In America during the 1960s, times they were o’ changing. Rock n’ roll was huge, Beatlemania was runnin’ wild, the Civil Rights Movement was changing the world, hippies were doing drugs and having sex all over the place, and other countercultures that opposed televangelism and conservatism in favour of individualism and free thinking were suddenly more popular than ever. Times like these also afforded men like the Church of Satan’s founder Anton LaVey to become mainstream celebrities, both feared and adorned, and if there’s one man that was essential in the emergence of Satanic philosophy becoming known in the public consciousness, it’s Lavey.
Established in 1966, the Church of Satan ushered in the “Age of Satan’’ and it didn’t take long before fear and outrage commenced while, at the same time, people were drawn to its seductive charms. To this day—and I doubt it’ll ever change—some religious types believe that any school of thought with ‘Satan’ in the name is wicked and guaranteed eternal damnation, but during the ‘60s the Dark Lord’s was still forbidden and synonymous with pure evil, so you can imagine the panic epidemic LaVey and his followers were responsible for—even though the purpose behind his doctrine specifically encouraged people not to follow others and instead choose their own path and embrace their selfish ambitions and desires. As we’ve established in previous entries of The Devil’s Roots, Satan in most branches is that of a symbol for individuality and a middle finger to the religious establishment. According to LaVey himself, “[Satan] signifies our love of the worldly and our rejection of the pallid, ineffectual image of Christ on the cross.” Those are mighty words…
In LaVeyan Satanism, one’s birthday is regarded as the most important holiday of the year. As it’s all about selfishness and the celebration of one’s introduction to this world to reap every reward they can from it. And what better day for respite than the day one is born? Additionally, LaVeyan Satanists are fond of celebrating Walpurgis Night and Halloween due to their connections to witchcraft and other nefarious things deemed wicked by Christians. Not because they necessarily believe in that sort of thing mind you; it’s more a case of mocking Christianity.
The Church of Satan has a longstanding history of fucking with people. LaVey, who embraced the celebrity lifestyle and was considered a born showman, initially found fame as a local celebrity through his paranormal research, and his seminars that openly discussed taboo subjects became the epitome of shock value. If you wanted to discuss anything from cannibalism to time travel, LaVey was the man to indulge such forbidden and outlandish notions. He was a magnetic showman and provocateur, and throughout the years notable names in rock and metal have joined the ranks of the Church because they shared his desire to capitalize on society’s outrage for their own amusement while portraying the image of larger than life.
Take Marilyn Manson for example, who was appointed an ordained minister during the ‘90s when he was considered America’s enfant terrible rockstar. During that decade when Manson was publicly enemy number one of conservative America and laughing all the way to the bank, his association with the Church of Satan was regularly brought up when listing off his evil ways. Members of Alkaline Trio, on the other hand, solely joined up for a joke and don’t really take it seriously at all. King Diamond, however, was made an eternal member by LaVey, and while he has went on record saying he isn’t a follower of the Father of Satanism’s teachings, their values are indeed similar. Other members include Morbid Angel’s David Vincent, and—on the complete opposite end of the spectrum—Marc Almond of Soft Cell fame. It isn’t just smelly, greasy rockers that find the allure of the Devil appealing…
There is no denying that the values of the LaVeyan Satanism are sincere; he was one of many thinkers considered radical who valued individualism and rejected religion. As such, the doctrine of the Church of Satan remains globally popular even in current times for its ideological principles; but there is no denying that they’ve always employed a mischievousness attitude that the Devil himself would be proud of if they believed He existed, and this attitude has found its way into metal. In fact, while it is highly likely musicians would have taken full advantage of the dark side and occult for the sake of shock eventually, it might not have be as trendy as it is if it wasn’t for LaVey. He was a rock star in his own right; not unlike the most charismatic and rebellious frontmen from metal’s rich history who see the Devil as a symbol, but also bear no bones about using Satanic imagery and taboo subject matter to shock, appall and sell their product.
It is therefore quite humorous that LaVey wasn’t a fan of metal and rock music at all, even though it probably wouldn’t be as interesting had he never existed. Every rockstar who felt the wrath of religious leaders, authority figures, censorship boards and concerned parents during the 1980s Satanic Panic epidemic arguably have LaVey to thank for popularizing the atheistic rebellion scorched in Hellfire which brought so many of them notoriety and increased record sales. Metal has always been about sticking it to those with a stick up their ass, and LaVey did that while also opening up people’s minds to alternative thought patterns not dictated by belief in deities. You don’t have to agree with his teachings, but his contributions to philosophy and this loud music we love are undeniable.