Being Your Own Master: Satanic Entrepreneurs
by Greg Nasty; from The Trident magazine, Circa XXXVIII A.S.

As Satanists, we strive to be our own master in all aspects of our life, so it can sometimes be especially galling to find we are not be in complete control of our livelihood. Which is why we tend to idealize the self-employed, the small businessman or woman who is out there taking the risks and reaping the rewards of the entrepreneurial life. But is the thrill of being your own boss worth the terror of "performing without a net"?

To help explore a bit of the agony and the ecstasy of the Satanic Entrepreneur, I contacted a handful of that hardy breed, and they agreed to answer few nosy questions from yours truly.

Our distinguished panel includes the Rev. Matt G. Paradise, who is the sole proprietor of Purging Talon Publishing . Founded on Halloween of 1993, PTP disseminates various media that is unconventional, appeals to freethinkers, and champions the ideal of a free press and the First Amendment. PTP's most famous product is the highly respected Satanic magazine, Not Like Most .

Another panelist, Rev. Ventrue of the Church of Satan Emporium , LLC, (formerly Satannet Plaza , formerly The Devil's BlackMarket ), has been a powerful Satanic presence on the Internet for years (he designed the CoS's message boards, Letters to the Devil and the "SIGs." as well as the CoS Emporium web site). He has been evolving his online shop, which for the last five years has provided a wide selection of products and publications, from himself and other Satanic merchants, to the general public.

Next in the line-up is Draconis Blackthorne, C.E.O. of Blackthorne Productions , a publishing house for the works of Draconis Blackthorne, including The Devil's Diary magazine [reviewed issue #11 of The Trident]. Blackthorne Productions also offers a wide range of products and services such as CD's ("Narrations From The Abyss"), occult supplies, graphic imaging, web design, magical and parapsychological services.

Helena, who runs Dark Candles , also provided her input to this piece. Dark Candles produces and sells "… candles for those with a penchant for the macabre". She first marketed her candles, which come in jewel tones and solid black with dark-themed scents to match, through the CoS Emporium, then at the end of January 2003, , her on-line shop, opened for business.

Chris X, CEO of Reptilian Records and Adversary Recordings , cut some time in his manic schedule to answer some questions. Opened in 1989, Reptilian Records is a record/CD store in Baltimore, Md., stocking only underground/independent, punk, rock, and assorted non-mainstream genres, which begat a record label of the same name devoted to the same, which begat another label (Adversary) dedicated to archiving music by Satanic artists.

Our last panelist, Shiva Rodriguez of Siren Productions , graciously consented to participate in this story. Together with follow Church of Satan member Garith Pettibone, Rodriguez has operated Artistic Devil since August of 2002. A subsidiary of Siren Productions (established in 1998), Artistic Devil shows and sells the artwork and craft goods of Satanic and occult-related artists through its on-line gallery. Rodriguez also operates an interior decorating business specializing in creating total environments by incorporating theatrical effects and set design techniques into modern home decorating.

The first thing I wanted to know was how did they get started in their particular business venture.

"I had grown bored with college and landed a job at a large record distributor, where I learned the ins and outs of the record industry," said Chris X., "My free time was often spent at the legendary 1980's Philadelphia punk shop, Chaos Records, where I was schooled in the mysterious ways of the independent businessman, on the understanding that I wouldn't open a competing shop in Philly. So it was off to H.L. Menken's old stomping grounds [Baltimore] in search of fortune and glory."

Helena determined that there was a definite need for her products, "There's no reason we [Satanists] should only be able to buy black candles at Halloween," she explained, "and no other candle manufacturer gives you our broad range of scents in your choice of black and other dark colors."

Blackthorne started Blackthorne Productions because he couldn't find the sort of products and services he was looking for, so he created them himself. "I eventually found that others were also interested in these ideas," he said, "so I began the manufacture and production of these resources for the Satanist who is interested in similar pursuits."

"The CoS Emporium grew out of my original idea which I labeled 'The Devil's BlackMarket'," Rev. Ventrue told me, "which I began about 5 years ago. The BlackMarket grew into the 'Satannet Plaza', which grew into the 'CoS Emporium' as it needed a new home since I was closing down the Satannet site."

Rodriguez had already been running Siren Productions for four years when she decided to branch out with Artistic Devil. "It was formed because I wanted to specifically promote Satanic artists and knew that such a company would have to keep some public distance from the parent company [Siren] at the time," she said, "The idea was to have a separate branch that had a much broader range of contributors that dealt specifically with Satanic and occult-oriented artwork."

Rev. Paradise's reason for starting his business is much simpler than his peers; "I woke up one day and decided it was what I wanted to do. No really lofty explanation here."

I next asked if being an open Satanist presented any difficulties in dealing with suppliers, vendors, banks, landlords, service providers, etc., and how did the panelists handle those situations?

For Helena, the question is simply not applicable. As she explained, "Dark Candles does not portray itself as an openly Satanic business." Even so, there has been negative feedback. "We get emails occasionally asking if our candles are made from the fat of un-baptized babies (which of course they are not since paraffin wax is a petroleum byproduct), and we get the occasional, 'Why are you so morbid?' question. And the proper response to this is 'Why are you so utterly boring?'."

"I've had no difficulties whatsoever," said Rev. Paradise, but added, "that might be due to the fact that I primarily deal with businesses run by Satanists and have a customer base comprised mainly of Satanists or those who are interested in Satanism."

Some panelists cited difficulties with other businesses. "My personal beliefs haven't presented a problem, but I've had many problems with printers. Getting the booklets, etc. printed for 'The Satanic Mass', 'Satan Takes A Holiday', and 'United Satanic Apache Front' has been an on-going fiasco. It's very surprising," he reflected, "that printing plants will turn down a paying job because it offends an employee or two, or because of their FEAR of Satan!"

Blackthorne reported similar problems; "I do have to keep a close eye on the final products I run through copy establishments, otherwise I have found that sometimes covert Christians working there will tend to attempt to skew the replication somehow," he said, although he was quick to admit, "Sometimes it is the result of the plain incompetence of the prole working there."

Rodriguez found the discomfort came from an unlikely place. "Originally I had a few concerns from people who worked with me on various Siren Productions projects who were fearful of having their names associated with Satanism. This was quelled with the creation of Artistic Devil, which allows a feeling of separation between the Satanic-oriented aspects and the main company."

Has this been a problem for Rev. Ventrue? "Not in the least bit," he said, "if anything it helps. Even Atlantic Records has sold me items without even a second thought about religion, companies usually only see one thing.... Money."

Keying off of Rev. Ventrue's comments, I wanted to look at the situation from the opposite direction, and find out if any other of our panelists ever found being a Satanist was an asset to their business.

"Absolutely," Blackthorne said without pause, "One cannot manufacture these types of products [the occult/Satanic-oriented items offered at his site] and not really know how to operate and understand them properly."

"Of course!" Helena said, echoing Blackthone's sentiment, "Who better than a Satanist to be able to perceive what people want and give it to them in a way that will make them want it even more?!" "Additionally, our products are sincere," she continued, "meaning we know what 'people like us' want to see (or smell, rather) …"

"I've noticed that Satanists do tend to seek out and support other Satanists in business," Rodriguez pointed out, "which certainly has been very beneficial to me in many ways."

Rev. Paradise confirmed Rodriguez's observation. "I'm sure there are some customers who may buy from PTP based on recognition of my name and title within the Church of Satan," he said, "or that there is a perceived authority on the subject of Satanism that implies that the material we carry is 'the real stuff.' Other than that, there might also be the shock value of the affiliation for some."

Chris X said his CoS membership "… adds to my already inflated reputation in the music world as an eccentric, bizarre, and unique individual. I hear the most interesting rumors about myself from time to time..."

When asked what they would say is the greatest challenge to your business currently, two immediately shot back one word: advertising.

"Getting the word out is always a difficult task with any new business and we are no different," said Helena.

Blackthorne agreed, although he noted cheerfully, "I am pleased to say that as of late, this has been steadily changing for the better."

"Since I run quite a few different businesses," Rodriguez said, "keeping everything organized and running efficiently has always been a challenge that I've been proud to meet."

Getting the right merchandise was Rev. Ventrue's personal demon; "Sadly, it is still difficult to find some things in this day and age, quality things. I do not allow a lot of things that are submitted to the Emporium just because they are of low quality. Finding the high quality items can be frustrating at times."

Chris X., on the other hand, is bedeviled by changes in his industry, "The restructuring of the music industry due to music file-sharing presents a threat, or at least a challenge... Time to get creative!"

Looking ahead, I asked about the near- and long-term outlook for businesses aimed at a largely (or exclusively) Satanic customer base.

Sounding an optimistic note, Blackthorn said, "I foresee an increase in this type of product-base. As society moves increasingly more towards a Satanic Environment," he explained, "it is inevitable that this will inspire more interest in the Infernal."

Chris X., however, cautions, "I think it would be a mistake to limit one's business to exclusively Satanic audiences, as we are an exclusive/elitist breed."

Rodriguez repeated the warning, saying "It's been my experience that the saying, 'Don't put all your eggs in one basket', is sound advice when it comes to targeting specific consumer groups. While my Satanic-specific ventures increase slowly as time goes on, the majority of my business comes from the more general-audience branches."

Given their individual experiences I wondered what advice they would give other Satanic Entrepreneurs about to start a business?

"Firstly, make sure you have something to offer that isn't merely a carbon copy of an already established product or service," Rev. Paradise began, "and also make sure that you have a legitimate strength in your particular endeavor. Just because you want to do something doesn't mean that you'll be any good at it. Also, quality should be your primary concern. Learn everything about your area of production, be it through books or, even more importantly, witness firsthand how an already successful person in your field has done it. Asking questions might not hurt, either," he suggested, adding, "provided the other person wants to answer them."

"Keep following your dreams," Rodriguez advised, "and don't let the slow pace to success discourage you. Expect to work much harder than the average 9-to-5 Joe, but always remember that you are working for yourself and that deserves 100 percent of your effort."

"Retain integrity and a sense of professionalism," Blackthorne said, "go that extra mile - and it shall grant you great indulgence."

Chris X. offered this advice; "Have a back-up plan. Learn a marketable skill as well; our economy will certainly be a mess for a while."

Helena had a more concrete caution. "Pay your taxes!! Other than that," she concluded, "I don't really have any advise since every situation has a different set of rules and a different outcome."

Check out our panelists' businesses at the following URL's:

  • Purging Talon Publishing.
  • Church of Satan Emporium .
  • Blackthorne Productions.
  • Dark Candles.
  • Reptilian Records.
  • Adversary Recordings.
  • Artistic Devil.
  • Pact With The Devil | Darkest Ends | 9Sense | Sinfully Delicious | Feast of Hate & Fear | Psychology of Religion | Graveland | Parkway Pictures | Comparative Religions | Dark Art | Burnt Valhalla | Blackthorne Productions