Children of the Black Sabbath – Anne Hébert Crown Publishers – 1977 (Originally published as Les Enfants du Sabbat in 1975)
This book is about a daughter of Satan who becomes a nun and wreaks havoc in her convent. The title sounds like a heavy metal tribute act. Anne Hébert is a respected author, but she wrote in French, and there’s very few reviews of the English translation of this book. Also, it was recently reissued by Centipede Press, one of the coolest publishers out there. I had to read this.
At first I wasn’t sure if Sister Julie, the protagonist, was actually possessed or if she was just mental. The Devil is here though. There is real wickedness at play, and some very nasty things occur. Sister Julie is from a long line of witches, and without spoiling the story, I will say that she performs a pretty blasphemous miracle by the end of the book.
Hébert was an award winning French Canadian author. There’s unannounced perspective changes and flashbacks in here, and you have to pay attention when you’re reading it. (This isn’t a problem though. There’s plenty going on to hold your attention.) Even though it’s a translation, this book felt more literary than a lot of the horror fiction I review here.
I’m not really sure what the message of the book is. I might be biased, but I thought the head nun and priest of the convent come across as more dislikable than the daughter of Satan who is working towards their ruin. Sister Julie is not a standard hero figure though. The source of her powers seems to be the incestuous rape and neglect she suffered as a child. The suffering she has endures makes it hard not to want to see her succeed in her endevours, but she also lashes out at people who don’t deserve it. The book doesn’t seem to come firmly down on the side of god or Satan.
This was atmospheric, tense, dark fiction. You should read it.
I remember coming across these in Paperbacks from Hell and immediately writing them off because 7 books seemed like a big commitment and an initial search showed them to be fairly scarce. I took a closer look a few months later and realised I’d have to read them.
Like many of the books featured in Paperbacks from Hell, these titles are very tricky to track down, but these particular books were already scarce when PFH came out. These are erotic novels, and they feature a specific kink. I found a link on Will Errickson’s blog, and it might have something to do with why these books are so hard to find. This webpage is a list of JR Parz’s favourite erotic mind control novels, and it has been online for well over 20 years. The Martin books have been listed at the top of it since it was first posted. Erotic mind control seems like a fairly specific kink, and I’d imagine that the erotic mind control online community is pretty closely knit. Yep, I would be willing to bet that more of the copies of Martin’s books still in existence are sitting shelves of mind control perverts than on the shelves of regular horror fans.
There’s a paragraph on these books in Paperbacks From Hell and an essay inSatanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s about how Martin’s novels reflect the early 1980’s fear of Satanism, but neither of these sources offer any information on Russell W. Martin, the mysterious pervert who wrote these strange books. The internet isn’t much better. The only online source on Martin I could find was his ISFDB page. That page says he was born in 1933 and that his full name is Russell White Martin, but it also says he cowrote a book about space and drew some pictures for a 1992 science fiction novel called A Fire Upon the Deep. I got hold of both of these books, and I can confirm that the space book was written by a different Russ Martin, and the art in A Fire Upon the Deep was created by Elissa Mitchell. I don’t know if we can believe the other information from ISFDB either.
The only reliable information I could find on Martin is on the inside cover of my copy of Chains. Chains is the UK version of Rhea. This information is not included in the Playboy edition of Rhea, published one year later.
In Paperbacks from Hell, Grady Hendrix claims that Martin wrote 7 novels about the Satanic Organization, but that’s not true, and anyone who has read these books will understand why (details below). Also, Alison Natasi omits Rhea and Candy Sterling from the bibliography to her essay. This might be because one was written in the 70s and the other doesn’t quite fit in with the theme of the essay, but it might also be because Candy Sterling is almost impossible to get hold of. Apart from JR Parz, I am not convinced that I know of anyone who has actually read all 7 of these books.
Hard to find, rarely read, trashy novels about horny Satanists? Hell yes.
Due to the relative scarcity of these books, I am providing summaries of each. If you’re actually planning on reading these, maybe skip to the last 2 paragraphs and then come back once you’re done. (I wrote these reviews as I was reading the books, so I end up answering some of the questions I ask later on in the post.)
A girl born in the 1700s spends her birthday money on a mysterious old book called Liber de Malo from the back of a merchant’s van. She is a gifted child, and at 5 years of age uses her schooling in Latin to summon a demon. Once she hits puberty, she starts using demons to help her gain complete sexual subordination from anyone she fancies. She does this for about 200 years and then meets Phillip Stafford, a wealthy movie executive.
She gains control over this Phillip guy, but things start to get really nasty once his wife finds out. Philip hires a private detective to figure out Rhea’s game, and it’s through his sleuthing that many of the details of Rhea’s past lives are revealed. The chapters are not in chronological order, and each one offers the perspective of a different character. I was very impressed with how well the plot was crafted. This is sexy, satanic horror fiction, but Russ Martin put some serious work into organising this story.
This isn’t porn though, even if it was published by Playboy. The characters have lots of sex, but there’s barely any graphic sex scenes. The most lurid scene appears towards the end of the novel, and it is anything but sexy.
Parts of the book are scary too. Rhea is proper bad. She’s not just mean and selfish. She’s evil.
Honestly, I was really surprised by how much I liked this one. I don’t know why it hasn’t been reissued since 1980. It felt like a proper gothic novel.
The Desecration of Susan Browning Playboy Paperbacks – 1981
An up-and-coming film maker rescues a woman named Wanda Carmichael from getting raped. Turns out that Wanda’s in league with the devil, and she decides she wants the lad who saved her, so she puts a mind control spell on him. Susan, his wife, isn’t too pleased, so one of Wanda’s associates puts a love spell on her too. Both Susan and her husband are drawn towards people they absolutely hate by an insurmountable force of evil. Susan finds some reprieve when she meets Al Crabbe, a handsome priest who stows her away in a convent, but even he can’t stop the Devil’s powers. The novel ends with a mass gathering of Devil worshippers gathering for a Satanic baptism. Instead of being anointed with holy water, the baby, and probably Antichrist, is anointed with blood from a fresh castration wound. Fr. Crabbe sneaks into this ritual, and although he doesn’t manage to save Susan, he does wreck the party and make off with the baby. The novel ends with Fr. Crabbe looking at the baby and questioning his faith.
The Desecration of Susan Browning wasn’t as impressive a novel as Rhea in terms of plotting but it was still an enjoyable read. There’s less exposition here. While Rhea told the story of how the titular character fell in league with the devil, there’s not as much backstory to Wanda Carmichael. We don’t find out exactly how she has gotten to where she is today. While Rhea felt like a gothic mystery, The Desecration of Susan Browning is more of a thriller.
One of the few things we do find out about the novel’s antagonist is that she is a trans woman. This trashy horror novel was written in 1981, so this isn’t dealt with in particularly a sensitive manner.
There’s also a scene where a Satanist refers to Jesus as a “suckass”. LOL.
The Devil and Lisa Black Playboy Press – 1982
I’ve seen this described as both a sequel and prequel to Susan Browning, but I think the more appropriate way to describe this book would be as an appendix to its predecessor. Lisa Black is a minor character in The Desecration of Susan Browning. She’s an informant who has had a curse put on her that makes her think she’s hideously ugly. She’s an intriguing character, and if I hadn’t known she that she was going to show up again in a different book, I would have wondered why Martin introduced her.
About half of The Devil and Lisa Black is taken up with Lisa’s backstory. It’s pretty much what I’ve come to expect at this point. A beautiful young girl is bewitched and drawn into a circle of horny Satanists.
The other half of this book deals with Al Crabbe (the priest from the last book). He has abandoned the priesthood and is still looking after the baby he kidnapped from the Satanists (the baby whose high ranking Satanist mom was designated male at birth). Al’s luck takes a turn for the better, and he very quickly ends up with a high paying job, a nice house and several attractive sex slaves, one of whom is Lisa Black. Things get a bit weird for him after he starts seeing the ghosts of Susan Browning. I didn’t expect a happy ending from this one, and I didn’t get one.
It’s a bit of an odd book. The two strands share one character, but Lisa doesn’t really do much in the Al Crabbe part of the story. I mentioned above that I was impressed with how Martin strung the different threads of Rhea together into a cohesive whole and that I thought The Desecration of Susan Browning fell a little short of its predecessor. After reading The Devil and Lisa Black, I think that Russ Martin may have originally intended the the Lisa Black parts of this novel to be part of The Desecration of Susan Browning. They all take place before the events in that book, and they would make her inclusion there more understandable. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Martin’s publisher had convinced him to cut that stuff out and put it into another novel. I reckon the Al Crabbe stuff here was added on to fill up space.
While this is definitely the worst novel so far, it might also have been the sexiest. I’m pretty sure there’s more boobs in this one anyways. It also contains the greatest line in sleaze fiction history:
This is the first of Martin’s books to be published by Tor.
While the 3 previous books featured relatively small cabals of Satanists, the Satanists in The Possession of Jessica Young are part of an international network referred to as The Organization. The Organization aims to bring about the reign of Satan on Earth. One of the highest ranking members in the Organization is a guy called Stephen Abbott. Part of his job is seeking out psychics who may somehow obstruct the Organization. The exact nature of how these psychics will do this is never really addressed.
Jessica Young is young and beautiful. She’s also the most powerful psychic the Organization have ever come across. She can kill people without touching them. At first Stephen Abbott does the ol’ mind control spell on her and gets her to kill her own family. Unfortunately for Abbott, her powers are so strong that she breaks the spell herself. Abbott is left with little choice but to lobotomise her. The lobotomy scene is pretty degrading and gross.
This book felt distinctly more mean spirited than its predecessors. This is less a novel about dashed hopes. It’s more a novel about suffering. Jessica has already killed her family by the time the book begins, and we’ve already come to understand that Martin’s books end in a worse place than where they began. Sure, the bad guys are Satanists and Jessica is psychic, but the occultism that kept Rhea exciting is entirely gone. This felt more like a book written for dudes who like the idea of having complete control over a woman. There’s a slight reprieve of misery at the very end of the book, but it doesn’t make up for what’s happened.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just reading through these too quickly and I’m getting a bit tired of them, but I didn’t really enjoy this one very much.
The Obsession of Sally Wing Tor – 1983/1988*
This is a direct sequel to The Possession of Jessica Young. Half the book won’t make sense unless you’ve read that book beforehand.
The plot is a bit of a mess at this stage.
Jessica Young was lobotomised at the end of the last novel, but her soul fled into her sisters body and took over. Her sister is obsessed by Stephen Abbott (the main man from the Organization), so this is tricky business. If Jessica gives her sister any control over her own body, she will turn themself in for a chance to see her loverboy. Half the novel tells the story of Jessica trying to gain access to Stephen Abbott, but when she gets close enough to kill him, she changes her mind and has a brief affair with him.
The other half of the novel is about a former child prostitute named Sally Wing. The Organization turns her into a vampire, and she kills a bunch of children. After she kills a child that the Organization had turned into an adult, the Organization loses its patience and has Sally raped and murdered. The Sally Wing part of the story has absolutely no overlap with the Jessica young part.
Sally feeds on fear rather than blood, and there’s one part where she does a really good job at scaring a little girl that I did not enjoy reading.
I was pretty surprised with how this one ended. There’s no revenge, but Jessica Young is not dead or evil yet.
*(I’m not sure about the publication date of the second version pictured above. Will Errickson and ISFDB say it’s from 1988, but my copy says first edition on the inside cover. This is extra confusing as it also lists The Education of Jennifer Parrish in the “Other titles by this author” section. That book wasn’t published until 1984 though… Probably just an error.)
The Education of Jennifer Parrish Tor – 1984*
*(This cover is from 1988. I don’t know if there was ever a different cover for this one. There were alternate covers for the other 2 Tor novels.)
Like The Obsession of Sally Wing, this book has two almost entirely separate storylines. This is the third book dealing with the saga of Jessica Young and Stephen Abbott. It also introduces a brand new scenario and cast of characters.
Jennifer Parrish, a teenager, tries to kill a rapist, so she’s forced into a military-style boarding school that’s owned by the Satanic Organization. Why would Satanists run a school? Well, when a high ranking Satanist gets old, they visit the school, pick out an attractive student and then forcibly trade bodies with them. The procedure doesn’t initially work on Jennifer because she’s a virgin, but the Organization figures out a way to remedy this.
Stephen Abbott’s failure to subdue Jessica Young by the end of the previous book has got him in big trouble with the Organization. He is told that if he doesn’t get her under his control, he will be obsessed by a sadistic woman that he hates. He manages to have sex with Jessica at least once more, but despite his pleas, she runs away and allows him to become obsessed.
Jennifer Parrish dies, but she only took up half a book. Jessica Young escapes, and her tormentor from the first book in this trilogy is in a far worse position than her. Martin doesn’t tell us where Jessica is going to go or what she’s going to do next, and Abbott is obsessed, but Jessica has the power to cancel an obsession, so although the ending to this book is tidier than its predecessors, it does not rule out a continuation of the story. Unfortunately, no further books in this series were ever published.
The Resurrection of Candy Sterling Playboy Press – 1982
This is by far the hardest Russ Martin novel to find. Some of the others go for ridiculous prices, but I have never even seen a copy of this for sale online. I left it till last because I taught it was written last, but it turns out that this was actually published 2 months after The Devil and Lisa Black. This was Martin’s last novel on Playboy Press, and this publisher shut down shortly after it was released, so there were probably fewer copies of this printed than the others.
If you are reading Martin’ books due to an interest in Satanism in literature, you can skip this one. This deals with a cult, but nothing Satanic. Let me tell you, it’s easier to stomach sadism if the perpetrator is supposed to be a worshipper of evil. Having normal people perform acts of brutal sexual violence makes it much nastier.
Candy Sterling is a stupid prostitute. I don’t mean to imply that prostitutes are stupid. Candy is both a prostitute and an imbecile. She joins a cult led by a mysterious figure known as “The Prophet”. This Prophet guy convinces rich people to give him all their money and then spend the rest of their lives working on his farm or, if they are beautiful teenage girls, working in his mansion.
This is where the commonality with Martin’s other books shines through. The Prophet has absolute control over his followers. They will do anything he tells them to. Candy is mugged while in his service, but she refuses to give his money to the mugger even after he brutally assaults her. The mugger is so impressed with her fortitude that he joins the cult himself. (His reasoning here is never fully explained.)
Soon enough, Candy and her mugger are married and given the special job of murdering apostates of the cult. It quickly becomes apparent that Candy is the more unstable of the two when she tortures a family of rape victims to death. She later leads her husband back to the the scene of this murder and then shoots him in the head while he is performing cunnilingus on her.
Honestly, if sexual violence isn’t your thing, avoid this book. It was surprisingly extreme.
Having read Martin’s other novels, there’s something disquieting about the focus on brainwashing and power relations in here. You don’t write 7 erotic novels heavily featuring the same kind of kink if you’re not into that kink yourself. But Candy Sterling is not the kind of story you should be wanking too. This is a grim read, and the sincerity of the eroticism made me feel a bit dirty. Even JR Parz gave this one a negative review.
Ok, so if you haven’t been paying attention, let me sum up the sequence of these books. Rhea and The Resurrection of Candy Sterling are standalone texts. The Desecration of Susan Browning and The Devil and Lisa Black are a pair. The Possession of Jessica Young, The Obsession of Sandy Wing, and The Education of Jennifer Parrish are the first three books in an unfinished series.
These are novels about Satanists and black magicians, but most of the occult rituals occur behind closed doors. The Satanism on display is of the trashy horror novel variety. The essay in Satanic Panic about these novels is probably a better place to look if you want some commentary on how they reflect the social values of when they were written. I read them for enjoyment, and they got the job done. Rhea was definitely the best; if you’re going to read any of them, make it that one. The others are varying degrees of ok, definitely not worth the prices that some sellers are asking for them.
Phew, I think this might be the longest post I’ve written. I hope it was entertaining/elucidating. If anyone has any information about Russ Martin, please leave a comment or email me.
Satan Wants You – Arthur Lyons Mayflower – 1972 (First published 1970)
I’ve probably read enough books about the history of witchcraft and Satanism, but this book is called Satan Wants You, and it has a naked babe drinking out of a human skull on the cover.
The first part of the book is the history of the Devil, witchcraft and the Black Mass. This was fine, but I don’t think I learned anything that I didn’t know already.
The second part of the book is a sociological analysis of Satanism. This book was written during the late 1960s, and Satanism back then was quite different to what it is today. The Church of Satan had only been operating for a few years, and none of the other Satanic groups discussed here are mentioned by name. I assume the approach of sociology has also changed quite a bit since this book was written. Honestly, the latter half of this book is outdated and extremely dull.
Satan Wants You is only 170 pages long, but it’s so boring that it took me a couple of weeks to force myself through it. It would be of interest to a person researching what people in the late 60s/early 70s thought about Satanism, but there are plenty of more accurate and/or more entertaining books on the same topic.
As I was writing this post, I started to wonder how many books on this subject I’ve read. I looked through my index page and realised it was more than I remembered.
The Devil in Love – Jacques Cazotte Heinemann – 1925 (Originally published as Le Diable Amoureux in 1772)
Jacques Cazotte was a rich French lad who may have been a psychic member of the Illuminati. (He was definitely a freemason, and it is claimed that he prophesized the coming of the French Revolution at a dinner party in 1788.) His head was cut off in 1792.
Oh, and twenty years before he died, he wrote an occult romance called Le Diable Amoureux. There have been several translations of this work into English, and while the earlier ones had a bunch of different titles, most of the versions that are currently available are published as The Devil in Love. I read the 1925 edition, a reprint of the 1793 translation. (Here is a great article that goes into more detail on the different editions of this text, and here is a pdf of the text I read.)
Don Alvaro, a stupid Spanish lad, meets a Jafar type character named Soberano who has power over demons, and Alvaro immediately wants to get in on the action. Soberano tells him that it takes years of training to control demons, but Alvaro summons Beelzebub on his first go. Beelzebub shows up in the form of a minging camel, but he turns into Biondetta, a sexy babe, when Alvaro grimaces.
The rest of the book is basically Biondetta getting Alvaro to fall in love with her. There’s a slow power transfer, and towards the end Alvaro is set to start doing her bidding rather than the other way around.
The story is very straight forward, and it felt pretty familiar to me. This is a very short work too, and the version I read is an old translation of an older book. Maybe some of the charm got lost in translation. The Devil in Love is an interesting little curiosity, but there’s not that much too it. It’s the kind of book that would make a better music video than a movie.
Anton LaVey – The Satanic Witch Feral House – 1989 (Originally published at The Compleat Witch in 1971)
I read the Satanic Bible in January 2014. I originally bought a copy to leave on my coffee table when guests were over as a joke. When I read it, I was amused by much of it but never took it too seriously.
I’ve changed quite a bit since 2014. I got married, became a father and got a real job. I suppose I’ve grown up. I don’t think of myself as a particularly good person, and I think it is everyone’s responsibility to prioritise their own well being, but I have no time for anyone who fails to see the importance of treating others with patience and kindness. I have also spent more than a sensible amount of time posting in “satanic” message groups on facebook over the last few years, and almost every Satanist I have encountered has been an utter imbecile.
The world has changed since 2014 too, almost definitely for the worst. I know that politicians have always been awful, but the political leaders and decisions of the last few years have largely been horrible. A philosophy based on greed and hedonism seems the exact opposite of what the world needs right now.
All of these factors have led me to the conclusion that The Church of Satan and its followers are a gang of dorks. Despite this, I decided to read Anton La Vey’s The Satanic Witch. This book’s cover boasts that it is designed for “women cunning and crafty enough to employ the working formulas within, which instantly surpass the entire catalogue of self help tomes and new age idiocies.” Bullshit. It’s designed for insecure losers who don’t value their individuality.
I had heard that this was embarrassing nonsense, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how stupid it truly is. The 1989 edition begins with an introduction by Zeena LaVey, the author’s daughter. Zeena claims that she became a Satanic Witch at the age of 3 and discusses how she learned that sex could be used as a tool while she was still a child. She talks about looking at her father’s porno magazines as a kid and how she got pregnant when she was 13, two years after she first read The Satanic Witch. These details are provided in attempt to depict Zeena as sexually liberated, but their real effect is to make Anton look like a seriously shitty parent. How are we supposed to take his book of advice for “women who want more control over their lives” seriously when he was such an atrociously irresponsible father? Even a shit father probably cares more about his kid than a stranger, and if LaVey couldn’t prevent his child from getting raped and impregnated at 13, how will he be able to do anything for anyone else? (I know that you shouldn’t blame a rape victim’s parents for their being attacked, but I think its different when the parent is giving their child access to pornography and books on sexual manipulation.)
I managed to get through the first few chapters of ridiculously outdated mysogonistic nonsense, but I gave up when I got to the “LaVey Personality Synthesizer”. LaVey sets out a range of people and shows which type of partner these folks will be compatible with. He writes as if he was an expert psychologist, but we all know he was just a baldy wanker.
I was going to try to paraphrase the sections of the book that I got through, but it’s too excruciating. There’s no sense to any of this utter hogswash. The only thing this pathetic pile of shit will teach anyone is what kind of women dorky little fuckboys like the author are attracted to.
Part of my reason for tryjng to read this pile of crap was that I had heard of a book called The Satanic Warlock that is essentially an updated version of this book intended for the incel crowd. I am still curious about reading this one even though I am sure it’s even worse than The Satanic Witch. Part of my motivation to review The Satanic Warlock is to write a mean spirited review that will hopefully hurt the feelings of the author and his readers, but as Anton LaVey is dead, I have no such impetus to delve any further into his work.
This is the first book of non-fiction that I have discussed this year, and it was a real stinker. If anyone has any recommendations for occult/Fortean/weird non-fiction books that don’t absolutely suck, please send them my way!
Organized Satanism’s tendency to align itself with political movements is lame. Satanism should be about the celebration of evil and the performance of heinous deeds of malevolence. Dorky satanists’ attempts to politicise their movements are pathetic.
I know there are countless Satanic sects, but the two biggest groups of organized Satanists are the Church of Satan and the Satanic Temple, and both have ridiculous links to politics.
The Church of Satan
The Church of Satan is all about individualism. You don’t need to adhere to any specific lifestyle or political belief system to become a member. That being said, the philosophy behind this “religion” is based on the writings of Ayn Rand, and it’s largely about maximising one’s own power at the expense of others. This focus has attracted countless right wing wankers. LaVey, the organization’s founder, fraternized with James Madole and several other neo-fascists. In the 80s, several members of the Church of Satan appeared on Race and Reason, a talk show hosted by Neo-Nazi Tom Metzger. Now, I know that a few members of an organization being Nazis doesn’t make every member of that organization a Nazi, but one of the guys I’m talking about was later asked to become the organization’s leader. I don’t actually believe that every member of the Church of Satan is a white supremacist, but I do believe that most of the members get a kick out of their religion’s nebulous connections with neo-fascism. They’re Satanists for fuck’s sake; they love being associated with scary stuff. (CoS’s links with right wing scum are well documented elsewhere. Google it if you want more information.)
I don’t think that the Church of Satan is a hate-group or anything like that. I just think its members are nerdy virgins who were bullied at school and spend the rest of their lives trying to seem dangerous. They’re too wimpy to actually do anything, so they just flirt with Nazi imagery on their tumblr blogs. Lame.
The Satanic Temple
By now, I think the Satanic Temple (TST) probably has more members than the Church of Satan. This organization promotes progressive ideas of social justice and that kind of thing, and I think a lot of stuff that TST does is kinda cool. I just dislike its members as individuals, and I think the whole thing of Satan being the good guy is silly.
Satanism, regardless of what brand, has to be a little bit naughty. It’s named after Satan, the adversary of God. Satan doesn’t follow the rules. He’s not supposed to do the right thing. If not the antagonist, he is at very least a trickster. Inviting Satan to the battle against conservative Christians is fair game, but what about invoking him to protect Muslim refugees in the USA?
I am NOT saying that I disagree with welcoming and protecting Muslim refugees. Islam is an Abrahamic religion, and the Shaitan (an evil spirit) tempts Adam in the story of the Garden of Eden as told in the Quran. Somehow I don’t think many Muslims are going to feel comforted when greeted with the following image:
I didn’t make that image myself. I found it in a TST facebook discussion group a few years ago. Check out the replacement of the star with the pentagram. Is that blasphemous? Some well-meaning Satanist was making these images to share online. Here’s another one:
The name Satan comes from a Hebrew word meaning accuser. Satan first appears as a specific entity in the Torah, and he plays an important role in the beliefs and sacred texts of Judaism. Some fucking idiot has placed an upside-down pentagram, the symbol of Satan, inside the star of David. How fucking oblivious can you be?
Of course, this isn’t the first time that somebody decided to mix Satanic imagery with Jewish symbolism. Here’s an image from the July 1938 edition of Der Stürmer, the Nazi tabloid.
This kind of hateful nonsense even predates the Nazis. During the medieval period Christian leaders put a lot of effort into linking Satan to the Jewish people. I have no doubt that the individual who posted the Satanic Solidarity images meant well, but Jesus Christ, what an ignorant fucking imbecile.
I made the following image myself and posted it in the same thread as the two above. I was kicked out that facebook group shortly after.
No. Making Satan the good guy is dumb.
the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture
the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society
the adoption or co-opting, usually without acknowledgment, of cultural identity markers associated with or originating in minority communities by people or communities with a relatively privileged status.
Cultural appropriation is a favourite topic of some modern progressives. Regardless of how problematic you think it is, I’m sure you’ll agree that all three of the above definitions of cultural appropriation apply to the Satanic Temple’s adoption of Satan as a symbol for progressive values. Oh the irony! Satan is a character, a force and a symbol from Jewish and Christian belief systems that has been willfully misunderstood and transformed into a force of benevolence by a bunch of geeks wearing black nail varnish. There are obviously more Christians than these progressive Satanists, but the language used to describe the appropriators as being “relatively privileged” or “typically dominant” doesn’t really create a contradiction. TST looks edgy on the surface, but its values are actually pretty close to those of the majority of people living in the Western World. Their beliefs are (thankfully) dominant here at this point. The benevolent Satan of TST is an abhorrent corruption of the evil Satan of the Abrahamic religions.
I want to reiterate that I think that some of what TST does is actually pretty cool. I just think a lot of its members are clueless weiners. The above images are just one example of the kind of wishy-washy, goody-two-shoes nonsense that I witnessed in TST facebook groups before deactivating my account. (I want to make it very clear that I definitely prefer these harmless geeks to the nasty little rape glorifiers of the Church of Satan.)
Satanism is inherently dumb, and any attempts to codify it are bound to turn out lame. A true Satanist serves Satan; they shouldn’t try to tame the Dark Lord and have him spout their political dogma or make excuses for it. The only viable form of Satanism is the performance of atrocious deeds of unspeakable evil. Snarl at the moon, abuse yourself, spit blasphemous obscenities in the faces of believers and revel in your acts of unholy destruction (preferably all at once), but please keep your political beliefs for lunchtime conversations at work like a normal person.
Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin Pan – 1974 (Originally published 1967)
I saw the movie version of Rosemary’s Baby a long time ago, and I knew that it was considered to be a faithful adaptation, so I wasn’t expecting many surprises when I got around to reading the book. While the book’s plot is pretty much identical to the movie, knowing how things were going to end only allowed me to further appreciate the way Levin structured his novel. There’s lots of seemingly irrelevant little things that happen throughout the story that end up having a big impact later on, and this novel is so masterfully written that it was still exciting to read knowing how it was going to end. The pacing and suspense at work here are awesome. This is thrilling stuff.
Maternal instinct is a primal and powerful thing, and Levin uses it to fuel this high tension nightmare. I remember reading a quote from Kurt Vonnegut about how good authors should be sadists and that a good protagonist must suffer if they are to relatable. I don’t know if Levin got this idea from Vonnegut, but he certainly believes in it. Rosemary is never presented in an even remotely negative light, but Levin forces her through devastating trauma.
I assume that most of my readers know how this story ends, but in case you don’t, I’m going to discuss that now, so read the book before you read the next paragraph.
I had a strange reaction to the climatic ending of this novel. All of Rosemary’s nightmares come true. She has given birth to the spawn of Satan, but that maternal instinct kicks in and she quickly comes to accept her child’s faults and commits to being a good mother to him. My personal response to this was relief. As a parent, I don’t want to read about any child being abandoned, abused or ignored, and while I don’t consider myself a Satanist, I am sympathetic to their cause. I also read most of this book with my kindle in one hand and my newborn daughter in the other. When Rosemary refers to her son as Andy Candy in the book’s final lines, I felt a sense of joy and relief.
Rosemary’s Baby works so well because 95% of the novel is entirely believable. The characterisation is great. A woman’s first pregnancy is an exciting but uncertain time, and it often happens around the same time that she moves into a new home. Apart from the Satan stuff, many, many people have very similar experiences to Rosemary. It’s really only in the last moments of the novel that Rosemary’s fears are confirmed and the supernatural establishes itself as a governing force in the story.
Son of Rosemary Onyx – 1998 (Originally published 1997)
Writing a sequel to Rosemary’s Baby had to have been a complicated process. It was impossible to continue the narrative in the same mundane world where most of the first novel takes place. Some of the events in the original novel, the Pope’s visit to New York for example, actually occurred. Setting the sequel in reality wouldn’t have worked. Readers can’t buy into neighbourly dining room conversations if they know the speakers are warlocks and witches. To deal with this issue Levin sets Son of Rosemary in a weird alternate universe.
In 1999, Rosemary wakes up from a coma after 20 something years. (She had been poisoned by the Satanists after planning to run away with her son.) The world she finds herself in is a strange place. It’s basically the late 1990s as they really were, except for the past few years, everyone on Earth has been idolising a guy named Andy. This Andy chap is being credited with bringing about world peace, and everyone really loves him. Rosemary quickly realises that this is her son, and the two have a high profile reunion on live TV.
The astute reader will quickly realise that Andy is the Antichrist prophecised in the Book of Revelation, but Andy swears to his mother that he has turned his back on evil and has dedicated his life to doing good. I started to see through his ploy once he tried to have sex with his mom.
Yep, a good chunk of this book is this Andy chap trying to get Rosemary to have sex with him.
Ok, I’ll imagine most of you have already read the book or decided not to read it based on what I’ve just told you. If you don’t fall into either of those categories, you might want to skip the next bit because I’m about to discuss the ending. I warn you though, this is a shit book that isn’t worth reading. A spoiler can’t make it much worse.
The ending of Son of Rosemary is perhaps the worst ending to a novel that I have ever read. After Andy has brought about the apocalypse and Rosemary is descending into Hell, she wakes up to discover that everything that happened over the course of the two novels was actually a dream. What the fuck? Ira Levin was a good writer. How the Hell did he think it was ok to end a book like that? Did he contract acute Alzheimer’s as he was concluding the book and revert back to grade 3 writing? It was all a dream? Piss off. If a 12 year old ended a story like that I’d kick them. Honestly, the ending to this was so bad that it actually made me like the original book less. Do not read this insane piece of garbage.
Stepford Wives Signet – 1994 (Originally published 1972)
Before reading the Rosemary books, I read Levin’s The Stepford Wives. This is another very famous book, but I had luckily avoided ever finding out what it was about. It’s a bit like Rosemary’s Baby in that both books finish with a shocking revelation for the female protagonist. It’s the kind of book that works better the less you know about it, so I’m not going to say much else other than that I really enjoyed it. It’s quick, exciting and creepy in a unique way. You should definitely read it if you haven’t already.
I don’t think any of Levin’s other books are horror novels, but Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives were so good that I fully intend on reading more his stuff in the future.
The Black Art – Rollo Ahmed Senate – 1994 (Originally published 1936)
In 1935, right after The Devil Rides Out was published, Dennis Wheatley’s publisher asked him to write a non fiction book about the occult. Wheatley claims he was too busy at the time (he did eventually publish one in 1971), but he recommended that his publisher get in touch with his yoga teacher, a peculiar character named Rollo Ahmed. Rollo Ahmed claimed to be an Egyptian expert on the occult, but he was actually from Guyana, and while he certainly knew a bit about the occult, much of this knowledge was probably acquired as a means to make his business seem more legitimate. Ahmed, you see, was a conman. He told stupid people he would counter black magic curses that had been put on them for money. He also told old women that spirits had instructed them to loan him a bunch of money. He was arrested and charged for doing this kind of thing on at least 3 occasions, and he served at least one month’s imprisonment with hard labour.
I bought a copy of Ahmed’s book on black magic more than 5 years ago. It cost me one Canadian cent. I started reading it at the beginning of May this year, but it was so boring that it took me 3 months to get through its 280 pages. I finished 30 other books in the same period, forcing myself to read a few pages of this trash when I was between novels. This book is the reason that this blog has seen so little non-fiction in 2020.
But did this book really suck, or have I just read too much of this kind of crap to get any enjoyment from it? Maybe it was a little bit of both.
This is supposed to be an overview of the history and practice of black magic. Ahmed did a good bit of research for this book, but he doesn’t provide any sources for most of what he is saying. This book might be of interest to individuals who are researching what people believed about black magic in the 1930s, but I wouldn’t want to rely on it as an accurate historical account.
There’s 21 chapters in here. Some are specific to time frames (pre-history, the dark ages, modernity…), some are specific to areas (India, China, Greece, Rome…), and some are specific to occult phenomena (werewolves and vampires, necromancy, alchemy…). There’s no organisational principle behind this structure, and the chapters themselves are often just lists of descriptions of practices that Ahmed either took from other texts or made up himself. I’ve come across a lot of these stories and descriptions in other books, and the stuff that was new to me wasn’t terribly interesting. Around the same time that I bought this book, I reviewed the similarly titled The Black Arts by Richard Cavendish. That book covered much of the same information that’s presented here, and Cavendish managed to cite his sources. I’m not saying that you should go out and read that one either, but it was probably better than this pile of garbage.
Similar title, cover and contents
Another obvious point of comparison here is Montague Summers’ work. Summers and Ahmed moved in the same circles, and they both were acquaintances of Dennis Wheatley and Aleister Crowley. Despite his apparent credulity, Summers’ books are the measuring stick against which all other 1930s occult histories should be compared. In the course of my research for this post, I discovered evidence that strongly suggests that Ahmed plagiarized Summers when he was writing The Black Arts.
For me, the most interesting part of this book was the chapter on the magic of Great Britain and Ireland. There is an account given of a vampire priest in Ireland that sparked my curiosity, perhaps because this is one of the only parts of the book where Ahmed cites his source. He claims that he read the story in the October 1925 edition of The Occult Review, an old occult periodical. I was intrigued by this and decided to consult the source material. It turns out that the October 1925 edition of The Occult Review contains no such story. R.S. Breene’s ‘An Irish Vampire‘ article was actually published a month later in the November edition. Big deal, anyone could make that mistake, even an expert. Well, it turns out that an expert did make that mistake. In his 1929 book, The Vampire in Europe, the Reverend Montague Summers quotes Breene’s article in full, but he mistakenly cites it as coming from the October edition of The Occult Review, 7 years before Rollo Ahmed makes the exact same mistake in his book. Coincidence? No way. It’s been a long time since I read any non-fiction by Summers, but I would be surprised if further research didn’t show more instances of Ahmed plagiarizing his work. (Here is a scan of the original story for anyone interested in the Irish priest turning into a vampire.)
Summers’ Vampire books were later retitled. I own both, but have only read the first one.
Dennis Wheatley knew both Summers and Ahmed, and there are multiple theories about characters from Wheatley’s books being based on these men. I have written several times about the Canon Copely Syle from To the Devil – A Daughter and how this character is clearly a mix of Summers and Crowley, but some people have pointed out that the evil Canon has a frightening Egyptian manservant who is probably based on Ahmed. If this is so, I reckon Wheatley understood the relative importance of both men to the annals of occult history.
“a manservant of a type that one would hardly have expected to find in an Essex village. He wore a red fez and was robed in a white burnoose. His skin was very dark, but only his thick lips suggested Negro blood; and C. B. put him down at once as an Egyptian.”– This description (presumably based on Ahmed) might seem a bit racist today, but by Wheatley’s standards it’s really not bad.
I want to include a quick note on my sources here so that I don’t seem like a hypocrite. The biographical details I’ve included are from Chris Josiffe’s articles on Rollo Ahmed in Fortean Times 316 and 317 (July and August 2014). The stuff about Ahmed’s influence on Wheatley’s characters are from this article on Wheatley’s site. All of my other sources are self evident.
I’ve been reading and reviewing books on the occult for a long time now, and my interest seems to have waned a bit recently. I believe that this is largely due to wasting my time reading so many awful piles of boring nonsense written by idiots. The Black Art wasn’t as bad as some of the shit I’ve read, but it contained little that I haven’t come across before. I ask you, my dear readers, can any of you recommend me occult/Fortean non-fiction books that are strange, interesting and preferably widely available? I’m happy to read about Black Masses and alien abductions, but I’d like a new slant on things. Maybe a Black Mass performed by aliens? Please leave a comment, tweet me or email me if you can think of anything that would fit on this site. (Remember, you can skim through my index page to see what has already been reviewed here.) Thanks!
The Nursery – William W. Johnstone Zebra Books – 1983
“a Satan who is obsessed by anal sex” – this is part of the description of The Nursery given in Paperbacks from Hell. Well, after reading that, there was no way in Hell that I wasn’t going to track down this book. Fortunately, it completely lived up to the hype. This is perhaps the most insane horror novel I’ve ever read. The cover and title are fairly misleading. There is a nursery in the story, but it’s not super important to the plot. This book is more about violence, sex and Satanism… oh and vampires.
The Nursery is a tricky one to find though. At this stage, nearly all of William W. Johnstone’s horror novels have been released as e-books, but The Nursery has not yet been given this treatment. (I’ve ended up with two copies. If you wanna trade me something good, message me.) This shit is truly mental, but it’s damn entertaining. There’s another, more thorough, review of this book on Glorious Trash if you want more details before reading it
I wrote the above paragraphs about The Nursery roughly a year ago. After finishing that book, I had a hard time picking up another novel by Johnstone. While I did actually enjoy The Nursery, it’s a very intense novel, and reading it was a hectic experience.
Looking back at those paragraphs, I am amused to see that I described The Nursery as “perhaps the most insane horror novel I’ve ever read”. I finished reading Toy Cemetery a few weeks back, and I can say with certainty that it is definitely the most insane horror novel I’ve ever read.
Toy Cemetery – William W. Johnstone Zebra Books – 1987
Toy Cemetery is essentially the same novel as The Nursery except this one has the added attraction of two armies of living toys. Yes, this is another novel about a Vietnam veteran returning to his home town only to find it overrun by Satanists. There’s more incest in this one, but it’s also extremely violent. There was one scene that starts off with a man taking his new girlfriend on vacation; after a few paragraphs, he is crushing her skull with the heel of his boot. Another noteworthy feature of this one is the fact that every single female character is evil. Honestly, there’s so many insane parts of this novel that I don’t feel capable of properly explaining how mental it is. By the end of the book, the honest, honorable, Christian protagonist is stabbing his family to death in garbage dump. Grady Hendrix wrote an excellent review of this one a few years ago. I read his review right after finishing the novel, and actually being forced to think about what had happened in this novel after reading it was a very funny experience. Any attempt to summarize the events in this book will fall short of expressing how truly bizarre it is. It’s ridiculously flawed, misogynistic, and non-nonsensical, but I absolutely loved it.
It might take me a while, but I intend to read all of Johnstone’s horror novels. The phrase “Paperbacks from Hell” is now used to describe horror novels from the 70s, 80s and 90s, but I don’t think I’ve read any books that live up to that title as well as Johnstone’s. These are x-rated Goosebump books for weirdos. They’re brilliant (in an awful way). You need to check them out.
Satanism: A Beginner’s Guide to the Religious Worship of Satan and his Demons Brother Nero Devil’s Mark Publishing – 2010
This is a book about being a Satanist. This isn’t the friendly, progressive, atheistic Satanism that’s in vogue these days though. No, the author of this book, Brother Nero, is an actual Devil worshipper. He believes that the Devil and demons are real and that you can talk to them. This book is an explanation of his Satanic belief system.
Brother Nemo basically believes that Christians have got things the wrong way around and that the Devil is the good guy and that God is the bad guy. He accepts much of what the Bible describes as accurate, but he questions how biblical stories are interpreted. Most of his ideas are fairly similar to Christianity though, and he’s a proud “traditionalist.” He thinks abortion is wrong because you shouldn’t kill any being that contains the blood of Satan. He claims a real satanist wouldn’t get an abortion even if she had been raped because it’s not the child’s fault the mom got raped. Fuck. I can’t imagine Christians or Satanists wanting this loser on their side.
At one point he gets really mad with people who hide their satanism from their employers. If you feel comfortable sharing your religious beliefs with your employer, that’s great, but I’m sure most adults will be able to come up with several perfectly sensible reasons for keeping that information private.
Nero continues this rant with these tasty little paragraphs:
He later argues that gay marriage is ok, so I don’t even think this guy is genuinely homophobic. He’s just really naive. He must lead a remarkably sheltered life. Come on Nemo, you really don’t understand why people might hide the fact that they’re gay? I guess they’re just not as brave as twelve year old you.
The reason I downloaded this book was because I saw it referred to as “Satanism for Parents” somewhere, and while I have no interest in being a Satanic parent, I thought this sounded like a laugh. There’s actually only one chapter in here specifically for parents, but holy shit, it is spectacular. The author admits that he doesn’t have any kids (no surprises there), but he presents himself as an authority on the subject anyways. He encourages homeschooling kids and teaching tarot cards when they are learning their ABCs. His complete and obvious cluelessness about the mental development of children is actually comforting – it’s a relief to think that this guy probably hasn’t spent much time around kids.
There follows a chapter about why teenage satanists should always make sure they have a responsible adult, like the author, in their satanic covens. Each teenage coven should have an adult, like Nero, so that he can guide them on their satanic journeys. A previous chapter of this book included instructions on writing pacts in your own blood, so God knows what kind of guidance the author would give in person. In this section, he acknowledges that parents will probably worry about their kids hanging out with an older dude because the media will have convinced these parents that satanists are paedophiles. The author is so blind that he doesn’t realise that most parents would be far more afraid of an adult who writes books about wanting to hang around with kids than a satanist who minds their own business. This is one of several instances in this book of the author showing a complete lack of common sense.
Oh, one last thing from the parenting section: Nemo claims that adoption is ok, but it’s better if the kid’s biological parents are satanic because their satanic blood means the kid will more likely be psychic. It’s at this point in the book that the author mentions that he believes that there is actually a Satanic race and that it would be good to keep the bloodline pure. Holy shit.
Eventually, the writing became too much for me. This ‘book’ is just a collection of rants from a bitter, lonely weirdo. It reads like a stupid, unlikable teenager’s journal. It’s genuinely embarrassing. You’d feel sorry for the guy if he didn’t come across as such an obnoxious, arrogant cunt. At around the halfway mark, I decided I was just going to skim the rest of this awful nonsense. What I saw made me glad of my decision.
Towards the end of the book, there’s a chapter on sacrificing animals. The author claims that animal sacrifice is ok because people used to do it in the past, and the gods are the same now as they were then, so it’s still appropriate. He also points out that animals are from the wild anyways, so they’re used to brutality. I closed the book after he started describing how he kills small animals.
I like reading violent, gory, creepy books about horrible freaks, but this isn’t a novel. These are the beliefs of a lad who thinks that teenagers should want to hang out with him so that he can teach them about the correct way to cut themselves and sacrifice small animals. Brother Nemo spends a lot of time on the internet, and he is doubtlessly going to google his name and see this post at some stage, so I’ll end it with a little message for him: