Gothic Satanism was an invention of the Christian Church at the time of the Witch burnings. Christians believe that it existed then and was a great threat to the established order. Many Christians (particularly conservative ones) still believe this today. However, it is an imaginary religion that does not exist in reality.
Throughout the 15th Century, there was a rising hysteria within the Christian Church about the perceived presence of Satan worshipers, who were seen as a destabilizing influence. The Witch burnings (sometimes called the burning times or the female holocaust) began.
Two Dominican priests, Kramer and Sprenger wrote a book circa 1486 The Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches' Hammer) which became the main reference text for the genocide. They wrote that these Gothic Satanists:
The last European victim of the "Burning Times" was burned at the stake in 1792, although the Church continued to exterminate heretics by burning in South America into the 1830's.
Near the end of the "Burning Times", the concept of the Black Mass was added to the public's beliefs about Satanists. This was allegedly a parody on the Roman Catholic Mass. Urine and dirty water were substituted for wine; moldy bread or turnips were substituted for the host. The Mass was said in the local language (opposite to the Church's use of Latin). Texts were read backwards. The cross would be spat upon and broken. Infants would be sacrificed. Public beliefs about Gothic Satanism coalesced into a religion that was anti-Christian in every detail.
Gothic Satanism - Today
500 years later, many people believe that Gothic Satanists remain a great threat. In the State of Utah, about 90% of adults believe in the existence of Satanic groups who abuse and kill infants. Satanists are no longer believed to fly through the air on broomsticks or instantaneously vanish. But the baby killing, selling ones soul to Satan, rituals involving a goat, breaking a cross or crucifix, even shape shifting between animal and human has been described by modern Fundamentalist or other Evangelical Christian authors. Many writers and seminar speakers may be completely unaware that most of their source material can be traced back to the texts used by the Renaissance Witch hunters. Outrageous claims have been made of 60,000 ritual killings a year in North America, and of baby breeding prisons where young women are kept continually pregnant so that their infants can be taken and sacrificed. The concept of Gothic Satanism as being thoroughly anti-Christian has remained intact for centuries.
No criminal investigation in the past 300 years is known to have found hard evidence of Satanic Ritual Abuse (with the possible exception of a case in Greece during 1995). However, many Americans and Europeans believe that a highly organized, secret, internationally controlled network of Gothic Satanists exists. Tens of millions of Americans believe that it is a major social threat, even though no physical evidence of its existence has ever been found. Countless law officers have searched for this form of abuse for decades without success. The public's belief in Satanic Ritual Abuse is largely supported by thousands or tens of thousands of adults who have recovered what are believed to be false memories of abuse as a result of Recovered Memory Therapy. A second support for the belief occurred in the 1980's and early 1990's when many court cases were fought over what was believed to be ritual abuse in day care centers, pre-schools, baby-sitting services, church Sunday schools, etc. Young children disclosed stories of horrendous physical and sexual abuse. Much of it was ritual in nature. Hundreds of adults were convicted as perpetrators of MVMO (Multi-Victim, Multi-Offender) child abuse, and given long jail sentences. Research has since shown that the children's' memories were probably of events that never happened, but which arose as a result of faulty interview techniques, where repetitive and direct questioning was used.
There are many indicators that Gothic Satanism does not exist: