Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Echoes of a past life: Could it be Satan?

Recently the mayor of Moscow called a planned gay pride march "Satanic" and vowed to stop it. People throwing around the accusation of Satanism has always amused me: it's one of those superstitions that seems imprinted on people of modest faith and fundamentalists alike. Sadly, the accusation ends up causing a great deal of harm as the gullible find a powerful rallying cry to victimize people who might stray from some dominant societal norm.

Here's a piece I wrote (yeah, under a pseudonym) for a New York City pagan newsletter back in 1991. "Our Pagan Times" was the newsletter of New Moon New York, an open circle. I actually edited the monthly newsletter for a year, though this predates that time. New Moon was a great group: it was a good place to meet people at different levels of experience and involvement in Paganism. I learned a lot from those folks. Anyway this short piece has a fairly simplistic conclusion that I would say quite differently today. But the core point that the fundamentalists are displaying extreme hypocrisy is fair enough: it's a safe bet to say more children are abused by crazy fundamentalist parents trying to beat "the devil" out of them than by any so-called actual Satanist. I've done some very slight editing to this piece to fix some poor choices of words; blame any poor choice of ideas on my 1991 self.

Satanic Child Abuse and Intolerance
by Moonchild
from Our Pagan Times, Vol. 1 No. 8, October 1991

A dangerous bunch of fundamentalist Christians have been running around claiming to be "Satanic Cult Survivors." They even held an art show recently in SoHo, and have published a six-page resource entitled "identifying Characteristics of Satanic Cult Survivors." This document consists of long lists of associations that potentially reveal whether one might be a survivor of satanic cults and satanic incest without really remembering actual events. The document is actually hilariously funny, full of side-splitting suggestions such as "Strong reactions to babies' crying [suggests] Memories of hearing babies cry during sacrifices." And "Drink[ing] large quantities of water, the impression of washing away the taste of human flesh. Cannibalism is a necessary part of cult rituals...Many survivors become vegetarians."

But this type of ridiculousness and similar efforts on the part of similar folks are not always a laughing matter.

I suppose it should be said here, for the record, yet again, that Witchcraft, Paganism, Wicca, are not Satanism. To be a Satanist, that is, to invert the icons of Christianity, one must first be a Christian. We are not Christians; we are not interested in dualities of good and evil and we are certainly not interested in chanting the Lord's prayer backwards.

Are there Satanists? Sure. They fall into several sometimes overlapping groups. First, there are a handful of creepy individuals fascinated by the dark side of the occult, and fascinated by their own alienation from society. I'm sure you can go to The Magickal Childe [an occult bookstore in NYC--ish] to meet them. But they commit no mass murders, and control no secret strings behind the scenes of society. They choose dark spiritual imagery because it is "forbidden," because it seems to give them power they don't find in reality.

Then there are the heavy metal teens. Pimples, parental alienation, lack of hope for the future, and bad music are enough to drive anyone to Satan! But seriously, they're not serious, and only hurting themselves slightly more than if they took up the J.D. hobbies of the past like smoking in school bathrooms and crashing parties at the gym.

Then there are the mentally unbalanced. This society is a very difficult one to live in. Our big cities, New York especially, are full of too much hostile, negative energy. Insanity and madness are rampant here: they are a product of our self-destructive society. I suspect most of those who think they are the survivors of Satanic cult abuse fall into this category. They've been badly hurt -- by living in an alienating society, and maybe even occasionally by actual incest and abuse -- and need some healing. They have found what appears to them as healing in the delusions of the biggest group of Satanists of all, and the most dangerous.

That group is Christian fundamentalists themselves.

We, as Pagans, know it is possible to manifest reality through focused energy raising and visualization. Now, the fundamentalists have raised tremendous energy and constantly visualize the this image of an evil god called Satan and his vengeful "good" god Jehovah. What are they manifesting?

The increasing racial violence, the threat to abortion rights, the violence against lesbians and gays, the violence to the environment. The rolling back of the social revolution of the '60s and '70s. These are the manifestations of Christian fundamentalism. These hateful, intolerant bigots are, through their religious practices, manifesting the evil that they cleaim to be crusading against. And mind you, they turn around and claim that we Pagans are the same as Satanists.

Goddess bless, we know the world as a diferent place than they do. We have a lot of healing to do.


  1. My spiritual journey started almost 35 years ago. I was a young trotskyite and a self proclaimed atheist. I was loaned a copy of S Foster Damon's commentary on William Blake's engravings for the book of Job.

    Blake essentially said that Job was not tested by God. He was tested by the creature he worshipped. In Blake's theology Job's god is the real Satan.

    It took years but I was slowly forced to admit that at the center of my universe was a hate filled, narcissistic, judgmental being. That being had more to do with my troubled upbringing than with the nature of reality. I vowed to stop worshipping it.

    The concept of metanoia is central to my spiritual path and I have to identify myself as a Christian but I think we agree that all of us build little altars, real or conceptual, and worship a whole range of little gods.

    I don't care what you call your gods. I care how they "manifest" (to borrow a word from you) in your world. To quote a horribly over used and misused piece of scripture, "You will know them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:16) Matthew was talking about false prophets but the metaphor he uses can be applied to our little gods. You can call it a grapevine but it's still a thorn bush.

    I hope that wasn't too much Christianity. I'm not trying to start a religious debate. I'm using the language that I understand best.

    By the way, I know someone who claims to be a satanic cult survivor. Not surprisingly, she's pretty crazy but she's not stupid or a fool. I can't make much sense of her story but something really bad happened to her and there's some kind of truth buried in there. Interestingly, she claims to have been abused by a group of satanists in her very mainstream midwestern church.

  2. Hey Jon.

    Actually I got nothing against Christianity anymore. I gave it a try briefly and it doen't work for me, but I really respect the best of the tradition.

    The singer Leon Thomas once told me a long involved story about a fellow musician who was so clueless and valueless he "didn't even own a Bible." I realize as much as that book has some icky parts and as much as I don't agree with its conclusions, it's a touchstone for a lot of good people including most of my ancestors, and I'm proud to own one and I wish I read it more often...and as for God, well I love God.

    I know more than one person who has "recovered" memories of child abuse: I also don't know what that means besides the fact that they were really emotionally injured at some point in their lives: if I"m doubtful things went down exactly as they say it doesn't mean they're less deserving of compassion or healing.