“Tonight, we’re summoned for a divine cause” – Ghost, Ritual.
As you read this, I’ll be on my way home from a weekend in Stockholm, Sweden. I’m writing this from before I leave tomorrow (Friday for me) to be scheduled on Sunday. Because wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff.
I can confidently say the trip is going to be / was (I can’t make sense of tenses for this post) a great one. Without planning it, I’ve sort of developed a tradition, or a bad habit depending on your viewpoint, of going Northwards at some point during the winter or early spring.
This time is somewhat different because the main reason my partner and I decided on this trip was to see the band Ghost in concert in their homeland, playing the Globe Arena in Stockholm. This is the first time I’ll have travelled outside the country to see a band, but then Ghost aren’t just any band. From seeing them play the University of East Anglia student venue to the Royal Albert Hall in just a couple of years, it’s clear they’ve got something special.
If you don’t know who Ghost are, watch this performance from the Swedish Grammys. I’ll wait.
Yep. That’s a Satanic pope singing a worship song for Lucifer.
And it’s brilliant!
I’m not a Satanist, but a surprising number of bands I like do enjoy playing with Satanic symbolism and imagery. As a former Catholic, and one who had to constantly struggle with and justify my love of rock and metal by insisting it wasn’t “devil music” there’s something really cathartic about just letting go and singing “Lucifer, we are here” or “Hail Satan, Archangelo” at the top of your lungs with a few thousand other people!
The tongue-in-cheek campy schlock and Hammer Horror inverted Catholic imagery of Ghost, with its ever changing cast of characters, Papa Emeritus I, II, and III, Cardinal Copia, Papa Nihil and Sister Imperator, add a fun element and a storytelling theatricality to Ghost, that at the same time has helped me work through a lot of old religious trauma from the strict Catholicism of my deeply dysfunctional upbringing.
And as for the Old One himself? Well, I read Paradise Lost in school and never really looked back. Sure, it took me decades of deprogramming (still ongoing: Catholic guilt is a barbed fish-hook), but I can appreciate the Satan of Milton and the Romantics, as a Promethean figure, a bringer of enlightenment and a symbol for rebellion against tyranny, personal freedom and the responsibility of choice.
I don’t believe he actually exists, of course, but then neither do most Satanists. The Satanic Temple for instance describe Satan as
“A symbol of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority, forever defending personal sovereignty even in the face of insurmountable odds. Satan is an icon for the unbowed will of the unsilenced inquirer – the heretic who questions sacred laws and rejects all tyrannical impositions. Our metaphoric representation is the literary Satan best exemplified by Milton and the Romantic Satanists from Blake to Shelley to Anatole France.”
They’re an excellent organisation, by the way, who do great work on reproductive rights, church/state separation, LGBT rights and more, so check them out and maybe throw a donation their way.
So that will be / is / was my weekend (tenses, bro). I’ll leave you with a couple of my other favourite Ghost videos, just to get you hooked. Listen to them, buy their albums, join us. It’s not a cult, honest…
[Header image: Jan Brauer via Wikimedia Commons (CCSA3.0)]