“Not where he eats, but where he is eaten: a certain convocation of politic worms are e’en at him. Your worm is your only emperor for diet: we fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service, two dishes, but to one table: that’s the end.”

—Hamlet 4.3

I’ve been dabbling in (sometimes fully immersed, sometimes just wading) in Satanism for about 25 years now, and I can’t recall a time when it was ever so political. Of course, I can’t recall a time when it was so popular, or when the general population had so much access to political discourse, so I shouldn’t be surprised. Hell, we’ve even seen a few schisms in Satanism recently, which has made things even more political. While I think the openness of it all is a positive development, I must admit, I do think we’re wasting a lot of energy spinning our wheels and getting further stuck in the mud. The worms eat at us too, and the more we sit in the muck, the more they get to fat themselves on us.

First, why that pretentious Hamlet quote I opened up with? This is one of my favorite scenes in all of literature (warning: spoilers ahead). Hamlet has just killed Polonius, who, while he may not have deserved to die, nobody is exactly mourning him (nobody in the audience: Ophelia, his daughter, is pretty broken up about it). Claudius, the King, has just asked Hamlet at dinner where Polonius is, so Hamlet gives him this. Basically, he’s saying that while they’re all eating dinner right now, so to is Polonius at dinner, except he’s the main course for the worms that will consume his corpse (Shakespeare could get pretty metal at times). He goes on to say that this fate awaits them as well, and in fact, “politic worms” are already consuming them as they did Polonius in his life. For some reason, I always picture Hamlet acting like Billy Madison does at dinner in his film, but I digress. Just like dead Polonius, and the still living cast of that play, so to are we being eaten. Sad to say, but Satanism is reaching trendiness levels, and it looks like we’re organizing into various cliques. There are certainly more to be discussed, but for now, I’m going to focus on the two biggest factions, The Satanic Temple and the Church of Satan. The Satanic Temple is the new kid on the block, and they’re definitely in the news more. They do admirable work around the country, attempting to secure religious freedom against the ever present threat of Christian themed oppression. For that, I applaud them. They’ve produced some wonderful protests, effective art, and they’ve sparked conversations that otherwise likely would have happened. That being said, despite their proclamations of individuality, many of the members (this doesn’t seem to be official policy) spend a lot of time promoting strictly Leftist policies, and they openly condemn anything Conservative or Libertarian. The Conservatives I get, as they tend to be very Christian dominant, but the Libertarians are generally a pretty Satanic group. The TST Facebook is filled with comments using “Ayn Rand” like some sort of swear word, and they love talking about Anton Lavey, although he hasn’t said anything in years, as he’s literally been dead since the late 90’s.

On the other hand, the Church of Satan tends to stay out of strictly political matters, although the do come up with pretty funny tweets and posts about various Christian institutions. Every once in a while, they write an article about the TST, but for the most part, they don’t talk about them much. Of course, the CoS isn’t exactly a shining star of rising above politics themselves. It seems to me that one of their primary concerns is putting pentagrams and devils all over everything, wearing black, saying cryptic shit, then complaining when people dare point them out or ask a question about anything. It kind of reminds me of this goth kid I knew in high school who must have spent an hour every morning getting his nails painted just the right shade of black/purple, putting on his gauntlets, styling his hair, then bitching to anyone who’d listen that he was bullied for looking different. It would have been one thing if it was true, but this kid had a group of friends and female admirers that rivaled any football player’s harem. While I really enjoy the CoS tweets, and I consider The Satanic Bible a pivotal text in my life, I think part of being a Satanist is going into the Garden and encouraging others to eat from the Tree as well; they tell too many to simply check the FAQs.

So what do we do instead? I know a lot of folks find community in Satanism, which is great, but it seems to me that we shouldn’t spend too much energy trying to fit into anyone else’s definition of what a normal Satanist is. If you’re a liberal, a libertarian, a conservative, or if you don’t use any of those terms to define yourself, don’t let some other institution, Satanic or not, define you. For this reason, I’ve started referring to myself as “Satanish,” rather than a “Satanist.” The word is carrying so much baggage today that in order to use it, you almost have to engage in the tribalism that many of us sought to avoid in the first place. Ultimately, don’t let the politic worms take too much of your Apple; keep the biggest portion for yourself.

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