November 12, 2016

To Curse, or Not to Curse?

"To curse or hex this person would give me some sort of petty satisfaction but it will not solve the situation. At best, it will make her shitty circumstances that led to that moment even shittier, and I will feel some sort of smug accomplishment. At worst, it has no effect and I’ve just revelled in my misery and dwelt on this moment for even longer than necessary." -The Chaos Witch
I disagree. If somebody has put in the time and effort necessary to truly anger me and leave a lasting wrinkle in the usually smooth fabric of my life, I'm going to get a red-hot iron and smooth it back out again. True story: I had a neighbor who was harassing me because he said that my indoor cats were sneaking out of the house at all hours, climbing up his second floor patio, and tearing up the soffit around his roof. He claimed it was happening at all hours of the day, yet could provide no pictures or video of this happening and demanded that I pay his landlord $500 to handle the cost of repair. 

Yeah... no. How about, Go fuck yourself? Things escalated, and he started prank calling my house at odd hours. One night he had a party at his apartment, got out a ladder, and he and his five guests climbed onto the joined roof between our properties and went running around. Or the veritable raves he held in his apartment with bass so loud that it reverberated through my entire home. And that's not even to mention how he made threats about trapping my cats and having them put down without telling me - which is a silly threat to make since it's not my cats damaging his rental unit. But all the same: harassing phone calls, climbing my roof, deliberately playing loud music during a weeknight when the kids have to go to school and my wife and I have to work, and threatening my cats all adds up to four threats too far. 

So I threw a curse against him and asked for his death. I specifically asked for his bones to be ground to dust under the pillars of the Earth. I genuinely wanted this man to die. It's been a over a month since I did that ritual, and the man hasn't suffered a sudden and unexpected death. But you know, he's also conspicuously vanished from my life. He doesn't say anything to me about the cats. He doesn't have large parties anymore. He doesn't play outrageously loud music. He doesn't climb on my roof. He doesn't prank call me. He doesn't talk to me at all, and we barely even see each other in passing anymore. Zip. Zero. For my purposes, the man is truly dead: he has no presence in my life and no influence against me.

I don't know what's happening in his life, and I don't care to know. For me, the only thing that matters is that he's not bothering me anymore. Call greater magic bogus if you want to, but judging by the results this was a success for me and I'm going to keep throwing curses as I see fit.

October 22, 2016

No True Satanist?

This morning I woke up to the news that a Satanist in London, England had lured a man (who turned out to be a police officer) to his apartment for sex, but then decided to kill, dismember, cook, and eat him. There were additional plans to dissolve the body in acid, but his plan failed when his neighbors called the police to report the smell of decomposition and noxious chemicals.

At any moment, the Satanic interwebs are going to start furiously chanting, "He's not a true Satanist!" And you know, in a way, I'll agree with that sentiment: if he was practicing Satanism the same way as I practice Satanism, then he'd realize that what he did was not Satanic. At least, not according to my definition of the word. But then, for the most part, I disagree with this defense because I think that the "no true Scotsman" fallacy is no basis for a defense of Satanism.

Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and other religionists regularly make this argument to condemn the least attractive elements within them, and every time they make this argument, the world rightly responds, "Nah ah - those people belong to your faith tradition fair and square."

Whenever the Westboro Baptist Church trots out its "God Hates Fags" and "God Loves IED's" signs to attack people who died from HIV/AIDS or soldiers killed in war, the Christian world predictably starts up with, "They're not true Christians! They're warping the true message of Christianity!" And who accepts that argument? Nobody. The Westboro Baptists are Christian. No way around it. 

Whenever Muslims blow themselves up with a suicide bomb or murder their women for the sake of family honor, the Muslim world always goes into their, "Not all Muslims!" routine. And who accepts that argument? Nobody. Those people are Muslims. No way around it.

Whenever Hindus use machetes to slaughter people based on the accusation that they ate beef, the Hindu world soundly condemns it and says, "There were so many extenuating factors!" And who accepts that argument? Nobody. Those people are Hindus, no way around it.

Whenever Buddhists fire-bomb mosques and churches, Buddhist leaders will report that the attacks are a "perversion of Buddhism!" And who accepts that argument? Nobody. Those people are Buddhists. No way around it.

So when a Satanist lures a man to his lair for sex and then brutally murders him and consumes his body, how does anybody think that we can make the argument that he's not a true Satanist as a defense of Satanism? Crazy Christians emerge from Christianity; crazy Muslims emerge from Islam; crazy Hindus emerge from Hinduism; crazy Buddhists emerge from Buddhism; and crazy Satanists emerge from Satanism. This man can't be retroactively expelled from True Satanism™. Even though I happen to think that he's a disturbed individual who deserves death for this disgusting crime, I can't deny that the thoughts which informed his actions emerged from the same source material which informs my own beliefs and practices.

It's right to say that what this man did is a crime, and it's right to say that this man deserves the harshest possible punishment, but I think it's wrong to say that he's not a Satanist. We don't accept the No-True-Scotsman fallacy from other religionists because we rightly acknowledge the source of their radicalism, and we shouldn't accept it from ourselves, either. While his actions are not representative of the majority of Satanists, he's still a Satanist fair and square. 

Retroactive denial of Satanic identity is a broken argument. If this man's crime bothers you, then speak against it for the right reasons (it's a disgusting crime worthy of death), and not for the wrong reasons (he's no true Satanist!) Humans have the capacity for tremendous love and compassion, but so too do they have the capacity for incredible cruelty and psychopathy. Because people create religion (and not the other way around), people are the common denominator among all religions. Therefore, murder, depravity, and psychopathy are present within a hopefully extreme minority of all religious communities.

I think that retroactive denial is also a broken argument because it relieves the Satanic community cabal of the responsibility of discussing these things and further defining amongst itself what are its social mores, what actions and behaviors are either within or beyond the pale, and how extreme transgressors of both the written and unwritten rules are dealt with.

Or, I suppose you could stay quiet - there's no obligation to speak out - but don't be surprised when misinformation rules the day.

October 20, 2016

Ask me Anything: Sexism in Tarot?

Hi, James! Love your posts - well most of 'em lol. I'm an amateur reader just about to start into business doing Tarot readings. It seems I'm quite talented by the feedback I've already received. I'm just wondering: as you're clearly another guy in a seemingly female dominated field, is there any advice you can give me starting out?
Howdy! I'm flattered that you reached out to me! And without giving too much away, good timing, too - just yesterday I did an interview with another Tarot blogger about men in Tarot and sexist assumptions that get made about intuition and how this impacts me as a professional. I'm really happy to participate in that interview - I'll post a link when it's published - but am also happy to share my views here. There's more that I said in the interview that's not being said here, so you'll have to check that out if you want the whole story!

In answer to your questions, the #1 advice I can give you is to be really good at what you do. This is so important that almost nothing else matters. Yes, there's a lot to be learned about marketing and connecting with clients, closing the sale, keeping track of money for tax time, professional presentation, and so on. But so much of that just won't matter if you're not good at what you do. 

That's cool that you're getting good feedback, but be aware that in this profession, the people who weren't impressed usually don't tell you so - they just let you assume that you were great and then go post reviews somewhere else or just tell their friends what they really thought. You've got to keep your ego in check, and never assume that you know best. This is a very easy trap to fall into, and even though I'm sure you're nodding your head and agreeing with me right now, I'm not completely sure you really understand. 

As far as being a man in a woman-dominated field, all I can say is that in terms of online work, it doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman. If you're a good entertainer and are able to provide a powerful experience for your clients every time, then that's going to count for a whole lot more than whether you have a penis or a vagina. However, if you expect the bulk of your business to be in-person, then yes - your gender is going to be a challenge. The fact is, women prefer to get readings with women. This is so partly because women prefer to talk about their problems with women because - let's face it - there are some problems that are unique to life as a woman (sexual harassment, for example.) 

But it's also because getting a Tarot reading can feel for the woman like the reader is stripping her naked. No woman wants to feel naked and exposed in front of a strange man, so if you're going to be doing readings primarily in-person, then you've got to be aware of your body language, the way your speak, and you overall demeanor because women are often intimidated by men - especially when the man (such as a Tarot reader) has all the power in an exchange. 

This is less important in online business because there's a digital divide between the two of you, but it's still important to think about what you say and how you're saying it, because if you're not careful you can fall into the trap of accidentally blaming the woman for her problems or making her feel guilty - and that's an absolute dead-end in any conversation with any woman.

The Power of Evil (and Donald Trump)

One of the essays by Anton LaVey that I find to be most insightful to his worldview is "On the Importance of Being Evil," as printed in "The Devil's Notebook." You can buy the book and read the whole essay if you're really interested, but in it LaVey talks about the beneficial impact of evil upon the greater good. Examples he provides include the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang inspiring a multi-billion dollar motorcycle market for riding enthusiasts, but also the horrors of WWII as stimulant for the creation of Israel. There are other examples given, but what it boils down to is that LaVey saw evil as a polarizing force for motivating and strengthening essentially "good" ideas, movements, and groups. 

In all of LaVey's writing, he never portrays himself as an anarchist: if anything, he leans authoritarian, and much of his recorded philosophy embraces the need for stability and power in government. LaVey was very consistent in his writing that he considers himself and those who take the name of Satan to be outsiders, but from what I read, he never advocated violent revolution. Instead, what I understand in his writing is that he advocates for a kind of watch-dog agitation. To LaVey, it was very important that a small number of people on the margin always be present to agitate and test the powers that be because - as a result of this constant agitation - weakness is discovered. And although he always considered himself an outsider to the mainstream community, he never saw himself as living in a vacuum and completely detached from the world (and country) in which he lived - because of course that would be solipsism and a loss of perspective.

Furthermore, this outside agitation is necessary because the greater number of people - by reason of their revulsion and rejection of the outsider - will polarize against unstable evil and seek to strengthen "good" outcomes. So LaVey reasoned, if not for Hitler's slaughter of the Jews, the rest of the world would never have cared enough to take notice and create the country of Israel.

But LaVey didn't say that this is justification for being just plain mean and stupid. In order for your evil to exceed the mere idiocy of "ripping wings off butterflies," your evil must expand beyond your local sphere of influence and disrupt the minds and lives of people far outside your regular life. In other words, don't pretend for an instant that you're going to change the world by shit-posting dank Satanic memes on your Facebook page. Surely you'll gain some satisfaction from doing so, but it doesn't actually do anything. No - if your evil is to create the kind of change described, you must have sufficient leverage to affect thousands and even millions of people at a time.

Enter the presidential election of 2016.

Donald Trump is no stranger to offense, and there's almost literally nothing and nobody he hasn't deliberately attacked, mocked, or insulted: Mexicans; Muslims; Blacks; many women, his own daughter, and even allegedly a teenaged girl; the disabled and deaf; dead, wounded, and captured veterans; journalists; his own political party... for fuck's sake, once he even kicked a crying baby out of a rally. I can't even list it all here - the man seems to lack even the most basic filter between his inner monologue and the words that come out of his mouth. There appears to be no line he won't cross, and this volatile aggression has made him the darling of racists and fascists everywhere. He's even gone as far as claiming that the elections are rigged by his preferred ennemi du jour, and has instructed his supporters to become vigilante poll monitors

In response to his sustained campaign of unhinged, conspiracy-laden vitriol and now his attack upon the very foundation of democracy in the USA - his refusal to accept the outcome of the election before it's even been settled - vast social movements have formed. He's spurred a civil war within the Republican Party which many (including longtime GOP leaders) believe has lost its way; motivated broad coalitions to organize under the banner of #NeverTrump; indirectly pushed record numbers of people to register to vote; spurred people from all levels of stratification to affirm their confidence in the political process; shamed the news media into fact checking their stories; and generally pushed the vast majority of Americans to come out against racism, sexism, and xenophobia.

Will evil Trump win the day? It's highly unlikely: the most reliable polls have a Trump victory at not more than 12%, and some as low as 8%. It's possible his chance of winning will fall even further between now and the election on November 8th, but it's generally agreed that Trump's chance of winning the White House is absolutely dead and buried. But just because he didn't win the White House doesn't mean that he hasn't had a substantial impact - you'd have to be deaf, dumb, and blind to ignore Trump's cultural footprint, because that's the power of evil.

Does this mean that all Satanists should support Donald Trump because he's just so damn good at being evil? Absolutely not. First, each Satanist must decide for him or herself which candidates to support (or not support) based on his or her own values. And second, Trump would sooner shit on the American bed than let anybody else have it. He's already preparing his supporters for possibly violent protest when he almost certainly doesn't win the election. If he'd embrace his role as the outside agitator, I could at least respect what he unintentionally accomplished, but his rejection of the very system which sustains him proves him to be the parasite he is. 

But you know, even parasites can be useful in their way.

October 19, 2016

Satanic People

Successful People read every day.
Unsuccessful People watch TV every day.
Satanic People read or watch TV for pleasure, stimulation, or learning. Or they don't. Books and televisions are tools to be used for a chosen end.

Successful People compliment.
Unsuccessful People criticize.
Satanic People give compliments or criticism as they see fit, and for whatever purpose they choose, so long as it achieves the desired goal.

Successful People embrace change.
Unsuccessful People fear change.
Satanic People travel the spectrum of hyper responsive visionaries on the cutting edge to Luddites who refuse the latest technology for the comfort and nostalgia of yesteryear.

Successful People forgive others.
Unsuccessful People hold a grudge.
Satanic People acknowledge their mistakes and forgive if they truly feel sorry about what they've done, but also hold a grudge and gleefully punish those who deserve wrath.

Successful People talk about ideas.
Unsuccessful People talk about people.
Satanic People talk about whatever suits their fancy. Ideas are only as good as the person who puts them into motion, and practical application is far preferable to theoretical dreaming.

Successful People continuously learn.
Unsuccessful People think they know it all.
Satanic People believe that responsibility is for the responsible, and thus will both accept responsibility for their failures but also blame others whose decisions have caused unwanted personal consequences.

Successful People have a sense of gratitude.
Unsuccessful People have a sense of entitlement.
Satanic People give to those who deserve, and don't hesitate to point out when they're owed something in return and state their expectation that they should receive it.

Successful People set goals and develop life plans.
Unsuccessful People never set goals.
Satanic People are aware of their level of stratification and work within it to achieve their best life possible. This means that they make goals and plans, but it also means they know how to quit when they're ahead and live within their means.

October 15, 2016

The Shaving Mafia

The shaving mafia is cutting into your bottom line.
So, here's a random Saturday rant: shaving. No matter who you are, chances are excellent that at some point in your life you're going to be regularly shaving some part of your body. And, chances are excellent that you're going to shave that hair away with a two- or three-blade razor sold to you in a plastic package - perhaps you purchased the handle and got some free razor heads, or maybe you're paying protection money to the Shaving Mafia every time you purchase disposable razor heads at wildly inflated prices.

"A mafia," you say? I do say. Gillette, Schick, and other mafia bosses are controlling the shaving racket and keeping folks like you and me in the habit of paying protection money to protect ourselves from the danger of straight razors and double-edged razor blades. Every time you walk into the pharmacy to buy your razor blades, you come face to face with the mafia boss sitting in his big, black chair in a smoke-filled, dimly-lit room: "You don't want to take a chance with those other blades. Just pay your money and we'll make sure you don't get cut. You don't want to get cut, do you?"

Well, I got fed up with the razor-blade mafia and stopped paying for protection. Last year I moved to a single-blade shaving system when I purchased a twist-to-close Weishi razor handle. There was an adjustment period, for sure, but once I got clear of the mafia, I never looked back. Are you still paying for protection? If you are, then you're getting robbed. Think about it:

Gillette's Mach 3 razor may be the most popular triple-blade razor on the market. WalMart wants me to pay $17 for a pack of 5 disposable razor heads. This works out to $3.40 per razor blade, which gets about 10 shaves before crapping out. This means that with a Mach 3 razor blade, I'm paying about $.34 per shave. Oh, and don't forget that the entire package you purchased - plastic packaging, plastic blade holster, blade handle, and the blade itself - is landfill. You can't recycle any of it.

Compare that to double-edged razor blades. sells those, too: for a package of 5 Wilkinson Sword Classic razor-blades, they'll only charge me $6, or $1.20 per blade. At four shaves per blade, this means I'm paying $.30 per shave. The mafia boss speaks up: "See? I told you this would happen. You're cheating me out of a nickel, and you're not even getting a good shave out of it. Give up on those other blades - only I can protect you."

Perhaps out of desperation you'll abandon the big bosses of the shaving mafia and turn to small-time operators like Dollar Shave Club. You might think you're escaping the protection racket, but their cheapest option is for them to send you four twin-blade razor heads a month at a cost of $3.50, or $.88 per blade. Assuming you can actually get 7 shaves out of this puny blade, then that's going to cost you $.13 per shave - and just like a Mach 3 razor head, it can't be recycled and is only good for landfill after it goes dull. I haven't used Dollar Shave Club, but if their two-blade disposables are like the disposable razors I can buy in the store, I'm doubtful that I can get even two shaves out of it. So you might halve your shaving costs by choosing the cheapest option at Dollar Shave Club, but you can do better.

Yes - if you really want to escape the shaving mafia, you have to stop shopping where the mafia does business. No more WalMart, Rexall, Shoppers Drug Mart, or discount razor clubs. Oh, no - if you want to hit the shaving mafia where it hurts, then you have to brave the wilds of eBay where you can buy bulk packages of 100 double-edged razor blades for $13. This works out to $.13 per blade, or $.03 per shave. And, unlike the Mach 3 razor, double-edged razor blades are steel: you can recycle them, and you can also frequently recycle the cardboard and paper packaging they're delivered in. And of course, your shaving handle is all-metal and will live longer than your grandchildren.

Go ahead - throw the boss of the shaving mafia off the roof. I'll even give you an alibi.

October 10, 2016

Fascism, Racism, False Faces, and Observation

I picked up this article from about the way fascism and racism creep into areas where they haven't been traditionally observed - including the left-hand path - and it stirred up a few thinks that I've been meaning to bring up for a while. This conversation revolves around the simple observation that you can know a lot about somebody when you find what he or she won't criticize. For example, look at contemporary atheism. These folks are really good at condemning theistic bullshit wherever it appears, but when it comes to things such as sexism, racism, and fascism, they get really quiet really fast. Could it be that so many of them won't say a bad word against sexism, racism, or fascism because - so the argument goes - they don't have anything to do with atheism? Or could it be that they consistently decline to condemn these things because they subscribe to sexist, racist, or fascist world views? I'm not talking about one single conversation, but about a long series of interactions. What patterns emerge? What subjects consistently evade criticism even when the speaker enthusiastically condemns all manner of other things? Think about it.

So, having said that... Satanism is going to look like a lot of different things to a lot of different people depending on how they interpret and apply the core principles. And it's also worth saying that each of us are responsible only to and for ourselves - we're not accountable for the actions of others. But it's also worth saying that if you're willing to embrace racist Heathens and alt-right fascists, then this says a lot about what you think is okay. 

For my part, I think that proto/neo/fascism is not okay. I think that racism is not okay. And it's not because I think it's wrong for you to think what you will, but because the fascists and racists of contemporary Internet fame care very deeply about creating a world paradigm in which I am not free to pursue my interests, associate with whom I desire, and enjoy the things I prefer. 

Advocates of fascist policies and racist purity (who frequently go hand in hand) would make my choices for me and push me into a neat and tidy box where they insist that I must be defined by their parameters. So the argument goes, "The anti-fascists are the real fascists!" Are They free to think and say that argument? Yes, They are. But here's the thing: They want a closed system which permits a very narrow definition of freedom and choice, but I want a broad definition of freedom and choice. I'm not trying to elevate people above their achieved level of stratification, I'm not trying to create safe zones for cry-babies who can't handle the real world. 

What I want is to preserve an open field where the best may rise and the worst may fall, and if They want to change that, you bet I'm going to say something. I'm especially going to say something to point out the hypocrisy of how quickly fascists (and often, racists) are to silence free speech, and that they only enjoy the right to free speech because it's afforded to them by the very government and social contract they wish to overthrow.

In a way, this is like my problem with vaccine deniers and Creationists: it's okay for them to think nonsense so long as it only affects them, but when they start advocating for bring vaccine denialism and creationism into public policy that affects me and my family, that's where I draw the line. You're welcome to think and say that the government should be run by autocrats and that jack-booted thugs should be on every street corner. You're also welcome to think and say that people who look differently than you are genetically and culturally inferior. 

Nobody ever said you have to like your government or share an identity with everybody you meet. I'm not opposed to fascism and racism because I think that it's Inherently Bad. I'm opposed to fascism and racism because the motivations which inform them are logically broken. If you don't like commie, left-wing Pinkos, then you do what you think is best - nobody ever said you had to become a party member. If you aren't attracted to Blacks or don't like Black music, fine - nobody said you had to be Black or listen to Black music. 

Each of us choose for ourselves what is aesthetically pleasing. But if you think I'm going to shut my mouth and be polite or pretend that I'm a part of a mutual appreciation society where everybody's opinion is equally respected and nobody can ever be wrong, then you're quite wrong: nobody and nothing are safe from criticism.

I am a Satanist, and that means that I'm a realist: I take the world as it is, not as I would like it to be, and I use the best available knowledge to inform my decisions. And, as it happens, the best available knowledge says that fascism and racism are literal dead ends. I have no regard for tribal identity, and draw nothing from my nation, race, family, or gender. Not that Popeye ever had anything to do with Satanism, but I'm proud to say that I am what I am and that's all that I am. 

I am not supplicant worshiping the power of the state to do as it pleases. I am not a religious devotee at the altar of the White Man. I worship only myself, and hold as my liberty as my highest value. You're free to hate whatever and whomever you like, but the moment you start advocating for a fascist government that would restrict my choices, or advocating on behalf of the Whites under the assumption that I'm going to support you, then you can go drink a gallon of bleach because your ideology is broken and deserves to die.

So when I see fascism, racism, and other contradictory mentalities appearing in Satanism or creeping along the left-hand path, I'm going to say something. Not because I want a Good Guy badge. Not because I want to control what you think, say, and do. But because those things are detestable to me, and I don't want them to be a part of my reality. I also don't want people who support those things as a part of my circle of friends - it's my prerogative to create and maintain a total environment of my own creation, and until such time Pentagonal Revisionism is achieved, the way I accomplish this goal is by speaking out against the things I dislike and making it clear that people who disagree with me and get the fuck out of my total environment.

You can know a lot about a person by what he or she won't criticize. If you find what a person won't criticize, then you've found part of that person's core identity. I'm making it very easy for the guests within my total environment to see who and what I am - let there be no misunderstanding about the total environment I'm building for myself and the aesthetics I prefer.

Also let there be no misunderstanding that I'm a keen observer: if you've been in my company for any period of time, chances are excellent that I'm looking for what you won't criticize so that I can see you clearly for who you are. I apply this principle in all things. If you're scared about what I may see, then you know where to find the exit.

September 28, 2016

Describe Yourself in 3 Fictional Characters!

So there's this thing going around the interwebs which challenges people to describe themselves with three fictional characters. What can I say? Challenge accepted.


The very first person who came to mind is Gilderoy Lockhart, the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. In so many ways, he's me. He's charming and handsome, but he's also obnoxious and cunning. In the Harry Potter books, he embarrasses himself a few times when he's clearly out of his league, but he's not without skill: he's quite good with memory charms, don't you know. When it suits his purposes, he erases people's memories and rewrites their history to suit his purposes. Is he a one-trick pony? Yes. But look how far that one trick took him! And all he ever really mastered was how to erase memories and manipulate others' perception of him. Anybody who knows me is aware that I thrive on attention and am highly susceptible to flattery, but as a Tarot reader I also play the memory game - both with myself and with others!


The second person who comes to mind is Dr. Julian Bashir, the station physician on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Dr. Bashir has frequently tactless and ignorant of other people's emotions. When I'm not paying attention, I frequently brush people the wrong way. And of course, Dr. Bashir - like Gilderoy Lockhart, and like myself - is a bit of a braggart with a huge ego. Like it or not, he's very accomplished at what he does, and nary a moment goes by when he doesn't remind somebody of it. And why not? Who doesn't enjoy taking credit for a job well done? Dr. Bashir has a lust for life, and no matter how much he genuinely cares about getting along with people, he just can't stop himself from acting elitist and subtly or bluntly reminding everybody else of his accomplishments. He's obnoxious, but he's charming and he gets away with it because he's just that good at what he does.


I was tempted to name Schmendrick the Magician, but the third person who came to mind is the Wizard of Oz. And why not? I've always said from the start that I'm an entertainer. I take great pleasure in playing the role of the magician, but unlike some Tarot readers, I know full well that I'm just another Man Behind The Curtain. Am I saying that I'm a complete charlatan? Yes! Am I saying that there isn't any magic? No! Magic is as magic does, and even if I'm just playing a role, I play it masterfully enough to conjure real magic. But at the end of the day, I know that I'm playing a role, and I always take a bow and get off the stage when it becomes clear that the show is over.

September 25, 2016

Mainstream Satanism

I found an interesting essay on my RSS feeder this morning. This came from John Beckett, a Pagan who blogs at Patheos. In this essay, he's writing about mainstream Paganism. On the surface, it's nothing to do with Satanism since it's written by a Pagan author who's discussing a Methodist schism, but if you look past the surface, you'll see something relevant emerge: hierarchy. In the example given by the author, the true schism in the Methodist church didn't begin with GLBTQ+ clergy, but instead began when the church leadership decided to let the laity have a vote in church policies. 

According to this example, the "problem" is that the democratization of Methodism has opened the religion to mob rule. This is a really engaging discussion for me, because on the one hand I think that strong hierarchy is necessary for maintaining structure, but I also think that an entrenched hierarchy falls into stagnation and becomes disassociated from the reality in which the lower stratified members exist. 

Is growth "necessary?" Well, no. It's not necessary to maintain growth for the sake of growth. After all, who knows how many Fozzy Muppets and Whackadoo Weasels you'll attract? But then, if you're not growing and aren't turning a profit in the marketplace of ideas, then don't complain when you see somebody else doing something you thought was your sole purview when you've decided that you won't cross your self-selected boundaries into the real things that real people really care about. 

Does this sound familiar to you? It sounds familiar to me, and it's what I feel like I'm seeing played out in the cold war between the Church of Satan and the Satanic Temple, neither of which wants to be identified with the other. Despite some common threads of independence, personal liberty, and opposition to authority, the Church of Satan and the Satanic Temple share very little in common and both of have foundational elements which cannot be reconciled. There will never be a grand Satanic unification between these two organizations.

On the Church of Satan side, we've got a lot of people (myself included) who are very proud to support the only organization to promote Satanism as codified by Anton LaVey. The Church of Satan has clearly defined Satanism for over 50 years, and its leadership and members have produced vast tracts of writing and hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of video and audio content that expand upon the religion and philosophy of Satanism. 

Having said that, though, one of the core principles espoused by the Church of Satan is alien elitism. The Church of Satan has said since the beginning that it doesn't care about having a large membership: we only want the most productive, successful, influential, and accomplished people to climb our ranks. And why not? One accomplished person is arguably worth more than 10 unaccomplished people. An organization built on the selection and promotion of the strong develops an adamantine core.

And then on the other side, there's the Satanic Temple which even though it's a scant two years old, has launched itself into popular consciousness by often times very effectively inserting itself into real situations that affect real people. Of course, doing so has necessarily polarized the Satanic Temple to the political left, and has resulted in the popular conception that the Satanic Temple's primary (if not only) interest is campaigning for social change - Satanism as a religion is rather difficult to find within their publicly listed literature. The way it appears to me, the Satanic Temple has done away with hierarchy and democratized its goals according to popular sentiment.

And is that necessarily wrong? In the marketplace of ideas, the Satanic Temple is supplying the demand. Power is as power does, and if the Satanic Temple is capturing public attention and leveraging the Satanic archetype for their own purposes. Power is as power does, and if the Satanic Temple is successfully steering the definition of Satanism in a new direction, then who am I to complain about it if I'm an alien elitist who who holds himself apart from the hoi polloi? I can't have it both ways.

Democratization of religion naturally expands boundaries, but will those boundaries retain their original form? Enforcing religious hierarchy conserves tradition and crystallizes definitions, but removes the organization from the flow of time and culture. Can there ever be such a thing as mainstream Satanism? Well, that's a bundled question. If you start from the premise that there is only One True Satanism™ and that it's a religion for the alien elite, then by its very definition it can never be mainstream, and if it ever were, then it wouldn't be Satanism. 

But like I discussed in Left-hand Tarot #22) Satanic Jihad, cultural appropriation isn't a "political evil," but a fact of life. People have been taking ideas, customs, and traditions from people for as long as people have existed. As a member of the Church of Satan, I have the power to control what I myself think, say, and do. And while I of course can choose to actively oppose organizations which I consider to be non-Satanic, what does that really gain me? I think that the only thing it gains me is time and energy given to Satanism, which is time and energy that I could have spent on myself. 

And while it sounds like a silly thing to say since I publicly identify as a Satanist, I don't consider that identification to be my primary identity. Like Popeye, "I am what I am and that's all that I am." Satanism occupies a big part of my world paradigm, but if something happened tomorrow and it became necessary for me to abandon public support for and affiliation with the Church of Satan, I wouldn't be devastated. I would still know who and what I am, and nobody and nothing can change that.

But getting back to the democratization of religion... If, like Mr. Beckett posited in the essay that I linked earlier, the "real schism" at play here is is the democratization of religion, then any organization which gives itself over to management by popular opinion will become diluted and follow not the core intention of the religion, but the surface desires of those who steer it. What's to be done about this? According to Mr. Beckett,
Maintaining our Pagan identity does not require clergy. It does require people who are intelligent, educated, experienced, and dedicated to their religion and to its long-term success. And it requires the respect of the practitioners – not to follow the “experts” blindly, but to carefully consider what they have to say, especially when dealing with challenging issues.
Mr. Beckett isn't a Satanist, but what he said here sounds thoroughly Satanic to my ears: we need respect for hierarchy and the accomplishment of others. Not blind obedience, but rational consideration of the facts. The democratization of knowledge is frequently criticized as putting wise men on the same level as wise guys. Does this hold true for the democratization of religion? Time will tell, and depending on which side of the debate you stand, time has already told.

September 20, 2016

Tarot, the Devil, and You

The Last Judgement (detail)
Jacob de Backer
In the world of Tarot, there are few cards as polarizing as the Devil. And while the Devil of the Tarot has been around for a long time and has some well-established interpretations among the RWS and Marseilles traditions, each Tarot reader brings to the table his or her own cognitive biases and personal baggage. Depending on where you stand, the Devil is everything from a sex-slaved drug pusher to an iron-willed strongman. To help me through this discussion, I invited some of my favorite voices from the Tarot blogosphere to join the conversation and share their interpretations. Each respondent is shaping this conversation with his or her answer to the following four questions:
  1. How do you interpret the Devil?
  2. Do you have a favorite depiction of the Devil in Tarot?
  3. If the Devil were somebody in the news, who would it be?
  4. If you were the Devil, what would you do?
Through these four questions, each respondent is going to show us a different face of the Devil. Who and what will you find on this journey along the left-hand path? And lest anybody think that I'm skipping out on this exercise, you'll find my response at the very bottom of the page!

Let's open our discussion with Tarot Grandmaster Christiana Gaudet! Although I'm not a member of the ATA, I deeply respect the work they're doing to broaden and deepen the world of Tarot. As a grandmaster recognized by the Tarot Certification Board of America, Ms. Gaudet is no slouch! She's been recognized by her peers as a result of intense devotion to her craft, and even I don't read the Tarot exactly as she does, I revere her accomplishments and listen when she speaks. What has she to say?

How do you interpret the Devil?
In the moment of divination, all cards can speak in a variety of surprising ways. Typically, though, Major Arcana 15 can speak to me of a few specific things. I see the final seven numbered cards of the Major Arcana as the path to spiritual enlightenment. Therefore, card 15, the Devil, is the gatekeeper of that journey. No one becomes enlightened without confronting their Devil. What is it, then, to confront the Devil? The Devil can speak of our addictions, our emotional illnesses, and our obsessions. Often this card appears for people with mental or physical health problems, or to discuss the ravages of alcohol, drugs, food addiction, sex addiction and other unhealthy attachments. Sometimes this card can reveal our baser nature, that is, our tendencies toward greed, selfishness, and shallowness. When we confront the Devil, we see our own shadow self, or the shadow self of someone we love. We acknowledge our weakness, or lack of well-being. From there, we often have the option and ability to make changes and heal. From there, we always have the ability to take the journey toward our own spiritual enlightenment.
Do you have a favorite depiction of the Devil in Tarot? Why is it your favorite?
There are two I find really poignant. In Spiral Tarot, by Kay Steventon, the Devil holds up a mirror for a woman to see herself. She recoils in horror, uncomfortable with what she sees. In the Robin Wood Tarot, we see a chest of treasure that is trapped, along with two people. It is possible for the people to be freed, but they cannot take their treasure with them.
tarot satanism
The Devil as featured in the Spiral Tarot
If the Devil were somebody in the news, who would it be?
So, this is a loaded question during the US political season, isn’t it? I am going to say that the Devil is the news media – creating for us an unhealthy reality that doesn’t truly exist, and making it difficult for us to know what is really true.
If you were the Devil, what would you do?
In many ways, we are all the Devil, in that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience, and the Devil is, in some ways, the earthy epitome of that human experience. So, I will say this. I am the Devil, and I do my best to stay slim, to be healthy and to stay in a space of compassionate detachment. My inner Devil wants me to eat chocolate, sleep too much, skip the gym and get drunk. My inner Devil wants me to care too much about things I cannot change. My inner Devil wants me to be afraid. Every day, I acknowledge and honor myself as Devil, but choose not to let that part of myself do the steering (most of the time).
So at the start of our exploration of the Devil, Grandmaster Gaudet takes us on a journey through the traditional interpretation of the Devil as a representative of base hedonism and unhealthy bondage to material concerns. According to Grandmaster Gaudet, the Devil is an innate part of all of us - you, me, everybody - but the first step toward spiritual enlightenment. For me as a Satanist, I find this difficult to reconcile because I'm an atheist and don't accept the existence of spirit, and of course Anton LaVey glorified the Seven Deadly Sins in his 8th Satanic Statement.

Although, having said that, I deeply sympathize with her depiction of the news media as the Devil since it's been shown (especially during this election cycle) that they have little concern for the truth and are almost entirely devoted to anything that keeps their ratings high and their bank accounts fat. The Satanist in me says that this is a perfect example of lesser-magic in action: viewers encapsulated within a figurative monoculture cocoon in which they're insulated against any opposing views. For many TV-consumers, it's not about current events but insulating themselves a self-affirming echo chamber. As long as they hear what they want, the chosen network's advertisers stay happy and the money keeps flowing. Clearly, there are consequences for being so thoroughly divested from reality! 

Let's move on to our next voice, Carrie Mallon. Ms. Mallon is a prolific blogger and a woke voice in the Tarot blogosphere. One of my favorite posts of hers is a vlog she made about how the Tarot can't tell you anything you don't already know. You may feel differently, but I agree with Ms. Mallon because although I accept the magic and mysticism of the Tarot, I first and foremost consider it a tool for creative thinking and purposeful imagining. Check out her blog! In meantime, what has she to tell us about the Devil?

How do you interpret the Devil?
The Devil is definitely one of the more multi-faceted cards for me. Along with the more traditional view, I sometimes interpret this card as associated with all-consuming addictions or a sense of being enslaved by forces either internal or external. For me, this card shows up a lot when I'm dealing with resistance, or feeling blocked and uncreative, or refusing to look at the big picture in a given circumstance. But in a more holistic view, I sometimes interpret this card in a more irreverent way. Mainstream culture generally condemns the archetype of the devil as bad, scary and evil. I think this card can ask us to examine WHY we condemn certain things as "wrong." The Devil can be that fresh-blooded force that turns our assumptions around, that causes us to actively check-in with our moral compass instead of just letting it run on auto-pilot. Sometimes the things that we think are wicked are actually just repressed by an overzealous society.
Do you have a favorite depiction of the Devil in Tarot? Why is it your favorite? 
I wanted to say something more unique but I have to go with the good old Waite-Smith version. The Baphomet imagery hits such visceral notes for me, and combined with the naked, chained, tail bearing humans and the dark background, the card doesn't hold back. It packs a punch!
satanic tarot
Good old Baphomet as featured in the well-known Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot.
If the Devil were somebody in the news, who would it be?
Oh jeez, there's way too much low hanging fruit right now for this question. You know, I think Hillary Clinton is actually a pretty interesting example. She's famously loathed, and she's done some things that have been largely perceived as devilishly unscrupulous. But I'd argue she's also kind of a bad-ass who has done some pretty cool, if controversial stuff (pushed for unprescribed access to the morning after pill, for one thing). Like the Devil, she's complex and not easily defined as "good" or "evil."
If you were the Devil, what would you do?
I see the Tarot cards as reflections of the human psyche, and I think we all have an "inner Devil" just as we have an inner Hermit or an inner Fool. I will say that I don't think Devil energy is one of my primary modes of being, but I do let my inner Devil roam wild every now and then. If I were REALLY to let that Devil energy come out, I think what I'd most likely do is some light-hearted trolling of religious fanatics. I mean, I wouldn't want to TORMENT them or anything, just poke a little fun. That may sound terrible, but to me the Devil shows that part of us that simply wants to rebel and embody our OWN version of freedom.
Wow! What great provocative answers. What I most enjoyed in Ms. Mallon's perspective is the nuanced and misunderstood qualities of the Devil, but also the usefulness. So the Devil represents the "bad" stuff? And who named that stuff "bad?" Dig deeper and you'll find the answers. And yes, say what you will about Hillary Clinton - and there's a lot to say - but she does embody some Devil qualities such as strength, originality, and nuance. I appreciate Ms. Mallon's sympathy for the Devil!

Next in our discussion is somebody I call a Tarot friend, Angelo Nasios. Mr. Nasios is the author of the recently released Unlocking the Arcana and also voted Young Tarosophist of the Year when he was only 23. So when I see somebody who's proven himself and been recognized by his peers, I take notice and even if I don't agree with everything he has to say, I listen to it. I've had the privilege of chatting with him on occasion, so it's a pleasure to share his thoughts here.

How do you interpret the Devil?
As with all the cards, interpretations can go into many directions. In personal readings, I see the Devil as an indication that I am spending too much money or buying too much stuff. On the mythic scale, the Devil depicts the hero’s descent into underworld. Joseph Campbell viewed this as the journey we take into the unconscious mind to discover our strengths during a moment of helplessness. Campbell also viewed it as our coming to terms with our dark or negative self. So, with this in mind, the Devil, while challenging, can in the end result in something positive in terms of self-development. Some other things that the Devil means for me is blockage, ignorance and fear.
Do you have a favorite depiction of the Devil in Tarot? Why is it your favorite?
The Devil in Ciro Marchetti’s Gilded Tarot Royale, because come on look at that body!
tarot satanism
The Devil from Ciro Marchetti's Gilded Tarot Royale
 If the Devil were somebody in the news, who would it be?
Just about any politician, take your pick. Why? Because politicians feed the public fear and the Devil is about fear, playing on your fears and manipulation.
If you were the Devil, what would you do?
My first answer is NSFW ;)
The angle captured by Angelo in this reading follows the common association of the devil with hedonism. This isn't simply a matter of material indulgence, but of gross, indiscriminate consumption; however, like previous responses we've seen, the Devil is the material dark-side to the Tarot's spiritual light-side, so consequently you can't appreciate the heights to which you might ascend until you've fully experienced the depths to which you can fall. Which makes a lot of sense to me since I understand many things through an expression of polarity and opposition. But of course, me coming from Satanism, I struggle to accept the Devil as a necessary step toward spiritual enlightenment when spirit is something I don't believe exists. Well, to each his own. And I suppose I could always be wrong? But until then, I'll join Angelo in his celebration of the Devil as a gateway to material happiness and physical indulgence! You can visit Angelo at his website, and don't forget to subscribe on YouTube!

Next to share her perspective is Ms. Ginny Hunt of 78 Notes to Self. She's a terrific writer and of her offerings I've specifically enjoyed her exploration at the intersection of intuition and mental health (you should read her essay about hypervigilance.) Due to my own struggle with mental health, I thought that it was a really engaging essay and am happy to share her writing with you. Ms. Hunt, would you please do us the privilege of enlightening us?

How do you interpret the Devil?
We are talking about the tarot card here, right? Because if not, then we don't have time for my answer. The thing about me and tarot is I can't divorce it from its medieval roots. I know some can and do, I just can't. Blame it on my inquisitive bent that always wants to know why and my fascination with human culture and sociology, but I trace things back to the beginning, or as close to it as possible, and then see how said thing was viewed in its current time. I then bring that view to the present and adapt it for modern use.  
The Devil, in medieval times, was a foul creature that fucked up pretty much everyone and everything by cunningly tempting people to be their own undoing. Master of illusions and manipulation, Lord of the Material World, the Devil was a mixture of ancient tribal belief and religious, specifically Christian, teaching. The Devil, although present in pre-Christian and even pre-Judaic literature and art, was truly fleshed out by the early Christians. By medieval times, Devil depictions had transformed into a hideous and deformed shadow of Pan, Baphomet, and other pagan deities. I find this truly fascinating because the Greeks' dualism and early Judaic teachings state that each of us have these characteristics within us, the evil and the good. But somehow the Devil became an entity in his own right by 70 AD, a sovereign being outside of the self that tempts the soul to do bad things to gain more souls for Hell to get back at God for some unknown prehistoric slight. Fate itself is personified in medieval art, and in tarot (The Wheel) as are the Virtues, or many of them -- Justice, Temperance, Love, etc. It's also notable that the Devil, sequentially, comes right on the heels of Temperance as if to say too much moderation can be a bad thing. Just god damn funny, tarot is.  
Taking the medieval Devil and bringing him into 21st century tarot means seeing the very scary and ugly side to human existence, the one they could not own as part of themselves. The card brings to mind the crazy things we do to ourselves in our striving to "be good" and then radically failing because we really are depending on some outside force to either keep us motivated or blame our downfall on. It centers around the theme of taking responsibility for oneself. The Devil, to me, represents many other themes -- rationalizing poor choices, obsession, self-absorption, addiction, etc. In action, it's usually taking a good thing too far. And these issues usually have psychological or emotional roots, but they demonstrate themselves in a physical way with very real, material consequences. What's deceptive about it is that the "things" being indulged in are not in themselves negative or harmful -- usually. It's the way in which they are practiced and the justifications and rationalizations that follow. Damage is done primarily to the one dancing with the Devil, but also to many others as collateral damage, side victims. 
Do you have a favorite depiction of the Devil in Tarot? Why is it your favorite? 
Can't choose just one! I have two that come to mind immediately. First, Tarot of Durer By Giacinto Gaudenzi. This not only depicts a pretty authentic medieval Devil in form but also symbolizes the custom of scapegoating -- the Hebrew Saʿir La-ʿazaʾzel, means “goat for Azazel," one of the fallen angels in the book of Enoch. It highlights the "personal responsibility" theme and the false idea that we can place the blame for our own misdeeds on someone or something else. Below the picture is the word "Malefaber" which means "contriving evil, cunning, crafty, insidious." The part animal, mostly human being with secondary sexual characteristics of both male and female indicates this tendency is found in both male and female humans and is an "animal" impulse -- we expect more from ourselves. 
Another favorite Devil is by Ciro Marchetti in his Gilded Tarot. This guy is hot. A horny Captain America. On the practical side, medieval depictions of the Devil often take a lot of historical and even Biblical backstory to really understand (like who else could readily see the scapegoat imagery in the other card but someone like me -- history and religious symbolism geeks?) whereas this image is not at all hard to understand even though it also is rife with symbolism. Funny, Ciro admits didn't even know that much about tarot when he designed this deck but this card is, to me, one of the most profound even in its Harlequin romance novel-ish imagery. The Pentacle in the background alludes to the idea that the Devil is earthbound and Lord of the Material Realm. You can't tempt someone with repulsiveness, so the allure of the attractive naked physical body, the dangerous seductiveness of the flames along with the secretiveness of the helm that covers his eyes so not only does he not see you but you can't see his true identity either. It's really quite packed with meaning. 
satanic tarot reading
The Devil as featured in the Tarot of Durer
If the Devil were somebody in the news, who would it be?
You would have to ask this in an election year. It would be too easy to point to Donald Trump --but only in the way that others before him and others after him will continue to enable others to indulge in scapegoating, blame, and abuse of the Other. He's not the least bit attractive, but he legitimizes what some people already do and want to do and I think that is tempting and attractive to many people -- to not give a shit about others you perceive as the cause of one's problems. But I think the Devil is more subtle than Trump and could even be someone promoting ideas such as Bernie Sanders campaigned on -- as much as I like him and agree with him, his supporters also felt justified in blaming and harming others. I honestly don't think the Devil can be personified like that. We all have these impulses and have all fallen to them. The whole culture we live in is a big mirror that reflects the Devil in all of us as well as the Gods/Goddesses we all are. The 24 hour profit driven cable news networks, the newspapers, etc. all have a stake in creating dependence and followers, so these are very Devil-like attributes. At the same time, social media has connected us in ways we couldn't be before and has played a real part in holding people, businesses, law enforcement and even ourselves responsible for our actions in real time. The Devil is woven throughout because he is us. 
If you were the Devil, what would you do?
I am. And I would tell myself to go ahead and eat that chocolate cake because it's been a long, hard day and I deserve it. To hell with the gym and while you're at it light up another cigarette. Relax. It can wait until tomorrow. My personal demons.
Of all the responses I received for this survey. Ms. Hunt's response is the one with which I most sympathize. Not that she's more correct than anybody else, but that her interpretation is something resonates with my approach to Satanism and Tarot. Ms. Hunt's view of the Devil as an agent of chaos, instability, and disorder is very close to my own interpretation of the Devil, and of course speaking as a Satanist I was nodding along at her insistence that the Devil represents animal impulse in humans. And frequently tied into animal impulse is sex and sexuality - the Devil literally lets it all hang out and doesn't put up any pretenses about having reaching a plane of enlightenment where such desires no longer exist. Say what you will about the Devil and its lying, manipulative ways, but it's consistently honest when it comes to sex. Sex, sex, sex... what? Where was it? Yes - and cruelty, too. This is the first time in our survey where the Devil has been given its due as a mean and inconsiderate. Is the world in which we live frequently cruel and inconsiderate? Absolutely. And while it's the prerogative of travellers on the right-hand path to look for spiritual ascension and pushing toward the ennoblement of human consciousness, to me - as a traveller of the left-hand path - I wonder if it isn't a fruitless effort to train every generation away from its animal instincts. Can such work be accomplished? Time will tell!

Another Tarot blogger I'm happy to share with you folks is Ms. Mia Alviz. I've enjoyed several entries from her blog including her discussion of the Tarot grand tableau, but have also enjoyed other discussions. She's so friendly and her writing and so interesting that I couldn't imagine leaving her out of this discussion! What does she have to say?

How do you interpret the Devil?
Well, the Devil is a card I've grown fond of with time. I feel very appealed for all its complex implications. To be honest, first thing that comes to my mind when I see the Devil is rough, animal sex, the kind of crazy sex that creates a bond, though not always the healthiest; however, its implications go above and beyond that. The Devil is sexy, is inappropriate, sometimes toxic but it feels so good. To me it represents our guilty pleasures, but also the ties that hold us back but are so damn difficult to get rid of because we actually enjoy them.
The Devil is the toxic relationship we are tied to because we become addicted to the emotional rollercoaster, the shitty job we don't dare to leave because it is what pays the mortgage at the end of the month, the lifelong friend we can't stand anymore but we appreciate and the victimization we enjoy because it feels good to be the "poor me" and wake up the compassion of our surroundings.
Some people compare the Devil to a cancer, but I differ, for it is not something we can get rid of. Being "on terms" with the Devil is pretty much our own responsibility. To me, it is not the cancer, but more like smoking, something we could just stop doing if we had the guts for it. In a nutshell: The Devil is tempting, but it doesn't point to our head with a gun, we go there by our own will, and we are as free to leave. If we truly want to.
Do you have a favorite depiction of the Devil in Tarot? Why is it your favorite?
Yes, of course I do! My all times favourite Devil card is the one from The Housewives Tarot. It is just perfect and it speaks a lot to me. What a better depiction of the Devil that one that stays away from mysticism and woo-woos and dare to show the real, simple, and daily stuff we become addicted and sometimes dependant to? The Devil is a sexy brownie who smokes, as simple as that, and yet as complex. It is one of the funniest and rawest depictions I've ever seen. There's no emotional blackmail, there are no promises, it is just us and our vices, whether we like it or not.
satanic tarot card reading
The Devil from The Housewives' Tarot
If the Devil were somebody in the news, who would it be?
First thing I thought was Donald Trump, but then I realized he is neither that handsome, nor that smart. I think this is the most difficult question here... I think it would be more like a shopping channel or the Tarot reader's show at 3 a.m. Something that gives you your dose and sucks the hell out of you without reporting any true benefit.
If you were the Devil, what would you do?
This one is short and simple. Minding my own business and partying like hell!
And this is why I enjoy follow Ms. Alviz's blog! Her perspective is maybe the most entertaining that I've read so far, and I love the way that she approaches the Devil not just holistically, but with the sense that the Devil takes not by force, but by temptation. Spam, Cheese-Wiz, TV dinners, uppers, downers, martinis, smokes, and devil's food cake: the Devil is all the stuff you want and voluntarily choose, but also all the stuff that you know will do you in before the end. I think she perfectly captures the every-day temptations that so many of people blame on the Devil, but also the truth that the Devil-as-temptress is easily countered by self-discipline. And while I disagree with Ms. Alviz that the Devil is somebody who needs to be defeated (since I believe the Devil is merely a metaphor for the carnal self), I whole-heartedly agree with the importance she ascribes to iron self-discipline. Who knows what can be achieved if you truly want it?

One of the biggest traps that I fall into as a Tarot reader are the Satanic sins of solipsism and orthodoxy. It's so easy and tempting for me to see nothing outside of myself as a Tarot reader, and this is especially easy to do when I strongly disagree with another reader's perspective. In this situation, that's why I appreciate Steven Bright, professional Tarot reader and tutor: not because I identify with his work, but because I don't! Mr. Bright's white-light, right-hand path, angel-communication Tarot is so far away from what I believe that practically speaking we've got no common ground, but I find that few things help me better define myself than polarity and well-defined opposition. So while you, Mr. Bright, may be wondering why I even bothered inviting you to participate, I assure you that I mean this as a compliment! What has Mr. Bright to say?

How do you interpret The Devil?
I always see the Devil as depicting our shadow side. As with everything, I find it advisable to acknowledge our dark and light side, so the card can concern letting your hair down, enjoying yourself, and embracing your animal instincts. However, when we allow ourself to become controlled by these things, the card can take us out of balance. This is when it highlights difficulties for a lot of people.
Do you have a favorite depiction of the Devil in Tarot?
The one which always comes to mind is from Robin Wood Tarot. Within the image is an illustration of a monkey carved onto a treasure chest. The monkey has its hand inside a trap. It could easily escape by letting go of the treats within its grasp but with his fist clenched it is the wrong shape to pass through the opening and he is eventually caught by hunters. The version shows how we can become trapped by greed or choose to not walk away from those things which are really not helping us.
satanism tarot reading
The Devil as featured in the Robin Wood Tarot.
Sorry, the detail is too small to show the monkey Mr. Bright described.
If the Devil were somebody in the news, who would it be?
Within the news, I cannot think of any one person who would resemble the Devil. However, I feel he could describe anyone who is attracted to power for the wrong reasons - to manipulate or control. 
If you were the Devil, what would you do?
Like many cards within the tarot, I think that the Devil can be misunderstood and unnecessarily feared. With that in mind, if I were the Devil, I'd probably entice a couple of fellow pleasure-seekers and go and indulge in all of those things I've given up over the past four years! 
Though I somehow doubt that Mr. Bright has any experience with Satanism, what I hear him describing here are two very Satanic concepts: Indulgence instead of compulsion, and the danger of counter-productive pride. Contrary to popular opinion, Satanism is not gross hedonism, but careful selection of the best that life has to offer. In this sense, I completely agree with Mr. Bright that there is danger in falling out of balance due to disgusting and unhealthy compulsions. And like the monkey he describes with its hand caught in a trap for the sole reason that it won't release a handful of treats that it grabbed within the box. Sadly, I couldn't find any high-resolution images showing this scene, but I'm sure you can imagine it. If the monkey in this scene could acknowledge its counter-productive pride and release the treats, it'd live to see another day. So, strangely enough - even though Mr. Bright and I come at the Tarot from nearly opposite directions - he and I share common ground. Funny how that works, eh?

And now, I present to you one of my absolutely favorite Tarot bloggers, Ms. Benebell Wen. There's so much that I love about Ms. Wen's writing. Naturally, I'm quite fond of her website because I won a free copy of the Dark Tarot in a contest that she was hosting, but also because she helped me find what's probably my favorite Tarot deck of all-time, the Tarot of the Loka. So, thanks for that, Ms. Wen! And for those reasons and others, I'm delighted to be able to include her voice in this survey. What say you, Ms. Wen?

How do you interpret the Devil? 
I interpret the Devil as self-indulgent defilements that tether us to suffering. It represents that which we must renounce in order to break free and be truly liberated from the cyclical nature of what it means to be human.
Do you have a favorite depiction of the Devil in Tarot? Why is it your favorite? 
I don’t have a favorite, but I’d like to share three versions of Key XV—from the Hezicos Tarot by Mary Griffin, The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot by Chic and Tabatha Cicero, and the Celestial Tarot by Kay Steventon and Brian Clark. 
I’m intrigued by the enduring depiction of the Devil as a horned goat-god and in the majority of versions, such as you see in the Hezicos Devil and The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot, the depiction of human bondage. It’s not my favorite but I’m intrigued by such imagery because the allusion to the satyr is more about indulging in physical pleasures, which of course suggests that we associate physical pleasure with defilement and suffering, and that to me is interesting, because that is a current of philosophical thought in both Western and Eastern religion. 
satanic fortune telling
The Devil as featured in the Hezicos Tarot
If the Devil were somebody in the news, who would it be?
I have no idea. The Devil card touches upon an internal struggle and to me, it isn’t necessarily an indication of public persona. I don’t know anybody in the news well enough to know if they’re going through a “Devil-card-internal-struggle-that-tethers-them-to-suffering,” so I don’t want to make uneducated assumptions. 
If you were the Devil, what would you do?
By that, do you mean if I were to embody the archetype of the Devil while retaining my consciousness and character or if I were to diverge from who I am now and become someone who is my interpretation of the Devil? If the first, then I would try to exorcise those demons and work conscientiously at transcendence to evolve out of that archetype, and if you meant the latter, then knowing me, I would aspire to be the best, most powerful, most notorious Devil there ever was.
Ah-ha, ever so diplomatic, Ms. Wen; I understand and appreciate your thoughtful responses! Clearly, you and I are coming at the Devil from very different angles - not that we must agree, simply that like other voices in this survey there's a fundamental divide between our interpretations that won't be bridged. But that doesn't mean we can't understand each other! In case I forgot to say it earlier, you can find my response to these same questions at the end of this survey - you're not obligated, but of course I'd enjoy to hear your feedback if you felt inclined to do so. So that's to say, I don't consider the Devil an obstacle to ascension primarily because I don't believe there's anywhere to which I can ascend: this is it. Like Popeye, I am what I am and that's all that I am.

What spoke to me most about your responses was the way that you illustrated the popular conception that earthly delights are tied into defilement and bondage. Not frequently, but often enough I hear from clients who ask me if they'll be indebted to the Devil in exchange for seeking answers through him. I typically respond that there's nothing to worry about since I don't believe that the Devil exists as literal deity, but this conversation brings to mind the sentiment that I heard in your answer: good things in life always come with strings attached. Is this necessarily so? I suppose there's choice-and-consequence in all affairs, but me being who I am, I'm reluctant to say that all satisfaction happens on a strict transactional basis. Quid pro quo?

Another great Tarot voice that I'm happy to share is Ms. Jenna Matlin who's an all-around smarty pants and has written lots of things that I enjoyed. Recently, I enjoyed her three-part love-letter to Tarot professionals (part 1, 2, and 3), but there's lots of other good stuff on her blog and you should check it out. What does Ms. Matlin bring to our discussion?

How do you interpret the Devil?
The Devil card in tarot is one of the most complex and interesting cards in the deck. The Devil shows up for many different situations and has a depth that few other cards match in complexity, as well as conflicting interpretations. When the Devil appears in relationship questions He can usually mean either an affair, or in a relationship wherein there is a heavy sexual-obsessive component to the relationship. Conversely, the Devil can also just mean a very hot and steamy relationship where sexual boundaries are being explored and pushed.
The Devil can also mean an addiction or depicting someone who is an addict. The Devil can also mean for me the 'devil on your shoulder,' basically your inner critic, pointing out the things you are doing wrong or talking you into doing things that do not jive with what you have been told you should do, or believe is true about yourself.  
Finally, the Devil can also appear when the message is to undertake 'devil's play' and push your own boundaries, take risks, reorganize what you believe right or wrong or decorum or living a full life may mean for you. The Devil is one of the most fascinating cards in the deck and I do not think He gets nearly enough airtime for all the things He can signify and mean. 
Do you have a favorite depiction of the Devil in Tarot? Why is it your favorite? 
I really like the Devil in Baba Studio's Romantic Victorian Tarot. It is a lovely woman with bat wings holding a snake and roses, at her feet lies a pile of gold and she has a welcoming smile. I like this depiction because I believe that the Devil looks like us, and is very much an aspect of who we are as people. The Devil is temptation, the old Christian archetype of will versus desire but I think we need to push out of that dynamic. The Devil to me is about negotiating and finding a balance. Seeking pleasure, being okay with pleasure and living a life that is undeniably human with its vast urges; to seek making a relationship with those aspects of it without having to go to war with ourselves for it.
satanism satan worship tarot cards
The Devil as featured in the Victorian Romance Tarot 
If the Devil were somebody in the news, who would it be?
Every Pharmaceutical company convincing people they need their drugs on TV. But, then, that might be unfair to the Devil. 
If you were the Devil, what would you do?
Who says that I'm not? ;) 
What a tightly bundled bunch of feedback from Ms. Matlin! Something that really stood out to me as a Satanist is her insistence that the Devil represents accepting and enjoying life - all of life - no matter how much it doesn't live up to Puritan ideals of morality. Like Ms. Matlin's description of the Devil, life is multi-faceted and difficult to pin down in any one way. And me being a Satanist, I naturally read into her words what Anton LaVey said about Satanism: it must ever remain “a custard that can't be nailed to the wall." The world is a complicated place, and it's not anybody's job to make it straight, but it's each of our jobs to live within it the best that any of us can.

And now that those voices have spoken, I present my own:

How do you interpret the Devil?
I read the Devil as an external agent of chaos, destruction, and disorder that is forever outside anybody's control. The Devil cannot be controlled or directed, only experienced. And while the Devil may cause you to experience confusion and anxiety or even bring wanton violence and cruel invasion against everything you hold dear and have built for yourself through the application of your iron will, the Devil also destroys what's weak. Oliver Goldsmith famous said, "Be not affronted at a joke. If one throw salt at thee, thou wilt receive no harm, unless thou art raw." I don't consider the Devil to be a joker - there's nothing funny about the withering force of its fell hand - but in the spirit of Oliver Goldsmith, the Devil prunes the weak. The strong will survive unscathed, and the vacuum occupied by the weak will be replaced by something new and youthful. All things whose time have passed will perish, and new life will emerge to replace the forcefully retired. I'd call my Devil the Grim Reaper, but it is not merely death - it is the lack of certainty and the absence of sure outcomes. Anything may happen - hold tightly to what you love and cherish, but don't be surprised when you lose hold of it. Nobody and nothing are immune to change.
Do you have a favorite depiction of the Devil in Tarot?
My favorite depiction of the Devil was illustrated by Salvador Dali in his Tarot Universal. In this illustration, a dark, androgynous figure holds a chained butterfly. Presumably expecting to be carried into flight by a captured fantasy, the figure steps into the void completely ignorant of the hands which push it into the abyss. This is the chaos of which I speak: the person featured in this illustration is not the Devil, but is instead somebody disrupted by the Devil. Instead of flying into fantasy with illusory wings, the figure falls into the abyss. "The best laid schemes of mice and men," and what not. Because I read the Devil as the polar opposite of the Chariot, the Devil embodies a complete loss of control and inability to steer affairs in any direction at all due to factors totally outside your control. The Devil is a pusher - what'll you find after you pick yourself up from the fall? 
satanic tarot card spread
The Devil as featured in the Tarot Universal by Salvador Dali
If the Devil were somebody in the news, who would it be?
Yes... I would have to ask this during an election year, wouldn't I? This is a surprisingly difficult question! Because I read the Devil as somebody or something that is subjected to chaos and disarray and has a complete inability to achieve deliberate ends, the nearest approximation of the Devil that I see in the news is Hillary Clinton. Now, let me make a few qualifications: I do not believe that Hillary Clinton is the Devil, nor do I believe she's possessed by the Devil. Instead, it's more accurate to say that I think she's bedeviled, or struggling with disorder. You might have thought that I'd say Donald Trump is the Devil, but he doesn't seem bothered by the volatile twists and turns of the campaign at all - truth told, he seems to thrive on it. 
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, struggles to dominate the media cycle; is frequently on the defensive against the most incredible lies you can imagine; is often doing damage control against Donald Trump; and generally failing to steer her presidential chariot anywhere she wants it to go. Perhaps this will change after the debates, but for now Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign are the epitome of the Devil card: confused, disordered, attacked, disarrayed, and scattered as a result of outside interference.
If you were the Devil, what would you do?
If I were the Devil as described, I'd probably be a lost, impoverished, and damaged person. Well, to be honest, I'd probably be a lot like I was when I was struggling with un-diagnosed and un-managed mental health issues, and that was a pretty sad part of my life. But as deeply depressing as that period was, it was a pivotal time in my life that put a lot of wheels in motion which, taken as a whole, brought me to where I am today. I'm not saying that I enjoyed that period of my life, or that I think there's any value in suffering, but I am saying that without those deeply negative and unpleasant experiences, I wouldn't have as strong a sense of direction and appreciation for urgency that I do today. So I suppose all of that is to say, If I were bedeviled, I'd work very hard to find a way out of it. 
But, I guess this raises the question: if my Devil of the Tarot is only a representation of chaotic force being applied to an affair, then from whence comes this devilish influence? Since I read the Devil as the complimentary opposite of the Magician, then the answer lies there: the Magician is he or she whose work is called the Devil by those subjected to the Magician's influence. Clearly, it's better to be the one who works the magic than the one worked upon by the magic. Here's to all the magicians doing the devil's work!