RPG Satanic Panic

Marcus Katz

My second girlfriend was a Satanist. She was also a store assistant who looked after her critically ill parents at home, and had a cat. She had no interest in D&D, but a lot of my local clergy did.

Here is an article from our local city newspaper, the Derby Evening Telegraph. I cut this out of the paper in about 1985, I would imagine – I would have been 20 at the time, and had been playing D&D and reading tarot cards for about seven years. I had been initiated into a Witchcraft coven some two years prior to this article.

“Ban Evil Game” article from the Derby Evening Telegraph, c. 1985.

My parents were into Yoga and several New Age interests, and encouraged both my esoteric studies and my D&D. My Dad bought me the Encyclopedia of Tarot for Christmas when it first came out in 1978, so I was 13, and the Holmes Blue Book for my D&D interest.

I think I got the Monster Manual for my 14th birthday in January 1979 and the rest of the AD&D rulebooks later that same year, buying them with a combination of my allowance and earning from gardening jobs in the summer.

So, despite a bit of publicity in the newspaper, there was little impact of the “D&D satanic panic” on our RPG gaming, nor on my listening to Rush and Black Sabbath, nor on my witchcraft and tarot practice. We lived in a quite sleepy village in Derbyshire, so I guess we were a bit in the backwater for such things.

In fact, even the actual “satanic panic” of the 80’s, concerning child abuse carried out with ‘satanic rituals’ did not really impact me, although I do know at least three people who were “investigated” by social services, back in the day.

It turned out that there was no such thing as a wide-scale organised satanic ring of abusers other than the very serious but luckily rare cases over many decades that an abuser was masquerading as a ‘satanist’.

The actual satanists I knew over that time had practices that were nothing to do with such concepts – they had no abusive thoughts or practices whatsoever, as with most people. At best, they were “noble rebels” and at worse “disempowered elitists” but none of them were abusers of anything, they were if anything too self-centred for most forms of engagement with others.

And as we have unfortunately come to discover more and more, the actual historical abuse – abuse that has been testified over and over, and proven in droves – came not from ‘satanists’ but from within the church. Meanwhile, the church was busy condemning a game, when it perhaps should have first examined its own house.

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