Black mass

A peek inside the Love City Satanists, Philadelphia’s rapidly growing lovers of all things Lucifer

Church of Satan leader Shiva Honey
Ask Shiva Honey an executive for The Satanic Temple and she’ll attest that Satanism is a path of radical self-acceptance and liberation. | Image courtesy: Shiva Honey

It’s not for everyone. 

In fact, it’s not even for most people. 

“But if someone has a sense of adventure and a penchant for the blasphemous… and wants to learn something while having fun with good people, this [was] probably the event to attend.” 

That last part came from “Brother Black,” a South-Philly based organizer for the Love City Satanists in reference to their recent Get Lucifer event, a night of Satanic education, ritual, and of course, partying. The event featured a pair of huge names in the world of Satanism: Lucien Greaves and Shiva Honey, known for their work with The Satanic Temple and for appearing in the 2019 documentary Hail Satan?

It was one of the biggest events Philly-based Satanists have held, and that’s saying a lot, because contrary to what some may believe – Philly goes pretty hard for Satan. 

“We seem to be one of the fastest-growing Satanic communities in the country at the moment,” Black says, “It’s actually pretty surprising how much interest we’ve gotten in the five months we’ve been organizing. Our first meeting in July had nearly 40 attendees and since then, we’ve welcomed about 500 people to our private Greater Philadelphia Facebook group.”

“If one took an honest historical inventory, there’s far more to be worried about [in] what’s going on behind the doors of the average Catholic institution than a Satanic Dance Party.”

— Brother Black, organizer of the Nov. 13 Get Lucifer party held by the Love City Satanists

“It only makes sense, Philadelphia is the grittiest of cities with an obvious tradition of independence and free thought,” says Jack Mongoose, another organizer of the Love City Satanists and the Friends of the Satanic Temple Philadelphia.

Contrary to popular expectations, Satanism is not a literal belief in the devil or the support of evil. Instead, Satanism is largely about organizing in reaction to larger, more powerful institutions that are seen as oppressive. 

In the end, believers simply feel that Satanism is about free speech, equality and justice, but with a certain dark aesthetic flair.

Brother Black says that Satan exists as “a symbol for standing against tyrannical authority and fighting for the oppressed and marginalized.” He says that more conventional religions are often used as weapons against women and LGBTQ people. 

The fear of Satanism is completely unfounded and rooted in media sensationalism,” he says. “If one took an honest historical inventory, there’s far more to be worried about [in] what’s going on behind the doors of the average Catholic institution than a Satanic Dance Party.”

“The allegory of Adam and Eve is the perfect metaphor for our world,” agrees Mongoose. “People live under control and are happy as long as they stay ignorant to the world around them. The devil offers them knowledge…Satan is a hero.”

Modern Satanism started in 1966 with Anton LeVey and the founding of the Church of Satan. LaVey was inspired by the work of Friedrich Nietzche and Ayn Rand, and he viewed Satan as a symbol of defiance against the way Abrahamic religions (like Christianity, Judaism and Islam) suppressed humanity’s animal instincts. COS’s approach to Satanism involves a rigid doctrine of philosophy and belief in magic, and while the organization still exists, it doesn’t have regular events. Religious scholar Massimo Introvigne suggests it never had more than 2,000 members at its peak.

A private group of about 40 people started the Love City Satanists about five years ago, now organizers claim the group is well over 500 followers strong. | Image courtesy: Facebook

But in 2019, Satan is having something of a moment and this time, it’s hella political.

In 2013, The Satanic Temple was founded by Lucien Greaves and Malcolm Jerry. It’s a secular religion that, according to its website, has become “the primary religious Satanic organization in the world, with chapters internationally, and a number of high-profile public campaigns designed to preserve and advance secularism and individual liberties.” Exact membership numbers are not available, but 135,000 people have liked TST on Facebook and over 16,000 people are on the TST Facebook forum.

TST has gained notoriety for its legal battles against restrictive abortion laws, for fighting to put Baphomet statues next to the Ten Commandments stationed on state property, community service actions like after school reading programs and highway cleanups, and for gaining recognition as an official tax-exempt religion by the IRS.

“The TST offers more than just charitable action and social change,” says Mongoose. “People need a community and a sense of belonging. Being a traditional atheist is a lonely place, TST incorporates ritual and pageantry that is fun, imaginative and adds meaning to the lives of the members.”

“To me, Satanism is a path of radical self-acceptance and liberation. It helps me to embrace my own power and desire,” says Shiva Honey, a founding member of The Satanic Temple Detroit and current Director of National Events for TST. “Satanic ritual has become the biggest focus of my practice and has helped me grow tremendously and heal.”

She produces events for TST and leads rituals at the Satanic Temple Headquarters in Salem. 

Bringing Satan to Philly is something she certainly enjoys. 

“Every time I seem to stir up trouble,” Honey says.

Previously Satanic Philadelphia hosted a Black Mass at Philly venue PhilaMoca that featured Greaves and Honey. The 2018 event garnered pushback from protesters, including a petition to the venue and mayor to cancel.  “The Catholics tried to shut us down,” she says, “That’s when you know it’s a party.”