This is in marked contrast to religious Satanism, which did not exist prior to Anton Le Vay's official institution of the faith in 1966, which is very contrary to what Ms. Vera seems to contend in her essay. Rather, Ms. Vera appears to believe that this "literary Satanism" proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that an actual religious tendency towards Satanism existed prior to the New Age movement which began in the late 20th century, and which continues to grow at the dawn of the 21st. Most prominent sources on religion flatly disagree with this, and all the evidence (which I'll go into in detail down below) suggests that the "literary Satanism" mentioned continuously in print from the Dark Ages right into the present describe an entirely fictitious religious tendency created and erroneously linked to Witchcraft by Christian paranoia-mongers since the Christian victory over the "old" religion. This has been very well documented in direct contradiction to the common belief still carried by the modern Christian Right (and Diane Vera, it would seem), and is described in great detail within the section on Satanism to be found on the marvelous Religious Tolerance web site; the researchers on the Religious Tolerance site refer to the fictitious "literary" Satanism of the past as "gothic" Satanism, and the authentic religion as "religious" Satanism.
As the latter section on Religious Tolerance makes abundantly clear, there is no hard evidence that an authentic Satanic religious tendency has ever existed prior to Anton Le Vay's creation in the late 1960's, let alone any actual historical connection to the nature-friendly magickal practices of Witchcraft, or modern Wicca. A link to Religious Tolerance can be found in the Links section elsewhere on this site, accessable from the home page, and their section on Satanism, which provides corroboration with everything that I have stated above, can be found here. Religious Tolerance's analysis of Satanism is quite clear that the original Judeo-Christian conception of "Satan" was derived from Pagan sources in an attempt at bastardizing these Pagan god-forms, as well as being inspired by Set, the ancient Egyptian god of evil, who was associated with the serpent (according to many sources), but was not depicted as having horns and cloven hoofs, as many male Pagan deities and nature spirits did, all of which were based upon the phenotype of the primal Horned God of prehistory. Throughout the diverse history of Pagan theology, no connection was made between beings possessing horns and hooves and the concept of evil.
As you will see, however, in direct contradiction to all of the prevailing evidence, Ms. Vera insists that the current conception of the Pagan Horned God was derived from the Devil imagery of the Middle Ages after the Christian usurpation of Western religious thought. But more on this below.
The entirety of this essay will be directed towards responding to Ms. Vera's attempts to connect Wicca to modern Satanism, as well as her assertions that the aforementioned "literary Satanism" as described in various Christian manuscripts of the past details an authentic religious tradition of Satanism that existed in history long before the establishment of modern Wicca in the 20th century.
To begin her list of assertions, Ms. Vera states that, "In their attempts to dissociate themselves from Satanism, Wiccans have tended to distort their own history." She then goes on to assert that Wiccan philosophy is greatly derived from 19th century occult philosophy, particularly the writings of historian Jules Michelet, who described witches as healers, and she labels Michelet a proto-Satanist and describes his philosophy as "Satanic" simply because his book is filled with "passionate, sympathetic depictions of Satan as well as that of medieval witches," which may simply suggest that he realized the true origins of the Roman Catholic Church's political purposes for creating Satan, and a familiarity with the mythical story of Satan as a being cast from Heaven due to his opposition to the prevailing hierarchy of his reality, a story obviously replete with numerous socio-political themes, and an attempt by the ruling class of the time to cast aspersions against those who rebel against authority figures and traditional social institutions.
This does not, however, in any way suggest that Michelet harbored ideals in alignment with the complex religious and social themes instituted by modern Satanism.
Nevertheless, Ms. Vera cites Michelet as a great inspiration to Dr. Margaret Murray, as well as other authors influential to Wiccans, whom she purports to suggest that Wicca and Satanism are indeed connected, when it is a well known fact that the theme of Dr. Murray's ground-breaking first book was actually intended to denounce any connection between Wicca and the fictitious "gothic" Satanism created by the Roman Catholic Church. Ms. Vera's contention also ignores the fact that Dr. Murray's research predates the creation of modern, authentic Satanism and that of Wicca by many decades. In fact, Ms. Vera seems to actually suggest a connection between the alleged "Satanism" of the past and the religion created by Anton LaVey in the late 60's, which most Satanists are quick to deny (and rightfully so).
It may well be true that Michelet inspired modern Wicca in certain ways (just as many other sources did as well,) as suggested by author Jeffery B. Russell in his book History of Witchcraft, but she fails to state that Michelet's knowledge and ideology were probably affected by the lack of accurate and unbiased information about Witchcraft available in the 19th century, and that what information was available was undoubtedly tainted by Christian tampering with the truth about the history of witches and Paganism. These inaccuracies were not straightened out until Dr. Murray conducted her extensive research in the early part of the 20th century. The idea of a sympathetic portrayal of witches may have enabled Michelet to influence Dr. Murray, but the accuracy of any info he presented was almost certainly discounted by her.
Evidence of this is compounded by the fact that Michelet even mentions sympathetic notions of Satan and witches together in the same book, which makes his pre-conceived, Christianized notions about witches and Satanism going hand-in-hand with each other to be painfully obvious. Dr. Murray was explicit in drawing a line between the two, where Michelet obviously wasn't, and Ms. Vera interpreted the latter as evidence of a direct "connection" between Wicca and modern Satanism.
Again I will state that there may indeed be some correlation between the magickal and ritual sources used by both Wiccans and Satanists, but I challenge Ms. Vera to find commonalities between the practices, beliefs and ethics of the two religions (though she does admit that the two religions are very different, and again, I am not trying to imply that the Satanists are "evil" or their religion invalid, but merely that her assertions of a major connection between the two is incorrect). However, Ms. Vera then criticizes Russell for stating in his book that Wicca and Satanism are not connected, and she accuses him of perpetuating a "false counter-myth" in doing so.
Ms. Vera further tries to find connections between the two very disparate faith systems by pointing out the references to "Lucifer," an old non-Pagan god-form used by the Christians as an alternate name for Satan, and in which Wiccans and Satanists alike (including Ms. Vera) distinguish from Satan, that were composed in poetic spellwork verse by writer Charles G. Leland in his 1899 book Aradia: Gospel of the Witches. This book has indeed been appreciated by modern Wiccans, but any Wiccan will point out that the book was written long before the modern revival of Witchcraft with the New Age movement that ostensibly began in the 1960's, and that Leland, like Michelet, was obviously influenced by the then still popular conception of witches being connected to Satan.
In fact, Leland clearly refers to Lucifer as a "God of the Sun and Light," and not as a being of absolute evil (as the Christian conception of Satan clearly states), despite his mention of Lucifer being "cast out of Paradise," an admittedly obvious reference to the Christian story of Satan; however, as I said before, Leland should be expected to have made such a denouement considering the incorrect notions of Witchcraft prevalent at the time.
It should also be noted that Ms. Vera freely acknowledges that Leland's book "contains a mixture of [disparate] mythologies." Once again, Ms. Vera takes historical circumstances concerning the knowledge and ideas available at the time out of context in an attempt to establish a connection between Wiccan and Satanism where none actually exist.
Ms. Vera next goes on to her very dubious assertion that the Horned God of Wiccan/Pagan theology, while admitting that this being is not Satan, is indeed actually a "Paganized interpretation of medieval Christian Devil imagery" that originated from the days of the Inquisition, and from "no other source." In fact, Ms. Vera boldly states that "much of Wicca's self-image is based upon a Paganized re-interpretation of alleged Devil-worship rather than an actual ancient religion." She then contradicts this statement by pointing out that there were indeed horned and hoofed male Pagan deities long before the advent of Christianity and its conception of the Devil, such as the Greco-Roman Pan, as well as entire races of paranormal nature beings known as satyrs and fauns (she fails to mention the well known Celtic deity Cernunnos, who was also horned and hoofed, which provides even further evidence in favor of a universal Pagan concept of a horned and hoofed god-form despite Ms. Vera's statements to the contrary).
Sorry, Ms. Vera, but there is plenty of evidence via cave paintings and other artwork by prehistoric Cro-Magnon Man (see the section on History of Paganism and Wicca elsewhere on this site) that clearly depicts tribal priests wearing the raiment of a horned male deity in magick rituals, which is believed by modern historians to be the religious end result of wearing such horned disguises to get closer to game animals during the hunt, and some of these paintings clearly depict the image in a ritualistic manner. This Horned God image (as well as his counterpart, the Green Man) is very ancient, and predates the Christian "witch-hunting" trials by many millennia, and denotes a closeness to nature on the part of this masculine deity, since many animals hunted by early man had horns and hooves, among them the bison that were often the prey of choice for these prehistoric hunter-gatherer tribes. The existence of horned male nature deities in very different Pagan cultures are obviously carry-over elements from distant memories of this primal Horned God.
Further, researchers who have noticed the bastardization of the primal Pagan Horned God by Christians of the Dark and Middle Ages have certainly not been limited to the Wiccan or greater Pagan community in recent years, and there have been Western folklorists who have made such observations before the heyday of the Pagan revival, and also before the creation of modern religious Satanism. Note this quote made in 1957 by the renowned, non-Pagan folklore scholar Katherine Briggs, an expert on fairie lore:
The popular traits of the Devil, the horns and cloven hoof and shaggy hide, do not spring from Christian theology, but belong to folk gods or nature spirits [emphasis mine]. The early Christian missionaries, who had to deal with vast numbers of converts, adopted two methods with the beliefs and practices which they could not quite abolish. All that they felt capable of good they sanctified, building churches where temples had been, placing saints' days upon ancient heathen festivals and occasionally identifying gods with saints. All the gods that they felt incapable of sanctification they denounced as devils or demons, and they did this increasingly as the church gained strength, and perhaps as they found the heathen practices incompatible for Christianity. By this policy the Devil acquired many of the characteristics of the heathen gods and nature spirits (K.M. Briggs, 'The English Fairies,' Folk-Lore, vol.68, p.285, 1957).
Thus, Ms. Vera is quite incorrect when she claims that it was the Wiccan community alone who stated and opined that the modern Judeo-Christian image of Satan as a horned entity possessing cloven hoofs was actually a Christian bastardization of the fertility-oriented Pagan Horned God; this general god-form clearly had ancient roots throughout the spectrum of numerous nature-oriented Pagan cultures across the globe, and was personified as numerous different deities and nature spirits who possessed the Horned God's characteristic attributes. This observation of the transformation and bastardization of the universal Pagan Horned God as a fertility-oriented being who personified the rapport between Pagan cultures and nature into a stygian being who personified the Christian concepts of absolute evil and perdition was made by scholars well before the tremendous growth of Wicca in the latter half of the 20th century.
Ms. Vera then correctly points out that none of these ancient horned deities were connected to Witchcraft, that there is no evidence of a Horned God directly connected to Witchcraft, and that the idea of this derives from the era of the Christian witch hunts.
First of all, few Wiccans would claim that there is a direct connection between either the primal Horned God or his later brethren such as Pan, Cernunnos, Frey (see below), or the satyrs and fauns with Witchcraft, since the latter magickal practice hails from much later in history. I myself, and most other responsible Wiccans, have never suggested that the Horned God and his later spin-offs, such as Pan and Cernunnos, were historically connected to Witchcraft! They were connected to Paganism in general, however, and were merely adopted by Wicca after its inception due to their universal representation of being the revered image of nature-friendly religions of the past. Ms. Vera is making a big assumption here by stating that Wiccans at large believe or even imply that the Horned God and his later progeny are images traditionally conjoined to Witchcraft, as they long predate the foundation of Witchcraft itself, and, as I said, most Wiccans will freely admit this historical fact.
Rather, these horned deities are god-forms worshipped by Pagan cultures of the distant past that later gave birth to magickal practices that in turn would later spawn Witchcraft proper.
On the other hand, it's extremely silly to suggest that the Horned God is entirely derived from the Christian Devil imagery of the medieval era. If this were the case, please explain the images created by the Cro-Magnon artists and the universal deity images inherent in diverse Pagan cultures across the fulcrum of time and space, such as the Greco-Romans, the Celts and the Norse [the Norse god Frey is believed to have also been inspired by the image of the Horned God, though the deity himself wasn't depicted as having horns and hooves, but his nature-oriented attributes are very similar, thus strongly suggesting a connection to this archetypal being; see the section on Norse Wicca elsewhere on this site]. All of these aforementioned beings had a connection to, and respect for, nature, which was abandoned by the Christian mindset.
Also, please explain exactly why the Christians chose to envision Satan as having horns and hooves...since when have animals with horns and hooves represented evil in any manner in any culture? The snake (or serpent) has been a symbol of evil in many cultures, however, going back to the primal god of chaos known as Set, and the Egyptian god Seth [the latter two are often confused with each other], Satan was depicted as such in the story of Adam and Eve (and nowhere else in the Bible), and the snake-as-evil imagery is further apparent in the medieval dragon legends of the West. Yet the serpent is mysteriously not the image commonly associated with Satan outside of just this one Biblical story. Hence, it makes no sense that it was merely happenstance that the Christians chose to depict Satan as usually having horns and hooves, as Ms. Vera seems to imply here. This evil entity was obviously depicted in such a manner to bastardize the universal Pagan image of the Horned God as being evil. Common sense as well as historical knowledge prevails here.
Next, Ms. Vera accuses Wicca of being partially responsible for the bad press it receives, and by deliberately contributing to its public notoriety, by using words like "witch," "coven," and "sabbat," despite the negative connotations attributed to those words thanks to their misuse by the Roman Catholic Church during its "witch hunting" days. However, she does point out the original linguistic meaning of these words, which is her way of inadvertently explaining why Wiccans still adhere to them. This Wiccan preference for sticking to the original, as opposed to commonly misunderstood, meanings of a word is further substantiated by the fact that most Wiccans refuse to use the word "warlock" to describe the male members of the religion due to the original Scottish derived etymology of the word, which meant "oath-breaker," and was used as a derogatory term for a male witch during the witch trials in England.
This Wiccan disdain for the word "warlock" persists despite the fact that the original meaning of the word is now lost on the modern public, who, thanks to its frequent usage on TV and in movies, believe it simply to mean a male witch, with no pejorative connotations. Yet, despite the relative lack of notoriety the word generates, most Wiccans still refuse to use it due to its original meaning (I sometimes use the word myself, I should point out).
Hence, Wiccans are obviously more concerned with the original, real meaning of a word than its later, contrived meaning to non-Pagans. It's an argument along the lines of whether or not Pagans of the Norse religions should still use the swastika because of its original meaning, despite the distorted connotation the public has of the symbol due to its misuse in recent history. I'll let the individual reader decide for themselves the wisdom of using words and symbols based on their traditional meaning, as opposed to a later distorted meaning.
Ms. Vera then decries Wiccans for identifying themselves too closely with the brutally repressed group of witches from the Inquisition era, yet the reason we do so is because the Roman Catholic Church of that era was indeed out to destroy any remaining Pagans, and these were our forerunners, so I believe it is justified that we identify with them, just as all modern Jews identify with their predecessors throughout history, including those who suffered through a holocaust event at the hands of the Nazis; the actions of the Roman Catholic Church against Pagans was no different in principle than the way Jewish people were treated by Hitler's minions.
Ms. Vera then states that she is offended by Wiccans who declare that "We are not Satanists!" in the same breath as "we are not baby killers." If any Wiccan did indeed utter the latter statement, Ms. Vera would have every right to be upset. True Satanists do not kill children, and I have never said anything of the such.
Anyone who would desire to criticize that or any religion should do a considerable amount of research on it before even considering a critical evaluation, otherwise they risk arriving at incorrect conclusions and thereby making fools of themselves and needlessly offending other people.
However, I have read up on Satanism, and I can comfortably say in an informed manner that its ethics in no way resemble Wiccan ethics. I'm not saying that Satanism is "evil" (a very relative term, to be sure), or that it should be illegal to practice or should be willfully discriminated against by Wiccans or anyone else, but I am saying that I personally do not agree with the bulk of its spiritual, magickal and moral ethics, but anyone else should study the ethical and magickal practices of both religions before making an informed opinion of their own. I do agree with many of the First Church of Satan's observations about the political and social failings of this society, and fully agree with their assessments of such Christian inspired Prohibition laws like the socially oppressive age of consent laws and the socially destructive anti-drug laws (Modernist Pagans would likely disagree with the Classical Pagans on these points), as well as some of their critical evaluations of Christianity, and I commend their extreme courage for openly pointing these things out.
Nevertheless, I take issue with them for several other things, and I certainly do not want it to be implied that the majority of their ethics and practices are in harmony with those of Wicca, or even Paganism in general. To each their own. I will, however, point out here that in no way does Satanism encourage violence or pointless attacks against others, except in self-defense, and its forum discourages violence against children and animals, though its magickal ethics leave things to be desired from a Wiccan standpoint, and our ideas on that area are certainly not "inspired" by Satanists, be they the fictitious ones of the medieval era or the authentic ones of today.
Next up, Ms. Vera points out the inspiration that the early 20th century magician Aleister Crowley had on both Wicca and Satanism, plus the New Age movement which spawned them both. Ms. Vera contends that Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca, based his rituals heavily on that of Crowley. There can be little doubt that Gardner read and was influenced by the rituals described by Crowley (I don't know about "heavily," though), yet Crowley in turn derived many of his rituals from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, who practiced a variety of undeniably effective magickal rituals that were derived from a hodgepodge of influences, such as Ceremonial "High" Magick with a healthy dose of Egyptian influences and other sources.
So Gardner also borrowed heavily from Ceremonial Magick, and this is obvious to anyone who can reason clearly, from a casual observation of our own ritual structure, which includes the use of the five elements, the casting of the magick circle, the usage of the pentagram, the use of a magick wand, and many other examples, in addition to our practices based upon early Shamanistic nature magick. This was never in doubt, and there wasn't much need for Ms. Vera to point this out.
Of course, it is well known that Crowley was a major social rebel, and absolutely enjoyed shocking and reviling the ultra-prudish public of the time. He did indeed make "Satanic" references, such as referring to himself as the "the Great Beast 666." This was obviously to get attention, and it succeeded handsomely. However, Ms. Vera denies that such was a "joke," i.e., an attention-getting scheme, though it's well known that Crowley had a salacious love of such things.
She then laments that Crowley's behavior was "well within the 19th century satanic literary tradition [sic]." I will argue here once more that there was no such thing as a serious, authentic "Satanic literary tradition" prior to the late 1960's, and all such references to Satan were misrepresentations based upon the prevailing Christianized attitude at the time, which continues to this day.
Ms. Vera then makes more references to "actual" Satanists of the 19th and early 20th centuries (despite the fact that no serious individuals did exist, and this is even pointed out by the Church of Satan) and she attempts to make further connections between Witchcraft and Satanism by pointing out obscure references by several past authors of very dubious credibility, in books written long before the serious post-Inquisition study of Witchcraft began (and not until Dr. Margaret Murray published her first ground-breaking book in 1921). Many of them are not even worthy of debate, let alone as serious evidence of this "connection" between the two religions.
Ms. Vera then asserts the possibility that "certain traditions of Wicca have started out as forms of Satanism and then gradually moved away from it." This one is hardly worth commenting on, and the differences between the two religions clearly rule this possibility out (in fact, if such a thing actually occurred, it would be a religious change of extreme magnitude for all of its members, a quite improbable occurrence indeed). She next pontificates "to this day, there are occultists who start out as Satanists and eventually become Wiccans or other types of [N]eo-Pagans. It would be very odd if such people's understanding of Wicca was not influenced by their previous experience with Satanism." Such a thing is true, and I have known people who have tried both Wicca and Satanism. However, some of these people have also tried Asatru, Hinduism, and Buddhism at one time or another, which is not uncommon for people in search of their spiritual identity and an alternative religion that best suits them. This does not imply a commonality between Wicca and Satanism any more than it implies a commonality between Satanism and Buddhism, and a general interest in a magickally and/or spiritually oriented religion may indeed lead someone to explore many different religions that practice magick and/or alternative forms of spirituality, and to study Ceremonial Magick, Witchcraft and Satanic magick; this, again, does not imply anything similar between them outside of the fact that Wicca and Satanism both practice a form of ritual magick, and trust me, a person going from Satanism to Wicca would find much more differences in the beliefs and ethical structure of the religion than anything similar, and vice versa.
A general knowledge of magickal ritual and structure may help someone jumping from one religion to "understand" the other better, but such individuals would soon find out that everything else was different. Once again, I offer the reader to study the belief systems and tenets of both religions in depth to see my point.
Next up, Ms. Vera attempts to point out the possibility of having a "Satan-like" Pagan deity, such as Pan. This is highly unlikely, as well as a poor example, because Satan is supposed to be a being of absolute evil, a concept unknown to Pagan theology, as all of Paganism's deities and god-forms were a combination of light and dark qualities, even if one was dominant over the other in certain deities, and Satan also lacks the close connection to nature that the Pagan deities often embody (and Pan was a prime example of such a nature deity, as were all the male deities with horns and hooves without exception). She then accuses Wiccans, in "creating" their conception of the Horned God (a discredited assumption, as I've pointed out above and thus will not reiterate here), to be borrowing from source material that "Satanists have been using for centuries." Again, Ms. Vera claims that Satanists have existed for centuries, when in reality they did so only in the minds of the Roman Catholic Church, and true Satanists haven't even been around for half a century at this writing.
Ms. Vera next asserts that Wicca continues to use words with "diabolical" connotations in order to "attract attention" or possibly because we "enjoy feeling naughty." She then asserts that Wiccans are overly paranoid about being connected with Satanism, and that the fear is over-stated. I already answered the reason why Wiccans most likely continue to use those words earlier, so I wont get into it again. Her statement that adherence to these terms are the reason we currently get more attention than other Neo-Pagan religions like Asatru and Neo-Druidism may be true, as the latter two religions have been much slower in catching on in the West, but that is slowly changing, and as the 21st century progresses (it has just begun at this writing) these other religions may well achieve equal (or maybe even greater) appeal than Wicca (many non-Wiccan Pagans are, in fact, resentful of Wicca due to what they perceive as its mass-marketing). These other Pagan systems also have much to offer the world of modern theology.
However, I strongly beg to differ with Ms. Vera that the problem with Wicca being connected to Satanism is over-stated. It is disgustingly common for Wiccans seen wearing a pentacle necklace or ring to be asked "Why are you wearing the symbol of the Devil?" or "Why are you wearing the symbol of Satanism?" I've been asked such things myself too many times to count, and so has every other Wiccan that I know at one time or another. Further, the very first question out of most uninformed people's mouths when they first discover I am Wiccan is usually to ask me if Wicca has anything to do with "devil-worship" or the worship of Satan or "evil" (which is why I put the question first in the FAQ section elsewhere on this site, as it is by far the most commonly asked question to Wiccans by non-Pagans).
In actuality, the problem is not so much that people attempt to connect Wicca (or sometimes Paganism in general) with Satanism (as wrong as such a thing is) but the fact that they connect us with the public misperception of Satanism as being a religion of evil, devil-worshipping child-murderers and virgin-slayers. So I totally disagree that the problem is over-stated in any way, and we are fully justified in constantly making the "We are not Satanists!" exclamation, provided we do not misrepresent the true religion (which would indeed be unjustified).
Also, I believe that a Satanist has a lot of nerve to accuse Wiccans of using "diabolical" terms like "witch" and "sabbat" to gain notoriety and achieve salacious attention, or perhaps to "feel naughty," when Satanists use the word "Satan" to describe their religion! There is no term in a Judeo-Christian society that could possibly harbor more ill will and misperceptions upon a religion by the uninformed than the word "Satan"! Yet in her article she actually asks "Why do Wiccans insist on using words like 'witch' and 'coven' when they could easily use other, more respectable sounding words?" I'm sorry to be so blunt, Ms. Vera, but this is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black if I've ever heard one! Yes, it's true that the word "Satan" means a much different thing to Satanists than to Christians (just as "witch" means a much different thing to Wiccans than it does to most of the public at large), but the usage of the term "Satan" will lose your religion far more respect than the usage of "witch" will defame Wicca, and has given Satanists even more notorious attention than any word that Wiccans regularly use could ever have garnered us (the fact that the pentagram is considered an exclusively Satanic symbol by most of the public is very strong evidence of my point, but more on that elsewhere in this section).
Yet you berate us for not using "more respectable sounding terms" to describe our religion when Satanists use the most disreputable name in existence to describe theirs! If you truly respect this line of reasoning, Ms. Vera, then why couldn't you simply call your organization the "Church of Pan," the "Church of Set" (as another sect of Satanism is now doing), or even the "Church of Baphomet" (whose visage appears in your religious symbol and whose name is not well known among the non-mystically oriented Christians), or even make up a new name entirely? Obviously, Satanists also love the "attention" that such words bring them, and like Wiccans, do not care about using words that offend Christian sensibilities...but to the nth degree as far as the Satanists are concerned! So it takes quite a lot of gall for a Satanist to point that particular finger at Wiccans. But enough about that, I believe I have made my point.
Ms. Vera herself took her fellow Satanists to task about the incredibly inane assertion by several Satanists that Wicca is actually a "rip-off" of Satanism, so I wont go into it in too much detail here, except to once again suggest to anyone who believes such a thing to study both religions in depth, and then make such a comment (never mind the fact that Wicca predates the formation of the first Satanist sect by Anton LaVey by at least a decade).
Ms. Vera then once again states that Wicca is connected to Satanism, and once again mentions a "19th century Satanist literary tradition." She then states how the feminist Goddess-oriented Pagans (primarily of the Dianic tradition) allegedly have even more commonalities with Satanism than mainstream Wicca (whose traditions duotheistically worship the God and Goddess aspects of divinity equally), despite the fact that unlike Wicca, Satanism has far more male than female members, and in no way pays homage to any powerful female principle (though I have never seen any suggestion of sexism or patriarchal leanings in Satanism's writings or tenets). She makes this particular "connection" by referring to the fact that certain feminist mystics pay homage to Lilith, the legendary she-demon from Jewish folklore, and who is sort of a female version of Satan (some religious scribes added her to the story of Adam and Eve, claiming that she was Adam's first wife that fell further from grace than he and his second wife eventually did, and Lilith is a fairly popular entity in horror fiction).
Ms. Vera then refers to the feminist Pagan author Mary Daly, who has often attacked and inverted Christian imagery, but this in no way suggests evidence for Ms. Vera's "Wiccan/Satanist connection" (in fact, such flimsy and circumstantial evidence is indicative of one of those famous "conspiracy" theories).
Ms. Vera next proceeds to point out the book Women, Church and State by 19th century feminist and suffrage leader Matilda Joslyn Gage, and cites her as the "first" writer of Witchcraft and Goddess-worship (that's news to me), and how she "enthusiastically" describes a Black Mass. Once again, refer to my many arguments listed above in favor of the lack of accurate information about Witchcraft, and the strong misunderstandings of it, available to 19th century writers. The idea of Goddess-worship was quite unheard of in the 19th century, sorry.
Ms. Vera's final argument is one of particular importance. She brings up the topic of whether or not "anyone" can be a witch, regardless of whether they are Wiccan or not, and she explains how she is annoyed that Wiccans imply that our religion has the exclusive rights to the Witchcraft label. I shall attempt to explain this here.
It's true, as she said, that Witchcraft itself is not a religion, but is a type of magick practiced by Wiccans, and only people who practice Witchcraft and are adept at it to some degree, whether Wiccans or not, can claim the term for themselves. She then points out that her great grandfather called himself a "water witch" when he was in fact Christian and that many books have references to people who are called "witches" despite no claim to Wicca or the "old" religion it is based upon. This is merely indicative of the fact that Witchcraft is still so misunderstood by our society, and that many people believe that all magick can be defined as "Witchcraft," as well as the fact that these books are written more for entertainment purposes than a desire for accuracy of any sort.
Furthermore, Witchcraft is practiced by Wiccans today more so than anyone else.
Ms. Vera then makes the statement, "There have been Christians and Satanists calling themselves 'witches' long before Wiccans came along" and further states that a witch can be of any religion. Not only does she err again by insisting that true Satanists came along before Wiccans did (they didn't, but I'm not going into that yet again), but no Christian in the world practices Witchcraft (and in fact, most orthydox Christians believe that the practice of any type of magick is against the Christian code of ethics, as written in the Bible), and you would be hard pressed to find one who admitted that they did so, except perhaps in a completely tongue-in-cheek manner.
Ms. Vera also appears to suffer from another public misconception of what Witchcraft is.
What annoys me to no end is the lumping together of all magick under the category of "Witchcraft." Hence, from this reasoning, if you practice magick of any sort, you can call yourself a "witch," and thus, also by this reasoning, Satanists can be witches as easily as Wiccans. Sorry, but there are many types of magick, Witchcraft being but one of them, and individuals of other faiths who practice magick, such as the minority denomination of Judaism that follows the mystical system of the Qabala, and the relatively few Christians out there who practice magick, are ordinarily practitioners of Ceremonial Magick, which is quite distinct from Witchcraft, despite the fact that modern Wiccans (and Satanists) have borrowed quite a bit from its ritual structure and mystical precepts (no Christian practices Witchcraft specifically, but the few very open-minded ones who ignore that Biblical taboo and actually do practice magick tend to study Ceremonial, or 'High,' Magick, which is a style of magick that is distinct from Witchcraft).
The system of magick practiced by Satanists is not Witchcraft in any way, shape or form, and you can quote me on that one (as anyone of even a minor familiarity with the occult who has glossed over the spells found in the un-aptly named book The Satanic Witch by Anton LaVey can attest). So a Satanist calling themselves a "witch" is an extreme misnomer, and I'm sorry it annoys Ms. Vera when Wiccans say this, but it annoys me when people display the incorrect assumption that all magickal practice can be lumped under the category of "Witchcraft," so I suppose the annoyance factor equals out in the end.
In fact, this practice is quite similar to the numerous uninformed individuals who refer to all martial arts systems as "karate" or "kung fu," despite the fact that there is a large amount of distinct styles of martial arts (tae kwon do, aikido, tai chi, jiu jitsu, hapkido, etc., along with several variations of each aforementioned style); "karate" and "kung fu" are not generic terms that can be applied to all martial arts, just as "Witchcraft" is not a generic term that can be ascribed to all systems of magickal practice.
Further, I've heard many people tell me "I'm a witch, but I'm not Wiccan," though you'll notice that this is usually a cover for people who want to practice our magickal system without adhering to our ethical codes or responsibility in using it, and if you tell me I'm out of line for saying this, you'll find many web sites of individuals who claim to be "witches, but not Wiccans," and one of the first things they proceed to do is attack the Wiccan code of ethics as being ridiculously restrictive in practicing magick, most notably the Law of Threefold Return, and they then proceed to describe how it's perfectly morally permissible and magickally possible to curse people and cast manipulative love spells with no personal consequences (and Satanists, I should point out, do not have problems with placing either curses or controlling love spells, yet they do the latter only if they know for a fact that the person is right for them...please don't ask me to explain the logic of this).
All Wiccans know that it is perfectly possible to defend yourself magickally without casting curses or spells designed to harm others, as well as being able to acquire love, money, and happiness without being manipulative in any way. In short, if you do not adhere to decent ethical conduct in the casting of your spells, then you are not practicing true Witchcraft, plain and simple, and therefore do not deserve to use the appellation "witch" in describing yourself, especially since the word is said to mean "wise one," and wise individuals do not harm or manipulate others, particularly those adepts in the mystic arts who are aware of the severe consequences of abusing power and magick. I rest my case right there on this matter.
Ms. Vera's last statement of note in her essay is her angry protestation that "[i]f today's [sic] Satanists are sometimes nasty to Wiccans, well, how would you react to a bunch of people who went out of their way to deny their own roots [???], just so they could disown you?" I can't answer that question, Ms. Vera, because Wiccans are not denying their "roots" by "disowning" Satanists. We are simply avoiding confusion by the public with both a Christian misperception of us and our religion and with another religion that has no beliefs or ethics in common with us (other than the fact that magick is real and effective).
I will say this one more time...there are indeed similarities and commonalities between our ritual structures, and both of us owe this to what we both acquired from Ceremonial Magick, particularly that practiced in the 19th century by the Golden Dawn style, and everyone who practices magick in the latter half of this century was inspired to a degree by the likes of Aleister Crowley. However, in terms of anything else concerning the two religions (e.g., practice, celebration, ethics, structure, moral codes, beliefs, etc.), we are quite distinct, and we should not be confused with each other due to the mere fact that we both practice magick (of a different sort) and were born out of the same New Age movement of the late 20th century.
Yes, we are both alternatives to the dominant Judeo-Christian mindset, but very different alternatives. I am not saying that your religion shouldn't be practiced, or that it's "evil," despite the common claim that true Satanism is a rebellious parody of Christianity, which Anton LaVey himself once said, and I will certainly accede that most of its members do indeed take their religion and beliefs just as seriously as we do, though I have no doubt that Satanism has as many "wannabes," role players, and casual social dabblers (i.e., the "fluffies") as Wicca does.
I believe that it's commendable that Ms. Vera is concerned about people drubbing her religion, as well as the way it is misrepresented by the general public, and she felt fully justified in speaking out against the Wiccans over her belief that some of us were putting her religion down. However, if you are to accuse someone else of distorting historical facts to make incorrect points about something, you should be careful not to commit the same mistake yourself in your attempt to set the record straight.
Diane Vera's essay