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Why I don't recommend LaVey's rituals

by Diane Vera

Copyright © 2003 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.

  1. "Shemhamforash!"
  2. The "Invocation to Satan"
  3. Inconsistent directional symbolism
  4. Incorrect Latin
  5. The Enochian Keys

LaVey's Satanic Bible does contain some good ideas, and I do recommend reading it. However, I don't agree with all of it, by any means. In particular, I do not recommend LaVey's rituals.

  1. "Shemhamforash!"

    LaVey has us yell, "Shemhamforash!" But what does "Shemhamforash!" mean?

    "Shemhamforash," more commonly spelled "Shemhamephorash," is a transliteration of a Hebrew phrase meaning "the explicit name." It is a reference to, of all things, a name of the Hebrew God. Most commonly, it refers to the name "Yahweh." It has also been used to refer to a 72-letter name of the Hebrew God.

    Elsewhere in the Satanic Bible, LaVey denounced, as "hypocritical," the use of Hebrew God-names in rituals to evoke demons. Yet LaVey himself used "Shemhamforash." Why? Did LaVey even know what that word means? Or did he just think it was a cool-sounding bit of gibberish?

  2. The "Invocation to Satan"

    LaVey's standard ritual begins with a so-called "Invocation to Satan" which isn't really an invocation. Its focus is not on Satan Himself, but on "commanding the forces of darkness" in the name of Satan.

    A proper invocation focusses on the deity being invoked. It should mention a wide variety of different attributes of the god, and its tone should be respectful -- not "commanding."

    A theistic Satanist ritual should begin with a proper invocation to Satan. Because Satan inspires prideful individuality, the tone of an invocation to Satan should not be obsequious. But it should still be respectful.

  3. Inconsistent directional symbolism

    At the beginning of LaVey's standard ritual, the so-called "Invocation to Satan" is said facing west. But then, when the "Four Crown Princes of Hell" are called forth, Satan is associated with the south, whereas Leviathan is associated with the west.

    The four directions are not important in and of themselves. It's not as if the Earth is flat, and likewise Hell beneath it, with Leviathan literally living in the west, Satan literally living in the south, and so on.

    However, if one is going to use directional symbolism at all, one should use it because it has some actual relevant symbolic meaning. And one should use it consistently within a given ritual. To change the meaning of a symbol mid-ritual is distracting, at least to me.

    For more information about the association of infernal names with the four directions, see my article Infernal names, element/direction correspondences, etc..

  4. Incorrect Latin

    LaVey's rituals are full of incorrect Latin. For example, "Ave Satanas!" should be "Ave Satana!"

    If you are going to use Latin in ritual at all, either learn Latin yourself or write your rituals in consultation with a friend who knows Latin.

    For some people, the use of a foreign language in ritual can be very helpful as a way of putting oneself into the proper headspace. However, if you are going to use a foreign language, try to use it correctly. To do otherwise is disrespectful.

  5. The Enochian Keys

    I don't recommend the use of Enochian at all unless you are willing to take the time to learn both the Enochian language itself and the system of magick associated with it. Don't treat it as just a bunch of cool-sounding gibberish.

    And, as far as I can tell, most serious Enochian magic(k)ians do not particularly like LaVey's translations of the Enochian keys.

    Many (probably most) theistic Satanists would not regard John Dee's Enochian keys as suitable for use by Satanists in their original form. So, some theistic Satanists have developed modified versions, such as this version on the Joy of Satan site. (Regarding the JoS Ministry's recommendation of performing a dedication rite first, please see my article Pacts and self-initiation.) However, if you are going to use any variant of the Enochian system, I would suggest studying the original as well as the variant, so you can make an informed decision. Or you might decide to develop your own personal variant. This too should be done on a well-informed basis only.

    For more information, see my collection of links about ceremonial magick, including John Dee and the Enochian system.

    I myself have never taken the time to dig deeply into the Enochian system, nor do I have an interest in doing so. Therefore, I don't use Enochian, nor do I use the Enochian keys.

In short, it appears to me that LaVey's rituals were written almost entirely for dramatic effect. It is understandable why a symbolic Satanist would take such an approach to ritual. On the other hand, we, as theistic Satanists, should show respect to our God by paying more attention to the actual meaning of our rituals.

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See also my Comments on Anton LaVey's writings.