The Satanic Aesthetic?

While writing my recent Necronomicon paper for the Societas Magica conference, I found myself having to describe a certain complex of symbols, narratives, concepts, and practices that seem typical of much popular discourse on occult topics. It consists of certain elements of occultism and media removed from their contexts and assembled in a loose pattern that suggests hidden power and evil to the viewer. The exact constituent parts can vary, but we might include the following:

  • Naked witches
  • The more lurid types of grimoire magic
  • Tales of graverobbing and ritual murder
  • The Baphomet (Levi’s version)
  • The Baphomet (LaVey’s version, which isn’t exactly original to LaVey)
  • That goat head mask from the Isle of Man witchcraft museum (can’t find a picture at the moment)
  • Depictions of Pazuzu
  • Seals from the Necronomicon

Examples of what I’m talking about are the curious fusion of Satanism, ceremonial magic, and witchcraft in Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out, or the title sequence montage for The Craft, or any sensationalistic video piece on how Demonic Cults Are Taking Over Our Children.

The term I decided upon for my paper for this strange agglomeration was the “Satanic aesthetic.” The trouble is, it doesn’t have much to do with Satanic doctrine or aesthetics (though both are often raided for the concept). I’m trying to figure out what to call this rather vague concept that I think is nonetheless important for understanding how occultism fits into today’s society. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

UPDATE:  No, really.  I can see this post is getting a lot of hits, so please weigh in if you have an opinion.

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Published in: on June 20, 2008 at 3:39 pm  Comments (12)  

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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Diabolical Genre?

  2. “Genre” is more coherent than what I’m looking for here.

  3. it’s a Left Hand Path Style Guide sort of thing, is it not? As in a writing style guide.

  4. Personally I think “Satanic Aesthetic” sums it up fairly well regardless – obviously most of the images in question were created to sensational ends and would be thought “Satanic” by most of the public.

    I suppose the progenitors of this aesthetic (in the UK at least) would likely be Alex and Maxine Sanders in the mid-60s, who were hardly publicity shy as I’m sure you know. Quite a few great photos here: http://sexy-witch.blogspot.com/2008/04/maxine-sanders-pages.html
    – one of the things I often titter to myself about is Sanders’ magic circle with the stock Cabalistic magical names on it (- possibly from the Key of Solomon ms. he was arrested for stealing?!) – a similar confusion of magical imagery to those you list above.

    I’m rather fond of this ‘aesthetic’, especially in music of the 60s and 70s – bands like Coven (who had a Maxine Sanders lookalike) and Antonius Rex really fit this exploitative aesthetic well (better than, say, Black Sabbath or Zeppelin)… along with the records put out by Lavey, Sanders, Louise Huebner (great electroacoustic backing!), Barbara the Grey Witch and all. I’m surprised Simon never cut a Necronomicon lp!

  5. You could always sex it up and call it something like the Lucifer Complex, I suppose.

  6. I think Satanic Aesthetic is almost perfect.

    Maybe Popular Satanic Aesthetic (thinking specifically of how certain academics like Emma Wilby use the term ‘popular’).

    Popular Satanic Glamour?

    Nah… I like Aesthetic.

  7. I think “Pop Satanism” works well. Be sure to work in a Spinal Tap reference too- http://www.thesimpsons.com/bios/images/bios_guests_tap.gif

  8. Chic occult noir?

    “Satanic” is too ingrained with, you know, actual Satanic practice to properly be used as a catch all. (Traditional Satanism, LaVeyanSatanism, Modern Satanism, Luciferianism, etc.) Unless you’re referring to Satanism as practiced by Satanists, you’ll need to clarify your terms more.

  9. All that transpires on earth and all beyond

    Are parts of an illimitable plan

    The One keeps in his heart and knows alone.

    Our outward happenings have their seed within,

    And even this random Fate that imitates Chance,

    This mass of unintelligible results,

    Are the dumb graph of truths that work unseen;

    The laws of the Unknown create the known.

  10. To pick out Psyche’s comment – I definitely see your point, but the trouble is, I have no idea what expresses the idea better than this. “Pop Satanism” doesn’t sound as good, and it still leaves us in the same place.

  11. You could borrow some terminology from the PoMos and call it “the satanic discourse”. Or if you still have problems with it not being really satanic, the “neo-satanic discourse”.

  12. Flaming Purple Teratomas Of The Flying Spaghetti Monster has a nice ring to it.


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