I don’t know if all tattooists (I refuse to call them all artists; some are, while others are merely practitioners) are liberal with their privacy settings on Facebook, but I would guess many are; whether or not they are likely to be satanists, as mine turns out to be, is another matter. You see, I saw his name attached to a comment on a post from a Facebook friend of mine. Now whether or not I would refer to said “poster” as a friend outside of Facebook world is a delicate matter. Suffice it to say that he is a musician that I have a lot of respect for and my personal interactions with him, though fairly infrequent, have been pleasant enough that I would stop and say hello to him on the street. The fact that he is Facebook friends with a satanist changes little of my opinion of him.
Which brings us back to the tattooist. I, of course, upon recognizing him as the person who tattooed some letters on my wrist about a year ago, decided to check out his page. Now for you non-Facebookers, one can decide what one wants non-Facebook friends to see upon visiting one’s page. Being a non-Facebook friend of the tattooist, I was hoping he wasn’t too stingy, so that I might…what? Find out that he is a satanist is what! And as he puts it in his section on “religious views,” this is no mere adolescent phase where one simply paints anarchy signs in public places. Now, the relationship between satanism and anarchy is one he chooses not to elaborate upon, but I would imagine something less Infernoesque (Dante’s Hell is, in fact, anything but anarchy) and more of the Zoroastrian rebel angel variety. The theology here is, perhaps, beyond my reach, but Milton’s satan is probably a good starting place. As many have noted, the anti-hero of Paradise Lost is, in fact, a likable character, at times, possessed of a love so deep for his creator that he refuses to love anything more, even his beloved creator’s prized creation–man. Hence, his refusal of God’s order to love man as much as God himself and the beginning of a sinister (homo-erotic?) love tryst.
If you can pardon my metaphysical ignorance here, perhaps you can at least sympathize with my distress upon being permanently imprinted by the hand of a worshiper of the Dark Prince. “What does this mean?” I couldn’t help asking myself and other unsuspecting friends, who have, no doubt, put up with far worse obsessions than this one. I wanted to be somehow reassured that the tattooist hadn’t somehow ritualized the act of tattooing in such a way as to cast a pall upon what to me was a very meaningful memorial to a lost friend. This may seemed far-fetched, perhaps, but my overactive imagination created hidden satanic messages or symbols within the innocent words inked into my skin. Wouldn’t an overly zealous Christian tattooist, for instance, find it completely acceptable to surreptitiously place Biblical references within a patron’s tattoo? What kind of satanist was I dealing with exactly here? Was he on a satanist mission? Did he wish to convert others? Can you imagine satanists going door to door like Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Thankfully, a friend conversant in Catholic Law gave me some words of wisdom. Mind you, an exorcism had already been considered and ruled out due simply to a fear of unnecessarily inviting Satan into the equation. I simply wanted an intellectual restoration of my spiritual status quo (whatever muddled mix of mysticism and skepticism that may be). He pointed out that a major Canonical question after the sex scandals involving Catholic priests was the validity of the rites performed by the offending arbiters of God’s will. Were sacraments, for instance, still God-inspired, even if performed by an egregious sinner? His answer was what I wanted–something definitive and clear: Yes. What is most important in a sacrament is the intention of the receiver; the giver of the sacrament, although important in the equation, cannot negate the power of God’s will to reach the believer. So, I reasoned, if I was not “open” to satanic messages, I was safe, because I was not a willing recipient of transformation. Good enough for me. At least for now.
And yet I still wonder about this satanism (I’m afraid to capitalize it for fear of giving it some legitimacy) thing. I can’t imagine being confident enough to align myself with any “-ist,” never mind one that includes a malevolent figure of dread. I don’t know whether my tattooist, for instance, should be considered courageous or foolish in the face of what to me is the Unknown/Unknowable. I do believe in evil, in a broad sense, and believe in fighting against it, but I am unsure of its source. If, as I tend to believe, God (a convenient moniker) is in a state of becoming as we are, then God must have an adversarial force against which to test his individuation. Hinduism, in oversimplified terms, simply acknowledges no distinction. Satan for me is No to existence in all its manifest complexities; God is a resounding Yes. As a human, I am pinned between these twin eternities, but must choose, or allow myself to be chosen, to lean toward one or the other, if only to know its force, which is to say, at last, to be alive. Consequently, if I am to be “alive,” I want to be on the side of life, at least as often as I am capable, if only because it seems a bit more friendly.