First things first, let’s explain what a Patron Sinner is.

Just as the Roman Catholic Church has its Patron Saints—”heavenly advocates” for people, places, and causes—we’ve decided it’s only fair to have a few iconic iconoclasts of our own.

For Walpurgis Night this year, Satanic Bay Area conducted a ritual “canonizing” our first 13 Patron Sinners, those people who led sufficiently provocative and subversive lives that we deem them particular inspirations. It’s an exercise in telling the world what our Satanic values are, and in exploring those values ourselves.

This was a subjective exercise, and it meant making some judgment calls about what we believe in. And as Satanists, what we ultimately believe in most is our judgment.


patron sinner satanism

“Guys, shit, hold up, I’m stepping all over skeletons and snakes here, this hurts like hell.”

Our Patron Sinner nominations lasted for months, and narrowing it down to 13 took some debate. The list includes San Francisco “Voodoo Queen” and abolitionist Mary Ellen Pleasant, jazz great Billie Holiday, atheist crusader Madelyn Murray O’Hair, and opera singing drag activist Jose Sarria.

We wanted to single out people who defied cultural norms, like rock star Frank Zappa. And people who decried corrupt conventions, like Indian historian Vine Deloria Jr. And even people whose work informed our ideas about Satanism, like poet and artist William Blake.

Some choices were obvious, like Victorian dominatrix Theresa Berkley or martyred pagan mathematician Hypatia. Others nominees came as a surprise, like revolutionary surgeon Ignaz Semmelweis.

But what they all shared was a highly successful disregard for social expectations. Also sometimes for the law—since, as Emerson said, we “must not obey the laws too well.”

I bring up the latter point in response to a minor Twitter flap last week. The account @UberFacts pointed out to bemused followers that “the Church of Satan won’t give active membership to felons.”

The Church, never one to step on a Lego when a nail is right there instead, boosted the comment’s frequency a hundredfold with loud pushback, claiming, “If you took a risk that would put you in jail, you don’t value your own freedom and are not a candidate for elevation.”

Twitter, of course, had a gay old time snickering at this prudish attitude. “911, the Number Of the Beast,” tweeted @sturek.

“You should have considered the most rebellious choice of all: following the rules,” @coolranchzaku said, channeling Seymour Skinner.

My favorite was @bombsfall: “Kids, we have a lot of fun here, but there’s nothing Satan about breaking the rules.” Hilarious.

In fairness, you’ve got to cover your own ass when you’re a public entity. Liability and all that.


patron sinner satanism

“They said that as an incarcerated felon, I’m insufficiently Satanic for active membership. Yeah, I don’t know.”

On that note, Satanic Bay Area does not endorse flagrant lawlessness…except sometimes we do, because everyone does, because this is America.

It’s a country founded by a bunch of treasonous insurgents, after all. Or were they “patriots?” Tricky that.

And as Bernice King constantly reminds us, Americans love to lionize her late father’s defiance of unjust laws, but only now that he’s no longer around.

The Satanic Temple (of which SBA is not an official chapter, FYI) even makes it a central tenet that sometimes “justice should prevail over laws.” As does everyone, when push comes to shove.

(Except for those rebellious freethinkers at the Church of Satan, apparently. But to each their own…or to each a statute, in their case.)

Theocrats ask where morality comes from if not from god; and autocrats ask where justice comes from if not from the law. The answer in both cases is the same: from our judgment.

None of us know absolutely what’s right. If we did, we’d never make mistakes. The best we can do is decide. We consider the facts, the context, the ramifications, and hopefully also our own biases, and then we make a call.

We do this not necessarily because it’s a perfect method, but because it’s virtually the only one. Any other standard surrenders to absurdity.

In the myth of Satan, the devil is the first and the greatest revolutionary. In our own lives, a state of constant revolution is rarely practical.

The best most of us can hope for is reasonable, compassionate, necessary defiance when confronted with a truly unjust standard.

Or as we now call it, acting like a Patron Sinner.


Patron Sinner Satanism

Although nobody likes an overachiever, smartasses.