Category Archives: Religion

How many Satanists are there in the UK?

BaphometThere’s a very simple answer to this question. But it’s wrong. Despite this, I should start with it. According to the last census there are 2,095 Satanists in the UK.

The survey results break down like this:

  • England and Wales – 1,893
  • Scotland 171 link
  • N Ireland 31 link

Why this is wrong

  • The question may be misleading. The census question is ‘What is your religion?’ and many Satanists don’t see it as a religion. It has been noted that this census question leads to unusual results compared to other surveys.
  • 13,813 people in England and Wales selected religions with under 100 members. This list has not been published as far as I know. This may include Luciferians, LaVeyans,  and other sub-groups of Satanism.
  • Many Satanists may feel that it is safer not to self-identify as a Satanist. This may be because of a fear of other people in their households finding out, or a fear of government persecution.
  • The Church of Satan doesn’t share membership numbers. They feel that if they’re seen as too big they’ll be viewed as a threat, and if they’re too small they’ll be ignored. Some Satanists may follow this principle, it’s probably a good idea, the census results for Satanists are used in sensationalist articles.
  • The last census was is 2011, so the numbers are out of date anyway.

Other considerations

With good press like this, isn't it amazing people didn't admit to Satanism
With good press like this, isn’t it amazing people didn’t admit to Satanism

A big question has to be raised about what defines a Satanist, and there’s no clear-cut answer to this one because Satanism is a broad church. There’s a big distinction to be made between theistic Satanists (who believe that in some form or other Satan is a real being) and atheist Satanists, who see him as an ideal to aspire to.

This means that there’s a lot of Satanists who might not be recognized as such, and people who don’t call themselves Satanists who others may think are. This is true of every religion, but it’s especially true of Satanism. The current head of the Church of Satan doesn’t see Theistic Satanists as Satanists at all. Meanwhile, some theists consider everyone not in their particular religious group to be really worshiping Satan.

Even if you avoid being too exclusive or too hysterical in defining Satanism, there are Left Hand Path groups that are similar to Satanism in some ways, but might not use the term. The Temple of Set split from the Church of Satan, and use their symbols. But they call their God Set rather than Satan.

In trying to work out how many Satanists there are, we should consider that studies into Satanism in teenagers. Most big Satanic organisations don’t initiate children, but delinquent and mentally unwell young people sometimes adopt Satanist beliefs and practices. Some may want to argue that this is not valid.

So

If you want to guess how many Satanists there are you should consider a few things: what makes a religion a religion? How far can you diverge from the common beliefs of a religious community before you’re no longer a member? Can being young/irrational mean that a religious belief doesn’t count?

We can’t really guess how many Satanists there are in the UK, but I think that thinking about it tells us a lot about religion in general.

What has God got against cities?

An interesting thing I’ve noticed is that the early Bible stories seem to have a really anti-city, pro-nature morality to them. This seems odd given that the text would have been compiled by literate scribes and priests.

For example, Cain was the first farmer, but most famously he was the first murderer. God’s punishment was that nothing Cain planted would grow, so he would have to live as a nomad. Some early translations miss out the bit about Cain having to wander the Earth.  This is understandable, because as well as being a lifelong wanderer and nomad, Cain is credited with building the first city for his son to live in.

A few generations later, a descendent of Cain called Lamech was a murderer and the world’s first recorded polygamist. His children included Jubal, the first musician; Jabal, the nomad; Tubal-Cain the first blacksmith; and Naamah, who is variously described as a mother of monsters, and as wife of Noah. After God flooded the Earth, humans got together to form a new city called Babel under King Nimrod and God destroyed it again. So, the villains of Genesis are the city dwellers, blacksmiths, and Emperors.

Also, it’s worth noting these early sections contain an interesting feature: there’s two branches of Adam’s family tree, and the names of the two families are very similar. For instance, there’s two Lamechs, two Enochs, and the other names are quite similar. Little is written about either branch, so we’re left wandering why they’re there.

The documentary theory offers a possible answer: it states that the first books of the Bible were compiled from various sources, written at different times by different people. One of the sources, the Jahwist source, seems to be responsible for all these anti-city sentiments. The current theory is that this source wasn’t a single text, but represents the folk traditions of the northern areas.

This source contains the myths of Babel, Cain, and Lamech, but not the children of Seth. It skips the first prophet (Enoch), sainted figures like Methusaleh, and Noah’s father Lamech. This would seem to indicate that in this version of the story, Noah’s father was Lamech the blacksmith/tyrant/polygamist.

So, we’re left with a story where human sins constantly take them away from the land, and where redemption seems to involve people like Noah returning to the land. It also gives us the notion that human history a process of decline.

It seems to me that this tradition that saw history as a tragic decline into cities met another tradition that saw history as a set of mythic heroes. As so often happens, two cultures interpreted the same myths radically differently. The Genesis we have seems to be the result of a possibly politically motivated compromise.

This is enticing because it makes Bible history cyclical. The Bible was codified, and then various other texts were added to it, then it was codified again in the Roman Empire. Since then, schisms and different interpretations have continued endlessly.

If we accept this, then people who embellish or add to the Bible are carrying out an important function that may have helped strengthen and spread this religious tradition. They’re finding new meanings in old myths.

For instance, the Mormons have written comparatively large amounts about Cain’s City of Enoch, but as occasional city dwellers they gave it an counter-weight to it called Zion, which was founded by Enoch the prophet. Better yet, they had it raised into the heavens before the flood, and some argued the the tower of Babel was built by people trying to reach it.

This is a great way to embellish the story. I hope the next time some civilisation tries to codify the Bible, they include these kinds of Mormon sources.

Lilith: dark goddess, bad room-mate, queen of Sheba

lady-lilith
Lilith

Who was the first woman? Unless you want to get all realistic and silly about it, the normal answer is probably Eve. But there is an alternative.

There are two creation accounts in the Bible. In the first, man and woman were created at the same time. In the second, Adam’s wife was created from his rib-cage. How can this be? The answer is obvious. They’re two different myths Adam must have had two wives.

Adam’s first wife was called Lilith, and was created by God after Adam got tired of mating with horses.  Adam wanted Lilith to be subservient during sex but she refused to do this and left him. Pretty soon, she hooked up with demons and started to have her own children.

God sent three angels; Senoy, Sansenoy, and Samlegot, after her. They threatened to kill her children but she told them that if they did she’d kill all the children of Adam. This was a real threat, as she had been ordained by God to watch over children and therefore had authority in this area.

They worked out a compromise where the angels would only kill 100 of Lilith’s children each day, in exchange Lilith would leave alone any human children protected by the names of the angels. The thousands of her children who nonetheless survived became demons called the Lilim, and protective amulets against Lilith and her kin were used up to the 18th century.

After Adam’s son Cain murdered his brother Abel, Adam and Eve separated for 130 years. In this time, Lilith and Adam got together again. Their relationship seems to have come to an end after the birth of Naamah, a great-great-great-great grandchild of Cain. She followed Lilith’s example and made out with angels to create new powerful demons, we can only assume that Lilith found Naamah more fun to be around than Adam.

Millennia later, Lilith and Naamah were evidently still close to some degree. It seems they may even have been living together, because one of them stole the other’s baby. This is a major breach of ettiquette in most shared living arrangements and according to legend they disguised themselves as prostitutes and sought the judgement of Solomon to find who a child’s real mother was.

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The Queen of Sheba, whoever that may have been

It seems odd that Lilith couldn’t afford her own place because she apparently ruled a kingdom called Zmargad, some people think this would make her the Queen of Sheba who killed the children of Job, the Bible’s most unfortunate man.

The Queen of Sheba later visited Jerusalem to meet Solomon, and according to an Ethiopian text called the Kebra Negast their child was the ancestor of all the monarchs of Ethiopia. The Yoruba Ijebu clan of Nigeria also draw their royal line back to the Queen of Sheba. This is just one example in history where a mythic figure is a demon to some people, and a hero to others.

How does a figure get reinterpreted so differently in different cultures? It’s hard to say, but it’s starting to happen now with Lilith. As early as 1899 Lilith was being rehabilitated as a mother goddess by Neopagans, especially by those of a Jewish persuasion. She’s also becoming a symbol for some feminist Jews. So things may be starting to look up for her.