Originally published 16 August 2009. © Torey B. Scott
I would like to introduce you to a few common misconceptions concerning Left Hand Paths and several of the more specific paths and practices encompassed therein.
It's important that we attempt to dispel false assumptions and ideas where the "darker" paths and practices found in Paganism (etc.) are concerned. Why? Well it's quite simple - just as Pagans detest being unduly vilified by Christians so do those who walk the Left Hand Paths detest being unduly vilified by their supposed Pagan brethren.
To begin, I would like to examine a startling, but prevalent fact that I have personally observed within the Pagan community. The case in point - discrimination.
Introduction: A Pagan Double-Standard
Discrimination is word that easily gets most any Pagan up-in-arms and ready for battle. So often have many practitioners of Pagan religions had to defend themselves in constant cases of accusations of "Devil Worship" by some Christians, it has become second-nature to some Pagans to despise any mention of "Satan". It is quite understandable that this is the case; however, it has led to an upsetting prejudice.
Many Pagans are taken aback and abhor even the simple categorization of Satanism within their umbrella of definition. Yes, Satanism, especially Theistic Satanism, falls under the category of "Paganism".
It is common to hear Pagans make claims to notions of "harmony, acceptance and open-mindedness" within their respective traditions. "A Pagan is naturally open-minded and accepting of all belief systems". Ideally, this would be the case. In reality, it is not.
True, not ALL Pagans discriminate against Satanists and followers of the Left Hand Paths, but what Satanists, Dark Pagans and walkers of these Left Hand Paths represent and practice is often the antithesis of the moral code and belief systems of many of the followers of the more "mainstream" Pagan Right Hand Paths such as Wicca.
Thus, these practitioners of "darkness" are all too often judged and frowned upon unfairly - receiving the very hostility and discrimination from other Pagans as Pagans so often protest when it is exacted upon them by some Christians.
So why should there be a double-standard? Why should it be "okay" for Satanists and walkers of the Left Hand Paths to be outcast by their own Pagan brethren when Pagans so vehemently protest the same casting out of themselves by Christians? Simply, it shouldn't be and it is not.
Thus, I will attempt to clear up a few of the most common misconceptions held by walkers of the Right Hand Paths in regards to walkers of the Left Hand Paths and practitioners of "darker" paths:
“Satanists are Atheists”.
Not ALL Satanists are Atheists. There are two "forms" of Satanism: Theistic (Spiritual) Satanism and Symbolic (Atheistic) Satanism. Only Symbolic Satanists are Atheists.
They do not worship "Satan" as a "god" - they don't even believe in Satan. To these Satanists, "Satan" is a mere symbol representing the natural urges of mankind. They may consider themselves to be self-indulgent and epicurean, believing that Man himself is "as a God" and thus recognizes the importance of making one's own self happy in this lifetime.
Some Symbolic Satanists believe in magick and the supernatural - others do not. They typically adhere to the writings and beliefs of Anton Szandor LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan and the author of the Satanic Bible.
“Satanists are evil Devil-Worshipers and criminals”.
Only Theistic (Spiritual) Satanists worship Satan as an entity - the term "Devil Worshiper" is considered to be derogatory and highly offensive. Satan is never referred to as "The Devil" as it is, additionally, considered to be an insult to Him. There are many sects within Theistic Satanism, but many agree that Satan is merely a name for the Deity which they worship, just as Zeus or Odin are names for other Deities.
Satan is much more than a "Christian invention" - He is an ancient God, existing before Christianity and vilified by such. Some believe that Satan is "The All", the creative power of the Universe and others believe that He is one of many Gods, separate from "The All".
“Satanists are 'evil'”.
Satanists are not evil. They do not commit crimes in the name of Satan or Self and most authentic Satanists are adults in their 30s and 40s. They are wives, husbands, fathers, lawyers, doctors and contributing members of society, just like anyone else. They do not engage in immoral acts and sex orgies with one another or with Satan and Demons.
Most of Theistic Satanism is based on Hermeticism, which is, essentially, the building blocks of Wicca and many other Neo-Pagan paths.
Certainly, there are some Satanists who are criminals just as there are some Wiccans, Odinists and Catholics who are criminals. It has nothing to do with religion, but sometimes criminals commit atrocities in the name of religion.
“Satanists torture and abuse children in rituals.”
This claim is false. Not one investigation into "Satanic Ritual Abuse" allegations EVER has yielded a shred of evidence to support such claims. There is no doubt that some deranged and otherwise disturbed people have committed ritual abuse, but whatever they were "practicing", it was NOT Satanism.
“Satanists mutilate and sacrifice animals to Satan.”
Though the ritual sacrifice of animals may be allowed in a humane and revered manner (i.e. - harvesting a chicken humanely and then cooking and eating the meat as a religious observance) , it is not common and is usually frowned upon by most self-respecting Theistic Satanists. If a sacrifice were made, the animal certainly would not be mutilated. Like most all Pagans, Satanists are concerned with the welfare and reverence of ALL lifeforms, and promote Animal Rights and the preservation of the environment.
“Anyone who practices cursing and binding had better look out for Karma.”
This statement only applies if the person actually BELIEVES in Karma. Not all people do. Many followers of Left Hand Paths believe that our punishment occurs in this lifetime only, and that is our own feelings of guilt and self-undoing.
Additionally, cursing and binding are not inherently "evil" or "bad" things. The motivations and intentions behind them are what must be judged if one is to apply a label of "evil" or "bad", not the acts and practices themselves.
“There is no such thing as Black Magic(k) ”.
Actually, there is such a thing and it is practiced. Not ALL followers of Left Hand Paths practice Black Magick, but some do. Black Magick typically refers to those magickal acts and practices which are malevolent or designed for self-gain in nature or which draw upon "negative" or "dark" energies. As you can see, there are many ways to define the term.
“If you practice Black Magick, then you're evil”.
Absolutely not. Black Magick can simply refer to any magickal act or practice designed for personal gain. For example, magick designed to attain wealth, honors or lovers. "Forcing" someone to love you, promote you or do favors for you by means of magick may be considered a big no-no by most followers of Right Hand Paths. They may consider it to be "tampering with another person's free will".
However, some people find it perfectly acceptable. It does not make a person "evil" to do things for personal gain by way of magickal means. It simply means that they believe in making themselves happy in this lifetime and they do not consider interference with the will of others to be an inherently "bad" thing. Remember, not everyone believes in Karma.
“But...you aren't observing 'An it harm none..'!”
This is a purely Wiccan concept. Not everyone agrees with it. You don't have to be of a Left Hand Path to disagree with this notion, but many followers of Left Hand Paths generally do disagree with it. Vengeance is a concept that is typically frowned upon by most Wiccans, but it is something that is acceptable and otherwise condoned by many followers of Left Hand Paths.
Just because a person believes in acts of vengeance or personal gain, it does not mean that they throw all ideas of respecting the boundaries and rights of others out of the window. Followers of Left Hand Paths, first and foremost, respect their fellow men and women. A belief in or adherence to the Threefold Law, Karma and the Wiccan Rede are not required to be a "good person" - it's only common sense to practice acts of love and respect. Followers of Left Hand Paths are just everyday people who love and honor their families, friends and their fellow human beings. The only real difference is that they are unafraid of putting themselves first from time to time.
“Demons are only out to trick us and to possess us”.
Depending upon whom you ask, Demons are sources of great wisdom and power. They are Deities in Their own right and are worshiped as such in several Left Hand Paths such as Demonolatry (the worship of Demons) . They, like Satan, are not regarded as "Christian inventions" nor are They considered to be cowering, lowly creatures good for nothing but pouncing on the first hapless soul They encounter. "Possession" by an actual Demon is a rare (if non-existent) occurrence and rogue spirits, not Demons, are responsible for most cases of literal possession. Demons treat you as you treat Them - regard Them with contempt and They, in turn, will regard you with such. Respect Them and They will treat you kindly for the most part.
It is not to say that Demons are completely benevolent beings. Any being of Spirit is a volatile and unpredictable force of Nature. Even Deities such as Isis or Odin are not incapable of great cruelty in balance with great kindness. ALL beings should be respected and treated with reverence.
“Demons must be summoned and bound within the Triangle of Art, otherwise they will destroy you”.
Amongst Ceremonial Magicians, this practice of "summoning Demons" is called Evocation and is considered to be an act of utmost disrespect to Demons by Demonolators and Theistic Satanists. Just as one would not summon, insult, command, bind and then finally banish a God or Goddess such as Hecate or Cernunnos, so should Demons not be treated with such absolute malice. Some Ceremonialists, of course, work successfully with Demons in this manner - however, one can rest assured that the Demon would take the first opportunity to deceive and take advantage of the Magician should the opportunity arise. We humans don't like being forced into a contract against our wills - neither do Demons.
“Satanists pervert Christian symbolism to be 'scary' and for 'shock value’.”
Some do, but there is profound meaning in the inversion of traditional religious symbolism.
“I saw on the news that some teenage boys dressed in long black coats took a gun into school and threatened their teacher. They claimed to be Satanists. That's not the first time I've seen Satanists do this...”
These teens, though tragic and likely severely bullied and depressed, are NOT representative of Satanists in any way, shape or form. Satanists do NOT all wear black and they do not believe in dishing out violence and comeuppance at every slight. They are peace-loving, family-oriented NORMAL people - or as much as anyone from any other religion is or can be.
Many young people naturally turn to darker patterns of thought and behavior when faced with peer pressure and depression. Not all claim to be Satanists, but many do. Why?
For the most part, in a desperate attempt to earn respect from their peers through fear and reverence. "If I scare them, they'll leave me alone". Many do it to rebel against strict household rules enforced by their parents. I would venture to guess that 99% of them do not practice Satanism at all. Especially not Theistic Satanism.
Wicca is not the only religion with its reputation tarnished by stereotypes.
“It's because of Satanists that Wiccans get a bad rep.”
No, it's because of nearly a thousand of years of fear and misinformation imposed upon society that Wiccans and non-Christians get a bad rep. Wiccans have fought for so long trying to convince Christians that they are not Satanists until they have, in the process, managed to tarnish the image of Satanists even more. By constantly perpetuating that they are not Satanists and, thus, not "evil", they are continuing to leave Christians with the impression that Satanists really must be evil! The difference, however, is that most Satanists don't care what Christians think of them in the first place - and it would be quite fair to say that it's an impossible task, anyway, to convince a Christian that a Satanist is "good"!
However, we may not be able to convince Christians that Satanism and those following the Left Hand Paths are not "evil", but we would certainly like to try to educate our Right Hand Path brethren that we are not what we have been perpetuated to be.
“But you're indulging the Ego, not the True Will!”
For some of us, there is no difference between the two. Essentially, many would respond, "so what?". Just because most Right Hand Paths cling to the thought of obeying the True Will it doesn't mean that everyone does or should. Followers of the Left Hand Path typically discard this concept as the pervading idea adhered to sustain that "man is the master of his own destiny" and that "there are no selfless acts".
To act in accordance to "True Will" suggests obedience of the conscious mind, the Ego to a Higher Power, even if it is merely a greater part of the Self. This notion is typically something that is rejected by followers of Left Hand Paths as the Ego and the material world is not something that must be risen above and resisted, but something that must be indulged and enjoyed through experience. Certainly, it would be unfair to say that ALL followers of Left Hand Paths disregard the concept of the "Higher Self", but few consider themselves to be deceived by "earthly" desires and Egoic urges. They embrace them.
To summarize, I would like to say that it's hopefully clear to you, by now, that we may all be very different, but we are also all very much alike. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, and so we must learn to not hold to double-standards and to break down the barriers between us instead through education, listening and understanding.