An open letter by Diane Vera to GREEN EGG magazine (P.O. Box 1542, Ukiah, CA 95482) Januar

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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 1991). 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. ABOUT ME 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 sources. 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 targets. 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 Initiation. (I’m not sure to what degree this statement reflects official ToS opinion.) 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 this phase. 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 Valerie Voigt. 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 Vance Randolph. 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 witchhunts. 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 Michelet’s account. 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 twilightcrossing-request@toad.com

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