Great news, everyone: my box of stupid books arrived yesterday! That means the next few weeks will be an orgy of bad writing, insane screes, and my attempts to summarize it all in a comprehensible manner. I thought we’d kick things off with this book, which hails from the late 1980’s and really looks it.
HALLOWEEN AND SATANISM–a fitting title for a jaunty romp through the annals of late-twentieth-century evangelical fear mongering! If you were alive during the late 80’s and early 90’s, you may remember the media waxing horrified about Ouija boards, D&D, and Satanic sex cults that upholstered their altars with flayed baby flesh. If you’re too young to have experienced those days, or have spent too much time drinking to forget them, this post ought to refresh your memory.
The co-authors of HALLOWEEN AND SATANISM are Joan Hake Robie, president of the publishing company that released the book, and Phil Phillips, a guy who once had a bad time at a haunted house and now wants to ruin Halloween for everybody. If you think I’m misrepresenting his motivations, that’s only because you haven’t read the first chapter of HALLOWEEN AND SATANISM.
“Wow,” you might be thinking. “Phil Phillips is a baby.”
And you’re absolutely right. He is a baby. A giant baby. If he were any more of a baby, a Satanic cult would baptize him, cut his head off, stick it on a black wafer, and ask it spiritual questions. (More on that later!) Phil Phillips is such a sucky infant that he felt the need to pathologize fear itself. Hence the central message of the book:
You read that right. Fear isn’t godly. Despite its seeming naturalness and obvious evolutionary utility, fear is a manifestation of Satan himself. If you ever feel fear, you’re giving in to Satan. If you purposely seek fear out–say, by visiting a haunted house–then congratulations! You’ve basically just thrown yourself on the devil’s sweaty loins. Let’s hope he’s a gentle lover.
Halloween is all about being scared, which makes it the ultimate Satanic holiday. How did we wind up enthralled to such a dark-sided tradition? Phillips and Hake Robie are here to give you the low-down.
A Celebration of Death
Halloween began with the Celts 2,000 years ago. It was a feast day dedicated to the supernatural and centered around the Celtic god Samhain, lord of the dead.
What’s that you say? You never knew Samhain was the name of a death god? Yeah, me neither. As names go, it’s a pretty lame one, since it comes from the Old Irish words for “Summer’s End.” What kind of name is Summer’s End for the lord of the dead? Why do most resources gloss Samhain as nothing more than the traditional Celtic name for November first? Could it be that HALLOWEEN AND SATANISM plays fast and loose with history? Could the belief that Samhain refers to a death god be a three-hundred-year-old falsehood that persists because whack-job evangelicals are too lazy to fact-check?
Nah, bruh. Death gods. Halloween is all about death gods.
What’s the Alternative?
You recognize Halloween for the pagan blasphemy it is, but your kids still want to go trick or treating. Short of locking your spawn in a closet with a statue of Jesus a la Carrie, what’s a concerned parent to do?
Have no fear (because that would be sinful). HALLOWEEN AND SATANISM has you covered.
Huh. Dressing up as Bible figures. Like a Christmas pageant. That sounds…not remotely fun. But maybe I’m just bitter because I know I’d wind up a shepherd.
Here’s another alternative:
Dressing up in overalls–now we’re talking. That definitely sounds more exciting than candy!
Other Things to Watch Out For
It’s not just Halloween. The world is full of hidden snares for the unwary Christian soldier. Most of these fall within the category of “Dabbling”–a catch-all term for the things your grandma discusses when she’s tired of complaining about how black people wear their pants too low. “Dabbling” includes incantations, tea-leaf reading, crystals, and Ouija boards. And lest you think the only thing at risk is your immortal soul, keep in mind that these transgressions have real-world consequences.
That’s right: no one knows! It could be zero…but it could also be not-zero, which justifies getting alarmed about it.
Another thing that’s killing people–90 of them, according to a statistic that some pastor pulls straight out of his ass–is Dungeons and Dragons, the greatest moral scapegoat of my childhood and the childhoods of anyone growing up between 1985 and 2000. The whole problem with Dungeons and Dragons, HALLOWEEN AND SATANISM (and countless other sources, both mainstream and lunatic fringe) suggests, is that if kids play it too much, they might…
That might sound rich, coming from people who believe that haunted houses are full of literal demons.
You know what? I don’t even have an ironic rebuttal to round out that sentence. It is rich. As is the concept of evangelicals saying that fear is evil and then listing all the things Christians should be afraid of. Nothing I write can nail these people harder than they’re nailing themselves.
But hey. At least they end on an upbeat note:
Black Masses and Black Magic
Satanic cults are everywhere–at least, that’s what they thought in the 90’s. Some Satanic practices are widely known: cow skulls, altars, spitting on the Eucharist, etc. Some, however, have only come to light thanks to the bravery of writers like Phillips and Hake Robie. Take the “Bleeding Head,” for example.
A boy was chosen and prepared in secret for his first communion by the palace chaplain…After consecrating two wafers, one black and one white, the child victim was brought in, dressed for baptism, and given the white wafer. Immediately after having received his first communion, the little victim’s head was struck off with one blow from a sword upon the very steps of the altar. The head was placed, bleeding and quivering, upon the black wafer…the demon was commanded to speak through the head of the poor child, in reply to a secret question of the King’s that could not be spoken aloud. It was recorded that a strange voice did, in fact, speak…
Frightening stuff! And certainly not made up!
Another element of the Black Mass is a secret chant that summons a figure named KASPAR, KELEI, EMAR. (Three names for one figure, so you know it’s a big one.) After reporting this, the authors of HALLOWEEN AND SATANISM ask
Yeah, guys. It actually does.
Okay, one more occult secret. Historically, Satanists like to make love potions, which were problematic because…
Satanism in Pictures
If there’s one hurdle Phillips and Hake Robie manage to nut themselves on again and again, it’s…everything. But if I’m being more specific, it’s the pictures. Never in my life have I seen such lazy, careless, slap-dash use of images in an actual book that was printed by an actual publisher and sat on the shelves of actual stores. When combined with captions that either state the obvious or are hilariously inaccurate, these pictures are elevated to the level of weird outsider art.
But oh, my friends, I’ve saved the worst for last.
“Satanic Symbol,” the caption says, but the Dutch tells a different tale. I don’t speak Dutch, but I do speak English and German, which allows one to decipher most Dutch with minimal difficulty. I confirmed my suspicions with Google Translate, and it was very much as I feared. The top of the poster says “THE ETERNAL JEW.” The text at the bottom says: “YOU MUST SEE THIS FILM.”
“Satanic Symbol” indeed. Why do I subject myself to this crap?