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Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review


published on November 24, 2015

Per Faxneld
DOI: 10.5840/asrr2015112316

Bleed for the Devil
Self-injury as Transgressive Practice in Contemporary Satanism, and the Re-enchantment of Late Modernity

Using ethnographic method combined with analysis of primary sources like mass media appearances, song lyrics and websites, the article 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, but 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.