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Anyone keeping up with the newest season of American Horror Story will be very familiar with this phrase. Uttered by Damien, I mean Michael, at the conclusion of a steamy ritualistic scene in the third episode, the audience finally hears someone hailing the dark lord for the first time in the show’s run (minus the bogus line dropped in the trailers leading up to the season’s premier).
Since the first season of the show, the audience has been teased about a greater evil working in the background. In the first season, the audience gets the first mention of this evil being the Devil himself, but since then it has not come to the forefront. Now, the creators are coming full circle and making good on that big bad evil tease.
For such a build up to the line, it is not original. The writers borrowed that phrase and much of the show’s content from very real events and religious followings. “Ave Satanas” is as common as “Praise be to God”; however, they are not related.
Satan has become synonymous with evil through not just religious teachings, but the entertainment industry. Entertainment via movies, plays, television shows, books, graphic novels, etc. have used the easiest scapegoat as their primary antagonist.
But what if I told you everything you have been led to believe about Satanism are lies and only half truths?
It is here I must ask the readers to hold their torches, pitchforks, and stake throwing until the end of this opinion piece.
I would like to make it very clear that I am not just talking about Satanism, in this three part series I will also be addressing witches and Hollywood’s favorite Halloween horror baddies. But first, the red, horned, fork-tailed elephant in the room.
Just as there are many denominations of Christianity there are just as many denominations of Satanism. From here on out I will only be addressing LaVeyan Satanism.
Here are the basics to know before moving forward:
The Church of Satan was established in 1966 by Magus Anton Szandor LaVey. He declared this year as Anno Satanas, or Year One.
There are nine sins known as the Nine Satanic Sins along with the Eleven Satanic Rules of Earth, and the Nine Satanic Statements, more on those later.
Members of the church champion personal development and rejection of herd conformity leading to their own unique path to self-deification. It is equivalent to reaching the highest level of Enlightenment in Buddhism
Magic is part of the LaVeyan teachings, but not in the way Hollywood has led us to believe. Lower and higher magic are simplified wording for the influences practitioners have over themselves and those around them.
Now that that is out of the way, let’s get back to Nemo, I mean Michael, and the misleading nature of Hollywood.
Traditionally, the greatest source of evil in entertainment stems from long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue or Shakespeare wrote his first sonnet.
In the middle ages, each year a troop of wagon stages would circle through the great cities each putting on the same performance each day for a fortnight. These plays were all biblical stories, starting with the creation and concluding with the end-times.
Throughout all these tales there is the constant of a devil, the purest of evil, and his counterpart who is the epitome of good. These tales were used to convey a specific moral along with passing the stories orally for those that could not read.
Soon, these European stories began mingling with other cultures, mythos creatures became demons and the devil no longer took the form of the angel he was. Instead he now took the form of the poor half-man- half-goat satyr. This was perhaps done in an attempt to force Christianity into the lives of pagans who worshipped nature and not a singular deity as an almighty force of good.
LaVey took the image of this deformed satyr and, for lack of better terms, owned it. He did the exact same thing that Christianity did to the pagans and turned the imagery on its head.
The goat face of the satyr within the inverted five point star became the Sigil of Baphomet. The star or pentagram is a much older symbol LaVey borrowed and has become associated closely with Satanism.
Like the cross that is synonymous with Christian symbolism, the image of the star and goat became a central point during rituals and gatherings. This then sparked falsehoods that Hollywood has ran with.
The striking imagery of a goat-headed man with cloven feet and, sometimes, angel wings became the perfect villain. Not only has it been associated with what had been taught to be the greatest evil, but also was grotesque.
These gatherings of worship were interpreted to include sacrificial acts and perversions deemed as evil. The truth often does not make for a good story, so exaggerations and outlandish assumptions make for better story telling.
One of my favorites is the cult that summons the devil to impregnate a woman with his seed that will one day grow to be the anti-Christ. The story varies of whether the woman knowingly participates or not. The most famous of these stories is of course the 1968 horror classic “Rosemary’s Baby.”
This story has since been retold many times on every level of media and entertainment and taken with varying seriousness. In one incarnation of this story, the anti-Christ is named Nemo (omen backwards).
He is the literal opposite of the Christian Jesus, i.e. he is terrible at building, swims through land, praises the ‘mother’, and states that ‘they know what they do’. It is very cringe worthy but does bring up a good point.
“Condemn them, mother, for they know exactly what they do,” is the line. Although a mockery of Satanism, it holds some truth. Remember the Nine Satanic Statements I mentioned earlier? This line relates to two of them. Statement five: “Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek.” Statement four: “Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates.”
This is reflected in mantras such as “Do unto others as they do unto you.” It is also explicitly laid out in the final rule of the Eleven Satanic Rules of Earth: “When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask him to stop. If he does not stop, destroy him.”
It is harsh wording but the point gets across very clearly.
Further, to contradict the cult tale of the worshippers that summon Satan to impregnate the unknowing damsel, this is in clear violation of the fifth rule of the Eleven Satanic Rules of Earth: “Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.”
Hollywood portrays Satanists sacrificing animals to their supposed dark overlord. Rule ten of the Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth states, “Do not kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food.”
The examples continue as each rule, statement, and sin pile up to contradict every assumption made in the spirit of Halloween frights. This, however, is only a look at one denomination of Satanism. With each denomination there are different rules, sins, and ideology.
In every falsehood there is an ounce of truth.
Cults are not a new fad and are older than the 1960’s. Cult has two primary definitions:
- A system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object; and
- A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.
The third definition is a little more daunting than the first two definitions: a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.
Often times in horror entertainment, Satanic worshipers are called a cult. Is this because they see it as the misplaced or excessive admiration for the fallen angel?
This would seem to be the case.
They depict these cults as animal sacrificing, people killing, ani-Christ hailing, demon summoning sadists.
An ounce of truth in every falsehood.
There are denominations that sacrifice animals. There are denominations that hail the coming of the anti-Christ. There are denominations that even have rituals to summon, yes, demonic spirits.
There are some that are more sinister than others and have deep ties with Christianity and is everything it is not.
The official Church of Satan founded by LaVey is centered around the self and bettering the self to live as the best version of themselves. Every rule, statement, and sin reflects guidelines on how to be an individual and lead a life that is their own.
One of the sins is "Herd Conformity.: This addresses that by following blindly and without thinking for yourself you will lose your identity.
One horror trope closely associated with Satanism is witches. You guessed it, they too get a bad wrap...