In a 2016 talk that I sponsored as part of the Legacy of the Witch festival, Jex Blackmore described her brand of Satanic feminist activism to a rapt audience at Catland Books in Brooklyn. She emphasized how women are demonized today, particularly in the battle for reproductive rights, and she challenged the historical association of Satanism with masculinity.
“The Satanic Temple represents an evolution in Satanic philosophy, which aims to dismantle archaic sexual paradigms and give voice to those who have suffered under the yoke of Satanism as a pejorative,” she said.
Prior to her talk, I sat down with Blackmore over libations to discuss her politics and process.
Kristen J. Sollée: How did you come to Satanism personally and politically?
Jex Blackmore: I self-identified as a Satanist after I left the church because I felt like the church I belonged to in my teenage years was oppressive to my human nature. I also found the way that the church described sinners and people who were immoral was just like how I was. I feel like I am much more aligned with a Satanic figure. Being part of the punk and metal subculture, I was particularly frustrated in how apathetic and insular it was. To be apathetic and indifferent to me is so contrary to alternative or punk ideology because you’re giving in to those who seek to oppress you.
The Satanic ideology has always been one of rebellion. So, we as Satanists should be engaged in political activism. When TST announced their existence and I met up with them, we discovered our ideas were very much aligned and so we started working together. That was three years ago now, around 2013. It’s incredible to think about how much has happened in that short amount of time.
Let’s talk about what you call your “aesthetics of resistance.” So much political action is denigrated when there’s a visual element, particularly when it’s feminist political action, with groups like Femen or the SlutWalk. Why is it so important to have an aesthetic? What does it add that other movements, which don’t have an aesthetic, lose?
We live in a very visual culture with the internet and marketing and everything being packaged to look a specific way. With attention spans shrinking, you kind of have to aestheticize your work to touch on a cultural pulse that people respond to. I can see other movements that lack that feature, and I feel like they could be much more successful if they would employ a powerful aesthetic. Young people specifically are drawn to that.
You don’t have to release a huge, complicated statement if you have a powerful visual element as a communicator. Essentially you have to figure out the way you can best communicate with people, and I think art and aesthetic are the most powerful tools we have to translate complex issues.
Who are your biggest influences for guerrilla theater and why?
I’m a big fan of Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies, the Women’s Action Coalition, and W.I.T.C.H. When you feel like you don’t have a voice, and don’t have power, often your only choice is to employ radical means as a way to create power where there is none. It’s social currency. If I go talk to a legislator, they’re not going to listen to me. I don’t have the power and resources to get hundreds of thousands of signatures for a ballot issue. Sometimes political theater is one of our best tools.
What other groups have harnessed the occult or the witch in their activism like W.I.T.C.H. did?
The Yippies tried to levitate the Pentagon. No one else has really aligned themselves with the occult like W.I.T.C.H. did, and I think part of it is that it’s hard to do, it’s dangerous, and it works against you as much as it is empowering.
What connections do you see between witches and feminism?
The idea of the witch has always been about subversive feminine power that doesn’t align with conventional norms. It has been used to control and demonize women consistently: women who had privileged economic positions, women who were smart, women who had expertise in medicine, women who were outspoken, women who were sexually promiscuous. Female independence and sexual independence is still frightening because it liberates us from oppressive structures and having to rely on a patriarchal system to grant us power.
Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive is available here.
Illustrations by Coz Conover.