Illustration by Grace Wilson
As more young women get into paganism and crystal work, men are also turning to the occult for answers, power, and good Tinder pick up lines.
Here's one of the most romantic things a boy has ever texted me: "I've been thinking about summoning Satan to impress you." I was taken aback; I was only 20, and new to app-based dating so tried to keep things light and sent a wisecrack about the Dark Lord back to him.
"No, I'm not kidding," the next text said. "Unless I told you when I was drunk. I legitimately sold my soul to Him in January 2013."
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My hand began to tremble, but as a witch, I knew I had no room to judge—instead I wanted to learn everything. This boy, whom we will call Greg, told me that selling your soul to the devil is a fairly simply procedure. You write a letter, sign it in blood, perform some sort of ritual, then some physical mark that just shows up on your body (a scratch, burn, or welt), and your wishes come true, supposedly. According to Greg, during the ritual a crack in the form of an upside cross showed up on the candle he was using and he mysteriously attained three scratches on his thigh.
After he performed this ritual, he also told me that he laughed in a voice that wasn't his own. Then he said that his wishes came true.
So what did he wish for?
"Success in music, stable relationship, and financial stability," Greg responded.
Our relationship only lasted another month. I wrote the whole thing off as an experimental college phase, like the way people do paleo for a month then find better things to do with their time.
No, I'm not kidding. I legitimately sold my soul to Him in January 2013.
But over the intervening years, with more young women embracing the occult, paganism, and crystal work, it occurred to me: Are young men also tantalized by the occult? And if so, what does that look like?
For some, it looks like Satanism. Nineteen-year-old Vincent Rodriguez, a logistics team member at Target, has been follower of LaVeyan Satanism for the last year.
Growing up in a Christian home and seeing the hypocrisy of those closest to him influenced Rodriguez's decision to join the Church of Satan—sort of. "I would like to say I'm not an official member of the Church of Satan (yet), but I do affiliate myself with the Church and follow its teachings. When you join the Church, it's a $200 charge," Rodriguez explains. "Yes, it seems like a lot, but they make a point of saying that when you are a Christian you give the church about 10 percent of your annual income. So when you think about it, $200 for a lifetime membership is not much to ask for. I am a proud Satanist who will never deny his affiliation with our Dark Lord. I found happiness, acceptance, and truth within LaVey's teachings and I will stay true to his work for as long as I live."
LaVey with follower in 1971 (Jack Garofalo via Getty)
Magus Anton Szandor LaVey, an author and occultist founded the Church of Satan in 1966. The tenants of his church, known as the Nine Satanic Statements are as follows:
LaVey's decision to form his own religion started when he noticed that those who rebelled against God, the church, and the status quo, were the ones who created the most progress in society. "For LaVey," religious scholar Eugene Gallagher wrote, "[Satanism] is the religion of the playful provocateur; anything that will shock people out of their unthinking adherence to the status quo is worth thinking about or even doing."
The ultimate provocateur, according to LaVey, was Satan.
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LaVey started to make a name for himself as a black magician and started to attract a following. A group known as the Order of the Trapezoid later evolved into the Church of Satan, with followers who ranged from filmmakers and artists, to anthropologists, dildo makers, attorneys, and doctors. LaVey's mission, more than anything was to challenge the hypocrisy fostered by the Christian Church and to harness dark forces while he was doing so. According to the Church, personal development and the rejection of conformity are cornerstones for each Satanist's path to self-deification. Mix this with a formula of nine-parts social responsibility and one-part outrage and you have the Church of Satan.
Another masculine form of the occult is demonology. For Sid White, witchcraft led to an interest in demons and Satan. "Personally, I believe a demon is an entity that has walked this earth and other dimensions for years upon years, maybe even forever," he says.
White also summons demons. "Typically the rituals are the same, but a lot of the time they differ slightly from one another depending on who or what I want to summon. They usually follow along the lines of a dark room, candles, herbs, a ouija board, and maybe some blood here and there. There's usually a specific spell or chant used for the specific entity being summoned," White says.
What happens once a demon is summoned, however, White refuses to discuss. Typically, those who summon demons are looking for a connection to another world. Through that connection they can draw strength and gain insight. The fear in occult circles is that once you summon a demon you cannot close the connection.
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While White claims to be "into" demonology, defining the practice is tricky. Demonology is typically defined as the study of demons and demonic beliefs. Perhaps the most famous demonologists are Ed and Lorraine Warren. Ed was a demonologist while Lorraine is a trance medium. In 1952, the couple founded the New England Society for Psychic Research (NESPR) dedicated to demonology and otherworldly spirits. The two would perform cleansings and exorcisms to remove demons who had attached themselves to people. (The couple's work and relationship were depicted in the The Conjuring.)
Tony Spera is the current director of the NESPR and is considered to be leading expert in demonology. He says that he defines demons as "angels that have fallen from God's grace. They will never be able to enter Heaven." According to Spera, demons are jealous that are actually "quite jealous of us" because we have an opportunity to enter heaven, while they do not.
Although paranormal investigators like the Warrerns and Spera claim to have come into physical contact with demonic entities, for most demonology is more of a study than a practice.
Ed and Lorriane Warren (via NESPR)
"What kinda occult are you into? I'm a fan. Demonology is my thing," came a message to me on Tinder from a boy named Brandon. This Tinder message was the beginning of an even more intense relationship than I had with Greg. Brandon told me that he found a book on demons in the bargain bin of a local bookstore when he was five and that he'd been hooked ever since. He also told me he saw omens. Like once he saw a crow walking backwards before a number of bad events happened in his life. He also claimed to feel the demons he summoned sleeping in his soul. We broke up shortly after these revelations as it occurred to me that Brandon's interest in the occult had a more to do with psychiatric compulsion than a spiritual one.
So why do men love demons and Satan?
In a day and age where the world seems like its own version of Hell, seeking answers to the unknown feels like escapism. For women it seems to manifest in healing work, rituals, and a closer bond to the earth. Whereas the men I talked to seemed to yearn for an alternate set of rules to follow and forces to abide by. Even if some of those forces can be dark. There is a wholly individual streak to it: taking control of vital, dark forces for your own strength and wisdom.
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