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Public Satanism today

by Diane Vera

Copyright © 2003, 2005 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.

Public Satanism is now in a period of dramatic growth and change. Theistic Satanism is now a much bigger part of the Satanist scene than ever before, especially online. Here's a brief, oversimplified capsule history of public Satanism during the past decade.

Until only very recently, the Church of Satan, founded by Anton LaVey in 1966 C.E., had a big advantage over all other Satanist groups due to the popular notoriety of LaVey and his Satanic Bible. Until several years ago, the Satanic Bible was most Satanists' first introduction to Satanism, simply because it was the only well-known book by a self-described Satanist. But now, thanks to the advent of the Internet, people are more likely to get their first exposure to Satanism via the Internet than via any book. This fact evens the playing field and has allowed public Satanism to grow and diversify quite a bit.

Online Satanism has gone through a few phases.

During most of the 1990's, there were, at any given time, several mutually hostile major public Satanist groups -- primarily the Church of Satan (CoS) and the Temple of Set (ToS), neither of which actually worship Satan as a deity, as we theistic Satanists do. (The ToS is theistic, but considers Satan to be a mere caricature of the Prince of Darkness, of whom the Egyptian god Set is considered to be a much better representation. Thus, ToS members tend to be ambivalent about saying that they "worship Satan," and many will say that they don't.) There was also the Usenet newsgroup alt.satanism, in which members of the rival groups flamed each other. And there was not much else.

For a while in the early-to-mid-1990's, I co-moderated (with Cliff Low of a few email lists on which a variety of different kinds of Satanists did manage to get along and have some interesting discussions. Ours were the only such forums at that time, as far as I am aware. (Someone, correct me if I'm wrong.)

In the early 1990's, the Temple of Set was the dominant group online. This was probably, at least in part, because the CoS had been laying low due to the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scare, whereas the ToS had been catapulted into the limelight via that same scare. (ToS founder Michael Aquino was one of the few actual Satanists to be accused of SRA. The charges against him were later dropped due to lack of evidence.) Also, for whatever reason, the ToS had managed to attract a disproportionately large share of computer-literate people before PC's became as widespread as they are now.

Although ToS was the dominant group, the still-tiny online Satanist scene was already quite diverse. The first two Satanists I met online in 1990 were not members of either the CoS or the ToS. One had incorporated Satan into what otherwise seemed to be fairly standard Hermetic ceremonial magick (he recommended Franz Bardon's books), and the other was Tim Maroney, author of Hekate and the Satanic School (known then as "Twilight Crossing"). For a sampling of some of the other kinds of Satanism that were represented online back then, see my excerpts from the original alt.satanism FAQ. In the offline world too their w

For the most part, we "independent Satanists" got along fine with the ToS members. Unlike many of the CoS members we ran into later, the ToS members didn't run around noisily denouncing other kinds of Satanism. Even alt.satanism was a relatively civil place most of the time before the CoS loyalists started showing up.

Once the SRA scare died down, the CoS went on a campaign to assert its dominance -- indeed, to claim that they, and only they, had the right to define "Satanism." For several years, in the mid-to-late-1990's, they almost succeeded. They dominated the larger online forums and put up oodles of websites.

In the late 1990's, there were only a few short-lived email groups devoted to theistic Satanism or closely related religions such as "Demonolatry."

There are now many more online forums devoted to Satanism, including theistic Satanism. There are over 700 Satanist email groups on Yahoo alone, of which nearly all the most popular groups are theistic or theistic-leaning. There are also more theistic and theistic-leaning Satanist websites than ever before. (See my list of theistic and theistic-friendly Satanist/"LHP" groups and websites).

One organization with a very large presence both online and offline is the First Church of Satan (FCoS), which welcomes Satanists and "dark Pagans" of various kinds, including theistic Satanists. By welcoming such a diverse set of people, the FCoS has greatly helped to diversify the Satanist scene as a whole. Theological and ideological diversity is, in itself, a good thing in my opinion, because only thus can the majority of Satanists truly be encouraged to think for themselves. The FCoS also helped to make more room in the Satanist scene for theistic Satanists, specifically.

The FCoS was founded by John Allee (a.k.a. Lord Egan), who had been a member of LaVey's CoS back in the early 1970's. The FCoS first became prominent around 2000 C.E. or so and has undergone a couple of schisms, out of one of which the Society of the Onyx Star (a "Left Hand Path" group which modeled itself on the Temple of Set) was born. In May 2003 C.E., the FCoS essentially disbanded as an organized group and was rebuilt from scratch with the help of Lillee Allee, a Pagan Witch.

So far, most of the more influential Satanist leaders are people who were, at some point in their lives, active members of either LaVey's Church of Satan or one of its offshoots such as the Temple of Set. There have been a few exceptions, and there will probably be more and more exceptions in the future. I myself have never wanted to join either the CoS or the ToS.

One very large online group founded by a person with no CoS/ToS background at all is the Joy of Satan, whose first Yahoo group was founded in early 2002. The JoS system has many flaws in my opinion, but has nevertheless been in many a landmark in the development of the theistic Satanist scene. (See my page About the Joy of Satan system of respectful demon evocation.) Although even the JoS does borrow some ideas from LaVey's Satanic Bible, it is decidedly non-LaVeyan in its overall outlook.

In late 2002 I began creating the Theistic Satanism forums, a family of Yahoo groups devoted to theistic Satanism in general. My forums welcome theistic Satanists of all law-abiding kinds. Later, in May 2003, I founded the Black Goat Cabal, a networking group bringing together several theistic Satanist groups, so far, and hopefully more in the future. The Black Goat Cabal is an offshoot of the Cathedral of the Black Goat, which was founded in October 2002 C.E. and reorganized in May 2003.

In short, it is now becoming much easier for theistic Satanists to find likeminded people and to ignore those parts of the Satanist scene that we don't like. It's still hard for most Satanists to find likeminded people in their own local area, but at least it has become much easier to find likeminded people on the Internet. And, as the Satanist subculture continues to grow and diversify on the Internet, hopefully it will continue to grow and diversify in real life too.

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