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The Gothic Milieu:
Black Metal, Satanism, and Vampires
by Massimo Introvigne
March 26, 2000
The 'Gothic' Milieu: Black Metal, Satanism, and Vampires (June 30, 2007)
( A slightly different version of this paper was presented at the conference "Rejected and Suppressed Knowledge: The Racist Right and the Cultic Milieu" organized by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, Stockholm, 15-16 February 1997)
The New Satanism
In 1996 both Italy and France were shocked by criminal cases related to Satanist groups. In Italy Marco Dimitri, the young leader of the larger Italian Satanist group, the Luciferian Children of Satan (Bambini di Satana Luciferiani), was arrested twice in the same year on charges of rape. In France graves were desecrated in Toulon (and subsequently in other towns in Southern France): four members of a small Satanist band were arrested. Similar incidents took place in Romania, Russia and other countries. The media were taken by surprise, considering that by 1996 the Satanism scares of the 1980s and early 1990s had largely subsided.
Modern Satanism appeared in the 17th century. Satanism should not be confused with witchcraft. While witchcraft is a popular and normally unorganized phenomenon, modern Satanism is the worship of the Devil within the frame of organized movements and elaborate ritual. Modern Satanists -- unlike participants in earlier witchcraft -- are largely members of the middle and upper classes. Similarly, Satanism scares are different from witch hunts. Unlike the latter, the former credit Satanists not only with bloody crimes and relationships with the Devil but, more specifically, with the power to secretly influence -- if not direct -- the life of whole nations and the course of human history. Organized Satanism and Satanism scares manifest themselves in the history of the West in a cyclical way.
Groups of Satanists (normally quite small) are detected and their activities are magnified by this modern invention, the press (in later cycles, TV). As a reaction, a Satanism scare arises, where anti-Satanists usually grossly exaggerate both the number and the power of the Satanists, insisting that they are behind contemporary social movements they perceive as disturbing. In a third phase, anti-Satanism is disqualified by its own exaggerations, becomes disreputable and opens the way for new open activities of Satanists, thus for a new cycle.
The first important cycle starts with the activities of a group of Satanists at the court of the French King Louis XIV between 1662-1679. When the main Satanists are tried for a number of crimes, press and pamphlets guarantee an international notoriety to the case. Between the end of the 17th century and the beginning of 18th century a Satanism scare follows, where anti-Satanists suspect Satanists (actually a few dozens people in the French incident) to conspire in the dark to promote Enlightenment skepticism and anti-Christian culture and politics. Ultimately anti-Satanist literature became so extreme as to be easily discredited. This discrediting paved the way for the occult revival of the years of the French Revolution.
The Revolution, however (and the visibility of occult and magical groups in the same years), prompted another Satanism scare which lasted through the 1850s and was revived in the 1890s. The Revolution, Christian anti-Satanists argued, was so incredible that it could not be a mere political phenomenon, and a whole religious literature attributed it to the conspiracy of secret societies such as the notorious Illuminati or, more directly, to Satanists directed by the Devil in person. Apparently, small groups of Satanists were in fact active in France, Belgium and possibly other countries in the 1850s. Their activities caused the usual anti-Satanist over-reaction.
The Satanism scare (which tried to explain also the surprising success of Spiritualism through Satanic conspiracy theories) had a first scholarly phase where Catholic intellectuals discussed theories on Satanism and Satan’s influence. In a second phase -- after the success of Joris Karl Huysmans’ novel Là-bas (1891) had familiarized the public with Satanism and Black Masses -- scholars were replaced by journalists. At least two of the latter -- the notorious Léo Taxil (1854-1907) and his co-conspirator Charles Hacks ("Dr. Bataille") -- were clever frauds who, having spread incredible tales about Satanists, later admitted to have exploited the gullibility of certain Catholic conservative readers for a variety of purposes. The game could not go on indefinitely, and Taxil had to admit the fraud in 1897. His confession discredited the Satanism scares for decades and only after sixty years a truly international scare manifested itself again. A large sociological literature exists on the Satanism scares of the 1970s-1990s, an over-reaction to the visibility of contemporary Satanist organizations dating from the foundation of California’s Church of Satan in 1966 and a manifestation of larger hostility to "cults".
By the early 1990s, the theory that underground "generational" Satanic cults are widespread and prey on day-care toddlers had been largely debunked by social scientists and law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Europe. Memories "recovered" in therapy of past "satanic" ritual abuses are increasingly rejected as court evidence in both United States and Europe. Only small pockets of Christian counter-cult activists and fringe therapists still believe in the factual reality of "satanic" ritual abuses recovered during memory therapy.
Although the 1996 incidents have been greeted by these groups with a we-told-you-so attitude, the scenario was in fact quite different. The Satanism discovered by Italian and French law enforcement agencies in 1996 is not the same Satanism exposed in the core books of the anti-Satanist movement in the 1980s. It is also different from "classic" Satanism of organizations like Anton LaVey's Church of Satan or Michael Aquino’s Temple of Set. The scenario introduced in the Satanism scares of the 1980s postulated that Satanists are very difficult to recognize. They are lawyers, doctors, corporate executives. In fact, their activities are so clandestine that they could be discovered only in therapy by inducing their victims to recover post-traumatic memories. The 1996 Satanists are, if anything, too evident. Marco Dimitri and his followers dress all in black, wear a plethora of Satanic symbols, and have appeared as spokespersons for Satan in popular Italian TV talk shows. While not as famous as Dimitri, members of the Toulon gang also dressed like a Satanist is supposed to dress.
Classic Satanism was born in California in the 1960s. The Church of Satan was established in San Francisco by Anton Szandor LaVey (1930-1997) in 1966 as a development of an organization called The Magic Circle that he co-founded in 1960 with Hollywood underground film-maker Kenneth Anger. In 1975 most of the leadership of the Church of Satan left LaVey's organization and followed Michael Aquino into the splinter group Temple of Set. The Church of Satan became mostly a mail-order organization during the 1980s, but experienced a comeback of a sort in the 1990s through new leaders, the publication of the newsletter The Black Flame, and the appearance of some dozens of sister organizations throughout the world. Although LaVey believed that Satan is only the metaphor for a higher (and more selfish) human potential, while Aquino maintains that Satan (or, rather, Set) is a personal being, both are heavily indebted for their worldviews and ceremonies to British magus Aleister Crowley (1875-1947). While Crowley did not believe in the personal existence of Satan and despised Satanists, his rituals have been adapted -- with the appropriate changes -- by almost all modern Satanist groups.
At least before the mid-1980s members of classic Satanist groups were typically middle class urbanites in their forties and fifties. Except for ceremonies, they would wear a jacket and a tie rather than black leather "Satanic" clothings. This is certainly true for European offshoots of classic Satanism such as the two Churches of Satan based in Turin, Italy. Additionally, their leadership needed to be rather cultivated, since the magical works of authors such as Crowley are not easy to grasp and require a solid background in Western esotericism. The situation somewhat changed in the late 1980s, when the Temple of Set and some of the smaller groups inspired by the Church of Satan realized that a sizeable youth subculture potentially interested in Satanism existed and tried, with mixed results, to get in touch with it. The original Californian Church of Satan and the Italian Churches of Satan, however, still largely maintain the original character. By contrast the new Satanist groups -- such as those "discovered" by the police in Italy and France in 1996 -- are typically lead by youths in their 30s, have as members mostly teenagers, and it is extremely rare that their leaders are well-educated in traditional Western occult lore. They are much more interested in music.
The Gothic Milieu from the 1970s to the 1990s
The Gothic milieu (occasionally called the Dark Wave, as a submilieu of the 1970’s New Wave) has largely been created by rock music, although fiction, comics, movies, Ã role-playing games and later the Internet also had a relevant influence. Although the term Gothic was created by outsiders, it was quickly accepted by the movement, notwithstanding the fact that the latter largely ignored 18th and 19th century Gothic literature (with the possible exception of Dracula, whose inclusion in the Gothic genre is however disputed by contemporary critics). Gothic music should not be confused with heavy metal. Metal plays on the power of extreme human emotions and feelings. Gothic concentrates on human reactions to particular emotions associated with death, corpses, blood, the macabre, and vampires. Although the Devil is often mentioned, he is not always a key player in the Gothic scene. Besides, Satan is mentioned in many brands of rock music that are not Gothic (and so are vampires, who make frequent guest appearances in heavy metal music).
The origins of Gothic come from many different sources. Gothic themes emerged around 1970 in England and the United States with artists and groups like Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath. Although these musicians were not purely Gothic, fans of Alice Cooper were largely responsible for introducing the Gothic outlook, with its black-leather clothing and silver earrings for males, in many European countries. In 1976 David Letts founded The Damned in England, a band that was originally a punk group, but later focused mostly on Gothic. Letts changed his name to David Vanian (from "Transylvanian") and focused on the vampire theme (although Nazi symbols were also occasionally introduced). In the same year, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Ian Curtis (1957-1980) and Terry Mason (later replaced by Stephen Morris) decided to start a band in Manchester. Originally called Warsaw, they changed their name to Joy Division in 1978 in order not to be confused with a pre-existing London punk group, Warsaw Pakt. The name came from the line of huts were young deported women were forced to prostitute themselves to German officers in Nazi concentration camps. Notwithstanding the name, Joy Division denied any Nazi sympathies and in fact appeared at the Manchester Rock Against Racism benefit concert in 1978. Although Joy Division occasionally used Nazi paraphernalia on stage, its portrait of Nazism was, if anything, sad, as evidenced from the following lines of its hit "They Walked In Line":
All dressed in uniforms so fine,
they drank and killed to pass the time.
Wearing the shame of all their crimes
with measured steps they walked in line.
They walked in line.
They carried pictures of their wives,
and number tags to prove their lies.
And made it through the whole machine,
with dirty hearts and hands washed clean.
They walked in line.
Joy Division eluded classification, but its haunted and ghostly atmospheres had a deep influence on later Gothic. On May 18, 1980, just before Joy Division was to leave England for their first U.S. tour, Ian Curtis hung himself in his kitchen. Without its talented singer and lyricist, replaced by Bernard Sumner, the group continued as New Order and remained influential on the alternative (but much less on the Gothic) music scene.
In the years when Joy Division was becoming popular, a more cultivated version of Gothic was introduced in England by singer Suzie Sioux, "Siouxsie". Sioux came from punk, and was inspired by groups like the Sex Pistols. She was also a friend of Genesis P-Orridge, an Aleister Crowley enthusiast and the founder of the Temple of Psychick Youth (TOPY). Orridge's music — the first wave of industrial, or "industrial culture" -- was as far from Gothic as possible, but his contacts with Sioux did much to introduce Crowley in the Gothic milieu. Later, Orridge will become an inspiration for the birth of the "second wave" or industrial music, much closer to the Gothic and, in fact, occasionally labeled "industrial Gothic". This further subgenre will emerge in the late 1980s around the Wax Trax circle in Chicago, will become well-known with the Nine Inch Nails of Trent Reznor and their influential album Pretty Hate Machine (1989), and will eventually triumph with Marylin Manson. In the late 1970s Sioux founded Siouxsie and The Banshees. Robert Smith, the leader of a much more famous band, the Cure, worked with Siouxsie and the Banshees in 1983-1984 following four influential Cure albums.
Largely responsible for defining Gothic as a genre was Bauhaus, whose leader Peter Murphy continued as a popular Gothic musician after the dissolution of the group in 1983. By 1983 -- the year when another early Gothic group, The Misfits, also separated -- Gothic music was experiencing a boom. New groups emerged, including The Sisters of Mercy and later, in 1988, Dark Theater whose leader, Vlad, wears portable fangs and claims to actually drink blood (originally only from his wife, Lynda, who later divorced him and now proclaim herself a "lesbian Goth"). Blood-drinkers are, at any rate, a small distinct subculture within the Gothic milieu, perhaps closer to sado-masochism than to teenage Gothic.
While classic punk was experiencing a crisis, Gothic groups, including the 45 Grave, inherited some of its features and its fans. By 1990 the Gothic scene was truly international, with bands in countries such as Japan, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand, Poland, Italy, in addition to Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. By 1990, the Gothic subculture was well established with specialized magazines, including Propaganda (established in New York by Fred H. Berger and perhaps the most important voice for the Gothic), and Ghastly.
Non-Gothic groups such as the Iron Maiden and Kiss felt compelled to issue at least an album with Gothic themes. But readers of Propaganda and other members of the Gothic subculture typically skipped the most famous groups as being too commercial. They rather regarded themselves as part of an elite subculture, lionized less well-known groups and remained apart from the larger world of rock fans. Being part of the Gothic milieu for many was not a Saturday evening concert affair, but a permanent lifestyle. "True" Goths dress in black every day of the week, wear peculiar jewelry and use their own jargon. Rather macabre allusions and jokes -- whose meaning is often lost to outsiders -- are a trademark feature of their style.
Around 1990 the Gothic milieu, born from music, started to be increasingly defined by its literary preferences as well. Two Gothic role-playing games focusing on vampires -- Ravenloft, that emerged in 1990 from the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons, and Vampire: The Masquerade, introduced by White Wolf in 1991 -- had an important influence on the milieu. Considering the Gothic milieu's love affair with horror literature (including frequent allusions in its music to such classics as Dracula), it is surprising that references to Stephen King are virtually non-existent. King is probably just too popular for a subculture glorying in its minority status. He also insists that his novels do not promote any kind of worldview. By contrast, Anne Rice -- who occasionally does claim that she is introducing a worldview, with increasingly apparent Gnostic and Kabbalistic references -- is immensely popular in the Gothic milieu. Classics of Gothic and horror literature, from "Monk" Lewis to Lovecraft, are largely ignored, with the occasional exception of Dracula.
Gothic events, including the 1989 Theatre of the Vampires held in Long Beach, California, musicians such as Tony Lestat (a main participant in the 1989 event and singer of Wreckage), shows such as Tony Sokol's La Commedia Del Sangue: Dances From A Shallow Grave - The Vampyr Theatre, Gothic bands such as Lestat, and the Italian Theatre des Vampires, fanzines such as Savage Garden (published in English in Milan and now renamed Wistaria) all borrowed their names (and much more) from Anne Rice. Later, in 1992, another New Orleans female horror writer, Poppy Z. Brite, wrote a cult novel for the Gothic milieu, Lost Souls, featuring the encounter of real undead vampires with the Gothic subculture of a small American town.
As of the mid-1990s the very success of the Gothic threatens its existence as a separate genre in rock music. Contemporary rock is eclectic, and it is often difficult to tell what genre a group is all about. Such labels as post-punk, dark metal, doom metal, garage rock and trash are difficult to define and often include Gothic themes. If anything, some of the new labels mean to convey a passion for the outrageous and the extreme, and regard the Gothic bands of the 1980s as moderate. The most extreme subgenre which emerged in the 1980s is black metal, mixing heavy metal and Gothic. Black metal is both musically and culturally less sophisticated than Gothic, but fans may switch from one to another and still remain part of the same Gothic subcultural milieu.
Generally credited with starting black metal is a British band, Venom. Formed in 1978 and originally named Oberon, Venom assumed its name in 1980 and introduced Satanism and the cult of death as a main heavy metal theme. Their song "Black Metal" (1982) defined the subgenre and became an anthem for the movement:
Black is the night, metal we fight
Power amps set to explode.
Energy screams, magic and dreams
Satan records the first note.
We chime the bell, chaos and hell
Metal for maniacs pure.
Fast melting steel, fortune on wheels
Brain Hemorrhage is the Cure (Venom - Welcome to Hell, 1997).
Proclaiming themselves the "Sons of Satan", Venom called to:
Live like an angel, die like a devil,
Got a place in hell reserved for me,
Live like an angel, die like a devil,
Gonna burn in Hell, that’s where I’m gonna be"
["Live Like An Angel (Die Like a Devil)," 1981, in Venom- Welcome to Hell 1997].
Another of Venom’s most famous -- and both Satanic and vampiric -- hits was "In League With Satan" (1981):
I’m in league with Satan
I was raised in Hell
I walk the streets of Salem
Amongst the living dead
I need no one to tell me
What’s wrong or right
I drink the blood of children
Stalk my prey at night (Venom - Welcome to Hell 1997).
Specialists of metal discuss whether after Venom there is a difference between black metal and death metal, the latter being more brutal, more interested in drugs and sex, and more faithful to Venom’s original inspiration. One problem is that some of the most famous bands have evolved through the years. Bathory, started in Sweden in 1983, was originally very much influenced by Venom but by 1987, with Under the Sign of the Black Mark, started evolving towards a new style, later called "modern" or "Northern" black metal. In 1990, with Hammerheart, an element of Viking romanticism started playing a key role. The Swiss group Hellhammer between 1982-1984 was one of the bands defining black metal; renamed Celtic Frost in 1984 they quickly evolved out of black metal and continued until 1993 insisting that they were not part at all of the black metal scene. The early albums of the German band Sodom, established in 1983, were black metal, while their later productions could rather be classified as speed metal, a different subgenre. By contrast, Florida bands such as Death (established in 1985), Obituary, Deicide and Morbid Angel (who came to Florida from North Carolina) are usually classified as death (rather than black) metal. Contemporary doom metal may be regarded as a later development of death metal.
Black metal has become popular in segments of the Gothic milieu in a number of countries, including Greece, Brazil, France, Poland, Norway and Sweden. A frequent feature of black metal, particularly in its "modern" or "Northern" form, is extreme hostility to Jesus Christ and Christianity. The anti-Christian theme keeps together different worldviews. Some black metal groups are pagan; others are Satanist. Some are not interested in politics, while others are overtly neo-Nazi or promote a nationalism rooted in pre-Christian Northern Europe. In Norway-- and subsequently in other countries -- the anti-Christian activities of some black metal groups took the illegal form of "esoterrorism", or esoteric terrorism. Two black metal groups -- Emperor and Burzum -- were involved in burning Christian churches, including historical monuments, and in desecrating Christian cemeteries. Emperor one-time member, Bård Eithun, killed a gay man who approached him at night in a Lillehammer street in 1992. Vandalizing graveyards seems to be a popular activity in segments of the black metal milieu in a number of countries, including Italy and France. Varg Vikernes ("Count Grishnackh", or "The Count"), the leader of Burzum -- who somewhat converted from Satanism to "a National Socialist form of racialist Odinism" --, not only was involved in the burning of at least ten churches, but was later sentenced to 21 years of prison after killing in 1993 fellow black metal musician Oystein Aarseth, "Euronymous". Although the press liberally described the homicide as "Satanic" and "ritual" -- and Varg himself claimed that the unfortunate Euronymous was a "false Satanist" and a "communist" --, in fact the main reason for the crime was a quarrel over money and the management of the musical label Deatlik Silence. Varg remains a popular character in the black metal milieu, and continues to write music and articles for the specialized fanzines from jail. In 1997 he published his "sacred text", Vargsmål, and announced that he had discovered a forerunner and (alleged) pioneer racialist Odinist in Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945), whose very name is synonymous of collaboration with the Nazis, not only in Norway. From a musical point of view, Mayhem -- Euronymous’ band, started in 1984 and coming back in 1994 after Euronymous’ death -- remains the most influential model of "modern" Black Metal. In 1990 they recorded Live in Leipzig which included one of their most famous songs, "Carnage":
Witchcraft, blood and Satan
Meet the face of Death
(...) Winds of war, winds of hate
Armageddon, tales from Hell
The wage of mayhem, the wage of sin
Come and hear, Lucifer’s sings (Mayhem, "Live in Leipzig",1990).
The earlier "Deathcrush" (1987) was not more reassuring:
Demonic laughter your cremation
Your lungs gasp for air but are filled with blood
A sudden crack as I crushed your skull.
(...) Death, nicely crucified
Death, heads on stakes.
The barbecue has just begun.
Deathcrush - Deathcrush — Deathcrush (Mayhem, "Deathcrush", 1987).
As the fate of Euronymous sadly confirmed, violence in the Norwegian black metal scene was not purely a matter of lyrics. Without burning churches, groups such as Bekhira and Osculum Infame in France, or Marduk in Sweden are not less anti-Christian. A 1995 CD of Marduk (evolving from a 1991 demo) is called Fuck Me Jesus, and its cover shows a young girl masturbating with a crucifix. A look at the catalogue of the French musical distributor Osmose Productions (specialized in black metal) shows bands with names such as Impaled Nazarene (from Finland), Rotting Christ (from Greece), Diabolos Rising (with musicians from Greece and Finland), Fallen Christ (and a number of references to Aleister Crowley). In France some industrial rock bands, including Dissonant Elephants and Non, have jumped onto the anti-Christian bandwagon, although with a different musical style. In 1996 Dissonant Elephants released a CD, Our Eyes Like Daggers, with liberal quotes from the ubiquitous Aleister Crowley and a cover featuring Jesus Christ on the cross with a clown-like red nose. The activities of these groups are among the reasons for the establishment of a Catholic Anti-Defamation League in France in 1997.
On the other hand, it is important to note that black metal is not really representative of the Gothic milieu in general. It is a small segment, a subculture within a subculture. There is a larger number of musical and other groups inspired by Anne Rice, whose worldview is not anti-Christian but rather a brand of gnostic Christianity (as suggested in Rice's novel Memnoch the Devil, 1995). Black metal is also anti-Jewish, with frequent references in its fanzines to the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, while Rice's 1996 novel Servant of the Bones is a tribute to Jewish esoteric culture. Black metal also emphasizes Satanic and pagan symbols and has no colours but black, while the mainstream Gothic subculture, influenced by the glam rock music of Kiss, and by Tom Cruise's movie portrait of Anne Rice's vampire Lestat, increasingly includes elaborate and baroque ways of dressing, quite far away from the old black leather jackets.
The Gothic Milieu as a Metanetwork and the Emergence of Gothic Movements
The Gothic milieu is loosely organized. Its main organizing agents are magazines such as Propaganda, but more obscure fanzines with limited circulation also have an important influence. It could be described as a network, or -- more accurately -- as a metanetwork, where participants in different networks convene. There is, for instance, a recognizable network of Anne Rice fans, and thousands attend the yearly Gatherings of the Coven organized in New Orleans by The Anne Rice's Vampire Lestat Fan Club (established in 1988) and by the Louisiana writer herself. Most of these fans dress like the vampire Lestat only once a year, and have no contacts with the larger Gothic milieu. Some, however, do adopt a Gothic lifestyle. For them the network of Anne Rice fans is the door to enter the larger metanetwork of the Gothic subculture. Similar comments are in order for the many fans of Gothic role-playing games such as Ravenloft or Vampire: The Masquerade. (There are also darker role-paying games for the black metal milieu, but their following is not very large). Hundreds of thousands of them certainly do not dress in black, and are not even interested in Gothic music. But, again, active involvement in these role-playing communities (and their lively exchange over the Internet) may become a door to access the Gothic metanetwork.
This does not mean that every fan of role-playing games is on his or her way to become a Satanist. This view is promoted by professional anti-Satanists such as Pat Pulling who, after the suicide of her son Bink in 1982, founded BADD (Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons), claiming that role-playing games were literally "stalking our children for Satan." Groups like BADD are part of a larger Evangelical counter-cult (and anti-Satanist) scene and seems to have become less influential in recent years. At any rate, it is when fans of Gothic music also become interested in Anne Rice, and when Ravenloft players start attending Gothic clubs and dressing in black that the metanetwork really takes shape. As mentioned earlier, participation in one of the Gothic networks does not necessarily mean that one takes the next step and becomes a participant in the metanetwork or part of the Gothic milieu.
Further, being part of the Gothic milieu does not mean that one joins a particular movement. Dressing mostly in black, wearing silver jewelry with macabre themes, and focusing musical preferences on Gothic groups not well-known in rock's mainline market are the trademarks of the Gothic milieu. In Stark and Bainbridge terms, many or most participants in the Gothic milieu only participate in audience or client cults, not in cult movements. Occasionally, however, movements emerge, but they only involve a minority of those who participate in the milieu.
It seems appropriate to distinguish between pre-existing movements recruiting in the Gothic milieu, and movements born from the milieu itself. Among the first are some "old" Satanist and neo-pagan groups. As mentioned earlier, some classic Satanist groups have realized that the Gothic milieu may be an interesting ground for recruiting new members. The Temple of Set has designed its Web page in order to attract the Gothic subculture, and on February 1, 1997 Don Webb, High Priest of the Temple of Set, introduced his movement at the Hellhouse of Hollywood, a (now defunct) California bookstore typically catering to Gothic clients. Classic Satanist groups are quite small, and even the addition of a few new members could be significant in order to preserve their very existence. Their success in recruiting in the Gothic milieu is not, however, spectacular.
Most Gothic bands are not particularly interested in Satan or Satanism. Some black metal fringes certainly are, but they typically scorn organizations like the Church of Satan or the Temple of Set as "moderate" or "liberal" Satanism. Uww, the founder of French black metal fanzine Deo Occidi (published in English), contrasts "liberal Satanism" and "fascist Satanism" and embraces the latter. The "liberal Satanism" of classic American movements is regarded as extreme individualism and as a shameless apology for capitalism. Uww also mentions that Anton LaVey is a "moderate Jew". Additionally, classic Satanism is accused of dealing only in words. Black metal prefers actions and events, and clearly admire Scandinavian esoterrorism. It is also against capitalism, liberalism, democracy, and Judaism according to classic European Nazi models. Small Satanist groups catering to the black metal Satanist fringe include the Black Order, the Order of the Nine Angles, the Ordo Sinistra Vivendi (formerly the Order of the Left Hand Path), and the Order of the Jarls of Balder. None of them has more than fifty members and all belong to a network called The Infernal Alliance. Although this wing of Satanism had its most important centers in the U.S. and New Zealand, combining fringes of classic Satanism and black metal, it is now present in European countries such as the United Kingdom and France. Most of these groups are openly Nazi. In the version of the Black Mass of the Order of the Nine Angles, participants affirm their belief that "Adolf Hitler was sent by the Gods to lead us into greatness". In bad but not difficult to understand Latin, they worship Hitler together with Lucifer. The priest gives the cup to the priestess with the words: "Suscipe, Lucifer, munus quod tibi offerimus memoriam recolentes, Adolphus". All reply: "Hail Hitler".
Some neo-pagan groups have also attracted individual members of the Gothic milieu. This is particularly true for continental European and Scandinavian Odinist movements (who have in turn attracted portions of the black metal fringe), while the British and American Wicca is largely remote from the Gothic style. English-speaking neo-paganism and Wicca have matured beyond their early anti-Christian phase, while it is precisely the anti-Christian theme of continental neo-paganism that may occasionally attract black metal fans.
An interesting, if controversial, movement is the Temple of the Vampire based in Lacey, Washington, and not to be confused with the Order of the Vampyres within the Temple of Set. The Temple appears to have been created outside the Gothic milieu but with the specific purpose of attracting members of it. Its founder, Lucas Martel, is a former member of the Church of Satan, and like LaVey's, his is a largely a mail-order organization. It claims to continue an ancient religion called Hekal Tiamat and to keep its sacred book, the Shurpu Kishpu. The Temple is not Satanist; it mostly teaches how to contact the Vampire Gods through a ritual in seven steps. The crucial step is the fourth, where the celebrant offers to the Vampire Gods his or her own life force and the life force he or she has captured from other weaker human beings. Signs such as "ringing in ears" or "unusual pulling sensations at the solar plexus" confirm that the Vampire Gods have accepted the offering. The Temple's worldview is also apocalyptic, since "we are now approaching the Final Harvest", when "the human stock shall be drained in a carnage of energy release unlike anything seen before". The energy released by killed humans would allow the Vampire Gods to descend and rule on Earth with their faithful followers, the initiates. "The humans shall (...) continue to serve as slave and food" when "the Great Undead Gods shall return to their mighty thrones of Power." Given the popularity of the vampire theme, many in the Gothic milieu check out the Temple of the Vampire. Few stay, fearing that the mail-order scheme may simply be a money-making business, or disagreeing with the brutal worldview. After all, in contemporary literature "postmodern" vampires are often depicted as not entirely evil, but caring for humans (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Saint-Germain) or at least psychologically ambiguous (Anne Rice's Lestat).
Finally, a number of movements have really and entirely originated from portions of the Gothic milieu. While some of these movements are pagan and anti-Christian but not technically Satanist -- including The Sacred Order of Emerald in France -- most claim to be Satanist. One of them, however, the French Confrérie spirituelle sataniste les Croisades de la Nouvelle Babylone, declares to promote the "unification" of "Satanists, Luciferians, pagans and neo-pagans." The larger Satanist group emerging from the Gothic milieu has been, before its disruption by the Italian police in 1996, Marco Dimitri's Luciferian Children of Satan (Bambini di Satana Luciferiani - BSL). BSL grew in the 1980s from Dimitri's precocious interest in Aleister Crowley and classic Satanism. But it proclaimed that classic Satanism was a thing of the past, and that a new, bolder Satanism was required. The history of BSL is a paradoxical tribute to the power of the media. BSL was originally a small, local group. It was only when, from 1989, it was targeted by the Catholic milieu of Bologna (Dimitri’s city and home to the largest Italian Catholic counter-cult group, GRIS) and later by secular anti-cultists that BSL attracted the interest of the national press. This lead to Dimitri’s participation in some of the most popular Italian TV talk shows as a spokesperson for Satan.
While classic Satanists in Italy have wisely avoided the media (and criticized Dimitri for not following their example), Dimitri was only too eager to oblige talk shows host desperately in need of someone "from the other side" to animate prime time shows on Satanism which would be boring if limited to anti-cultists and theologians. The "success" of some talk show appearances as astonishing. True, Dimitri was generally ridiculed by hosts and fellow guests alike. But -- among millions of viewers -- he never failed to attract a dozen or more teenagers who later contacted him at his not-too-confidential Bologna address. The Italian black metal milieu somewhat adopted Dimitri as a fellow traveler, despite reservations by some. By 1996 BSL had grown to some 200 members over North and Central Italy. In 1992 Dimitri was arrested for obscenity, but this was not a serious matter. Much more serious is the prosecution started against him and fellow members in 1996, citing rape of a female follower unwilling to fully comply with her sexual duties as priestess and the participation of children in rituals. On 20 June 1997 a jury of the court of Bologna found all defendants in the Children of Satan case not guilty of rape and child abuse. The leader, Marco Dimitri, was however found guilty of a minor tax offense. The prosecutor, herself an active participant in Bologna’s anti-cult milieu, appealed the decision, but lost again in 2000. It is certainly true that the BSL book Vangelo Infernale (Infernal Gospel) -- intended for private circulation only -- at least symbolically suggests that sexual abuse and pedophilia may be part of an acceptable Satanic lifestyle. Vangelo Infernale is not a particularly memorable esoteric text, and it is unlikely that it may have attracted much interest. Ultimately, there were the anti-Satanist campaigns of secular anti-cult and Catholic counter-cult movements that introduced the BSL to the media and made them more well-known than they originally were.
On the other hand, the burning of churches in Norway, and the profanation of cemeteries in Southern France, confirm that, although small, some movements arising from the Gothic milieu, particularly from some of its black metal fringes, are indeed dangerous and may be involved in criminal activities. Law enforcement agencies are to be commended if they keep a watch on these movements, particularly those combining Satanism and neo-Nazism. Undue media emphasis on their activities could, on the other hand, backfire and induce copycat remakes of their most spectacular deeds. It would surely be unfair to blame the activities of a small group of movements, including a few hundreds members throughout the world, to all neo-pagan or occult organizations, whose activities are normally carried out within the limits of laws. It would be even more unfair to regard the most extreme Nazi or Satanic fringe of black metal as representative of the entire Gothic milieu (and indeed of the entire black metal subgenre, where many groups are neither Nazi nor Satanist). Although unconventional in its way of dressing and lifestyle -- designed, as with previous movements, to shock adults and express teenagers' independence -- the Gothic milieu is not normally engaged in criminal activities, nor primarily interested in Satan or Adolf Hitler. The evolution of horror literature may also exert a positive influence on the Gothic milieu. The heroes of this literature, in its postmodern versions, are no longer monsters who, like the Judeo-Christian Satan, are totally evil, but psychologically complicated characters -- epitomized by Anne Rice's Lestat -- caught in the middle of eternal dilemmas about good and evil. One such character is Angel, the only vampire portrayed sympathetically in the Gothic fad of the late 1990s for teenagers, the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which, of course, also has a significant non-Gothic — and non-teenager -- following). The other role model in the series are vampire slayers such as Buffy, or techno-pagans good girls such as Buffy’s best friend, Willow, who combines witchcraft and high computer literacy in order to battle evil vampires and other preternatural creatures. Following the evolution of its preferred fiction, the Gothic milieu -- no longer dressed only in black -- may simply become, as other previous countercultural movements, a collective rite of passage introducing teenagers to meaningful questions about life and death.
Sun, Mar 26, 2000
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