I suppose this post is vain, but that is ok, we are Satanists after all!
Apart from being Satanists, another thing our family share is a tattoo fetish. Cassie and I became addicted to ink in our teens. At first our tattoos were small and discrete. After university we both had “respectable” teaching jobs and as this was about twenty years ago when tattoos were not quite so common and popular as they are now, we felt obliged not to get inked anywhere that was too obvious. By the time we met however we felt confident enough in our respective jobs that we encouraged each other to be ever more daring in our inkwork. The result is that by now there is no disguising the fact that we are heavily inked women and when we spot some virgin skin on ourselves we immediately plan how to cover it in ink! Yes, by some people’s standards we will be ugly, ink stained old crones one day. Good. We wear our tats with pride and we love them. I can’t pretend I was worried or concerned when my daughter Tina got her first tattoos. I insisted that she wait until she was sixteen and since then I have made it clear it is up to her what she does with her body and how she decorates it. Cassie and I have tried to encourage her to save her money to get work done by really good tattoo artists, rather than go for anything cheap and quick; and I am pleased to say she has taken our advice. She has turned out to be as addicted to ink as us and these days there is less prejudice against tattoos; so while hidden from everyday view she has more and bigger tattoos than we did at her age.
While doing a bit of research for this post I was amused to find that some extreme Christians regard ALL tattoos as Satanic and I read one article that claimed that getting a tattoo emulates a Satanic blood ritual! On the one hand I find it quite comforting and amusing to think I was being a good Satanist long before I thought I was. On the other hand of course such claims are blatantly ridiculous! And of course there will be some normal Christians reading this who may well have as many tattoos as we do.
It should also be said that there are some Satanists who, for various reasons, don’t think tattoos are a good idea. Clearly we are not in that category. We take the view that we are owners and masters of our own bodies and souls, and what we do with them is our business alone. Ultimately we are the final judges.
Like most people, we started getting tattoos for artistic and aesthetic reasons. We liked the way tattoos looked on other people and imagined how we would look, decorated in a similar way. Once we got started we found we enjoyed both the process and the finished result. Vanity certainly plays a part. We like the way we look with our inked skins. In one way getting a tattoo is like having a new hairstyle or choosing new clothes. It is a lot about projecting an image; being seen in the way you choose to be seen. But tattoos can be a lot more personal and intimate; and in principle they are permanent. Therefore tattoos tend to mark important moments or commitments; while they sit on your skin, they represent what is in your soul.
Also, the process of getting a tattoo does involve a degree of pain and blood. Personally I think the discomfort of the process adds value and meaning to the finished result. Perhaps also there is at least a small element of sado-masichism as well. I have noticed that many of us with tattoos tend to, let’s say, blur the distinctions between pleasure and pain in other areas of life.
While a minority of extreme Christians may regard all tattoos as Satanic, our first tattoos were not intended to be Satanic at all. We did however reflect our spiritual leanings of the time in our tattoo choices. I have several Buddhist inspired tattoos and Cassie has several pagan related ones. We both also have some tattoos that have no obvious spiritual connections; we just think they look nice.
In the picture above however we have tried to highlight the tattoos which do have a satanic connection.
In the top left you can see Tina’s very new goat’s head tattoo which is located in her middle just below her breasts. It is large and was rather expensive and she is very proud of it. She already had a small Baphomet tattoo on her shoulder, but she wanted something more dramatic and darker to mark her more adult commitment to Satanism and her new coven. I already had something similar, but slightly more suggestive, which you can see on the bottom left. For me it symbolises the deep and intimate connection to Satan I have felt for the past few years. You can also see me in the centre picture. There is a circular mandala from my Buddhist days on my stomach and I have had the vine design coming down on to my breasts since I was in my twenties. I added a darker centre-piece to that soon after becoming a Satanist. It is actually based on a design from the Mexican “Day of the Dead” and sort of represents overcoming fears and taboos.
Cassie had the big moth design over her chest before becoming a Satanist, but we think it kind of indicates the way her thoughts were going. She didn’t want anything as obviously “pretty” as a butterfly, but something that can be seen as beautiful or ugly depending on your point of view. It is also something that comes out in the darkness and which is a symbol of metamorphosis and change. Around her waist she has a very intricate Celtic knot band with hundreds of symbols in it and a Satanic pentagram in the centre. Below that, in a fairly intimate position, she has a Lucifer sigil which she had done to mark her “conversion” to Satanism from Paganism.
Our bodies get marked by life whatever happens. Injuries, scars, pregnancy and the aging process all leave their mark together with the blotches, moles, freckles and skin tones we are born with. The idea of permanency bothers some people. Somebody once said to me but suppose you don’t like that design in a few years? And with my more spiritual tattoos people have said but what if you believe different things in the future? My answer is simple. However I may change in the future, the things that are happening now and the things that happened in the past are all part of the process of growth that result in me being me every day. I don’t regret for a second my time as a Buddhist or the tattoos that mark that period; it is still a part of me and was a significant step along the route to me being what I am now. We are all the sum of our parts and of our experiences and tattoos are a way to represent some of those things artistically.
Perhaps Tina will turn away from Satanism one day. (Although I doubt that very much). But who knows, she may give up any form of spirituality or she may become a Born Again Christian. (I’m really in the land of fantasy now!) But even in that case, the fact that she once was a very committed Satanist and has that experience in her mind and soul reflected by a tattoo on her body, will still be a hugely important factor in what makes her the person she is at that time.
There are some Satanic and other religious or spiritual groups which require significant and sometimes dramatic signs and rituals to confirm membership or commitment and I can see why such a big spiritual decision could be seen to require that. For us however, a tattoo serves that purpose, and can be much more personal and beautiful.
I was was intending to write a post about Satanic ritual since Sophie and I have recently undergone an intensive phase of that for our own development and training. While thinking aloud I came up with the phrase “Ritual and meditation can be like getting a tattoo for the soul”. That made perfect sense to us, but we are both heavily inked women. Perhaps it is not so clear to everybody else, so that is where I will begin.
I think all people like to change the way they look from time to time to express different things. It can be as simple as wearing a suit for work and then changing into something more comfortable when you get home. We all choose clothes, jewellery and even perfume to express our moods and our status. We may also visit the hair stylist to effect a slightly longer and more substantial change in our appearance. But all those changes are temporary and can fairly easily be changed. Tattoos are much more permanent. Okay there are some people who have a small tat or two as a fashion statement and who might be prepared to have them removed at some time, but for those of us that are seriously into tattoos it is largely the idea of permanence that is the attraction; that and the art itself. All my tattoos are symbols of things that are or have been important to me. They are markers of my life and while my views and feelings may change over time, each of my tattoos represents something that makes me, or has made me, the person I am. They cannot and should not be changed, they are part of me and all that makes me, me. And each time the needle grinds a new piece of art into my skin it is a sign of acceptance of and commitment to a particular aspect of my life. Not a mood, not a fashion statement, but a marker of who I am. But of course it does also mark change; where there was once pure skin there will forever be a mark. Even with laser removal (perish the thought!) my skin would never look or be the same again.
And so we move on to ritual and meditation. I will begin by saying that in my view Ritual is itself an elaborate form of meditation. So I will start with meditation…
Some people say that they can’t meditate, but in fact everybody does it naturally. Listening to music, driving a car and watching TV are all forms of meditation. Meditation in it’s simplest form is stilling the mind or concentrating the mind. We all do it. Those of us who do it regularly as an art, as part of our lifestyle or spiritual practice just do it in a more intensive and deliberate way. I started in my teens while exploring Buddhism then when I became a Wiccan and a witch I found that meditation of various types is essential in witchcraft and is practised by many types of pagan. As a Satanist witch I of course still find meditation essential.
Meditation is essentially mental training. It is a way to control your thoughts rather than be controlled by them. It literally increases the power of your mind; and that power can be used in many ways. I’d say it can be useful for anyone. There are hundreds of techniques and I’d advise anybody who hasn’t found a technique that works for them to keep looking and keep trying.
Ritual can be seen to a large degree as a meditative technique; a way of training and tuning your mind. Again, it is something we all do naturally. Most of us have everyday rituals we don’t think much about;- how we wake ourselves up, get washed and dressed, the order in which we tie our laces, the order in which we pack, the first things we do when we get home at night. All of these subtle little rituals prepare us for what we need to do. They put us in the right frame of mind… The kind of rituals used in religions and shamanistic traditions are just much more elaborate and deliberate extensions of these natural tendencies. Religions have been doing very overt and pro-active psychology since centuries before the term was invented! From lighting candles and burning incense in temples and churches, singing hymns and dressing in special costumes to the intricate way in which spiritual traditions mark birth, marriage and death and all the rites of passage in between; religious communities and their leaders have been subtly massaging the minds of their congregations for a very long time. In this particular respect Satanism is not much different except that for us it is a very knowing and totally voluntarily activity. Anton LaVey very quickly recognised the potential psychological effects of ritual with all of its drama. Thus many Satanists individually and in groups use ritual as a powerful tool for self awareness and self development. It can be seen as a magical (meaning wilful and powerful) process or tool for transformation of the self. And others.
Satanic ritual is certainly not to everybody’s taste. Obviously it is designed for practising Satanists who are committed to the Left Hand Path. It does emphasise things which society often classifies as dark or forbidden, there may be images and icons of blood and death, of demons and dark forces, there can be sexual references and activity, and there are words and actions which would be seen as blasphemous by many. Last but not least of course there is the presence of Satan as our archetype and inspiration. (However, just in case there are any new readers to this blog, we do not break any laws, no animals are harmed and nothing happens to any participant without their full consent). Satanic ritual is set out as a psychological drama and there are specific goals for each such drama. To outsiders I would guess there are many elements of Satanic ritual which would be unsettling or even frightening. I understand that. Parts of some of these rituals are designed to provoke fear and other dark emotions even among the Satanists gathered. However to Sophie, myself and other Satanists the arena of ritual is a time and place of comfort and empowerment (even if that does sometimes involve confronting things which worry or frighten us).
Earlier this year Sophie and I were facing some doubts and confusion about the way ahead. Once we had given these matters some thought and come to some conclusions we arranged to take part in some quite intensive rituals in order to reinforce and consolidate the decisions we had already made, to purge any doubts so that they could not sap our energy, and to generally reenergise ourselves and our commitment to Satanism. This process worked extremely well.
And so, to come back to what I was explaining at the beginning, these rituals and others we will participate in can be seen as tattoos on our soul. I don’t think this concept is unique to us because we are Satanists. I think most forms of voluntary ritual can be seen as spiritual tattoos.