Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 249–266 | Cite as

Interpreting the Satanic Legend

  • James Hunter


It is argued that recent hysteria about Satanic cults can best be understood as moral panic and urban legend. Data from a wide variety of sources, including the author's own personal experience, are brought forward in support of this thesis. It is then suggested that if we are not to remain at the mercy of the anxieties and distortions that produce this moral panic, we must interpret the legend. The interpretation that is offered is that this most recent outbreak of panic about satanism is specifically about a growing awareness of the ubiquity of intergenera-tional eros.


Personal Experience Moral Panic Recent Outbreak Satanic Cult Urban Legend 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Smith, M. and Pazder, L., Michelle Remembers. New York: Congdon and Lattes, 1980, p. 95.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
  3. 3.
    Goode, E. and Ben-Yehuda, N., Moral Panics: The Social Construction of Deviance. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ibid., p.57.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    “Satanic Cults and Children,” ABC News Special, November 19, 1987. Quoted in Victor, J., Satanic Panic: The Creation of a Contemporary Legend. Chicago, Open Court, 1993, pp.32-33.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Smith, op. cit., p.158.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Goode, op. cit., p.34.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Bass, E. and Davis, L., The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. New York: Harper and Row, 1988, p.417.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Ofshe, R. and Waters, E., Making Monsters: False Memories, Psychotherapy, and Sexual Hysteria. New York: Scribner, 1994, p.193.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Goode, op.cit., p.36.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Nathan, D. and Snedeker, M., Satan's Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt. New York: Basic Books, 1995, p.2.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
  13. 13.
    Ofshe, op. cit., p. 173.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
  15. 15.
    Nathan, op. cit., p.72.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ibid. pp. 79-80.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Goodyear-Smith, F., First Do No Harm: The Sex Abuse Industry. Auckland, New Zealand: Benton-Guy, 1993, p.47.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Loftus, E. and Ketcham, K., The Myth of Repressed Memory. New York: St. Martin's, 1994, p.14.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Ibid., p.18.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Ofshe, op. cit., p. 241.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Ibid., p. 202.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Goode, op. cit., p.38.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Ibid., p. 199.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Nathan, op. cit., p.3.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Loftus, op. cit., p. 54.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Martinson, F., The Sexual Life of Children. Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey, 1994, p. 8.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Hunter, J., “The Phallic Child: Its Emergence and Meaning in a Clinical Setting,” American Journal of Psychotherapy, 1995, 49,3, pp.428-445.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Higman, E., “Sexuality in the Infant and Neonate: Birth to Two Years,” in Benjamin Wolman and John Money, Handbook of Human Sexuality. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1993, p.17.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Ibid., p.18.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Green, R., The “Sissy Boy Syndrome” and the Development of Homosexuality. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987, p.158.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Goodyear-Smith, op. cit., p.67.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Freund, K., Mc. Knight, C., Langevin, and Cibiri, S., “The Female Child as a Surrogate Object.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 1972, 2,2, pp. 119-132.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Ibid., p.131.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Godeon, C., Hall, N, Hirschman, R., Oliver, L., “Sexual Arousal and Arousability to Pedophilic Stimuli in a Community Sample of Normal Men.” Behavior Therapy, 1995, 26, p. 690.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Smiljanich, K., and Briere, J., “Self Reported Sexual Interest in Children: Sex Differences and Psychosocial Correlates in a University Sample,” Violence and Victims, 1996, 11,1, pp.39-50.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Person, E., “Gender Differences in Sexual Behaviors and Fantasies in a College Population,” Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 1989, 15, pp.187-198.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Briere, J., and Runtz, M., “University Males' Sexual Interest in Children: Predicting Potential Indices of ‘Pedophilia’ in a Nonforensic Sample,” Child Abuse and Neglect, 1989, 13, pp.65-75.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Ibid., p. 71.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Blanton-Peale Institute 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Hunter
    • 1
  1. 1.Lincoln

Personalised recommendations