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Do you contribute to the furthering of the Satanic Panic?

In light of a recent inflammatory, slanderous post, I thought the timing of this article was appropriate:

Grappling With the Satanic Panics 30 Years Later

At RealClearReligion Philip Jenkins notes that 2013 marks the 30th anniversary of the start of the McMartin preschool trial, and with it the moral panic over an underground Satanic abuse conspiracy in the United States (and eventually the UK and other countries).

“Over the following months, counselors interviewed hundreds of children, using questions that might have been quite appropriate when treating the genuinely abused, but which should never have been used in a prosecutorial context. In 1984, the case broke in the most lurid terms. Seven teachers were accused of a mind-numbing list of atrocious crimes, including the mass rape and torture of children, and the killing of small animals to instill fear. Other allegations involved the ritualistic use of urine and feces, and bizarre acts involving robes and occult symbols. Seven years of trials and investigations followed.”

The McMartin trial was one of the most expensive in history, lasted seven years, and ultimately garned no convictions; but it started a panic that led to several innocent men and women being thrown in prison, sometimes for decades. Fueling the panic were books like “Michelle Remembers” (published in 1980), and Mike Warnke’s “The Satan Seller” (published in 1973) which created a mythology of this Satanic criminal underground, a mythology that became “true” when allegations started emerging in the 1980s. By 1985 mainstream news programs like 20/20 were profiling the rise of “Satanism” in America, and a growing number of ex-Satanists and alleged abuse victims started making the rounds on the more free-from morning talk programs (including Oprah).

This hysteria lasted for around a decade before official investigations into the phenomenon, lawsuits against therapists, and a shift towards skepticism in the media finally started to defuse the panic. Sadly this shift didn’t happen quickly enough for the West Memphis 3 (Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., and Jason Baldwin) who in 1993 (ten years after the McMartin case) had their interest in the occult used against them during a murder trial, as shown in the new documentary “West of Memphis” out now in theaters.

The West Memphis 3 were finally freed, after the case against them slowly started to fall apart, but they lost nearly 20 years of their lives in prison, and in the case of Echols, in solitary confinement on death row. In his RealClearReligion piece Jenkins stresses that this phenomenon isn’t a relic of the past, but something that is still in our collective rear-view mirror: “These aren’t just throwbacks to the dark fantasies of Salem in the 1690s. They were yesterday’s news.” Sadly, some don’t want to let this moment pass, and are working to propagate the old slurs and rumors in the name of religion, ideology, or personal power. The moment we allow ourselves to forget, to let this slip into the memory hole, the easier it will be for the unscrupulous to revive the panic.

For modern Paganism, our communities were shaped by, and surged in growth during, the Satanic Panic era. The reflexive mantra of Pagans not being Satanists was established as a talking point in virtually all media interviews during this time, as were similar assurances that we didn’t engage in blood sacrifice or harm people. For many, the massive influx of teenagers into modern Paganism in the 1990s (myself included) presented a huge potential danger at a time when “covens” and “rituals” to harm children were still being taken seriously. So many built an image that was as benevolent as possible, eccentric “white-lighters” at worst, no danger to your neighbor’s kids. Some books for Pagans even gave tips on how to appear harmless, and advised that sometimes not telling the truth about your faith was for the best.

Cont'd below:

Answer Question

Asked by NotPanicking at 9:09 PM on Jan. 9, 2013 in Religious Debate

Level 51 (421,174 Credits)
Answers (9)
  • i was just being born so i dont remember that, but i do remember in the late 90s when Satanism (and by extent Paganism) was the reason for Columbine and why Marilyn Manson was evil, and anything and everything. it seems when some ppl dont have a good enough reason to be against something or they are so afraid that even their own faith cant help them, they pull out the Satanism card.

    its sad, and like the article says, if we forget how horrible ppl acted then we are doomed to repeat it. (we being society).

    Answer by okmanders at 10:09 PM on Jan. 9, 2013

  • Talk about anachronism. I still can't get over the hysteria surrounding those accusations, and how quickly so many were to  believe them.


    Answer by jsbenkert at 9:53 PM on Jan. 9, 2013

  • The fucking debacle that is the daycare satanic scandal.
    My kids are Still paying the price for it.
    EX- dh will not allow sleepovers because of it.

    The kids range in age from 16-11 and know if they want a sleep over, they have to come here. What this means is they have to make friends in My town to get to stay up late, eat junk food and watch crappy movies.

    I have given him enough proof but his emotions (because of that nonsense) clouds his judgement.

    No I didn't read the whole thing- I just had to deal with the repercussions in the past few days and am angry

    Answer by feralxat at 9:15 PM on Jan. 9, 2013

  • I seriously read that as Satanic Picnic!! LOL

    Answer by Crafty26 at 9:21 PM on Jan. 9, 2013

  • Yet another shining example of how the human race has not come as far as we think we have. Sounds like something out of the 17th century, doesn't it?

    Answer by anime_mom619 at 10:50 PM on Jan. 9, 2013

  • I remember that stuff, and sadly, my mothers side of the family and probably some on dad's side believed it

    I agree with okmanders about pulling the Satanism card.

    Answer by charlotsomtimes at 12:21 AM on Jan. 10, 2013


    If you look at the late 1990s and early 2000s, the backlash against these impulses now seem inevitable, and there are still pockets within our community who commit themselves to criticizing “fluffy bunnies” and “white lighters” as in any way representative of their Paganism or Witchcraft. Some defiantly embraced “dark” Paganism as an antidote, or discovered the emerging reconstructionist faiths which presented a more scholarly and serious alternative to the pop-culture moment in the sun Wicca seemed to be enjoying. In many ways our interconnected communities are only now getting to the many serious discussions and debates we should have been having instead of constantly watching our backs worrying what the church (or occult expert at the town hall) was saying about us.


    Comment by NotPanicking (original poster) at 9:09 PM on Jan. 9, 2013

  • Maybe I put witches and a "fire" and skeletons around the place near Halloween. My neighbors all play those bloody murder and mayhem halloween movies. I know cause the windoes are open and screams drift out on the breeze. One of the neighbors put a'sacrificed dead goat" near my fire. he thought it was funny and I though all I need is a spit and we could have a greek feast.
    It really threw the mood and there were people that got really made especially when my friend Jason popper out and through pig;s blood on passers by (it could have been worse) Those hypocrits tried to have us arrested and our stuff burned. Well they did get the permit for the fire I had been trying to get for 6 months and started throwing everything onto the bonfire . It was really pretty as everyone got in the spirit. It was almost like dancing, But man, do you know how hot it gets throwing goats and stuff on a fire we stripped heck of a party

    Answer by Dardenella at 12:23 AM on Jan. 10, 2013

  • Interesting article. I remember the McMartin preschool scandal...I was a young wife and mom when that was going on and also that is around the time that they started putting the pictures of missing children on milk cartons....I grew up when I could run around the neighborhood safely, but the times made it seem as if there was someone on every corner just waiting to snatch or molest your child. My daughters are grown now, and I know I instilled anxiety in's really sad....but the scare was real.....the occult stuff seemed outlandish, but these people were on trial and the details were always in the news, and even when they were found not guilty you still wondered.....

    Answer by Anna92464 at 12:24 AM on Jan. 28, 2013

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