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Looking At Satanic Worship, Demons, and Dark Magic Through History and Films

There is always a cause for panic for some when the words “Satanic” or “Devil” worship is uttered—people have gone to jail over such accusations of satanic crimes as recently as the 1990s. The so-called “Satanic Panic” of the eighties and nineties pursued an imaginary evil, yet left so many innocent lives ruined. Unlike the cults that led the victims of Jim Jones, a cult leader who instigated the massacre of Jonestown and inspired movies like Jonestown (2013), the satanic cults that exist in popular culture simply do not exist in real life.

How Devil Worship is Depicted in Popular Culture and Mainstream Media

There’s a lot to say about Satanism versus the ever-so-popular concept of devil worship. The long and tumultuous history of the latter is one based on the religious bias of dominant religions, unfairly painted as being so evil that words “demonic,” or “satanic,” became synonymous with the worst type of evil imaginable. So, where did this image really come from?

Satanic Panic

Unfortunately, the myths that surround Satanism as imagined by Hollywood and religious fear-mongers, continue to be a problem today—these media portrayals are simultaneously entertaining and besmirching, leaving people to accept any negative aspect about topics such as Satanism as truth, without regarding the possibility that much of it could just be associated with teenage rebellion or misunderstood alternative religious beliefs.  During the eighties and early nineties, much like the red scare of the forties and early fifties, Satanists were the hidden boogie-man in everyone’s neighborhood. For many innocent men and women convicted of satanic crimes, it was a literal witch hunt, they became everyone’s favorite scapegoat.

For the people on the accusing end, it’s easy to see how fear and superstition could easily overcome their ability to process things within reason and proceed logically. This widespread panic pit people against each other, because without a designated cult leader, there was a chance anyone you knew might have been a Satanist and no one was above suspicion. The problem with this hypervigilance was that most of the accusations were of child molestation, abuse, and various other obscene activities that were done deliberately involving minors. The made the children who were really suffering, whose validity was already under question, seem like they weren’t genuine cases. Although less frequent now in the United States, especially since Satanism became a federally recognized religion.

The generic reaction to the idea of Satanism, or “devil-worship,” during the time of the Satanic Panic.

Religious Satanism

A considerably newer concept is the formation of Satanism as a recognizable religion. It’s said that modern Satanism was born from the literary movement in the later parts of the 1600s that started with John Milton’s pitiable portrayal of Lucifer, in Paradise Lost (1667). Despite his Puritanical beliefs, he started a new way of characterizing the Devil—a sympathetic one.

Atheistic Satanism

While it may seem like a foreign concept to those not, “in the know,” a larger portion of Satanists don’t actually believe Satan to actually be a god, or entity at all—in fact, he’s more of an idea, or a symbol, one that embodies what they stand for.

LaVeyan Satanism and the Church of Satan

The Sigil of Baphomet
The Sigil of Baphomet

After Anton LaVey established the Church of Satan in 1966, he became known as the “Father of Satanism,” following this, he published The Satanic Bible in 1969. The LaVeyan Satanic theology consisted of teachings that provided a base code of ethics for believers to follow. These teachings promoted undefiled wisdom, which was insistent upon gaining knowledge without bias, indulgence (not compulsion) in things that create happiness, kindness to those who deserve it, a responsibility to the responsible, and an eye for an eye mentality. Things that are shunned, or generally looked down upon are the ideas of abstinence based on guilt, spirituality, unconditional love, pacifism, equality, herd mentality, and scapegoating—which are all ideologies that, according to LaVey deny people of their natural animalistic instincts.

The Satanist, in accordance with LaVeyan theological viewpoints, is a carnal, physical and pragmatic being. Being able to physically enjoy existence with an undiluted view of the worldly truths is promoted as the core values of Satanism, which propagates the naturalistic worldview that sees mankind as animals existing in an amoral universe. After LaVey’s death in 1997, the church was moved to New York and taken over by a new administration; suffice it to say, LaVey’s daughter didn’t appreciate this change and founded the First Satanic Church in honor of her father in 1999 which she continues to run out of San Francisco.

The Satanic Temple
Sigil of the Satanic Temple

The Satanic Temple

Another atheistic institution of Satan is the Satanic Temple—it is more of a political activist organization rather than a religious movement. The focus of their fury lies solely in the waves they can make in the political and social spectrums with special regard to separation of church and removing restrictions on personal freedoms. In such ways, the Satanic Temple serves as a way for followers to rebel against arbitrary authority and social norms. They have made an effort to be a voice for the people and denounce oppressive laws and religious persecutions.

Theistic Satanism

Even though theistic Satanism is the thing that most people actually fear, theistic Satanists make up the smallest number of those who call themselves Satanists at all. Theistic Satanism is what could also be referred to as traditional Satanism, Spiritual Satanism, or “devil worship,” that so many people still fear today. Their beliefs have a Satan-centric view of religion, where Satan is a deity to revere. Most of these traditional Satanists incorporate a belief of magic into their religion, but the main thing that they all have in common is that they consider themselves devotees to Satan.

Luciferianism

Sigil of Lucifer
Sigil of Lucifer

One of the forms of traditional Satanism, is Luciferianism, a belief system that takes aspects of that are most commonly associated with Lucifer and venerate him as a higher being. Although there is little difference between the concepts of Lucifer and Satan, they are not always characterized in the same light—that is to say that Satan is the embodiment of evil in most common characterizations of him, whereas Lucifer is considered the “light-bearer,” or an angel who has fallen from grace. Within Luciferianism, there are those who venerate one concept or the other, but not both simultaneously. The tradition most typically reveres Lucifer not as the devil he’s depicted to be, but as a being who will liberate and guide his followers, replacing the Christian God, or “true god,” with Lucifer being the good guy in the story that traditional Christians adhere to.

Order of Nine Angles

Sigil of the Order of the Nine Angles
Sigil of the Order of the Nine Angles

Based in the United Kingdom, with associated organizations in other parts of the world, the Order of the Nine Angles claims to have been established in the 1960s. It wasn’t until the 1980s when the Order gained public recognition; the political activism and ideologies that it showcased to the world during this time had a huge neo-Nazi affiliation. The Order of Nine Angles describes its approach to religion as traditional Satanism, but academics have been known to associate it more with hermetic and pagan practices.

The Order established advocacy for a spiritual path in which the practitioner is required to break any and all societal taboos. They are encouraged to isolate themselves from society, commit crimes, embracing political extremism and violence, as well as carry out acts of human sacrifice. For these reasons, this branch of Satanism has been described as being the most extreme and dangerous group, under the theistic Satanism umbrella, in the world. So when people immediately jump to “devil-worship,” it is likely that they are considering the Order of Nine Angles without even realizing it; as the least popular sect of Satanism to be a part of, it is the most popular when referencing in popular culture.

Temple of Set                                                 

Inverted Pentacle
Inverted Pentacle

Established in 1975, The Temple of Set inspired a new religious movement—the practitioners of which consider themselves Sethians. Scholars and practitioners alike condemn the idea of Sethianism being likened to Satanism, as they argue it is actually a form of Gnosticism. In 1975, when the religion was first founded, Michael Aquino, a high-ranking member of the Church of Satan, was entirely unsatisfied with the direction in which LaVey was moving the Church in. According to claims from Aquino, he resigned his position with the Church of Satan and embarked upon his own religious path. While doing some soul searching, he believed that Satan revealed his true name to be that of the Ancient Egyptian deity, Set.

Sethians believe that Set is the one true God, who bestowed upon humanity the ability to gain knowledge. This is a familiar concept that is known in Christian texts when Lucifer presented himself as a serpent and tempted Eve with the apple from the Tree of Knowledge when Eve gave in to temptation, she gave humanity free will. Unlike other theistic Satanic organizations, despite being considered a god, Set is to be emulated, but not worshipped or venerated. This is one of many religions that do not condemn the idea of self-deification or worshipping the self. Another magic practicing religion, Sethians believe that through ritual black magic that the world around the practitioner can be manipulated for their own benefit.

Instead of emphasizing the negative aspects of the encounter with Lucifer in the Garden of Eden, toting it as human weakness, it promotes the encounter as “divine fullness,” stating that Eve is to be praised for tossing away blissful ignorance and stepping towards independence and freedom. The snake in the Garden of Eden is therefore considered a heroic figure in its own right, instead of the vilified proto-Satan who is the adversary of humanity. In the opinion of practicing Sethians, eating the fruit of knowledge was the first act of human salvation from the cruel and oppressive powers of the Christian god.

Dark Magic: Is it Always Satanic in Nature?

This is a fairly difficult question to answer, because the short and straight-forward answer is a definitive, “no.” That’s hardly a full answer though, but considering the complexity of dark magic, the people who use it, and the debate about whether dark magic actually exists creates an almost impossible task of alleviating the fears of this question. So, let’s start with the fact that not all practitioners of magic and witchcraft actually believe that magic can be, “dark,” because this implies that the magic itself is evil.

Ritualistic Offering
Photography by Freestocks.org

Most practitioners take a modern-day approach to the concept of magic, is that it is truly just natural energy that practitioners of magic manipulate to change the world around them. These practitioners also take into consideration the volatile nature of the human condition, this means that while magic is a neutral energy, human beings are varying levels of good or bad—this is how there can be benevolent, charitable people like Mother Teresa, as well as serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer.

Practitioners who thrive on what people consider, “dark magic,” typically refer to what they practice as baneful magic or magic that has ill consequences for the person they may be targeting. Baneful magic is not a practice that is only embraced by Satanic occultists, it is something that is practiced by voodouisants, hoodoos, conjurers, rootworkers, chaos magicians, grey witches, and more. In fact, there is a common saying within the witchcraft community, “a witch that cannot hex, cannot heal,” which always instigates a passionate debate that typically ends with frustration or fury. The fact that baneful magic is practiced by all types of practitioners, means that demons are not just a part of the Christian or Satanist belief systems; demons exist in so many different cultures, so the practice of demonic magic, often referred to as demonology.

American Horror Story: Apocalypse
American Horror Story: Apocalypse (2011 – )

The Roles that Demons Play

When we see demonic magic in action on the big screen, it’s always regarding some terrible sacrifice that requires the blood of the innocent to be spilled, perhaps dominion over the demons that are summoned, subservience to the demons that are summoned, or world-ending scenarios. Demons are as diverse as can possibly be imagined, some can be friendly, although it’s not wise to ever consider them compassionate or generous; they’re like your local loan shark, they’ll give you what you want, for a price. Then again, if you’re desperate enough to want to offer something up to a demon for personal gain, then you might not actually be too worried about what that offering might be.

Movies and TV Shows that Stir the Satanic Panic:

While these movies and television shows are a great thrill ride, they don’t exactly portray Satanism in a realistic way; then again, that’s part of what makes it entertainment, isn’t it?

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018 – )

What inspires your fear about devil-worship? Do you enjoy a good demon-driven plot as much as we do? Did we miss an excellent satanic horror movie or television series that you think we should know about? Tell us your thoughts below!

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Horror Mystery and Lore

Lovecraft and His Creations

H.P. Lovecraft was a creator of torturous terrors that realized his talents of dark, serious mythos that he provided to a world that would never truly appreciate his visions until far too long after his passing.

Lovecraft’s Otherworldly Monsters

Cthulhu and R'lyeh
Artwork by BenduKiwi

As we discovered last week H.P. Lovecraft was a creator of some of the most influential horror fiction that is still causing waves today. In fact, in the past decade, there has been a major uptick of people who have found inspiration within the creations that were birthed from his dark creative mind. For those of you who may not be aware, Cthulhu is by far the most well-known of Lovecraft’s monsters and for good reason, The Call of Cthulhu is arguably the story that best serves the terror that he was able to bring into the world. It’s also true that Cthulhu is not the end-all-be-all of Lovecraft’s many monsters, despite serving as the introduction to forgotten races, elder gods, and all types of mind-altering monsters. Lovecraft provided his readers with many delightfully dreadful and detestable demons and beasts.

Shub-Niggurath

Possibly the least referenced Lovecraftian monster or god, Shub-Niggurath is only referenced in passing in stories that Lovecraft wrote under one of his many pseudonyms. He refers to this she-beast as both “the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young,” as well as an “evil cloud-like entity,” which doesn’t exactly paint a clear picture of her as far as her visual form, but it certainly leaves us with an impressively terrifying feeling of awe.

Nyarlathotep

Unlike most of the gods of Lovecraft’s godly creations, Nyarlathotep doesn’t live in cosmic exile, nor has it made its home within the dreams and more often nightmares of humans, or the other intangible and non-physical places that Lovecraft’s gods tend to inhabit. Instead, Nyarlathotep often walks to realms of Earth in one of his many different guises, the most famous is that of an Egyptian Pharaoh. Nyarlathotep’s true form is possibly one of the most obscure things that could be imagined and just like many of Lovecraft’s other creations, there are vasts numbers of tentacles and of course leathery batwings that are thrown into the mix.

Mi-go

Mi-go are not gods, like most of Lovecraft’s other monsters, nor are Mi-go god-like entities. The Migo-go are actually simply aliens, but in the most alien way imaginable; the Mi-go are made of substances that could never be conceived of upon Earth and are best visualized as a cross between a fungus and a lobster, with bat-like wings that allow them to fly from one planet to another. The Mi-go revere Nyarlathotep and Shub-Niggurath and are vicious and vile creatures that waged a massive war against the Elder Things eons before humans ever walked the face of the Earth.

Ghast

The humanoid Ghast is not exactly the first monster that people conjure when they think of one of Lovecraft’s monsters, which is a shame since Lovecraft gave us a huge collection of awful beasts to choose from. The Ghast has no nose or forehead but boasts a pair of kangaroo legs with hooves, with which they hop around and scoop up all of the delicious Gugs they can eat.

Gug

Banished to the underworld for appalling offenses done against the Great Ones, these giant monsters live in huge towers in their underworld home. Their arms split into multiple forearms with massive talons and razor-sharp tooth-filled mouths that open vertically. Despite this terrifying description of these horrible monsters, they’re still Ghast food.

Brown Jenkin

Within the tale of The Dreams in the Witch House, we see the character Keziah Mason, an old witch who was subjected to the Salem Witch Trials. Mason’s familiar, Brown Jenkin is a hairy, rattish creature with hands and a face that are eerily human in nature. Brown Jenkin fed on the blood of Mason and some readers speculated Jenkin’s mother was Mason who had been impregnated by Nyarlathotep, in which case, I would like to be a fly on the wall of those family reunions.

Elder Things

Creators of the monstrous Shoggoth race, the Elder Things aren’t actually all that evil–in consideration of some of the other monsters present in the Lovecraftian universe–despite the fact that just laying eyes upon their starfish-plant hybrid alien forms will drive the viewer to madness. Just like the Mi-go, the Elder Things are actually aliens who built colossal cities and societies that predated all human civilizations; the Elder Things had a history of chaos and war between the Mi-go and the Great Race of Yith.

Shoggoth

Despite not being entirely evil, the Elder Things did create the Shoggoth as a race of slaves, hypnotizing them to build their massive underwater societies. The Shoggoth, a race of huge amorphous blobs of protoplasmic slime really just looked like a big pile of eyeballs, but are surprisingly strong and can form their blobby, slimy bodies into whatever limbs they require for any given task. The hypnotism didn’t last for long though, as they threw off the bonds of slavery and developed consciousness in order to turn against their masters.

Dagon

A story that is named after the Caananite fish-god, Dagon, Lovecraft’s Dagon was one of the first stories that he created as an adult. It was the predecessor for some of the most popular fiction he created. Dagon started the idea that gods, as known by human beings, were actually malevolent extraterrestrial or extraplanar entities. The creature of the Dagon story is a massive fish-like humanoid that crawls out of the ocean and embraces a holy monolith.

The Great Race of Yith

Another great race (quite literally in their name) of aliens created by Lovecraft, the Great Race of Yith is a foe that battles with the Mi-go and the Shoggoths. The Planet Yith was set to be destroyed billions of years ago, but the inhabitants used their psychic powers to install their consciousness into the hardiest race of creatures they could find. So the Great Race of Yith became a four-armed, conical Earth-bound race; one set of arms had claws, the other a set of horns and then their head had eyes, ears, and of course, the Lovecraftian-famous tentacles.

Kassogtha

Kassogtha is one of the lesser-known terrors of Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones, she’s a huge pile of writhing tentacles and is both Cthulhu’s sister and mate. Their female offspring, Nctosa and Nctolhu, were equally terrifying and awful monsters, because how could they not be?

Cthulhu

Finally, we have Cthulhu–the most renowned monster within the Lovecraftian universe–our descriptions of him come from Lovecraft, as well as the artistic renditions of him that have arisen since his creation. He was said to be a mashup of an octopus, a dragon, and humanoid, with a “pulpy, tentacled head surmounted [by] a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings.” Another description of him, also given to us by Lovecraft in The Call of Cthulhu is that he, “represented a monster of a vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind.”

That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die.

H.P. Lovecraft in The Call of Cthulhu

Where Are All of the Lovecraft Movies?

In a world of horror inspired by minds like H.P. Lovecraft, I’m often left wondering where all of the Lovecraft movies are–after all, I’d love to see some of my favorites being reinvented on the big screen, but the truth is the ones that have been created often fly under the radar because of their minuscule budgets and more often than not, dissatisfying results.

It’s important to understand that while we here at Puzzle Box Horror greatly appreciate the body of work that Lovecraft added to the horror genre, we recognize his biases and do not endorse them or agree with them. We were more than ecstatic when we found that there were actually literary responses to these particular issues and hope that such responses continue to appear within the literary community.