In May this year I wrote two articles outlining, in long form and short form respectively, my philosophy of Satanic Paganism. In so doing, I did not set out to examine the historical relationship between Satanism and Paganism as distinct concepts, and on Twitter I promised that I would write about this in its own article. What you’re about to read is exactly that article. I set out here to examine the relationship between Paganism and the various historical representations of Satanism, with of course the aim of supporting the overall project of my Satanic Paganism.
Before we start, I should take the time to note that as a historical treatment this will mean addressing a messy, problematic history fraught with reactionary tendencies. Unfortunately there was a time where folkism was not challenged to the extent that it arguably is now, and the history of occulture is not without the presence of the far-right to some extent or another. As such, going through the history that I mean to explore means exploring a history that includes some truly odious actors who just happen to have made a mark. Another thing worth stressing right away and which will be repeated going forward is that the instances of intersection that I present do not constitute proof that Satanism is itself a form of Paganism. It merely demonstrates the interaction between Satanism and Paganism to the extent that, although they are distinct religious worldviews that can each be defined on their own terms, the two are not as neatly separated as both parties present them to be.
We can start, rather appropriately, with Stanislaw Przybyszewski. Unless we count the “Sathanists”, Przybyszewski is easily the first person to actually refer to himself as a Satanist and espouse Satanism. As I have already established in my commentaries on his essay The Synagogue of Satan (see Part 1 and Part 2), Przybyszewski links his own Satanism to a certain idea of Paganism which he calls “the heathen cult”, which he regards as the original historical phase of Satan’s church. Przybyszewski repeatedly links his Satanism, his Satan, his Witch, and his “sabbat” to themes from pre-Christian religion. Here Satan appears as the gods Thoth, Hecate, and Pan, and through him Apollo and Aphrodite (as well as the Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda for some reason), and is also worshipped as a Phallus. People tasted “the holy joys of Pan” before Christianity arrived, whereupon the temples of the gods were desecrated and their priestesses reviled. The “heathen cult” in Przybyszewski’s narrative is essentially a mixture of polytheistic nature worship and orgiastic libertinism. His pagans lived in and with nature, and the demons dwelled in the forests, grottoes, and caves and gathered worshippers in orgiastic rites. Even as the church came to dominate Europe, the “heathen cult” still lurked beneath the Christian order which gradually conceded to its rites. The Witch, and the demonic femininity that Przybyszewski associates with Satan, descends from a lineage of pre-Christian goddesses and demons, and his “sabbat” is ostensibly a descendant of the orgiastic mysteries of Cybele. Although Przybyszewski never references Dionysus or his mysteries, he does describe the worship reserved for the “Black God” and aspects of the “sabbat” in ways that invoke the Bacchanlias and the classical mysteries of Dionysus.
Moving onto “modern Satanism”, Anton LaVey may have defined his form of Satanism as rather highly distinct from Paganism as we understand it, but he does nonetheless rely on pre-Christian references for his infernal pantheon, and they do sort of figure in his communication of Satanism. The Satanic Bible opens with a declaration of “the gods of the right hand path” bickering with each other becoming devils, while the Norse god Loki “sets Valhalla aflame” with “the searing trident of Inferno” and Lucifer, the spirit of the morning star, proclaims the dawn of the age of Satan. LaVey also appealed to a very flawed etymological argument in which the word “Devil” is purported to come from the Sanksrit word “Devi”, which in fact it doesn’t. Insofar as he held Satan to be the patron of Man’s carnal nature, he said that before the arrival of Christianity this was governed by the gods Dionysus and Pan, from whom the medieval Satan got his appearance. The “Infernal Names” comprises not only Satan and his menageries of devils but also pre-Christian gods and spirits who LaVey sometimes identifies as “devils”. These gods include Cizin (listed as “Ahpuch”), Ba’al-berith, Bastet (listed as “Bast”), Bilé, Chemosh, Dagon, Damballa, Enma-O (listed as “Emma-O”), Fenrir (listed as “Fenriz”), Eurynomos (listed as “Euronymous”, from which we get Mayhem’s Euronymous), Hecate, Ishtar, Kali, Loki, Mania, Mantus, Metztli, Jormungandr (listed as “Midgard”), Mictian, Mormo, Nergal, Nija, Pan, Pluto (but not Hades, apparently), Proserpine, Rimmon, Sabazios, Sekhmet, Set, Shiva, Supay, Tezcatlipoca, Tammuz (listed as “Thamuz”), Typhon, Xipe Totec (listed as “Yaotzin”) and Yama (referred to by his Japanese and Chinese counterparts “O-Yama”, “Emma-O” or “Yen-lo Wang”). These names are meant to be invoked in the course of a Satanic ritual, as though you are calling upon them for your craft, and so in this sense some of the gods theoretically join the LaVeyan Satanist in their praxis, though the LaVeyan rather definitely does not believe in those gods. It should go without saying that this dynamic has noticeable flaws; among them, the rather atrocious idea of listing Native American spirits such as Coyote as “devils”.
The Church of Satan in general tends to reject any and all suggestion of alignment with neo-paganism, on the grounds that Paganism is a “supernatural” religion. Nonetheless, besides invoking many of the same gods they refuse to actually worship into their rituals, the Church of Satan is content to mark the solstices and equinoxes as holidays. As a similarly atheistic Satanic organisation (or at least they avowedly present themselves as Satanists), The Satanic Temple marks not only the solstices and equinoxes but also go much further in appropriating and retooling whole pre-Christian festivities as their own religious holidays. Two in particular are Lupercalia, a Roman festival which TST brands as a “celebration of bodily autonomy, sexual liberation, and reproduction”, and Sol Invictus, named for the Roman god which TST brands as a “Celebration of being unconquered by superstition and consistent in the pursuit and sharing of knowledge” (now if only TST didn’t try suing people for doing the same thing!). While it’s not listed on their holidays page, members and chapters also claim to celebrate Saturnalia, the pre-Christian Roman celebration of the winter solstice. Indeed, The Satanic Temple actually argues that Satanic holidays come from a tradition long-predating TST, seemingly suggesting a claim to some sort of pre-Christian heritage. In TST’s case, this is unfortunately not much more than an act of cultural appropriation, and fitting for TST there are problems with its interpretation.
TST interprets Lupercalia as basically a BDSM sex orgy day built around celebrating bodily autonomy, sexual freedom, asexual awareness, and mock sacrifices. I wish! The actual Lupercalia was a festival dedicated to a sort of orgiastic worship of Pan Lycaeus or Apollo Lycaeus, but this involved the ritual sacrifice of a goat and a dog followed by a sacrificial feast. This was then followed by two young noble males receiving a sword dipped in blood a running around the Palatine in which participants run naked with thongs made from the flayed skins of the sacrificed animals. These thongs were used to whip people, women would sometimes get themselves whipped believe that this would ritually induce fertility, before returning to the Lupercal cave. As kinky as some of this must sound, the actual point was that it was a festival of attrition meant so that the gods would ensure the fertility of crops, and if all didn’t go well famine and disease would follow. As for Sol Invictus, TST interprets Sol Invictus as basically the Roman version of Christmas. This is in some sense the product of a popular myth regarding the origin of Christmas as we know it. As Andrew Mark Henry points out, early Christians landed on December 25th by calculating the date of Jesus’ birth backwards from the supposed date of his crucifixion and death, which was assumed to be March 25th – this, incidentally, was the same day on which pre-Christian Romans celebrated the vernal equinox. Sol Invictus was celebrated on December 25th, but only as far back as the year 354 under the emperor Aurelian, after Christianity had already emerged. Both Christians and Pagans celebrated December 25th because of its broader cosmological significance via the winter solstice, for which they respectively imparted very different religious meanings.
Returning to the subject of the Church of Satan, individual members tend to present their own intersections with modern Paganism. One example is Michael J. Moynihan, who is a musician who founded the neofolk band Blood Axis and otherwise a notable folkist fascist. Moynihan is a member and in fact a Reverend of the Church of Satan, but he has also been consistently affiliated with folkist forms of Heathenry. Since 1994 Moynihan was a member of a folkist Asatru collective called Wulfing Kindred, which was itself affiliated with the Asatru Folk Assembly until 1999, is friends with the AFA’s founder Stephen McNallen and sometimes joined him on stage with his band Changes, and is the editor of a “Radical Traditionalist” journal called Tyr, which is obviously named after the Germanic/Norse god Tyr and, sure enough, argues in defence of pre-modern and specifically pre-Christian societal institutions and a return to pre-Christian (typically Germanic) religion in the context of reactionary traditionalist ideology. One of the other fascists in the Church of Satan, a man named Kenaz Filan, is also a folkist pagan/polytheist who writes books about Paganism (in between grotesquely racist troll-posting, I assume) and has ties to other folkist polytheists such as Galina Krasskova and Raven Kaldera. This, of course, is all different shades of problematic on its own due precisely due to the fascistic folkism of the parties involved. Though, I would insist that this says more about the institutional fascism of the Church of Satan than anything else. Having said that, it’s actually somewhat ironic that the organisation which insists that Pagans, polytheists, or really any theist cannot be Satanists because they claim that Satanism is a strictly atheistic philosophy is nonetheless quite happy to have said people in their ranks as Satanists by virtue of being Church of Satan members. Of course, I assume that the Church of Satan only makes those allowances out of some shared affinity with fascism.
An important examination of the intersections between Satanism and Paganism comes from Between the Devil and the Old Gods: Pagan and Satanic Milieus, an essay written by Ethan Doyle White for the Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review. White argues that both Satanism and Paganism can be regarded as milieus within the broader movement of occulture, occultism, and alternative religion, and which actually intersect with each other rather than existing as completely distinct milieus. To study the extent to which the boundaries between Paganism and Satanism are blurred, White examines Wicca and what he considers to be elements of Satanism within it, as well as the Temple of Set and Order of Nine Angles.
In analysing Wicca, White points out that a few elements that he believes are consistent with Satanism. Perhaps the main such element is the presence of Lucifer, who is traditionally regarded as distinct from Satan but in practice carries in himself aspects of a “satanic” identity. Lucifer is the name that figures like Doreen Valiente and Alexander Sanders profess to be the name of the enigmatic Horned God of Wicca, an association that is likely inherited from Charles Lelands romantic-mythological account of Italian pagan witchcraft. The Horned God is not meant to be identical with the Devil, but the idea of an ancient horned god worshipped by witches dovetails rather nicely with traditional depictions of the Devil. Also noted by White is the inclusion of fallen angels such as Azazel (a.k.a. “Azael”) and Naamah as gods of witchcraft alongside gods like Cernunnos or Habundia in Paul Hason’s Mastering Witchcraft, which, while not really a “Wiccan text”, is part of the background of modern British witchcraft of which Wicca is a part. A much more obscure French sect of Wicca, known as Wicca Francaise (a.k.a. “Wicca International Witchcraft”), is purported to have taken Gerald Gardner’s basic system of Wicca and mixed it up with not only the Lucifer mythos but also a set of rituals that they interpreted as “Anglo-Saxon Satanist” rituals or the supposed “black mass”.
As regards the Temple of Set, there are many elements White considers that are not limited to the central role of the Egyptian god Set. Michael Aquino’s The Book of Coming Forth by Night declares that Set is the “ageless Intelligence of the Universe”, who only allowed himself to be called Satan because it meant that he might be perceived by humans. This premise itself establishes the Temple of Set as a Satanist organization in that it is consciously directed in alignment with an entity that is recognized as Satan by a different name, and indeed they still represented themselves with the inverted pentagram emblematic of Satanism. Indeed, Aquino expressly regarded the identity of Set as a way to fully divorce Satanism from the baggage of Christianity. Predictably, the identity of Set and the links to ancient Egyptian religion, to the point that the title of Aquino’s book is itself a play on the Egyptian “Book of the Dead” (which was also called The Book of Coming Forth by Day), would seem to link it to the context of modern Paganism, though this does not come without explicit boundaries as set by the Temple. That said, some members considered themselves to be practitioners of Satanism that was merely “hued” in the fashion of ancient Egyptian religions, while others earnestly believed that they were practicing the return of an ancient pre-Christian religion, and still others considered the Temple of Set to represent an entirely new vision. Indeed, many Setian Satanists would vehemently reject the label of “Pagan” on the grounds that they see themselves as “consciousness-worshipping”, in the sense of individual self-consciousness, and view Paganism as “nature-worship”, which they reject. While I see no need to label Setian Satanists as Pagans, the point is to explore intersections with Paganism, not outright identification with Paganism.
The connections to pre-Christian polytheism are not merely aesthetic, and can instead be felt in the doctrine and praxis of the Temple of Set. In Aquino’s book Black Magic, which is presented as sort of a manifesto of the Temple’s doctrine, there are several historical discussions ancient Egyptian religion buttressed by references to existing scholarship on Egyptology. Indeed, Black Magic opens with the statement that the Temple of Set is premise upon the apprehension of the “neteru” (or “neter”), which seems be referring to the gods, as well as Set in particular as the principal agent of individual self-consciousness. The Temple of Set is presented as a return to “the original, undistorted apprehension of Set”, which presumably also applies to the neteru as well who Aquino says were active controllers of the universe and present within it. This may also pertain to a supposed original cult of Set, which was then erased by the cult of Osiris that they say prevailed in the Egyptian establishment. Outside of this, White refers to the fact that the Temple of Set also established an inner esoteric order known as the Order of the Trapezoid, which ostensibly focuses itself on Germanic magical tradition. Unfortunately, this Order’s efforts take on a volkisch, indeed rather fascistic, character inherited from Aquino’s fascination with Heinrich Himmler’s Ahnenerbe, which itself was ostensibly obsessed with uncovering ancient Germanic history. It is worth noting that the Ahnenerbe cannot be counted as some link to Paganism, since Himmler expressly stated that you had to believe in God in order to join the SS. The Order of the Trapezoid professes its aim as to “extract the positive, exalted, and Romantic from the Germanic magical tradition” while removing all of the negative aspects linked to Nazism. In essence, it’s an attempt to rehabilitate German volkisch esotericism. Linked to this is a man named Edred Thorsson, otherwise known as Stephen Flowers, who was inspired by the Order’s efforts and joined the Temple of Set while also being a Heathen and active within the Heathen community. When this became public knowledge, other Heathens at the time condemned him for his association with Satanism.
When discussing the Order of Nine Angles, White points out that the writings of the founder David Myatt (or “Anton Long”) suggest the influence of older (presumably long-dead and now obscure if they were real) organisations. One of them, referred to as either “Camlad” or “Rouwyntha”, has been described as an “aural pagan esoteric tradition” supposedly found only in a few parts of England and Wales, specifically remote rural enclaves within Shropshire, Herefordshire, Sir Faesyfed (a.k.a. Radnorshire), and Sir Drefaldwyn (a.k.a. Montgomeryshire). White further points out that O9A writings often posit their brand of Satanism (frequently dubbed “Traditional Satanism”) as being descended from the depths of pre-Christian antiquity, taught for centuries from “Master”/”Mistress” to pupils and springing out from the area around Stonehenge since the year 7,000 BP at the oldest. Ancient stone circles in England were supposed to be aligned with the star Antares, which the O9A presents as being linked to Baphomet, who they present as a violent pre-Christian goddess who was worshipped with human sacrifice. This is then presented as an unbroken tradition whose survival stretched from the Neolithic era into the present, with “Western Civilization” thus containing an inherent “pagan” essence despite being “corrupted” by the “Magian” and “Nazarene” influence of Judaism, Christianity, and really everything that the O9A doesn’t like about modern society. Other conscious derivations from Pagan sources include the frequent use of the word “wyrd”, borrowed from Heathenry, and according to Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke the O9A sometimes emphasizes ceremonies performed during equinoxes or solstices and various practices meant to cultivate a sense of rootedness in “English nature” or “native tradition”, which of course is very obviously suggestive of a particularly folkist interpretation of Paganism. Moreover, as noted by Goodrick-Clarke, there were several spin-off groups scattered in “the West” that sought to combine O9A doctrine with existing neopagan movements such as Heathenry. Suffice to say, out of the three case studies White presents it would seem that the O9A is where the intersection is more pronounced.
To be sure, none of this intersection erases the differences between Satanism and Paganism, their distinction, or the enmity between certain practitioners. As White notes earlier in his essay, Pagans have, especially in the past, carefully and strictly defined themselves separately from Satanists – a move partially motivated by the fear of being cast as religious criminals by Christians. Many Satanists have, almost in turn, sometimes trafficked in their own brand of anti-Pagan rhetoric, branding modern Pagans as “soft”, “white light”, or “white witchcraft”. And, of course, both Pagans and Satanists have often taken turns accusing each other of failing to fully transcend the baggage of Christian morality in various ways. And yet, according to White, it is not actually not so common for Satanists to insist on hard differentiation from modern Pagans; White attributes this to a clear antinomian stance among Satanists through which they reject the desire to not be seen as a bogeyman.
Another examination can be found in Per Faxneld’s The Devil’s Party: Satanism in Modernity, specifically a section written by Fredrik Gregorius which discusses “Luciferian Witchcraft”. Here, Gregorius uses the term “Luciferian” loosely to mean groups that center around Lucifer as taking on a generally positive role defined typically by a neopagan context, but stresses that there really is no clear separation between Satanism and Luciferianism and argues that even the latter hinges on what is still a post-Christian interpretation of the figure of Satan. With that established, we can note for starters the Clan of Tubal-Cain started by Robert Cochrane, centered around the Biblical figure of Cain who murdered Abel in revenge for God’s favouring Abel over him. In the work of Shani Oates, current Maid of Tubal-Cain, Lucifer is given a greater focus and, possibly following Michael Howard, is re-interpreted as a “Gnostic” divine presence incarnated in flesh and matter and which motivates the evolution of humanity. Andrew Chumbley, while dismissing any identity between Lucifer and Satan, nonetheless depicts Lucifer and the fellow gods of witchcraft in a very satanic or diabolical light. Chumbley presents his craft as the continuation of a pre-Christian tradition referred to as the “Sabbatic Craft”, and in the context of his belief system Satan, if we can speak of Satan, can be interpreted as the “Man in Black” (or Al-Aswad), who Chumbley referrs to as “The Daemon”, Shaitan, The Adversary, or “The Reverse One”, who is the Lord of the Sabbat and embodies Death as “the Gateway to the Other”, meaning the liminal inbetweenesss betwixt every stasis of being. Lilith, of course is the bride of Shaitan/”The Man in Black”. Michael Howard rejected any identity with Satanism, and aside from his neo-Gnostic views he tends to couch Lucifer in a neopagan context by framing Lucifer as an older deity who in turn incarnates as several pagan gods. Nonetheless, his Lucifer is also identified with Samael, or “Zamael”, and his books have often been adorned with quasi-satanic imagery, goat heads and all. In fact, Howard’s last book, the posthumously released The Luminous Stone: Lucifer in Western Esotericism, is adorned with inverted pentagram imagery that would be very consistent with Satanic aesthetics. This is similarly true for Gemma Gary’s The Devil’s Dozen: Thirteen Craft Rites of The Old One, where the Devil venerated by the witches is theoretically distinguished from Satan, presented as a pagan god taking on the names of multiple pagan gods (such as Herne, Woden, or Odin) alongside the names Lucifer or Azazel as part of a pre-Christian tradition of witchcraft, though not necessarily a pure unbroken survival thereof.
Michael W. Ford is a particularly illustrative case where the exact boundaries between Satanism and “Luciferianism” are, despite insistence, practically non-existent, and where Satanism may intersect and syncretize with Paganism. Although Ford likes to formally define Luciferianism as distinct from Satanism and although he tends to reject the idea of a conscious Satan that inspires humans to revolt (preferring a more symbolic interpretation), in practice he tends to repeatedly identify Lucifer with Satan via the identity of the Adversary. Books such as Liber HVHI are meant as “a path to Ahriman, or Satan as it is called in the west”, though with the aim of becoming a manifestation of Satan rather than worshipping Satan, while explicitly identifying Lucifer with Satan. This identification also occurs in Luciferian Witchcraft, Adversarial Light: Magick of the Nephilim, and Wisdom of Eosphoros. Ford takes many philosophical cues from Satanism in its various manifesations and, of course, the imagery that Ford employs in all of his works is perfectly consistent with Satanic aesthetics. Meanwhile, Ford also argues that his system of Satanism/Luciferianism is based in a pre-Christian religion and incorporates magickal workings with various pre-Christian gods. In Wisdom of Eosphoros, Ford positions Lucifer/Satan as originally a pre-Christian deity or complex of pre-Christian deities such as Ishtar or Chemosh, and argues for the existence of an ancient pre-Christian tradition of self-deification based on the Hellenistic ruler cult and the worship of gods such as Baal-Shamem or Melqart or more specifically the identification with these gods by the king of Tyre. In Adversarial Light we are presented with a whole descending diagram of systems that Ford purports to have influenced the development of his “Luciferianism”, the oldest of which include Greek Theurgy, Babylonian sorcery, and the Egyptian cult of Set. In some of his books, like Magick of the Ancient Gods, Ford goes out of his way in interpreting basically whole pre-Christian pantheons of gods, particularly the Hellenic pantheon, on the terms of his Satanic/”Luciferian” belief system.
Two more obscure figures in British witchcraft also present interesting areas of intersection between Satanism and Paganism. One of them is a figure who Michael W. Ford takes as a source for his own system: Charles Matthew Pace (a.k.a. “Hamar’at”). Pace apparently referred to himself as a Luciferian, a Satanist, and a “Sethanist” simultaneously, and centered his belief system around the worship of a god named “Seth-an” which he identified with Lucifer. Pace frames his belief system as a continuation of a pre-Christian tradition and goes out of his way to reject all “Abrahamic” contexts even to the point of explicitly denouncing Kabbalah, but the context of Pace’s belief system is not wholly separable from Satanism. Though Pace preferred the label “Luciferian” the most, the identity of Lucifer with “Seth-an” arguably presents an idenity with Satan. According to Pace, Seth-an was originally a human king who went against the Egyptian establishment in some way, and attained the status of “Adversary” because he was the patron god of the Hyksos dynasty. It is possibly to argue that “Seth-an” is simply a way of referring to Satan on ostensibly Pagan terms, and so Luciferian and Satanist for Pace are interchangeable. Another case I refer to is Alastair Robert Clay-Egerton, who was a member of an obscure group called Templi Satanas Luciferi (or “Temple of Satan the Light-Bearer”), which is claimed to be a forerunner to the modern Tubal-Cain tradition. In Clay-Egerton’s doctrine, Lucifer appears to be the main focus, but Lucifer is also identified as Satan as the “Lord of this World”, and although Clay-Egerton generally preferred the term Luciferian to describe members of Templi Satanas Luciferi, he also accepted the use of the term Satanist interchangeably with Luciferian on the grounds that Luciferians are adversaries of those who promote intolerance, despoil the earth, destroy life, and twist the teachings of “Emmanuel bar Joseph” (or “Emmanuel of Nazareth”, seemingly a reference to Jesus). Lucifer is also identified as the “male principle” of the world, who is paired with a female principle referred to as the “Great Mother” or “Mother Goddess”, which seems to be an obvious echo of Wiccan doctrine, and he lays a great stress on how Man should live in harmony with the earth and in accordance with nature, while lauding the supposed cult of the Great Mother and lamenting its suppression by Christianity. Clay-Egerton also considers the idea that “Emmanuel of Nazareth” is another name for the Light-Bearer and so is “Satan-Lucifer” as well as the gods Cernunnos, Pan, Isis, Aphrodite, Venus, and Horus.
Outside of witchcraft, a very old and also obscure example I am keen to point to is Carl William Hansen, otherwise known as Ben Kadosh. He referred to himself as a Luciferian, not a Satanist. Yet, he employs the iconography of Satanism including the inverted pentagram to represent his belief system aesthetically, and accepts Satan as another name for both Lucifer and Pan, who are both interchangeable in Hansen’s system. But Lucifer is not only identical with Pan and Satan, he is also identified with a number of pre-Christian gods, namely Jupiter, Zeus, Venus, Marduk, Tyr, and Hermes. Lucifer is also interpreted as an “esoteric outer” of Pan, who can be taken as representative of the originary principle of darkness. Pan in turn was also identified with Jupiter as well as Kronon. Not only are there several identifications involving pagan Gods, Hansen frames his belief system as essentially a revivial of the old pre-Christian cult of Pan, and his 1906 pamphlet The Dawn of a New Morning: The Return of the World’s Master Builder (or as I call it Lucifer-Hiram) with the Orphic Hymn to Pan and proclamations of the return of the ancient cult. So while Hansen did not call himself a Pagan, his own belief system takes up a decidedly Pagan narrative.
Returning to the subject of witchcraft, Gregorius notes that, in Charles Leland’s Aradia, there is an invocation that implicitly positions Lucifer as the Devil, despite him functioning as a pagan deity in the overall text. Lucifer is referred to as the “most evil of all spirits” who “once reigned in hell when driven away from heaven”. Much of Aradia‘s presentation still has very little to do with the Christian myths, and he is still generally treated as a pagan deity and identified with the god Apollo, but the Fall from Heaven and the motive of pride is still referenced in its characterization of Lucifer. On this basis it is possible that Leland’s Lucifer can be interpreted as both a Devil and a pagan god and thus embodying the intersection. Then again, as Gregorius also points out, Aradia‘s overall narrative is highly inconsistent. Cain, for instance, as both imprisoned beneath the earth and as the Sun, while Lucifer himself seems to be both a god of the sun and the moon even though his consort Diana is also goddess of the moon.
If there is anywhere in Satanism where intersection with modern Paganism is strongest, it is in none other than the broad current we call Theistic Satanism. Theistic Satanism is generally overlooked in mainstream and even academic discussions of Satanism, who ultimately prefer to focus on the most visible Satanic organisations which often tend towards atheism. Nonetheless, despite the popular claim that Satanism is strictly an atheist philosophy, there are several expressions of Theistic Satanism in the modern world, and they are in no way less Satanic than movements like the Church of Satan are. There tend to be many intersections with pre-Christian polytheism within Theistic Satanism, at least in practice, as reflected in both various approaches to the veneration of demons and the veneration of or working with pre-Christian gods alongside demons. As just an anecdotal example, I remember back in 2015 being friends with a Theistic Satanist who also claimed to work with or venerate the Babylonian god Marduk. In the scene I was in or adjacent to, a certain sense of identification with or interest in pagan gods was commonplace even if we didn’t regard ourselves as Pagans. It is also not uncommon for some Theistic Satanists to regard Satan as a Christian caricature a pre-Christian deity who they believe was worshipped under other names, and sometimes identify Satan with gods such as Pan, Set, Shiva, Prometheus, or in some cases Enki.
The old Ophite Cultus Sathanas (or, the Our Lady of Endor Coven), founded by Herbert Arthur Sloane, was probably influenced by the Neopaganism that was developing in his time. Sloane believed in a Horned God and apparently had a vision of said horned god in the woods at a young age, and then after reading Margaret Murray’s The God of the Witches he decided that this god was Satan (or Sathanas) and worshipped him as such thereafter. However Sloane did not regard Satan as a fertility god, viewed witches who worshipped him as a fertility god as being misled, and instead viewed Satan as an agent of the “true God”. In this sense Sloane was definitely influenced by Neopaganism but ultimately rejected identification with it. Diane Vera has described herself as a Polytheistic Satanist and her organisation, the Church of Azazel, worships Satan-Azazel as their main god alongside Lilith and the gods Pan, Ishtar, Prometheus, and Sophia (as Lucifer). The Church of Azazel believes in the existence of multiple gods as distinct entities and accepts the veneration of other gods alongside their main pantheon, and so expressly aligns itself with “hard polytheism” and the reconstructionist movement. Here, then, Paganism is not identified as Theistic Satanism but intersects with it in Vera’s doctrine. The Cathedral of the Black Goat, which was founded by Brother Myrmydon and Sister Nephtys and also serves as basically a war metal festival, tends to accept some pre-Christian deities such as Set and Kali as representations of Satan. In my article about Satanic Panic in the context of the Ukraine-Russia War, I discussed a Ukrainian Theistic Satanist group called Bozhichi, which worshipped Satan and also includes the worship of pagan gods and the practice of a form of magic called Veretnichestvo.
A more contemporary group called the First Church of the Morningstar, is a Theistic Satanist group (and an anarchist one at that!) whose membership also includes Chaos Magicians, “Luciferians”, Thelemites, Discordians, and Pagans, and on their website they list a series of pre-Christian gods that they venerate alongside Satan and the host of Hell. These gods include Enki, Ereshkigal, Pan, Inanna, Prometheus, Eris Discordia, Set, Thoth, Eros, Hades, Persephone, Hecate, Aphrodite, Sekhmet, and Isis. It also includes gods from the Thelemite pantheon, namely Babalon, Nuit, Hadit, and Ra-Hoor-Kuit, as well as Greek mythological women who weren’t historically considered goddesses, namely Pandora and Ariadne. It is worth noting the founder, Johnny Truant, regards Paganism as distinct from Satanism on the grounds of what he sees as Paganism’s orientation towards ecology and nature worship, so on those terms we could not regard the First Church of the Morningstar as a syncretic Satanic-Pagan organization solely because of the inclusion of multiple gods. Though again, the point is intersection, not identification, and there is a noticeable intersection in any case.
I consider the subject of Demonolatry to be related in that it does contain within itself what is in essence a Theistic Satanist doctrine. Practitioners of Demonolatry may, as do many of the Satanists already discussed, refuse the label of “Pagan” for themselves, but the point here is not to graft that onto them anyway and instead more to discuss intersections. In Stephanie Connolly’s Complete Book of Demonolatry, she argues that her tradition of Demonolatry is built on Hermetic teachings originating in ancient Egypt and that many of the demons worshipped in Demonolatry are pagan gods. The “Demon Directory” gives us a whole list of demons, which includes pre-Christian gods that are sometimes categorized as “devils”. These gods include Adad, Cizin (once again listed as “Ahpuch”), Amun (as “Ammon”), Ashtaroth, Astarte, Baal, Baalberith, Bastet (again as “Bast”), Bile, Charon, Dagon, Enma-O (again as “Emma-O”, “O’Yama”, and “Yan-lo-Wang”), Eurynomos, Hecate, Hel (as “Hela”), Ishtar, Kali, Loki, Mania, Mantus, Metztli, Mictian, Mormo, Nergal, Nija, Pan, Pluto, Proserpine, Rimmon, Sabazios, Sekhmet, Set, Shiva, Succoth-benoth (as “Succorbenoth”), Supay, Tezcatlipoca, Tammuz (again as “Thamuz”), Thoth, Typhon, and Xipe Totec (again as “Yaotzin”). Many of these are the same as the “Infernal Names” listed in the Satanic Bible. The timeline of the history of Demonolatry seems to begin at 3000 BC, with the supposed date of the writing of the Hermetica and Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Canaanite, Semitic, and Amorite polytheism as the foundations of Demonolatry, thus we are presented with pre-Christian Paganism as the purported origin of Demonolatry. A section titled “The Hermetica – The Lost Wisdom of the Pharaohs” outlines a sort of pantheistic theology Man and the cosmos are one with the deity Atum, and how on this basis Man takes on the attributes of the gods as if he were one of them and knows the gods because they spring from the same source as Man. Connolly interprets this as a doctrine of self-worship or self-deification, arguing on this basis that the pre-Christian ancient Egyptians were the first practitioners of the (Western) Left Hand Path, and, most crucially, her version of this doctrine replaces Atum with Satan, thus positing Satan as the god of the cosmos or the All. Thus in Connolly’s system of Demonolatry (at least, and I must stress hers is probably not the only one).
It is to be stressed again that this does not necessarily make Demonolatry a “pagan religion” or a form of Paganism necessarily if strictly by its own consideration. For its practitioners, Demonolatry is separate from Paganism on the basis that Paganism is defined in terms of its nature-centeredness, which is not necessarily shared by Demonolatry. That’s not necessarily saying that Demonolatry is “anti-Pagan”, and certainly not in light of the intersections with Paganism that have already been established, but practitioners often find the label of “Pagan” to be something externally imposed on them rather than something that they consciously embrace.
When it comes to Anti-Cosmic Satanism, the intersections with Paganism are generally very minimal, if they exist at all, although I suppose if one wanted to stretch the subject one might examine the extent to which Anti-Cosmic Satanists draw from the syncretic Latin American and Afro-Caribbean religious traditions, which are often polytheistic albeit generally not identified as “Pagan”. According to Benjamin Hodge Olson in his essay At the Threshold of the Inverted Womb: Anti-Cosmic Satanism and Radical Freedom, this influence is particularly evident in Templum Falcis Cruentis and the writing of N.A-A.218. Beyond this, the tendency to identify Satan with various “adversarial gods” and the re-interpretation of the Babylonian creation myth is about the faintest link standard fare Anti-Cosmic Satanism has with Paganism, and it’s not much. There is, however, an example of outright syncretism between Anti-Cosmic Satanism and Paganism in the form of Thursatru, a modern brand of Heathenry that is based almost entirely on Anti-Cosmic Satanist doctrine remodelled in the contest of Norse mythology. Thursatru takes the Anti-Cosmic narrative and interprets Odin, the king of the Aesir, as the Demiurge and therefore identical to Yahweh and Marduk, and therefore the cosmic oppressor, while aligning with a clan of giants called the Thursar in order to . Thursatru is sometimes regarded as another name for Rokkatru, another modern branch of Heathenry with a notably adversarial alignment, but they are not to be confused. As I understand it, Thursatru is based entirely in the current of Anti-Cosmic Satanism and is exclusively dedicated to the worship of the Thursas and opposes the worship of all other Norse gods, whereas Rokkatru is ultimately still based in Heathenry but, insofar as it is influenced by Satanism, tends to take influences from different forms of Satanism, and while Rokkatru focuses itself on the worship of the jotnar or the gods who are considered “rokkr” (of the twilight, relevant to the commencement of Ragnarok), it seems to me that many contemporary Rokkatruar are generally not opposed to the worship of other Norse/Germanic gods. In my opinion, if there is to be any comparison between Thursatru and Rokkatru, I would regard Rokkatru as much more consistently Pagan. That said, however, both Thursatru and Rokkatru could be regarded as points of syncretic intersection involving Satanism and Paganism to varying extents.
If we count certain pre-modern individual cases of apparent devil worship as individual professions of “Satanism” in a loose sense, I think it’s worth looking at Faxneld’s The Devil’s Party again for a fascinating instance of Satan worship intersecting with pre-Christian beliefs. Faxneld notes that, in medieval Sweden, there were individuals who, as outlaws, are at least attested to have worshipped Satan as their patron. This includes a man named Tideman Hemmingsson, a notorious outlaw who lived in the forest and allegedly made a pact with Satan and a forest nymph (or “skosgraet”) to grant him luck in hunting and enable him to shoot as much game as he wanted. Hemmingsson wasn’t alone; two other men, Hakan Jonsson made a similar pact, and much later a fisherman named Mickel Kalkstrom claimed to have made a pact with the Devil to catch as much fish as he wanted. According to Faxneld, these pacts intersected with a surviving folk belief in nature spirits, presumably more consistent with pre-Christian religion. In pre-Christian Scandinavia, it was believed that spirits, such as nymphs, lived in the woods, trees, rivers, and/or lakes, and could either bring good fortune and endanger people in some way. One could think of it as a kind of animism in the context of folk beliefs. The wilderness was the home of spirits and nymphs, which were then recast as demons in the eyes of Christianity, and so in Christian demonology the wilderness was also a kind of “inverted world” and a “gateway to demonic powers”. Satan, then, became seen as the ruler of the wilderness, the space outside the law of Christian civilization, to whom, according to Faxneld, some Swedish outlaws turned to as their patron and their god.
In the final hand, we should conclude that Satanism and modern Paganism tend to intersect with one another, but also note that Paganism can and has intersected with other religious movements. Ethan Doyle White notes that there are ways in which Paganism has also intersected with “Abrahamic” religions, or at least particularly Christianity. As an example, White points out that Maltese Pagans tend to observe both Pagan and Catholic ceremonies simultaneously, no doubt drawing on the deep influence of Roman Catholicism on social life in Malta. Another example White points to is the existence of Trinitarian Wicca, or Christian Wicca, which consciously blends Wicca with Christianity. I would count the Church of Light and Shadow as a similar example drawing on that example. More to the point, I would also point to the numerous pre-modern attestations of syncretism between pre-Christian polytheism and the then-new Christianity. This includes Vikings in Scandinavia praying to both the Christian God and to Norse gods such as Thor, the spells of the Greek Magical Papyri containing invocations of the names and angels of God and apparently even Jesus alongside the pre-Christian gods and spirits, Roman syncretism of Jesus and the god Sol or Helios, and the various syncretic Afro-Caribbean traditions that include Jesus and other Christian figures. Outside of Christianity, there have also been syncretic forms of Judaism and that blended Judaism with Paganism both in pre-Christian antiquity and in the modern era.
The point is that Paganism in itself can intersect with many different religious traditions, and in fact has demonstrated cases of syncretism with many different belief systems without much conflict with its overall core, even if it inevitably poses problems for the core of religions such as Christianity. The point is that this applies as well for the relationship between Paganism and Satanism, and that, on this basis, there is no reason to think of Satanism as entirely separable from Paganism. On this basis and other bases, syncretism, and my own project of Satanic Paganism, stands on solid ground. And yet, it is evident that the history of which I speak is not without problems. Satanism and Paganism intersect with each other in numerous ways, but, as we have shown, this can also include some rather reactionary doctrines. But, as we have seen, there is nothing indicating that either Satanism, Paganism, or their intersection or syncretism, necessarily must follow such paths.
Satanism and Paganism are not solely defined by their historical representation (yes, even though part of the essence of Paganism consists of revitalizing ideas from the past), but are defined both by generalized sets of core worldviews and the people who practice them in the here and now. I wonder if the latter fact is given as much consideration as it deserves. Satanic Paganism itself is ultimately an individual and rather idiosyncratic stance, one whose very label makes sense as a summary for that which cannot be contained dogmatically. That, and the knowledge of Pagan syncretism and Satanist-Pagan intersection, gives it its power.
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