Infernal Dialogues

Infernal Dialogues

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ritual theistic satanism

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 –

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
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
Matches or lighter
Altar cloth

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.

altruism autotheism divinity giving laveyan satanism love satanism selfishness selflessness theistic satanism

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.