Church of Satan
In the late 1960s many were dismayed to learn that one
Anton LaVey (1930–1997) of San Francisco, California, had
founded a church dedicated to the worship of the devil. The
media had a field day with the various events following the
founding of the church on April 30, 1966, from LaVey’s holding
a funeral for a young sailor who died at the Treasure Island
Navy Base to his use of a nude woman as an altar for a ‘‘worship’’
service at his home in San Francisco. The house, which
served as headquarters of the church, was painted totally black.
Following actress Jayne Mansfield’s tragic death in a car accident,
it was revealed that she had been associated with the
church, and LaVey reaped the full benefit from his brief appearance
as the devil in the movie version of Rosemary’s Baby.
In 1969 LaVey issued the first of three books, The Satanic
Bible, which presented the basic beliefs and practices of the
church. It was followed by The Compleat Witch (1971) and The
Satanic Rituals (1972). LaVey played on the image of a traditional
Satanist and did little to counter the speculations of an
exploitative press that rarely got beyond the sheer offense of
the church’s name or took time to look into the church’s teachings
or practices. Few understood the appeal of such a church
in a secularized society.
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Unlike traditional Satanism, which operates in a supernatural
world of angels and demons, God and Satan, LaVey’s assertion
of Satanism was initially a statement of disbelief in supernaturalism
altogether. Satan was seen not as the evil opposite
of God, but as a Promethean figure who represented modern
secular man at his best, living in the present with little regard
for the future. Satanic principle asserted that humans were simply
animals who lived a time on earth and should enjoy that
life. They should value indulgence, vital existence, undefiled
wisdom, kindness to the deserving, vengeance, responsibility to
the responsible, and the practice of those ‘‘sins’’ that lead to
mental and physical gratification.
The church’s rituals are designed to lead to members’ acceptance
of a perspective centered on antiestablishmentarianism,
self-assertion, and gratification. The church opposes the
breaking of any laws made for the common good and opposes
the use of drugs, which it sees as perpetuating an escapist view
of reality.
The church celebrates several main holidays. Foremost, in
keeping with the self-assertive perspective, is one’s own birthday.
Next Walpurgisnacht and Halloween, traditional magical
dates on the agricultural calendar, are also celebrated. A form
of baptism includes a ceremony of glorification of the one baptized.
The church uses a form of the Black Mass, traditionally
a reversal of the Roman Catholic Mass.
The church has a policy of enrolling new members with a
lifetime membership; however, active membership is renewed
annually and has never been more than a few thousand. There
are concentrations of members in England, Holland, and Denmark,
and The Satanic Bible has been translated into Danish,
Swedish, and Spanish.
The Church of Satan and its literature has given rise to a variety
of Satanic groups that follow its beliefs and practices but
are administratively separate. The most important group with
roots in the Church of Satan is the Temple of Set, headed by
Michael A. Aquino, which has developed a new theology based
on the identification of the Christian Satan with the ancient
Egyptian god Set.
On the day of Anton LaVey’s death, October 29, 1997, the
church was placed under the control of high priestess, Blanche
Barton. The Church of Satan’s mailing address is PO Box
210666, San Francisco, CA 94121. The church’s official
homepage is httpwww.churchofsatan.com.
Sources
Barton, Blanche. The Church of Satan A History of the World’s
Most Notorious Religion. Los Angeles Feral House, 1992.
———. The Secret Life of a Satanist The Authorized Biography
of Anton LaVey. New York Hell’s Kitchen Productions, 1990.
Church of Satan. httpwww.churchofsatan.com. March 9,
2000.
Harrington, Walt. ‘‘The Devil in Anton LaVey.’’ The Washington
Post Magazine, February 23, 1986, 6–17