"Satanism" began its life as an imaginary category -- a delusion of the masses. In many cultures there is a paranoid suspicion that somewhere, a class of evil magicians is plotting wrack and run for the good law-abiding folk. In European culture of the second Christian millennium, this became the witch craze. It was believed that society had been infiltrated by a group of people serving Satan, the ultimate enemy, who cast malevolent spells out of sheer love of evil. This exactly parallels delusions in many other cultures, though the central authority and relatively advanced technology allowed this delusion to express itself more thoroughly in Europe than it ever could in tribal and other premodern groups. As the second Christian millennium drew to a close in the 18th and 19th centuries, irony and sarcasm became common modes of expression in intellectual culture. Participants in this trend sometimes went so far as to invert the enemy status of Satan or "the devil" and to see some good in him. What became known as the "Satanic school" in literature sometimes used Satan as an example of virtues that Christianity denied, such as pride and lust, which were reinterpreted as positive attributes. Often this was combined with a Romanticism or neo-Classicalism which sought to restore pagan virtues. When occultism began to expand in the mid-19th century, and in partial response to the "Satanic school," dualistic views of Satan became common in the occult world. Eliphas Levi saw some good in the figure of Satan, which he identified with the forces of "generation," a euphemism for sex. The Golden Dawn also came to see Satan or the devil as a necessary counterpoint to God. Aleister Crowley embraced this trend more thoroughly, identifying Satan with one of his primary deities, Hadit. Jules Michelet's speculative work re-examined the witch craze in a partially redeemed light as a real movement of Satanists. In popular culture, the "Satanic school" turned into the decadent movement, examplified by Swinburne and Baudelaire. In the 1960's, Anton LaVey became the most popular overt Satanist in history with his bestselling "Satanic Bible." Part religion and part joke, his movement never attained much in membership numbers but reached broad informal support through his books. He derived his system from anti-clerical literary Satanism and anti-Christian occultism, and his system has become the progenitor of a number of less well-known movements in the decades since. Probably the best known of these so far has been the breakaway Temple of Set, which eventually ceased to refer to itself as Satanic, while still cultivating its inheritance from LaVey's Church of Satan. Modern Satanic movements tend towards the libertarian/elitist end of the political spectrum, practice magical rituals in which traditionally demonized figures are treated with respect and sometimes adoration (often without literal belief in their existence), and employ a humanistic philosophical framework that emphasizes the pre-eminence of Earth and Man over Heaven and God. They are related to a broader and more diffuse movement sometimes known as Dark Paths, which embraces other night-side forms of occultism such as Chaos Magic and the modern Goth and Vampire subcultures.
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Articles and thoughts on Satanism by Nagasiva Yronwode.
An encyclopedia-style entry on the subject from ReligiousTolerance.org. Explains the differences between various types of Satanism, as well as the origins.
Social forums, groups and blogs for Satanists.
WebRing: Left Hand Path Magickians
A ring for left hand path magickians and followers of historical, traditional and modern Satanism.
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