The trait which unites most branches of Satanism is rejection of a Judeo-Christian deity and the embracing of one’s individualism and strength. Satanism, for the most part, is just a sexier way of being an atheist and any notion of a Devil is merely symbolic. However, theistic Satanic belief is traditional, the type that believes the Dark Lord is a real entity whom many objectively worship and revere, and while this Satan is accepted as an extension of Christian belief, the teaching’s of the big man upstairs are rejected in favor of the Fallen One. That said, theistic Satanism is also complex; while the Devil is revered as a deity, what He actually represents differs from thought pattern to thought pattern, with some such as Mayhem’s Euronymous believing in a horned one whose followers should be enslaved to, while others don’t even necessarily believe that the Devil’s roots are Judeo-Christian at all. So, just because they all believe in and worship a Satan, that doesn’t mean that all theistic folks embrace the same variation of Him. However, for the case of simplicity, all theistic Satanism rejections atheism as they believe in a deity of some kind.
Throughout history, Christianity has skewered the logic and rationale behind independent theological thinking. Satanism is a prime example of this, due to it being considered an umbrella term by followers of Christ to describe ‘devil worshippers’ who adhere to evil principles. As most of us know by now, that couldn’t be further from the truth, and even those who do believe in a supernatural entity aren’t the robe-clad, blood-drinking baby sacrificers some would lead you to believe. Most theistic Satanic doctrine doesn’t encourage harm or crime whatsoever, and most who disagree with Christianity also disagree with some of what it constitutes as ‘evil.’ There are even a large contingent of theistic Satanists who, despite acknowledging the existence of a god (or many), still embrace the facets atheist branches encourage – individualism, free thought, empowerment and exploration of knowledge, even the sort that’s deemed forbidden.
The first group to call itself “traditional Satanist” in its published works was the Order of the Nine Angles (ONA), an extremist political fringe group which was prominent (mostly in Britain) in the late 1980s and early 1990s which claimed to have existed for generations. Despite promoting neo-Nazi ideologies, their doctrine rests Hermetic and neo-Pagan belief as well. The ONA believe that humanity will be run by a militaristic order, and that the teachings Adolf Hitler and Lucifer will lead humanity to greatness. They are also one of the rare brands of Satanic thought who advocate violence and other forms of criminal activity.
There is a song by Akercocke named after the order titled “Ceremony of Nine Angles” on their 2001 album The Goat of Mendes, though the band themselves don’t correspond with the ONA’s ideology. But there is an ugly side of metal which does share similar ideals of fascism in relation to Satanism, and the ONA are merely one of a number of subsets of white supremacist Satanic groups. The influence of these movements can be found in the most revolting aspects of the black and death metal communities, such as National Socialist Black Metal. However, like Satanism is everywhere else, it’s complex among fascists as well. Some theistic believers see Satan as an Aryan god, while others consider Him to be symbolic, much like most brands of Satanism. However, theistic identifiers include Chraesvelgoron of The True Frost, who views Nazism as the political appearance of Satanism and the collective deification of man.
The popularity of theistic Satanism surged with the advent and subsequent growth of the internet, as diverse groups had a platform to broadcast their message and grow their networks. Take for example the Black Goat Cabal, which existed from 2003 to 2007, was an online-based network of Satanists who rejected dogma-based definitions popularized by LaVey and the idea that all Satanism was merely an antithesis of Christianity. Their focus was to “raise the public visibility of those law-abiding forms of Satanism which do not adhere to popular branches, and which preferably also have more to offer in terms of intellectual substance and/or a sane and well-developed system of occult practice.”
Although merely one branch of theistic Satanism, the ideology is strongly intertwined with the Temple of Set and the writings of its founder Michael Aquino. A high-ranker in LaVey’s Church of Satan, Aquino would leave following dissatisfaction with the direction it was taking and invoked the a real manifestation of the Devil on his own accord. The Devil revealed to Aquino a sacred text called The Book of Coming Forth by Night, which revealed his true name of Set, a pre-Abrahamic Egyptian god who was interpreted as the Devil in Christian and Hebrew texts. However, like the LaVeyan brand of Satanism, the teachings of Set also encourage self-fulfillment and individualism. While Set is viewed as the one true god, he does not seek humanity’s veneration; instead he has aided us by giving us questioning intellect. Most Setians no longer identify themselves as Satanists, even though their association to an actual deity viewed as oppositional to god is similar. Additionally, the Greek god Prometheus and the Sumerian deity Enki have also been interpreted as Satan, and thus their followers might also identify as theistic Satanists.
Pantheism is the belief that the universe itself is a deity. In turn, a similar view is that of panentheism, which is the viewpoint that all things in the universe are part of God but God is so much more than that. In some circles, these values also apply to Satanism and some believe that it is the Devil who is the ultimate cosmic sum of all things. Additionally, there is polytheistic Satanism which identifies Satan is the focal point of reverence, although He is just one of many gods. Some polytheists overlap with pantheistic belief as they believe that Satan is one of many gods who, along with the others, are extensions of a singular entity who make up one unified cosmic whole. However, others believe that all of the gods are distinct entities. It’s confusing stuff.
Despite the myriad of philosophies within theistic Satanism, the shared attribute is that a Satan, in some form, does exist. In metal, the interpretation of what this literal Satan represents also differs. For example, Watain identify themselves as devil-worshipers associated with the Misanthropic Luciferian Orders, proponents of chaos that condone animal abuse through magical practices. Dissection vocalist Jon Nödtveidt also associated with this brand prior to his death and was a practicing black magician who was connected to a homophobic murder in 1997. Euronymous, the pleasant chap we mentioned earlier, is of the belief that the Judeo-Christian Satan is real and should be worshiped unadulterated. He rejects the pursuit of individualism that’s apparent in most theistic schools of Satanic thought and believes that we should be slaves to the Devil.
Overall, even theistic Satanism is strongly rooted in the pursuit of individualism, self-empowerment and free thought. Satan is viewed as a teacher for the most part who is a real entity, but also one who encourages people to break free of the shackles of idyllic worship. However, as is the case with all belief systems, there are multiple iterations which range from intellectual and non-dangerous, to fringe extremes who favour sinister ideologies. If anything, theistic Satanism in metal has exposed more of its worst facets and overshadowed the non-harmful mentalities which make up the majority of its varied belief systems elsewhere. That said, theistic Satanism is further evidence that no religion is black and white and like all forms of Satanism, is misunderstood.