My great-great grandfather, Ira Wells, Sr.-born 1824, died 1907-was a Satanist. No, he didn't actually call himself that, he called hmself a "witch". Nor was he a Satanist after the LaVeyan mold, as of course that mold had not in his day been set.
He was an actual spiritualistic Satanist-a "devil worshipper". Or so it has been claimed. Or so he evidently claimed. Some might assert he was simply a local Clay County, later Leslie County Kentucky eccentric-a character-which indeed he was. A modern view of him might be that he was a bit of a showman. But of course the same things were said about Church of Satan founder Dr. Anton Szandor LaVey.
But for the times in which he lived-especially taking into consideration the place, Southeastern Kentucky, that he lived in is time-he was most definitely ahead of said time.
His formula for becomming a witch would sound simplistic, almst childish, to the trained magickal practitioner not only of our time, but to those of his own in more civilized, advanced parts of the world.
"You go up to the top of the highest hill under the full of the mood", he explained, "and with a rifle or a shotgun you shoot at the moon, curse God, and bless the devil".
He also had a formula for what he called "prophesying". You kneeled in front of the fireplace and "bake your head", the way he put it. Evidently, this process was conducive to entering into a trance state. Unfortunately, there is left, to my knowledge, no records of any "prophecies" he may have made while in this state, which is certainly unfortunate.
However, acording to one account, there was an occassion when, after entering into one of these trance states, he fell into the fire, and had to be pulled out of it. On another occassion, while sitting on his front porch, a woman went walking by, carrying an infant. He made the following remark-"lady, I bet I can turn that baby into a hooting owl and make him fly into the top of that tree yonder".
As he pointed to a specific tree, she screamed, almost threw the baby up into the air, but caught herself, and took off running in terror as he laughed. I am certain there is more to the story than this-if there is any truth at all to it- and probably there was some sort of history between him and this woman, but this has all that has come down. Nevertheless, it does demonstrate the level of authenticity to which he was regarded as a practitioner of the "black arts", which he openly claimed to be.
Which leads me to my point. It takes a special kind of person to lay claim to being a "Satanist", or in my great-great grandfather's case, and day, a "witch". Such a statement of beleif and faith is not, by any stretch of the imagination, "politically correct".
Unfortunately, most people who today proudly wear the pagan label-whether Wiccan or Recnstructionist Pagan or eclectic, whether solitaire or coven member or traditionalist-seem to be bound by the same strictures of public behavior as anyone else in our socially restricitve society. And that is a fucking shame.
Most Pagans and Wiccans bemoan the lack of respect they receive from the more traditional religions. Yet, a good may of them go out of their way to try to placate these people, to reassure them, and even, I suspect, to orient their own belief systems in ways they perceive might make them moe palatable-more acceptable-to Muslims, Christians, and Jews, and even to some extent to Bhuddhsts and Hindus.
A lot of this might be due to the fact that a lot of pagans have gravitated to their respective paths by way of the more traditional religions. They have brought a lot of baggage into the pagan movement with them, in other words. And I fear that, eventually, due to the natural, reflective need to attract more converts and build the movement while gaining greater acceptance and respectability, this is going to have a long term deletorious effect. The Pagan paths might well eventualy evolve into something quite different from what they started out as, and to some extent that is unacceptable to me and to a good many others.
I am not a Satanist. But I certainly respect them, or at least I respect the laVeyans. They believe in living life to the fullest, in enjoying the time you have here and now on earth, and making as good a life as you can for yourself, your family, your friends, and your community. They also believe in obeying the law and in good citizenship, though they are a little harsh, for my taste, when it comes to such matters as charity. But even this is out of the practical realization that a good many not only deserve no charity, but will if given the opportunity live off it to the fullest extent possible. Doctory laVey warned repeatedly about the dangers of such psychic vampires, and other types as well.
They practice magic in the same way, and for the same purposes, that they live their lives. For the good of their selves, their families, their friends. They make no apologies for their selfish pursuits of their own needs, their lusts, their hedonistic leanings.
In all these things I am more aligned with them than I am with most in the pagan and Wiccan communties. Of course, I prefer to attune with the deities of my Pre-Christian ancestors. Yet to the Satanist, Satan is not so much as a literal devil as he is an archetype of man's basic nature. He is the ultimate rebel, and, to them, represents the potential of all that is good in mankind. Good to them in that if you live free, at your full potential, while enjoying the best life has to offer, and to the fullest extent possible, you will be happy, fulfilled, and thus contribute to the overall health and well-being of society.
But it is for this life only, they insist, as there is no other. Promises of heaven, like threats of hell, are no more than a kind of "hoodwinking" meant to enslave people to the whims of the ruling elites.
And I believe they are right about the motives generally of religous leaders, though I don't so easily discard all concepts of the spiritual or the afterlife. Be that as it may, their concepts of life and religion are liberating. Anf they deserve to be treated with respect, and as far as I'm concerned, should be welcome into the pagan community.
But there are two reasons this is unlikely to happen. On the one side, most pagans are afraid to be identified with them. They still crave acceptance from those same Christians that most of them have supossedly left. Only they never really left them.
The other reason is the Satanists themselves, for the most part, could care less, and in fact seem to look with disdain on the concept of "white magic" only, and such watered down Chrisitan "turn the other cheek" and "do unto others" attitudes which they view as hypocritical.
The scary thing is, there are a good many in the Pagan/Wiccan community that seem to be wanting to build an overarching religous community that would amount to, in the long run, just another hierarchical power structure. same old story. Same basic package with slightly different wrapping.
I prefer the idea of a secret society, an evolving of the coven concept, which they seem to want to scrap. But in my ideal, this pagan community accepts not everybody, just as they are, but only those who aspire to be the best they can possibly be, and who believe in a balanced viw of the material and the spiritual-not in a world where the two are held to be in constant conflict. Where, in effect, the spiritual and the material walk hand in hand and aim toward a wholly integrated peson. And where the goal of the leaders ofthe community will be to aid in the growth and development of the initiate-as oppossed to enslaving the initiate for the benefit of yet another ruling elite.
I think that was what my great-great grandfather was all about-freedom. He eventually left Leslie County, Ky., afer the demise of Cassie, hs wife, and evidently lived the last years of his life with his son and daughter-in-law,my great grandmother and great grandfather. He was buried beside where they would eventually be buried. Yet, his gravestone,possibly a simple wooden marker, has either long since dissappearred, or sunken into the ground.
No one in Leslie County, however, seemed to know exactly what ever happenned to him. It was said he just loaded up his wagon one morning, took off, never said a word about where he was going, and was never seen or heard from again. And that probably suited him just fine.