Church of Satan Sigil of Baphomet

THE DEVIL IN MARDI GRAS

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I do enjoy Mardi Gras. I love its history and aesthetics. I don’t participate much due to crowds, although I have enjoyed putting on a tux and going out on the town in the past. Mardi Gras is sort of like Halloween in that regular people get to experience a fleeting glimpse at life as Satanists. But Mardi Gras is a couple of weeks worth of sin, ritual and ceremony, where no indulgence is denied.

The tableau during a Mardi Gras Ball is in many ways a literal Satanic Ritual – the ones we’ve witnessed tend to have an acting “Priest” or “Priestess” complete with an “Altar” of some sort; there are deliberate steps and procedures taken, blessings (and curses) proclaimed, and so-forth. It’s elitist; not just anyone can participate. Symbolic gods or other figures may be employed. Amusingly most of the participants are Christians in some style or degree who have no idea what they’re “really” doing.

But of course, these revelers differ from Satanists greatly. Aside from their compulsory nature and irresponsible imbalance of such sins, the whole thing is really nothing more than a pathetic attempt to get all of their sinning out of their system before they feign sacrifice and “give up” those delightful things that brought them such pleasure. And for nothing more than the perceived glory of the hypocritical self-righteousness found during the season of Lent.

That’s OK. Let them have Fat Tuesday. Let them wallow in compulsory sin and then flounder in obligated guilt. And while they’re smearing dirt on their foreheads and hiding their sins on Ash Wednesday, Satanists will let the party roll on. Just as we do every day of the year.

My favorite tradition here in Mobile, Alabama (the birthplace of modern Mardi Gras) is commonly referred to as “Chasin’ the Devil Round the Stump.” This is a float that leads the last parade of the Mardi Gras season, depicting one figure dressed as a jester and the other a skeleton. Some say it represents Spring chasing Winter away; Happiness chasing Sadness; Comedy chasing Tragedy. The “good” figure chases and beats the “bad” figure with large bladders. The “stump” is a broken column, some say it represents life broken at its climax.

I see all this differently. I like to view the broken column as the broken aspirations of these finite revelers. I prefer to view the figures as Sin being chased by hypocritical sinners; those who chase the very thing that riddles them with guilt. That which they know perfectly well they’re not allowed to enjoy. And though they may enjoy the chase, and even get in a couple of good whacks with their bladders, Sin – The Devil – will always triumph. He’ll give them a nice kick in the pants. But for we guilt-free Satanists? Those of us who, to paraphrase Magus LaVey, are the best sinners on our blocks? “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

—Reverend Byrd