Anton Szandor LaVey and the Church of Satan


Anton Szandor LaVey, The Black Pope

Born Howard Stanton Levey in Chicago, Illinois on April 11th, 1930, LaVey spent the better part of his childhood in San Francisco, California and Globe, Arizona. Possessed with an early flair for the dramatic, LaVey had the support of his parents as he pursued his musical ambitions in his free time. His favorites were keyboards, like the pipe organ and the calliope.

At the age of sixteen, he dropped out from Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, California to join a circus. His initial act had him as a cage boy performing with large cats, and then as a musician playing the calliope. LaVey would later cite this period of his life as the source of his vitriolic religious cynicism; he alleged that the same men attending his bawdy Saturday night shows were in the pews on Sunday praying away their sins.

At the age of twenty, LaVey met Carole Lansing. They were were married the following year. Their union culminated in LaVey’s first daughter, Karla LaVey, in 1952.

In 1960, after LaVey’s attentions were captivated by Diane Hegarty, a beautiful woman twelve years his junior, he divorced his wife and pursued a relationship with her instead. Their union resulted in the birth of his second daughter, Zeena Galatea LaVey, in 1963. LaVey and Hegarty never married, but their relationship lasted for twenty five years.

Hegarty was sympathetic to LaVey’s hatred of organized religion. With her support, LaVey began hosting Friday night lectures on the occult, magic rituals, and his alternative philosophy. One of his attendants suggested he had everything he needed to start his own religion.

Thus, on Walpurgisnacht – April 30th, 1966 – LaVey declared it to be the first year in the age of Satan: Anno Satanas. He shaved his head, as he described it, “in the tradition of ancient executioners,” sparing his signature pointed goatee. He took to wearing black, with pointed collars and flowing capes, and decorated his house with gothic trimmings to serve as a backdrop for his Satanic sermons.


Diane Hegarty and LaVey

Hegarty, meanwhile, handled the new-found Church of Satan’s practical affairs. She was LaVey’s hostess, secretary, agent, public relations consultant, editor and stay-at-home mother, as well as an enchantress in her husband’s high-profile rituals.

On May 23rd, 1976, LaVey performed the Satanic baptism of his daughter Zeena in full view of the press. On February 1st, he officiated the wedding vows of radical journalist John Raymond and New York socialite Judith Case. The newspapers dubbed him “The Black Pope.” Thus began LaVey’s passionate affair with the media.


LaVey conducting a Satanic baptism on his daughter Zeena

During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, LaVey appeared in magazines such as Look, McCall’s, Newsweek and Time. He appeared on talk shows, including Joe Pyne, Phil Donahue, and Johnny Carson. He starred in a feature-length documentary entitled Satanis: The Devil’s Mass in 1970.

The fame no doubt strained LaVey’s relationship with his then-life partner Hagerty, who broke up with him and sued for palimony in 1985.

LaVey embraced his relationship with his daughter after the break-up. Zeena, having likewise undergone the media’s constant scrutiny for her entire young life, became High Priestess of the Church of Satan during the 1980’s.

Zeena LaVey, High Priestess of the Church of Satan

Zeena LaVey, High Priestess of the Church of Satan

She appeared in a mockumentary about Charles Manson by Geraldo Rivera entitled Devil Worship: Exposing Satan’s Underground on August 8th, 1988 (later remembered as the 8/8/88 Rally), as well as numerous press outlets and talk shows. Hagerty’s only remaining involvement with the family was collaborating with Anton and Zeena to disperse harmful accusations of the Church of Satan’s involvement in “Satanic ritual abuse.”

In 1990, Zeena ultimately resigned her post as High Priestess, renounced her affiliation with the Church of Satan, and discontinued all contact with her family. She would go on to pursue worship with the Temple of Set, incorporating it with tantric values and yoga. She also became a professional bereavement counselor; she remembers her time with the LaVeys as a dysfunctional period in her life, and has committed herself to assisting others in similar situations.

LaVey’s third and final companion was Blanche Barton, born Sharon Densley, who he met the day after Hagerty left the Black House. Barton succeeded her post immediately.


Blanche Barton and LaVey

On August 1st, 1993, LaVey’s third and final child, mothered by Barton, was born: Satan Xerxes Carnacki LaVey.

At the age of 67 on October 29th, 1997, LaVey died of pulmonary edema. He passed in a Catholic hospital, St. Mary’s Medical Center – if only because it was the closest available at the time. The time and date on his death certificate was incorrectly listed as the morning of Halloween, for reasons unknown. An invitation-only Satanic funeral was hosted in Colma, California, after which he was cremated.

Following LaVey’s death, Barton stepped down from her post. Magus Peter H. Gilmore, the current head of the Church of Satan, succeeded her.