There are a few topics I don’t cover here. I don’t get into politics on this blog, mainly because I despise both sides of the aisle in equal measure. I haven’t gotten into religion, because faith is one of those items that are intensely personal, and tend to make people judgmental.
Today, we’re going to touch on item two.
It may surprise nobody to discover that I am somewhat eclectic on my own personal path of faith. I don’t really subscribe to one faith over any other, and I’ve stood in worship with a wide and diverse range of people. I’ve known followers of Buddhism, Catholicism, Baptism, Santeria, Ifa, Wicca, Asatru, Judaism, Kabbalism, Gnosticism, Hindu, Islam, Shamanism, and probably a lot more I just never asked about. Most of them have been pretty OK people. Reading about world religions is a bit of a hobby of mine.
That being said, I’ve never met a Satanist that wasn’t a shithead. I’ve met a small handful. Shitheads all. I think it’s that whole “me first, fuck the rest of you” attitude that I just don’t like. Maybe there’s a nice Satanist or two out there, but I’ve never met them.
A kinder, gentler Satanist
With that preamble, let me tell you a story involving two such individuals with an abundance of excrement replacing grey matter in their cranial cavities.
There’s a retreat of sorts that I attend regularly, in which all faiths are welcome. At times it’s a science forum, at times a hippie party; sometimes it is reverent and there is true holiness, sometimes it’s just a bunch of people hanging out in the woods of a nature sanctuary. One of my favorite shrines on this land is called “Thunderdome”, so named because it is a dome structure in which there are drum circles and dancing, hence the thunder.
The Thunder Shrine, back in the '90s
Imagine if you will a fire, surrounded by people dancing their spirits, surrounded again by 40 or so drummers with various rhythm instruments, all communicating through sound and dance. It’s a little slice of awesome.
There’s an etiquette there…a way that the people move and interact and speak, respecting the space, whatever each person holds holy, and each other. Sort of Primal Polite. There’s firetenders, an “O” zone where the dancers move around the fire in a circle, the drummers, then another zone of dancers that tend to dance in place, then finally the observers…those who chill out and watch and chat at the edges. It’s a sort of spontaneous ritual, a primal sort of event that takes the mind back to days before civilization. Fortunately, it’s only a temporary retreat, and I can drive home afterwards in an air conditioned car and take a hot shower.
Some years ago, before I was any good as a drummer, some of the “big dogs” of drum had seen something they liked in me and taken me under their wings. They taught me rhythms, and at times when the jam was laid back, they played just *this* much beyond my skill level, daring me to join them. I did. They smiled through my mistakes, and encouraged me to be more.
They were known by names they’d chosen: Raphael, Freedom, and others. They had skill and passion. And luckily for me, they had patience and a teaching spirit. I repay them now by playing as they did, and by teaching as they did. But one night long ago, I was able to repay them with laughter.
I don’t know what bad movie these two kids had watched before hand, but they entered the Dome looking like villain extras from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They appeared to be 18 or so. One had a goat-headed walking stick that he thumped on the ground in 4/4, keeping time with the jam. (Sculpture, not a real goat head.) They both wore dark robes and black hats, which maybe wouldn’t seem out of place, save that they wore their discomfort with just as much darkness. They looked like they would Smell Like Teen Spirit. I’ve seen a lot of people in that space in a lot of different clothes and costumes, but I’ve never seen two stand out like such sore thumbs.
Heads down, looking through their eyebrows like drunken Irishmen, they moved into the dancer’s circle in the opposite direction of the rest, plowing through happy dancers like a pair of icebreakers through frozen straits. The goatstick thumped. The boys glared. The dancers were disrupted, and the etiquettes thrown out the window.
Raphael and I traded looks. He rolled his eyes in an exaggerated fashion, his hands never missing the beat.
The boys were not finished with their “Look At Me” dance. In a place where even they could have been welcome to participate, they chose to metaphorically piss in the punch bowl. They began to chant.
“In the first generation we were Beelzebub, in the second generation we were Hasatan…”
On they went, people recoiling from them so suddenly that they left a visible wake. I looked again to Raphael and Dana, and saw their jaws clench. The two Satanists had gotten to their 6th generation, and I pitched my voice as years of theatre had taught me to do.
“In the 7th generation you were smoking crack.” A few titters of laughter answered me.
“In the 8th generation you needed a snack.” More smiles, more laughter. The dancers began to press back in, their wake filling in.
“In this generation, you don’t know Jack!” I was rewarded with laughter from the Big Dogs. The boys kind of lost their shit, and moved out of the center. We thought they were done for the evening, laughter defeating their attempt to do something eeeeevil.
Their rebellion, and thus our entertainment, was not over yet.
It bears mentioning that this particular retreat exercises a clothing optional policy for those who desire to more directly commune with nature. The devilboys came back into the Dome, having exercised the option, the one still holding his goatstick. (For the record, I don’t exercise the option.)
I swear, I have never seen two more pathetic visions of manhood. It wasn’t cold out, but these two looked like they should be yelling “I was in the pool!!” a la George Castanza.
Seriously, I’m not a “size matters” kind of guy, but I immediately formed a likely false opinion of what kind of inadequacy drives someone to embrace Satanism. In later life, these two would certainly want to drive red sports cars and wear comb-overs. But for now, they were just being silly little shits.
Wee Willy Winky and Mini Goatstick continued to parade around the fire, two jackasses flailing their disproportionate manberries about willy-nilly. Raphael began his own silly little chant, saying “burn it” every time the goatstick boy passed in front of us. A testament to the power of stupid, the young disciple of the dark one began to slow in his gyrations, staring deep into the fire.
“Burn it” Raphael said. A long, glass eyed look at the stick.
“Burn it.” A longer, glass eyed look at the fire.
“Burn it.” He raised the stick, looking at the goat head.
“Burn it.” Back to the fire. Glassy eyes. Maybe they’d smoked a bit of the ganja?
“Burn it.” He began to proffer the stick to the fire, brandishing it in front of him like a talisman of old.
And then some jackhole played a drum riff that sounded way too close to the signal to stop, and half the drummers dropped out suddenly, creating an auditory train wreck. The rhythm fell apart. Goatstick boy snatched his hand back from in front of him, and made a beeline for the exit, his partner in crime hot on his heels.
They didn’t come back.
I heard yesterday that Raphael is in declining health, the end of his journey nearing. He’s still hanging around, and I still honor the lessons he taught me. Like so many of those that touch our lives, I intend to hold his memory close to me after he exits this world. For me, it will be every time I drum.
But every now and then, I’ll catch somebody being an asshole, holding their own proverbial goatstick. And I’ll remember that night standing next to Raph, laughing at two who wanted so badly to embody selfishness. I’ll remember how we defeated that with laughter, and I’ll have two words for any purveyor of prickitude.