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The Legacy of Fundamental Christian Extremism & The Satanic Panic!
The 5th century CE is known for many things in history, especially for the early Church. It is the century where Rome fell, a highly significant omen for the world to come. This is the century radical Christians began their savage campaign to eradicate anything they deemed as “evil” or “Satanic”. With the outlawing of paganism that started with Emperor Constantine I the century before, a slew of laws were passed that criminalized paganism as sorcery and Devil worship. The emboldened Christians began to see Satan everywhere, demonizing the pagan Gods, often using Them as models for their Devil, such as we see with the goat God Pan. But it wasn’t just the pagans the Church condemned as Satanic fiends. This century is the first we see a startling new form of Christian propaganda against the Jews: blood libel. According to early Christians, Jews would kidnap Christian children and take them into their temples to sacrifice them and eat their flesh. Jews were not strangers to this propaganda however. Before the 5th century, even as early as the 1st century the Jews were subject to these rumors, coincidentally around the time the Christian savages burned the Library of Alexandria. But it wasn’t until the 5th century that these anti-Jewish sentiments really took root among a Christian dominated Europe, perhaps acting as the precursor for the many Satanic Panics to come.
While persecution of others has been a Christian tenant since it was dragged out of the desert, it was around the 12th century we started to see fear of the “other” really start to tighten around the throat of society. The social concept of the “other” is a common trope in propaganda that has been popularized by the Abrahamic faiths, which has resulted in the vast majority of the World’s suffering. It basically states that the “others” are not only different than, but less important than the “self” or the “self” as represented by like minded individuals. Having eradicated all pagan faiths, desecrated temples, and murdered priests, healers, and oracles, Christianity had pretty much asserted itself as the only authority. And the same blood libel that had followed the Jews over the last 7 centuries still thrived. But even still, while the Church accused the Jews of killing and cannibalizing Christian children, it was out of faith, not Satanism. They explained that the Jews did this out of a simple misinterpretation of scripture that states the blood of Christ has miraculous powers to cleanse, heal, and protect. According to these Christian lies, the Jews must have misread that as the blood of Christians has these powers. Still, these blatant and slanderous lies lead to the murder of thousands of innocent Jews where were burned to death, hanged, tortured, mutilated, and butchered, unless of course they converted to the religion of “peace and forgiveness”. To put it into perspective, the brutality was so bad mothers and fathers would kill their own children and then commit suicide to avoid putting their family through what the Church had in store.
Where does Satan start to come into the picture? In the early days all the murder, pain, blood, and suffering of innocent men, women, and children was over simple religious differences and the lies they would tell about each other (because they all really did and still do this to each other). But a new enemy was on the horizon that had largely stayed in the shadows until the early modern period of European history, or around the 16th century. Enter the Devil. Because the Church was still having a hard time dealing with those pesky rebellious populations that would dare to think for themselves, refusing to give up their traditions and identities, they decided to launch another Inquisition! While the first Inquisition primarily centered around those within the Church like Bishops, Friars, and Nuns, the Inquisition of the 16th century was for everyone! Before this particular Inquisition witchcraft was more or less frowned upon, and would result in the witch being excommunicated, banished, and left without personal property until they repented. In fact, some bloodthirsty Christians really had the itch to murder people, Christians like Heinrich Kramer, a Dominican priest who was unable to persecute “witches” in Germany so he requested Pope Innocent VIII to grant him authority and proclaim all witchcraft under the jurisdiction of the Church. Unfortunately for Kramer, he did not get his way so in his anger he penned the Malleus Maleficarum, or the Hammer Against Witches, in 1498 and this was the true turning point of world history, making way for the very first official SATANIC PANIC!
The Malleus Maleficarum and the later Compendium Maleficarum by Francesco Maria Guazzo in 1608 are extremely fascinating books in their vivid descriptions and details about witchcraft, witches, and how to torture and demean the accused to extract confessions. Within the pages of these books we see one of the first examples of “if they deny it, it is proof of their guilt” arguments that became a tenant of propaganda for the centuries to follow. If an accused, most often a woman cried during torture, she was obviously trying to bewitch her torturers, if she didn’t cry, she was indesputably a witch. It was a lose/lose for the accused, and once the idea you were a witch was in their heads, literally nothing would change their minds. Satan and his hordes of witches were everywhere, and anyone could be a witch, although the book did make sure to specify that women were more likely to be witches, a sentiment that frustratingly endures today, that is actually rooted in misogyny rather than any actual tradition or belief among historical magical traditions. Among the various hideous acts performed by witches we see the same old “they kill babies” trope. Kramer’s and Gauzzo’s witches kill unbaptized babies, roast them, eat them, burn them to ash and grind them into powders. Christians of every century are obsessed with child eating, and because of their fear that Satan worshiping witches were coming to eat their babies, an Inquisition was launched at the end of the 15th century, and lasted up into the 18th century resulting in tens of thousands of deaths of men, women, and children across not only Europe, but just about every colonized continent in the world, murderous Christians, led by their superiority complex shouting from the rooftops “A Satanic cabal is coming to eat your children!” Sound familiar?
Here in the United States of America we had our first Satanic Panic in Salem, MA, now Danvers, MA. There the Puritans were convinced the Devil had taken root in Salem so they murdered 20 people and let 6 people die in prison, including an infant, but remember it is the witches who kill babies. Once the Puritans realized they probably shouldn’t listen to little girls and murder people based on what they say, the Salem Witch Trials stopped, and we didn’t have our next full fledged Satanic Panic until almost 300 years later. It was the 1980’s. There was great music, movies that would become cult classics, and only what can be described as experimental fashion. But there were also some rather aggressive religious and political things happening. This is the period right after the 70’s where alternative spirituality was becoming increasingly popular. Books on Wicca and witchcraft began to flood the market, and the recently established Church of Satan was gaining momentum. But with this spiritual awakening came things like a new social/political movement known as the Moral Majority which was the result of an insestuous union of, you guessed it, the increasingly radicalized groups of Christian fundamental extremism and the Republican Party, and a growing anti-cult sentiment that pretty much labeled any new religion or spirituality as harmful or demonic that uses propaganda and evangelical brainwashing and manipulation to make those who subscribe to the idea afraid for themselves and…. their children.
What started as just ordinary Christian Evangelical discrimination and intolerance quickly evolved into hysteria they are so known for after a book called Michelle Remembers by Michelle Smith and her husband Lawrence Pazder who happened to also be her psychiatrist who coined the term Satanic Ritual Abuse, but more widely known as Satanic Panic. In the book Michelle recounts her childhood when she was 5 years old, memories which were supposedly extracted during hypnotherapy sessions with Pazder. She claims that her mother was a member of the Church of Satan, which somehow pre-dates the Christian Church despite being created in the 60s by Anton LaVey. She details how she was locked in a cage, tortured, sexually abused, scarred with Satanic symbols carved into her flesh, forced to kill animals, and rubbed with the body parts of sacrificed victims ranging in age from adults down to infants. Her 5-year stint in this Satanic cult ended when the Church of Satan summoned Satan Himself which resulted in a holy battle involving the Virgin Mary, Michael the Archangel, and even Jesus who intervened to stop it. They then removed her scars and memories until they could be revealed at some future time when it was needed. The book became a bestseller and overwhelmed society’s ability to think critically. Pazder began to work with law enforcement on mysterious murders and abuse and disappearance cases, particularly those that involved children. But it is the child abuse cases where the Satanic Panic found its sustenance. With the growing panic, new child protection laws were enacted at the direction of figures like Kee MacFarlane who said that children across the country were being forced to participate in Satanic ritual killings of animals, and methods of getting children to recount their ordeals became less than conventional. MacFarlane’s method of using nude dolls to ask children where they were touched led to a string of leading questions conveniently leading to some Satanic cult. The most famous of these Satanic cults was supposedly run out of the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, California.
In 1983, a concerned mother, Judy Johnson, believed her young son had been sodomized when the child had trouble going to the bathroom. Somehow she believed it was at the hands of her estranged husband and one of the school’s teachers, Ray Buckly. Because of the new American fad, the Satanic Panic, the accusations became bizarre and quite predictable from an Evangelical Christian society, to be honest. Johnson led the propaganda campaign saying a secret Satanic cabal was operating out of the preschool and that Ray Buckly was a witch who could fly on a chair. True to form with these types of cases, when the children were asked details they were coerced to lie, or asked leading questions that would paint a picture of flying witches, the murder of infants, children being flushed down the toilet which emptied into an underground room where Satanic pedophiles would have sex with them and clean them before returning them to their parents, that Satanic witches operating child orgies out of airports and car washes, sexual abuse of animals and other childred, pretty much every stereotypical “spectral evidence” once could imagine. It is important to note that Judy Johnson was a paranoid schizophrenic, but that detail was conveniently left out of the trial until three years later when it was submitted into evidence in a highly sanitized report. At the end of the 5 years the trials took place, all charges were dropped due to lack of evidence and Ray Buckly was released from prison. Yes, he was in prison for 5 years despite not having committed a single crime.
The media played an important role in propagating the hysteria reporting sensationalized stories of not only trials such as the McMartin Preschool trials and the trial of Richard Ramirez, known as the Night Stalker, who repeatedly referenced Satan and is now the subject of a Netflix series, but also in absurd claims from people like Thomas Radeki and Patricia Pulling who believed that Satan was operating through heavy metal, games like Dungeons and Dragons, alternative religions such as the growing New Age movement, teachers and other educators, television, and movies. Everything was suspected of being tools for recruitment into Satan’s legion, targeting the nation’s vulnerable children. Several important trials would follow those of McMartin and Ramirez. There was the West Memphis Three, Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin who were wrongly convicted of sexually abusing and murdering three 8 year old boys as part of a Satanic ritual because they were a part of the Goth subculture, the Vampire Clan murders lead by Rod Ferrell who claimed to be a 500 year old vampire named Vasago, and countless of other incidences of ritual abuse, some true, like the bizzare sexual abuse case surrounding the Hosanna Church in Ponchatoula, LA which saw Church leaders and members involved in the abuse of children the ritual killing of cats over infants laid on large pentagrams so the blood poured onto them, and other fascinating rites straight out of old accounts of the Witches’ Sabbath. But these were former Christians who were members of a failing church.
Over the next few decades news stories, books, and movies featuring Satanic themes keep the Satanic Panic beast fed. Things like Marilyn Manson, Harry Potter, even Pokemon became tools of Satan. And contrary to popular belief, the Satanic Panic still hasn’t ended! For a great summary of how absurd the Satanic Panic was and is, the reader is urged to check out the 1995 instructional video The Law Enforcement Guide to Satanic Cults. To counter the Satanic movement Evangelicals subscribed to some very odd ideas popularized by televangelists and figures like Jack Chick who would literally make up nonsense about anything the Church deemed a sin, making the central worker Satan Himself, and fundamental Evangelical organizations like the American Family Association, and One Million Moms (which is really only about 1,000 Ku Klux Karens). In contemporary society the Satanic Panic has gone largely unnoticed, only resurfacing during events like Grammy and Super Bowl Half-Time performances featuring artists such as Kate Perry, Madonna, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and, The Weeknd. There are of course countless others, and it is no surprise most of them target women. So is the Satanic Panic over? Did Evangelical Americans finally wake up from their nonsense? Sadly, no. The Satanic Panic is alive and well, and was never more obvious than during the 2016 presidential elections and the infamous “PizzaGate” conspiracy theory that said a cult of pedohpiles including John Podesta and Hillary Clinton took part in a child sex trafficking ring operated out of pizzarias such as Comet Ping Pong in Washington D.C. After that was thoroughly debunked after a lunatic went on a shooting rampage with an AR-15 (no one was injured) the narrative appeared again, this time in the form of QAnon, a white supremacy based conspiracy theory cult that is led by Ron Watkins who impersonates a senior military figure with a “Q” level clearance. This right wing conspiracy movement and PizzaGate Coverband has such hits as “Hillary Clinton will be jailed and executed along with many prominent Democrats and journalists”, “The Storm will happen November 3rd 2017, no wait, just kidding, January 20th 2021”, “Trump will be inaugurated March 4th 2021”, and their double platinum “There is a Satanic cabal of baby eating cannibals including Democrats, members of the media, and Hollywood elites who run child sex trafficking rings”! That’s right! The Evangelicals are still obsessed with baby-eating Satanists, except now they also drink, bathe in, or inject their blood to stay young. And sadly, they do not seem like they will be letting up any time soon. I am sure we all have people on our social media who post nonsense about “Stop Child Trafficking” or “Protect the Children” all while ignoring dead refugee children or the hundreds of children who were unaccounted for that were taken from their parents when they tried to enter the country.
The fact is the Satanic Panic, which has since its inception been rooted in white supremacy and Evangelism, is extremely dangerous. In the United States we have a plague of white men committing mass shootings, many inspired by political and racist ideologies instigated by things like QAnon and Satanic Panic style conspiracy theories. These blatant lies are a centuries old tactic of “otherism”. That “they” are coming to destroy your life, your livelihood, your neighborhood, and apparently eat your children. Like the witch trials of old, unless you are an Evangelical Christian, you are a Satanist. They target anything different from themselves, and because of things like the Satanic Panic, religions such as Wicca and Paganism have constantly tried to explain their beliefs through a Christian filter, “no, we aren’t idol worshipers”, “no, there is no Devil in witchcraft”, “we believe in the same thing you do, just call it something different”. Because radical Evangelicals make up most of the governments of the developed world, they pass laws that infringe on the religious freedoms of others based solely on their belief system, and that is a problem. I think it is about time we change the narrative, that we remove the filter and proclaim “YES! We do worship our idols”, and “YES! There is the Devil in our witchcraft, remember, it was you who put Him there.” That is a big part of what The Sabbath Project is about. It is a challenge to Evangelism, that we exist, that we should make them fearful because we have unmasked Satan and found the Divine, OUR Divine. If they call you “Devil Worshipper” throw up the cornuto, the sign of the Horns, and avert their toxic energy, and while they panic, we revel in their unhinged madness!