Black Goat Cabal > Essays > What is "traditional Satanism"?

What is "traditional Satanism"?

by Diane Vera

"Traditional Satanism" is "traditional" in the sense of fitting the traditional primary dictionary definition of the word "Satanism" -- the worship of Satan.

The word "Satanism" has been given other meanings too. For the past several decades, most public Satanist spokespeople have been atheistic symbolic Satanists, also known as "modern Satanists," who do not believe in or worship Satan as a deity but who identify with Satan as a symbol.

At the present time, "traditional Satanist" is one of the most ccmmonly-used labels for theistic Satanists, i.e. those Satanists who do worship Satan as a deity. However, theistic Satanism is "traditional" only in the sense of reclaiming the traditional primary meaning of the word "Satanism." Most (if not all) of today's theistic Satanists are not "traditional" in the sense of having a direct lineage from any Satanist group that existed before 1966 C.E.

Some groups do claim a direct continuous pre-LaVey lineage. Of these, the most credible, in my opinion, is OFS Demonolatry, although even the OFS's claims have not yet been proven by the standards of scholars of new religions.

The first group to call itself "traditional Satanist" in its published writings was the Order of the Nine Angles (ONA), a politically extremist British group which was around in the late 1980's and early 1990's and claimed to be "traditional" in the sense of having allegedly existed in secret for generations. Many doubt that claim.

The ONA writers held that Satanists should be involved in extremist politics and some violent criminal activity related thereto. However, at least here in the United States, it appears that the vast majority of self-described traditional Satanists are law-abiding, and the majority do not embrace extremist politics, although some of the noisier folks do.

The ONA writers believed in Satan as a deity but scorned the idea of "worship" as fervently as any LaVeyan. We of the Black Goat Cabal feel that it is ridiculous for Satanists to try to exclude, from the very definition of "Satanism" itself, those who in fact fit the primary definition of "Satanism" in most dictionaries, i.e. those who worship Satan. All the more ridiculous is it when self-described "traditional Satanists" say such things. The word "worship" does not mean groveling or self-abasement. It means reverent love and devotion.

During the late 1990's and the first several years of the 21st century, the label "traditional Satanist" was adopted by nearly every Satanist who believed in Satan as a deity, regardless of the particulars of one's belief system. Eventually, more and more of us decided that the term "theistic Satanist" was more accurate  -  and also preferable as a way of distancing ourselves from the ONA  -  whereas other theistic Satanists still preferred the term "traditional."

Recently, since 2004 C.E., some people have begun using the term "traditional Satanism" to refer specifically to Christian-based duotheism as opposed to other forms of theistic Satanism. However, this use of the term is not at all justified historically. As far as I know, the term "traditional Satanism" was coined by the ONA writers, whose belief system was not based primarily on Christianity but instead was rooted in the Western occult tradition. Ditto regarding the OFS, a more law-abiding group whose belief system is based on Hermetics. (See also my article on "orthodox Satanism.")

When the Black Goat Cabal was first organized, our aim was to advance the public visibility of theistic/traditional Satanism. Our aim has shifted to opposing dogma-based definitions of "Satanism," whether theistic/"traditional" or atheistic/symbolic. To that end, we aim to advance the public visibility of whichever forms of Satanism will best aid our efforts to oppose the most commonplace (among both Satanists and outsiders) dogma-based definitions of "Satanism." We still aim primarily to advance the public visibility of theistic Satanism, in opposition to the Church of Satan's and other dogmatic LaVeyans' would-be monopoly, and we still welcome, especially, those who are unashamed to say that they worship the Devil. But we now aim also to advance the public visibility of some non-LaVeyan forms of atheistic/symbolic Satanism as well. And, among the many forms of theistic Satanism, we will aim primarily to advance the public visibility of those forms which have the most to offer in terms of intellectual substance and/or a sane and well-devleoped system of occult practice.

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