceremonies contain the following concepts:
- Names used include Satan, Lucifer, Belial and Leviathan.
- Ceremonies are pageants which are used to celebrate a person or element
- Magick rituals consist of three types:
- Sex magic (includes masturbation),
- Healing or happiness ritual, and
- Destruction ritual (may include sticking pins in a doll; drawing a
picture or writing a description of the victims death; delivering a
soliloquy, etc). Destruction rituals are best performed by a group.
- Male Satanists wear full length black robes, with or without a hood.
- Young women wear sexually suggestive clothing; older women wear all black.
- All Satanists wear amulets with the symbol of Baphomet, described above
- Altar: When the Satanic Bible was written (1969) a nude woman was
customarily used as an altar, since Satanism is regarded as a religion of
the flesh, not of the spirit. She reclined on an altar which was trapezoidal
in shape, about 1 m high and 2 m long and placed against the West wall of the
room. Her head pointed South. A live altar is now rarely used.
- One white candle is placed to the right of the altar; it symbolizes the
belief of Satanists in the hypocrisy of "White Magicians" and Wiccans because of the latter's insistence to do no
harm to others. At least one black candle, representing the Powers of
Darkness, is placed to the left of the altar. Additional black candles
are oriented as needed to provide sufficient illumination.
- The following tools are used:
- A bell is rung nine times at the beginning and end of the ritual; the
Satanic priest rotates counter-clockwise as he rings the bell
- A chalice is ideally made of silver; it may not be formed of gold
because that is a metal that Wiccans use, and Satanists want do distance
themselves as much as possible from Wicca.
- Other ritual tools include a gong, sword, elixir (usually wine),
phallus, and parchment. They and the chalice and bell are placed on a small
table near the altar.
- The language used during magical ritual is Enochian, whose words
variously sounds similar to Arabic, Hebrew or Latin. It is of ancient and
The Church of Satan's rules of behavior include:
- Prayer is useless; it distracts people from useful activity
- Enjoy indulgence instead of abstinence. Practice with joy all the seven
deadly Christian sins (greed, pride, envy, anger, gluttony, lust and sloth)
- If a man smites you on one cheek, smash him on the other.
- Do onto others as they do onto you
- Engage in sexual activity freely, in accordance with your needs (which
may be best realized through monogamy, or by having sex with many others;
through heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality; using sexual fetishes
as you wish; by yourself or with one or more persons). Sexual activity must
be between consenting adults. The ideal is a monogamous relationship based
on compatibility and commitment.
- Suicide is frowned upon.
- The Satanist needs no elaborate, detailed list of rules of behavior.
Local groups of Satanists are usually called grottos or temples,
They correspond to Christian congregations and Wiccan covens. Satanists feel that
Wiccans are hypocrites. because the latter restrict
their work to positive, healing activities. Satanists use magick and other rituals
to benefit themselves and their friends, but also use these same rituals to harm
their enemies. They have incorporated some anti-Wiccan elements in their rituals.
Satanists have been described as being violently
anti-Christian in their beliefs and practices. Many authors, almost all
conservative Christians, have described alleged Satanic rituals in which
they recite the Lord's Prayer backwards, or desecrate and use the host
and wine that they have stolen from a cathedral. This is pure fiction,
that can be traced back to books written during the late Middle Ages and
Renaissance periods. Satanists' attitude towards Christianity and other
world religions seems to be more of amusement and ridicule; their
attitude towards Christians and other believers appears to be primarily
Gothic Satanism - Its Origins
Gothic Satanism was an invention of the Christian Church at the time of the
Witch burnings. Christians believe that it existed then and was a great
threat to the established order. Many Christians (particularly conservative
ones) still believe this today. However, it is an imaginary religion that
does not exist in reality.
Throughout the 15th Century, there was a rising hysteria within the
Christian Church about the perceived presence of Satan worshipers, who were
seen as a destabilizing influence. The Witch burnings (sometimes called the
burning times or the female holocaust) began.
Two Dominican priests, Kramer and Sprenger wrote a book circa 1486 The
Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches Hammer) which became the main reference
text for the genocide. They wrote that these Gothic Satanists:
- are mostly women because they are more impressionable, more perfidious,
more carnal, more vengeful, and (intellectually) more like children than are
men. God, being male, has mostly preserved men from heresy;
- kill, bewitch and induce plagues in animals; stop cows from giving milk;
- cause impotence, sterility, abortions and miscarriages;
- ride at night on broomsticks to sexual orgies;
- drink the blood of unbaptised infants and devour them, or convert them
into soup, or bake them in an oven; their bones are made into ritual
- offer their children to demons;
- kill or place curses on people by simply looking at them, saying a
phrase, causing lightning to strike them, by blowing in their face, pushing
pins into a wax doll made in the image of the victim, etc;
- beat, break, stab or step on a crucifix whenever they can.
A second reference text was Guazzo's Compendium Maleficarum, which
was written about 1620. He described how Satan worshipers:
- ride through the air on the back of a goat or a staff
- anoint themselves with magical oil and fly on their own
- anoint themselves with a cream or make a certain sign, and immediately
- appear to change shape from human to animal and back;
- can change people and animals from male to female and back;
- swear homage and obedience to Satan, and had their bodies branded with
- rejoice, dance, eat and drink in the presence of Satan who appears at
these celebrations in the form of a hideous and deformed black goat;
- suffocated, pierced and killed their own infants, cut off their
extremities and cooked their trunks.
The inquisitors tortured suspects until they were willing to confess to
anything in order to end the pain. So, of course, there is abundant
testimony available in the court records as evidence.
The last European victim of the "Burning Times" was burned at the stake in
1792, although the Church continued to exterminate heretics by burning in
South America into the 1830's.
Near the end of the "Burning Times", the concept of the Black Mass was added
to the public's beliefs about Satanists. This was allegedly a parody on the
Roman Catholic Mass. Urine or dirty water were substituted for wine; moldy
bread or turnips were substituted for the host. The Mass was said in the
local language (opposite to the Church's use of Latin). Texts were read
backwards. The cross would be spat upon and broken. Infants would be
sacrificed. Public beliefs about Gothic Satanism coalesced into a religion
which was anti-Christian in every detail.
Gothic Satanism - Today
500 years later, many people believe that Gothic Satanists remain a great
threat. In the State of Utah, about 90% of adults
believe in the existence of Satanic groups who abuse and kill infants.
Satanists are no longer believed to fly through the air on broomsticks or
instantaneously vanish. But the baby killing, selling ones soul to Satan,
rituals involving a goat, breaking a cross or crucifix, even shape shifting
between animal and human has been described by modern Fundamentalist or other
Evangelical Christian authors. Many writers and seminar speakers may be
completely unaware that most of their source material can be traced back to
the texts used by the Renaissance Witch hunters. Outrageous claims have been
made of 60,000 ritual killings a year in North
America, and of baby breeding prisons where young women are kept continually
pregnant so that their infants can be taken and sacrificed. The concept of
Gothic Satanism as being thoroughly anti-Christian has remained intact for
No criminal investigation in the past 300 years is known to have found hard
evidence of Satanic Ritual Abuse (with the possible exception of a case in
Greece during 1995). However, the belief that Gothic Satanism exists as a
major social threat continues, even without any evidence.
There are many indicators that Gothic Satanism does
- essentially all beliefs and practices attributed to Gothic Satanism
can be traced to Kramer and Sprenger's book, the Witches Hammer.
- many books which are allegedly written by ex-Satanists have been shown
to be frauds
- no book by a Gothic Satanist describing their beliefs and rites, etc
has ever been written. If Gothic Satanists existed in any numbers, such
books would exist and be in print.
- baby breeding camps could not be successfully hidden for decades
- various government studies and many hundreds of police investigations
have failed to come up with hard evidence of human sacrifices or other
There are tens or hundreds of thousands of rebellious teenagers in North
America who briefly dabble in a form of Satanism. Their source material is
often the books by LaVey, perhaps supplemented by writings about Gothic
Satanism by Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christian authors. Sometimes, teens
will also include elements from books on ceremonial magick, Wicca or other
Neo-pagan religions in their practices.
These teens are responsible for Satanic graffiti, and (rarely) animal
sacrifices. Some look upon Satanism as a method of rebelling against their
parents' beliefs. Fortunately, it is usually a passing fad that teens
quickly outgrow. Teen Satanists have no connection with Religious Satanists.
There is of course no connection between the teens and Gothic Satanists,
because the latter do not exist.
Return to the OCRT home page; the
Descriptions of Religions and Ethical Systems page.
- A site offering many links to Satanic home pages is at:
- An non-official and quite attractive home page by a member of the
Church of Satan is:
- Hell: the online guide to Satanism is a quite extensive Web site.
It is at:
- The Yahoo search engine has a listing of Satanic groups at:
Return to the OCRT home page; the
Descriptions of Religions and Ethical Systems page.
Related sites of interest:
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