A Brief Explanation of LaVeyan Satanism
Despite an ever-growing well of accessible information on the topic, many people still hold a number of false beliefs about Satanism in this day and age. It is still viewed by many as a violent hedonistic cult at its worst, and at best a passing fancy undertaken by angst-ridden youth. However, contemporary Satanism has grown into something very different from either of these animals.
Theistic vs. Atheistic Satanism
Two types of Satanic religions exist: the Theistic and the Atheistic.
Both forms of Satanism are somewhat similar in basic philosophy despite one major difference, and both denounce the sort of behavior that is most commonly attributed to Satanism and its followers.
Theistic Satanism involves the worship of Satan as a spiritually existent deity, and is what most commonly comes to mind for many people when any mention of Satanism is made. Atheistic, or LaVeyan, Satanism merely uses Satan as a symbolic tool, and is a much more recent development.
Anton LaVey and the First Satanic Church
LaVeyan Satanism as it exists today found its start in 1966, when the now-deceased Anton LaVey began the Church of Satan, having previously amassed a small circle of followers and given many lectures on his beliefs from his own home. The Church generated a fair amount of publicity due to its performance of wedding and funeral services, as well as its use of nude women as altars and recitations of the Lord's Prayer in reverse. Although many of these early practices were meant to mock Christian rituals, the movement soon evolved into something else entirely.
The Satanic Bible and The Basic Philosophy of Satanism
In 1969, LaVey published the Satanic Bible, in which he explained the basic philosophy, tenets and rituals of LaVeyan Satanism. The book is still widely regarded as the most authentic source of information on the subject.
In the book, LaVey outlined and expounded on the central ideas behind LaVeyan Satanism: fundamental individualism (the obligation of the individual to follow their own ambitions and find their own meaning in life) and self-transformation (an individual's ability to grow as a person the way they see fit). Each follower, as he explained it, was meant to be his or her own God.
He also espoused an acceptance of all sexual practices, provided they were undertaken with the consent of all parties involved (eschewing pedophilia and bestiality, for example), and included same-sex and polygamous unions in the marriage services performed by the Church.
Satanic Symbols vs. The Cross of St. Peter
Although commonly regarded as the central symbol of Satanism, the inverted cross - also known as St. Peter's cross - is actually a symbol of Christianity, turned on its head to represent religious humility.
The true Satanic cross is merely a variation of the alchemical symbol for Sulfur, and represents fire and brimstone.
The Sigil of Baphomet, a goat's head placed inside an inverted pentacle, is the official symbol of LaVeyan Satanism and appears on the cover of the Satanic Bible.
The primary Satanic holiday is the birth date of each individual follower, i.e. the birth date of his or her own god.
Other Satanic holidays include Walpurgisnacht, which falls on April 30th -- six months from Halloween. Traditionally a spring celebration in many parts of Europe, it is also the anniversary of the formation of the Satanic church.
The summer and winter solstices and spring and fall equinoxes are named as lesser holidays, as they mark the beginning of the seasons, and Halloween is also listed as a holiday in the Satanic Bible.
Contrary to popular belief, LaVeyan Satanism does not:
- Forbid the celebration of non-secular holidays (though the religious aspects are often left out of the celebration, this is left up to the individual)
- Encourage bestiality or pedophilia (the Satanic Bible explicitly eschews any sexual activities undertaken without the consent of any and all parties involved)
- Encourage or promote polygamy or homosexuality (again, this is left up to the individual, and these practices are merely accepted as no better or worse than other sexual practices)
- Attach any meaning to the number 666 or the date 06/06/06
- Worship Satan as a deity (Satanists do not worship any deities other than themselves)
- Encourage or require ritual murders, suicides or animal sacrifices
- Encourage or require the indoctrination of young children
- Encourage, promote or require the vandalism of religious artifacts or buildings
LaVeyan Satanism as a philosophy was created to provide an alternative to the self-denial, guilt and uniform thinking encouraged by Christianity and other such religions, and itself is not commonly regarded as a "religion" in the traditional sense of the word. Those who ascribe any shock value to it are misguided, and those who claim the title merely for the shock value it may bring are violating its basic tenets.Those who carry out violence in its name are denounced by the Satanic Church and its followers.The behaviors most strongly promoted by LaVeyan Satanism are self-awareness, self-reflection, independent thought and the creation and practice of one's own moral code... which really shouldn't be all that shocking.