Inverted Pentacle

Religious Satanism,
Gothic Satanism,
Satanic Dabbling, etc.

What is called Satanism, but shouldn't be:

Most names of religions (like Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, etc.) have well-defined meanings. "Satanism" is an exception. In North America, it has become a general-purpose religious "snarl" word:

Some conservative Christians believe that there are only two supernatural forces in the world: their God and Satan. Some believe If a person does not worship their God and hold their beliefs, then they must be worshiping Satan; they are, by definition, Satanists. Thus all Christian denominations whose beliefs differ significantly from their own, and all other religions, are forms of Satanism. Satanists make up perhaps 95% or more of the world's population. Using this definition, the term "Satanism" loses almost all of its conventional meaning.
Some people feel that all non-Christian religions are forms of Satanism. This would imply that all Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims - in fact at least 75% of the world's population are Satanists.
Others feel that all religions other than the Abramic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are inspired by Satan and are thus a form of Satanism. By this reasoning, about 45% of the people of the world are Satanists.
Still others feel that the major world religions are not Satanism. However, a wide variety of unrelated, benign religions (such as Santeria and other Caribbean religions; New Age; Druidism, Wicca, other Neopagan religions, etc.) are forms of Satanism. So are some non-religious groups and activities like the Occult, astrology, tarot card reading etc. 

Describing Buddhists, Druids, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, New Agers, Santerians, Taoists, Wiccans and other Neopagans, followers of Vodun, etc. as Satanists creates massive confusion. Most do not believe in an all-evil quasi-deity like the Christian and Islamic Satan. 

Such definitions create great confusion, and stir up religious animosity against followers of benign faith traditions. It has been known to trigger lynching, attempted mass murder, fire bombings, shootings, common assaults, etc. We strongly recommend that the terms "Satanist" and "Satanism" be used only to refer to religions that have some direct connection to Satan in some form. That is a Satanist either:

Worships the Christian devil, or 
Worships a precursor to Satan, such as the ancient Egyptian god, Set
Accept Satan as a pre-Christian life-principle concept worth emulating. 

More restricted definitions of the forms of Satanism:

The following are recommended terms and descriptions of four essentially unrelated beliefs and activities that recognize Satan in their belief system:

1. Religious Satanism: This religion recognizes Satan, either as a deity or as a life principle. Followers are usually serious adults, although a few are mature teenagers. Three main traditions exist: the Church of Satan, the Temple of Set and the Church of Satanic Liberation. Other short-lived Satanic groups currently exist and have existed in the recent past. According to Statistic Canada, the 1991 census found only 335 Canadians who identified themselves as Satanists. This would imply that there are about 3,500 Satanists in the U.S. The actual number is probably significantly larger. A US Department of the Army pamphlet #165-13 estimated that there were 10 to 20 thousand members of the Church of Satan in the US during the late 1970's. 1,7 Accurate data for this movement is impossible to estimate, since the largest group (the Church of Satan) does not release its membership totals.

It is important to realize that the Satan that they recognize has few if any points of similarity with the conservative Christian concept of Satan. The Satanists' concept of Satan is pre-Christian, and derived from the Pagan image of power, virility, sexuality and sensuality. To most Satanists, Satan is a force of nature, not a living quasi-deity. Their Satan has nothing to do with Hell, demons, pitchforks, sadistic torture, and profound evil. They have occasionally engaged in a Black Mass for publicity purposes, in which the Roman Catholic Mass is ridiculed. But, otherwise, their rituals have no connection to those of Christianity. Starting in 1980 and continuing until the mid-1990s, there was a widespread belief that Satanists were involved in Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) and killing of innocent infants, children and adults. This belief has faded due to lack of hard evidence. It is a Christian urban legend based on fear.

2. Gothic Satanism: It is an imaginary, profoundly evil religion that was invented during the late Middle Ages by the Christian church. These Satanists were said to ritually kill children, sell their soul to the devil, break crucifixes, conduct black masses, etc. Gothic Satanism has never existed in the past as an organization, and does not exist today, except in the imagination of the public, and in horror movies. 

Gothic Satanism should not be confused with the Goth sub-culture. The latter is a philosophical, musical, cultural group that is unrelated to Satanism.

3. Satanic Dabblers: A syncretistic religion which blends elements taken from Religious Satanism, Gothic Satanism, ceremonial Magic, and any other useful source of ritual that the followers can find. It is typically practiced by rebellious teenagers or young adults -- generally for a short time. They probably number in the tens or hundreds of thousands at any one instant in North America. An exact estimate is impossible to obtain, since they are totally devoid of any central organization. They occasionally engage in minor criminal activities such as vandalizing cemeteries and painting Satanic graffiti on walls. In very rare instances, a few have been known to sacrifice small animals.

4. Other types of Satanism: 

Occasionally, a serial murderer will claim to be a Satanist in order to justify his horrendous activities. This is "the Devil made me do it" defense.  Police investigation reveals that they know little about the religion, and are not really Satanists. 

A small percentage of child molesters will abuse children in a Satanic setting as a means of controlling the victims. The molesters are pretend Satanists; they are simply using the facade of Satanism to further their criminal acts. A government study in England found three such perpetrators.

Some heavy metal rock bands pretend to be associated with Satanism. Their main motivation is to gain notoriety. The suggestion of Satanic involvement increases record sales.

These three quasi-Satanic groups will not be dealt with further in this information sheet.

Beliefs and practices of Religious Satanists:

There are two main Satanic denominations, many smaller traditions, and many solitary practitioners who are unaffiliated with any Satanic organization. They total perhaps 20,000 adult followers in North America. They differ somewhat in beliefs. The following list is valid for most religious Satanic groups:

Satan in his original Pagan forms, or of the ancient Egyptian God Set, is respected, usually as as a principle rather than a deity.
Major emphasis is placed on the power and authority of the individual Satanist, rather than on a god or goddess.
They believe that "no redeemer liveth" - that each person is their own redeemer, fully responsible for their own life.
"Satanism respects and exalts life. Children and animals are the purest expressions of that life force, and as such are held sacred and precious..." 2 Children and animals are not abused or killed.
Those Satanists who believe in Satan or Set as a living entity do not worship or demonstrate their faith in him (as, for example, Christians worship and pray to their God).
They believe that one should live out their lusts and desires, and enthusiastically explore the "seven deadly sins" with other consenting adults.
They follow many beliefs, practices and rules of behavior which are in conflict with traditional Christianity, and essentially all other religions.
Uniqueness and creativity are encouraged.
Many Satanists use as their main symbol the Sigil of Baphomet. It is a goat's head, drawn within an inverted pentacle (5-pointed star with one point downward and two up, enclosed by a circle). Some sources say that it is a registered trademark of the Church of Satan. It is not; it first was used in the 19th century. Members of the Temple of Set use a simple inverted pentagram in a circle.
A second symbol appears above the Nine Satanic Statements in the LaVey's book: The Satanic Bible. It is an infinity sign (a figure 8 on its side). A Roman cross is placed on top with a second, longer cross piece added below the main cross piece. This is not a Satanic symbol. It is an ancient alchemical symbol used to represent brimstone.

Religious Satanism - its supposed origin:

Modern Satanism is generally (though mistakenly) regarded as a creation of Aleister Crowley (1875-1947). Aleister was in fact a very prominent ceremonial magician who based his rituals partly upon Judeo-Christian principles. He was raised in a Plymouth Brethren family, but developed an early dislike of organized conservative Christianity. After university, he joined the Order of the Golden Dawn, which practiced ceremonial magic based on:

the Kaballah (or Cabbalah, Cabala), a Jewish mystical tradition,
Rosicrucianism (a mystical blend of alchemy, Judaism, etc.),
Freemasonry (a men's fraternal organization), and
Theosophy (a Gnostic tradition believing in a common thread that links all religions).

He resigned from the Golden Dawn and later was appointed chief of the British section of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), which blended ceremonial magic, sex Magic and Freemasonry. He later left the OTO and formed a schismatic branch of the order, based on the Law of Thelema. Crowley's story was picked up by two tabloid newspapers, which called him the Wickedest Man in the World and the Great Beast 666 of Revelation. It is from these "yellow press" articles that opponents of Crowley have assembled his present-day reputation. He is alleged to have committed at least one animal sacrifice, experimented with many illegal drugs and engaged in some sexual orgies. It is not known how much of this actually happened, and how much is imaginary -- created to satisfy his insatiable desire for publicity. Nor is it known how much of the time he was serious, and when he was behaving with tongue-in-cheek. Crowley has been accused of many criminal activities; however, he was never arrested, charged, tried or convicted of any crime. His prime aim was to contact his Holy Guardian Angel Aiwaz . The religion The Law of Thelema is largely derived from his work. He is known to have practiced a great deal of consensual sex magic with a single partner in private. His goal was to recapture the ancient pagan and Gnostic Christian mysteries of the Middle and Near East, which, he believed, incorporated sexual activity as part of their religious rituals. He was a prolific writer on Magick, a term that he created. Although he did not consider himself a Satanist, many Satanists have incorporated elements from his writings into their own rituals. Many authors and TV personalities have stated that Crowley was the first Satanist, even though evidence points to the contrary. He passed through a Satanic phase, and did identify his guardian angel with Satan. But a number of literary greats such as Baudelaire, Byron, Shelley, etc. should more properly be regarded as the first Satanists, during the 19th century.

Religious Satanism - its actual Origin:

Religious Satanists existed in the 1950's, both in the United States and the UK. But they were little known to the public. There are many beliefs about the origin of modern Satanism:

It is said to have burst into mass consciousness on Walpurgisnacht, 1966-APR-30, (I Anno Satanas) when Anton Szandor LaVey (1930-1997). created the Church of Satan. 2 Actually, he founded the relation later in that year.
Anton is said to have drawn on his previous experience as a lion tamer and sideshow barker, and on his readings into psychology, Magic etc. There does not seem to be any information confirming his previous jobs.
Anton is said to have been the technical adviser for the movie Rosemary's Baby in 1968. Again, there is no confirmation of this.

He did write a series of books which are essentially the only readily available books on Satanism available in most bookstores.  There have been enormous numbers of books about Satanism written by Fundamentalist or other Evangelical Christians. They are readily available through conservative Christian bookstores. However, they are usually filled with misinformation that is traceable back to the Witch burning times in Europe (circa 1450-1792 CE) rather than from any present or past reality. Another source for their misinformation was the  novel called "Michelle Remembers." This was allegedly a documentary about the sexual and physical abuse of a girl by an underground Satanic group. In reality, the book was a work of fiction. However, it triggered a Satanic Panic in 1980, and helped convince millions of people that Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) was a clear and present danger. It wasn't real then and it is not today. By the year 2001, belief in SRA had died down, largely because of the absence of hard evidence that any such crimes had been committed.

In 1975, one of LaVey's followers, Michael Aquino left the Church after a disagreement, and organized the Temple of Set. 3,9 This form of religious Satanism recognizes a pre-Satanic deity, the Egyptian God Set. It is viewed as an entity which stands separate and apart from the forces of the natural universe. He was typically portrayed as a man with the head of an animal (perhaps a hyena). Set was copied by the Chaldeans who called him Had or Hadit; this later became Shaitan, and still later the Satan of Christianity and Islam.

A number of Satanic periodicals exist. 4,5 Many other Satanic traditions exist - largely in North America and Europe.6

Religious Satanism - today:

Local groups of Satanists may be called grottos, pylons, temples, or by some other name. They correspond to Christian congregations and Wiccan covens. Many Satanists feel that Wiccans are hypocrites, because the latter restrict their work to positive, healing activities. Satanists use Magic and other rituals to benefit themselves and their friends, but also use these same rituals to harm their enemies. Some have incorporated some anti-Wiccan elements in their rituals.

Satanists have been accused of conducting rituals that are specifically aimed at attacking Christian beliefs and practices. Many authors, almost all conservative Christians, have described alleged Satanic rituals in which religious Satanists recite the Lord's Prayer backwards, or desecrate and use the host and wine that they have stolen from a cathedral. This is pure fiction that can be traced back to books written during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance periods.

Satanists tend to be highly critical of all other faiths. They are particularly opposed to Christianity, because of its paramount position in Western society and the historical persecution of Satanists and other religious minorities by Christians. 

Gothic Satanism - Its Origins:

Gothic Satanism was an invention of the Christian Church at the time of the Witch burnings. Christians believe that it existed then and was a great threat to the established order. Many Christians (particularly conservative ones) still believe this today. However, it is an imaginary religion that does not exist in reality.

Throughout the 15th Century, there was a rising hysteria within the Christian Church about the perceived presence of Satan worshipers, who were seen as a dangerous destabilizing influence in society. The Witch burnings (sometimes called the burning times or the female holocaust) began.

Two Dominican priests, Kramer and Sprenger wrote a book circa 1486 The Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches' Hammer) which became the main reference text for the genocide. They wrote that these Gothic Satanists:

are mostly women because they are more impressionable, more perfidious, more carnal, more vengeful, and (intellectually) more like children than are men. God, being male, has mostly preserved men from heresy;
kill, bewitch and induce plagues in animals; stop cows from giving milk;
cause impotence, sterility, abortions and miscarriages;
ride at night on broomsticks to sexual orgies;
drink the blood of unbaptised infants and devour them, or convert them into soup, or bake them in an oven; their bones are made into ritual instruments;
offer their children to demons;
kill or place curses on people by simply looking at them, saying a phrase, causing lightning to strike them, by blowing in their face, pushing pins into a wax doll made in the image of the victim, etc.;
beat, break, stab or step on a crucifix whenever they can.

A second reference text was Guazzo's Compendium Maleficarum, which was written about 1620. He described how Satan worshipers:

ride through the air on the back of a goat or a staff;
anoint themselves with magical oil and fly on their own;
anoint themselves with a cream or make a certain sign, and immediately vanish;
appear to change shape from human to animal and back;
can change people and animals from male to female and back;
swear homage and obedience to Satan, and had their bodies branded with his mark;
rejoice, dance, eat and drink in the presence of Satan who appears at these celebrations in the form of a hideous and deformed black goat;
suffocated, pierced and killed their own infants, cut off their extremities and cooked their trunks.

The inquisitors tortured suspects until they were willing to confess to anything in order to end the pain. So, of course, there is abundant testimony available in the court records as evidence.

The last European victim of the "Burning Times" was burned at the stake in 1792 in Poland. In South America, the Church continued to exterminate heretics by burning them alive, as late as the 1830's.

Near the end of the "Burning Times", the concept of the Black Mass was added to the public's beliefs about Satanists. This was allegedly a parody on the Roman Catholic Mass. Urine and dirty water were substituted for wine; moldy bread or turnips were substituted for the host. The Mass was said in the local language (opposite to the Church's use of Latin). Texts were read backwards. The cross would be spat upon and broken. Infants would be sacrificed. Public beliefs about Gothic Satanism coalesced into a religion that was anti-Christian in every detail. These elements continue to surface today in conservative Christian anti-Satanic and anti-Wiccan hate literature.

Gothic Satanism - Today:

Five centuries years later, many people believe that Gothic Satanists remain a great threat. In the State of Utah, a newspaper poll showed that about 90% of adults believe in the existence of Satanic groups who abuse and kill infants. Satanists are no longer believed to fly through the air on broomsticks or instantaneously vanish. But the baby killing, selling one's soul to Satan, rituals involving a goat, breaking a cross or crucifix, even shape shifting between animal and human has been described by modern Fundamentalist or other Evangelical Christian authors. Many writers and seminar speakers may be completely unaware that most of their source material can be traced back to the texts used by the Renaissance Witch hunters. Outrageous claims have been made of 60,000 ritual killings a year in North America, and of baby breeding prisons where young women are kept continually pregnant so that their infants can be taken and sacrificed. The concept of Gothic Satanism as being thoroughly anti-Christian has remained intact for centuries.

No criminal investigation in the past 300 years is known to have found hard evidence of Satanic Ritual Abuse (with the possible exception of a case in Greece during 1995). However, many Americans and Europeans believe that a highly organized, secret, internationally controlled network of Gothic Satanists exists. Tens of millions of Americans believe that it is a major social threat, even though no physical evidence of its existence has ever been found. Countless law officers have searched for this form of abuse for decades without success. The public's belief in Satanic Ritual Abuse is largely supported by thousands or tens of thousands of adults who have recovered what are believed to be false memories of abuse as a result of Recovered Memory Therapy. A second support for the belief occurred in the 1980's and early 1990's when many court cases were fought over what was believed to be ritual abuse in day care centers, pre-schools, baby-sitting services, church Sunday schools, etc. Young children disclosed stories of horrendous physical and sexual abuse. Much of it was ritual in nature. Hundreds of adults were convicted as perpetrators of MVMO (Multi-Victim, Multi-Offender) child abuse, and given long jail sentences. Research has since shown that the children's memories were probably of events that never happened, but which arose as a result of faulty interview techniques, where repetitive and direct questioning was used.

There are many indicators that Gothic Satanism does not exist:

Essentially all beliefs and practices attributed to Gothic Satanism can be traced to Kramer and Sprenger's book, the Witches Hammer.
Many books which are allegedly written by ex-Satanists have been shown to be frauds.
No book by a Gothic Satanist describing their beliefs and rites, etc. has ever been written. If Gothic Satanists existed in any numbers, such books would exist and be in print.
Baby breeding camps could not be successfully hidden for decades.
Various government studies and many hundreds of police investigations have failed to come up with hard evidence of human sacrifices or other Satanic crimes.

A very small number of individuals have drawn on the vast amount of  anti-Satanic literature written by Christian authors. They have created their own version of Gothic Satanism that does include an inverted Christian cross symbol, black masses, reciting Christian prayers backwards, etc. However, they seem to be isolated followers without any organization. They do not engage in infant abuse, baby killing or any other criminal activities. Theirs is a religion that was inspired by and grew out of Christian hate literature.

Satanic Dabblers:

There are tens or hundreds of thousands of rebellious young people in North America who briefly dabble in a form of Satanism. Their source material is often in the books by LaVey, perhaps supplemented by writings about Gothic Satanism by Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christian authors. Sometimes, they will also include elements from books on ceremonial Magick, Wicca or other Neopagan religions in their practices.

These dabblers are responsible for Satanic graffiti, and (very rarely) animal sacrifices. Some look upon Satanism as a method of rebelling against their parents' beliefs. Fortunately, it is usually a passing fad that they quickly outgrow. Satanic Dabblers have no connection with Religious Satanists. There is of course no connection between the teens and Gothic Satanists, because the latter do not exist.

Books by A.S. LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan:

Dates shown are of the currently-available editions:

"The Satanic Bible," Mass Market Paperback, (1989). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
"The Satanic Rituals," Mass Market Paperback, (1991). Review/order this book
"The Satanic Witch," Feral House, (1989). Review/order this book
"The Devil's Notebook," Feral House, (1992). Review/order this book
"Satan Speaks!", (1998). Review/order this book

Also see the authorized biography of Anton Lavey:

Blanche Barton, "Secret life of a Satanist," Feral House, (1992). Review/order this book


  1. "Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups" Department of the Army, 1978-APR. The section on Satanism is available on line at:
  2. The Church of Satan has an official home page at: They list web sites of Church of Satan Grottos, Satanic artists, musicians, members and publishers.
  3. The Temple of Set is at:
  4. "Not Like Most" is a "publication of Satanism in Action." They follow the traditions of the Church of Satan. See:
  5. "The Black Flame" is published by Satan's Playground Grotto. See:
  6. The First Church of Satan has a web page at:
  7. Home pages of individual Satanic groups (other than the well-established Church of Satan and Temple of Set), appear to have a half-life of about 6 months. It has proven impossible for us to maintain an up-to-date listing. Thus, we refer you to the Yahoo search engine listings:
  8. A FAQ list for the Church of Satan is at:
  9. Balanone, "Balanone's Temple of Set REF document," at:
  10. Legate Dianna Lewinsky has a remarkable site "The Order of Infernal LIght," It features "works of Satanic music and art, artistic expression of all Free Thought and Left-Handed Philosophies." See: 

Related essays on this web site:

The Church of Satan
Religious intolerance directed against Satanists 

Copyright 1997 to 2001 incl. by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2001-JUN-5
Author: B.A. Robinson

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