Devotion to Satan, the Devil, or forces of darkness. Satanism is not structured as a single, unified organization or movement. Some forms of it are religious and involve worship of Satan, while other forms involve high magic or are philosophies and lifestyle choices. As early as the seventh century, the Catholic Church was condemning priests who subverted the magical powers of the Holy Mass for evil purposes, a policy that can be seen as a precursor to the development of ideas about satanism.
Beliefs about satanism as Devil worship solidified during the Inquisition, when witch hunters and Demonologists promoted the ideas that witches worshipped the Devil and were in Pacts with him to wreak havoc in the world. Enemies of the Christian Church, such as the Order of the Knights Templar and rival religious sects, were accused of Devil worship and witchcraft, crimes of heresy. Many of the accused confessed under the duress of severe torture.
The extent of genuine satanism is not known. There is little evidence of it as an organized activity prior to the 17th century, when it became fashionable to participate in Black Masses. The most notorious of these took place in France during the reign of Louis XIV under the direction of the king’s mistress, Madame de Montespan. The rituals were led by an occultist named La Voisin and a 67-yearold libertine priest, the abbé Guiborg.
There is no reliable evidence of satanic activity in the 18th century. In England, the Hell-FIRE CLUB, a society founded by Sir Francis Dashwood (1708–81), often described as satanic, was little more than a club for young men to indulge in drinking, sexual play with women called “nuns,” and outrageous behavior. The club, or the “Medmenham Monks,” as they called themselves, met regularly between 1750 and 1762 in Dashwood’s home, Medmenham Abbey. They were said to conduct Black Masses, but it is doubtful that these were serious satanic activities. Similar groups were the Brimstone Boys and Blue Blazers of Ireland.
One of the most famous satanists of the 19th century was Abbé Boullan of France, who became the head of an offshoot of the Church of Carmel and allegedly practiced black magic and infant sacrifice. The Church of Carmel was formed by Eugene Vintras, the foreman of a cardboard box factory in Tilly-sur-Seule. In 1839, Vintras said he received a letter from the archangel Michael, followed by visions of the archangel, the Holy Ghost, St. Joseph, and the Virgin Mary. He was informed that he was the reincarnated prophet Elijah, and he was to found a new religious order and proclaim the coming of the age of the Holy Ghost. The true king of France, he was told, was a man named Charles Naundorf.
Vintras went about the countryside preaching this news and acquiring followers, including priests. Masses were celebrated that included visions of empty chalices filled with blood and bloodstains on the Eucharist. By 1848, the Church of Carmel, as the movement was known, was condemned by the pope. In 1851, Vintras was accused by a former disciple of conducting Black Masses in the nude, homosexuality, and masturbating while praying at the altar.
Shortly before his death in 1875, Vintras befriended Boullan, who formed a splinter group of the Church of Carmel upon Vintras’ death. He ran the group for 18 years, until his death, outwardly maintaining pious practices, but secretly conducting satanic rituals. Boullan seems to have been obsessed with satanism and evil since age 29, when he took a nun named Adèle Chevalier as his mistress. Chevalier left her convent, bore two bastard children, and founded with Boullan the Society for the Reparation of Souls. Boullan specialized in exorcising Demons by unconventional means, such as feeding possessed victims a mixture of human excrement and the Eucharist. He also performed Black Masses. On January 8, 1860, he and Chevalier reportedly conducted a Black Mass in which they sacrificed one of their children.
By the time Boullan met Vintras, Boullan was claiming to be the reincarnated St. John the Baptist. He taught his followers sexual techniques and said the original sin of Adam and Eve could be redeemed by sex with incubi and succubi. He and his followers also were said to copulate with the spirits of the dead, including Anthony the Great. Boullan’s group was infiltrated by two Rosicrucians, Oswald Wirth and Stanislas de Guaita, who wrote an exposé, The Temple of Satan. Supposedly Boullan and de Guaita engaged in magical warfare. Boullan and his friend, the novelist J. K. Huysmans, claimed to be attacked by Demons. When Boullan collapsed and died of a heart attack on January 3, 1893, Huysmans believed it due to an evil spell from de Guaita and said so in print. De Guaita challenged him to a duel, but Huysmans declined and apologized.
In his novel, Là-bas (Down There), Huysmans included a Black Mass, which he said was based on his observations of one conducted by a satanic group in Paris, operating in the late 19th century. He said the mass was recited backward, the crucifix was upside down, the Eucharist was defiled, and the rites ended in a sexual orgy. By the early 20th century, Aleister Crowley was thought to be involved in satanism. Although he called himself “the Beast”; used Life, Love, and Light to describe Satan; and once baptized and crucified a toad as Jesus, he was not a satanist, but a magician and occultist.
The largest movement of modern satanism began in the 1960s, in the United States, led by Anton Szandor LaVey, a shrewd, intelligent man with a charismatic persona and an imposing appearance. In 1966, LaVey founded the Church of Satan in San Francisco, the activities of which became the object of great media attention. Born April 11, 1930, in Chicago, LaVey claimed an ancestry of Alsatian, Georgian, and Romanian blood, including a Gypsy grandmother from Transylvania. As a child, he studied music and became interested in the occult. He learned to play the piano at 10, and, at 15, became an oboist for the San Francisco Ballet Symphony Orchestra. He dropped out of high school in his junior year and joined the Clyde Beatty Circus as a cage boy. He had a gift for working with the big cats and became assistant trainer. It was in the circus, working with lions, he later said, that he learned about inner power and magic. On the side, he investigated haunted houses. At 18, he left the circus and joined a carnival, as a magician’s assistant and a calliope player. In 1948, he met Marilyn Monroe and played as her accompanist.
He married his first wife, Carole, in 1951; they had one daughter, Karla. He studied criminology at City College in San Francisco and spent three years as a crime photographer with the San Francisco Police Department. Disgusted with the violence he saw, he quit and returned to playing the organ in nightclubs and theaters. He began holding classes on occult subjects. From these classes evolved a Magic Circle, which met to perform rituals LaVey had devised or discovered from historical sources on the Knights Templar, Hell-Fire Club, Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and Aleister Crowley. LaVey apparently enjoyed the theatrics of the rituals; he dressed in a scarlet-lined cape and kept skulls and other odd objects about. Magic Circle members included the actress Jayne Mansfield and the filmmaker Kenneth Anger.
LaVey divorced Carole in 1960 and married Diane, 17, who worked as an usher at his Friday night occult sessions. They had a daughter, Zeena. From 1960 to 1966, he developed his elitist satanic philosophy. He viewed the Devil as a dark force hidden in nature, ruling earthly affairs. Humans’ true nature is one of lust, pride, hedonism, and willfulness, attributes that enable the advancement of civilization. Flesh should not be denied, but celebrated. Individuals who stand in one’s way of achieving what one wants should be cursed.
On Walpurgisnacht (April 30) in 1966, LaVey shaved his head and announced the founding of the Church of Satan. He shrewdly recognized the shock value in using the term church for worshipping the Devil and recognized people’s innate need for ritual, ceremony, and pageantry. He performed satanic baptisms, weddings, and funerals, all of which received widespread media coverage. He used a nude woman (partially covered by a leopard skin) as an altar. His wife, Diane, became high priestess of the church. He baptized Zeena. Karla began giving lectures on satanism at universities and colleges. LaVey preached antiestablishmentarianism, selfindulgence, all forms of gratification, and vengeance. Enemies were to be hated and smashed. Sex was exalted. He opposed the use of drugs, saying they were escapist and unnecessary to achieving natural highs. He also deplored the use of black magic in criminal activity. He did not include a Black Mass in his rituals, because he considered it outdated.
The Church of Satan organized into grottoes. A reversed pentacle containing a goat’s head, called the Baphomet, was chosen as the symbol. LaVey used Enochian as the magical language for rituals and espoused the Enochian Keys used by Crowley.
LaVey composed Nine Satanic Statements, Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth, and Nine Satanic Sins.
The following are the Nine Satanic Statements:
1. Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence.
2. Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams.
3. Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit.
4. Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates.
5. Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek.
6. Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires.
7. Satan represents man as just another animal—sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all fours—who, because of his “divine spiritual and intellectual development,” has become the most vicious animal of all.
8. Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification.
9. Satan has been the best friend the church has ever had, as he has kept it in business all these years.
The following are the Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth:
1. Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked.
2. Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them.
3. When in another’s lair, show him respect or else do not go there.
4. If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat him cruelly and without mercy.
5. Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.
6. Do not take that which does not belong to you unless it is a burden to the other person and he cries out to be relieved.
7. Acknowledge the power of magic if you have employed it successfully to obtain your desires. If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all you have obtained.
8. Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself.
9. Do not harm little children.
10. Do not kill nonhuman animals unless you are attacked or for your food.
11. When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask him to stop. If he does not stop, destroy him.
The Nine Satanic Sins are the following:
5. Herd conformity
6. Lack of perspective
7. Forgetfulness of past orthodoxies
8. Counterproductive pride
9. Lack of aesthetics
The church attracted an international following. Most were middle-class and included occultists, celebrities, thrill seekers, the curious, racists, and political right wingers. At its peak, it was said to have about 25,000 members (years later, former members said the figures were exaggerated). The film director Roman Polanski hired LaVey for his film version of Ira Levin’s novel of Devil worshippers, ROSEMARY’S BABY, released in 1968. LaVey portrayed Satan and advised Polanski on satanic ritual details. LaVey turned many of his organizational activities over to others in the church and began writing books. The Satanic Bible was published in 1969, followed by The Satanic Rituals in 1972. A third book, The Compleat Witch, was published in Europe.
In 1975, the church lost members, who left to form a new satanic organization, the Temple of Set. The Church of Satan reorganized as a secret society and dissolved its grottoes. LaVey retired from the scene and went into seclusion. He reappeared in the media in the 1990s and published another book, The Devil’s Notebook, in 1992. He died on October 30, 1997, at age 67, having suffered from heart problems for years. The “Black House” in San Francisco where he founded the church was torn down to make way for an apartment complex. A new Black House was established in a secret location. The Church of Satan is presently run by Peter Gil more. Members do not all believe in Satan, Demons, or Angels. As do the principles espoused by LaVey, the church emphasizes personal freedom and swift action against persistent enemies.
Key founders of the Temple of Set were Michael A. Aquino, Lilith Sinclair (Aquino’s wife), and Betty Ford. It is an initiatory society devoted to the Egyptian god Set (also known as Seth), whom members do not consider evil, but the prototype of Satan. According to the temple, Set has over the millennia altered human genetics in order to create people of superior intelligence for the next level of evolution. Three major phases have occurred: the first in 1904, when Crowley received The Book of the Law, dictated via mediumship by the spirit AIWASS; the second in 1966, when the Church of Satan was formed; and the third in 1975, when the Temple of Set was formed. In his writings, Aquino has prophesied an apocalypse in which only the “elect,” or members of the Temple of Set, will survive. Aquino has an interest in Nazi Pagan rituals practiced during World War II but has stated he does not sympathize with Nazi politics. Other satanic groups have formed; some become defunct after a period of activity. The extent of satanism is impossible to gauge, because of the secrecy of many organizations. There is evidence of “family traditions” of satanism, passed down from one generation to another.
– Barton, Blanche. The Church of Satan. New York: Hell’s Kitchen Productions, 1990.
———. The Secret Life of a Satanist: The Authorized Biography of Anton LaVey. Los Angeles: Feral House, 1990.
– LaVey, Anton Szandor. The Satanic Bible. New York: Avon Books, 1969.