Wearing Satan's Jeweled Crown:
An Interview with Jex Blackmore*
by Jeremy Kitchen
(*Blackmore will be hosting an event in Chicago this weekend, September 6-7. Details and RSVP at bottom of page)
My first exposure to Satanism was at the Meadows brothers’ house. They lived in an old farmhouse just outside the main downtown area of the snobby milquetoast town I grew up in.
Doug Meadows was the kid I kicked around with in junior high and everything fun happened at his place.
The Meadows house was awesome, his parents were heavy smokers so we could steal Kents from them AND smoke them inside. We used to get bottles of Rush from the head shops that littered the outskirts of Detroit and sniff it until we got headaches. We rolled shitty joints of Mexican brick weed and got high as kites, it was the suburban equivalent of paradise.
The first time I got rip roaring falling on my face drunk was with Doug. We had acquired several bottles of Popov Vodka (it was around five bucks for a fifth back then) and the guys we were getting trashed with all turned into the douchiest preps at our junior high.It was also my first chipped tooth when I fell face first on some railroad tracks.
My parents were not the let-the-teenager-sleep-in types and we got to lounge around on weekend mornings and do nothing.
Doug had two older brothers who were blue collar but good looking and jocks. Any bullying coming our way would be quickly disposed of.
This was a totally different time from now, we had no Internet or cell phones, some of the rich dicks we grew up with had car phones, but they were ginormous and unwieldy. Everything we learned was by first hand experience, so sniffing amyl nitrate at the age of 12 seemed like the right thing to do at the time.
Doug’s older brother Irv had all THE albums, but the one that scared the living shit out of me (which seems so tame now) was Mercyful Fate’s “Don’t Break the Oath.” The lyrics were confusing, awesome, and terrifying all at once:
By the symbols of the creator
I swear henceforth to be
A faithful servant of his most
My adolescent mind thought that Puissant was probably related to “pussy”--it actually means “having great power or influence.” Never forget the power of pussy.
The Prince Lucifer
Whom the creator designated as his regent
And Lord of this World
I deny Jesus Christ, the deceiver
Oh fuck, everything I learned in communion and my crazy Aunt’s Jack Chick publications indicate that this will lead me to hell. I did not like church but did not want to burn for eternity either.
And I abjure the Christian faith
Holding in contempt all of it's works
So if you are not familiar with the works
As a being now possessed of a human body
Blasphemy was pretty scary because of you know, “hell.”
In this world I swear to give my full
Allegiance to it's lawful master,
To worship him our
Lord Satan and no other
In the name of Satan, the ruler of Earth
Open wide the gates of Hell
Will this happen? Can this song really open the gates to hell, my kid brain wondered?
And come forth from the abyss
By these names: Satan, Leviathan,
I will kiss the goat
Why would anyone want to kiss a goat?
I swear to give my mind
My body and soul unreservedly
To the furtherance of our
Lord Satan designs
Was I inadvertently selling my soul to the devil? Would I soon throw furniture with my mind?
Puke up green bile and grab a priest’s nuts? I kind of wanted this to happen in all honesty.
Do what thou wilt shall be the
Whole of the law
As it was at the beginning
Is now and ever shall be
World without end Amen
Anything with an opening like “do what thou wilt” is confusing as hell. The Amen also freaked me out a little. Satan had Amen? I was also told that the only unforgivable sin was to give Lucifer credit for something JC did. Was this in line with an unforgivable sin? Saying Amen to the devil himself?
So if you are not familiar with Mercyful Fate, they are Danish, and their singer, King Diamond, sings in falsetto. They seem almost kitschy these days after the Black Metal explosion of the 90s, and in my opinion they are awful. However, to my 12 year old self (or maybe 13, we were sniffing Rush and smoking Mexican brick weed back then), this shit was terrifying and also rad as fuck.
I also learned about the deceiver from my crazy Aunt Ginny. She (and her kids) had Chick Publications, Archie Christian comics (which were anti-computer for some reason), and other Spire comics. Spire comics had the kid friendly titles like “Born Again” and the Satan fighting Soul Brother who came “Up From Harlem.” The one I actually liked was the “Cross and the Switchblade” because gangs were cool. They had serious rumbles with molotovs, chains, and knives. Then the author David Wilkerson sold his soul to Jesus. Not awesome, really a big letdown.
Archie of Spire Comics would have lost his mind with the sex crazed gays of today's Riverdale comics. 70s Archie would try and convert the present day Riverdale kids where even Jughead gets laid. No one wants that scenario, and it’s Archie got with the times, because Betty and Veronica were hot to an eternally horny eighth grader.
The common theme among all these publications was that if you did not submit your life to Christ, you would have to burn in hell. By the way, if you have not heard of Chick Publications check out the website here. And you can still download The Imp, a history of Jack Chick and his bananas as fuck religious tracts.
Ironically when I was writing this essay someone left a pile of Chick tracts next to the Wiccan books at the library. I shared them with the staff, many had never heard of them. Another casualty of the digital age perhaps. Jack is still kicking them out from beyond the grave online!
Mercyful Fate, Iron Maiden, and Slayer eventually led me to The Satanic Bible which was plagiarised, horribly written, and owed a debt to Ayn Rand. Before Paul Ryan, the Huckster King of Satanism, Anton Lavey, was preaching objectivism. The scariest thing about this book was the cover. Lavey has been shown to be a fraud and used the grifting he learned on the carnival circuit to scam celebrities (including Jayne Mansfield and Sammy Davis Jr.) into his corny brand of Satanism. This quote from the Satanic Bible could have been lifted from any neo-liberal plan for America: “A Satanist knows there is nothing wrong with being greedy, as it only means that he wants more than he already has. Envy means to look with favor upon the possessions of others, and to be desirous of obtaining similar things for oneself. Envy and greed are the motivating forces of ambition - and without ambition, very little of any importance would be accomplished.” Horatio Alger be damned!
Then came 1983 and the much maligned Satanic Panic. The McMartin Preschool case, a completely horseshit witch hunt, in which allegations were made that the children at a daycare in California were being ritualistically abused. It turned out to be hogwash, but not before it ruined the lives of the teachers and owners. Coercive cops and overzealous therapists helped children “recall” memories of ritual abuse, and over 40 people were incarcerated. Almost all the cases were subsequently overturned.
Soon Satan was everywhere! In the suburbs, small towns, even in public parks! One of the most unintentionally hilarious videos ever made, The Law Enforcement Guide to Satanic Cults, made by a former “Satanist” who miraculously finds satanic symbolism all over a mundane small town park. He does get props for his super hipster mullet, although I imagine it was unironic at the time.
I joined the ranks of high-schoolers in 1985 and was getting really into punk, but still dabbled in the works of Lucifer. I started reading the short stories of HP Lovecraft and Necronomicon, which was a hoax but supposedly written by the *ahem* Mad Arab. This text, known as a grimoire (book of magic), supposedly unlocked secrets of raising the dead, it had a cameo in the Evil Dead movie, and the Simpsons have dropped references to it, and one of the episodes has Mr. Bob Dole reading from it. I started having really weird dreams and my high school girlfriend told me her sister’s ex-boyfriend had become possessed by it (the same boyfriend made me an unknowing accomplice when he robbed a liquor store a few years later, but that is another story). When we were discussing this possession she wiped out on the ice and landed flat on her face, busting her lip. She blamed the Necronomicon. She then made me get rid of it, and subsequently dumped me because I was getting fucked up all the time.
As I grew older I became less worried about the Archfiend and his powers and more worried about getting fucked up and trying to get laid, which I spent a great deal of my young adulthood chasing. Although I no longer fear Satan, I am a lifelong lover of all things Satanic (except Nazis and other hateful fucks). I collect band shirts and have piles of metal shirts, I have been to a Satanic Mass and avidly consume media about Satanism and it’s varying ideologies. Like any religion, there are many flavors of Satanism.
This brings me to Jex Blackmore. I had read about her “Cum Rags for Congress” project and was impressed.This project entailed sending jizz socks to pro-lifer members of Congress with the message, “These r babys plz bury.” This was a response to the “fetal burial” rule incorporated in Texas. This legislation required funerals for aborted fetuses. It’s expensive and unnecessary, yet Texans think that medical waste is somehow a person. This project led me down the wormhole of Jex’s work, and I have to tell you I am a huge fan. I found out she lives in Detroit, so we sent Mike Sack to interview her and this is what he found out...
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This interview took place on November 20, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan
Eye 94: How did you come upon the Satanic Church?
Jex Blackmore: Some important information, real quick. There’s the Church of Satan, which Anton LaVey founded in the 70s, or 60s. Then there’s the Satanic Temple, which I joined immediately after it started. I’m no longer involved with the Satanic Temple.
E94: Ok. Two separate entities: The Church of Satan and the Satanic Temple
JB: Correct. There are many other satanic churches as well. The Church of Satan and the Satanic Temple also don’t get along or agree philosophically or in any other way. I identified as a Satanist prior to joining the Satanic Temple. I grew up in the church. My relationship with the Christain church was one of guilt and shame. Especially as a teenager, thinking about my sexuality, questioning authority, and the way that my body looked. All of those things were on my mind a lot.
E94: Catholic Church?
JB: No, I went to a Lutheran Church and then to a Wesleyan Church. Both are heavily biblical based. And so I often felt ashamed of the things that were on my mind a lot as a teenage girl: sex and my body. Then I went to college and I studied classical archeology and art history. I did a lot of research on sexuality in antiquity and I came to understand and realize the formation of the Judeo-Christian faith as largely on the basis of power. I studied for a semester at Harvard, and took a course on death in the ancient world. Learning about the role the Roman Empire played in the evolution of the Christian Church and how cults functioned in antiquity; there was an inclination toward emperor-cults over time, and a state-enforced compulsion to pay tribute to a deified emperor.Over time, theistic beliefs started merging toward one god. The emergence of religious state power informed the growth of Christianity, and a desire to challenge the established religious norms inspired a realization that religion is all a sham.On top of that, understanding the way we define evil, or the Devil, as being something that’s typically associated with sex,rebellion, and questioning God’s will, I found that I much more strongly identified with the Satanic figure than the “good” Christian figure. So I began to identify as a Satanist.
E94: Where were you when you were introduced to Satanism?
JB: A lot of people stumble on the Satanic Bible, or find out about it through heavy metal music, but I came upon it pretty early through the nature of what the Bible says. The concepts of evil and sin. I was always interested in the occult and listening to heavy metal music and punk, but it was much later, into my twenties, when I read the Satanic Bible. And I wasn’t too impressed with it, personally. It was interesting to see that there was a group of people out there already thinking about our humanity as being something that’s inspired by the Devil. Socially and culturally, too, this happens today, you hear preachers and pastors saying, if you’re a freethinking person, if you’re gay, or have any alternate sexuality, you’re under the Devil’s influence. If you’re Hillary Clinton, you’re evil. Really, society has defined the rebel as satanic, and continues to do so. That’s another reason I strongly identify as a Satanist.
E94: A writer named Meghan O’Gieblyn wrote an essay on the rebranding of Hell. She found that modern evangelical movements have adopted modern business tactics, mainly those used in conducting market research. A lot of the megachurch movements don’t include much about Hell, or the Devil, or evil, because they found that young people didn’t want to hear about those things.
JB: That’s interesting. At some of my performances I’ve used this old recording of a pastor telling the story of some teenagers doing devil worship in a basement. He’d read about it in the paper and thought it was bullshit. And basically, what he came to say over and over was that the Devil isn’t going to call on you directly to perform an animal sacrifice in the basement, or whatever. The Devil is there to tell you that what you want to do is the right thing to do.
E94: The Screwtape Letters [by C.S. Lewis, an epistolary novel in which a demon named Screwtape mentors his nephew, Wormwood, on recruiting a mortal into sin and damnation].
JB: Exactly. The recording is amazing. It’s like, “You don’t listen to rock music because the Devil tells you to. You listen to rock music because you want to. You don’t kiss your girlfriend because the Devil wants you to. You kiss your girlfriend because you want to.” He goes on and on. And it’s like, that’s what I’m talking about, too. That’s the thing I’m trying to promote. Individual agency.
E94: What are the differences between the Anton LaVey brand of Satanism and the Satanic Temple?
JB: Anton LaVey was a performer. He was in the circus and really into burlesque in the 40s. And in the late 50s he began writing the Satanic Bible, which was heavily based in the might is right, social Darwinism philosophy. Some pretty harmful ideology. Granted, he began writing it in the 50s, so you have to put it in cultural context. Essentially, he said the weak don’t deserve to survive and it’s in the best interest of the species to elevate the interests of the strong. There’s also the concept of women being powerful because they’re cunning, sexy, beautiful. That’s remained part of the Satanic Church to this day. They defend that philosophy, and have not evolved on it, whatsoever. Most of them are white men, and a lot of them are nationalists.
The Satanic Temple has a different set of tenets and beliefs. The priority is individual autonomy, like LaVey’s beliefs. But there is also the conviction that beliefs should be aligned with the scientific understanding of the world and should evolve with time. We should take compassion to be an important aspect of our belief system. The important difference is that when we take science and reason as a foundational belief for Satanism, we understand it’s good to support our society, to support the weakest members of our community because it’s better for all of us. In addition to that, we should be politically active, challenge systems of oppression and authority in our society. The Church of Satan doesn’t believe in activism at all, in fact they think it’s pointless.
E94: How are the Satanic Temple’s beliefs different from Anarchism? Do you think branding your activism with Satan is counterproductive to your larger goals?
JB: A lot of people ask how what we believe differs from Humanism. Humanism is based in a lot of the same ideology in terms of elevation of the human and rational thought. But it’s different. Satanism is very much a religion. We often think religions take a particular theistic form, but there are plenty of non-theistic religions that don’t have supernatural elements to them. There are non-theistic forms of Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism. Satanism as all the defining features of a religion in that there is a shared set of beliefs, there is a ritual practice, there’s an aesthetic, and there’s a community. Everything minus the god element.
And a lot of people ask why call yourself a Satanist when it’s potentially harmful to your work. Look, there are a lot of people doing great work. The ACLU, for example. But we are Satanists. We can’t just reject that identity. To hide it would be to submit to someone else’s concept of the Devil in order to make them more comfortable. We’re not interested in doing that. Why is the Devil controversial? Why does the concept of Satanism make people scoff or laugh, or strike fear in them? I don’t believe in the Devil as inherently evil. I don’t even believe in the concept of good and evil. I want to provide an opportunity for people to question their beliefs about good and evil, and to question the cultural precepts of Satan and Hell.
E94: How about your debate with the women of the Westboro Baptist Church? Why even sit with them on stage? They had their minds made up before the conversation started. Can you change that kind of person’s mind?
JB: I didn’t agree to do that event because I thought I could change the Westboro Baptist Church. The platform was actually a class that was talking about free speech. And they brought me in because I represent one form of radical free speech and Westboro does as well, on the opposite end of the spectrum.I feel like it’s really important to demonstrate how you talk to people who don’t function within the same ideological framework as you. We’re faced with people like that all the time. We’re also faced with a society that often functions on an illogical framework. So to just dismiss that completely dismisses a reality that most of us function within on a daily basis... I see that there’s value in not giving certain people a platform, but I also think there’s value in exercising our right to challenge specific beliefs and logical frameworks, and to show young people how we can engage in dialogue. I went to a lot of political rallies during the last election and people were just screaming at each other. That’s a really interesting thing about America right now. People who are almost identical are being pitted against one another to support structures of power.
E94: There’s a video montage on your website of people screaming at each other during those campaigns. When I watched it, I thought, now that’s why I steer clear of politics for the most part.
JB: I’ve argued with a lot of people who are really angry. Westboro was actually pretty chill. But I’ve debated pastors on TV a couple times who were just screaming over me. And I don’t think I need to do that to get my point across, and I find it really interesting that other people feel that they must shout to be heard.
E94: It doesn’t even seem like a tactic, it seems compulsive.
JB: I agree. And getting back to your question about why I agree to talk to these people who already have their mind made up. It’s not about them, it’s a question of who the audience is. Presenting the issues to them in an articulate way and providing an example of how to conduct yourself in that kind of difficult dialogue.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t listen to a lot of left wing media, although I agree with a lot of it. I enjoy listening to a lot of Catholic radio. I enjoy, sometimes, not all the time, watching Fox News. Because I have a fascination with people who think drastically different than I do. I find it helps me understand their fears, and where there coming from a little bit better. It helps me to have conversations with them. If I just ignore other people’s perspectives, regardless of how idiotic it may seem, I’m not doing myself any good.
E94: Why did you leave the Satanic Temple?
JB: There’s an essay that I wrote where you can read about it. When you form a radical organization as big as the Satanic Temple a lot of problems and issues can arise.
E94: How big is it?
JB: I believe over 10,000 members with chapters all over the United States. I started the chapter program. The one here, in Detroit, was the first one. When the Temple began, it used to be just four or five of us in a room making all the decisions. I thought we should take it to the streets, get boots on the ground, and give people agency to work on their own projects. There were a lot of issues in deciding how to make that work. Essentially, there ended up being a group of mostly white men who were making all the decisions, and they weren’t giving people the opportunity for input. Also, one of the founding members of the Satanic Temple seems to hold space for white nationalists and has some problematic ideologies. They were booking all white male panels to discuss philosophies that sought to liberate oppressed ideas and people. To me, that became hugely problematic and was frustrating.
Our relationship ended when one of my independent performances, separate from the Temple, was deemed too controversial for the Temple and they asked me to leave as a result.I had done a ritual performance in Detroit last winter and I guess someone came to it to report back on the content of my piece. I had a line in the performance that was like, “Release snakes in the Governor’s mansion! Shut down political rallies! Execute the President!” Some people in the organization believed I had committed a federal crime when I spoke about the president. And it’s a line that I stand by, especially since it’s part of an art performance piece. Later, I wrote about some of the frustrating experiences I had with the Temple following their decision to hire a neo-nazi apologist attorney. Actually, several chapters quit en masse shortly after this. I encouraged people who decided to stay with them to demand accountability from the organization. The essay I wrote is on Medium.