Of Satanism and Paganism

Okay, let me start this off by saying that no, Pagans do not worship the devil. They don’t even believe in a devil. So with that knowledge, you’re probably asking “what do Satanists and Pagans have in common then?” I’m so glad you asked!

Various verses in the Bible equate the worship of Pagan gods with the worship of Satan (Deuteronomy 32:16-17; Psalms 106:35-38; and 1 Corinthians 10:20 for instance). It’s kind of a rude thing to do – to claim that anyone believing differently must be worshiping evil.

But now the question we must ask is: Is Satan really evil?

It probably sounds like a ridiculous question – even a blasphemous one – to most people. Just calm down though. Take a breath and hear me out here.

Pan

pan-whistling-at-a-blackbird-1863
Pan whistling at a blackbird, 1863 – Arnold Böcklin

Consider for a moment where the popular depictions of Satan come from. If you’ll notice, Satan generally is portrayed with goat hind legs and horns. Does this sound familiar to you? It should! Because it’s a complete rip-off of Pan, the Greek god of nature and music. And it turns out Footloose was right: music does indeed lead to dancing! Because Pan hung out with the nymphs who were known for their dances.

In other words, Pan embodied everything the Christians despised: nature, music, and dancing. Additionally, despite being a minor god, Pan was very popular among the Greeks, making him a broad scapegoat.

Ba’al Zebub

Ba’al Zebub literally translates to “Lord of the Flies”. Weird name for a god, right? Ba’al Zebub was a Canaanite god (present day Palestine), referred to in the Bible as the god of Ekron (2 Kings 1:16).

The meaning of his name is thought to refer to his ability to control flies: either by driving them out, or by leading them into places, or perhaps a combination of the two. Note that it was plenty common to refer to gods by the pests that the people wanted the god to relieve them of. For instance, Apollo was sometimes referred to as Apollo Smintheus (“Apollo of mice”) when he was called upon to drive mice out of a city.

Another consideration is that Ba’al Zebub (“Lord of the Flies”) may have been modified from Ba’al Zebul (“Lord of the High House” or “Lord of the Heavens”), in order to vilify him. Alternatively Ba’al Zebul could have been called Ba’al Zebub when called upon to get rid of flies (or possibly to get rid of diseases that flies were commonly associated with). Either way, this Ba’al was a proper god and in no way a demon.

Ishtar

Ishtar (pronounce it “Easter” and I will dive through this screen and end you) was the Babylonian goddess of sex and fertility, associated with the planet Venus (and a precursor to the Greek Aphrodite and Roman Venus).

Being associated with the planet Venus, Ishtar was commonly referred to as “Evening Star” and “Morning Star” (since Venus appears as a bright star just before sunrise, and again right after sunset). As Evening Star, she brought sex and love, and as Morning Star, she brought war.

You’ll notice that Lucifer is also referred to commonly throughout the Bible as “Morning Star” (some translations use “Day Star”). Jesus is also sometimes referred to as “Morning Star” (2 Pet. 1:19). This has led to some confusion. A common explanation is that “Morning Star” in the Bible denoted a title rather than an identity. After all, Lucifer was initially an angel and considered to be the “light bringer” (from the Greek Phosphoros).

So it’s quite possible that the title “Morning Star” was simply transferred from Lucifer to Jesus after Lucifer fell (alternatively, maybe they’re the same person – I’ll write on that later). Note, however, that Lucifer was the only being I recall being referred to as the Morning Star in the Hebrew Bible and I don’t know of any instance in the Hebrew Bible where the prophesied Messiah was referred to as “Morning Star” (please correct me if I simply missed something). So it’s pretty clear that Lucifer was a blatant representation of Ishtar and that the whole Jesus equals Morning Star thing was some obscure afterthought.

Ishtar was also a common symbol of temple prostitution, which you can imagine the Christians were not too fond of. Christians were so not fond of this, in fact, that she is referred to repeatedly as the “Whore of Babylon” in Revelation (Namely, Revelation 17:1-18). The “Whore” in these passages is associated heavily with the Beast.

Conclusion

There are numerous more possible examples of the demonizing of Pagan gods by the Church. In fact, the terms “pagan” and “satanic” easily refer to the same things: “pagan” was initially a pejorative term for any religion that wasn’t Abrahamic.

People didn’t actually begin self identifying as pagan until the 19th Century Neo-Pagans as a countermovement to industrialization. Meanwhile, Wicca didn’t come about until Gerald Gardner in the 1940s.

In other words, the demonizing of “pagan” beliefs was essentially a vast smear campaign against everyone different from the Abrahamic systems (to be fair, most religions demonized other religions; Christians were just the most efficient).

The term “satanism” was used identically. People didn’t begin self identifying as Satanist until 1966 with Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan. Prior to that, “satanists” were just anyone that the Church didn’t like – to include even fellow Christian groups like the Knights Templar, who were accused of worshiping some guy named Baphomet (they didn’t). LaVey later decided to use the term as a means of embracing outsider status and revering what “satanic” gods like Pan represented (namely, self indulgence).

So pagans and satanists in the pejorative sense were used to refer to the same people. Meanwhile, modern self-identified Pagans and Satanists refer to different beliefs that draw off similar “pagan” literature to find archetypes for different principles (except that Neo-Pagans and Wiccans tend to be more spiritual while Satanists can sometimes be seen as adversarial for the sake of being adversarial).

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Don’t You Worry

Everything seemed good at first
But then it took a turn for the worse.

I’m sorry
I got you in the middle of all this mess
But don’t you worry
Girls I’ll be the first to confess.
I’ll get you both out of this mess
And I’ll keep you safe and sound.
It’s so hard to rest when my heart is singing so loud.
Can you hear me?
From far away can you hear my call?
Well don’t you worry
I’m not gonna let you fall.

I wish I could see you today
But that’s not the way things played.
I know you don’t understand now
But I’ll find you someway somehow.
It may take a while
And girls you know I miss your smiles.
Even this early in your life
I could tell you know something ain’t right.
Well I’ll end this strife soon enough
Then I can show you all my love.

I’m sorry
I got you in the middle of all this mess
But don’t you worry
Girls I’ll be the first to confess.
I’ll get you both out of this mess
And I’ll keep you safe and sound.
It’s so hard to rest when my heart is singing so loud.
Can you hear me?
From far away can you hear my call?
Well don’t you worry
I’m not gonna let you fall.

I’ll fight and fight
To make things right
Though you feel you can’t
Shine your light

But won’t you trust me
To make everything better.
And don’t you make a fuss
I promise it won’t be like this forever.
I’ll get you both out of this mess
And I’ll keep you safe and sound.
It’s so hard to rest when my heart is singing so loud.
Can you hear me?
From far away can you hear my call?
Well don’t you worry
I’m not gonna let you fall.

(This is song #2 on my Seahorse album)