LaVeyan Satanism, in the form of the Church of Satan, began in 1966. Many of its practitioners are atheists or agnostics, and view Satan as a symbol, not as an actual entity. The so-called Nine Satanic Statements outline some of the beliefs of the Church of Satan, including that Satan represents “man as just another animal,” and that followers should embrace indulgence instead of abstinence.

Founding

In the 1960s, Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, was offering Friday evening lectures about the occult. Someone in attendance at one of these meetings suggested that LaVey form a church. Believers hold that the Church of Satan's actual founding date was April 30, 1966, which marked the pagan holiday of Walpurgisnacht, or Walpurgis Night. However, according to ReligiousTolerance.org, the Church of Satan began to form later in the year when a newspaper article referred to LaVey as “priest of the Devil’s church.”

Satan

According to Peter Howard Gilmore, a High Priest of the Church of Satan, “Satanism begins with atheism.” He asserts there is no God and no Satan. According to David G. Bromley, professor of Religious Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, in LaVeyan Satanism, Satan is a symbol of individualism, self-interest and the rejection of religion’s control over humanity. Among the Nine Satanic Statements is the precept that “Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!”

Theology

LaVeyan Satanists refer to their religion as a Left Hand Path, one that breaks taboos rather than setting moral codes. Rooted in an atheist tradition, LaVeyan Satanists do not believe in heaven or hell, prayer or an afterlife. There is some emphasis on magic, though magic tends to focus on rituals to change perspectives and affect the unconsciousness, rather than supernatural powers.

Rules

LaVeyan Satanists believe in indulging their carnal desires. The religion changes the ethic of reciprocity, stating the following: “Do unto others as they have done unto you.” Despite beliefs that put self first, LaVey emphasized that “Satanism respects and exalts life.” The church's 11 Satanic Rules include not harming children, not killing animals and not stealing.

Observances

The most important holidays in LaVeyan Satanism are Walpurgisnacht and Halloween, followed by the solstices and equinoxes. However, not all LaVeyan Satanists practice rituals or observances. Those who do might participate in one of three types: the lust ritual which involves sex magic, the compassion ritual for bringing help or healing, or the destruction ritual meant to bring harm on someone or something. The most common symbol worn among LaVeyan Satanists is the Sigil of Baphomet, which includes a goat head and an inverted pentagram. The primary literature of the Church of Satan is “The Satanic Bible,” which LaVey wrote in 1969. While LaVeyan Satanism got a lot of attention for performances of the Black Mass, these were primarily parodies of the Catholic Mass, used to signify the Church of Satan’s contempt for Christianity.