Skip to main content
Select Source:

Satanism

Satanism

The worship of Satan, the Christian devil. The idea that such a parody of Christian worship could and did exist emerged in several stages. Central to Satanism was the idea of magic and that extraordinary miracles, if not performed by God in answer to the prayer of one of his servants (i.e., a Christian), had to be accomplished by the devil in cooperation with someone who had made a pact with the devil. Once the idea of the pact became commonplace, it was but a short step to the notion of an organized community of devil-worshippers. Some substance was provided by the small pockets of paganism that had not succumbed to the church's evangelical efforts.

Before the fifteenth century, the magic practices (i.e, witchcraft) associated with paganism had been defined as unreal and pagan belief as disbelief. However, for several centuries the Roman Catholic Church had been engaged in a struggle to eliminate heresy, especially in southern France. That successful effort had left it with a large and efficient organization, the Inquisition, essentially bereft of a job. Thus the redefinition of witchcraft as Satanism served the purpose of providing work for those conducting the Inquisition. It transferred witchcraft from the realm of doubt to that of heresy and apostasy, and thus the concern of the Inquisition. Satanism implies the acceptance of Christianity and the subsequent transfer of allegiance to the Christian anti-God.

Immediately after the papal bull Summis desiderantes affectibus, issued in 1484, which unleashed the Inquisition, two German Dominicans, Jakob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer, wrote a massive text, Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches Hammer), which became the textbook for witch-hunters in understanding the evil of witchcraft and in locating and identifying witches. Witches were accused of sacrificing infants and of having sexual intercourse with the devil (most witches were women). Since the Bible affirmed the existence of witchcraft, to believe it did not exist was to be considered in itself a heresy, according to the inquisitors.

Thus was initiated the era of the great witch-hunts. In spite of the Reformation, which split the church and commanded so much attention in the sixteenth century, the crusade against witches continued and was pursued by Protestants and Catholics alike. Confessions were obtained by torture and tended to conform to the image expected by the inquisitors after having read the Malleus Maleficarum.

There is no real evidence that a devil cult existed. Its description in the Malleus Maleficarum was the result of the imaginings of a group of people who had never seen what they described. The confessions were extracted from people informed as to the nature and content of what the inquisitor sought. Such has remained the case to the present. Even though some groups of Satanists emerged, they were always adult converts and created the organization de novo each generation. There was no Satanic organization to carry the tradition from generation to generation. Thus the imagination of Christian clergymen was necessary to inform each new group of Satanists as to the beliefs and activities of Satanism. Without the writings of Christian anti-Satanists, Satanism could not exist.

The anti-Satanist literature defined the practices proper to any self-respecting Satanist, including the Black Mass (a parody of the Roman Catholic Mass), the saying of the Lord's Prayer backwards, the destruction/profanation of sacred objects, the sacrifice of an infant, and the invocation of Satan for the purpose of working malevolent magic (sorcery ). It was not until the late seventeenth century that something similar to the Satanism described in the Malleus Maleficarum came into being.

The Affair La Voisin

In the year 1679, King Louis XIV set up a secret court to deal with several cases of poisoning of the French nobility. The investigations and findings of the court centered around the activities of Catherine Deshayes, better known as La Voisin. La Voisin operated as an adviser and fortune-teller to ladies at the court. She supplied them with love potions, charms, and occasionally, poison. However, things turned in a more sinister direction in 1667.

In that year La Voisin was consulted by the Marquise de Montespan, Françoise-Athenais, who was ambitious in the extreme. She wanted to become the queen of France. Her goal was, through magic, to alienate Louis from both the queen and his current mistress. Reportedly, following a mass during which two doves were killed, she became Louis's mistress. Further masses were said to secure her position. Then in 1673, with the Abbé Guibourg officiating, a mass was said over Montespan's nude body, during which an infant was sacrificed and the blood used to create a host that was then added to the king's food.

These later masses seemed to have no effect, and Louis was perceived to be changing his affections to another. Finally, in 1879, she had a mass for the dead said for Louis, followed by an attempt to poison him. The plot was discovered. La Voisin was arrested and Montespan distanced from the king (though for the sake of appearances she was never publicly accused). The affair, as the extent of La Voisin's activities became known, threatened to bring down the monarchy if made public. It was handled with the utmost discretion. La Voisin was executed, but most of the people involved were merely banished.

Since the era of the affair, sporadic incidents of Satanism and ephemeral Satanic magic groups have appeared. Among the more renowned were those described in a fictionalized account in J. K. Huysman's novel La Bas in 1891. The groups that appeared were largely made of young people using Satanism as an expression of their youthful rebellion. They came and went with little sign of their existence except a desecrated graveyard or church. A few were discovered during a ceremony or soon afterward. The number of such groups seemed to rise in the years after World War II, though that may have been a result of better reporting and the correlation of the scattered accounts facilitated by improved communications. However, a new thrust developed in the 1960s.

The Church of Satan

A new era began on Walpurgis Night (May Eve), 1966. Anton LaVey announced the first day of the year of Satan (anno Satanas) marked by the founding of the Church of Satan. The very affront of such an organization in an ostensibly Christian nation was newsworthy, but LaVey, an old carnival performer, was able to make good use of publicity eventsthe first Satanic wedding and the first funeralto have his picture on the front page of newspapers across the United States.

To some, the very appearance of the Church of Satan was all they needed to project it as a symbol of all that was wrong with contemporary society and to associate the new organization with every occult-related crime that was uncovered. The reality was more mundane. The Church of Satan was, in fact, a fairly small group (never more than a few thousand members), which affirmed some of the values that LaVey saw as dominant in secular society but counter to traditional values. People were trapped in a value system that affirmed mutually contradictory goals. He advocated indulgence of the senses, individual responsibility, selfishness, life in the present, and ego strength and assertion. He specifically denounced love for ingrates, turning the other cheek, and obscurantism.

The main holiday in the church was an individual's birthday. The primary ritual was the Black Mass, which served as a psychodrama for people, allowing them to overcome inhibitions and move ahead with their lives. He specifically eschewed any illegal activities and told members to pursue their goals, but to do so without harming others.

The Church of Satan gave Satanism a new respectability. Its scripture, The Satanic Bible, became a steady seller at newsstands, and LaVey attracted some celebrities to his organization. During the early 1970s, however, the church went through a period of turmoil and a number of splinter groups emerged. The most substantive of these (and the only one to survive the decade) was the Temple of Set. Founded by Michael Aquino and Lilith Sinclair, two prominent leaders in the Church of Satan, the temple became the home of a sophisticated Satanic theology developed from Egyptian thought.

Satanism in the 1980s

Satanism had plainly declined by the end of the 1970s; however, in the mid 1980s reports that it had merely gone underground began to surface. Claims of the existence of a massive Satanic underground emerged around a set of reports concerning ritual child abuse. Amid the heightened concern for child abuse generated during the era, children began to tell horrendous stories of having been abused as part of forced participation in Satanic rituals, both in homes and in day care centers. These stories were soon joined by an increasing number of stories of women, and a few men, mostly in their thirties, who told stories of having been abused as children and youth, and then having suppressed the memories until they were recalled twenty years later in sessions with counselors.

These two types of reports generated much attention in the press, a heated debate among psychological professionals, and a variety of court cases. In the end, little substance concerning Satanic activity emerged, though a core of childhood trauma was discovered at the heart of many of the reports. Some cases were discovered to be lies told to reclaim custody of children lost in a divorce settlement, and many were generated by psychological counselors using unprofessional techniques and practices. As the cases were investigated and no supporting evidence was discovered, the stories became increasingly conspiracy oriented. By the 1990s little support remained for the veracity of the accounts of widespread Satanism.

Sources:

Kelly, Henry Ansgar. The Devil, Demonology, and Witchcraft. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1974.

LaVey, Anton. The Satanic Bible. New York: Avon, 1969.

Lyons, Arthur. Satan Wants You. London: Rupert Hart-Davies, 1970.

Richardson, James T., Joel Best, and David G. Bromley. The Satanism Scare. New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1991.

Robbins, Rossell Hope. The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology. New York: Crown Publishers, 1959.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Satanism." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Satanism." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 13, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/satanism

"Satanism." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/satanism

Black Mass

Black Mass

According to the inquisitors, the Black Mass epitomized the worship of Satan and perverted the most holy mystery of Christian worshipthe Christian mass. Evidence of such occurrences was confirmed in the confessions forced from accussed witches and sorcerers, who claimed that the devil had mass said at his Sabbat. Pierre Aupetit, an apostate priest of the village of Fossas, France, was burned for celebrating the mysteries of the Devil's mass. Instead of speaking the holy words of consecration, the frequenters of the Sabbat were alleged to have said: "Beelzebub, Beelzebub, Beelzebub." The devil in the shape of a butterfly flew around those who were celebrating the mass, who then ate a black host, which they were obliged to chew before swallowing.

It is possible that the concept of the Black Mass derived from underground traditions of Cathar heretics, who were put down by orthodox Christianity during the fourteenth century. The Cathars believed in two gods, the God of light and the Prince of darkness, the maker of all material things. However, the idea of a Black Mass only became operative in the fifteenth century when the Roman Catholic Church turned on the "witches" as followers of Satan, whom because they believed in the magic of the Christian mass, hence could conceive a vulgar misuse of its powers. Several printed accounts which may have fueled the concept document strange occurrences, including the 1335 story of a shepherd found nude performing a parody of the mass and the 1458 story of a priest who mixed semen with the holy oil used for annointing people.

However, Satanism, as defined by the Church at the end of the fifteenth century, existed solely in the imaginaton of the inquisitors. Its ideas and practices were carried from generation to generation by the writings of Christians involved in the pursuit of witches and the stamping out of its practice. No evidence of anyone actually holding a Black Mass appears until the seventeenth century in France, when police arrested a fortune-teller named Catherine Deshayes, known as "La Voisin." Allegedly committing poisonings and sacrilege, La Voisin was a well-known abortionist, and was suspected of providing infants for ritual sacrifice in a Black Mass conducted by a libertine priest, Abbé Guibourg. These masses were purportedly celebrated on the body of a naked woman. It was claimed that at the moment of consecration of the host, an infant's throat was cut, the blood was poured into the chalice, and prayers were offered to the demons Asmodeus and Ashtaroth. Other obscene rites were associated with the host.

At the trial of La Voisin, evidence was given that some Black Masses had been held at the request of the royal mistress the Marquise de Montespan, in order to retain the favor of Louis XIV. Other masses were associated with murder and poison plots, and many famous names were involved. Over 300 individuals were arrested, although fewer than half were tried; de Montespan was spared. La Voisin was subjected to brutal torture for three days, but she would not confess to poisoning, and on February 22, 1680, she was burned alive.

The modern Black Mass seems to have appeared as part of the magical revival in late ninteeth-century France. J. K. Huysmans is generally credited with reintroduing Satanism and the Black Mass in his book La-Bas (Down There), which includes a detailed description of a Satanic service. More recently the Church of Satan in San Francisco has based its much publicized diabolism upon a rejection of the Christian ethics of self-denial and humility. Its founder, Anton La Vey, published his own version of a Black Mass.

(See also Black Magic )

Sources:

Cavendish, Richard. The Black Arts. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1967.

Huysmans, J. K. Down There (La-Bas): A Study in Satanism. Translated by Keene Willis. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1958.

LaVey, Anton. The Compleat Witch; or, What to Do When Virtue Fails. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1971.

. The Satanic Bible. Seacaucus, N.J.: University Books, 1969. Reprint. New York: Avon Books, 1976.

. The Satanic Rituals. Seacaucus, N.J.: University Books, 1972.

. The Satanic Witch. Los Angeles, CA: Feral House, 1989.

Rhodes, H. T. F. The Satanic Mass. London, 1954.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Black Mass." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Black Mass." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 13, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/black-mass

"Black Mass." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/black-mass

Satanism

Satanism: The cult of Satan, or Satan worship, is in part a survival of the ancient worship of demons and in part a revolt against Christianity or the church. It rose about the 12th cent. in Europe and reached its culmination in the blasphemous ritual of the Black Mass, a desecration of the Christian rite. The history of early Satanism is obscure. It was revived in the reign of Louis XIV in France and is still practiced by various groups throughout the world, particularly in the United States. One of the largest and most influential Satanic groups is the Church of Satan (1966), founded by Anton LaVey in San Francisco. A splinter group, the Temple of Set (1975), was organized by Michael Aquino. Many Satanic groups, including the ones mentioned, attest that such worship does not necessarily imply evil intentions, but rather an alternative to the repressive morality of many other religious groups. Such groups see no harm in their indulgence in "worldly pleasures" that other religions forbid. Other, more severe brands of Satanism likely exist, although much of the activity pegged as "Satanic" has less to do with the religion than with various forms of sociopathy. Indeed, reliable research has found no evidence indicating the existence of alarming, large-scale Satanic phenomena. An unfortunate mistake is the unfounded—yet common—linkage of minority religious traditions, such as the African-derived voodoo and Santería, with Satanism. See also witchcraft.

See A. LaVey, Satanic Bible (1969); A. Lyons, The Second Coming (1970) and Satan Wants You! (1989); J. T. Richardson and D. Bromley, ed., The Satanism Scare (1991).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Satanism." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Satanism." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 13, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/satanism

"Satanism." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/satanism

satanism

sa·tan·ism / ˈsātnˌizəm/ (also Sa·tan·ism) • n. the worship of Satan, typically involving a travesty of Christian symbols and practices, such as placing a cross upside down. DERIVATIVES: sa·tan·ist n. & adj.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"satanism." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"satanism." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 13, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/satanism

"satanism." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/satanism

Black Mass

Black Mass. Usually a blasphemous caricature of the mass, with an inversion of symbols and a worship of Satan, not God. But the term is also used colloquially for the requiem mass for the dead when black vestments are used.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Black Mass." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Black Mass." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 13, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/black-mass

"Black Mass." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/black-mass