Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Satanic Pony Sacrifice Isn't

One of the things that frustrates me about law enforcement and occultism is when weird, unexplained events are pinned on "Satanists" as if (A) such folks are running around all over the place and (B) they mysteriously behave exactly as represented in Hollywood horror films. You know, doing evil just for the sake of doing evil rather than any practical or logical reason. Given that motive is key in many criminal investigations I'll grant that it's awfully convenient to have a class of individuals who keep themselves totally secret and are motivated by nothing other than the desire to do "bad things" - except that in reality, such people are so rarely encountered that they might as well not exist. Even psychopaths, individuals who lack both empathy for others and a sense of remorse for their actions, generally pursue tangible and rational goals - they just do so at the expense of anyone who gets in their way.

So this story is no surprise whatsoever to me, and really shouldn't be to anyone else who thinks about it logically. In July, the body of a pony was discovered in Dartmoor, England. The body was missing several organs and appeared to have been mutilated, leading a livestock protection officer to speculate that "witches or devil worshippers" were responsible. It's unclear how killing and mutilating a pony would benefit such people, except perhaps in the sense of earning them extra unspeakable evil points for the day. Oh, and just to be clear, those aren't real things. In response to the officer's speculation, police dutifully investigated and fortunately spoke to actual experts who concluded that the pony died of natural causes. The apparent mutilation was simply the result of predation by wild animals after its death.

So here's my frustration: why does this keep happening? I have trouble taking seriously the notion that "devil worshippers" lurk behind every bush, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting pets - you know, because it obviously isn't true. In fact, I can name more cases like the West Memphis Three and the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" cases from the late 80's and early 90's where people were thrown in jail based on ridiculous accusations like these than I can think of cases in which actual devil worship had anything to do with anything. Occultists who consider themselves Satanists have a coherent philosophy that has nothing to do with emulating Hollywood horror cliches, and even less to do with the caricatures found in Evangelical Christian propaganda. The article actually sums it up rather well.

Part of the answer, as the police noted, is surely that the animal-sacrifice angle made the story sensational and interesting. As long as people (especially officials) are willing to publicly speculate about whether there are groups of evil people lurking in their community looking for a chance to kill and ritually sacrifice animals — especially ones as cute and beloved as ponies — there's little wonder why the media ran with it. The larger question is, why didn't locals and the livestock-protection officer recognize the signs of ordinary predation? After all, presumably dead animals are not uncommon on farms and ranches; surely, a livestock official would be able to tell the difference between an animal that died of natural causes and was set upon by scavengers, and an animal carefully killed in some sort of ritual sacrifice, right?

Not necessarily, for several reasons. One problem is that most ranchers and livestock officials have no idea what occurs in a real animal ritual sacrifice, so they can hardly make a valid comparison. Though animal sacrifice has been a part of many religions (including Christianity, Judaism and Islam), these days, the practice is mostly limited to Afro-Caribbean religions such as Santería, which has very specific procedures and rituals for the sacrifice (and typically sacrifice chickens or goats, not horses). In fact, the butchered remains of a goat and two roosters found in Miami's South Beach this year were thought by some to be a Santería ritual sacrifice. Of course, with something as mysterious and clandestine as suspected satanists, anything could be assumed to be the result of their sinister actions.

I hope that I live to see the day that any law enforcement officer who trots out the "devil worship" canard will be laughed out of the room. As explanations go, it really is about on par with offering "a wizard did it" as an explanation for some basic scientific principle that should have been covered in grade school. Anybody who tries to sell occult books will tell you the same thing - there are so few occultists out there in the general population that from a statistical perspective we barely exist. Those of us who do are not about to form ourselves into bands and roam around looking for wayward ponies to slaughter. What would be the point?

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Hypnovatos said...

When i lived in Greece, in the mid 90's, there did turn out to be a true/wannabe satanic "cult" which had been working out of a cave. very movie-esque! black candles and giant pentagrams drawn in blood. They had sacrificed a bunch of cats and then finally a human baby. Very sad ordeal. Ever since then, every time ANYTHING out of the ordinary happens, or even anything spiritual, its automatically satanic. I was reading Crowley at the time and MAN did i get evil looks.

Scott Stenwick said...

It's a shame that a small group like that can ruin it for everyone else, apparently for all time. Did they ever explain to law enforcement or anyone else what their rituals were supposed to accomplish?

Hypnovatos said...

LITERALLY thought they were going to call up Satan to grant them superhuman powers because... they were SO EVIL... so they actually were trying to garner Evil Points to the point where the CEO showed up to grant them yearly bonuses.

Scott Stenwick said...

Wow. I suppose psychopaths need spiritual beliefs too, right? Or something like that.

I just wish law enforcement would quit assuming that this handful of fringe cases somehow constitutes what the vast majority of occultists and esotericists really do.