WALPURGISNACHT BAY AREA SATANISTS HONOR GREAT SINNERS–THEMSELVES INCLUDED
They say if you speak of the devil he’ll appear, but for most of the last year our Bay Area Satanists have had to keep their personal manifestations indirect and virtual thanks to the still-ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
So it was with a great sense of relief that we conducted a now-rare live and in-person Black Mass on the shores of Oakland’s Lake Merritt on Saturday, May 1. Officially this was to mark the holiday of Walpurgisnacht (although in truth that fell a day earlier, on April 30) and honor our latest class of Patron Sinners, but in a larger sense this represented a watershed moment as we hope and don’t pray that we can soon put the worst of the public health crisis behind us.
Although some religious groups insisted on continuing in-person services throughout the pandemic despite the risks, our concern for our members and larger sense of responsibility kept Bay Area Satanists at home and isolated for the past 13-plus months, with only online meetings and two intensely socially distanced outdoor ritual occasions since early 2020.
With many local Satanists now happily vaccinated (thanks, Science) and both state and county restrictions on gatherings easing, the time was right to finally face our demons–that is to say, all of you–again, although we still persisted in basic precautions. Those who attended our Lake Merritt-side ritual wore masks, socially distanced, and refrained from unnecessary contact, because they know that the novel coronavirus still poses a significant risk even to relatively healthy people.
As usual, Walpurgisnacht represented an occasion to honor our new Patron Sinners, as nominated and voted on by our members. This year’s class featured all-time great film filth aficionado John Waters, only the second person ever to be declared a Patron Sinner while living. (He promised not to sue us over it.)
Also selected for this year’s dishonorifics were queer Victorian playwright and wit Oscar Wilde, great American novelist James Baldwin, sex work crusader Margo St. James, surrealist artist HR Giger, anti-colonialist guerrilla Hatuey, and slave uprising spiritual leader Nat Turner.
At Saturday’s ritual of roughly 30 people, we honored these great sinners’ actions with devotional candles and an invocation citing their own words and examples undermining corrupt and baseless authorities and championing our right as Satanists to be freethinking people who are not obligated to conform to the standards of archaic or toxic spiritual institutions.
Earlier in the evening our own Simone Lasher gave a brief presentation on the history of Walpurgisnacht (or Hexennacht, as some call it), Lee set the mood with some traditional folk music, and Harq al-Ada (a chaplain for the United Aspects of Satan) led the gathering through the Invocation of Leviathan, a Satanic meditation exercise exploring the role of community in Satanists’ lives.
During the past year we’ve had no outbreaks from Satanic gatherings and lost none of our members to illness, but many of us have suffered the psychological effects of isolation as sharply as anybody. We hope that soon we can resume living in sin just as we did before the pandemic, and we’re happy that sound science and competent public guidance seems to be putting the Bay Area on a path out of purgatory.
In the meantime, we’ve taken comfort not only in each other’s examples from a distance, but as always in the example of Satan as he appears in art, literature, and popular culture, a character who reminds us, “We still must needs congratulate ourselves on having known pain, for pain has revealed to us new feelings, more precious and more sweet than those experienced in eternal bliss, and inspired us with love and pity unknown to Heaven.”