Despite the fact that The Satanic Temple has openly made a spectacle of symbolically perpetrating male sexual violence against a woman’s corpse, its leader having rubbed his genitals on a woman’s grave under the nonsensical pretense of pretending to turn her into a lesbian (7.2), the sect nevertheless attempts to portray itself as being aligned with feminism and women’s liberation movements by posturing as a group engaged in pro-choice activism and which defends the rights to abortion and access to contraception. Charity campaigns are used to foster the image of TST as a “feminist” organization. For example, in 2018 the Arizona chapter of TST initiated a campaign called “Menstruatin’ with Satan,” collecting donated products such as tampons and feminine wipes to be distributed in schools via the YWCA program “Project Period.” This campaign was then used by the Satanists as a pretext to launch attacks on the YWCA (the Young Women’s Christian Association), which, despite its name, is a secular, non-faith-based organization dedicated to fighting racism, after members of the crypto-fascist sect started an online smear campaign against the YWCA, falsely accusing the secular anti-racist and feminist organization of no longer accepting donations collected by TST, a religious organization founded by a proponent of eugenics and a critic of racial desegregation in public schools (Felix, YWCA 2, Matirko). As an aside, it’s worth pointing out here that the neo-Nazi group NSM (or National “Socialist” [sic] Movement), which has known ties to the Satanist group Joy of Satan Ministry, has also protested against the YWCA due to the latter holding anti-racism workshops (Lunning). Another example of TST attempting to pass itself off as “feminist” can be found in a Vice video report titled “Inside the Satanic Temple’s Fight to Protect Your Abortion Rights,” which uncritically regurgitates TST’s portrayal of itself as a pro-women’s rights organization, showing members of the sect counterprotesting an anti-abortion protest while dressed in BDSM garb, diapers, and “baby” masks. TST’s attachment of BDSM apparel to infancy is doubly concerning, given the sect’s known tendency to attach BDSM to Nazi symbolism, hosting private parties where the eroticization of the power imbalance between SS officers and Holocaust victims is discernible, which, as we have coincidentally seen, is ideologically linked to the sexual fetishization of parent-child incest due to the Nordicist or Eurocentric neo-pagan view that ancient “Aryan” religious imperatives, such as that of incestuous coupling (or xwēdōdah) found in Zoroastrianism, can be justifiably appropriated by white supremacists from Asian cultures in which languages of the Indo-European family are or were spoken (6.3.3).
Part of what makes it possible for cryptic neo-fascists to use the aesthetics of “Satanism” as an entryist vehicle into left-wing political causes is the fact that there is some scattered precedent for the use of quasi-“Satanic” aesthetics by the political Left, although these have generally fallen short of actually claiming to uphold “Satanism” as a religion. For example, members of the left-wing Esperanto language group “Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda” (also known as SAT or “World Anational [i.e., without nationalism] Association” in English), which was founded in 1921, have been known to refer to themselves as “SATanoj,” an Esperanto word meaning “Satans” (Lins 172, 209). Another example is that of the so-called “Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell,” or WITCH, founded in 1968 as the “action wing” of New York Radical Women, a second wave feminist group (Purkiss 8). A number of commentators, noting that “witchy protests are on the rise,” have observed that The Satanic Temple appears to draw on the legacy of WITCH (Sinders, Wood). For this reason, it’s worth taking a closer look at WITCH in order to arrive at an answer to the question of whether and to what extent the ability of neo-fascists to successfully adopt the “witchy” model of protest as a movement-entryist tactic represents a perversion of the WITCH legacy or whether and to what extent WITCH, with its identification with a term connotative of Eurocentric neo-paganism, was already problematic to begin with, considering especially the fact that Eurocentric neo-paganism was, by the late 1960s, already associated with neo-Nazism via groups like the Church of Satan, founded in 1966, and the Odinist Fellowship, founded in 1969 (Gardell 152).
It can be observed that WITCH, in its founding “Manifesto,” drew from its inception explicitly on the white supremacist tradition of appropriating a heavily romanticized fictional version of Rromani culture while at the same time perpetuating antiziganist (i.e., anti-Gypsy) stereotypes that have a very real negative impact on Rroma. In this first public statement, the group’s founders define “WITCH” as “an awareness that witches and gypsies […] have always been […] sexually liberated” (Adler 225). This inane statement demonstrates several levels of ignorance.
Firstly, far from “hav[ing] always been […] sexually liberated,” it must be recognized that Rromani people (or “Gypsy” women and men) were continuously held in slavery from as early as the 1370s until as late 1861, being subject throughout this period to invasive regulation of, and intrusion into, their sexual lives (Achim 13, 131). Enslavement of Rromani people was most systematized in the Romanian principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia, but was also practiced in Western Europe into the 18th century. Historian Viorel Achim notes in The Roma in Romanian History that “marriages contracted [between ‘Gypsy slaves’] without the permission of their masters […] led to many disputes between [different masters], which usually resulted in the annulment of the marriages,” (31). Rromani slaves in the Romanian principalities were also forbidden from marrying non-Rromani peasants “in most situations” (Szeman 177). Even worse, slaveholding boyars (i.e., Romanian nobles) regularly subjected Rromani women and girls to “sexual abuse and exploitation,” continuing the medieval tradition of “ius prima noctis” into the 19th century (ibid., 178; Pătrașcu Zamfirache).
The conflation of Rromani culture with witchcraft, which was historically used as a justification for genocidal campaigns waged by European monarchs against Rromani people during the early modern period and which we find reinvoked in WITCH’s formulation of ““witches and gypsies” (as though practically the same thing) is also deeply problematic. Contrary to what the WITCH narrative would appear to want to imply (i.e., that “gypsies” were the victims of irrational witch-hunting hysteria), Rroma were targeted for annihilation by “enlightened” rulers seeking to “modernize” their countries and put an end to the witch-hunting “craze” precisely because their very existence (i.e., their existence as Rromani people) was blamed for perpetuating and giving rise to the kinds of popular superstitions which caused witch-hunts to occur in the first place. The coincidence of genocidal anti-Gypsy laws and edicts aiming to stop witch trials by stamping out belief in witchcraft and promoting “skepticism” and “rationalism” was no mere happenstance, but rather was, across Europe—from France to Hungary—part of a singular “Enlightenment” project in which “Gypsies” and the persistence of magical thinking were construed as “problems” requiring one and the same solution.
Rroma were seen as “exploit[ing] the superstitions of the majority population” by generating income through the performance of “healing ceremonies” and giving advice or “fortune-telling” (Matras 184). Because “their foreign appearance” was said to be the source of the majority population’s willingness to believe that the Rroma “actually possessed supernatural powers,” “enlightened” rulers seeking to eliminate belief in witchcraft seem to have concluded that if they could totally annihilate cultural and bio-physical signifiers of Rromani “foreign appearance,” they would thereby eliminate a major source of the kind of folkloric epistemology quickly coming to be seen as a hindrance to the development of a modern capitalist economy (ibid.).
For example, it can be seen that the “Enlightenment” values of “rationalism” and “skepticism” which in 1766 led Empress Maria Theresa (1717–1780) to move towards the abolition of witch-hunting in the Habsburg Empire (later known as the Austrian Empire and then the Austro-Hungarian Empire) were the same ones which also led her, during the same period (between 1758 and 1773), to implement a series of decrees aiming to eliminate Rromani people as a distinct group (Kern, rombase). Maria Theresa’s 1766 edict, which attacked “the persistent magical beliefs of the populace,” was titled “An Article on Sorcery, Witchcraft, Divination, and Similar Activities” and is said to have represented a “rationalization of the judicial processes that we [scholars and historians] have come to expect from so-called enlightened despots” (Kern 161). Among the steps taken to wipe out Rromani people living in parts of what are now Hungary and Romania in the years surrounding the 1766 decree which aimed to stamp out belief in the supernatural were the following:
- forced sedentarization (1758),
- prohibition of a distinct ethnonym for Rromani people, who were henceforth to be called “new peasants,” “new settlers,” or “new Hungarians” (1761),
- withdrawal of legal recognition of Rromani community leaders (known as voivodes) and prohibition of the Rromani language, traditional clothing, and occupations (1767),
- prohibition of “marriages between Gypsies,” implementation of strict controls on “mixed marriages,” and ordering “that all children over the age of five should be taken away from their parents and be handed over to a Hungarian farmer’s family” (1773) (Achim 71–72; rombase).
Even more conclusive is the timing of a decree by King Louis XIV of France almost a century earlier. In an edict titled “Declaration of the King of the 11th of July 1682, rendered against Bohemians and those who harbor them,” Louis called on French law enforcement officers…
“to arrest all those who call themselves Bohemians or Egyptians, their women, children, and others of their kind, to enchain the men as slaves, to be led to our galleys, and serve there in perpetuity [and] as for their women and girls […] to shave [their heads] the first time they will be found living as Bohemians […] and [if they] continue […] to live as Bohemians, to whip them and banish them from the Kingdom,” (Freminville 81–82).
Later that month, on July 31, 1682, the “Sun King” issued another edict, titled “Edict of the King for the Punishment of Different Crimes,” which ordered…
“That all persons […] calling themselves fortune-tellers [practitioners of divination] will get out of the Kingdom after the publication of our present Declaration, or face corporal punishment,” (Coynart 274–275).
The same edict contains further clauses threatening even worse punishments, enumerating offenses related to superstition, belief in and pretended practice of witchcraft, and the use of poisons:
“We [the authorities of the Kingdom of France] forbid all superstitious practices […] whether by saying or doing things that have no relation to natural causes, we want that those who will be found to have taught [superstitious practices], together with those who will have put them into use, and who have used them for whatever ends […] be exemplarily punished […]
“And if there would be found in the future people mean enough to add and join to superstition impiety and sacrilege, under the pretext of operations claimed to be magical or another similar pretext, we want that the persons convicted [of pretending to do magical works] be punished with death.
“To be similarly punished are all those who will be convicted of using vénéfices [poisoning by magic spell] and poison, whether death be the result or not, as well as those who will be convicted of making or distributing poison,” (ibid. 275).
These edicts were mainly a result of the so-called “Affair of the Poisons,” a period during the reign of Louis XIV of interest here for the reason that it is in these events of the mid-to-late 17th century, and not with the founding of the Church of Satan in 1966, that the roots of the “modern Satanism” phenomenon may be located, with many scholars concluding that “Black Mass” ceremonies, alleged to have included human sacrifice in some cases, were carried out in Paris at this time, with underground groups continuing the practice into the 18th century (Introvigne, Satanism: A Social History 42). Indeed, the historian Massimo Introvigne concludes, after a presentation of the “Affair of the Poisons” which is somewhat skeptical in tone, that he is “inclined to believe that a [Black Mass] ritual and an embryonic organization did exist, and [that] the Paris incident was a first instance of proto-Satanism,” (Satanism: A Social History 43). Anne Somerset provides some further context in The Affair of the Poisons: Murder, Infanticide and Satanism at the Court of Louis XIV, noting that…
“The Affair of the Poisons was the name given to an extraordinary episode which took place in France during the reign of Louis XIV. In 1679 fears that poisoning had become widespread led to drastic action. What followed seemed to show that there was a serious problem, for an investigation suggested that many people were indeed using poison and black magic to rid themselves of enemies. Numerous arrests and executions resulted, with torture being widely used and suspects including distinguished individuals from the highest ranks of society,” (25).
While the architects of these early Black Masses were “renegade [Catholic] priests,” also implicated in the poisons scandal was a “magical underworld” of self-styled “soothsayers” and “sorcerers” whose clients included “high-ranking aristocrats” and which dealt in the sale of a variety of goods, including—in addition to poisons—“love potions, grimoires and other books with magical rituals for all occasions, charms intended to bring good luck in business, love, and gambling,” as well as services such as abortion and treasure-hunting (Introvigne, Satanism: A Social History 38–39; Somerset 387). Here it is a question of the “Court of Miracles,” immortalized in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831). Interestingly, the first description of the “Court of Miracles” is said to be in the 1616 work of a writer named Richard de Romany (Kraemer 264). One suspect, among many others, in the “Affair of the Poisons” was a man also named Romani, said “to have planned to poison [a woman] by disguising himself as [a] silk merchant and selling her poisoned gloves,” (Somerset 19). Given these indicators, as well as Louis XIV’s edicts calling for the enslavement and persecution of the Rromani community in France at this time, it seems likely that some Rroma were involved in the “magic” business; however, what is even more certain is that the Rroma, and the nascent urban working class in general (members of the Third Estate under the Ancien Régime), also served as a scapegoat, allowing those implicated in the actual Black Masses—the thrill-seeking superstitious aristocrats of the Second Estate, some of the earliest “slum tourists,” and the Black Mass-officiating “renegade priests” of the First Estate, with their sadism, megalomaniacal bloodlust, and sexual scheming no doubt a product of their privileged position in the feudal hierarchy (and desire to advance therein)—to escape relatively unscathed. In 1682, after Louis XIV’s then favorite mistress and mother of several of his children, the Marquise Françoise Athénaïs de Montespan (1640–1707), was implicated in Satanic rituals, the “Sun King” halted the investigation and had all the suspects who might talk about her involvement “incarcerated for life in faraway fortresses, with all contacts with outsiders forbidden” (Introvigne, Satanism: A Social History 38). In this way, by pivoting away from the aristocratic aficionados of the Black Mass and projecting deviance onto the Third Estate commoners and especially Rroma, some of whom made a living in part by generating income through the performance of “healing ceremonies” and by giving advice (deemed “superstition” and “fortune-telling” by outsiders), he avoided a major scandal that would not only have implicated his favorite mistress, but would also have threatened to reveal systemic hypocrisy and moral depravity among the First and Second Estates (i.e., clergy and nobles).
What is significant about the French edicts of July 1682 is that, as with the Habsburg edicts of 1758–1773, they demonstrate that the worst violence against the Rromani communities of the early modern era was not perpetrated by hysterical witch-hunters, but rather at the behest of “rational” despots eager to wipe out folkloric epistemology and “superstition.” We see that the “Enlightenment” era project of wiping out superstitious belief in witches (and vampires, who, unlike witches, were more often male) was intimately tied to the will of “modernizing” genocidal policy-makers to wipe out “Gypsies” from actual physical existence, whether by outlawing the Rromani language, identity, and traditional clothing, separating Rromani families, or enslaving and deporting Rromani people.
Rromani women’s rights activist Carmen Gheorghe identifies the stereotype seized upon by WITCH as that of “the passionate Gypsy woman” (although the founders of WITCH didn’t even bother to capitalize the ethnic epithet, opting instead for “gypsy”) in See Me as I Am: Words and Images of Roma Women, where she also notes that there is a tendency for “stereotypical and racist representations [of Rromani women to be] mingled with hypocritical attempts at ‘affirmative’ representations” (as with WITCH’s grasping onto the racist stereotype of the “sexually liberated gypsy witch” as an “inspirational” device). Gheorghe writes:
“Together with other stereotypical representations of Roma women in literature, art and mass culture – such as the ‘Gypsy’ as witch, florist, servant or thief – a representation which persists in public coverage is that of the ‘passionate Gypsy woman,’ the voluptuous, exotic and seductive woman who drives men insane and is thus the embodiment of ‘white’ men’s fantasies. This myth combines sexism, by presenting women as exclusively sexual beings, dangerous in their irrational seductiveness, with racism – which reduces Roma women to ‘exotic,’ mysterious creatures, closer to nature and its dangers,” (180).
Based on the fact that the mythical “sexy wandering gypsy” which the founders of WITCH invoke in their founding statement is a completely misleading and racist stereotype, we can anticipate that there is not much difference between the WITCH organization’s idea of the “gypsy” and that of the “witch” in terms of either one’s historicity. It is also quite telling to recall that Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan who attempted to justify his admiration for Nazism (and collaboration with neo-Nazis) by claiming that Nazism was a crypto-Jewish movement, also claimed to be of “Gypsy” descent. Needless to say, the image of the “Gypsy” which LaVey leeched off of was identical to that of WITCH.
WITCH has also played a significant role in propagating the so-called “Burning Times” myth; i.e., the false claim that “nine million” women were burned at the stake as witches during the early modern period in an effort to stamp out a “half-submerged pagan religion,” often portrayed as having pre-Christian, matriarchal roots (Adler 225, Purkiss 7). Before WITCH, the claim of “nine million” women killed in the “Burning TImes” was propagated in Nazi Germany by the antisemite Mathilde Ludendorff (1877–1966), a so-called “völkisch feminist,” in a 1936 pamphlet called “Christian Cruelty to German Women” (Bailey 237–238). Later scholarship has attempted to portray the “Burning Times” as an “epistemicide”—a systematic effort to “decimate forms of knowing outside the Cartesian logics” (Esmonde and Booker 121). Ironically, it is not the so-called “Burning Times” which represents an episode of epistemicide, but precisely the opposite. It is the “enlightened” move to abolish belief in the real existence of witchcraft and wipe out “superstitious” ways of knowing (e.g., ways of knowing who is a witch, or what must be done to destroy a vampire) seen as incompatible with “modernity” and capitalist development, which represents the real epistemicide, which in turn led to genocide. Indeed, we saw how the conflation of “Gypsies” with “backwardness” and “superstitious” ways of knowing (still present today in antiziganist stereotypes) undoubtedly led to the designs of “enlightened” rulers to eradicate Rromani culture and people. In terms of “half-submerged pagan religion,” it must be admitted that angelology and demonology, the quasi-polytheistic frameworks of supernatural belief which informed witch-hunting and the levelling of witchcraft accusations during the early modern era, have clear analogues in paganism, with virtually all cultures around the world having developed beliefs about spiritual entities who could be beneficent or malevolent (Evans 9). In this way, we see demonological epistemology and witch-hunting within Christianity and on the part Christians as the artifacts of a “half-submerged pagan religion.” Thus the suppression of witch-hunting, linked across Europe to genocide campaigns against Rromani people, constitutes the suppression of a “half-submerged pagan religion,” the space for sincere polytheism within Christianity.
As the emergence of modern capitalism gave way to a kind of disillusionment with the disenchanted world in which the thought of credulous belief in the existence of witchcraft, vampirism, and the like was met with scorn or ridicule, increasing numbers of Western individuals began to project “a sense of unfulfilled longings and desires” onto romanticized, false images of Rromani people, who really had, to a certain extent, kept the ways of knowing associated with the so-called “Burning Times” alive (rombase, “Stereotypes and Folklorism”). With a “nesting of Orientalisms,” European Rroma (or rather, segments of the Rromani population arbitrarily selected as the most “authentic” due to their being perceived by outsiders as the most “backward” or nomadic) became a source of “inspiration” for the despiritualized Westerner, with some so-called “Gypsologists” remarking, seemingly with some astonishment, that “[i]n Gypsy belief, the conception persists that [a married woman without children] made love to a vampire before getting married and this is the reason for her infertility,” (Mara, “Ţiganii: geneza unei structuri identitare marginale” 78). That the belief in such a conception could easily lend itself to the kind of “dangerous” accusations associated with the so-called “Burning Times” doesn’t matter to the cultural appropriators, who are more interested in projecting their “unfulfilled longings” onto the racist stereotype of “the sexually liberated gypsy witch” than in having any real understanding or authentic engagement with Rromani histories and contemporary situations.
The most emblematic episode of witch-hunting in North America is without a doubt the Salem witch trials, the mythos of which The Satanic Temple can be observed to attempt to link itself up with by having established its official headquarters in Salem, Massachusetts (despite the group’s largest chapter being in Detroit, Michigan). Given (1) TST’s efforts to frame the so-called “Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 1990s” as a “modern day witch-hunt” (see: Chapter 6) and (2) the observation that TST’s model of protest owes much to the legacy of WITCH, it is safe to say that we may consider the so-called “Satanic Panic” as a kind of “modern day Burning Times” myth. If the “Burning Times” was conceived as “a Holocaust of women,” then the “Satanic Panic” is similarly, though even more absurdly, construed along the lines of “a Holocaust of Satanists.” By examining the “Burning Times” myth and seeing that it fails to measure up to the reality of witch-hunting in the early modern era, we will see that, in a completely analogous way, the “Satanic Panic” myth fails to measure up to the reality of the “moral panic” narrative’s status as a meme for those eager to dismiss concerns about neo-fascist operations and the organized aspects of sexual abuse as “exaggerated.”
Diane Purkiss shows in her book The Witch in History how proponents of the “Burning Times” myth appropriate modes of discourse associated with Holocaust remembrance (e.g., “testimony, recollection and traumatic inarticulacy”), despite showing little interest in accurately assessing or contextualizing historical witch-hunts (7–29). Purkiss criticizes proponents of the idea that the “Burning Times” can be seen as a kind of “[Women’s] Holocaust,” noting that they habitually attempt to present the “Burning Times” as more destructive or more atrocious than the Holocaust, inflating the number of women who are said to have been burned as witches to be greater than the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust “as if a competition is afoot” and as if they were trying “to prove that women have suffered more than victims of racism or genocide (as though women have not been among the victims of racism and genocide)” (17). This can clearly be seen to mirror the discourse of Holocaust obfuscationist far-right Ukrainian nationalists who apologize for the collaboration of Ukrainian fascists with Nazi Germany by inflating the number of Ukrainians who died in the so-called “Holodomor,” often alleging that the latter was worse than the Holocaust and that Jews were disproportionately represented in the Soviet government, which they allege deliberately orchestrated famine in Eastern Europe during the 1930s. Purkiss also highlights the fact that the term “Burning Times”—an attempt to allude to the crematoria of Nazi death camps—is itself inaccurate; English “witches” (and English or Anglo-American white settler “witches”) were, for the most part, hanged, not burned at the stake (Purkiss 8, 17).
The tendency to appropriate Holocaust remembrance modes of discourse reflects a more general trend of upholding the Holocaust as the paradigmatic prism through which the concept of modern human atrocity is abstractly viewed. Purveyors of the absurd “Burning Times” legend attempt to give some semblance of validity to their myth by approximating the Holocaust remembrance mode of discourse which interrogates the relation between fantasy and trauma (pioneered in works such as Georges Perec’s W, ou le souvenir d’enfance ), appropriating Jewish cultural theorist Edith Wyschogrod’s concept of “ficción,” defined as a way of presenting “the kernel of contemporary concerns read through a historical lens” (Shuck). Nevertheless, there must necessarily be a fundamental difference between presenting “contemporary concerns” through a lens of falsified history and presenting them through a lens of authentic history. By appropriating the Holocaust remembrance mode of discourse to affirm the historicity of something which is demonstrably ahistorical, exponents of the “Burning Times” myth participate in an oblique form of Holocaust denialism. This is compounded by the fact that the “enlightened” move to abolish the epistemologies of “superstition” anticipated in a very real way the actual Holocaust, as “enlightened” European rulers sought to “modernize” their countries by eradicating Rromani people and culture for their role in producing, or contributing to the persistence of, those “backward” epistemologies. In this way, proponents of the “Burning Times” myth celebrate genocide, adding insult to injury by prattling on about “sexually liberated gypsies,” sometimes even denying the Rromani ethnic connotation of that term by refusing to capitalize it.
In Purkiss’ observation that proponents of the “Burning Times” myth largely construes “racism and genocide” as separate from sexism (insofar as they regard the Holocaust, for example, as essentially “not a women’s issue”), we can begin to read a certain opposition in the myth to intersectionality and therefore also a tendency to construct “feminism” as being largely a matter of “white” women’s rights. This is indicative of the fact that the “Burning Times” myth is in large part a white supremacist myth masquerading as a “feminist” one. This, in turn, is confirmed by the fact that Nazism was the first political movement to champion the “Burning Times” myth, with so-called “völkisch feminists” arguing for “the superiority of Aryan wom[e]n over the men of degenerate races” and citing the witch-hunts of the early modern era as a “Judeo-Christian” effort to “destroy Aryan womanhood” (Bailey 237). A remarkable degree of psychological projection can be observed in the fact that, in the same time that Nazis were spreading tales of the witch-hunts having been “an attempt to exterminate all wom[e]n carrying Aryan racial features, as a means to eliminate the Aryan race entirely from Europe,” they were also carrying out the Holocaust (ibid.).
Viewing the “Burning Times” myth as a pseudo-historical device through which the contemporary concerns of the myth’s proponents in the United States from the late 1960s up to the present are expressed, it can be seen that the myth still carries a great deal of white supremacist baggage, although it is conveyed in a significantly more subtle way than it was in Nazi Germany. Although three of those accused (but not executed) in the Salem witch trials were members of the African diaspora (McMillan 104), we nevertheless find in the Salem events of 1692 and 1693 a narrative of “white victimhood” more palatable to a colonizer culture in which overt racism has, to an extent, lost favor than we do in the events that surrounded it (i.e., “King William’s War” or the “Candlemas Massacre,” in which several times more “innocent” English colonizers, including women, were killed by Wabanaki opponents of English colonialism than died in the witch-hunt). In “Black Magic: Witchcraft, Race, and Resistance in Colonial New England,” Timothy McMillan notes that the practice of levelling witchcraft accusations provided a means by which “slaves were able to express their resentment of [w]hites in a socially acceptable form and also to escape punishment,” (107). From this fact we can begin to gather that witch-hunting in the early modern era did not in any way resemble a unitary, conspiratorial campaign to wipe out “forms of knowing outside the Cartesian logics,” but rather a disparate array of episodes loosely informed by a common cultural idiom of quasi-polytheistic demonological epistemology.
One “Burning Times” myth apologist has argued that “critics of Wicca” fail to realize that “[w]hether or not Wiccan accounts of the Burning Times are historically accurate is of little concern […] What matters is that Wiccans themselves value the account of these events, a narrative that reflects rather than directs their contemporary resistance,” (Shuck). It is true that the “Burning Times” as pseudo-historical narrative merits consideration not only in terms of whether it is accurate (it isn’t), but also in terms of how the act of expressing (genuine or disingenuous) belief in the patently ahistorical “Burning Times” narrative reflects “contemporary concerns.” Earlier (6.2 and 6.2.1), we saw how the desire to dismiss contemporary concerns about sexual abuse (concerns which have found expression in recent years via the #MeToo movement) as “exaggerated” are read through the falsified historical lens of the “Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 1990s,” the term “moral panic” often being invoked to suggest that false accusations of sexual abuse are a much bigger problem than actual sexual abuse. Now, we will see how the desire to build a Eurocentric neo-pagan “religion of the blood” to serve as the racialistic ideological glue of a fascist society has historically been the basis for reading contemporary concerns through the “Burning Times” myth.
In the year 1935 in Nazi Germany, “Reichsführer-SS” Heinrich Himmler (1900–1945) established the Hexen-Sonderkommando (“Witches-Special Unit”) “as a component of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD),” the intelligence agency of the SS, in order to collect data on the persecution of witches during the early modern period (Purkiss, “English Witches and SS Academics” 5). A member of the “Witches-Special Unit” described the group’s goal as being “to identify remnants of ancient Germanic beliefs and […] utilize the information gained about the witch trials in anti-Christian propaganda, specifically directed against the Roman Catholic Church,” (Sebald 254–255). The idea that the “persecuted witches” of what would later be sensationalized as the “Burning Times” were actually “Celto-Germanic Aryans practicing superior Nature religion and suffering merciless persecution under an inferior religion, Christianity, which […] was afflicted […] by Semitic origin,” was not original to Himmler (Sebald 254). Credit for popularizing this idea, sometimes called the “witch-cult hypothesis” is often given to “Grandmother of Wicca” Margaret Murray (1863–1963), whose book The Witch Cult in Western Europe (1921) argued that the witch trials of the early modern could be seen as the struggle of a “surviving sect of pagans, persecuted by the intolerant church,” (Sebald 254; Purkiss, The Witch in History 62). However, the “witch-cult hypothesis” already had racist connotations at the time Murray’s work appeared. Guido von List (1848–1919), the godfather of the proto-Nazi “Aryan” racialist/German nationalist ideology of Ariosophy, propagated the theory before Murray, “claiming that the Armanenschaft [i.e., the ‘Aryan’ pagan priesthood] had never been destroyed, but had survived [‘the Christian epoch’] in secret conventicles,” (Goodrick-Clarke, Occult Roots of Nazism 63).
The discourse of groups espousing Wicca, Ariosophy, Satanism, and the like frequently evinces a desire to cultivate the perception that their hoaky ideologies have deep roots in occult traditions spanning thousands of years, utter lack of historical evidence for this often being explained away by claims of communication with “secret chiefs,” “secret masters,” “dark gods” and the like, who have supposedly kept these so-called “traditions” alive; Goodrick-Clarke notes that “[t]he myth of an occult elite […] in European ideology […] has been a perennial theme of post-Enlightenment occultism, which attempts to restore the certainties and security of religious orthodoxy within a sectarian context,” (Occult Roots of Nazism 65). The Nazi Hexen-Sonderkommando and Wiccans’ wanting-to-believe in the so-called “witch-cult hypothesis” of “Armanen priest-kings” or “wiccan covens” being persecuted by the Church is reflective of this. The neo-Nazi “Order of Nine Angles” similarly claims roots in a “Satanic” tradition stretching into antiquity via its supposed basis in the 1970s merger of a Wiccan group called “Camlad” or “Rounwytha” with two other sects, despite the ONA’s obvious LaVeyan derivativeness (Introvigne 357; 18.104.22.168). True-believers in the “moral panic” narrative of crypto-Communist psychiatrists using “Red Chinese brainwashing techniques” to plant “false memories” of abusive “intergenerational” Satanic cults in people’s heads to destroy families reveal their disingenuousness in ignoring the fact that deviant occultist groups often seek to fabricate false impressions of historical rootedness and longevity. Instead of treating Satanic sects’ ideological pretensions with suspicion, such “moral panic” narrative true-believers use the ahistorical claims of rape culture-permeated groups against the victims of sexual abuse, using the absurdity of the claims of occultist sects to represent “ancient traditions” to sow disbelief in the existence or extent of organized “intergenerational” sexual abuse. That is, the “SRA skeptics” who shriek on about “the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 1990s” would sooner take the ONA’s claim to represent the continuation of an occult tradition going back to ancient Britannia at face value than acknowledge its obvious roots in “US intelligence community” operations.
If the so-called “Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 1990s” was a “modern day witch-hunt,” then the attempt of The Satanic Temple to represent Satanists as the actual victims of the “Satanic Panic” represents the “modern day Burning Times” myth: a time when innocent Satanists were persecuted by an oppressive Judeo-Christian society, bent on wiping out the benign religion of “Satanism.” Nevertheless, we can see that this is an absurdity in that, even if we do acknowledge that false accusations of sexual abuse do sometimes occur, of those who were accused of sexual abuse during the 1980s and 1990s and were actually Satanists (or “Setians” or “Magickians” or whatever they want to call themselves), such as Michael Aquino (accused in 1986/1987) and Genesis P-Orridge (accused in 1992), there is enough evidence to cast a reasonable amount of suspicion on these individuals. For example, there are the facts, as revealed in The Satanic Letters of Stephen Brown, that in the 1980s Aquino was the leader of an organization (“Temple of Set”) with at least one openly pro-pedophilia member (“James Martin”) and was in contact over a long period of time with another organization (Myatt’s “Order of Nine Angles,” whose name indicates a close relationship with Aquino due to the latter’s authorship of “The Ceremony of Nine Angles”) which condemned his organization for “having a code of ethics” when Aquino attempted to crack down on open support for criminality within his organization (Brown 29, 32). In this respect, it is also curious that a significant number of individuals held simultaneous or dual membership in both Aquino and Myatt’s sects at that time (Introvigne 364). Other relevant matters of fact are that P-Orridge authored a text on conducting a ritual which purports to “make [‘your (…) sexual fantas(ies)’] really happen” “regardless of the […] age of those who take part with you” and led a sect dedicated to “the total freeing of sex” from “standards of morality” (as described in the sect’s so-called “Psychick Bible”) whose members were supposed to do this ritual on a regular basis (48, 134). Furthermore, the emergence of new sexual abuse cases linked to Satanism, such as that of the Emery brothers of Seattle, Washington in 2017 (discussed in 22.214.171.124), demonstrate the complicity of those who dismiss all accusations of sexual abuse linked to Satanism as “Satanic Panic,” “witch-hunting,” “moral panic,” or “sex abuse hysteria” in giving cover to occultist rape culture, or “rape occulture.” This is compounded by the fact that the meme of “Satanic Panic” is often invoked to sow disbelief in disclosures of sexual abuse having zero connection to Satanism, as we have seen with the frequent comparisons made by reactionaries between “Satanic Panic” and the #MeToo movement in their efforts to paint the latter as a “moral panic” (discussed in 6.2 and 6.2.1).
A number of additional factors contribute further to the assessment that the attempt to portray the so-called “Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 1990s” as a “modern day Burning Times” is a farce:
- Unlike the witch-hunts of the early modern era, a perusal of reports on “Satanic ritual abuse” cases indicates that most persons accused of perpetrating sexual abuse within the context of Satanic rituals have been male.
- Contrary to the construction of the “Burning Times” as a völkisch “feminist” myth, the “moral panic” narrative of “the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 1990s” never had any pretense of being a “feminist” narrative. On the contrary, the Satanic “moral panic” narrative was constructed by rabid anti-feminists such as “False Memory Syndrome Foundation” leader Ralph Underwager, who blamed feminist psychotherapists and psychiatric social workers for the alleged implanting of “false memories,” contending that “radical feminism” causes “child sexuality hysteria” because “men […] say[ing] that maleness can include the intimacy and closeness of [‘male bonding’] and [‘paedophile sex’] may make women jealous [and say,] ‘Wait a minute, we’re not going to let you do that!’” (Underwager).
- Given former “False Memory Syndrome Action Network” administrator Douglas Misicko’s history of recruiting actors to speak on behalf of “The Satanic Temple,” including an actress who spoke about being “an aspiring pre-school teacher” (alluding to the concept of “day-care sex abuse hysteria” expounded by rape culture apologist proponents of the “moral panic” narrative [see Van Sickler; Chapter 2; and 5.1]), we may suspect that women speaking on behalf of The Satanic Temple’s “Grey Faction” are pawns in a male-dominated, crypto-fascist organization’s efforts to promote rape culture and sexual abuse negationism. By getting spokeswomen or actresses to speak on behalf of “Grey Faction” and present anti-psychiatry talking points borrowed from the Church of Scientology about “pseudo-science” and psychiatrists preying on “highly vulnerable” women, the male masterminds of “Grey Faction” attempt to enhance the credibility of their absurd arguments and shield themselves from criticism, in this manner preparing the way for the insidious twisting of the concept of “mansplaining” so that male critics of rape culture will superficially be seen as arguing against the ideas of “feminist” women, despite the fact that (a) “Grey Faction” in reality represents the “Satanic” rebranding of the arguments of the rabid anti-feminist and woman-hater Ralph Underwager, founding member of the “False Memory Syndrome Foundation” and (b) the so-called “feminist” narrative of the “Burning Times” (i.e., witch-hunting in the early modern period), which serves as the basis for the construction of “Satanic Panic” as a “modern day witch-hunt” in which actual “Satanists” such as Michael Aquino and Genesis P-Orridge were “unjustly persecuted,” is in reality deeply rooted in the antisemitic discourses of so-called völkisch “feminists” such as Mathilde Ludendorff, whose pseudo-“feminism” consisted in the attribution of misogyny within Western culture to an alien “Semitic” or “Oriental” Jewish source. Furthermore, even in its more recent iteration through WITCH, the “Burning Times” myth is premised on the erasure of the historical reality of strict regulation of so-called “gypsy” sexuality over a period of centuries of slavery.
CONTINUE READING… 7.4 Pinkwashing: How “The Satanic Temple” Exploits LGBTQ+ Causes as a “Progressive” Fig Leaf
OR RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS (Anatomy of a Crypto-Fascist Sect: The Unauthorized Guide to “The Satanic Temple”)