The material in this entry may be disturbing and graphic. If you are sensitive to such things, please exercise appropriate caution. In particular, if you are a survivor of Satanic ritual abuse then be extremely careful.
Worshipping Satan, summoning demons, forced pregnancies, ritual abuse, and an over-fondness for the colour black are all accusations that have been levelled at one time or another at Satanism. This isn't the Satanism of Anton LaVey, with its focus on freedom and drama, but a far darker kind of Satanism that's threatened the world from the day the devil was cast out of heaven. Or has it?
The idea of Satanism first arose in Europe around the 11th Century. According to some of the commentators of the time, there was an international Satanic conspiracy which planned to bring down Christianity. The agents of this conspiracy were witches who:
- Worshipped Satan
- Desecrated symbols of Christianity
- Were cannibals and murderers
- Had massive sexual orgies
- Sent demons to possess people
Many modern historians believe that such a conspiracy existed only in the minds of the people of the time. It was used as an excuse to dispose of rivals and malcontents, and enforce the power of both Church and State. Similar allegations were also used by the opponents to organised Christianity. The leyenda nega of 1567, a text by Montanus, which was rapidly translated to all European languages, portrayed the Inquisition in dark colours. In this text hordes of monks would torture prisoners, rape their daughters, and worship Satan.
Towards the end of the 17th Century, the idea of Satanism became less and less influential, though most Christian denominations never fully gave up the ideas of possession and devil worship existing. But then, some of these people believe that wine can be turned into the blood of Christ1.
New Satanism, New Danger
The rise of the religious right in North America has coincided with either the reinvigoration of the Satanic conspiracy, or the discovery of a conspiracy that has remained with us throughout, depending on who you believe. The activities of this conspiracy may include, but are not limited to:
- Ritual sacrifice of animals and people of all ages
- Cannibalism, including forced cannibalism
- Torture, including:
- Keeping people naked in snake-filled cages
- Inflicting spider bites
- Urinating into the victim's mouth or over their body
- Burying people alive
- Crucifixion and similar tortures
- Summoning supernatural beings
- Black masses
- Mock marriages
- Forced pregnancies
- Sexual abuse, including ritual sexual abuse of children of all ages
- Murder - estimates go up to 10,000 a year and higher
- Sex with the dead
- Infiltrating politics, the police, and the legal and medical profession
- Funding research into 'False Memory Syndrome'
- Cooking babies in microwaves
- Carrying out sacrifices in the UK House of Commons
This is scary stuff. Some of these activities may seem far-fetched to many people. However, rejecting the idea completely for this reason could be viewed as over-simplistic. Even if the more extreme claims are fabrications, that does not mean that there are no elements of truth at the core of the myth.
Why is it Important?
Satanic ritual abuse is certainly an important issue, no matter what the truth is. If the believers are correct, then up to 60,000 people are killed every year by the Satanic conspiracy - which means three such deaths for every homicide. If the skeptics are correct, then many people are suffering from false memories and false allegations. If reality is a mixture of the two opposing viewpoints, then both problems exist, and need to be dealt with.
There is also a religious tolerance issue. Many of the groups frequently named as Satanic 'fronts' are minority religions, such as Wicca, goddess worship, LaVey Satanism, and so forth. These kinds of allegations, frequently made by fundamentalist Christians, create fear and distrust that last long after the allegations have been proved false.
Books and Other Media
One of the first books on the subject of ritual Satanic torture was entitled Michelle Remembers and was published in 1980 by Michelle Smith and her psychiatrist (and later husband) Laurence Pazder. It was accompanied by features in People magazine and National Enquirer, and numerous radio and television shows. Michelle had memories of seeing ritual human sacrifice, various forms of torture, and contact with supernatural beings. There was no corroborating evidence of these allegations, and both of Michelle's sisters and her father have denied everything in the book.
This book was followed in 1987 by Nightmare: Uncovering the Strange 56 Personalities of Nancy Lynn Gooch. This was a collaboration by Nancy with E Peterson and L Freeman. Nancy recovered her memories of Satanic abuse after reading a Steven King novel. It was followed in 1989 with Suffer the Child by J Spencer, who described a patient with similar memories. Both of these books were best-sellers.
Meanwhile, Lauren Stratford in 1988 wrote one of the most thoroughly investigated accounts of childhood Satanic abuse. The book was autobiographical, and entitled Satan's Underground. This was the first book to describe how cultists force young women to serve as 'breeders' of babies. The babies are then taken from them and sacrificed, unless the women managed to have a coat-hanger abortion in that time.
The book did not match with other people's descriptions of the same time and place. Lauren claimed to have given birth to three children in her teens and early 20s, yet none of her friends, relatives, or teachers recalled these births, or ever seeing her pregnant. However, they did recall her engaging in self-mutilation, while Lauren claimed that her scars were the product of her torture at the hands of Satanists. The date of her father's death was also variously reported: Laurence claimed it was 1983, everyone else, and the official record, claimed it was 1965. The team of journalists who discovered these counter-claims wrote them as Satan's Sideshow in 1990. Satan's Underground was subsequently withdrawn by the publishers.
More accounts followed, many discovered by Christian psychiatrists. Many of these have holes similar to those in Lauren's account. With the rise of the Internet, stories of Satanic abuse can be found online, but be warned that many of them are extremely disturbing.
What the Hell is Satanic Ritual Abuse? - A balanced overview from a guy with letters after his name.
Entry in Skeptic's Dictionary - the skeptical viewpoint.
Satanism and Ritual Abuse Archive - These cases describe legal proceedings held in Juvenile, Family, Civil and Criminal Courts around the world where there have been allegations of Satanism or the use of ritual to abuse others. Contains disturbing content.
A note to survivors of Satanic/Sadistic Ritual Abuse - genuine advice for survivors of SRA, from a skeptical perspective.