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Throughout history, we have come to fear that which is considered Satanic. You hear the term Satanism and ones mind immediately wanders to depictions of the birth of the Antichrist. Visions of Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, and figures like Damien all rush to mind in a chaotic tornado of sin and depravity. But the reality of Satanism is far different. Representations of Satanism and the Occult in film have played on the extremes of a maligned faith, for the purpose of satire and entertainment. While exciting, they are technically incorrect, and lend a negative connotation to something the general public traditionally just does not understand.

Rosemary’s Baby is one of the greatest horror movies of all time. The scene in which Rosemary is raped by the Devil is regarded as one of the scariest scenes in cinema history. Its slow boil towards explosive paranoia about the possible sacrifice of Rosemary’s unborn child made women around the world fear the notion of chilbirth. It’s rife with equal parts horrific and stunning allegories about the nature of being a housewife in the 1960s, the role of women in the home, our historical position as breeding stock, and the absolute agony and turmoil of childbirth in and of itself. But its depictions of Satanic culture and Satanism as a faith are wrong.

Satanism can be boiled down to two belief structures: theistic and atheistic Satanism. Theistic Satanism believes in Satan as a God figure, an entity that they would pray to and worship. They hold black masses, worship their Satanic lord, and pray to him for many of the same things Catholics and Christians pray to their God for. The parallels are striking, in fact, with the exception of the faith’s figurehead. This faction of Satanists are largely referred to by Atheistic Satanists as Devil Worshipers.

Atheistic Satanism is the more prominent religious faction. They do not believe in Satan as a religious savior. In fact, they don’t believe in Satan at all. Their faith lies in the Hebrew definition of the term itself, which is to mean “Opposer” or “one who questions.” Their faith is based on the integral nature of knowledge, above and beyond belief. Their ultimate sin is that of ignorance. They don’t sacrifice goats, nor do they try and impregnate women to bring about the Antichrist.

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What we see represented in film the majority of the time is extremism. And why shouldn’t we? Extremism is fun. It’s violent, usually devoid of reason or logic, and lends itself beautifully to the horror genre. It allows us to depict the worst parts of humanity so that we may reap the rewards of its thrills.

It’s through these depictions that the general public has gotten it into their heads that Satanists want to end the world, and that their meetings and Black Masses are done maliciously, and with the intent to hurt others. They believe that Satanists want to destroy God and his followers, and that they want to murder and sacrifice virgins, eat the flesh of their victims, and curse whomsoever crosses their path. This is a gross misconception.

There have been horrible crimes committed in the name of Satan, but this isn’t to say that those people were Satanists, or that their actions connect in any way with Atheistic Satanism. People like Ricky Kasso, Nikolai Ogolobiyak, Gaahl from the band Gorgoroth, and Richard Ramirez, to name a few, showed vast signs of mental illness and instability. White Supremacists have murdered Sikh’s in the name of God while they worshipped in their temples. Scott Roeder murdered Dr. George Tiller, an abortion physician. Paul Jennings Hill, a member of a radical Christian group known as the Army of God, murdered abortion doctor John Britton and his body guard James Barrett. The Centennial Olympic Park bombing in 1996, the Planned Parenthood bombing in 1994. The list goes on.

The conclusion? Extremism is bad. No matter your faith.

One thing that Satanists most certainly do not participate in is attempting to bring the Antichrist to life. Films like End of Days, The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby, and House of the Devil, to name a few, focus on cultish behaviour whereby Satanists attempt to impregnate a young, pure woman with the Antichrist in order to bring about the end of days.

As with the Holy Trinity, there is believed to be an Unholy, or Evil, Trinity. Here we have the Dragon or Serpent of Old as the Father, the Antichrist as the Son, and the False Prophet as the Holy Ghost alternative. This is said to be found in the Bible’s Revelation 13, but it’s suggested nothing is factually written in stone. Again, we have extrapolation and misinterpretation of pre-existing documents that leads the public to believe in a fear-induced fallacy.

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The inability to enter holy spaces, along with carrying out of curses and spells are almost entirely fabricated. In Rosemary’s Baby, for instance, Rosemary is given a concoction of special herbs that are believed to protect her and nurture her “baby”. Tannis root is a common ingredient, which also hangs from her neck in a charm meant to protect her from those who may seek to interfere. This root is entirely fictional.

Equally made up is the use of magic to bring about ones goals. Though Theistic Satanists do believe that Satan will provide them with all that they require if they supplicate to Him, this power of ritual is about as real and effective as the power of prayer is for Christians and the like; it’s largely the power of suggestion, and yields little to nothing in any kind of legitimate outcome. The sudden coma Maurice Evans’ Hutch finds himself in after being perceived a threat in Rosemary’s Baby is merely a useful plot device. That Satanists can, through selling their souls to Satan himself, bring about their own good fortune and the downfall of their enemies is commercial nonsense.

Sadly, the Right religious public believe such fiction to be factual. That they sacrifice virgins to Pagan gods as in The Wicker Man, or supplicate their Satanic overlords through orgiastic practices as in Eyes Wide Shut or The Ninth Gate, is entirely false. It serves as a means for the public to vilify an otherwise peaceful religious group.

The inverted crucifix, as one example, has been capitalized upon as a symbol for evil, Satanic, Devil-worshipping behaviour. This symbol is the Cross of St. Peter, also referred to as the Petrine Cross. It was originally a Christian symbol which has only recently come to be associated with anti-Christian and largely malevolent intonations.

Films like The Devil Rides Out functions as almost a melting pot of Satanic, Witchcraft, and Pagan stereotypes. It’s a strange Hammer-produced fusion of every misconception ever recorded. That Satanists can summon demons at will. That they perform ritual sacrifices. That they can hypnotize and hold sway over the weak and vulnerable believers. That they wish to bring about the end of days and destroy the world. That they wish to kill God, and are unholy in their own right.

These films of Satanism, the Occult, and Pagan worship (namely The Wicker Man) all amount to one thing – the almost satirical depiction of Theistic Satanism, or Devil worship. Though some of these films make up some of the greatest horror cinema of all time, namely Rosemary’s Baby, and highly regarded classics like The Omen, they are very much misinterpretations that capitalize on the public’s fear.