In recent years there’s been a huge upswing of interest in the Tarot, the card-divination technique that is often claimed to have truly ancient roots, dating back to ancient Egypt (or, for some, even ‘Atlantean’ times). And with the surge of interest in the Tarot there’s also been a massive expansion in the number of decks available – in recent years here on the Grail we’ve mentioned a Twin Peaks-themed deck as well the wonderful ‘Ghetto Tarot‘.
For those newcomers interested in the Tarot who are confused about its origins, and as to which of the many available decks is ‘genuine’, or at least which is the best to start with, Gaia have produced a fantastic short introductory video (embedded below).
The video consults with our good friend Mitch Horowitz, who has written on many occult traditions (including a piece on the Ouija in our Darklore anthology) and also has been involved in a separate video introduction to the Ouija board, so it’s a good common sense view of an esoteric tradition that has certainly generated plenty of speculative theories over the years.
Throughout its history, tarot has has been associated with various ancient mystery schools and esoteric ideologies. However, evidence points to a deck of cards that wasn’t used exclusively for fortune telling until centuries after its creation. Occult historian and author Mitch Horowitz sheds some light on how this powerful tool transitioned from an early version of bridge to a mystical divination tool.
Churches combine forces in Rome to learn best exorcism practices because of rise in possession cases
Exorcism is going multi-denominational. Where once those competing for the souls of followers would burn each other as heretics and spur decades-long wars, different Christian denominations are now rallying together to battle a resurrected threat.
And that’s no less than Satan himself.
The Roman Catholic Church has for the first time opened up its annual exorcism class in Rome to representatives of all major Christian faiths. The Pontifical University of Regina Apostolorum is a Vatican-affiliated university in Rome has been conducting the increasingly popular annual exorcism conventions for Catholic priests for the past 14 years.
But now the doors of the 14th Exorcism and Prayer of Liberation Course has been thrown open to groups once considered heretical and demon-infested only a few short centuries ago.
Now some 250 Catholics, Lutherans, Greek Orthodox and Protestant priests have assembled to arm themselves with the sword of the holy word to battle Satan amid the souls of their parishioners.
It is itself a dark art, born of a dark age.
The Catholic Church, however, insists demonic possession is on the rise.
In 2014, it formally recognised the ancient ritual of exorcism under Canon Law at gave official approval to the formal creation of the International Association of Exorcists.
It blames the secularisation of society (separation of religion and state) along with the increasing popularity of competing religions, tarot readings, astrology, the internet and atheism for opening the demonic floodgates.
And the best way to fix this, it believes, is to tackle the ‘possessed’ head-on.
© Pontifical University
Sword of the Spirit
“We are called to fight against the Devil with all our might and determination,” keynote speaker and Catholic priest Jose Enrique Oyarzun addressed the assembled exorcists in Rome.
In this enlightened age, the practice sounds odd to many.
And that’s the problem, exorcists insist.
Speaking in lost tongues. Vomiting weird objects. Unexplained wounds. Writhing. Shaking. Shrieking abuse.
While there is rarely evidence beyond the anecdotal, exorcism practitioners insist their behind-closed doors experiences are very real.
And it’s a threat Pope Francis himself has been keen to highlight, making regular references to the power of the Devil in his sermons.
“He is evil, he’s not like mist. He’s not a diffuse thing, he is a person. I’m convinced that one must never converse with Satan – if you do that, you’ll be lost,” the Pope recently told a Catholic news service.
Now, the Pope has a spiritual army of his own at his command.
The International Association of Exorcists counts some 400 priests among its members worldwide. And the death of its most famous demon hunter, Father Gabriele Amorth, in 2016 served only to inspire a surge of fresh applications.
But they’re not enough.
So the Catholic Church is seeking a source of fresh recruits.
Shield of Faith
When it comes to skewering Satan, there are problems of doctrine.
Not all the Christian faiths believe the same things. And they’ve put each other to the torch and started wars over such serious matters in the past.
Why not now?
“This is the first time that different denominations have come together to compare their experiences on exorcisms,” Spanish priest and theologian Pedro Barrajon, one of the convention’s organisers, told media in Rome.
“The idea is to help each other, to establish best practices if you will. The Catholic Church is most associated with exorcisms because of films like The Exorcist and The Rite, but we are not the only church that performs them. Expelling the devil goes back to the earliest origins of the Christian Church.”
It’s a spiritual battle winning secular attention.
The Italian government also apparently takes the alleged possession crisis seriously.
Its education ministry this year offered its teachers the option of attending an intensive 40-hour “exorcism and prayers of liberation” crash-course as a sideline to the convention in Rome. At the cost of 400 euros ($A640) each, every attending teacher was promised to be taught how the ancient rite should be “correctly practiced”.
The move attracted ire from the Italian opposition parties who insisted the education system had more to worry about than training teachers in magic.
“With all the problems in Italian schools, the ministry is trying to bring back the Dark Ages,” opposition, centre-Left MP said Laura Boldrini said.
“Schools need to prepare young people for the challenges of the future. And what does the education minister do? He promotes exorcism courses. (Meanwhile) schools are not safe, gyms are not fit to be used and teachers are not properly paid.”
© Pontifical University
Breastplate of Righteousness
Father Barrajon, 61, told the conference in Rome that non-Catholic denominations were less structured in their exorcism rituals. “Some of the other churches are more creative, they don’t use a precise format,” he said.
And that could present a problem: perhaps any harpies inhabiting a human body won’t be entirely evicted.
Which is why they want priests to attend demonology school.
Participants attending the conservative Legionaries of Christ religious order run university study such subjects as “The Symbology of Occult and Satanic Rituals” and “Angels and Demons in the Sacred Scripture”.
The need to get it right, according to the exorcists, is pressing.
Last year, exorcist Benigno Palilla told Vatican Radio that there were some 500,000 cases of possession appearing in Italy each year.
But there are rising concerns about the validity of the priestly practice.
Some faith healers have been accused of sexually molesting their possessed patients.
One case in Palermo saw a priest and soldier arrested after using the pretext of “expelling demons’ to touch the genitalia of women.
In another Italian case, an underage girl was sexually abused by a 69-year-old practitioner, her boyfriend and her mother. “He convinced the girl she was the victim of strong ‘negative forces’ and consequently convinced her to undergo ‘purification rites’ consisting of sexual intercourse, sometimes in a group,” Italian police said at the time.
Pope Francis said shortly before the convention that priests entrusted with the “delicate and necessary ministry” of being an exorcist must be chosen with “great care and great prudence.”
Belt of Truth?
The broader Catholic Church admits to being dubious about most claims of possession.
Its officers publicly state the majority of such claimants are, in fact, mentally ill. Instead of priests, they should be seeking medical attention to address physical health issues.
But Pope Francis has recently adopted a more urgent tone.
In March, he reportedly told a group of priests they “should not hesitate’ to refer confession-box cases of possession to an exorcist.
“They could also have spiritual disturbances, whose nature should be submitted to careful discernment,” Pope Francis said, “taking into account all the existential, ecclesial, natural and supernatural circumstances.”
The exorcism convention, however, concedes there may be complicating medical issues at hand and included talks on medical psychology, criminology, pedophilia and pornography.
Pope Francis himself has acknowledge that “epilepsy, for example, could easily be confused with demonic possession”.
But this, he wrote, should not lead to the conclusion “that all the cases related in the Gospel had to do with psychological disorders and hence that the devil does not exist or is not at work.”
So the worldwide Catholic Church continues to leave open the possibility that what its followers perceive to be Satanic possession may be the real supernatural deal.
During last year’s exorcism convention, Cardinal Ernest Simoni insisted Satan’s touch was unmistakeable. He had himself witnessed possession, he said.
“It’s important to differentiate between psychopathic illnesses, neurasthenia, pathologies,” the Cardinal said during a keynote address. “Satan you can recognize.”
Ruins of Aleister Crowley’s Cursed House on Loch Ness for Sale
You can buy the ruins of Boleskine House, where “the wickedest man in the world” carried out black magic rituals for years.
The ruins of Boleskine House. Photo by Mark Wallbank
The BBC reports that Boleskine House, former home of occultist Aleister Crowley, and later owned by Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, is for sale. After a fire tore through the manor in 2015, though, there isn’t much left.
“The selling agent Galbraiths said echoes of its former splendour are all that remain of Boleskine House,” the BBC article says, “but added that there is an opportunity to restore it into an outstanding property.”
Aleister Crowley purchased Boleskine for the purpose of conducting a ritual that required very specific architecture. “The first essential is a house in a more or less secluded situation,” Crowley explained. “There should be a door opening to the north from the room of which you make your oratory. Outside this door, you construct a terrace covered with fine river sand. This ends in a ‘lodge’ where the spirits may congregate.”
Boleskine was the perfect location.
“The demons and evil forces had congregated round me so thickly that they were shutting off the light,” Crowley wrote of his experiments there. “It was a comforting situation. There could be no more doubt of the efficiency of the operation.”
Some believe those evil forces still linger.
Aleister Crowley in ceremonial dress
“At Boleskine, Crowley was said to have summoned 115 spirits, including Lucifer,” the BBC wrote in an article about a film crew who experienced unexplained phenomena there while filming a documentary about Crowley. “The occultist also embarked on a complicated, six-month ‘power-giving’ black magic ceremony called Abra Melin. But he was interrupted in the middle of the ritual by his grand master, the head of the Golden Dawn, who called him to Paris. It is claimed Crowley didn’t have time to banish the spirits he brought to Boleskine.”
“The Rites of Abramelin the Mage require prior months of preparation, celibacy and abstinence from alcohol and include, among much else, ‘the summoning of the 12 Kings and Dukes of Hell,’ the Scottish Daily Mail wrote. “Crowley’s subsequent orgiastic ceremonies and ‘sacraments’ are too disgusting to detail in a family newspaper. But, fatefully, he was interrupted. Amidst all his chanting, sodomy and the sacrifice of terrified cats and goats, the sorcerer was called away to Paris – and Boleskine folk believe he never got round to banishing the dreadful forces he had summoned to the house.”
While Crowley’s activities certainly didn’t help, Boleskine already had a bizarre reputation long before the “Great Beast” conducted his rituals there.
The Boleskine Kirk once stood on the shady shore of Scotland’s Loch Ness where the manor is now. If the land is cursed, it may have begun with the church.
According to historical writings, an early minister of the parish had to fend off a pesky wizard who was reanimating the dead.
Boleskine cemetery overlooking Loch Ness
In An Account of the Kirk of Boleskine, Alan Dawson wrote that “Thomas Houston (1648 -1705)
was noted as having to contend with a notorious wizard – AN CRUINAIR FRISEAL (the Fraser Crowner or maker of circles, as wizards do) who had raised the bodies in the churchyard and Thomas had to make haste to lay them to rest again.”
Sometime later the church is said to have burned to the ground during a sermon, killing everyone inside.
When a bishop visited the old kirk in 1762, he wrote that it was “the poorest edifice of any kind I ever
looked upon as is also the Manse. The Church-yard is quite open without any walls where you see plenty of human bones above ground and the Floor of the Kirk is overspread with them…..Dogs are seen carrying away the human bones in their teeth.
Soon after, Colonel Archibald Fraser built Boleskine House on the charred remains of the church.
“Colonel Fraser was a firm Jacobite,” The Scottish Daily Mail wrote, “but all the land surrounding his pocket had belonged to Simon Fraser, the 11th Lord Lovat, who flip-flopped once too often on the Stuart cause and (after the failure of the ’45) was the last person in Britain to be executed by beheading. Boleskine House, then, was the equivalent of two jabbed fingers at the lake Lovat.”
The house remained in the Fraser family until 1899 when they sold it to then 23-year-old Aleister Crowley. Several tragedies took place during his time there.
“The black magician also took pleasure in the suffering that his sinister practices apparently brought to local villagers,” The Guardian wrote when a piece of the land was put up for sale in 2009. “He bragged about how an employee of the Boleskine estate got drunk one night – after 20 years of abstinence – and attempted to kill his wife and children. The family of Crowley’s lodge keeper, Hugh Gillies, also suffered a series of tragedies. First his 10-year-old daughter died suddenly at her school desk and a year later his 15-month-old son died of convulsions on his mother’s knee.”
Crowley sold Boleskine House in 1913.
Boleskine House in 1912
In 1960, then owner Major Edward Grant killed himself with a shotgun in Crowley’s former bedroom. The housekeeper, 78-year-old Anna MacLaren, had a premonition of the suicide. She had been alone picking vegetables in the garden when she heard a gunshot from the house. She went into the house, but there was no one there. Seven days later, though, at about the same time of day, she found her boss dead.
“I went in and found him with most of his head blown off,” she recalled. “The family dog was playing with a bone. Police told me later the bone was part of the major’s skull.”
A young couple later moved in. The wife was blind, and within a few months her husband abandoned her there.
Filmmaker Kenneth Anger spent the summer of 1969 in the house. During that time he witnessed a heavy painting float off the wall and come to rest on the floor.
Jimmy Page bought the house the following year.
Jimmy Page at Boleskine House in 1973
In a January 1975 Rolling Stone interview, the interviewer said, “You live in Aleister Crowley’s home. Crowley was a poet and magician at the turn of the century and was notorious for his black magic rites.”
Page was fascinated by Crowley, but he was interested in the house for the rest of its history, as well.
“Strange things have happened in that house that had nothing to do with Crowley,” Page responded in the interview. “The bad vibes were already there.”
Page, who spent no more than 6 weeks at Boleskine in the 20 years he owned it, asked his childhood friend Malcolm Dent to move in and restore it.
“Jimmy Page caught me at a time in my life when I wasn’t doing a great deal and asked me to come up and run the place,” Dent told the Inverness Courier in 2006. “I never did establish why he fixed on me.”
Dent lived at Boleskine for a long time and raised his family there.
“All the main rooms look out across the loch and you’re 300 feet up so you have some dramatic views,” he said. “We loved living there. It was a great house to raise children in and they loved it there, in spite of its history and in spite of the peculiar happenings that went on there.”
Dent knew nothing of Boleskine’s history or Crowley when he moved in.
“I arrived a total skeptic, to a degree I still am, but there are things at the house you can’t explain,” he said.
Mortuary house in the Boleskine cemetery
“A girl who stayed for the night awoke screaming that she had been attacked ‘by some kind of devil,’” the Scottish Daily Mail writes. “Another night, Dent was roused by what sounded like a wild animal clawing and snorting by his bedroom door: he dared not open it till daybreak. There was nothing there, ‘but whatever was there was pure evil.’”
Doors would suddenly spring open as if someone was running through them, and slam in the middle of the night, and rugs would be found piled up the following morning.
“We just used to say that was Aleister doing his thing,” Dent said.
“One of the most famous stories is that the head of Simon Lord Lovat, beheaded for treason following the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, can be heard rolling around the floor at Boleskine,” the Inverness Courier wrote, “even though the house dates only from the 1760s.”
“At the time of his death, he was supposedly casting his mind back to the heart of the Highlands,” Dent explained. “Just above us is Errogie, which is the geographical centre of the Highlands, and the nearest consecrated ground is Boleskine.”
Another story that Dent says everyone loves involves seven chairs Page bought from the Cafe Royal in London.
“Jimmy got those chairs specifically because one of them had Aleister Crowley’s name on it,” Dent said. “Each of the chairs belonged to a famous person and had a nameplate on the back and front – Marie Lloyd, Billy Butlin, James Agate, Ruldolph Valentino, William Orpen and Jacob Epstein.”
Dent says Crowley’s chair was always placed at the head of the table. But, after the chairs underwent repairs, they kept finding Crowley’s chair switched with Marie Lloyd’s.
“The kids couldn’t have done it and we didn’t know why this was happening,” Dent said. “Then I realized the guy who did the repairs didn’t know which plaque went with which chair and hadn’t put them back on the right ones.”
But, according to Dent, the strangest thing about the house may have been its visitors.
“I had them from every corner of the world,” he said. “A lot of them were nutters. A lot of them were downright dangerous lunatics. They will still be turning up today. The house is on the map as an occult centre and you’re not going to get rid of Crowley’s legacy that easily.”
Jimmy Page sold Boleskine to Ronald and Annette MacGillivray in 1992. The couple turned it into a guest house. They despised any mention of Crowley, and insisted nothing unusual ever happened there. Locals say the MacGillivrays tried to erase Crowley’s presence, whitewashing the interior and covering the stone floor with carpet to hide the magical symbols painted there. Their efforts failed several times, villagers claimed, alleging the symbols would reappear as the paint dried.
While filming a 2000 BBC documentary called The Other Loch Ness Monster, a priest and minister blessed the project, and clerics were called in to keep the crew safe…just in case. Still, they experienced their share of unexplained happenings.
“The film crew working on the BBC documentary were attacked by a plague of beetles, suffered repeated equipment failures and experienced strangely similar nightmares about Crowley,” the Sunday Mail wrote.
Photos taken at the graveyard just down the hill (where a rumored tunnel from the house was said to lead) were ruined by “a strange circular halo of fog” according to producer Garry Grant. “It wasn’t lens flare or a fault in the camera,” he said. “I’d never seen anything like it before.”
In another incident, lights exploded, fuses burned out and camera stands fell over during a late-night shoot in the graveyard, showering the crew in glass. One crew member’s phone kept ringing intermittently, while another’s alarm clock would go off at the same time every day.
The MacGillivrays sold Boleskine in 2002 to new Dutch owners who used it as a vacation home. They were not there on December 23, 2015 when a fire scorched Boleskine, leaving nothing but the external walls by the time firefighters arrived. They determined the fire began in the kitchen, but the cause was never identified.
Today, the burned out ruins are all that remain of Boleskine House. The shell of Aleister Crowley’s unholy home and nearly 23 acres of cursed land on Loch Ness can be yours for £510,000.
Deep State is Now Pushing Satanism: Huff Post: “Satan Is Having A Moment”
(Stillness in the Storm Editor) The Deep State, according to several insiders, whistleblowers, and respected researchers, practice dark Luciferianism, also known as Satanism. Part of their long term agenda is to eventually come out in the open with this dark and sadistic practice, recruiting the masses into the faith en mass. In order to do that, they need to “sell” satanism to the public. They need to make it hip, cool, and fun. How do they do this? Many different ways, such as in the Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which is filled with rather obvious glorifications of satanic ideology.
The following article, published by Huffpost, an arguably Deep State news outlet, is the latest pro-Satanism propaganda.
Read this carefully.
The satanic augmentation of culture is not a new agenda. These efforts have been in place for at least the past 250 years, spearheaded by dark occult groups and royal families since the beginning of the 18th century. By all accounts, secular society is increasingly becoming satanic in nature, while never explicitly citing satanic tenets in the process.
Thus, the culture war, so to speak, is covert and hidden. It is waged in the hearts and minds of each individual, through cultural influences that are increasingly dominated by the Deep State and it’s manifold influencers.
To be sure, learning how badly our world has already aligned with a satanic agenda is unsettling. But what’s more unsettling is what can happen if we, who are alive today, avoid this information, and thereby unwittingly act to ensure the distortion continues.
Culture is itself a tapestry of individual actions. Your choice, your actions, no matter how small, contribute to the whole.
I encourage you to gain awareness of these influences so that you can, in your own way, guard against them, and thereby positively contribute to changing the tide towards goodness once again.
Satanists, it turns out, are everything you think they’re not: patriotic, charitable, ethical, equality-minded, dedicated to picking up litter with pitchforks on an Arizona highway.
That much is clear in the fantastic new documentary “Hail Satan?” — which chronicles the rise of the Satanic Temple, a movement that has little to do with its titular demon. Founded in 2013, the organization is equal parts modern-day religion, political activist coalition and meta cultural revolution. By reclaiming the pop iconography that has long frightened evangelical America ― devil worship, ritualistic sacrifice, horns, pentagrams, the so-called Black Mass ― the Satanic Temple aims to catch people’s attention and then surprise them with messages of free speech, compassion, liberty and justice for all.
No wonder membership has spiked since Donald Trump’s election.
Penny Lane’s film, opening in limited release this weekend, enthusiastically dispels myths about the history of satanism, using the controversial belief system as a lens to survey the myriad ways our government has made Christianity the national religion. If a state legislature votes to erect a Ten Commandments monument, the church argues, why shouldn’t the Satanic Temple be able to introduce a pillar of their own? It’s only fair.
I sat down with Lane in New York for a fascinating conversation about making the movie, how Hollywood has popularized erroneous devil worship clichés, the satanic-panic frenzy of the ’80s and ’90s, and the ubiquitous theocratic motto “In God We Trust.”
At what point did you know what this movie would be? It’s more than a profile of an organization or an exhaustive cultural history.
There’s a moment early on in my research, just in my reading, where I realized that I was completely wrong about something. I thought, upon casually scanning headlines about this group and what they were up to, that the Satanic Temple was like a fiction ― a political troll satire thing, like The Yes Men, where they were pretending that they were members of an imaginary organization in order to make these points. The moment I knew what the film would be was when I realized that that was totally wrong.
What would a new religion, starting from scratch, do if it wanted to make sense in the world we actually live in?Penny Lane, director of “Hail Satan?”
The [group] perhaps had started as that, and then had very quickly evolved to be something real, where there is a thing called the Satanic Temple, and there are members, and they have very particular beliefs, and they’re not just trolls. I was like, “Oh, that’s a cool story.” It was almost the same as the birth of any religion; first, you have to have some publicity stunts to get attention ― some miracles, maybe. From there, maybe you have something to say, and then people would join. I feel like I had never seen that story: watching a religion get born, right before our eyes.
The story of the Satanic Temple is one of free speech. Did you always know the movie would be about that?
Sort of, yeah. I don’t think it’s really about free speech. The politics of what they’re doing is obviously really important, and as a particularly American phenomenon, they’re trying to uphold the First Amendment. Their activism is not particularly radical. They’re not anarchists, they don’t want to burn it all down.
The freedom-of-speech thing, for me, comes under the headline of “a new religion for modernity.” What could religion be in the 21st century? What would a new religion, starting from scratch, do if it wanted to make sense in the world we actually live in? Would it be about nonscientific, paranormal claims about invisible people in the sky, or would it be about embracing the centuries of progress that the Enlightenment project has given us? It seems like that would be a better religion.
Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves delivers a speech in front of the Arkansas Capitol, with the group’s Baphomet statue by his side.
You started working on the film before Trump’s election. Once his presidency began, did anything shift in terms of what the movie was trying to say?
Like everything else, it’s the same answer. Everything was suddenly more urgent. Trump’s alliance with the evangelical community [has] none of the values but all of the power grab. It was very frightening for a lot of people, who ended up with people like Mike Pence, who is legitimately a theocrat. He would love for the Bible to be the document that we obey as Americans. Then, someone like Betsy DeVos: still super evangelical, loves prayer in school.
It was super easy, if you were me, under Barack Obama, to not pay attention. I don’t even know what that guy was doing for, like, six months at a time, Now you’re hyper-aware and fearful. So I think for a lot of people, this story took on a lot more urgency. And certainly, membership in the Satanic Temple spiked after Trump’s election. Many people that I spoke to told me that Trump’s election was a turning point for them.
The moment in the film that stunned me the most is when a Satanic Temple member reframes satanic panic as the Catholic Church projecting its own history of abuse onto the public. We all know how ridiculous and sensationalistic that era was, but I’d never heard it put that way. It’s pretty stunning.
I had the same response to that. I will say this about that: The entire history of satanism is one of projection. Satanic panic is one example. All the way up until 1966, there were no people who called themselves satanists. There literally weren’t any. There was a fear that manifested into an elaborate fantasy on the part of the Catholic Church, mostly, if you want to point a finger somewhere.
Then you have this imaginary idea that everywhere around you, there are these devil worshipers who are doing these terrible things. In many cases ― well, in all cases ― that was used as justification to kill people, whether it was witches or, for many millennia, the Jews. All the same, atrocities were attributed to these groups of people by the Catholics as a way of murdering them. Then you go into the satanic panic and you see this same thing. I was blown away as well.
Penny Lane, whose credits include “Nuts!” and “Our Nixon.”
Was there a singular moment like that for you ― something that made your jaw drop?
I would say the main thing for me was the moment when I suddenly turned to my producer and said, “How is our national motto ‘In God We Trust’?” I’m a lifelong atheist. Somehow, I never realized that that is so weird.
And it’s ubiquitous. It’s on every dollar bill you touch.
What they do, the satanists, is they awaken you to look around and see the world you actually live in. Suddenly, you do notice the Ten Commandments monuments on the statehouse lawn. Suddenly, you do notice that we think it’s normal that people pass out Bibles in public school. These are all actually not normal, in some sense. It looks normal to us because we’re so used to it.
Of course, it’s a long story, but the most recent iteration of putting God in government was really only 50 years ago, as opposed to 200 or 300 years ago, which is what I would have assumed. I think that, for me, was the biggest mind-blowing thing. It’s actually a quite modern phenomenon.
If you went home and Googled it, you’d see that there’s hundreds and hundreds of these local fights happening where some senator somewhere wants to put the Ten Commandments on statehouse property or some senator somewhere wants to have prayer in public schools or write “In God We Trust” on police cars. Those battles all look really stupid and petty. Who cares if the Phoenix City Council wants to have prayers before their meetings? But when you look at them in totality and start to understand, it’s not like they’re going to stop. It’s not like, “Oh, we got ‘In God We Trust’ on the police car, now we’re done.”
It’s evidence and ammunition for the next battle. With these Ten Commandments monuments, people now suddenly believe that this is an integral part of our American history, when in fact, they’re movie props. That was very chilling for me.
Initially, someone like [Satanic Temple co-founder] Lucien Greaves would make that point, and I’d think, “OK, that sounds a little bit paranoid, or a little bit of a conspiracy theory; it’s probably not that serious.” As I did the research, I realized that he was completely right. I didn’t know the extent to which there’s an organized, very well-funded, very effective lobbying happening nationwide. You don’t have to be paranoid to think, “Just because we have a liberal, secular democracy now doesn’t mean we will always.”
It’s not saying it’s gonna happen tomorrow, but it has happened in the past. Iran was a secular nation [until 1980], when all a sudden, it became a theocracy. It’s something that awakened a kind of urgency in me. I never thought there was any reason to be at all concerned. It’s certainly much more possible every time you let one of these small steps get taken.
Mia Farrow in “Rosemary’s Baby,” released in 1968.
I’m fascinated by the way devil-worship imagery has infused pop culture. A few years ago, when the horror movie “The Witch” came out, the Satanic Temple was very supportive of it, which is interesting because that movie embraces the occult in a way that runs counter to the organization.
There’s never been a fictional movie about satanists that was even kind of accurate.
Right, one that doesn’t involve some type of sacrifice or bloodletting.
Not even close. It would be really interesting to see if someone could ever do that. I think it would be so confusing.
Did you talk to folks about cinematic depictions of satanism?
It’s so weird and interesting to watch that negotiation take place. You’ve got this weird cycle ― you see it all the time, with “Sabrina” and “American Horror Story” and whatever ― where you have these depictions of devil worshipers, and it attracts rebellious teenagers to this idea of satanism. Any of them who actually develop any interest go to the bookstore and learn about Anton LaVey [who founded the Church of Satan in 1966]. Then they’re like, “Oh, this isn’t actually at all what ‘Sabrina’ said it was, but it is interesting to me.”
If you’re a certain kind of provocative person who likes to troll people, you might be into putting the pentagram on your shirt. But there’s no satanists in the way that you think there are in the movies. Then you end up with more satanists of the real kind because there’s a weird back-and-forth where they take the iconography and the imagery, all of which, as you said earlier, are projections. There never was a Black Mass ― it was only a fantasy on the part of Catholics. Then you’ve got the real satanists doing a fake Black Mass. It just confuses people to no end. I try to explain it to people and I’m like, “They really want you to think about the fact that there never really were any satanists.”
The imagery becomes meta. It’s all about reclaiming what people assumed was happening in suburban basements or whatever.
It’s a very weird relationship between the pop-cultural fantasy of satanism and the reality of satanism, and the back-and-forth between them is very complicated. Anton LaVey loved that shit. He circulated lots of rumors.
I think it’s been demonstrated that it’s not true, but he wanted everyone to believe that he actually played the devil in “Rosemary’s Baby.” Even while he’s saying satanism is about atheism, freedom, individual values [and] sexual liberation, he was also really into the idea of being associated with “Rosemary’s Baby.” You can’t do satanism without the popular fear of Satan, so those movies help. They continue to keep Satan relevant.
No one cares if you want to be an atheist and go home and yell about how dumb Christians are. They really do care if you’re a Satanist. You get a lot of attention.
It’s like reverse-engineering the way that people develop a belief system. I would have thought of it as bad branding, like, “Hey, you guys, movies like ‘Hereditary’ are not the way it works.”
It’s not bad branding. It just helps them seem more relevant. At the end of the day, if you think satanism is bad branding, you’re just not a satanist. For them, it can’t be anything else. It’s not like they were looking around for the right symbol, considered a spaghetti monster and went with satanism.
Right, and it’s dependent on the idea that Satan is a concept that comes from organized religion.
Unlike the spaghetti monster, they want to be part of culture. They want to be like, “We, as Western civilization, have been having this now 2,000-plus-year-old conversation about good and evil and what it means to be a human and how we got here and how we’re supposed to live. We want to be part of that conversation. We don’t want to be like Richard Dawkins and just go over there and say, ‘Look at all these idiots. Fuck ’em all, wait till they’re all dead. Can’t wait for the future secular world.’”
They want to be part of the conversation, so it has to be Satan, because that’s how they get to be a part of the conversation. No one cares if you want to be an atheist and go home and yell about how dumb Christians are. They really do care if you’re a satanist. You get a lot of attention.
Satanic Temple supporters gather at an August 2018 rally for religious liberty in Little Rock, Arkansas.
What’s the thing you left on the cutting-room floor that was the hardest to let go?
All this satanic panic stuff. We had so much more. It’s years and years, with all these cases. The power of the human mind ― it’s just nuts. I think about all those kids who were convinced by adults that they had been basically fucking raped by the devil and that they were irrevocably harmed by it, walking around as adults. That’s so disturbing to me. Those poor people. I think that was the hardest thing we cut.
We did so much really good research and interviews on that topic, and then we ended up with one scene because it was just so much. To start to get into false memories, multiple-personality disorder, dissociative identity, all these psychological ideas that allowed this concept to continue, and what happened with this crazy alliance with feminists who were like, “Believe the victims, child abuse is bad,” alongside these crazy people who were just imagining devil worshippers everywhere. Gloria Steinem was a big part of this. It’s a long story. Once we had to start explaining what dissociative identity disorder was, we were sunk.
The fact is, there would be no Satanic Temple without the satanic panic. It’s very generational. It’s people our age, because we’re like, “Oh yeah, right. We all learned about satanism on daytime television.”
Based on your research, what really was satanic panic? What was actually going on?
That’s what’s crazy. When I talk to all these experts, there’s so many factors. Anyone who gives you an answer to that is leaving out something. It really was the growth of an understanding of domestic sexual violence as a very important, real thing in the ’70s. There was a moment: “Fuck, most rape is happening in the home.” That happened, then there was the stranger-danger panic, which was a whole other thing. Then there was the rise of the Christian right, and their dominance in popular culture through televangelism. Then you had women going into the workforce in record numbers, leaving their kids in daycare. A lot of anxiety about that, and guilt: “What’s happening with our children while we’re off at work? Is this good for society?”
There was so much going on that it’s hard to blame any one person, so then no one got blamed and no one ever apologized. Everyone had their little piece to the puzzle. Why did it end ― which is at least an equally important question ― is also unclear. It just sort of did. It wasn’t because we as a society all woke up one day and had a conversation about this, because it seems like we never did that.
For someone who wants to explore more about the history of satanism, what else was part of your research?
I was reading First Amendment law, trying to understand the framework. Jay Wexler was our legal expert ― I read a bunch of books by him. Then Kevin Kruse was our historian ― he’d written a really good book called “One Nation Under God” that helped me understand that history. Then there was Jesper Petersen, who was our religion expert. I’d read a bunch of his books and articles about satanism as a religious phenomenon of modernity, and that was super helpful for me to understand, from a religious-scholar point of view, what this meant.
There was another expert who we didn’t get to use, Debbie Nathan, who wrote the seminal book on the satanic panic, “Satan’s Silence.” Then another expert we didn’t end up using was Kathleen Stewart, who’s a journalist, whose beat has been the attempt on the part of evangelicals to take over the government. Amazing story — who’s making the plan happen, who are the lobbying groups, what is the model legislation that’s being written by these lobbying groups, what’s their stated agenda. Also, we didn’t even do the interview, but we wanted to get a Christian theologian who could talk to us about the history of the devil. It’s not like there’s one representation of the devil. In fact, there was no devil in Christianity for quite some time. Only in retrospect did we start saying, “Oh, the snake in the garden of Eden is the devil.”
Because in the Bible, Satan’s just a fallen angel.
Yes, exactly. The history of Lucifer and this idea of Satan, which was a word out of Judaism that just meant “the adversary,” combined and created its own new narrative. Again, we keep rewriting the Bible, so then future generations of scholars go back and read the Bible and say, “Look, here’s Satan all along.”
Part of the message of the Satanic Temple is that the meaning of symbols changes. They’re malleable to culture. Things change over time. It’s not insane to say this Baphomet image means freedom and diversity and reconciliation of opposites and openness to all. Just because you think it means the devil and evil and baby sacrificing doesn’t mean that’s what it means. That’s why they were so mad at “Sabrina” when they ripped off the Baphomet monument and put it in that show as a monument that means evil. They’re like, “We worked really hard to make that monument. All of our lawsuits were proposing a meaning for this monument. And if that monument ever did get installed on a statehouse lawn, the meaning of it would be religious diversity.”
There’s no particular reason we have to hold on to this idea of Satan as the ultimate embodiment of evil. I think that’s a really important thing. The meaning of these images is not settled. The Ten Commandments monument, the meaning of it 60 years ago was “go see this Charlton Heston movie.” Now it’s like an important part of our heritage as a nation, the idea that Ten Commandments are so foundational. You’re like, “This is not what it was one generation ago.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Various historians, insiders, and whistleblowers claim that dark occult groups and forces have long controlled the planet and shaped its history. The preceding video offers some of this history in an effort to substantiate the notion of a powerful group working behind the scenes, sometimes called the Illuminati, the Deep State, the Order of the Black Sun, and so on. Properly identifying causes in reality is essential so as to lead a fulfilling life and work constructively to improve the world around you. We need accurate and complete knowledge. With this knowledge in hand, an individual can contend with the realities of malevolence, which will inexorably lead to an activation of the truth-seeking and freedom craving urges.
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