The walls, ceiling and floor of the room are all painted black. The altar in the center of the room displays symbolic tokens of the fall season: pomegranates, apples, gourds and wheat. The altar also holds key ingredients of the communion ceremony to be held at the end of the ritual: a set of wine glasses, some filled with red wine and others filled with non-alcoholic sparkling cider, and small loafs of bread, some wheat and some gluten free.
B’sheym heyleyl ben-shakhar,
In the name of the Shining One, Son of the Morning.
In the name of Satan.
In nomine domini
inferni Luciferi Satanas.
In the name of the Infernal Lord,
Three figures in ceremonial garb stand behind the alter, with the one on the left intoning the opening lines of the ritual. The audience, gathered solemnly around, stands in rapt attention. As the ceremony continues, it calls upon the celebrants to recall the fruits of their labor in the past year, and to appreciate the carnal and fleeting nature of these lives we enjoy by partaking in food, drink, and revelry.
Because of the carnal nature
of the revelry–eating, drinking,
making merry, for tomorrow we may
die–this celebration has also
long been known as Devil’s Day.
The high point of the ritual is the communion: the ritual consumption of food and drink, an activity recalling the moment when Satan first offered a very specific food to the first humans as a way to free them from the prison of ignorance in Eden.
Thus spake Mephistopheles:
You’ll be like god, acquainted with good and evil.
Eritis sicut Deus, scientes bonus et malum.
“Hail Satan!” the audience eagerly replies. A cloaked and hooded figure emerges from the crowd to take food and drink from the altar and hand them out to the celebrants. His movements are measured and deliberate, and sometimes he hesitates: he is making sure the correct people receive either wine or cider, a loaf that is either wheat or gluten-free. When the food and drink have all been distributed, the leaders raise their glasses and say in unison:
The audience returns a “Hail Satan!” and the ceremony is done.
* * * * * * *
As I stand sipping my wine and munching on my wheat bread, I think to myself: What is it about this ritual that makes it Satanic?
Does the fact that we invoked the name Satan make it a Satanic ritual?
For some, the name might be enough. Words mean things, after all. For a Satanist, choosing to embrace the name Satan isn’t arbitrary or whimsical. We recognize the rich history of the character within mythology, and the power that it has in our culture as a result. Satanists are atheists, and most Satanists don’t believe in metaphysical mysticism of any kind; as a result, we don’t believe that invoking the name of Satan will harness any kind of “magical energy” or cause some kind of “disturbance of the force.”
Nonetheless, we recognize the power of the word within the minds of those who believe in the existence of a literal Satan, and even the symbolic power the word has within the minds of anyone who comes into contact with his story. When I say “hail Satan,” it is therefore a shorthand for a fabric of associations and symbols much larger than myself, and much larger than any group of people alive today. It reaches back through centuries of human history.
So perhaps, for some, the single word “Satan” is enough to make the ritual Satanic.
The ritual uses other words as well. It calls upon the celebrants to think about the values and character traits that Satanists admire. By referring to Satan as the morning star, the ritual reminds us that Satan is an angel punished for challenging the patriarchy of heaven. It refers to the carnal nature of humanity, reminding us that we are bodies, not souls, and the the beauty and wisdom and potential we have all spring from the operation of our physical bodies within a physical universe.
So the ritual is made more Satanic by using our shared iconography to reflect on the beliefs and values we share as Satanists.
But none of these things is, in my opinion, the most Satanic feature of this ritual.
To me, the most Satanic feature of the ritual is the gluten-free bread.
* * * * * * *
OK, hang on: let me be more specific.
The most Satanic feature of the ritual is the fact that gluten-free bread was an option. The cloaked and hooded figure had, before the ceremony began, quietly approached each of the celebrants and asked them if they preferred non-alcoholic or alcoholic drink, and wheat or gluten-free bread. In this way the ceremony could be tailored to the community of participants, to make sure that nothing distracted from each person creating a personal experience of the event that was deeply congruent with themselves.
This may seem trivial, and not particularly Satanic or rebellious, until you remember that the Catholic church has repeatedly insisted that communion wafers cannot be gluten free, because gluten is one of the chemicals necessary for bread to transform into the literal flesh of a 2000-year-dead Jewish street-preacher. (That may not be how the Catholic church officially explained it, but it is the basic gist of the argument.)
It is specifically within this type of context–the bizarre authoritarian prescriptions of theistic religions, born out of even more bizarre superstitious beliefs about the magical transformation of matter–that the simple act of saying to a celebrant “I will let you choose communion food and drink that are best for you” is profoundly Satanic.
* * * * * * *
The ritual described here was performed in the year 52 Anno Satanas (2017 C.E.). It was never performed prior, and likely will never be performed in exactly the same way again. Many people make the mistake of thinking that a “ritual” must be composed of actions that are repeated in exactly the same way, over and over again. Perhaps unimaginative theistic religions have reinforced this idea.
But “ritual” comes from the Latin word ritus, which can refer to any ceremonial activity performed with religious solemnity. Satanists have the absolute right to construct our own ritual practices: we decide for ourselves how best to worship ourselves.
In some ways, the most Satanic ritual is the ritual that is performed only once: an event designed to create the most meaning for a specific group of people at a specific moment in history. The creation of the ritual, then, becomes a part of the ritual itself: the ritual of ritual creation.
Is it daring? Is it blasphemous? Perhaps… but it is also a story as old as human history.
A group of people come together, in the shadow of night and perhaps around a camp fire, to share a story. They decide in that moment what story to tell. They decide the form it will take. They use symbols and invoke names with which everyone is familiar, and it synchronizes their thoughts, desires and values. But it is also shaped by the group, by recent events, by their needs. The story they tell is the story of each individual, and at once is the story of the communal mind that they create, even if that mind exists only for a moment, only while they choose it. They create something that is simultaneously familiar, and completely new.
And when it is done, each individual continues down the Satanic path: alone, yet having benefited from the religious experience the ritual created for them.