DOES SATANISM NEED PRIESTS? DOES ANYONE
What qualifications does it take to become an ex-Satanic High Priest?
I ask because ex-Satanic High Priests seem to be the only kind anybody ever meets. The position appears only to exist after people step down from it, usually right around the time they find both Jesus and a book deal.
Truth be known, I don’t like that word “priest,” and I give a wide berth to people who use it. Indeed, clergy in general I have no use for.
And yet, I find myself seized by a spirit that desires very strongly to become one. Ah, the winsome ways of the human heart, wherever will you lead us next…
The Online Etymology Dictionary says that “priest” derives from the Greek “presbyteros,” meaning “elder,” a word I cannot possibly employ as a noun without recourse to at least one song from Book of Mormon. Which is not even a musical I like, but I don’t make up the rules.
But it adds that there’s a second possible extraction from the Latin “prevost,” meaning “one put over others,” and oh boy can you fuck right off with that. Just writing those words makes my skin crawl and not come back.
Notice that in most traditional church settings they realize this pretty literally, with the clergy standing in an elevated position and the congregation sitting below. Because when your god takes the form of a brushfire there’s not a lot of room for deftness and subtlety in religious symbolism.
Now you may think well surely that’s a practical matter, public speakers almost always stand on an elevated stage because that makes them easier to see and hear. But for millennia, priests actually turned their backs to the audience in church, performing mass “ad orientem” to directly address “god” instead of the people–because let’s be honest, who really matters here?
“This ancient way of celebrating mass has been an emotional issue. Many still say it is a hindrance to the people’s active participation,” the clergy of Massachusetts-based St Gregory the Great Church write.
Britannica writes that priests began as subordinates to bishops during the days of the Roman Empire, but as Christian practice spread “the priest eventually assumed the role of chief representative of god.”
Which, just think what a douchebag you’d have to be to even entertain that sentence? Naturally, priests became a privileged class in Christianized Europe, with corruption creeping in their wake.
(Although Warcraft players will doubtless wonder what’s so bad about a Corruption Priest anyway?)
In his Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer poked fun at nakedly crooked priesthoods with a friar who shills for cash–“Instead of weeping and prayer, men should give silver to poor friars all bare”–and can swindle a shoeless widow out of her last coin.
Chaucer’s monk lives a cushy lifestyle dressed in gold and “fur of grey, the finest in the land,” and his pardoner admits that he preaches in every church “greed is the root of all evil” but he himself makes “a hundred marks every year” peddling indulgences and phony relics.
This idea of holy men as clownish con artists was so entrenched by the 14th century that scholarly readings of Chaucer refer to the characters as stereotypes and stock figures.
The everyday medieval audience knew that priesthood was a racket, and they knew clergy were a special class who could get away with anything. And so they are today, with the New York Daily News in 2019 correctly identifying “the root cause” of church sex abuse as “the culture that views priests as privileged.”
We may imagine that a Satanic priest would be a figure of satire, someone who exposes the arbitrary nature of priestly authority. And I strongly suspect that is how the idea is supposed to work for many people.
But I can’t kick the suspicion that a lot of self-styled Satanic priests just want to sound important. The easiest way to become one is to found a Satanic church, which anyone in the world can do. Then you can just give yourself any old title you like.
In the 2015 Satanism documentary The Real Enemy, Oklahoma Satanist James Hale calls himself “Lord High Master of the Church of the Four Crown Princes.” Which is an impressive mouthful to say while simultaneously blowing himself.
The head of the rival Church of Ahriman calls himself the “Dastur,” which he says just means “High Priest,” so at least it’s short…
So I tend to look askance at such honorifics. And yet…
The Satanic Temple has been developing a ministry program for years, which apparently they’re now ready to employ. Rather than priest, the operative term here is “Satanic Minister.” Britannica notes that protestant churches adopted this title to separate from corrupt priestly culture.
I should mention once again that Satanic Bay Area is not a chapter of the Satanic Temple. Many of our members are also Temple members, but many are not–and some pointedly so.
But I am, and although I guess writing this blog may bite me on the ass on this front, I’m–and this is a technical term–hankering for such a program.
I am not, as I’ve mentioned, interested in calling myself a Satanic Minister. I get why other people might want to–again, I think the idea of Satanic clergy is rhetorically valid, even if I’m wary of some of the practice–but it’s really not me.
But the program includes a ten-part educational syllabus. As previously mentioned, I am reading about Satanism constantly, but never has this opportunity to engage with someone else’s ideas about Satanic education presented itself.
To learn new things about Satanism in this way is, perhaps, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity–or maybe nonce-in-a-lifetime for me, we’ll have to wait and see.
Point being: Even in spite of everything I’ve written here, just for the chance to learn more–yes, for that I would pursue a title. Not for the title itself, but for what else I might discover in the process of getting it.
And even just that admission has taught me something. Live and learn, as they say.