WHAT IS SATANISM?
The standard dictionary definition of Satanism states that it is “worship of the Devil” – in the Christian sense of the term, implying that Satanists revere and are subservient to a supernatural entity who is the enemy of the Judaeo-Christian God. However, since the emergence over the last half-century of modern atheistic (or nontheistic) Satanism – by way of Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan and other subsequent groups – this definition no longer passes muster. The word “worship” in the aforementioned definition would be more appropriately replaced with the term “veneration” – which is increasingly more in line with arguments made by contemporary scholars on Satanism.
“Many practitioners of modern or even older forms of Satanism certainly would not describe their relation to Satan in terms of “adoration” or “worship.” And especially with regard to nontheistic religious practices, these words do indeed seem inapt. I therefore opt for the “milder” alternative of “veneration.”
- Ruben Van Lujik, The Children of Lucifer
Modern Satanism is a celebration of the Self and a champion of logic, individual sovereignty, and autonomy. It is a statement of rebellion against the status quo that enslaves and diminishes the Self. It seeks the triumph of thought, knowledge, and reason over the blind and irrational faith of the herd – particularly in regard to superstitious religions like Christianity.
WHO OR WHAT IS SATAN?
The character of Satan (from the Hebrew for “adversary” or “accuser”) is viewed by modern atheistic Satanists as an inspirational archetype rather than a sentient, supernatural entity. While the conventional view held by outsiders is that Satan is “evil” and bent on the destruction of humanity, Satanists tend to view him as a cosmic spirit of rebellion who defied a tyrannical god in pursuit of liberty (per the Romanticists such as Milton, France et al). However, he is also identified with a number of other forms, including the “Black Man” of the Witches’ sabbats, the Goat of Mendes from Western occultism, and numerous similar counterparts from other religious traditions.
DO SATANISTS BELIEVE IN HELL?
No. The concept of “Hell” is a Judaeo-Christian construct, intended to frighten people into seeking redemption lest they suffer eternal punishment when they die. Satanists view “Hell” as a propaganda tactic and nothing more – consequently they have no fear of everlasting damnation. Furthermore, they tend to wonder why such a “loving God” (as constantly promoted by Christian followers) would be sadistic enough to blackmail the human race with an ultimatum of either worshiping him or burning for all eternity?
IS SATANISM ANTI-CHRISTIAN?
Contrary to popular belief, Satanism is not in opposition to Christianity on theological grounds (e.g. some kind of “cosmic war” leading to the “end times”), or to merely profane the latter in mockery for its own sake – the two are in opposition over vast conflicting ideological differences. This in itself wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, except that Christianity has a long, sordid, and sorry history of trying to forcefully inflict its dogma on everybody else who doesn’t “believe”. As champions of free-thought and rationalism, Satanists naturally take issue with this and believe that these incursions need to be confronted and repelled, particularly when they are of a theocratic nature.
WHY SATANISM AND NOT JUST ATHEISM?
A common question asked of Satanists is: if you’re actually atheists, why not just call yourselves atheists? The answer is that atheism is not a religion and it does not have an established philosophy or belief system. Modern Satanism is considered to be a nontheistic religion in the sense that it maintains a religious structure and context but is devoid of deities or supernatural beliefs. It is certainly not alone in this particular form, as there are also similarly nontheistic strains of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism.
DO SATANISTS PRACTICE BLACK MAGICK?
“Black magick” is an occult concept that has become associated with magical acts performed for “evil” or selfish purposes – usually in marked contrast to “white magick” which is supposedly altruistic and beneficial. Necromancy and demonology have typically fallen under the “black magick” categorization due to their “immoral” or blasphemous nature. However, since many atheistic Satanists do not subscribe to the idea of magick as a supernatural tool or practice at all, such distinctions become irrelevant. This is not to say that Satanists do not perform rituals or ceremonies with symbols, tools, and other trappings that might be mistaken as “magickal” in appearance, but these are usually conducted for psychodramatic or cathartic purposes rather than supernatural intent.
For example, the Black Mass – one of Satanism’s most well-known and notorious rites – is not performed to summon and worship “the Devil”, but to purge its participants of residual Christian-induced guilt by way of blasphemy. In this sense, it is a form of ritualized therapy and not at all “magickal” in purpose.
WHAT’S WITH ALL THE GRIM IMAGERY?
A somewhat odd question, given that the dominant religion in Western society has a tortured and bloody figure nailed to a cross as one of its primary symbols of reverence.
WHAT ARE THE SYMBOLS OF SATANISM?
The following texts and web resources are recommended for anyone wishing to learn more about the history and philosophies of modern Satanism.
Faxneld, Per et al. The Devil’s Party: Satanism In Modernity (Oxford University Press 2012) - Amazon
Introvigne, Massimo Satanism: A Social History (Brill Academic Pub 2016) - Amazon
LaVey, Anton Szandor The Satanic Bible (Avon Books 1969) - Amazon
Lewis, James R. et al The Invention of Satanism (Oxford University Press 2015) - Amazon
Starr, Lilith The Happy Satanist (Amazon Digital 2015) - Amazon
Van Lujik, Ruben The Children of Lucifer: The Origins of Modern Religious Satanism (Oxford University Press 2016) - Amazon
Arguably the most popular modern symbol of Satanism is the so-called Sigil of Baphomet. Originally appearing in Stanislas de Guaita’s La Clef de la Magie Noire (1897) and also connected with Eliphas Lévi’s earlier famous depiction of Baphomet in Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (1856), it gained more prominence in the later 20th Century when it reappeared on the cover of Maurice Bessy’s A Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural (1963) and was adopted by Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan around 1966.
The symbol consists of a downward-pointing (or “inverted”) pentagram incorporating the head of a goat (referred to as the “Goat of Mendes” by Lévi). Around the points of the pentagram are the Hebrew letters for LEVIATHAN (לִוְיָתָן) – a primeval sea monster from ancient Canaanite mythology. The original 19th Century version of the symbol also incorporated the names of SAMAEL and LILITH, but these were omitted in revisions by later artists.
The Leviathan Cross (also called the “Satan’s Cross”) is derived from the old elemental and alchemical symbol for brimstone, or sulfur, and was later adopted and popularized by Anton LaVey in the 1960s. Consequently, it enjoys widespread use amongst Satanists today – even those not affiliated with the Church of Satan.
Although it dates back several centuries to the 18th Century Grimoirium Verum (the origins of which were falsely attributed to one “Alibeck the Egyptian” in 1517), the Sigil of Lucifer has gain a recent resurgence in popularity with modern Satanists, no doubt in part to its interesting design aesthetic. As with most demonic grimoire sigils, its original intent was to aid in a visual invocation of Lucifer himself.