Satanism - it isn't for everyone

In his final contribution to the Faith Column, Umberto Ray explains why he is pleased Satanism lacks

As any Church Of Satan representative such as myself will tell you we know that Satanism is not for everyone. None of us expect to stand here espousing the tenets which form the bedrock of this religion and have every man and his dog knocking at our door seeking to throw in their lot with the dread prince of darkness. We would not want it any other way. We are not looking to entice the naive with promise of delight. The poet Charles Bukowski warned “Beware the average man – everything he does will be average.” Our challenge therefore remains - We Are Looking For A Few Outstanding Individuals!

Experience has taught us that Satanists are born and not made. For this reason we do not seek attention or to ensnare the saintly in the twisted web of deceit that so many are convinced we attempt to weave in the name of all things unholy. We realise our decree is not one that bends in acquiescence to the devices of mass consumption.

It is for this reason we declare ourselves the alien elite, proudly remaining emancipated from the tedium of mediocrity creeping into society, art, politics, literature and the media - comfortably sliding into bed next to all those who have subscribed to its mores and paid up in full. Our brand of elitism is one of ethics, not ethnicity. It is one that espouses the merits of the just and curses the rotten – those who would seek to deny the carnal pleasures of life and man’s own declaration of Godhood. I have no desire to offer the asinine listeners of Radio 4 hope by appearing on “Thought For The Day.”

However, over the last few days I have provided here an ephemeral glimpse through the veil that, for the casual onlooker, shrouds much of our adamantine philosophy in mystery. At the very least I hope I have proved entertaining enough to open up a few lively discussions and flung open the gates of hell to those individuals who most naturally resonate with us and will thus seek to further their knowledge by exploring the tenets within the pages of The Satanic Bible.

As an existing member of the church I am often asked how I came to become one of the many and varied individuals who make up what is The Church Of Satan. For me personally, it was some time during the late 1980’s when, sitting in the waiting room of a car repair shop, I casually picked up a newspaper and opened it at random. I was immediately drawn to a small photo in the corner. It was a picture of a shaven headed fellow with a goatee beard. I remember he rather reminded me of Ming The Merciless from Flash Gordon. But his scowling countenance possessed a twisted smile that was part personification of malice and part mockery, as if at the same time challenging the reader to ask himself the question “is he serious?”

The man was, of course, Anton Szandor LaVey. I cannot even remember what this filler article was about beyond the fact that it was a disparaging piece marking LaVey out as possibly the most evil man on the face of the earth. But it was the footnote at the bottom that caught my attention – “LaVey authored The Satanic Bible in 1969.” The very next day I rushed into a bookshop in Birmingham City and bought the book.

What I discovered was that yes, he was serious. In Blanche Barton’s authorised biography of LaVey The Secret Life Of A Satanist she mentions that his office desk bore a plaque engraved with the maxim “Beware of those that bow down before you – they might be reaching for the corner of the rug.” This amusing little anecdote pretty much sums up my own impressions when I first read LaVey’s bible. And that was whilst he was indeed serious, Satanism is rather like the stand-up comedian who’s implicit truths are delivered on a skewer of sardonic laughter that stabs the very heart of those deserved folks who, with a bit of luck, might die laughing.

The “joke” is on them. And we will be in no rush to alleviate their discomfort; after all, in the words of Herbert Spencer “the ultimate effect of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.”

Umberto Ray is predominantly known as a poet and his work has appeared in magazines and anthologies around the world. His first book, The Blood In My Veins, was published in 2005. He has been a CoS member for several years and was ordained into its priesthood on Walpurgisnacht, 2007.
OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images
Show Hide image

Harriet Harman: “Theresa May is a woman, but she is no sister”

The former deputy leader of the Labour Party urged women to unite across the divided party.

The day-long women's conference is usually the friendliest place at Labour party conference. Not only does it have a creche and a very clear emphasis on accessibility, but everybody who attends starts from a place of fundamental agreement before the sessions have even begun. For that reason, it's often ignored by political hacks in search of a juicy splits story (especially since it takes place on Saturday, before the "real" conference action really gets underway). But with the party divided and the abuse of women on and off social media a big concern, there was a lot to say.

This year, kick off was delayed because of the announcement of Jeremy Corbyn's victory in the leadership election. The cheer for the renewed leader in the packed women's conference hall was far bigger than that in the main hall, although not everybody was clapping. After a sombre tribute to the murdered Labour MP and former chair of the Labour Women's Network Jo Cox, Harriet Harman took to the stage.

As a long-time campaigner for women's rights, veteran MP and former deputy leader of the Labour Party, Harman is always popular with women's conference - even if her position on the current leadership and her status as a former Blairite minister places her out of sync with some of the audience. Rather than merely introducing the first speaker as the agenda suggested, Harman took the opportunity to make a coded dig at Corbyn by doing a little opposition of her own.

"Theresa May is a woman, but she is no sister," she declared, going on to describe the way that May, as shadow spokesperson for women and equalities under William Hague, had been a "drag anchor" on Harman's own efforts to enact pro-women reforms while Labour were in government. The Thatcher comparison for May is ubiquitous already, but Harman made it specific, saying that like Thatcher, Theresa May is a woman prime minister who is no friend to women.

Harman then turned her attention to internal Labour party affairs, reassuring the assembled women that a divided party didn't have to mean that no advances could be made. She gestured towards the turmoil in Labour in the 1980s, saying that "no matter what positions women were taking elsewhere in the party, we worked together for progress". Her intervention chimes with the recent moves by high profile former frontbenchers like Chuka Umunna and Yvette Cooper to seek select committee positions, and Andy Burnham's campaign to become mayor of Greater Manchester.

Harman's message to women's conference was clear: the time for opposition to Corbyn is over now - we have to live with this leadership, but we can't let the equalities legacy of the Blair years be subsumed in the meantime. She ended by saying that "we have many leaders in the Labour party," pointing to Jess Phillips, the chair of the women's PLP, and Angela Rayner, shadow minister for education, women and equalities. Like Burnham, Cooper et al, Harman has clearly decided that Corbyn can't be unseated, so ways must be found to work around him.

Rayner followed Harman onto the stage. As one of Corbyn's shadow ministerial team, Rayner is far from in agreement with Harman on everything, and rather than speak about any specific policy aims, she addressed women's conference on the subject of her personal journey to the front bench. She described how her mother was "born on the largest council estate in Europe and was one of twelve children" and "never felt loved and didn’t know how to love, because hugs, cuddles and any signs of affection just wasn’t the norm". She went on to say "mum won't mind me saying this - to this day she cannot read and write". Her mother was in the audience, attending her first Labour conference.

As a former care worker who became a mother herself when she was just 16, Rayner is a rarity at the top of Labour politics. She told the Guardian in 2012 that she is used to being underestimated because of her youth, her gender and her northern accent: "I'm a pretty young woman, lots of red hair, and everyone expects me to be stupid when I walk into a meeting for the first time. I'm not stupid and most people know that now, but I still like to be underestimated because it gives me an edge. It gives me a bit of stealth."

The mass shadow cabinet resignations in June propelled Rayner to the top sooner than an MP only elected in 2015 might have expected, and she has yet to really prove her mettle on the grind of parliamentary opposition and policy detail. But if Labour is ever to win back the seats in the north where Ukip and Brexit are now strong, it's the likes of Rayner that will do it. As Harriet Harman herself shows, the women and equalities brief is a good place to start - for even in turbulent, divided times for Labour, women's conference is still a place where people can find common ground.

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman.