Exploring the Origins of Anton LaVey

In dark times, it’s natural to seek comfort. To reach for a light in the shadows, to seize a flame in the night. And for some, it’s even more natural to become blacker than the darkness, to absorb fear and transform it into a twisted power. That power is seduction–a warm forbidden caress, awakening sensations repressed by obligations, standards, and ideals. This is the oldest story ever told, and one, for some reason, we never tire of hearing. This is the story of how true evil, and even copycat carapaces of evil, can lure in the innocent. In the 1960s, the city of San Francisco was emerging as a beacon of light in turbulent times. Filled with flower children, free love, and thousands of young people standing in opposition to the Vietnam War, it embodied innocence, passion, and a return to Bohemian lifestyles. Rejecting the conformist consumerism of the government, hippies gathered in communes to create art, discuss philosophy, and indulge in psychedelic explorations of body and mind. For some it was a paradise, and for others, it was an opportunity to exploit genuine desire for community and grounded fears in the future. For one man in particular, it was a platform for rebirth. On April 30th, 1966, almost exactly a year before the infamous Summer of Love, Anton LaVey founded The Church of Satan, headquartered in The Black House, his inky Victorian home and site of the church’s rituals. For LaVey, this was a coming out of sorts, after spending the previous ten years holding lectures and hosting esoteric gatherings out of his home. The birth of the Church of Satan was held on Beltane, a Gaelic holiday and Wiccan Sabbat, welcoming the birth of spring. In fact, it’s name means “bright fire,” and is celebrated as a time of fertility, honoring the blessings of abundance. For witches, it’s a time of year to embrace the vitality and passion of the goddess and to rejoice in the warming of the earth for literal and metaphorical growth. For LaVey, it was a time to simply grow his power, and maybe align his newly founded church with pre-existing ideas of witchcraft, meanwhile distorting one of it’s major holidays. He called this day the first year of the “Age of Satan.” With his shaved head, priest’s robes, and flair for the dramatic, LaVey fully utilized the power of esoteric outer mysteries–appropriating the myths, images, and aesthetic appeal of dark religions–in order to draw beguiled followers interested in commanding that sort of presence. He understood that under the youthful hunger for peace and love was an equally fervent need for control, for justice, for self-centered fulfillment. And that is precisely what he founded his church on. Indulgence, moral ambiguity, vengeance, and selective compassion represent the ideals of LaVeyan Satanism, which he outlined in The Satanic Bible. On the surface, Satanism is simply a focus on self instead of community, a way to avoid the dogma of sin and live by one’s own rules instead of societal expectations. In fact, Satan is just a metaphor–so what could possibly go wrong? The idea of outer and inner mysteries is what makes Satanism both frightening and lurid. We all have an image in our heads of what a Satanist looks like–a lithe, sexual alpha, draped in black and positively exuding dangerous pheromones, with a tongue sharper than a ritual dagger and a clandestine agenda hopefully including plenty of candle-lit seduction. And it’s that exact superficial icon that exists within and outside of the church, drawing people with all kinds of different…motivations.

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