All religions and belief systems have their core festivals, holidays and celebrations. Some holidays are larger than most; Halloween, Christmas, Hanukah, and Ramadan are celebrated all over the globe, and so most of us are familiar with their rituals and symbols even though we all may not celebrate some of these or any. Some celebrations revolve around ancestors, others are directly connected to religious beliefs, and others may be associated with the lunar calendar.
There are of course other festivals that are obscure to some, perhaps because we are not regularly exposed to the people who celebrate these days. For example there is Diwali, the Festival of Lights, a five-day Hindu festival that celebrates the goddess Lakshmi. Then there is the Spring Festival in China, also known as the Chinese New Year. There is also Wesak, one of the most important festivals for Buddhists, which celebrates Buddha’s birthday. Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi, the Sikh New Year and the founding of the Sikh community.
There’s another religious group that we may not associate with as regularly having festivals – Satanists. Now, there is a wide range of people who fit into the Satanic category. There are those who ascribe to The Church of Satan, also referred to as LaVeyan Satanism, founded in 1966. LaVeyan Satanism does not revolve around Satan worship or the worship of any deities. The Church of Satan revolves around the belief that each individual is their own god. There are also Theistic Satanists, who believe Satan is an actual being to be worshipped. Finally, there are those people of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith, and others, who believe that individuals who practice anything associated with paganism should be categorized as Satanists.
The following are towns that host festivals either directly associated with Satan or thought to be Satanic in nature by some.
10. Krampus Festival – Klagenfurt, Germany
Krampus is the anti-Santa Klaus. Santa Klaus is depicted as this jolly ol’ elf with a cheerful smile, bright red clothes and a red sack full of toys for children. Krampus on the other hand, is depicted as a snarling, horned figure with cloven hooves, sharp teeth and claws. Krampus drags chains behind himself, thrashing them about, and he has a black sack which he uses to stash away naughty children before taking them away to his underworld – where he eats them.
Much of the imagery around Krampus is associated as demonic, from the chains that are thought to have been those that were meant to bind the Devil, to his horns, to his goat-like body. One of the largest Krampus festivals is in the town of Klagenfurt in Germany. In this small town, nestled in an alpine valley, over 1,000 Krampi march through the town, in elaborate menacing costumes, for a parade on the feast of St. Nicholas, December 6th.
9. Devil Baby Jumping Festival – Burgos, Spain
The town of Lake Catemaco in Mexico is known as the town of witches and warlocks. The first Friday of every March the town holds the International Congress of Witches. During that event the now infamous Black Mass takes place at the mouth of a cave where it’s believed the Devil can be found. There is even a large statue of Satan in the underground cave where participants in the festival swear their allegiance and souls to the Dark Prince.
The ceremony in recent years has become a draw for tourists curious about the black magic practiced here that originated with the Native American Olmecs. During the ceremony the Devil is summoned. Several Satanic priests from all over Mexico are present to conjure the dark forces through animal sacrifice, fire, chanting, and smoke. The ritual even includes virgins who mark the beginning of the event by lighting a candle.
7. Diablada de Pillaro – Ambato, Ecuador
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognizes the Diablada de Pillaro festival, a festival deemed of cultural importance. During the festival, townspeople dress up in elaborate costumes of gold, black, and yellow wearing horned masks. Some masks use real animal teeth and skin.
The practice began when indigenous people dressed as devils in order to encourage rebellion against the Spanish conquistadors. Some people say that participating in this march of the devils can bring good luck. Others claim that if you dress up as one of the devils during the march you must do so for seven years, or else strange things and bad luck will befall you.
6. Saint Sebastian Day – Piornal, Spain
In Piornal, Spain on Saint Sebastian Day every January the streets fill with townspeople armed with…turnips. They wait patiently for the Jarramplas to make an appearance so that they can pelt him with turnips. The Jarramplas is a young man who is dressed as a devil. His costume is typically made of multi-colored fabric strips, and a grotesque mask with large eyes and a sharp mouth. Understandably, the costume is padded with body armor, given that having multiple turnips thrown at you could hurt. The tradition is thought to be centuries old. The origin of the festival is clouded with age, but the purpose is to ultimately drive the Devil out. The Jarramplas marches through town, banging his drum, calling villagers out to pummel him with turnips.
5. Virgen Del Carmen Festival – Paucartambo, Peru
Paucartambo hosts one of the largest street festivals in all of Peru. Thousands pack into the small town located a few hours from Cusco for the festival of Virgen Del Carmen. While many towns host their own patrimonial celebration this one is the largest of all of them. Thousands of tourists also descend on this small town, braving Peru’s treacherous winding roads, to participate. The three-day celebration includes colorful costumes, marchers, and up to 20 dance groups. You can also find a host of devils. Groups of people dressed as devils march through town, and climb rooftops where they then position themselves calling out to revelers, and beckoning them to sin.
4. Day of the Dead – Santa Muerte – Mexico
Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, has recently become more popular in the United States, especially with its imagery of sugar skulls and skeletons. Day of the Dead is a Mexico celebration that honors family and friends who have died. Large parades and processions occur throughout Mexico from October 31st to November 2nd. The day is Aztec in origin and it’s believed that real skulls were once used, instead of sugar and bread shaped into a skull form. In recent years, Santa Muerte has made a more pronounced appearance at the Day of the Dead festivals in Mexico.
Santa Muerte, or Saint Death, is the personification of death, and many, including the Catholic Church, believe Saint Death is demonic in nature. Even though Santa Muerte is not a sanctioned saint, she has her own feast days, November 1st and August 15th, as so given by her adherents. Still, during the Day of the Dead, Santa Muerte is prominently displayed throughout Mexico, especially in Mexico City where she will be on display at parades and in shrines.
3. Burning Man – Black Rock, Nevada
Every year a city appears and then disappears after a week. Participants in the city are expected to understand and adhere to 10 principals that include radical inclusion and radical self-expression.
Burning man started in San Francisco on a beach with a few friends in 1986. At its founding, a group of friends met and burned a nine-foot wooden man, and a small wooden dog. According to artist Lee Harvey, he organized this burning as an act of “radical self-expression.” Each year, the burning of the man continued and the crowds swelled, so much so that the event was moved to Black Rock desert in Nevada. This year, Burning Man tickets sold for around $400 and the event sold out in 44 minutes. Last year’s event drew 65,992 people.
To many who have never been to Burning Man, it’s difficult to explain what Burning Man is. It’s essentially a large arts festival in the middle of nowhere, and once you are there nothing is for sale except water and ice. Sharing, or ‘gifting’ is highly encouraged. The event is as frequented by hipsters as it is entrepreneurs who are attracted to this festival as a way to escape the outside world.
Now, to many conservative Christians they find this event is Pagan in origin, even Satanic, and many in religious circles are horrified that the event ends with the burning of the man, and even a temporary temple. At the end of Burning Man everything is removed as event organizers believe in not leaving any trace on the land.
2. Walpurgisnacht – Mount Brocken, Germany
In German folklore, Walpurgisnacht is the night when witches gather together at Mount Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountain range. It is believed that there they commune with the Devil. The holiday is celebrated on April 30th. Tourists and locals descend on the town of Brocken on this day to celebrate the arrival of spring. Legends say that evil ghosts, as represented by cold weather, snow and darkness meet the witches and demons. Their sinister cavorting is said to conjure the Devil. During the festival, participants dress up as witches and demons, bonfires are lit and people celebrate and welcome spring.
1. Summer Solstice – Stonehenge
One of the oldest, if not oldest, and most famous of ritualistic gatherings is summer solstice at Stonehenge. It’s thought that solstice has been celebrated here for five millennia. People from all over the world, including those who fashion themselves as modern day druids, gather in Wiltshire, England each year for the summer solstice – the longest day of the year. As the sun rises in alignment with the stones crowds cheer. Last year’s crowd drew 23,000 revelers. The ritual is deeply fixed in imagination as all scientists can tell us about the stones is that their creators understood celestial paths. Theories vary as to what kind of rituals actually took place here. Ultimately, Stonehenge’s summer solstice gathering has been viewed by some religious conservatives as Pagan, even demonic in nature.
Sources: npr.org, vice.com, dailymail.co.uk, nytimes.com, abcnews.com, nationalgeographic.com, bbc.com, theguardian.co.uk