The Devil in the Mirror: Satan’s racial imagery and how it emboldened my self-image

by Oma

Hello everyone, I come today with something I have been meaning to share for quite some time now. I had other things in mind to write about and thus, kept delaying this post from being created, but alas I feel that due to the significance of Juneteenth, it is a perfect time to make this happen! For those who are not aware of the importance behind Juneteenth, or perhaps not even sure what it is about, allow me to briefly explain. Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States and it is has just become a Federal holiday.

However, while this post is not about the holiday, it does have to do with race, particularly how the racial imagery of the Devil impacted my self-image. I realize that many of you lovely individuals are already aware of the history the Devil has with being synonymous to the outcast or the “other.” This is going to dive into a different element which may be more alien to some, so I felt it was necessary for us to have an exposure of perspectives, mainly with regards to the symbolism of Satan, because at the end of the day it will help us realize why we, as Satanists, truly have sympathy for the Devil.

That said, I will be covering a few specific things here as it all pertains to my main idea. I would like for us to take a brief look into the value placed in religious art when it comes to certain colors. We will also go over the way our subconscious mind could get affected by racial imagery, and finally I will spend a bit of time exposing you all to my self-reflections. So, while this post might include some serious topics, I would love for you all to at least gain a new perspective on our dear Satan. 

Colors in Cultural History

Colors in art play a massive role into what message gets portrayed by a given individual. There are psychological effects which are attributed to colors like red and its association to hunger, blue and its relation to calmness, and so forth. When we speak about the way art shaped the creative license of religious imagery, we must also pay attention to which colors are indeed attributed to certain mythological characters. In religious mythologies or even epic tales, you can note a certain narrative being played between a protagonist and an antagonist. Both of these characters would have a given role to play, a given feeling to portray, and thus a given color associated with them.

Now, before I dive deeper, I will acknowledge the fact that the art portrayed in religions and mythological stories cannot all be represented in a binary perspective of “good vs evil.” This is a gross misrepresentation of cultural diversity and anyone who wishes to paint this brush stroke across human history is doing a disservice to how creative we are as a species. (Looking at you Peterson!) That said, I will, for the sake of simplicity, expand on the element of blackness and how it could be synonymous with negative concepts.

“Blackness possesses an immense range of negative and fearful associations. Basically black is the color of night, when your enemies can attack you unexpectedly. Cosmogonically, blackness is chaos; ontogenically it is the sign of death and the tomb, or of the ambivalent womb. Though pallor is associated with death and hence with evil – heretics and demons are often pallid in the Middle Ages – black indicates evil in places as disparate as Europe, Africa, Tibet, and Siberia.” (Russell, 1977, pg. 66)

This excerpt comes from a book entitled The Devil, Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity by Jeffrey Burton Russell. In this quote, he details the complexity behind the concept of blackness in cultures around the world. Modern scholars, however, have noted that Russell held some personal biases regarding binary elements within color that do taint some of his conclusions. Nevertheless, he does allude to the idea we, as primates, do have an innate fear of the dark. This darkness is then perceived and personified in religious art form through the element of “blackness.”

The reason why I am spending a considerable amount of time on this is because I would like to ensure that I am not overlooking certain elements to facilitate a point. My claim is not that all depictions of blackness in culture in contrast to whiteness is inherently racist; no, my perspective is that these binary depictions were exploited to promote a racist narrative. Let’s explore this thought a bit further.

Conquering the Subconscious

Since 1492, the year when Columbus and his men crash landed on Quisqueya (now known as the Dominican Republic and Haiti), there has been a looming perception of inequality in the island. Colonialism brought forth the creation of “race” and the invading religion helped with the coercion by soothing it out in the guise of “salvation”. This history is personified with the binary elements I’ve described earlier. In this case, the christian concept of “good vs evil” is showcased as whiteness vs blackness. The exercise of excessive violence, murder, and genocide is to be subconsciously drawn as a blip in our history, because of course, the images associated to those times were of white men “discovering” and claiming land. The ones invading our land “cleansed” the darkness of the unknown with christianity. As kids taking lessons of this early Dominican period, we were always told to remember that our “history” started after 1492, that we were not a “civilization” previous to this date.

We must recall that in earlier renditions of devils and demons, they were mostly represented as bestial creatures. In some cases, you could see that medieval artists went a bit overboard with their perceptions of reptilian and winged creatures being the manifestation of pure evil. While I could spend time describing why these earlier renditions were depicted this way, what is interesting to note is how it changed over from creature to human features. It could be safely determined that it was not until the romantic period that renditions of Satan sought a shift in the devil being personified as equal to angels. This is due to the fact that the romantics, after the enlightenment, were pushing the idea of Satan as Lucifer the fallen angel. Prior to this, even if we did have the devil depicted in a humanistic perspective, it was almost always morbid with elements of prior medieval beast-like qualities.

What this means is that when Columbus came around to conquer the new world we still had a beast-like representation of what is to be considered “evil” or bad in European christian culture. Given how the indigenous population was depicted by early explorers, it is easy to draw the parallel between the creation of “race” with the artistic renderings of “evil” to the subjugated other. This is then clearer still when we notice how blackness is exemplified with the Devil after the Slave trade occurred. As the African population grew in our country to replace the absence of the Taino Indians, the subconscious assertion of supremacy was painted with the similar stroke as before: whiteness was pure, blackness was the devil. To add a final note here, we could see this manifesting more clearly in Africa where you could literally see a white jesus boxing with a black Satan. In an ironic plot twist, you also have a demon called “Muzungu Maya” in South Africa / Mozambique, this demonic figure translates to “wicked white man” and its origins are traceable to white slave catchers. How we develop an association to color is all subjective to the experiences we have and the narrative we wish to tell.

Seeing the Devil in the Mirror

The depiction of the Devil in the Dominican Republic always fascinated me as a child. I was lucky to grow up in an environment which promoted independent thought. My parents did not wish to formally introduce religion in my early life as they believed it would take away from my childhood. Due to this privileged position, I had the opportunity to view religion objectively for what it is in relation to how people reacted to it. Catholicism ran rampant in our culture and the perceptions of racial inequality via religious imagery were obvious, but only to those who did not have an obligation to respect it. Most Dominicans did not see any correlation with a dark skinned Devil being trampled by a light skinned St. Michael with the color of their skin and the history of the land they called home.

We were all meant to relate with the European history, culture, and religion. We had to remember that the goal was to be like the conquerors because they “discovered” and “built” the country. To that end, there was little to no mention of the cultural influences our African and Taino ancestors had in the development of our diverse culture. This left us with a whitewashed history we embodied as a norm. There were some salvaged elements of our African heritage masked as catholic saints; however, this practice of Santeria was quickly determined to be “black magic” and obviously associated with “Devil Worship.”


All of this push back against my Indigenous and African heritage hit a tipping point for me when I first saw the statue we have of Columbus in the capital. You can notice Columbus looking forward towards “the new world,” exemplifying his grandeur as a Taino Indian writes his name below his feet. This imagery quickly reminded me of how the dark skinned and curly haired Satan was below the feet of St. Michael. In both artistic renditions, you have a clear image of superiority and suppression. When I looked in the mirror as a child, I never saw a Columbus nor a St. Michael; I saw a curly haired and dark skinned little boy. It was the first time I sympathized with the Devil and years later, when I identified as a Satanist, I finally understood why.

Hail Satan!

Share

I’ll Smile When You’re Sterilized

By Helle Bent

Note from the Underworld: I wrote this years ago before I joined TST. Since March is the month lots of folks pretend to care about women and our contributions to society and our overall well-being, I thought I’d revisit this subject, as it pertains heavily to TST’s first four tenets: compassion, justice, autonomy, and freedom. Hail Satan, Hail Lilith, Hail Thyselves.

***

It was a passing comment about something unrelated that got my attention. Years ago on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, our beloved host mentioned that he had no idea the “catcalling” epidemic (yes it’s an epidemic) was so prevalent until he saw Hollaback!’s viral video 10 Hours Walking In NYC As a Woman.

Because it doesn’t happen to them, most men were unable to believe it was an accurate portrayal of life as a woman in New York City. I promise you, it is.

In one week (not a comprehensive list) –

– A drunk broseph-type nearly tackled me during rush hour, slurring “hey there sssshexy.”

– W. 26th Street (quiet, tree-lined, residential), weekday, lunchtime. I began to cross the street. He crossed the street too. Ok here we go… I stood behind a parked van, debating if I should cross back over and risk offending him, while he stood on the other side of the van waiting for me not caring if he risked offending me at all. I crossed back over. He yelled obscenities at me.

Weekday, lunchtime. A pungent, indigent male approached me and noisily blew me a wet kiss less than a foot from my face. My attempt to avoid him was unsuccessful. He followed me. It takes some time for that adrenaline to fade.

– While on my run one muggy Saturday morning, a male getting into his car grinned and softly said “run, run” not caring if I heard him over my headphones, which actually made it creepier. This happens A LOT. Women are not allowed to exercise in peace. (Someone once slowed his car to yell “can I race you? … HEY, I SAID ‘CAN I RACE YOU!!!?’” I had to about-face and run the other way. HE STOPPED HIS CAR. I jetted around the corner on to a busier street.)

– Summer in NYC, 150% humidity. The bricks were sweating. After a run in the park, I dunked my head under a water fountain. Jogging home, I saw two males sitting outside a store. I knew what was coming. I was right. Thank you kind sirs. I am aware of my current state but I appreciate the adjectives at that volume.

– I visited my friend in Brooklyn on a particularly hot, humid day. I complimented her outfit. “Thanks. It’s just so hot out, I don’t usually wear shorts this short because … well, you know.” And I did know.

Whether or not the “men” we encounter on the street, at the gym, on the train, at the store, will attempt to interact with us is almost irrelevant; each one is a potential threat. It’s part of the everyday existence of ALL women – cis, trans, enby, young, old, gay, straight, black, white, brown – to constantly evaluate our surroundings like a video game. Situational awareness, we’re told. Because it’s on us to not get raped or killed. We’re always on guard. We keep our heads down while assessing the path of least harassment – do we continue on and risk, at the very least, invasion of personal space, or cross the street and risk reprimand?

Men get so easily offended by women’s reactions that we have to take that into account as well, in case our “unwarranted fear” sparks retaliation. “Why you gotta be a bitch?” and “it’s a compliment! I’m just trying to talk to you!” Well, we’re just trying to not get raped, killed, or both, but we get yelled at for that too. It’s perfectly reasonable for second amendment advocates to have the “Be prepared! Protect yourself!” mentality, but for women, it’s considered by the very people who threaten us to be a hysterical overreaction. We aren’t free to live with the same reasonable expectation of safety that men have when simply going outside.

On our way to a restaurant one evening, my then-boyfriend (a miserable and selfish narcissist) took my hand and asked why I was so tense. We were about to cut right through a group of five males who were talking in the middle of the sidewalk, an action to which he didn’t give a second thought (must be nice). “Instinct” I replied. “Can’t help it.” It mystified me that I had to explain this to him. I took for granted that men knew about this. But why would he, a dude who has not once been on the receiving end of this harassment, have any idea why I was bracing myself?

“See? Nothing happened.”

“BECAUSE YOU’RE HERE!!!” I yelled at a completely reasonable volume. Seriously fuck that guy.

The conspiracy theorist in me thinks the men who behave this way are trying to keep this little pastime a secret from less predatory men in order to make women seem delusional and hysterical. Like we are children madly swearing to the existence of an ogre under the bed. Or, more likely, the antiquated social convention of women belonging to the men they’re with is the only deterrent these evolutionarily impeded bipeds can respect.

Generally, I am not one to keep quiet. But women who speak their minds can and do get hurt. I’ve too often experienced the aftermath of telling males to go fuck themselves, so I no longer do it. For my safety. A male once pretended, loudly and with exaggeration, to chase after me as I continued down Bleecker Street. He wanted to make sure I knew my safety was up to him. When I turned around, he stared at me and laughed. His friends laughed. Because I was afraid. This is not an unusual occurrence. Most men are simply unaware because it doesn’t happen to their loved ones in front of them, nor do the women in their lives relay these experiences every single time they happen. It’s just part of life.

ASK THEM. Ask your femme-identifying loved ones if what I’m saying is true.

When these events happen, it’s an act of aggression. It’s blatant, violent misogyny. It’s verbal assault.

Verbal rape.

We feel violated. We tense up.

Adrenaline shoots through our veins because our fight or flight senses involuntarily kick in and we wonder, will he or won’t he? Am I in actual danger this time?

I wish I could scream at him, ask him which of his useless parents taught him to treat human beings this way, ask him why he has to do this, why he thinks it’s ok to yell at me. I’ve done nothing to him. But that would provoke him and literally my life and my body are on the line here.

In that ONE SECOND, we know what we’re being told. We don’t matter, we are objects for his entertainment, not human beings, and we don’t deserve respect.

He’s an asshole with physical power over me and it’s 100% up to him whether he uses it or not. I am at his mercy.

He’s disgusting, sleazy, vile, and now I have an overwhelming need to punch things and cry. I want to rip out his eyes so he can’t look at another woman like that, but I’m powerless because in a physical altercation he will win.

Will this be the one time I don’t get to walk away?

I have to keep my mouth shut. I HATE that I have to keep my mouth shut.

Oh and now he’s calling me a bitch! He just said he wanted to get with me!

It’s frustrating, being silenced through the threat of physical violence by someone who isn’t worth a damn and thinks women are merely his dick receptacles.

All of these thoughts go through our heads in the one second we become aware that we might have to cross the street. Every. Day. It’s exhausting.

So don’t fucking tell us to smile.

I wrote these words down so that men know. So that women don’t have to try to verbalize this every time someone tells us we’re being too sensitive. Yes, it’s been said, but it needs to be said over and over and over because it’s not stopping (I was told I’d miss it when it stops). We need to keep the spotlight on patriarchal rape culture and refuse to dim it just because men are sick of hearing about it. I promise women are sick of it too. But for women it doesn’t go away when we stop talking about it. Ideally, society will evolve away from these disgusting, toxic behaviors, but for now, honestly, I’d be happy with “men” just keeping their wordholes shut when I walk by. Please just let me exist in peace.

Miscarriages of justice like rapist Brock Turner and his laughably short sentence plainly and painfully show that it’s not a priority to hold people accountable (especially if they’re white) for their actions against women (especially women of color and gender non-conforming women).

So, #NOTALLMEN, hear me:

If you truly want to reveal yourselves as the good guys, understand how we feel, how we live, and keep your eyes open for those in your gender group who betray you. It’s often not obvious to women which assholes are all talk and which will get violent. So we disengage and simply keep quiet. We keep walking. Understand this, do not selfishly and ignorantly get offended by this, and know women are just trying to stay alive. If this offends you, or if you do nothing to correct this behavior, you’re not the “goody guy” you think you are, and you, too, may go fuck yourself.

Share

It All Comes Down To This: Lupercalia, Love, and Legalities

by Seignioress

In celebration of Lupercalia and Valentine’s Day I would like to share with you a different perspective of love and marriage, through the eyes of a law student who saw beauty where no one would expect to find it and even fewer would look—in a judicial opinion.

Marriage is viewed as a fundamental right by our government.  Two of the most notable Supreme Court cases establishing this right are Loving v. Virginia (1967) and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015).

Loving v. Virginia ruled that state laws banning interracial marriage are unconstitutional.  In the judicial opinion, Chief Justice Warren said that “[t]he freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”  I want to acknowledge that the institution of marriage is sometimes seen as heteronormative and that marriage does not have a monopoly on love, commitment, or family.  However, for those to whom it is meaningful, Justice Warren is right, “marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival.”  Which must be why the Lovings drove to DC and Jim Obergefell and his late husband John Arthur flew to Maryland—to promise their lives to each other in states that would recognize them.

Everyone has heard of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), whether or not they realize it.  Obergefell was the landmark decision that established the right to same-sex marriage under the Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law.  “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity without the state interfering.” This includes the right to be with and to marry a person of the same sex.

Many people don’t know the story of Jim Obergefell and John Arthur and even fewer have read the beautiful Supreme Court decision that recognized their marriage after John Arthur’s death.

Obergefell and Arthur had been together for 20 years when Arthur was diagnosed with ALS.  The couple lived in Ohio which did not allow same-sex marriage and Arthur was unable to travel, he was dying.  Their friends and families raised $13,000 so that they could fly to Maryland on a medical plane.  They flew from Ohio to Maryland to get married on the tarmac at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport and leave.  Arthur died three months later, and the State of Ohio refused to recognize Obergefell as his husband, so he sued…and won marriage equality for us all, whether we choose to use it or not.

___

“It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage.  Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves.  Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law.  The Constitution grants them that right.”

___

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion for Obergefell and I was struck by this remarkable Supreme Court decision, not only because of what it did, but also because of its poetry.  It was not merely another stuffy Fourteenth Amendment opinion—it was beautiful.

Sweet words on love and marriage are often found in romantic poetry, tender prose, and the sweetest music—the kind that can steal your breath and make your heart beat faster.  When an author can sweep an audience away by exposing the passion and longing in their heart in an intimate communion with the reader, it feels like falling in love.  No one would ever have guessed that a Supreme Court decision authored by an old republican Catholic judge would include, alongside the law, poetry.

If you cut out the legal analysis and keep what Justice Kennedy says about love and marriage, it can be strung together and sculpted into something amazing, maybe even worthy of wedding vows.  I doubt that I am the first person to see this, but here is my version.  The vast majority of the following text is directly quoted from the Obergefell opinion with minor changes to make it flow better.  As an aesthetic choice, I did not use quotation marks or brackets.

I will not acknowledge the dissenting opinions further than saying that the best thing about a Scalia dissent is that he’s dead.

___

Obergefell v. Hodges, Adapted

There are untold references to the beauty of marriage in religious and philosophical texts spanning time, cultures, and faiths, as well as in art and literature in all their forms.

From their beginning to their most recent page, the annals of human history reveal the transcendent importance of marriage.  The lifelong union of spouses always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life. Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm.  Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons.  Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations.

Choices about marriage shape an individual’s destiny.  It fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity.  Civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.

The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality.  This is true for all persons.  There is dignity in the bond between lovers who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices.

Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred.  It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects.  Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any.

The right to marry thus dignifies couples who wish to define themselves by their commitment to each other.  Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there.  It offers the hope of companionship and understanding and assurance that while both still live there will be someone to care for the other.

Just as a couple vows to support each other, so does society pledge to support the couple, offering symbolic recognition and material benefits to protect and nourish the union.

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family.  In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.  Marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.

___

Share

Lupercalia And Space Jellyfish

By Helle Bent

Happy belated New Year and Happy New Administration, dear citizens of the underworld. It is important to celebrate steps in the right direction but our work is never done. On we plow, continuing to both lead and support the revolutions against injustice. New Year’s Day seems like an eternity ago and it’s not even February.

Fight for your future but enjoy the present! Speaking of February and enjoying things…

*ahem*

Lupercalia in The Satanic Temple is a celebration of autonomy, sexual liberation, and reproduction. The Deathly Hallows of sexy time – distinct yet symbiotic.

I’ve discussed in a prior post that I am a queer Satanist who identifies as demi/gray-sexual and pan-romantic. I believe that just about anything is fair game as long as all participants consistently practice the Rule of Consent. Personally I’m aspec, but you go get yours honey. Get a lot of it.

Separately, I loathe children. I’ve successfully done everything in my power not to have them. Near me. Ever.

So where does someone like me fit into a celebration that’s draped in hedonism and fertility and the procurement of self-centric pleasure?

There are as many gender expressions and sexual preferences on this planet as there are humans, and attempting to categorize them in a finite way is a limiting behavior. The moment my brain truly got this, I feel like I had an acid-trip-style awakening.

What the sexuality and gender continuums look like inside a Helle Bent Brain:

Ever see the NASA map of the oldest light in the universe? We are floating space particles. Space jellyfish if you will! Some are happy where we are in our galaxies, on our planets, some of us are still orienting ourselves, some are way out at the edges, and some travel with astounding stamina back and forth across space and time, and you know what? It’s all fine. We just float around, some more than others, and it’s cool. It’s all cool.

Conflict arises in our trying to stay still.

Stagnant.

Static.

In an environment where floating is not only natural but beneficial.

Where pinning oneself to one location can be dangerous.

Where it takes more effort to stay frozen in space than to go with the flow.

Conflict arises when someone tells us that floating, exploration, and evolution are forbidden.

That their one corner of their one planet is the only suitable place for life because long ago someone else heard a space monster said so.

Why would I attempt to categorize every food I eat as either a Mounds bar or an Almond Joy? Sometimes I feel like a nut, sometimes I fucking don’t, and sometimes I’m on a fucking salad binge and sometimes I want a fucking chocolate chip cookie. I think I lost my metaphor. (Insert Milky Way joke…?)

My idea of sexual liberation embraces every identity, preference, body, and consensual act as equally valid and perfectly okay. Autonomy, in this context, is knowing and owning yourself, what you want, and understanding your power and your role in its acquisition. It’s the understanding that we and our paths, like fingerprints, are similar but still unique and nuanced.

This is why every last one of us belongs not only in the celebration of Lupercalia, but in our Satanic community and on this planet. My identity is my own, and I rock that shit. (Seriouslyyouguyz, I’m really cool you don’t even know.) This is what I’m celebrating. The universe is infinite, as we are, and there’s room for all of us.

I’m celebrating my liberation from the restrictions that others have placed on us. I don’t live for anyone else, just as they don’t concern themselves with living for me and my approval and my feelings. There is a freedom in owning yourself but it can’t be given to you. You have to take it.

If someone tells you that you should be a certain way, pity their willingness to remain bound inside the rusty, antiquated chains that limit life’s potential. It’s these folks and their chains who make it dangerous for us free-floating space jellyfish. Live in a way that kindly allows them to see that they are bound.

I take issue with the concept of should when reason and means are excluded from consideration. Is it in someone’s power to improve current circumstances? Are they working towards fulfilling a reasonable, healthy, and realistic expectation? If someone’s idea of what should be contradicts a resounding respect for the autonomy of others, they are bound in chains and simply complaining that others are not. Live your objection proudly.

There is no should. There is desire, and there is displeasure. There is acceptance, and there is conflict. There is determination, and there is apathy. There is oppression, and there is diversity. Seek to live deliciously, discard that which does not serve you, and do not confuse objective, concrete reality with subjective human interpretations and limitations.

Lastly, this year The Satanic Estate will have space dedicated to those who sashay along the rainbow continuum of the asexual identities. Everyone is welcome, everyone belongs.

My life is my own. Thyself is they master. A joyous and fulfilling Lupercalia to all!

Hail Satan. Hail Lilith. Hail Thyselves.

Share

Fuck 2020

By Helle Bent

image by Ric Stultz

Fuck 2020, my dear resilient heathens! Sure, there’s no rule this epic, mind-boggling horror franchise has to obey any calendar year, but the symbolism of the shared ritualistic spirit cleansing I find in New Year’s Eve brings me comfort, even if this ritual goes unacknowledged and some folks just want to get smashed. You do you, darling demons. You do you.

Part I

As the doorknob hits 2020 on the way out, please join me in a fun little Satanic mind  cleansing exercise. It shall be my honor to guide thee!

Get comfy. Picture a room in which you feel safe and cozy. 2021 is starting to brighten the room with whatever good vibes you want to assign to it, because nothing is written yet and you are in charge of your future and the energy you allow around you. Things will be ok, you can feel it. They are going to be ok. You feel the warm and illuminating Hellfire burning to a crisp the fascist theocracy that brought us to this moment. In fact, you control this Hellfire. It’s clearing the way for science to once again be valued and trusted, and it’s also keeping your feetsies nice and toasty. A happy little flame waves hello to you. You take a sip of your favorite beverage and a kind smile softens your exquisite face. (You’re a total cutie, if no one’s told you that today. Fucking adorable you are. And brilliant too!)

In your mind’s eye turn your head, and envision an open door, past which is a hallway, a supermassive black hole, strong enough to draw into it the last vile vestiges of 2020. The door will soon close, and 2020 will be but an absurd memory, a harrowing nightmare about which future generations will think we’re grossly exaggerating but we know the truth. We survived it together. We did walk uphill both ways. Barefoot. On barbed wire and ice.

The door has now slammed shut. 2020 is screaming in the hallway, having been brutally assaulted on its way out. This doorknob is the Secret Service of doorknobs, assigned to protect you from 2020 for all eternity. It’s made of hot razor blades, sticky grabby toddler-fingers, relentless Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Kars for Kids children playing that fucking song on loop. Please feel free to deck this doorknob with whatever gay apparel your mind needs to conjure. You are protected. 2020 will never get back inside and … what’s this odd feeling? Someone once called it hope I think. Your shoulders lower (lower your shoulders!). Your back muscles have released a bit. You take a deep breath and another sip of your beverage. You boop the nose of your loving familiar. Maybe you even light a candle or some sage. 2020 is gone. Whatever lies ahead, 2020 is gone. Whenever you light this candle you will remember that 2020 is in the past. You are in charge now. Set some intentions.

image from Drawception.com ( RSTD2006)

Part II

I tried my hand at writing a holiday carol for you beautiful benevolent beasts, here it goes. I hope you like it.

*ahem*

On the first night of Sol Invictus my True Self gave to me, personal sovereignty.

On the second night of Sol Invictus my True Self reminded me, get out of your own fucking way, you’re the one holding yourself back with all those lingering unhealthy life expectations that you didn’t even know were affecting you and have gone unexamined since your teenage years. Keep asking questions, keep deconstructing the decades-old flawed foundation that hasn’t been serving you. Those false and harmful ideals do not stand up to scrutiny and very clearly, Helle Bent, the non-traditional routes have had your name in lights all over them so get the fuck out of your own way.

(writer’s note: at this point I’m realizing the tempo of the original song will not work given the amount of venting that will likely flow forth since I’ve gone and tapped the brain keg so I’m just gonna run with it…)

On the third night of Sol Invictus my True Self took a pause. This year beat us all down and it’s important to find the Satanic black lining in this maelstrom of misery. Take what joy is offered up wherever it may be found. Happy you can visit the bakery down the street every day now? Hang on to that. It feels inappropriate to be happy about anything while so many are suffering, and this year is colossally awful, so if you’re excited by the amount of movies you get to watch, or are grateful to not have to endure your company holiday party this year, that’s okay. 2020: I’ll Take What I Can Fucking Get.

On the fourth night of Sol Invictus my True Self said to me, when life gives you lemons, use that lemon as a stress ball and squeeze the Hell out of it. Aim for the eyes of the person telling you to make lemonade (figuratively of course – we are a non-violent community). Not everyone likes lemonade and people should mind their own business. They don’t know your life! We are each free to do with lemons as we wish.

On the fifth night of Sol Invictus my True Self promised me … self loyaltyyyy! Four cups of coffee, three French toasts, two more months remote (at least), and knowing I always have my own baaack.

On the six hundred and sixty-sixth night of Sol Invictus (because what even is time?) my True Self granted me, one order of Cognitive Dissonance please! So, I love hair metal, I will never not love hair metal, but I’m also a feminist killjoy who will forever explain why a joke/comment/viewpoint is not funny/not appropriate/misinformed. I cannot reconcile my infernal unconditional love for the entirety of the hair metal culture with my feminist rage and I’m ok with it. Fight me on this, go ahead. I’ll squeeze a lemon in your eye and play air guitar to the melody of your hollow screams. Figuratively of course. Non-violent. Inviolable body and what have you…

On the seventh night of Sol Invictus my True Self baked some brownies, because fuck 2020 and fuck everything and HEY let’s browse Etsy for five hours! I fucking love Etsy and will soon be the proud parent of way too many Schitt’s Creek custom coaster sets. I’m not sorry. I’m a little bit Alexis.

On the eight night of Sol Invictus my True Self reassured me, as the inimitable Heath Ledger said to our boy Joseph Gordon Levitt in 10 Things I Hate About You – “don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want.” What I believe for others must hold true for myself. So it follows that if others deserve love, acceptance, and respect, so must I. Tolerance is a choice. Hypocrisy a disease of character. Nineties movies a wickedly divine gift to us all.

On the ninth night of Sol Invictus my True Self granted me, the freedom to own myself without apology. Little Helle Bent genuinely didn’t know that being this fucking magnificent was even an option. Instructions back then were: choose a mold, pour yourself in, fit as best you can, ignore what doesn’t fit. It’s our duty to add our existences to the unending list of acceptable options for people still figuring themselves out. Visibility and representation are invaluable. There is infinite magic in diversity. Hail yourselves. Live loud and proud. For the children!

On the tenth night of Sol Invictus my True Self reconfirmed, those claiming to love you should love and support you as you are. People who love you actively care if you are happy. Toxic environments can hide in the most desirable of places but you don’t have to tolerate disrespect and abuse of any kind just because someone claims to love you. Mark Wahlberg claimed to love Reese Witherspoon in that Fear movie but none of that was any sort of okay.

On the eleventh night of Sol Invictus my True Self made a list. I will always feel differently after the following activities: A good night’s sleep. A shower. A walk outside. When in doubt, change my scenery. This has proven consistently, demonstrably true.

On the twelfth night of Sol Invictus my True Self finally realized, Below Deck and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills are wonderful television. I’m late to most trends. I’ve been on a Jersey Shore Family Vacation for years.

On the thirteenth night of Sol Invictus my True Self went to bed. It is exhausting being me.

Good night, good morrow, be excellent to each other, and for the love of rosemary’s baby please let this New Year be a happy one.

Hail Satan. Hail Lilith. Hail Thyselves.

Greetings from Schitt’s Creek
Share

I Am Helle Bent’s Need To Elucidate

By Helle Bent

A felicitous November to all our merry mischief makers! The struggle for justice is ongoing, and though things are far from perfect, we can’t begin to clean up the china shop until the rampaging bull(shit) is removed. With the election behind us, I hope that our shop can once again have nice things. I like nice things. I miss nice things. Sigh.

Happiest of birthdays to November and December babies! Hail thyselves! May you each find unique and glorious ways to celebrate yourselves independently of any upcoming holiday. I refer to this time of year as The Winter Gauntlet due to all my familial obligations. It’s tough to not shrink in my spotlight when my family reminds me of all the skins I’ve managed to shed. I envision a circle of flames around me, scorching any questionable energy on its way to me before it can take shape, a fiery bouncer at the door of the House of Helle Bent. No, ye shall not enter.

Hi! I am a queer Satanist. My social and political values are fabulously frolicking on the left side of the spectrum, where I think everyone should come over and play. (We have cookies!) Equality and justice and compassion do not negatively impact the already fortunate. I pity those so scornful of others’ happiness. But this isn’t about them.

Generally, I identify as queer. For those familiar with the nuance, the terms demi/gray-sexual pan-romantic most closely describe me. However, I find that lots of (non-Satanic) straight folks (like my parents) really only care if you’re straight or not-straight. So queer is fine. Bi or pan is fine, depending who is asking and how much energy I feel like putting into the explanation. Drunk frat bro sidling up next to me? Gay, I’m totally, fully 100% gay. While it’s true I hate everyone, I can fall in love with anyone. Sex, though, is a completely different story, I’ve come to learn.

The ideas that sexuality and gender expression are more fluid than rigid had not yet come out (so to speak) when I was in high school. There was gay, straight, and sometimes bi. Asexual folks were rare peculiarities who would likely live and die oblivious to the fun they were missing. No spectrums, no varying degrees. No split attraction model. No mention of gender identity vs. sex organs. Everything was defined simply by the penis-vagina binary.  

I am on the asexual spectrum. The attraction I feel is random and has more to do with the idea of connection than a person’s reproductive organs or gender identity (although I do prefer expressions outside the stereotypical binary). Sex can be fun but it’s simply not a need I have in order to be happy. It’s usually more of a responsibility I feel to satisfy my partner. I didn’t know this about myself for an embarrassingly long time. My physical, platonic, social, aesthetic, romantic, and emotional attractions to individuals and various types of people have always been exclusive of one another and all over the place, like throwing a box of darts into a hurricane. I did my very best to categorize them in a way that made sense to me but nothing felt fully correct. I wasn’t gay (because I’d know by now, right?) and bi didn’t feel right either, so I must be straight. Yes! As straight as a serpent’s tail. I like the boys! Yes. Yes I totally like the boys. Absolutely. It’s rainin’ men! Hallelujah! It’s ew no get that thing away from me.

And I did like the boys. Kinda. I had enough crushes to pack Satan’s army and overthrow the heavens before lunch, but I lacked any contrafactual context in which to examine my premature and incomplete conclusion: that I wasn’t gay, because there wasn’t an active, definable, and sexually-motivating attraction to my own gender. However the absence of one does not imply the presence of the other. Had I bothered to honestly reflect on whether that missing attraction to my gender was present for another one, my life would have been vastly different. What was I feeling? And how does one even go about proving the existence of an absence? I’ll ask god…

My inability to differentiate and develop my need for connection from my idea of what physical attraction should feel like caused me to fall into step with those who seemed to have everything figured out. Fake it ‘til you make it. Literally! Assuming my happily ever after had a penis, I was on a quest to find the one that would spark in me this elusive drive that had all the sexy people on the prowl. Yes, me too! I also constantly desire the male appendage, hubba hubba! Let us ALL delight in its … pointiness? Honestly, I was just getting drunk and going through the motions, hoping to land on a penis that didn’t bore me after however many test drives. And boy did I test drive. The assumption of an eventual desire for the clichéd heteronormative endgame (a desire still unknown to me to this day) informed my navigation. Without an active and identifiable pull to any particular private part (which is what I assumed I was looking for), I had nothing leading me off of this well-worn path. I was asking the wrong questions and looking for Mr. Good-Enough-I-Guess… (while blaming alcohol for the occasional Ms.)

At this juncture I’d like to point out two things.

First, a reminder, my beloved beasts, that where I grew up in Jesusland, misguided categorizations and sexual repression were encouraged. In fact, it was a rather convenient license to ignore any feelings (or question any lack thereof) that I couldn’t classify – what I thought was my sexual dysfunction I simply chalked up to residual faith-based brainwashing. Most of the queer folks in my circle have known relatively early in life that there is something distinct inside them they had to identify and understand. That thing that guided their spirit towards a more colorful unknown – I didn’t have it. I wanted it. At least something might make sense. I felt like my compass was broken, the needle just spinning and spinning. If sexuality were a choice, I’d have chosen.

Second, alcohol was a game-changer. It allowed me to pretend I was having a blast while ignoring this one crucial detail on my path towards self-realization. My chosen carefree lifestyle deceptively equated to independence and happiness. The reality was that I was a mistress of denial and deflection. I was amassing life experiences and wisdom, filling the shelves in the Helle Bent Hall of Records, Recollections, and Anarchist Archives, but leaving one corner unadorned and unlit. Nothing’s there, this room only has three corners, nothing to see here, look a squirrel! I was actively closing my eyes and would soon outright lie to myself, silencing and internalizing my fears that I’d never have a successful, healthy relationship if I didn’t want to have sex with the person I thought I loved. Instead, I got blind drunk every night. Figuring my shit out was less urgent when I couldn’t even see my feet below me. It’s tough to forgive myself for this. I haven’t, yet.

Relying on destiny is the crutch of the timid. Being a Satanist, I do not subscribe to the idea of fate and I have no one to blame but myself for my blindness and inaction. The ghost of my inability to step fully into my spotlight will haunt me for quite some time. I may not have known what I was looking for or how to find anything I needed, but I inadvertently denied myself the honest exploration required to be comfortable with this kind of personal growth. It was easier to stay where I was, drunk, in relationships that weren’t right for me, than to do the work to break out of the ill-fitting mold I poured around myself.

So. What happened?

The traditional girl meets girl love story. I fell in love with a woman and that was that. No more rationalizing, excusing, or deflecting. The “I don’t need a label I’m just me! who knew?” period lasted about a day until I realized that stance was just a vehicle to further my denial. My card catalog of a brain (are card catalogs still a thing?) needed to know what this meant. For me, being head over heels in love was just the beginning. Something was still missing and I felt like an imposter in the queer community begging for acceptance somewhere… anywhere. Where the Hell did I fit in? Too queer for the heteros, too straight for the gays, too old to be only going through this now.

Here’s the thing about labels and definitions. When they’re created for the better understanding of subtle nuances in broader concepts, I believe them to be life-changing. They give names and legitimacy to ideas we didn’t even think existed. We are the ones who then assign rules and boundaries to their meanings. They describe us, they don’t define us. When I read a description for an attraction that included the phrase “regardless of, not because of, gender identity” I finally felt like I might be on to something. A dim light flickered in that empty corner. I had direction and a name. Ignoring outright both gender and sex, I could start the fuck over. What asshole drew this line in the sand and told me not to step over it? Oh me? I did it to myself? Oh. Ok cool. Um … well shit, this is embarrassing.

I write all this now with the freedom bestowed upon me through the daily vanquishing of my diminishing fucks. Through Satanism I’ve learned to examine the dark corners without fear. What matters is truth, and any value I assign to its meaning is my own doing. My desire to simply find my people, my community, my Self, to honestly and comfortably identify myself as anything at all, propelled me to jump headfirst into various molds, attempting to liquify my being so that I’d fit, like a cat in a glass vase. This was fucking exhausting and I was going about it all wrong. Please, oh Dark Lord of the Underworld, for the love of glamour and spectacle, do not let it be the one thing I don’t want it to be!

Well, it most certainly was that one thing and it was about to sit me down for a chat.

“You are who you are and you want what you want. Why are you making yourself miserable?” It was the last uncovered part of me staring right back at me. My identical twin – a total stranger. I was someone who always swore allegiance to myself, and I felt betrayed. Not only did I have to make sense of and accept an identity on the asexual spectrum, I had to come to terms with having somehow avoided this identity for as long as I had, only to insert myself into the queer community, mid-conversation, demanding full membership perks like I’d been to every monthly meeting since I was 12.

The stunning expanse of the sexuality and asexuality continuum finally in focus, I realized this whole sex and gender thing – it’s not an all-or-nothing game. The only rule is there are no rules … except the Rule of Consent, that is a very important rule, please always follow this rule without exception. My attractions and requirements ebb and flow like a symphony and as long as I acknowledge this, I find no conflict.

Humans do not have to fit into a mold. Words and categories are here to accommodate us and further our understanding of ourselves. If you have not yet found the perfect word, then we need more words. I am me, and I choose how much of anything applies to me in any given moment. I am a continuum. I am an evolution. I am a queer Satanist. Nothing has felt more correct since I was in fourth grade and first heard You Gave Love A Bad Name.

I am also stuck. I have finally grown into the person I am to be and there is one last hurdle hovering in front of me: forgiving myself for wasted years. Accepting my journey as a valid one simply because it’s the one that is. I have to make peace with the time I can’t get back. I have to cancel the false narrative that if I belonged here in the queer community my ride to this party would have been a shorter one. It catches me in my throat sometimes – this fear that I’ll be found out, rejected, and returned to the heteros just to be assigned to a beer-drinking suit-wearing penis-having cis dude who calls people “Broseph” and belches the alphabet just so that I can chauffeur his offspring back and forth from Jesus Camp while he is at work doing businessy things and having “work drinks” with his gorgeous and clever colleague who wants to have sex with him and understands his needs, unlike his wife … (Not that there’s anything wrong with regular straight-people sex if that’s your thing! I just don’t want to have it shoved in my face…)What do I tell your kids, RUTHERFORD Q. CHADDINGTON THE THIRD?? Unholy Mother of Satan please don’t send me back there!!

I am a work in progress. I am Jack’s Inflamed Sense of Rejection.

Next on my Pandemic To Do List: get the fuck out of my own way.

A Satanic Incantation for the upcoming season:

May we stand wholly in our beings, in our spotlights, protected and radiant in the flames of the discarded, having no need for that which does not serve us.

May Lucifer’s light illuminate what we cannot see.

May we trust ourselves and take pride in all that we are, knowing that it is enough.

May we never forget to show ourselves the compassion we so quickly extend to our loved ones.

May we use our voices to remind others that no one is alone. We are each unique within our broader collective. Someone has already survived what we are going through.

Hail Satan. Hail Lilith. Hail Thyselves.

Share

Doomsday Prepping For The Satanic Dominion And Other Birthday Musings

By Helle Bent

Greetings and salutations righteous rebels! Get out your leather jackets, hoodies, capes, scarves, and combat boots and rock that shit like we got somewhere to go because it’s FALL! Perfect weather for an upcoming doomsday election, eh?

Autumn in New York is wickedly sublime despite our entering the eighth month of a pandemic. (I can’t believe that’s a real and true sentence I just wrote.) But in good news, we Scorpios (and soon Sagittarii!) are about to celebrate the successful completion of another go around the sun. Hail Fall Children! Each year I honor all things Helle Bent with an unapologetic month-long observance including various Festivities Of Indulgence and daily treats dedicated to falling in love with myself all over again. I send myself gifts with adoring notes and I refuse to acknowledge any grief over calories or how I choose to spend my time and money (usually books, meals, candles, and jewelry). Other joys include my annual spa appointment, daily compliments in the mirror (of course), and wearing with pride the more dramatic outfits that rarely see actual daylight. I also make sure to do at least one nice thing for someone else (usually a stranger) every single day. It’s an enchanting time to be alive.  

The annual HelleBender rejects all things undesirable. I do this because I can. It is up to me to celebrate myself in a way I deserve. Everyone should do this, you are worth celebrating! You’ve survived SO MUCH! Each person deserves the right to at least one day meant just for them, and fuck waiting on other people to give you what you can better provide for yourself. This is one of few certainties in my cold dead heart and why I love birthdays so much. As Satanists we are the architects of our environments, our castles, our dominions, and we are the gatekeepers and conductors of the energy within its walls and borders. Do no harm, take no shit, decorate with deliciously pretty things.

Wear autumn’s decay like a perfume … – @prvserpine

As the date of my birth falls in early November, I’d like to reflect for a moment on the time I turned [censored] in the year of their misunderstood if not entirely fabricated lord 2016. The day was overcast and somber, both in weather and mood. My poor hungover fingers fumbled for the power button on the remote to make sure I hadn’t imagined it all. HelleBender 2016 was coming to a close and my act of self-compassion that day would be to stay home and mourn with a mimosa. A friend sent me flowers. Another adamantly insisted I meet her for dinner. The city had the dejected vibe I’d only ever felt after 9/11.

Social media sponsored the stunning reveal of people’s true natures, helping me skim the shitty ones as their unbridled hate floated them to the top of the pool. I saw that an entire society needs to agree on a basic bottom line for decency, otherwise those deficient in shame and personal accountability will pillage, without regret, all that they can. Having been left standing naked alongside the emperor, the reality set in that ethics are voluntarily self-imposed and essentially imaginary, so when consequences are removed, things no longer have meaning. Nothing matters. Chaos and evil reign over conscience, and the unethical emerge victorious never having to answer for their assaults on humanity. It was also the year I bought my first-ever refrigerator, I learned how to fix a leaky faucet, and I switched from regular manicures to gel.

HelleBender 2017 hailed a milestone birthday. Shedding the last of my fucks, I proudly entered what would be a life-changing year to kick off my new devilish decade. I fell in love with someone who managed to carefully revive my joyless atrophied heart, and whose personal demons would work tirelessly below my radar towards eventually breaking and burying it once again. (I never imagined I’d be able to sum up that relationship into one sentence, and yet, here we are.)

The interesting thing about personal triumphs and tragedies is that they don’t cease to consume a person amidst the backdrop of more vivid societal ones. Life goes on, as they say. Even though we were lost in a fire swamp of fascism, the country now run by a vile ROUS in a red hat, I still had a broken heart, laundry, and mortgage payments to attend to. The world’s rapid descent into disorder simultaneously added to and put into perspective both the importance and the precariousness of my own everyday existence. (I know, that’s a lot.) Further, the idea that it was entirely up to me to decide how I would navigate through my fog was empowering. You are not taking this wheel from me, not today Jesus! Anyway he and his holy spirit buddy were busy manipulating sports games (as is my understanding) and idly watching American officials torture, kill, and forever traumatize entire populations at the border. I was busy watching whatever movies my poor brooding heart needed in that moment.

If I’m to heal (and hail!) myself while helping to save the world from evil self-proclaimed christians and their criminally abhorrent godliness, well, this requires a stamina that cannot be sustained if the House of Helle Bent exists in disarray. In other words – put the oxygen mask on yourself before attending to your needy kid. Take care of yourselves, darling demons! You can’t go very far in a car with no gas. The world needs you rested and hydrated and ready to kick ass.

Being an introvert who requires an absurd amount of alone time to recharge, it unsettled me back in 2019 to learn that, after the gruesome bludgeoning of my delicate heart(I’m fine!), my tried-and-true tricks ceased to provide any refuge. There was a hole in my gas tank. I was neither rested nor hydrated and I felt heavy and slow and broken. My body was a cinder block sinking into a sea of tears and alcohol. (I said I’m ok!) Time stood still, and I eventually realized that all I had to do was exist. Time was actually on my side as long as I stopped fighting it, like those maddening automatic rotating doors with the “do not push” stickers. Fuckers. I WANT TO PUSH. This awareness meant I could relax a bit, however impatiently, in my bubble with the reluctant trust that I never let myself drown. I’d be ok eventually. If only the country weren’t ablaze with venom and lunacy. Sigh.

A months-long rip current of mourning, self-medication, and hazy introspection finally spit me back out into the real world where, you guessed it! The shitshow was getting progressively shittier. If you were waiting for a happy ending, 1) I don’t do those, and 2) we haven’t even gotten to 2020 yet. Buckle up blasphemous buttercups. Your Helle Bent is broken-hearted, hungover, dizzy and disoriented, with heavy eyes and leaden limbs, and still has fucking bills to pay, plants to water, and a job to keep.

The prospect of a less than stellar HelleBender 2019 undoubtedly helped trigger my gradual resuscitation. This particular year warranted some heavy duty artillery to keep my emotional adversaries in check. Repeated attempts to remind myself how fucking spectacular I am would eventually bring back the familiar feelings of optimism and self-appreciation to the House of Helle Bent (which is really a castle but I adore alliteration). Drawn shades and windows were opening. A bat flew out of the attic and into the kitchen and made me some tea. A selection of woodsy-scented alter candles were lighting themselves beside the cozy fire in Satan’s Fireplace and Pillow Pit (in the southern wing, opposite the Solarium of Sins). When everyone fails, I always have me. And I am reliably awesome. But sometimes a spirit needs to rest.

2020. The year that is also a curse word and an adjective. What can I possibly say that cannot be more poetically illustrated by any number of memes? 2020 can go fuck itself. With that, I’m choosing to think it will also turn out to be the year we each learn that we are capable of feats once thought impossible. I am also choosing to pluck some flowers out of the flaming radioactive horseshit so, if you’ll indulge me for a moment, a whiskers-on-kittens type of list to shift the focus from the ghastly apocalyptic scenery to a more serene perspective.

Helle Bent’s List of Still OK Things in 2020

1. Coffee. And tea. But in this moment, coffee. Specifically, the mug I just put down so I can type this.

2. Art, artists, and creative outlets. (thank you all for reading the self-indulgent pile of words that spills out of me.)

3. Music. My favorite bands. Prancing around my living room like an idiot.

4. My Satanic Siblings. Our super cool and good-looking community.

5. Tattoos.

6. People who rise from the chaos, unafraid of speaking truth to power. Hail the rebels and unlikely heroines.

7. Dark chocolate fudge brownies.

8. Hysterical laughter, especially in inconvenient places, and the people who laugh with you.

9. Our furry familiars. Love to the animals.

10. Videos of children falling down. Always funny.

11. Presents. Giving and getting.

12. Books.

13. A clear night sky.

Feel free to add a few. Now that you’re all warm and fuzzy…

I’m infernally grateful for the Luciferian cards that were dealt to me. Ongoing unspeakable atrocities are happening at this very moment and they could be happening to you or me, if we were born one second earlier or later. That said, gratitude doesn’t pay my bills or knock sense into my elderly republican parents, and I’m sick of having to qualify each concern with “at least it’s not worse.” For the past four years, every picture of my life has been photobombed by an orange dumpster-fire. These few years are so notable, they’re going to bookend every thought, experience, and memory in the Helle Bent Hall of Records, Recollections, and Anarchist Archives. (Located past the Pillow Pit, through the Devil’s Doorway into the east wing. Keep LEFT at the pitchfork, not RIGHT. I am not cleaning that up again.) You will find “Before 2016” to the left, aglow in the morning sun. 2016-2019 will be on your right underneath the “verboten” sign. 2020/Covid has its own shelf in Lorraine and Ed Warren’s artifacts room that even Annabelle won’t go near. For the love of all the news involving republican christian leaders being disgraced by their gay extramarital affairs, pleeease let 2020 be the last flaming bookend. I want a shelf not covered in cheeto dust and ashes.

The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions. – TST Tenet II

We have one last chance to make sure we don’t feel the devastation we felt four years ago. One last chance to make sure the next four years don’t work their way into the opening sentences of hundreds of thousands of more eulogies. Truth and integrity have to count for something and humans have to matter. The voting process, like human decency, requires universal participation or it doesn’t mean anything. The bad guys win. We let our communities down if we don’t count ourselves among them – it’s an all or nothing game. Satanists have a societal obligation, a civic duty if you will, to use our voices and our votes to speak up against injustice. Do it for RBG, her successor, the country, and everyone who is fighting harder for all of us than even we are. If our votes weren’t important then they wouldn’t try so blatantly hard to suppress them. Don’t give them what they want. Don’t be ok with their dismissal of anyone. YOU FUCKING MATTER.

From behind the veil of New York City heat and humidity, HelleBender 2020 eagerly awaits its cue for a grand entrance (it’s a diva, and refuses to get out of bed when it’s over 62 degrees). I fully intend on maintaining my observances as scheduled and I may have even started early this year (not sorry, I love books and yes I needed all of them). Will this be the year I finally try something pumpkin-spiced?? It’s never a bad day to be kind to yourself, even and especially in an apocalypse. Blinding deafening chaos outside requires a sturdy serenity inside. Light those candles. Get that house in order. Enjoy the crisp breezes, bright leaves, and piercing screams of anarchy this exquisite time of year brings. Visit your local bookstore!

Separately, remember that voluntary inaction when something is within your control (like voting!) is an active choice relieving you of any rights to complain about anything ever again. Silence benefits the oppressor just as lazy, shameful “protest votes” benefit the winner. Vote like it’s a middle finger to the last four years and to anyone who ever tried to shut you up. Vote early and in person if you can.

Happy birthday fall children! May the world right itself soon, may fascism stumble into a deep open grave (with spikes at the bottom), and may the hateful RedHats follow it in there (metaphorically of course). May we work as a collective to promote justice and achieve the desired outcome, and may we be able to look back and say we did the right thing as best we could. Here’s hoping HelleBender 2020 ends on a high note. (Also it’ll be my first sober one so please vote, I can’t do these four years over again.) Now, I have some candles to light and books to jump into …

Hail Satan. Hail Lilith. Hail thyselves.

Share

My Abortion, Gaslighting, and YES! Abstinence Pledge Cards!

Art by Waganetka

By Helle Bent

Hello again sizzling Satanists!

Well isn’t 2020 turning out to be the 45th Presidency of years? Full of insufferable creatures hostile towards life and any display of sensibility. Holy motherforking shirtballs what I wouldn’t give for some good news. I’m so close to giving up that I’ve exhumed my oversized Genesee Cream Ale t-shirt from 1997, made from 100% abrasive cotton, pet hair, and ice cream stains, so that I can at least do my giving up in appropriate dress.

So. In 1999 I had an abortion. (Forgive me, did you need a segue?) In 1999 I became pregnant, I did not want to be pregnant, so I had an abortion. In 1999 I began the moral transition from my “Christian” anti-abortion (anti-everything) upbringing to my more exploratory phase, since life may have proven a bit more complex than I was originally taught. 1999 was a notable year (still no 2020 though, seriously Holy Hell what is going ON??).

For the unindoctrinated: Making god angry is very very bad. Obey the rules: eternal bliss. Ask questions and it’s straight to Hell with you … Not in this life, no… uh, next one, after this one. Honestly, it’s brilliant. Ensure obedience by preying on people’s fears and senses of entitlement and elitism, and promise rewards impossible to redeem. Speaking of brilliantly conceived stories, um hey Joseph? What exactly happened with your wife again?

To briefly set the scene: 1990s, I fell into the cult of Jesus because I found out churchy things were the only activities that didn’t elicit Murder She Wrote type scrutiny from my mother, and my life goal was to be left alone for like a minute. The youth group at my best (okay, only) friend’s church offered escape via opportunities like volunteering, field trips, and overnight retreats – all places my parents weren’t, but other cool teens were! Turns out my elation over my newfound independence made me an enthusiastic disciple, furloughing my naturally curious spirit for the time being. Of my two choices, Jesus was where the party was at, and this happiness was evidence enough for me that the holy spirit was doing its thing. Freaks and Geeks fans – I was half Lindsey half Millie.

For those of you familiar with addiction, it’s no surprise that I conflated coincidence with actual cause and effect, attributing this joy and sense of belonging to Jesus himself, seeking out more of him when I needed comfort or escape. Our group once attended a days-long Jesus rally at a convention center in DC where thousands of teens rocked out to Creed-wannabes, signed abstinence pledge cards (really! True Love Waits!) and watched skits – SKITS! – about pre-marital sex and the catastrophes that befell the sexually active (pregnancy disease emotional turmoil death and eternal damnation, obvs). And that, darling demons, is the crooked foundation on which my moral and religious fundamentals were built. I share this with you so that you may imagine my terror in the bathroom where I stared in blurry disbelief at that fucking pregnancy test, in 1999.

The motives behind the anti-abortion pro-birth movement (please don’t call them pro-life) may vary, but the rationale they taught us is as follows: as soon as their god decides a pregnancy should take place, the body no longer belongs to the person who is pregnant, and their right to autonomy is off the table. It’s god’s now! Anyone who thinks otherwise is wretched and disobeying god’s will. And of course if it’s not in line with the work of god, it’s the work of Satan (can I get a Hail Satan?) and this might be the only time these people have ever judged a person for what’s on the inside.  

The “Christian” enthusiasm for their so-called sanctity of life turns a bit toxic when a hierarchy is established, prioritizing unconditionally these new cells “god has willed into being” over the existing human in whom these cells have implanted. This priority now allows for any means necessary to further this “holy” agenda in the name of their god and the greater good. We already know that rational thought does not work on the self-righteous folks who believe they’re doing the work of their lord, while arguing that forced birth is simultaneously a blessing and a punishment. As a young, impressionable, religious idiot, this was me (I’m so so sorry and I atone for this daily). I didn’t have to worry, though, because I wasn’t going to have sex until I was married! I signed a pledge card!!

So yeah, in 1999 I had an abortion. I am not sorry. For me, it was my only choice, and it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I was told it would be (I speak for myself only). That feeling of sweet relief exists in my bones to this very day and I happily, proudly, hold on to it with gratitude. It’s my amulet, my solid reminder that I am the architect of my own life.

Now. One would think this experience was enough for me to begin questioning what I was taught. Enter the art of cherry-picking! The perfectly acceptable practice in the organized Christian religions wherein one may pick which rules apply to oneself, and with unironic fervor persecute folks who break the other worse ones. YES! Mark me down for pre-marital sex and abortion (and drugs and heavy metal). But hey, at least I wasn’t one of those devil-worshipping queers. (Spoiler: LOL!! Hey youguyz guess what!!!)

It’s tough to unlearn years of conditioning. In 1999, I wanted in on whatever school of Christian moral philosophy allowed for personal exemptions like infidelity and divorce. Ignorance and delusion were necessary to my happiness. How else could I make sense of everything? If Jesus is the only truth, and my instincts contradict Jesus, then my instincts are wrong. Yikes. But if they don’t know me, how do they know what’s in my best interest? I’d put in so many happy years making it work, I was ignoring the signs that I was being gaslit.

For over 15 years I didn’t tell anyone I’d had an abortion. I didn’t feel guilt or regret, but I felt shame like I’d done something horribly embarrassing, like a failed attempt at birth control was a character flaw I needed to hide. This feeling was more traumatic than my actual abortion. Silence and shame are tools of oppression and they build upon each other exponentially. The removal of either is the death of the other. (Look what happened to racism.) As soon as I came out of the abortion closet, others were eager to come out to me too, they just wanted permission to feel ok about it. Why have we not been talking about this? Because of the shame. So I ended my silence. Following their rules would have ruined my life and they could not have cared less. Fuck them. There is nothing compassionate, healthy, or rational about mandatory pregnancy and forced birth.

Theists take great pride in their blind faith as a measure of their strength and loyalty to their god and religion. Questions are disrespectful and imply doubt. In 1999 I was running gravely low on blind faith, so my inquisitive and exploratory side woke up and took charge.

I soared off a cliff and just hovered there, stiff, until I looked down and fell. There was nothing below and little did I know I’d be plummeting straight to Hell.

ACT II

Greetings from below! I landed just fine, please don’t worry. Satanists are a supportive bunch. My eternal gratitude for welcoming me with infernal arms. It’s delightful down here!

Looking back with Satanic eyes, I see clearly the struggles caused by not yet belonging to myself. The toughest hurdle for me to clear was giving myself permission to ask questions. “It’s god’s will” was no longer reason enough. It was lazy deflection, and it was not a real answer. How is knowledge ever a bad thing? What reasons could institutions possibly have to punish free thought? I wish I’d asked myself this earlier.

I don’t believe everything happens for a reason. I believe in chaos and coincidence, and that it’s up to each individual to make sense of their world in a way that suits them. “Everything happens for a reason” is no different from “it’s god’s will” – it’s dismissive, it minimizes the work I put into my life, and I find it insulting and tantamount to gaslighting.

With experience came wisdom and the realization I’d been brainwashed. The world is full of evil that no god should ever allow. Only humans are capable of such vulgarities. I decided that if there is a supernatural being, it’s not their Christian one and it neither fears nor takes credit for my use of the brain and the free will it gave me. My accomplishments are mine. My faults are mine. The responsibility to make sense of my life is mine alone. Thanking someone for the harm they chose to inflict so that I may learn a lesson is sick. It’s a major red flag in any unhealthy and abusive relationship. Even if it teaches me to swim, I will not owe anyone thanks for throwing me off a cruise ship. I doubt my swimming was their intention but if it was, then fuck them with an even pointier stick.

Though how convenient, that entry into their heaven is not based on measurable deeds but rather a simple magic apology capable of wiping away all accountability. I cannot let myself forget what I’ve seen. Those who make the rules have something to gain from them. If the powers that be want to ban abortion, start asking why. Who is in charge? Who generally needs access to abortion and how has our government and society historically viewed this population? Who suffers most without access to care and why, and who remains comfortably ignorant and largely unaffected? Who is threatened by a potential change in any power dynamic? What are the benefits to universal reproductive freedom and why would anyone possibly object? When you use your god as the reason for my oppression, I reject you and your entire system. This is just one spoke in the gruesome execution wheel of fascism. When a government bases legislation on the unfounded beliefs of any religion, no one is safe.

The Satanic Temple, forever in my heart, has entered this fight and I could not be more thrilled. The battles chosen by TST are why I joined. They make sense. They are fair and logical and promote justice without omission or hypocrisy. (To learn more about TST’s Reproductive Rights Campaign click here.) Satanic abortions are legal folks!! Maybe I can put my old Genesee Cream Ale t-shirt away after all.

Abortion is a human right regardless of morality and I don’t intend to exhaust myself repeating the same old arguments on which we all (hopefully) agree. Because those arguments are irrelevant here. If it’s even up for debate what is growing in my uterus and I want it removed, I’m getting it fucking removed. My uterus is not a bed and breakfast. It is no one else’s place to determine if my reasons are valid. My body is inviolable, subject to my own will, alone. If their god is mad at me for that, that’s cute, I’ll add it to today’s list after I pick up some more ice cream and Baphomet candles for my alter but it is no one’s concern because I do not legally or morally report into their god in the first place. I belong to me and I decide how my life goes, and I’d like to be respectfully given at least the same rights and considerations as their mistresses.

Lastly, being pregnant is a feeling no cis-male will ever know, yet they love to tell me how to feel about it. They need to shut their wordholes and get the fuck out of my uterus. Unaffected people have no legitimate authority to be anything other than supportive. You are not me. You will not live my life for me every goddamn day. My life is mine.

Thyself is thy master.

HAIL LILITH! Hail Satan. Hail thyselves.

Share

Compassion and the Art of Not Shoving People Into Traffic

Thank you for all of your Baphirmations Satanic Bay Area!

By Helle Bent

Greetings from the fiery pits of Hell! Although New Yorkers just call it August.

As the apocalypse slowly plows through 2020 like a near-sighted octogenarian driving the wrong way through a toll booth, I remain cozy in my one-bedroom apartment awaiting the exciting news that the virus has magically vanished, as promised by our government. Until then, I, like others in my responsible science-loving Satanic community, am doing my best to stay healthy and informed.

With lots of extra time on my hands, my apartment is now spotless, my 85 plants are repotted and thriving, and I took up knitting and foreign language study! I’m completely kidding. I’ve been watching what’s probably an unhealthy amount of tv and movies and listening to ASMR on YouTube when my anxiety flares up. My brain isn’t capable of much more these days.

Listen, Apocalypse Brain is real. We are in fight or flight mode whether we know it or not and things like creativity and the ability to focus take a back seat to not dying. Our brains are on constant high alert. So I haven’t been too hard on myself for not being more productive. I live alone (happily), I am grateful my circumstances are not more severe, and I’m doing my best to maintain my sanity. So what’s a Satanist in isolation to do? Sounds like it’s time for some good ol’ introspection.

This particular cartwheel through my cranium started with gratitude for TST’s first tenet and my inferred inclusion of the Self when practicing compassion. No one else will look out for me the way I will; it’s up to me to affect my circumstances as best I can. That includes giving myself a break and showing myself the same compassion I so freely extend to my loved ones – something we should all do unapologetically. Yet this is the tenet with which I struggle most.

Being an overly empathetic person to begin with (to my displeasure), I feel everything intensely, especially the discomfort of others. It’s an effort for me to not always take on the responsibility of making sure everyone is at ease in a social setting. I am well acquainted with that feeling, and if I can help, I will. I just know that I have always been deeply appreciative of a friendly gesture when I felt uncomfortable and I assume everyone feels as uncomfortable as I do. Groups of people can be outright torture.

My concept of compassion, though, is inextricably linked with my sense of justice. In a perfect world everyone would be genuinely kind to everyone else, curing a slew of societal ills. But on this planet there exist scumbags with few redeeming qualities, and they ruin it for everyone. What if my showing someone compassion means a lesson is left unlearned? An offense is left uncorrected? What if I deem the person unworthy of my benevolence? What if it causes me great pain to be civil to someone? I believe empathy is a skill and compassion is a choice (though I’m open to debate on this).

Example. There is someone at work who repeatedly asks me the same question. She refuses to learn this one simple thing. It’s quick and easy. She could write it down. She could search for my emails from the last six times she asked me. Her toddler could memorize it and recite it back. She has the power to easily acquire this information herself but she would rather bother me. Every. Time. She is either stupid or lazy and I respect neither of these qualities so in communicating with her, anything less than sarcasm would feel disingenuous. A particular trigger for me is when capable and kind humans are forced to cater to those who are either lazy, dangerously ignorant, or narcissistic. And the world is full of this (cut to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner). For me, it’s dishonest to be nice to people I do not respect.

The “within reason” at the end of the tenet is crucial to my practice, holding me responsible for my judgement. But I often wonder if the magnitude of my emotional reactions is unreasonable. These reactions are capable of hijacking me. However, being an introvert, I live largely in my head so most folks don’t see the path between my initial emotional reaction and my eventual outward response. This path took years of hard work to forge. With every necessary instance I force my rational mind to interrupt my emotional tendencies with mindful reflection. It’s exhausting.

If we’re lucky, we have a ride or die friend who will help us bury the bodies before daybreak. Why am I more likely to be empathetic and forgiving towards someone if I care about them personally? My friend could steal an ambulance and set a house on fire with people still inside and I’d assume she had valid reasons, but if someone is taking their time in the supermarket checkout lane, they most certainly deserve a horrid unspeakable death for their refusal to hurry the fuck up. Although the level of “horrid” depends entirely on how quickly I want to get home and how heavy my basket is. Ok so maybe my reactions aren’t always the best judge of appropriate punishments for indiscretions. But I know I am not alone in this.

We are our own gods. There is no supernatural hand of justice coming down from the sky to fix everything. We are responsible for governing ourselves. So when I see any imbalance, any human taking more than their fair share, anyone choosing to remain oblivious to others around them, any person who preys upon the kindness of others, or refuses to help themselves and excepts everything to be handed to them, this ignites my inner rage. (Fine yes I have a lot of triggers.) I know everyone has battles to fight. People are dealing with truly terrible things. My rational mind knows this, and knows the right thing to do. Just be cool. Don’t be a dick. I know all of this. But what if I want to be a dick just this once?

The tenet states to act with compassion and empathy. It does not state that everyone is always worthy. I find this significant. There have been days that have found me fragile and raw and barely able to hold myself together. We’ve all had them. No one owed me anything. I may not have deserved the compassion that was shown to me, but I sure as Hell appreciated it. I physically felt it lighten me and I will never forget that feeling. All we really have is the hope that others will live ethically, respectfully, and not treat us like shit. So I have to be one of these people I expect others to be. Like voting or that miserable group project in high school, we all need to do our part or the results may be less than desirable. Also I abhor hypocrites; I can’t allow myself to be one.

Compassion is easy when people are lovely, but there is no value in arbitrary criteria – any exception can be rationalized. Religious and right-wing fucknuts know this well. We are all fallible and have different ideas about what merits leniency. If I can’t define concretely and objectively who is worthy of basking in my brilliant sunshine and grace, then maybe attempting to remove criteria altogether is in fact the logical way to begin successfully practicing this tenet. (Yeah I picked the wrong pandemic to quit drinking.)

If I want to proudly call myself a Satanist, I have to strive to be compassionate towards all creatures (regardless of personal triggers), and *not* push into traffic the assholes who are very slowly walking with their heads in their phones. If I allow the application of my ethics to become subjective, then I am no better than the aforementioned religious and right-wing fucknuts. I may one day find myself on the receiving end of the unreasonable emotional reaction from someone less stable and mindful than yours truly, and I don’t want that to be ok.

Lastly, a bonus item for self-reflection: compassion towards the Self is more difficult because there is no outside person to challenge us, no one to define any measurable repercussions. We stand unchecked. If we talk to others the way we talk to ourselves, it might constitute abuse. Be kind to yourselves, beloved Satanists. We are all fallible. And you’ve already come this far.

Hail Satan. Hail Lilith. Hail thyselves.

Share

“In God We Trust” is Literally Depressing

Change.org petition to remove the Baphomet statue from…somewhere…

Organized religion plays a major role in daily life around the globe, even in the lives of individuals who claim no religious affiliation. In our own society, laws, social relations (such as a second-class role for women), common language terms, and customs such as major holidays are significantly influenced by the practices of a particular religion. When minority religions ask for equal recognition under laws, or when non-religious citizens ask for freedom from religiously influenced laws, often those groups do not get equal consideration.

The Satanic Temple has been in the news over the last few years regarding this type of religious bias. Most recently, the issue regarding Mississippi revising their racist state flag to a discriminatory Christian flag has put TST back in the spotlight for announcing a lawsuit if this design choice moves forward. There of course is backlash to anyone challenging the religious status quo. We’ve seen this sort of backlash before. A wave of threats to destroy the Baphomet statue as an outcry against protesters damaging & removing confederate statues is the most current example. This sort of response demonstrates how deeply Christian ideologies are imbedded into public thought. The same sort of violent negative response is rarely, if ever, directed towards Christian monuments or symbols in the public sphere. Even individuals who aren’t religious do not seem to overtly decry Judeo-Christian influences in the public realm of society because it is so normalized.

I have heard many people argue that these sorts of issues are not a big deal or not that serious. It’s often asked why an objection is being made over something like the Mississippi flag or the ten commandments monument. One answer is that if these seemingly mundane indiscretions are allowed to infiltrate the public domain, it makes it much easier for religiously influenced laws to be passed that impact us all. I would also argue that these smaller violations of our freedoms are not inconsequential and that they have serious long-term effects. Public displays of a dominant religion has a psychological impact on the public. A 2013 study in The Journal of Environmental Psychology states that feelings of happiness and well-being are improved by environmental and physical surroundings, but that “the effects of physical surroundings on psychological states are not necessarily direct, however, and could also be mediated by group-related factors, self-concepts and social identities…People suffer psychologically when they are convinced that their in-group has not been accepted or has been excluded from an important social context such as a neighborhood, workplace or classroom.” In another study by Schmitt, Davies, Hung, and Wright (2010) on the psychological consequences of Christmas displays in public spaces on citizens who did not celebrate the holiday, the results indicated that the well-being of those who did not celebrate the holiday was harmed, while the well-being of those who did celebrate was enhanced. These researchers did a second study targeting specifically Christians, Buddhists, and Sikhs. The second study concluded that the non-Christians had the same negative psychological results mediated by feelings of exclusion. Neither the Christian nor non-Christian participants of these studies thought they would be impacted in such psychological ways by the displays. This research team found that dominant cultural symbols in public spaces can diminish the feelings of inclusion on minority groups and lead them to suffer from negative mood and low self-esteem. In addition, the presence of a dominant cultural symbol conveys who establishes the society’s norms and that those who do not share the same culture or beliefs are omitted from consideration.

Another fun psychology fact determined in a 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, was “that those with a religious or spiritual understanding of life had a higher incidence of depression than those with a secular life view. Regardless of country, the stronger the spiritual or religious belief at baseline, the higher the risk of onset of depression. They found no evidence that spirituality protected against depression…” So multiple scientific studies have determined the detrimental effects on the human psyche not only of public religious displays, but of theistic religion itself.

We must take every attempt of religious domination over the public very seriously, no matter how small it may seem. Not only is it a matter of freedom and liberty, but of our mental health.

Share