Originally published 7 March 2011. © Torey B. Scott
“My names and manifestations on this plane are legion, I have been known to many, but understood by but a few.” -Liber Azazel
It makes sense to introduce this section with a simple question—who exactly is Satan? Most Neo-Pagans assume that they know the answer. For these Neo-Pagans, especially Neo-Wiccans, Satan is simply a Christian invention derived by the Church as a means of frightening Pagans into religious submission. While there is little doubt that Satan, as most know Him today, has Christianity to thank for His bad reputation, He is most assuredly not a “Christian invention”.
In order to better understand the evolution of the mythology behind the name, we will have to work our way backwards to the beginning of His story. Amongst Theistic Satanists today, Satan is a very real being. Something that is exceedingly common is to assume that Satanists worship “The Devil”—the embodiment of evil. For myself and others, Satan and “The Devil” are two different entities altogether.
The role and character of The Devil have been blown entirely out of proportion thanks to the Christian obsession with Satan’s perceived influence over humanity. According to fundamentalists, The Devil controls every aspect of daily life—it is constantly seeking to lure human beings into its snares through the pursuit of earthly pleasures such as rock music, dancing, sex and (of course) alternative religions. One would think, from listening to such claims, that The Devil’s power must surely rival that of the Almighty’s! With so much paranoia and obsession feeding such a concept, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Christians have, through their unfounded fears, created their own Devil.
Many of you may be familiar with what is commonly known as an egregore or thoughtform. The concept of an egregore revolves around the school of thought in which it is accepted that with enough belief and energy poured into a specific character or idea, such a thing may “come into being”—fiction essentially becomes reality. A similar concept drives many of the principles behind Chaos Magick. While there is substance to the system of creating and working with fantastical imagery, for the purposes of this book I will leave the topic at that. It is a commonly shared belief within Theistic Satanism that The Devil is, in fact, an egregore and should not be confused with Satan.
Why and how, you may ask, is The Devil different to Satan? The answer comes in understanding the original role of Satan within the Judeo-Christian context. Satan’s Biblical origins establish that He was, in fact, an angel whose duty was to influence the lives and fortunes of human beings in an attempt to test their faith in and loyalty to God. This means that all of the supposed “evil” for which Satan was responsible was not only condoned by God, but was wholly devised by God. Satan was simply one of many angelic beings whose role was that of the “accuser”—responsible for revealing to God those whose faith was shakeable.
In Hebrew, the word ha-Satan, the word from which Satan’s name was derived, actually denotes a title, not a proper name—loosely translating as “accuser”, “adversary” or even “prosecutor”. Because ha-Satan is not necessarily applied to one entity, it must be understood that it is entirely possible that there is more than one Satan. In fact, the Apocryphal Book of Enoch specifically describes six such Satans, fallen angels and former Grigori whose supposed evil actions in relation to the Beni Elohim earned them God’s condemnation. Additionally, the second Book of Enoch identifies a specific angel, Satanael, as the Prince of the Grigori who was also cast out of heaven for his offenses and a similar angel, called Semjâzâ, is also described in the first Book of Enoch. However it must be made clear that not all Satanists subscribe to the Judeo-Christian descriptions of Satan as a fallen angel and accuser for God. Those who do, however, typically identify with the Satan portrayed in the Biblical Book of Job—an angel whose role is that of the trickster, accuser and tester of Mankind.
In contrast, the image of The Devil in many cases seems to contradict the original role of Satan. The word devil is derived from the Greek word for “slanderer”—diabolos. The Book of Job sees the Hebrew term ha-Satan (Accuser) evolve into ho diabolos (Slanderer) within the Greek Septuagint translation of the Bible. It is not until the advent of The New Testament that the term diabolos becomes much more identifiable with Satan, being mentioned more than thirty times alongside His name. One note of historical curiosity is that some early Gnostic sects and the 11th century French Christian sect known as the Cathars denoted the Christian God of The Old Testament, not Satan, as “The Devil”, a malevolent entity which whose purpose was, through deception, to enslave humanity.
“For God to be free of responsibility for human evil, humanity must be capable of freely choosing to be diabolically evil. But if human beings can freely choose to be diabolically, purely, evil, Satan and his demons are redundant.” -Phillip Cole – The Myth of Evil
Mainstream Christianity has taken the original mythology behind the Biblical Satan and His role and has exaggerated it, embellished it and subsequently evolved it to such an extent that The Devil has become a character of its own. Most of the popular Christian beliefs about The Devil today have actually been derived from The New Testament and the writings of Christian scholars whose own beliefs and interpretations of Biblical lore have contributed to the modern imagery behind The Devil. Concepts such as Hell being the abode of The Devil and the ongoing war between the Christian God and this evil entity for the possession of human souls have no real basis within the Hebrew foundations of the Bible. In a very basic sense, it may be said that Satan is the entity of the Hebrew Biblical tradition and The Devil, the personification of evil, belongs to Christian theology and the traditions of The New Testament. It may be easy to see why so many Satanists take offense to being mistaken for devil worshipers.
In addition to The Devil, Theistic Satanists do not generally consider Satan to be the same entity as the Christian depiction of Lucifer. I personally do not subscribe to the belief that Lucifer and Satan are one in the same. This is perhaps one of the most obvious differences between Theistic Satanism and the related practice of Luciferianism. Like many other Theistic Satanists, I do not believe that Lucifer is Satan primarily due to the fact that the Biblical origins of the word lucifer have nothing to do with Satan.
It is commonly assumed that Lucifer was simply another name used in the Bible to denote Satan, but this is inaccurate. Lucifer means “morning star” in Latin and occurs in the Bible primarily as a translation of a metaphorical title given to a Babylonian King whose fall was detailed in a passage from Isaiah 14:12:
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!” -Isaiah 14:12 – King James Version of the Holy Bible
The Babylonian King was referred to as “day star” or “morning star” by Isaiah in reference to the fact that the King’s fall was comparable to the Canaanite myth in which the personified Morning Star, whose arrogance had inspired it to ascend the heavens and to establish itself on the mountain of the gods, is cast into the Underworld. This ancient myth would later be adopted in the second Book of Enoch. In this adaptation, the Grigori Prince, Satanael (replacing the Morning Star of the Canaanite myth), arrogantly aspires to establish his throne higher than the clouds over the earth, desiring to be all-powerful. He leads a rebellion of angels which ultimately fails to succeed, finding himself and his cohorts cast down for their transgressions.
Jerome, responsible for the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible, translated the original Hebrew passage as lucifer qui mane oriebaris which, in English, means “morning star that once rose early”. Erroneously, later Christian scholars decided that this entire passage referred to Satan and alluded to the myth of His fall from grace, thereafter the name of Lucifer becoming synonymous with Him. Many Neo-Wiccans and Neo-Pagans tend to believe that Lucifer is the name of a Roman God, a similar belief is found within the context of Gnosticism in which Lucifer is the son of the goddess Sophia.
Many Theistic Satanists accept the depiction of Satan as the serpent responsible for tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden as well as the Gnostic interpretation of Him as being the entity responsible for giving Knowledge to humanity. Although I personally believe that this particular story is allegorical, it nevertheless speaks of Satan’s role as a being concerned with forcing us to question those things in our lives which bind or hinder us. In Hebraic traditions, the entity responsible for the temptation of Eve and her subsequent impregnation with Cain was known as Samael, or “poison of God”. Samael is often equated with Satan by both Hebraic and Christian scholars, but within Talmudic mythology, Samael is regarded as the angel of death and one of the principle Archangels. Jewish traditions do not consider Samael to be evil as His role, in addition to being the angel of death, is that of the accuser, acting upon the direction of God. In other mystical traditions such as those of Zoharistic Kabbalah, Samael becomes the “prince the demons”, a fallen angel, and consort of the four Demonesses of sacred prostitution—Naamah, Lilith, Eisheth Zenunim and Agerath bat Machaloth. In addition to Kabbalistic tradition, Samael’s role as a sinister entity emerged with the advent of Gnosticism in which He is considered to be the demiurge. I do not believe that Satan is a fallen angel in the Biblical sense—for me, He is a god like any other god. I believe that He is, indeed, an “accuser”, but in the sense that He inspires us to take a long hard look at ourselves, to question our boundaries and personal convictions. There is almost a unanimous belief amongst Theistic Satanists that through the pursuit of Knowledge, understanding things for ourselves instead of accepting what we are told by others, we are upholding the spirit of Satan’s lesson that Knowledge is Power.
In religions which view Knowledge as dangerous and threatening to the authority of God and the clergy, Satan would naturally be seen as the adversary to law and order. Perhaps it is because so many Satanists embrace a rather anarchic philosophy when it comes to religious and moral constraints that Satan is such an ideal champion for the human experience. In both Corinthians and the Book of John, Satan is described as the “god” or “prince” of this world. What this means is that Satan is concerned with the mundane, with the pursuit of pleasure and the importance of the enjoyment of incarnation. In Christian theology, worldliness and earthly pleasures are seen as devices through which Satan operates—instilling within human beings a desire to put themselves and their own wants ahead of their relationship with God. It is because of this belief that many Christian denominations shun modern conveniences such as televisions, computers and telephones. These things are seen as serving the interests of Satan.
The mythology of Satan also encompasses other religions such as Islam. Iblis, the angel of Islamic deity Allah, is given a very similar role and nature to that of Satan in the Qu’ranic tradition. In Islamic myth, Iblis refused Allah’s command for the angels, or Djinn, to bow before Adam. He saw Adam as being inferior to the angels—Adam was, after all, made from clay and the angels had been created from fire. Allah condemned Iblis and he was thereafter known as Shaitan, which translates loosely to “rebel”. Shaitan then roamed the earth, vowing to lead astray those human beings whose faith in Allah was questionable. Like the Judeo-Christian God, Allah condones Shaitan’s testing of Mankind.
The figure of Melek Taus within the Yezidi mythos is reminiscent of Satan, as well. Shaitan is, in fact, an alternate name for Melek Taus; although it is unclear if this attribution is the result of an outside Muslim influence. The Yezidi religion is little understood by most. It is suggested that the majority of its beliefs are pre-Islamic in origin which infers that, if Malek Taus and Satan are identical, Satan’s beginnings may be much more ancient than previously understood.
With so many similar mythologies scattered throughout the world’s cultures, it is difficult to say where and when the Satan of Theistic Satanism originated. Many suggest that His roots lie within Zoroastrianism in the guise of the principle entity of evil, Angra Mainyu. However, such a character did not appear within Zoroastrianism until the later appearance of Zurvanism which disappeared before the 10th century. Figures similar to Satan can be found in nearly every world religion—deities such as Loki, Rahu, Mara, Set and Enki have all been compared to Him. However I am not a soft polytheist and therefore do not believe that all of these deities are the same or that they are merely facets of Satan. There is no consensus amongst Theistic Satanists as to who Satan actually is—because it is a highly individualistic religion and because it encompasses many unique paths and points of view, Theistic Satanism acknowledges many different interpretations of Satan’s identity and role within the lives of human beings.
I have been confronted with the assertion by some Neo-Pagans that Satan is nothing more than an amalgamation of pre-Christian gods, created by Christians in an attempt to frighten Pagans into converting to Christianity. As we have already discussed, Satan’s origins are much older than Christianity, but there is some element of truth to this notion. Although similar monstrous depictions of Satan had existed for much longer, according to Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon, it was during the 19th century that Christian writers and representatives began to create a physical representation of Satan that overtly resembled that of the Pagan Horned Gods of old, most notably Pan. This was in reaction to the increasing prevalence of Pan’s appearance within literary works of the time. It would therefore be much more valid to state that Satan’s physical appearance, not He Himself, is primarily a Christian invention derived from depictions of Pagan gods.
There are sects and individuals who believe that Satan is not merely one of many deities, but rather that He is the only deity—the Creator of the Universe and identical to the Neo-Pagan concept of the All. There are others still who believe in a similar concept in which Satan is the Creative Force behind the Universe as well as the Source of all deific manifestations. This belief in one all-encompassing energetic consciousness, expressing itself within the Worlds as deific masks or facets, is the embodiment of soft polytheism in which individual deities are aspects of the greater Whole.
For those Satanists who embrace aspects of Christian theology, Satan’s realm is Hell or a division thereof. I subscribe to a variation of this belief—for me, Satan is a god of the Underworld (which I do not necessarily refer to as “Hell”). I will discuss my personal Cosmology later on, but I do believe that the Underworld is the abode of many deities and Otherworldly entities besides Satan and the Demons. Theistic Satanists who also consider themselves to be Demonolators tend to regard Satan as the Lord of the Demons as He is often described within classical Grimoires. In such works, Satan is sometimes considered to be the highest-ranking Demon within particular hierarchies, commanding Demons such as Beelzebub, Astaroth and Asmodeus amongst others.
There can be a great deal of confusion where Satan’s aliases are concerned—names such as Leviathan, Baphomet, Azazel, Samael, Mastema, Abaddon and the aforementioned Beelzebub are all names which have been applied to Satan. Beliefs will differ from individual to individual, but it is widely accepted that names such as Leviathan, Beelzebub and Abaddon refer to separate Demons and not to Satan Himself.
Amongst Atheistic Satanists, Satan is not understood to be a supernatural entity at all. He is, instead, a representation or a symbol of individuality, rebellion against conformity and the pursuit of natural human desires. To Theistic Satanists who embrace components of LaVeyan philosophy, Satan embodies all of these characteristics whilst remaining a very real and sentient being. Atheistic Satanism is perhaps the most visible strain of Satanism in existence today, but it is often misinterpreted by Christians and Neo-Pagans as being concerned with worshiping The Devil. Atheistic Satanism employs the use of symbolism and ritualised taboo-breaking as a means of psychological evolution for the individual; but, Satan, as the antithesis of established religious dogma, serves as a figurehead and inspirational device rather than an external entity.
Where personal relationships with Satan are concerned, there are many points of view depending upon the practitioner and his or her theological persuasions, sect orientation and experiences. There are some who view Satan as a teacher and a father figure—in fact it is not uncommon to encounter individuals who refer to Him as Father. Others may enjoy a less intimate relationship with Him, choosing to honour Him as a guide and mentor. In my experiences, Satan has been less of a father figure and more of a friend and companion. He is empathetic, involved and willing to listen to my sorrows as well as share in my happiness. Others with a stronger leaning towards Neo-Paganism may choose to think of Him as the God—the consort of the great Mother Goddess. Thus Satan becomes the Horned God, a less popular but certainly a valid perspective.
I believe that there is almost always a lingering fear of Hell and damnation for those Neo-Pagans and non-Neo-Pagans alike that have come from a Christian family or upbringing. I know that I had my doubts when I came to Neo-Paganism in my late teens—there was always this nagging worry at the back of my mind which asked, “what if the Christians are right and I’m really going to Hell?” This is, in my opinion, a natural reaction—especially when one has been told repeatedly of the “realities” of sin and The Devil. There is little doubt that there are individuals who have come to alternative religions and who subsequently deny the existence of Satan in an act of overcompensation for the fact that they are afraid that He may actually exist. This is not to say that this is the sole reason why some Neo-Pagans and Wiccans do not believe in Satan—most assuredly, everyone has a right not to believe in something. However to acknowledge Satan’s existence is not to “admit” that the Christians are right in any way—after all, I believe in Satan and I do not for a moment believe that myself nor anyone else is destined for eternal damnation.
As I mentioned earlier, the Christian preoccupation with the belief that Satan is embroiled in a constant struggle with God over the souls of human beings is nonsense. Because so much of what makes up Christian theology was established by scholars and based upon their own interpretations of the Scriptures well after the death of Christ, there is little left which historically or Biblically supports the idea that Satan is anything like the lying, wicked “Father of Lies” of which He has so unjustly been accused.
I have always found it humorous, but understandable, when I am asked if I have “sold my soul to Satan”. Let me assure you that I have not sold my soul to anyone. Some Satanists choose to enter into agreements or pacts with Him or with their Patron Demon. Before you allow your mind to conjure up images of Faust and “deals with The Devil”, understand that real-life Satanic pacts have nothing in common with their fictional counterparts save outward appearances. We will discuss pacts at length in the next section of the book.
As many Neo-Pagans have begun to warm to the idea of accepting other Christian figures such as the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ or Mary Magdalene into their personal pantheons, it must be stressed that there is little argument in support of a continuing Neo-Pagan denouncement of Satan. I strongly disagree with religious cherry-picking when it comes to deity—I believe that one should be consistent in his or her support or lack thereof. For me, it makes little sense to insist that Jesus Christ is real and worthy of being honoured but that Satan, on the other hand, is not real and is thus not worthy of being honoured.
I have heard the argument from Neo-Pagans who include Jesus within their personal pantheons that Jesus was not the “son of God” but was, instead, simply a prophet or champion of peace, having ascended to the unseen planes and who continues to guide those who reach out to him. Through this explanation, they justify their continued denial of Satan’s existence by claiming that the Bible was only a partial-truth and that Satan is either entirely fictional or simply has no power over human beings. I find this simply absurd in the fact that if their argument is that the Bible is but a half-truth and that Jesus was not whom he was portrayed to be, why then can Satan not play a different role? It is quite a stretch to strip Jesus of his identity as the son of God when the New Testament is quite clear that this was his nature; and, it is an even further stretch to dismiss the existence of Satan entirely on the basis that doing so negates the Christians’ argument against alternative religions being The Devil’s playground. I find it interesting that everyone else in the Bible can somehow assume a different role except for Satan who, mysteriously, remains “evil”.
Satan enjoys a much more welcoming reputation amongst Satanists in that He is embraced as the wellspring of Knowledge and as the true god of Man. Many Theistic Satanists and Demonolators work with Satan in a more transcendent manner—choosing to simply honour Him through prayer and ritual, but never experiencing a vision of Him outside of their own imaginations. For others, techniques such as Shamanic journeying, scrying and intense ritual work have afforded them the opportunity to experience His many manifestations. When I speak of manifestations, I must make it clear that I am not talking about Satan appearing in a puff of smoke. As most active practitioners of Neo-Paganism already know, deities manifest Themselves in a variety of ways—most often these encounters occur during altered states of consciousness.
Some have described Satan as appearing in the form of an old man with white hair, a beard and black eyes—others have described him as being of a ruddy complexion and as having auburn hair. I have encountered Satan through Shamanic journey several times and He has always manifested Himself for me as a clean-shaven, middle-aged man of either Middle Eastern or Eastern European appearance. Deities will almost always appear to us in a form which either means something to us personally or with which we are most likely to feel comfortable. Some deities may not ever appear in human form, instead choosing to assume the guise of an animal, plant or force of nature.
Whatever His history, origins, nature or appearance, Satan has inarguably touched the lives of many people from many different walks of life. Perhaps in this awakening Aeon a new destiny awaits the devils of old–or, perhaps, the world will finally see a new friend in an old enemy.
One reply on “Satan: Then & Now”
wow good read. that helped changed my perspective of him. thanks man. =)