In America’s 1980’s there was a psychotic break happening in society. It was a period that today is called the Satanic Panic. During that time Christian churches felt Satanism was making inroads into society. What they called “Satanism,” was not what a Satanist or Pagan would consider Satanic. Society believed that Satanists were organizing and infiltrating schools, government, etc. This so-called organized Satanism was, they declared, committing large scale animal and human sacrifices.
This topic is briefly touched upon in the latest Black Flame Immersion podcast, called “Sacrifice” (around the 50m marker). I’ve linked to the podcast below:
Geraldo Rivera’s talk show ratings sky rocketed when he interviewed people claiming to have witnessed or taken part in Satanic crime. Although not an active member of the Church of Satan at the time, Dr. Michael Aquino attempted to address this panic on national TV. One antagonist (claiming to work for law enforcement) told Geraldo, “you won’t believe how much blood they use. They require buckets and buckets of blood.” As Aquino answered that erroneous claim with, “if that’s true why haven’t you arrested anyone,” his mic was cut off.
The whole period was orchestrated to demonize and shun anyone who was pagan. Even non-pagan material was banned. Books were being burned, music was being destroyed in Christian led panic.
At the time of the Satanic Panic, I was a teenager. My father, a minister, wasn’t really drawn into it – although he did have a phone call from people trying to spread the panic, claiming to be the children of Anton LaVey, and detailing various crimes. This turned out to be an obvious hoax, although equally investigated by the local police in Los Angeles.
During that time, we moved to Northern California, and while my father was out of town on business, one of my older brothers came through with his wife. Although I was about 13 years old, my brothers were 18 and 20 years older than me. Both of them were married by this time. One of them, showed up while dad was out of town. It was a surprise, as they lived in Minnesota. We weren’t expecting it, and my mother enthusiastically let them in.
My brother pretended to be interested in visiting me, and took me out of the house to get some lunch. When we returned, it was clear that this was a ruse so that his wife could go through my room. I walked back into the house to find my books in a pile. My sister-in-law was highlighting passages in various role playing games and Tolkien novels.
The atmosphere in the house was incredibly somber. I was led to my room and told to remain there until called. About three hours later, I was summoned by my brother. Gone was his smile, which now was replaced with a look of disgust. I was led to the family room where a fire was burning in the fireplace… odd since it was a hot August day.
My mother was there, but she looked odd. She wouldn’t make eye contact with me. Instead she stared out the back window, sitting in her chair.
My brother and his creepy wife demanded to know if I was aware of the “real magic” in these books. Keep in mind, these were NOT books of the occult. These were role-playing games and Lord of the Rings novels.
I laughed off their complaints. My sister-in-law misunderstood the terminology of “role-playing,” to infer some sexual content. I was asked about a passage on Orc mating habits and then asked if I ever role-played like this with other people. It was disgusting. I laughed at her.
When she stated that she was once a well studied “occultist,” and that these books were filled with “real spells,” I asked her which tomb of ancient knowledge had “Magic Missile.” About this point my brother grew tired of my dismissal of his wife.
He stepped forward and told me that this is laughing matter, “if you have cast any of these spells we will need to perform an exorcism on you.” EXORCISM. Now that was a frightening word. About a year prior, in that very same town, a religious exorcism was performed by some family on a child – killing them. My mind was racing. I thought what he might do to me… I had a strong feeling he might hold my head under a filled sink or even burn me.
In fear I turned to my mother and said, “dad bought these books, you should stop this.” She tried to defend me, but my brother and his wife were such strong influences they shut her down. She ended up just staring out the window, ignoring my pleas for help.
“There is a way you can prove you are not demonically possessed,” said my brother. He offered me an out. If I were to willingly burn these role-playing books, then they would use that as proof that I wasn’t possessed.
At first I said I wouldn’t. But they responded with, “what’s the problem? They’re just books. You seem to have some unnatural affection to these games.” After several more threats of exorcism, I agreed to burn the role-playing game books.
As we burned them, my brother laughed saying he saw demons fleeing the books and they were burning in the flames.
To this day I’m still pissed off about it.
Dr. Michael Aquino’s Story
Other people had it worse. Take Michael Aquino for example. He and his wife were falsely accused of ritual abuse, and had it not been for the fact they were out of town during the alleged events, who knows how far it might have been taken.
His story is detailed in his book, “Extreme Prejudice.”
Damien Echols’ Story
Perhaps one of the more extreme cases, was that of three teens in Arkansas where were wrongfully convicted of murdering an 8 year old boy. The police determined the crime was “Satanic” in origin and long story short three local teens who had listened to heavy metal and drew pentagrams on notebooks, they were picked up and arrested for the crime.
HBO ran a documentary on this, and several books have been written. Echols has had several interviews since prison.
Echols was put on Death row, convicted of killing that 8. year old kid. As this was before DNA evidence, he had no strong defense and the Satanic Panic era was blooming with insanity.
Part of the testimony that locked him up, was a prosecutor who asked him, “have you read any books by Aleister Crowley.” By linking the teens to occultists, they were convicted and he was sentenced to death.
He tells in his audio book how he was routinely beaten by guards, sometimes till he pissed blood. He thought he was going to die in prison. One of the things he attributes to his urge to keep going on, was his magic practice.
DNA evidence would release Echols from prison some 20 years later.
People who choose to think emotional, and not rationally, will often be led to slaughter of others. This is a reoccurring theme in history, whether it is the Salem Witch Trials or the Ugandan massacre of gay men.
I’ve often said that one can not be controlled unless first made afraid. I think the Satanic Panic will occur again and it really has never fully gone away. While there is more acceptance of paganism by general society, the fear can easily pop up and spread.
In fact, take a look at this page on FoxNews about Damien Echols and his trial. Scroll to the comments, they are all from this year (8 years after his release and DNA testing exonerated him). Notice how many people want to believe he is guilty, regardless of the DNA testing and evidence. Some commenters cite that he’s “satanic, just look at his tattoos” as evidence he’s guilty. This is frightening thinking, as in its simplicity such people could send innocent folks to jail just because of their tattoos or religious outlook.
In the 80’s there wasn’t any form of social media. All that nonsense of backwards masked music, and book burnings and seeing Satan everywhere, was all carried out through television and radio. Imagine the impact if Twitter was around.
Fear today produces politicians who feed and fan the fear. They take a fear and fan it, so they can come through with a “solution.” I don’t think it’s far fetched to see a world were non-Orthodox religions are marshaled into pens or security complexes.