Against Satanic Panics > To Satanists > Real-life crime
Tabloid prophecy fulfillers
Satanism's real-life criminal fringe:
How should law-abiding Satanists respond?
by Diane Vera
Copyright © 2006 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.
- Some bad public relations strategies for Satanists
- Some better strategies
- Criminal teenage dabblers
- Lone Devil-made-me-do-it murderers, a.k.a. "self-styled Satanists"
- Human sacrifice in the context of gang-connected sorcery
- Maniacal musicians
- The (hopefully very few) criminals within the Internet Satanist scene
- Can we get rid of our criminal fringe? If so, how?
- The need for reputable, up-to-date, factual public information about Satanism
- Some bad public relations strategies for Satanists
Unfortunately, there do exist some people who commit violent crimes in the name of Satan. They should not be regarded as representative of Satanism, nor is it likely that any of them are organized into the kinds of vast, long-lived conspiracies that SRA scaremongers imagine. Nor are such criminals common enough to constitute a significant threat to the fabric of society. But they do exist. Law-abiding Satanists, such as myself, need to distance ourselves from Satanism's criminal fringe somehow, and we should consider how best to distance ourselves.
A strategy that LaVey's Church of Satan has used has been to claim that since LaVey was the first person to call himself a "Satanist" in a big public way, this gave LaVey the authority to define "Satanism"; therefore, anyone who doesn't follow LaVey's teachings is "not a Satanist." The Temple of Set used a similar strategy until the mid-1990's, claiming to be the sole legitimate successor of the "real" Church of Satan which disbanded in 1975, when LaVey disbanded the original CoS grotto system, after which some of the old CoS grottos became ToS pylons while others became separate groups. (Later,the Temple of Set ceased to identify as a "Satanist" organization.)
The problem with this strategy is that it has led to endless quarrels over who is a "true Satanist." Obviously, non-LaVeyan Satanists are not going to agree with CoS's definition. And non-LaVeyan Satanists are now becoming more and more visible, thanks to the Internet.
Some law-abiding non-LaVeyan Satanist groups have resorted to their own versions of the "we're the only true Satanists" game. But no serious scholar of religion is likely to accept any group's claim to a monopolistic right to define "Satanism." None of us have a copyright on the word "Satanism," which was coined long before any of us came along.
Another bad strategy has been to claim that the criminals are "Devil worshipers, not Satanists," and to claim that that "Satanists" and "Devil worshipers" are mutually exclusive categories. Problems:
- There are plenty of law-abiding theistic Satanists who do revere Satan and who thus can be justifiably said to "worship the Devil." (Some may have an aversion to the word "worship" on the grounds that it connotes groveling. However, groveling is not an essential part of the typical dictionary definition of the word "worship." Some may also make a semantic distinction between "Satan" and "the Devil," a distinction which is at best debatable.
- A statement like "Devil worshipers are not Satanists" will come across to most outsiders as just a bunch of politically correct hair-splitting silliness. Ditto for any distinction between "Satan" and "the Devil."
- In general, for Satanists to scapegoat Devil worshipers is even more ridiculous and cowardly than the way in which quite a few Wiccans have scapegoated Satanists
- It is unlikely that anyone will succeed in convincing all or most journalists and newspaper editors to use "Devil worshiper" rather than "Satanist" to refer to the criminals. To this day, newspaper crime stories use the word "Satanist" far more often than "Devil worshiper," probably because the word "Satanist" is shorter and can fit more easily into a headline.
- By calling the criminals "Devil worshipers," without challenging the notion that serious Devil worshipers are likely to be criminals, one thereby acquiesces to the idea that the Christian Devil wants people to kill in His name. One thereby acquiesces to the idea that the murderous "Devil worshipers" are truer to Satan - and thus truer Satanists - than us noncriminals. In fact, one can make a good argument - even in terms of standard Christian beliefs about Satan - that such is not the case. More about this later.
- Some better strategies
There are other, better ways we can distance ourselves from the criminals. First, we can cast doubt on the alleged "Satanism" of some criminals as follows:
- We can object to the common journalistic habit of referring to certain crimes as having been committed by "Satanists" before it is even known who the culprits are, let alone what their religion or motives might actually be.
For example, in the news story Satanic group defaces Cathedral of Linares in Chile (Catholic News Agency, Santiago, Aug. 03, 2004), an admittedly "unknown group" of vandals is referred to as a group of "Satanists" because they painted Satanic symbols on the walls. Painting an inverted cross on a wall doesn't make someone a Satanist, any more than painting a right-side-up cross makes someone a Christian. For all we know, the vandals could have been just kids out to scare the grown-ups. For all we know, may have had only a fleeting interest in "Satanism" inspired by the Devil-made-me-do-it murder which took place in that same church a week before.
Regarding crimes more serious than painting graffiti, some murderers with ordinary mundane motives may use Satanic trappings (e.g. carving Satanic symbols on the victim's body) in an attempt to disguise their motives and thereby throw investigators off the trail of the real killer. And some child molesters may use Satanic trappings in order to frighten their victim into silence and/or to discredit the victim's potential testimony by taking advantage of the skeptical backlash against the wolf-crying of the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scare.
- Even after a criminal has been identified, caught, and convicted, we can point out that claims of a "Satanic" motive should not be accepted at face value without additional evidence. We can remind the public that convicted criminals have a stake in presenting themselves first as crazy and then, later, as reformed crazies. So, naturally we can expect a lot of them to say things like "The Devil made me do it, but now I found Jesus."
Unfortunately, in those relatively few cases where the criminals clearly do sincerely believe themselves to be Satanists of some kind, we don't have a credible basis for claiming that the criminals are "not Satanists." Given the increasingly evident variety of different kinds of Satanists, there is no credible basis for defining what a "true Satanist" is.
But we still can argue that the criminals are not representative of Satanism. They should not be considered to be "normal" Satanists, let alone "higher-level" Satanists; they are a despised fringe.
And, for public relations purposes, that should be sufficient. After all, there are plenty of criminals in other religions too. We can also point out the enormous amount of bloodshed that has been committed through the ages in the name of both Christianity and Islam, not just by individual fringe Christians and Muslims but on an official basis too. Should all Christians be judged by the behavior of Crusade-era or Reformation-era churches and European governments? Of course not. Hence, all the more so, neither should all people of another religion be judged by the behavior of fringe adherents of that religion.
Thus we need not bicker about the definition of "Satanism" in order to distance ourselves from criminals. To show that the criminals are not not representative of Satanism, we can do the following:
- We can point out that committing violent crimes in the name of Satan doesn't really serve Satan's purposes even in terms of a traditional Christian understanding of Satan. According to traditional Christian doctrine, Satan's main goal is not to make people as nasty as possible but rather to lead as many people as possible away from Christ. Killing people or cats in the name of Satan does not lead people away from Christ, and neither does vandalizing churches. If anything, such activities serve only to frighten Christians into clinging more tightly to their faith. (For more about this, see my article Why "Satanic ritual crime" doesn't make sense even from a Christian point of view.)
- We can explain why we ourselves, in terms of our own non-Christian Satanist theologieis, don't believe that Satan wants us to commit violent crimes in His name. Exactly how this is explained can and should vary from one Satanist group to another, since we don't all have the same beliefs. However, it seems to me that every public Satanist group does need to make some sort of official statement on this matter, in terms of its own beliefs.
- We can clearly condemn those who are found guilty of violent crimes and who (1) claim, sincerely or not, to have committed their crimes in the name of Satan, and who (2) were tried for their crimes in a reasonable manner, i.e. with evidence and testimony not based on such questionable sources as "recovered memories." We can also expose and oppose any use of "Devil made me do it" excuses as part of a plea for clemency.
- We can take a strong stand against killing people in the name of religion - any religion. Of course, a lot more people have been killed in the name of Christianity and Islam than in the name of Satanism. Most Satanists aren't pacifists; most of us do believe that killing people is justifiable under some circumstances including self-defense and punishment of murderers. But it is not justifiable to kill anyone for the sake of one's god. If the gods want to kill someone, surely they can do so without the help of humans. Nor are spiritual beliefs a justifiable reason for letting criminals off the hook (e.g. "finding Jesus" as part of a plea for reduced prison time).
- We should point out that criminals-in-the-name-of-Satan are likely to have derived their ideas from pop cultural images of Satanism, rather than from any actual Satanist tradition. For this reason, I would suggest referring to them as "tabloid prophecy fulfillers" as well as "Satanism's criminal fringe."
Below, I'll discuss some of the different kinds of tabloid prophecy fulfillers, and I'll discuss additional ways that we law-abiding theistic Satanists can distance ourselves from the criminals in each category without claiming that our own beliefs are the only "true Satanism."
- Criminal teenage dabblers
As far as I can tell, the vast majority of criminals-in-the-name-of-Satan are teenage dabblers. I feel justified in calling them "dabblers" because, as far as I can tell, the vast majority of them do not remain interested in Satanism for very long.
For example, when Geifodd moved to the Bible Belt town where he spent his last two years of high school and his first two years of college, he ran into a clique of about 20 teenagers who killed stray cats in the name of Satan, in some cases torturing them. A few of these kids were sent away to mental nstitutions soon after Geifodd met them. The remaining kids all gave up their "Satanism" after a couple of months. Most became fundamentalist Christians, while a few others became neo-Nazis. Only Geifodd himself, the law-abiding Satanist, remained interested in Satanism.
Most likely this sort of thing has happened in quite a few Bible Belt towns, as a predictable teenage reaction to adult fundy Christian paranoia about Satanism. Quite a few fundies have warned that various popular children's and young people's activities (including rock music, role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, and reading Harry Potter books) will lead a kid to Satanism. Furthermore, in quite a few fundy churches, it is assumed that any non-Christian is automatically a Satanist, or at least in league with the Devil somehow. Frankly, I can't think of a better way to advertise Satanism to kids than to (1) associate it with a whole big bunch of forbidden fun activities and (2) imply that Satanism is the only possible escape from the stifling religiosity that has been presented to these kids as the only "true Christianity." Alas, the "Satanism" that gets thusly advertised to fundy Christians' kids isn't the Satanism practiced by most serious adult Satanists, but rather the "Satanism" of "Satanic crime" scares. So it's only natural for these kids to conclude that, in order to liberate themselves, they too must become violent criminals.
Given the above, it's surprising there aren't more teenage tabloid prophecy fulfillers than there in fact are.
Besides those who kill cats and occasionally people, other kids have been known to commit lesser crimes such as church vandalism and spray-painting Satanic graffiti -- probably as an attention-getting prank in most cases. When newspapers make a big to-do about "Satanic" vandalism of a church, we should point out that such crimes are more likely a prank than a serious expression of religious sentiment. This is not to say that such crimes shouldn't be taken seriously. Surely the culprits should be punished for damaging other people's property. But, from the religious standpoint of most forms of Satanism, vandalizing churches is a stupid and pointless activity.
How can we serious longterm Satanists distance ourselves from teenage criminals-in-the-name-of-Satan? One way is to point out that most of them are, in fact, dabblers who will most likely leave Satanism soon, whereas serious longterm Satanists tend to law-abiding.
But we should also be careful to point out that, although the vast majority of criminals-in-the-name-of-Satan are teenage dabblers, even teenage dabblers in Satanism are not necessarily criminal. The majority of people in the Internet Satanist scene are teenagers, of whom some are dabblers and some will turn out to have a more lasting interest in Satanism. There is no reason to assume that all or most of these kids are criminals. Most likely, some are criminals but most are not.
- Lone Devil-made-me-do-it murderers, a.k.a. "self-styled Satanists"
In books and articles about "Satanic crime," one of the usual four or five categories is "self-styled Satanists," a term commonly used to refer to lone murderers who do their thing in the name of Satan (or who at least claim, after the fact, to have committed their crimes as "human sacrifices" to Satan) and who are not members of any Satanist group.
Big problems with this terminology:
- A great many noncriminal Satanists too are "self-styled" in the sense of (1) developing their own belief systems and (2) not being members of any public, formally organized Satanic churches such as the Church of Satan or the Temple of Set.
Most books and articles on "Satanic crime" - even some of the better ones - simply don't recognize the existence of noncriminal adult Satanists who aren't members of the Satanic churches. Most "Satanic crime" books and articles divide Satanists into four or five categories, of which only one category - the membership of Satanic churches - is said to be noncriminal. All others are assumed to be criminals. In particular, adult Satanists who aren't members of Satanic churches are assumed to be murderers (whereas it is said that teenage dabblers may stop at lesser crimes such as church vandalism). Needless to say, this is an exceedingly dangerous notion for us law-abiding independent Satanists.
Most likely, one reason for this idea's ubiquity is that, until the Internet became popular, law-abiding independent Satanists have simply not been visible. Outside the Satanic churches, the only Satanists who have gotten their names in newspapers have been the criminals. (Gays had a similar problem before the advent of the Gay Liberation movement around 1970.) However, thanks to the advent of the Internet, it has now become clear that there are a lot of noncriminal independent Satanists out there.
What we desperately need now is to find some scholars of new religions who would be willing to get to know a bunch of us and provide outside testimony about the existence of a great many noncriminal independent Satanists, including a great many non-LaVeyans. So far, we've gotten some very valuable help from James R. Lewis in his articles in the Marburg Journal of Religion (Who Serves Satan? A Demographic and Ideological Profile, in Volume 6, No. 2, June 2001, and Diabolical Authority: Anton LaVey, The Satanic Bible and the Satanist "Tradition" in Volume 7, No. 1, September 2002). His articles attest, at least, the existence of a great many noncriminal Satanists who aren't members of any Satanic church. But nearly all the Satanists he interviewed were quite LaVeyan-leaning. Lewis's articles were published before the recent (2002-2005) explosion in the number of non-LaVeyan theistic Satanists participating in various Internet forums. So we now need some scholars to interview an assortment of non-LaVeyan theistic Satanists. (If you're a scholar of new religions, please see To scholars of new religions: Suggestions for research on Satanism on my Theistic Satanism site.)
- Because most forms of Satanism give at least lip service to the idea of thinking for oneself, one could argue that all true Satanists are "self-styled" in the sense of working out their own belief systems
- For at least some "self-styled Satanist" murderers, their claim of "Satanism" is part of a bid for clemency, thus a bit suspicious. Some have claimed "the Devil made me do it" as part of an insanity plea. Others apparently hope for reduced prison time on the grounds that they were once Satanists and have now found Jesus. Of course, some may have sincerely believed that they were performing human sacrifices to Satan, but this should not be assumed to be true in any particular case without an in-depth investigation.
For all of the above reasons, we should object vehemently to the term "self-styled Satanist" as a synonym for "lone murderer in the name of Satan."
For most of these murderers, a better term might be "Devil-made-me-do-it killer," a term which points out their typical unwillingness to take responsibility for their actions. (See, for example, the article “Satanic” man who murdered priest in Chile says he did not choose the victim - Catholic News Agency, Santiago, Aug. 04, 2004. For more news stories about this case, see my page on Rodrigo Orias Gallardo and the murder of Father Faustino Gazziero D’Estefani in Chile.) Their lack of self-responsibility is good to emphasize because it highlights a key difference between Devil-made-me-do-it murderers and the ideals of most forms of Satanism, one of which is taking responsibility for the consequences of one's own actions.
- Human sacrifice in the context of gang-connected sorcery
SRA scaremongers still love to cite the 1989 Matamoros murders as evidence for their claims.
When some of the culprits were first arrested, there was quite a bit of confusion amongst both cops and reporters as to what the murderers' religion was. Initially, headlines screamed "Satanic cult!" Later, cops concluded that the culprits had really been practicing Santeria. Still later, cops said it was Palo Mayombe - which was alleged to be a deviant form of Santeria, which in fact it isn't. (Although Palo Mayombe does have similarities to Santeria, it is a distinct religion with a different pantheon and a different emphasis in its practices.) Still later, it was said that that the Matamoros killers weren't practicing standard Palo Mayombe either, but rather an eclectic form of sorcery based partly on Palo Mayombe and other African Diaspora traditions and also influenced by the movie The Believers.
If/whenever cops discover evidence of human sacrifice, we are justified in asking both cops and reporters to avoid publicly identifying the killers' religion until they really know for sure, or until they at least have some good evidence. Then, once it has been carefully identified, we are also justified in asking them to point out that the killers aren't typical of their respective religion, to avoid inciting a lynch mob mentality against the religion in question, whatever it might be.
Unfortunately, as far as I am aware, there aren't currently any really good scholarly or journalistic articles on the public web about the Matamoros case. The best I found were the following:
- All about Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo by Michael Newton
- Christian Research Journal: Newswatch (on Santeria) by William M. Alnor
- Reply by Francis A. Miniter to a post by Howard Duck about Carl Raschke's book Painted Black
- Witchvox: Raschke Paints Things Black by Kerr Cuhulain
- Encyclopedia of the unusual and unexplained: Tribal mysteries
- The Arcane Archive: Palo Mayombe and The Matamoros Affair
- In Defense of African Traditional Religions
Was Adolfo de Jesús Constanzo a Satanist? Well, maybe sorta kind of, depending on your definitions. His patron deity was Kadiempembe, an African-derived Palo Mayombe deity who has been identified with Satan. But that identification is controversial. (See this discussion on the El Rincon Bantú message board. See also these pages on Palo Mayombe sites: (1) The Nkisi: The "Gods and Goddesses" of Palo on The Munanso Siete Rayos Ntango Fuego and (2) Frequently Asked Questions on Regla Kimbisa del Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje. For more about the highly questionable basis on which some African deities have gotten associated with the Devil, whereas other African gods have gotten associated with the Christian God or with various saints, see "Jewish" and "Christian" Palo in Cuba by Edghan Ballard (another copy here).)
Alas, given the wide variety of different kinds of theistic Satanism, it's a bit difficult for us law-abiding theistic Satanists to draw a hard-and-fast theological line between a belief system like Costanzo's and the more law-abiding forms of theistic Satanism. Many law-abiding theistic Satanists, too, identify Satan with one or more deities in other pantheons, e.g. Set, Enki, Pan, Prometheus, or Loki; and not everyone agrees with these identifications. Therefore, we can't disqualify Costanzo from the term "Satanist" on the mere grounds that not everyone agrees that Kadiempembe = Satan. (And, since Costanzo himself is dead, we can't ask him whether he believed that Kadiempembe = Satan.) Furthermore, many law-abiding theistic Satanists are every bit as eclectic in their beliefs as Costanzo was, if not more so. So, we'll need other ways to distance ourselves from Costanzo and any similar criminals that may pop up in the future.
The most salient features of the Matamoros group are that (1) it was connected with a drug gang and (2) most of the victims were members of rival drug gangs - who would no doubt be killing each other anyway even without Costanzo's cult helping them. Therefore, the killings should not be blamed on any of the specific religions that Costanzo's group may or may not have borrowed ideas from. Instead, they should be regarded as an aspect of the problem of organized crime.
I'm not aware of any other real-life cases involving crime-for-profit gang-related sorcery cults that both practiced human sacrifice and also could, in at least some sense, be said to have worshiped Satan. Unfortunately, as I will explain below, current worldwide religious trends make it highly likely that there will be more such crimes in the future. And, of all the types of real-life crime-in-the-name-of-Satan that we'll be considering on this page, this is the type with the closest resemblances to SRA scaremongers' fantasies, complete with ability to pay off police thanks to the gang's vast profits. (Apparently Constanzo's group got caught only because they made the mistake of killing a gringo tourist with connections, rather than confining their attentions to rival Mexican drug racketeers.)
Why is it highly likely that there will be more such crimes in the future (although, hopefully, still not an overwhelming number of them)?
Given the common folk beliefs in magic in many Third World countries, it is not at all uncommom for supersitious criminal gangs to enlist the aid of some sort of magic. Moreover, for some (though by no means all, and probably not even most) of these gangs, said magic involves human sacrifice - which is still practiced in some of the poorer parts of the world, as documented on my page on human sacrifice.
So far, as a general rule, human sacrifice today is practiced in the context of beliefs that cannot even remotely be called Satanism.
But what will happen as more and more of the world's poor people convert to Christianity or Islam? And what will happen as more and more of them embrace Protestant Pentecostalism in particular, rather than traditional blends of Catholicism and older religions?
Most likely, Third World folk ideas about "black magic" will revolve more and more around Christianity's or Islam's Devil concept. Hence, among the world's criminal gangs, there might well be more and more of a market for purported sorcerors who present themselves as Satan worshipers, specifically. In order to sell their services, the purveyors of "black magic" will need to present themselves in a manner that fits the folk beliefs of the gangsters, whatever those folk beliefs might happen to be. Thus the traditional forms of sorcery could easily become syncretized more and more with worship of the Christian/Islamic Devil.
And, amongst those relatively few sorcerors who already have a tradition of human sacrifice anyway, it will seem only natural to perform human sacrifices as part of their worship of the Devil too - especially if Pentecostal evangelists still persist in spreading tales of "Satanic ritual abuse." Such tales could easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So, we public theistic Satanists need to consider how we can best distance ourselves from "human sacrifice" and other violent crime in the context of gang-related sorcery:
- We can point out that gang-connected sorcery groups are primarily for-profit criminal enterprises, rather than primarily religious groups. Thus, as I mentioned earlier, they should be seen primarily as an aspect of the problem of organized crime, rather than primarily as a religious problem.
- We should point out that even gang-connected sorcerors don't necessarily perform hunan sacrifice, which today is practiced by only a fringe minority of people in the traditions from which the gang-connected sorcerors derive most of their beliefs. Most likely, only a small minority of even gang-connected sorcerors would practice human sacrifice. Most likely, in most criminal gangs that hire sorcerors, the sorcerors would be distinct from the gang's hit men.
- We can point out that gang-connected sorcerors are unlikely to have much, if any, social connection with the Satanist scene proper. They are unlikely to advertise their trade in Satanist forums on the Internet, for example. They would, most likely, be far more interested in making connections in the gang world than among Satanists, most of whom they would most likely despise as a bunch of nerds.
Thus, contrary to SRA scaremongers' fantasies, the public Satanist scene does not serve as a recruitment arm for gang-connected sorcery cults. Hence these groups are not at a "higher level" of some grand worldwide Satanic conspiracy encompassing both them and us.
- We can point out that, in general, there is still no reason to believe in a generations-old worldwide conspiracy of Satan worshipers. Any Satan-worshiping gang-connected sorcery cults that do turn up are likely to be a new development, inspired in part by the propaganda of the SRA scaremongers, not part of any genuinely old tradition of Satan worship (though they may, in at least some cases, have a genuine lineage to other old traditions involving human sacrifice).
- We can point out the real source of the problem of organized crime with all its attendant evils: the criminalization of a popular market, in this case the market for recreational drugs. There was a lot of organized crime back in the days of Prohibition too. The way to get rid of drug gangs it to legalize the drugs. Drug use can and should still be discouraged in the following ways: (1) The drugs can still be regulated, perhaps made legally available by prescription only. In this case a black market would still exist, but the drug gangs' profits would be cut way down, resulting in far less police corruption, less gang warfare, etc. (2) The money that is now being put into fighting the war on drugs could be put instead into better supervision of schools and other places where kids hang out, thereby preventing kids from getting into drugs in the first place. School security guards cost less money than prison guards.
The above may seem at first like an irrelevant digression, but in fact it's not. Christian right wing propaganda promotes religious intolerance by harping on the alleged dangers of secularization and "de-Christianization." Supposedly, if Western culture ceases to be based on the Bible, all hell will break loose and we'll be overrun by violent crime, among other alleged horrendous consequences. Hence, in order to promote religious tolerance, it can be helpful to encourage Christians to think concretely about the real causes of various crimes and how they can be prevented. In addition, by discussing drug gangs as a problem to be solved, we can thereby distance ourselves from the drug gangs and hence from gang-connected sorcery.
- In the minds of many Christians, "Satanic crime" is associated with the threat of the "de-Christianization" of Western society. We can point out that, in the case of gang-connected sorcery, any increase in the number of human sacrifices to Satan (as distinct from human sacrifices to other gods) will be caused not by de-Christianization, but, on the contrary, by theChristianization of the Third World.
Many, many musicians have used Satanic themes in their lyrics. The vast majority of these musicians - including the vast majority of the actual Satanists among them - have not been criminals. However, two bands, Mayhem (in Norway) and the Beasts of Satan (in Italy) have attracted lots of attention to themselves via the criminal activities of at least some of their members.
- Mayhem and the Black Metal Circle in Norway:
Here is a collection of news stories and other web resources concerning the metal band Mayhem and its onetime members Euronymous and Varg Vikernes:
- Satan's Cheerleaders by Darcey Steinke, Spin magazine, February 1996 (another copy here)
- How Black is Black Metal? by Kevin Coogan, Hitlist, February/March 1999, Volume one, Number one, Berkeley CA, USA - detailed review of Lords of Chaos by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Sederlind
- In the face of death by Chris Campion, The Observer, Sunday February 20, 2005
- Black Metal Nation: What do Norwegian dirtheads and Richard Perle have in common? by Mark Ames, New York Press, Volume 17, Issue 5 (No date given; apparently early February 2004, based on comparison with the volume/issue numbers for the current issue) - review of Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind, and An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror, by David Frum and Richard Perle
- The sound of Satan by Øyvind Ihlen
- Burnt Churches and Backstabbing by Audra Schroeder, The Austin Chronicle (Texas, USA), May 6, 2005 - review of the documentary film Metal Storm: the Scandinavian Metal Wars
- Interview with Euronymous of Mayhem in Norwegian mag BEAT no.2 / 1993, co-edited by Lord Sauron. (Note that Euronymous, unlike the vast majority of Satanists, worshiped "evil" in the sense of just plain nastiness.)
- Encyclopedia Metallum: Mayhem (Nor) and Read More about Mayhem (Nor)
- BNR Metal Pages: Mayhem
- Mayhem official website
- Burzum.com: The Music of Burzum and the Writings of Varg Vikernes - site also includes a copy of The Lords of Black Metal: Scandinavian Satanists Go Beserk by Michael Moynihan
- Burzum.org: Russian Burzum and Varg Vikernes site (current writings in English and Russian)
- Satanist (?) Uses the Black Speech by Helge Kåre Fauskanger, on Ardalambion: Of the Tongues of Arda, the invented world of J.R.R. Tolkien
- CD Times: Top 10 Scandinavian Black Metallers
- What Is Black Metal? from Chad Bowar, Your Guide to Heavy Metal, on About.com.
- ‘Black Metal’ music hits Europe scene hard by Allen Finn, Queen's University Journal (Canada), Friday, November 7, 2003 - Issue 20, Volume 131
- Dimmu Borgir: None more black by Newt Briggs, Las Vegas Mercury, Thursday, July 29, 2004
- Scandinavia's heavy metal legacy by Ben Richardson, Harvard Independent, 10/13/05
Some of the above articles contain inaccurate statements about the black metal genre. For example, black metal did not originate in Norway. It originated in England with the band Venom, which put out an album titled "Black Metal" in 1982. Their first album, "Welcome to Hell," was released in 1981.
Also, some of the above articles claim that the early 1980's black metal bands, such as Venom and Mercyful Fate, were not real Satanists but were just using Satanism as a stage persona. In fact, at least two members of Venom, who called themselves Cronos (bass player and vocalist) and Abaddon (drummer), are/were indeed Satanists. Likewise King Diamond, who was then the lead singer of Mercyful Fate. (See interviews in Lucifer Rising: A Book of Sin, Devil Worship and Rock 'n' Roll by Gavin Baddeley, available on Amazon.) Venom did have a sense of humor and did camp up the popular image of Satanism, but this doesn't mean they weren't Satanists. And King Diamond is quite evidently a serious Satanist, judging by the lyrics to some of his songs, which show that he has put some time into studying both Satanism and the occult. For example, "The Oath" is a prayer to Satan/Lucifer influenced by the Yezidi theology, which is something that not too many people other than Satanists (and the Yezidis themselves, of course) know anything about.
What did set Mayhem apart from earlier black metal bands was not any greater genuineness about their Satanism, but rather their insistence that Satanism was all about doom and gloom, and that Satanists shouldn't have any fun because fun is good and "we worship evil." In contrast, both Venom's and Mercyful Fate's songs about the Devil were spooky but upbeat - true to the ideals of most forms of Satanism, which advocate both exploring unknown/forbidden realms and having fun while so doing.
(Thanks to Geifodd for providing the above information about the history of black metal. See also Britannia Infernus - A History of British Black Metal.)
Interestingly, Varg Vikernes has long ceased to consider himself a Satanist and is now into a kind of Norse Paganism, albeit a kind that most Norse Pagans would abhor.
The "Beasts of Satan" in Italy:
For a sampling of media coverage of the "Beasts of Satan" case, plus whatever skeptical commentary I've been able to find, see my separate page on The "Beasts of Satan" in Italy.
The Beasts of Satan murders have triggered a general panic about Satanism in Italy. Said panic has, in turn, spurred the Vatican to begin offering a course on exorcism. See my collection of links to articles about Exorcism, the Vatican, and the recent Italian Satanic Panic on my page about Exorcism, "spiritual warfare," and anti-occultism.
For my own comments about the scare, see my page about Italy's recent Satanic Panic.
General comments on both the above cases
Quite a few of the above-linked articles have claimed or implied either that (1) criminal behavior (killing people and burning churches) is typical of Satanists, or that (2) the criminal behavior of members of Mayhem and the Beasts of Satan makes them truer Satanists than the many noncriminal black metal musicians and other musicians who have identified themselves as Satanists. We law-abiding Satanists need to object strongly to this notion.
In reality, even Christian theologians generally see Satan as being subtle. Thus, even according to a traditional Christian understanding of Satan, it is most likely that Satan would prefer His human followers to oppose Christianity in a more subtle and clever manner than by destroying national monuments. For this reason, even some conservative and traditionalist Catholic commentators have remarked that law-abiding Satanists are in fact "more dangerous" (to Christianity), hence more Satanic, than the violent criminals. (See my comments on an article by conservative Catholic writer Robert Eady.)
The (hopefully very few) criminals within the Internet Satanist scene
There are criminals in every religion, and Satanism is certainly no exception.
The best-known case is that of Russell Smith, a pedophile who, before his crimes came to light, had been regarded as a bona-fide leader within the online Satanist scene. He was the founder of a mostly-online group called the Order of Perdition, which welcomed Satanists of all kinds (both theistic and atheistic/symbolic) and "Left Hand Path Pagans." Below are some news stories about his crimes:
- America's Most Wanted: Russell John Smith
- Fugitive Touted Satanism's Indulgences on Web, Washington Post, Aug. 30, 2002
I don't know for sure what kind of Satanism Russell Smith believed in or practiced. Apparently the Order of Perdition leaned primarily toward atheistic/symbolic Satanism, because it was one of the two Satanist groups that endorsed the "Godless March on Washington" in 2002. Here are some news stories about the Godless March, with mention of the Order of Perdition:
- A Turf Battle Between Non-Believers by Peter Steinfels, New York Times, 8/17/02
- Atheists, humanists plan own march on Washington by Kevin Eigelbach, Cincinnati Post, October 30, 2002
So, although I'm not sure of this (and neither is a friend of mine who was a member of the Order of Perdition), it would seem most likely that Smith himself was an atheistic/symbolic Satanist. In other words, it would seem most likely that the organized Satanist scene's most notorious real-life criminal was, in all likelihood, not a Devil worshiper. And this is yet another reason why it does not make sense to claim that the criminals amongst us are "Devil worshippers, not Satanists."
Semantics aside, how should we react when criminals are discovered within the Satanist scene?
The first thing we should do is stay calm and avoid jumping to conclusions. If someone you know is accused of a crime, don't jump to the conclusion that the person is guilty. Remember, "innocent until proven guilty." Look carefully at the evidence before drawing any conclusions.
In the wake of the Russell Smith case, there got to be quite a bit of paranoia about pedophilia within the Satanist scene for a while, with disastrous results. See Geifodd's articles The Satanism Scare: Witchhunt Mentalities in Modern Times and An Apology to John Allee and the First Church of Satan. Let's not let this sort of thing happen again.
No actual criminal charges were ever filed against John Allee. Earlier, back in the 1980's, criminal charges were filed against Michael Aquino, founder of the Temple of Set. The charges against Aquino were dropped due to lack of evidence.
Once it is determined that an accused person is, in fact, guilty, then we have every right to feel angry and betrayed and to voice those feelings. But be very cautious about concluding that the person is guilty.
If you have strong reason to believe that a crime has been committed and you can present actual evidence - not just speculation or hearsay - then, in that case, I do recommend reporting the crime to the authorities. But do not make reports to the police lightly. Report only provable evidence of an actual crime. Don't report anything that the police can't verify. Otherwise, you risk being charged with making a false report. Don't assume you'll be believed merely because you're telling what you know to be true. Be prepared to prove it, or at least to direct the police to evidence.
Can we get rid of our criminal fringe? If so, how?
Is there anything we can do to get rid of our criminal fringe?
Not completely, but there ARE some simple things we can do that could greatly reduce their numbers.
One thing I've noticed, based admittedly on only a limited sample, is that the Satanist scene's undesirables tend to be homophobic. This includes both the criminal types and the neo-Nazis. So, a good way to reduce their numbers would be to use their own homophobia against them. To that end, those Satanists who are also gay men, lesbians, or bisexuals -- especially gay men -- should be encouraged to be as out of the closet as possible, at least when dealing with other Satanists. Ditto for transgender people. For more about this, see Attention: gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Satanists.
Another thing we need is simply for more intelligent, law-abiding Satanists in general to go public and to do what we can to change the public's idea of what Satanism is. To the extent that Satanism attracts criminals, it does so because of its reputation for criminality. Therefore, to the extent that we manage to change its reputation, fewer criminals will be attracted.
The need for reputable, up-to-date, factual public information about Satanism
If we Satanists are going to ask other people to get their facts straight about Satanism, we ourselves need to have more solid, independently verified, up-to-date facts that we can provide.
To that end, we will need the help of relatively neutral scholars willing to do up-to-date original research on the Satanist scene, which has mutated rapidly these past several years thanks to the Internet. (If you happen to be a scholar of new religions, please read this page on my Theistic Satanism site.)
We'll also need more articulate, sane, and mature independent theistic Satanists to be willing to publish their beliefs, both on websites and offline, including explanations of why - in terms of one's own concept of who and what Satan is - the author does not believe that Satan wants us to commit violent crimes in His name. If you aren't a LaVeyan, it isn't sufficient to cite LaVey's Satanic Bible on this point, nor is it sufficient to cite past scholarly writings in which nearly all the research subjects were LaVeyans. More of us need to start voicing our own beliefs, in our own words.