40 Facts about the Church of Satan
40 Facts about the Church of Satan

40 Facts about the Church of Satan

Tim Flight - August 29, 2019

Every culture has its devil. The sower of all evil, the father of lies, and enemy of humankind, Satan or whatever name he goes by is a figure to be feared and loathed. But in sunny San Francisco, 1966, the Church of Satan was founded, an organization of people sick of conventional morality and religion, who have ever since worked to promote their dark lord, Satan, and find new members with ironically evangelical fervour. So why was the Church established, what has it been up to, and why would anyone want anything to do with it? Let’s find out!

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Anton LaVey at home, San Francisco, 1960s. Vice

40. The Church of Satan was founded by the ‘Black Pope’, Anton Szandor LaVey

Howard Stanton Levey was a relatively normal kid. Born in Chicago, Illinois, on April, 11, 1930, Levey moved with his family to California at a young age. Maybe you went to school with someone just like him: he loathed sports but loved horror movies and science fiction novels. What made him rather unique was his interest in occult lore and strange beliefs at a very young age, inspired by his Ukrainian grandmother’s tales. After learning all he could about the occult and related branches of science, the name ‘Howard’ simply wasn’t evil enough, and Anton Szandor LaVey was born.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
A very early picture of Anton LaVey, either late 1950s or early 1960s. Church of Satan Archive

39. It all started with LaVey’s weird lectures on hypnotism and arcane lore

In the 1950s, LaVey worked as a freelance ghostbuster, checking out ‘nut calls’ sent his way by his friends on the police force, which supplemented his income as a hypnotist and virtuoso organist at certain bars and strip clubs in San Francisco. Unsurprisingly, he became a local celebrity, and his mystical reputation attracted others interested in bizarre lore and occult theology. From these would-be acolytes, LaVey selected a ‘Black Circle’ to whom he delivered weekly lectures on his research. Preparing the lectures made LaVey reassess all he had discovered, and soon an idea began to take root in his mind…

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Walpurgisnacht has long been associated with witches, such as these depicted at a sabbath by Francisco Goya, Madrid, 1798. Wikimedia Commons

38. The Church was founded on Walpurgisnacht in 1966

Having found a ‘tenebrous conceptual tapestry’ from his idiosyncratic research into the occult, philosophy, theology, and psychology, LaVey decided that a new religion was the best way to express his ideas, and that Satan would be the figurehead. So what better time to officially found the newly-dubbed Church of Satan than Walpurgisnacht (April, 30)? Although Walpurgisnacht commemorates Saint Walpurga, an 8th-century abbess who was protection against witchcraft (and whooping cough), her feast day was thought to be a time when devils, witches, and evil spirits were abroad. In Germany, Walpurgisnacht is also called Hexennacht, or simply ‘witches’ night’.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Gustave Doré’s engraving of Satan from Dante Alighieri, Inferno, France, 1857. Alpha Coders

37. The Church measures time in anno Satanas, not anno Domini

The Church of Satan measures time from this fateful night in 1966, which they call Year One AS, or anno Satanas. This seems needlessly confusing on first glance, but there was good reason for re-jigging the common system of calculating the year. AD or anno Domini, means ‘year of the Lord’, and is calculated from the date of the birth of Jesus Christ. AD was invented by the monk Dionysius Exiguus in 525, and so whilst it’s a pain in the ass, it makes sense for the Church of Satan to avoid a dating system that commemorates its greatest enemy.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
To members of the Church of Satan, this is about as real as Satan will ever be: Dave Grohl dressed as the devil in the 2006 film, The Pick of Destiny. All Things Loud

36. The Church of Satan is an atheistic belief system, paradoxically

You read that right. The Church of Satan no more believes in a bipedal goat-man than it does a bearded deity sitting on a cloud. ‘Man has always created his gods, rather than his gods creating him‘, writes LaVey in the Satanic Bible. Satan is essentially a mascot or logo for LaVey’s belief system, which is best defined as rationalist-materialist philosophy, and centers on self-indulgence and selfishness. For the Church of Satan, the here-and-now is all we’ve got, and so we need to make the best of it. ‘YOLO with lots of goats and stage magic’, if you will.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
The Temptation of Christ by Juan de Flandes, Castille, 1500-04. Wikimedia Commons

35. The belief system, in simple terms, is a direct opposition to everything preached by Christianity

The reason Satan is the figurehead for LaVey’s followers is that he represents the opposite of Christian morality, which runs against LaVey’s belief in self-indulgence. The name ‘Satan’ after all comes from the Hebrew Ha-Satan (‘the adversary’). As illustration, here are a few of The Nine Satanic Statements: ‘1. Satan represents indulgence, instead of abstinence!’; ‘8. Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!’ The Church of Satan doesn’t believe in the afterlife, and so is consequently life-affirming (if irresponsible): ‘Life is the great indulgence, death the great abstinence…[so] make the most!’

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
LaVey baptises Zeena, San Francisco, 1967. Art Book

34. The first Satanic Baptism in history was given to LaVey’s daughter, Zeena

A theme you’ll notice as you read on is LaVey’s eye for stagemanship and good publicity. In 1967, he saw an opportunity for good PR by having his daughter Zeena Galatea LaVey, then 3 years old, ‘baptised’ into the Church. The event was widely advertised, and a clip broadcast on Bay Area television on May 23, 1967, drew widespread condemnation. The video shows LaVey in a very silly costume complete with devil horns ringing a bell ‘in nomine Satanas’, while a bored-looking Zeena sits next to a naked woman. Well, they say there’s no such thing as bad publicity…

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Sammy Davis Junior with Anton LaVey, California, 1960s. Cloud Front

33. Sammy Davis Junior was a member

He could sing, dance, do stand-up comedy… and he worshipped Satan. Rat Pack alumnus Sammy Davis Junior (1925-90) met Anton LaVey at a party in 1968. Something of a hedonistic womanizer, it’s perhaps no surprise that Davis Junior and LaVey got on famously. The singer attended Church of Satan orgies, carried a membership card, and was ordained as a ‘Warlock’, a mid-ranking position in the Church. Sammy even reserved seats for Church of Satan members at his shows. He later reconverted to Judaism, but in his 1980 memoir revealed that he still had ‘many friends in the Church of Satan’.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Jayne Mansfield with Anton LaVey, California, 1960s. Vanity Fair

32. And so was Jayne Mansfield

Jayne Mansfield (1933-67) was a sex symbol and Golden Globe-winning film star. She may well look like the very opposite of a Satanist, but Mansfield was ordained as a High Priestess after meeting LaVey at the 1966 San Francisco Film Festival, and they have photographed dining together and, comically, next to a heart-shaped swimming pool at Mansfield’s ‘pink palace’ home. Rumors spread that they were romantically involved, in what may have been a mutually-agreeable publicity stunt for the fledgling Church and an actress whose career was waning. Mansfield’s tragic death has even been blamed on a curse from LaVey…

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Theatrical poster for the 1975 movie, The Devil’s Rain, in which LaVey acted. IMDB

31. LaVey also found work as an actor and technical advisor on Satanic movies

As a notorious man experienced in show business (if only the seedier end of bars and strip clubs) with a near-unrivaled knowledge of esoteric lore, it’s no surprise that LaVey won roles in several movies. The 1969 short film, Invocation of My Demon Brother, directed by Kenneth Anger and with a score written by none other than Mick Jagger, had LaVey credited as Satan. In 1975, he was hired as a technical advisor on The Devil’s Rain, the movie that launched the career of John Travolta, and appeared as the High Priest of the Church of Satan (damn typecasting!).

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Magus Peter H. Gilmore, the current High Priest, conducts mass in clerical garb. Idealist Magazine

30. Despite not believing in God or Satan, perverse religious imagery was still important to the Church

Working as a paranormal investigator, LaVey found his rational explanations for seemingly-supernatural occurrences did not sit well with complainants who naturally wanted an exotic explanation for the most prosaic events. Allied to his research into the psychology of religion, LaVey realized that ‘man needs ritual and dogma’, and so incorporated the most recognizable depiction of Satan and pseudo-religious mumbo jumbo into his atheistic organization to attract and maintain members. This all makes sense, when you think about it: as with any organization, club, or sports team, ritual and symbol give members and fans a sense of belonging.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
A concerned man with a pentagram, NB the wrong way up for Satanism, in a 1995 law enforcement video ‘explaining’ Satanic crime. Vox

29. And, atheist or not, the Church teaches magic…

Here’s another baffling aspect of the Church with a relatively cogent explanation: magic plays an important role in the atheist Church of Satan. LaVey defines magic as ‘the change in situations or events in accordance to one’s will’. Again, this uses weird images and rituals derived from all manner of esoteric lore, but in reality, is a mixture of stage magic and psychology playing upon what is known about the human brain. For example, when performing ‘magic’ to achieve a goal, the ‘magician’ is effectively meditating, and ‘cursing’ someone simply involves exploiting their existing beliefs or subconscious mind.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
A rare first edition of the Satanic Bible from 1969. WorthPoint

28. The Satanic Bible has never been out of print since being published in 1969

After several years of communicating his message through publicity stunts and raging debates with talk-show hosts, LaVey published the core tenets of the Church in 1969 in the form of The Satanic Bible. As you’ve probably gathered, it isn’t a bible in the true sense of being sacred, but instead is made up of essays, mantras, and rituals derived from LaVey’s wide-ranging and occasionally error-strewn research. LaVey’s notoriety and the title made it an instant hit, and to date, it’s been translated into 6 languages, sold a million copies, and gone through 30 editions without going out of print.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Would you want this man to officiate your wedding? Anton LaVey, California, late 1960s. LA Weekly

27. Members even have their own wedding ceremonies

Along with Zeena’s baptism, one of the most controversial early events of the Church of Satan was the Satanic marriage of radical journalist John Raymond and socialite Judith Case on February 1, 1967. The event was filmed for San Francisco television, and photographs appeared across the US media to shock and appall in equal measure, with LaVey once again donning his ridiculous horned cape and the presence of the ubiquitous naked lady (or ‘altar’). Alas, the Church of Satan’s weddings are not recognized legally, and so you have to get married somewhere conventional, too. Probably not a church, mind you.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Anton LaVey with his lion cub, Togare, California, late 1950s-early 1960s. Pinterest

26. Despite his scary image, LaVey was an outspoken animal rights activist

Satanism and witchcraft have long been associated with animal sacrifice in the writings of the Christian church. However, the Church of Satan has always been very pro-animal rights, and LaVey himself was outspoken on the issue. The Seventh Satanic Statement reads: ‘Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his “divine spiritual and intellectual development,” has become the most vicious animal of all!’ LaVey had a pet lion named Togare, and the Church was even filmed conducting a funeral for someone’s pet pussycat in the 1960s. Awww.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
LaVey prepares a Satanic ritual, which of course involves a naked woman, San Francisco, late 1960s. Dangerous Minds

25. They don’t sacrifice animals or children, but Church of Satan members still love a good orgy

Included in the mantra of Satan representing indulgence is the license to indulge yourself sexually. Writing in the sexually-liberated 1960s when ‘Free Love’ was in vogue, it’s perhaps unsurprising that LaVey took this line, though he is careful to circumscribe the term: ‘free love, in the Satanic concept, means exactly that – freedom to either be faithful to one person or to indulge yourself sexually with as many others as you feel is necessary’. Nonetheless, the Church has long been notorious for its orgies which, ironically, recall the alleged encounters of witches with demons in Early Modern witch-hunting manuals.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
The Krampus, a demonic figure from Central European folklore, ruins Christmas for one naughty boy, Germany, early 20th Century. Owlcation

24. The Church of Satan still celebrates Christmas

The Satanic Bible states that Satanism is all about indulgence. So it should come as no surprise that members celebrate Christmas, the only time of the year it is socially acceptable to make an absolute pig out of yourself whilst receiving gifts for simply being alive on December, 25. Of course, there’s a more pretentious explanation than, simply, ‘it’s fun’. ‘The Christians stole this holiday from the pagans—Santa Claus has come to signify indulgence, and he is a combination of Dionysos and Silenus from Roman and Greek myths.’ No wonder ‘Santa’ is an anagram of ‘Satan’.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
The 1980 UK edition of Michelle Remembers, a key text in the unfounded allegations of Satanic ritual abuse that spread across the US in the 1980s. PS Mag

23. Michelle Remembers was a memoir that brought the Church a lot of heat

In 1980, a psychiatrist, Lawrence Pazder, and his patient, Michelle Smith, co-authored the latter’s memoirs of her childhood abuse at the hands of a secret Satanic network in North America which kidnapped children to torture, murder, and rape them in honour of Satan, whom she once saw summoned. Smith attributed these rituals, dating back to 1954, to ‘the Church of Satan’, which of course was neither a theistic organization nor in existence at that date. Michelle Remembers caused a period of paranoia and moral panic, but the ensuing witch hunt was to ruin the lives of more than actual Satanists…

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
People worldwide became so scared of Satanism in the 1980s that headlines like this, from the early part of the decade, were not uncommon. ABC News

22. Unsurprisingly, the Church of Satan was implicated in the broader Satanic Panic of the 1980s

Michelle Remembers caused mass hysteria, and soon the concerned parents and clergy of Middle America were seeing evidence of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) behind every privet hedge. Widespread accusations led to sociologists carrying out an inquiry which found ‘media hype, Christian fundamentalism, [and] mental health’ lay behind the uproar. This didn’t end matters, however, and subsequent investigations from less-qualified individuals found all the evidence needed to launch prosecutions for SRA. In 1985, 20/20 named The Satanic Bible as directly responsible for SRA. Fighting the allegations was Zeena LaVey, who tirelessly pointed out the lack of forensic evidence to an unrepentant audience.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Virginia McMartin, pictured in court c.1984-87, may look like a harmless granny, but in 1983 her life was turned upside down when she was accused of carrying out Satanic rituals on children at her daycare centre. History Collection

21. The Satanic Panic reached its zenith with the McMartin Preschool trial, but this just got the Church of Satan more publicity

The notorious McMartin Preschool case saw innocent daycare staff accused of all manner of atrocities against children, beginning in 1983 with the sodomy of a 2-year-old boy taken to see ‘the goatman’. Hundreds of children were then tricked and cajoled by investigators into testifying they had been subjected to horrific SRA. 7 years and a new record for legal costs later, the case resulted in no convictions. For the Church of Satan, the case was a stroke of incredible luck: mass paranoia and publicity meant that Zeena was all over US national television, defending the Church and providing vital publicity.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Billboard for one of LaVey’s live Satanic rituals, probably California, c.1967. Church of Satan

20. LaVey promoted the Church by staging Satanic rituals at nightclubs involving semi-nude women

‘If all attempts to sell something (be it a product or idea) have failed – sex will always sell it’, notes LaVey in The Satanic Bible. He may well have been remembering the early days of the Church, when he would put on live shows at San Francisco nightclubs involving topless witches and an ‘inquisitor’ in a bikini, which clearly had more to do with attracting men to the Church than any serious Luciferian rite. Such public events were further supplemented by photographs of LaVey and numerous naked women at his home (surrounded, of course, by pentagrams).

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
The Satanic Mass, 1967 vinyl. Bandcamp

19. LaVey also released a self-explanatory recording entitled The Satanic Mass in 1967

LaVey was a lifelong musician and audiophile, and once said that true magic could only be found in music. In 1967, he released The Satanic Mass: Recorded Live at the Church of Satan, which incorporated an entire black mass, excerpts from Zeena’s baptism, selected cuts from the oeuvre of Beethoven and Wagner, and LaVey’s own compositions on the organ. The devil-red vinyl was complete with the Sigil of Baphomet, no doubt making it irresistible to teenagers and inspiring countless rock and metal bands who adopted the symbolism of the Church on their album covers in subsequent years.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
1972 first-edition copy of The Satanic Rituals. Burnside Rare Books

18. The sequel to The Satanic Bible is a mind-boggling mixture of rituals inspired by the Knights Templar and Freemasons

LaVey’s follow-up to The Satanic Bible really began to blur the lines between fantasy and reality. The Satanic Rituals reinterpreted a litany of rituals and magic cut from a number of real religious groups, such as the religion of the Yazidis and the rites of the Freemasons, mingled indiscriminately with the false allegations made against the Knights Templar and the supposed lore of that arch-apocryphal group, the Illuminati. Users of the book are essentially indulging in cosplay, as LaVey made explicit in the introduction when he called all the mysteries of the world, including the book’s rites, ‘fairy tales’.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Anton LaVey and his son, Satan Xerxes, in the mid-1990s. Pinterest

17. LaVey’s son was named Satan Xerxes… seriously

As we’ve already seen in the baptism of Zeena, LaVey was more than willing to use his own children as publicity for the Church. So it should come as no surprise that his son was given the charming name of Satan Xerxes LaVey. Unlike other celebrity children who have jettisoned their preposterous monikers, such as Frank Zappa’s daughter, Moon Unit (now known as plain old ‘Moon’), Satan Xerxes has kept his. Furthermore, whilst Zeena grew tired of the Church of Satan decades ago and became a Buddhist, Satan Xerxes remains a practicing member of the Church, with numerous devilish tattoos.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Theatrical poster for the 1968 movie, Rosemary’s Baby. IMDB

16. Rosemary’s Baby was great publicity for the Church of Satan

LaVey’s fascinating public image and willingness to talk to anyone he deemed able to garner the Church any sort of publicity meant that there was a boom in Satanism in popular culture in the 1960s and ‘70s. Media hysteria about the Church’s activities led to the publication of the bestselling Rosemary’s Baby, a novel about the birth of the Antichrist which became a famous movie. Although both book and film depicted a group of theistic Satanists, quite different from LaVey’s Church, both, in turn, inspired many curious minds to seek out the truth about Satanism in the 21st century.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
The rather conspicuous, and aptly-named, ‘Black House’, the Church of Satan’s original headquarters at 6114 California St, San Francisco. Pinterest

15. The original HQ was known as the Black House because… you guessed it, it was painted black

In 1956, LaVey purchased a Victorian house on California Street, San Francisco. He was attracted to the property because of the numerous secret passageways and doors which dated from its time as a speakeasy during Prohibition, which matched his appreciation of the arcane and dramatic. Still, it wasn’t quite perfect, and so ‘he painted it black, thus creating a haunted intrusion on an otherwise typical block, matching his own unique presence’. The Church of Satan was founded at the so-called ‘Black House‘, which remained its headquarters until LaVey’s death in 1997, thenceforth lying abandoned until it was demolished in 2001.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
A monk and his mistress are punished together, in Southern France, late 13th or early 14th century. History Extra

14. LaVey was partly inspired to found the Church when he saw the same people turn up at his places of work: a church and a strip club

When LaVey was making a living professional musician, his skills on the organ and Wurlitzer were in demand at strip clubs, bars… and churches. Yes, until he founded his infamous, anti-Christian Church, the Black Pope was a church organist. But this was no double life: LaVey soon realized that he was playing to the same audience at both Sunday Mass and the strip clubs he worked at in the evenings. ‘I knew then that the Christian Church thrives on hypocrisy, and that man’s carnal nature will out’, said LaVey. The experience was important to the foundation of his own Church…

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Marilyn Monroe in her iconic white dress during the filming of the Seven Year Itch, New York, 1954. Wikimedia Commons

13. LaVey claims to have had a relationship with Marilyn Monroe, but most people think otherwise

According to legend, LaVey ‘had a brief affair with a then-unknown Marilyn Monroe, after accompanying [musically] her “chain-dragging” striptease at the Mayan Burlesque Theatre’, LA. The club’s owner, however, denied that either Monroe or LaVey ever worked for him, and LaVey’s first wife claimed that she forged Monroe’s signature on a calendar previously cited as ‘proof’ for the affair. LaVey was known to be obsessed with her, even being photographed at her grave in 1967. Intriguingly, Jayne Mansfield was a deliberate Monroe-clone, mimicking even her voice and mannerisms, so perhaps LaVey just had to settle for the rip-off version.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
His books split opinion, but we can all agree that his mustache is fantastic: Friedrich Nietzsche, Basel, c.1875. Wikimedia Commons

12. Friedrich Nietzsche was an important influence on the Church

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) remains one of the most controversial philosophers to this day. It was he who uttered those immortal words, ‘God is dead‘, which were but one instance of his stringently anti-Christian stance. Naturally, LaVey was attracted to Nietzsche’s writings, and it was partly from the German philosopher that he got the concept of Christianity enslaving and inhibiting mankind. The inherent elitism of LaVeyan Satanism, which sees members of the Church as greater than others due to their supposed intellectual freedom and powerful selfishness, derives largely from Nietzsche’s characterization of those who embraced his philosophy as ubermensch (‘beyond-man’).

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut album from 1970. Amazon

11. Though rock and metal bands from Black Sabbath onwards associated themselves with Satanism, LaVey actually loathed the genres

LaVey’s influence on 1960s popular culture also extended to music. Many rock bands, such as Black Sabbath (above), adopted creepy symbolism and wrote songs about Satanism to give them a distinctive image and broad appeal to audiences. Most however were not serious about their affiliation with the Dark Lord, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin being a notable exception, and the type of Satanism they claimed to endorse had very little to do with LaVey’s Church beyond aesthetics. Despite the extra publicity these bands brought him, LaVey was outspoken on his dislike of rock music and his preference for classical composers.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Anton LaVey, San Francisco, 1990s. WordPress

10. The Satanic Bible approves of murder… in self-defense

Perhaps the most alarming tenet of the Church of Satan concerns murder. Not ritual murder, of course, but the more practical form of self-defense. ‘If a man smite you on one cheek, SMASH him on the other!; smite him hip and thigh, for self-preservation is the highest law!… eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, aye four-fold, a hundred-fold!’, bellows The Satanic Bible. Despite the schlocky, pseudo-clerical language, this particular tenet is actually in complete harmony with US law, which enshrines the individual’s right to use deadly force in self-defense against the threat of bodily harm or death.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Baphomet, illustrated by Éliphas Lévi, France, 19th century. Ultra Culture

9. The famous pentagram logo depicts Baphomet, who dates back to the Knights Templar

You’re no doubt familiar with the Church’s goat-pentagram logo, known as the Sigil of Baphomet, from high-school exercise books and films, but its history is surprisingly ancient. The word ‘Baphomet’ first appears in a letter from 1098 which (falsely) accuses the Knights Templar of invoking the demon to help them in battle, and worshipping Baphomet was one of the main crimes for which the order was decimated by Pope Clement V in the 14th century. Baphomet took bipedal-goat form in the occultist Éliphas Lévi’s 19th-century illustration, which draws on earlier associations of goats with Satan and the Greek god, Pan.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, surrounded by Oompa-Loompas, in the 1971 film of Roald Dahl’s book. Purple Clover

8. The Church was an early fan of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

It’s clear from this list that LaVey and his followers had an awful lot of fun, whether overindulging themselves or shocking others, but LaVey’s love of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is still odd. Not that anyone needs an excuse to enjoy the wonderful adaptation of Roald Dahl’s fable, but here’s the official Church of Satan line: ‘We prefer films that honestly and critically explore the capacities of human behaviour, regardless of setting… since Satanist’s value justice, Willy Wonka… presents a scenario where everyone gets just desserts, served-up by Gene Wilder as a most engaging devil’. A devilishly-good pun.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
August Derleth, Wisconsin, 1960s. Wikimedia Commons

7. Sci-Fi writers were amongst the earliest members

The Church of Satan’s heady mixture of esoteric mumbo-jumbo, costumes, and symbolism representing to members something completely made-up made it irresistible to writers of film, music, and fiction. From an early stage, the Church has been associated with the world of Sci-Fi and horror fiction. Even before the Church of Satan’s official foundation in 1966, LaVey’s close circle included August Derleth, the first publisher of H.P. Lovecraft who wrote his own contributions to the Cthulu mythos, the prolific horror and Sci-Fi peddler Reginald Bretnor, and Forrest J. Ackerman, who was instrumental in the SF Fandom phenomenon.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
A boy is made to wear a dunce’s cap as a punishment, from The Affectionate Parent’s Gift, London, 1828. Wikimedia Commons

6. The greatest Satanic sin is stupidity

Along with the foundational Nine Satanic Statements in The Satanic Bible, the Church also has a corresponding list of Nine Satanic Sins, with stupidity described as ‘the Cardinal Sin of Satanism’. ‘Ignorance is one thing, but our society thrives increasingly on stupidity. It depends on people going along with whatever they are told. The media promotes a cultivated stupidity as a posture that is not only acceptable but laudable.’ Like many maxims and proverbs, this isn’t very specific, but seems to be a thinly-veiled criticism of mass-market capitalism and the idea of the individual as a consumer.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Anton LaVey and his second wife, Diane, with their pet lion, Togare, California, probably early 1970s. Pinterest

5. All seem a bit theatrical? That’s because LaVey used to be a carnie

Despite his love of reading, LaVey dropped out of high school to join a carnival. He worked variously as a musician, big cat-keeper and performer, and even ‘assisted with the machinations of the spook shows’. It was a formative experience for the young Howard: his musical stage name was ‘the Great Szandor’, he developed a lifelong love of animals and lions specifically, and honed his deep-seated talent for the theatrical. His gifts for self-publicity, moneymaking, and entertainment were all earned from his time as a carnie, and would be vital to the Church’s methodology and success.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
The Torment of St Anthony by Michelangelo, Florence, c.1487-88. Wikimedia Commons

4. A number of demons with crazy names are important to the Church

If you decide to have a browse of The Satanic Bible, here are a few demons who may be unfamiliar. Belial (‘without value’) is a Hebrew Old Testament word describing the wicked but was later adapted to be a name of a demon in Christianity. Leviathan is a sea monster mentioned in the Book of Job who came to be associated with Satan himself in Christian theology, and its name is written in Hebrew around the Sigil of Baphomet. The Bible also has Satan and Lucifer as separate entities, equating to the snake in Eden and the original Fallen Angel, respectively.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
The Sigil of Baphomet, an inverted pentagram with stylised goat-head, the symbol of the Church of Satan. Forces

3. Church of Satan franchises are called grottoes

Painting your house black and inviting the press to film and photograph you performing blasphemous rituals there isn’t a recipe for privacy. LaVey’s persistent self-promotion made it inconvenient to conduct Satanic business at the Black House, which was also far too small to accommodate new members wishing to attend rituals. LaVey thus adopted the ancient system of the Christian Church, doubtless with a wry smile, which saw lesser religious sites, called grottoes, set up in cities across the US, much like the system of cathedral and church. With truly Satanic hypocrisy, LaVey instructed these grottoes to keep a low profile.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Anton Lavey with Marilyn Manson, mid-1990s. The Brag

2. The Church of Satan is responsible for the place of Satanism in popular culture

Although devil worship and Satan himself are ancient concepts, the explosion in Satanic-themed films, music, and fiction in the 1960s and 1970s can all be traced to LaVey’s mass marketing. He was far from original in his choice of imagery, of course, but his confrontational approach to increasing the Church of Satan’s membership meant that the devil was pictured all over the media and his name on the lips of every Christian talk-show host, concerned parent, and minister in the US. Such opposition merely made Satanism cool, popular, and thus a viable commodity to this day.

40 Facts about the Church of Satan
Anton LaVey, Jayne Mansfield… and a Chihuahua, California, 1966-67. UltraSwank

1. Before LaVey, there was no documented instance of Satanism in history

Before LaVey, Satanism was confined to hearsay, slander, and clandestine occult societies operating amongst the bored European aristocracy. Drawing on his time as a carnie, LaVey’s greatest innovation was allowing non-members to witness rituals and rites, albeit adapted from false historic allegations against witches, the Knights Templar, and others, and straightforward fiction such as J.K. Huysmans’s La-Bas alike. For centuries, humanity had been intrigued by shadowy reports of diabolism, and LaVey the arch-huckster and showman saw an irresistible opportunity to capitalize. With the original Church and several copycat organizations still around today, our collective fascination shows no signs of ending.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Anton LaVey Performs Satanic Baptism For His Daughter”

Austen, Jake, “Sammy Devil Jr.” Vice Magazine, May 1, 2008.

Barton, Blanche. The Secret Life of a Satanist: The Authorised Biography of Anton LaVey. London: Mondo, 1992.

Ellis, Bill. Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the Media. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000.

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