Bleed for the Devil: Self-injury as Transgressive Practice in Contemporary Satanism, and the Re-enchantment of Late Modernity
Per Faxneld obtained his PhD in the History of Religions at Stockholm University in 2014. Currently, he is pursuing a post-doc at Mid-Sweden University, and has been a visiitng scholar at Cambridge University (Fall term 2015). He is the author of two monographs on the history of Satanism, co-editor of two books on the same topic for OUP, and has published more than 30 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on various matters related to Western esotericism. 2010-2015 he served as editor of the ESSWE Newsletter.
Using ethnographic method combined with analysis of primary sources like mass media appearances, song lyrics and websites, the paper examines ritualized self-injury in the Black Metal milieu. It is shown that this type of ascetic mortification is no aberration in the history of religions at large, yet diverges from older forms of Satanism. Self-injury functions in Black Metal Satanism as a symbol of transgression and virile bravado, and as a means to display allegiance to the Satanic cause by permanently marking the body. It is typically described by practitioners as a blood sacrifice to Satan. This ritualization of self-injury, where it is explicitly framed as a practice completely different from anything occurring in a secular context, is part of a broader endeavor in the milieu, which seeks to re-enchant a late modernity perceived to be devoid of spiritual values. Increasing mass media attention to self-injury, there postulated as a (secular) mental health problem among adolescent girls, has therefore lessened its usefulness as a sacralized and masculine transgressive symbol. This, it is argued, explains the declining emphasis on it in the Satanic milieu in recent years.