A brief musing on the nature of Satanic ritual

Who wouldn't be on a Satanist's speed dial: Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny or Judge Dredd?

Visitors to The Church Of Satan website are often bewildered when confronted by an image of Anton LaVey fronting a group of black-robed Satanic ritual participants, their faces concealed by the donning of animal masks. When juxtaposed with the pragmatic philosophy that Satanism is purported to be founded on, the question that the curious are prompted to ask is: “well, if you don’t believe in the Devil, why all the demonic imagery?”

The image in the aforementioned example depicts a ritual outlined in The Satanic Rituals known as Das Tierdrama. The rite was originally performed by The Order Of The Illuminati founded in 1776 by Adam Weishaupt, and the purpose of the ritual is for its participants to willingly assume the animalistic attributes of purity, honesty and increased sensory perception. If you are wondering what possible advantage the assuming of such attributes might offer someone, well... you try creeping up on a sleeping lion. Think of it as a sharpening of the acumen.

In his book The Satanic Scriptures, High Priest Peter H. Gilmore stipulates that there is no requirement for anyone to believe that ritual operates as anything other than self-therapy. Although these rituals are orchestrated as what we term to be a “Psycho-drama”, Gilmore adds that it is through personal practice and verification that one may discover that they also effect some very real results in accordance with one’s will.

The fact is that the nature of how ritual works with its multitude of theories and possibilities would be far too broad a spectrum to be explored with sufficient depth in the space afforded me here. Suffice to say, I can briefly encapsulate it thusly – our desires and emotions, even the human psyche itself, exist without quantifiable form. It is through symbolism that such concepts are afforded the substance required to help bolster the will, offering it direction through increased focus. In Man And His Symbols, Carl Jung posits that “because there are innumerable things beyond the range of human understanding, we constantly use symbolic terms to represent concepts that we cannot define or fully comprehend. This is one reason why all religions employ symbolic language.”

The difference in the Satanic credo here is that our own use of such symbols is a method by which we focus the carnal human will rather than entrusting the fruition of our desires to the auspices of some intangible deity. It is here where the distinction can be made that; although, we do indeed employ what some have seen as demonic imagery it is still administered with a more pragmatically orientated rationale than it might first appear.

To end on a lighter note it should be added that the ceremonies and practices outlined in both The Satanic Bible and The Satanic Rituals are standardised guidelines which will set the able practitioner on the road of his own personal discovery where only the limitless parameters of the imagination are the final arbiter of what he might achieve. One thing is certain – it is not at all about doom and gloom. Above all, Satanism is fun! Anton LaVey once said “a Satanist without a sense of humour would be intolerable”. With this in mind it is easier to understand why and how the black magician is just as likely to symbolically summon the aid of Bugs Bunny as a trickster as he is to Loki. Or Judge Dredd as a metre of justice as to Satan himself, though I doubt you’d find many a Satanist summoning the help of the hapless and so easily hoodwinked Elmer Fudd.

In closing I hope I have addressed, and at least with a little humour, the charges some people level against us that our rituals are based on some reverse Christian ideology.

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.
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The Prevent strategy needs a rethink, not a rebrand

A bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy.

Yesterday the Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on radicalization in the UK. While the focus of the coverage has been on its claim that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to combat the promotion of terrorism and extremism, it also reported on Prevent. The report rightly engages with criticism of Prevent, acknowledging how it has affected the Muslim community and calling for it to become more transparent:

“The concerns about Prevent amongst the communities most affected by it must be addressed. Otherwise it will continue to be viewed with suspicion by many, and by some as “toxic”… The government must be more transparent about what it is doing on the Prevent strategy, including by publicising its engagement activities, and providing updates on outcomes, through an easily accessible online portal.”

While this acknowledgement is good news, it is hard to see how real change will occur. As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.

This denial is significant. Before the 2011 review, the Prevent strategy distributed money to help local authorities fight violent extremism and in doing so identified priority areas based solely on demographics. Any local authority with a Muslim population of at least five per cent was automatically given Prevent funding. The 2011 review pledged to end this. It further promised to expand Prevent to include far-right extremism and stop its use in community cohesion projects. Through these FOI requests I was trying to find out whether or not the 2011 pledges had been met. But with the blanket denial of information, I was left in the dark.

It is telling that the report’s concerns with Prevent are not new and have in fact been highlighted in several reports by the same Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as numerous reports by NGOs. But nothing has changed. In fact, the only change proposed by the report is to give Prevent a new name: Engage. But the problem was never the name. Prevent relies on the premise that terrorism and extremism are inherently connected with Islam, and until this is changed, it will continue to be at best counter-productive, and at worst, deeply discriminatory.

In his evidence to the committee, David Anderson, the independent ombudsman of terrorism legislation, has called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. This would be a start. However, more is required. What is needed is a radical new approach to counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, one that targets all forms of extremism and that does not stigmatise or stereotype those affected.

Such an approach has been pioneered in the Danish town of Aarhus. Faced with increased numbers of youngsters leaving Aarhus for Syria, police officers made it clear that those who had travelled to Syria were welcome to come home, where they would receive help with going back to school, finding a place to live and whatever else was necessary for them to find their way back to Danish society.  Known as the ‘Aarhus model’, this approach focuses on inclusion, mentorship and non-criminalisation. It is the opposite of Prevent, which has from its very start framed British Muslims as a particularly deviant suspect community.

We need to change the narrative of counter-terrorism in the UK, but a narrative is not changed by a new title. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy. While the Home Affairs Select Committee concern about Prevent is welcomed, real action is needed. This will involve actually engaging with the Muslim community, listening to their concerns and not dismissing them as misunderstandings. It will require serious investigation of the damages caused by new Prevent statutory duty, something which the report does acknowledge as a concern.  Finally, real action on Prevent in particular, but extremism in general, will require developing a wide-ranging counter-extremism strategy that directly engages with far-right extremism. This has been notably absent from today’s report, even though far-right extremism is on the rise. After all, far-right extremists make up half of all counter-radicalization referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the east Midlands.

It will also require changing the way we think about those who are radicalized. The Aarhus model proves that such a change is possible. Radicalization is indeed a real problem, one imagines it will be even more so considering the country’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy remains problematic and ineffective. In the end, Prevent may be renamed a thousand times, but unless real effort is put in actually changing the strategy, it will remain toxic. 

Dr Maria Norris works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.