Sunday, 9 February 2014

Creating A Satanic Altar


One of the most common questions I am asked by those of my readers who are new to Theistic Satanism is "how do I create a Satanic altar?".  

 I will begin by first defining what an altar actually is.  An altar is simply a structure, usually elevated, which serves as a sacred space and upon which one may conduct ritual work, offer libations to one's deities or establish a shrine to a deity or person amongst many other purposes.

How an altar will be used dictates the items which will adorn it.  For example, for LaVeyan Satanists who do not acknowledge nor honour an external deity such as Satan, an altar would serve the purpose of enabling them to carry out their symbolic ritual acts by "appearing" to be a traditional "Satanic" altar.  One may find upon such an altar an array of typically "Satanic" items - the Baphometic inverse pentagram, a ritual blade, a chalice of red wine, etc.  These items serve as aids to LaVeyan psychodrama, yet do not typically possess any function outside of what may be considered "props".

Altars belonging to practitioners of Theistic Satanism and Demonolatry, on the other hand, can be quite complex.  Because, in the context of theistic religious practice, the altar often functions as an intermediary space which unites both the physical and the unseen, great care is taken to keep the space and all items occupying that space clean and consecrated.  

Several basic questions should be contemplated when deciding upon the creation of one's first altar:

Q:  What will be the shape and size of the altar itself?

A:  This is an important consideration.  The size of an altar need not be outrageously immense, but it should be an adequate enough size to accommodate both the space it will be occupying as well as any tools and other items which will adorn it.  An altar can be as large as a buffet table or as small as a pie plate.  This will also be determined by the needs of the practitioner and what the ultimate function of the altar will be.  For example, many practitioners have multiple altars.  Some choose to use a large table or bench for their "working altar" (the altar which will be used to carry out ritual work, etc.) while a smaller altar (or altars) may be used as shrines for ancestors or for individual Demons.

The shape of the altar is sometimes based purely upon aesthetics and what pleases the eye of the practitioner.  Altars with round surfaces are often popular amongst Satanists and Neo-Wiccans due to the fact that the entire surface may be painted or carved into a pentacle:

Photo: The Glass Witch Magick Shoppe




Some practitioners do not choose to use a table-like surface for their altars and instead may choose to use a slab of stone outdoors (if they are fortunate enough to have a private property) or even the floor or ground itself.

Q:  In which area of the room will the altar be placed?

A:  This decision will be based upon personal beliefs.  Different traditions dictate different directions which an altar should face or indicate in which area of the room it should be positioned.  Many Theistic Satanic traditions based upon Jewish heresy, for example, will often position the altar in the northern corner of a room because of the myth that the Demonic realm lies in the northernmost corner of the Universe.  Others may feel that the South (in the Northern Hemisphere or North in the Southern Hemisphere) is a more fitting direction due to its association with the Element of Fire.  Still others may prefer any of the other directions based upon factors such as the Elemental association of their Patron or Matron Demon(s).

Q:  Is the altar likely to be disturbed or discovered?

A:  A religious altar, as a general rule, should not be interfered with or touched by others.  An exception to this rule would be in the case of a communal altar or an altar that is used by both partners within a relationship.

Many new to Theistic Satanism are young people still living at home with their families and who likely do not have supportive parents or siblings to encourage their exploration of alternative religions, especially a religion as controversial and maligned as Theistic Satanism.  Because of the potential interference and turmoil caused by an altar being discovered unintentionally, it is wise to create an altar that will be both sufficient for the needs of the practitioner as well as easily hidden away when necessary from prying eyes.

As unattractive as it may seem, small and lightweight folding tables such as TV dinner trays can function quite well as portable altars.  Using floor space instead of a physical table-like structure as an altar can also achieve this purpose by simply using altar cloths to denote the sacred space and by having a small bag on hand in which can be carried any ritual items.  Even small decorative boxes such as those used to store jewellery may serve as a type of "mini altar":

Mini altar by Iona Tasker - www.flickriver.com
Q:  How should an altar be decorated?  What kinds of tools should be placed upon it?

A:  Again, these details will be solely dependent upon the personal beliefs and practices of the person in question.  For most magickally-inclined Theistic Satanists and Demonolators, the altar acts as a home for ritual tools and a place upon which libations are made.  As in many traditions of Neo-Wicca, many Theistic Satanists choose the basic Elemental tools to indicate the four cardinal directions upon their altars:

Northern Hemisphere:

North - Earth (a dish of salt or earth)
South - Fire (charcoal or a red candle)
East - Air (incense)
West - Water (chalice or water bowl)

Southern Hemisphere:

North - Fire (charcoal or a red candle)
South - Earth (a dish of salt or earth)
East - Air (incense)
West - Water (chalice or water bowl)

My working altar.  Photo by Torey B. Scott
 Of course, these corresponding ritual tools are not compulsory or particular to Theistic Satanism at all unless one is comfortable with the traditional Neo-Wiccan associations of the Elements to these particular items.  Many practitioners feel that the Elements are best represented by other items and decorate their altars to reflect this.  Others may believe that there is no necessity in arranging ritual items according to their Elemental associations and directions and may choose to simply place whichever items they deem appropriate upon their altars in no particular fashion.

Typically, a working altar will include at least some of the following traditional ritual tools and items:
  • Altar cloth
  • Candles and candle holders
  • Incense and incense holders
  • Ritual blade (typically a decorative dagger)
  • Water dish
  • Libation dish
  • Matches or a lighter
  • Paper 
  • Pen
  • Chalice or cup
  • Symbolic statuary
  • Altar paten (decorative pentacle)
  • Divinitory tools such as Tarot cards, pendulums, etc.

An ancestral altar or an altar that is to be used as a shrine or dedicated altar for a deity or spirit will typically be adorned with some of the following items:

  • Photographs (if ancestral, depending upon the personal beliefs and traditions of the practitioner)
  • Personal items belonging to the ancestor(s)
  • Items reflecting the things enjoyed during the lifetime of the ancestor(s)
  • Libation dish
  • Candles
  • Matches or lighter
  • Altar cloth
  • Chalice
Again, altars are extremely personal items which are particular to the beliefs and preferences of the person(s) creating them.  No one can tell you how your altar should be decorated.  There are merely suggestions and examples which are there to guide you.

There are other questions that I am often asked in regards to Satanic altars which I feel are worth addressing, but I will not address them all as most of the answers can already be found in the information I have already provided:

Q:  If I create an altar, does that mean that I have to worship at it every day?

A:  No.  Again, how often you visit your altar will depend upon what its overall function is meant to be and what your personal beliefs consist of.  It is good practice to regularly visit your altar every few days - at the very least, it should be kept clean and free from dust. 

Q:  If I create an altar for Satan, does that mean that I am eternally bound to Him?

A:  Absolutely not.  An altar is not a pact.  It is a sacred space.  While some entities and spirits may view an altar as a gift or as a place given to them by yourself, it does not bind you to them in the same manner that a ritualised pact might bind you to them.  That being said, it is nonetheless a good idea to respect the altar once you have dedicated it (if you choose to dedicate it) to a deity or an ancestor.  Do not use the altar as a space upon which to place your morning cup of coffee, half-eaten sandwich or dirty clothes as it is a sign of disrespect.

Q:  What if I honour more than one Demon?  Can I have one altar dedicated to Them all?

A:  While most Demons do readily work together and generally tolerate one another's presence, there are those who inevitably clash with one another and will refuse to be invoked together, spoken to at the same time, asked to collaborate or otherwise venerated together.  If you do not have an established line of communication with all of the entities with whom you work, it is best to assume that They prefer to be honoured separately.  That is not to say that each Demon requires Its own altar, but that it is a good idea to work with only one sigil or representation of a Demon at a time within a given space. 

Q:  I can't find black candles anywhere!  What do I do?

A:  Black candles, while having some purpose within certain rituals and magickal workings, are not a necessity for a Satanic altar.  Granted, they are quite attractive on a well-decorated altar, but they are primarily used by Satanists due to the fact that they appear "spooky".

Q:  I don't have the money to buy all of these fancy tools.  Will Satan ignore me if I don't have them?

A:  No.  The issue with this question is that there seems to be some confusion regarding what tools are used for.  Tools generally apply only to ritual and magick workings whereas communication with Satan or any other entity is a matter of spirituality.

Satan nor any Demon requires a person to possess numerous tools in order to acknowledge them.  Working with Demons requires Will, clear intentions, a sound and open mind and a great amount of respect.  If you are creating magick, on the other hand, tools may be crude or fancy - bought or hand-crafted.  Tools may not be used at all if the Will is strong enough.






Saturday, 8 February 2014

Blog Prompt: Altruism & The Satanist


Anyone familiar with Anton LaVey's Satanism envisions Satanists as egotistical, self-centered miscreants with complete disregard for others and for society as a whole.  Even most LaVeyan Satanists would describe themselves as selfish to some degree.  Theistic Satanists, too, recognise the innate divinity of the Self and thus embrace the ideal of self-exaltation and the spiritual profundity of autotheism.  It would seemingly be a rare and guarded fact that not all Satanists are sociopathic hedonists - even rarer that many consider themselves to be pillars of their respective mundane communities.  The truth of the matter is that the long-assumed "fact" that Satanists are incapable of altruistic acts is not only an untruth, but that Satanic criminality has been disproportionally sensationalised thanks to mass paranoia and the perpetuation of the image of Satanists as murderous cultists within pop culture.

Most of what we regard today as Satanic philosophy was established by Anton LaVey with the advent of his book, The Satanic Bible - first published in 1969. The Satanic Bible laid the groundwork for Modern Satanism and, subsequently, most traditions of Theistic Satanism.  Some of the key principles recognised as paramount to Satanic identity include:

  • Recognition of the Self as a divine being.
  • The pursuit of physical (earthly) pleasures without fear of "cosmic repercussions".
  • Treating others as they treat you (like for like or an eye for an eye).
  • Rejection of Christian doctrine and the authority of religious institutions.
  • The pursuit of knowledge and self-education.
  • Questioning the meaning behind "rules" and codes of conduct, etc.
  • Refusing to accommodate parasitic relationships and individuals.
  • Recognition of the importance of the human experience.

 Many calling themselves Satanists have often extracted particular ideas from Satanic philosophy and have used them to validate criminal acts and antisocial behaviour, citing that Satanists reject all aspects of human social constructs and have no regard for the personal space and well-being of others.  Such individuals exist within both the LaVeyan and Theistic Satanic communities at large.  Unfortunately, one of the more recognizable demographics within pseudo-Satanism is that of the teenage "Satanist" - the hapless Goth kids in long black trenchcoats whose tragic and misguided attempts at self-exploration often lead them to a life of substance abuse, homelessness, prison or even death.  How many films and television shows portray so-called "Satanic cults" orchestrating murderous plots, gathering around the sacrificial altar in hooded cloaks whilst raising blood-stained daggers in praise of Satan?  Unfortunately, this image of Satanists is the most recognizable today.

It is folly to believe that we can ever hope to (or desire to) see the world praise Satanists as "normal every day people".  Some 31% of the world population is religiously Christian.  In the eyes of most Christians, Satan will always the "Enemy of Man" and Satanists will always be wantonly assisting Him in leading souls astray.  It is not the image of the sociopathic Satanist that we wish to challenge so much as it is the perception that Satanists are incapable of altruism.

Anton LaVey insisted that there was "no such thing as a selfless act".  I tend to agree.  While I could happily derail this post into a long-winded lecture regarding the specifics of the this theory, I will not.  Regardless of whether or not doing a "good deed" benefits the doer in some way, most Satanists who truly understand Satanic philosophy recognise that antisocial behaviour is actually detrimental to self-advancement.  Destroying or contributing to the destabilisation of one's home environment ultimately results in the destruction of one's ability to productively operate within that society and to sustain his or her lifestyle.

Earning a bad reputation can completely handicap the likelihood of attaining gainful employment.  Criminality carries with it the risk and a high probability of incarceration and the loss of personal freedom.  Therefore, while it is not essential that a Satanist selflessly "puts others ahead of themselves", it is essential that Satanists recognise the necessity of being a functioning member of society.

Returning to the theme of altruism and the idea that there is no such thing as a selfless act, Satanist or not - all human beings have motivations which drive their decisions to help others.  Some individuals donate to charity because it "makes them feel good".  Although there is no sinister motive, this is self-gratification nonetheless.

Whether or not a Satanist is inclined to "do good unto others" because it is gratifying to do so, positively contributing to the society in which we live is also positively contributing to our own existence as individuals.  There are many Satanists who balk at the notions of giving and altruism as they often regard altruistic acts as being dependent upon "love".  Love has nothing to do with it.  As I have mentioned, the better off we are as a society and as a collective species, the better off are ourselves and our families.

Why do I give to others?  Because of love?  Because of compassion?  Because it makes me feel good inside?  Because it makes me look like "one of the good guys"?  A Satanist recognises that divinity - innate divinity - exists within each of us.  To deny the deservingness of just one person to a rich and fulfilling existence is to deny his divinity - and to deny the divinity of oneself.

I give to my family because I love them.  I give to others because it makes me feel good to do so and because I believe in repaying those who have come to my aid when I was in need.  I help those less fortunate because I know what it feels like to live in poverty.  I see my grandmother in the face of every lonely old woman on the street and it I feel struck to the bone with wonder as I recognise the divine being hiding behind those sad eyes.  I go to work every day even though I would love nothing more than to spend my waking hours writing or creating my art, but I know that I have a responsibility - not only to my family - but to myself to ensure that my experience of life is something that can be wholly enjoyed, cherished and afforded.

Divinity is not something reserved for Satanists.  It is not a gift bestowed upon the wealthy.  I often quote the passage from Isaiah 46:9 in the phrase, "I am God and there is none like Me" in reference to myself and in reference to the Satanic belief in autotheism.  But it is actually an untruth.  Yes, I am God as are you - and there are billions just like Me.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Blog Prompt: Angels

Ezekiel's Wheel


The basis for this series of posts is my discovery of the existence of the Pagan Blog Project - a website dedicated to providing bloggers with prompts, or generated ideas, for interesting topics about which to write.  Now, officially, there seems to be no "rule" barring a Theistic Satanist from contributing to the project, for the time being I am choosing to blog separate from the official Project as not to ruffle any feathers.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I will address the basic gist of this series.  Each week, a new topic will be chosen based on the letters of the alphabet - with two topics chosen for each letter.  That means that for the letter "A", I will be creating two posts over two weeks and so on for the remainder of the alphabet.

My first topic for this project is "Angels".

Why choose Angels?  I decided to write about Angels for two reasons.  The first reason is that Angels are often a recurring theme amidst many Occult and Neo-Pagan sources and are popular with the practitioners of related traditions.  The second reason is that Angels are seen as entities which completely contrast and often negate the entities and ideas which resonate with Theistic Satanists and Demonolators.  I will expand upon some of my thoughts regarding Angels in a Q & A format.

Q:  How do you envision Angels? 

A:  I envision Angels as non-corporeal energetic beings with the ability to assume many different forms, depending upon the circumstances.  Most people imagine Angels rather simply - as merely beautiful human beings with wings and flowing garments.  Angels, at least primarily within Judaic traditions, are far more terrifying and inhuman than commonly depicted by Christians and Neo-Pagans.  I believe that Angels are, in their most primitive "forms", quite strange to behold.  Take, for example, Ezekiel's vision of the Chariot of God and the many strange and almost horrific Angelic beings he beheld.  Biblical and extra-Biblical depictions of Angels tell us that they are naturally quite bizarre and terrifying.

We find Angels depicted as creatures that breathe corrosive flames, completely inhuman "wheels", columns of fire with innumerable eyes and wings, serpents of fire, beings with ever-changing faces and monsters of gargantuan proportions chained together as to be prevented from destroying the Universe.  My own sole encounter with an Angel was disturbing and left me feeling completely shaken to the core of my being - I encountered an entity as tall as a skyscraper which bellowed with an inhuman drone, its entire "head" consumed with fire. So, for myself, when I envision an Angel, I envision an alien and surreal entity with a cold and fixed Nature - a far cry from the kind and concerned beings depicted within Neo-Paganism.

That being said, I do believe that it is possible to encounter the "popular" manifestation of an Angel as a winged humanoid entity.   Like Demons, I believe that Angels possess the ability to change their appearance at will.

Q:  What do you believe that Angels are and what are their motivations?

A:  There really is no one answer to this question as I believe that each Angelic encounter must be examined within the context of the situation, the individual encountering the Angel and the origins of the entity in question.  Do I believe that Neo-Pagans are regularly encountering Judeo-Christian Archangels when they claim to be "guided by the Archangel Michael" or "blessed by the Archangel Raphael"?  To be quite frank, in most cases I do not.  That is not to say that I believe that no Neo-Pagan (etc.) has ever encountered a genuine Archangel - but it is my belief that the "entities" which they claim as guides and protectors are either merely Spirit Guides assuming the guise of an Angel or are manifestations of an internal process.

I look to the mythology of the Judeo-Christian Angels when I emphasise the argument that these Angels are not regularly interacting with every Neo-Pagan and psychic who petitions them.  When one is claiming that the Archangel Gabriel, for instance, is acting as a guide for them - I would immediately find myself the skeptic.  Archangels, like all of the named Judeo-Christian Angels, do not typically act independently of God.  That is the simplest and most basic truth when we look at their origins.  If one is claiming to be guided by the Angels, then one must assume that it is God, not the Angels, who is guiding them.

Those who would argue as to whether or not an Angel could act independently of God are focusing on the question of an Angel's potential Free Will and not on the question of would an Angel act independently of God.  The answer is an overwhelming not likely.  Angels would be well aware of the consequences of disobeying the Will of God.  Would they risk being cast down from God's sight if one adheres to the legends of the Fall of Lucifer?  I would sincerely doubt it.  Thus postulating that an Angel has Free Will and must then have the capacity to guide and protect human beings out of the goodness of its heart becomes irrelevant as it is the consequences of the choice itself, not the ability to choose, which renders it an unlikely event that an Angel would bestow its teachings and guidance upon a human being without God's knowledge or command.

I do believe that it is possible that many Ceremonialists are genuinely working with Angels as intermediaries between themselves and God as many Ceremonialists are themselves either Kabbalists or inclined towards Christian mysticism.  However, Neo-Pagans, who actively shun and reject YHWH, would not be expected to have either his care or attention and thus the attention of his Angels.  I do believe that there are Neo-Pagans who cling to YHWH, either actively or passively, and thus may experience bona fide Angelic encounters, but I believe that they are few and far between.

Q:  If not "real" Angels, then what are so many Neo-Pagans experiencing when they claim to have been visited by these beings?  

A:  As I have already mentioned, Spirit Guides are likely candidates.  One must remember that many Neo-Pagans come from a Christian household or have otherwise been immersed within a Christian society.  Angels, for most children, are nearly always a source of wonder and comfort.  Many of us are taught from an early age that our "guardian Angel" is watching over us or that our beloved deceased grandparents are now "Angels in Heaven".  It makes sense that a spirit wishing to establish a line of communication with a human being, already familiar with the benevolent form of an "Angel", would choose such a guise in order to appear kind, approachable and void of malicious intentions. 

The second most likely explanation as to why so many Neo-Pagans believe that they are "working with" or are being "visited by" Angels, as I have mentioned, is that what they are experiencing is the manifestation of an internal process.  Many Neo-Pagans claim to experience Angelic encounters during states of mediation.  While the objective truth remains elusive, it is widely believed by Occultists that these "meditative states" do not achieve contact with an external spiritual realm, but rather they achieve contact with the internal subconscious states of unawakefulness.  I believe that "Angels" encountered during states of meditative consciousness may primarily be subconscious visions which draw upon, again, the familiar and comforting image of Angels as protectors.  This is not to say that such experiences are devoid of value altogether, but as with any meditative experience it is more likely to be the result of establishing contact with what is often regarded as the Higher Self as opposed to establishing contact with any external Angelic realm(s).

Again, I must reiterate that by no means am I implying that there are no legitimate Neo-Pagan Angelic encounters.  I am stating that I do not believe that such encounters are as common as they appear to be.

Q:  How significant are Angels to a Theistic Satanist or Demonolator?

A:  They are not significant at all within my personal practices.  I view Angels as agents of the Christian God and they have no place nor function within my magick and my rituals.

Q:  Do Angels really have the ability to constrain Demons as is claimed by Grimoiric traditions?

A:  In my beliefs they do not.  I do not believe that YHWH is omnipotent and therefore I do not believe that, through his direction, Angels somehow have to the power or authority to a) travel to the realm of the Demonic on a whim and b) bind and constrain Demonic entities neither in Their realm nor within any other.  The idea that Angels hold power over Demons is born of the dichotomous beliefs of Judeo-Christian authors responsible for the groundwork of Ceremonial Magic as we know it today. 

Jewish traditions gave rise to the belief in the Shemhamphorasch or the 72-letter name of God.  From this name of God there was derived the names of 72 Angels and opposing these 72 Angels were their 72 Demonic "counterparts".  We know these 72 Demons commonly and collectively as the Goetia.  According to Ceremonial Magic, the Goetia may be bound and manipulated through the use of the names of their corresponding Angels.  This tradition of Demons being controllable via a particular Angel is not peculiar to the Shemhamphorasch, but is found throughout a variety of Grimoires and religious mythologies.  Regardless, it is a myth which holds little water in regards to my own beliefs and experiences.

If so many different sources claim that Angels innately hold sway over Demons, why do I reject that this is the case?  I return to my original belief in the non-omnipotence of YHWH.  I will not even attempt to touch upon the origins of YHWH himself as it is beyond the scope of this post.  However, I will state that the mythological evidence for the non-omnipotence of YHWH establishes doubt that he is the creator of the Universe.  This evidence, for myself personally, subsequently negates his ability to indiscriminately constrain other Divine Beings (such as Demons) without consequence.  YHWH is no more capable of throttling Thor than Isis is capable of throttling Enki.  Perhaps such Divine clashes do take place, but if we examine mythology we discover that such acts of deific punch-throwing are often declarations of war.  Gods typically respect the domains of one another and certainly do not habitually bind, insult and flippantly "bitch slap" one another.

In other words, if God himself has not the authority nor capacity to constrain another Divine Being then there is little doubt that his Angelic agents would also lack this ability. 

Q:  Do you believe in Fallen Angels and, if so, do you consider Demons to be Fallen Angels?

A:  Yes and no.  Some Demons are Fallen Angels, but not all Demons are.  These are my beliefs.

A Fallen Angel, in my beliefs, is an Angelic Being that has either chosen to "fall" or which has been "cast down" from its home realm by YHWH.  I do not believe that Angels are necessarily controlled by YHWH as one would operate a remote-controlled toy, for example - but rather, I believe that Angels have Free Will and thus choose to obey him.  By far, there is little doubt that the overwhelming majority of Angels choose to serve God without question - but mythology tells us that occasionally an Angel chooses another path.

I must establish that I do accept some of Judeo-Christian mythology as truth.  The fact that I accept some and not all is the reason that I consider myself a heretic and not a Jew or a Christian.  That being said, I also accept the existence and validity of entities and stories originating from other world mythologies.  My sometimes complex worldview is the reason why my beliefs regarding Angels and Demons is quite atypical of Neo-Pagans, Judeo-Christians and even most Theistic Satanists.

Returning to the question at hand, I do consider Fallen Angels to be Demons.  I also know, from my own experiences, that some Demons are actually pre-Christian entities both formerly unknown to Man or otherwise known by Their names within various world cultures.  So in my beliefs, there are what you may consider to be "races" or varieties of Demonic Beings just as there are races and varieties of human beings.  I believe that there are races and varieties of Angelic Beings, as well.