We've all heard the old adage about Halloween being "The Devil's Holiday." If you've dealt with religious people all of your life like I have, you've heard everything from Halloween being Satan's Birthday (like some kind of bizarro-Christmas) to devil worshipers kidnapping trick or treaters in droves to be sacrificed to the dark lord. I even had the Westboro Baptist Church decrying my beloved holiday as evil on the countdown last year. So, I decided to give equal time to the opposition. I reached out to The Church Of Satan, and Magus Peter H Gilmore, a High Priest, agreed to pay a visit to the land of Celluloid and set the record straight. What does Halloween mean to a Satanist? Take it away, Magus Gilmore...
“Having grown up in New York’s Hudson Valley, the Fall has always been my favorite season of the year, where the air is crisply cool, the trees’ leaves ablaze with reds, oranges, golds, and the nights enchantingly clear with diamond-bright stars and a moon that illumines the scudding clouds. As a youth, the incense scent of burning piles of raked leaves was a daytime regularity—before fire laws forbade such conflagrations—and freshly pressed cider from nearby apple orchards was the nectar for celebrating the season’s fecund harvest.
In those days I lived for a time in a place named Tuxedo Park, a strange, gated enclave originally meant for the cronies of a long-dead tobacco baron, its dark pine woods surrounding chilled, deep lakes that had at times embraced victims of gangster brutality. I then grew acquainted with the monsters unleashed by Universal Studios as they flickered across our black and white TV screen, finding them to be kinsman, fellow outsiders who might be stalking Luna-brightened woods or the cobweb festooned halls of crumbling manses as such places were nearby. So, when building Aurora’s styrene effigies of my favorite ghouls, I did so out of affection, not fear, and Dracula, The Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon were empowering talismans. So it would be obvious that a child with such proclivities would enjoy Halloween as the favored holiday of the cycling year.
And so it tends to be for many who come to call themselves Satanists, since there is an aesthetic aspect to our atheist philosophy wherein we embrace Satan as a symbol of pride, liberty, and individualism. The mythological Prince of Darkness is for us a projection of our highest potential, not the fount of Evil, unless one considers free-thinking and vital existence to be anathema. We know that spiritual people often do not grasp our carnal religion, the idea that in the face of an indifferent Universe we take the responsibility to create our own values, with ourselves as highest amongst them. We are thus our own gods, and we benevolently cherish people who bring value to our lives and despise those who would thwart our pursuit of rational self-interest. Satanists accept the full range of human emotions as being natural, though the extremes tend to be less frequently roused. We are Epicureans who choose amongst the pleasures offered by life, enjoying such in moderation and sharing them with those we befriend. Many of us find the fabled denizens of the dark from varied mythologies to be inspiring, so we might have such imagery about us in our home environments, not just as decor brought out for the Halloween season.
We see this holiday as the night when the mundane folk try to reach down inside and touch the “darkness” which for Satanists is a daily mode of existence. Particularly in the United States, Halloween is a time for celebrating monster films, wearing costumes of a macabre nature, and evoking the thrill of “fun fear.” Children (of all ages) can indulge their fantasies by donning costumes that allow for intense role-playing and the release of their “demonic cores,” the parts of their personalities often hidden from their friends, co-workers and families.
Though there are traditions making this an occasion for recalling the dead, it has been popularized as a time to play with what historically were fears directed towards what were thought to be unquiet spirits of the departed. And the grand traditional question—“Trick or treat?”—has become a means for fulfilling an indulgence in sweets, without the need to resort to the optional coercion.
Satanists embrace what this holiday has become, and do not feel the need to be tied to ancient practices. This night, we smile at the amateur explorers of their own inner darkness, for we know that they enjoy their brief dip into the pool of the “shadow world.” We encourage their tenebrous fantasies, the candied indulgence, and the wide-ranging evocation of our aesthetics (while tolerating some of the chintzy versions), even if it is but once a year. For the rest of the time, when those not of our meta-tribe shake their heads in wonder at us, we can point out that they may find some understanding by examining their own All Hallows Eve doings, but we generally find it simpler to just say: “Think of the Addams Family and you'll begin to see what we're about.”
On this night, many will come to our block in the haunted Hudson Valley, where my wife and I inhabit a spooky Victorian home, painted black, purple and red, surrounded by a fence that would be proper for a fog-shrouded cemetery. We carry on the tradition of giving out candy, and those with costumes of a more monstrous nature get extra. Down the block, our close friend and Satanic comrade has a similar dark abode and he’ll be in frightening finery on the front porch with his animatronic witches and zombie henchmen to both scare and delight those who stop by. People are drawn here, intrinsically knowing that we Satanists embody this season moreso than anyone else. For the rest of the year they’ll whisper as they speed past our eerie homes, challenging one another to have the courage to come by on that coming night when the forces of darkness hold sway. They enjoy the frisson of fear as much as the treats they’ll receive from someone garbed in a fiendish manner. They also seem to know that the costumes and masks reflect inner truths that they want to touch, if but only on one chilly October evening.
For those who wish to further explore our perspective, I suggest visiting the official website of the Church of Satan (www.churchofsatan.com). Our founder, Anton Szandor LaVey, codified the philosophy in The SatanicBible. And if you’d like to read my further thoughts on Satanism, music, and art, you might enjoy my book, The Satanic Scriptures. (Click on the titles to be transported, as if by magic, to the Amazon links)
May you all have a most Happy Halloween!”
21 days ‘til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween. 21 days ‘til Halloween. Silver Shamrock!