Anton Szandor LaVey

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Publicity photograph of Anton LaVey

Anton Szandor LaVey (born Howard Stanton Levey April 11, 1930 – October 29, 1997) was an American author, musician, and occultist. He was the founder of the Church of Satan and the religion of LaVeyan Satanism.

Church of Satan

On Walpurgisnacht, April 30, 1966, LaVey ritualistically shaved his head, "in the tradition of ancient executioners," declared the founding of the Church of Satan and proclaimed 1966 as "the Year One" (Anno Satanas) the first year of the Age of Satan.

Media attention followed the subsequent Satanic wedding ceremony of journalist John Raymond to New York City socialite Judith Case on February 1, 1967. The Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle were among the newspapers that printed articles dubbing him "The Black Pope."

The many rituals LaVey created for his new religion included a new form of the Black Mass, Satanic baptisms (including the first Satanic baptism in history for his three-year-old daughter Zeena, dedicating her to Satan and the Left-hand path, which garnered worldwide publicity and was originally recorded on The Satanic Mass LP), and Satanic funerals, including one for naval Machinist-Repairman Third-Class Edward Olsen, complete with a chrome-helmeted honor guard.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, LaVey melded ideological influences from Friedrich Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, H. L. Mencken, and Social Darwinism with the ideology and ritual practices of the Church of Satan. He wrote essays introduced with reworked excerpts from Ragnar Redbeard's Might Is Right and concluded with "Satanized" versions of John Dee's Enochian Keys to create books such as The Complete Witch (re-released in 1989 as The Satanic Witch), and The Satanic Rituals. The latter book also included rituals drawing on the work of H. P. Lovecraft. Admitting his use of Might is Right, LaVey stated that he did so in order to "immortalize a writer who had profoundly reached me."

In 1972, the public work at LaVey's Black House in San Francisco was curtailed and work was continued via sanctioned regional churches known as "grottoes." In early 1975 LaVey announced that higher degrees of initiation could be given in return for a financial contribution. In June 1975, the editor of the Church's newsletter, Michael Aquino, left the Church of Satan and formed the theistic Temple of Set, taking an unknown number of dissenters with him. The Church maintains this policy announcement was designed to "clean house" of members who didn't understand Satanic philosophy.


LaVey's image has been described as "Mephistophelian," and may have been inspired by an occult-themed episode of the television show The Wild Wild West titled "The Night of the Druid's Blood" which originally aired on March 25, 1966 and starred Don Rickles as the evil magician and Satanic cult leader Asmodeus, whose Mephistophelean persona is virtually identical to that which LaVey adopted one month later.

Like his predecessor, Aleister Crowley, LaVey was labeled many things by journalists, religious detractors, and Satanists alike, including: "The Father of Satanism," the "St. Paul of Satanism," "The Black Pope," and the "evilest man in the world."

Creative work

He authored several books, including The Satanic Bible, The Satanic Rituals, The Satanic Witch, The Devil's Notebook, and Satan Speaks! In addition, he released three albums, including "The Satanic Mass," and "Satan Takes a Holiday." He played a minor on-screen role and served as technical advisor for the 1975 film "The Devil's Rain" and served as host and narrator for Nick Bougas' 1989 mondo film Death Scenes.


LaVey was the subject of numerous articles in news media throughout the world, including popular magazines such as Look, McCall's, Newsweek, and Time.. He also appeared on talk shows such as The Joe Pyne Show, Donahue, and The Tonight Show, and in two feature-length documentaries: Satanis in 1969 and Speak of the Devil: The Canon of Anton LaVey in 1993.

Two official biographies have been written on LaVey: The Devil's Avenger by Burton H. Wolfe, published in 1974, and The Secret Life of a Satanist by Blanche Barton, published in 1990.

Gareth J. Medway described LaVey as a "born showman," with anthropologist Jean La Fontaine describing him as a "colourful figure of considerable personal magnetism." Academic scholars of Satanism Per Faxneld and Jesper Aa. Petersen described LaVey as "the most iconic figure in the Satanic milieu."