Build Your Own Satanic Community
[Before starting a group, read "How to Find a Satanic Group."]
If after some digging you're certain there is no TST chapter or proto-chapter in your area, you may consider starting a Satanic community yourself. It's a big step, and there's a lot to consider before diving in. First off, are you ready for the increased workload of building a community from scratch? Creating a community where there was none before takes a huge amount of time, energy, and effort. Make sure you have room in your life for the extra work.
Consider who is willing to work alongside you in building the group. When I applied to start a Satanic group, I had to show that I had three other people who were interested in building the community as well. It's easier to start a group when you have help.
Be prepared for difficulties along the way. Interpersonal issues arise in any group, and you'll have to address any drama that bubbles to the surface. Also be aware that trying to work with local organizations, businesses, and politicians can be extremely frustrating; they tend to be relatively uncooperative with Satanists, though you may find some support here and there.
Finally, consider the possible repercussions to you for coming out as the leader of a local Satanic organization. While you may be able to keep your identity secret behind a pseudonym for a while, as the group grows it's likely you'll have to speak with the press or otherwise put yourself out there visually (though you can delegate this task to your Media Liaison at some point). Group leaders face an added level of scrutiny. Are you ready to possibly be outed as the "head Satanist" in your locale?
If you still want to sign up for the workload after all these considerations, it's time to take the next step towards starting a group, contacting TST.
SIGN UP AS A TST PRE-CHAPTER
If you want the group you're building to eventually achieve official Chapter status with the Satanic Temple (which I highly recommend), you'll need to get in touch with TST headquarters right away, when you are in the beginning phases. It's important that you make contact before you do your first public-facing event as a group. You'll be working with TST to make sure you're headed in the right direction, and there are rules your group must follow if it is to receive its official standing down the road.
You can usually find contact info on the main TST website; here's the info as it is today:
To start, mail firstname.lastname@example.org; an email will come back with the basic info on what your group needs to do to get started. A nearby chapter head may help you set up your group and follow the rules.
The standard naming convention is to call your group "Friends of TST ___", where ___ equals your locale (city, state or area); however you may choose to use another name.
Once you have some get-togethers, get some people involved, and start talking about planning your first public-facing event, a member of the Satanic Temple's National Council member should get involved to help provide guidance. You can email email@example.com when you're ready for that step.
Be aware that TST has limited resources, and periodically goes through intervals where there is a temporary hold on new proto-chapters or Chapters. Just be patient and polite and eventually you will get a chance. In the meantime, you can have as many inward-facing events as you want, from facilitated discussions and social occasions to private rituals. You'll get a chance to build your community up so that when your turn does come, your group will have a strong member base that already knows how to get projects done together.
After your group has existed for a while and proven itself viable, your National Council point of contact will work together with you to plan a test event and work towards recognition as an official chapter. Be aware that the process can be a lengthy one; you won't gain official chapterhood overnight, and there are often resource shortages at higher levels that can cause delays in the chapter process. Be patient and don't give up.
BUILDING YOUR COMMUNITY
Here are my personal tips for starting and running such a community, based on my experiences building the Satanic Temple’s Seattle Chapter. It's most important that you follow the direction of your official TST National Council point of contact for your proto-chapter, even over and above whatever I say here. You'll need to clear anything that will involve the public or the media with your point of contact. Make sure you follow the instructions they give you.
RUNNING THE GROUP
Your role is to be the organizer, meeting facilitator, and leader of your community. You’ll reach out to potential members, schedule meetings and drive the group forward in whatever direction it takes. You will probably share all these tasks with others at some point.
It takes a while to build a strong community of any kind. You should expect at first that you yourself will be doing almost all the work. It took me nine months until our chapter grew large and stable enough to expand our leadership council with dependable members. People will come and go, especially at first. Don’t give up. It’s slow and difficult at first, but eventually you should reach a critical mass and the community you’ve created will be worth the wait.
HOW TO FIND MEMBERS
You can reach potential members in many ways. These days, I would recommend starting with a Facebook group for your organization. People find us through all our social media accounts, including Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, but you don’t have to have all these; a Facebook group for your community is probably all you need. Set the group to “Closed” so you can choose who you add; you may decide to set a few basic questions for those who want to join. You want members who are already local and looking for in-person meetings.
In fact, though I wish online interaction in itself could constitute a rich, supportive Satanic community, my experience has proven otherwise. Internet interaction by itself so often devolves into pointless arguing and petty flame wars. You may find your members online, but your real-life group should mainly focus on facetime activities, i.e. in-person or over webcam.
Once you've created your group, reach out in online places where TST members congregate. For instance, at the time of my writing, there is an international Facebook group for all of TST, the Satanic Temple Official Forum. Post your community info in this group to find other local members interested in being part of your group.
I recommend holding community meetings or events at least twice a month, if not more. In my chapter, we meet primarily in person, though (especially if you're geographically dispersed over a wider area) you can also hold meetings via webcam.
Our Chapter meets on Sundays in the basement of a local occult bookstore, whose owner graciously allows us to use the space for free. You might end up meeting at a coffee shop or bar, or pooling your money to rent meeting space.
When the bookstore isn't available, meetings are held at my home. Be wary of giving out your home address to strangers; aka, don't post it online where the public can see it. My address only goes out to our closed Facebook group or in an email to chapter members.
We hold our public info meetings at the local library, which has a free meeting room we can sign up for.
We go out to a pub after our meetings, to hang out and spend some social time with each other.
FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
You're looking for potential members who understand and support TST's mission and values, who are willing to put in the hard work required for activism and community service, and who treat others with compassion and respect.
You should keep an eye out for potential problems. These types of people will probably not be a good fit for your group:
1. Satanists from other branches of Satanism who are very big into "might is right" doctrine or who insist your community be focused on their tradition instead of TST. So far this has been just a small percentage of the people who we've encountered in our Chapter─I myself and many of our other members come from a different Satanic background, and we have no problem seeing humans as cooperative, social animals and fighting for social justice and equality.
2. Racists, homophobes, misogynists, transphobes, etc. We require that all members respect each other regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability status, etc.
3. People looking to ride TST’s fame to their own renown and glory. TST gets a fair bit of press and is well-known for its Satanic activism. Some just want to steal that limelight for themselves and have no intention of contributing to a community. Recognize them by the huge ego they drag in the door.
4. People from Africa, Indonesia and other areas where Satan is considered more of a real spirit who can grant wishes. They will contact you long-distance asking to sell their soul in exchange for money or power, or for the secrets of Satanic magic.
5. Folks who are looking primarily for a magic or ritual group. Though you may certainly choose to do secular ritual, in the TST community we focus more on activism and claiming our legal rights as Satanists, as opposed to ceremonial magic.
6. People who don’t live nearby. Satanists are so hungry for community that they may try to join any group they can find online, even if it is out of their travel range. You want to keep your group focused on local members.
Alas, society still has many misconceptions about Satanism, and there are real-world risks associated with being outed as a Satanist. While you may have a very progressive family, town, and workplace, you never know who among them might have a deep-seated prejudice against Satanism. This is why we encourage the use of pseudonyms within the community, and separate social media accounts for your Satanic persona if necessary.
We have never been harassed at any of our meetings or picnics, but Seattle is very liberal, so I can’t speak for all communities. Use common sense and be aware of your surroundings when you meet.
Don’t stress too much if your group is growing slowly. The group will evolve organically as others start to contribute.
Be persistent about reminding people about events and meetings. I send out at least three reminders for every meeting.
Guide your group’s ethics by the Seven Tenets. Pay particular attention to number six: “People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.”
Social anxiety is a big problem for almost all of us Satanists. Realize things might be awkward sometimes and be patient with people.
If someone is causing recurring problems that threaten the health of your organization, it is leadership's job to remove them if it has to come to that. This should be a last resort, but on rare occasions you’ll find one person is hurting many others in the community and must be ejected.
Make sure your members can communicate with each other if they want to. Our Chapter uses a Google Groups email list to reach everyone at once. We also exchange our phone numbers for texting.
Finally, have fun! A community should be a place to enjoy yourself with others who understand and accept you. My members spend a lot of time with each other and often go out for drinks, coffee, even karaoke! We play games and sometimes we just sit around and have fascinating conversations. We even have a couple of camping trips every year. Enjoy yourselves!
GROUP DESCRIPTION TEMPLATE
You can copy this description or parts of it into your group’s description on Facebook or elsewhere online:
Description: We provide the opportunity to meet with other freethinkers, Satanists and secular activists in the (insert city/area) area. We are not yet an official Chapter of the Satanic Temple, but we share their core beliefs and mission: to facilitate the communication and mobilization of politically aware Satanists, secularists, and advocates for individual liberty. We are a nontheistic religion and do not believe in a literal Satan; rather to us he is a potent symbol of rebellion against religious tyranny.
Activities: Group activities include meeting kindred spirits, participating in activism for common goals, engaging in community service, learning about and discussing Satanic philosophy, and enjoying social occasions together.
Who is welcome: Local Satanists, freethinkers, atheists, humanists, secularists and others who share our belief in the Seven Tenets and wish to explore Satanic philosophy and activism.
THE SEVEN FUNDAMENTAL TENETS OF THE SATANIC TEMPLE
(Please note that we are not yet an official TST chapter.)
1. One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
2. The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
3. One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
4. The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own.
5. Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.
6. People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.
7. Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.
Next article in this series:
Lilith Starr is Chapter Head of the Satanic Temple's Seattle Chapter, and the author of "The Happy Satanist: Finding Self-Empowerment."