LaVeyan Satanism is a philosophy and new religious movement founded in 1966 by American author and occultist Anton LaVey. The religion’s doctrines and practices are codified in The Satanic Bible and overseen by the Church of Satan. Its core philosophy is based concepts of individualism, egoism, epicureanism, self-deification and self-preservation, and propagates a worldview of natural law, materialism, Lex Talionis, and mankind as animals in an amoral universe. The philosophy positions itself in favor of Social Darwinism,stratification and meritocracy, standing in vehement opposition to egalitarianism, seeing it as a conservator of mediocrity and decadence, and to a larger extent, the Abrahamic faiths, which are seen as lies which promote idealism, self-denigration, herd behavior, and irrationality. It also supports more draconian measures taken in the realm of law and order. Prominent Church leader Blanche Barton described Satanism as “an alignment, a lifestyle”. Adherents to the philosophy have described Satanism as a non-spiritual religion of the flesh, or “…the world’s first carnal religion”.
The religion is atheistic, rejecting the existence of gods and other supernatural beings, as well as an afterlife. Practitioners do not believe that the character of Satan literally exists and do not worship him. Instead, Satan is viewed as a positive archetype who represents pride, carnality, liberty, enlightenment, undefiled wisdom, and of a cosmos which Satanists perceive to be motivated by a “dark evolutionary force of entropy that permeates all of nature and provides the drive for survival and propagation inherent in all living things”. He also serves as a conceptual framework and an external metaphorical projection of [the Satanists] highest personal potential. Satan (Hebrew: satan, meaning “adversary”) is seen as a symbol of defiance to the conservatism of mainstream philosophical and religious currents, mainly the Abrahamic religions, that see this character as their antithesis.
Additionally, Satanism involves the practice of magic, which encompasses two distinct forms; greater and lesser magic. Greater magic is a form of ritual practice and is meant as psychodramatic catharsis to focus one’s emotional energy for a specific purpose. These rites are based on three major psycho-emotive themes, including compassion (love), destruction (hate), and sex (lust). Lesser magic is the practice of manipulation by means of applied psychology and glamour (or “wile and guile”) to bend an individual or situation to one’s will. LaVey wrote extensively on the subject of ritual in his works The Satanic Bible and The Satanic Rituals, and on lesser magic in The Satanic Witch.
Anton LaVey established LaVeyan Satanism in the U.S. state of California through the founding of his Church of Satan in 1966. The Church grew under LaVey’s leadership, with regional groups, or grottos, being founded across the United States. A number of these ceded from the Church to form independent Satanic organizations during the early 1970s. In 1975, LaVey abolished the grotto system, after which point Satanism became a far less organized movement, although remained greatly influenced by LaVey’s writings.
“Never one for theory, LaVey created a belief system somewhere between religion, philosophy, psychology, and carnival (or circus), freely appropriating science, mythology, fringe beliefs, and play in a potent mix. The core goal was always indulgence and vital existence, based on the devices and desires of the self-made man.”
Scholars of religious studies have referred to LaVeyan Satanism as Modern Satanism, and as Rational Satanism. Scholars have characterized LaVeyan Satanism as a new religious movement. A number of religious studies scholar have also described it as a form of “self-religion” or “self-spirituality”, with religious studies scholar Amina Olander Lap arguing that it should be seen as being both part of the “prosperity wing” of the self-spirituality New Age movement and a Human Potential Movement group. The anthropologist Jean La Fontaine described it as having “both elitist and anarchist elements”, also citing one occult bookshop owner who referred to the Church’s approach as “anarchistic hedonism”. In The Invention of Satanism, Dyrendal and Petersen theorized that LaVey viewed his religion as “an antinomian self-religion for productive misfits, with a cynically carnivalesque take on life, and no supernaturalism”. Prominent Church leader Blanche Barton described Satanism as “an alignment, a lifestyle”. Adherents to the philosophy have described Satanism as a non-spiritual religion of the flesh, or “…the world’s first carnal religion”.
The prefixes such as “LaVeyan” were never used by Anton LaVey or by the Church of Satan, nor does the term appear in any of its literature. Critics and scholars have attributed a number of qualifiers to LaVey’s Satanism, including atheistic, and orthodox. The church has stated its contention that they are the first formally organized religion to adopt the term “Satanism” and asserts that Satanism and the “worship of Satan” are not congruent. The term “Theistic Satanism” has been described as “oxymoronic” by the church and its High Priest. The Church of Satan rejects the legitimacy of any other organizations who claim to be Satanists, dubbing them reverse-Christians, pseudo-Satanists or Devil worshipers. The church rejects the legitimacy of any other organizations who claim to be Satanists, atheistic or otherwise.
Although there were forms of religious Satanism that predated the creation of LaVeyan Satanism namely those propounded by Stanisaw Przybyszewski and Ben Kadosh these had no unbroken lineage of succession to LaVey’s form. LaVey founded the Church of Satan on Walpurgisnacht 1966, when it emerged from the cultic milieu of California. It was the first organized church in modern times to be devoted to the figure of Satan, and according to Faxneld and Petersen, the Church represented “the first public, highly visible, and long-lasting organisation which propounded a coherent satanic discourse”. The Church experienced its “golden age” from 1966 to 1972, when it had a strong media presence.
Shortly after establishing the Church, LaVey began performing weekly Satanic rituals with followers at his house in San Francisco, which was known as “the Black House”. In February 1967 he held a much publicized Satanic wedding, which was followed by the Satanic baptism of his daughter Zeena in May, and then a Satanic funeral in December. Through these and other activities, he soon attracted international media attention, being dubbed “the Black Pope”. He also attracted a number of celebrities to join his Church, most notably Sammy Davis Junior and Jayne Mansfield. LaVey also established branches of the Church, known as grottos, in various parts of the United States; these included the Babylon Grotto in Detroit, the Stygian Grotto in Dayton, and the Lilith Grotto in New York.
As a result of the success of the film Rosemary’s Baby and the concomitant growth of interest in Satanism, an editor at Avon Books, Peter Mayer, approached LaVey and commissioned him to write a book, which became The Satanic Bible. While part of the text was LaVey’s original writing, other sections of the book consisted of direct quotations from Arthur Desmond’s right-wing tract Might is Right and the occultist Aleister Crowley’s version of John Dee’s Enochian Keys. There is evidence that he was inspired by the writings of the American philosopher Ayn Rand; accusations that he plagiarized her work in The Satanic Bible have been disproved, however. The book served to present LaVey’s ideas to a far wider audience than they had previously had.
LaVey ceased conducting group rituals and workshops in his home in 1972. In 1973, church leaders in Michigan, Ohio, and Florida split to form their own Church of Satanic Brotherhood, however this disbanded in 1974 when one of its founders publicly converted to Christianity. Subsequently, members of the Church of Satan based in Kentucky and Indiana left to found the Ordo Templi Satanis. In 1975, Church member Michael Aquino left to found his own Satanic organisation, the Temple of Set, which differed from LaVey’s Church be adopting a belief that Satan literally existed. In 1975, LaVey disbanded all grottos, or local units of the Church, leaving the organisation as a membership-based group that existed largely on paper. According to Lap, from this point on the Satanic religion became a “splintered and disorganized movement”.
Between the abolition of the grotto system in 1975 and the establishment of the internet in the mid-1990s, The Satanic Bible remained the primary means of propagating Satanism. During this period, a decentralized, anarchistic movement of Satanists developed that was shaped by many of the central themes that had pervaded LaVey’s thought and which was expressed in The Satanic Bible. Lewis argued that in this community, The Satanic Bible served as a “quasi-scripture” because these independent Satanists were able to adopt certain ideas from the book while merging them with ideas and practices drawn from elsewhere.
LaVey died in 1997, with leadership of his Church being turned over to his personal assistant, Blanche Barton. That year, the Church established an official website. Subsequently, Peter H. Gilmore was appointed the Church’s High Priest. After LaVey’s death, conflict over the nature of Satanism intensified within the Satanic community. The Church of Satan became increasingly doctrinally-rigid and focused on maintaining the purity of LaVeyan Satanism. The Church’s increased emphasis on their role as the bearer of his legacy was partly a response to the growth in non-LaVeyan Satanists. Some Church members including Gilmore claimed that only they were the “real” Satanists and that those belonging to different Satanic traditions were “pseudo” Satanists. After examining many of these claims on the Church’s website, Lewis concluded that it was “obsessed with shoring up its own legitimacy by attacking the heretics, especially those who criticize LaVey”. Meanwhile, the Church experienced an exodus of its membership in the 2000s, with many of these individuals establishing new groups online. Although the Church’s public face had performed little ceremonial activity since the early 1970s, in June 2006 they held a Satanic ‘High Mass’ in Los Angeles to mark the Church’s fortieth birthday.
The sociologist of religion James R. Lewis described LaVeyan Satanism as “a blend of Epicureanism and Ayn Rand’s philosophy, flavored with a pinch of ritual magic.”
On their website, the Church of Satan urge anyone seeking to learn about LaVeyan Satanism to read The Satanic Bible, stating that doing so is “tantamount to understanding at least the basics of Satanism”. The book has been in print since 1969 and has been translated into various languages. Lewis argued that although LaVeyan Satanists do not treat The Satanic Bible as a sacred text in the way many other religious groups treat their holy texts, it nevertheless is “treated as an authoritative document which effectively functions as scripture within the Satanic community”. Petersen noted that it is “in many ways the central text of the Satanic milieu”, with Lap similarly testifying to its dominant position within the wider Satanic movement. In particular, Lewis highlighted that many Satanists both members of the Church of Satan and other groups quote from it either to legitimize their own position or to de-legitimize the positions of others in a debate. LaVey’s writings have been described as “cornerstones” within the Church and its teachings, although these are supplemented with the writings of its later High Priest, Gilmore.
LaVey was an atheist, rejecting the existence of all gods. Accordingly, LaVey and his Church do not espouse a belief in Satan as an entity who literally exists, and LaVey did not encourage the worship of Satan as a deity. LaVey sought to cement his belief system within the secularist world-view that derived from natural science, thus providing him with an atheistic basis with which to criticize Christianity and supernaturalist beliefs. He believed that his religion was legitimate because it was rational, contrasting it with what he saw as the supernaturalist irrationality of traditional religions.
Instead, the image of Satan is embraced because of its association with social non-conformity and rebellion against the dominant system. LaVey stated that “the reason it’s called Satanism is because it’s fun, it’s accurate and it’s productive”. However, both LaVey’s writings and the publications of the Church continue to refer to Satan as if he were a real being, in doing so seeing to reinforce the Satanist’s self-interest. LaVey stated that one advantage of using the term “Satanist” was that it shocked people into thinking.
LaVey’s Satanism represents a rejection of Christianity which denies its basic principles and theology. It views Christianity alongside other major religions, and philosophies such as humanism and liberal democracy as a largely negative force on humanity; LaVeyan Satanists perceive Christianity as a lie which promotes idealism, self-denigration, herd behavior, and irrationality. LaVeyans view their religion as a force for redressing this balance by encouraging materialism, egoism, stratification, carnality, atheism, and social Darwinism. LaVey’s Satanism was particularly critical of what it understands as Christianity’s denial of humanity’s animal nature, and it instead calls for the celebration of, and indulgence in, these desires. In doing so, it places an emphasis on the carnal rather than the spiritual.
Satan is said to also serve as a conceptual framework and an external metaphorical projection of [the Satanists] highest personal potential. Satan (Hebrew: satan, meaning “adversary”) is seen as a symbol of defiance to the conservatism of mainstream philosophical and religious currents, mainly the Abrahamic religions, that see this character as their antithesis.
The Satanic Bible often uses the terms “God” and “Satan” interchangeably. Throughout The Satanic Bible, the LaVeyan Satanist’s view of god is described as the Satanist’s true “self”a projection of his or her own personalitynot an external deity. Satan is used as a representation of personal liberty and individualism. LaVey discusses this extensively in The Book of Lucifer, explaining that the gods worshipped by other religions are also projections of man’s true self. He argues that man’s unwillingness to accept his own ego has caused him to externalize these gods so as to avoid the feeling of narcissism that would accompany self-worship.
“If man insists on externalizing his true self in the form of “God,” then why fear his true self, in fearing “God,”why praise his true self in praising “God,”why remain externalized from “God” in order to engage in ritual and religious ceremony in his name? Man needs ritual and dogma, but no law states that an externalized god is necessary in order to engage in ritual and ceremony performed in a god’s name! Could it be that when he closes the gap between himself and his “God” he sees the demon of pride creeping forththat very embodiment of Lucifer appearing in his midst?”
In LaVey’s view, the human being is explicitly viewed as an animal, who thus has no purpose other than survival of the fittest, and who therefore exists in an amoral context. He believed that in adopting a philosophical belief in its own superiority above that of the other animals, humankind has become “the most vicious animal of all”. For LaVey, non-human animals and children represent an ideal, “the purest form of carnal existence”, because they have not been indoctrinated with Christian or other religious concepts of guilt and shame. LaVey did not believe in any afterlife.
LaVey believed that the ideal Satanist should be individualistic and non-conformist, rejecting what he called the “colorless existence” that mainstream society sought to impose on those living within it. He praised the human ego for encouraging an individual’s pride, self-respect, and self-realization and accordingly believed in satisfying the ego’s desires. He expressed the view that self-indulgence was a desirable trait. He argued that hate and aggression were not wrong or undesirable emotions but that they were necessary and advantageous for survival. Similarly, LaVey criticized the negative attitude to sexuality present in many religions, instead supporting any sexual acts that take place between consenting adults. His Church welcomed homosexual members from its earliest years, and he also endorsed celibacy for those who were asexual. He sought to discourage negative feelings of guilt arising from sexual acts such as masturbation and fetishes, and believed that rejecting these sexual inhibitions and guilt would result in a happier and healthier society. Discussing women, LaVey argued that they should use sex as a tool to manipulate men, in order to advance their own personal power. Conversely, non-consensual sexual relations, such as rape and paedophilia, were denounced by LaVey and his Church.
The concept of “human nature” is prevalent throughout The Satanic Bible. The Satanic Bible challenges both the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, advocating instead a tooth-for-tooth philosophy and identifies humans as instinctually predatory, and “lust and carnal desire” are singled out as part of humans’ intrinsic nature. LaVey describes Satanism as “a religion based on the universal traits of man,” and humans are described throughout as inherently carnal and animalistic. Each of the seven deadly sins is described as part of human’s natural instinct, and are thus advocated. Social Darwinism is particularly noticeable in The Book of Satan, where LaVey uses portions of Redbeard’s Might Is Right, though it also appears throughout in references to man’s inherent strength and instinct for self-preservation. LaVeyan Satanism has been described as “institutionalism of Machiavellian self-interest” because of many of these themes.
LaVey’s philosophy was Social Darwinian in basis, having been influenced by the writings of Herbert Spencer, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Ayn Rand. LaVey stated that his Satanism was “just Ayn Rand’s philosophy with ceremony and ritual added”. LaVey supported eugenics and expected it to become a necessity in future. The anthropologist Jean La Fontaine highlighted an article that appeared in The Black Flame, in which one writer described “a true Satanic society” as one in which the population consists of “free-spirited, well-armed, fully-conscious, self-disciplined individuals, who will neither need nor tolerate any external entity ‘protecting’ them or telling them what they can and cannot do.” This rebellious approach conflicts with LaVey’s firm beliefs in observing the rule of law.
LaVey sub-divided magic into both greater and lesser magic; the latter is focused on manipulations while the former consists of rituals and ceremonies.
Outlined in The Satanic Bible, LaVey defined magic as “the change in situations or events in accordance with one’s will, which would, using normally accepted methods, be unchangeable.” This definition incorporates two broadly distinguished kinds of magic: greater and lesser. Greater magic is a form of ritual practice and is meant as psychodramatic catharsis to focus one’s emotional energy for a specific purpose. These rites are based on three major psycho-emotive themes, including compassion (love), destruction (hate), and sex (lust). These rites are often elaborate and formal, utilizing a ritual chamber, props, and specific actions and recitations, carried out a certain time and place.
The ritual is referred to as an “intellectual decompression chamber”, where skepticism and disbelief are willfully suspended, thus allowing the magicians to fully express their mental and emotional needs, holding nothing back regarding their deepest feelings and desires. According to LaVey, one of the goals of ritual magic is “to isolate the otherwise dissipated adrenal and other emotionally induced energy, and to convert it into a dynamically transmittable force.” LaVey espoused the view that there was an objective reality to magic, and that it relied upon natural forces that were yet to be discovered by science. He believed that the successful use of magic involved the magician manipulating these natural forces using the force of their own willpower. LaVey also wrote of “the balance factor”, insisting that any magical aims should be realistic.
The Nine Satanic Statements are a set of nine assertions made by LaVey in the introductory chapters of The Satanic Bible. They are considered a touchstone of contemporary organized Satanism that constitute, in effect, brief aphorisms that capture of Satanic philosophy. The first three statements touch on indulgence, vital existence and undefiled wisdom which presents a positive view of the Satanist as a carnal, physical and pragmatic being, where enjoyment of physical existence and an undiluted view of this-worldly truth are promoted as the core values of Satanism, combining elements of Darwinism and Epicureanism. Statement four, five and six deal in matters of ethics, through kindness to those who deserve it, vengeance and responsibility to the responsible, painting a harsh picture of society and human relations by emphasizing justice rather than love. Statements seven, eight and nine reject the dignity of man, sin and the Christian church. Humans are characterized as just another animal, traditional sins are promoted as means for gratification, and religion as mere business. The adversarial and antinomian aspect of Satan takes precedence in support of statements four through nine, with non-conformity being presented as a core ideal.
In the closing of the The Book of Satan in The Satanic Bible, LaVey compiled a list of characteristics he endorsed versus those he condemned, adapted from the list found in Might is Right.
The Satanic Bible has been described as the most important document to influence contemporary Satanism. The book contains the core principles of Satanism, and is considered the foundation of its philosophy and dogma. Though not considered to be sacred scripture in the way the Christian Bible is to Christianity, LaVeyan Satanists regard it as an authoritative text as it is a contemporary text that has attained for them scriptural status. Many of the ideas in The Satanic Bible are shaped around a secular, scientific view of the world. However, some of these ideas continue beyond present-day secularism by implying that various occult forces are not supernatural, but rather thus far undiscovered by science. These forces are said to be manipulable by the practitioner of LaVeyan Satanism, a trait of the religion that has been compared with Christian Science and Scientology. James Lewis argues that scientific themes are so prevalent in The Satanic Bible because LaVey was appealing to the authority of science to legitimize LaVeyan Satanism as a religion.
LaVey explains his reasons for writing The Satanic Bible in a short preface. He speaks skeptically about volumes written by other authors on the subject of magic, dismissing them as “nothing more than sanctimonious fraud” and “volumes of hoary misinformation and false prophecy.” He complains that other authors do no more than confuse the subject. He mocks those who spend large amounts of money on attempts to follow rituals and learn about the magic shared in other occult books. He also notes that many of the existing writings on Satanic magic and ideology were created by “right-hand path” authors. He tells that The Satanic Bible contains both truth and fantasy, and declares, “What you see may not always please you, but you will see!”The Satanic Bible is composed of four books: The Book of Satan, The Book of Lucifer, The Book of Belial, and The Book of Leviathan. The Book of Satan challenges the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, and promotes Epicureanism.The Book of Lucifer holds most of the philosophy in The Satanic Bible, with twelve chapters discussing topics such as indulgence, love, hate, and sex. LaVey also uses the book to dispel rumors surrounding the religion. In The Book of Belial, LaVey details rituals and magic. He discusses the required mindset and focus for performing a ritual, and provides instructions for three rituals: those for sex, compassion, or destruction.The Book of Leviathan provides four invocations for Satan, lust, compassion, and destruction. It also lists the nineteen Enochian Keys (adapted from John Dee’s Enochian keys), provided in both Enochian and translated to English.
Richard Metzger describes The Satanic Bible as “a razor-sharp, no-bullshit primer in natural and supernatural law.”David G. Bromley calls it “iconoclastic” and “the best-known and most influential statement of Satanic theology.”Eugene V. Gallagher says that Satanists use LaVey’s writings “as lenses through which they view themselves, their group, and the cosmos.” He also states: “With a clear-eyed appreciation of true human nature, a love of ritual and pageantry, and a flair for mockery, LaVey’s Satanic Bible promulgated a gospel of self-indulgence that, he argued, anyone who dispassionately considered the facts would embrace.” The philosophy it presents has been described as “strident libertarianism” and “an obvious distillation of ideas common among members of the United States counter-culture in the 1960s.” Joshua Gunn argues that the significance of The Satanic Bible as an occult item owes to its status as a “totem or a fetishized object in popular culture”, not the philosophy contained within. He argues that many erroneously categorize the content of The Satanic Bible as evil and depraved from the minimalist, dark cover design (composed of a purple Sigil of Baphomet and white text on the front, and a photo of LaVey superimposed over the Sigil of Baphomet on the back), the verbose, overblown style of the text, and the presence of the word “Satan” in the title. Contrary to this belief, he says, the philosophy presented by LaVey is “neither offensive nor surprising.”
The Satanic Bible is recognized as one of the key texts of modern Satanism. The Church of Satan requires that people accept “LaVey’s principles” before becoming members of the church. Many other Satanist groups and individual Satanists who are not part of the Church of Satan also recognize LaVey’s work as influential. Many Satanists attribute their conversions or discoveries of Satanism to The Satanic Bible, with 20% of respondents to a survey by James Lewis mentioning The Satanic Bible directly as influencing their conversion.
LaVey emphasized that in his tradition, Satanic rites came in two forms, neither of which were acts of worship; in his terminology, “rituals” were intended to bring about change, whereas “ceremonies” celebrated a particular occasion. These rituals were often considered to be magical acts, with LaVey’s Satanism encouraging the practice of magic to aid one’s selfish ends. Much of LaVeyan ritual is designed for an individual to carry out alone; this is because concentration is seen as key to performing magical acts. In The Satanic Bible, LaVey described three types of ritual in his religion: sex rituals designed to attract the desired romantic or sexual partner, compassionate rituals with the intent of helping people (including oneself), and destructive magic which seeks to do harm to others. In designing these rituals, LaVey drew upon a variety of older sources, with scholar of Satanism Per Faxneld noting that LaVey “assembled rituals from a hodgepodge of historical sources, literary as well as esoteric”.
LaVey described a number of rituals in his book, The Satanic Rituals; these are “dramatic performances” with specific instructions surrounding the clothing to be worn, the music to be used, and the actions to be taken. This attention to detail in the design of the rituals was intentional, with their pageantry and theatricality intending to engage the participants’ senses and aesthetic senses at various levels and enhancing the participants’ willpower for magical ends. LaVey prescribed that male participants should wear black robes, while older women should wear black, and other women should dress attractively in order to stimulate sexual feelings among many of the men. All participants are instructed to wear amulets of either the upturned pentagram or the image of Baphomet.
According to LaVey’s instructions, on the altar is to be placed an image of Baphomet. This should be accompanied by various candles, all but one of which are to be black. The lone exception is to be a white candle, used in destructive magic, which is kept to the right of the altar. Also to be included are a bell which is rung nine times at the start and end of the ceremony, a chalice made of anything but gold, and which contains an alcoholic drink symbolizing the “Elixir of Life”, a sword that represents aggression, a model phallus used as an aspergillum, a gong, and parchment on which requests to Satan are to be written before being burned. Although alcohol was consumed in the Church’s rites, drunkenness was frowned upon and the taking of illicit drugs was forbidden.
LaVeyan rituals sometimes include anti-Christian blasphemies, which are intended to have a liberating effect on the participants. In some of the rituals, a naked woman serves as the altar; in these cases it is made explicit that the woman’s body itself becomes the altar, rather than have her simply lying on an existing altar. There is no place for sexual orgies in LaVeyan ritual. Neither animal nor human sacrifice takes place. Children are banned from attending these rituals, with the only exception being the Satanic Baptism, which is specifically designed to involve infants.
LaVey also developed his own Black Mass, which was designed as a form of deconditioning to free the participant from any inhibitions that they developed living in Christian society. He noted that in composing the Black Mass rite, he had drawn upon the work of Charles Baudelaire and Joris-Karl Huysmans. LaVey openly toyed with the use of literature and popular culture in other rituals and ceremonies, thus appealing to artifice, pageantry, and showmanship. For instance, he published an outline of a ritual which he termed the “Call to Cthulhu” which drew upon the stories of the alien god Cthulhu authored by American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. In this rite, set to take place at night in a secluded location near to a turbulent body of water, a celebrant takes on the role of Cthulhu and appears before the assembled Satanists, signing a pact between them in the language of Lovecraft’s fictional “Old Ones”.
LaVey and the Church of Satan deemed an individual’s birthday to be the most important festival of the year. Also important is Walpurgisnacht (April 30), a night associated with witches in European tradition which was also the date on which LaVey founded his Church. A third annual festival is Halloween, which also has associations with witches and dark entities.
As a symbol of his Satanic church, LaVey adopted the upturned five-pointed pentagram. This image had previously been used by the French occultist Eliphas Lvi, and had been adopted by his disciple, Stanislas de Guiata, who merged it with a goat’s head in his 1897 book, Key of Black Magic. LaVey learned of this symbol after it had been reproduced in Maurice Bessy’s coffee table book, Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural.
In the literature and imagery predating LaVey, imagery used to represent the “satanic” is denoted by inverted crosses and blasphemous parodies of Christian art. The familiar goat’s head inside an inverted pentagram did not become the foremost symbol of Satanism until the founding of the Church of Satan in 1966. The original goat pentagram containing the Hebrew letters at the five points of the pentagram spelling out Leviathan first appeared in the book “La Clef de la Magie Noire” by French occultist Stanislas de Guaita, in 1897. This symbol was later used in Mourice Bessy’s book “A Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural”, with the words “Samael” and “Lilith” removed. During his years of research into the Black Arts, LaVey had come across this book and added it to his collection. When he chose to turn his magic circle, the “Order of the Trapezoid, into the Church of Satan, he decided that the symbol was the one which most fully embodied the principles which were the bedrock of the Satanic church. Contrary to claims made against the Church by detractors, LaVey never claimed to have created this particular symbol. In its formative years, this particular version of the symbol was utilized by the Church on membership cards, stationary, medallions and most notably above the altar in the ritual chamber of the Black House. During the writing of The Satanic Bible, it was decided that a unique version of the symbol should be rendered to be identified exclusively with the Church. The complete graphic now known as the Sigil of Baphomet, named such for the first time in LaVey’s The Satanic Rituals, first appeared on the cover of The Satanic Mass LP in 1968 and later on the cover of The Satanic Bible in 1969. This version was drawn by LaVey and attributed to “Hugo Zorilla” (a pseudonym used by LaVey in some of his art) and is trademarked by the Church.
The sigil has been called a “material pentagram” representational of carnality and earthy principles.
The alchemical symbol for sulfur (also known as brimstone) appears in The Satanic Bible above the Nine Satanic Statements. Aside from the Sigil of Baphomet, it is the most common symbol of LaVeyan Satanism. There is no evidence of the symbol’s use in a “satanic” context prior to LaVey’s usage.
La Fontaine thought it likely that the easy availability of LaVey’s writings would have encouraged the creation of various Satanic groups that were independent of the Church of Satan itself. In The Black Flame, a number of groups affiliated with the Church have been mentioned, most of which are based in the United States and Canada although two groups were cited as having existed in New Zealand. In his 2001 examination of Satanists, the sociologist James R. Lewis noted that, to his surprise, his findings “consistently pointed to the centrality of LaVey’s influence on modern Satanism”. “Reflecting the dominant influence of Anton LaVey’s thought”, Lewis noted that the majority of those whom he examined were atheists or agnostics, with 60% of respondents viewing Satanism as a symbol rather than a real entity. 20% of his respondents described The Satanic Bible as the most important factor that attracted them to Satanism. Elsewhere, Lewis noted that few Satanists who weren’t members of the Church of Satan would regard themselves as “orthodox LaVeyans”.
Examining the number of LaVeyan Satanists in Britain, in 1995 the religious studies scholar Graham Harvey noted that the Church of Satan had no organized presence in the country. He noted that LaVey’s writings were widely accessible in British bookshops, and La Fontaine suggested that there may have been individual Church members within the country.
LaVeyan Satanism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia