Satanic Temple Sues Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Netflix

Religious rights group The Satanic Temple hits Chilling Adventures of Sabrina with copyright infringement hex.

Netflix’s dark Archie universe show Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is in the middle of a magical battle. No, Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) the half-human, half-witch teen who only gets things half right isn’t back at it with her cousins, Weird Sisters Prudence (Tati Gabrielle), Agatha (Adeline Rudolph) and Dorcas (Abigail F. Cowen). They are fighting mortals this time, and in a very human arena. It looks like the Women’s Intersectional Cultural and Creative Association (W.I.C.C.A.) members at Baxter High may have to go to the bats in a fight for the Baphomet (Goat of Mendes) statue at the Academy of Unseen Arts. The Satanic Temple filed a $50 million lawsuit and an injunction against Netflix and Warner Bros Entertainment over the statue of Baphomet used in the series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, according to Deadline.

Lucien Greaves, the spokesperson of the temple says the design is too close to the statue which has fronted their frontal assault for religious rights. The Satanic Temple, which is based in Salem, Mass., is not fighting this battle with religious rites, though. The suit alleges four of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s episodes featured the Baphomet statue, and the design was too close to the one created by the temple.

According to the lawsuit, the Satanic Temple’s statue was designed and created in 2013 and 2014, long before the series’ set designers cast around for their icon. The lawsuit alleges the temple’s statue is subject to copyright protection because it contains unique elements that make it an “original expression.” One of those unique elements, which Chilling Adventures of Sabrina does indeed also use, is Baphomet is rendered as a male goatman. This is a mistake on both their parts, as the original artistic rendition of the dark deity is a hermaphrotic, but more on that later.

“This case presents, among other things, a textbook example of the hornbook explanation of copyright protection that copyright law protects unique expressions, but not the ideas themselves,” the Satanic Temple’s lawyer, Bruce Lederman, wrote in the federal complaint. “What makes this case particularly striking and significant is that it arises in the context of Defendants who are highly sophisticated media production and distribution companies which blatantly misappropriated Plaintiff’s unique expression of an idea even though they have a long history of vigorously protecting their own intellectual property.”

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The Satanic Temple head claims Netflix’s show stole the copyrighted design of its Goat of Mendes statue. Earlier this year, The Satanic Temple considered suing Twitter for “religious discrimination” after a tweet calling for the temple to be burned down was massively retweeted, including by Corey Feldman, the actor who starred in Lost Boys, and who came forward with tales of childhood abuse in the entertainment industry.

The Satanic Temple alleges its expression of the TST Baphomet with Children is unique because it “consists of several modifications from the historic expressions of the deity, according to federal papers filed in the southern district of New York. Those original modifications are: (1) the placement of human children on either side, forming a triangle where (a) the children are male and female, respectively; (b) the children are a young male of African descent and young girl of Anglo-Saxon descent, respectively; (c) the human children are wearing particular clothes, with the girl wearing knee length sleeveless dress with a prominent high waisted sash, and the boy wearing a sports coat, (d) the girl has straight shoulder length hair with exposed ears and the boy has close cropped hair establishing African ancestry, and (2) use of an exposed male chest, instead of exposed large voluptuous female breasts. Importantly, these original expressions are misappropriated through use of an obvious copy which is featured prominently throughout the Sabrina Series and the central focal point of the school in the Sabrina Series which represents evil antagonists.

The suit claims the Sabrina Series “depicts the evil antagonists in conformity to the ‘Satanic Panic’ conspiracy theories from the 1980s.” It is an evil antagonist and stands “in stark contrast to TST’s tenets and beliefs. By misappropriating TST Baphomet with Children (which is a registered copyright and famous mark of TST) to publish this false and defamatory depiction of TST, Defendants have engaged in three classes of wrong: copyright infringement (Claim 1), trademark violation (Claim 2), and injury to business reputation (Claim 3). peeved about what it says is its work showing up on the recently launched series from Riverdale EP Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, but also the context in which it is displayed.”

 “Yes, we are taking legal action regarding #TheChillingAdventuresofSabrina appropriating our copyrighted monument design to promote their asinine Satanic Panic fiction,” Greaves tweeted on Oct 28, 2018. Greaves tweeted that the series was promoting “asinine Satanic Panic fiction” along with an image of the two statues next to one another for comparison purposes. “The Satan of Modern Satanism is a metaphorical icon for Enlightenment values,” Greaves wrote in an op-ed for The New Haven Register. “I identify nontheistically with a Miltonic Satan that defies all subjugation, exalts scientific inquiry and promotes Humanistic, pluralistic values.” Greaves confirmed the group’s lawyer sent a letter to Netflix on Sunday.

The Satanic Temple’s legal advisor Stuart de Haan, shared the demand letter he sent to Netflix and Warner Bros. Entertainment with The Hollywood Reporter. “My client is struggling to overcome centuries of stigma surrounding their religious symbolism,” writes de Haan. “My client has expended considerable efforts in the design and creation of their particular expression of Baphomet, the goat-headed deity represented by this monument. This statue is an original work and, until now, has been associated exclusively with The Satanic Temple all around the world. This has deep religious significance to my client’s organization.”

When first reported, the temple wanted Netflix and Warners to remove ads depicting the Baphomet statue, and CGI it out of the series. “I’m amazed that anybody is confused as to why we would seek legal remedy over Sabrina using our monument, Greaves tweeted. “Would they be as understanding of a fictional show that used a real mosque as the HQ of a terrorist cell? A fictional Blood Libel tale implicating real world Jews?”

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Further reading: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Egg Cleansings Explained

The Satanic Temple are “Satanists, secularists, and advocates for individual liberty” who ” understand the Satanic figure as a symbol of man’s inherent nature, representative of the eternal rebel, enlightened inquiry and personal freedom rather than a supernatural deity or being.” They commissioned Mark Porter’s Baphomet statue in response to a monument to the Ten Commandments in front of the Oklahoma State Capitol in 2014. The Temple argued in front of the Supreme Court a Christian statue of the Ten Commandments violated a constitutional ban on using public property to benefit a specific religion. They won. The 2,000 pound monument is currently parked on a flatbed truck in front of the Arkansas State Capitol, protesting another Ten Commandments monument.

Greaves spent more than $100,000 on designing the temple’s version which was “directly copied for use to portray a cannibalistic cult” on the show, according to his tweets. “Having one’s central icon associated with human sacrifice in an evil patriarchal cult is hardly good exposure,” he wrote in a response on his feed.

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Greaves claims the Satanic Temple was never contacted by anyone involved with the series. “I think that’s kind of a coincidence,”Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s production designer Lisa Soper told Vice.  “When you look at Baphomet, there’s really only a couple of statues of him — which, they have their statue, and we’ve got our statue in the show. If you look at Goya paintings, if you look at a lot of the tarot cards, or the Alistair Crawley iterations of him—because there’s hundreds and hundreds of iterations of him, he’s always seen with his people around him.”

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Both the Temple and Netflix’s designs are similar to the popular mid-19th century illustration of Baphomet. The sabbatic Goat of Mendes, the Greek name for Djedet, Egypt, image was first drawn by French occult author Eliphas Levi in 1856 and was intended to symbolize the equilibrium of opposites. Baphomet also appeared in an engraving of the 1897 book La Clef de la Magie Noire, by French nobleman and occultist Stanislas de Guaita.  France’s Maurice Bessy interpreted Levi’s image for a book cover in 1961. It was used on early Church of Satan membership cards. Levi’s Baphomet was used in the work of Aleister Crowley.

Baphomet dates back to 12th-century Europe. It didn’t have a Goat head until the 19th century. However, the very word “Baphomet” may have all been a misunderstanding or bad translation of the word Mohammed. Anselm of Ribemont, a French crusader, wrote in a July 1098 letter that said the Saracens “called loudly upon Baphometh; and we prayed silently in our hearts to God, then we attacked and forced all of them outside the city walls.” Mosques were called Bafumarias in the region, at the time. Baphomet also sounded like the Old French word for Mohammed, “Mahomet.”

Further reading: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Will Have an Exorcist Episode

On October 13, 1307, King Philip IV of France ordered the arrest of the Knights Templar in France. The Templar were rich and Phil probably owed them a lot of money, and was possibly scared of a military coup. He had hundreds of Knights Templar suddenly arrested and accused of heresy. They would be tortured until they confessed. And they really went Medieval on these guys, as was Inquisition fashion of Medieval France. The Templar were accused of spitting on the cross, urinating on it, indulging in sodomy, ad worshipping Baphomet as an idol, practically accusing the Knights of being covert Muslims.

The Catholic Church accused blasphemers of worshiping it as an idol. The idea kicked around for 500 years, with Baphomet appearing in Hermetic Texts and grimoires like the Book of Abramelin. In an 1818 Viennese essay, Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall claimed Baphomet pointed to Baphomet as something as old as Egyptian or Gnostic Christian Ophites’ stone structure of a hermaphrodite god.

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In 1854, French ceremonial magician Elphias Levi said the Sabbatic Goat represented the universe in the form of binary opposites, which explains importance of the hermaphroditic elements at the core of magic. The winged creature had a rod for sex organs, which symbolized immorality, with a torch between his horns and a goat’s head, and a pentagram on the forehead, or third eye. Levi’s goat head comes from the Egyptian goat-headed deity Banebdjedet, who represented the soul of Osiris, tough he mixed in a little Pan. Both Pan and the goat Mendes were worshipped as gods of generation and fecundity. The Goat of Mendes was a symbol of the Egyptian Neter Amon, or “hidden one, he who abides in all things, the soul of all phenomena.”

The pentagram comes from the Pythagorean tradition. It is a symbol of magic, if the star points upward, it is female magic, if it points downward, it is male magic. The downward angle has come to represent Satanic thought.

“The Pentagram, which in Gnostic schools is called the Blazing Star, is the sign of intellectual omnipotence and autocracy,” Eliphas Lévi wrote in his Dogme et Rituel de la haute magie. “It is the Star of the Magi. The direction of its points, this absolute magical symbol represents order or confusion, the Divine Lamb of Ormuz and St. John, or the accursed goat of Mendes. It is initiation or profanation; it is Lucifer or Vesper, the star of morning or evening. It is Mary or Lilith, victory or death, day or night. The Pentagram with two points in the ascendant represents Satan as the goat of the Sabbath; when one point is in the ascendant, it is the sign of the Savior. By placing it in such a manner that two of its points are in the ascendant and one is below, we may see the horns, ears and beard of the hierarchic Goat of Mendes, when it becomes the sign of infernal evocations.”

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The torch glorifies the pursuit of knowledge. Levi wrote: “The flame of intelligence shining between his horns is the magic light of the universal balance, the image of the soul elevated above matter, as the flame, whilst being tied to matter, shines above it.” The Latin words on the Sabbatic Goat’s arms, COAGULA and SOLVE, mean to join together and take apart.

The two-finger salute, which is two fingers on the right hand pointing up to the white moon of Chesed and two on the left hand point down to the black one of Geburah. This refers to “as above, so below,” which comes from the works of ancient occultis Hermes Trismegistus. Baphomet’s stomach has an old Greek symbol of two serpents entwined around the staff which was carried by Hermes.

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Levi’s image contains binary elements representing the “sum total of the universe” “the equilibrium of the opposites” that was essential to his concept of the Astral Light. Aleister Crowley used Levi’s Baphomet in his Gnostic Mass. Crowley described Baphomet as a divine androgyne, mystical perfection through opposites. This influenced his theories of sex magick. Crowley also connected ideas of suppressed knowledge and secret worship, thus Baphomet, with Satan.  Paul Jagot’s Science Occulte et Magie Pratique from 1924 labeled “the pentagram expressive of subversion.”

Like the androgyne of Khunrath, one arm is female, the other male, the attributes of which we had to unite with those of our goat because he is one and the same symbol. The rod standing instead of genitals symbolizes eternal life. Humanity is represented by the two breasts and the androgyne arms of this sphinx of the occult sciences.

In Magick (Book 4), Crowley wrote Baphomet was a divine androgyne and “the hieroglyph of arcane perfection. But both the series and the Temple took the breasts off. Greaves says it was because he didn’t want his organization caught up in a gender debate. But, as Dan Brown’s pointed out in Da Vinci Code, Baphomet can also mean Sophia or wisdom.

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Lévi’s Baphomet is the source of the Devil image in the Rider-Waite Tarot deck and, was a character in the book The Day After Judgment, written by Star Trek novelizer James Blish. Church of Satan’s Anton LaVey first used Levi’s design for the cover of The Satanic Mass album, which came out in 1968. But it soon became the official insignia of the Church of Satan, which is separate to The Satanic Temple. The Church of Satan received a trademark which protects the use of the Sigil of Baphomet with the words “Church of Satan” in 1983.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.