This Is How Satanism Was Invented In The 1960s

By | August 13, 2019

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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.

The Church Or Satan Was Founded In San Francisco, Or Maybe It Was LA

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source: pinterest

Various histories about the Church of Satan provide different answers, some say, San Francisco, others say Los Angeles, but it’s clear that wherever LaVey was he carried the spirit of Satanism with him. A bald-headed and goateed musician and carny, LaVey played the calliope and organ in carnivals and burlesques throughout the late ‘50s and early ‘60s while giving lectures on the paranormal and the occult.

During LaVey’s run as an ad hoc occult lecturer, he formulated the idea behind the Church of Satan. Some histories of the church claim that it began in San Francisco, but the Church’s website claims that it began in earnest after he purchased a Victorian house in Los Angeles and painted the entire thing black to give it that perfect Satanic look.

The Church’s main goal is to preach self-reliance, materialism, and individualism. LaVey was aware that he wasn’t the first person to conceptualize a philosophy based on putting yourself first and when speaking about the Church’s formation he said that if he didn’t do it himself then “someone else, perhaps less qualified, would have.”