Having had a good look at Christianity and it’s various positive and negative forms, and also the various pagan myths of Teutonic lore, we will now shift our focus toward a particular feature of mythology that is a recurring theme throughout the history of religion. The being known as ‘Satan’ in Judeo-Christian mythology and as ‘Shaitan‘ in Islam, means ‘adversary’ and features as an antagonist either to God or mankind in different mythologies throughout the world. He is known in one sense as the embodiment of all evil, but also as a tragic or even sympathetic figure who rebelled against God and was cast out of Heaven.
The lore surrounding this dark figure is a mixture of pagan and Christian myths, and his association with the Judeo-Christian ‘God’ is either as the prosecutor of Job, as in the Old Testament, or as tempter of Jesus within the New Testament. However, his appearance as a horned man with goat legs and a trident is a mixture of pagan imagery, in particular the Greek forest god Pan and his Celtic cognate, Cernunnos, as well as the Greek sea god, Poseidon. To mainstream Christians, Muslims and Jews, he is seen as the one who leads you astray from the path of God and towards damnation, but he is perceived as a liberator and a figure of freedom in some pagan traditions; and sometimes is even seen as a god to be feared, rather than the more benevolent Creator deity.
Though ‘Satan’ is the name most commonly known in the West today, he is also known by the titles of ‘the Devil’ (whose name relates to words ‘devious’, ‘deviant’ and ‘devour’), Beelzebub (‘lord of the flies’, thought to derive from the Canaanite deity Ba’al) or even ‘prince of darkness’. He is also associated with Lucifer, although this is a slightly different figure that we will look at in more detail later on. In other cultures, Satan is known in different forms, such as Ahriman in Zoroastrianism, who is seen as the enemy of Ahura Mazda (‘God’) and deceiver of mankind. In Buddhism, he appears as the arch-demon Mara, who represents illusion and is the lord of death.
Within Teutonic mythology, the best fit for a Satanic figure would be Loki; who also represents illusion and deception and is the nemesis of Heimdall, guardian of the Bifrost Bridge to Asgard (the home of the Aesir and a place representing enlightenment). However, in other cultures he was seen as a deity to be worshipped, such as among the natives of Virginia, who called this being Oke, and some even performed human sacrifices of teenage boys to him. In Ancient Egypt, he was known as Seth or Set, and despite being the brother and slayer of the Sun god Osiris, he still had followers among the Ancient Egyptian kings, though his name was later blotted out in religious dedications. Even within the Old Testament, there are references to dual goat sacrifices, one to Yahweh and one to Azazel, lord of the desert, who is very similar to Set in his attributes.
Today, he is often seen as representing a very real force of evil that compels individuals to commit atrocities against others. The so-called ‘Church of Satan’ and its brand of Satanism are simply a pompous form of atheism that promotes mockery of Catholic Mass and very base individualism based off of capitalist ‘philosophy’. However, much more serious stories involving human sacrifice and child abuse have appeared in mass consciousness over the past few decades. This practice of Satanism was once associated with people usually characterized as mentally deranged heavy metal fans, particularly in the United States during the 1980s.
However, this extreme expression of teenage rebellion is not nearly as prevalent nor as disturbing as tales of ritualistic sacrifices of children by plutocratic elites, many of whom are said to be or have connections to world leaders. Due to the nature of such clandestine activities, such practices are difficult to prove. For instance, it is possible that such stories are made up in order to disseminate fear and paranoia and have no basis in truth. Such accusations are similar to those made against witches by the Catholic Church during the Burning Times. However, it would also stand to reason that if these things were happen among the wealthiest members of society, then they would have sufficient resources to cover it up and protect themselves from the wrath of the public. Either way, the idea of offering humans as a sacrifice to an infernal being are nothing new, and it is naïve to assume that such beliefs and practices are not still adhered to within the darkest corners of Man’s heart.
Thus, the nature of ‘Satan’ is multifaceted and not so easy to discern in terms of a singular being. He is a different sort of character depending on the context and how his role relates to other beings portrayed as ‘God’. For example, in the Book of Genesis, Satan is usually associated with the Apple of Eve, which was eaten by the first woman from the Tree of Knowledge. Though not explicitly mentioned as the name of the serpent who tempted Eve to eat the apple, it has been inferred from the theme of temptation to disobey that this figure represents Satan in this context. However, this story could be interpreted in different ways. On one hand, the Judeo-Christian interpretation is that Eve and her mate, Adam (the first man, whose name comes from Atum in Egyptian mythology) were damned by God and cast out of the Garden of Eden (‘paradise’) for their acts of disobedience; and so began the Fall of Man from spiritual grace.
On the other hand, a Gnostic or Luciferian perspective is to see the serpent as the spirit of curiosity, which encouraged Eve to disobey the tyrannical false god ‘Yahweh‘ and reach towards enlightenment. Both versions reflect either a Left-Hand Path or Right-Hand Path interpretation of the story, for which the meaning differs depending on one’s own values. For one on the Right-Hand Path, Satan more often is seen as a dangerous enemy, and one who tries to distract you from achieving your goals through temptation and deception. However, within the Left-Hand Path, any obstruction to liberty is seen as a hindrance and Satan can be a valuable ally in overcoming the bondage of psychological conditioning during one’s lifetime. It is at this point that it is worth distinguishing the figure of ‘Satan’ from that of ‘Lucifer’, who are often conflated but who generally represent two distinct but related beings. Satan is a figure who was originally seen as ‘the accuser’ and acted as God’s dispenser of justice on Earth in Judaic mythology. However, within Christianity he is seen as the ruler of Hell (based on both the Greek and Teutonic underworlds) and as a fallen angel and lord of demons.
Lucifer is an angel or demigod known as Phosphoros in Greek and whose name means ‘morning star’, which is the planet Venus. He is a metaphor for the ‘light-bringer’ or seeker of enlightenment, and is associated with both Loki and Prometheus; who is said to have brought the divine gift of fire to Man (‘Loki’ means ‘lightning’ in both a metaphorical and literal sense). Within Judeo-Christian mythology (though not actually in the Bible) Lucifer is portrayed as the angel who led a rebellion against God when asked to bow before Adam, and who was cast down into Hell following his defeat and becoming Satan. In this way, he is similar to the Yazidi deity Melek Taus, though their Creator is said to have praised the archangel for his refusal to bow before any creature lower than he, for this is how he was created. In these terms, Lucifer is the one who chooses to rebel, and Satan is who he becomes in doing so.
This process may also, however, work in reverse. Wotanist mystic, Kalki Weisthor, has suggested that both the figures of Satan and Lucifer can be incorporated into Wotanism by adding Wotan as a third component. The idea is that one begins their journey on the Left-Hand Path by acting as Satan, and so undoing unhelpful social conditioning and false beliefs by refusing to follow what you have perceived to be the rules. The next step is to become Lucifer, which involves pursuing enlightenment and acting as a free agent, having done away with what restricted you before. The last step is to embody Wotan, after mastering the skills of magic and using one’s liberated position to come back into society as a teacher and as a leader.
I personally find this a very helpful concept, though it presumably does not work as well for those on the Right-Hand Path, who will want to stick to their principles and resist the urge to rebel, since it is not in their nature to do so. Satan is not so much to be feared but respected, and he is a figure that will remain as long as human consciousness can conceive of a negative force, pulling us either towards damnation or enlightenment. It is also worth keeping in mind that Satan can mean many different things to many different people, and that misunderstandings about his character have led to persecution and ostracism which arise from ignorance. As a friend or enemy, he is with us always, as a teacher, tempter or that which we despise but know we must embrace as a part of life.