I recently received this question from a listener and reader in response to my post On Satanism and Atheism:
For your average follower, Satanism is the epitome of being a troll religion, almost as bad, if not perhaps worse than Pastafarianism. What practices define you as a Satanist? Not beliefs. Practices.”
As always, I’m grateful for these questions from bemused readers.
I’m planning several posts in the future about Satanic practice, but this question has inspired me to back up and offer some context before I do that. Many people have some skepticism about Satanism as a religion (which is understandable — it is a controversial fringe religion in a predominately Judeo-Christian society.) Part of that skepticism is a sneaking suspicion that we are Satanists in name only, and that Satanism is essentially no different from atheism, or secular humanism. I’m asked repeatedly what separates Satanism from regular American secularism, and the answer, as with all religion, is practice.
All religions offer a unique set of practices that define them. Catholics go to Mass, confession, pray the rosary, etc. Buddhists burn sage, meditate, and chant. Quakers practice silence, and live out social activism. Anglicans drink sherry and play bridge. So what do Satanists do?
I think it is best to understand Satanic practice operating at different levels, and I will explore them very briefly here.
In the same way Christians strive to live as Christ in all they do, I as a Satanist strive to live as the Romantic Satan. The narrative of Satan acts as a filter which focuses my life towards my goals. It allows me to live more compassionately, heroically, and curiously. “What Would Satan Do?” (WWSD) has become my personal cringey mantra. Yes, I might be putting that on a T-shirt soon.
The narrative of Satan is all-encompassing, which is why I insist that I am still a Satanist when I’m home alone with the cats playing video games. Religion offers us stories to live by: stories which saturate our lives and become one with the fabric of our existence.
Even if I didn’t do any other Satanic practice, this narrative structure alone would be enough to make me a Satanist. The stories that direct us result in a unique, practiced life. I practice my Satanism day to day because I am clothed in the story of Satan.
This Satanic narrative manifests itself noticeably in social activism. In the same way Quakers protest violence as an expression of their deeply help religious beliefs, so too do members of the Satanic Temple protest unjust authority. Many people are first exposed to TST by way of our political activism, and assume that the label “Satanist” is just a front for the political activism. But that is all backwards: the political activism flows from our deeply held beliefs. We protest because we are Satanists. Social activism is just as much a part of the liturgy of Satan as private ritual. Both are equally valid forms of Satanic religious practice.
I personally engage in Satanic activism by writing, podcasting, having conversations, and donating to causes that support my Satanic vision of the world. It isn’t much, but I do what I can. If Satan was the unbowed will that pursued knowledge and conquest over unjust authority, then I do the same in my own work.
I live within a diverse and beautiful community of Satanists, mostly online. I collaborate with other Satanic creators (such as Priest Penemue and Jack Matirko) and I have regular discussions with other Satanists. Living within community, even online, is a central aspect of religious practice. Community breathes life into religion. We are social creatures, and religion is made alive by shared experience. Simply being with other Satanists is a form of practice.
This, I think, is what most people mean when they ask, “but what do Satanists do?” Not all Satanists practice ritual, but many do. These rituals exist at the communal and personal levels.
Because Satanism is a New Religious Movement, its rituals are still forming. 3 particular rituals, however, have emerged as communal events: Black Mass, Unbaptism, and Destruction. Other communal rituals do exist for pagan holidays, birthdays, etc. Unfortunately, because I’m a lone Satanist in the Appalachian Mountains, I’m unable to attend any of these communal rituals.
My own personal rituals involve a Morning and Evening Satanic office. I’ve written it myself, and I hope to provide a template on the blog that others can use if so inclined. My daily office acts as a centering meditation for the day, and consists of Satanic poetry, invocations, and the 7 Tenets.
Other Satanists have personalized their own private Satanic practices as well. I’ve heard a wide range of solitary practices which include Tarot, zen meditation, mantra, invocations, altars, candle rituals, etc. Satanic ritual is DIY, and individual Satanists tailor their practice to their individual needs. (All religion, in fact, is DIY, but that’s a rant for another time.)
Satanism is a religion. It provides guiding principles, a narrative structures, community, art, symbolism, and practices. This disproves the suspicion that Satanism is identical to humanism or mere atheism. Satanism is a religious identity, and offers religious practice in a multitude of ways.
Soon, I will be exploring various methods of Satanic practice, rituals, and altered states of consciousness on this blog. If you have any suggestions or questions about Satanic Practice, please leave a comment below.
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