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Satan [Heb.,=adversary], traditional opponent of God and humanity in Judaism and Christianity. In Scripture and literature the role of the opponent is given many names, such as Apolyon, Beelzebub, Semihazah, Azazel, Belial, and Sammael. Nicknames include the Tempter, Evil One, God of This World, Father of Lies, and Prince of Darkness. But in the New Testament it is Satan, with its Greek equivalent diabolos (the Devil), which came to dominate, displacing or demoting other names and figures.
In the Hebrew Bible, Satan plays only a minor role as an ambiguous figure in the heavenly court. In Job his function is described as a kind of public prosecutor for God, suggesting his role as adversary may have been in terms of jurisprudence. The transformation of Satan from subordinate official to independent adversary and rebellious angel occurred during the Jewish apocalyptic movement, which came under the influence of the dualistic cosmologies of the ancient Middle East. The New Testament, grown from the same soil, speaks of Satan as the author of all evil (Luke 10:19), the personal tempter of Jesus (Matt. 4), and the rebel cast to earth together with his angels (Rev. 12:7–9). But these and many other passages in the Bible said to allude to Satan were shaped into coherent theological narratives only over time, often in response to Christian heresies.
During the Middle Ages Satan acquired his familiar attributes in folktale—his hooves, his sulfurous odor, his horns, and, paradoxically, his polished, gentlemanly manners. Much of his appearance and many of his actions, however, can be traced back to the pre-Christian deities of Europe, such as the two-headed god Janus and a variety of Panlike nature and fertility deities. The Christian elaboration of the figure of Satan, fueled by the Dominicans and the papal bull of 1484, probably reached a peak during the 15th, 16th, and 17th cent.
In Islam, Satan is also known as Iblīs, the evil jinn who in refusing to bow to Adam disobeyed God and became “one of the disbelievers.” The Qur'an, however, implies that even as the ruler of hell, Iblīs remains God's servant and is ultimately eligible for redemption.
In intellectual circles in the West today the tendency is to demythologize Satan. Certain scholars argue that by the time the Old Testament book of First Chronicles was completed Satan had been transformed from an angel who questioned God to a being dedicated to subverting God. It has been further argued that this changing concept of Satan paralleled a process of demonizing one's opponents and attributing evil motives them. The Essene sect in the late centuries B.C. portrayed other Jewish sects who disagreed with them as allied with the forces of darkness and themselves as “sons of light.” Early Christians adopted this approach and demonized Jews who did not acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. In later centuries pagans and fellow Christians who had opposing beliefs were characterized by Christians as evil and to be opposed or eradicated.
See W. Woods, A History of the Devil (1974); J. B. Russell, Satan (1981); N. Forsyth, The Old Enemy (1987); E. Pagels, The Origin of Satan (1995).
Satan; Satanism(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
Satan is the English transliteration of the Hebrew Ha-satan, meaning "adversary." Originally this was not an all-evil entity, simply an opponent. (The Greek transliteration of the Hebrew, for the New Testament, was Satanas.) The idea of dividing the Supreme Power into two—good and evil—is not ancient, but the idea of a complex and advanced civilization. The earliest mention of Antichrist is in the Epistles of St. John (1 John 2:18, 22 and 4:3; 2 John 2:7). The Old Gods were believed to be very human, in many respects; they could have their bad moods as well as their good moods, but they were never all evil or all good.
The first concept of an all-good deity with an all-evil one as its opposite appeared in Persia. According to the writings known as the Avesta, Zoroaster was the founder of the Wisdom of the Magi about a thousand years before the start of Christianity. He taught a new religion rooted in the old Persian or Aryan folk religion. The older religion was polytheistic, with popular divinities such as Indra, a war god and dragon slayer. The evil spirits in the Avesta were known as daeva. Zoroaster's new doctrine taught that in the beginning there were two equal powers, one of good and one of evil—an original idea at that time. The good was Ormazd, or Ahura Mazda, of light and truth. The opposite was Ahriman, of darkness, negativity, and evil. This idea of a good god and an evil opposite was picked up by the Romans in Mithraism (late Zoroastrianism had found room for Mithra as a subordinate of Ahura Mazda). Mithraism was a chief rival to Christianity in the latter's early days. Christianity itself then adopted this idea of an all-good god with an evil opposite, giving that opposite the name of Satan.
Early followers of the Old Religion were little interested in the Christian ideas and held to their beliefs of a large number of deities who had both good and bad moods. There was never any thought of evil personified. However, as the New Religion grew in power it also brought more and more pressure to bear on the ordinary man and woman, the farmer and the serf. Part of this pressure was enforced celibacy. Brad Steiger points out (Sex and Satanism, 1969): When the church proclaimed coitus illegal on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays it effectively removed the equivalent of five months of the year from the possible taint of sexual pleasure. Mother Church's next move was to enforce sexual abstinence for forty days before Easter and forty days before Christmas. Clerical decree had now removed the equivalent of nearly eight months from medieval man's coital calendar. It furthermore seemed advisable to the clergy that sexual intercourse be prohibited for three days prior to receiving communion—and regular communion attendance was required. For the remaining four months available for permissible sexual intercourse, the new edict could remove the equivalent of at least one more month. Then, of course, coitus was forbidden from the time of conception to forty days after parturition and any time during any clerically levied penance.
This left a total of approximately two months out of the year when a husband and wife might have sexual relations with each other—and then, of course, only for the purpose of procreation and definitely without any thoughts or feelings of pleasure. With restrictions such as these, it was no wonder that eventually people began to rebel. Finding that they were getting no joy from the supposed god of love of Christianity, many decided to try the other side and to approach the Prince of Darkness, to see if he would provide some relief. So Satanism came into being as a rebellion against the harshness of the Church of that time. It probably turned out that the rebels did not get any better returns from Satan than they had from God and Jesus, but at least they had the satisfaction of knowing that they were working against the establishment. Satanism started as a revolt against the Church and came to be structured largely as a parody of the Christian rituals: the Lord's Prayer said backward, black candles, the crucifix upside down, the Black Mass, and so on.
Satanism, then, was a product of Christianity; it was not a part of the preChristian teachings. Since the Old Religion predated Christianity, pagans did not even believe in the Devil, let alone worship him.
Over the centuries, there have been various upsurges of interest in Satanism, with a few individuals and groups making themselves known as followers of the dark side. It is doubtful, however, that many of these were true believers in Satan as a deity, or near-deity, and with sincere desire to worship him. By far the majority of known Satanists have been people who indulged in the practice as a statement, for thrills, from peer pressure, out of boredom, or just to be different. A modern example would be Howard Stanton Levey, from Chicago, who changed his name to Anton Szandor LaVey and started the First Church of Satan. This he did as a purely commercial venture, designed to make money. He had a tremendous response to his church, again mainly from those who wanted to appear different, wanted to make a statement, or wanted the thrill of defying convention.
Earlier, in the mid-eighteenth century, one man did seem to come close to being a true Satanist. That was Sir Francis Dashwood, founder of the Friars of Saint Francis of Wycombe, better known as the Hellfire Club. At the age of fourteen, on his father's death, Sir Francis was left a fortune. Like most of the young aristocrats of the time, Francis took the "European tour"—he spent his time touring Europe, together with a tutor, ostensibly studying art and examining the cities in Italy, France, and Germany. In fact the tour was used by most of the young rakes as an excuse for a continual drunken orgy. On one occasion, in Italy, Francis returned to his lodgings much the worst for drink. He collapsed on his bed and stayed there until he was awakened, sometime in the middle of the night, by two cats either fighting or mating on the rooftop opposite his window. As Francis looked out of bleary eyes, his tutor rushed in, dressed in his white nightshirt, and shooed away the cats. Francis collapsed. The following morning he awoke confident in the knowledge that during the night two demons had fought for possession of his soul, and that an angel dressed in white had come and rescued him. A changed man, he returned immediately to England and threw himself into a most pious, religious life. He donated expensive altar items to the church and became one of its most devoted followers. Eventually, however, word got out of the true nature of his experience in Italy. He quickly became a laughingstock. Angrily, he rejected the church and founded his own Satanic order, with himself and twelve disciples. He purchased a ruined medieval abbey at West Wycombe and had it restored. He furnished it with stained glass windows showing himself and his followers in obscene positions. The gardens he ornamented with statues in lewd poses. Over the entrance to the abbey he had placed the inscription: Fay ce que voudras—"Do what thou wilt." (Without the Wiccan proviso "An it harm none. . ."). For the rituals held at the abbey, prostitutes were hired and dressed as nuns to amuse the "monks" of the order.
The Old Religion was accused of parodying the Christian mass. Why it was thought that Witches would spend their time mimicking another religion's rites when they had their own much older ones is never explained. The Hellfire Club, on the other hand, went out of its way to do just that. But because of the positions and titles of its members, they were never taken to task. Members included William Hogarth, the Earl of Sandwich, the Earl of Bute, Charles Churchill, Lord Melcombe, George Selwyn, and Benjamin Franklin. For roughly thirty years, Sir Francis conducted his Satanic rites. Members left, or died, and others took their places. Eventually, with deaths and internal disagreements, the Order fell apart. On December 11, 1781, Sir Francis died.
In nineteenth-century France, the Abbé Boullan performed infant sacrifice as part of Satanic rituals performed by the Church of Carmel. This church, which was later condemned by the Pope, was founded by Eugene Vintras as the result of a vision he claimed he had from the archangel Michael. In 1851 Vintras was accused of conducting Black Masses and of homosexual acts as part of his rituals. On Vintras's death, a splinter group was formed by a disciple of his named Charles Boullon, who was obsessed with Satanism and had a nun as his mistress.
As mentioned above, Witches were accused of worshiping the Devil and of parodying Christianity. To add to the confusion on this issue, when the Christian chroniclers were recording the proceedings of the witchcraft trials, when a defendant would refer to his or her God, the recorder would automatically write in the word Devil, believing them to be one and the same. There are therefore records of accused witches speaking of their worship of the Devil, when in fact they were speaking of their worship of the God, or Goddess, in whom they believed—a deity of nature and of life and love.
Most modern novelists and screenwriters have agreed that vampires usually were created by the bite of another vampire. However, that left them with a question, “Where did the first vampire come from?” Satanism emerged as the primary answer. The suggestion of Satanism was supported by Bram Stoker. In his novel Dracula, Stoker had his spokesperson, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, offer the following reflection upon his vampire adversary:
The Draculas were, says Arminius, a great and noble race, though now and again were scions who were held by their coevals to have dealings with the Evil One. They learned his secrets in the Scholomance, amongst the mountains over Lake Hermannstadt, where the devil claims the tenth scholar as his due.
Stoker directly developed his theory that vampirism was ultimately related to Satanism from Emily Gerard’s book The Land beyond the Forest. The book spoke of the scholomance as a school somewhere in the heart of the mountains of Transylvania. There the devil himself taught the secrets of nature and magic. Ten scholars attended at any given time. Payment for the schooling came in the form of one scholar, who remained behind to serve the devil after classes were over. Lake Hermannstadt was near present-day Sibiu.
Raymond T. McNally and Radu R. Florescu have noted that at the town of Paltinis Pietrele, near Sibiu, was a place called pietrele lui Solomon (the rocks of Solomon). Wandering students stopped here to swear their oaths to Solomon (the wise king of the Bible), who was believed to know the secrets of alchemy. They suggest that Gerard had heard of this spot and reported on it in a somewhat garbled manner, thus creating a story about the mythical scholomance. While largely ignored in post-Dracula fiction, several recent novels (Drake/Andersson, Warrington—see Sources) have developed the scholomace theme.
Quite different from Stoker’s reading of Gerard, there was a much stronger and older tradition that tied vampirism to Satanism. Among the Slavs, it was believed that the vampire existed in the realm outside of the acceptance of God and the church. Vampires originated among people who were witches (worshippers of Satan), people who had committed suicide, or those who were excommunicated. In Russia, the vampire was called eretik (heretic: a person who has departed from the true faith of Orthodox Christianity). People outside the realm of the church were thought to be dealing with the devil.
Unacceptable to God, the vampire was unable to deal with the sacred on earth. It could not stand the presence of holy objects such as the crucifix or the eucharistic host. It stayed away from churches. It was condemned to live in the darkness. After death, the vampire was rejected by the Earth, and, according to the theology of the Eastern Church, its body would remain intact and incorruptible.
While most stage and film productions about Dracula neglect the question of his origin as a vampire, Stoker’s brief mention of his family’s dealings with the devil was part of a fresh mythical presentation of Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola in his movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Drawing upon McNally and Florescu’s modern accounts of Vlad the Impaler, the historical character who, in part, stands behind the fictional Dracula, Coppola pictured Vlad fighting the Turks. Wrongly informed that Vlad had lost the battle, his wife Elizabeth committed suicide. The church refused to hold her funeral or allow her to be buried in holy ground. Her soul could not be saved; she was damned. Vlad was so much in love with her that in his grief he rejected God. He plunged his sword into the cross in the chapel, and drank the blood that flowed from it. He vowed to return from the grave accompanied by the powers of darkness to avenge his love’s untimely death.
The movement of the vampire myth into modern pluralistic and secular culture has created noticeable changes in the myth. Non-Christian writers have tended to place the vampire in a completely secular realm (vampirism as a disease) or to create a supernatural myth not based on Christian presuppositions or the existence of the devil. Such alternative myths are most evident in the novels of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and Anne Rice.
Rice, in particular, has used her presentation of vampires as a means to struggle with her own Roman Catholic background, aspects of which, including any belief in the devil, she had rejected. In Interview with the Vampire, the new vampire Louis believed that he was a child of the devil and hence eternally damned. However, he soon realized that he knew nothing of the devil. He questioned one of the Parisian vampires and was told that neither God nor the devil existed. Louis eventually accepted this view of the devil’s nonexistence as a step toward realizing his own responsibility for his life—the bad parts of which could not be accounted for by reference to supernatural evil.
On the other hand, novelist Traci Briery has made effective use of the Satanic myth. In The Vampire Memoirs, she created the story of Agyar, the original vampire. Several thousand years ago, Agyar began a quest for immortality. His journey took him through bizarre and horrible rituals to distant places, including hell. He received im mortality at the cost of his own soul. Agyar was the source of all modern vampires who, like him, could not stand the presence of such holy objects as a cross.
Where vampires have a secularized or heroic existence, they have been set against Satanism and its followers. Yarbro had her vampire hero Saint-Germain confront a group of Satanists who had been promised his lady love.
In the movie Dracula’s Widow, Vanessa, the wife of the late Dracula, attacked and killed a group of Satanists in modern-day Hollywood.
It is worthy to note that “Dracul,” commonly translated as “dragon,” also may be translated as “devil”; such an association has been used on occasion to tie the historical Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, to Satanism and hence to vampirism.
Mention should be made of an old tradition in Europe, dating at least to the fifteenth century, of a “devil’s school.” In the German tradition, it usually is located in Salamanca or Toledo (in Spain), while in Norway it is located at Wittemburg (Germany). In the devil’s school, Satan teaches black magic, and claims one pupil from every class.
What does it mean when you dream about Satan?
Dreaming of Satan often indicates that there is some wrongdoing in the dreamer’s life or environment. The dream may be the direct result of evil thoughts and deeds, either by the dreamer or by someone with whom the dreamer is involved.