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Raising the Devil

Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the Media

Bill Ellis
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 1
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Raising the Devil
    Book Description:

    Raising the Devilreveals how the Christian Pentecostal movement, right-wing conspiracy theories, and an opportunistic media turned grassroots folk traditions into the Satanism scare of the 1980s. During the mid-twentieth century, devil worship was seen as merely an isolated practice of medieval times. But by the early 1980s, many influential experts in clinical medicine and in law enforcement were proclaiming that satanic cults were widespread and dangerous. By examining the broader context for alleged "cult" activity, Bill Ellis demonstrates how the image of contemporary Satanism emerged during the 1970s. Blaming a wide range of mental and physical illnesses on in-dwelling demons, a faction of the Pentecostal movement became convinced that their gifts of the spirit were being opposed by satanic activities. They attributed these activities to a "cult" that was the evil twin of true Christianity. In some of the cases Ellis considers, common folk beliefs and rituals were misunderstood as evidence of devil worship. In others, narratives and rituals themselves were used to combat satanic forces. As the media found such stories more and more attractive, any activity with even remotely occult overtones was demonized in order to fit a model of absolute good confronting evil. Ellis's wide-ranging investigation covers ouija boards, cattle mutilation, graveyard desecration, and "diabolical medicine"--the psychiatric community's version of exorcism. He offers a balanced view of contentious issues such as demonic possession, satanic ritual abuse, and the testimonies of confessing "ex-Satanists." A trained folklorist, Ellis seeks to navigate a middle road in this dialog, and his insights into informal religious traditions clarify how the image of Satanism both explained and created deviant behavior.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4772-7
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Demonizing Folklore
    (pp. xv-xx)

    On May 16, 1985, the ABC television “newsmagazine”20/20gave national attention to claims that thousands of Satanic cults across the United States were practicing bizarre rituals including animal mutilation, ritual murders, and even cannibalism. Such claims had circulated previously within isolated communities and among specialized networks of law enforcement agents. But from this point on, Satanism became a major national crisis, and the20/20feature was followed by several other national exposés, including a 1988 Geraldo Rivera special that proved the highest-rated two-hour documentary in history. Media events like this were powerful because at the time there was no...

  5. 1 Christian Magic and Diabolical Medicine: The Theory behind the Scare
    (pp. 1-31)

    Folklore by definition is the part of culture characterized by small-group choice in the face of institutions who impose formal creeds, rules, and laws. Institutions such as religions remain stable over centuries, though obviously they include mechanisms for change so they can adapt to new situations. By contrast, folklore has no necessary means of ensuring its own survival: being transmitted orally or at best in some ephemeral medium, it simply disappears if it no longer provides some immediate function. Nevertheless, as folklorists have noted, it can preserve some kinds of lore in a conservative way for centuries in a way...

  6. 2 The Jesus of Satan: Deliverance and Spiritualism
    (pp. 32-61)

    To this point, we have focused on the theology that motivated this movement’s opposition to the occult. H.A. Maxwell Whyte and Kurt E. Koch provided a theoretical background for the deliverance ministry, showing how Satan gained power over otherwise devout individuals through their sins or those of their blood relatives. They also described how believers could avoid or minimize the chance of demonic attack, through using magic phrases and rituals. Given the terms of this institutional mythology, though, it was practically impossible to dwell in this world without giving in to some venial or trivially occult sin such as reading...

  7. 3 Speak to the Devil: Ouija Boards and Deliverance
    (pp. 62-86)

    In February 1978, psychiatrist Lawrence Pazder traveled from Victoria, British Columbia, to the Vatican City with one of his patients, Michelle Smith, to seek approval for an official investigation of the story she had told. Over the past eighteen months, pazder’s therapy had helped her recall, first vaguely, then with increasing detail, how her mother had involved her in a satanic cult at the age of five. The study, eventually approved by the Vatican secretary of state, marked one of the first formal investigations of what Pazder soon termed “ritual abuse:” Michelle’s story, first published in the popular magazinesMacleans...

  8. 4 Putting the Pieces Together: MPD and Ritual Abuse Narratives
    (pp. 87-119)

    We now turn to the role of investigators who, through persistent interrogation, helped patients recover from mental illnesses by recognizing and reconstructing childhood traumas. A number of excellent critiques exist of the techniques that were used to piece together the stories of allegedly abused children and adult “survivors” of ritual abuse.¹ These discussions focus on the controversy that emerged publicly in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but this practice descended directly from a much earlier tradition that blamed a variety of mental and physical ills on the influence of demonic spirits. Kurt E. Koch’s synthesis of psychology with folk...

  9. 5 The One-World Demonology: Projection and Conspiracy
    (pp. 120-142)

    Many contemporary mythologies present positive scenarios in which individuals and groups are transformed by divine powers. The deliverance movement’s key beliefs constitute one such myth, focusing a believer’s physical and mental ailments into demonic personalities, then banishing them with the power of The Blood. Less formally, the Ouija ritual enacts a similar optimistic myth in which teens summon, then mock and dismiss their fears in the form of “demonic” personalities. But if we accept that Holy Spirit baptism, exorcism, spiritualism, and many forms of MPD therapy were in fact governed by the same kinds of psychological processes and are equivalent...

  10. Brits and the Black Mass: The First "Confessing Witches"
    (pp. 143-166)

    Thus far we have found a number of elements that fit together to provide grounds for believing that underground satanic cults were operating in Anglo-American culture. Among Charismatics, we have found the pervasive belief that Satan is actively recruiting and maintaining acivitas diabolimade up of demon-possessed people, saints and sinners alike, who resist revivals and the gifts of the spirit. And subversion myths identified devil-worshipping scapegoats for diffuse social threats ranging from plagues to economic depressions. The Satanism Scare was born from the fusion of these elements into a vision of a flesh-and-blood subversive institution, targeting adolescents, directed...

  11. 7 Hippie Commune Witchcraft Blood Rites: Satanic “Confessions” in North America
    (pp. 167-201)

    As constructed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the American Satanism Scare was somewhat different from the British concern over “black magic rings:” While the British scare focused on church desecrations and perverse sex orgies, the American threat mainly drew from anxieties caused by the radical counterculture. Drug use, casual sex, and the threat of random violence were its main constituents. And while adults with culture and influence were said to be the main participants in British-style Satanism, rebellious and rootless adolescents and young adults were described as the mainstream of the California-style cults. Ultimately, “Communism” (which for the...

  12. 8 The Highgate Cemetery Vampire Hunt: Grave-Robbing and Rumor Panic
    (pp. 202-239)

    By 1970, Satanism was a growth industry in Great Britain’s popular and institutional culture. The Wheatley novels were being actively reprinted and inspiring a series of sensational horror movies. But many police and religious officials were convinced that Satanism was more than a fiction: they explained church desecrations as “black magic” ceremonies and warned that cults were capable of “hypnotising” and abducting unwary youths. Even occultists conceded that such evil cults probably operated alongside them. Sexual perversions, especially against small children, were assumed to be part of the Black Mass. And the members of such cults were said to be...

  13. 9 The Great Plains Cattle Mutilation Panic: Satanism Becomes News
    (pp. 240-278)

    The Cattle Mutilation Panic began in the American Great Plains in the early 1970s, when ranchers reported strange deaths among their cattle. The animals appeared to have been killed, then drained of their blood; in many cases, sex organs, udders, eyes, or tongues seemed to have been cut off with scalpels. Most veterinarians agreed that the cattle had died natural deaths, then been attacked by common predators like coyotes and vultures. But many ranchers and private investigators preferred to believe that hippie witchcraft cults killed the cattle as part of weird religious rites, drinking the blood and eating and using...

  14. 10 Conclusions Was the Satanism Scare “Folklore”?
    (pp. 279-288)

    Jeffrey A. Victor has argued that the ritual abuse memories recovered by some professional therapists make a “fit” with at least one definition of “contemporary legend:” For him, legends are “symbolically true emotional messages” that emerge in similar ways whenever an underlying social stress is expressed in metaphoric form by a group of people who stand to gain prestige or social benefits by exposing a social problem. We might therefore classify all aspects of the Satanism Scare, as does Jeffrey S. Victor, as “contemporary legend;” a symbolic expression of unresolved social tensions. Yet others have argued that issues of the...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 289-300)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 301-318)
  17. Index
    (pp. 319-332)