The biggest lie that you can ever tell yourself is that you are perfect. I remember a time when I was the paragon of perfection. I was perfect in every single way–I could do no wrong. I was the prettiest. The strongest. The absolute Queen of all and everything. This was a product of a self-imposed solipsism–the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist.
In a vacuum, perhaps all of these things would be true, but as far as I can tell, that isn’t reality.
Reality is communication. Without communication you are nothing. Without it, you will never get anything you want or need. Without communication you don’t exist. Humans are created through communication–through the physical transfer of genetic information. We are brought into this world through information communicated to doctors for years before they’re permitted to deliver babies. We are raised through communication, and eventually we discover our true natures through it.
Xepera Xeper Xeperu.
As a millennial, my struggle is vastly different than my parents, and even moreso than their parents. I have had the displeasure of living through the death of the old world, and adapting to the new. When I was little, there was no Internet. If we wanted to communicate, the most convenient method was through using the telephone. I remember writing a physical letter in the fourth grade to Lynn Reid Banks. And she never answered. I probably sent it to the wrong address.
Communication used to be much more visceral. It also used to be much more veiled and hidden than it is now. I remember the first time I logged into America Online sometime back in 1995. Email excited me, but what really got me going was the ability to instantly search for information. I could search for anything that I could possibly imagine. The only limitation in this respect was my imagination. The best part of this? Is that I could do it with some measure of anonymity, free from the judgement of others and what they might think of me for spending way too much time reading about obscure anime that hadn’t yet hit my local Suncoast video.
The Internet was so groundbreakingly wonderful because it gave me a liminal space in which I could be myself, by myself. After being introduced to this channel of nearly unlimited knowledge and information it was hard to even imagine going back to the way things were before.
As a function of being a millennial, I spend a lot of time by myself cruising the Internet for various reasons. To most of us, the Internet is nothing more than a toy to edify our body’s need for endorphins. The danger in this is that reality becomes warped when we don’t get out of the self-imposed internet bubble. As a function of “living” in a bubble, we become warped from confinement, thus creating various complexes within our identities.
In Setian jargon, these complexes are best represented by the serpent Apep, filling us with delusion. The perfection delusion created by embracing solipsism is one that offers comfort, peace of mind, and confidence–so long as our subjective selves do not directly interface with the subjective bubble of somebody else. With the convenience of indirect communication over the wide wide web, many of us have lost our ability to interface with other people directly. Visceral communication is a rare commodity right now. My generation can’t keep their jobs, relationships, or lives in order because we were brought up with Apep constantly whispering lies into our ears. Lies telling us that “we are all special.” I mean, honestly, in a way, we are all special. Each one of us a unique flower. We shouldn’t let that go to our heads though. It limits our ability to understand who we really are.
Being perfect is bullshit. Society in the United States has always been framed around the so-called “American dream.” Nowadays that entails being a baller with shitloads of money, women, the perfect body, the perfect life. You know–being comfortable without a worry in the world. I often imagine the Christian ideal of Heaven to embody this type of situation. I’m pretty sure I would get bored after a few months of living like that. Just send me to Hell already.
If I recall correctly, “the American Dream” used to represent something much more meaningful. It used to mean, escaping the country, the situation, or circumstance that held you down from truly becoming an autonomous human being. Becoming autonomous is a messy, uncomfortable process. Of course, that just makes it all the more exciting. It gives us something to look forward to. It allows us to exercise true freedom through our choices, both good and bad. If we could predict everything, many of us would bet the farm at horse races everyday. I know that I would. But how long would that keep us entertained? And at the end of the day, is mere entertainment true delight? Or just a means to murder mother time?
True delight is derived through communicating your needs to the world. Directly. It comes from finding your tribe. From that physical handshake. The smell of farts in your three hour Yoga class. The discomfort of having to wake up at 4am for work. It comes from doing the things you don’t really want to do, in order to be the person you want to be. It’s okay to hide from the world every now and then. We all need alone time. But Xeper can’t be experienced without the vital ingredient so many of us millennials have grown apart from. Human interaction. Be awkward. Be weird. Be aloof. But remember to communicate. This is your reminder for the month of June to communicate. And to smile when you do it. Even if you have a face only a mother can love.
Xenia is a concept engineered by the ancient Greeks which is essentially what we would regard in the postmodern era as hospitality. This idea was fundamental to the Greeks as it served as a cornerstone for human interaction in their households.
There are three rules to Xenia when it comes to the relationship guests and hosts have with one another:
A guest could not insult the host, make demands of the host, or refuse Xenia.
The host could not insult the guest, fail to provide protection for the guest, or fail to be as hospitable as possible.
Gifts and exchange of gifts is customary. Guests weren’t necessarily expected to bring gifts but it was considered good Xenia to do so.
I find Xenia fascinating for providing–at least in my opinion, the ground work for some of the ideas brought forth in modern Satanism in the twentieth century. It’s no secret that many of the ideas expressed in “The Satanic Bible” were quite literally lifted from the likes of Ragnar Redbeard’s “Might is Right,” Niccolò Machiavelli’s “The Prince,” and Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” Anton LaVey’s “Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth” are no exception to this re-appropriation of good ideas. The similarities between Xenia and the following should come to no surprise:
Rule 3. When in another’s lair, show him respect or else do not go there.
Rule 4. If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat him cruelly and without mercy.
Rule three is essentially the guests’ rule for Xenia. Rule four, however, is much more curious. It goes without saying that the hostess should put every effort to insure her guest’s comfort and needs. What isn’t overtly spelled out in the ancient Greek concept of Xenia that is in LaVey’s “Eleven Rules” is the course of action the hostess should take if bad Xenia is expressed towards her and her household. Here LaVey essentially wrote the unwritten rule to the concept of Xenia.
The ancient Greeks were very well aware of this “unwritten rule.” The repercussions for displaying bad Xenia in another individual’s household popped up again and again in many popular examples of ancient Greek literature. The best example comes at the end Homer’s “The Odyssey” with the death of Penolope’s suitors who give a great example of how to be bad guests in another person’s home, eating and drinking large quantities with no respect for Odysseus, his son Telemachus, and Penelope. They were also more or less squatters taking up residence in Odysseus’s home for over three years. This line towards the end of the “The Odyssey” foreshadows their fate with regards to their transgression towards the unwritten rule of Xenia:
“For these were laughing aloud as they prepared a dinner that was sweet and staying, for they had made a very big sacrifice; but there could not be a meal that was more unpleasant than this one, such was to be the attack that the powerful man and the goddess would make on them. For they had first begun the wrongdoing.” (Homer 308)
The Disguised Gods–Lesser Black Magic for the subtle
One aspect of Xenia that intrigues me most is something I like to call the disguised god. Essentially what this entails is using a disguise to test a person’s true character towards you. During the course of “The Odyssey” both the goddess Athene and Odysseus use disguise as a method to confirm the sincerity of others towards their expression of proper Xenia. Penelope’s would-be suitors would eventually pay with their lives for coming to blows with the rules of Xenia, with Odysseus killing them all off at the end of the poem.
This concept can be applied when we come into contact with various sources of new information through our interaction with the multitudes of people constantly coming into and out of our lives. Picture your mind as a house. Information coming in from outside of yourself are guests in your house. Without a constant flow of information coming in and out of your “house” it would be impossible for you to be able to refine yourself in such a way that you are able to understand the things that make you tick–as well as what your limitations might be. Using Xenia with regards to your “mind-house” allows for one way of apprehending the necessary tensions in order to encounter Xeper.
The knee jerk reaction to topics of discussion and/or people we disagree with is embodied by LaVey’s fourth rule of the earth. It is vital to recognize that our natural reactions mean to treat these things “cruelly and without mercy.” In postmodern society, we encounter this on a regular basis. Perhaps this is one of the reasons you should never bring up politics or religion in a bar. Some liberals, blue-haired man-hating femininsts, Nazis, men’s rights activists, Christians, and even Satanists, really under-emphasize their love for existing within self-contained echo chambers. These echo chambers may be called something else, such as a “community of like minded people,” a “congregation,” or a “coven.” While I will not discount the advantages of having a group like this to be a part of, if every person shared the same ontological and spiritual views it would be one boring planet.
Being able to argue with individuals who share other perspectives without killing each other, or taking personal offense to potential discussions serves as a springboard for bringing about tension to understand, shift, or solidify your own views that much better. In the context of the mental household and how it relates to Xenia, it’s important to recognize that a little tension helps to strengthen character as well as the ability to present an argument outside of the echo chamber of whatever demographic you belong or don’t belong to.
I’m all for a healthy argument, and we do in fact need tension in our initiatory pursuits to be able to experience Xeper. Where we must be aware that we should be able to have civil conversations with individuals that exist outside of our echo chambers, we must also be aware that there are people who will never be able to argue outside of their own. Many of these people aren’t bad per se, they just choose to attach existential limitations onto their views.
In my opinion, by employing the concept of the disguised god in situations like these you are also employing the rules of Xenia by essentially closing doors to the potential for a productive discussion–because there absolutely cannot be one.
You never want to reveal vital personal details about yourself when testing character. Pulling back the curtain ever so slightly when appropriate is enough. The disguised god is a lot like being an inquisitor that cannot be seen. Allowing a person to tell me all about themselves or whatever they would prefer to talk about is a good strategy in extracting information I might find pertinent. The intention is to always disclosing their true natures whether they’re conscious of it or not. Also it’s important to keep in mind more than what an individual is actually saying. For example, body language, mode of dress, the way a person carries themselves, changes in voice inflection, and above all the eyes are a good way to delve deeper into a person’s character.
In the context of determining true natures, Xenia can provide simple rules to engage others by. These rules can provide an invaluable tool in the exploration of your own beliefs by opening yourself up to the right amount of necessary tension that may illicit a positive change or growth to your worldview.
I’ve been thinking about a lot of different things lately. Death is among one of the most intriguing things I’ve really been jumping into. I feel that as I’ve grown older it’s around me more and more. I’m more keen to it.
Winners and losers. They will always be there. Last year, I stepped on a few people consciously. For the first time in my life I stood by myself first and let other people in my life take a back seat. When we stand to lose the things important to us we have two options. One, we can choose to be stepped on–because we’re too scared at the possible consequences that might come out of being the one who does the stepping. Two, we break a few eggs.
Belief. We make up a large majority of the things that cause us almost certain hurt inside of our heads. Selective hearing. We can consciously choose to elect ignorance in the same way that we consciously choose to fuck a few people over in our lives to get ahead. Fucking other people over isn’t exclusive to those subjectively evil individuals in the world.
We are held back because we hold ourselves back. Desire. He who restrains it does so because he is weak enough to be restrained. But why? Because we are taught that weakness is okay. Weakness is not okay. Weakness means you are not fit. Not being fit means you’re off to the gallows. You dig the holes and bury yourselves.
Everything we know, everything that we think we know exists only on the basis of what we experience. What we perceive. There are so many things out there in the so-called universe that we cannot perceive. An infinity of possibilities, an ocean of knowledge you and I will never know or understand. I used to think that uploading my consciousness into a computer would be the most sovereign thing for me to do at the end of my life. But now I’m not so sure. What part of my monkey brain wants to keep living on in the same way that I do now?
The first law of thermodynamics–also known as Law of Conservation of Energy. Energy cannot be created or destroyed in an isolated system. How does one become isolated?
It’s been quite the year. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that I’m still writing on this blog. I’ve started and stopped so many blogs and websites over the years that I find it hard to believe I’ve actually stuck with it for an entire year. We’ll see if I make it through another one! Self-discipline is heroic!
(Below is my victory dance)!
I figured today would be as good as any to write out a list of some of the awesome shit I did this year. To be honest, I would say this was probably the most memorable year of my life, and here I thought 2012 was the pinnacle! It just goes to show you how surprising life can be.
I read more books this year than I’ve read any other year of my life. A few of the highlights include: Harry Browne’s “How I Became Free in an Unfree World,” Anton LaVey’s “The Compleat Witch,” Taylor Ellwood’s “Pop Culture Magick,” and Ouspensky’s “The Psychology of Man’s Evolution.”
I got into listening to podcasts. I fucking love Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. His World War I podcast is a masterpiece. Radiolab’s podcasts are short and sweet, and packed full of interesting conversation starters. Joe Rogan’s podcast is interesting too–but that’s a sometimes food.
I traveled to Spain. Beautiful country. I want to live there! Marbella is basically one of my favorite spots in the universe.
I had a crazy twelve hour surgical procedure on my skull to soften it up in order to become more passable as a woman. So far, so good!
I moved from the east coast to the west coast. West coast best coast!
Traveled all over the U.S. Spent a fuckload of time in Dallas Airport. I would say it became my second home this year.
Went to South Carolina in a hurricane, with floods everywhere. That was fun. And underwhelming. Ain’t nothing but a thing!
Played a lot of different games this year. My favorites include: Xenoblade Chronicles X, Fallout 4, Wonder Project J2, Knuckles Chaotix, and Magician Lord.
While we’re on the video game subject we setup the ultimate retro setup in my self-improvement chamber. We have everything! NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, 32X, Sega Saturn, N64, PSX, PS2, Dreamcast etc. It’s pretty awesome having access to every old school game that we grew up with.
Back in 2011 I had a really tough choice to make. It was a little after a year since I rebounded from rock bottom. The year before I was so broke that I almost prostituted myself in order to pay for tuition to one of the many expensive New England universities. As my bills closed in all around me, I desperately started applying for jobs everywhere. Somehow, by some immense luck I was hired to work the world’s shittiest retail job. This job wasn’t glamorous or fun by any means, but it paid the bills. By the end of 2011 I decided that I had a choice:
1. Finish my school and be more in debt than I could ever hope to pay back with the English degree I was going for.
2. Buckle up and work my ass off in order to work towards paying for facial feminization.
I chose to buckle up.
Fast forward to 2015, it was a solid choice that paid off. I’m always worried that I’m a goddamn quitter, but I suppose that’s not an accurate observation of myself. I’m just not a multi-tasker—because who believes in that bullshit phenomena? I had the foresight to understand the needs of my big SELF and ran with it. If I had decided to go the school route I probably would’ve ended up quitting eventually anyway.
During this four year period, I read absolutely nothing. Unless you count Kotaku, but let’s get real, Kotaku doesn’t count. Reading Kotaku is more like reading a coloring book. I probably killed more brain cells reading it than if I had read nothing at all. Amidst all of this heavy mental lifting I ultimately decided in late 2014 that I needed something to rekindle my reading spirit. Enter Ipssismus Don Webb’s book “The Seven Faces of Darkness: Practical Typhonian Magic” (#2AG). I was drawn to this book for a few reasons:
1. Its scarcity. At the time there weren’t any reprints available for any of Ipsissmus Webb’s more popular Rûna-Raven books. It made me want to get a hold of it even more.
2. I had just finished marathoning American Horror Story: Coven. This show was rocket fuel for me. It definitely inspired me to investigate the Left Hand Path moreso than I had done in the past.
3. At the time, I recently played Bayonetta 2 and replayed Bayonetta 1. As someone who once sang about dissecting angels in a Satanic Black Metal band I felt connected with Bayonetta on a visceral level. A witch that kicked angels asses? I could see myself doing that. What was the next best thing? Investigating the writings of Ipsissmus Webb of course! I can’t explain how that works into any kind of rational thought, but that’s how it went!
Initially, I decided against buying (#2AG) in light of the fact that it was going for almost $300 USD on Amazon. I found a really crappy PDF copy of this book online that I had to reformat. I eventually ended up buying physical copies of Ipsissimus Webb’s entire Rûna-Raven backlog from Lodestar after they were re-printed earlier this year (2015).
As someone who knew absolutely nothing about traditional ceremonial magic “The Seven Faces of Darkness” proved to be an invaluable resource. If I could call (#2AG) anything I would call it a crash course in what it means to be a practical traveler upon the seemingly not-so-practical roads of the Left Hand Path initiate. The Left-Hand Path isn’t exactly the easiest thing to understand from the outside looking in. “Seven Faces” gave me a small taste on some of the more intricate aspects of a traditional magical system–Hermeticism, without overwhelming me with the drier details. Those drier details I found later in other books like Ipsissimus Flowers “Hermetic Magic: The Postmodern Magical Papyrus of Abaris” (#3Y), and Franz Bardon’s “Initiation into Hermetics.”
I will admit, upon my first reading of “The Seven Faces of Darkness” I felt very confused about what I needed to take away from it. I found Chapter 6 on “Spells” to incredibly useless—at first. The selection of the PGM (Papyri Graecae Magicae) available in this chapter is home to some pretty heinous shit. The first time I read the words for the Coptic spell “Oil Spell for Sealing a Marriage with Hot Sex” I laughed a little bit. I couldn’t ever see myself using most of these spells within the context of how they were written. As I look back at them a year later, I see something different. I see examples–models which I can apply to my own workings.
As a former English major I take an interest in understanding context. Especially with details that might not be entirely apparent at first glance. For example, Dante’s “Inferno” can be interpreted as an allegory for the political conflict going on in Florence during the 14th century between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor. Dante even puts people he actually knew in real life, like Filippo Argenti, in the poem.
(Incoming EXTREMELY loaded paragraphs…)
Of course, understanding the historical context of something seven hundred years old isn’t nearly as difficult as trying to ascertain the “assumed” to be second and third century contextual meanings of Hermeticism. I say assumed, because there are so many details we don’t know about Marsilio Ficino’s translation of the “Corpus Hermetica.” The “Corpus Hermetica” was “lost” during the middle ages but magically reappeared after the de Medici family acquired it somewhere in Byzantine.
Alchemy was in vogue during the Renaissance and much of the Ficino translation—appears to be biased towards the “lead to gold” obsession of the seventeenth century. Regardless, let’s assume his translation is based off of authentic texts used to compile the Hermetic Corpus. It’s still not first hand information. I would say it’s more like third or fourth hand information. Contextually, much of what we have from Ficino’s translation is through the lens of the seventeenth century alchemical philosophy and not from the entire perspective of the second century author(s) of the Hermetic Corpus.
Much of what the original authors of the PGMs were going for have been all but lost. Unless, of course, we take an educated guess as to what they were going for and applying that knowledge to what we know about Greek, Coptic, and Demotic traditions and languages.
Ipsissimus Webb writes, “Postmodern theories argues that magical language isn’t gibberish, but an appropriate form of discourse with another realm of existence.” (15) I appreciate the fact that he included a detailed analysis of three Hermetic workings in Chapter 2. It breaks down the seemingly confusing spells as models for further assumed understanding of magical formulae. We can be apply this model to other Initiatory practices/traditions.
The PGM may seem especially dangerous to those unfamiliar with it, in light of the fact that we don’t necessarily understand the context of, or the exact precise meaning or pronunciations of words written down in these works. When we say words like “BOLCHOSÊTH” without any knowledge as to what that word means, what is that doing for us? For all we know when we say this word our subjective interaction with it might send an encoded message to ourselves that may cause some unintended consequence in our “world.” Though, this sort of superstitious Mickey Mouse bullshit sounds closer to a Right Hand Path contextual understanding of the PGM.
Herein lies the most interesting aspect to (#2AG). When does historical context become useless in terms of applying it to the use of magical technology?
Even after we begin to recognize simple formulaic words such as BOLCHOSÊTH as “Ba’al strikes Set” are we even pronouncing it correctly (BOLE-CHO-SEET)? For all we know this could be the wrong pronunciation of the word. We don’t know for sure! We’re two thousand years away from understanding the actual implied context of the words found in the PGM. For all we know pronouncing BOLCHOSÊTH as “BOLE-CHO-SEET” with a hard “T” sound at the end instead of a soft “TH” sound could make the word mean something entirely different.
For a more up to date example let’s look at the Japanese words for cute and scary:
Scary is kowai (怖い,こわい) . ko – why
Cute is kawaii (可愛い,かわいい) ka – wa – ii
Notice senpai–that these words sound awfully similar to the Western ear. However, they mean the exact opposite thing in relationship to one another. One lazy delayed pronunciation of 可愛い (kawaii) might make your Japanese friends think your waifu is a scary bitch! Case in point, you used a word with the wrong pronunciation and it produced a different result than you anticipated.
For another example see “Army of Darkness” and Ash trying to say the words “klaatu barada nikto” correctly:
“WAIT A MINUTE. EVERYTHING’S COOL. I SAID THE WORDS. I DID!”
So why is all of this vital to our usage of ancient magical technology?
Well—the fact of the matter is, context isn’t all that important. Unless of course you’re using the PGMs or magical technology like it under the veil of superstition. Only then does context become everything. This why magical technology, in general, can be dangerous to use. If your subjective sense of self perceives a misalignment of context to be dangerous in the usage of magical technology then it will pose an actual danger to your subjective self.
Seeing beyond this, my biggest takeaway from (#3AG) with regards to magic is that magic comes from you. It doesn’t come from saying ABLANATHANALBA sixteen times or from the trappings of the ritual chamber. Magic comes from you, and the only thing that is vitally important to its use is intent. Everything else is auxiliary to the usage of the PGM or other forms of magical technology. Understanding how to formulate more and more accurate forms of intent in the magical chamber is much like habit forming (think neuroplasticity)–it takes practice. Webb writes “The magician will (after practice) free him-or herself from the text, and as each successful immortalization of the soul occurs, the magician begins to act on a more and more divine level. For the advanced magician every act becomes a magical one. He or she is said to have become magic (heka) itself.” (39)
Acting on a “more and more divine level” screams to me as being able to form clearer and more clearer routes of concise and exact modes of intent in the magical chamber. We practice this “freeing” from the text as Ipsissimus Webb writes in order to get magic to do what we want it to do, which may not be what the authors’ of the original texts had intended for a working . “Each successful immortalization of the soul” or intent is accomplished by practicing this over and over again. Only when we truly “say what we mean and mean what we say” with regards to our intent in the usage of magical technology can we “become heka” itself.
I created a graph called “The Intent Funnel” to illustrate the various levels of effectiveness in terms of formulating an accurate intent for workings. You can chart intent on this graph based its specificity. The more specific the intent the better—obviously. The more vague, the easier it is to read anything as a possible result from your workings. I tend to think this is bad, especially in operative workings where you’re trying to accomplish a specific thing. A vague example of intent in an operative working would be “I want to be rich!” You didn’t say by what means you wanted to be rich, and you didn’t give yourself a time frame. You also didn’t even say what you wanted to be rich in. For all you know you could become rich in sorrow! Which is why this sounds like a vague mode of intent to me. That would be charted right at the very top of the graph.
On the other hand, an example of a more specific mode of intent would sound something like this: “I want to go to Harvard to study astrophysics with Dr. Von Loki and graduate in 2019.” This would be charted closer to the bottom of the graph as it is much more specific than the first example.
To conclude, Intent is not wishing for something to happen. Intent is like a GPS, and magical technology is like the car. The destination is the result of a working. You may want to go down the road that might result in making you part of the nouveau-riche elite, but unless you program your GPS with precision, you might be taking the long way to get there.
Satyricon’s 1999 album “Rebel Extravaganza” polarized the band’s fans more so than any of the other albums they’ve released to date. It was released during a time in which the black metal music was experiencing artistic growing pains. Many of Satyricon’s hardcore fans regard “Rebel Extravaganza” as an album that symbolizes their “selling-out.” To many it was regarded as their downward spiral into irrelevance.
Black Metal is the child of the Satanic Ritual Abuse movement of the 1980s. It’s aesthetics and standards are based upon a romanticizing of lies and imagery fabricated by the Christian right. “Rebel Extravaganza” is largely hated because it speaks out against this romancing of Satanic Ritual Abuse and the mimetic nature of Black Metal art. Lyrics from the “The Scorn Torrent” blatantly spell this out:
“Break down all conventional forms and create chaos to reinvent order
Rebel against all circles and dead ends
fight your way with your mind set on the masses
execute with mechanical aggression
arrogance and extravagance
march on unapproachable
shut out the outside pressure
or are you too weak?”
Black Metal bands during the 1990s made it a point to live up to the media portrayed expectations of what it meant to be a Satanist. Bands who romanced the Satanic Ritual Abuse movement were able to court an audience that also romanced the media portrayal of Satanism. Satyricon released “Rebel Extravaganza” to separate themselves from this, and push the genre forward.
Adam Darski aka Nergal of Behemoth fame writes: “Satyricon, one of the leaders of the Norwegian scene, released “Nemesis Divina”[…]it turned out that metal bands could do some really professional stuff. A forest and a random camera was [sic] not enough anymore.” (Darski)
Satyricon’s “Nemesis Divina” album from 1996 is largely regarded as one of the most important releases to come out of the second wave of Black Metal. It visually featured well-defined full color Pagan imagery coupled with professional photos of the band. The production values were clear, and for the first time it felt as though the scene was moving forward–away from the muddy obscure sound that Black Metal had become synonymous with. “Nemesis Divina” created a new standard which forever changed the Black Metal movement.
Despite changing the standards of the movement, “Nemesis Divina” still fell within the standards that existed before it. These standards embraced a philosophy that romanced images of anti-Christian/Zionist occult imagery, ritual murder/sacrifice, as well as an affinity for all out death and destruction. These standards employed strategies used during the great Satanic Panic and twisted them to market their art to an audience who also romanticized the Satanic Ritual Abuse scandals of the 80s. These standards are still followed to some degree in the postmodern Black Metal movement. These are:
1. Living an authentic or “cult” Black Metal lifestyle. The main aim of this is to remove the “human” element from a band. If for any reason a band is outed as being “human” this illusion is shattered. In reality, this exists only because an audience wants to believe that there is an authentic and brutal “cult” phenomenon surrounding a group.
In the 90s being a “Norwegian” Black Metal band could fulfill this standard. This made bands authentic by assumed/national association to the Norwegian bands that came before them. The beginning of the second wave of Black Metal was led by Mayhem, Burzum, Emperor, and Darkthrone–all Norwegian. This time period was riddled with an extremely short history of violence, murder, suicide, and church burnings. This standard was later expanded to being Scandanavian, and later to simply being European after Black Metal began to root itself into popular culture.
“Before [Black Metal], I associated Norway and Sweden only with fjords, oil, and salmon. Black Metal changed that. Today even their diplomats know about the history of the genre–because as it turns out, the whole world associates the north of Europe with this cold and brutal music. It’s one of their export goods. When I got there for the first time, black metal was totally underground; only later would it ride on a white horse into the pop-culture world. I was fascinated by the fact that such radical music flourished in the place where even sixty-year old grocery merchants speak perfect English.” (Darksi)
One of the most famous incidents that helped to launch Black Metal into the eyes of the media was the suicide of Mayhem vocalist “Dead.” Euronymous of Mayhem, who was also subsequently murdered a few years after, said “Dead killed himself because he lived only for the true old black metal scene and lifestyle. It means black clothes, spikes, crosses and so on…But today there are only children in jogging suits and skateboards and hardcore moral ideals, they try to look as normal as possible. This has nothing to do with black, these stupid people must fear black metal![…]We must take this scene to what it was in the past! Dead died for this cause and now I have declared war!” (Moynihan 60)
For years following this “dark period,” listeners and other bands romanced these incidents. This romancing made Black Metal a marketable commodity.
A band can also use rumors and urban legend to “certify” authenticity. With regards to the effectiveness of Urban Legends, Occult expert Dr. Steven Flowers writes, “Urban legends almost always start with ‘A friend of a friend of mine said that…’ They are always close enough of specific enough to be effective, yet far away enough to be beyond confirmation. It is essential to the effectiveness of an urban legend that it not be subjected to verification. All urban legends that have been studied have been shown to be purely fictional creations.”(Flowers)
The main aim of Urban Legend is to build a “history” for bands. This history often comes in the form of outright lies. Regardless, if a band was able to convince their audience that a fabricated history has some validity to it they gain respect in the scene. This can also come in the form of not creating a history at all.
Mystery has also worked in a marketing sense for people selling Black Metal. In the early 2000s this strategy worked well for Norma Evangelium Diaboli in their successful marketing of Deathspell Omega and the orthodox Black Metal movement.
2. Following Black Metal Aesthetics. In the archetypical sense this harkens back to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s which falsely promoted that Satanists were medieval, demonic, murderers and baby killers who indulged in a world wide conspiracy to destroy Christianity. These aesthetics had a far reaching appeal by unstable individuals who both romanced them and used them for their advantage in an attempt to thwart the “evil empire of Satan” from rising up and conquering the planet.
Mayhem had the biggest influence on early Black Metal aesthetics. Infamous Black Metal pioneer Øystein Aarseth aka Euronymous “realized this responsibility that comes with being in a band that has decided to maintain a certain image[…]Aarseth would be a manifestation of the Black Metal aesthetic. He was always dressed in black from head to foot, his hair dyed black for added effect. He sported long aristocratic mustaches and wore knee-high boots. His black leather biker jacket was decorated with badges. His rather slim frame bore the mark of many hours in the gym, but could not hide the fact that his height was hardly imposing. When talking, he seemed stern and serious, sometimes with pomposity verging on the theatrical. He would do his best to maintain this façade towards outsiders and the younger members of the developing scene.” (Moynihan 72)
Satyricon’s contemporary, Darkthrone, had a large influence on the aesthetic of the scene. Their early Black Metal albums followed a strict formula which included black and white covers on their albums, and poor recording values. The catch phrase “True Norwegian Black Metal” was coined by Darkthrone upon the release of their 1994 album “Translivanian Hunger.” This style was extremely popular and has remained the formulaic archetype of which all other Black Metal has been measured.
In an interview from 1997 Front man Satyr is on record saying that Satyricon “musically it’s about working for progression…all the time. To develop as individuals, musicians, but also on an individual basis, and as a band.”
It is no surprise that Satyricon made an effort to continue their progression towards something new and different to separate themselves from a scene that was becoming more and more influenced by each other and the media. They wanted to cause waves, and that wave was called “Rebel Extravaganza.” Satyr shaved his hair and adopted a dirty industrial postmodern image that challenged everything he had contributed to the Black Metal scene prior to that point. He even went so far to attempt a re-branding of their musical style as “Norge,” to help them stand out from the goat-worshipping rabble. In 1999, this was a radical change from the static image so many bands were riding the coattails of. And because it was challenging to the scene to understand, “Rebel Extravaganza” was largely viewed as a betrayal to their roots and still to this day in many circles is a much maligned work of art.
Ketil Sveen writes: “A few years ago, you could record anything and label it Norwegian Black Metal, and it would sell. Today people are far more critical. Shoddily recorded and bad records won’t sell. All musical waves will develop after a while.” (Moynihan 44)
Black Metal, in it’s truest form is about progression, about moving forward, and Satyricon did just that.
“The principal elements of Black Metal in Norway reside as much in belief and outlook as they do in the music itself. There is a considerable berth given toward sonic experimentation as long as certain attitudes are prominently displayed by the musicians. At the same time, there is no set “rule book” to be followed, and the boundaries of the ideology shift as time passes. Such changes are usually effected at the hands of the more important members of the scene, for the genre is in many ways entirely defined by the dramatic personalities who have comprised it–and continue to forge it’s destiny.” (Moynihan 33)
Satyricon became immensely self-aware following the release of “Nemesis Divina.” Sure, they could’ve walked down the same path Slayer has walked down, releasing the same album again and again to great (financial) effect. But they pushed the envelope, and helped to break the Black Metal movement away from the very thing that would’ve eventually made the genre irrelevant. Devourers of stasis and stagnation Satyricon remain among the most relevant artists in the genre today. Who’s to say if they would’ve disappeared into obscurity like so many others had they chose to take the easy way out and record sequel after sequel of the same album over and over again? Luckily we won’t have to find out.
“Nemesis Divina” was: “We know who you guys are and what you want to hear.”
“Rebel Extravaganza” was: “We know exactly who we are and what we want to hear.”