(Spoilers ahead for the sixth episode of “American Horror Story: Apocalypse,” “Return to Murder House”)
“American Horror Story” is at its best when it’s having fun, and the “Return to Murder House” episode of “Apocalypse” has one of the most fun scenes of the season when it introduces Anton LeVay (Carlo Rota) and his two Cardinals of the Church of Satan (Kathy Bates and Naomi Grossman). They’ve come to said Murder House to perform a ritual to set Michael Langdon (Cody Fern) on the path to becoming the Antichrist.
During the ritual, they sacrifice a young woman (Emily Mest), with LaVey reaching inside her body while she’s still alive and pulling out her heart. Which Langdon then takes a big bite out of, triggering a cartoonish devil shadow behind him.
It’s a really amusing bit for those familiar with the real-life Church of Satan and the real Anton LeVay. In the real world, Satanism exists more as a middle finger to Christianity than an actual religion of its own — this comes through when Grossman is explaining how they found the house: “We followed a dark star from the west.” A direct joke about the Three Wise Men in Bible finding baby Jesus by following a bright star from the east.
In any case, LeVay established the Church of Satan as a sort of nihilistic libertarian humanism club. And they don’t actually worship Satan or anything else. It’s basically all just for funsies. The real LaVey would likely have been amused by his portrayal on the show, however. His whole thing with Satanism was all about flouting conventions and he relished the sort of villain role he was given by those who were horrified by the concept of Satanism but had no idea what it actually was.
LaVey’s official title in the church was not actually Black Pope, but rather just Bishop of the Church of Satan. “Black Pope” was a moniker given by the media back in the 1960s shortly after the church was founded, when LaVey was drumming up publicity by performing Satanic weddings and giving his three-year-old daughter a “Satanic baptism.”
LeVay, by the way, died in 1997. The “AHS” version of addresses this by saying that “I faked my death to prepare for this day.” A fun fact about his death: he died on Oct. 29, but his family insisted that it actually happened on Halloween. And then a life sized wax figure of LeVay attended his funeral. I think that probably about sums up what Satanism was all about.
Having thoroughly enjoyed Rota’s LaVey, I can’t help but hope he’ll pop up again somewhere else in “Apocalypse.” It seems like he’s probably out of the picture, since he hasn’t been seen in any of the later scenes depicting Michael’s upbringing, but I’m still going to hope. Only four episodes left, though, so we won’t have to wait too long to find out.