Blood lettings and charity work: we talk to the south London doctor who is Satanic Temple International’s High Cardinal
A south London doctor in his 40s sits comfortably on a large sofa three of us share, one of his closest friends by his side.
He is surrounded by restaurant goers who are unaware that the founder and High Cardinal of Satanic Temple International sits just across from them.
“Why do you wanna know about me?” Zeke asks perplexed over the loud chatter of a busy Shoreditch cafe.
He wear his title modestly with what seems to be limited perception that it makes him somewhat different or interesting.
Zeke loves music, film, art, language, and like all members of the temple, does not believe in God, the devil, or hell.
He is articulate and engaging, passionate and totally unapologetic about his widely misconceived religion.
He is head of a branch of Satanism celebrating an ideology of the self, compassion, science, supporting women’s rights, helps abuse victims, and runs blood drives.
There’s no soul selling, communicating with the devil, killing babies or anything of the sort.
“Unfortunately there’s still a stigma with people being Satanist,” he said.
“Rosemary’s Baby isn’t a documentary, I have to tell everybody that.”
Identifying as Satanist inevitably brings a few raised eyebrows and confusion considering this is a religion which does not believe in the devil, but relates to the literary principles of a figure which rejects authority.
“Satan was made up. Satan’s not real, we don’t believe in Satan at all but we take imagery that we relate with,” he says.
“It has nothing to do with the religious texts. It just has to do with the icon we relate to. It could have been the f*cking yellow hat in the Curious George book and we would have been like, we’re gonna ascribe these things to the yellow hat, if there was something we felt touched by.”
He insists that lack of understanding towards the religion prevents people from seeing what he really believes in.
“A criticism that is often lodged at us is if you’re Satanist why do you give a sh*t about other people? And we give a sh*t about other people because we believe in charity and love and compassion.”
Zeke’s principles of Satanism are married with his outlook on life, relationships with people, his actions. He speaks about it with conviction and unassuming confidence about the positive impact it has had on his life.
“It’s changed my life in that its made me more of a critical thinker and also provided me with a framework that I could actually assess my beliefs and be able to talk about them.
“It’s helped me to be more compassionate with myself and a lot more forgiving about whatever behaviours I might do. I’m more gentle with myself and a little bit more encouraging.”
His belief in a religion he describes as something people feel confronted by for its evil connotations does not stop him from having meaningful relationships with people.
“My mother loves it!” he says.
“She just thinks it’s cute. She loves it. She’s so supportive. She’ll send me memes or little pictures of the devil.”
Dark and sarcastic humour characterises much of Zeke’s feelings towards the naysayers and ignorant attacks on Satanism.
He explains that on the surface Satanism can be something which looks scary, but he doesn’t want it to be something for people to be scared of.
“I don’t just like to get a reaction from people, but if I can bother the people who are shoving a ‘you’re a sinner’ flyer in front of my face I welcome the opportunity.
“There was a guy that had a sign outside of Tooting Bec station and it said ‘repent blah blah blah’ and I had a Satanic Temple sticker and I just walked up and smacked it right on there.”
This almost satirical attitude towards religion permeates much of what he says, though he insists they are not against religion.
“I’m not anti-religion, what I’m anti is anti-abuse, anti people pushing their sh*t on people who don’t wanna f*cking hear it.
“I love the idea of Jesus like somebody who was compassionate, that died for other people but I’m also not gonna be held emotionally hostage by the idea of some kind of blackmail where I’m indebted to this f*cking person for something I didn’t ask for.
“But I would never tell a mother whose child has just passed that there is no god.”
A stand-out feature of Satanism is the theatricality and showmanship which Zeke naturally thrives on in his leadership role.
Unbaptism ceremonies are a common ritual within the temple, giving people the opportunity to reclaim autonomy which is said to be taken away in a non-consensual baptism.
Ritual within the temple is also used to make statements about social issues.
“We did one that was called a blood letting. It involved taking a pint of my blood and then pouring it over my head on a stage. It was a statement about the limitations that were put on blood products from men who have sex with men and from sex workers.”
Underlying all of this is a passionate belief in the positive potential of action inspired by Satanist beliefs.
He says: “If people can do shitty things in the name of God, why can’t I do amazing things in the name of Satan?”