Monday, November 30, 2020

Marking the seasons as a Satanist

As this is a busy time for me, for this month’s blog I’ll just share a few brief random thoughts I have about seasonal observances for Satanism.

Having had a brief Wiccan / Neopagan phase in my teens prior to deciding it wasn’t for me, I’ve long had some familiarity with the concept of the “wheel of the year.”  I’ve then found in recent years, having become significantly more “in touch” with nature especially after relatively-recent spiritual awakenings, that I have the desire to observe something along these lines.  On the other hand though, not everything pertaining to the Neopagan conceptions of these holidays necessarily speaks to me - partly because I’m not of that tradition and am instead of the Satanic one, and partly because some of the associated folk traditions strike me as not localizing well, e.g. they revolve around specific plants or vegetation changes or etc. that are not actually relevant to my part of the world, or etc.

Nonetheless, my thoughts on seasonal observances fall into the following three categories:

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Solstices & equinoxes

I’ve increasingly come around to the view that there’s a fundamental compatibility between Neopaganism and Satanism regarding appreciation for earthly existence.  Such an attitude is, one could argue, inherent in LaVeyan formulations such as indulgence, instead of abstinence and vital existence, instead of spiritual pipe-dreams.  In my own interpretation at the current time - i.e. I admit I did not see it this way when I was younger, as far as this particular emphasis goes - an appropriate expression of appreciation for earthly existence entails engaging in some sort of intentional reflection upon, and acknowledgment of, the natural world and its changing cycles, recognizing that they contribute a sort of rhythm and texture to human existence.

The main thought I thus have about solstices and equinoxes is that they are appropriate times to get outside, look at the world of nature, reflect upon it and appreciate it.  Another appealing idea, though impractical in 2020 for reasons everyone knows, is to get some friends and such together for some kind of meal and drinks arrangement at someone’s home, with a seasonal theme to it.  Winter solstice in particular may be more enjoyable practiced in this second way than in the first, Canada being what it is.  Either way though, I do think there is something to be said for taking some time to think about what this time of year (whatever it is) meant to people in times past, and how lives less urban and less shielded by technology were and are shaped by such dynamics - the bad side of this (exposure to elements, risk of famine due to poor harvests, etc.) as well as the good.  

On this last front, I think there is a natural accord between Satanists of my inclination and grounded Neopagans who take it seriously, whereas a clash perhaps with the “fluffy bunny / hippie” types who may only want to dwell upon the positive sides of nature.  (Note: in my personal experience, this type is actually relatively uncommon for me to cross paths with, i.e. if the Neopagans one meets are mostly adjacent to the goth scene, no surprise one doesn't run into much of that kind of thing there.)  The same will then in turn also apply to much of what I say in the next section also, or so I would suspect anyway.

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Major seasonal festivals

This heading covers four festivals that are equally spaced between the four “built-in” ones i.e. solstices & equinoxes.  They are all “major” inasmuch as they mark significant shifts in seasons (at least in theory, albeit maybe not in Canadian practice).  However, there’s another sense in which only two of them are “major”: there are, I find, two that people have a pretty well-developed idea of thematically what they’re all about, vs. the other two, people are aware of, but I sense this sort of general cluelessness re: what are you supposed to actually do celebration-wise with these things?

The two “greater” ones, in this sense, are of course Samhain and Beltane.  Both come accompanied with good, simple-yet-solid holiday concepts: one is “the death one”; the other is “the life one” (a.k.a. “the sex one”); dress and celebrate accordingly. ;)  In my perfect world, this would basically mean two Halloween-like celebrations set six months apart, wherein one is “bring out all the sexy costumes,” the other is “bring out all the scary costumes”… and then we would never again have that bullshit thing everyone hates where the super creative Halloween person who spent weeks building some rad costume loses the costume contest to “that chick who just has her tits out,” and yet - this is important to emphasize - her sexiness can also be duly acknowledged at an appropriate time.  The “there’s a place for all these things” angle of the “wheel of the year” concept is something I like about it.

Anyway though, this then leads me to the tricky issue: we’ve got two solid themes behind these two holidays, from which the enterprising dark-chaos-magician-type can draw inspiration to create “traditions” meaningful to themselves - by all means, have a seance at one end of the year and a naked dance party at the other end, or whatever - but the other two “lesser” ones don’t seem to have this kind of thing built up around them.  Indeed, many a time when I’ve wanted to say something about them, such as now, I need to go Google the names again because they’re just that non-memorable.  The Neopagan names for these holidays are Imbolc and Lughnasadh.  They occur respectively at the start of February and the start of August, and I have never personally met Neopagans who came across to me as having a strong idea as to what actually do with them.

Here’s then a thought that’s occurred to me this year, based on my own increased being-outside amid lots of alone-during-the-pandemic-walks: the start of August, I find, ushers in the best part of summer, because you’ve still got the really warm weather, but now the mosquitoes are all finally dead and it’s way more enjoyable to be out at night than it is earlier in the summer.  I’ve thus come to associate this time of year with “if you want to do weird, creepy occult stuff that involves being outside all night, this is the time to do it.”  I thus plan, going forward, to frame this time of year in terms of “initiation season,” i.e. the occasion opens a month-long period of great personal progress and insight-gaining.  If this sounds to the reader suspiciously like a pretentious excuse for consuming magic mushrooms, I will not complain. ;)

So then, what to do with February?  The problem with having a seasonal festival then in Canada is that usually, February doesn’t actually manifest any kind of meaningful seasonal change - it’s just “more winter, except now the part where you’re super tired of it,” and who needs that?  (see also: the pointlessness of Groundhog Day.)  It then seems more fruitful to think about the issue from the same standpoint as Samhain vs. Beltane: if I associate the August festival with what I’ve just described, what do we get for February as its “opposite”?  An answer that seems plausible to me: if August is for self-development, perhaps February should be for reconnecting with others.  I’ve long thought it would maybe be a nice idea to set aside a specific time for thinking about friends and other such people whom one has gotten out of touch with, and taking initiative to catch up and such.  Think of a random friend you haven’t seen in a long time, reconnect and buy them dinner… to continue in the vein of ideas that have no practical value in the pandemic era, but a nice idea for sometime nonetheless, perhaps.

Here’s then the emergent concept from all of the above: human beings have a light side, and a dark side (eros and thanatos, if you will); they have, also, a need both for individuality, and for connection with others.  Amid these four seasonal festivals, as just conceptualized above, all of this is acknowledged.  And why is it significant to do that?  Because fundamentally, Satanism - at least the constructive denominations of it - is a humanism, and if one is to then celebrate a humanistic religion, it seems apt to conceptualize festivals that celebrate various aspects of being human.  

This is a somewhat different sort of conceptualization of these festivals than one gets in Neopaganism, wherein I get the impression they are more oriented toward seasonal change per se, but that angle is not necessarily absent here either.  The transition from spring to summer is a time for affirming positive sides of life, whether in the form of sexual ecstasy, good food and good times with companions, or otherwise; the transition from summer to fall is a time for self-reflection, analogous to getting older and taking stock; the transition from fall to winter is a time for the acknowledgment of mortality, since large portions of nature are looking pretty dead by that time; the transition from winter to spring is a time for reconnecting, as in times past in communities living more precariously, a certain sentiment of “well, we survived - time to see who else is still alive!” surely does arise in connection with that time of year.  Hence why I say again, as before, that in my mind at least, there’s a certain compatibility between Neopaganism and Satanism, at least as far as acknowledgment of earthly existence goes.

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Miscellaneous other “holidays” for Satanists

In this section, I just want to touch briefly on a few other holidays of Satanic significance, or rather, which I think should be of Satanic significance.

First up, as a LaVeyan I would be remiss not to mention the significance of one’s own birthday.  I think that’s a really solid Satanic principle there re: you are your own God of your own world, therefore your coming into existence definitely should get celebrated in the manner that you see fit.  In my perfect world, everyone would automatically get their birthday and the day after off work, and the accommodation of this would just be a standard expectation of how the working world operates.  Yet another reason to vote “me” for world dictator, obviously. ;)

Secondly, I propose, in the spirit of the upside-down-crosses-while-throwing-the-horns -type conception of Satanism, that Satanism should have a holiday on the same day as Christians’ Good Friday, and call it Bad Friday… or perhaps, if one wants to be a true black-metal dickhead about it, Rotting Christ Day.  (Though, ironically, Rotting Christ actually has this song about Jesus’ last words on the cross that I find rather moving and not particularly disrespectful, aside from of course the unavoidable awkwardness with the band name.)  We then spend that day reflecting upon all the people who have lost their lives because of superstitious dumbasses, fanatical apocalyptic fuckwits, and so forth.  I propose this because, while I agree with Satanic Temple that Satanism needs a holiday with this sort of theme, I adamantly disagree that it should be Walpurgisnacht, i.e. Beltane, because I associate Beltane with the things I mentioned in the previous section, i.e. good times, not reflecting about how much people suck.  Yes, I absolutely see a place in Satanism for reflecting upon harms caused by conventional religion, but do it some other time instead of putting a downer on Neopagan naked-party night.

Thirdly, I think Satanism should officially appropriate Krampusnacht, i.e. ditch those chains that Saint Nicholas put on him and just let him and his pals rampage wherever they like for the whole rest of December until Yule.  Because, I mean, come on...

I admit that I don’t have a fully-conceived notion of what-all should be entailed here “as a Satanic holiday” (possible issue to take up in a future post?).  Basically though, the idea is that in between Halloween and Christmas, there’s an event that’s both at once.  Proof that Jack Skellington had a valid idea all along!  I am sure the average reader of this blog requires little persuasion to agree that this would be awesome. ;)

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I don’t claim that the above sum up necessarily everything that I think should be “celebrated more” from a Satanic perspective.  It’s a decent start though, and if nothing else, a good summing-up of some miscellaneous thoughts I’ve had kicking around in my mind on this topic for awhile now.