HALLOWEEN 2020: CELEBRATING SATAN THE HUMANE WAY
Many Americans grew up hearing that Halloween is the devil’s own holiday–and they don’t know how right they were. During this annual pageant of excess, our inhibitions wane, norms rearrange, and many adults recapture the reckless, indulgent spirit of childhood, at least for a few hours.
The closing of October presents an important milestone for Satanic Bay Area, as our little grassroots group of heathens was founded on Halloween night in 2015.
In many regards, five years is not a particularly long time–but at other times it feels like a lifetime ago. Certainly very little has stayed the same about our lives, our country, and our understanding of ourselves and our religious practices and values since then.
We’d have liked to have marked the occasion with as elaborate a celebration as possible, but the ongoing public health crisis makes that not only impossible but in many ways unthinkable.
Although civic guidelines in San Francisco and surrounding areas make many allowances for religious gatherings, we’ve foregone almost all in-person assembly this year, meeting only once for a strictly scrutinized outdoor ritual in June.
To be honest, we’re dismayed and confused that some other local religious assemblies have adopted a dangerously casual attitude about gatherings; Modern Satanism being a religion by, for, and about human beings exclusively, we’ve opted to keep apart, however difficult and unpleasant it’s been.
That said, we also understand that if people don’t get some form of socialization and emotional and psychological affirmation eventually, not only will it drive them to unhealthy states of mind but in many cases also to more reckless behavior–we’re all only human, after all.
With that in mind, we arranged a public Black Mass in beautiful Golden Gate Heights Park on October 30, inviting everyone who was comfortable with and willing to abide by strict social distancing rules to assemble at sunset for a ritual celebrating the endurance of radical ideas and heretical acts past, present, and future. Bay Area Satanist Jane Thomas led us in invoking the elements, a beautiful use of our naturalistic setting overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Since we take these risks very seriously, we sanitized the Hell into all of the ceremonial tools, and enforced a mask mandate and a distance of 6.66 feet between households at all times.
A few curiosity seeking members of the public joined in at the edges as a group of about 15 or 16 Bay Area Satanists celebrated our favorite topic–ourselves–and a great many of those who came were first-time participants, including one little hellspawn just shy of a year old.
Certain changes to our usual process proved necessary; for example, rather than approaching the altar to receive the Mark of the Beast (blood on the forehead or hand) as a sign of initiation at the end, everyone attending received individual personal containers of animal blood so as to safely mark themselves.
Many of our other regular members chose not to come even in spite of the precautions we’d taken, and although we missed them, they embodied the spirit of the even as fully as anybody, since nothing is more fundamentally Satanic than to choose for oneself.
It’s hard to express the relief and satisfaction that a successful Satanic ritual engenders for our unfaithful assembly, but we couldn’t say when we’ll meet again: The human well-being of our membership is just too important to make plans casually.
Still, we put our trust in science, reason, and empiricism to find solutions in the new year. In the meantime, another Happy Halloween in the books.