Anton Szandor LaVey (born Howard Stanton Levey; April 11, 1930 – October 29, 1997) was an American Satanist and Occultist. He was the founder of the Church of Satan and of the LaVeyan branch of Satanism.
Becoming a local celebrity through his paranormal research and live performances as an organist, including playing the Wurlitzer at the Lost Weekend cocktail lounge, he attracted many San Francisco notables to his parties. Guests included Carin de Plessin, Michael Harner, Chester A. Arthur III, Forrest J Ackerman, Fritz Leiber, Cecil E. Nixon, and Kenneth Anger. LaVey formed a group called the Order of the Trapezoid, which later evolved into the governing body of the Church of Satan. According to Faxneld and Petersen, the Church of Satan represented "the first public, highly visible, and long-lasting organisation which propounded a coherent Satanic discourse".
Never one for theory, LaVey created a belief system somewhere between religion, philosophy, psychology, and carnival (or circus), freely appropriating science, mythology, fringe beliefs, and play in a potent mix. The core goal was always indulgence and vital existence, based on the devices and desires of the self-made man.
LaVey began presenting Friday night lectures on the occult and rituals. A member of this circle suggested that he had the basis for a new religion. According to LaVey himself, on Walpurgisnacht, April 30, 1966, he ritualistically shaved his head, allegedly "in the tradition of ancient executioners", declared the founding of the Church of Satan and proclaimed 1966 as "the Year One", Anno Satanas-the first year of the Age of Satan (it was later demonstrated that LaVey in fact shaved his head because he lost a bet and made up the "ancient executioners" story after the fact). LaVey's image has been described as "Mephistophelian". Media attention followed the subsequent Satanic wedding ceremony of journalist John Raymond to New York City socialite Judith Case on February 1, 1967. The Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle were among the newspapers that printed articles dubbing him "The Black Pope". LaVey performed Satanic baptisms (including the first Satanic baptism in history for his three-year-old daughter Zeena, dedicating her to Satan and the Left-Hand Path, which garnered worldwide publicity and was originally recorded on The Satanic Mass LP) and Satanic funerals (including one for naval Machinist-Repairman Third-Class Edward Olsen, complete with a chrome-helmeted honor guard), and released a record album entitled The Satanic Mass.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, LaVey melded ideological influences from Friedrich Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, H. L. Mencken, and Social Darwinism with the ideology and ritual practices of the Church of Satan. He wrote essays introduced with reworked excerpts from Ragnar Redbeard's Might Is Right and concluded with "Satanized" versions of John Dee's Enochian Keys to create books such as The Complete Witch (re-released in 1989 as The Satanic Witch), and The Satanic Rituals. The latter book also included rituals drawing on the work of H. P. Lovecraft. The Satanic Bible included excerpts from Ragnar Redbeard's Might Is Right and concluded with "Satanized" versions of John Dee's Enochian Keys. Admitting his use of Might is Right, LaVey stated that he did so in order to "immortalize a writer who had profoundly reached me".
In 1972, the public work at LaVey's Black House in San Francisco was curtailed and work was continued via sanctioned regional "grottoes". In early 1975 LaVey announced that higher degrees of initiation could be given in return for a financial contribution. In June 1975, editor of the Church's newsletter, Michael Aquino, left the Church of Satan and formed the theistic Temple of Set claiming to take an unknown number of dissenters with him. The Church maintains this policy announcement was designed to "clean house" of members who didn't understand Satanic philosophy.