Satanists

A curious girl’s ethnographic quest for stimulation, knowledge and the least common denominator…
(originally published on Austinist.com)

Believe it or not, Satanists are pretty much just like you and me. This is assuming, of course, that you and me wore black trench coats and played with big foam swords in the courtyard outside my college dorm. Which I did not do. But still. There’s more to a person than his or her taste in outerwear or choice of sword construction material. When it comes down to it, the meeting of Satanists, Dark Pagans, Left-Hand-Path Occultists, et al. really wasn’t that different from any other meeting of like-minded individuals that I’ve attended.

In fact, I’m pretty sure a meeting of, say, Promise Keepers, would have frightened me quite a bit more. Or last year’s RNC. Initially, this fearlessness was due in part to the fact that we were meeting in public- in a pizza restaurant- but I quickly learned one thing that’s so darn lovable about Satanists: They don’t care what you believe, and they’re sure as hell (sorry) not going to try to convince you to change. And that, my friends, is refreshing.

This was evident from the get-go as we went around the table introducing ourselves. There was a VampyricOccultist, a Werewolf Order Satanist, a Chaotic Occultist, a handful of Modern Satanists, a general Left-Hand-Path Occultist, an Otherkin, and maybe a Dark Pagan or two. And though I had no idea what any of that meant, I could tell by people’s reactions that it was a pretty diverse crowd. Oh, and there was me. I guess I’d call myself a lapsed Catholic (sorry mom, but it could obviously be worse), but I kept that to myself.

“I’m Wendy,” I said, trying to maintain a friendly yet not overly cheerful expression. No one asked me to elaborate.

The Organizer was really excited to have so many different belief systems represented. He said it led to more interesting discussions, and that dialogue between people with different beliefs is key to intellectual growth. Take that, GOP!

He kicked off the meeting with the old standby, “Does anyone have anything interesting they’d like to share?”

And yes, he said share.

A woman chimed in, “There’s supposed to be a meteor shower this week!”

“Is it the Perseids?” I asked, anxious to participate before things got to the Satanic part. “When’s it happening?”

“It might be the Perseids,” the Vampyric Guy answered. “It’ll be visible on Tuesday, but you might have to drive out of the city a little bit to see anything.”

“Man, did anyone see those pictures of Saturn’s rings this week?” The Organizer asked. “It looked like a meteor crashed straight through them. There were some really cool pictures online.”

“Yeah, a meteor crashed into Jupiter, too,” the Vampyre added.

Alright! This is about to get meaty,
 I thought to myself. Maybe they, like, caused it or something. Some sort of meteor-striking ritual!

I pulled a pen from my purse. It was a Lego pen- with pictures of Legos all over it. Pretty lame for a Satanist meeting, but I was scrambling. I hoped no one would notice.

“This must be a really active time for meteors,” somebody said.

“Yeah. I think it has something to do with the location of the asteroid belt this time of year,” someone else said.

End of conversation. Talk about a letdown.

The waiter came around and asked the Chaotic Occultist if he’d like anything to drink.

“Can I get coffee?”

“Coffee? Well, it might take a few minutes, cause, uh, I’m not sure if we have any made right now. But hang on. I can check and see. It’s no problem to make some. It just might take second or two,” he stumbled.

The waiter was nervous. Not nervous like, I think this guy’s going to make a wrist cuff out of my cat, but nervous in that must-be-politically-correct sort of way. Like, Do I say Satanic-American or will Satanist do? Is it ‘Practicer of Dark Magick’ or ‘Magick-Capable’? How the hell (sorry) do I know if he’s a Dark Pagan or an Otherkin? What was that mnemonic thing? Pentagram tattoo pointing away from the heart means… Dammit, I can’t remember.

“Oh, don’t worry about it. I’ll just take a Coke,” the Occultist told him.

The waiter continued with the order-taking. Here’s a the quick rundown on what Satanists eat (separated by sect, and followed by my cursory understanding of what each believes):

Otherkin: Caesar salad (dressing on the side), Coke; believe they’re non-human creatures (elves, werewolves, angels, demons, etc.)

Church of Satan Member: deep-dish (supreme), Coke; don’t worship a deity (not even Satan); love people they love, destroy their enemies

Modern Satanist: stuffed deep-dish (pepperoni, shared with other Modern Satanist), Coke; Satan isn’t a being, he’s a symbol of man’s true nature; victims (people, animals) are killed symbolically, not actually (yay!)

Vampyric Occultist: deep-dish (cheese), with a beer; I still have no idea, but he seemed like a nice guy

Here Because My Husband is Here: cheese sticks with marinara, Diet Coke; possibly converted for the children

Everyone else: just Coke (though I had prefaced mine with two Bourbon and Cokes prior to arrival); various

Note: I do not claim to fully understand the beliefs or dietary preferences of the aforementioned Left-Hand-Path Occultists.

Following some shameless Satanic leader name-dropping, the discussion turned to astral projection. It involves a sort of psychic teleportation; it’s kind of like lucid dreaming, but you’re actually there. Okay, not actually there, but sort of psychically there. Um, it’s complicated. I went out on a limb and asked if it had anything to do with Remote Viewing, a subject I’d learned about in-depth from listening to Art Bell’s Coast to Coast AM during a period of prolonged insomnia.

Anyway, someone jumped in to clarify.

“Remote Viewing is actually a learned skill involving a set of protocols. It is something that crazy conspiracy theory people are always up-in-arms about,” said The Pot regarding The Kettle. “It doesn’t involve being psychic like astral projection does.”

“Can you please pass the Parmesan?” another Satanist added.

At this point, a debate ensued regarding the nature of ritual and magic. One guy, who I’ll refer to as Scholarly Satanic Man (SSM), said something I wasn’t expecting.

“Most Satanists believe that magic and rituals more or less occur inside people’s heads. The changes that occur are internal. Rituals are symbolic acts. Magic is an internal illusion. You create an internal way of being. It’s not paranormal. It’s real, but it’s inside your head.”

So apparently there wasn’t going to be any hardcore Satan-worshiping at this meeting- not because of the in public thing, but because of the Satan’s just a symbol thing. Who knew?

A Modern Satanist finally brought Anton LaVey into the discussion. “He called things super-normal rather than super-natural,” she said. “Things that seem paranormal are real, but they’re not psychic. They’re just things we can’t explain yet.”

Insert obligatory layman’s psychobabble-esque discussion of String Theory / Wendy staring into the ice cubes in her Coke for awhile.

SSM broke me out of my stupor. “Everything is magic,” he said. “For instance, when you open a door, it’s magic. What are the odds of both you and the door being in the right place at the right time?”

The Chaos Occultist added, “And awareness of one’s actions- being aware that you are opening the door rather than simply opening the door- makes simple actions rituals. The more aware you are, the lower the probability involved. The lower your awareness, the higher the probability.”

Despite the fact that this probability statement seemed to be missing a few key prepositional phrases, it still seemed pretty interesting. Being aware of one’s actions means that one’s actions are more loaded. More purposeful. It’s like physically acting with mental efficiency. And the less mindful you are, if I may borrow a non-Satanic term, the higher the probability of chance coming into play. Or something like that.

“I’m sorry, but the syrup’s run out on the Coke. I can get you a Mountain Dew or something, no charge. Or maybe we can make the coffee now. No charge,” the waiter groveled.

SSM started talking Russian philosophy. “Life is a prison- a layer of systems built upon another layer of systems, and another and another. These systems allow you to function without thinking. It’s like, why do you eat three square meals a day? Why not just eat when you’re hungry?” he asked me. “They wanted to abolish systems- in favor of creating one’s own systems, based on one’s own reality. Eating only when you’re hungry.”

After that, things got a little lighter. There was some trash-talking on the Heaven’s Gate folks, then some commentary on the Brotherhood of the Serpent (those guys can’t prove anything they claim. Lame!!). Someone made an obligatory Sex Magick joke. Everyone laughed. The Organizer asked what sort of music we all liked. Answers ran the gamut from Death Metal and Black Metal all the way to Norwegian Black Metal, Thrash Metal and Neo-classical metal. There was even a vote for Industrial Metal thrown in for good measure.

“You guys doing anything for Samhain?” The Organizer asked. Using context clues, I ferreted out that Samhainis kind of like Halloween. At least I think he was saying Samhain.

“Renaissance Festival could be fun,” someone said. “We could wear our robes and fit right in.” Everyone laughed. I’m not sure why.

“We could hand out candy!” Everyone laughed again. Also kind of not sure why.

“I just want to drink copious amounts of alcohol,” SSM said. Did I mention that this guy was cool?

“Before we go, I wanted to do a little brainstorming about where you guys would like to meet in the future,” The Organizer said. “I, for one, would really like to meet outside. Maybe do a potluck sort of thing?”

“It’d be great to have a bonfire,” someone suggested.

“It’s way too dry for that!” someone else said.

“Maybe if you have a fire pit. You know, with a concrete bottom? That might be a possibility.”

Yes. God forbid the Satanists get in trouble for violating a burn ban.

And with that, the meeting was adjourned.

STATS

Gender:
7 males, 4 females

Fear level regarding possibility of retribution:
below nagging, but above non-existent

Most intriguing Metal sub-genre:
Viking Metal

Group mascot:
pewter dragon statue