The inverted pentagram circumscribed by a circle (a pentacle) is often used to represent Satanism

Satanism is a group of ideological and philosophical beliefs based on Satan. Contemporary religious practice of Satanism began with the founding of the Church of Satan in 1966, although a few historical precedents exist. Prior to the public practice, Satanism existed primarily as an accusation by various Christian groups toward perceived ideological opponents, rather than a self-identity. Satanism, and the concept of Satan, has also been used by artists and entertainers for symbolic expression.

Accusations that various groups have been practicing Satanism have been made throughout much of Christian history. During the Middle Ages, the Inquisition attached to the Roman Catholic Church alleged that various heretical Christian sects and groups, such as the Knights Templar and the Cathars, performed secret Satanic rituals. In the subsequent Early Modern period, belief in a widespread Satanic conspiracy of witches resulted in mass trials of alleged witches across Europe and the North American colonies. Accusations that Satanic conspiracies were active, and behind events such as Protestantism (and conversely, the Protestant claim that the Pope was the Antichrist) and the French Revolution continued to be made in Christendom during the eighteenth to the twentieth century. The idea of a vast Satanic conspiracy reached new heights with the influential Taxil hoax of France in the 1890s, which claimed that Freemasonry worshiped Satan, Lucifer, and Baphomet in their rituals. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Satanic ritual abuse hysteria spread through the United States and United Kingdom, amid fears that groups of Satanists were regularly sexually abusing and murdering children in their rites. In most of these cases, there is no corroborating evidence that any of those accused of Satanism were actually practitioners of a Satanic religion or guilty of the allegations leveled at them.

Since the 19th century, various small religious groups have emerged that identify as Satanists or use Satanic iconography. Satanist groups that appeared after the 1960s are widely diverse, but two major trends are theistic Satanism and atheistic Satanism. Theistic Satanists venerate Satan as a supernatural deity, viewing him not as omnipotent but rather as a patriarch. In contrast, atheistic Satanists regard Satan as merely a symbol of certain human traits.[1]

Contemporary religious Satanism is predominantly an American phenomenon, the ideas spreading elsewhere with the effects of globalization and the Internet.[2] The Internet spreads awareness of other Satanists, and is also the main battleground for Satanist disputes.[2] Satanism started to reach Central and Eastern Europe in the 1990s, in time with the fall of the Soviet Union, and most noticeably in Poland and Lithuania, predominantly Roman Catholic countries.[3][4]


Saint Wolfgang and the Devil, by Michael Pacher.

In their study of Satanism, the religious studies scholars Asbjørn Dyrendal, James R. Lewis, and Jesper Aa. Petersen stated that the term Satanism "has a history of being a designation made by people against those whom they dislike; it is a term used for 'othering'".[5] The concept of Satanism is an invention of Christianity, for it relies upon the figure of Satan, a character deriving from Christian mythology.[6]

Elsewhere, Petersen noted that "Satanism as something others do is very different from Satanism as a self-designation".[7] Eugene Gallagher noted that, as commonly used, Satanism was usually "a polemical, not a descriptive term".[8]


The word "Satan" was not originally a proper name but rather an ordinary noun meaning "the adversary"; in this context it appears at several points in the Old Testament.[9] For instance, in the Book of Samuel, David is presented as the satan ("adversary") of the Philistines, while in the Book of Numbers the term appears as a verb, when God sent an angel to satan ("to oppose") Balaam.[10] Prior to the composition of the New Testament, the idea developed within Jewish communities that Satan was the name of an angel who had rebelled against God and had been cast out of Heaven along with his followers; this account would be incorporated into contemporary texts like the Book of Enoch.[11] This Satan was then featured in parts of the New Testament, where he was presented as a figure who tempted humans to commit sin; in the Book of Matthew and the Book of Luke, he attempted to tempt Jesus of Nazareth as the latter fasted in the wilderness.[12]

The word "Satanism" was adopted into English from the French satanisme.[13] The terms "Satanism" and "Satanist" are first recorded as appearing in the English and French languages during the sixteenth century, when they were used by Christian groups to attack other, rival Christian groups.[14] In a Roman Catholic tract of 1565, the author condemns the "heresies, blasphemies, and sathanismes [sic]" of the Protestants.[13] In an Anglican work of 1559, Anabaptists and other Protestant sects are condemned as "swarmes of Satanistes [sic]".[13] As used in this manner, the term "Satanism" was not used to claim that people literally worshipped Satan, but rather presented the view that through deviating from what the speaker or writer regarded as the true variant of Christianity, they were regarded as being essentially in league with the Devil.[15] During the nineteenth century, the term "Satanism" began to be used to describe those considered to lead a broadly immoral lifestyle,[15] and it was only in the late nineteenth century that it came to be applied in English to individuals who were believed to consciously and deliberately venerate Satan.[15] This latter meaning had appeared earlier in the Swedish language; the Lutheran Bishop Laurentius Paulinus Gothus had described devil-worshipping sorcerers as Sathanister in his Ethica Christiana, produced between 1615 and 1630.[16]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Satanisme
العربية: شيطانية
arpetan: Satanismo
azərbaycanca: Satanizm
беларуская: Сатанізм
български: Сатанизъм
Boarisch: Satanismus
català: Satanisme
čeština: Satanismus
Cymraeg: Sataniaeth
dansk: Satanisme
Deutsch: Satanismus
eesti: Satanism
Ελληνικά: Σατανισμός
español: Satanismo
Esperanto: Satanismo
euskara: Satanismo
galego: Satanismo
한국어: 사탄주의
հայերեն: Սատանիզմ
hrvatski: Sotonizam
Bahasa Indonesia: Setanisme
italiano: Satanismo
עברית: כת השטן
ქართული: სატანიზმი
latviešu: Sātanisms
lietuvių: Satanizmas
magyar: Sátánizmus
македонски: Сатанизам
Malti: Sataniżmu
Bahasa Melayu: Satanisme
Nederlands: Satanisme
日本語: サタニズム
Napulitano: Satanismo
norsk: Satanisme
norsk nynorsk: Satanisme
polski: Satanizm
português: Satanismo
română: Satanism
русский: Сатанизм
shqip: Satanizmi
Simple English: Satanism
slovenčina: Satanizmus
slovenščina: Satanizem
Soomaaliga: Shaydaanimo
српски / srpski: Сатанизам
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Satanizam
suomi: Satanismi
svenska: Satanism
Türkçe: Satanizm
українська: Сатанізм
اردو: شیطانیت
Tiếng Việt: Đạo Satan
吴语: 撒旦教
粵語: 撒旦教
Zazaki: Satanizm
中文: 撒旦崇拜