It’s edition 666 you’re reading right now: the issue of the beast. In honour of this, and because it seemed like a so-crazy-it-might-just-work good idea, I’ve decided to throw over this fortnight’s column to a dissection of, and dissertation on, that fabled creature -“ Satan.

For many readers, I’m sure that Satan is nothing more than a caricature, a cartoon-like figure indistinguishable from the bogie man.

But as someone from a Catholic background, I have to admit that Satan -“ or more accurately, the idea of Satan -“ has been a part of my psyche ever since I can remember.

As a young kid, the thought of the devil terrified me. I believed in Satan utterly, as a necessary corollary of believing in God. I was a lovely child, way back then, all blond hair and flower-of-innocence smiles, easily scared into saying my nightime prayers by the threat of eternal damnation in hell.

Then I grew up -“ a bit -“ and learned about those twin serpents, sex and sexuality.

At a stage when my attraction to men was still nameless but becoming apparent, I came to eroticise Satan. It’s a hard thing to explain, and probably even harder to understand, but it had something to do with the immediate linking -“ in my mind at that stage -“ of homosexuality and every kind of badness. Tattoos, body piercings, smoking, drugs, the outlaw lifestyle of the bikie, Satan -¦ if it was bad, it achieved a sexy kind of lustre in my mind’s eye.

This was helped along, in no small way, by the band KISS. On the one hand, they were emissaries of evil (Knights In Satan’s Service, remember?); on the other, they got about in crotch-hugging tights and showed off abundant chest-hair (at least in the case of lead singer, Paul Stanley).

For a boy reared on the wholesome sexlessness of ABBA, KISS’s tour of Australia in the late 1970s threw me into turmoil of hormones-going-psycho and Catholic guilt. I didn’t give a rat’s about their music -“ it was their image that had me all worked up.

Fortunately, the sex/devil nexus that had crystallised in my head around the time of the KISS tour abated fairly quickly. I think the Village People had something to do with this: they seemed to offer a healthier, nicer, more-earthly-grounded version of masculinity, with which I quickly became enchanted.

But my macabre fascination with KISS has left its mark. One of my life’s guilty pleasures is going into newsagents and browsing through heavy metal magazines like Kerrang (motto: life is loud). I’ve never been into that sort of music, but part of me is still drawn by the gruesome imagery of heavy metal artists -“ although I should point out that my fascination is definitely not sexual. Slipknot are my current scary faves.

But I’m intrigued and amused by the lengths scary bands go to in order to invoke the idea of the satanic. It’s all so Spinal Tap and bizarre.

But Satanism seems so intrinsically silly, doesn’t it? It crops up in the press from time to time, but usually it seems more laughable than scary.

One of the latest press reports about Satanism in the suburbs was printed in The Daily Telegraph earlier this year, and focused on a 19-year-old Castle Hill boy who’s set up a coven in his grandparent’s house. He calls himself High Priest Legate Gabriel Steiner.

I just woke up one morning and decided that day I wanted to make a difference, the article quotes High Priest Legate Gabriel Steiner as saying. It was at [Presbyterian] church youth group meetings I realised it wasn’t for me. My friends would go out and break all the church’s rules on a Saturday night -¦ it was hypocritical.

The grandparents of High Priest Legate Gabriel Steiner don’t seem overly concerned by their grandson’s Satanic dabblings.

As his grandmother told the Daily Telegraph: It’s a phase he is going through. At least he’s not on drugs.

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