Pub. Date:
New York University Press
Lure Of The Sinister

Lure Of The Sinister

by Gareth Medway


Current price is , Original price is $55.0. You
Select a Purchase Option
  • purchase options
    $49.50 $55.00 Save 10% Current price is $49.5, Original price is $55. You Save 10%.
  • purchase options


Lure Of The Sinister

Rumors of Devil-worship, or Satanism, have circulated for centuries. Tales of Black Masses, demonic possession, mysterious nighttime ceremonies, and human sacrifices have captured the popular consciousness, prompting the Christian Church to move aggressively to root out Satanism and its practioners through often extraordinarily brutal means of detection and interrogation.

Until recently the stuff of myths and stories, allegations of occult worship have of late taken the form of police investigations concerning ritual child abuse, teens involved in Satanic cults, and serial killings. Unsubstantiated rumors have found their way into the popular and serious press and have been reported as fact, often with little or no verification. Obsessive anti-Satanists find evidence of Satanic lyrics in rock music from Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" to Live Aid's "We are the World," while the numbers "666" are found in barcodes in supermarkets.

The Lure of the Sinister draws on a remarkable range of sources, from newspapers and pulp literature to early modern works on demonology to explore the entire history of Satanism from the origins of the Devil in pre-Christian theology through the Inquisition to the life and times of Aleister Crowley, "the "wickedest man in the world." The book also investigates modern charges of Satanism, the psychology of the people who make the allegations, and the legal and religious contexts in which they arise, showing how rumors of Devil-worship come to take on a life of their own. Lively and wittily written, The Lure of the Sinister reveals a strange tapestry of dark and fearful beliefs which have haunted our imagination for centuries.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814756454
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 04/01/2001
Pages: 463
Sales rank: 965,071
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Gareth Medway studied physics at Imperial College, University of London and has since been a freelance writer specializing in comparative religion and the history of occultism. His writing has been published in numerous specialist journals and magazines including Fortean Studies, Magonia (which awarded him the Roger Sandell Memorial Prize), and Pagan News.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

What Is a Satanist?

             Words change in meaning. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) records three distinct usages of Satanism from across the centuries. The first was found in a Catholic tract of 1565, referring to the Protestants: "Luther first brinced [brought] to Germanie the poisoned cuppe of his heresies, blasphemies, and sathanismes." It meant, evidently, a form of Christianity other than one's own. In a similar way, Satanist appeared in an Anglican work of 1559, where the Anabaptists and other unofficial sects were called "swarmes of Satanistes."

    The second definition of Satanism in the OED is "writing of the Satanic school"—for instance, the poetry of Lord Byron.

    So when did Satanism come to imply a conspiracy of diabolical orgiasts, as it does today? The OED is quite clear here: "[Definition] 3: The worship of Satan, alleged to have been practiced in France in the latter part of the 19th century." The first representative quotation is from a magazine article: "There are two sects, the Satanists and the Luciferists—and they pray to these names as Gods."

    Since Satanism has now replaced witchcraft as the name for the great conspiracy of evil that is supposed to be all around us, it is important to consider its genesis. It is an importation of the French satanisme, and though for some reason most Frenchdictionaries do not acknowledge that as a word (perhaps from purism), its origins can be clearly traced.

    In April 1885, the Roman Catholic Church believed that it had secured an important convert. Gabriel Jogand-Pages, better known by his pen name of Léo Taxil, a leading light of the anticlerical movement, had gone to a priest saying that he had been moved by the Holy Spirit and had become reconciled to the church. Formerly editor of journals such as The Mud-Slinger and Down with the Clergy! he had also turned out a large number of anticlerical and pornographic books, including The Debauches of a Confessor and The Pope's Mistresses. As he admitted in his subsequent memoir, Confessions of an Ex-Free-Thinker, he had freely indulged in fraud and hoaxing: his anonymous Secret Loves of Pius IX had featured an imaginary privy chamberlain of that pope, named Carlo-Sébastiano Volpi, complete with fake signature. He had also forged a bull of excommunication (against himself) and taken in the ultrasocialist journal La Bataille by claiming to be a secretary to the archbishop of Paris, and writing a series of articles exposing nonexistent corruption in the church, such as an underground group of the Canons of Notre Dame who were conspiring to restore the monarchy. Taxil now said he was determined to devote the remainder of his life to undoing the mischief of his former work.

    Taxil's conversion became highly celebrated, and in June 1887, he was even received in audience by Pope Leo XIII (whom he had previously accused of being a poisoner). His first book after his repentance was an exposé of Freemasonry, which the pope had condemned in a bull of 1884.

    It should be explained that the church's fundamental objection to Freemasonry is its tolerance. To become a Mason, one is expected to declare a belief in God, but one's actual creed does not matter. Jews and other non-Christians have always been welcome (at least in English jurisdictions) and the appropriate holy book substituted for the Bible during the taking of the oath. The Catholic Church held that for Catholics to attend such gatherings with non-Catholics might prejudice their salvation; therefore Masonry, said the pope, like everything contrary to the church's teaching, must be the work of the Devil.

    Normally, such accusations are meant to be understood only in general terms. Though Catholics have always believed the Reformation to have been inspired by Lucifer, if they entered a Protestant church, they would not actually expect to see the Devil called on by name. Yet Taxil suggested that it was literally true. He reproduced what he alleged was a secret lecture given to initiates, which concerned Hiram, the architect of Solomon's temple, around whose legend the Master Mason's degree is based. In this lecture, Hiram was said to have had a vision of a mysterious fiery figure who taught him a creed that was the inversion of Christianity. Adonai, or Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, he depicted as a jealous tyrant, whereas Eblis (Arabic for the Devil) was an angel of light who governed a kingdom of liberty, whose residents dined on the fruits of the Tree of Knowledge.

    The figure prophesied that Hiram's "offspring" that is, the Freemasons, would set humanity free: "They will establish throughout the world the cult of Fire. Your children, rallying to your name, will destroy the power of Kings and of all who minister the tyranny of Adonai"—in other words, the Catholic Church. Taxil's book was so successful that it ran to four volumes.

    Having come so far, one might next expect to hear hints of wild orgies, so common in conspiracy theories. But Masonic lodges admit only men, which would limit them to one particular type of sexual debauch.

    Fortunately for seekers after the salubrious, it was soon revealed that there existed a secret inner group of Freemasons, called the Palladian Order, which was said to involve both men and women. Taxil's 1891 Y-a-t-il des femmes dans la Franc-Maçonnerie? (Are there women in Freemasonry?) gave texts of the crudely blasphemous Palladian rituals:

Grand-Master: What is the sacred word of the Mistresses of the Temple?

Grand-Lieutenant: Lucifer.

G-M: Do you not tremble when you pronounce that name?

G-L: The wicked and the superstitious tremble, but the heart of a Mistress of the Temple does not know fear. Holy, holy, holy Lucifer! He is the only True God.

G-M: What is the work of a Mistress of the Temple?

G-L: To execrate Jesus, to curse Adonai, and to adore Lucifer, &c.

Included was a picture of the order's evil female chief, Sophie-Sapho. In the preface to this book, Taxil was able to cite letters of goodwill written to him by seventeen bishops, archbishops and cardinals.

    It has often been claimed that the rank-and-file Masons, who joined in all innocence, know nothing of the secret doctrines and policy at the higher levels. On the face of it, there is little to support this view: Masonic lodges are for the most part autonomous in their management, and although the Grand Lodges do have authority over them, for example, being able to order changes in the rituals, these are generally matters of which every Mason will be aware.

    Nevertheless, conspiracy theorists often insist that the "Scottish Rite" of Masonry secretly controls the rest. (Again, on the face of it, the chiefs of the Scottish Rite have authority over only the Scottish Rite.) In the 1880s the head of the Scottish Rite was Albert Pike of Charleston, South Carolina.

    In 1891 in France, a pamphlet appeared, The Existence of the Lodges of Women, by "Adolphe Ricoux," which confirmed the views of Taxil (whom Ricoux commended warmly). Ricoux had managed to obtain a copy of "Secret Instructions" purporting to come from Pike, from which it appeared that the inner orders of Freemasonry were indeed involved in Devil worship. The true Masonic theology, according to Pike, was that there are two supreme beings who struggle for supremacy: Lucifer, the principle of intelligence and light, and Adonai, the principle of matter and death. Adonai, of course, is the Christian God. According to this theology, the soul comes from Lucifer but the body from Adonai, who attempts to seduce the soul. Most of the universe is freed from him, but the planet Earth and another planet called Oolis are still beneath his sway.

    "Yes, Lucifer is God, and unfortunately Adonai is also God. For the eternal law is that there is no light without shade, no beauty without ugliness, no white without black, for the absolute can only exist as two Gods." This was called the Luciferian creed; the word Luciferian was originally used by the Inquisition as a term of abuse for certain medieval heretics.

    Pike also discussed "Satanism." As in England, where Satanism described Byron's poetry, in France this word had come to refer to decadent writers. The original Satanist, Charles-Pierre Baudelaire (1821-67), suffered bitter melancholy in his mid-twenties: his stepfather had cut his allowance to a minimum; he was pursued by creditors; and his mistress was unfaithful to him. It was in this spiritual torment that he began to call himself a Satanist and penned The Litanies of Satan:

Bereft of praises, betrayed by despicable
Fate, most handsome angel and most knowledgeable,
O, Thou, Satan, take pity on my wretchedness.

That someone could write like this was symptomatic of the weakening of the power of the church. But the Satanism of a poverty-stricken poet, moving from one lodging to another just before the rent was due, posed no serious threat to the world.

    Yet the new disclosures of the 1880s and 1890s made Satanism into a widespread secret cult. Curiously, the "Instructions" criticized the Satanists, saying that they accepted Christian theology, merely worshiping evil rather than good. According to Pike, this was also a mistake, because Christian theology was all a grand error perpetrated by the evil principle, Adonai. "Thus, the doctrine of Satanism is a heresy; and the true and pure philosophic religion is the belief in Lucifer." Thus, Freemasons ought to be Luciferians, not Satanists.

    In 1892, a massive work, Le Diable au XIXe siecle (The Devil in the nineteenth century), started to appear in serial form. The book was based on the memoirs of a Dr. Bataille who had been a ship's surgeon in the French merchant navy. It was generally known that "Bataille" was really Doctor Charles Hacks, writing in collaboration with Léo Taxil and others.

    The story began in the style of a horror romance. On a voyage to Ceylon, Bataille noticed an Italian passenger named Carbuccia who seemed inexplicably sad. Eventually, the doctor learned why: Carbuccia confessed to him that he was a Freemason and hence condemned to eternal damnation.

    Bataille made the bold decision to infiltrate Masonry himself. He sailed to Naples, where he was able to obtain high Masonic grades in exchange for a fee of five hundred francs. On his return to the Orient, he found that he was now welcome into all kinds of diabolical ceremonies. What he witnessed would have confirmed the worst fears of his most paranoid readers.

    It appeared that the omnipresent Freemasons were in league with the Hindus, the Buddhists, the spiritualists, the English, and everyone else disliked by French Catholics. Furthermore, all these people, especially the English, openly worshiped the Devil. Bataille revealed the real identity of Taxil's "Sophie-Sapho" to be Sophie Walder, the daughter of a sinister Englishman named Phileas Walder.

    Typical was Bataille's visit to the Hindu-English city of Calcutta, where the Freemasons took him to Mahatawala, a complex of seven temples on a rocky plateau outside the city. In each of these temples a different Satanic ritual was enacted. In the first temple, Bataille underwent the "Baptism of Serpents"; in the second, called the Sanctuary of the Phoenix, he witnessed the blasphemous "Marriage of the Apes," during the course of which the celebrant washed his hands in molten lead (the servants of darkness being capable of much that was impossible for Christians); in the third temple, consecrated to Eve, he said that what he saw was so obscene that he dared not print it; in the fourth, a Rose-Croix sanctuary, he watched while Indian girls danced and then dematerialized; fifth, in the Temple of the Pelican, there was a lesson in Masonic charity; sixth, in the Temple of the Future, a hypnotized girl tried unsuccessfully to divine what was going on in the Vatican; and finally, in the Temple of Fire, there was the usual human sacrifice.

    On a boat to Singapore, Bataille met a young Scottish woman, a Presbyterian, named Arabella D——-. Now, according to Catholic theology, the Presbyterians are Socinian heretics; hence they are Gnostics, who are a type of Satanist. It was not so surprising, then, that when Arabella took Bataille to a Presbyterian church in Singapore, it transformed at the touch of a button into a Masonic lodge, where he witnessed the initiation of a mistress of the temple (the Palladian ceremony given previously in Are there Women in Freemasonry?). The climax was the desecration of the Host:

A deathly silence fell on the assembly. The Grand-Mistress raised her voice and spoke in a metallic tone, her throat contracted: "The Priests say—This is your body. We say: it is the body of a traitor."

... Then the Grand-Mistress raised the host, with an imperious gesture; but Miss Arabella had no need of encouragement; the dagger in her hand, she lashed out in rage at the host, crying out like a demon: "Holy, holy, holy Lucifer! Curses on Adonai and his Christ!"

    Bataille's accounts of the wickedness of the English must have helped boost the book's French popularity and sales. The Rock of Gibraltar, which Bataille visited, proved to be hollow and filled with infernal factories for making Satanic regalia and weapons to be used in a future war against Catholic nations. He learned that the Palladian Order was the controlling body behind Freemasonry and every other type of Satan worship. It was based at Charleston, along with the Scottish Rite. Each Friday afternoon, Lucifer appeared there in person to give instructions to his disciples, which would be carried out by conspirators all over the world?

    The Devil in the Nineteenth Century, which ran to nearly two thousand pages, became one of the best-sellers of the decade. Soon others were jumping on the anti-Satanist, anti-Masonic bandwagon. Some of these authors were (unlike Hacks/Bataille and Taxil) also violently anti-Semitic. Leon Meurin, archbishop of Port-Louis, published Freemasonry: The Synagogue of Satan, in which he argued that Freemasonry is based on the Kabbalah and that the Kabbalah is Jewish, which he considered proved his title. Other writers threw in their own pet obsessions. A certain Louis Martin combined anti-Masonry with anti-Semitism and Anglophobia, turning out such titles as The English, Are They Jews?, and England Governs France by Means of Freemasonry. The notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which were forged in Paris at about this time, may well have been influenced by the Taxil affair.

    Catholic journals, in their zeal to combat the powers of darkness, published letters written by "Sophie Walder" and also by "Diana Vaughan" another high priestess of Lucifer. Photographs of Vaughan wearing Masonic vestments showed her to be a handsome young woman.

    At this point came a curious hiccup. Among the anti-Luciferian publications that had sprung up was the Revue du Diable, which exposed a certain Mlle. Lucie Claraz, a wealthy spinster with a wide circle of distinguished Catholic friends, as secretly being the high priestess of a Luciferian sect. In consequence, she was excommunicated. She promptly sued for libel, stating in court that she was a devout Catholic. The editor of Revue du Diable made a novel defense: the existence of Devil worshipers, he said, was manifest nonsense. Since what the paper had alleged about Mlle. Claraz was thus impossible, no one could take it seriously, and it was not therefore libelous. The judge refused to accept this and awarded five thousand francs in damages, but the episode gave an indication of how far these promoters of stories about Luciferians and Satanists believed what they were saying.

    Unashamed, the public campaign continued. It was now revealed that there were factional splits among the Devil worshipers. Domenico Margiotta, another Taxil collaborator, related how orthodox Luciferians, including Diana Vaughan, had objected to the election of Italian politician Adriano Lemmi as grand master, because, they said, he was a Satanist. To prove the truth of this, Margiotta reproduced the English text of the dissenters' meeting, together with a French translation. It was written in an extraordinary style, including such sentences as: "Besides, he has laid a tax upon the poor italian lodges, which are obliged to pay, on pain of erasing, after three premonitions." The accompanying French gave the last word as avertissements, which can mean either "warning" or "premonition." Obviously, here it meant "warning." Similarly, radiation could mean "erasing" but in this context should have been "expulsion." These kinds of mistake occurred all through the document, along with French habits such as writing "italian" in the lower case. It is hard to explain this, unless one supposes that this document was, in fact, written in French and then translated into English by a native French speaker using a French-English dictionary.

    Next, it was disclosed that Diana Vaughan had fallen out with Sophie Walder and had come to Europe, where she founded the New and Reformed Palladium, a small number of copies of whose journal were actually available in Paris. Clergymen, horrified by the blasphemous Luciferian creed being announced in their midst, prayed incessantly to Saint Joan of Arc for Miss Vaughan's conversion. In June 1895, Taxil was able to announce that, miracle of miracles, Vaughan had indeed become reconciled to the Catholic Church. The journal of the New and Reformed Palladium ceased publication, to be replaced at once by Diana Vaughan's serialized Memoirs of an ex-Palladist.

    Miss Vaughan began her story by describing how she had attended one of the Friday seances at Charleston, South Carolina. Lucifer appeared in the form of a beautiful young man, seated on a diamond throne, and announced that he was appointing her as his high priestess. He gave her an army of spirits of fire, who took her to the Garden of Eden, defeated the angel guardians, and enabled her to enter. Inside, she mounted a huge white eagle, on which she flew off to the distant planet Oolis, the realm of Adonai. With Lucifer's help, she returned to Charleston by way of a volcano and the center of the earth (as in Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth, though here the center of the earth was implied to be hell). She herself claimed to be descended from the seventeenth-century English alchemist Thomas Vaughan, who, she said, signed a pact with Satan in 1645, occultism having run in the family ever since.

    In 1896 an anti-Masonic congress was held at Trent. By now doubters were appearing. The rationalists present refused to believe in the very existence of Diana Vaughan, since she was associated with supernatural events such as appearances by the Devil. "The Count H. C" read a paper in which he stated that he had tried to check some of the facts given in The Devil in the Nineteenth Century and found that they were totally wrong. A member of the Asiatic society of Bengal had written to him saying that there was no complex of seven temples on a plateau outside Calcutta and could not be, as the countryside was totally flat for one hundred miles around the city. He noted also that a picture given by Dr. Bataille, taken from the Hong Kong Telegraph, which Bataille said was of the mutilated body of a Masonic traitor, in fact showed a parricide executed by dismemberment in Canton?

    In England, Arthur Waite was also skeptical: he pointed out that parts of the ceremonies of the Palladian Order, supposed to have been written in the eighteenth century, were copied from the writings of Eliphas Lévi (1810-75), which Waite knew well since he had translated some of them into English; as for Leon Meurin, the account of "an authentic apparition of Satan" given in his Freemasonry: The Synagogue of Satan was quoted from Blackwood's Magazine, where it had appeared as fiction. Waite's attacks were noticed by Diana Vaughan, who retorted that he was a Freemason himself, who had translated Lévi for the use of his Luciferian compatriots.

    In November 1896, Dr. Hacks/Bataille gave an interview to Verité in which he frankly admitted the hoax:

When the Encyclical Humanum Genus appeared, directed against the Freemasons as allies of the Devil, I thought that here was a way to make money out of the credulity and limitless stupidity of the Catholics....

Sometimes, when the fibs I perpetrated were a little too blatant, for example, the story of the serpent who wrote prophecies with his tail on Diana Vaughan's back, or the story of the Devil transformed into a young girl in order to marry a Freemason, and changing in the evening into a crocodile to play the piano, my collaborators, laughing till they cried, told me: "You must be more careful, my friend, you will spoil everything!" I replied to them: "Bah! Let it be! It will pass!" And it passed!

    In April 1897, Taxil called a meeting at the Geographical Society in Paris, where, it was announced, Diana Vaughan would appear. Instead, he took the stage and himself made a speech:

Reverend Fathers, Ladies and Gentlemen: I must first of all offer my thanks to my colleagues and the Catholic Press. Do not be angry, my Reverend Fathers, but laugh in your heart, in learning today that what has happened is the exact opposite of what you believed. Bataille is not a devoted Catholic, exploring the high Masonry of Palladism under a false nose. But on the contrary, he is a freethinker who, for his own edification, not out of malice, has entered your camp, not for eleven years, but twelve: and ... it's your servant.

I had two collaborators, two, no more: the one, an old friend of my childhood, to whom I gave the pseudonym Dr Bataille; the other, Miss Diana Vaughan, a French Protestant, something of a freethinker, a typist by profession. The one and the other were necessary to assure the success of the latest episode of this joyous obfuscation, which the American journals have called "the greatest mystification of modern times."

At first the Freemasons were indignant: they could not foresee the outcome, which will be a universal roar of laughter.

My first books on Freemasonry were a mish-mash of rituals with interpretations; each time that a passage was obscure, I explained it in a sense agreeable to Catholics who would see Lucifer as the Grand Master of the Freemasons.

There were several books by authors who ran in the train of my marvelous revelations. The most extraordinary of these works was that by a Jesuit bishop, Monsignor Meurin, bishop of Port Louis, who came to see me in Paris and consult me. He got well informed!

In my book Are There Women In Freemasonry? I created the personage of a Grand-Mistress of Palladism, one Sophia-Sapho, for whom I gave only the pretended initial of her name: W. To my friend the doctor, I gave the entire name in confidence. Sophie Walder, a myth! Palladism, my most beautiful creation, never existed except on paper and in thousands of minds! It will never return?


Excerpted from Lure of the Sinister by Gareth J. Medway. Copyright © 2001 by New York University. Excerpted by permission.

Table of Contents

1 What Is a Satanist?9
2 Why Worship Satan?34
3 The History of Satan and the Pact50
4 Historical Satanism70
5 Satanic Crime100
6 Hell on Earth123
7 Before Michelle Remembered141
8 Sex Slaves of Lucifer175
9 Is Your Vicar a Witch-Hunter?216
10 I'm Not Paranoid, There Is a Conspiracy256
11 "Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch ..."292
12 How?309
13 Why?329
Appendix: The Black Mass380
About the Author465

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"The first truly authoritative book on the subject."

-New York Press,Nov. 14-20, 2001

"A solidly researched, sombre book, well-written, carefully documented and lit throughout by flashes of sardonic humour."

-Jean La Fontaine,author of Speak of the Devil: Tales of Satanic Abuse in Contemporary England

"This scholarly, provocative and wide-ranging book is the clearest and wisest yet written on Satanism."

-Ronald Hutton,University of Bristol

"An indispensable reference for anyone wishing to sort out fact from folklore in the Satanism Scare. In the murky world of claims and counterclaims over the danger of the occult, Medway's patient documentation of verifiable facts is welcome indeed. He makes a convincing case for seeing modern cult-busters as using the same strategies that were notorious during the witch trials of the 1600s."

-Bill Ellis,author of Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the Media

"Seeks to debunk the outlandish accusations leveled against Pagan practices by irresponsible journalists, overzealous evangelists and outright liars. . . .Convincing"—Publishers Weekly"A breath of fresh air and common sense . . . should be compulsory reading for clergy, therapists, [and] tabloid journalists."

-The Catholic Herald

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews