controversy

Witch & Popcorn

May, 2019

I’d heard a filmmaker named Penny Lane was releasing a documentary about The Satanic Temple, and I was stoked. Then, I heard it did well! Imagine how thrilled I then was when our beloved editor told me we had been offered the opportunity to review it!

Here is the Trailer:

I know. I know.

Some of you are balking at the nerve- Satanists! Some, not just Xtians, believe what the media and mainstream Evangelicals tell us the Church of Satan and The Satanic Temple is all about- devil worship. Nothing could be farther from the truth, as this intimate portrait of some of the chapters of The Satanic Temple reveals.

The film follows the idea to place a Satanic monument in the State Capital of Arkansas- not to proselytize or convert people to Satanism- but to promote religious equality. They have a lawsuit going to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the State government grounds, and stated if the Xtain monument goes up- ALL religious monuments ought to go up. And those of us who watch the news know that was turned down. The lawsuit continues.

The process of creating the statue was shown, and the way the Satanic Temple (TST) raised funds to pay for it. Namingly, through donations, and what they earn at a shop.

Not only co-founder and spokesperson of TST, Lucien Greaves, but many members, some of whom opted to remain anonymous, grant interviews for this film, but they gave a unified message. TST is looking for government to be secular, and for the government not to preach religion, or give religious preference, as it currently does. TST members embrace personal liberty, justice, and rebellion against oppressive practices and arbitrary authority. Satanism is about embracing independence, and not being controlled by other people.

In the documentary, many news stories about what various TST chapters are doing for their greater communities is shown, including not only lawsuits, but after school Satan clubs, highway adoption, beach cleanup, menstrual product gathering and donation, sock gathering and donation to the homeless, as well as blood drives.

This is a stark contrast from the “Satanic Panic’s” claims of the 1980’s and 1990’s! Remember when Dungeons and Dragons games supposedly opened a portal to suck kids souls to hell? One thing you might not know is this era saw innocent people jailed for things they did not do, and multiple lives ruined in the process. TST members who spoke of it compared the 20th Century’s “Satanic Panic” to the witch hunts of Medieval times.

So, it’s well-established you won’t see a Satanist do the things spooky movies and uninformed “god hates fags” sign- wielding Evangelicals claim. Aside from doing the above-mentioned community service work, you will see them embracing seven tenets outlined in the film, which are:

  1. One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
  2. The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
  3. One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
  4. The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forego your own.
  5. Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.
  6. People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it, and resolve any harm that may have been caused.
  7. Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.

This organization, of course stemmed out of Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan, founded on April 30, 1966. He may be the most famous, if not the most notorious leader the organization has had, and most certainly the most colorful. In his Satanic Bible, which, no doubt ruffled more than a few feathers, he stated he saw men go to drink, see strippers, and whatnot- all the things Xtianity forbade in those days- and then sit up in church Sunday with wives and kids as if they were model Xtians. It left quite an impression on LaVey, who chose Satan as the archetype for his new religion- not to WORSHIP the devil- but he said Satan kept the church in business, and most honestly embodied the true nature of humanity. Thus instead of deprivation, as the churches taught, LaVey sought to embrace our passions, desires, intellect, and animal side, as we were born to do.

Perhaps The original Church of Satan was an occult response of sorts to the “Free Love” movement, but it’s one that speaks to people still, today. TST and The Church of Satan are two completely different entities, but they have some similarities, and I respect them both.

In Hail Satan?, you will see various legal battles multiple TST chapters have waged in the name of justice, and you will hear personal stories from devoted members. You will also witness a very impassioned chapter administrator violate policies of TST, and be fired.

Despite some beliefs TST is a small cult, it has a National Council, and dozens of chapters nationwide, as well as international chapters, and a well-organized system.

The big question many ask- if TST is not evil and all about destruction, WHY call it by the name Satan, who many believe is the greatest evil ever?

Remember what Anton LaVey said about Satan being a fitting archetype for man’s true nature for one thing. For another thing, members are deliberately trying to jolt people’s awareness, and they do not mind offending people. They have been called the Antichrist, and one member says that IS half true. They protest the atrocities the church has imposed upon humanity for so long. Beyond that, they protest, and reject the mind control and oppression the church has enforced. Catholic groups seem especially fond of protesting TST chapters, and one member says they have a lot of gall calling Satanics sinful after all the abuse and rapes of children. Satan was known as the adversary- so the church and the oppression she enforces HAS an adversary in The Satanic Temple- which is quite pro-human.

TST is among many things, pro-individual, against blind faith, pro-gay, pro-choice, anti-rape, pro-trans, and all for questioning that which is forbidden.

Some ask why TST does not just call themselves atheists if they do not worship the devil? One member states atheism just states what you are NOT. There is no ritual or definition. TST defines everything and gives ritual and structure.

Some don’t know this, but I have read more than one Satanic publication over the years, and while I’m not a member, I am in agreement with their beliefs and practices. I have friends who are also, one of whom agreed to a short interview.

Interview with Jodi @ Satanism

SaoirseWhat first drew you to The Church of Satan, or The Satanic Temple’s teachings?

Jodi- Curiosity as a child in contrast to what I was being brainwashed with by fundamentalists. I first picked up LaVey in middle school or so. A mixture of curiosity and rebellion. I met other kids who were interested in high school. That’s what those thumpers get.

Saoirse- Did the adults raising you find out perchance?

Jodi- Yes. My mother was absolutely mortified when she discovered my copy of The Satanic Bible, hidden with my cigarettes in my dresser. Naturally, she ordered me to stop and go to church but…fail. Only made my quest that much more enticing. Mother had many books that warned against Satanic & occult teachings. In the beginning, I used these as cross-references to find the knowledge I was seeking. Those books of hers were so funny to me….the titles and all.

Saoirse- People who were ignorant raised me also. I did not wake up until I was in my 20’s. Late!

Jodi- I think that’s pretty normal.

No matter what path you choose…to not start to really branch out of the family illusion

Until the mid-twenties or so.

I was teaching Catholicism to school kids during my twenties even though I was a practicing witch. It was sort of a marital obligation thing, I though and the director or religion was DESPERATE.

He called me an Angel… lmao. He regretted that…especially when he learned I was encouraging children to wait til adulthood to get confirmed.

Saoirse- Catholicism and witchcraft go very well together.

Jodi- I agree.

Saoirse- I agree. You cannot GIVE anybody to a god or goddess. All baptisms and confirmations belong in adulthood.

Jodi- Amen. The church puts too much pressure on kids. Not to mention, indoctrination is bullshit.

Saoirse- Exactly.

Jodi- The way is to choose for the self. One of many reasons I embrace the teachings.

Saoirse- What is a favorite Satanic teaching of yours?

Jodi- I like the contrast of putting those who move to harm you in their place over the xtian turning the other cheek. There is much to be said for compassion and forgiveness, yes but also standing up for one’s self, remorselessly.

Our culture has been conditioned to take too much shit…which is part of the reason we are all suffering in this age. We are used to being walked on and told what to do.

Living in fear isn’t living

Saoirse- Exactly.

Jodi- Satanism encourages a healthy lifestyle and self-esteem.

Some of this depends on what variety of Satanism we’re talking about, but you understand.

Saoirse- What has embracing these tenets and teachings done for your life?

Jodi- They have made a way for me to learn of and about myself and others in a respectful manner. They’ve crushed the early indoctrination I was force-fed as a child and allowed me to rebuild my own opinions and Will. It made a way for what I want for my life versus what others expect or condone.

The verdict on this is it is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen, and it did my heart good to see the beautiful people of TST, and all the wonderfulness they are spreading within their organization, and in their communities in general.

This film is a must see.

Here is the link to the films page, and how you can see this for yourself!

Happy viewing, and Blessed Be!

***

About the Author:

Saoirse is a recovered Catholic.  I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel.

Book Review – Psychedelic Mystery Traditions: Spirit Plants – Magical Practices – Ecstatic States by Thomas Hatsis

February, 2019


Book Review
Psychedelic Mystery Traditions
Spirit Plants – Magical Practices – Ecstatic States
By Thomas Hatsis
271 pp. Park Street Press

Although it has been the subject of great speculation and demonetization by various religious and political bodies, psychedelic mystery tradition remains one of the great buried seeds of Paganism, hidden under mythology, misinformation, and religious and political oppression — not to mention suppression of information. In “Psychedelic Mystery Traditions,” Thomas Hatsis uncovers a vast history of psychedelic spirit plants in Western tradition and ritual, focusing especially on Greco-Roman tradition and the early days of Christianity.

From the earliest prehistoric discoveries of psychedelic plants and their spiritual potential to the conflation of their use with Satanic witchcraft, Hatsis delves deeply, weaving together the political scenes in which each stage of pharmaka* use developed, while following a coherent narrative through the years. For those who were hoping for a more international subject matter, it’s useful to note that Hatsis doesn’t verge far from the focus of Europe and the Near East — you won’t find information here about the use of ayahuasca in Peru, or psilocybin mushrooms in China.

What you will find is an extensively-researched, academic approach to a controversial subject that synthesizes herbalism, ethnopharmacology, entheogenic practice, ritual, mythology, politics, religion, and linguistics. This may make the book a bit slow going for those who lack the context for the work, but anyone with a good familiarity with Western mystical traditions, herbalism, early Christianity, or mythology will probably find something to enjoy here.

The book boasts a treasure trove bibliography. Hatsis occasionally cites and refers to his other book, called “The Witches’ Ointment: The Secret History of Psychedelic Magic,” where the subject matter overlaps, but he also taps an impressive number of primary sources, as well as many modern authors. In a few cases, he points them out only to call them out, diverging at several points to argue some misconceptions, such as the popularized idea that ergotism poisoning is similar to the LSD experience (it’s actually much more dangerous, poisonous, and unpleasant), or that the origins of Santa Claus lie in the historical shamanic use of Aminata muscaria (a popular theory for which there is little evidence). It is clear that Hatsis has great love for this subject, but he also preserves respect for the academic process. In exploring the controversy surrounding the historical use of pharmaka, he has an even hand and doesn’t play favorites on the basis of his own bias, pointing fingers not only at those who dismissed or vilified these spirit plants, but also at those who misused and abused these plants for nefarious purposes, such as poisoning, manipulation, and rape.

This rare glimpse into the mechanisms and mythology of mystery traditions is also peppered with humorous observations, as Hatsis refers to bad trips as “what we would call a bummer,” relates amusing historical anecdotes, and makes the occasional pun. But where the book shines the most is in those poetic moments when Hatsis explores the narratives of mythology and ritual that weaved together the experience of pharmaka by exposing and bestowing new cosmological understanding. In these stories, the relationship between humans and spirit plants takes on a life of its own, illuminating both the dark recesses of the human psyche, and the strange roots of spirit plant practice.

Psychedelic Mystery Traditions can be found on Hatsis’ website, https://psychedelicwitch.com/, along with many other writings and YouTube videos as well.

Psychedelic Mystery Traditions: Spirit Plants, Magical Practices, and Ecstatic States on Amazon

[*An all-encompassing Greek term for the various plant-derived substances whose uses included theogenesis, medicine, recreation, aphrodisiac, poison, and more.]

For those whose interests are primarily herbological, here’s a short list of some of the spirit plants and pharmaka mentioned in this volume: 

Aconite, amanita mascara, barley, cannabis, haoma, hash, hemlock, henbane, kykeon, laurel, LSD, mandrake, mushrooms, opium, solanaceae (including but not limited to Atropa belladonna), and wine.

***

About the Author:

Sarah McMenomy is an artist and witch. Her craft incorporates herbalism, spellwork, trance, divination, auras, and more. Her work can be found at https://sarahmcmenomy.tumblr.com