Breaking Our Bonds: A Satanic Unbaptism Ritual
This weekend at our Walpurgisnacht gathering, I had the honor of participating in our Chapter’s Unbaptism ritual for our members. It was an incredibly powerful experience for me.
I was one of the clergy leading the ceremony, alongside three others. We waited until it got dark, running through the ritual script for the very first time together. As we fumbled our way through the first run-through, I started cursing inwardly, thinking I had been foolish not to schedule a separate rehearsal time. We were outside in a member’s backyard, under a smallish canopy, and the rain really started coming down hard. Even for Seattle, the weather was crappy. We worried about all the members outside the canopy who would get wet. My pain started to creep up on me, sapping my energy and making it hard to stand throughout the rehearsals.
But luckily, I was not trying to make everything happen all by myself. I had a great team. My fellow clergy perfected the ritual script, the rain started to let up, and we took a break to eat and rest before rounding up all the other ritual participants.
Once everyone doing the ritual had been gathered, we had the rest of the Chapter take their places ringing the gazebo. It was full dark, and a bonfire blazed in a pit at the head of the circle. The Chapter members lit their candles one by one around the circle, standing witness to the ceremony about to take place.
We began. Our Candlebearer led the procession--first clergy, then those about to be unbaptized. We filed into the inner circle under the canopy. I had everyone take a big deep breath. Then we rang the ritual bell and began.
The ceremony used binding of the hands as a metaphor for the shackles of baptism. Each participant made a short personal statement about their experience with baptism and other religious experiences. We asked them about their dedication to shedding the past and dissolving their baptism, and each and every one vowed their commitment. We cut their bonds, symbolically freeing them from the chains of their religious past. One by one, they cast their bonds and their baptism certificates into the bonfire.
When we had everyone ready inside the circle, ringed by candles, I felt a palpable sense of the significance of the moment. Though the ceremony was completely nontheistic, appealing to no sueprnatural powers, it was a deeply meaningful event for everyone involved. The symbolism of breaking the bonds of your past religion--often bonds forced onto you without your consent--can inspire a shift in your world view. I saw how this ceremony empowered so many, who took back their own power, vehemently vowing never to submit again.
And I saw in aggregate what I had mostly encountered only one on one--a glimpse into the pain caused by religion. The fierceness behind participants’ formal disavowal of their past religion came in proportion to the suffering wreaked upon them, to the mental and physical hurt inflicted on them in the name of God. This realization hit me like a hurricane wind, whipping up the burning flame of rebellion against such horrors in my chest. I cheered inside as I saw everyone cast off their bonds and destroy them in the fire, walking away with the proud, noble bearing of Lucifer.
For a moment, I felt the kinship of our group to the radical poets of the Romantic period, those who took the proud Satan as a hero guiding mankind to knowledge, freedom and justice. Centuries later, the archetype of Lucifer still lives, and a small band of revolutionaries carry his black banner. I am proud to be a part of this community, and I’m grateful for the part I got to play in this meaningful ritual.
[Photo: Tired but exhilarated after the ritual.]