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An Overview of Satanic Symbols

To: tyagi mordred nagasiva 
From: (Clifford Hartleigh Low)
Subject: Re: An Overview of Satanic Symbols
Date: Sat, 31 Dec 1994 15:34:32 -0500

>> > [To be added to the FAQ, if acceptable, in full or in part.  Suggestions
>> >  for additions to this overview would be welcome via email or posted. - tn]
>If I like, can I add your writings to this essay and credit you accordingly?
>I'm not sure I'm going to do that, but I would consider it seriously.
>> Though it isn't popular nowadays, the pitchfork symbol, though more
>> commonly associated with demons, is also a "satanic" symbol.
>Yes, my Abyss suggested that also, though I wasn't sure if I wished to
>include it as specifically 'Satanic'.  On your further recommendation and
>words in support I may add such a section, however.

Please feel free to add and credit, if you decide to do so. As for the
pitchfork symbol, I feel rather sentimental about it. I say it should be
reclaimed, though I cannot find any obvious intellectual justification for
it at the moment. Perhaps it might come to represent something
sadomasochistic or simply sexual. Then again, it could be a symbol for
Satanic sex magick. Some witch trials indicate that the copulating demons
were supposed to possess bifurcate and trifurate genetalia; the latter
could be linked up with the sublimated pitchfork symbol.

Even with the explanation of it's usage to toss the damned into a furnace,
or it's usage as a torture device, I have always found depictions of demons
with pitchforks to be somewhat surreal. Replacing the pitchfork with a hoe
or rake, or even a five-foot glistening black toothbrush might convey the
oddity of the demon with pitchfork. Then again, it seems appropriate that
such implements would be chosen by a culture that was agrarian, and saw
spirituality in farming metaphors. (And here come some ideas I've had
lately on that topic).

The Tao Te Ching says that the Tao is like the hole at the center of a
wheel- seemingly vacuous but totally essential. In a similar way, the
Satanic image has been the pivotal, but endlessly metamorphic axle upon
which Xian culture has rotated. The beauty of the metamorphic quality of
Satan to me is this: While Xianity consistantly demanded the image of
Heaven and God be consistant and orthodox, the value of the diabolic became
that of the dynamic.

The eternal and _universal_ (though certainly not only) value of the
diabolic image is it's capacity to serve "the people" in religions where
those very same people existed to fatalistically serve the image of the
divine. Satan's image, by being an omnipresent reflection of insecurity and
the unknown, remained the only outlet for the expression of the medievals,
when creative expression of the divine was punishable as heresy. When the
static God demanded conformity of vision, the exclusionary nature of His
opposite (ironically) bred diversity and vitality.

This I believe can explain the contrasting robustness of experimentalism in
the "Hell" panel of Bosch's Millenium, when compared with the less Eden and
Paradise panels; as well as similar antecedents in Breughel and true
medieval art.

Also, the image of Satan as a nature god- partularly tied to the less PC
aspects of Pan- needs to be re-emphasized. In an agrarian culture, the city
of royals represents Heaven, the fields represent the earth, and the
wilderness represents Hell. Pan was a rapist, and viscerally insane god.
During the medieval period he had fused with Priapus and Dionyseus, but had
also become linked with the Celtic leader of the Wild Hunt and the Slough
(a similar band of goblins and the damned that stalked the night). The new
role of Pan was that of the Hunter who had gone too far and become a Wild
Thing himself, now leading spectres and dark elves on hunts for human
souls. This diabolic image of the dark hunter is so pervasive, that it
could be found in nearly every area where the warning "don't go out after
sundown, particularly on this strange night" was spoken.

The dark hunter probably is rooted in one of the abandoned gods of the dead
whose dionysean cult had died out long before the Romans came to the
British Isles. His hunt for souls probably was the pre-reaper image of
Death. I suspect that the folklore of not answering doorknocks until the
second or third attempt was based upon his supposed manner of collecting
the elderly, by softly tapping once at the window or the door. The
discovery of farmers who had wandered late at night, but had been killed
before dawn by robbers or a stroke may have been explained as a
misfortunate run in with the dark hunter's cadre.

As Celtic worship faded out under Roman rule, and as legends followed the
trade links out to Scandinavia, the dark hunter became well knows while
becoming more brutal in affect. He became trickier and more deceptive, and
effectively formed the closest thing to a devil a pre-xian society could
have. It bears note that in many cultures, the Angel of Death and the Devil
are the same (example, medieval Judaism; Samael). By the time Xianity came
to these countries, it was easy to transform the middle eastern fiery hell
into a dark forest, and the tricky dark angel into the hungry black hunter.

It was in the interests of Xianity to satanize all things Roman and
heathen. The obsession that medieval Xianity had with Imperial Roman
society made the link between the brutal Pan and the savage dark hunter
inevitable. Xian europe had cast the earth mother as the demonic Astaroth,
and the god of death and the underworld as you-know-who. The wheel of
agrarian culture continued to turn, but the axle at the center continued to
metamorphose and further reject the wild aspects of nature.

Similarly, the image of the Dragon seems to reflect a culture's feelings
about the earth, due it it's chthonic quality. While Eastern perspectives
show a strong desire to harmonize with the earth a la Feng Shui etc, their
images of the dragon are disquietingly similar to ancient middle eastern
representations of Angels- immortal & semi-divine, beautiful, ferocious,
metamorphic, formed of a broad assortment of animal parts, and frequently
both aerial and fiery in nature. The european medieval image of the dragon
(and witches as well, in a sense) by contrast was a symbol of treachery,
poison (early dragons spit gouts of venom and polluted water, not fire and
brimstone), lust & profanation (virgins), and hunger; images that describe
the medieval concept of the alien and perverted qualities of the earth.

They saw the fertility of the fields a part of Adam's curse to till the
fields, and saw the fertile and sexual aspects of the earth as corruption.
(This kind of perspective created a emotional foundation for the Cathar
heresy to build upon). The earth became associated strongly with death;
nature was extremely difficult to guard against then and it's "wrath" was
more spoken of than it's bounty. The image of earth as death was enhanced
by the fact of burial and the myths of the lands of the dead existing below
the surface of the earth.

And that's just the extended ramble of the day.



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