Book Review: The Little Book of Satanism by La Carmina

Exploring and debunking the myths and misconceptions about historical and contemporary Satanism.

I received a free copy of this book from the author for review purposes.

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The Book

This accessible book explains how Satanism developed in the context of social history while debunking lurid conspiracy theories about serial killers and ritual abuse.

It includes a primer on various Satanic practices such as social activism, rituals, and holidays.

In the spirit of the fallen angel Lucifer, be inspired by Satanism’s affirmative values that courageously oppose arbitrary authority and champion nonconformity.

Simon & Schuster

The Background

When I was approached by La Carmina to read and review her book, I immediately accepted. I am keenly interested in learning more about Satanism from religious, cultural, political, and historical perspectives.

This book was not my first dive into Satanism, as I had already read Speak of the Devil: How the Satanic Temple Is Changing the Way We Talk about Religion by Joseph Laycock, and I’ve spent too many hours falling down the rabbit-hole of YouTube videos on the subject. I had also previously watched the documentary Hail Satan?, so I went into this book with a reasonable amount of background knowledge.

Tangentially, I also have prior experience of being a Christian (and subsequently leaving the faith), so I could recognise many of the myths and misconceptions, and the methods used to propagate them.

Ideally, I would have come across this book earlier, as I believe La Carmina successfully achieves her goal of providing an accessible introductory guide to Satanism. Nevertheless, whilst I am not in the exact target audience, I was able to appreciate a great deal of the book, keeping the author’s aim in mind.

The Review

The book kicks off with a foreword by Lucien Greaves of The Satanic Temple (TST). Greaves is a skilled and persuasive speaker (and writer), hence his position as spokesperson for TST. I think his voice adds weight to the book due to his extensive lived experience in the realm of modern Satanism.

We then move into La Carmina’s introduction, which, although superbly written, felt a little repetitive due to the lengthy foreword by Greaves. I wonder if one or the other could have been condensed to avoid overlap, but this isn’t particularly important in the grand scheme of things.

Moving on into the book, topics are broken down into short, bitesize sections. As a reader, I felt I was learning a lot without being overwhelmed by too much depth for a beginner’s book. Further reading and study is encouraged throughout.

The author mentions that one aim of the book is to educate those who may still believe the popular myths surrounding Satanism (propagated largely by fundamentalist Christians). However, I did find the odd few points to have an antagonistic tone, that could potentially alienate the intended audience. Whilst I agreed with the overarching points being made, I couldn’t help but think back to my time as a Christian, and I think I would have perceived some of the comments as personal digs rather than critical commentary on Christianity (and anti-Satanist propaganda) as a whole. There were only a few of these moments throughout the book, but it struck me enough to make note of it, so I thought I’d better mention it! I would encourage readers to try to overlook any perceived tone and focus on the content of the author’s arguments.

Speaking of which, I was surprised by the scope the author manages to cover in this short book. From the biblical origins of Satan right through to the present day, La Carmina touches on history, geography, culture, literature, music, aesthetics and politics, to name just a few. I felt that there was just the right amount of depth; not too much to overwhelm the beginner, and not too little so as to appear to reel off shallow, inconsequential factoids. I enjoyed the variety of elements to spark my interest, and I appreciated the inclusion of a comprehensive bibliography at the end, to facilitate further reading.

My fellow witchy readers will be pleased to know that the author delves into the link between the Satanic Panic and the witch trials, along with notable figures such as Aleister Crowley and Anton Szandor LaVey, and groups such as the Church of Satan (CoS). On the other hand, the author also looks at lesser-known folk groups and movements.

True crime and conspiracy theory fans will enjoy the coverage of so-called “Satanic Serial Killers” and a look into some of the miscarriages of justice perpetrated during the Satanic Panic. Modern conspiracy theories such as QAnon and Pizzagate are also referenced.

Moving towards the latter part of the book, La Carmina provides a clear illustration of examples of modern Satanism, with particular focus on TST. I think she does a good job of explaining some of the core principles and practices, whilst clarifying that these are not dogma and vary widely amongst the Satanic community at large. I believe her exploration of the common rationales and symbolism behind modern Satanic rituals help to debunk the “bogeyman” caricature of the “evil Satanist” that can be depicted in society. La Carmina further elaborates on the continuing push for true religious freedom (separation of church and state, reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, fair representation for all faiths and none), led by TST, along with their community initiatives and significant contributions to society.

The book concludes with a simplified timeline of the history of Satanism, marked by key events and notable persons. I liked this especially because it helps to consolidate the topics covered in an accessible, user-friendly format.

The Conclusion

I have rated this book four stars on Goodreads. Overall, I think La Carmina does an excellent job of providing a concise yet thorough beginner’s guide to Satanism and gently introduces a plethora of interconnected elements under the Satanic umbrella. I think the flow of the book is logical and well-paced. La Carmina covers the absolute basics then ventures out into an appropriate level of depth, to educate the reader without overwhelming them.

Although I referenced a few minor criticisms, the majority of them were things that I feel would have improved the book, rather than things that I actively disliked or that would put me off from recommending the book.

However there was one thing that – combined with my minor criticisms – kept me from rating this book five stars. That reason is that even as a supporter of The Satanic Temple, I perceived a strong bias in favour of TST. I think could be off-putting for readers who come at this book from the perspective of no knowledge of Satanism outside of the myths/misconceptions/propaganda promoted by some factions of Christian society. While La Carmina does state that individual Satanists have a wide range of beliefs, values, practices (etc), to me, an uninformed reader (the target audience) could easily view TST as a centralised authority of Satanism based on how this book is written.

Nevertheless, this last point could be me hyper-focusing on my own journey from stubborn Christian to casual Satanist, and thinking about how my pedantic brain may have reacted to reading this book at the wrong stage of that journey!

I would definitely recommend this book as an ideal resource to begin learning about Satanism and I would also recommend following the author’s bibliography for further reading.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

La Carmina is an award-winning alternative culture journalist and TV host. She runs the leading blog about Goth travel, fashion and Satanism (LaCarmina.com/blog), which was featured in The New York Times and Washington Post. La Carmina is the author of four books including Crazy, Wacky Theme Restaurants: Tokyo and Cute Yummy Time, published by Penguin Random House. She received a journalism prize from the Society of American Travel Writers, and her writing has appeared in Time Magazine, CNN, Business Insider and Architectural Digest. As a TV personality, La Carmina has danced with William Shatner and Henry Winkler on NBC’s Better Late Than Never, dined with Japanese monsters on Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods, negotiated a $666 taxidermy head on Discovery Channel’s Oddities, cooked cute food on The Today Show, and debated “bagelhead” body modifications on The Doctors. She is a graduate of Columbia University and Yale Law School. Follow La Carmina’s Gothic adventures in over 70 countries on LaCarmina.com and social media @LaCarmina. (Source)


Over to you!

What are your thoughts on the various elements of Satanism?

Would you like to recommend any other resources for learning about different faiths?

Perhaps you disagree with me about this particular book?

Please feel free to (respectfully) share your thoughts in the comments below!

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