‘The Devil & The Gays’ Video Now Online

Bar Wotever have put the talk I did last week on YouTube!

I didn’t have a clue how it would go down – homosexuality and religion don’t exactly make for easy conversation and not everyone may be interested in hearing a talk about it, but the audience at Bar Wotever were so welcoming and receptive, and afterwards quite a few people came up to me to share their thoughts and some thanked me for broaching the subject.

The next day Bar Wotever said on their Facebook Page:

“This Wotever Talk ‘The Devil & The Gays’, must have been one of the most amazing talks we have ever had the fortune of having at Bar Wotever. Insightful, smart and and even funny at times.  Thank You Menno for bringing this to us and sharing your knowledge so widely and generously! In the end it is all about love, know yourself and who you are. ♥!”

It was a great evening – there was poetry, there was live music – Bar Wotever is quite a unique platform, and they have something different and interesting lined up every Tuesday at the RVT.  A big massive thank you to them for having me! 😉

‘The Devil & The Gays’ Talk @ RVT, 2nd April 2013, from 18:00

The Devil & The Gays Flyer

The Devil & The Gays Flyer

As part of Bar Wotever, the queer art and culture evening at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern on Tuesdays, I’ll be doing a talk called ‘The Devil & The Gays’.  It’s a 15-minute TED-style talk that looks at how the idea that gay people are going to hell took hold, how the devil has been used to demonise gay people, how this can affect an individual’s sense of self and how they can deal with this.

The talk is based on research I’ve done for my docu-short ‘The Face Of The Devil’ and beyond, as well as my own experience of having been expelled from a spiritual centre after three years of attendance, as they found out I was gay and believed this to be ‘spiritually incorrect’.

I’m often quite shocked by how vehement hatred, bigotry and ignorance towards LGBT people can be from certain religious / spiritual circles, and with over 1500 years of demonisation it’s no wonder that there are LGBT people who are, to say the least, conflicted between their sexual and spiritual identity, or believe that deep down they are wicked or sinful or simply ‘bad’.  It’s not just in Africa where Muslim clerics and Christian priests whip up mobs against gay people ‘in the name of God’, or in America where so-called x-gays like Linda Jernigan are doing their best to spread the view that “gays are part of Satan’s plan” – it’s being used right here in London to justify why same-sex marriage for the state should not be condoned, and it’s my friend’s mum who, after he came out to her a few months ago, told him he was going to hell and took him to their church where their priest told him the same thing.  There is just so much of it, and it is so deeply ingrained.

I would like to do more research into how different people cope with such demonisation and negativity, and any conflicts they may experience between their sexual and spiritual identities.  If you do have any stories or experiences you would like to share, any issues you may have or anything that could give some hope or inspiration to others, please let me know.

Spiritual and religious homophobia is incredibly persistent, because people believe it’s somehow ‘divinely justified’ or decreed, and that they are only acting according to their conscience.  While one 15-min talk won’t change anything about that, or even a 1,000 talks, it is a chance to learn about how this particular brand of homophobia has developed from a political and socio-historic point of view, but more importantly a chance to share experiences and hopefully reclaim some of our humanity back, if not our spirituality.

Not the most light-hearted of topics, but a very important one I believe.  I look forward to seeing you there if you can make it!


The Devil Is In The Details

I was just tidying up my room and finally decided to tackle that growing pile of paper next to my bedside drawer as it’s now threatening to swallow it whole If I don’t put a stop to it. It’s a stack of countless notes, articles, flyers, bits of paper – all sorts of ‘interesting’ things I haven’t yet managed to put away, but am sure will come in useful at some point in life. As I got stuck in I found one note that said ‘Piles of paper are bad for feng-shui’, and so chucked it in the recycling bin and resolutely continued. And then I found this little article from Metro, 25/10/04, with a post-it note that said ‘file under bizarre’.

Between The Devil and the deep blue sea, Metro Article 25/10/04

Between The Devil and the deep blue sea, Metro Article 25/10/04

I guess back then I would’ve just dismissed it as just a bizarre news story, and Chris Cranmer as a bit of a nutcase and a freak.  The only thing I find bizarre about it now is the inaccuracy of the article, which doesn’t appear to be doing anything else but reinforcing popular misconceptions, albeit with a catchy title (it is Metro after all…).

For one, Satanists do not believe in the devil, let alone worship him.  Satanists from the Church of Satan as founded by Anton LaVey reject any type of Christian ideology, including the existence of a metaphysical entity known as the devil.  This was quite a surprise to me when I interviewed a Satanist priest from that church, and whenever I’ve tried to tell people that the devil and Satan are not one and the same (even though nowadays they are referred to that way more often than not), they look at me in disbelief; some people even get angry.

Why are Satanists called Satanists?

Anton LaVey named his church after Satan as to him the idea of Satan represented man’s true nature as a critic who can think for himself – a notion that recalls the traditional role of Satan in the Old Testament as the critic or ‘accuser’ whose role it is to question and oppose (to play devil’s advocate, if you like, but obviously not literally as the devil didn’t exist yet).

Isn’t Satan evil?

No.  And there wasn’t just one satan – there could be several Satans at the same time, and when one Satan appears in a biblical story it is not necessarily the same that appears in another.  The point is: Satan is not an entity or being as such – it is a function, and whatever a Satan does is in service of God.  In the Old Testament, the word ‘satan’ is not used as a word to indicate an evil being, but to describe certain angels or messengers of god (e.g. Numbers 22:22 & 32), members of God’s inner council (e.g. 1 Chronicles 21:1, Zecheriah 3:1-7) or heavenly court (Job 1 & 2) – even to generally denote an enemy or adversary (e.g. 1 Samuel 29:4).  All things, both good and evil, came from God and no one else.

So how did satan become the devil?

By the time the New Testament was being written, the idea of there being only one Satan who represented evil and was God’s adversary had taken hold, mainly under the influence of the Zoroastrian religion.  As the New Testament was written in Greek, the word for Satan (as in ‘opposer’ or ‘accuser’) was diabolos.  Enter the Devil, who has been the Christian church’s best friend ever since  (‘Look what we save you from!) in a sustained effort to make God look good / nice / lovely as opposed to the Old Testament god who avenges and kills like a tyrannical psychopath (I’ve just read the whole of Jeremiah and it’s not pretty… ).

Why Satanism is not a religion

So, satan and the devil are not traditionally one and the same, or even comparable like, say, an apple and a pear.  Secondly, Satanism is not a religion, as they reject all beliefs in anything metaphysical or supernatural, and for a religion to be a religion there needs to be a deity of some sorts.  Satanists believe that you’re born, you live, and you die – end off.  This is why they believe in vengeance – there is no afterlife to get punished or pay your dues, so it needs to happen in the here and now.  That doesn’t mean you go around killing people or making their life hell – Satanists love life and want to make the most of it, so doing anything that could limit your ability to do so (like being in prison) would be most un-satanistic.  So essentially they are atheists, but what sets them aside from other atheists is the structure they have in their organisation and their ritualistic practices, where the figure of Satan plays an important part.  However, this is not worship – the Satanist priest told me they simply use the idea of Satan as a focal point during rituals, knowing full well that there is no such thing as an entity called Satan, but acknowledging that humans need a degree of theatre and ceremony in order to harness their minds or heighten certain experiences.  Satanism is not a religion per se, but a very specific ideology that comes with very specific principles and practices.

So why is it called the CHURCH of Satan?

To piss off the real church.  Satanist priests are called priests for the same reason.

So what about devil worshipers?

These are by definition not Satanists, as Satanists do not believe in the devil.  Some people believe in the devil, are rather attracted to him and want to worship him – when these people turn up at the Church of Satan, they often leave quickly, and rather disappointed at the general lack of evilry and baby-eating at that.

So Satanists are just getting a bad rap?

Basically, but they don’t mind – if people can’t see through that they feel those people aren’t suited to their organisation in the first place, so it acts as a ‘bullshit filter’, according to the Satanist Priest.  Moreover, they quite like it when people are unnerved by them – they think it’s funny.

Are you a satanist?

No, and not a devil-worshiper either (groan).


This article reinforces stereotypical ideas of what Satanism is, and is an example of how the mainstream press like to dumb things down.  That, of course, is nothing new, so don’t just skim the surface, but open your mind and ask questions.  Like an old-school Satan would (although that won’t automatically make you a Satanist).  You’ll find, like so many other things, that the idea of Satan has been taken out of context and appropriated for other purposes.  Like the idea of the Apocalypse – did you know that word originally meant enlightenment?

If you haven’t seen my documentary ‘The Face Of The Devil’ yet, have a look on YouTube and feel free to like / comments 😉 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oqMmBcoZV0

It takes two…!

218495019391272570_IewoUHzM_b It’s the 6th of December (well at least for another 20 minutes so I better get this post up soon), which means that in various European countries it’s all about Saint Nicholas celebrations!  In Holland the 5th of December is the big night for Saint Nicholas celebrations, and I put my shoe out at the fireplace last night to find a pressie in it in the morning!  It goes to show that even though I’ve moved to London, Saint Nicholas (or Sinterklaas in Dutch) hasn’t forgotten about me, although he must have forgotten some of the things I’ve got up to this year or he would’ve given me a bag of Brussels sprouts instead like he once did when I was 5 after having been very naughty.  I cried my eyes out.

In other countries like Germany, Poland and Austria it’s the 6th.  While in Holland Saint Nicholas’ companion is Zwarte Piet, in some Eastern and Central European countries it’s a devil-like figure called the Krampus (which means ‘claw’ in Old German).  The Krampus originated from Germanic folklore, and managed to survive despite Catholic campaigns to stamp him out.  When that didn’t work, they paired him up with Saint Nicholas, gave him a more devil-like appearance as part of a Christian make-over, with chains for accessories to show that the Church had managed to bind him and that he was now a faithful servant of Saint Nicholas.  Nothing like a bit of propaganda.

I love the old Krampus greeting cards people used to send out this time of year, although I don’t remember having ever seen them in Holland.  Most of them have German greetings (the Krampus is massively popular in Austria), and there’s something comically grotesque about how the Krampus goes after innocent little children and buxom women to punish or scare them.   And while it would be easy to think of saints and devils as natural adversaries, the postcards here show that Saint Nick and Old Nick are in fact the best of friends, working side by side to make sure everyone gets their just desserts – I can just imagine them high-fiving each other afterwards and having a good old laugh at the expense of man.  And so they should.

Fijne Sinterklaas! / Happy Saint Nicholas!


20101205c_motorparadeFor my previous post on Krampus festivities, click here.

Hell’s Kitchen

I haven’t posted anything lately as I was fully absorbed in writing my dissertation for my MA, but will start posting again soon.  In the meantime, here’s a little cartoon by Boligan (I think?  Correct me if I’m wrong) showing hell hath no fury like a she-devil scorned.  I’m off to the park to enjoy the sun 😉

Cartoon image of the devil being cahsed out of the house by his wife

Evil rides out in Sardinia – with bells on!

I just found this short documentary by ROAR Media about the Mamuthones Parade, which is part of the San Antonio Festival celebrations in the Sardinian village of Mamoiada every January. Click on the link below, or here.


The Mamuthones, wearing black masks and around 20kg of iron and bronze bells, represent different manifestations of evil, while the Issohadores represent the forces of good that have come to exorcise evil and bring good luck.

Image of the Mamuthones Parade

The christian legend of San Antonio going down into hell to steal fire from the devil is itself based on the original Greek myth of Prometheus stealing the fire from Mount Olympus. Fire itself has many different meanings: in mythology, it often represents the spirit, an idea that is echoed in the depictions of the sacred heart in catholic imagery.

Image of Jesus and the sacred heart

The idea of Hell itself as ‘a lake of fire’ where souls are eternally barbecued is very much a simplified Christian concept – the fire was a metaphor for cleansing, not punishment, and this was a temporary process, not ever-lasting.  As for the origins of Hell, that’s a whole other story that deserves a post of its own!

The Devil Made Me Do It

Ever since the devil came to embody evil during the transition period between the Old and the New Testament, he has been avidly used as an excuse and a scapegoat.  No wonder he is often depicted as half goat, although this is actually related to the Greek god Pan, the horned half goat creature who represented anything to do with fertility, pleasure and nature, not least a rampant sex drive – hence the word ‘horny’.  Pan was also a trickster, who’d sneak up behind people and freak them out, so they would pan-ic.  Ah, Pan, a god of lust for life more than anything else, he should sue for slander having had his image stolen, spray-painted red and used as the poster boy for evil  (click here for an in-depth history of Pan).

The devil was great for pointing a finger at: an excuse not to have to take responsibility for our own actions and weaknesses, and also a way to explain the unexplained.  For years devil-based scaremongering kept the church in business, and in that sense the devil has been the church’s best friend – a necessary evil for its popularity and credibility.

While making this documentary, it seemed the idea that the devil is the driving force behind things is still very real.

Example 1: just after I started my research for this documentary, my flatmate’s laptop gave up the ghost.  “It’s you!  You’ve brought the devil into our home and now he has cursed my computer!”

Example 2: just before filming, I hurt my back and was stuck in bed for a week.  “It’s the devil!  He’s using your spine as a ladder so he can pick apples in Hell!” someone said.  Apples in hell?  Are they flame-grilled?  I had never heard that one before, but apparently it’s an old saying, and here is an illustration I found that seems related.

Example 3: a fellow student had a nightmare about the devil chasing her with a dead baby, saying she had to get rid of it.  She could do it anyway she wanted, but whatever she’d do, he would then tell the whole world about it.  When I next saw her the first thing she said was “That’s all your fault!  It’s because of your devil documentary!” and got pretty worked up.  “It was horrible!”

You could question whether they truly believed this or not, but what’s interesting is the emotional weight of such superstition.  The idea that the devil is ‘out there’ doing stuff, or somehow working through us, seems to really strike a chord, which is no surprise after 2000 years of propaganda and portrayal.  But if we are all responsible for our own actions, can we ever say that the devil made us do it?

Comedian Flip Wilson shows a light-hearted take on the idea in this clip from the Ed Sullivan show:

On a more serious note, pointing a finger or blaming is one of the easiest ways to identify your own personal demons.  The Jungian psychotherapist I interviewed said that looking at where you put the blame for something is really a little confession about yourself and your own (perceived) limitations.

Take the devil away and suddenly life becomes a lot less clear-cut or easy to explain.  It also means we need to take a closer look at ourselves, and the less attractive aspects of human nature that may be the real driving force in question, instead of the devil.  And that, of course, is one of the main reasons he was invented in the first place – to give a face to something we’d rather not recognise as human, let alone be accountable for.

A sneak preview of today’s shoot!

Hurrah, just finished an afternoon of shooting in Crystal Palace Park!  Just checked the footage and there should be some good stuff to work with there for the ‘search scenes’ of the documentary.  Here are some screen grabs.

Face Of The Devil Day shoot screenshots

I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do any shooting this week as I’ve got a back injury (some people are saying I’ve cursed myself by doing a documentary on the devil, but that was not the deal I made with him…).  The painkillers I’ve been given have worked wonders, so whether the pain has gone or I simply can’t feel it I don’t know and I’ll probably pay for it all tomorrow, but we got a lot of stuff done in a short amount of time.  Many thanks to Stephen Olson for his creative eye and camera work.  Check him out on http://www.behance.net/monolution.

We shot in the maze, which is the biggest in London, bigger than Hampton Court, and probably also the driest…  I was hoping for some lush vegetation but you could look right through it!  Still, the barren look added to the spookiness which I hope will come through.

We nearly didn’t get to shoot as permission from the council and the park ranger came through at literally the last minute, so as soon as we got the go ahead we packed the camera, mike, props etc and headed out.  Men have entered the maze before only to ask little children to do some special tricks on camera so there is a procedure to follow before they let you in…  I also told them it was for a film called ‘Reflections of the Soul’, for as soon as I say it’s called ‘The Face Of The Devil’ people seem to freak out and don’t want anything to do with it.  Especially churches.  O ye, of little faith!

It was pretty quiet so we could just do our thing, although some unsuspecting people did jump when I suddenly popped up from the bushes in a black cloak with a lantern.  They probably thought it was a Scottish Widows ad.  And there was a guy who used the centre of the maze to propose to his girlfriend…awww!

Then off to the pub for some much deserved grub.  Now I’m gonna pop another pill before the back pain comes back with a vengeance…

If the shoe fits…

The Devil Wears Prada Film Poster

When the Devil Wears Prada was released in 2006, the poster featured a simple yet striking image of a red high heel with a pitch fork detail.  No horns, no hooves, no scary face or pointed tail are needed to identify the nature of the film’s main character – the simple use of this detail in combination with the colour red immediately makes a clear statement as to who this shoe belongs to, even without the me of the film.  It goes to show just how ingrained the image of the devil has become.  But how did a three pronged fork become his key accessory?  Is it related to the three pronged fork or ‘triton’ associated with the Greek mythological character of Poseidon, god of the sea (Neptune in Roman mythology)?  Or more with Hades, god of the underworld (Pluto in Roman mythology), although the latter is also often depicted with a two pronged fork or a wand.  There are also theories that the triton symbolises the idea of ‘holy trinity’ often found in mythology and religion, as well as being echoed in the field of psychology.  I’m off to investigate…

Poseidon & Hades image