By Anastacia Mott Austin

When you hear the term "Satanist," what images spring to mind? Orgiastic midnight rituals of devil worship and animal sacrifice? Scary, dark priests and priestesses casting strange curses upon their enemies?

While there are many sects of Satanism, as there are in Christianity, the organization that founded modern Satanism is called The Church of Satan (CoS). Most CoS members would claim that animal sacrifice and devil worship have no place in their spiritual beliefs.

Founded in 1966 in San Francisco by Anton Szander LaVey, CoS now has thousands of members, though the exact number is hard to pin down, as many members do not wish to be publicly identified.

In general, the primary tenets of Satanism consist of personal responsibility, focus on the pleasures of the here and now, and achievement in society.

CoS members do not worship Satan as a deity similar to the Christian God, but rather see "him" as a dark pagan god in the pre-Christian sense. The pagan Satan represents earthly sensuality and virile power.

LaVey wrote The Satanic Bible in 1969. It contains several rules and guidelines to live life. Called "The Nine Satanic Statements," they include such declarations as "Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence!" and "Satan represents all the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!" These assertions underscore the CoS focus on hedonistic sensual gratification. Their belief is that there is only the here and now, and pleasure should be found as much as possible while we're here on earth, rather than in an unforeseeable hereafter.

The Satanic Bible also includes "The Nine Satanic Sins," similar to the Christian Seven Deadly Sins. They include Stupidity, Pretentiousness, and Herd Conformity, among others. Thinking for oneself is seen as essential to the modern Satanist.

Members of CoS achieve one of five levels, or degrees, within the church. Initial members are awarded the first degree of Satanist, which they attain by answering a detailed list of questions. Every other degree can only be achieved by invitation. The ascending levels of degree in the church are Warlock/Witch, Priest/Priestess, Magister/Magistra, and finally Magus/Maga.

Another prominent Satanist church is the First CoS. Leader, or High Priest, John Allee was once a member of the CoS. He became disillusioned with CoS, claiming that its members have become "a joyless conglomerate of straight-edge Neo-Nazi types who eschew all forms of transformative, 'Dionysian' pleasure and attack those who espouse it as being mindless neo-hippies."

However, both churches follow the same "Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth," or Satanic commandments:
  1. Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked.
  2. Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them.
  3. When in another's lair, show him respect or else do not go there.
  4. If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat him cruelly and without mercy.
  5. Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal.

  6. Do not take that which does not belong to you unless it is a burden to the other person and he cries out to be relieved.
  7. Acknowledge the power of magic if you have employed it successfully to obtain your desires. If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all you have obtained.
  8. Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself.
  9. Do not harm little children.
  10. Do not kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or you need them as food.
  11. When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask him to stop. If he does not stop, destroy him.

Some may claim that in following their bible, with its rules, sins, and guidelines for living, Satanists are just like any other followers. Indeed, they are just like everyone else.

In fact, the guy behind you in line at Starbucks just may have been a card-carrying member of the CoS.