Ah yes, the age-old debate amongst the Pagans rears its head again. The community (for lack of a better term) is again taking up arms, in whatever fragmented and disjointed way it can, against the “You’re a Satanist!” statement made by many a Christian “do-gooder” (in quotes because rarely is there actually a do-gooder in their ranks, but that’s another post). There are three great posts I’ve read on the topic so far and I’ve already had a couple of people ask me to add my voice to the cacophony, so here goes.
Why So Distant?
Pat Mosley makes great points in A Case for Inviting Satan (Back) to Wicca. What we need to be clear about – and what I think I read in Pat’s post – is that early Wicca attempted to distance itself from Satanism for a reason. But is that reason still relevant?
I can’t speak for the 1970’s Wiccans as I wasn’t born until 1977, which means I didn’t come into Wicca until after the attempt to distance Wicca from Satanism. But I can speak for me and my experiences. When I came into Wicca in 1990, my area of the country was just getting over its Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) hysteria. According to some of the local Bible-Belters, D&D was Satanic and led to drug use, dark occult practices, worship of the theistic (Christian) Satan and suicide and murder. Because, let’s face it, teenagers take things way too fucking serious. (Feel my sarcasm? Here’s a link about a 1997 case where rival vampire cults, apparently spawned from a D&D-like game, were fighting between states, one of those states being mine.)
The reason I bring up the D&D hysteria at all is because, in my neck of the woods, D&D and Satanism were linked, if only by the media and law enforcement. Hell, it still is. In the decade of the 1980’s, Wicca distanced itself (again, in my local area) from the public face of the media-sensationalized form of Satanism, not the eccentric, fun-loving, hedonistic sometimes-Chaos-mages of LaVeyan Satanism. However, that point was never made clear by those who were doing the distancing.
I can’t speak for the entire country, but I can say this: in the thick of the Bible Belt, dropping Satan into a Wiccan framework will have horrific consequences. On the whole, my area of the country is still iffy about Wicca. There are still people here who associate anything non-Jesus-central with the Satan of the Bible – they even see the burning of incense to cover the smell of pot as a “dark occult practice,” and they would view my work with Kwan Yin as, “Satanic demon-mongering.” Think Pat-Robertson-on-crack and you’ll get a fairly clear picture of the freak-shows around the ‘hood out here. Inviting Satan into Wicca in these parts would invite the Jesus-freaks of the Bible Belt to start protesting Wicca’s legitimate status as a religion (again). So, for all intents and purposes, in some parts of the country, the reason for the original distancing from media-sensationalized forms of Satanism is definitely a legit reason for the distance.
Construct or Entity?
Let’s take into account, also, Chris’s opposing viewpoint in The Case against the Case for Satan or What Really Underlies the Desire to Include Satan in Wicca and Paganism? I would sum up his main point in this phrase: Satan is just a construct, not an actual entity. The Satan of the modern church is merely an amalgamation of various older deities who didn’t fit the consensus narrative of the Church. Some of them, believe it or not, weren’t even horned gods – they were just hardcore partiers, like Dionysus. (Winebibbers are hell-bound! LOL) But to the Church at the time, during their era of forced mass-conversion, the horned figure appeared to them as most rebellious, most “dark,” and the scariest symbol of all things delicious that the Church believed would do your soul in for good. That particular Satan, in my mind, isn’t part of Paganism because it’s a cobbled-together personality made of older deities that the Church wanted to stamp out. (That was all in an effort to claim the followers of said deities as its own. It’s all about the numbers!) So, to me, that particular form of Satan doesn’t even exist – it’s a figment of the Church’s imagination.
Chris’ point, I think, stated another way, is: if you bring in The Rebeller, you have to bring in the Something To Rebel Against. Otherwise, there’s no point. So if you bring in Satan, the Rebeller, you have to bring in God/Jesus as the Ultimate Figure Against Which to Rebel. Thing is, if we’re talking about a group that literally worships the Great Rebeller & Adversary, that group already exists – they’re called Theistic Satanists.
I have no problem with the figure of Satan as Uplifter of the Downtrodden, Advocate for the Outcast and Assassin of the Establishment. (But then, that’s what Jesus was supposed to be, too, right? What the fuck happened there?) I just don’t see that creation of the Church as a legitimate figure of worship. There again, I’m an animist and believe that spirits are actual beings, as opposed to the subconscious-desires-personified that psychology (and psychological models of magic) would have us believe.
Aren’t Wicca and Satanism Estranged Cousins?
Are they? Because I really have no idea whether Satanism and Wicca are historically related. I know, from what I’ve been told, that Gardner didn’t create the animal we call Wicca in order to rebel against the Church. He was reviving the Craft, and that’s an important distinction.
As Jason Miller brought up, one of the most (arguably) influential books on Wicca was Paul Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft. If you’ve never read it, you owe yourself the pleasure. It was required reading when I trained in the Craft. My personal issue with it at the time was that it’s very in-your-face Reject-Jesus-Now-Or-You’ll-Regret-It kind of material. I see the reasoning of it being that way – it’s an attempt to extricate all that fairy-tale-Jesus-will-rescue-us bullshit you were raised with out of your brain. I get it. Part of the book is devoted to summoning a couple of demons from the Lemegeton (The Lesser Key of Solomon). The Lemegeton is, decidedly, a tome of magic based on Catholic lore and, if you’re summoning demons, you must believe they have a Grand Poobah Demon – or, “the devil.”
In this sense – the one where early books were written for shock value in order to gain press – I guess I can see a relationship between Satanism and Wicca. While Wicca wasn’t founded as a rebellion, it certainly became the ship in which a lot of disillusioned Christians take their first occult cruise.
Perhaps He Hasn’t Gone
In my personal practice, I love the Black Goat, and Mister Splitfoot is entirely welcome at my home. Call it splitting
hares hairs, but truth be told, the constructed Satan that Christians routinely give way too much credit and The Devil are animals of two species. The Black Goat was the Black Goat long before Churchianity decided that He was “undesirable” and “untoward.” Yes, I work with Kwan Yin and Ganesha, neither of whom are dropped into Wiccan ritual. Yes, I perform ritual with my Wiccan Coven honoring an Irish pantheon on the eight Sabbats and our God is not horned (well – He is, just not obviously). I make offerings to Faeries and the Little Folk. And I leave gifts out for The Devil in a very specific spot near my home.
Perhaps this is why the one time (and only one time) I ever did some work with Venus (the planet, not the goddess, per se) the result was so obvious and strong. Lucifer, Venus, the Morning Star, The Devil – in some Trad Craft circles, they be the same. I say that because of this practice: Upon an Uneasy Seat Above Caer Ochren. And because Venus is both the Morning and Evening star – hence, both Lucifer, the male, and Venus, the female – as in Dryghtyn. (“In the name of that Great Ancient Providence, who was, is and ever shall be, male and female, ever-present, all-knowing, all-powerful … “)
So, perhaps, in some indirect, small way, I’ve invited that entity back into my Craft – at least in an older form and not necessarily by the direct name, “Satan.” Or perhaps He never left. More than that, perhaps, by inclusion of the Dryghtyn Prayer in Wiccan gatherings (and much like the Virgin Mary as “Mother of God” and, thus, the Great Mother in another guise), the Black Goat of the Sabbath never really took the vacation we think He did.