An open letter by Diane Vera to GREEN EGG magazine (P.O. Box 1542, Ukiah, CA 95482) Januar
An open letter by Diane Vera to
GREEN EGG magazine (P.O. Box 1542, Ukiah, CA 95482)
January 10, 1992 C.E.
This is in response to Isaac Bonewits’s anti-Satanist article “The
Enemies of Our Enemies” in GREEN EGG # 93 (Litha 1991) and the
ensuing debate in the letters column in GREEN EGG # 94 (Mabon
IF WE DON’T HANG TOGETHER, WE’LL ALL HANG SEPARATELY.
The main problem, it seems, is that many non-Satanist occultists
see Satanists as an embarrassment. In the GREEN EGG #94 Forum,
Tom Williams says: “We don’t want to be associated with
Satanists. We have worked long and hard to erase the Christianimposed stigma of ‘devil worship’ from Paganism.”
I’m reminded of how, around 1970, the National Organization for
Women purged its membership of lesbians on grounds that lesbians
were an embarrasment to feminism. But within a few short years,
NOW realized it was in the interests of feminism to fight for
lesbian rights; that if the fear of being called “lesbians” kept
many women away from becoming feminists, the solution was NOT to
disown lesbians but to fight to make the world safer for all
nonconforming women, including lesbians.
Alas, too many non-Satanist occultists are taking a lot longer to
realize that increased legal protection for Satanists also means
increased legal protection for those who get confused with
Satanists. For neo-Pagans to refuse a political alliance with
Satanists, out of fear of the opinion of our common enemies, is to
be divided and conquered.
It is only within the past year that I finally acknowledged my own
deep attraction to Satanism. But, for various reasons I won’t go
into here, I’m dissatisfied with what I’ve seen so far of presentday Satanism. I am now studying the history of Satanism in an
effort to piece together a religious outlook I can identify with.
To that end, I’ve formed a study group and correspondence network
to research the history and literature of Satanism before 1966 CE.
I’ve studied neo-Paganism on-and-off since 1975. In 1986 I got
actively involved in feminist Goddess religion, with which I still
feel a deep affinity. (I was never into Wicca per se, though my
beliefs were strongly influenced by Wicca.) But then, about a
year ago, I reached the at-first rather reluctant conclusion that
“Satan” is PRESENT-DAY society’s number-one magic(k)al Name of
Power and will always seem more “real” to me than any largelyforgotten pre-Christian Goddess or God.
There IS a kind of FEMALE spiritual energy that feels very real to
me too, but I’m in a state of flux as to how to relate to that
energy. I’ve had my difficulties trying to relate to an
anthropomorphized “Goddess”, or to “The Goddess” as “Mother
Earth”. I still have a great deal of respect for those neo-Pagans
who do relate meaningfully to their deities; and I especially
respect those whose reverence for “Mother Earth” actually
translates into effective activism on Her behalf. But I don’t see
how, for most people, a symbol from OUTSIDE our present-day
culture can possibly have as much emotional force, and thus be as
magic(k)ally effective, as a symbol from within it.
I still find the STUDY of Pagan religion valuable as a means of
putting our own culture’s symbols into a larger perspective.
I was intrigued by Audrey Alexander’s comment on “Niggers of the
New Age” in the GREEN EGG #93 Forum: “I believe that the
Pagan/Wiccan is too close to home for many New Agers”. I’d say
the same is true of neo-Pagan attitudes toward Satanism.
SATANISM AND POLITICS
In the GE #94 Forum, Bonewits says in reply to Aquino, “Internal
documents from the Temple of Set (seen during the flap over
Thorsson’s membership) depict an extremely fascistic
organization”. What does he mean by “an extremely fascistic
organization”? Were these “internal documents” published
anywhere, and if so, where?
ToS is very hierarchical, but not fascistic as far as I can tell,
based on my computer-network correspondence with several Setians.
I’ve also heard that Aquino has written at least one article
criticizing LaVey’s sexism, though I have yet to see the article.
ToS does STUDY Nazi occultism; but this doesn’t mean it approves
of Nazism. Part of the essence of Satanism is a willingness to
seek knowledge from sources that are emotionally off-limits to
other people. But this doesn’t mean one has to agree with those
Satanist fascists do exist, alas. Unlike Aquino, I wouldn’t
presume to say they’re “not Satanists”. I’ll just say that
fascism is inconsistent with Satanism’s usual emphasis on
individuality, and that Satanist fascism is incredibly stupid.
After all, if there ever is a successful neo-fascist movement in
this country, it won’t be led by Satanists; it will be led by
fundamentalist Christians, and guess who will be its very first
Neo-Paganism once had a reputation for being fascist too,
according to an older friend of mine who was into the occult back
in the mid-1960’s. Back then, my friend says, “neo-Pagans” were
“a bunch of British fascists who hung around Stonehenge making a
bloody awful nuisance of themselves”.
Aquino’s definition of Satanism, centering around the idea “that
the individual human consciousness is a free agent apart from the
nonconscious forces on nature” should NOT be taken as a definition
of Satanism in general, but only of ToS’s rather idiosyncratic
variety of Satanism. It does NOT reflect a consensus among
Satanists. Even ToS-style Satanism, however, does not imply a
disrespect for non-human life forms. I’ve corresponded with a
Setian priestess who is a member of Greenpeace. Another Setian
I’ve corresponded with has said,
We, as magicians, have a responsibility to our environment
and the life within it. … Truly, the magician has ALL
when he can successfully relate w/ his environment and the
lifeforms within it on a rational, respectful basis. To do
harm to another creature without sufficient cause (such as
self-defense) is nothing more than stupidity and the working
of an individual who hasn’t reached even the lowest levels of
(I’m not sure to what degree this statement reflects official ToS
To those who have computers, I highly recommend BASE OF SET as a
place to find out what Satanists are like. (BASE OF SET is a new
national echo carried by many of the same bulletin boards that
carry MAGICKNET. In San Francisco it can be reached via ALamut
(415) 431-7541.) Most of the folks there, including the two
above-mentioned Setians (whose handles are “Oz Tech” and “Triple
Six”, respectively), are quite intelligent and not at all nasty to
the occasional FRIENDLY Wiccan who shows up. In fact, BASE OF SET
has a far more tolerant atmosphere than most other occult echoes.
There’s even an evangelical Christian who hangs out on BASE OF
SET, whereas on most other occult echoes he would be told in no
uncertain terms to get lost.
As for Bonewits’s dismissal of Aquino’s “claim that Satanism is
really sophisticated stuff”: Are William Blake and George Bernard
Shaw sophisticated enough for you? See Blake’s “The Marriage of
Heaven and Hell” and Shaw’s plays “Man and Superman” and “The
Devil’s Disciple”. See also Charles Baudelaire’s poem “The
Litanies of Satan”, which has been set to music by Diamonda Galas.
In “On Diabolonian Ethics”, Shaw’s preface to “The Devil’s
Disciple”, Shaw says:
The Diabolonian position is new to the London playgoer of
today, but not to lovers of serious literature. From
Prometheus to the Wagnerian Siegfried, some enemy of the
gods, unterrified champion of those oppressed by them, has
always towered among the heroes of the loftiest poetry.
While Satanism today has a right-wing image (thanks to LaVey), it
seems the authors of 19th-century Satanic literature tended to be
left-wingers, judging by what I’ve read so far. Certainly Shaw
was an ardent socialist.
One thing I do agree with Bonewits on: “The idea that LaVey or
Aquino are the only ones who get to define Satanism, simply
because they bothered to incorporate their churches, is silly and
monotheistic.” This notion I find personally annoying, since I’m
not a member of either organization and have strong disagreements
with both, which I guess makes me a “self-styled Satanist” (ugh!).
Fifteen years ago, Wiccans were into a similarly silly littleempire mentality. Papers like EARTH RELIGION NEWS were full of
squabbles over things like who initiated whom, and whose
initiation was more valid. Hopefully Satanism too can outgrow
SATANISM AND THE HISTORY OF WICCA
In their attempts to dissociate themselves from Satanism, Wiccans
have had to distort their own history. Wicca and Satanism are
distinct religions; but there are intimate historical ties between
the two, as even some Wiccan scholars are finally starting to
admit. See Aidan Kelly’s book CRAFTING THE ART OF MAGIC, pp.2122, 25-26, and 176. Wicca is not “the Old Religion”, though it
does draw inspiration from old religions. Wicca as we now know it
is derived from 19th-century occult philosophy - including
Satanic philosophy, among others - projected onto a nonChristian Goddess and God, plus some de-Christianized Golden Dawn
style ceremonial magick, plus assorted turn-of-the-century British
folklore, more recently re-shaped by neo-Pagan scholarship and by
modern feminist and ecological concerns.
At least several different sides of Wicca’s convoluted family tree
can be traced to 19th-century Satanism, some strands of which had
more in common with present-day Wicca than with present-day
Satanism. For some examples of 19th-century Satanic philosophy
which will sound familiar to most Wiccans, especially feminist
Wiccans, see the book SATANISM AND WITCHCRAFT by the renowned
French historian Jules Michelet (published by Citadel Press).
Michelet’s ideas, as paraphrased by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre
English in their booklet “Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A
History of Women Healers” (Feminist Press, 1973), have provided
much inspiration for today’s women’s health movement. (At least
Ehrenreich and English were honest enough to list Michelet in
their bibliography.) See especially Michelet’s introduction.
Oddly enough, of the many forms of Wicca, the most “Satanic” (in
a 19th-century literary/philosophical sense) is feminist Wicca,
despite its frequent omission of even the “Horned God”. And, as
it turns out, Starhawk was initiated by Victor Anderson, whose
form of witchcraft originally included a form of “literature-based
Satanism” (or at least a religion closely akin to “literaturebased Satanism”); or so says Aidan Kelly based on research by
An unacknowledged Satanic current is still very much a part of
feminist Goddess religion, and is the source of much of its
emotional power. See, for example, Mary Daly’s writings. When it
comes to inverting and parodying Christian symbolism, Daly’s
wordplay does it better than an old-fashioned Black Mass. Daly
also reclaims and venerates almost every demonized female category
conceivable, from Furies to Hags. And let’s not forget the many
feminists who venerate Lilith, a Jewish folkloric near-equivalent
of the Christian Satan. Lilith never made it to the status of a
full-fledged anti-god, but otherwise her myth is almost identical
to the Christian Satan myth: banished for her pride, she became
a dreaded demon and was even blamed for people’s sins, especially
sexual ones. All these parallels to Satanism reflect feminist
Goddess religion’s quintessentially Satanic central theme: selfliberation from a socially-imposed mainstream “spiritual” order.
As for classical nonfeminist Wicca, Kelly says Gerald Gardner drew
some key concepts from the description of Ozark folk witchcraft,
including folk Satanism, in the 1947 book OZARK SUPERSTITION by
Another area of historical overlap between Wicca and Satanism is
Charles G. Leland’s ARADIA: GOSPEL OF THE WITCHES (originally
published 1899), one of Wicca’s main sources of inspiration. The
very first paragraph reads:
DIANA greatly loved her brother LUCIFER, the god of the Sun
and of the Moon, the god of Light, who was so proud of his
beauty, and who for his pride was driven from Paradise.
Wiccans usually argue that “Lucifer” is NOT Satan but is just “the
god of the Sun and of the Moon”. Yet the statement that he was
“driven from Paradise” for his “pride” is clearly a reference to
the Christian Satan myth. ARADIA contains a mix of mythologies.
Wicca’s Satanic ancestry becomes even more evident when you
acknowledge that Aleister Crowley was indeed a Satanist, in
addition to the zillion other things he was into. In the Church
of All Worlds booklet “Witchcraft, Satanism, and Ritual Crime:
Who’s Who and What’s What”, I recall seeing a statement that
Crowley was neither a Satanist nor a Pagan but was just into
Judaeo-Christian ceremonial magick. (I’m unable to find my copy
of the booklet; is my paraphrase accurate?) In fact, Crowley was
very eclectic. Even Golden Dawn ceremonial magick included not
only Qabalah and the medieval Christian grimoires, but also
Egyptian deities, Greek deities, and Yoga. Crowley emphasized the
Egyptian elements and added plenty of other things to the mix,
including Satanic imagery galore (starting with his constant
references to himself as “the Beast 666”). Some will insist that
Crowley’s Satanic symbolism was merely a joke; but Crowley’s basic
worldview was well within the 19th-century Satanic literary
tradition. In ALL the more sophisticated forms of Satanism, the
name “Satan” is understood in an ironic sense.
Aidan Kelly and Doreen Valiente (in her book THE REBIRTH OF
WITCHCRAFT) both admit that many of Gardner’s rituals were based
on Crowley’s writings, though they don’t acknowledge that Crowley
was a Satanist.
Anyhow, quite apart from the historical specifics of how Wicca
developed, let’s remember the source of Wicca’s most basic
terminology and imagery: the reclamation of words like “witch”,
“coven”, and “sabbat”. Wicca’s self-image is based on the records
of witchhunts, re-interpreting the alleged activities of accused
Satanists as the worship of a “Horned God”, as in Margaret
Murray’s theory. Wicca thus makes a new use of the same source
material that Satanists have been using for centuries. The
question to be asked is: Why reconstruct an “Old Religion” this
way, rather than by going back to the records of actual old
religions (as Asatru and neo-Druidism do, for example)? Why do
Wiccans insist on using words like “witch” and “coven” when they
could easily use other, more respectable words? (I’ve actually
heard some Wiccans say that if the word “witch” ever became too
respectable, it would lose some of its power.) And why does Wicca
have more popular appeal than any other form of neo-Paganism? It
has long seemed to Satanists that the basis of Wicca’s appeal lies
in the paradoxical (some would say hypocritical) combination of
Wicca’s Satanic associations and the denial of same. Thus,
Satanists have tended to regard Wicca as a ripoff of Satanism.
As long as I’m correcting inaccuracies in the CAW booklet on
“Witchcraft, Satanism, and Ritual Crime”, here’s another: the
claim that Satanism was invented by 17th-century French nobility.
The Black Mass was performed at least as long ago as the
Renaissance, by Catherine d’Medici, for example. Some scholars
believe the nobility’s Black Mass was a corrupted version of a
similar rite originally practiced by medieval peasants as a
protest against church-state tyranny. Other scholars believe the
peasant Black Mass never occurred; that it was entirely a figment
of the Inquisition’s imagination. But this question is far from
settled. The idea of a medieval peasant Black Mass seems at least
more LIKELY than the idea that the worship of pre-Christian
“Horned Gods” survived uncorrupted until the post-Renaissance
I’m happy to say that Bonewits’s and Williams’s attitude toward
Satanism was NOT shared by 19th-century women’s sufferage leader
Matilda Joslyn Gage, the founder of feminist Goddess religion.
Her book WOMAN, CHURCH, AND STATE contains an enthusiastically
friendly description of the medieval peasant Black Mass, based on
I hope today’s Wiccans and feminist Goddess-worshippers will stop
fearing to recognize that, just as Christianity borrowed heavily
from Greek mystery religion yet is a very different religion from
the Greek mysteries, so too Wicca and feminist Goddess religion
have drawn lots of inspiration from Satanism, though they are very
different religions. Kelly’s honesty is refreshing. If today’s
Satanists are sometimes nasty to Wiccans, well, how would YOU
react to a group of people who went out of their way to deny their
own roots, just so they could disown you?
Diane Vera, co-ordinator
History of Satanism correspondence network
* * * * *
The newly-formed History of Satanism study group and
correspondence network will research the history and literature of
Satanism before 1966 CE (i.e. before the founding of Anton LaVey’s
Church of Satan). Professional scholars and amateurs are both
welcome to participate. For professional scholars, there are
opportunities to do some truly original research.
If interested, please write to Diane Vera as follows:
From a FidoNet board, send matrix mail to
Diane Vera at BaphoNet 1:278/666
or at Utopian Niteline 1:278/769
or post a message on the BASE OF SET or NIGHT SIDE echoes
From UseNet, post a message on Twilight Crossing’s mailing
list. To join the TC mailing list, write to email@example.com
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank