Jake Block

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Rational Self Interest

Rational Self Interest
by Jake Block

“Love yourself as you love no other; Be no man’s fool and be no man’s brother”— The Hell of It (Paul Williams)

“Satanism represents a form of controlled selfishness.”— Anton LaVey

I’ve never been a “nice guy.” There are people to whom I am “nice,” and there are people I defer to with respect, and there are people to whom I am cordial. But to most, I am at best “pleasant,” and if I don’t care for someone, I see no real percentage in pretending. I don’t collect friends… not on FaceBook, and not in real life. I am pragmatic, I am self-aware, and I am self-sufficient. I am a Satanist.

And yes, I am selfish, to a degree. I’m not some spoiled kid to complain that I didn’t get the largest piece of pie, or any pie at all, but I do demand that I receive my just desserts! I believe that I should get what’s coming to me for the things I do, but that does not mean that I only do things for others when there is some tangible form of reward in it for me. I like to feel good for the things that I do for other people. My saving grace as a Satanist, because I realize that altruism is a myth and, to my mind, the last refuge of the un-admitted narcissist.

I’m well schooled in conditioned responses applicable to a situation. I know when and how to “gloss” and give an honest compliment when a compliment is due, but you won’t find me at the hippest parties for the golden boy or golden girl of the hour. I don’t need to glom onto others to garner my undeserved share of their success. Vicariousness to me is akin to watching a movie and deciding that I could be Bruce Willis in Die Hard… “Yippie ki yo ki yay, motherfucker!” While I appreciate the successes of others, I have my own, thank you!

Having had the privilege of knowing some very successful and innovative people, I have been smart enough to learn from them and apply what I have learned to enhance my life. I give them credit for the inspiration, but I claim responsibility and the rewards for my hard work in any success that I might have as a result of those associations. As someone once said, “Others may open doors for you, but once you are inside, you have to prove that you belong there!”

There’s no shame in being selfish, so long as you deserve your accolades, rather than being someone who takes credit where none is due. We’ve all had “one of those people” in our lives at one time or another! You know the type. You work your ass off and then someone who either participated, but never took the lead, or took the lead, but relied on you to do all of the real work, is the first to stand and take the accolades for a job well done. I’m well aware however that no one does anything worth doing alone, and I am wise enough to thank others for their contributions to the successes to which I rightfully lay claim. Those who do succeed should always remember that they stand on the shoulders of giants.

Part of rational self Interest is in not wasting your time. It’s not that I am anti-social, but more self-interested than I am interested in the mundane world of others. Normal people bore me to tears. I know a few, but I spend as little time with them as possible. I prefer people with an edge, a quirk… an artistic bent, be it in music, in the visual arts, or fine arts from painting to photography. There are people who can entertain themselves, and while doing so, entertain others as well. Their skills have value. Their skills show their humanity. Many people on the Left-Hand Path fall naturally into the intellectual and visual aesthetic that I can easily embrace.

Diane LaVey (always a lady) famously said, “The Devil is a gentleman.” Being that I am, for the most part, a gentleman, I see no reason to populate my world with those who aren’t ladies and gentlemen in their social interactions with one another. I am loathe to engage in pointless arguments and dramas with people on the web, and that’s how I am in real life as well. I’m not one for wasting my time in bickering and squabbling with my neighbors, so I keep them at an arm’s reach.

Lest I sound like a wannabe guru living in a cave somewhere in Nepal, let me say that while I am somewhat reclusive, I am not cut off from the rest of the world. I understand and somewhat follow politics, and am aware of world events as they relate to me and the section of the world to which I am a part. There are lots of things happening in and around one’s life that could draw them away from their comfort zone and, indeed take it over, if one let them. My personal tendency is to simply not let them. Things COULD bother me, and in my youth, a lot more things bothered me then than do now. In most controversies, I defuse them and maintain my “sense of ‘wa’” by employing what I call Jake’s Wallet Test. It works for me. You can read about it here: http://www.thesectofthehornedgod.com/?p=2486

Once one learns to utilize the concept of Rational Self Interest, life can be much easier and much less turbulent. It allows you to become engaged in the world around you when it benefits you to be, and also to retreat to a stance of disinterested amusement or rejection, but always on your own terms. You are the gatekeeper of your own existence, and the gatekeeper holds all of the keys.

Currents In Convergence

by Jake Block

• The general tendency or course of events or opinion.

“Don’t cross the streams… It would be bad… Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.”
— Egon Spengler, PhD (Ghostbusters [1984])

Back in 1966, when The Church ofSatan was, for all intent and purpose, the only game in town, millions of people found the strongest voice in the room against religionists and traditional religious thought was Anton Szandor LaVey.  To be sure, there were other non-mainstream groups in opposition to “right hand” domination, such as Aleister Crowley and the Ordo Templi Orientis,  The Church if the Final Judgement in the UK, also known as “The Process,” headed by Robert de Grimston and his partner, Mary Ann MacLean (failed Scientologists), and Herbert Sloane, “spirit medium” and founder of Our Lady of Endor Coven, part of the Ophite Cultus Sathanus. 

Time and tide (currents in their own right) wait fo no man, and before LaVey breathed his last in 1997, groups with a “satanic ethic and ethos” were emerging slowly around the world.  One could find them, but it required time and effort to find mention of them in “occultic” magazines and newsletter of the time.  There would be what occurred as a “Big Bang” of Left-Hand Path availability with the rise of affordable and higher speed internet access during the mid-to-late 1980s, and continuing to this day.

I sometimes compare the current status of “the Left-Hand Path” as not so much as a path, but as a super highway on which are millions of lanes, all heading more or less in the same direction, and during one’s travels, one might merge and cross lanes several times before they reach their  final destination.  And then, like any highway, there are offramp departures that many take, sending them off in many alternative directions, never to return to that great highway heading Left.  One could imagine that by the time one reaches the end of the super highway, it will have shrunk to a meandering two lane road, far from the mainstream of traffic and, further still, to a single footpath, upon which one intrepid soul might eventually find that point of singularity, the end of the trail.

Sometimes, however, I tend to see the Left-Hand Path not so much as a highway, a road, or a path at all, but more like a “color line” buy which all are measured.  Now, my “black and ethnic” readers will probably understand this point much more than those who are white.  One might consider it like the “Fitzpatrick Skin Type Scale (*1),” which rates skin color from Type 1 (Light, Pale White) to Type 6 (Black, Very Dark Brown to Black), but much more detailed. In the days of post Civil War racism in the United States, the color line was a measurement of skin tone, by which the power elite (read as white majority) could determine if a person of color was light skinned enough to gain access to a greater degree of acceptance in the white culture.

This system, was still alive in 1964, and was referenced in Bruce Hornsby’s song, The Way It Is:

“Well, they passed a law in ’64

To give those who ain’t got a little more,

But it only goes so far,

Because the law don’t change another’s mind

When all it sees at the hiring time

Is the line on the color bar.”

This, to me is what The Left-Hand Path has become, for better or for worse
, but it’s not based so much on color of one’s skin as the color of one’s philosophical ideation (or current), as regards the imagined gradients of a color bar between the BLACK, the most far left, to a pale mocha color on the far right, but barely changing in color from the hues denoting the Right-Hand Path, still further right on the bar.  Whereas the postwar American society saw an inclusion or lighter-skinned Americans as a devaluing of white society, on today’s Left-Hand Path, one might consider the crossing of philosophic currents to be a dilution of the deeper left schools of thought.

On the “Left-Hand Path” continuum, we might consider the “most left-leaning” to be those who disavow the right hand path philosophies in entirety, having broken from the herd and seeing those on the right as “somehow less than.”  In one of LaVey’s final video clips, prior to his death in 1997, he stated this concept quite clearly in what is known as the sovereignty ritual:

“Brother Satan, I call forth this night, all of your forces to attain the elevation of the superior human animal.  We are superior, and we are not superior by ethnic means, but by the superior force of the Will, the imagination, the creativity, and the very essence of resourcefulness and survival that is the very heart and soul of the Satanist.  Place us in a position of sovereignty that we might look down upon our inferiors, and cast their kin into the morass of mediocrity where they belong.”

Taking LaVey’s sentiments as The Blackest End of the color bar, the shades turn grayer and lighter with more and more inclusion of Right-Hand Path philosophies, such as an abundance of pity and empathy, a championing of social justice for all, and the use of Satanism as merely an inroad to political expressions.  The more of these concepts that the Satanist tries to include in his personal pantheons of thought, the further he moves down the scale until, at last he might be seen as simply someone who calls himself a Satanist, but is virtually indistinguishable from any other citizen part of the herd.

It might be easier to imagine it like Malcolm X’s “coffee” analogy.

It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong. What do you do? You integrate it with cream, you make it weak. But if you pour too much cream in it, you won’t even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it puts you to sleep.”

While Malcolm X was specifically referring to integration of white and black citizens and the dilution of each culture that that would entail, in his mind, the same concept applies to the integration of Satanism and Abrabamic schools of thought.  All animals segregate to some degree, for various reasons.  Frank Zappa’s song “You Are What You Is,” comically stated it:

“Do you know what you are?
You are what you is.
You is what you am.
A cow don’t make ham.

You ain’t what you’re not,
So see what you got.
You are what you is,
An’ that’s all it is.”

So, we can see that individual currents of thought can be strong and powerful and are the way of the world, and while they might exist simultaneously, they are strongest when they remain separate.  Crossing them to form some hybrid school of thought might seem to be a good idea, but in almost any case that I can think of, seldom last and, most often degrade the essence of both at best, and destroy them at worst.

Note *1 — The Fitzpatrick Skin Type Scale is used to determine a skin color’s tendency to sun damage.  For example, Type 1 skin, listed as “Light Pale White” is notated as “Always Burns, never tans,” whereas Type 6 skin is listed as “Black, Very Dark Brown to Black,” with the annotation, “Never burns, tans very easily.

The Name Game

by Jake Block

“They say that there’s a sacred chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord”

— Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)

I was once asked, “Why don’t you have a ‘magical name’?”  My first reaction was, “WHU?”  My visitor said, “I’ve always been told that you should have a ‘magical name’ that relates to some famous magician, demon, god or object that you choose… sort of like a witch’s familiar.” 

So, I asked what his “magical name” was, and he told me that it was ABRAXAS.  Ok.  Now I know that the name Abraxas has a long association with demonology and magic.  It was considered to be the name of a pagan god, later demoted to the status of a demon. documented in Colin de Plancy’s Infernal Dictionary.  In it, he wrote that Abraxas was considered to be the supreme God of the Basolidans, Gnostics whom he called “heretics of the second century.”  One fairly cool notion is that the name Abraxas was composed of the letters corresponding to all seven of the then known planets.  Carl Jung also used Abraxas as the name of the demon that mixed the natures of God and the Devil into one.  You could go on and on with this one.

And of course, Abraxas was the name of Santana’s second studio album from 1970.  This is the album that gave us such great classics as Oye Como Va, Samba Pa Ti and of course, Black Magic Woman.  All cool bits of trivia and interesting, but none of these things were the reason he chose Abraxas to be his “magical name.”  The reason for that was simply that, “I don’t know man.  I think it just really sounds cool.”

Sounding cool
as a basis for names is nothing new.  The names we give our children at birth has a lot to do with popular culture and celebrity.  People have named their kids from musical selections, and when Fleetwood Mac was really big in the 70s, there was a crop of baby girls named “Rhiannon,” from one of their hit songs.  How many Johns, Pauls, Georges and maybe even “Ringos” were named during the reign of the Beatles?  How many Eltons, Micks or Jimis?  People named their kids after those they admired, perhaps in the hope that in doing so,  their son or daughter might somehow bring themselves fame and fortune with a guitar in their hands.

Satanic “magical names?”  Just take a run through most “satanic” places on the web and you’ll find a lot of ersatz Antons, Szandors, and LaVeys.  When I was at the Black House, we would receive stacks of mail from people asking questions of Anton LaVey to people wanting to join the Church of Satan, to people just sending mail to somehow be in touch with the “base.”  You wouldn’t believe how many people wrote to us with the “magical name” of Belial.  There was a Belial Smith, a Belial Cunningham, a Belial this and a Belial that.  Liliths by the dozen, Lucifers by the score, and every time the mail would come, there would always be one more!  Phone calls that went like, “This is Belial!  Belial who?  You know, Belial!  Ok, is this the Belial from New York, or Boston or Swansea, Illinois”?

Back in 1964, there was a popular song by Shirley Ellis, called The Name Game.  It was about a game where you could use anyone’s name to make a rhyme.  It seemed like someone was always singing it, like some kid’s jump rope ditty.  “A little luck with Chuck!  Chuck chuck bo buck banana fana fo fuck…”  or “Mitch Mitch bo bitch, banana fana fo fitch…”  It made little sense.  Probably as much as assuming that one name could be more magical than the next.

Names aren’t magic, but the use of names to indicate one’s magical propensities is almost a tradition.  The coin operated fortune telling machines had names like Zoltan, Zoltar and the one I have is an Omar.  Female types were often called Esmerelda, Grandma or Witch Zelda.  People seeking magical reasons and remedies seem to want their magicians and psychics to have mystical names or names that connote an idea or feeling of esoteric wisdom.

The idea that certain names or musical chords can hold power because of their tonalities has been around for a long time.  Vibrations do seem to have an almost universal effect on the human ear, but can they influence others?  The reason that a gong is used in ritual is as a vibratory tool to accentuate and also cleanse the air as the gong’s note ripples through the room.  The vibrations that become sound do indeed have the power to affect change.  We know that the deep droning of infrasound can cause physical distress, loss of equilibrium and concentration.  Some animals communicate in sound frequencies that are unavailable to human ears, but can be heard with crystal clarity for miles on the grassy veldt of Tanzania’s Serengeti plains.  The deep blue seas reverberate with the whale songs by which the massive creatures “whistle and hum,” conversing and relaying messages across the seven seas.

These things in and of themselves are the stuff of legends.  So too are the greatest wizards, magicians and conjurors of history.  Their names remind us all of a time remembered only in books and movies, where dragons plied the skies, commanded by kings and wizards.  The times long past resonate to the names that were legend even then, Appolonius of Tyana,  Gwydion of Wales, Nicholas Flamel, Michael Scot, William II de Soule, Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, John Dee, Baal Shem, Aleister Crowley, Anton LaVey, and of course, the great one, Merlin.

Would their legends burn less brightly if Merlin had been named “Bob?”

Redemption on the Left Hand Path

by Jake Block

“It is the man who drinks the first flask of sake; then the second flask drinks the first; then it is the sake which drinks the man.”
— Japanese Proverb

On the path that leads directly through areas that can offer the most temptation for indulgence, those who choose to indulge can sometimes lose themselves and the indulgence becomes a compulsion.  The compulsion can turn to addiction and by the time one realizes that, he or she is no longer in control, but being controlled.  This can happen with alcohol or drugs, certainly, but one can also become addicted to the rush of adrenaline or the emotional bonds of lust and sexuality.  Billons of dollars are spent on rehabilitation and drug treatment in America alone as a result of illicit drugs.  Those who succumb to overindulgence often fall back on the idea of indulgence being alright, because LaVey mentioned it in The Satanic Bible.

“Satanism encourages its followers to indulge in their natural desires.  Only by doing so can you be a completely satisfied person with no frustrations which can be harmful to yourself and others around you.  Therefore, the most simplified description of the Satanic belief is:  INDULGENCE INSTEAD OF ABSTINENCE.”

— “Indulgence … Not Compulsion (page 81)

Unfortunately, that’s where most people stop reading and start indulging, forgetting to read on to page 85-86, where LaVey also writes, “The true Satanist is not mastered by sex any more than he is mastered by any other of his desires.  As with all other pleasurable things the Satanist is a master of, rather than mastered by sex….”  and “The watchword of Satanism is INDULGENCE instead “abstinence” … BUT — it is not

So, every now and then I will get someone who will tell me that LaVey encouraged drug use and that he felt that there was nothing wrong with it.  He must have used drugs himself at one time or another.  Well, this is wrong on both counts, because LaVey was against the use of illicit drugs and wanted nothing to do with them.  One night at the Black House, LaVey had granted an interview to a man who, for some reason, thought it would be a good idea to bring a bag of marijuana with him, and at one point, he produced it and offered to share a joint with LaVey. 

I was working in the office and LaVey appeared in the doorway.  He was obviously angry, and said, “Jake, get that man the hell out of here… and make him bounce.”  I simply said, “Yes, boss!” and did my job.  I went into the purple room (the living room) and, taking the man firmly by the arm said, “It’s time for you to leave NOW.”  With that, I lifted him out of the chair and shoved him out the door into the dark hallway, then though the front door, where I shoved him HARD toward the twelve steep, brick steps leading down to the gate and sidewalk below.  He didn’t bounce.  I was disappointed.

LaVey has long written on his disapproval of illicit drugs, as we can see from this sampling:

“Actually I’m very much opposed to drugs from a magical point of view, from a control point of view.  I feel drugs are antithetical to magic. The pseudo-Satanist or pseudo-witch or self-styled mystic who predicates his success on a drug revelation is only going to succeed within his drugged peer group.  His miracles go no further than his credibility.  This type of witchery is limited.  This, I say, despite the fact that the druggies are no longer just a marginal group, but a very large subculture which threatens to be the New Spirituality or the New Mysticism or the New Materialism.  They don’t realize the whole concept of witchery is the manipulation of other human beings.  Druggies are not manipulative to witches.  To manipulate someone you’ve got to be able to relate to that someone.  The idea or witchery is not witchcraft so much — in the sense of witchery being manipulative magic — as witchery equalling revelation of a spiritual nature.  Their superego gets developed through the use of drugs.  The superego can be the earmark of a new world of drones who, through soma, would attains superegos which allow them while so controlled to think they have superiority over those are really enjoying the fruits of the earth.  This is why as the leader of the Satanic movement, I have to examine these popular movements in the culture from a very pragmatic point of view.

The point is there will always be, among the masses, substitutes for the real thing.  A planned way of life — not drugs — gets the materialist what he wants.  There’s nothing wrong with color TV and cars in the garage as long as the system which provides them respects law and order — a terribly overworked term.  But as long as people don’t bother other people, then I think this is an ideal society.  I’m in favor of a policeman on every corner as long as he doesn’t arrest people for thinking their own way or doing within the privacy of their own four walls what they like to do.”

Popular Witchcraft — John Fritscher (1973)

“The official stand of the Church of Satan on the subject of drugs is vehement opposition!  Asking me to provide you with drugs is like asking a hippie to give an eulogistic speech on the merits of big business.”

Letters From the Devil, publication date: January 10th, 1971

“Let me state categorically at this point that drugs are antithetical to the practice of magic, as they tend to disassociate the user from reality, even though he often times thinks himself closer.”
— The Compleat Witch – 
publication date: 1970

“Drugs are great for the slaves, but no good for the Masters.  The glories attained through a drug experience are no more valid than the meaningless baubles with which the status-seeking drone surrounds himself.  The difference lies in that a drug trip is cheaper and less work to obtain than a split-level ranch home, two cars, and a big color TV.  Those who eulogize on the unfoldment gained through drugs have obviously been insensitive to such awareness-provoking stimuli as complete sexual fulfillment, beautiful music, inspirational literature, etc.  The excuse that certain drugs are a necessary adjunct to the practice of magic is quite lame.  Drugs may be employed, however, to provide or develop and unswerving belief in magic — in fact, an unswerving belief in just about anything!I can condone the use of certain drugs for easing the last stages of a terminal illness where intense pain is present.  Perhaps those who need drugs are suffering from a sort of terminal illness where constant and intense pain are present … but of a different sort.  I consider drug abuse a polite alternative to suicide.  Perhaps one day euthanasia will be made attractive enough and the drug problem will be solved.”
— “Black Magic, Satanism, Voodoo (Leo Martello [1972]

Drugs present probably the most visible and socially prominent hazards of over indulgence and the negative impacts that can and often do occur from the compulsive and addictive use of illicit and even prescription drugs.  LaVey’s admonition that the official stand of the Church of Satan concerning this was “vehement opposition” carried much more weight while he was alive than it does today, when there are others who identify as satanists who do not fall under the auspices of today’s Church of Satan, who’s official stand, as posted on their website is, “
This is all quite simple. The Church of Satan does not condone illegal activities.  If the use of certain drugs is illegal in your country of residence, they are just that: illegal.”

So, when someone who identifies as a satanist does get into trouble with drugs, they can come up against a philosophical dilemma.  Many treatment options options are faith based or, like Alcoholic’s Anonymous, appeal to those seeking their assistance to rely on “a higher power” (God as we understood him,) which satanists and those opposed to faith based anything might easily see as “God or Jesus.”  For some reason, many of today’s satanists see no problem with “taking what works” from many different philosophies and placing them under the umbrella of “Left Hand Path,” but they see a problem with taking the same attitude when it comes to the acceptance of treatment.

Should one simply reject any faith-based care, and by the way, most hospitals are faith-based, the two remaining options are commercial rehab facilities and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).  But, you say, AA is heavily “GOD BASED,” as one reads their 12 Step program will show:

What Are the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous?

The Twelve Steps are a set of guiding principles in addiction treatment that outline a course of action for tackling problems including alcoholism, drug addiction and compulsion.

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

— Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Program
The 12 Step program model has been adopted by numerous other groups and while most see “spirituality” as a component of their system, “God” is replaced by the idea of “a higher power,” meaning some concept or thing that one can point to as descriptive of some quality that they would like to reach or emulate.  Chris Eakins, MA  lists some non-religious concepts as examples one might choose as a replacement for “God” as their “higher power.”  These include “Nirvana, Mother Earth, The Universe, Nature, Energy, Ego, Self-Will, or simply “Us.”  Certainly those on the Left-Hand Path can identify with something that they can ascribe to as a “Higher Power,” unless we are simply paying lip service to our own rhetorical concepts.

What could someone on the Left choose?  For those who identify as satanists, we could choose our perfected selves, since we claim to be gods.  If gods can’t rely on themselves, then they hold their self-deification low in value.  Personally, if I gave my word that I was going to do something as important as kicking a habit that is killing me or destroying the quality of my life, damned if I wouldn’t succeed!  Failure simply would not be an option I could accept.  Others might choose science, logic, the Black Flame, or even their adversarial conviction that nothing will keep you down.  Surely one can find SOMETHING to cling to if their very life depends on it, and if all that was holding me back was a simple word that has no real meaning for ME, then you can bet your ass I would find a way to work it out.

Then, I have seen people on the Left who simply refuse to find or accept any form of treatment because in their addiction, they can’t take the idea that they can no longer get high.  The loss of jobs, friends, family and respect simply is worth less to them than their bottles, vials, powders or pills.  These few are the lost and failed that the strong leave behind to fend for themselves.  One cannot claim to be free when they place the shackles of addiction on their own feet.  Whether out of fear of change or counterproductive pride, the Satanic model does not support pity, especially for those who foster their own predicaments.

One could better reserve concern and assistance for those who become the innocent victims of a drug’s effects as a patient in treatment by a reputable doctor for a legitimate disease. 

But for those on the Left-Hand Path who do find themselves unfortunate enough to become victims of their own compulsions, redemption can be found in being prideful enough to accept care and rehabilitation wherever one can find it.  It takes guts to admit that one has fallen into the trap and courage to fight one’s way to freedom of mind and body.  It is heroic to want so much the oblivion offered by the darkest abyss, but to step back from the edge and walk away and back into the light.  And it is Satanic to vanquish the monsters within and rise again like the Phoenix for all to see and marvel at your personal  strength and resilience. 

Rise, Phoenix and FLY!

Camera + Chaos = Magic

by Jake Block

The attached photograph features our own Devora Zada Moon in Sedona, Arizona back in 1992.  It’s a nice, typical photo of a woman standing in front of the beautiful scenery, having her photo taken by her husband while on vacation.  Just a normal photo, the likes of which are taken by skilled and amateur photographers thousands of times a day.  Except that it ISN’T.  Not every photograph… and most probably NO other that day… included what appears to be an other worldly aircraft approaching from behind.

Clearly some kind of aberration, this photograph instantly became an object of wonderment and speculation because whatever caused the aberrant photo on a roll of 35mm film, caused no other aberrations.  All of the other photos on the roll were your ordinary, garden variety family vacation shots.  Now, I know both Devora and her husband, and while they are intelligent and resourceful people, neither of them has the technical ability to pull off such a trick on film.  The shot was a commercially developed and printed “photomat” processing job.  What actually caused the aberration is anyone’s guess, but I use it here as an example of the chaos effect in photography, which in itself can technically be a form of mind magic.

Actually, I’m of the belief that pure photography could be seen as a form of chaos magic, because there is always an element of the unknown that can, and often does happen, at the instant your finger touches the “plunger.”  Any photographer, pro or rank amateur, has a story of a photo gone unexpectedly well, tragically wrong or just plain weird all by itself.

A lot of arrogant photographers will tell you that they are in charge when they pick up a camera to capture their images on film, or as a digital image.  And sure, 99% of their photos (generously) might be “picture perfect” and works of art generated through skillful manipulations of image and light.  However, every now and then, for no discernible reason, chaos enters the scene and affects the process in some unpredictable and often magical way.  It’s happened to me, and any photographer you would care to name, from Ansel Adams to Annie Leibovitz to Richard Avedon to Robert Frank to Andy Warhol.  Chaos doesn’t really care who you are, what camera you choose, or what your subject is.  “Chaos Happens.”

The same “X” factor that rolls the dice in chaos magic is precisely the same as the “X” factor that can affect photography, and indeed everything under the sun.  Chaos happens without rhyme or reason, and while we might try or write it off as “a trick of light” or an imbalance in the emulsions in film and its processing, or something else, the fact remains that it is nothing less than our inability as humans to know and control everything, no matter how hard we might try.

One evening in 1978-79 in Germany, I was taking a portrait shot of a lovely black woman named Ayetha.  She was sitting elegantly in an ornate mahogany colored chair, wearing a red-orange, blouse and short black skirt, with her long legs crossed and dark red spiked heels on her feet.  The wall behind her was a burnt orange color and a bouquet of red roses in a milk-white vase rested on a mahogany table to her left.  She held a glass of Burgundy wine in her right hand.  My diffusing umbrella and reflector cards were positioned and she focused her brown-black eyes intently into the camera, focusing them on the Canon label dead center in front of her, about 6 feet away.  I clicked my light meter… everything was perfect.  I took the shot.

I sent off the photos to be developed, and days later when they returned to me, I was going over them before presenting them to her.  They were all good photos, well balanced, and good representations of my skill.  And then my eyes fell on that signature shot and I was shocked to see that those beautiful brown-black eyes, while still beautiful, now stared back at me as medium dark azure blue in color.  I blinked and rubbed my eyes, then grabbed my color wheel to confirm the transformation.  While still a gorgeous photo of a gorgeous woman, it was definitely nothing I had planned or even had a clue how to do if I had wanted to.  Chaos had raised it head in a lovely way.

Chaos can be like that in our lives and in magic, either benignly or with tragic circumstances, turning the best laid plans and most fervently desired intent into something else altogether.  So, while Devora and  her husband wanted only a memento of their trip to Sedona, they got “Devora vs the Aliens,” which was a delightful surprise to herself and everyone else, and while I shot a photo of a dark-eyed beauty that night in Germany, I got a unique and beautiful surprise for which I took full credit, for just because chaos touched that session, it made it no less valid or real.

Learn to expect chaos and to embrace its influence in our lives, our art and works.  It’s going to touch us when we least expect it, and the best we can hope is that it’s touch is warm and pleasant.  When it’s cold, it can chill you to the depths of your “soul.”

The Pilgrim

by Jake Block

“See him wasted on the sidewalk, in his jacket and his jeans,

Wearin’ yesterday’s misfortunes like a smile.

Once he had a future, full of money love and dreams,

Which he spent like they was goin’ out o’ style.

And he keeps right on a’changin’, for the better or the worse,

Searchin’ for a shrine he’s never found,

Never knowin’ if believin’, is a blessin’ or a curse,

Or if the goin’ up was worth, the comin’ down.

He’s a poet, an’ he’s a picker, he’s a prophet, an’ he’s a pusher,

He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned.

He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction,

Takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home.

He has tasted good and evil, in your bedrooms and your bars,

And he’s traded in tomorrow for today,

Runnin’ from his devils Lord, and reachin’ for the stars,

And losin’ all he loved, along the way.

But if this world keeps right on turnin’, for the better or the worse

And all he ever gets is older and around,

From the rockin’ of the cradle, to the rollin’ of the hearse,

The goin’ up was worth, the comin’ down.

He’s a poet, an’ he’s a picker, he’s a prophet, an’ he’s a pusher,

He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned.

He’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction,

Takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home.

There’s a lot of wrong directions, on that lonely way back home.”
— The Pilgrim, Chapter 33 (Kris Kristofferson)

The Pilgrim, Chapter 33 by Kris Kristofferson, song writer, musician, actor and Rhodes Scholar is a song of every man at sometime in his life, when he looks back at the missteps and compromises that he’s made in his life-journey from here to there.  Whether the Pilgrim is clad in “his jacket and his jeans” or a Brooks Brother’s suit, the feeling of being down and almost out on the pavement is familiar to us all, in that moment when we have to make the conscious decision to get back up and into the fray or to just give up the fight.

Like the Pilgrim, one soon learns that the way back home is full of twists and turns that we choose to take, rather than that  super highway that will get us to our final destination quickly.  But on the road less traveled, there are lessons we might learn, as well as bumps we might have to experience before we reach the end of our journey, much later, but on our own terms.  We can learn much more about life and ourselves in the bargain by veering off of the straight and narrow path that others choose.  In opting for the road that leads to self discovery and enlightenment, rather than the most direct route, you’ll see a lot more of life in its reality than view shared by the masses who see only billboards, farms and cows along the way.  Their path might be bucolic and pastoral and yours might be challenged and chaotic, but while they become hypnotized by the droning of the road, you’ll be shaken and jolted at times, but awake to the world around you.

Like most of us, I always knew the more direct routes to where I needed to be, but seldom took them.  While those around me chose to stay in their lanes, going only to and from their cubicle homes to their cubical jobs and back to the cubical homes again, I journeyed from here to there and lost my way, finding that where I ended up was always more exciting and educational than where I was.  My home became where I was at the time, and where I was could be anywhere my choice of careers would land me, always to be reassigned after a period of time.  Learning to adapt and change, yet honing specific skills, I was seldom bored, and never envious of the “family and friends” who were born and who died in East St. Louis.  True, they had “roots,” but while roots do provide security, they also restrain, and I chafed at the idea of being restrained, even though most would think that a military life would be restrictive as hell.  While my siblings saw the sights of St. Louis, or midwestern Illinois, I saw Tripoli, Libya or Saigon, Vietnam or San Francisco, or Istanbul, Turkey, or Athens, Greece, or Frankfurt, Germany, or Paris, France, or a dozen or so other places around the world.

Sinner or saint, we all have to take that journey, for as long as the journey lasts, but no one tells us how we must take it.  We can choose the vehicle, from  a rickety jalopy to a luxury sedan and we can choose to travel on any road that we can find going our way.  We can choose the staid, respectable and less adventurous life or one with danger, challenges and obstacles to overcome.  We can he just another cog in the great machine of life, or we can operate that machine on our own in the manner we choose.  It’s our one chance at life, so we live it the best we can, and in the end, if we’re lucky at all, from the rockin’ of the cradle, to the rollin’ of the hearse, the goin’ up was worth, the comin’ down.

“It’s not a sin to get knocked down.  It’s a sin to stay down.”
— Carl Brashear

Hello, Wall!

by Jake Block

“Even if you find your voice, sometimes it does not matter anymore,
when you speak to someone who is deaf by choice.”

— Dodinsky

We all have them, friends or associates who it is impossible to talk rationally to.  You know, the proverbial dolt who will argue with you as to whether the sky is blue or not.  Conspiracy nuts who don’t have proof for their conspiracies but read about them on line, and no matter how outlandish that conspiracy might be, or how often it has been debunked, “know” that the experts in the field are wrong, or are working for “the government,” who has some nefarious plot against everything that is good and healthy in the world.  You can talk logic, you can talk facts, you can talk until your face turns blue, but it’s like talking to a wall… “Hello, Wall!”

Now, you don’t talk TO a wall, because it just won’t understand you.  You talk AT a wall, realizing that you’re pretty much wasting your time, and you know that you’ll hate yourself for it later.  Time is a terrible thing to waste, and the human walls who are indeed “deaf by choice,” had their minds made up long before they ever engaged you in conversation.  They don’t want to hear truth or logic.  They only want you… someone… anyone to validate them in their willful rejection of any semblance of normalcy.  There has to be a sinister “THEM” to blame for anything that they disagree with in life, and while it could be the Bilderberg Group, the Masons, the Bohemian Grove or that perennial bugaboo, the Illuminati, YOU have obviously been co-opted.  Else wise, you too would be able to see their mysterious hands manipulating everything.

When I was a kid, my father would be speaking to the kids and, well, we were kids and pretty much ignored him.  In his frustration, he would shake his head, say, “Hello, Wall,” and walk away.  We didn’t get it as kids, but those of my siblings who grew up and had kids of their own report that they have the same experience.  I know cats don’t listen unless there is something in it for them.  Cats are smarter than people, who sometimes never learn that there may be something in it for them if someone takes the time to try to enlighten them about something.  Today I know that if I had listened to a voice of reason like my father, I would have saved a lot of time listening to those who assumed too much and knew too little.

I can plead guilty to taking time trying to correct or debunk bullshit about the Left-Hand Path, Satanism, and other subjects that come up as threads here on The Sect’s pages.  I will also admit that I am indeed surprised when, once in a blue moon, someone actually “gets it” and goes on to become an asset to The Sect.  But after years of watching the same scenario play out over and over again, I can say for myself that most of the “wall people” aren’t worth the time and effort expended on them.  Most are simply bullshit artists trying to convince people that they are something that they are not, nor ever could hope to be in reality.

This is probably one of the things that is the most irritating to me when dealing with some of the web’s self-proclaimed experts.  They go from site to site spouting their nonsense and eventually find themselves here.  Being that we’re a Left-Hand Path organization, some people seem to think that they can say anything that they want, and it will never be challenged.  This might have been the case on any of a thousand pages that they were on before they came here, but the problem they find here is that we can and will call out bullshit when it rears its head in our midst.  The Sect of the Horned God is, at its core, an educational order.  We feel a responsibility to be responsible in a quality control of the things that one will find on our pages.

Closely akin to the bullshit artist is the “Askhole.”  An askhole is a person who is constantly coming online to complain about something and to ask for opinions, but never takes any of the suggestions that are presented to him/her.  They consistently comes up with ridiculous justifications for their actions or for the results of actions that they have taken.

The thing with the “wall people” and the “askholes” of the web is that they are pretty much encapsulated here on this page, which is more open than our “for members only” pages, and that is by design.  Here we can give them “enough rope to hang themselves” before we finally just flush them out of our system.  At the top of the page you will find the warning,
If you’ve joined this group-site to be a troll or an asshole, don’t waste your time. We won’t take the bait. Find another group.”  It’s there for a reason, and we mean it.  They take our time, and that time is time wasted.  Wasting one’s own time is one’s own prerogative, but someone wasting MY time is something I take very seriously.

Better To Be Alone

by Jake Block

One thing that I think everyone should learn as early as possible is that there are worse things than being alone.  Most people crave company and will endure hardships to have and hold it in their lives.  I have known men and women who would live in the worst conditions with the foulest of people just to have someone to talk to.  They will sell themselves cheap and enslave themselves to a loveless marriage all for the need of company.  They will take on the burdens of others, be the scapegoat of the tribe and die in the futile hope that they will not have to die alone.

Psychologists tell us that the need for others is in our DNA, and part and parcel of the human experience.  We are taught to revere words like friends and family, community and country.  We are assured that there’s no place like home, and every man or woman needs that place to be a part of a family, immediate and extended.  A group to stand against all others and a castle to defend.  A place to where the prodigal son might return, and even the black sheep can feel at home.  It’s a comforting prospect, if all of the planets are in alignment, and all is right with the world.  But if it isn’t, then this “everyman’s heaven” can become one man’s Hell.

I contend that there are times that it is preferable to be alone.  To me, the man who knows the value of being alone is not only blessed, but deserving of the sovereignty and personal satisfaction that being alone can provide.  It is when man is willing and prepared to live alone unless and until his personal needs are fulfilled that he can find personal freedom, even as he is alone, even in a crowd.

To my mind, one must have personal standards that he must insist upon before he will submit to the “domestication” of community and the company of others.  The things one must have to allow this domestication are a personal matter between oneself and one’s innermost vision of himself as he wishes to be and as he wishes to be recognized by those he will allow to share his world.  While he might compromise on some things, there should be some iron clad principles and policies for which he will stand firm.  I’ve made peace with myself over the decades, and I know that there are some things that, if denied to me, make the concept of community unacceptable.  Without them, I would rather be alone, without friends, family or any type of community.

I will not be disrespected, and to that end, I stand for who and what I am, whether people approve of me or not. 

I expect to be appreciated for the things that I do for and with any group that I choose to associate with, and that includes associations in business, socially and extends even to family and friends.  If I donate my time and efforts for any group I feel I deserve credit for that, even if that appreciation is never openly spoken.

I don’t tolerate “fair weather friends” who pledge friendship, but turn against me when they feel it can benefit them to support someone else at my expense.

I do not allow myself to be drawn into the petty conflicts between others when it has nothing to do with me.

I don’t allow others to use me or my friendship as a wedge against others for their own purposes, or pledge my support to others in return for their support or friendship.

I expect the loyalty of truth from those who make promises to me, as I pledge mine to them.  I don’t make promises I don’t intend to keep and expect the same in return.

I don’t surrender my philosophical beliefs in favor of those championed by others as a condition of acceptance for association.

Your list may vary, as well it should, because you and I are different people with different needs that we find necessary to satisfy before we can feel comfortable in associating with others.  As long as the others to whom we pledge our association accept and abide by our list of needs, and we abide by theirs, we can establish and share our gifts and talents for the betterment of our lives.  So long as our union is one of mutual support and respect, things can be very good between us.  If there comes a time when we reject our covenant, all bets are off and we can go our separate ways, because without a meeting of the minds, it’s better to be alone.

Inspired By The Fear of Being Average

by Jake Block

When the graphic came up on my computer screen, I immediately found that its meaningful message was one that I could agree with, as I see examples of it pretty much every day while being online.  There are people with something to say, and there are people with agendas to promote and then there are people like this.  People who post anything just to give the impression that they are above average, although the substance of their musings prove beyond doubt that even “average” is a stretch.

I’ve found that the great unwashed masses of the world stand under a banner that must surely read, “STRIVE FOR MEDIOCRITY,” so the average wannabe is at least a step above the cretinous denizens  who are steadfast in their dullness.  The “average person” who trolls from site to site, hoping that somewhere, someone might find them at least interesting is more of a distraction than anything else.  Like the pesky fly that buzzes in your ear as you try to enjoy your lunch al fresco, or perhaps in a busy bistro in town, he demands attention that you are loathe to give, when all you really want to do is relax and enjoy conversations of substance with others.

Now I am sure that there are some “SOCIAL JUSTICE FOR FLIES” types out there.  Seems like every failure has a cause and someone to champion it.  And in the balance of nature, flies do have a place in the ecosphere.  However when there is an overlap between the strata of the ecosphere, it’s natural for the superior strata to quash any intrusion by a lower strata that has not earned its place by performing at an elevated level.  When an inferior strain of any species is introduced to the superior strain and allowed to propagate, the result is invariably a diluting of the superior caste, rather than a concentration of the inferior.  

Some people are like human flies, with little to do other than make themselves a nuisance to everyone else.  For them it is sport, or a compulsion that they feel makes them somehow special in their wasted little world.  They think that if they are effective at bothering other people and causing disruption in their lives, they might be elevated in some way beyond their unsavory and petty little lives.  We’ve seen this time and time again when someone involves themselves in conversations on line for which they are totally unprepared, with inappropriate, ignorant or inane comments that add nothing to the topic at hand and serve only to derail any  useful discussion.

They can’t abide the feeling that they might just be the average, everyday wannabes, so they put on their act that they think they’ve honed to a fine edge, knowing that they can bluff their way in this faceless world, having only the slightest degree of knowledge on any subject.  They’ll jump into the conversation and make broad, sweeping statements of generality, as if they’ve written the quintessential book on the subject.  When called on their lack of knowledge, or countered by someone who actually DOES know something, they’ll say they were misunderstood, or play the “well, what about…” game.  As “average” slips from their grasp, they’ll make a hasty retreat and hope you won’t remember their mediocre showing when they return in a few days.

Average is as average does.  And in most of the world, average is just fine, but here we seek to be “a cut above” the thousands of other pages out there and while we have no problem with average, so long as those who fit that category do it with dignity and a sense of decorum.  The average person has a million excuses for being average, but unless they put in the work to improve, the natural processes of stratification will always define their place in the pecking order.

Nickel Burgers and Holy Rollers

by Jake Block

This is a piece that just came to me in the night… a memory of my childhood in Belleville, IL in the late 50s and early 60s. It doesn’t really tell us much about the Left Hand Path, but it’s a slice of life from a slower time in America that exposed me to an alternative religion and a dissenting youth within it.

So, if you will indulge me…

When I was a kid in the 1950s and early 1960s, things were cheap by today’s standards, of course, money was tight, so they had to be. No one was making a killing as a member of the middle class, and trickle down economics meant that as a kid, you were broke… your parents had half a dozen or so other kids, so your piece of the pie would barely quiet your growling belly. My allowance for the week was a quarter. A candy bar was a nickel, and about the same size as you’d get for a buck today. So at least we had enough money to keep our sweet tooth satisfied, but not much more.

Kids could make a few bucks doing seasonal jobs, like mowing lawns in the spring and summer, raking leaves in the fall and shoveling snow off of sidewalks in the winter. Teens were able to do that. But what if you were like me and my “posse,” in that never-land between 10 and 15? Today, it’s called recycling. Then it was just finding soft drink bottles to turn in for money at the local markets, where you would get two cents per bottle. The market returned the bottles to the distributors for a nickel, so while it wasn’t much, everybody made a little out of the deal.

So there I was, a 13 or 14 year old on a warm summer’s evening, and Kenny Franks asked what I wanted to do. After several rounds of “I dunno, what do you want to do?” we started out toward the railroad tracks, about a mile away. It was always fun to sit in the old train station with its dark wood benches, and watch the station master work selling tickets for the train and preparing baggage and cargo to be boarded. Every now and then, he would go outside to pass a message to a train passing through with a “Y” stick. It was a pole about 3 feet long onto which a “y” shaped piece had been attached. A message for the train was placed on a string between the arms of the “y,” and as the caboose approached, the station master would hold the “y” stick up and the conductor would snatch the message from the platform of the caboose as the train sped by.

Occasionally, the station manager was in a good mood and would talk to us about what it was like to be a conductor or ride the rails. He told us about hobos and how they lived, and the sometimes strange marks they left on buildings that told if the owner was generous or would give them problems or call the law. Once he even showed us his collection of “hobo nickels,” which were U.S. Nickel coins that hobos used to carve into works of art, changing the features on the face side of “Buffalo Nickels” to other faces or things.

After the last train of the day had rumbled by, we wandered through the south-side area of the town until we saw that a new diner had opened up. It was nothing fancy, just a grill, a counter, some tables and chairs and a juke box that was playing a variety of tunes. The sign on the window said, “BURGERS 5¢… HotDogs 10¢” Having collected our bottles and turned them in, we checked out pockets and were happy to see that we had five dollars between us. We could eat burgers drink Cokes and listen to music for a long time!

We entered the diner and, noticing the place was otherwise empty, grabbed a table next to the juke box. We ordered burgers and Cokes… and while they were only about the size of White Castle burgers, they were only a nickel, so five of them for each of us… a good start. Next came the clunk of quarters into the old ROCKOLA jukebox. The sounds of rockabilly and rock soon filled the diner and spilled out into the street. After a while other kids began to come into the diner — some we knew and some we didn’t — but they all contributed what they had to keep the music playing and enjoy their burgers and free time with us. We were lucky that Bill, the owner/cook, liked kids and music, or perhaps he just liked money… even a little money… flowing into the till.

Every now and then, between songs, we could hear the noise from a Pentecostal church a couple doors away. The holy rollers were getting down with their hymns and prayers. They might have been able to hear our celebrations as well, and if they did they’d hear Roy Orbison, Bobby Rydell, The Beach Boys, Trashmen, Lesley Gore, The Beatles, various Motown groups and more. When we could hear their music, we got:

“I’ll be comin’ out the wilderness, comin’ out the wilderness, comin’ out the wilderness
I’ll be comin’ out the wilderness Singin’ for the Lord.”

After a while a blonde girl came through the door and went to the restrooms in the back of the diner. She was “cute” in the way that all 13-16 year old girls are “cute” when you are the same age, but she was dressed in plain clothes and she had “the look” that local Pentecostals might have. When she came out of the restroom, she began to walk to the door, but slowly. She glanced out the door and then, quietly took a seat out of view from anyone on the street, just listening to the music.

After a few moments, Kenny asked the girl if she would like a Coke. She answered that she didn’t have any money, so Kenny went to the counter and got her a drink. He also put in an order for another 10 burgers. From my seat next to the jukebox, I called out for five more as well. Good little burgers, good music and now, a cute girl. The evening kept getting better.

The girl’s name was Sarah, and her family had membership in the Pentecostal group just a few yards away. She explained that she went with them out of expectation and duty, but she told us she long ago began to doubt the tenets of the religion, from the subjugation of women to the whole “speaking in tongues” schtick. She laughed that she could fake it at will, and began speaking in gibberish that was sure to impress the congregation, but had us all looking at her and chuckling.

The cook called our order, and Kenny made his way to the counter. I stayed at the table with Sarah, while Kenny was away, getting our order and getting more change for the jukebox. In the quiet interlude, the words of the Pentecostal hymn wafted through the room.

“I see a crimson stream of blood. It flows from Calvary. 
Its waves, which reach the throne of God, are sweeping over me.”

“I’d get daddy’s belt, if he knew I was here,” she said. We looked for a trace of a smile, but there was none. “He would think this is all sinful and the devil’s work. It leads to impure thoughts and fornication… well, kissing boys and dancing, anyway.” Just about that time, Tommy Roe’s SHEILA came up on the jukebox. Sarah got up, quickly ran to the door to see if anyone was nearby, and then came back to stand in front of the jukebox to dance. “I love this song,” she said, and began shaking her body to the beat.

After SHIELA, Gene Pitney’s Town Without Pity began to play. She smiled and held out her arms toward Kenny, signaling that she would like to dance. Kenny went to her and they did the “teenage twostep,” basically clinging together and moving back and forth, sometimes in time to the music, other times not so much. Near the end of the song, she kissed Kenny, and when the song was over they came back to the table to sip their sodas and finish off their burgers.

It was a few moments later when Bill called out, “Finish up your food and drinks… closing time in five minutes.” We looked at each other, surprised that it was almost 9 PM, but Sarah was heading for the door, saying that church ended at 9PM and she would have to be there, or she would be in big trouble. With a smile and a wave, she was out the door and gone into the night. Kenny and I got a Coke to go and we too were on our way back home. It was a long way in the darkness, and we talked, mostly about how much fun this night had been.

We went back to the diner a couple of more times, hoping to see Sarah there, but lightning seldom strikes the same place twice, as we had been told. The nickel burgers were good, and the music in the jukebox was good to listen to, but after a while, it began to grow a bit stale and we abandoned the place to the other kids who had since found it, and Kenny and I began finding other things to do on those warm summer nights. I like to imagine that Kenny sometimes thought of Sarah, dancing to SHEILA and kissing him on the lips… it had, after all, been his first kiss.

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The Orders of The Sect of the Horned God

The Order of Pan
The Order of Cernunnos
The Order of Prometheus
The Order of Dionysis
The Order of Shiva