I don’t know if I’m ready to say that anyone who works with Satan is actually working with Samael (or one of His faces), but it seems quite possible. Considering the eye-rolling I used to do about Satanism, it’s actually rather ironic that, if the Satanists are right, I’m working with Him. Gods are funny that way.
I am, of course, relieved to see that past-tense “used to.” She also references a website called “Severity of God” (about Samael) by a LaVeyan Satanist who is also an Aztec reconstructionist.
Anyhow, Anya Kless’s post is an interesting compilation of lore about Samael, plus a brief account of some of her own personal spiritual experiences involving Samael.
She notes that the lore about Samael is tangled and contradictory. Among other tangles:
There seems to be some uncertainty as to whether Samael acts on Yahweh’s behalf in this role or as an evil freelancer. This would seem to explain how He can appear as both “Prince of the demons’ and “chief of Satans” as well as “the great prince in heaven.”
I would add that the same “uncertainty” applies also to the name/title “Satan” in Jewish lore. In the Bible, the Satan of the Book of Job is not an enemy of Yahweh, but rather is the heavenly prosecuting attorney and enforcer. Later, during the Second Temple era, Judaism was strongly influenced by Zoroastrian dualism; hence the appearance of a Devil figure, seen as the enemy of Yahweh. Since then, mainstream Judaism has moved away from belief in a Devil, although the idea of Satan as an “evil freelancer” never disappeared entirely from the Jewish world. I once knew an Orthodox Jew who told me he believed in the existence of two distinct Satans: (1) the “lesser Satan” (the heavenly prosecuting attorney and enforcer in the Book of Job) and (2) the “greater Satan” (the Devil, the rebel against Yahweh).
I would say that there is not a one-to-one correspondence between entities and names, or even a one-to-one correspondence between deities and deity-mythologies. For example, the God who is worshiped by the nice liberal, justice-loving Christians who march in Gay Pride parades is, in my opinion, clearly NOT the same entity as the God worshiped by the more conservative kinds of Christians. I would similarly distinguish the Gods worshiped by different kinds of Jews. Thus, in my view, there are at least two distinct deities that go by the name Yahweh. I think of these two distinct though mythologically almost identical gods as Yahweh-E and Yahweh-P (E for enlightenment, P for patriarchy, or P for “purity”). They differ in, among other things, their relationship to other deities. The devotees of Yahweh-P tend to regard all other deities as either evil demons or outright frauds, whereas the devotees of Yahweh-E are more apt to see other gods as guises of Yahweh-E. (I don’t agree with either view, but the devotees of Yahweh-E tend at least to be much more tolerant.) Also, the devotees of Yahweh-E tend NOT to believe in a Devil and hence are not classified by me as being among Satan’s avowed enemies (SAE’s).
Similarly it seems to me that there are at least two distinct entities known as “Satan”: (1) Satan the servant of Yahweh-P (as per the Book of Job) and (2) Satan the enemy of Yahweh-P. I tend to think of the former as “Samael” and the latter as “Azazel”/”Belial.” However, the name “Samael” has been used to refer to both, whereas the names “Azazel” and “Belial” refer unambiguously to the demonized Other, the source of all “impurity” — and, in the case of “Azazel,” to a source of forbidden knowledge as well. Thus, “Azazel” and “Belial” are unambiguously precursors of the Christian Devil concept.
So, could it perhaps be that the “Samael” that Anya Kless has encountered is actually Azazel, or at least closely related to Azazel? After all, her “Samael” does not seem — at least at first glance — to be a servant of Yahweh-P.
She cites an angelology website which (without citing sources) claims that Azazel is another name for Samael. Not everyone agrees with this. For example, on a website called Bitter Waters, the Sotah, and Lilith, with pages about Lilith and Azazel, it is claimed that Azazel is the son of Lilith and Samael and combines aspects of both — and is more powerful than both. (I have yet to track down the original Jewish sources on which this claim is based.)
My feeling is that Anya Kless’s Samael and my Satan/Azazel/Belial are not the same entity, although they do have commonalities. Before I compare her view of Samael with my own view of Satan/Azazel, I should perhaps give a little bit of the flavor of the latter by quoting the brief description in a ritual I wrote for the Church of Azazel proto-congregation:
God of freedom!
God of this world,
God of our flesh,
God of our innermost will,
God who beckons us beyond the comfortable and familiar.
Anyhow, Anya Kless describes some of her own personal perceptions, in the context of a ritual, as follows:
Samael is bound.
He is bound because He would unleash destruction, destroying even Lilith Herself. As Death, as Bloodlust, as Vengeance, as Hunger, Samael must be contained. He is simply too insatiable and would throw off the balance between Death and Life, Justice and Violence, Order and Dissent. Interestingly, Lilith does have the power to free Him, but She refuses to do so.
I do not perceive Satan/Azazel as being “bound,” although there is indeed a myth of Azazel being bound, in the Book of Enoch. He is said to have been bound at the command of Yahweh, as a penalty for teaching humans such forbidden arts as metal-working and the use of eye makeup. I consider the binding of Azazel, in the Book of Enoch, to be a metaphor for social constraints against further technological development, similar to the binding of Prometheus. But those constraints were only temporary, and Prometheus was eventually unbound. (I do NOT consider Prometheus and Azazel to be the same entity, though there are commonalities.)
As for her perception that Samael desires to “unleash destruction, destroying even Lilith Herself”: I do not see that as literally true of Satan/Azazel, though there’s a metaphorical sense in which I do see Him as threatening to “destroy” even Lilith. I see Satan/Azazel as a Being who challenges ALL dogma and ALL human social orders, just or unjust — NOT out of an obsessive desire to destroy, though it can seem that way, but more like putting them all to the test. On the other hand, I see Lilith as championing a new, more egalitarian and more individualistic social order, against the authoritarian patriarchy of Yahweh-P. I see Satan/Azazel as sharing Lilith’s opposition to the social order favored by Yahweh-P, but I also see Satan/Azazel as challenging Lilith’s preferred social order too. Only in that very limited sense would I say that He “would unleash destruction, destroying even Lilith Herself.”
All social orders need to be challenged from time to time. Even a basically just social order — or social movement — can all too easily turn totalitarian, with disastrous consequences. Example: How the feminist movement and the child abuse survivors’ movement endorsed the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare back in the 1980′s.
This doesn’t mean we should get rid of all social orders or all dogma. We humans need organized societies in order to survive, and human societies need to be bound together by at least a few shared assumptions (dogmas). We need a balance between the maintenance of our social orders and challenges to same.
A big difference between Anya Kless’s Samael and my Satan/Azazel/Belial is that I do not perceive Satan/Azazel as “hungry,” or as being motivated by “hunger.” To my way of thinking, “hunger” of any kind is a mark of a lesser spiritual being, not a transcendantly powerful God. Thus, for example, I do NOT believe that Yahweh-P is genuinely the highest God, because Yahweh-P is endlessly hungry for the attention of as many humans as possible and is admittedly a “jealous god” toward all those many human devotees. On the other hand, I see Satan/Azazel (though supposedly a “Fallen angel”) as a more genuine “God of this world” who simply does not care what most people think of Him.
My view of the relationship between deities and “hunger” is somewhat similar to that of the Yoruba religion, in which sacrifices are NOT offered to Olorun, the highest God, but are offered only to intermediate gods, the Orishas. I see Satan/Azazel as too powerful a God, in His own right, to be “hungry” for anything from us humans.
However, while I don’t see Satan/Azazel Himself as “hungry,” I do see Him as manifest in our own innermost Will, including our own deepest passions and “hungers.”
Anyhow, while I can indeed find commonalities (sort of) between Anya Kless’s Samael and my Satan/Azazel, these commonalities are a bit of a stretch. My gut feeling is that her Samael and my Satan/Azazel are not the same entity. But then, who and what is Anya Kless’s Samael?
As I said earlier, we humans need a balance between maintenance of social orders and challenges to same. Most religions emphasize the former, whereas Satan/Azazel is a God who emphasizes the latter, and Lilith (in my view) is a Goddess who has long opposed an old social order but now champions and maintains a new, rising social order. The latter role of Lilith is consistent with Anya Kless’s vision of Lilith as a “judge, determining right and wrong.” She writes:
Both Lilith and Samael come to me as Bringers of Justice, but They enact this Justice in different ways. Lilith acts as a Judge, determining right and wrong. Samael acts as a Debt Collector, taking what is owed and is being wrongfully withheld. Both are bound by rules, and neither one punishes indiscriminately or harms the innocent. The word that comes to mind when I see them in this role is “Righteous.” Not “self-righteous,” but a genuine sense of enforcing what is Right. Their system of Right/Wrong does not always line up with the dominant paradigm’s system, but there is a Justice there that even deities from other pantheons seem to respect.
Hmmm, Samael’s role here as “Debt Collector” is actually reminiscent of the role of Satan/Samael the servant of Yahweh. Perhaps Anya Kless’s Samael is the same entity as Yahweh-P’s enforcer after all? Perhaps He is not committed to serving any one particular divine judge — Lilith or Yahweh-P — but can play the enforcer role on behalf of any or all divine judges? If so, perhaps that might explain why Anya Kless’s Samael is “bound” — he is constrained always to act as the servant of some divine judge, even if it doesn’t matter to Him which judge?
One possible objection to this picture is that Samael is Lilith’s mate, not merely Her servant. However, in Anya Kless’s vision, “Lilith does have the power to free Him, but She refuses to do so” — implying that Lilith does have power over Samael, even if She also loves Him and chooses not to exercise Her power over Him in a tyrannical way. That Lilith has power over Samael is also implied by Anya Kless’s advice that anyone who wants to work with Samael should first work with Lilith, for “protection”:
If you wish to begin working with Samael, I highly recommend you begin a relationship with Lilith as well. She brings balance and protection, and if She’s well-honored and approached with humility and respect, She can also keep you grounded as you work with Them. Samael is a magnificent force, but He can also be seductive—-the ultimate tempter. He will take advantage in ways Lilith will not, particularly if you make offers of yourself to Him without an understanding of the consequences. Making deals with Him is not recommended—-He tends to omit mentioning what things will cost you. And He is perfectly willing to watch you ignorantly skip down His path towards something you can’t handle. Allow Lilith to introduce you. Go slow with Him.
Ouch! I have a VERY different understanding of what the issues are, but I do have to admit that the theistic Satanist scene is chock full of impulsive people who ignorantly rush headlong into things that they can’t handle and/or which impel them to make utter fools of themselves. [SIGH!]
As for Anya Kless’s question about whether anyone who works with Satan is actually working with Samael (or one of His faces): I would say that many Satanists are probably working with Samael, usually without realizing it. Perhaps that may be one of the reasons for the sorry state of today’s Satanist scene?
I personally do not revere Samael. Indeed I use the name “Azazel” for the specific purpose of disambiguating the Satan I revere from Samael — or at least from Samael the servant of Yahweh-P. Perhaps I might eventually include Samael in my pantheon too, because my pantheon does include Lilith. But I think I’ll always see Azazel (my main deity) and Samael as very distinct entities, not just different facets of the same entity, despite their commonalities.
Let me now put my own view of Lilith into context:
In the paradigm of the Church of Azazel proto-congregation, prospective members are encouraged to form a relationship not just with Satan/Azazel but also with at least one of the five Rising Gods — Lilith, Prometheus, Ishtar, Pan, and Lucifer-of-Sophia — each of whom is associated with one or more aspects of the modern world that are strongly at odds with Satan’s avowed enemies (SAE’s), i.e. the more conservative and authoritarian branches of the Abrahamic religions. Each of the five rising Gods has a long history of being demonized and/or associated with Satan within Western culture. But each also affirms, more-or-less consistently, some set of ethical values that are among the pillars of today’s emerging post-Christian social order.
As I said earlier, we humans need a balance between maintenance of social orders and challenges to same. In the paradigm of the Church of Azazel proto-congregation, this complementary balance is encouraged via relationships with both Satan/Azazel and at least one of the five Rising Gods.
Interestingly, for the past several years I have had the strong feeling that Lilith is not the mate of Satan/Azazel, at least not in the manner portrayed in the relevant Kabbalistic texts. The main polarity in the Church of Azazel paradigm is not between Satan/Azazel and Lilith, but between Satan/Azazel and the totality of the five Rising Gods including Lilith.
Anyhow, one gripe I have about Anya Kless’s post: It has a section titled “Christianity/Satanism: the Adversary.” The expression “Christianity/Satanism” appears to connote the common Pagan claim that Satanism is merely the flip side of Christianity. That’s true of only the specific form of theistic Satanism that I call “Christian-based duotheism.” Most forms of Satanism, including most forms of theistic Satanism, do borrow ideas from other sources too, not just Christianity.