Say the word ‘Satanist’ and chances are you immediately imagine a person who worships the devil, that horned monster with a pitchfork and an appetite for destruction.
When I learned that music artist Alexandra James had publicly ‘come out’ as a Satanist, I knew I wanted to have a conversation with her. I had so many questions. In fact, I was completely nonplussed. Why? When? How? Seriously WTH?!
It’s not like we were BFFs or anything, but over the years we had worked together and I had enjoyed having her and her husband Zachary James perform live on a few of my TV segments. Hell, I knew her before she was engaged. My husband and I attended their wedding celebration!
I wanted to know if Alexandra had become a bona fide devil worshiper or if she was just hailing Satan to drum up some controversy and be provocative. She is an artist, after all.
Fast forward to today and Alexandra and Zach are now Twin Temple, the Satanic doo-wop group they formed on Halloween 2016.
While most people might imagine blood-curdling screams and head-banging heavy metal from a Satanic music group, Twin Temple’s sound is quite the contrary. Think vocals that recall Amy Winehouse and Janis Joplin, catchy 60s-inspired riffs and melodic arrangements that sound not unlike something Phil Spector would have produced back in the day.
So what does being a Satanist mean to Alexandra and what can we learn from it?
I’m so glad I asked.
Whatever assumptions, uneasiness or misunderstandings I carried about Satanism (especially as a Christian myself), Alexandra helped to open my mind about what I thought I had already known. And hopefully, I helped to open her mind a little about my own beliefs, particularly when self-professed Christians often espouse racism, bigotry, misogyny, homophobia and greed.
The bottom line is this: Just because people don’t agree doesn’t mean we can’t get along and treat one another with respect, kindness, sincerity and a healthy dose of humor.
Hi Alexandra! OK, girl. First things first. Why did you become a Satanist?
I don’t feel that I ever “became” a Satanist per se. I feel that my lived experience has shaped my attitudes, and the Satanic philosophy encapsulates my own particular perspective. The appeal to me is that it is a religion and philosophy that places the highest value on the Self, and as such, celebrates every manner of individual.
As a Satanist, I believe that my power comes from within, and is attained through my own actions and will. I take all responsibility for my actions; in Satanism there is no “scapegoat” or idea that “the devil made me do it.” Quite the opposite, I believe both the triumphs and the ills of humanity are caused by individual’s actions themselves. Not “bestowed” upon us, or caused by supernatural forces of evil.
Satanism values individualism, knowledge and self-empowerment. The beauty is that there’s many avenues for exploration within Satanism; there is no set doctrine or set of rules that “must” be followed. I have always felt that because humans are individuals, there is no one-size-fits-all religion, or set of rules for living. What works for one person might not work for another.
Satanism takes this into account and places value on experiential knowledge and inquiry. The answers are not provided to you from an external “higher power.” That power is within; it encourages you to find the light within the depths of your own soul. For these reasons, I gravitate towards Satanism.
Many of us hear the word ‘Satanist’ and we automatically equate that to worshiping the devil. Is being a Satanist the same thing as being a devil worshiper?
Satanists don’t believe in, or worship a literal devil. We don’t believe there is an actual person in red face paint with a tail and horns running around the world causing evil. What a Satanist actually worships is the Self. We use Satan as a metaphor, as a symbol for individuality, self-empowerment and rebelling against the status quo. Not evil. So as such, we do not actually “worship” a literal devil.
If being a Satanist is not the same as being a devil worshiper, why not just be an atheist or pagan? What is the appeal of Satan as a figurehead?
Atheism and paganism do not really encapsulate all Satanic values. The core of atheism is that there is no “God.” Paganism historically encapsulates large swathes of localized religions and is a very broad umbrella term, but I would say at its core it’s an earth-based religion. Christianity is actually closer to paganism as it adopted many of its earth-centric traditions— from the Easter egg to the Christmas tree — and many early Christians were converts from paganism. These traditions were rolled into Christianity in order to make conversion more appealing.
Is being a Satanist the opposite of being a Christian? For instance, if Christ taught us to love one another, forgive one another and help one another, does that mean Satan wants people to hate one another, seek revenge and destroy each other?
Satanism attempts to transcend binary ways of thinking. For what truly is “good” and “evil”? To Donald Trump, keeping our borders safe is “good.” I think separating families at the border is “evil.” The realities of good and evil are nuanced and change in the subjective universe of the observer. We attempt to see past so-called “opposites” like Satanist/Christian or Good/Evil.
That being said, I would say the primary thing that is different from Christianity is that logic, as opposed to blind faith, is at the heart of the Satanic philosophy. Satanism encourages inquiry, questioning and abandoning something if it does not serve you.
Experiential knowledge is valued. There is no belief that you must conform to certain moral doctrines or commandments. Or that others must be taught the “one correct” way of living, otherwise they will be spiritually punished. Overall, Satanism is an inclusive philosophy because at its nature it celebrates the individual.
You’ve been in the music scene for years and have built a solid audience before you came out publicly as a Satanist. Were you afraid it would hurt your career?
Well, I aspire not to operate my life from a place of fear. I understand not everyone is going to like me, whether I am a Satanist or not. And I don’t feel I should have to apologize or change certain aspects of myself to conform or please others’ moral sensibilities.
There are plenty of ways I was and am dragged down and insulted just by being a woman in the public sphere; if it’s not “witch” or “devil worshiper” it’s being judged by my age, appearance, hair, body, etc. Unfortunately, these are the realities of living in a patriarchal society. So I may as well work it in a way that feels self-empowering to myself!
Two of my mottos are Know Thyself and To Thine Own Self Be True. And that’s what I strive for. I think that what humans thirst for from art and from each other is a kind of authenticity. What I mean by that is that we want to feel connection, human connection. While my identity as a Satanist certainly alienates certain people, the flip side is that we are part of an extremely supportive and amazing community that accepts me for who I am.
How has coming out as a Satanist impacted your personal relationships with family and friends?
I think it has opened their eyes to what it actually means to be a Satanist.
Does being a Satanist mean you sell your soul to the devil?
Oh no, I gave mine freely.
As a Satanist, what do you believe happens after you die?
Well I, and Satanism, don’t personally espouse to have the answer to that. As it embraces individualism, it’s for each person to decide. I personally have had experiences that lead me to believe that consciousness is not limited to physical existence, and I have read interesting research supporting the theory of reincarnation. Which makes a lot of sense to me, as everything in nature is cyclical.
To me, consciousness is eternal; there is no off switch, there is no death other than the natural entropy of our physical vehicle, the body, here on Earth. In Satanism, the afterlife is not used as a method to control people’s’ actions in this life. In other words, if you don’t do what we say now, you will go to hell.
What is the significance of the number 666?
It’s a numerological symbol for the sun. Lucifer = the bringer of Light. It’s yet another symbol that has widely been demonized within popular culture.
Satanic imagery is very dark and morbid with skulls, blood and monstrous creatures, some of which you incorporate in your social media posts, live shows and music videos. For example, you do a ritual with ‘blood’ during your performances and in the video “Let’s Hang Together” you and Zach tie nooses around each other’s necks. Why does Satanism place so much emphasis on the dark side of life?
Once again, Satanism seeks to transcend duality. We celebrate all aspects of life as necessary parts of the same coin. We don’t believe that a skull or blood is inherently evil, or something that should be repressed. A lot of the images we use are meant to empower ourselves and others.
In many ways, we’re also playing with people’s phobias of what a stereotypical “Satanist” looks like, or on a larger scale, what a woman looks like. Evil, wicked, in cohorts with the devil, lustful, sinful, drinking blood, murdering babies. Tired narratives cast upon us by patriarchal rule.
For centuries a woman in a position of power was branded a witch, and accused of all these epithets, in order to take away her power, or even as an excuse to murder her. We are appropriating these images, we’re donning the images of that which has been feared, in order to turn them into symbols of empowerment.
People might assume your music would be heavy metal, death metal or something really hardcore. But your music actually feels quite upbeat with great harmonies and melodies that make me want to dance. You’ve even been described as the “Satanic Amy Winehouse.” Tell us about Twin Temple’s debut album, which you released on Friday, July 13th.
We’re really excited about the record! We sought to pay homage to the golden era of rock ‘n roll. We wanted to create an honest record that truly captured human sound in all its raw, organic, perfect imperfection. So we cut the entire record live to tape in about two days at Jazzcats Studio [in Long Beach, CA].
We just ran each track a few times and chose the best take. We didn’t use any autotune, melodyne or any slick digital production techniques. Everything was live. What you’ll hear on the record is pretty much exactly what it is; a group of people in a room performing our songs.
We’ve released the record on a limited edition of 666 hand-numbered blood-red vinyl, CD and digital download. You can get a copy at twintemple.com.
As a Satanist, do you ever try to convert people to your way of thinking?
No. Proselytizing or converting people is antagonistic to the Satanic practice. Conversion implies that the other person’s belief systems are fundamentally wrong and need to be changed to something else.
Who am I to decide what spiritual or philosophical system works or doesn’t work for somebody else? Who am I to dictate a “better” or “more correct” way of existing? Only I can only choose what is best for my Self. Each person must find their own path in life. Satanism either appeals to you or it does not. It makes no difference to me whether these ideas work for you or not.
You’ve donated money to charities such as RAICES (The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services). Why is this important to you?
To be quite honest, we’re outraged by what is happening at our borders and in no way can we stay silent on the matter, or complicit.
The policy that is being enacted is simply one that reflects brutality and an utter lack of respect for our fellow humans. Let’s call it what it is; it is abuse. The entire situation is entirely heartbreaking.
We are artists and so what we know best is making music; but we try to use our music as a way to take action and support causes we believe in.
If there’s one thing that people take away from this conversation about you, your music and your Satanic philosophy, what do you want it to be?
I always come back to my motto: know thyself and to thine own self be true. People are free to take what they wish from this conversation.
For more information and videos, visit the official website for Twin Temple.
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