Satanism in Cleveleys: From the Blackpool Elk to Lady Gaga: the long history of the Horned God in Blackpool



I set off on a walk round Cleveleys. Then I saw the following on a campervan.  And it set me thinking.  Actually what did set me thinking was that in the next house there was another car which also had a similar image.  But I can’t find the photo.


Is Cleveleys a hotbed of Satanism?

Probably not.  The figure is a representation of the Horned God.  In this context it signifies rebelliousness, nonconformity and sexual energy.  Well we’d all vote for that.  So who is this Horned God that a man (or woman or transgender obviously) feels impelled to portray him, or her etc…


Idownloadthe sorcerer

The horned helmet from Star Carr and the cave painting of the Sorcerer from France are  early manifestations of art and religion.    The kind of religion practised by the artists was animistic.  The expression of art and religion was the most important change in human behaviour.  It is not that we became more intelligent, it is that we became able to think of things in new ways.  One result of this new facility was that we could imagine things that do not exist and the earliest expressions of art were creatures that combined animal and human characteristics.  Where deer provided food and the most familiar large animal the imagined creature was a horned man.  It is probable that the Elk hunters of Blackpool had rituals which involved horned helmets.



In pre-Roman Britain Cernunnos, a horned god, was worshipped.  In Ancient Greece and Rome another Horned God was worshipped.  Was Cernunnos connected with the horned helmets at Star Carr and the cave painting of the Sorcerer?  In view of the persistence of Horned Gods it is possible that a Horned God migrated from the animist hunter gatherers to the agricultural polytheists.  When the Romans came to Britain they would have found a God with much in common with Pan.



The next step for the Horned God is the most surprising of all.  Christianity came to England as an elite religion.   For some time Christianity and Paganism lived side by side often with the notion that Christianity was more modern and advanced.  The term “Pagan” has overtones of country bumpkin.

There are two schools of thought.  One is that Pagan practises persisted.  The other is that they didn’t.  I am of the opinion that they didn’t.  This belief has been shaken by two sources.  One is the persistence of some Christian ideas in Nagasaki where Christianity was persecuted for hundreds of years and the second the odd practises discovered at Saveock Water.  I still think that Paganism did not survive as a system of belief but rather as a series of customs and stories detached from their original significance.     Christians were able to occupy the locations of Pagan assemblies and to annexe Pagan Festivals and absorb Pagan figures into Christian Worship.  A lively culture involving wells, maypoles, mistletoe, fairies existed alongside Christianity.

Imagine that a Pagan minority is  isolated.  Christians see them worshipping a Horned God.  They are worshipping the Devil.  The Devil has horns.  This may seem an unlikely chain of reasoning but it is not unusual for one religious group to accuse a rival group of worshipping the Devil.  Some early Protestants believed that the Pope was the actual Devil.

So the Devil was Cernunnos (or Pan)  and was shown as a man with horns and cleft feet.  I imagine that early artists enjoyed portraying the Devil or Demons because it gave them freedom.  Evil is more interesting to portray than good. There are  more ways to be bad than good.

But  an astonishing change… from God to Demon.  The Horned God… if he existed and he doesn’t … might well feel a bit miffed at this radical demotion.  Never mind the Horned God has been around for a hundred and thirty centuries and more.  The Horned God can survive and thrive.


Some Protestants believed that the rise of Protestantism was the last phase before Christ returned to Earth.  However the time before the return of Christ was to be a time of false prophets and  diabolical activity.  Catholics believed that Protestants were Satanic.  Do you believe in redemption through grace?  Or do you believe redemption comes through works?  Many people died over this question.

Witches were thought to be part of a Satanic Empire which was preparing for an apocalyptic conflict with Christianity.

Margaret Murray, anthropologist and archaeologist, argues that Witches were part of a coherent well-organised structure which operated from pre-Christian times.  This is a view that modern Pagans take.

Strangely it is likely that modern Wicca derives its practises and beliefs from the persecution of witches who were not really witches and did not have a coherent doctrine.  So the only people who believed that witches existed and that persecution was justified are modern witches.   It is things like this that make the world enchanting and dangerous.  .

Madame de Maintenon  was a mistress of Louis XIV.  Fearing that she would be replaced by other mistresses she is said to have taken to poisoning them and consulting with a Witch called Lavoisin.  A priest performed a Black Mass over her naked body (nice work etc…)   and infants were sacrificed.

The line of thinking here is that if the witch trials demonstrate that witches have power then become a Witch and gain the power.

I think.

It was said by the Chief Police Officer to Louis XIV that her crimes were so serious that they could not be exposed.

My view is that witches never existed (although some people believed they were witches) and that a charlatan used Madame de Maintenon’s anxieties to extract money.  Lavoisin may  have used things associated with witchcraft to support her performance.  So Madame de Maintenon was the first to revive something that didn’t exist in the first place.  Why  did  Witch Trials continue?   Well a lot of people made a living from it.  Torturers, executioners, judges, wood-print makers, printers.  Even ordinary people benefitted: labour became more valuable.   There was a witchcraft industry.  Everybody benefitted.  Except…


Satan and Demons had always been popular subjects for art, folk tales and literature.  Blake said that Milton “was of the Devil’s Party without knowing it.”  The “Devil’s Party” had a lot going for it.  Who decided that God should be God?  Did we get a vote?  The doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings which said that the king should be king even if he was rubbish because God had chosen him aligned God with arbitrary  and reactionary power.  Sympathy for the Devil crops up in Blake, Byron, Shelley, Oscar Wilde, and Aubrey Beardsley.  In France literary Satanism took off.  Satanism was more normal amongst artists than Methodism.   The revival of Catholicism and High Anglicanism  probably coincides with a longing for ritual, ceremony , incomprehensible behaviour and irrationality.  I was going to say hocus pocus.  Hocus pocus was a  term used by Protestants making fun of Latin used by Catholic Priests.



Without intention everything goes back to the bloody Templars.  This organisation was rich and powerful.  The French King took its  money and property.  Rather than just steal it he claimed that the Templars were heretical.  Unsurprisingly a few of them admitted under torture that they worshipped an idol called Baphomet.  This is probably a version of Mohammed.  Considering that Christians were preoccupied with Crusades for centuries they knew very little about their opponents.  They thought that Moslems worshipped an idol called Mohammed.

We wouldn’t go to war in the Middle East without knowing a thing about what we were doing, would we?

19th Century France was leading the  pack in a Satanic Revival and  Eliphas Levi was the foremost exponent.  He made an influential set of Tarot cards.  One of the cards was based on Baphomet.  Here it is.



While Satanism never attained the following it did in France it did have a mighty influence especially with WB Yeats… the future Nobel Prizewinner.  To be fair his interest was in Ceremonial Magic.  Yeats met Alisteir Crowley and was influenced by him.


In the late nineteenth century when people were exploring religious alternatives to Christianity they took the Horned God as an  icon.  Pagans and Satan Worhippers revered the Horned God who the Christians had denounced as Satan.

I will not go into the Elizabethan fixation with cuckolds who were supposed to wear horns except to say that I think that horns were a symbol of vitality and virility and the attribution of horns to the cuckold originally meant that the cuckold had been traduced by somebody more energetic.

Aleister Crowley, an inspiration to modern Pagans and Satanists, was fascinated by the Horned God.  Aleister Crowley was a man of epic strangeness and intelligence.  One of his closest colleagues, possibly the only man who exceeded him in strangeness,  was Austin Osman Spare.  Inevitably  the two quarreled.  The basis of their quarrel was that Crowley practised ceremonial magic with great emphasis on ritual where Osman Spare preferred a  more spontaneous form.   The two forms are the inspiration modern Witchcraft, Satanism and Paganism.

Osman Spare is the most neglected British Artist.  His eccentricity, his shyness and the fact that he worked in many styles makes it difficult to come to terms with his work.  Amongst other things he was a pioneer of surrealism and pop art.

In 1917  Osman Spare was conscripted into the Royal Army Medical Corps, like so many others he was stationed in Blackpool where he was reprimanded for his scruffiness.  He remained in Blackpool for a year.

Alesteir Crowley was close to the British  Intelligence and knew Dennis Wheatley and Ian Fleming.  He claimed that he was the source of Winston Churchill’s V for Victory sign as an occult counter to the swastika and that the V sign was a horn sign.  Whether or not this is true it is certain that Winston’s V-sign was related to the vulgar V-sign which is connected to the Horned God.

churchills v sign
Alesteir Crowley became a cult figure in the counter culture of the 60s.  He is featured on the Sergeant Pepper LP cover.  Another version of the horn sign is used in rock music.  The Sign of the Horns derives from Alesteir Crowley’s horned god and one of its first appearances is on the cover of the Yellow Submarine where a cartoon  John Lennon is making the Sign of the Horns over the head of Paul McCartney.  These cartoons were carefully made from life drawings.


Although Osman Spare  is  neglected he is surely due for a re-evaluation.  Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin bought many his major works.  Osman Spare claimed that Hitler was an admirer of his work and asked him to do a portrait which he refused.  Spare did make a portrait of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who took an interest in the Brides in the Bath case in Blackpool and spoke in Blackpool  about his spiritual beliefs.  Osman Spare was  an oddly loveable character, in his photos he insists on wearing an RSPCA badge.

An examination of Spare’s work shows that it abounds in horned images.  I like to imagine that during his soujourn in Blackpool Osman Spare might have bumped into Wilfred Owen (based at Fleetwood)  ordered by his mother to buy a coat in Blackpool (from Rawcliffes?).


Blackpool had other connections with the Witchcraft Satanist Pagan movement.  Madeline Sylvia Royals was born in Blackpool in 1910.  She was ill as girl and while bedridden she studied the Bible.  In 1930 she moved to London where she met Aleister Crowley and other occultists including Gerald Gardner.  She changed her name to Madeline Montalban.  She published articles about astrology in the magazine Prediction.  In 1956 she founded the Order of the Morning Star.

She described herself as a Pagan and also venerated Lucifer.  She was a practising astrologer (we are reminded of the astrological signs around All Hallows Church in Bispham and also of the fortune telling on the Golden Mile).  Oddly she also published romantic short stories.

Gerald Gardner was at one time a friend of both Madeline Montalban and Aleister Crowley.  His connection with Blackpool is slight  but interesting.  Gardner is regarded as the Father of Modern Wicca or Witchcraft.  He came from a wealthy Lancashire family.  He claimed to have been initiated into a pre-Christian witch cult in the New Forest in the 1930s.

He had a talent for publicity and the movement grew.  The connection with Blackpool arises from the dispersal of his estate after his death.    When this was sold the sale was negotiated by John Turner the Manager of  Ripleys Believe It Or Not Odditorium, Blackpool.

The items were shipped to San Francisco with the idea of starting a Museum of Witchcraft but they were dispersed.

Chaos Magic is a modern form of magic that derives from Osman Spare.  A leading practitioner is Phil Hine.  Phil Hine was born in Blackpool and attributes his early interest in Nature to an awareness of the power of the sea.  In an interview he makes the following observation about his early contact with occult groups.

Phil: Yeah, so I was with the Blackpool witches and I got back into Chaos Magic at that point I think, probably as a counterpoint to what I was doing with them. Kathy said, “What’s this Chaos Magic all about then? Go and find out about it and come back and tell us.”

It is interesting is that a schoolboy in Blackpool had no difficulty  joining a coven.


Jayne Mansfield.  Jayne Mansfield had a lively career during which she had an affair with John F. Kennedy and recorded music with Jimi Hendrix as a session musician.  She switched on Blackpool Illuminations in 1959.


Anton La Vey founded the Church of Satan in the United States and Jayne was a devoted follower.  He is sometimes credited with popularising: “The Sign of the Horns” which is a staple of modern Satanism.  A brief look at Google will reveal everybody… the Pope, the President of the US… performing the sign of the (2)

Whether or not these are reliable images they indicate how deeply the Sign has penetrated modern culture.




queen meets lady gaga                                                            The Queen meets Lady Gaga, Blackpool 2009

A search through Google shows that many performers use a stock of Pagan/ Satanic imagery. Especially Lady Gaga. The Horned God and Paganism is  understood  by a wide audience.  When Lady Gaga met the Queen at Blackpool the Queen of Pop Satanism met the Head of the Anglican Church.



It  is easy to represent a Horned God and  all the  images of a Horned God have derived from earlier examples.  Michaelangelo  puts horns on Moses.  There was a  cultural heritage of horned creatures.



This is  self-indulgent but I have to put my favourite verse about Satan by W H Auden.  Auden pictures Satan as unrecognisedly  triumphant in a world of PR and consumerism and self-help. Being Satan he is not a happy bunny:

“I’m so bored with the whole fucking crowd of you

I could scream.”


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