Article courtesy of The Conversation, written by Joseph P. Laycock.
Robert Eggers' period horror film “The Witch” has been one of the surprise hits of 2016. It’s even gained a second wind since its February 23 release: the first weekend of April it played on 666 screens around the country, raking in an additional USD$465,000.
The tale of a Puritan family turning on each other as they attempt to root out the supernatural evil plaguing their farm, the film won Eggers the award for best director at Sundance – and even frightened horror master Stephen King.
But neither of these accolades has generated as much buzz as an endorsement from The Satanic Temple (TST), a satanic political movement that first appeared in 2013.
In December, TST and A24 studios began collaborating on a four-city tour called The Sabbat Cycle, which consisted of screenings of the film followed by politically driven satanic rituals. The stated goal of The Sabbat Cycle was to inspire a “satanic revolution.”
TST believes that the separation of church and state is currently under attack by radical religious conservatives. They also believe there is a silent majority that opposes this agenda, but remains too apathetic to do anything about it.
The Sabbat Cycle was an attempt to raise political awareness by piggybacking on “The Witch”’s appeal. This is part of larger PR model the group has used since its inception, in which the shocking and the frightening are used to lure media attention to their cause.
As a religion scholar, I find TST fascinating. Not only do their campaigns raise serious questions about the First Amendment and religious pluralism, they also challenge the public to think about what counts as a “religion.”
To learn more, I attended the Sabbat Cycle at its Austin stop, and spoke with attendees about their religious and political views.