Church of Satan History: Diabolical Endeavors
Within a year and a half of its creation, the Church of Satan had been the center of three separate media sensations that splashed front page headlines around the world. The first of these was the marriage of two of LaVey’s prominent members on February 1st, 1967. John Raymond, a politically radical journalist and Judith Case, New York socialite daughter of a well-known attorney, asked LaVey, their High Priest, to officiate at their wedding ceremony, blessing their union in Satan’s name.
Word got out and on the day of the ceremony, newspapers from California to Europe had more reporters and photographers than any event since the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge crowding the Black House to witness this supreme blasphemy. There was such a mob that police had to cordon off the area. Joe Rosenthal, who took the immortal shot of Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima during World War II, was assigned to photograph the evil doings for the San Francisco Chronicle. The L.A. Times, among other prominent newspapers, devoted four columns at the top of their front page to one of Rosenthal’s pictures of the wedding. Most of the accompanying stories lingered on the naked female altar, the array of personalities present, and Togare, the Nubian lion, roaring from somewhere further inside the house. The press was delighted. They dubbed LaVey “The Black Pope” and clamored for interviews. While many of the early articles were published in men’s magazines because of the nude altars, mainstream magazines jumped into the fray as well. Eventually all the major magazines were doing in-depth cover stories on the rising tide of Satanism.
“The Black Pope” and clamored
The rituals for the first year were largely intended as cathartic blasphemies against Christianity. Many of the elements were consistent with the reports of Satanic worship from the famous writings of diabolists, such as the description in Joris-Karl Huysman’s La Bas (translated into English as Down There). A nude female altar was always used, the accompanying music was a series of corruptions of church hymns, the cross was turned upside down, the Lord’s Prayer was recited backwards, mock holy wafers were consecrated by insertion in a naked woman’s vagina, whiskey was used instead of wine for Christ’s blood, holy water was substituted with seminal fluid in milk, and the names of the infernal deities were invoked instead of the Christian God. It was too much for some lapsed Christians to stand. Some would attend out of curiosity, only to find eustress quickly turn to distress, rush home and dig out their crosses to protect them from the devils they’d confronted.
After awhile LaVey got tired of simply mocking Christianity and decided to work up rituals which would be blasphemously positive and exciting. “I realized there was a whole grey area between psychiatry and religion that had been largely untapped,” said LaVey. He saw the potential for group ritual used as a powerful combination of psychodrama and psychic direction. Instead of just throwing off the bio-electrical energy and releasing it to be dissipated in the surrounding ethers, that energy could be structured, shaped, and directed to accomplish a specific goal. He didn’t want to do parlor tricks but real, applied magic.
LaVey decided the world was ready now for the first public Satanic baptism. People would be forced to see that Satanism is not drinking the blood of babies and sacrificing small animals. He declared, “Rather than cleanse the child of original sin, as in the Christian baptism imposing unwarranted guilt, we will glorify her natural instincts and intensify her lust for life.” Who better to be baptized in such a public ceremony than LaVey’s own three-year-old daughter, Zeena? With her soft blonde hair and engaging smile, she captivated reporters—such an angelic child to be dedicated to the Devil. While many Christian organizations and other “concerned citizens” were outraged at the spectacle, there was little they could do. Today, LaVey probably would have been charged with Satanic child abuse—there were no such legal avenues for religious hysterics in 1967.
A date for Zeena’s baptism was set for May. Photographers started showing up at 6 a.m., even though the ceremony wouldn’t begin for another 15 hours. One of the Church members, survivalist Kurt Saxon, designed and made a special amulet for Zeena just for the occasion. It was a colorful Baphomet with an ice cream cone, lollypop, and other things a little girl would like included in the circle. Her mother dressed her in a bright-red hooded robe and sat her on the edge of the altar while photographers from New York to Rome snapped away.
LaVey recited an impressive invocation, later adapted for inclusion in The Satanic Rituals:
“In the name of Satan, Lucifer...Welcome a new mistress, Zeena, creature of ecstatic magic light...Welcome to our company; the path of darkness welcomes thee. Be not afraid. Above you Satan heaves his bulk into the startled sky and makes a canopy of great black wings...Small sorceress, most natural and true magician, your tiny hands have power to pull Heaven down and from it build monuments to your own sweet indulgence. Your power makes you master of the world of frightened, cowering and guilt-ridden men. And so, in the name of Satan, we set your feet upon the left-hand path...Zeena we baptize you with earth and air, with brine and burning flame. And so we dedicate your life to love, to passion, to indulgence, and to Satan, and the way of darkness. Hail Zeena! Hail Satan!”
The entire ceremony was designed to delight the child, welcoming her with sights and smells that were pleasurable to her. Unlike the Christian method of dunking already frightened children in water to baptize them, Zeena sat cheerfully chewing gum throughout the ritual, basking in the attention she was receiving from admirers and the press.
In December of the same year, Anton was approached by Mrs. Edward Olsen who wanted the High Priest to perform a funeral for her recently deceased husband, a Navy man killed in a traffic accident near San Francisco’s Treasure Island station. Both she and Edward Olsen had become members of the Church of Satan, despite his Baptist-oriented upbringing and his earlier membership in Youth for Christ. When he’d entered the Navy, seen more of the world and married a sexy brunette, he realized Satanism was a more realistic way of life. “He believed in this church,” said Mrs, Olsen, “and it is in this church that he would have wanted his funeral.”
Though the Navy officials were a bit nonplussed, they agreed to Pat Olsen’s instructions without much discussion, considering it their duty to comply with Mr. Olsen’s last request with dignity. There was a chrome-helmeted honor guard in attendance at the ceremony, standing rigidly at attention alongside the black-robed witches and warlocks wearing their Baphomet medallions. The sailors held an American flag over the coffin while LaVey recited a eulogy emphasizing Edward’s commitment to life in choosing to walk the Devil’s path. To end the funeral, the Navy guard fired three volleys with their rifles, and a Navy musician played taps after the mourners shouted, “Hail Satan!” and “Hail Edward!”
a eulogy emphasizing Edward’s commitment to life in choosing
to walk the Devil’s path.”
Even though the Archbishop of San Francisco was upset by the whole affair, immediately sending an outraged letter to President Johnson, most San Franciscans, including Naval officials, felt Olsen should receive the same consideration as any other Navy man. The response from the White House was actually quite fortuitous for the widow and her young son. Olsen, a machinist-repairman third-class was erroneously referred to by White House aides as “chief petty officer.” Mrs. Olsen was able to use those letters to file a claim for a posthumous promotion for her husband and receive higher survivors’ benefits. LaVey credits “demonic intervention” for Mrs. Olsen’s good fortune. Because of the sharp increase of declared Satanists in the military, Satanism was soon outlined as a recognized religion in the Chaplain’s Handbook for the Armed Services where it remains today, the description updated every few years by the Church of Satan.
Besides the weekly ceremonies, Anton conducted Witches’ Workshops and various seminars which attracted notable personalities from up and down the California coast. Jayne Mansfield, the sexy-sweet blonde bombshell famous for her stunning measurements and orgasmic squeal, insisted on meeting the Black Pope. LaVey and Mansfield hit it off immediately, each fulfilling a diabolical need in the other. Jayne became passionately obsessed with Anton, calling him several times a day from wherever she traveled, eventually applying for a driver’s license just to be able to drive to San Francisco unescorted by her persistently ubiquitous lawyer/boyfriend, Sam Brody. Jayne’s commitment to LaVey, and her dedication to the Satanic philosophy, continued until her death in June of 1967. The auto crash she died in also killed Sam Brody, who LaVey had formally cursed in response to Brody’s jealous threats and attempts to discredit LaVey.
The night of Mansfield’s death, LaVey had been clipping a Church of Satan news item from the German magazine, Bild-Zeitung. When he turned the item over to paste it in the press book, LaVey was shocked to see he had inadvertently cut a photo of Jayne on the opposite side of the page, right across the neck. Fifteen minutes later, a reporter from the New Orleans Associated Press bureau called Anton to get his reaction to the tragic accident. Jayne had been practically decapitated when she was thrown through the windshield of the car.
Madness rituals, fertility rites, destruction rituals, shibboleth rituals, and psychodramas in the form of Black Masses were devised for the public to participate in and be entertained by every Friday night. The early period of rituals was not a time of games or chicanery, but of necessary development, growth, and experimentation—as well as generating a pool of concentrated energy to draw from in later experiments.
by Blanche Barton ©2003
(condensed from The Church of Satan and with supplemental material by Peter H. Gilmore)