Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice XLIV A. S.

Today, the Northern Hemisphere marks the Winter Solstice, also known as Yule, but more often celebrated as its belated bastardization: Christmas. The ancients established it as a festival designed to welcome the newborn sun god. Today's primitives insist that it is actually about the birth of Jesus. Then there are the more secular, but nonetheless mindless traditions of spending too much money on obligatory gifts, sending out inane greeting cards, and putting up hideous Walmart "decorations."

I'm not a scrooge. I always celebrate the 25th of December with loved ones. It's a chance to catch up, feast, relax, and exchange a few meaningful gifts. I take advantage of that mainstream holiday for my personal enjoyment, but avoid the pressures and excesses that often make it such a stressful time for the herd.

The Winter Solstice, while also a time for merrymaking, is an ideal time for ritual as well. During this, the longest night of the year, Earth's pendulum swings back: the sun gradually restores its dominance as the days grow longer once again.

Winter Solstice symbolism revolves around fire, the element most fully embodied in our sun. The metaphorical implications of this holiday are similar to those of the waxing moon; it is a time of beginnings and growth — the first movement toward Spring, and thus toward Walpurgisnacht. Relevant symbols and metaphors can serve to augment the energies of celebrants, enhancing everything from magical workings to the sheer joy of profound awareness.

While all of this is relevant to the holiday, the Church of Satan's website offers more concise insight and inspiration in this statement: "The True Meaning of Yule."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Beethoven and Evocation

December 17th is celebrated as the Birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, who was born no later than on that date in the year 1770.

Beethoven was a pioneer in orchestral evocation. His works include some of the most powerful compositions in the Western canon. It is a testament to their potency that they remain just as effective despite countless frivolous quotations throughout popular culture. This enduring power has made Beethoven a favorite among Satanists.

An excerpt of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony accompanies a reading from The Satanic Bible on Anton Szandor LaVey's 1968 recording The Satanic Mass; this moving selection underscores the bold text of The Book of Satan: Verse II.

Peter H. Gilmore highlights the Satanic aspects of Beethoven's achievements, both personal and artistic, in "Diabolus in Musica," an essay in The Satanic Scriptures that also includes a discussion of other composers and their works. Also included are detailed recommendations of exceptional works by Beethoven and others.

Evocation is among the elements that distinguish Satanism from purely secular creeds like atheism. Satanists embrace a confounding variety of aesthetic cues for personal inspiration, in rituals, and toward the manipulation of others. Many misunderstandings that people have about Satanism begin with a failure to comprehend this approach.

LaVey's essay "Evocation," from The Devil's Notebook, names music as "the most effective tool for evocation." The same essay provides profound insights into the personal and magical implications of one's capacity for evocation. In the next essay, "Music for the Ritual Chamber," Beethoven is among the composers whose works are suggested for their evocative power.

This week, cultural institutions around the world are taking time to acknowledge the brilliance of Ludwig van Beethoven. Satanists will tend to have a special appreciation of this innovative individualist's legacy on this occasion, especially because it is his Birthday.

To quote Peter H. Gilmore: "Hail Ludwig!"

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Repeal Day

December 5th was Repeal Day in the United States of America. I was too busy celebrating to write about it that evening, but it's worth noting a couple of days later.

On the aforementioned date in 1933, nearly fifteen years of Prohibition were brought to an end. This was a triumph of indulgence over the hangups of groups such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union.

Yes, Christians turned wine into water, even though their storybook says that Jesus did the opposite. Nonetheless, thank the Devil for the peristence of revelers, who refused to deny themselves this ancient pleasure. They voted with their glasses, and demand eventually overwhelmed the awful imposition of abstinence.

On the eve of Repeal Day, I completed a course in bartending. I was delighted to expand my knowledge of spirits, and may even make some extra money applying what I've learned. I attended the 40-hour mixology course at the New York Bartending School, which also offers free preview classes. I recommend them highly.

I am currently reading Imbibe!, by David Wondrich. It's a vivid history of the American cocktail and its pioneers. It also includes classic recipes, complete with historical background. It's an excellent read, a great reference, and worth studying.

If you missed your chance to celebrate Repeal Day this year, make your next drink a toast to the end of Prohibition seventy-six years ago.

Of course, it must be noted that Satanism advocates "indulgence, not compulsion." Therefore, Satanists who do drink are rarely among the puking hordes of raucous, frat-house chuggers. We're more likely to sip a fine spirit, wine, beer or liqueur, enjoying the sensory offerings of a chosen inebriant as well as its effects.

Here's to another year without Prohibition!


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gluttony Day

 On this day, the United States of America embraces the gastronomic excess it otherwise condemns, however glibly, as a sin.

As acknowledged by Magus Peter H. Gilmore on the Church of Satan website, this holiday is rooted in harvest traditions, and is therefore in "harmony with the cycling of Nature."

Though our agrarian awareness tends to be more limited these days, when everything but the Mallomar is perpetually in season, we continue to celebrate this feast for its culinary and social pleasures.

Halloween has its obvious appeal to the dark side of the collective imagination, making much of the world a bit more devil-friendly for a while. Friday the 13th amuses us with its superstitious overtones, which we mock through our own celebrations.

Thanksgiving, however, isn't as often recognized for its Satanic qualities. Perhaps that is because, thanks to increasing secularism, the ridiculous concept of "sin" is no competition for a joyous banquet!

Enjoy an indulgent Gluttony Day!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

In Celebration of 999

"Despite others' attempts to identify a certain number with Satan, it will be known than Nine is His number. Nine is the number of the Ego, for it always returns to itself."
- Anton Szandor LaVey

Three years ago, the world acknowledged the date 6/6/06, either fearing, celebrating, or dismissing the date for its allegedly diabolical implications. The most significant of these acknowledgments was the Satanic High Mass conducted by Church of Satan High Priest Peter H. Gilmore with a hundred-strong gathering of other Satanists from around the world. That was a celebration tied to some degree to mockery of superstitions around the number 666, though it served more sinister purposes as well. (I mean that in a good way, of course.)

Today, 9/9/09, we have a number relatively free of superstitious associations: 999. Marketers will take advantage of any unusual date, but this number can be used as more than a mere gimmick. Forgive my ranting, but this is essentially a Satanic trinity, the Ego thrice-glorified through informal numerology. It has no significance beyond the emotional charge it can give to one conscious of this potential interpretation. That's exactly how I'm enjoying this once-in-a-millenium date. If I happen to make it another 90 years, I'll get to see 9/9/99. I'll mark my calendar.

For now, I'll enjoy a Motörhead concert. Their earthy, catchy rock 'n' roll is just the carnal celebration I need to top off my own little Satanic holiday.

Happy 999!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Biomimicry: It's About Time

I've just heard another BBC segment, this one containing much more Satanic insight than anyone in the report seems to recognize. Researchers are picking up a "new" trend: biomimicry. Through biomimicry, analysts apply formulae discovered in "natural" settings and apply them to human technologies, business models, etc. I put "natural" in quotes because humans are part of Nature, no matter how humanity attempts to distinguish itself from other fauna.

It's folly to use the word "nature" as though it excludes humans. Yet that is exactly what these analysts and reporters often do. While I think it's excellent that humans are returning to the cyclical balance of the systems they've rejected for imbalanced, man-made constructs, we all know it's nothing new.

It's a bit embarrassing that people are hailing this as innovation, when we're really just playing catch-up to bring harmony to systems that should have been based on harmonious systems to begin with. Our human ancestors did this. Their evolutionary predecessors did this. How did modern man not get that memo?

To label biomimicry as innovation is to commit Satanic Sin #7 – Forgetfulness of Past Orthodoxies. Not only is it stupid (Satanic Sin #1) to ignore the laws of natural balance, but it is just as beneficial to work in harmony with them. These geniuses are finally coming around to the eternal principles that were not only under their noses, but all around them all along. Bravo.

The least cynical point I can take from this trend is that our current technologies allow us to learn more than ever from Nature's arrangements. I only hope that mankind can take that knowledge and apply it with wisdom.

That's my rant. Here's a link to the Biomimicry Institute. Let's see what it took so long for Homo "sapiens" to figure out.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Devil Dancers: Satan in West Africa

Journalist Humphrey Hawksley recently visited regions of West Africa that were explored by Graham Greene, author of the travelogue Journey Without Maps, about seventy years ago. During his own journey, Hawksley recorded some comments that, although muddied by supernatural faith, extol the Devil as a source of carnal joy.

Anton LaVey occasionally pointed toward primitive examples of fairly Satanic perspectives; the following passage, published by BBC News, gives us yet another. Unlike the Yezidis, whom academics try to distance from their reputation as quite Satanic, there is no question that West Africa's "devil dancers" are consciously aligning themselves with a concept of Satan not altogether alien to Satanists. That's not to say that this is actually Satanism – these rituals involve spiritualism and sacrifice, which go against the atheistic and egocentric principles of Satanism's religious philosophy.

This is ritual engagement with a force associated with earthly happiness. It proves the survival of carnal thinking within a "Christianized" culture, which naturally attributes worldly blessings not to Jehovah, but to that unabashed champion of the flesh, Satan.

"My name is Jacob Kermon," he said in a booming voice that carried above the sound of singing and drums heralding the arrival of the devil. "And Jesus Christ is my personal saviour."

"Then, why are we here worshipping the devil?" I asked, slightly confused.

"When the devil comes out people feel good," he said. "He brings happiness and reconciliation within the community."

As the sun dropped and villagers lit fires, a stilted dancer walked in from the forest.

He stood six metres high. His face was covered with a black mask, his head rimmed with shells. He was dressed in orange pyjamas, his hands sealed within the cotton.

One by one the devil plucked us from the crowd.

I had to stretch up my hands to hold his, staring through wood smoke at the mask and on to a star-filled sky, as he twirled me round and round.

"In the Christian world," wrote Greene, "we have grown accustomed to the idea of a spiritual war, of God and Satan."

But, he added, in this supernatural world there was "neither good nor evil", simply power, a concept that was beyond our "sympathetic comprehension."

But it was not beyond that of Mickey, my driver.

...Mickey gave me a knowing look. "As the chief told us," he said, "if you dance with the devil, the devil will be nice to you."

This passage is from the BBC News website, where you can also hear it in a podcast. The portion relevant to this posting starts around 25:05.