From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"At the end of the fifteenth century, that is to say at the time of Gilles de Rais--to go no further back--Satanism had assumed the proportions that you know. In the sixteenth it was worse yet. No need to remind you, I think, of the demoniac pactions of Catherine de Medici and of the Valois, of the trial of the monk Jean de Vaulx, of the investigations of the Sprengers and the Lancres and those learned inquisitors who had thousands of necromancers and sorcerers roasted alive. All that is known, too well known. One case is not too well known for me to cite here: that of the priest Benedictus who cohabited with the she-devil Armellina and consecrated the hosts holding them upside down. Here are the diabolical threads which bind that century to this. In the seventeenth century, in which the sorcery trials continue, and in which the 'possessed' of Loudun appear, the black religion nourishes, but already it has been driven under cover."--Là-Bas (1891) by Joris-Karl Huysmans
Satanism is a group of ideological and philosophical beliefs based on Satan. Contemporary religious practice of Satanism began with the founding of the atheistic Church of Satan in America in 1966, although a few historical precedents exist. Prior to the public practice, Satanism existed primarily as an accusation by various Christian groups toward perceived ideological opponents, rather than a self-identity. Satanism, and the concept of Satan, has also been used by artists and entertainers for symbolic expression.
Accusations that various groups have been practicing Satanism have been made throughout much of Christian history. During the Middle Ages, the Inquisition attached to the Catholic Church alleged that various heretical Christian sects and groups, such as the Knights Templar and the Cathars, performed secret Satanic rituals. In the subsequent Early Modern period, belief in a widespread Satanic conspiracy of witches resulted in mass trials of alleged witches across Europe and the North American colonies. Accusations that Satanic conspiracies were active, and behind events such as Protestantism (and conversely, the Protestant claim that the Pope was the Antichrist) and the French Revolution continued to be made in Christendom during the eighteenth to the twentieth century. The idea of a vast Satanic conspiracy reached new heights with the influential Taxil hoax of France in the 1890s, which claimed that Freemasonry worshipped Satan, Lucifer, and Baphomet in their rituals. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Satanic ritual abuse hysteria spread through the United States and the United Kingdom, amid fears that groups of Satanists were regularly sexually abusing and murdering children in their rites. In most of these cases, there is no corroborating evidence that any of those accused of Satanism were actually practitioners of a Satanic religion or guilty of the allegations leveled at them.
Since the 19th century, various small religious groups have emerged that identify as Satanists or use Satanic iconography. The Satanist groups that appeared after the 1960s are widely diverse, but two major trends are theistic Satanism and atheistic Satanism. Theistic Satanists venerate Satan as a supernatural deity, viewing him not as omnipotent but rather as a patriarch. In contrast, atheistic Satanists regard Satan as a symbol of certain human traits.
Contemporary religious Satanism is predominantly an American phenomenon, the ideas spreading elsewhere with the effects of globalization and the Internet. The Internet spreads awareness of other Satanists, and is also the main battleground for Satanist disputes. Satanism started to reach Central and Eastern Europe in the 1990s, in time with the fall of the Soviet Union, and most noticeably in Poland and Lithuania, predominantly Roman Catholic countries.
Accusations of Satanism in Christianity
Historically, some people or groups have been specifically described as worshiping Satan or the Devil, or of being devoted to the work of Satan. The widespread preponderance of these groups in European cultures is in part connected with the importance and meaning of Satan within Christianity.
- Pagans celebrating Pan, Athena, Odin, Perkunas or other pagan deities were often claimed by the Catholic Church to be worshiping the Devil and his minions.
- The Witch trials in Early Modern Europe.
- Gilles de Rais (15th century, France) was a French nobleman who was tried and executed for the murders of hundreds of children in quasi-Satanic rituals.
- Johann Georg Faust. (16th century, Germany) Many instructions, in German and in Latin, for making a pact with the Devil were attributed to him. These were collected and published in Germany in a few of the volumes of Das Kloster (1845–1849).
- Urbain Grandier (17th century, France). Although set up by the Catholic Church, a very famous document, in Latin, of a pact with the Devil he allegedly wrote has been preserved.
- People involved in the Poison affair, such as Catherine Deshayes and Etienne Guibourg (17th century, France). The documentation from their trial is the principal Medieval source for information on the Black Mass.
- The Marquis de Sade (18th century, France), described by Iwan Bloch as being a fanatic Satanist. His works graphically described blasphemy against the Catholic Church, such as an orgy resembling a Black Mass conducted by Pope Pius VI in the Vatican (in his novel Juliette).
- In 1865, the anti-Vatican Italian poet Giosuè Carducci, published his poem Inno a Satana ("Hymn to Satan"), praising Satan as the god of reason and expressing hatred towards Christianity.
- Many adherents of the Decadent movement, such as the Polish author Stanisław Przybyszewski, the Belgian artist Félicien Rops, and the French poet Charles Baudelaire either called themselves Satanists, or created overtly Satanist artwork and literature.
- Some French movements widely described as being Satanist by French writers of the time (Late 19th to early 20th centuries). The most well-known description available in English is the 1891 novel Là-Bas by Joris-Karl Huysmans. However, there were numerous other well-known personalities in France that were related to the circles Huysmans describes, such as Joseph-Antoine Boullan, Stanislas de Guaita, Henri Antoine Jules-Bois, and Joséphin Péladan, who either wrote about Satanism in France, or were accused of being Satanists themselves.
- Freemasonry was described as being Satanist in the completely discredited Taxil hoax
- At least two Satanic (or "Luciferian") sects existed in France in the 1930s. One was led by Maria de Naglowska, and had rituals dedicated to Satan and Lucifer. Another, led by a former Catholic priest, celebrated an inversion of the Latin Mass (a "Luciferian Mass"), which included the phrase "In nomine Domini Dei nostri Satanae Luciferi Excelsi" (a phrase that re-appeared 30 years later in Anton LaVey's Satanic Bible).