Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Not This Again...

Every so often another iteration of the Mike Warnke con rears its ugly and ridiculous head. The stories are probably going to keep coming as long as evangelical churches are willing to fork over money to these folks to speak about "the evils of Satanism." They love finding speakers who confirm their utterly ludicrous ideas of how they imagine occultism works.

Warnke was discredited in 1991 by a Christian publication that set out to investigate his claims of being a "Satanic High Priest" with more than fifteen hundred followers. He eventually conceded that his "coven" actually consisted of only thirteen people including himself, but stood by many of the other aspects of his story even in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary. However, his first book was published in 1973 and was popular with evangelicals, so he was able to bilk them out of quite a bit of money before being found out. It's possible that Warnke once assembled a coven of that size, but with all his lies and distortions it's hard to tell.

Another confidence artist who tried the same trick was Bill Schnoebelen. Schoebelen did run a Wiccan coven in the early 1970's, but that's where the accuracy of his claims end. My fellow blogger Frater Barrabbas was in fact a member of Schnoebelen's coven for four years, and a while back posted a full first-hand account of what really went on. No surprise, his account shows Schnoebelen to be a run-of-the mill occultist with a couple groups of followers consisting of maybe forty people in total, not the thousands he claims in his books.

See, here's the most basic problem. There just aren't enough occultists in the Western world to populate the nonsensical worlds of Schnoebelen and Warnke, let alone enough "Satanists" - who are a subset of the overall occult community. In addition, the practices described don't even make sense from a magical standpoint. The only explanation besides the most likely one, outright fraud, is that these people are such incompetent wielders of magick that they go around incurring great risk to themselves breaking laws in order to accomplish absolutely nothing.

So that brings us to today's nitwit, a guy named Zachary King. I say nitwit because even if this guy is managing to con the evangelical establishment, his story is so unoriginal that anyone with access to Google can find where he got it from.

When I was about 12, a friend introduced me to a group that played Dungeons and Dragons that also believed that magick was real. It turned out that this group was a satanic coven. A lot of people ask me, ‘wouldn’t you run and hide at that point?’ I remind them that I grew up in the 70’s where satanic covens on TV are really scary, but … I love pinball machines, video games, and science fiction, like Star Trek and Star Wars, and these guys had almost every science fiction and fantasy movie you could ever want to see. They had pinball machines, an in-ground pool, a big barbeque pit, and it was just like a boys and girls club, and it was just a lot of fun. Let me put it this way, they knew how to recruit. They knew everything that a kid would want to do, so I got involved with it that way.

First off, this is the exact plot of the Jack Chick Tract Dark Dungeons that was made into a movie - which, by the way, is hilarious and awesome. The only difference is the people in the tract and film are college-age rather than 12. Second of all, let me tell you how the real world of gamers works. I played D&D back in the day, but I came from a family with some history of magical practice and I was the weird one who believed that actual magick might exist. I've never met anyone who's gaming group turned out to be a "Satanic coven." That's just silly. And then there's this:

Rumor has it that [High Wizards] are hand-picked by satan. I don’t know what the criteria is. I had done magick from the age of 10 and became a High Wizard when I was about 21 years old. I had been in the World Church of Satan for about 3 years. I had seen a High Wizard back when I was a child, but I didn’t know that that is what I was looking at. The look is very unique. It’s a top-hat, a wand or a cane, the face painted like a corpse, and an old-school tuxedo of sorts. If you go to YouTube, and look up Pink’s Like a Pill, there’s a High Wizard that appears in her video four times. The third and fourth time the wizard appears on the screen, you can see that he’s casting a spell. A lot of people seeing that video would see him, but not recognize what they’re looking at. But that’s the look.

Umm... that would be Baron Samedi from the Haitian Vodou tradition, which to anyone who's not a nutty evangelical Christian is not Satanism! It's a completely different magical tradition.

Now, satan picks you, and for a cult that big, there’s a CEO and a board of directors. So, the CEO sends word to you, you meet with the CEO and the board of directors, and they tell you that you’ve been chosen. You’re given a book that tells you what your job duties as a high wizard are, and you decide whether you want to do it or not, though I’ve never known anybody to turn it down.

So this "World Church of Satan" was big enough to have a CEO and board of directors, but apparently it's an organization that nobody in the occult world has ever heard of? Right... There is a "Church of Satan," founded by Anton LaVey, that has massively inflated numbers because they have no dues, and once you send them the money to join they keep you on their rolls forever. Granted, I suppose it's possible that somebody created a 501C3 and named themselves CEO and few friends the "board of directors," but even so, the whole story sounds massively exaggerated.

So finally we get to the point where we see how King is planning on making his money, and why he's putting out a book now.

Just after I turned 14, the coven members came to me and said that I was going to be involved in an abortion in about 9 months. There was a sex party with all the male members between 12 and 15 and a female member over 18 and her purpose was to get pregnant, and then she was going to have an abortion in 9 months. When I was told this, I said “cool” out loud, but had no clue what an abortion was. In my family, I think I heard my parents whisper the word abortion once when talking about somebody else, so I thought it was a dirty word because they whispered it and I had never heard that word anywhere else. When I asked about what an abortion was to the coven members, I said I don’t know what I have to do here, they explained that there’s a baby in the womb and you are going to kill it. There will be an abortion doctor there to help you and there will be a nurse because it’s a full medical procedure. My first question was, “is that legal?” The response was, “Yes it is, as long as it’s in the womb. As long as the baby is still inside the woman, you can kill it.”

That’s how it was explained to us. It was also explained that, ‘You are killing a baby.” They didn’t say that we would be killing a fetus or killing some cells in a body. None of that. It’s a baby. Now, I don’t think I would have been okay with killing a baby outside of a woman’s body, but knowing that I could kill as much as I wanted to if someone was inside the body … in satanism, killing something or the death of something is the most effective way of getting your spell accomplished. As far as trying to get satan’s approval, to give you something that you want, killing something is the best way to go. Killing something is the ultimate offering to satan, and if you can kill an unborn, that is his ultimate goal.

Right now there's this whole controversy going on about those alleged Planned Parenthood videos which were obviously fabricated, and some of the extremists still either have not figured that out or remained willfully ignorant. Among those folks, King has a ready-made market and will doubtless outsell everything I've ever written with this pack of lies. During the "Satanic panic" there were a number of women who came forward with stories like this, about getting pregnant and aborting or sacrificing the child - except that medical exams of all of them showed that they had never been pregnant.

In fact, the memories had been implanted by unscrupulous therapists pushing the fundamentalist cause, and it was this indisputable medical evidence that helped lead to the collapse of the "Satanic ritual abuse" house of cards. Those therapists caused a lot of harm to those young women by essentially inducing a form of PTSD that is difficult to treat, and many were successfully sued for large sums of money over it. The whole thing was a nightmare, especially for the women who had to go through it.

Not only that, the story stinks to anyone who knows anything about magick. You can read through Aleister Crowley's chapter in Magick "On the Bloody Sacrifice," and if you assume it's 100% literal you might come to the conclusion that King is pushing. But it's not literal, and aborting a fetus is not a practice that has any real magical utility. I also think that a bunch of people crowding into a room at an abortion clinic to perform a ritual would at best attract attention and at worst lead to arrests. So there's that.

The long and short of it is that this story is a work of fiction. King may very well have been an occultist in his teens, but later "found God" and converted to Christianity. A lot of kids get interested in the occult as a form of rebellion and later decide that they want the community of a church. And, I suppose, if you can rip that community off while simultaneously being hailed as hero, that's even better - right?

The sort of evangelicals who buy into this stuff apparently really do believe that world is ruled by occultists looking to draw them or their children into "Satanic practice." But this demon-haunted cosmology only exists in their imagination. In fact, in the United States, only a tiny sliver of the population has any interest in "other" religions - which include Wicca, Thelema, Neo-Paganism, and just about every other minority religion, many of which do not even involve occultism.

I suspect one of the saddest reasons that fundamentalists believe this is that when they see their children dabbling with anything non-Christian, they want to think that it's because those things are "seductive" rather than accepting the truth - life as a fundamentalist is kind of an awful way to live. something that many kids figure out by the time they're teenagers. It's not that forces outside their religion are drawing their children away, it's that their faith's harshness is the exact thing that's driving them out.

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