Do I have to be a part of rituals if I join the Church of Satan?
No. Ritual is meant as a tool and its use is not required amongst our members.
What is a Satanic Ritual?
Greater Magic, which is our name for our ritual practice, is basically meant as self-transformational psychodrama. That is it serves as a means to purge oneself of unwanted emotional baggage that might be hindering a daily pursuit of joy in life. We do not require that anyone accept that it is more than this. The pageantry of ritual is a drama meant for emotional stimulation, not a belief in or worship of any power higher than the projected will of the magician. That is why we call it an “intellectual decompression chamber.”
The three basic types of Satanic Ritual are outlined in detail in The Satanic Bible, which is essential reading for those wanting to grasp our perspective on this practice. They are for Compassion (for oneself and others), Lust (to release unrequited sexual urges) and Destruction (to cleanse oneself of anger towards someone who has done you an injustice). These serve as models for whatever other purposes one might feel the need to explore via ritual. In The Satanic Rituals Anton LaVey presents other rituals essentially meant for larger group performance based on historical and cultural diabolist imagery.
However, some Satanists also consider the possibility that, through the raising of emotions focused towards a specific achievable goal in ritual, ideas/concepts/images might be transmitted to the minds of other people at a distance, thus perhaps influencing them to make future decisions favorable to the outcome of the situation desired by the magician (transmitter). It then seems to us plausible that there would be a means that is part of nature through which this works. It is not attained through the intervention of supernatural beings, as we do not believe such things exist. The desired goal, what we call an “Is-To-Be”, would vary based on peoples' ability to transmit as well as receive such images as well as the likelihood of the situation towards which the magician is working.
Rupert Sheldrake, a biologist, has spent many years exploring the “extended mind” and has solid statistical evidence that there indeed does exist a mechanism in nature that could be used for such ends. His many books are fascinating and worth investigating.
We emphasize that the philosophy of the Church of Satan does not require that our members believe that ritual is more than an emotional experience, nor is there a mandate even to ritualize at all. We simply offer it as a tool for experimentation. Some folks have found results that they feel are beyond coincidence or statistical parameters. Others simply enjoy the release of emotions otherwise hindering their pursuit of personal happiness.
There is no judgment placed on members of the Church of Satan regarding their personal understanding of how ritual functions. One is not more or less of a Satanist based upon his or her evaluation of Greater Magic. See the essay, “On the Role of Ritual in the Life of a Satanist” by our High Priestess, Magistra Peggy Nadramia, for more information.
Religions have initiations or baptismal ceremonies. Do I need to have one to be considered a Satanist even though I read & agree with the literature of the Church of Satan?
Satanic Baptismal rites for both adults and children were written by Anton Szandor LaVey and published in his book The Satanic Rituals. These ceremonies were created because many people find the need to have some form of initiation or transition, especially if they have previously been affiliated with a different religion. However, no baptism is required for people to consider themselves Satanists; they simply must fully understand the literature expounding the philosophy of the Church of Satan and agree with it. If an adult joins and desires to have a baptism, then if there are other members within travelling distance who become friends with this person, they might agree to perform the ceremony.
Since Satanism advocates free will, it is against the principles of our philosophy to baptize infants into Satanism. Our members who are parents make it a practice to expose their children to many different religions and philosophies so that they will be free to make their own decisions regarding what path would best suit them. If a minor whose parents are Church of Satan members has reached a point wherein an informed decision is made to embrace Satanism as a personal philosophy, then that minor may request to be baptized under the sponsorship of the parents.
My partner and I want to have a Satanic wedding – how can we do that?
Satanic Weddings by our Priesthood are available to members of the Church of Satan, and only if there is a member of the Priesthood interested in doing it for the couple within traveling distance (being Satanists, our Priesthood is under no obligation to other members). We may consider requests for an officiant by non-members.
Because laws regarding who can legally perform marriages vary locally, at times from county to county, Satanic Weddings are only legal when the Priest/Priestess is registered with the authorities in the county wherein the ceremony takes place (in which the couple resides).
Generally we suggest member couples first legalize their wedding through the local authorities (civil ceremonies are brief and non-religious). Then they may either create their own ceremony or use the one which we use (authored by Magus Peter H. Gilmore and released in The Satanic Scriptures) and choose someone they both respect to be the celebrant (or they may create a ceremony in which the couple marries themselves, each being co-celebrant).
If a couple wants to perform a marriage ceremony that has no legal ramifications, they can do whatever they like, but they must know that this wedding will not be recognized by their state/nation of residence.
If member couples wish to have a member of our Priesthood serve as celebrant, they may contact us regarding the availability of interested local Priests/Priestesses. If there is a willing member of the Priesthood, we will then put him/her in touch with the couple to work out transportation/travel costs and celebrant fee.
The couple will be expected to provide the member of the Priesthood with their proof that they've participated in the proper civil ceremony to legalize their union prior to the performance of the Satanic Wedding Ceremony. The Priest/Priestess will need to examine the original document and be provided with a photocopy for Church records. Additionally, if either or both of the couple have been legally married previously, this must be disclosed to the Priest/Priestess and proof of the legal dissolution of this prior marriage must be provided (original documents must be provided for examination as well as photocopies or scans for our records).
Do you perform weddings for same sex couples?
Yes, however the legality of such ceremomies will depend upon local laws. See this essay on the topic: Founding Family: “Morality” versus Same-Sex Marriage
I am a Satanist and would like to be sure that I have a Satanic funeral after I die—how can I do that?
Once you have died, you will have no control over how your relatives handle your remains, and even if you make stipulations regarding your intentions in your will, these documents are often not even put into motion until after your remains have been dealt with.
The only way to get exactly what you want would be to approach a funeral director who is sympathetic to doing this, and to pay for it in advance. Then there would be a contract stating exactly what it is you wish and if you provide a copy to someone who will survive you who has agreed to make certain that it is precisely carried out, then you might reasonably expect to have what you want.
Do Satanists perform sacrifices of humans or other animals?
Satanism, as an atheist religion, abhors sacrifice, for we do not believe in offering lives to mythological entities. The concept of ritually slaughtering humans and other animals, at any stage in their existence from fetus to adulthood, is anathema to Satanism.
Is abortion a sacrament in Satanism?
It is not. It is an optional medical procedure which should be within the rights of the pregnant person to choose if they so desire, since being pregnant or not should be their decision. Limits on the gestational age of the fetus that may be aborted are up for discussion as part of a social contract which should based on scientific data, medical necessity, and personal value systems. How one views abortion is a matter for our members to decide individually, based on personal standards—but they may not enforce their values upon others, who are equally free to make their own decisions on this issue.
The very word “sacrament” is primarily a Christian term, meaning some sort of rite which confers a state of “divine grace” or some aspect of “sacredness.” At its most watered-down form, it can mean a sign, token, or symbol or even an oath or solemn pledge. But, to be clear, Satanism does not embrace rites, oaths, pledges, signs or tokens which are termed “sacraments.”
We are an explicitly carnal religion, and we embrace the profane. Therefore even the idea of something being sacred, such as the concept of holiness—which means veneration of an object or a procedure or rite because of its association with some sort of deity or divinity—is not in use as part of our philosophical framework. Those are aspects of spiritual thinking and symbolism, and thus not elements of Satanism, our skeptical, pragmatic, materialist, individualist atheist religion.
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