KAYLA THOMAS AND LEAH REES
In early 2020, the South African Satanic Church (SASC) was officially registered as a religion in South Africa. The SASC has received positive feedback that supports the registration of the SASC and the Satanic philosophies of individualism and each person’s journey for their “highest potential”, as well as backlash and accusations of occultism, “devil worship”, and being morally unsound by many South Africans. PDBY reached out to UP Masters of Divinity student and reverend of the SASC, Tristán Kapp, to discuss his experience with the SASC, the registration of the SASC, and their philosophies. Read the full interview with Rev. Kapp at www.pdby.co.za/SASC-Rev-kapp-interview.
The history of the Satanic Church begins in the mid-1900s, where Anton LaVey began holding meetings in the occult, amassing a following of attendees. These meetings were formalised, and the Church of Satan was founded on 30 April 1966. LaVey later authored the Satanic Bible, published in 1969, which has been described by the Church of Satan as the main literary source for the modern Satanic movement. The Church of Satan expresses that Satanists place themselves at the “centre of their own subjective universe” and reject the worship of any God and therefore also Satan, as they are seen as fictitious entities. Instead, the Church of Satan emphasises the importance of individualism, personal freedom, and the rejection of the negative portrayal of the seven deadly sins.
“centre of their own subjective universe”
After a four-year recognition process, the South African Satanic Church was founded as a non-profit company, by Riaan Swiegelaar and Adri Norton, whose “mission is to educate the public [as] to what legitimate Satanism is, but also more importantly; to address the misconceptions that exist in South Africa as a result of the ‘Satanic Panic’”. The SASC adheres to the Nine Satanic Tenets found in the introduction of the Satanic Bible. Rev. Kapp stated that the Satanic Bible “validates the self without judgment and promotes vital existence in life, instead of […] aiming to please a deity’’ and says that the SASC’s main philosophy is that “when we show up as ourselves, others will too”, and that the “Satanic Church provides a home for otherness”. Rev. Kapp says he, Norton and Swiegelaar “don’t hate anything or anybody” and focus on opening their doors to “those who identify with the Satanic philosophy”. The SASC has affirmed that they “do not practice, nor condone animal, and/or human sacrifice”.
Founders of the SASC, Riaan Swiegelaar and Adri Norton.
On 1 July, the University of Pretoria published an expert opinion by Johanneke Kroesbergen- Kamps, a specialist in Western new religious movements and Christianity in Africa, entitled The South African Satanic Church – looking beyond the name. Kroesbergen-Kamps explains that “in Christianity, Satan has become the personification of all evil” but that Satanism “has little to do with the Christian conceptions of Satanism as an organisation of evil devil-worshippers”. The SASC regards Satan as a literary character, created by Christianity, and Rev. Kapp explains that its followers “don’t worship the devil, [as] he doesn’t exist” to them and that the response to Satanism as evil is from a “narrative of [Christianity’s] creation”. Kroesbergen- Kamps says Satan “in the Christian imagination […] became synonymous with evil” while in reality, Satan became a symbolic character for “freedom from the tyranny of a strict religion”. Rev. Kapp adds to this, explaining that the SASC performs ‘reverse baptisms’, which serve to “cut ‘psychic chords’ (mental attachments/imprints) attached to the person” from previous religious and emotional trauma, as people are often “baptised against one’s own will as an infant”.
“has little to do with the Christian conceptions of Satanism as an organisation of evil devil-worshippers”
Kroesbergen-Kamps responded to comments expressing discontent at the SASC being registered as a church due to their belief that Satanists are involved in dark magic, harming others and blood sacrifices. She explained that the discontent exists due to the confusion between criminals who call themselves Satanists and worship Satan as a deity, and Satanists who follow Satanic philosophies. The article explains that the assumption of devil worship and human sacrifice is “a descendent of the accusations of Satanism against heretics and witches in European history, and has nothing to do with it as a religious movement today”.
The article by Kroesbergen-Kamps was shared online and on social media platforms and received backlash from many readers. Facebook comments included “they going to kill people” [sic], “disgusting” and “faculty of devil himself”. Commenters expressed that the church was offensive as it “is the evil which not only goes against Christianity but also the values of all other religions which are good”. Many readers of the article also felt that the article was biased and promoting “devil worship”. Professor Kupe responded to people who expressed disappointment in the university for publishing an article about the Satanic Church by explaining that “an academic has expressed their opinion which is what academics do to advance understanding of issues”. Commenters also expressed discontent as they perceived publishing an article about the SASC as the university endorsing the church, to which Prof. Kupe responded “we do not buy ideas, we debate them”.
“an academic has expressed their opinion which is what academics do to advance understanding of issues”
In response to the backlash, Rev. Kapp explains that he and the founders of the SASC have “received numerous death threats, threats of violence”, and “bullying, abuse and hate”. The SASC says they “don’t want to convert people, and [they] believe that one is born a Satanist”, and that they offer a “safe platform, where like-minded individuals can meet, and enjoy fellowship with other Satanists” who identify with the philosophy of Satanism.
Relevant Reads: SASC Rev Kapp interview