Witches, Wiccans, and the "True Satanist"

Subject:Witches, Wiccans and the "True Satanist"
Date: December 13, 1998

Kwiksilvr8 (kwiksilvr8@aol.com) wrote:

: Okay, this is what makes me mad. Now, I don't know much at all about Satanism, and I'll be the first to admit that. Someone told me that it was about worshiping yourself, and not the Xtian devil. Is that true?

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There are some folks who will tell you that "True Satanism" means the literal worship of the Christian devil, as he is depicted in Christian mythology. There are others who claim that "True Satanism" is practiced only by people who are duly authorized by the late Anton LaVey's Church of Satanism. There are still others who seem to be randomly inspired by various sources ranging from heavy metal music to watered-down Crowleyana, who also believe that they have the "True Satanism" in the pockets of their assorted and mostly tasteless artsy-death-shit Goth clothing.

There are also a very few genuinely self-aware people who have consciously chosen a left hand path, and who tend to be serious scholars of subjects ranging from history to philosophy to ceremonial magic and the human will. With some exceptions, this crowd seems to be remarkably intelligent, self disciplined and otherwise to have their shit together. They also call themselves Satanists (and sometimes Setians), although they don't really fit any of the definitions above.

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This type of Satanist is considerably more complex than your average teenage Motley Crue angst-ridden rebel who mainly wants to shock Mummy and Daddy and society. You need to step entirely outside your culture's basically Judeo-Xtian perception to understand them. That is harder than you think, even for most Wiccans.

These Satanists don't "worship Satan" in the sense that our society understands it, ie, wasting their time and energy on juvenile pranks, working malicious and random harm, desecrating churches, etc. They have chosen to focus their lives and philosophies on an entity and a set of values that the dominant Xtian culture calls "Satan" and believes to be evil.

Think about that for a moment. Do you like the dominant Xtian culture? Do you think its values are healthy or good, as a whole? What does that say about a paradigm of values that it explicitly rejects? Do we as Wiccans really want to mindlessly reject the same things Christians do, just because the Christians do?

Our Pagan tradition theoretically prides itself on independence of thought and deed, so let's exercise some of that and judge for ourselves what we think about the people who currently call themselves "Satanists". Forget Christianity and its values completely. Their religious creed has no power over us and no relevance to us as Wiccans, any more than does Buddhism or Jainism or Scientology. Keep that in mind, and now let's take a serious look at some of these modern Satanists, who are not necessarily just anti-Christian or negative Christians.

I see a group of folks who consciously reject the weak, sickly, sex-negative, hypocritical values of Judeo-Christian society, and choose to embrace an image far older than Christianity itself: the divine Beast, strong and animal and vital. The Xtian perception of the Great Beast, the primal, sexual and animalistic forces in us personified, is generally no more accurate than their perception of Wiccans. In short, it is juvenile, simplistic and completely ethnocentric. I should hope that we polytheists are capable of being wiser than that.

Who is "Satan", anyways? Christians stole the basic concept from us Pagans, originally. He is the Lord of unbridled power and sexuality, a personified celebration of pleasure and potency. Naturally, Christians don't much like this guy, and they call him sinful and evil. Our Pagan culture is a lot healthier and more natural, and we respect and even venerate these things as part of normal human nature. And so our old god effectively became Christianity's new devil.

Christians point to an archetypal entity called "Satan" which represents a certain collection of characterics and beliefs and say that he is evil and terrible and bad. Since we belong to a basically Xtian society - yes, even us Wiccans - we are tempted to have the same kneejerk reaction. But what, really, are we condemning when we spout the Xtian party line here?

Think about that one, please. Use the brain the Goddess gave you, not the canned horseshit that Xtian society fed you. And please keep in mind that some of the things that Xtian society points to as evil and shameful include masturbation, most forms of consensual adult sex, the human body, women's rights, and many religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and (surprise) Wicca.

I dunno about you, but I get along pretty OK with this particular breed of "Satanist". If you can honestly step far enough outside our society's kneejerk reactions, you'd probably get along with them tolerably well, too. Except for one crucial point, which I'll get to later.

A lot of Satanists don't think much of Wiccans. There is a reason for this. IMO, most Wiccans aren't. Our community is mostly full of New Agers, crystal huggers and "milk n'cookies Pagans", who are largely still brainwashed by Christian values and judgements whether they'd like to admit it to themselves or not. I don't think much of them myself, but then I'm a pretty fierce old school Celt and I grew up with deadly serious Old Religion values. I do not like New Agers one bit, but I tolerate them mainly because I would rather see such people playing Witches than burning witches.

: Anyways, my point: WitchCraft (Wicca) has NOTHING to do with Satanism. The two are totally different things. I'm not saying I disagree with your beliefs, or that you're wrong or anything (I don't know what your beliefs are), but I KNOW that the two are really different.

No, actually you don't. Try cracking some books on the subject; your local college library may be of help. A common thread in many disparate human cultures is a practice generally translated as "witchcraft", ie, supernatural or superstitious ritual practices meant to have a practical or efficacious value. The specifics and the cultural rules about these kinds of practices and their acceptability vary quite a bit, but the general definition remains the same. So we have the same concept in just about every cultural group, and the word for such practices is typically defined as seperate from non-efficacious practices such as prayer, or from "divine bribery" such as sacrifice or bargaining with gods or spirits.

In Anglo-European culture, the words "witchcraft" and "magic/k" are the ones that designate this range of efficacious ritual practice. It is possible that the etymological origins of the English word "Witch" are derived from the word "Wicca", meaning "wise", but it is also likely that the term may have instead descended from another word meaning "to bend or to weave".

Skip forward a few hundred years and a major continental migration, and we come to the 1940's -50's in America. Political correctness abounds. Gerald Gardner, Alex Sanders and a few other folks read Murray, Mead and Graves, revive the old native English peasant religion, add some kinky touches of their own, prance around naked, write books, have bitchy community infights and win many converts. Behold, we have a gen-u-wine Wiccan revival.

All of a sudden, we need to own the word "Witch" because we want desperately to make society believe that our rituals and practices are nonthreatening to its status quo. We need a way to differentiate between GOOD witches (us, the nice harmless nature lovers fighting for mainstream recognition) and BAD witches (them, the people who are not acceptable to the mainstream for whatever reason, ranging from genuinely antisocial or harmful behavior to harmless but merely socially taboo behavior).

In fact, we need to convince the mostly Xtian public that there is such a thing as GOOD witches, or else we get our tires slashed and bricks hove through our windows even more frequently than they already are. In short, we need a trademark, and we can't let BAD witches use that trademark, or else it undoes all our good work in fighting for our rights and recognition in mainstream society.

Unfortunately, our definitions of good and bad, at least for the sake of our survival in a hostile society, have a lot to do with the dominant social paradigms - which are basically Xtian. So, we need to make society believe that GOOD witches have Christian values....or at least a close enough approximation that we can gain mainstream acceptance.

This seems like a really good idea, since tires and windows are expensive, and we are by now getting very tired of being hanged and burned and stoned and such. So we decide on our strategy. We've learned a lot from history, but we have apparently forgotten this: cultural assimilation almost always goes both ways, and it will inevitably change us even as we fight to change society.

Move forward another couple of decades, and witness the modern Pagan/Wiccan community, smug in its legally recognized status and the fact that it's even fashionable and cool these days to be "into Goddess worship". Because it's been so successful, the strategy of cultural assimilation still seems like a good idea to many. So the process continues, as mainstream society absorbs more of our values - and we absorb more of theirs.

We have a vested interest in trying to make sure that Satanists don't use the word "Witch", because our community strategies are radically different. In fact, their agenda in regards to mainstream society directly conflicts with ours, and this is the primary reason IMO that Wiccans and Satanists don't generally get along.

However, a vested interest is not the same thing as a right. Nor is it an ability. Thus we end up with some fairly predictable yelling matches between Wiccans and Satanists, with most of the combatants on both sides having no real idea of the history behind their arguments, or even why they are arguing.

I'm trying to present a reasonably dispassionate assessment of the facts as I understand them, not a judgement as to who is right or wrong, or whose strategy in regards to mainstream society is better. The fact is that the Wiccan/Pagan social agenda is basically cultural assimilation into the mainstream, and the Satanist social agenda is deliberate and total rejection of the mainstream.

The obvious effect this has on our two groups is that we have a conflicting agenda. The not so obvious effects on us are these. The Pagan/Wiccan community has assmilated, with a high degree of success. We have fought for our rights and largely won them. We have much of the recognition and tolerance we seek. Those are generally considered good things.

The price we have paid is that to a large extent, in my opinion, our community's values are no longer Wiccan. We are not the Old Religion any more, assuming we ever really were, but a new religion. A new religion that has absorbed a really distressing amount of Christian values and morals. We have achieved successful assimilation, and the joke of it seems to be on us. Sadly, not very many people are getting the punchline.

Is our current mainstream status worth the price we paid? I don't know. A lot of old timers would say yes. The battles we fought and the personal sacrifices many of us made in order to fight for our rights to openly, publically be Witches were not in vain.

Many of our younger generation will never know what it's like to face an angry mob, or to lose their jobs, their homes, their property or even their lives because they are openly Pagan. And for that, I think we're mostly grateful. They're safer now, but many of them will never fully understand the price of their safety.

But make no mistake, there was a price. Some of our older generations paid it in blood. I think the modern generation of Wiccans has paid with most of its soul.

What seems so unfair is that the freedoms we have bought with our dearest blood are at least a small part of what made it possible for groups like the Church of Satan to exist at all in mainstream America. Specifically, to have a San Francisco street address without being torn down brick by brick.

We were by no means alone in the fight for civil rights and religious freedom, and the CoS has certainly had its share of martyrs. We don't by any means deserve all the credit, or even a substantial share. But it's our own martyrs that we remember, and the fact that we keep doggedly fighting to protect occult religious freedoms while Satanists seem to be just as actively working against winning any mainstream recognition and tolerance.

The results of their strategy? Complete condemnation by society. No assimilation into the mainstream - in either direction. A lot of pissed off Pagans who are committed to the opposite strategy, possibly without having consciously thought about it or fully understood that it is a strategy, a set of rules and cultural values for dealing with issues around mainstream society.

So, who's got the better long term coping strategy? Speaking from an old school Wiccan perspective, I'd have to say that it's a pretty tough call. There are benefits as well as unpleasant consequences to either one. As much as we'd like to believe that we are the Good Guys and Satanists are the Bad Guys because Christianity says they are and because their social agenda conflicts with ours, life is rarely an exercise in simple black and white.

: I know, regardless of your beliefs, society in general shuns Satanism. People are arrested for "Satanic activity".

What is "Satanic activity"? You claim to be Wiccan, but I hear a distinctly Christian party line here. Do you have any understanding of what "Satan" and "Satanic" actually is, aside from the way Christanity has taught you to define it? Can you stop looking at this subject through Christian filters for a moment? Do you also believe that Witches eat babies, have green skin and fly on broomsticks, simply because Christians say they do?

: But though the two are often confused, WitchCraft and Satanism are not one and the same.

Meaning no offense, I honestly don't think you understand the definitions of either one. Neither the modern Wiccan community nor the modern Satanic community, in all their diverse incarnations and spin-offs, have a monopoly on the word or the concept.

: I'd appreciate it if y'all didn't flame me, just putting in my $0.02! Please explain all of this to me, I'm really in the dark about this.

Again meaning no offense, but folks who show up and make statements without facts to back them up do tend to get toasted a little crispy. It's just life in the big grist mill that is Usenet. Alt.satanism isn't exactly known for being one of the kinder, gentler groups, either.

: bookstores and stuff sell even fewer books on Satanism (prolly none) than they do on New Age, Wicca, etc. and believe me they're very few.

That depends again on how you define Satanism. Many of the books that could help you gain an understanding of this particular path don't have the word "Satan" anywhere in their titles.


Tanith Tyrr

"Bother," said Pooh, as Cthulhu rose up and ate him.
- From the Milne classic "Winnie the Pooh and the Moderately Horrible Thing From R'lyeh", the chapter in which Wol is trying to explain why gooseberries grow on gooseberry bushes, accidentally opening a Door to the Outer Dark, and Nyarlathotep enters The Hundred Acre Woods.

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