This article is an essay from my final project for my Women in Religion class. I thought I would share it with you here, since school is one of the things that can distract me from writing for my blog!
Satanism is often used as a negative umbrella term for a variety of New Age, neo-Pagan and Wiccan practices. This pejorative use of this term has been perpetuated by many conservative Christian groups. For example, “The Christian Broadcasting Network, led by Pat Robertson, uses the term Wicca and Satanism interchangeably. The Wiccan position is that they do not worship the devil nor do they believe in Hell.” (Anderson, p. 317) Interestingly, Satanists do not worship the devil or believe in Hell either, however the similarities between Wicca and Satanism end there. Wicca being a feminine oriented religion has many feminist adherents. They want to differentiate themselves from the misconception that Wiccans worship the Devil. Some Wiccans are often very critical of Satanism, and the alleged objectification of women that is seen by many feminists in Satanic ritual practice. However, Satanism is a individualistic non-theistic religion, and according to the leaders of the Church of Satan and their founding texts Satanism supports an equal view of both sexes. According, to female Satanists the religion is empowering, holding the self in the highest regard and using ritual to achieve one’s full potential.
The identity of a Satanist, male or female, can be summed up in the self-realization and actualization that is seen in the figure of Satan. To the Satanist, the individual is the supreme deity. High Priestess Peggy Nadramia, expresses this sentiment in her essay, My Dark, Satanic Love, “First, necessarily, I love myself. I am my own God after all, and I put no Gods before me.” (Nadramia) In Satanism, Satan is not a conscious entity worshipped, but the Power within each of us to be tapped at will. By honoring one’s self as their supreme deity, and practicing this intense kind of self-love practitioners are thought to break many of the social constructs formed by living in a Christianized civilization. Satan symbolizes Man living as his prideful and carnal nature dictates, embracing his urges and experiencing the pleasures of life to the fullest. “Identity and stimulation,” according to Blanche Barton (Magistra Templi Rex), “Dr. LaVey has pinpointed these two elements as primary commodities. Satanism provides us with both.” (Barton) Identity is of the utmost importance to the Satanist who is non-theistic. There is no belief in God or the Devil, and therefore no duality between good and evil or female and male. Value of self is determined by individual performance and cultivation of talents. All Satanists are fiercely individualistic including female Satanists. “Satanic women are fierce; fierce defenders of their men, of their children, of their ideas and values.” (Barton)
In Satanism, authority rests with the individual. However, there are titles of High Priest and High Priestess, all practitioners are considered their own Gods making an intermediary unnecessary. Both men and women are members of the Church of Satan, and can hold positions of leadership. All individuals are believed to contain the power capable of changing one’s circumstances, whether spiritual growth through Greater Ritual or material desires through Lesser Rituals. Satanists do not call upon the devil for aid or make pacts with him in the Medieval Christian sense. Ritual is a form of psychological and energetic manipulation using subtle forces, and occult knowledge to aid one in changing their environment. Anton Szandor LaVey the founder of the Church of Satan, in his book, The Compleat Witch gives instructions on Lesser Ritual for doing just that. This book was aimed at his female followers and was published first in 1971. The general intention of the book is to instruct women how to manipulate forces to their own ends. The book states, ” Never forget you are a woman, and the greatest powers you can employ as a witch are totally dependent on your own self-realization that being a woman you are different from a man and that very difference must be exploited.” (LaVey) While this book is meant to be empowering one can’t help but notice a misogynistic tone. This may simply be a result of the time period because many Satanic preliminaries including LaVey had strong opinions of women.
Modern female Satanists have a positive self image and embrace their femininity. Being individualistic they express themselves in a variety of ways. In Satanism the body is important because it is the physical manifestation of the individual. To a Satanist the physical body is the body of their God, themselves. Women are encouraged to honor their bodies, and embrace what makes them different from men. There are some feminists that have a negative idea of the treatment of women within the Church of Satan. For example ritual S&M has been used in satanic gatherings for various reasons, and founder Anton LaVey is photographed in ritual with nude women in submissive positions which suggests their subordinate position. However Satanists maintain that gender equality is part of the apocalyptic vision of Eutopia maintained by Satanists.
It is important to note that there are many Satanic organizations operating independently of the Church of Satan. They may utilize some of the writings of LaVey and other Satanic preliminaries, but they are not an interconnected system of organized Churches. There is also the Satanic Temple, which operates independently of LeVeyan Satanism. The Satanic Temple is involved in various political activism and encourages “benevolence and empathy among all people.” (Mission Statement, TST) Satanism is a diverse religious tradition with many denominations and independent organizations.
Anderson & Dickey Young. Women and Religious Traditions. Oxford University Press. 2003.
Barton, Blanche. Satanic Feminism. The Black Flame. Vol 6.; 1-2. 1997. www.churchofsatan.com/satanic-feminism.php
Satanism on Women. www.encyclopediasatanica.wordpress.com/2013/08/2014satanism-on-women
Nadramia, Peggy. “My Dark Satanic Love.” The Black Flame. Vol 4. Number 3 & 4.
Lavey, Anton Szandor. The Compleat Witch. 1971. Dodd, Mead & Co.