Tag Archives: Satanist

Satan Behind Bars in Russia and Libya


Last week, Polish metal band Behemoth was scheduled to play a show in Yekaterinburg, Russia, when they were detained and told they had the wrong visas. After being held by law enforcement overnight, a judge ordered them deported. Although Russian officials haven’t said anything along these lines, many have wondered whether the band’s — and particular frontman Adam “Nergal” Darski’s — affiliations with Satanism could have played a role. After all, Russia adopted blasphemy laws in 2013. And the band, Darski in particular, has run afoul of similar laws in their native country.

After Behemoth returned to Poland, Darski spoke with the Guardian about the experience, as well as his recovery from leukemia and his perspective on Satanic faith. The result is a remarkably warm and moving interview, which can be read in full here.

He said:

“For me personally, I’ve always related to antiheroes,” he says. “In most cases they were scapegoats, martyrs and negative archetypes, tools that were used in order to make other people into slaves. To me, Satan stands for everything that is dear to me. I’ve always been very fond of independence and autonomy and freethinking and freedom and intelligence. Satan has always been a very strong symbol of all those values, so for me it’s very natural to take his side.”

Many things happen under the threat of Satanism and “black magic.” Earlier this month, Ahmed Ghanem, a United Nations official who was acting as an observer at the trial of two of Muammar Gaddafi’s sons, in Tripoli, Libya, was imprisoned for the latter. His captors only explained vaguely:

A source at the prison said Ghanem, an Egyptian, was detained upon arrival to monitor the case on Sunday after written material was found indicating possible “sorcery” or improper communications, and was later released by judicial police. It is unclear if such an offence is recognised under Libyan law.

In many places, holding someone on suspicion of Satanism is often an excuse and a ruse — a way to mess with them for some totally other reason. It’s also a way to make law-enforcement or political officials look like they’re keeping the moral code in order, keeping the people safe from evildoers in the most basic sense. In Behemoth’s case, the situation could have easily turned into Pussy Riot II. Nothing has been reported of Ghanem since his detention, which is worrisome.

As long as Satanism, “black magic,” the occult and other paths remain in relative darkness — and largely misunderstood — some places will continue to be able to get away with these kind of phony detentions. But even in this country, where religious freedom is coded into our Constitution, backlash against Satanism remains a problem. Conversations like Darski’s with the Guardian are happening more often, and will help, but we have a very, very long way to go.

It’s official: heavy metal is a religion in the UK

At least 6,000 people in the UK feel this way. Photo by Flickr user Iain Purdie.

Some of you may recall that last year, amid the 2011 UK census, there was a campaign to get heavy metal listed as a religion. Well, the results are in, and heavy metal definitely made its mark.

According to the Guardian, 6,242 people listed heavy metal as their religion (65 of them were in Norwich, giving it the highest per-capita concentration in the country). That’s more than said they were Satanists (1,893), New Age (650), Baha’i (5,021), Druids (4,189), or Scientologists (2,418) — and only slightly fewer than the number who said they were Rastafarians (7,906). Jedis still have metalheads beat, with some 176,632 adherents (though that number fell significantly from 300,000 in 2001).

Honestly, I’m surprised the number for heavy metal isn’t higher — certainly there are many more fans than that in the UK — but these, presumably, are either those who take the music and culture seriously enough to consider it a faith, or who liked the amusement value of the idea and went with it.

However, if you’re wondering why your teen, or your friend, is so wrapped up in heavy metal — here’s your answer. It’s potent stuff, and it, like any intense music, can make you feel pretty special when you listen to it.

Let’s play “imagine the Aurora killer’s motivations!”

Aurora, Colorado, shooting suspect James Holmes, in a recent mugshot courtesy the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office.

We’ve had the weekend to begin to digest the news of what happened in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater early Friday morning. While officials spent much of the weekend de-activating suspect James Holmes’ booby-trapped apartment — where the most information about Holmes’ life is likely kept — reporters began circulating among his former friends and neighbors, gathering what shreds of information they could about a man who apparently lived little of his life on the Internet and mostly kept his interests and proclivities private.

In the absence of much information, people’s — and pundits’ — imaginations have begun to fill in the details.

For example, Pat Brown, a criminal profiler, speculated on CNN that video games were at the center of Holmes’ murderous outburst:

“He’s probably prepared for this for a long time, just obsessing over it, gathering his weapons,” Brown said on CNN. ”[He] probably spent a lot of time in his apartment, playing one video game after the other—shooting, shooting, shooting—building up his courage and building up the excitement of when it’s going to be real for him. And it’s made his day.”

“This has been something he has really been into. And now we’re going to find, probably on [Facebook] or anybody who knows him will say, ‘Yeah, he did have a lot of interest in that. He was always playing the video games. And I’m not saying video games make you a killer. But if you’re a psychopath, video games help you get in the mode to do the killing.”

Perhaps more innocently, the Los Angeles Times circulated an article in which a childhood friend of Holmes said the suspected shooter enjoyed video games and movies as a teenager. Of course, that’s like saying a teenager enjoyed loud music, Facebook, and sleeping until noon. None of it describes Holmes with any accuracy, and it especially doesn’t say anything about his ability to plan and commit such a horrific crime. However, pundits like Brown, and anyone who believes video games cause violent behavior, will jump on such a line and consider it evidence.

In fact, much research has found no link between mass shootings and video games. Some shooters may play video games, but the one doesn’t cause the other.

There are a couple of reports that Holmes was into role-playing games. Of course, those reports are coming from fishy-looking Web sites that harbor more conspiracy theories (or, er, boxing information) than actual fact-based journalism.

Then come the religious pundits who argue that the shooting was, in fact, motivated by Satan. In the Christian Post, Greg Stier writes that a text-message exchange about the shootings:

… got me thinking about another “Dark Knight” who ruled the heart of a gunman in Aurora last night. It got me thinking about Satan’s role in the Columbine massacre on April 20th, 1999 when he invaded the hearts of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. It got me thinking about Satan and the stranglehold he has in the souls of so many. Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that this dark knight, “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” and he did just that last night. He used the trigger finger of this twisted madman to steal innocence, kill people and destroy hope.

Research has indicated that Eric Harris’ psychopathy and Dylan Klebold’s depression, not Satan, was ultimately behind what happened in Columbine. (Apparently Stier didn’t get that memo.) I can understand the impulse to name the Devil as a scapegoat when we don’t understand why something awful has happened, and I’m thankful that Stier is blaming a mythological figure, rather than real-life Satanists, for what went on in that midnight movie.

As long as we blame forces outside ourselves (and to some extent outside our control), we let go of our power over very real, treatable motivations, such as mental illness in the Columbine case. In other words, it means we not only let the killers off the hook, we let ourselves off the hook for not intervening if someone we love goes off the deep end in a catastrophically violent way. It wasn’t my fault; it wasn’t his fault. It was Satan. It was video games. It was role-playing games.

Speaking of Columbine, Dave Cullen, the author of the definitive book on the shootings, wrote a piece in the New York Times decrying the temptation to jump to conclusions, and we all should heed it:

Over the next several days, you will be hit with all sorts of evidence fragments suggesting one motive or another. Don’t believe any one detail. Mr. Holmes has already been described as a loner. Proceed with caution on that. Nearly every shooter gets tagged with that label, because the public is convinced that that’s the profile, and people barely acquainted with the gunman parrot it back to every journalist they encounter. The Secret Service report determined that it’s usually not true.

Legislator: If prayer bill passes, “[Kids] could say whatever they want. That scares me.”

Opponents of a Florida bill say it would allow kids to deliver “Satanic messages” at school events. Photo by Flickr user allthecolor.

The prayer-in-schools debate has revived in Florida, where a bill that would allow students to deliver “inspirational messages” at school events has passed the house and senate and awaits the vote of Gov. Rick Scott.

According to the Washington Post, Scott “hasn’t promised to sign the bill, but he did say this: ‘I haven’t seen the bill, but I believe in Jesus Christ, and I believe individuals should have a right to say a prayer.'”

However, some have pointed out that the law would permit students to include “Satanic messages” in school alongside those of other faiths. One such detractor was Democratic Rep. Jeff Clemons, who read from the “Aryan Satanic Manifesto.” He then asked Rep. Charles Van Zant, who supports the law, if the passage was inspirational.

“That would be the students’ prerogative because of our constitutional freedom of speech,” Van Zant replied.

The Sunshine Sentinel stated:

While supporters are largely viewed as trying to open up a channel for school prayer, both sides in the debate agree it could also allow messages that include Holocaust denial, racially-charged speeches, uncomfortable beliefs of some fringe religions or endorsements of sex and drugs… If backers of the bill want students to be able to give Christian prayers as an inspirational message, they have to be prepared for Satanic, Muslim and other messages.

“They could say whatever they want,” said Rep. Marty Kiar. “That scares me.”

I’m not sure if this is genuine sentiment, or a last-ditch effort to make this bill fail. In either case, it comes down to a few things: One, some legislators are afraid of the beliefs and statements of people who follow Satanism and other religions they consider “fringe.” (By the way, it’s worth stating that Aryan Satanism is not the only kind — it’s not even the most popular kind.) Two, they’re willing to restrict the free-speech rights of citizens in order to quell this fear, just because the citizens in this case happen to be minors. And three, this is apparently their most potent argument against allowing “inspirational” religious messages in schools.

I’m not a proponent of prayer in school, but for once, I find myself siding with those who are.

What do you think? Would this bill allow Satanist kids to have their say? And would that be a bad thing?

Meet “America’s Favorite Satanist”

America’s Favorite Satanist from Vicki Marquette on Vimeo.

At this point, pretty much everyone has a picture in their head when they hear the word “Satanist.” That picture may come from any number of sources — popular (especially horror) films, novels, the nightly news, local scandals blamed on “Satanic cults,” or even personal contact with practicing Satanists. Some of our mental images might be more accurate, and warmer, than others.

Satanists are still a pretty small religious minority; there are no good numbers on how many there are, between the theistic Satanists, the Church of Satan members, Temple of Set folks, and other groups. That means many people have never met an actual Satanist. If they did, they might be surprised. Pleasantly surprised.

Take Joe Netherworld, featured above. Given his charisma and talents, as well as his willingness to self-publicize, he might not be the most typical Satanist. In some ways, he’s what you might expect, given our cultural stereotypes about Satanists: he likes to wear black and decorate his house with skulls and dark colors. But he’s also warm and personable, and a contributing member of his community. He transformed a much-hated neighborhood crackhouse in Poughkeepsie, New York, into a decorated mansion (and a favorite kid destination on Halloween). He looks out for his neighbors.

Take what one of his neighbors says about him, at the 9:40 mark:

“They’ll say, ‘Oh, who’s he? What’s going on over there? He’s weird.’ Let me tell you, I would put 20 of Joes on every single side of me. Put 20 of Joes around me, I’d be the happiest woman imaginable. I know we’re taken care of.”

This video also lets you get to know some slightly more traditional Satanists, Church of Satan Magus Peter Gilmore and his wife, Magistra Peggy Gilmore — also very down-to-Earth.

The best cure for prejudice and fear is knowledge, and getting to know people who belong to the group you’re uncomfortable with. How does Joe Netherworld change your understanding of what Satanists are like?

Meet Bob Larson: former rocker, practicing exorcist, schoolgirl trainer, evangelist and “occult expert”

Meet Bob Larson, exorcist and “occult expert.”

You may not have heard of Bob Larson yet, but Bob Larson is trying to change that.

A former musician, Larson turned Christian in the 1960s and has been a champion of anti-occult causes ever since. He authored a series of books on the presumed perils of rock and roll and heavy metal music, including such titles as “Rock & Roll: The Devil’s Diversion, “Hippies, Hindus, and Rock & Roll,” “Rock, Practical Help for Those Who Listen to the Words and Don’t like What They Hear,” and “Larson’s Book of Rock,” the latter focused on heavy metal.

He has since gone on to become a radio evangelist with his own show, “Talk Back,” in which (among other things) he told perfectly happy kids that they were going to Hell. He openly debated Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey’s daughter, Zeena LaVey.

In his most recent incarnation, he’s now an exorcist. He trains schoolgirls to perform exorcisms. He has his own “exorcism channel” on YouTube. And he served as a consultant on the new exorcism thriller “The Devil Inside.”

In a bizarre interview with Movieweb.com, Larson styles himself as a serious exorcist — but also talks about his belief that Heath Ledger somehow became possessed while portraying the Joker in the film “Batman Begins.” (Instead of a simpler explanation — such as Larson was unnerved by Ledger’s convincing performance as a deranged comic-book monster.) Then he goes on to assure the interviewer that he really can tell the difference between a possessed person and an actor faking it.

In 1993, Cornerstone magazine debunked Larson’s ministry, revealing how he played up fears related to the Satanic Panic and used his radio show to manipulate people into giving him money.

There are many holes in Larson’s story, but the one most pertinent to our mission here at Backward Messages is that he styles himself as an “occult expert” and is providing people with information under that guise. Bob Larson is an “occult expert” in the same way that late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il was an expert on the culture of the Western world. Larson has not spent much time among occultists attempting to study them neutrally, nor (as far as I know) has he ever practiced the occult, or a minority faith, for himself. He’s an outsider — and an outsider with a bone to pick. It could be said that he’s an expert on the supposed evils of the occult — but that’s not the same thing.

Here’s a question for readers: What makes someone an “expert?” How do you decide whether you can trust someone who calls him- or herself an expert? Does Larson fit your definition?

A sequel to the “Satanic Panic?”

Kids and adults play together at the annual Summerstar pagan festival in Washington State. Photo by Dannelle Meyers Photography.

The people of New Forest, England, recently faced an unlikely scourge: an anonymous “whistleblower” going by the name of “Alice,” who claimed in several online forums that Rosicrucian and Wiccan practitioners in the area were sexually abusing children.

In one such posting, shared on ShameOnYou.mobi, she wrote:

There is the secret Wiccan group in New Forest, England. Praying to “witches” and the devil and worse torturing children for the sake of their sick “religion”. They film and make fotos, which they distribute on the net.

Their leader, a demented Nick ####, called “Your Highness” by the other cult members. He lives in Minstead, preaches in the local church and pretends to be the “good guy” next door. Privately he boasts to be “an important Mason”, “your Highness” and doing incredibly sick stuff to children in his garage. He also abducts children occasionally, in the New Forest area. He abuses the children of his friends, drugging them and scaring them to death, so the children do not confide to anybody.

Other members of that particular paedophile ring are: His entire family. These family members have been abused and introduced into the Wiccan doctrine by Nick #### himself. They now abuse their own children.

“Alice” also turned up in the comments on a GodDiscussion.com post in which theistic Satanist Diane Vera addressed the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s and early 1990s, pointing out that allegations of child abuse by Satanic groups had been entirely debunked. In those comments, and in many other postings, “Alice” identifies specific residents of New Forest and the surrounding areas. Many of her posts have since been removed, likely because her actions could qualify as libel.

This is almost precisely how the first “Satanic Panic” began, in the late 1980s, as locals were accused of sexually abusing children during Satanic and/or Wiccan rituals in UK towns. In all, 52 children were taken from their parents and made wards of the court, while three men faced charges — but police found no evidence of the alleged “Satanic abuse.”

In America, the fires were stoked by books such as Michelle Remembers, written by psychologist Lawrence Pazder about a patient he said suffered from multiple-personality disorder as a result of her abuse experiences. (She later married him.) Those stories were eventually debunked, but not until well after the story had been picked up by the mainstream press, including Oprah, frightening millions. There don’t seem to be any good statistics on how many children were separated from their families — or from preschools they loved — during this period.

It’s true that, as a nation, we know more than we used to about Wiccans and even Satanists than we did in the 1980s. They’ve emerged as a much more everyday and benign presence in society. But fear is not behind us, and the conservative religious movement — embodied in the Evangelical Christian and to some extent the Tea Party movement, is gaining both ground and power in America.

Ultimately, the demonization and criminalization of people who practice alternative faiths, from Wicca to Satanism and everywhere in between, is not over. As long as reporters continue to draw connections between criminal activity and paganism, this can’t end. Facts must supersede fear, and paranoid individuals like “Alice” must be taken for what they are.

Readers, how were your lives affected by the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s and 1990s? Did the stories frighten you? Were you suspected of wrongdoing because of your beliefs or interests? How could we keep it from happening again? Share your stories in the comments.