Stars, Crosses, and Goats, Oh My!
Religious or not, if the name "Satan" is uttered even in jest, the tone of the conversation changes and the topic usually shifts to something else. Satan and Satanism in particular have always been taboo subjects to speak openly about, and while a portion of this might be justified, there is much about Satanism that is misunderstood or blatantly unknown information.
Satanism is simply an umbrella term that encompasses several denominations, all with their own symbols, unique beliefs, ceremonies, and codes of conduct. This is not to be confused with "devil worship" which only partially defines one of these denominations. Satanism is also not to be confused with the countless number of cults that dabble in angel, demon, and other idol worship. Satanism is a legitimate religion that has a confirmed text, holidays, religious ceremonies and rituals, and practitioners.
The most widely known form of Satanism is "theistic Satanism", which is most simply described as a sort of inverted Christianity, but not with the "Christian Satan." This means that acknowledge Satan is a literal deity who holds supernatural powers, but is not the evil opposite of Jesus Christ. Followers view this deity exists alone, and instead of encouraging evil acts like murder and theft, it promotes lust, freedom, success, and wealth. They consider their worship to be part of the "left-handed path", one that promotes free will.
Theistic Satanists are very much in touch with the physical world, both in terms of nature and material possessions. The deity they worship is one of carnage, personal gain and success rather than success of a collective good.
Followers of theistic Satanism believe in marriage and funeral ceremonies. Baptism is neither encouraged nor discouraged, due to the belief that one should join the church on their own free will. Because of this, infants will not be baptized. Likewise, magic is used and spells can be cast using spell books and rituals using physical props. However, this can only be done with consent of all parties and whatever is begun must be finished (whatever portals are opened must be closed).
Atheistic satanism, or "LaVeyan Satanism" was officially founded in 1966 by Anton LaVey, self-proclaimed founder and High Priest of the Church of Satan (not to be confused with the theistic First Church of Satan). The main church is in California, while smaller chapels, or "grottos" can be located throughout the United States. Their sigil is that of Baphomet, a man with a goat head with his left hand outstretched, further implementing the "left-handed path". The doctrine for LaVeyan Satanism can be found in LaVey's own book "The Satanic Bible", which outlines the code of conduct, the Nine Satanic Statements, the Nine Satanic Sins, and the Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth, which consist of the following:
- Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked.
- Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them.
- When in another’s lair, show him respect or else do not go there.
- If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat him cruelly and without mercy.
- Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.
- 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.
- 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.
- Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself.
- Do not harm little children.
- Do not kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food.
- When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask him to stop. If he does not stop, destroy him. (LaVey, 1969)
Unlike theistic Satanism, LaVey and his followers believe that Satan is a symbolic being that lives inside the follower; that they are completely in charge of their own destiny. In this way, there is no God or Satan. They also reject the idea of a body-soul complex, and the concept of an after-life. They believe in the indulgence of the flesh, the inflating of the ego, and the idea that the greatest accomplishes in life will be ones own success.
LaVey encouraged manipulation for ones own pleasure and to stroke ones ego, believing that will make for a happier and more fulfilled life. He believed men and women should not limit their pleasures, and to accept the pleasures of others, whatever that entailed. This form of Satanism also encourages spiritual rituals when necessary, and like theistic Satanism, it encourages parents to raise their children with a broad education of world religions. If they feel the left-handed path is for them, a minor can be baptized with the supervision of the parents or can wait until adulthood.
Lastly, both aforementioned sects of Satanism do not sacrifice animals unless asked to, and the reason provided must be approved by the priest. Most Satanists actually discourage animal sacrifice, as they believe it was done in excess in Jewish and Christian texts.
Luciferians are included due to the similarities they hold with Satanism. However, his group considers itself separate and not a part of nor a subset of Satanism.
While Satanists view Satan as a real or symbolic being with supernatural powers and ill intentions, Luciferians refer to Satan as a fallen angel, similar to Christian texts. However, this image is altered somewhat, as they believe he is a kind, enlightened being that is likened to the God viewed in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. He is described as a guardian of mankind.
The image of this Satan figure can be likened to the image of Lilith in Jewish texts, referring to a woman that existed with Adam, but before Eve, who rejected him and his thinking lowly of her. This image of Satan also promotes this same sense of independence and breaking off from the norm. He is viewed as a friend and a form of guidance that can be prayed to for help, praised, and asked forgiveness.
Lastly, Luciferians do not associate their view of Satan with that of Judeo-Christian religious texts, as they believe following another religion hinders progress of the individual. They believe Satan is a benign, separate deity with a God-like complex.
All denominations or groups that are similar to Satanism have many things in common, all of which debunk the evil stereotypes that seem to stick to them. Some have been covered above, but a recap of these are mentioned below.
-Satanists of all kinds believe that worshiping a truly evil being is psychotic. The Satan depicted by all three groups encourages indulging in pleasure, but only with consent. The Satan depicted also discourages violence unless in self-defense.
-Satanists believe strongly in the welfare of children, making it abundantly clear that no harm shall come to them and to allow them to make their own decisions once they come of age.
-Animals are not sacrificed unless asked to be. Animal sacrifice occurs far more in Judeo-Christian texts, particularly in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.
-Magic is used, but never to bring harm to others. In addition, protection circles are discouraged, believing that the spirits desired cannot be enemies unless they are thought in the mind of the practitioner to be enemies.
-The "Golden Rule" applies heavily, one would say t is the lotto of Satanists. It is a Satanic sin to act on emotion and risk looking foolish, so harm is never brought to those who treat their hosts kindly.
Erasing and Replacing
While Satanism is often associated with being an inverted version of other mainstream religions, it should be noted that there is a decent amount of good, and some daresay, kindness embedded into the framework. And while is not necessarily widely practiced, like on the scales of Hinduism, Islam, etc, the practice of Satanism demands a respect that the general populous struggles to give to its more popular religions. Belief is someone or something is becoming a dying practice, and it should be noted that if the people focused on the similarities more than the differences, peace would be more easily accessible and more widespread. Education and conversation are the keys to turning strangers into friends.