This Is How Satanism Was Invented In The 1960s

Left: Anton LaVey on the cover of Look magazine, August 24, 1971. Right: Jayne Mansfield and LaVey from the cover of 'California Infernal,' a book about their relationship. Sources:; Walter Fischer

Who founded the Satanic Church, and how old is Satanism? Well, Satan is an old idea -- an Old Testament villain -- but Satanism only goes back to 1966. That's when Anton LaVey founded the Church of Satan, a theatrical, contrarian, religious movement that attracted attention from Jayne Mansfield and others. 

Oh, and they don't actually believe in or worship Satan.

When Satanism comes to mind people tend to think of a group of spooky people clad in black robes standing over a virgin sacrifice and chanting ancient incantations, but the reality is far less cinematic. It’s confused with paganism, the pre-Christian folkloric religion where we get most of our holidays, but in truth, Satanism wasn’t a thing until the mid-1960s.

Sprung from the mind of Anton LaVey, the Church of Satan created all of the signifiers that people identify with Satanism -- the inverted crosses, wearing black, and the rituals. LaVey’s teachings feel ancient, but they’re no older than Star Trek or early Herb Alpert records.