The Internet knows you love the devil

The Black Mass in Oklahoma City tells us what the church has known for years: Satan sells. 

Internet Culture

Published Sep 19, 2014   Updated May 30, 2021, 1:43 pm CDT

Did you know Mariska Hargitay’s mother was a Devil-worshipper? According to Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, Hargitay’s mother, Jayne Mansfield, was a practicing Satanist. Could it be possible that the star of Law and Order: SVU was conceived in a Satanic ritual?

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Actually, Mariska Hargitay was born in January of 1964, three years before Jayne Mansfield ever traveled to San Francisco and met the founder of the Church of Satan. So, no, it’s not possible. But I’m willing to bet that for a moment, you enjoyed wondering if Mariska Hargitay could be the hellspawn daughter of the Devil and a B-movie queen.

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There are few ideas that grab hold of our imaginations quite like Satan. Over the last year, the Prince of Darkness has been trending big online. In fact, you could say 2014 was the year the Internet saved Satanism. Why would it do that? Because the Internet knows Satan sells.

For weeks now, the Internet has been abuzz about a Black Mass that’s scheduled to take place in the American heartland. Oklahoma City is set to be ground zero for a spiritual showdown of biblical proportions: God vs. Satan, battling for the soul of America. Or, at least, that’s how the Catholic Church is selling it. Rev. Don Wolf of St. Eugene Catholic church told The Oklahoman that “to engage in this is to open the window up to the presence of the forces that are not to be trifled with.” (He means the Devil.)

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The Archbishop of the Oklahoma diocese, Paul Coakley, has engaged direct action to stop Satan. He’s scheduled a prayer service to take place that same day, in order to protect Oklahoma, and presumably, the rest of the world. Additionally, he’s asked all Catholic churches in the area to end each service with a prayer to St. Michael, the Archangel who defeats Satan in the Book of Revelation. There’s also a petition being circulated that demands the Black Mass be stopped before the Devil is turned loose. The Catholics are pulling out all the stops.

Event organizer, Adam Daniels, aka “The Dark Overlord,” is the leader of Dakhma of Angra Mainyu Syndicate, an unaffiliated group of devil-worshippers. Daniels plans to conduct his Black Mass before a sold-out crowd of 88 people, who may or may not be Satanists, but are are evidently willing to pay good money to watch someone try to conjure Satan. To tear open a portal to Hell, The Dark Overlord Daniels will conduct his ceremony of evil in the basement of the Oklahoma City Civic Center. The cost to rent the space for five hours is $420.

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It should be noted that this is not the first Black Mass attempted by The Dark Overlord. His prior attempt to raise the Devil from Hell failed to be big news because the Catholic church ignored him, made no statements, held no scheduled prayer services, did not circulate a petition, and consequently, the event was attended by a grand total of zero people. Perhaps Archbishop Coakley should be comforted by The Church of Satan’s Nine Satanic Statements, one of which notes that Satan has kept the church in business all these years.

To anyone paying attention, it’s obvious: Satanism needs the Catholic church as much as the Catholics need Satan. A cunning operator will leverage fear for their purposes. That’s why Satan is good for the church, though they’d never admit it. They hope no one notices how they use Satan to whip the faithful into a froth of fear and how they use the Devil to scare dollars out of wallets faster than you can say church-building fund.

It’s not just the Church or the Internet. A veteran politician also knows the Devil will gin up some support from voters. Unwilling to miss her chance to use Satan to agitate the electorate, the governor of Oklahoma recently spoke out against the approaching Black Mass. However, Gov. Mary Falllin is powerless to stop it from occurring, since a judge ruled that the event could go forward. To make matters worse, in her comments against the Black Mass, the governor accidentally wagged her finger at the wrong Satanic church. The reason for her confusion was simple: There are two groups of Satanists currently terrifying the good people of Oklahoma.

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The Satanic Temple of New York has been in the news lately for its attempts to install on the Oklahoma City capitol building a statue of Baphomet. It’s a pagan name for the Devil, one reportedly used by the Knights Templar in their secret ceremonies, as well as by infamous British hellraiser and black magician Aleister Crowley. To erect a statue of Baphomet today seems like a goth nerd’s winking allusion to the rich history of the dark side. But to most, the fact it’s Satanists doing it still sounds evil, like Oklahoma is being overrun by dark forces. Some have wondered if it’s time for America to pay for her sins committed against Native Americans. Is that why the Devil is coming on strong in the former Indian Nation?

With horned goat god statues and sinister Black Masses tormenting the God-fearing citizens of the heartland, you can see why, to some, it feels like there is an urgent evil upon them. But if you dig a little deeper, you quickly notice how those appearances deceive. When you check their website you’ll learn that the Satanic Temple of New York, the group that plans to install the statue of Baphomet at the capitol, is an atheist organization. It’s pretty difficult to believe Satan is your spiritual leader if you don’t believe in God. Like hot and cold, the two are a matched set. You can’t have the Devil if you don’t believe in God.

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The Satanic Temple is primarily interested in battling against incursions into public life by Christian organizations. Their fealty is to the separation of church and state. In order to scare their opponents, they’ve draped themselves in the iconography and language of what Christians fear the most: Satan. Plus, it grabs headlines. Journalists tend to be the second biggest fans of Satan.

Truth be told, the Satanic Temple swears no allegiance to the Devil. This may be hard to believe since they’re also in the news because they want to hand out coloring books with the catchy title: The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities. However, cool as they sound, those coloring books aren’t evil and they’re not intended to spread the message of the Devil. The Satanic coloring books draw attention to the fact Christian organizations in Florida have been giving religious materials to school children while they were at school, a clear infringement on the separation of church and state. The atheists dress up their legal fights and protests with vestiges of Satanism to get attention, knowing that Satan sells.

Do you remember the curious case of Miranda Barbour? No? Perhaps you recall news from earlier this year about a prostitute teen mother who stabbed a man to death in Pennsylvania. No? She’s a self-professed Satanic serial killer. I bet it’s ringing bells now. It’s hard to forget about a woman who kills for the Devil.The reason is because such stories tap into our deep, ancient, cultural associations. Even though we have the Internet, we’re still quick to believe that a woman might be in league with the Devil. The fact that many are willing to believe the Devil would pick women over men as his partners-in-crime is a testimonial to Western attitudes about women. When it comes to men, Satan mostly just gives music lessons or has fiddle contests. With women, it’s a whole different story.

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Back in February, the Internet was beside itself with the reports of Miranda Barbour, the Satanic serial killer prostitute teen mom who left a trail of bodies from Alaska to North Carolina. But underneath the salacious surface, there were the expected real-life horrors of neglect and abuse. Of course, all we remember is that she was a Satanic serial killer.

To be a Satanist still grants a person a sort of dark power in our culture. It’s estimated there are 100,000 actively practicing Satanists in the world. But they’re not all the same thing. At the moment, there’s a battle being waged on the Internet over who has the right to call themselves a Satanist. It’s like the Reformation, but for Satanism. (Or like that scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian.) Everyone agrees that The Church of Satan, founded by Anton LaVey, was the first and the remaining official church of Satanists.

According to Anton LaVey, only members of the Church of Satan can call themselves Satanists, all the rest are devil-worshippers, demonolators, or atheists. As the only true Satanists, they recognize it’s important that they protect their brand. It’s really all they have. Well, that and a loose philosophy of quasi-hippie-inspired individualism and hedonistic materialism, with a side of menace, and served with two helpings of sideshow theatrics based on ancient books of medieval witch-hunters.

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When he was sixteen, Anton LaVey ran away from home and joined the circus. That’s where he learned how to scare the rubes and make himself famous. His Church of Satan is little more than a circus freak show. The Black Mass they perform was inspired by a horror movie, The Black Cat, starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Which makes the dark magick of the Satanists about as scary as Freddy Krueger.

In the spring just before the Summer of Love, on April 30, 1966, Anton LaVey, the father of Satanism, ritualistically shaved his head and announced the birth of a new religion dedicated to the Devil. The reason he picked that date was, of course, symbolic. In Europe, that date is celebrated as Walpurgisnacht or Walpurgis Night. It’s a holiday dedicated to Saint Walpurga, an 8th century abbess. In the Middle Ages, it was believed that on the night before May Day, societies of witches would meet in secret and conduct their sinister affairs in the dark of the forest as they celebrated their pact with the Devil.

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Anton LaVey recognized that date carried great meaning. Trained by the circus, he recognized what scares the Western world the most: A group of powerful women meeting in secret. So he co-opted their power and built his hedonistic super-hippie church on top of our ancient fear of witches and the Devil.

This is the true dark heart of Satanism. It’s not really about the Devil, or dark forces, or Black Masses. It’s misogynistic, about our culture’s fear of women. All our obsessions with the Devil and witches goes back to two books: the Malleus Maleficarum and the Compendium Maleficarum. Written as manuals for witch-hunters, they’re what all Devil-worship and witchcraft is based on. A famous witch-hunter of the day, Nicholas Remy, claimed to have killed 900 witches in his career. Personally, I would be far more afraid of a demon-fixated serial killer who’s iced 900 people than a bunch of women who choose to gather in the forest once a year.

Our modern day Satanism remains scary because it draws power from those old fears of covens of dark and dangerous women. But in reality, Satanism is about as significant as that Charlie Daniels song about the Devil going down to Georgia looking for a soul to steal. The bad news is, since the Internet figured out you love the Devil like teens dig horror movies, there will be more stories about the horrors of Satanism in the future. No matter what you hear, all you need to remember is: Satan sells.

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Photo via Michelle/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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*First Published: Sep 19, 2014, 9:00 am CDT