Why the inverted cross is a valid Satanic symbol

Many Satanists will point out that the upside-down cross is “not a real Satanic symbol,” contra what popular culture seems to think. I can appreciate a number of reasons for this position. Nonetheless, I would argue that the inverted cross can be used as a legitimate symbol in Satanism. This entry explains my rationale.

Inverted Cross Satanic Symbol

What is a “Satanic Cross”?

Most Satanists will affirm that “the Satanic Cross” is this:

Known as the sulphur or leviathan cross, this symbol has been associated with Satanism from Anton LaVey (Church of Satan, founded in 1960s) onward. Some explanations of its significance include:

  • As an alchemical symbol for sulphur, it represents “sulphrous” qualities that Satanism favors. These include strength of will, passion, self-assertion, ambition, etc. Sulphur is additionally associated with hellfire, i.e. Satan’s traditional “home.”
  • The cross part represents balance within the human being. This being on top of the “infinity” part of the symbol means that humans should put themselves above “transcendent” realities. At the same time though, humans should still retain a “balanced” view of their place in the universe. Healthy Satanic pride means recognizing the great things we are capable of, but rejecting delusional self-flattery. (e.g. the notion that human beings are the special centerpiece of God’s creation)
  • The infinity part represents the Serpent in Eden, and the cross part represents the Tree. Thus, the symbol as a whole alludes to Satan’s role in the Genesis story. It thereby represents knowledge, enlightenment, freedom, and other such Luciferian qualities.

As a young LaVeyan, I was not a fan of the sulphur cross. Why evoke hellfire, I thought, when the whole point of LaVeyan Satanism is that indulgence leads not to hellfire, but to vital existence? Ironically, only once I stopped being LaVeyan, and began exploring O9A’s alchemical beliefs, did things start to make more sense. It was only at that point that I embraced points 1 & 2. Prior, my main rationalization in favor of the symbol was 3 – an interpretation I’d most often seen among The Satanic Temple’s (TST) adherents.

Point being, in arguing for the inverted cross, I am not arguing against the leviathan cross.

Understandable objections to the inverted cross

Before I present my arguments for the inverted cross, let’s briefly explore why Satanists might reject its usage. In my understanding, there are some understandable reasons for this – and others that are not so well thought-out.

Understandable objection number 1 is that the inverted cross is an exogenous symbol. The people who decided it was “Satanic” were not Satanists. Rather, they were record label marketers, Hollywood directors, or etc. We ought not to allow outsiders to decide our symbols for us. Therefore, we ought not to use it.

Understandable objection number 2 is that the inverted cross has mostly been associated with negative portrayals of Satanism. It’s what you see on devil-worshiping cultists, black metal church-burners, ignorant but rebellious teens, and so forth. That’s not who we actually are. Therefore, we ought not to use it.

Frankly, I don’t have counters to these objections. My own gravitation toward the inverted cross entails simply ignoring these angles. I would thus never argue with another Satanist who dislikes the symbol personally for such reasons as these.

Weaker objections to the inverted cross

On the other hand, there are some points Satanists make against the inverted cross that I find much weaker.

The main line I don’t “get” is something like “it ties us too closely to Christianity.”

Uh… guys, we’re already appropriating a figure of Christian mythology? We’re already taking that figure and turning things about him “upside down” vs. what Christianity says? So why, then, is the “too much” line drawn here?

I suspect many people who feel this way will eventually conclude that Satanism itself isn’t for them. “I prefer a path that isn’t just built around being anti-Christian,” they will say. And that’s fine as far as it goes.

My own understanding of Satanism, however, is that it’s less about being anti-Christian than it is about broad opposition against life-denying ideologies of all kinds. Not all Christian denominations are equally bad for this. And my own conviction is that certain secular ideologies are actually worse than Christianity on this front. Nonetheless, Christianity has long been the standard-bearer of flesh-negativity and world-rejection in the West. The cross thus serves as an symbol of the kind of thing that Satanism is against – just as Satan himself serves as a symbol of the kind of thing that Satanism is for. I’m then unclear why some folks are “for” the latter but “against” the former.

I get the impression there’s also inverted cross opposition stemming from the “we’re not all metalheads, you know” -crowd. I’m not unsympathetic to non-metalhead Satanists who feel alienated on this front. However, I am a metalhead myself, and “Satanic” music has had a significant impact upon my spiritual self-understanding. I thus want to be able to reconcile metal’s rationale for the inverted cross with actual Satanism. Hence, this entry.

Considerations based in historical usage

Transitioning from objections into arguments-for, here’s an interesting historical tidbit about the inverted cross’ history:

Catholicism associates the inverted cross with St. Peter. This is because Peter was supposedly crucified upside-down, to symbolize his unworthiness in comparison to Christ.

St Peter inverted crucifixion

The “petrine cross” then has the connotations of humility, submission, etc. – connotations highly contrary to the values of Satanism.

Obviously, this information lends itself to another solid anti-inverted-cross argument: let’s not both contradict ourselves and look stupid in front of Catholics, yes? 🙂  Nonetheless, I’d argue there’s another way of looking at the matter. This proceeds as follows:

The cross itself represents Christ. Christians believe that Christ is a divine being. The petrine cross, on the other hand, represents a guy that even Christians admit was all-too-human. And according to Satanic belief, that is actually true of all supposedly-divine prophets: they are all merely human, with various flaws and motives. Satanism therefore asserts that their words and claims must be subjected to critical thinking, not enshrined as “divine” and beyond question.

Why then wear the inverted cross? As a denial of the divinity of any and all religious founders. As a way of saying, “I know all of this is a human construction – and I am not fooled.”

It is interesting, in connection with this, that in the 19th century, a fellow named Eugene Vintras met the pope’s condemnation of him with a declaration of being sovereign Pontiff himself, accompanied by wearing the inverted cross.

Eugene Vintras wearing inverted cross

It’s likely that manipulation by others did more to drive Vintras’ gesture than any kind of proto-Satanism did. Nonetheless, “I declare myself anti-Pope” seems like a fun Satanic angle re: what is wearing the inverted cross meant to actually say.

Considerations based in Christian doctrine

The next thing worth considering is what the Latin (“default”) cross means to Christians. One wonders: had the Romans hanged Christ, would people be going around wearing noose-symbols? What is with this portable-execution-device-wearing behavior anyway?

My thought is that the shape of the cross has an unconscious archetypal appeal. People then look for any conscious excuse to incorporate it into the religion that seems workable. In Christianity’s case, it’s obvious what the easiest option was. I’ll leave this archetypal angle for the next section, though. The current question is, what does the cross stand for in the Christian narrative? And what may then follow re: Satanic implications of inverting it?

Christianity’s narrative associates the following elements with the image of the cross:

  1. There exists an external divine being, to whom humans owe a debt so massive as to be unpayable.
  2. One perfect human being paid this debt for all, via perfect submission even amid persecution, torture, etc.
  3. The subsequent resurrection offers hope of the divine coming through for us, even in seemingly-hopeless circumstances.

These are, it turns out, all things strongly rejected by Satanism:

  1. Tenebrous Satanism does believe in an “ultimate” being, but it having “created” us does not mean we “owe” it anything. Most other Satanic denominations reject belief in “God” wholly.
  2. Satanism favors self-assertion over self-abnegation. It also rejects the notion that we have any obligation to put “the concerns of God” over “merely human concerns.”
  3. Satanism is skeptical about “people magically coming back to life.” It prefers, too, to put responsibility for our “salvation” into our own hands, rather than those of an external divine being.

So what, then, is one way of saying, “I believe in the opposite of what Christians think the cross stands for?” Hmm… 😉

Considerations based in archetypal symbolism

In response to the previous section’s points, why not take up “the cross, but crossed out” (like “no smoking”) instead of turning it upside down? One reason lies in something I already alluded to: the very shape of the cross having unconscious archetypal appeal. I believe this moved Christians to appropriate a symbol used by pagans. Some Satanists may then similarly want “a cross they can keep,” rather than a mere negation of the symbol.

What is this “archetypal meaning”? It echoes what I said above re: leviathan cross’ point #2: generally, crosses represent a balance of elements. They represent, that is, a primal good: the successful navigation of life’s chaos, via the establishment of meaningful order.

This thought, in turn, spurs one to consider the significance of where the lines of the cross intersect. In many pagan examples, they intersect right in the middle. This suggests perfect balance between Worldly concerns (the horizontal bar) and transcendent ones (the vertical bar). In moving the bar up, Christianity suggests that we ought to prioritize heavenly matters more than earthly ones. Conversely, those who move the bar down endorse the opposite prioritization. And is this not, indeed, what Satanism does?

One further thought regarding the shape of the cross entails the likening of the cross to a dagger. From this standpoint, Christianity’s “dagger” has its point in the ground. The suggests a conquest of flesh by spirit, and an alleged “peace” established thereby. Conversely, what is implied when the point of the “dagger” is, instead, heavenward? To me, it suggests Satanism’s rejection of the “peace” offered by simplistic fairytales and submission to herd consensus. Instead, the Satanist embraces adversity: a determination to pursue one’s own flourishing and self-evolution at any price – even if it means a perpetually-upraised sword against heaven.

Concluding thoughts

Summing up, here is what the inverted cross means to me – and why, beyond just being a metalhead, I wear it:

  • Religions are created by human beings. I thus have as much right as any other to seek and embrace what is meaningful to me personally.
  • Belief in “divine” beings who make unreasonable, unjust demands of human beings is something that ought to be rejected.  I also reject the cognitive dissonance engendered by trying to convince oneself that such beings are “good”.
  • I believe in self-assertion instead of submission, and self-reliance instead of waiting to be “saved”.
  • A healthy and meaningful human life requires acknowledging both our material and our spiritual needs. However, the latter should never dominate over the former, for when they do, they become insidious destroyers of life.
  • There can be no peace between me and the bleating herd, so long as the latter stands in the way of my flourishing and self-evolution.

Any thoughts of your own to share, whether about this Satanic symbol, or others? Let me know in the comments.

Revision history

This post received minor edits for stylistic consistency and wording clarification on Aug 13/23.

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