Friday, August 22, 2008

"Satanism" in Iowa

A Sioux City, Iowa man is on trial for the murder of his two daughters in what prosecutors are calling "a ritual from a satanic bible." The judge is currently ruling on whether or not Satanism can be mentioned at the trial. In fact, if we lived in less hysterical world it should be. Anton LaVey's actual Satanic Bible condemns any sort of ritual involving the killing of humans or even animals, so a good case can be made that Satanism had nothing to do with these murders.

The defendant, Lawrence Harris, claims to have been performing some sort of ritual that no actual worker of magick has ever heard of.

The girls' bodies were found in a second-floor bedroom of the house. Police say they had been stabbed and strangled.

Harris told police that he had been performing "some strange ritual" that had gone bad and that the spell could have severe consequences, court records show.

Presumably those severe consequences include being put in jail for murdering your kids. You know, because those are the consequences spelled out by our legal system.

Harris' attorney, assistant public defender Michael Williams, said during a court hearing on Wednesday that prosecutors are seeking to link what Harris says and does to satanism. Casting spells and practicing witchcraft is not proof of satanism, Williams said.

Nor should they be, though a ritual gone this bad is clear proof of reckless incompetence. Either that, or perhaps Harris' story sounds so unbelievable to me as a magical practitioner because it's completely made up.

Williams said he plans to use a defense of insanity and diminished responsibility. Woodbury County Attorney Mark Campbell said the evidence is needed to show Harris was performing a spell or ritual from a satanic bible when the girls died.

As I mentioned above, The Satanic Bible contains no such ritual. However, I suppose the defendant could have bought a copy of A satanic bible from just about anyone, including a guy in a trenchcoat standing on a street corner. Something like this:

"Can you sell me a copy of The Satanic Bible?"
"Sure, here you go. Ten bucks."
"But this isn't by Anton LaVey!"
"Oh, um, it's a different Satanic Bible. You can just call it Bob's Satanic Bible."

I'm not a fan of any sort of diminished capacity defense in criminal cases. It's pretty clear to me that if Harris killed the girls, and it sounds like he did, he should be sent to prison regardless of the context. He's either lying about his motive or so incredibly delusional and stupid that he's a danger to everyone around him. Society needs to be protected from him either way.

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Robert-Joseph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert-Joseph said...

I've heard of rituals like that and people who planned to sacrifice their children, although I don't know specifically of anyone who's actually managed to complete it. I'd want to know specifically what books this guy was working with if he has books. Satanism encompasses far more than LaVey and it branches off from him considerably, and it is a left hand path and, due to its popularity and sensationalist nature, contains quite a bit of just plain evil crap like this if you look for it. If that is the case, the man should be put down as is, since he would be morally bankrupt if he were working those kinds of rituals.

The other metaphysical alternative is that he managed to get himself possessed by something that killed the little girls, in which case the courts might look at it as insanity.

Then again, parents kill their children all the time without any sort of supernatural or religious explanation and this may just be one of those cases.

Magistra_Y said...

There is only one codified, legally recognized form of Satanism. It is the philosophy put forth by Anton LaVey in The Satanic Bible, and practiced for over 40 years by the Church of Satan. All others are merely versions of Christian Heresy--no matter what they'd like to call themselves!
The Satanic Bible forbids any live sacrifices and prohibits the harming of children and animals.
The Church of Satan is in the unenviable position of supporting the prosecution in this case--because we want a conviction for this criminal, and in a Satanic world he'd be hung at high noon in Macy's window---and yet the prosecution is slandering our religion and knowingly making false assertions about Satanism before the Court. Meanwhile, the defense wants the help of the Church of Satan, and we want nothing to do with that!
The facts are simple: If people would simply read The satanic Bible or go to and read the Theory & Practice link they'd know that there is no such thing as Satanic Ritual Abuse:
Christians have created a mythology about Satanism, they feed it to their young who find these ridiculous stories much more exciting than the truth and then behave accordingly. Then we take the blame.

Ananael Qaa said...

MagistraY, that's my understanding as well. The Temple of Set also describes itself as "satanic" but again, I know of no Setian rituals that involve the sacrifice of living things.

My guess is that this guy killed his kids for some other reason and is claiming it was some sort of ritual to bolster an insanity defense, with the idea that anyone who would sacrifice their children in a ritual is clearly a mentally ill individual.

robert-joseph, are you saying that you personally know people who planned to sacrifice their children but failed to do so? Or by "heard of" do you mean an urban legend of some sort?

I've heard some of those stories too but so far nobody I've talked to has ever been able to back their story up with verifiable facts. That suggests to me that they are probably mostly made up.

Robert-Joseph said...

Magistra_Y - If you don't want to take the blame try, I dunno, not calling yourself a Satanist. There is no reason why LeVay's religious philosophies need to be called Satanism (a term which was around and had a negative connotation long before LeVay ever used it), except to lure in people wanting to look bad-ass and rebel against Christianity, society, their parents, or whatever. Really, it's the equivalent of telling everyone you're a pedophile, and then getting mad every time someone says something bad about pedophiles, because you're one but you don't have sex with children (oh wait, some Satanists have actually done that, ie Lord Egan).

As for codified, Satanism isn't, encompassing many various sects and religious philosophies, some of which predates LeVay (like the Order of the Peacock Angel), and as for legally recognized I live in a country, the same that LeVay Satanism was founded in, where the constitution forbids giving legal recognition of any religion.

Ananael - I wish I knew how to get my name right on this, but it seems tied to my Gmail account I think. Anyways, yes I'm speaking of specific people, and as far as I know the police are aware of it and they don't have their kids anymore. I get entangled into the local LHP cult stuff from time to time. It mostly revolves around very unattractive people trying to trick other people into going on sexual adventures with them. As a general rule I try to keep as far away from it as possible.

Ananael Qaa said...


If you don't want to take the blame try, I dunno, not calling yourself a Satanist.

The thing is, that in most of the cases I've seen it's not the people involved in these crimes who call themselves Satanists, but prosecutors hoping to score some points with the jury. My guess is that if the Church of Satan changed its name to something else prosecutors would start using the new name a few years later once it permeated popular culture. At best a name change would be a temporary solution.

The problem is the whole mindset that somebody who commits or plans to commit a crime like this has to be part of some larger movement or organization. In a court case it makes the whole thing sound a lot more sinister. Usually these people are mentally ill and are acting alone, in stark contrast to the false "recovered memories" from the late 1980's and early 1990's of enormous cults that controlled entire towns.

It mostly revolves around very unattractive people trying to trick other people into going on sexual adventures with them. As a general rule I try to keep as far away from it as possible.

I will say that I have run into individuals fitting this description, and I'm in agreement with you that keeping far away from them is a good policy.

Magistra_Y said...

We will not change our name because of intentional ignorance.

I suppose Catholics should stop taking communion because of the fear of being perceived as Cannibals---eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ.

Those too stupid to comprehend metaphor aren't going to accept any religion that doesn't get down on its knees, relinquish personal responsibility by "surrendering" to a higher power, and have the courage to dismiss any belief in supernatural entities.

Our dogma has been in print for over forty years. Unlike the Holy Bible we are forbidden to hurt children. Those who need a scapegoat evidently need us instead of looking in the mirror and blaming themselves for the mythology they have created.

KHPR: The Voice of Darkness said...

Magistra Y [or Ygraine] fails to mention in any of her posts that she and her former husband were ousted from the Temple of Set for running a racist newsletter and later her now former husband was convicted of child molestation.

Apparently after not being able to gain any form of acceptance from us without doing the work she sniveled back to the CoS where she managed to suck up enough to gain the meaningless within the Church of Satan title of Magistra.

Magistra_Y said...

I failed to mention nothing that was in any way relevant to the topic at hand.

Yes, my piece of shit former husband was ousted from the ToS, but I wasn't. In fact I was puublished in ToS mayterial and was treated with great acceptance and respect. I have returned the favor despite resigning from the organization. Since the poster writes "after not being able to gain any form of acceptance from us " I must assume this poster is a Setian. As I have demonstrated respect for the Temple and continue to have meaningful relationships with members of it, I have no clue what crawled up the posters ass and demanded this attack on me personally. Nor could I snivel BACK to anything, as I had never been a member of the CoS previously.

However, the poster wants to discredit me by using my personal tragedies, and I have to wonder what point of this actual argument the poster wishes to take issue with----unless the Temple is suddenly in the business of attacking ex members for shits and goggles? I am not sure the hierarchy of the ToS would be pleased to have a member start of pissing match with me for no apparent reason.

My soap opera, embarrassing and humiliating as it may be, and as much fun as it is for others to use to detract from genuine issues, is public knowledge. You have just barely hit on the really good parts.

Wow. The ToS has certainly changed, though. They used to have a bit of honor and would have considered using the sexual assault of children to make a point beneath them.

Feel free to debate whether you want Lawrence Harris using Satanism, or any alternative religion including yours, as an excuse for child murder. I am against it. Since you attack me on this point should I assume you are taking the "pro" position?


confuaediowan said...

I actually know someone who did this same thing except he didn't get caught and he committed suicide recently and he burned the kids I've also seen human sacrifices sadly children and was also made to participate it was traumatic and it was satanic cults and I think witchcraft which both are evil so either way it's not right I don't understand how people yeah I just don't get it it I was trying to google info things that happened back then trying to find answers it started when I was very young and everyone I know are now deceased I'm trying to move on and heal but it doesn't help when your confused i accidentally came upon this it hit a nerve

Scott Stenwick said...

Let me just say this - if somebody really did this with a magical intent, they are (or were) deeply, deeply stupid, even if we ignore all the ethical issues surrounding it (which we absolutely shouldn't).

From a purely technical standpoint, there is nothing to be gained in this way that can't be accomplished by simpler, non-destructive magical means. So far I've never heard of anyone gaining anything tangible from this sort of thing, and from a theoretical standpoint I'm not even clear on how it is supposed to work.

Case in point, look at the story you just told, assuming that it's true and not just hearsay. The "practitioner" wound up committing suicide. That's about as bad as your magick can fail, right there. It proves my point. If your magical technology is bad, your results will be bad too.

It's like trying to get a computer to work by wiring up a live badger in place of the CPU. You might kill the badger, but even if you do, the machine is never going to boot.