Five Rockers Who Rolled With The Devil

by Jeff Suwak

From the moment that Elvis Presley first took stage and knocked America's daughters senseless with his gyrating hips, concerned parents have been derailing rock and roll as a tool of the Devil. Since that time, many of rock and roll's biggest stars have indulged, to various degrees, in their craft's association with the dark side. Some have feigned occult interests purely for shock value, but a smaller group has actually experimented with the dark arts. A still smaller sample has gone even further - by, you know, actually worshiping Satan.

Looking back on it now, rock and roll's occult entanglements produced some of the genre's most interesting stories. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes horrific, these pieces of pop-music lore never fail to fascinate.
Black Sabbath

Of all the names that appear in this piece, Black Sabbath's is likely the least surprising, which is somewhat ironic considering Sabbath's members have spent decades trying to dissociate themselves from their demonic image. In 1998, Ozzy Osbourne was even forced to defend himself before a national television audience during Geraldo Rivera's Devil Worship: Exposing Satan's Underground expose/sensationalist piece of fear mongering.

The truth is that Sabbath was hardly innocent in the creation of their monstrous mythology. The grainy artwork used for their self-titled 1970 debut album looks like a still from a serial killer's home movie collection. That same album also happened to contain a conveniently inverted cross framing a poem about "rabbits, born dead in traps" and "a grey earth of severed bird wings."

The band's manager Jim Simpson really upped the ante with a rumor he started and enflamed in 1970. Simpson claimed that a German talk show had sent the band five roundtrip tickets and one one-way ticket for their upcoming appearance. The one-way ticket, according to this clever piece of subversive PR, was for the victim that the band was going to sacrifice on live television. We must remember that the people of 1970 didn't have an internet and were still quite new to shock media. Heavy, mind-altering drug use was also quite common. So it was that this rumor got some power behind it and swelled in the imaginations of some fans and some detractors, alike.

By the time Sabbath decided that their Satanic image was as much a pain as a boon, it was too late. They could not so easily dislodge themselves from the position of exalted hellishness they had created. And, to be sure, that hellishness came with a price — namely in the form of batshit crazy fans who started to look to Sabbath as actual Satanic overlords.

One of the funnier tales to come out of this period in the band's history arose when Osbourne stepped out of a hotel elevator to find numerous figures dressed in black coats and painted hats, all bearing lighted black candles in silent vigil. Without missing a beat, Osbourne traipsed right through the crowd blowing the candles out and singing "Happy Birthday."

The band was also officially cursed by a group of Satanists for refusing to play a special concert at Stonehenge. The word "curse" here isn't meant in the sense of "insult" or "chastisement," but as an actual black magic curse. Sabbath laughed the whole thing off. In spite of whatever dabbling any of them did in the occult or Satanism, they never took any of it seriously. Certainly not as seriously as some of their fans.

A Christian Black Sabbath song?

The 1971 Sabbath track "After Forever" is so God-friendly, Stryper covered it. Sample lyric:

They should realize
Before they criticize
That God is the only way to love
Maybe the creepiest tale to come out of Sabbath's satanic and occult fan base happened one night while Osbourne, Terence "Geezer" Butler, and a couple assistants were driving out of Houston to their next concert venue (location is not remembered in the official account). For the entire 350-mile journey they were trailed by a car containing three men. The band pulled off the road a couple times, and each time the mysterious pursuers kept up with them. They followed them, in fact, right into the parking lot of their hotel, where they proceeded to wait outside the bar while Sabbath played their show.

In his book How Black was our Sabbath, David Tangye, Osbourne's personal assistant and close friend, remembers the rest of the story thusly:

When Sabbath finished the gig, we dashed back to the hotel to catch the bar before it closed, and we felt very uneasy to see that the three men in the car were still lurking around. Albert Chapman and I approached one of them and asked what he was after. Did he want an autograph? A T-Shirt? We wanted to know why his company had followed us to Houston.

The guy was totally out-of-it, but not drunk. His pupils were dilated, and he seemed unable to comprehend what we were saying to him. I told him that the band were not too happy with him and his friends, and suggested they should leave. With that, he started yelling, 'Sabbath are the true Messiahs! Satan lives!'

The band returned to the bar and continued drinking — the natural reaction one would expect in such a situation, of course. They shut the place down and returned to their beds to sleep. Tangye, who was sharing a room with Osbourne, heard a knock at their door. No one was there when he went to investigate. "Ten minutes later," Tangye writes, "the phone rang and it was Albert Chapman, asking me to come to his room because he could hear mumbling and chanting outside the door."

On the way to Chapman's room, Tangye saw the men who had followed them from Houston disappear down a stairwell. Tangye had the night porter call the police. This was 1970 and these were Black Sabbath associates, so they didn't ask the cops for help. Instead, they asked for permission to "sort them out ourselves if they came back." The cops assented.

Exactly what followed isn't clear. Tangye only reports that he and Chapman "cornered them and spoke to them in a universal language they obviously understood, since they left the hotel at great speed and did not bother us again."

One can only wonder if the Satanic groupies would have felt such confidence in Sabbath's demonic prowess if they'd been able to view an episode of Osbourne tottering around and mumbling in one of his reality television episodes.

Always simple blue collar lads at heart, Black Sabbath never did try to cash in on their fan's religious loyalty. Far as we know, they never tried to start a cult — not even a little one. This is no small wonder, really, when one considers the complete lack of self-restraint that the band members exhibited in other areas over the course of their careers.

The Rolling Stones

In 1968, Sandy Leiberson produced a television special titled The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. This odd little piece of filmic wonder, running 66-minutes, also featured such acts as Jethro Tull, The Who, and little-remembered supergroup The Dirty Mac, which included John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Mitch Mitchell (of Jimi Hendrix Experience fame). The recording would not be released to the public until 1996.

Jagger and the Stones claimed they refused a timely release of the special because they were tired during their performance and did not sound up to their standards. Others say the real motivation for keeping it hidden was that The Stones were embarrassed at getting their doors blown off by The Who. To this day, no one is really sure which version is true. Really, looking at the two explanations, it seems like they go hand-in-hand.

The most interesting scene in this little-known television special comes when Mick Jagger tears his shirt off mid-performance to reveal an image of Lucifer on his chest. Part of this was probably a publicity stunt by Jagger, who had remarked a couple times to confidants that Satanism and the occult were going to be "the next big thing" in American culture. However, according to qualified sources such as Marianne Faithfull and Stones drug-supplier, errand-runner, and biographer Tony Sanchez, Jagger's flirtations with the occult and Satanism were not all just for show.

We'll start our strange little tale with a fellow by the name of Kenneth Anger, who is recognized in certain circles as an influential and respected experimental filmmaker. His film Lucifer Rising is still sometimes shown in theaters today (it also starred Bobby Beausoleil, who would go on to commit murder as part of the Manson Family). Anger was also a serious occultist and magician, a shadowy yet influential personality in the '60s and '70s counterculture scene.

Anger's interest in the occult was no passing dalliance. When he was still only in high school he converted to Thelema, a religion founded by "the wickedest man in the world," Aleister Crowley (immortalized as the subject of Ozzy Osbourne's "Mr. Crowley" and displayed among the faces in the background of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band). In 1967, when Yippie leaders Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin enticed thousands to encircle the Pentagon and try to levitate it, Anger knelt under a truck trying to cast an Enochian spell to exorcise the building. It didn't work.

Mick Jagger takes the voice of Satan in "Sympathy For The Devil," which was inspired by a book called The Master and Margarita. In this tale, the Devil is not a cartoonish horned figure, but a sophisticated chap - a "man of wealth and taste."
Anger met The Rolling Stones at art dealer Robert Fraser's apartment. As Tony Sanchez writes, Mick Jagger "listened spellbound as Anger turned them on to Crowley's powers and ideas." Despite accounts that it was only the beginning of a longer exploration of the occult, Jagger was always very careful about making his feelings public (except, of course, for that whole Lucifer-tattoo incident at the television special), and except for a couple vague admissions of "interest in the occult," he never announced any dark allegiances. The appeal of it all might have been to his ego as much as anything, as certain members of the occult subculture would come to see Jagger as an expression of Satan himself.

Much more brash and open in his appreciation of Anger and Crowley was Keith Richards, who told Rolling Stone magazine that he was Anger's right-hand man and that "everyone" should give Satan a try. "There are black magicians who think we're acting as unknown agents of Lucifer and others who think we are Lucifer," he said in that same interview. "Everybody's Lucifer." He was also set to marry Anita Pallenberg in a pagan ritual headed by Anger until he was angered at finding the inside of his front door gold as part of some kind of magic spell of protection.

Also inserted into this strange scene was Scottish painter-cum-film-director Donald Seaten Cammell, also an admirer of Crowley and practitioner of magick (wielders of Thelema add a 'k'), and his idea for a film titled Performance. The movie has gone on to become something of a cult favorite (cult as in the cult of fringe movie fans, not the religious kind), but more fascinating is the dark story of its creation, and how that story expresses the Stones' dark explorations.

Cammell was interested in doing more than simply filming a surreal tale that explored the enigma of personal identity. He wanted the filming process itself to be a dark work of art that wove in and out of the film's plot to create a separate reality. The whole thing was like two mirrors set in front of each other. Examining it now, the process of filming itself seemed to be not simply a production process but a ritualistic one.

Marianne Faithfull called Peformance "a psycho-sexual lab run by Cammell, with actor James Fox the prime experimental animal." Fox was a good score for Cammell, as he was at that time considered a rising Hollywood star. Yet, despite this, Fox was subjected to a series of mind games and abuses that would eventually compel him to leave acting altogether.

Jagger announced that he intended to "do Fox in." The rock star exerted the power of his personality over the actor throughout the filming process and played games with his mind. Cammell and Anita Pallenberg assisted in the tormenting of Fox. According to lore, the three manipulators at one point dosed Fox with LSD without the actor's knowledge and captured his ensuing confusion in a scene that had Fox' character being fed a magic mushroom — again, reality and film reality being distorted and interwoven.

The whole thing would ultimately prove too great a strain on Fox. After Performance, he would not act again for 13 years, opting instead for life as a fundamentalist Christian. "Performance gave me doubts about my way of life," he explained decades later. "Before that I had been completely involved in the more bawdy side of the film business. But after that everything changed."

Not everyone else involved with Performance walked away so easily. Enough things started going wrong that a "Performance curse" entered the conversation. Several people involved in the film, including Richards and his girlfriend Anita Pallenberg, slipped over the precipice from recreational drug use into full-blown heroin addiction. One of them, Michèle Breton, ended up in a German psychiatric clinic. Brian Jones, who was not directly involved in the film but was a Stone, was found dead in a swimming pool. Cammell's career broke down after Performance. In 1996, after years of failing to break into the Hollywood big money club, he shot himself in the head.

To supporters of the curse theory, everything culminated with the disastrous free concert at Altamont, where the Hell's Angels working security (maybe not the best idea) beat several hippies senseless and then stabbed to death 18-year-old Meredith Hunter, supposedly for drawing a gun.

Performance curse or not, Altamont did, indeed, seem doomed from the start. In his book The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, Todd Gitlin wrote, "I heard about the killing that night, on the radio, having left before the Stones took the stage. But by the time I left, in the late afternoon, Altamont already felt like death. Let it sound mystical, I wasn't the only one who felt oppressed by the general ambience; a leading Berkeley activist told me he had dropped acid at Altamont and had received the insight that 'everyone was dead.'"

Marianne Faithfull was also among those who believed that Jagger and the Stones unleashed dark forces on the world. "That frenzied power caused many of the casualties of the '60s," she wrote in her biography.

For his part, Cammell seemed to consider the show to be a great success. "This movie was finished before Altamont and Altamont actualized it," he said. He'd be hard pressed to find any supporters for his interpretation. For most non-Devil-worshiping folk, Altamont was the tragic culmination of the dark machinery working behind the era's flowered tapestry.

An interesting but non-Satanic side note of the Performance saga is that outtakes of Jagger's sex scene with Anita Pallenberg reportedly won the singer an award at an Amsterdam porn festival.

Jagger's and Richard's occult exploration seemed to cool after Altamont. Anger approached Jagger about starring in his film Lucifer Rising, but the rock star declined. Jagger also reportedly burned all of his occult books. The two Stones had gotten burned by the Devil, but at least they survived to tell the tale.

Two years later Don McLean summed it all up in a verse in his classic "American Pie" (one of the verses whose interpretation the artist has verified). Looking back now, it's interesting to speculate about whether or not McLean knew of the Stones' Satanic indulgences or if he just hit upon it by accident.

So come on Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
'Cause fire is the devil's only friend
Oh and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell
Could break that Satan's spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died

David Bowie

David Bowie isn't one person so much as a gallery of personalities. He is possibly the only popular musician who could soundly beat out Bob Dylan (and arguably, Madonna) in an identity reinvention competition. From Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke to founder of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men (of which Jimmy Page was also a member) and a few dozen personae in between, Bowie is a concept more than a fixed person. The man swimming in the quicksilver is so hard to get a hold of that much of his legend has been lost, including those strange Rolling Stone and Playboy accounts by Cameron Crowe that told of finding Bowie burning black candles and drawing magic symbols, proclaiming himself the messiah, keeping bottles of his urine in the refrigerator, and standing up mid-interview to pull down a window shade with the word "Aum" drawn on it while declaring that he'd seen a body fall from the sky.

Wild and humorous as those old stories were, most occurring during the '70s, they marked a time that Bowie now remembers as being very dark and dangerous for him. In a 1983 interview with Musician magazine, he reports living in an apartment decked out in Egyptian décor.

Said Bowie, "It was one of those rent-a-house places but it appealed to me because I had this more-than-passing interest in Egyptology, mysticism, the Kabbalah, all this stuff that is inherently misleading in life, a hodgepodge whose crux I've forgotten... By the end of the week, my whole life would be transformed into this bizarre nihilistic fantasy world of oncoming doom, mythological characters and imminent totalitarianism."

The situation was no trivial flirtation that Bowie could simply pull himself away from. It took him years to gather himself and fix his damaged psyche. "For the first two or three years afterward," Bowie recalled, "while I was living in Berlin, I would have days where things were moving in the room - and this was when I was totally straight."

As recently as 1995, Bowie has explained his former belief system as "my overriding interest was in Kabbalah and Crowleyism." His statements started much earlier than that, though, coming in interviews and in private conversations, as well as in his lyrics. In his 1971 song "Quicksand," he declared, "I'm closer to the Golden Dawn, immersed in Crowley's uniform of imagery" (The Golden Dawn was a British hermetic order).

"Station to Station" (1976) is really one long reference to the Jewish mysticism of Kabbalah. The Kether and Malkuth of the song are two of the ten Sephirot of the Kabbalistic "Tree of Life." These are the emanations of the divine, interwoven in what seems like a hopelessly complex pattern, giving birth to all things in existence.

Bowie's earlier work begins to look quite different — stranger and more fascinating — when looked at through this mystical occult lens. Was he being more than merely fanciful with "Oh! You Pretty Things" when he sang: "I think about a world to come, where the books were found by the Golden Ones"?

In hindsight, it seems likely that he was. Songs like "The Supermen" ("Where all were minds in uni-thought, powers weird by mystics taught, no pain, no joy, no power too great") become a tad creepy if you view them through Bowie's then-paranoid, delusional mind.

All of this brings us back to that thing I mentioned about the rock star storing his urine in the refrigerator. Along with his magical practices, Bowie became obsessed with the notion of magical enemies. One night he was convinced that Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin had initiated some sort of magical attack upon entering his house. He lived on a diet of milk, peppers, and cocaine. Through all this madness and paranoia, he took to storing all his urine and hiding toenail clippings and lost hair, fearing that those items might be used in magic curses against him. He built an altar in his living room, painted his walls with magic symbols, and drew sigils on his friend's hands to protect them from magic attack. He exorcised his indoor swimming pool, convinced it was inhabited by the Devil.

Possibly the most bizarre story to come out of this period happened in 1974 when Bowie claimed he was kidnapped by a magician and two witches who wanted to use his sperm to fertilize a baby. For his part, Bowie insisted that this actually happened, suggesting that he at least earnestly believed it.

At this point, we may never know what actually did or did not happen between Bowie and the magician and his witches. Those years were very hard on the musician's body and mind, and many of those in his inner circle were not much better off in terms of the substances they consumed. What is clear, though, is that behind the scenes, one of the most recognizable faces in popular music was leading an unrecognizable life.

Tripping through alternate dimensions, summoning evil beings, living in paranoia of rival magicians, Bowie immersed himself in a dark reality that took him years to escape from. It also happened to produce some of his best music.


Everything leading up to this point has been quaint and cute compared to the story of the Norwegian black metal band Mayhem. In today's click-addicted world, every story becomes a launching point into the wilderness of the internet. In this particular, case, I'm going to urge caution. This story is dark, twisted, and just plain unnerving, and there are some images out there associated with it that will sear themselves into your brain permanently. Take caution before hunting them down.

Mayhem came together in 1984 in Oslo, formed by a fellow named Øystein Aarseth, who would eventually go by the name Euronymous. They basically created the Norwegian black metal scene and are still considered highly influential in that genre to this day. To those outside that circle, unfortunately, they're notorious for things a little less positive.

Per Yngve Ohlin went by the name "Dead." He was not a founding member of the band, but he elevated them to new levels of notoriety. He contacted the band with a request for membership stuck in a small package along with a crucified mouse.

His "Dead" stage name was not just a friendly moniker: He actually considered himself to be dead and did everything he could to actualize that state. Mayhem member Stian Johannsen, going by the name Occultus, explained, "He didn't see himself as human; he saw himself as a creature from another world. He said he had many visions that his blood has frozen in his veins, that he was dead. That is the reason he took that name. He knew he would die."

Not only did Dead wear "corpse paint," but he also buried his stage clothes between performances, only digging them up for shows. He cut himself with knives and glass before the crowd. Along with the rest of the band, he left impaled sheep and pig heads on spikes placed in front of the stage. These things didn't stop at the shows, however. Dead kept rotting bird corpses under his bed while he slept so that he was immersed in the scent of decomposition. This was for no one's benefit but his own.

Eventually, Dead decided to actually take the next step and commit suicide, and this is when the Mayhem story starts to go completely sideways. Euronymous found Dead's body, wrists slit and head done in by shotgun blast. A note read, "Excuse all the blood, cheers." A grisly scene, to be sure, but what followed is the really twisted part, as Euronymous left the house to purchase a disposable camera and returned to the scene to take pictures. He went so far as rearranging some things for aesthetic value. The image of the scene can be seen on the cover of the "Dawn of the Black Hearts" bootleg album (you're better off just taking my word for it).

Euronymous enthusiastically called bassist Jørn Stubberud, stage name "Necrobutcher," the next day and exclaimed, "Dead has done something really cool! He killed himself." Euronymous supposedly made stew out of Dead's brain bits and necklaces out of his skull chunks. The former part of that rumor has been denied by Mayhem members, but the latter part has been verified.

The suicide seemed to inspire Mayhem to move in a new, or at least more focused, direction towards Satanism and demonism. For his own part, Euronymous became more extreme in his attitudes, turning away former friends and threatening those who stayed in his circle.

Euronymous and others in the scene claimed to become full-fledged Devil worshipers of the theistic sort, meaning that they believed in the Devil as a literal, evil figure existing out there in the multiverse. This is opposed to the beliefs of the Church of Satan, which is atheistic and holds Satan and the Devil to be concepts rather than supernatural entities. Euronymous and his bunch, coincidentally, denounced the Church of Satan for its stance and for its soft-hearted moral values. Euronymous defined black metal as being music created by heavy metal bands who worshiped a theistic Satan and wrote about the subject.

The anti-Christian sentiments held by Euronymous and the Norwegian black metal scene led to the destruction of no less than 50 Christian churches. These arsons were not led and inspired only by Mayhem members. It was the Norwegian black metal scene as a whole, of which Euronymous and Mayhem were at the forefront. Many of the destroyed buildings were significant historical landmarks, hundreds of years old and marked by unique and beautiful architecture. Some of the heathen firebugs were eventually caught and convicted, but few showed any remorse for their actions. They also planned to attack mosques and Hindu temples, but this never materialized. All of the madness and darkness unleashed by the scene seemed to build inevitably towards murder. The only surprising part, really, was that one of the eventual victims ended up being the man who pioneered it all: Euronymous himself.

The first death came in the form of Magne Andreassen, an innocent person who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when black-metaler Bård 'Faust' Eithun decided to kill him. Andreassen, a homosexual, approached Faust in Olympic park. Faust led him out to the woods, drew his knife, and brutally dispatched the innocent man. Faust has said that someone was going to die that night by his hand, and the fact that it ended up being Andreassen was basically inconsequential. Associates of Faust have vouched for his passion for Satanism and serial killer stories. He was eventually caught and sentenced to 14 years in prison. Some have claimed that what followed resulted from an attempt to out-do the Andreassen murder, but this is purely speculative.

Varg Quisling Larsson Vikernes joined Mayhem as a session musician a year after Dead's suicide. A little more than one year later, he and Euronymous had a falling out. Vikernes today claims that he received word that Euronymous intended to take him down with an electroshock weapon and then bind and torture him to death on camera. Whether or not this was true, Vikernes says he believed it was, and he had this threat ringing in his ears as he drove to Euronymous' apartment to drop off a contract.

A struggle quickly erupted. Vikernes says it was initiated by Euronymous, but in all reality, what else would you expect a murderer to say? Many of those in the scene, including Faust, do not believe Vikernes' self-defense story. Later evidence further cast it into doubt, as a small conspiracy was exposed between Vikernes, Snorre "Blackthorn" Ruch, and an unidentified third man. Whatever initiated the event, the result was Vikernes stabbing Mayhem's founder to death, using 23 strokes to do the job. Vikernes was sentenced to 21 years in prison — fractionally less than a year per wound.

Some in the black metal scene were glad to see the totalitarian Euronymous dead. Others vowed retribution, mourning the death of their visionary and the loss of "discipline" in the movement. On a purely personal/human level, not much of anyone seemed to care a great deal either way. Euronymous said that he wanted to spread misery and pain, but his own death achieved little of that. As Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind point out in their book Lords of Chaos, it was striking "how little they care about the lives or deaths of one another."

The Norwegian black metal scene is still alive and kicking today. The violence and arsons thankfully seem to have died down. Not everyone in the scene is, or ever was, part of the malevolent movement Euronymous and Dead set into motion. But those events continue to cast a long shadow, and the music may never get out from under it.

Led Zeppelin

Four strange symbols accompany Led Zeppelin's untitled album, most often referred to as Led Zeppelin IV or ZoSo. These symbols add mystery to an already mysterious work. Yes, it's rock and roll, but there seems to be a deeper, subtle power in the music that belies description. Mythic, mystic, yet still danceable, songs like "Stairway to Heaven" sound like something heard through the wall of a parallel dream dimension.

The symbols, and perhaps some of the weird power infused in the music, can be traced to Jimmy Page's deep interest in magick and the occult. Indeed, Page was perhaps the original rocker-occultist, as Angie Bowie claims that David's interest in the subject stemmed from a desire to outdo Page's.

For a time, Page even owned an occult bookstore and publishing house called The Equinox (named after one of Aleister Crowley's journals) on Holland Street, Kensington, London. This store was no silly paperback slinger. Containing rare, expensive occult books, it was a source of knowledge for serious initiates only.

At around the same time he opened the Equinox, Page also purchased Crowley's former residence, the infamous Boleskine House, which sits on the shores of Loch Ness, Scotland. Visitors throughout history have claimed that the house is haunted or cursed. It was at Boleskine House that Page supposedly performed a magical rite with his bandmates (excluding John Paul Jones, who had no interest in messing with dark forces) to bring them power and fame.

The band's magical preoccupation can be seen in earnest starting with Led Zeppelin III. On the first pressings of this album were the words "So mote be it" and "Do what thou wilt," a line coming from Crowley's guiding philosophy: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." It's interesting to wonder what Page imagined he might accomplish, sending this line of instruction spinning over turntables around the world.

Led Zeppelin IV got more elaborate with its occult promotion. The hermit on the cover was a Tarot symbol that Page often identified with. Those strange symbols mentioned at the start of this story were mostly taken from Rudolf Koch's 1955 Book of Signs, which collected esoteric images from around the world. Robert Plant is represented by the feather in the circle. John Bonham is represented by the three interlocking rings. John Paul Jones is represented by the circle with three flower-petal-like shapes. ZoSo, meanwhile, belongs to Page. It is the one symbol whose meaning has never been publicly explained. Whatever it is, Page claims that it has great magical significance. Plant claimed that Page once explained the symbol's meaning, but he was too drugged out to remember what it was, and the next day Page refused to relate it again.

Sandy Denny, the only guest vocalist on Led Zeppelin IV, was also given a symbol. It appears after the song list printed in the album sleeve.

Entering here we have, once again, Kenneth Anger, who we previously met with The Rolling Stones. Anger and Page's mutual interest in Crowley led to a friendship and eventually to Page inviting Anger to stay at Boleskine and exorcise the spirit of a headless man that was haunting the grounds.

Things went well until Anger got into a feud with Page's wife, Charlotte. This led to Anger being expelled from the house. An enraged Anger swore to cast a curse on Page, and this is when things get really wonky, because it was just about this time that things started to go very wrong for Led Zeppelin.

That year, Robert Plant drove his car off a cliff in Greece. The accident nearly killed him, his wife and his child, and left him disabled for a long time afterwards. When the band finally was able to tour again, bad mojo seemed to plague them at every turn. Plant got laryngitis, making rehearsal impossible. Fans rioted in Cincinnati. A brawl between Zeppelin staff and promoter Bill Graham's people nearly left one man dead and, as a result, nearly landed Bonham in prison. Plant's son Karac died in 1977 of a stomach infection. Despite all the resources Plant's wealth allowed, doctors could not figure out what was wrong with the child until it was too late. Page slipped into a severe heroin addiction. Sandy Denny, previously mentioned as having been credited and given her own magic symbol on Led Zeppelin IV, broke her neck falling down stairs after a long period of severe alcoholism. And finally, of course, there was John Bonham, found dead in his bed after choking on vomit.

Led Zeppelin never recovered, and they disbanded after Bonham's death. They've had a few reunion concerts, with mixed results. If there is one band in rock history with a story odd enough to make a scientific-materialist feel superstitious, it's Led Zeppelin. All in all, the tale of Page and Anger is a strange one — even stranger, when all is said and done, than the band's infamous "shark episode."

No matter how sincere or how ostentatious, playing with the occult, Satanism, and the magical arts never seems to lead anywhere good for musicians. Whether it's drug-addled groupies knocking on their hotel doors at night or experimental filmmakers casting hexes on their future, something negative always seems to arise when they mess with the dark stuff.

Satan sure spices up the stories, though.

November 3, 2015, updated March 3, 2020
Related: Does Jimmy Page Worship The Devil? A Look At Satanism In Rock

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Comments: 8

  • Jd from Californiaall british
  • Shailendra Ahangama from From Colombo, Sri Lanka Truthfully, I cannot think of a whole lot of Sabbath songs where they include the Devil after 'N.I.B.' and Black Sabbath from their first album. And even then, the devil was used as a contextual, storytelling factor, much like how Zeppelin used Tolkien stories in their songs. And to Stephen Marsh from Hellertown, Pa, can you really call Sabbath anti Christian after seeing Mayhem on this list? And besides the lyric is meant to ridicule those who are the supposed heads of religion yet abdicate in representing its values. 'After Forever' is really a pro Christian song and I feel that Allen Peck from San Luis Valley, Colorado gives a good explanation of the lyric you think to be a misfit in 'After Forever'.
  • Jeff from San Jose CaliforniaExcellent article with information that supports what I have known from a long time ago.
  • Allen Peck from San Luis Valley, ColoradoActually, Mr Stephen Marsh from Hellertown PA, contrary to your comment above, Ozzy Osbourne was not the author who penned Black Sabbath's lyrics, rather it was their bass player, Terence 'Geezer' Butler. (not excusing in any way Ozzy Osbourne's direct and massive [mostly negative] influence and effect upon the youth of today {and yesterday})
    So just as a general FYI, the member of that band who was and is most interested by occult influence would have been, coincidentally or not, their lyricist, Mr. Butler. Just thought I'd pass that along.

    As an aside: Speaking from the point of view as a non-catholic, all I need do is slightly glance in the churchs' proverbial closets to learn of gargantuan and vile child sexual scandals, proven to have been rooted long and deep in your Catholic Church. And your Catholic Church is headed by whom? Yes, the one and the same: Mr. pope. Therefore, to me, when the man is referred to as a 'fool needing to be on the end of a rope....' Well, you may find that some people won't argue with that scenario.
  • Jody from Newburgh Its funny I remember a David Bowie interview with Hal Roker . They had a viewers call in with questions segment . One of the viewers called in and asked " David you look so young for your age , what exactly were the terms of your deal with the devil "? David turned white(r) and retorted " Oh everyone knows there is no devil "!
  • Stephen Marsh from Hellertown, Pa.funny how the same Black Sabbath song you quoted as "Christian" has the lyric..."would you like to see the pope on the end of a rope, do you think he's a fool? .....sounds Pro-Christianity to me, how about you? I know what the song's context is, but you must understand that even if Ozzy later on in the song writes lyrics like you mentioned, or another line in that song is.... I believe it is true it was people like you who crucified Christ...... very thought provoking , Ozzy... but people generally don't take lyrics in the context of the entirety of the song. Therefore when Ozzy sings the line first mentioned by you in your article in After Forever, People have not heard what he HAS YET to sing, and even after they have, what sticks in their head? the anti-Christian statement of course. Just a way to sell records and get rich.
  • Lorna Jane Garnett from Subqutainius CastaicMy denominator is never coming, it's exploishus, tell itchray and his Richy Doll to come to my Layer, can he pass the the rezizster test in the Flesh please and Thank You.
  • Hambone from UsaAll rockers and entertainment people that wish to reach the higher levels are required to join the OTO. It never ends well for them.
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