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What exactly is the Church of Satan?

A photograph of Nergal from Behemoth

It created a moral panic in the late 80s and early 90s and remains a largely misunderstood entity to this day. So what exactly is the Church Of Satan? We invited Behemoth frontman Nergal – no stranger to the Horned One himself – to conduct a special interview with official Church Of Satan priest, Nathan Gray. Here’s what went down.

Nergal: “I remember that my first contact with the Church Of Satan was through The Satanic Bible in the early 90s. I started exploring the dark arts in all available dimensions, and also started Behemoth! How did you discover the Church?”

Nathan: “I was around 12 or 13 years old. My parents’ church was part of that late 80s/early 90s ‘Satanic panic’, so they showed lots of films about abduction, sacrifice and the ‘dangers’ of Satanism and rock music. Those films included these clips of this crazy guy with robes and horns doing rituals – that piqued my interest rather than scaring me off! But I could see that this guy [Anton LaVey] was winking all over the place, that everything he was doing was a put-on, that he was messing with people. So I, too, read LaVey’s The Satanic Bible, and I think because of my upbringing it spoke to me on a level that terrified me, like, ‘I don’t know if I can just be myself and be my own god, that’s insane.’ What was your reaction to the book?”

Nergal: “I was fascinated, it all opened new doors of perception. I was 15 years old and sensed there was whole new world there waiting to be explored. I just needed the right trigger, a key to liberate my teenage self from the shackles of Catholic dogma and taboos I was entangled in. What made you decide to become more involved?”

Nathan: “It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s, when I’d come more to terms with myself, that I decided to get back into it. Personally, I had to come to a point where I was comfortable being an atheist and saying, ‘OK, I know what I don’t believe, what do I believe?’ At that point I went over to Satanism.”

Nergal: “I’m guessing the Church is massively demonised, but the whole LaVey concept on life is strongly based on a material, carnal and very hedonistic approach to life, which at the end of the day most of us follow. There’s nothing outrageous there, it’s actually a pretty human- friendly agenda. Speaking from the inside, what does the Church represent today, would you say?”

Nathan: “The biggest misconception about the Church Of Satan is that we worship the Devil. We do not. Further, we do not believe in the existence of God or the Devil. I still have an atheistic perspective and that would be the standpoint of the Church Of Satan. It’s an ‘atheistic religion’, for want of a better term. I was definitely hooked by what Anton LaVey was doing, but it wasn’t until after his death that I discovered the writings of Peter H Gilmore, the new high priest of the Church Of Satan, who had a more, I would say, rational perspective. The Church was looking to be a more intellectual, astute and classy organisation and not so much about the pentagrams and ‘Hail Satan’s. So I wasn’t so much into the creepy ‘scare your neighbour’ side of things as the Nietzschien ‘become your own god’ ideas and in manipulating the universe around you in whatever way you can to have a vital existence, full of joy. What is your take on the Church Of Satan, personally?”

Nergal: “As much as I respected the whole idea and concept of the Church Of Satan, I was never hooked. I moved on towards more radical and Pagan-oriented ways, instead of exploring the LaVeyan lifestyle. I think it’s very much based on material aspects of life and it does have this ‘American’ vibe to it, which works for some, but not really for me. But it stands for freedom and freedom has so many names. I appreciate liberating human spirit and standing in opposition to Christian rules and dogmas.”

Nathan: “It doesn’t work for everyone. And I don’t think it’s necessary to join the Church Of Satan or any other organisation to call yourself a Satanist or a Pagan. From reading your book [_Confessions Of A Heretic: The Sacred And The _Profane: Behemoth And Beyond], I think you’ve a good grasp on the situation and do what works for you, which is awesome. As a musician myself [Nathan is the singer of post- hardcore band Boysetsfire], if I was to say that rituals don’t move the world, I’d be an idiot. Music and the stage is definitely a ritual itself, because it moves people. I hate that people think of ‘magick’ as an external device – it’s all internal, it’s what you make of it and how it forms your world.”

For more on the Church Of Satan, visit their official website at www.churchofsatan.com. Nergal’s new project, Me And That Man, will release their debut album in 2017

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