Satan and the Short Memory of Society
People have a habit of presuming very old things are very unchanging things. Thus, however they see something today must be how it has always been. We do it to holidays all the time, but that’s a post for another day.
Devil Horns Hand Sign
On one side of the Satanic debate, all sorts of modern things are thought of by the more religiously paranoid as being inherently Satanic. The devil-horns hand-sign is one example. Historically, it has been a sign to ward off the evil eye, not to invite evil. Heavy-metal bands started adopting it about 40 years ago, although there’s lots of stories as to what it was actually supposed to mean.
Satanic Bible Quote
One argument cut and paste across the internet is that the Satanic Bible states “Horned Hand or The Mano Cornuto: This gesture is the Satanic salute, a sign of recognition between and allegiance of members of Satanism or other unholy groups.”
There are two problems with this argument:
- First, it presumes that the Church of Satan is working from ancient Satanic materials, which is totally isn’t. It’s a mid-20th century movement. Moreover, it has a habit of adopting things that people claim are Satanic just to piss them off.
- Satanic Bible doesn’t actually say that. It never mentions the “Mano Cornuto,” which is the Italian term for the evil-eye ward. Stop copying the internet, idiots.
The Goat of Mendes
Another argument is that the hand sign is meant to represent the Goat of Mendes illustrated by Eliphas Levi. Levi wasn’t a Satanist, but he was an occultist, which these folks presume is the same thing. The Goat of Mendes is meant to represent Baphomet as understood by Levi. Baphomet, in turn, was the being the Knights Templar were accused of worshiping.
There’s nothing to indicate that “Baphomet” has historically been a name for Satan. Most likely it was a corruption of Mahomet, or Mohammad, since the Templars had many Middle Eastern links.
I Love You
The symbol in sign language for “I love you” is a devil horn with the thumb extended. http://www.jesus-is-savior.com, which never fails to be absurdly ridiculous, suggests that Helen Keller deliberately invented the sign to actually mean “I love Satan.”
Why the hell would Helen Keller do that? According to crackpots, Keller was an occultist, which they “prove” by the fact that she was a Swedenborgian, which they have decided is occult because Swedenborg was a Christian mystic. These guys always insist “occult” means “Satanic,” when it totally, one hundred percent doesn’t. Doctors, for example, might order a test for occult blood in a stool sample. They mean blood that can’t be seen with the naked eye, since occult means hidden. They do not mean they suspect you pooped out Satan.
The pentagram has meant many, many things over the centuries. It really hasn’t been associated with Satan until the 19th century, at the same time as Levi although, again, Levi wasn’t actually writing about Satan.
Check out my gallery of pentagrams at About.com that have nothing to do with Satan (plus a couple that are).
Pan Transformed into Satan
The other side of the argument is that the Christian church took pagan gods – notably Pan, and based the appearance of Satan on him in order to scare new believers away from old gods. Two problems with that:
- Pan was a really minor character in Greek and Roman mythology, and he means nothing in other cultures. If you’re going to demonize old gods, why not go for the big ones everyone in a culture used to worship?
- Only the modern version of Satan looks like Pan.
This blog suggests that Satan got associated with Pan in the 19th century. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it does have credibility, as Romantics of the era had embraced Pan as a symbol of the wilderness they sought in opposition to the urban life that trapped them.
Appearance of Satan
The Bible doesn’t describe the appearance of Satan. As such, he has taken on all sorts of looks over the centuries:
- Bat wings, or not
- Short horns, long horns, curved horns, or no horns. Albrecht Durer has an image of him with only one horn jutting up from the side of his head, sort of like Venger from the old D&D cartoon.
- Human face or animal face; Dante describes him with three faces
- Face on his genitals
- Blue, black or red
- Clawed feet like a bird or dragon; hooves are a recent fad
- Human with feathered or bat-like wings
Why is Satan blue? Why not? We’re terribly short of scriptural descriptions of hell as well. We see it today as fire and brimstone, but it’s also been envisioned as dark and freezing. God is divine light and warmth, and Satan is the being farthest from God, so he lives in cold darkness.
You may also note in some pictures he is chained. He doesn’t rule hell. He’s damned to it just like the rest of its population. He just gets to help with the punishments of wicked souls.
And yet, ask someone to describe Satan and you’ll probably get something like this:
With no standard appearance, attempting to connect him with any other creature requires immense cherry-picking.
Things change. It’s one of the constants of history.