Site icon Christina Engela: Author

What Happened To The South African Satanic Church? …And Other Unanswered Questions

In 2020, South Africa got its first registered satanic church. It was fronted by two charismatic personalities who, for two years, did copious amounts of media interviews, and videos for their YouTube channel, clarifying misunderstandings and educating the public about religious Satanism.

Then, one day in 2022, without any warning or explanation, the South African Satanic Church, its office in Cape Town, its website, Facebook groups and YouTube channel, and its entire internet presence, completely disappeared without a trace.

This article will focus on the South African Satanic Church, its rise and fall, examine what little evidence is available, and explore what may have really happened.

The Beginning

For many years it was assumed, generally by the Christian population, that South Africa was exclusively a Christian country. Even the long-standing presence of other religious groups in South Africa, such as Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews appeared to not dissuade the fanatics from this view, even after the Constitution was changed in 1994 to reflect a respect for diversity and freedom of religion across the board. In spite of this indefensible attitude, there have still been cases where Christians stubbornly insist this is the case – even to the point of mounting protests, petitions and internet bullying and intimidation campaigns against perceived threats from other religious, cultural and social groups, most prominently LGBT and Satanists. If you really want to piss off the fundamentalists, it seems all you need to do is put a rainbow flag or a pentagram on anything, then sit back and watch the melee’.

It was against this background that, in March 2020, the South African Satanic Church (SASC) first made international news headlines as being the first officially registered Satanic religious organization in South Africa.

In spite of the muted, neutral tone visible in the media coverage of this event, there was nevertheless an undercurrent of shock and near-hysteria visible in the sort of comments left on these articles on their respective media websites and social media pages, coming from Christians who reacted with cynicism and vilification.

Almost as soon as it arrived on the scene, the SASC drew the ire of local Christian and Muslim clerics – particularly the fundamentalist portion, elements of which went so far as setting up a petition around June 2020 in an attempt to get the SASC deregistered by the government. I suppose we can thank our Constitution that it wasn’t. I wonder what those who claim SA is a “Christian country” thought about that?

Nevertheless, the SASC appeared to be here to stay. They opened a physical office in Century City in Cape Town, established social groups on Facebook, a Twitter account, a YouTube channel which became very active, and on which frequent blog posts and videos appeared. For the next two years the SASC and its representatives appeared in newspaper articles and radio and TV interviews explaining the beliefs and practices of Satanists, and clarifying misconceptions about religious Satanism.

The Faces Of The SASC

The SASC was represented in media interviews by its co-founders: two individuals who became inextricably linked to the South African Satanic Church in the eyes of the public. They were Riaan Swiegelaar and Adri Norton.

Adri was a friendly, attractive and surprisingly bubbly blonde, and Riaan Swiegelaar was a bit of an odd-ball with a Mohican hairdo and tattoos on his face. Both dressed in black clothes, as if to confirm a stereotype, but both also surprised audiences in that they seemed very well-spoken, bilingual in English and Afrikaans, and appeared to be knowledgeable about the subjects of Satanism and the South African witch hunts against Satanists.

In the run of numerous introductory newspaper articles that stretched the limits of sensationalism – and through June-July 2020, both Norton and Swiegelaar spoke about the beliefs and doctrine of the SASC and LaVeyan Satanism with confidence.

Naturally, the public was curious about these two people who seemed to be boldly speaking out as representatives of Satanism, and the media poked and prodded to reveal what information they could glean during interviews.

As laid out in numerous newspaper articles, before Riaan Swiegelaar became associated with the SASC, he’d previously been an Apostolic Christian pastor, followed by a period during which he practiced as a psychic medium & healer, and an eight year stint as a registered sangoma (African traditional healer).

Swiegelaar presented an unconventional appearance, and was also openly gay, flamboyant, and married to a man. He still operated a YouTube channel from which he’d advertised his services as a psychic medium, healer and mystic.

Less was known about his counterpart, Adri Norton – an attractive, friendly blonde woman who presented as bubbly and positive. Prior to her involvement in the SASC, she appears to have also practiced as a psychic medium and “healer”, as demonstrated by her own YouTube channel.

Both were open and public about their affiliation with the South African Satanic Church and as practicing atheistic Satanists, but tended to be more guarded about their private lives, partners and families, and business interests.

I have to admit, this sort of openness is something I was more used to seeing from abroad, in the USA or Europe, for example – not in conservative South Africa. I thought they were very brave for that purpose alone. Regardless of what has transpired since, I still do. It’s no simple thing to expose oneself to public hatred and potential violence, and this is exactly what they did.

Dozens of media interviews and articles featuring Adri and Riaan followed between March 2020 and May 2022, in which they talked about the SASC. They appeared on at least one SABC TV talk show, and also in several secular radio interviews.

Their roles within the organization were clearly defined early-on; Riaan was the “presiding reverend” of the SASC (and hence senior to Adri), and Adri was the official “spokesperson” for the SASC, although they sometimes appeared separately in interviews and not necessarily always together.

Even so, I noticed that even when they were interviewed together, Riaan very much appeared to set the tone of these interviews, and appeared to overshadow Adri. Perhaps this was because Riaan was the senior member of that partnership as “presiding reverend”, but it’s also possible that he was a more dominant personality type.

One of the newshounds perpetual points of interest appeared to be the membership of the SASC: Who were they? How many members did they have? Where were they based? Etc.

Neither Riaan and Adri ever gave direct answers to these sort of questions, rather they evaded them. Riaan at one point (Daily Voice, June 19, 2020) also pointed out that no Satanic or occult body would ever reveal details about their membership, and rightly so, because this is best for the safety of members and their privacy.

Having participated in a few very diverse occult community bodies in the past, I understood the need for anonymity on the part of members; it is the duty of such bodies, especially when public, and exposed to critical and even hostile public attention, to protect their members from potential risks to their safety.

What Riaan said at that point would’ve been sufficient. However, rather than leaving it at that, Riaan (backed up by Adri) then made repeated statements to the effect that the SASC represented “thousands of Satanists” across South Africa. Rather than simply decline to mention or identity any of their members, they went on to claim that they couldn’t divulge their identities, because their membership “included famous and influential people” such as TV actors, medical professionals and the like, and had a duty to protect their reputations. Riaan also went on to repeat this justification numerous times in subsequent interviews, which seemed to me to be unnecessary. He also claimed the SASC had received over 300 membership applications for June 2020 alone. (IOL, “Watch: Founders of satanic church say they stand for freedom”, June 23, 2020.)

This sounded impressive – after all, who’d have thought there really were so many Satanists in South Africa? Who’d have thought the SASC, being so new, would have already amassed so many members? I know I certainly didn’t.

My skepticism wasn’t a result of my cynicism – having conducted research in 2012 while compiling a document entitled “Satanism: The Acid Test” (abbreviated to “STAT”) for the Alternative Religions Forum, I had been unable to find more than perhaps fifty people in South Africa who openly identified with religious Satanism – while working within the occult community network – and that was over a period of six or seven months! This is, even taking into consideration that I had access to several local and international religious Satanism groups online and via direct contact with their leader figures or administrators during that period! Although this did not entirely exclude the existence of considerably more unknown Satanists who were solitary practitioners or those not open about their beliefs, I asked myself: “Thousands”? Really? Where did they find so many, so quickly?

Even at the time, Riaan and Adri’s claim that they were the voices for “thousands of Satanists” in South Africa seemed to me to be little more than a gross inflation, perhaps to make the SASC seem more impressive than it really was. After all, they couldn’t possibly sound as impressive if they publicly listed a membership of say, 2000… 1000… 500… or 200 people, could they?

Nevertheless, I understood the dire need for such an organization in South Africa, due to the reality that religious pluralism (diversity) here has been perpetually under threat from larger more established mainstream religions, to present some sort of an impressive façade.

Further, I understood that, to remain relevant, the SASC had to keep making headlines – and to keep making headlines, it had to remain controversial, and in order to remain controversial, it had to represent some kind of credible threat in the minds of conservative, fundamentalist Christians… and how better to do that other than by representing some kind of large, impressive, “subversive” Satanic church “emerging out of the shadows” that they had to rally against and fear? Better yet, they didn’t know who or where all these “thousands” of Satanists were, so from that perspective – whether or not this deception was deliberately intended for this purpose, or to puff up Riaan’s sense of self-importance, or if it was purely accidental, it was brilliant in effect.

Much of the public image of the SASC at that time seemed to evoke the work of overseas groups like “The Satanic Temple”, who had made headlines with their efforts to preserve the separation of religion and state by pressing for equal treatment in the face of government bias in favor of Christianity (Satanic Temple unveils Baphomet statue at Arkansas Capitol, August 17, 2018).

In the months following the initial announcements, the size, structure and growth of the SASC was also subsequently inflated with the introduction of “chapters” around South Africa, ostensibly so that members could meet and socialize with each other in regional groups as part of the larger organization.

It was at this point that, for better or worse, I decided to join the SASC.

Hail Satan, Hail Yourself

I’m an atheist, and have been for some considerable time already. Coupled with that, I have for a long time certainly felt a great affinity for LaVeyan Satanism because the way it mocks the formal Christian establishment and thumbs its nose at its propriety, piety, and hypocrisy entertains and amuses me.

For the record then, let me state that my interest in the occult, starting with my Pagan path in 2010, and Satanism (both theistic and atheistic) in 2012, is and has been more than just purely academic, and it has been so right from the start, and I’ll leave it at that.

The SASC had clearly identified itself as an atheistic Satanist group, and had aligned itself with the ideology of “The Satanic Bible” by Anton LaVey (1969). I admired what the organization appeared to be doing for the cause of demystifying Satanism and promoting religious pluralism in South Africa, and I wanted to show my support. I had developed an academic fascination with Satanism as a phenomenon, and was curious to see how things would develop from the inside. I was in for an entertaining ride, although I didn’t realize it just yet.

The SASC, meanwhile, seemed to be saying and doing all the right things, at least as far as I could see, and they looked – at least by the sheer fact that they had registered officially, legit.

A Look Inside The SASC

When I did finally join the South African Satanic Church, somewhere around May or June 2020, it was as an ordinary member.

Overall, I was made to feel welcome and was treated with respect and recognition for my work in creating “Satanism: The Acid Test” – which the SASC officially gave its endorsement to, even providing a link to it on their resources page on the SASC website.

Membership was free, and there were no membership cards or anything like that, but I was sent a pair of coffee mugs with the SASC logo on it as a gift, which is probably the most “South African” type of gift I can possibly imagine!

I had no real feelings about Adri Norton or Riaan Swiegelaar either way at the start. Adri and I chatted quite a lot via Facebook Messenger for a while and became very friendly, and she generally became my official link to the SASC. I found her to be a pleasant person without airs or graces. Riaan and I didn’t chat much, and I found him to be a bit distant, even evasive.

As it was explained to me, the SASC was managed and represented by Adri Norton and Riaan Swiegelaar, but the real control over the SASC rested with the Church Council.

According to what I was told, the council was made up of wealthy, influential and prominent members who wanted to keep their identities secret – even from other members. Thus, the Council met in the shadows, and either didn’t interact with other members at all, or did so without their knowledge that they were interacting with Council members.

I’d been part of several occult groups operating online for some time, and this secrecy was not a new concept to me, so it didn’t immediately arouse suspicion. Being the curious sort I am though, I wondered if there really was such a council. I myself never knowingly met or interacted with a member of it, and in fact, looking back, aside from Riaan and Adri referring to it in the press, I never saw anything to suggest that they ever really existed at all. Of course, that doesn’t mean they didn’t. After all, there was literally no reason at all for a council member to reveal themselves to me.

Looking back, while there was internal communication between members and Riaan and Adri – mainly Adri, since Riaan was apparently too busy to talk to the rest of us or to just post bulletins. The majority of SASC membership interaction took place within the SASC member group on Facebook, and most of this looked to be one-way. This generally took the form of links to new interviews, videos or SASC blog posts, which was often followed by it being very briefly discussed by members. I don’t recall any long, highly active chat threads taking place in the group. I did wonder though, where the “thousands” of members were, because the group itself just contained a handful of people. I left that question for another time.

One of the things I noticed pretty early on, was that there was very little transparency, and an awful lot of secrecy about certain things in the organization that members were not party to. But then, I was just an ordinary member, and essentially, a passenger.

Decisions affecting the structure of the organization, or actions to be taken by the organization, even those affecting the members, were seldom put to a vote, and rarely was the membership consulted in the decision-making process. Rather, the first the members would hear of a decision or change within the SASC, would be when an announcement was made in the SASC group, or a Council proclamation was dropped in on an official letterhead, when it was already a done deal.

At the time I probably excused it with justifications of how the organization was still very new and just getting off the ground, and my only two contacts in it (Riaan and Adri) were both very busy doing interviews and making videos and representing Satanism to the world.

I find it’s easy now for me to question whether the SASC could have been a “cult”. Perhaps, like other members, I didn’t want it to be. I think we all wanted it to be the real deal, even if it failed to meet our expectations. So we gave it a chance in the hope that it would live up to our expectations in the end.

I do feel that the SASC’s lapses and omissions contributed towards creating an environment which could have allowed certain cult-like behaviors or practices to develop, and that these could have served to undermine the integrity of the SASC as a legitimate religious organization.

A New Chapter For The SASC

From what I could tell from Riaan and Adri’s announcements and press interviews, the SASC seemed to be dynamic and growing.

Mention was made, once (IOL, June 28, 2020), that supposedly the SASC was to “open a new chapter” in Balito, KZN by September 2020. In spite of this media fanfare and the drama that ensued, it was the only time it appears to have been mentioned in the media. Further, I saw no sign of it being mentioned internally within the SASC, or any signs that there ever was such a chapter.

The SASC appeared to have a plan to have a system of chapters around South Africa, which would all be run via Facebook groups. There would be a Facebook group for each chapter, with (in theory) one chapter for each province. Prospective members of the SASC would find these groups and be directed to a chapter in their area, apply and be vetted for membership – and either be accepted, or not. That appeared to have been the theory.

In all the time I was a member of the SASC, the only chapter I heard much about was the Gauteng Chapter. It was headed by Tristan Kapp, who at that time, I still didn’t know anything about.

On or about July 1 2020, after having barely getting my feet wet as a new member of the SASC, I was asked by Adri, out of the blue, if I would be interested in heading an Eastern Cape chapter. All this would entail, I was told, would be to set up a closed Facebook group and act as a group admin, vet prospective member applications and run the group. There was no expectation that I would need to create videos or do any public speaking or interviews, or anything of the sort. I accepted on those terms. They needed someone in the Eastern Cape to run the group, and I was it.

I set up a Facebook group immediately, and even designed a logo for it, using the SASC logo as a template. I added both Riaan and Adri to the group as well, so they could interact or make announcements to the group in future.

On 8 July 2020, Adri sent me the log-in details for the SASC Eastern Cape Chapter mailbox on Outlook, and before long, the first prospective membership requests began to arrive.

My task was to send applicants a set of questions, which they would answer. I would send these answers along with their contact details through to Adri via the Outlook mailbox, and she would take the vetting process further, conduct interviews via telephone, background checks etc. Any successful applicants were then referred back to me so I would know to accept their join request on the Facebook chapter group.

If I had expected a rapid or even a steady growth in membership in that group, I was sure to be disappointed. The highest number my chapter’s group membership reached was just about seven members, including myself, Riaan and Adri, and there it stayed for the duration of its existence.

The reason behind this is that the overwhelming number of people who applied to join, seemed to be crackpots looking to “sell their souls”, join “the illuminati” or were searching for some sort of get-rich-quick scheme. The number of serious applicants who identified with the principles of LaVeyan Satanism were surprisingly few. Consequently, so was the number of applications I forwarded to Adri for vetting.

I later assumed that the reason the chapter name was later changed from “Eastern Cape” to “Port Elizabeth” had been due to the lack of membership applications from the general Eastern Cape – but, looking back, there were no other subsequent “city chapters” announced during this period for other locations within the province either.

In all, the SASC Eastern Cape/Port Elizabeth Chapter group on Facebook operated from 1 July 2020 to 6 January 2021, when the SASC ended the chapter system, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, so a little over 6 months.

Otherwise, within the SASC – and in media references, only the same two chapters were mentioned over and over again – Gauteng and Eastern Cape/Port Elizabeth. To the best of my knowledge, there were no other functioning chapters over and above these.

Tristan Kapp lived in Pretoria and headed the Gauteng Chapter. Referred to as Reverend Tristan Kapp, he did video readings of the Satanic Bible and explanations of the material for the SASC. Although Tristan came from an Afrikaans background, he was fully bilingual and well-spoken, and most importantly, he had camera appeal. His videos quickly became popular with the SASC following and, as some have hypothesized, perhaps too popular.

Unlike either Adri Norton or Riaan Swiegelaar, Tristan Kapp had a background in theology and religious studies. He already had a degree at the time, and was working towards a Masters in Theology. If anything, this gave the SASC a sorely needed injection of credibility.

The SASC, it could be assumed from that association, was not just a bunch of would-be self-read idiots who picked up a copy of “The Satanic Bible” one day and thereafter called themselves Satanists, or presented themselves as clergy without having any form of training or academic background. Plus, it wasn’t just a “cult” headed by just two people masquerading as clergy – the clergy was seen to be growing as well as the membership.

It’s possible that this might explain why things turned out the way they did insofar as Tristan Kapp’s fate as a member of the SASC is concerned.

Aside from being appointed as the head of the Gauteng Chapter, the Rev. Tristan Kapp appeared in SASC videos about Satanic philosophy and read tracts of the Satanic Bible, giving his interpretations. Then, during August 2020, he conducted a series of newspaper interviews, speaking as the head of the SASC’s Gauteng Chapter. (Aug 5, 2020 IOL, Aug 25, 2020, Pretoria Rekord). The fact that all independent media interviews with Tristan Kapp as head of the Gauteng Chapter of the SASC abruptly ceased around this time, is an indicator, I think, that not everyone in the hierarchy was a fan.

At that time, as far as the outside world could tell, there was no bad news at all coming from South Africa’s first officially registered Satanic Church. All the media coverage reflected positivity, good news and good works.

Between 2020 and 2022, the SASC encouraged its supporters to attend at least one Cape Town Pride march in solidarity with LGBT+ people. I also remember there was a lot of goodwill expressed towards local animal sanctuaries, with calls for volunteers to help out with their free time and donations, and to support the South African chapter of Four Paws.

Central to the issue of pseudo-satanism, in August 2021 a number of cats had been cruelly killed in Manenberg by a suspected serial cat killer, and the crime had been blamed on “Satanists” on social media. Riaan posted a video clarifying that Satanism reveres children and animals, and announced that the SASC had put out a R10,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the culprit. (EWN, 17 August 2021, SA Satanic Church offers reward for info on Manenberg cat killer).

I would’ve thought that the public, press and law enforcement could’ve better invested their resources in looking for a budding teenage serial killer in the process of working his way up to two-legged prey, instead of chasing shadows of Satanists in the hedgerows, but some people never seem to grow past their prejudices. At any rate, as far as I can see, the “Manenberg cat killer” still hasn’t been caught or identified, so perhaps he’s already graduated to humans and the connection has simply gone unnoticed.

Regardless, as much as the SASC’s audience of haters appeared to hope for the emergence of some sort of crime spree or sex scandal that would allow them to point fingers at the SASC, it seemed they were to be disappointed.

While the sceptic in me harbors doubts that everyone was swayed by this humane, friendly, compassionate portrayal of Satanists projected by the SASC, as someone who has been involved in activism for 14 years, I can certainly appreciate the effort and thought that went into it. However, everything couldn’t keep going smoothly, and it didn’t.

On 12 October 2020, The Citizen newspaper reported that the Rev. Tristan Kapp, who’d been very public about his religious affiliation with the SASC, and his family, began to receive threats of violence from Christians and, bizarrely, the “Farmers Lives Matter” movement. Haters even went as far as recording and sharing videos of his residence while issuing threats on social media. The post is still visible here. Even though this incident showed Kapp as a victim of xenophobic hate-crime, the public outrage appeared to side with the perpetrators rather than the victim – even in spite of the ugliness of the attacks against him. However, it wasn’t long before the incident began to fade into memory without any of the threats realizing.

Not long after that, the SASC abruptly announced Rev Kapp’s resignation. I’m not sure now if this announcement was made publicly or just internally to SASC members, but I’m fairly sure that given the tendency for the SASC’s every move to be reported in the media at the time, it would’ve appeared in at least one news article if it had been public; however, I could find nothing. Perhaps on this occasion, the SASC Council didn’t deem the departure of their only qualified clergyman a newsworthy-enough event to draft a press release.

At the face of it, Tristan Kapp intended to further his studies, and the SASC just seemed to be taking up too much of his time – but as with everything, there was probably more to this matter than met the eye. At the time, I thought the timing of Tristan’s departure from the SASC smelled a little fishy.

In January 2023, when I interviewed Tristan about his experiences with the SASC, one of the things he felt was a contributing factor in his departure, was his “unauthorized” media appearances in 2021.

“The tiff started when I did media interviews, without informing Riaan and Adri. They got very angry when I did something without their foreknowledge, which to an extent I understood, but didn’t think necessary seeing as though they entrusted the authority of the Gauteng Chapter to me. And Riaan made no secret of it that we were equals, hence, accompanied by their trust and my authority (they bestowed upon me), I didn’t consider it to be an issue. It clearly was… I received a fair amount of publicity and many began to say that they’d rather listen to me speak than Riaan or Adri. And this is not me being arrogant or boastful, but just relaying the facts, as is.”

Regardless of the reason for the departure of Tristan Kapp – which at the time were unknown to me, I felt the SASC had suffered a monumental setback, whether or not they realized or appreciated it.

Other things were afoot in the outside world however, and with all the COVID lockdowns during 2020 reaching into 2021, the SASC couldn’t help but be affected. Emergency regulations aimed at preventing the spread of disease by either prohibiting social gatherings or limiting the number of people allowed to attend were then in place. With some members wanting to arrange social gatherings in spite of restrictions, this threatened to expose the SASC to some bad PR.

The SASC reacted – or seemingly overreacted – by disbanding the chapters and consolidating all members into a central “national chapter” group where they could keep a closer eye on activities. In reality, all this meant was that the Chapter groups on Facebook were deleted, and I was no longer a “chapter leader” – all the members were already also in the SASC Facebook group.

In all, that group existed and operated from 1 July 2020 to 6 January 2021 – so a little over 6 months. At the time of deletion, it had still only had 7 members. Following the removal of the chapter system, there was nothing left for me to do but to resume being an “ordinary member”, so I sat back and continued with life as usual. Frankly, I was glad to be relieved of the burden of running the EC/PE Chapter group.

While all these things were going on, I was occupied with research and writing three new papers and didn’t have much time for anything else for the entire months of January and February 2021, so I hadn’t paid much attention to any goings-on at the SASC during that period.

Things at the SASC appeared to be routine. Adri and Riaan posted videos about various subjects on the SASC YouTube channel, and were still making occasional – though slightly less regular appearances and doing interviews. I think it was during this period that Adri was also absent for a while due to maternity leave following the birth of her son. Gatherings were still ruled out while the COVID pandemic lockdowns continued through the rest of 2021 and into early 2022.

The Shit Hits The Fan

Between April and May of 2022, I noticed that the SASC had become quieter than it had been previously, both internally and externally. The media fanfare and sensationalism appeared to have died down completely. Media interviews with Riaan or Adri had also become more or less routine by that time, and so when Riaan Swiegelaar was interviewed live on Cape Talk radio on 12 May 2022, I perceived it as such.

I thought it was quite a good interview on the whole and Riaan provided quite a lot of relevant and accurate information during the show, although I didn’t necessarily agree with everything that was said in the discussion. The other guest on the show was Dr. Nicky Falkoff, an academic whose work on moral panics (in particular the “satanic panic” of the 80s and 90s) I am familiar with and have used as references in some of my own papers.

After that interview, the SASC fell deafeningly silent. I thought nothing strange of it at all. When it happened, I was caught completely off-guard.

Riaan’s “Conversion” Video

On the morning of 5 July 2022, the South African news media was suddenly a hive of buzzing activity as it picked up the story that one of the founders of South Africa’s first Satanic church had just made a public announcement that he had converted to Christianity! (Afrinuus – Co-founder of SA Satanic Church Resigns, believes in Christ now).

The article also contained an image of an SASC press release on an official letterhead which announced that Riaan Swiegelaar had resigned from the SASC on 30 May 2022.

The story was repeated numerous times over the next few days as it seemed every newspaper picked up the story in turn, and the coverage was unrelenting and sensationalistic.

It was one of those rare occasions where I found myself taken completely by surprise. I was absolutely shocked! There was a video? Posted by Riaan Swiegelaar on his Facebook profile? Why hadn’t I seen it on Facebook before I saw the newspaper posts which had been shared by other people? I was Facebook friends with Riaan after all! I clicked on the link to view the video on Riaan’s profile – only to discover that Riaan had blocked me on Facebook!

Whatever his motives were for doing that remain a mystery to me – but it seems a fair conclusion that he didn’t want to be contacted by me once he’d posted his video.

I nevertheless managed to view the video posted by Riaan Swiegelaar on 4 July 2022 using other means. It was a lengthy video detailing how he had experienced “an encounter with Jesus” and that he no longer identified as a Satanist, and henceforward considered himself a Christian! Of course I thought he’d gone completely raving mad.

In the video, recorded in English rather than Riaan’s native Afrikaans, one of the earliest prominent statements he made was when he said,

“To be very honest, I initially thought I’d quietly slip out the backdoor and I didn’t think people would be so interested in why I do what I do.”

The significance of this statement is striking, given that for two years Riaan had constantly placed himself in the spotlight of the media and puffed himself up as the spiritual leader or representative for “thousands of Satanists” in South Africa.

In the video, he went on to denounce Satanists as “hurt and broken people” who “need Jesus” and explained how he had come to the decision to convert to Christianity – which to be blunt, sounded somewhat contrived to me. He related a long unlikely and fantastic story about how, while conducting a ritual at home, “Jesus” appeared before him and showered him with warm, fuzzy feelings of love and acceptance which he’d apparently never experienced before.

I was skeptical right away – and not just because I don’t believe in “Jesus” or “God” as literal spiritual entities either. Had Riaan suffered some kind of mental breakdown? Was he on drugs? Was he spinning some kind of tall tale to get attention? What was he really up to?

Over the next several days, this bizarre soap opera scenario was repeated time and again in South African newspaper articles, in different languages, and then also picked up by international news, then by Christian bloggers and podcasters and then re-shared via dozens of celebratory Christian YouTubers and Tiktokers. A leader among Satanists had repented and come over to their side! Christian activists and the haters crowed their perceived victory from their rooftops – around the world.

What Was So Damaging About What Riaan Did?

There was something significant about Riaan Swiegelaar announcing his “conversion” – or to be more specific, his return to Christianity in so public a fashion. That’s right, I said “return” – because he’d been a Christian before – as a matter of fact, a Christian pastor in the Apostolic church. This was documented in at least one of his many interviews.

Why was this change such a huge surprise? Had everyone forgotten?

At the heart of the matter, lay the issue of freedom of religion in South Africa, and Riaan Swiegelaar – like all of us in South Africa (like it or not) – has the Constitutional right to believe whatever he likes, and to identify freely with whatever religion he chooses to.

In the light of this, why then is it such a contentious issue that he made a public statement announcing that he was leaving Satanism and returning to Christianity?

What harm was there in what he did?

Firstly, for those who identified with Satanism as a religion, and certainly for members of the SASC this would have been quite an embarrassment and even a betrayal by a religious leader who’d represented their beliefs and their identity in South Africa for two years.

For them, there was more to this event than just some random guy posting a video on his Facebook page affirming his newfound faith in Jesus Christ and turning his back on Satanism.

Satanists are supposed to be discerning, you see, they’re supposed to be more intelligent than that. People are supposed to graduate from Christianity to Satanism, and not the other way round. Or at least, so the story goes, among Satanists.

The negativity and even hostility with which this news was received, is explained by the reality that Riaan Swiegelaar was not “just some guy”. He wasn’t just a follower, he was a leader figure. He was the “presiding reverend” of the SA Satanic Church, and – like it or not – he was viewed very publicly, as the official “face” of Satanism in South Africa.

Right from the start, I had the feeling that there was something “off” about this whole mess – and it was most definitely a mess. For the SASC – and for Satanists in South Africa, who for many years had yearned for legal recognition and a level of social legitimacy or dignity heretofore denied them, this was a devastating PR blow. It was an embarrassment of note, and at the time I wondered just how, or even if the SASC could ever recover from it.

That is just one aspect of the issue. For me, from an academic viewpoint, this new development represented more than someone just realigning their personal belief system or changing allegiances between religions perceived to be in opposition to one another.

No – there’s more to it, and it’s far worse than that.

What sort of threat am I talking about? How could Riaan Swiegelaar possibly harm the SASC or Satanism’s validity as a religion?

In the past, where there were Christians pursuing celebrity status by claiming to be “occult experts” or “ex-Satanists” or “occult survivors” who claimed to have “found Jesus”, they could easily be discredited if confronted with the facts that they had either never been anything but Christians themselves, or had been “devil worshipers” or “reverse Christians” neither of whom had any personal experience in – or affiliation to Satanism as a religion at all. This conclusion could all be corroborated by their demonstration of a complete lack of working knowledge of religious Satanism. Neither could they prove they’d been a member of any tangible Satanic organization.

It’s right there that Riaan Swiegelaar capsizes the boat.

Unlike these pre-existing examples, in the case of Riaan – should he choose to embark on a career path as a “former Satanist” or Christian “occult expert” – he had a two year publicly visible history of media interviews and newspaper articles to provide him with credibility that he’d been part of and high-up in South Africa’s first officially registered Satanic church!

Should he be so inclined, this would seemingly give him the legitimacy which others had lacked when they misrepresented religious Satanism. That is, should he decide to spread false information about Satanism now that he’d publicly identified as a Christian. The only important questions around this issue were what Riaan Swiegelaar’s intentions were after he resigned from the SASC, and whether or not he planned to embark on that sort of path in future.

Some perceived the risk, and even suspected that’s what he was planning to do. I think it’s quite possible that the shadowy SASC Church Council – if it really existed, perceived this same threat as well.

As it turned out, that’s exactly what he did.

My paper “By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them: A Proposed Framework By Which To Understand & Categorize Self-proclaimed Christian ‘Occult Experts’” builds on this model and presents a framework by which to categorize Christian “experts in Satanism”.

Riaan Tips His Hand

On or about 24 August 2022, Riaan posted a video on his Facebook profile. Although I’ve watched a lot of his videos, that one is perhaps the most incendiary of all of Riaan’s videos, perhaps even all put together! It’s of no surprise to me at all, that he removed it sometime later. Fortunately I kept a copy of it, and you can watch it here.

In this video, Riaan realizes the very scenario I had previously hypothesized – meaning that, relying on his identity as the former “presiding reverend” of the SASC for credibility, he makes a string of extraordinary statements deliberately intended to misrepresent religious Satanism as pseudo-satanism!

I felt that the very nature of these statements – the total sum of which exactly match the myth of pseudo-satanism being peddled by fake Christian “experts on Satanism” – revealed his intent, which I thought was to launch his career as a “Christian occult expert”.

So what did he actually say?

In the video, Riaan claims the SASC had admitted a mixture of different types of Satanists as members, including theistic Satanists and “devil worshipers” and not just atheistic Satanists whose views aligned with LaVeyan Satanism. Although he makes this claim, he doesn’t explain why.

I’ve considered that either it slipped his mind to provide a credible reason, but I honestly can’t fathom one either – because it makes no sense!

Not only do theistic and atheistic Satanists seldom see eye to eye with each other, but neither of these two divergent groups actually get on with “devil-worshipers”! In fact, they generally don’t regard each other as “true Satanists” either.

According to Riaan in this video, the SASC actually consisted of all three!

Which. Just. Makes. No. Sense.

While there’s a tendency for atheistic Satanists to view theistic Satanists with the same sort of skepticism and disdain as they do Christians, in Satanist circles where atheistic and theistic Satanists rub elbows, it is the “devil-worshipers”, “tabloid prophecy fulfillers” or “reverse-Christians” that are generally not tolerated. The reason for this isn’t hard to grasp – it’s because they tend to provide Christians (and anyone else) with reasons to fear and hate genuine Satanists, and give them a bad name.

The idea that all three opposing paradigms would be admitted to the membership of a single organization and expected to interact without there being intense debates, disputes, social media flame wars and drama, people getting banned and ousted – or storming off in droves – and the idea that this would somehow all be kept secret – is simply absurd! Absolutely ludicrous!

And yet, in spite of the absurdity of what Riaan suggested, how would outsiders and non-members have known whether he was telling the truth or not? This in itself accentuates the damage Riaan was doing to his own credibility and  the image of Satanism in making such claims – by resting upon the supposed extent of his inside knowledge by virtue of his former position within the SASC, he’d cast doubt on the status of its stated nature as an atheistic Satanist (LaVeyan) organization, and its credibility in terms of the organization being what it had presented itself to be, and in fact everything he and Adri Norton had said on behalf of the organization and representative of atheistic Satanism since Day One!

In other words, Riaan presented a version of events where the SASC was “really lying” about the sort of Satanism it practiced – “atheistic Satanism” and not “theistic Satanism” – and hence had lied in every single press interview or video it produced to “educate” the public about what Satanism is or isn’t, or what Satanists do or don’t do, since it presented only atheistic LaVeyan Satanism. The SASC was essentially portrayed as having lied about every single thing it had said.

But wait, just when you think it could possibly get more bizarre, there’s more: As outlandish this video had been thus far, his story then truly takes a turn for the downright preposterous.

Riaan Swiegelaar states that many of these “theistic” individuals (who were supposedly members of the SASC) would work together to infiltrate Christian “mega churches” in order to bring them down or sabotage their organizations!

According to Riaan, the goal of “theistic Satanists” was to make the world as “bad and sinful” as it could get “in order to prepare the way for the coming of the Antichrist”! (The Antichrist is a feature of Christianity-created Pseudo-satanism, not theistic or atheistic Satanism).

On top of that, he repeats numerous “satanic panic” Christian beliefs, that for example, “theistic Satanists” would attend Christian mega-church services and sit amongst the ordinary congregation, and arrange their positions to form a pentagram. Added to that, he claimed they would do “rituals” beforehand so that whilst in the church they would “actively tap into” the “prosperity” of the church and also “actively block” the religious faith of “weaker” Christians – whatever that’s supposed to mean.

Among his inane claims was that they would befriend people in the church they perceived to be struggling with their faith in order to “lead them away from the true faith of the gospel of Jesus Christ”.

While this sort of outrageous, nutty nonsense might give his intended new audience chills, goose-bumps and spine-tingles – which undoubtedly was his goal – to anyone with half a cup of common sense, and to those who have a background in researching the South African “satanic panic”, this trope would sound extremely familiar. Why? Because it’s EXACTLY the same sort of paranoia-infused conspiracy-theory rubbish that was peddled by Christian fantasists, fake “experts in Satanism”, the ORC, and “deliverance ministries” during the 1980s and 90s and 00s.

Let’s tackle this rat’s nest with the application of some logic and a few naked facts, shall we?

When were these hypothetical “theistic Satanists” supposed to have conducted these “infiltrations” on behalf of the SASC? Riaan appeared to have forgotten that the SASC’s entire active existence as a registered religious entity fits neatly between the start of the South African COVID-19 pandemic in February-March 2020 – and its end in early to mid-2022. That period was characterized by lockdowns and social distancing. Additionally, many, if not all churches were closed for services during the higher level lockdowns. Based upon the timing during which this was supposed to have occurred alone, this claim is unlikely at best – and that’s putting it mildly!

Secondly, why would theistic Satanists – or any Satanist waste their otherwise valuable time going to Christian churches? I’m sure they would much rather spend it doing something fun, like getting their genitalia waxed, or watching paint dry.

It seems to me that the only sort of people using “Satanist” in their identity, who would in any way, shape, or form, be interested in “infiltrating” a Christian church, would be the pseudo kind. Why? Because that’s in line with the myth that governs that group of “reverse-Christian’s” beliefs and their identity – they’re “Satanists” after all, and like good “reverse-Christians” they may even do it, because that’s what the myth says “Satanists” do.

The myth of Christianity-created Pseudo-satanism is clearly explained in my papers “What is Satanism – Really? And What Isn’t? A Concise Definition Of Christianity-created Pseudo-satanism (CCPS)” and “Satanism vs Pseudo-satanism: Disambiguation And Argument Against Conflation From Within Religious Satanism“.

Undeterred by the glaring holes in his statements, Riaan took the charade even further and went on to claim that “theistic Satanists” call themselves “devil-worshipers” (they do not) and that “their mission is to destroy Christianity”, and as much as possible to get Christianity out of government, the police etc. Again, this is Christianity-created Pseudo-satanism, not theistic Satanism.

Surely Riaan knows that? Can’t he tell the difference? Of course he can.

Why would he deliberately obfuscate? Why make a deliberate effort to convince the audience that theistic Satanists and “devil-worshipers” are one and the same thing?

Because these hysterical tall tales are very much what Christians who buy into the “deliverance ministry” conspiracy theory of Christianity-created Pseudo-satanism would want to hear – because of confirmation bias.

This leads me to believe that Riaan Swiegelaar deliberately calculated this statement and concocted these so-called “admissions” to make himself more appealing to his new off-the-map Christian audience who was then buying into his “miraculous encounter with Jesus” and his supposed “conversion” to Christianity.

This suspicion is borne out by the casual way in which he – like THEM – blatantly ignored ALL the factual and theological differences between theistic Satanism and “devil-worship” or “reverse-Christianity” – which he of all people should’ve been familiar with – to present them as being one and the same thing!

Riaan’s claims about theistic Satanists in this video are so bizarre precisely BECAUSE they fit perfectly with the trope of “reverse-Christianity” and not theistic Satanism.

This conflation of theistic Satanism and “devil-worship” or pseudo-satanism initially brought me to question his level of understanding about what theistic Satanism is and what “reverse-Christianity” is – but then I realized he’d spent two years publicly clarifying the differences between Atheistic Satanism and Theistic Satanism and debunking “reverse-Christianity” – he’d also read and endorsed my paper “Satanism: The Acid Test” – so OF COURSE he understood the differences between them!

Yet there he is, in his own video and in his own words, contradicting everything he’d said previously, conflating theistic Satanism with pseudo-satanism, confirming Satanic Ritual Abuse myths, and “correcting” counter-disinformation with disinformation!

The only logical conclusion here is that he is doing so deliberately – and because it is deliberate, his intentions can only be seen as malicious, as an attempt to mislead his audience, or to resonate with their level of understanding of “what Satanism is”, most probably in order to receive accolades and praise for his efforts. How could it not be?

However, whatever his intentions – Riaan had, by this blatant and overt attempt at deception alone, completely destroyed his own credibility as a supposed “expert” in Satanism – despite even having been a Satanist! If not because he failed to understand the differences between different types of Satanism – which would undermine his status as an “expert”, then because he engaged in deliberate misrepresentation and distortion, which implies dishonesty.

If in the process of researching for this article I had looked for a sign that Riaan Swiegelaar had deliberately engineered a malicious deception, then this video was it – the smoking gun.

That, however, wasn’t the end of the deception – the video still contained even more fantastic claims.

Of these, one of the more outrageous ones was that at the time he left the SASC on 30 May 2022, it had a membership exceeding 12,100 people.

Where had the SASC kept these 12,100 members? On separate books perhaps? In Riaan’s imagination?

I ask, because having been a member of the SASC since 2020, I had been present in several of the SASC’s social groups, and never noticed a total number of participants greater than perhaps 200. I also never interacted with anyone in these groups who identified as a theistic Satanist, or fit the profile of “devil-worshipers” or pseudo-satanists. In that context, I also never witnessed any ongoing flame-wars or bitter arguments across the theological divide between atheism and theism.

In keeping with our roles as former chapter leaders within the SASC, both Tristan Kapp and I whittled out the crackpots and crazies – and the theistic Satanists from the atheistic Satanists – in the membership applications we received and processed, so if these “devil-worshipers” were indeed admitted to the SASC membership, it could only have been via Riaan or Adri – and yet again, that hypothesis is stumped by the low numbers of the official members social groups across the board.

12,100 registered members? In Riaan’s dreams, perhaps. As far as I’m concerned, this number is beyond ridiculous. It seems to me that this is more likely an attempt by Riaan to try and exaggerate either his own importance as the former leader of the SASC, or to exaggerate the imaginary threat he is now peddling to his Christian audience, or both – which makes sense.

One other issue Riaan brought to my attention by means of this video, was when he said that a lot of money had been donated to the SASC by external sponsors during the time of its existence. Of course he wasn’t allowed to speak about finances, according to the NDC he’d signed, so he quickly glossed over that subject and moved on – BUT – I find myself wondering what happened to that money? The SASC vanished around September 2022 – did the Council take it all with them when the SASC disappeared down the rabbit hole?

Also, early in the video, Riaan informs the audience that he is already working with a “deliverance ministry” located in Cape Town. This goes some way to explain his need to establish his “brand” as an “ex-Satanist” on-board with the “deliverance ministry” version of “what Satanism is” – and in my opinion, the video certainly does that.

Considering the timing of this video, on or about the 24th of August 2022, it was shortly before the appearance of a series of posters on 1 September, promoting his “Exposing Satanism” seminars in Cape Town – and his association with an unnamed “deliverance ministry”. I find that to be compelling evidence to suggest that Riaan had already been planning to embark on a new career as a “Christian expert on Satanism” for some time.

Lastly on the topic of this video, what Riaan did by means of this video, was to present the South African Satanic Church and Satanism in general as being exactly what the Christian extremist conspiracy theorists believed and feared it was – and what’s more, he did so without the benefit of a single shred of evidence, and relied exclusively upon whatever credibility his verifiable association with the SASC could provide.

I also think it’s remarkable on that issue alone, that he appears to completely sidestep the reality that, of all the people who appeared in the SASC’s educational videos debunking the sort of crap he was now peddling, he was the most prolific!

To sum up, this video is a 39 minute, 44 second exercise in disinformation.

What could his aim have been? I think it’s obvious: to drum up support for his new career path as a “Christian occult expert”. Yet in the process, Riaan Swiegelaar had placed the South African Satanic Church at the center of a disingenuous Satanic conspiracy set up to wage covert warfare upon Christianity in South African society.

Considering the irreparable harm these statements would’ve done to the reputation of the SASC, and by implication their poor choice in “presiding reverend” – and the likelihood that they would be repeated in subsequent “Exposing Satanism” seminars then being planned by Riaan, I’m not a bit surprised that the organization opted to close up shop and disappeared from sight.

What does surprise me though, is that Riaan removed this video from where he’d posted it. I find the fact that he’d done so puzzling, and I wonder what the reason for this was. Did the SASC Council perhaps threaten him with legal action, say over the incendiary content of his video statements? Or could it have been because he’d publicly discussed financial matters of the SASC, which – as he admitted in the video, he was not allowed to do as per the non-disclosure agreement he’d signed?

Perhaps we’ll never know.

However, what is most significant about Riaan’s 24 August video, is that it provided a glimpse of the sort of disinformation propaganda he could be expected to be peddling in future, and in particular, to paying audiences attending his “Exposing Satanism” seminars.

The Aftermath

Far from being inconsequential, Riaan’s public video statements of 4 July became the subject of intense media coverage across South Africa (and later even internationally).

On 6 July, this news even brought condemnation on an international level – and from within the religion of Satanism itself. The original religious Satanic organization (the Church of Satan, San Francisco), which had been one of the inspirations for the SASC itself, as well as being the origin of the philosophy of LaVeyan Satanism, replied to IOL’s article share on Twitter to lambast Riaan Swiegelaar, and by implication, the SASC.

Although that criticism generally seemed to go unnoticed by the public, for the SASC and its membership, things suddenly looked quite grim. I for one, lingered under no false impressions that the SASC hadn’t completely lost its credibility – both in public, and within Satanism, and also within itself.

Not only had it been implied that the Church of Satan had seen through Riaan Swiegelaar’s ruse that he was a genuine Satanist some time before, but it also implied that members of the SASC – and its vaunted Council, had failed to do so.

SASC members were angry. Suddenly they appeared to be filled with doubts and uncertainty. Had they been conned? I’m sure other members felt as let-down as I did.

Not only had their most prominent religious leader figure completely discredited himself, he’d also discredited the SASC and Satanism in the eyes of the both the public and Christianity.

I honestly wondered how the SASC would recover from such a huge blow, and how they would continue. As events showed, it seems I wasn’t the only one.

Beyond the media and social fall-out, there were also other matters internal to the SASC as an organization which presented a serious problem to the membership; mainly, these took the form of issues of transparency and internal communication between the leader-group and the members. There are also issues of responsibility and accountability on the part of the SASC Council – the self-appointed leader-group – which need to be addressed.

To clarify, throughout, the SASC Council had kept Riaan’s departure – and even the real reasons for his departure – from the membership. They did so for more than a month, until the members had to learn of it themselves in the press, when the matter literally hit the fan!

This failure of the Council to warn their members, even to allow them time to make preparations to shield themselves from ridicule or attack, seriously undermined confidence in the SASC and its intangible leadership, which was then perceived to be distant, aloof and even partly responsible.

It’s perhaps not a surprise that Adri Norton, the sole visible representative for the South African Satanic Church left standing after this matter hit the news, took the brunt of their collective ire. Not only had Riaan abandoned and betrayed his community and his organization, but he’d also left his colleague and supposed friend to take the brunt of the fallout.

Effectively, what Riaan had done was to hand an undeserved PR victory to the enemies of Satanism and religious freedom and pluralism who had been waging an unjust war against it since decades before the establishment of the South African Satanic Church.

I think the disappearance of the SASC can be directly attributed as a consequence of Riaan’s actions.

The SASC Crumbles

By 6 July 2022 I’d already begun to be suspicious about Riaan’s “miraculous conversion” announcement.

I began to wonder: could it all have been deliberate? By that, I mean, could the whole scenario have been carefully contrived in order to bring down South Africa’s first registered Satanic church?

Having had friendly relations with Adri on Facebook, I sent her a message of support almost as soon as I’d got over the shock myself of what Riaan had done. I decided to risk the boundaries of our relations by sharing my suspicions with her. Understandably, it took her a day or two to respond, but in the flow of conversation over the next few weeks, I got something of a look behind the scenes at what was going on in the SASC during that time.

Adri told me she didn’t know what had been going on. Of Riaan, she said that she’d noticed a change in his behavior over the previous few months and that he seemed “very happy”. Still, this didn’t actually answer my question – but for the time being I accepted that she also didn’t know if Riaan had done so deliberately or not, or about his change of religion before it made the news, given their close personal association and continued friendship.

From what I could gather, Adri seemed to be genuinely as rattled about the matter as other members – except that, being part of the leadership structure of the organization, she was taking a lot of flak from the members. Everyone, she said – meaning SASC members and the Council – was “very angry” in the aftermath of the media circus Riaan had unleashed, and Adri said she felt isolated.

By 9 July, Adri appeared to lose her standing with the Church Council. According to what she told me in chat, the Council seemed to be second-guessing her loyalty or intentions – and given her continued friendship with Riaan, this was quite understandable. Apparently, without the weight of Riaan’s support to persuade the Council in their decision-making process, Adri basically had to carry out the Councils’ instructions without argument.

Things went quiet again, and outwardly, nothing appeared to change as far as the SASC was concerned. Perhaps most interestingly, the SASC hadn’t issued any public statements about Riaan’s “conversion” or his video at all, in fact they’d remained completely silent. There were no follow-up news articles about the SASC at all, and no interviews or press statements by Adri Norton either. It seems likely to me that the Council may have ordered an embargo on media contact, which – again – given the circumstances, sounds quite reasonable.

In a follow-up conversation with Adri on 21 July, she mentioned that she’d been told to re-create all the video content that appeared on the SASC website and YouTube channel that still had Riaan in it. Presumably, she had to replace it with videos of herself presenting the same subjects as before. It was a lot of work, and time consuming, and she said she didn’t know where she was going to find the time. I offered to assist with behind the scenes website administration and updating, but my offer was declined. I often wonder whether my offer was ever mentioned to the SASC Council, but never mind.

I thought the move to replace their media stock seemed encouraging, it implied that the SASC intended to rebuild and to ride out the storm. I hoped that things would pick up again soon.

In this hope, I was to be disappointed.

There were no further announcements or messages from the SASC Council to its members at all. That’s why, when I discovered that the website had been removed, it came as such a surprise to me. I had the same result when searching for the SASC YouTube channel, Facebook page and member group. All of it – the entire online presence of the South African Satanic Church – had vanished without a trace!

It was only after I’d watched Riaan’s 24 August video that I understood why.

What Riaan Did Next

On 1 September 2022, only about a week after Riaan’s 24 August video was posted, Riaan provided the next public clue of what he had planned.

Tristan Kapp had shared the news on Facebook that his former colleague Riaan Swiegelaar had done exactly as many of us suspected he would do; he’d set himself up as a Christian “ex-Satanist” preacher and “occult expert” in affiliation with Christian backers. As expected, Riaan was using his former leadership role within the South African Satanic Church to provide him with credibility to his new Christian audience.

The post by Tristan Kapp included attached posters promoting Riaan Swiegelaar’s planned seminars entitled “Exposing Satanism”. The blurb in his promo posters is very much as I’d have expected it to be:

“Riaan Swiegelaar was the co-founder & presiding reverend of the SA Satanic Church, the first official registered organization of its kind with 12,000 members within a 2 year period. He was also involved with the occult as a full time practitioner for more than 15 years.

After a supernatural encounter with Jesus Christ, Riaan was saved & delivered from Satanism. Since then he works alongside a deliverance ministry and educates the public on matters of the occult, spiritual warfare & the truth about Satanism.”

The posters didn’t mention which deliverance ministry Riaan Swiegelaar had signed up with, but they did mention the website “Spiritual Revival” (spiritualrevival.net) – whose domain is still presently reported as “expired”. This for me was the first sign that things hadn’t worked out quite as Riaan had expected, but more about that later.

I could hazard an educated guess which deliverance ministry he could be affiliated to – but that’s not as relevant as the fact that he was actually working with one of those nests of charlatans. The fact that he was, immediately laid the whole scheme bare: whatever Riaan would tell people about Satanism under such a patronage, it seemed unlikely to be based in fact. Considering the litany of fallacies contained in his August 2022 video, it’s fair to say it would probably be along the same lines.

According to the posters, Riaan Swiegelaar had planned to appear at seminars at Philadelphia (28 September 2022) where attendees would pay R270 per person; the next seminar (26 October) would have been at the Crystal Towers Hotel & Conference Center, Century City, Cape Town. Seats were priced at R1000 each. More timeslots were advertised in one poster as being planned for October & November, and also for 2023 in Johannesburg, Durban, and Port Elizabeth.

Topics of discussion as listed on the posters, including “how Satanists recruit”, “Satanism in SA”, “Satanic rituals”, and “Demonology 101” fall perfectly in line with the sort of disinformation propaganda typically peddled by these “deliverance ministries” waging “spiritual warfare” on Satanism. Under their patronage, and having their support, I could only expect Riaan Swiegelaar to “toe the party line” as far as the content of his seminars were concerned. Based on the content of his 24 August video, I don’t think I would be wrong.

Whether any of these seminars actually took place is a question I have no answer for; all I know is that I’ve seen no discussion or images or videos of any of these seminars – nor any reviews of these by Christians from the audience – nor (perhaps more tellingly) any mention of these at all in the news media.

Should the South African media have got wind of a seminar provocatively titled “Exposing Satanism” presented by Riaan Swiegelaar of all people, they would’ve crawled all over it, even if just once. That’s a guarantee.

Instead, there appears to have been a sustained absence of Riaan Swiegelaar in the SA press since about mid-July 2022. Rather, any mention of him after that period appears to have been in the form of Christian press, firstly welcoming and sensationalizing his “conversion”, and then later on, debating the legitimacy of his testimony and even casting doubt upon the sincerity of his “conversion” to Christianity, then labelling his “conversion” as “insincere” and “false”.

There was a definite Christian backlash against Riaan Swiegelaar’s presentation of himself as a Christian and “former Satanist high priest”, and resistance to his hope of launching a new career as an “occult expert”. At any rate, whatever Riaan Swiegelaar had been or done previously as a Satanist, and whatever he’d done since denouncing Satanism, he’d become a controversial topic for all parties concerned.

In showing that he was associated with a “deliverance ministry”, Riaan had aligned himself with the same archetype of horrific unprincipled frauds who for decades have slandered and spread disinformation about diverse religious belief systems including African spirituality, traditional healing, Paganism and Satanism in the pursuit of fame, social influence and fortune. Worse yet, he showed that he was willing to partake in the same slander, reflecting upon him the textbook realization of the term “warlock”, which means “oath-breaker”.

The paradox and hypocrisy in Riaan “switching sides”, as it were – not simply from religious Satanism to Christianity, but from an organization created to oppose disinformation about religious Satanism, to an organization created to repeat disinformation about religious Satanism – is simply astonishing.

So too, it’s important to note that Riaan Swiegelaar’s potential value to a “deliverance ministry” as a sort of “strategic weapon” couldn’t possibly have been understated. That is, if his claims of having “converted” to Christianity were accepted as genuine. They clearly appear to have been, at least at first.

By drawing on his reputation as a recognized former leader within Satanist religion for credibility, Riaan Swiegelaar’s potential usefulness to their cause becomes apparent as a propaganda tool. If he were to repeat the “deliverance ministries” disinformation about Satanism, this would provide an ostensibly credible confirmation of all their disinformation about Satanism, coming straight “from the horse’s mouth”. His role then in this scenario, would be to provide them and their own disinformation – the myth of Christianity-created Pseudo-satanism as it were – with credibility in the public eye.

For whatever “deliverance ministry” Riaan had signed up to, I’m sure they thought it was certainly a coup! But was it really? Was Riaan Swiegelaar everything they’d hoped he’d be?

What I do know is that as institutions, these “deliverance ministries” tend to be strikingly fundamentalist, which also means virulently homophobic.

Whatever Riaan is, or was, or wants to be – or regardless of what they want him to be, he’s a gay man. More provocatively, he’s a gay man married to another man – and, as any proper medical professional can tell you, that’s not something that can be prayed away.

How would his “deliverance ministry” partner or associate deal with this inconvenience? Would they try to keep it quiet? I don’t see that working either. There is still much in the public domain that clearly identifies Riaan as being gay and married, which clashes with the “conservative” Christian view, and which anyone attending one of his seminars could publicly confront him about – and that might prove an embarrassment for the organizers.

I’m not sure how they could get around that obstacle – perhaps they could convince Riaan to pretend to be “cured” of homosexuality for the sake of advancing his career? Convince him to divorce his husband of about nine years (according to the Perspektief video) who it appears (for some bizarre unfathomable reason) has supported him through quite a long, tumultuous and surreal history?

In point of fact, the detail that he hasn’t done so is one of the items in the list of reasons why Christians have labelled the sincerity of his “conversion” to Christianity as “fake”. Nor has he shown remorse for his “sins”, which subverts the Christian necessity of having an artificially important guilt complex required of Christians.

What might have been even more awkward for his “deliverance ministry” backers, is when it became apparent that what Riaan identifies as “Christianity” is actually a syncretic blend of Christianity and other beliefs – in this case, a scope of diverse beliefs and practices including items cherry-picked from all his previous religious identities, and which is perhaps best described (by Christians) as “New Age”.

This discovery – which was made public surprisingly quite early after his “miraculous deliverance from Satanism” – resulted in a string of hysterical warning Christian blog posts, religious newsletters, articles and videos from Christian activists between July and October 2022, denouncing Riaan’s “conversion” as fake or disingenuous. (Perspektief, Voddie Baucham – We Were Wrong About Former SATANIST Who Saw Jesus).

Taking all this craziness into consideration, I’m not even sure how Riaan got signed with a “deliverance ministry” to begin with. Maybe they didn’t do any homework on him at first, and just took him at face value? Perhaps they just realized who he was, namely the former figurehead of the South African Satanic Church (i.e. “the competition”) and jumped at the chance to get him on their team before checking all the boxes?

I can only imagine what could have happened when they figured out what sort of possible bad PR they would’ve exposed themselves to, because the questions that could likely be asked of them could very well have been something like:

“What exactly is it that you’re marketing here? Because he says he’s not a Satanist, but he’s clearly not a Christian (insofar as we define Christianity), so what is he? And why should we believe him?”

I’m sure any fundamentalist Christian group looking to profit off bums-in-seats at “Exposing Satanism” seminars around the country would find marketing such a hot potato to their conservative homophobic audiences quite difficult.

I don’t know how this would-be partnership between Riaan Swiegelaar and the anonymous “deliverance ministry” will play out – or has already, but I have my suspicions that it may have already run its course.

The Uncertain Fate Of The SASC

It was only on 15 December 2022, that I finally learned what had happened to the SASC and to Adri Norton. After a long, quiet spell, Adri Norton posted a lengthy statement in a Facebook post:

“What has happened to SASC? In short, it has gone underground, or rather that is what I have been told.” “I resigned at the end of September 2022 with immediate effect. To this day I still do not know if any member was ever informed of this.”

Members were not informed of Adri’s resignation – because by that time, all the SASC’s online presence had disappeared, and the SASC had become un-contactable, even by members. This was because the only contact persons we’d ever known were Riaan and Adri, with no alternatives.

This is just one reason why I disbelieve the claim that the SASC “went underground”, because if it had done so, it would’ve retained contact with its members. What would it have been without the members? A council of 7 or 9 people by itself?

Adri went on to explain:

“After Riaan left I was placed in a position that carried unreasonable expectations and the council, which I honestly thought was the worst decision Riaan and I ever made, turned out to be my biggest blessing. They voted me out as the spokesperson for the organisation as my friendship with Riaan was a conflict of interest. It honestly didn’t bother me as I have not been that involved with the organisation since becoming a mom.

After that I was informed it would be better suited to the organisation if membership fees were implemented, something Riaan and I agreed from the beginning would never happen. This felt deeply unethical and did not align with the vision I once had for the organisation, one of personal growth and empowerment for people. Something you cannot place a price tag on.

Already feeling removed from the religion, I felt it was time to part ways with the organisation I helped establish.”

You can view the entire statement here.

In her statement, Adri expressed continued support and friendship for Riaan Swiegelaar, which she did in spite of the irreparable damage he’d done to the SASC – and given that, I struggle to grasp how Adri could’ve failed to understand why Satanists (and even other occultists) were so angry about everything that had happened – or how she could still have maintained friendship with him despite his betrayal of the SASC, the members, and herself. If it were me, I certainly wouldn’t have tolerated that sort of abuse.

I can’t disagree with the decision of the SASC Council to remove her from the position of SASC spokesperson, as relayed by Adri in her post, that her friendship with Riaan was a conflict of interest; it really was. How could it not be – especially taking into consideration that he was then already actively working to undermine and misrepresent the SASC to his newfound Christian audience?

Since before Adri left the SASC in September 2022, I’ve not had contact with any representative of the SASC.

As to answer the question of whether or not the SASC truly has “gone underground” and is still operational, I simply don’t know – however, I’m more inclined to think it has simply ceased to exist.

In the absence of anyone who knows the truth being willing to come forward to provide answers, I’ve been forced to speculate.

Some Things Just Don’t Add Up

Looking back at the saga of the South African Satanic Church, it’s difficult to really get to grips with everything and to try and make sense of it all. There are still a lot of things that don’t add up or simply cannot be what they appear to be – or as they have been made out to be.

There’s really no way to try to unravel the untieable knot that represents everything that happened under the headings of “the South African Satanic Church” or “Satanism in South Africa” between 2020 and 2022, without examining Riaan Swiegelaar.

After all, he was one of the two co-founders of the SASC, and also the most senior representative and more visible spokesperson for the organization who engaged with the press and public. For the period 2020-2022, in the public eye, Riaan Swiegelaar was the face and the voice of Satanism and the SASC.

So too, the questions left in the wake of the SASC’s disappearance cannot be answered without examining the body alleged to have governed the SASC: the SASC Church Council, its actions, and where applicable, its omission of actions.

Riaan Swiegelaar: Timing, Coincidences & Other Questions

An Inclination Of Syncretism

One of the many, many questions I’ve had about Riaan Swiegelaar, was about the nature of the man’s beliefs. What did – or does he really believe?

It should also be assumed that the individual chosen to lead the spiritual or religious side of the SASC – the “head reverend” as it were – was the most senior, most knowledgeable and most trusted of all, coupled with having certain useful skills of course, such as being able to handle public speaking and communicating clearly, and so on.

Riaan Swiegelaar was the “presiding reverend” of the SASC, and as such he was supposed to preach and practice atheistic LaVeyan Satanism – at least, he was supposed to be… but was that all he preached and practiced?

In examining Riaan’s past, he himself admitted in a video interview that he’d identified as an atheistic Satanist for only about four years prior to connecting with the group that became registered as the SASC in February 2020.

Prior to that, as he’d relayed in several other interviews, Riaan claimed he had been a Christian pastor at one time, after which he’d registered and practiced as a sangoma (African traditional healer) which he said he’d done for the eight years, before adopting Satanism. In one video from 2022, he states that he “made lots of money” performing witchcraft for clients.

Before that, he was a Christian pastor, ostensibly from an Apostolic background. Apostolicism is also not really a mainstream denomination, but also tends to be regarded as a bit of a fringe group in that, aside from the disagreement of which day is the Sabbath, they believe in the modern day power of prophecy among other minor differences.

Contemporaneously, for some indeterminate time period, while switching between all these various separate religious identities, Riaan also seems to have offered his services as a psychic medium, healer and mystic. This information is still visible on his YouTube channel’s “about” page, and in adverts offering his services, which can still be found online using Google. In his 24 August 2022 video, Riaan also refers to his mystical healing business in the sense of a still-running concern.

Riaan seems to have demonstrated a lack of permanence or stability in his beliefs and religious identity and displayed a tendency to drift from one religion to another, and another, and another – and then back to one of the previous. I have no idea why he did this – perhaps he was searching for something, maybe even the acceptance and “unconditional love” he describes in his 4 July video – who knows?

It’s also worth noting that while beliefs and practices relating to crystals, herbs, psychics, mysticism, divination and magic or witchcraft may feature, to some degree, in different religious or cultural settings, they do not necessarily carry the same weight, significance or meaning universally within all those systems.

The practice of witchcraft or magic, for example, is perceived and conducted differently within African traditions than in the Western sense. The use of crystals, fortune-telling and energy healing used in some belief frameworks might not be acknowledged within other religious settings, and in fact, might be condemned in others. For an individual to cherry-pick diverse beliefs or practices from divergent religions, and integrate them into some amalgam that suits them on a personal level is one thing, but were they to integrate beliefs or practices taken from one religion into another within the context of a religious organization dedicated to maintaining the religious standard, this would undoubtedly result in friction and resistance from purists.

What I’m suggesting here, is that that before Riaan even began identifying himself as an atheistic Satanist, he already appeared to have picked up a habit of syncretizing or blending unrelated beliefs or practices taken from diverse religions or cultures, into something that suited him for his own purposes.

When Riaan adopted LaVeyan Satanism as his religion, it’s likely that he may have simply continued a process of incorporating some elements of his prior beliefs and practices into his interpretation of LaVeyan Satanism.

In an interview I conducted with Tristan Kapp in January 2023, he discussed his visit to Riaan and his husband in Cape Town in December 2021. While there, he said, he’d met and interacted with several other members of the SASC who were all close friends of Riaan.

“Riaan gave me a free tarot reading: he prophesied that I would move to Cape Town and marry a woman whose father would own a wine farm. I still think of it as a load of horse shit. He gave me a palm reading too, and I tried a Crystal healing ceremony too. Again, I found it to be placebo nonsense.

I remember a big argument we had about the past life regressions and soul journeys and stuff, which I dared say does not align with Satanic principles. They (Riaan and others present) insisted that it did. Again, I was the unpopular one for vocally disagreeing with their warped perspective of LaVeyan Satanism.”

In a 2021 video on Adri Norton’s “Your Spiritual Tourguide” channel on YouTube, Adri and Riaan discuss past life regressions, karma and reincarnation and “crystal clusters”. It’s also mentioned that Riaan conducts past life regression as a service. Bear in mind the timing of this video, that this takes place around the period discussed by Tristan Kapp, and while Riaan was “presiding reverend” of the SASC.

As Tristan pointed out, past life regressions, soul journeys and similar are not ideas promoted within LaVeyan Satanism. Nor are tarot or prophecies.

Yes, Riaan wasn’t speaking in that specific video as “presiding reverend” of the SASC, or on behalf of Satanism, but as a mystic or practitioner of “New Age” beliefs etc. – as an individual.

However, imagine the sort of backlash a Christian pastor would face within his church, if he were to appear in public videos promoting something doctrinally incongruous with Christianity and contrary to his role as a Christian cleric? Even if he did so off the clock, in his own time?

This suggests that, metaphorically speaking, Riaan Swiegelaar wore different hats at different times, and sometimes, more than one at a time. The question is, is he himself fully cognizant of which hat he’s wearing at any particular time – or which hat he should be wearing at a particular time, or does he maybe just prefer to wear them all at once for the sake of convenience?

For me, this calls into question his identity as a Satanist – what exactly did he regard as Satanism? Secondly, why did his inner circle appear to go along with and support his syncretized version of Satanism, as suggested by Tristan Kapp? Could this have been a result of a shared misunderstanding on their part, or had it perhaps come about under social pressure to agree with the “presiding reverend” of the SASC?

In other words, could an implied pressure to “stay on Riaan’s good side” have fostered the mind-set, in practice within that inner social circle, that “Satanism includes whatever the hell Riaan says it does”?

Were that to be so, then the SASC does indeed appear to retroactively take on an uncanny resemblance to a cult-like environment.

Nowhere, however, has Riaan demonstrated his tendency to blend, syncretize and cherry-pick religion as he has since his re-identification as a “Christian”.

Between July and August 2022, Riaan appeared in several video interviews with international Christian bloggers and podcasters. One series of interviews stands out in particular, with TruthSeekah, aka Derek Grosskurth, an American Christian fringe podcaster. In these, Riaan extols the benefits of mystical and occult practices like automatic writing, crystal healing, and claims to have received visions from “God”.

Riaan is not the only person who had the benefit of a Christian experience, and it’s apparent to me – from watching too many of these tiresome videos, that Riaan doesn’t speak from within a conventional or mainstream Christian framework at all.

There’s something really hinky going on there.

The Supposed Ritual

The alleged “Satanic ritual” Riaan first referred to in his 4 July video – the one he’d supposedly conducted when he “met Jesus Christ” – represents another bone of contention. In a later interview (visible at 2:40 in this video), he describes this ritual in more detail, as one intended to “give him power” by “invoking a cluster of demons”. He also insists that the SASC Church Council advised him to perform this ritual.

As Riaan himself had said many times before, even in this video, he’d identified as a LaVeyan Satanist. Because belief in demons as extant entities is contrary to the principles of LaVeyan Satanism, such a ritual would not be consistent with LaVeyan Satanism at all. That would be more fitting with theistic Satanism – or even pseudo-satanism. Indeed, in the interview, Riaan also affirms that the ritual he was instructed to perform was supposedly taken from “theistic Satanism”, but he never named or described the ritual fully so that it could be identified.

Yes, there are rituals within LaVeyan Satanism, but as LaVey himself explained, these rituals “are simply applied psychology or science”. They aren’t expected to literally produce miraculous results, as if by magic – or to conjure up actual supernatural entities.

What Riaan was supposed to do with “more power” is not quite understood or explained though. Why would atheistic Satanists bother with a notion of spiritual “power” which they themselves wouldn’t believe in? Right, nevertheless, Riaan’s narrative prevails, for the sake of understanding.

So just to be clear then, the SASC Council which doesn’t believe in magick or demons or the supernatural tells Riaan to perform a ritual to “summon demons” (which he said he’d never done before), and then Jesus Christ shows up? …Right. That’s very believable.

Let’s just say I’m skeptical about that.

Firstly, if Riaan had told the truth when he claimed that the Council had insisted he perform this ritual, then they themselves would not have been acting within the doctrinal identity of the SASC either if they had done so.

This suggestion implies a number of disturbing things, for example that the SASC had somehow lied about their beliefs to the public and their members, which suggests that the SASC was either really a theistic organization masquerading as an atheistic one, or was some sort of “melting pot” for all varieties of Satanism. If that were indeed the case, as I’ve pointed out before, then the SASC social groups would’ve been awash with theistic Satanists and “devil-worshipers”. Not only that, but the organization would’ve torn itself apart worse than a glutton’s intestines after a night gorging on garlic, pepper and onions.

Based on everything I saw in terms of literature and through interaction with members, I’m at least 98% convinced this was not the case. That’s why I also have to question his claim that the SASC Church Council had put him up to this alleged ritual.

The 4 July Video

This brings me back to Riaan’s “coming out” video of 4 July 2022. There are some incongruities that stand out to me.

As indicated by Riaan in his video, he’d decided to post it because he’d been made aware that there was some interest in what had happened to him and what was going on in his personal life after a month of sustained silence.

“I’m doing this live video because many individuals, over 100 on WhatsApp and over 200 on Facebook, have messaged me asking why I left the South African Satanic Church and why I turned my back on Satanism.” “To be very honest, I initially thought I’d slip out the backdoor quietly and I didn’t think people would be so interested in why I do what I do.”

In the video, Riaan made mention that “for more than a month” he was not allowed to talk about his choices and decisions “for obvious reasons” because “a certain organization” – by implication the SASC, wanted time “to prepare themselves as well”. The SASC press statement of 29 July which announced his resignation mentioned a “non-disclosure agreement”, which he refers to in several other later videos.

This goes some way to explain his apparent silence between 30 May and 4 July 2022, and in particular about his resignation and return to Christianity, but it doesn’t explain everything.

Firstly, given the circumstances and background of events against which the video made its appearance, I question the extent to which the video was as spontaneous and innocuous as he would have people believe, and not deliberately calculated.

Firstly, Riaan did not simply state that he’d resigned from the SASC, or that he was no longer a Satanist. Neither did he simply state that he’d returned to Christianity. Instead, he put on quite a show.

What Riaan did by means of that video, was to present a public Christian “testimony” about his “miraculous” conversion to Christianity. He’d met “Jesus Christ” he said, in person, after conducting some sort of Satanic ritual.

The 4 July video seemed to me to be a cry, on some level, to be believed. It’s difficult for even me to dismiss the man blurting his heart out, crying and literally wiping away tears, outpouring a torrent of emotions, as a convincing actor. But I had doubts about his sincerity then, and I still do.

The timing of the video certainly appears to have been pre-empted by the confluence of certain factors: the issuing of the SASC press release announcing Riaan’s resignation in June, and resulting interest in the story from journalists several days later.

In the video, Riaan admits he’d already been contacted by journalists and mentioned that this was the reason why he’d decided to create and post the video – so yes, he already clearly expected some sort of media spotlight to fall on him at that stage.

Was this a case of opportunism? Had he decided to make the most of the free publicity he was due to receive?

I believe that by then, Riaan had already decided to embark on a new career path as a “Christian occult expert” – and that this video was the vehicle he used to launch it.

In examining subsequent events following the release of his video, I noticed that Riaan Swiegelaar did not disappoint – rather than shy away from publicity in the aftermath of his July 4 video, it’s glaringly obvious that he actively pursued it.

I’m not sure what Riaan Swiegelaar’s motives were for staging his “conversion” to Christianity, or what he really believes he is, but it seems clear enough to me what his motives were going forward from that point.

Membership Of The SASC – An Inconsistency

The question of just how many members did the South African Satanic Church have has arisen time again – both in questions from the newshounds and outsiders, and it seems, from members themselves.

Following the lengthy fiasco that marked the rise and fall of the SASC, I found many of the supposed answers to that question unsatisfactory, and for a variety of different reasons.

As far as I could gauge, having been a member of the SASC, and having been present in certain SASC social groups on Facebook, I had formed my own picture of the size of the membership.

Let me provide a quick summary.

There was the Council, said to consist of between 7 and 9 people. Let’s be generous and put that tally at 9.

Riaan and Adri (2) brings it to 11 (that’s assuming they weren’t already part of said Council, but let’s be generous and leave them out for the count).

My group, the Eastern Cape/Port Elizabeth Chapter (7, minus Riaan and Adri = 5) This makes 16.

The Gauteng Chapter group was the largest, and since I hadn’t been a part of that group I had no idea of its size. Out of curiosity, I asked Tristan Kapp in an interview in January 2023 about the SASC Gauteng Chapter and what sort of membership numbers it had:

“I got the opportunity to head (unbeknownst to me) the largest SASC chapter – the Gauteng Chapter. I had various people ‘under’ me, for lack of a better term, and considered many of them my friends. I spent hours with them on Zoom sessions, WhatsApp group chats and knew each of them by name and who they were as people.”

“I personally processed the memberships as well at one stage with my own Gauteng chapter… between all the spam of individuals trying to sell their souls and individuals trying to have a sort of self-importance and – you know, trying to be rich and famous – and deleting those (applications), you had the often one or two individuals that were like ‘hey, I want to be part this organization, you guys are cool!’ and that’s about the long and short of it.”

When I asked him how many members were in the Gauteng chapter, he said: “In my chapter, at most there were about 50.”

Fifty seems impressive, compared to the paltry seven in my chapter, doesn’t it? But then, Gauteng is our most densely populated province, so I don’t find that too surprising.

I’ll work on 50 as a nice round number. Adding this 50 to the 16 we have so far, makes 66 members.

Then there was the SASC general Facebook group, which was also referred to as the “national chapter”, in which all members interacted and received news or updates about the activities of the SASC in private. The total number of people present in this group would have already included all the individual members of the SASC, including Riaan and Adri as administrators, and members of the PE and Gauteng chapters, so I’d have to subtract that figure (66) from the total to discover the number of other members who were located elsewhere in South Africa and didn’t belong to chapters.

As far as I can recall, this group never contained more than about 200 members, and even then, I feel like I’m being generous. 200 minus 66 leaves 134 more members who were unaffiliated to chapters. Of course, the 200 was an estimate based on my own memory of the group, but I honestly cannot believe it was ever higher than that, or not by much. It was almost certainly never as high as 300.

Perhaps the truth is closer to what Riaan himself hinted at in his 4 July video, when he said:

“I’m doing this live video because many individuals, over 100 on WhatsApp and over 200 on Facebook, have messaged me asking why I left the South African Satanic Church and why I turned my back on Satanism.”

The numbers of individuals he said here had contacted him on WhatsApp and Facebook – many of whom would’ve been members of the SASC, seems to be a far more realistic estimate of concerned SASC members than his “12,100”.

Frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t claim to have had “thousands” of messages as well.

How did Riaan come to “thousands” of SASC members then?

Riaan Swiegelaar and Adri Norton had stated in at least one interview with journalists in 2020, that the SASC represented or spoke for “thousands of Satanists” in South Africa. This claim was also repeated several times on other occasions. In his 24 August video, he boldly states that there were 12,100 members of the SASC at the time he resigned. The posters promoting his “Exposing Satanism” seminars from 1 September state a round figure of “12,000”.

The question I have about this quantity then is, were these “thousands of Satanists” to which Riaan and Adri refer, actual registered members of the SASC? I have sincere doubts about that.

Rather than being based in fact, or according to a physical register of members, were the claimed “thousands” not perhaps an estimate – or an exaggeration?

Perhaps what they had meant to say was that because the SASC had set itself up as an activist organization in the beginning, it had decided that it represented atheistic Satanism in South Africa – and hence, all atheistic Satanists in the country? Regardless of whether they agreed to this, or approved of them, or not? If so, this would’ve been rather presumptuous on their part. Whatever the context, it’s still a blatant misrepresentation of the facts.

The SASC most certainly did not speak for all Satanists in South Africa. The main reason I can assure you of the truth of this, is because there are numerous different forms of religious Satanism to begin with – and not even all atheistic Satanists are aligned with the LaVeyan framework which the SASC had adopted doctrinally.

To do so would be just as factually incorrect as, for example, a Methodist church claiming to present itself as representing all people who identify as Christians in South Africa, up to and including Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

To provide context, the venerable Church of Satan, for example, would never presume to speak for anyone other than their actual membership – so why did the SASC? Was it because they felt too embarrassed to admit that they had only about 200 registered members on their books?

Did they feel that citing such a small number – even if true – would somehow undermine their legitimacy as an officially registered religious organization? Is bigger not also better?

The CoS has many members from around the world. They too refuse to disclose exact numbers – but they’ve been operating since 1966, and they’ve had nearly sixty years to assemble a following and a membership. Most tellingly, the CoS has never put a number on their membership – and while it’s unlikely to be as little as 200, one of the characteristics of the CoS is that it generally keeps to itself and doesn’t make too many waves.

The SASC had been around for just two, perhaps three years, and clearly couldn’t have had anything approaching the sort of numbers Riaan claimed it did – either as its spokesperson, or lately as someone trying to ride to fame and fortune on its funerary robes. Yet in that time, the SASC had made so many waves that it had been swamped by them.

Had Riaan somehow convinced himself that because he “spoke for” all Satanists in South Africa as “presiding reverend” of the SASC, that these “thousands of Satanists” automatically counted as registered members?

As Riaan claimed in his August 24 video, and as is visible on his “Exposing Satanism” posters from September 2022, it is boldly claimed that the SASC had reached a membership of twelve thousand people. Twelve thousand!

That’s a pretty damn impressive leap from a paltry 200 or so, don’t you think?

Where did they come from all of a sudden?

Is this figure a guess? Is it a stab in the dark estimate of how many Satanists Riaan Swiegelaar believes there could be in South Africa – those he’d earlier claimed, somewhat arrogantly, he’d represented as a spokesperson for the SASC?

In his video, Riaan insists that the number of Satanists in South Africa is growing – and his insistence is framed as though this would represent some sort of threat.

Riaan Swiegelaar wouldn’t be the first “ex-Satanist” or “high priest of Satan” to dish up pie-in-the-sky claims of how many Satanists there supposedly are in South Africa for the sake of puffing up his own self-importance – especially in the perception of audiences waiting to hear them dish up the goods on a “Satanic conspiracy”.

In the 1970s and 80s, two individuals called Phil Botha and Dave Griesel pursued fame and fortune in this way. Both claimed to have been “ex high priests of Satan” in South Africa, although neither could demonstrate any connection with an actual real-world Satanist organization. Griesel briefly toured churches and Phil Botha conducted interviews with Huisgenoot and willing to listen to these tall tales. Both came to the attention of Kobus Jonker and helped to fan the flames of the South African “satanic panic” hysteria of the period.

These two individuals put their estimates of how many Satanists there were in South Africa at upwards of 165,000. Bearing in mind that this was way back in the early 1980s – more than forty years ago – Riaan’s claim seems to come up a little short. Shouldn’t he have done some homework first, before putting forward such a low figure? Surely by now it should be approaching something closer to several million? I mean, how could he possibly hope to frighten his modern audiences, who tend to imagine demons lurking in every shadow, with a figure as low as only a paltry 12,000?

So how many Satanists are there in South Africa then? Here’s an interesting factoid for you: I don’t have any idea how many there are. Nobody does.

This simple truth ought to be more terrifying to the small-minded and superstitious people who gather at the feet of charlatans peddling fantasies about devil worship and satanic conspiracies: the number of people in South Africa who identify with any form of religious Satanism cannot be determined – not even by statistics.

The simple reason for this is, that even if the government were to commission a census for this purpose, and even if this census were to visit each and every household in the nation – or even if it were conducted anonymously and online, not every Satanist would feel comfortable or safe in disclosing their religious affiliation or identity. Many would rather answer “none” or “not applicable” or even “other”.

There has simply been far too much institutionalized religious oppression and persecution in South Africa for there to be a level of trust sufficient for that purpose.

So as far as how many Satanists there are in South Africa, at any time, nobody will ever know.

Regarding The SASC Council

I have a lot of questions about the South African Satanic Church Council.

This was a group referred to by both Riaan Swiegelaar and Adri Norton as being the body that actually ran the SASC and to whom they themselves answered.

It was, as I should think would apply to the board of directors, controlling committee or governing body of any organization, the responsibility of the SASC’s Church Council to safeguard their members and to look out after their best interests in so far as these were affected as members of the SASC.

It’s for this reason that I have concerns about a number of issues:

Transparency Within The SASC

Transparency within the SASC, broadly speaking, was non-existent.

As to the structure of the SASC, no formal organigrams or detailed hierarchical explanations, goals, guidelines, codes of conduct or policies were ever discussed or provided to the members.

How were members supposed to know what was expected of them as members? How were they supposed to know what the SASC stood for? How were they supposed to know their rights or responsibilities as members? How were they supposed to know the powers or responsibilities of the Council?

It seems to me that after being vetted and interviewed, new members were simply corralled into a Facebook group like sheep into a pen, where they would be shown announcements of Riaan and Adri’s latest SASC videos and interviews in the news, and little else.

Discussions were rare and restrained, and responses from the admins conveyed the tone that they were very busy and didn’t like being disturbed, and didn’t like certain types of questions, such as anything to do with the internal structure of the SASC.

Rather, what little of the internal structure of the SAC was revealed, came to light on a piecemeal footing to new and existing members. It was insinuated that the SASC was a hierarchical organization, consisting of (from the top down) the Church Council, the “Presiding Reverend” (Riaan Swiegelaar) and below him, perhaps under the heading of “Administration”, Adri Norton in the appointment of “Spokesperson”.

Beneath them, a little later, were the Chapter Leaders, including at one time, Tristan Kapp (Gauteng Chapter) and myself (Eastern Cape/Port Elizabeth Chapter) and then the rest of the ordinary members, and after 6 January 2022, these short-lived Chapter Leader positions too fell away.

The leadership of the organization itself was absent, anonymous, and did not interact at all with the members, except through their two middlemen, Riaan and Adri.

As Riaan and Adri had explained in numerous media interviews and occasionally in private communications, this was done deliberately in order to keep their identities out of the news.

The Council consisted of either seven or nine individuals (depending on which newspaper article you refer to) and they were said to be wealthy, well-known or publicly recognizable South African personalities who would likely suffer negative consequences if their affiliation with the SASC were to be exposed.

The fact that their identities were also kept from registered members implied an absence of trust on their part, of the members of the SASC. It also suggests that there were doubts that, were they to be known to the members, that their identities would remain protected within the SASC.

Taken at face value, this represents a lack of trust in the sincerity of their own registered members as well as a lack of faith in their own new member application process and vetting system.

Riaan and Adri’s explanations for the Council’s anonymity made a lot of sense, and for some reason it seemed acceptable to the membership to remain members on the understanding that the organization was run by people they did not know by name or appearance or reputation. The organization – that is Riaan, Adri and the Council of course, knew who the members were, which also implied a one-sided power arrangement, completely in favor of the Council. Even so, this absence of trust would have seriously undermined any chance of transparency within the SASC. Trust, as they say, flows in both directions.

The Council appeared to have displayed a proclivity for legal Non-disclosure agreements – and I feel this trust issue could easily have been averted by making an NDA a part of the membership application process. There are plenty of private companies and governmental organizations who have done this for years, so it wouldn’t have been unheard of.

Further to the issue of transparency, decisions within the SASC, even those affecting members, were arrived at unilaterally by the Church Council with little or no opportunity given to members to provide input. The decision to close regional Chapter groups is one example.

There was an atmosphere of secrecy within the SASC, which existed between the Council and the members. By this I mean, certain issues which affected members were discussed and handled and concluded entirely behind closed doors as it were, with the members only being made aware of the outcome at the conclusion, if at all.

The most prominent example of this, was the way the Council handled the matter of Riaan Swiegelaar’s resignation.

Firstly, there’s a substantial gap between Riaan’s resignation from the SASC (30 May) and the timing of his video statement (4 July). This is a span of 30 calendar days – a whole month. As Riaan himself stated in his video, “for more than a month” he was not allowed to talk about his choices and decisions “for obvious reasons” because “a certain organization” – by implication the SASC, wanted time to prepare themselves.

Prepare what? For that entire 30 day period, the Council themselves told the members of the SASC nothing about Riaan’s resignation or the reasons behind it. What did they supposedly do?

According to Riaan’s statement, they wanted “time to prepare” – but they clearly did not show their members the same consideration. The first the members of the SASC heard about Riaan’s resignation and his “conversion to Christianity” was from his own video on 4 July 2022.

The very next day, the first newspaper article to break the news of Riaan’s resignation from the SASC and his return to Christianity (Afrinuus) appeared on 5 July. What’s relevant about this fact is that the same article included an image of an official SASC press statement announcing Riaan’s resignation. This statement was dated 29 June, a whole week before the video and the article.

The obvious question I have here is: why had the SASC Church Council made an effort to inform the press of his resignation, but not the members of the SASC?

What, if anything, had the SASC Church Council done to address this issue in the intervening period?

Was the matter kept quiet by the Council so as to not “rock the boat”, or had the Council been so wrapped up in the nightmare of how to deal with this public relations hot potato, that they delayed in making the membership aware of it? Was that perhaps also the reason for the lengthy delay before the 29 June press release?

Why did they decide to send this document to the media in the first place? Riaan, by all that is visible, appeared to have gone off quietly after his resignation on 30 May, not making any waves or statements about Satanism or the SASC, or appearing in any interviews or articles at all during this period – right up until his 4 July video. In the meantime, the SASC had sent out their press statement.

As Riaan himself notes in his 4 July video, he had received calls from journalists asking questions, presumably about this press statement – which means the SASC themselves provided Riaan with a reason to create his video, since he was aware he was about to receive more media attention.

It’s a foregone conclusion that any journalists who had been in contact with him at the time, or looking into Riaan Swiegelaar around 4 July, would have seen his video post and immediately stopped the presses, screaming about a “scoop”!

Given the sort of embarrassment and bad PR fiasco it was for the SASC – which was entirely predictable on so many levels, I can’t help but wonder why they would have opted to initiate such a potentially self-destructive process in the first place.

Perhaps it would’ve been better if they hadn’t sent that press release at all, and instead waited for the media to contact them at some indeterminate future time, for example when the SASC had either replaced Riaan or sufficient time had passed for the dust to settle – or if a journalist accidentally tripped over him while he was presenting “Exposing Satanism” seminars.

Lastly, on the topic of the SASC Council’s failures, I’d like to bring up the issue of their choice to appoint Riaan Swiegelaar as “presiding reverend” of the South African Satanic Church in the first place.

The role of “presiding reverend” would have been intended for someone who would represent LaVeyan Satanism to the public in the desired manner, and be a spiritual leader within the SASC.

The ideal person ought to have been someone with a convincing level of credibility within the local Satanic community, someone who had a track record of more than a few months or one or two years as a practicing Satanist; and most especially not someone who cherry-picked bits and bobs of other religions or co-opted them whenever they felt like it.

In a “TruthSeekah” video podcast from August 2022, Riaan claims to have adopted Satanism four years prior, which means he had only adopted Satanism as his religion in 2018, a scant two years before suddenly becoming the “presiding reverend” of the South African Satanic Church!

To explain why this is so upsetting, imagine someone with the bare minimum of training or experience in yoga joining a Christian church and starting out right away being appointed as an archbishop!

If the Council had done their job and examined him as closely as they were supposed to, would they not have uncovered this man’s tendency to drift from religion to religion, and determined his relative inexperience and status as a newcomer to Satanism? One would think a more thorough screening process would’ve been prescribed for Church officials – especially in the case of someone meant to represent or embody the tenets of the SASC, and to do so in the public eye!

It strikes me as very odd indeed that a relative noob would be entrusted with a role of such great importance by a church council to begin with!

Was there no-one else? Nobody better suited? Nobody more appropriate? Nobody with a hint of emotional stability?

There appears to be no explanation for how someone so obviously unstable got to occupy such a critical, public position in the South African Satanic Church in the first place!

By “unstable”, I’m speaking in the sense of his having demonstrated a tendency to drift from one religion to another, to another and another – repeatedly throughout his adult life so far. What’s to prevent him from drifting on again from “Christianity” again in a few years’ time?

People change religions all the time – some more so than others, but very few receive the level of Christian (and public) attention as do people leaving Satanism – especially when they do so to join Christianity. Very few also attempt to set themselves up as “experts” in every successive new religion they adopt, which is something Riaan Swiegelaar appears to excel at.

This sort of thing has happened before, so it’s possible it could happen again – which is exactly why I feel the Council should’ve showed a higher level of caution and selectivity.

Given his tendency to chop and change between religions, how could they have been so certain that he was an acceptable candidate to become the lasting face of the SASC and Satanism in South Africa?

What the hell were they thinking?

This brings up another question: was there ever actually an SASC Church Council?

Did The SASC Council Really Exist?

Between the registration of the SASC in February 2020 and May 2022, Riaan Swiegelaar and Adri Norton consistently presented the SASC Church Council as the real authority or governing body of the organization, and themselves merely as spokespersons for the Council and the organization.

What’s noteworthy about this, is that they are the only persons within the SASC known to have referred to them as an institution within the SASC; insofar as the Council’s existence is concerned, were it not for Riaan and Adri’s statements, nobody would ever have known about them at all. They were also the only two members purported to have had direct access to this Council, or to have some idea of who individual Council members were.

It hadn’t escaped me that, were it not for the press being made aware that the SASC Church Council was a body to which Riaan and Adri answered, they themselves would likely have been perceived as the leaders of the organization. After all, they made no secret of their having co-founded and registered the SASC together.

Be that as it may, I’m by no means the only former member who today questions whether or not this Council actually existed. Riaan and Adri insisted that it did, and they did so consistently. The only variance in their claims was in terms of the number of members, which was sometimes 7, and sometimes 9. However, in terms of actual proof of their existence, as far as I’m concerned, I never saw any.

As members of the organization, we were simply reassured of their existence by Riaan and Adri, while their absence of identity was explained away as for the sake of their protection.

This did seem to be matter of convenience for me, and I did occasionally wonder if Riaan and Adri themselves sat at the top of this hierarchical pyramid by themselves, right on the pointy bit, and maintained a pretense that they weren’t the actual “shot callers”, but merely acting on their behalf?

If this were so, this would’ve created a situation best be described as a “rule by proxy”, which in this case implies that an individual or individuals in a leadership role claimed their authority within the SASC from a higher body, but where that body only existed in the imaginations of all concerned.

In such a case, the “proxies” could deflect any negative reactions to decisions or actions they made from themselves. Plus, weight of numbers count – and unilateral decisions carry more weight if a proxy were to say “the Council said so”, especially if the council consisted of a bunch of anonymous, sinister individuals, of whom it was also said, they were powerful, famous or influential people. In this sense, the anonymity of the Council also lends itself well as a tool of intimidation.

Such a deception would need to be carefully maintained to sustain the effect, for if it were to be exposed as a fraud, it would have the opposite effect entirely and strip the perpetrators of their authority and credibility.

The presence of the SASC Church Council had the effect of making the SASC and its size and membership seem all that more imposing, impressive and well organized. For its spokespersons, this would also serve to enhance their esteem as representatives of an organization which appeared to be much larger and more impressive than it really was.

This practice is, as it is called derisively within the Occult Community, smoke and mirrors. Hence, a cheap parlor trick, sleight-of-hand, a deception. When working almost exclusively with remote members via online social media and chat, it would be a fairly simple though time-consuming process to create such an illusion.

While this is just a hypothesis on my part, I did ask around to find out what other people thought about it. I spoke to several other former members of the SASC recently, and it seems there are divided opinions about the existence of this shadowy Council.

Of the existence of the SACS Council, Tristan Kapp said:

“There has been no evidence of the council whatsoever. I have not seen anything and Riaan often said that there are a lot of high-profile worshipers as part of the Satanic church, and so on and so forth, and I personally processed the memberships as well at one stage with my own Gauteng chapter… between all the spam of individuals trying to sell their souls and individuals trying to have a sort of self-importance and – you know, trying to be rich and famous – and deleting those memberships, you had the often one or two individuals that were like ‘hey, I want to be part this organization, you guys are cool!’ and that’s about the long and short of it. So there weren’t any official… um, you know, officials or high profile worshipers, or anybody else that I could find evidence of. 90% of the South African Satanic Church and what Riaan said about it was just smoke and mirrors.”

Of the South African Satanic Church, Tristan offered his opinion that it was “merely a vessel for Riaan to project his own self-importance into a society that would otherwise consider him irrelevant. And I bought into the lie. I was groomed. Dumbstruck with ideas, and idealism but I was naive. The SASC was a cult and I realised it only when I was kicked out.”

Adri Norton’s statement since leaving the SASC in September 2022, presents the SASC Council as being a real, extant entity which has since taken the SASC “underground”, going some way to explain what might have happened to the organization since. Even so, nobody appears to really know for sure.

Likewise, Riaan Swiegelaar has maintained in numerous interviews that the Council was a real body that ran the SASC, even going so far as to cast the Council as the ones who instructed him to conduct the unorthodox ritual that led to his alleged “conversion” experience.

In my view, were the Council to have been a fiction, it would help explain some of the niggling problems that just don’t add up.

For example, it might explain their failure adequately screen him before appointing him to the post of “presiding reverend” for a start.

It may explain their apparent failure to censure Riaan for conflating LaVeyan Satanism with beliefs or practices “borrowed” from other belief systems such as past life regression, prophecy or crystal healing, among other things.

It could also explain why the Council was hidden, anonymous and embellished as “rich, influential, famous” South Africans who needed to be protected from their own members.

Of course, there had to have been a Council, because who else could he have scapegoated as “ordering” him to conduct a “theistic Satanist ritual” in order to “meet Jesus”? Also, how else could he portray the SASC as being a lying mix of “devil worshipers” if not with the assistance of such a prop?

Were it ever to come to light, one day, that there never had been an SASC Council at all, and that it had all been some sort of elaborate deception on the part of Riaan Swiegelaar, then such a revelation would raise a whole lot more questions.

Also, again, if there were no Council – what happened to all the money collected from sponsors once the SASC disappeared “underground”? I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d like to know.

That’s just one side of the coin – the other side presents arguments that the SASC Council did exist.

The Flipside

In this scenario, the primary factor in favor of the argument that the SASC Council really existed, comes from Riaan Swiegelaar himself. Let’s speak hypothetically:

I have a hard time imagining Riaan admitting publicly that there was anyone higher than himself in his hierarchy if he could help it. Not while he was presenting himself vaingloriously as “presiding reverend” and “co-founder” of the SASC. Nor do I imagine he would admit to taking instructions or orders from said higher authority if it weren’t so. Therefore, I think the fact that he did so during their first news-media interview should be assumed to be a statement of fact rather than a figment of his imagination.

Of course, I could be wrong. It’s always possible that the council didn’t exist and that he changed his mind partway through the first interview back in 2020 and wanted the organization to sound bigger and more impressive. The bottom line is, if there were no council, why would Riaan, who was building up his own image as the “expert”, create the illusion that there was one? I doubt he would do so, unless he could claim to either be in control of such a higher power, or at least to be a member of it.

Riaan to my knowledge never claimed to be a member of the Church Council, which in this hypothesis would indicate that a) the Council existed b) he wasn’t part of it, and c) they wouldn’t like it if he implied he was.

Let’s carry this hypothesis a little further. What if there was trouble in paradise, so to speak, some sort of friction between the Council and Riaan? What if he’d displeased them in some way? What if he went one way while the Council wanted him to go another? What would happen if they really had tried to reign him in, censure him, or get him to toe the party line, as it were? If the council had given Riaan an ultimatum or cornered him, they may instead have precipitated disaster. Rather than bringing him to heel, this may have prompted his decision to move on from the SASC and Satanism altogether, and he could’ve decided to just burn down the whole thing behind him, out of spite.

Destroying the council and the SASC – which describes the outcome of Riaan’s actions in reality – also ultimately had the effect of destroying his only claim to fame. He’d essentially burned the whole house down, and himself with it.

This implies a tendency to plan for the short-term and not for the long-term future. By this, I mean that Riaan may have planned for the short-term in that he’d planned his departure from the SASC and how he was going to launch his next career as a “Christian convert” and “expert in Satanism” – but failed to include how his unconventional beliefs and practices would be perceived by Christians into his long-term plan.

Still, this was only a theory, a hypothesis and conjecture on my part. But it does make a certain amount of sense. At the end of this hypothesis, it appears there’s still no proof either way if the SASC Council existed or not. As for the truth, the only ones who would know it, aren’t telling.

Either way, whether or not the SASC Council existed, I have no doubts at all that the entire debacle, from beginning to end, has left behind some pretty far-reaching consequences for all concerned.

Regardless, Riaan Swiegelaar has come to be viewed with suspicion and distrust contemporaneously by Satanists, Occultists and Christians alike, and for surprisingly similar reasons. I have to say, that’s quite a remarkable achievement.

Backlash From Christians

Since Riaan’s “coming out” video of 4 July 2022, I had noticed he’d got very much a hero’s welcome among many Christians eager to swallow his story. Confirmation bias makes for good news after all.

However, I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of the support he’d received appeared to have come from the unconventional, less “mainstream” of groups identifying as Christian, which appear to maintain eccentric orbits right on the fringes of Christianity.

It seems that some Christian churches and activists took a more cautious view of Riaan Swiegelaar’s “miraculous” claims of “being saved” than their counterparts, who it appeared, had simply accepted Riaan Swiegelaar’s word for it.

Even as early as late July 2022, barely a month after his initial announcement that he’d “met Jesus” and “converted to Christianity”, I noticed the start of a wave of criticism levelled at Riaan by Christian activists and organizations. It started as a trickle, but ended as a tsunami.

The critics brought up doubts surrounding his perceived sincerity, and pointed out how far removed his own interpretation of what Christianity was from Christian doctrine and dogma.

It’s quite a surprise to me that Riaan Swiegelaar has met as much resistance from within Christianity as he seemingly has; personally, I’ve long not considered the average Christian to be the sharpest pencils in the pack, but just occasionally, they do surprise me.

Did Riaan really convert to Christianity? By that I don’t mean, does he really consider himself a Christian? Who knows – maybe he does? I’ve already come to the realization that Riaan probably completely believes his own constantly evolving narrative, even when it doesn’t correspond with the inconvenient facts – but what I mean is, do his views of what it means to be a Christian fit with how Christianity defines being a Christian?

I was surprised to find that I wasn’t the only one asking this question; I saw a litany of posts and church-related articles in which many Christians pondered it as well.

According to numerous criticisms I’ve seen from Christians: whatever Riaan Swiegelaar is, it isn’t a genuine Christian, at least not according to their – admittedly diverse – doctrines and definitions and expectations.

After all, literally anyone can call themselves a Christian, and has – from pedo-priests and pastors who abuse their positions of trust and authority to prey on children, to the Nazis who justified their genocide with “blood libel”, to modern day religious crusaders who hate people of color and LGBT+ and use Christianity to justify hate-crimes and even genocide. It doesn’t necessarily lend their claims any merit.

Even I have known a few very loving, almost Christ-like Christians in my time, and I have difficulty imagining those people doing any of the horrific things being done lately by those claiming to be Christians out of some twisted sense of “Christian identity”.

The definition of what it means to be Christian hinges on the common understanding of those identifying as Christian, of what it means to be Christian. Because it’s so difficult to get everyone to agree on something that affects the individual – because individuals are so diverse – there isn’t just one such definition for the whole of Christianity. It’s precisely because of this that there are so many different Christian denominations today, each of whom defining “being Christian” in their own way for themselves – there is even Christian Wicca, which is a Pagan path using the Christian pantheon (God, Satan, Mary, Joseph, and the like) as its deities – but they don’t identify as Christian; and these diverse notions of what it means to be Christian also have the consequence that some who identify as Christians view others who identify as Christians, as being “heretics” or “fakes” and vice-versa.

It’s an old story, dating back as far as the foundations of the Catholic Church and the wars of extermination it fought against other branches of Christianity, the Gnostics for example. The bottom line is, when it comes to Riaan Swiegelaar and his “conversion” to Christianity, there are Christians who appear to have doubts.

For example, as early as 26 July 2022, just a few weeks after his video announcement, an analysis of everything Riaan said in his statement appeared (Perspektief: 26 Julie 2022). Perspektief (Perspective) is an Afrikaans Christian podcast presented by Scriptura, which is associated to the traditionally conservative NGK (Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa).

In their analysis – based on his 4 July video and a subsequent video interview referred to as “Wide Awake”, they mention details which they say invalidates Riaan’s claim that he could really have “met Jesus Christ” or have been sincere in his “conversion”, and they say this because he failed to meet what the Christian mainstream has set as “convincing behavior” – minimum requirements if you will, for it to meet the standard of a genuine, convincing “salvation” experience.

What were these requirements? They said he’d expressed no remorse for his “sins”, mentioned nothing about seeking forgiveness, and neither had he expressed an intent to “turn away from sinful lifestyle” or from his “blasphemous and satanic practices”.

Perhaps most tellingly, central to their criticism of his claims is his homosexuality, which they still consider to be “sinful” – which they do in contradiction to science and as far as I’m concerned, reality. Nevertheless, they use it as a lynch-pin upon which to base their decision that he’s not actually one of them. That, and all the “New Age” gobbledygook he’s been spouting ever since.

What this is called within some Christian groups is “false conversion” – and that’s basically the gist of it. Another concurrent in-depth analysis and criticism from an American Christian evangelist YouTuber, dated August 2022, can be viewed here.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Riaan’s “coming out” video also disappeared, probably to not leave smoking guns lying around that make it easier for people to poke holes in his story with. Fortunately, there are still a few places you can find it, as well as numerous shares and videos from other YouTubers discussing and dissecting his claims.

Still, there are other videos, more recent videos, where Riaan distinctly diverges from the mainstream ideas and tenets of Christianity. This would certainly make finding an audience among mainstream Christians difficult – or maintaining a career as a “Christian occult expert” unsustainable.

Rather, he seems to have found his “tribe” as it were, among the Christian lunatic fringe, who don’t seem to mind too much what sort of rubbish people say as long as they use the words “Yeshua” or “Yaweh” in every other sentence and throw in the occasional “brother”, “halleluiah” and “amen”. And he’s a Christian because he says he is, and had an encounter with Jesus in his lounge while summoning demons, because he said so.

For example while speaking to a self-described “Christian mystic” called “TruthSeekah”, a vlogger with quite a large online following (1, 2), it’s apparent that while Riaan may identify as a Christian, he has very clearly clung tightly onto his mystic New Age roots, and his role as an alleged “psychic medium”. His “salvation” has been condemned as a fraud by Christian activists abroad as well – in this video entitled “We were wrong about former Satanist who saw Jesus” Riaan and TruthSeekah both face an eviscerating backlash.

In conversation with TruthSeekah, Riaan speaks of receiving celestial messages, automatic writing, and giving prophecy as though these occult practices are somehow part of the Christian mainstream. It is not – and the “We were wrong” video goes to great lengths to explain why this contradicts Christian doctrine – and to call into question the credibility of supposed Christian YouTubers like TruthSeekah, who is shown to suggest that Riaan may be “the second coming of Christ”! I’m sure that did wonders for his ego.

What all this really is, is a look inside the hinky Christian lunatic fringe – the nuttiest part of the fruitcake, and that, as far as I’m concerned, is really saying something. Whatever snake-oil Riaan Swiegelaar is peddling, according to the slightly saner end of the mainstream pool of Christians, clerics and academics, it’s not Christianity. Whatever Riaan encountered or saw, it wasn’t Jesus Christ, but then, Satanists – both atheistic and theistic – already knew that.

That said, I can’t help but notice a striking resemblance between his flashy New Age “Christian” identity and how liberally he previously syncretized Satanism with other occult elements while still calling himself a Satanist.

Even so, none of this bad PR appears to have phased Riaan in the slightest. In numerous recent interviews, he forges ahead, apparently convinced that every occult or mystical belief or New Age practice he’s co-opted into his personal spirituality over the years, is Christian – perhaps simply because he insists it is – or perhaps because he’s the one acting them out, and because he identifies as a “Christian”.

I’m not sure if he understands that’s not how religion works.

Conclusion

As I finally conclude this article, after nearly three whole months of work, it’s now almost mid-March 2023. Meanwhile, since July 2022, the news media has been remarkably quiet on the topic of Riaan Swiegelaar, and even on the topic of Satanism, as a matter of interest. No newspaper articles have speculated about the fate of the South African Satanic Church, or what happened to all those “thousands” of Satanists.

Aside from finding a keen audience among the lunatic fringe Christian groups, some of whom appear to still re-share news of Riaan Swiegelaar’s “miraculous deliverance”, it seems that more mainstream Christian groups may have shunned him because they view his “deliverance” as “false”. Numerous videos on social media are also in circulation among Christian users who share this view.

Be that as it may, a lack of subsequent coverage and promotion for his “Exposing Satanism” tour of seminars between now and last September presents doubt as to whether that avenue worked out for him at all, or if the “deliverance ministry” he was associated with dropped him like the hot potato he turned out to be.

The level of backlash which Riaan faced from the Christian establishment both in South Africa and abroad, could explain his recent lack of public activity in the “exposing Satanism” department. Although he’s quiet for now, I don’t know what Riaan Swiegelaar has planned next, but whatever it is, he will probably surprise us.

At this point in the article, it’s also important I mention that both Adri Norton and Riaan Swiegelaar failed to respond my contact requests or to answer any of my questions since February 4.

For me, all this research into what happened to the SASC, its rise and fall, and the roles of various players, Riaan Swiegelaar in particular, has been immersing and fascinating. It’s given me quite a lot more insight into the whole business than I had previously – and it caused me to write two new academic papers just to shorten the overall length of this article!

Through this project, I’ve reached a point where I feel I can finally close the book on the South African Satanic Church, at least as far as I’m concerned.

If another similar organization were ever to emerge in South Africa – or if the SASC were to one day resurface, covered in rust, barnacles and seaweed like a long-lost submarine, my hope is that those running it would’ve learned all there is to learn from this fiasco in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Still, rather than investing my hopes in the SASC being replaced by some future successor, I would rather hope that South Africa’s group mind-set will evolve a little faster, to shed the stereotyping, religious fanaticism, nationalism, division, irrational fear, judgmental mind-sets, moral panics and hysterical knee-jerk reactions to diversity and difference of the past.

Of course, for this to happen, religion would have to die first. Not just one religion, but all.

It probably won’t happen, but I prefer to hope that it will.


For those who would like to do further reading on their own on the topic of religious Satanism, here is a list of material which will clarify and distinguish the differences between religious Satanism and Christianity-created Pseudo-Satanism.

Satanism: The Acid Test” Engela, C. (2013).

Satanism vs Pseudo-satanism: Disambiguation And Argument Against Conflation From Within Religious Satanism” Engela, C. (January 26, 2021).

A Date With The Devil – Occult & Satanic Calendars Debunked” Engela, C. (February 5, 2021).

Devil’s Advocate: The 666 Gangs – Why They Aren’t Satanists, How They Distorted South African Law Enforcement’s Perception Of Occult Religions, & The Consequences” Engela, C. (February 21, 2021).

By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them: A Proposed Framework By Which To Understand & Categorize Self-proclaimed Christian ‘Occult Experts’” Engela, C. (March 2, 2023).

What is Satanism – Really? And What Isn’t? A Concise Definition Of Christianity-created Pseudo-satanism (CCPS)” Engela, C. (March 6, 2023).


UPDATE March 12, 2023: Just When I Thought It Couldn’t Get Any Weirder…

Between September 1, 2022, when Riaan Swiegelaar advertised his “Exposing Satanism” seminars, and March 11, 2023 when this article was published, there’d been no further information forthcoming about his seminars or any sign of recent public activity. As stated previously in the body of the article, it had been speculated that this silence was due to the failure of this venture, which had likely resulted from news of his “false deliverance” and syncretized New Age view of Christianity becoming more widely known among his mainstream Christian audience.

I know I wasn’t the only one who wondered what had happened to the former “presiding reverend” of the SASC – it seemed others had also been keeping tabs. Almost immediately after the article was posted, new information came to light which confirmed that Riaan Swiegelaar had in the meantime apparently abandoned his bid to become a career “expert in Satanism” and probably also gave up trying to convince people that he had “found Jesus”. Considering his new career move, that would probably be best – although I admit, I would never have guessed the direction this had taken.

It seems that since at least December 9, 2022, Riaan has been operating a new venture from Century City, Cape Town, as a male-to-male BDSM dominatrix called Master Klimax. Klimax Kantoor (Afrikaans for “Climax Office”), which is the name of this new venture, has a website, a Fetlife profile, and a Twitter account still active as up to March 10, 2023 and, from the adverts posted subsequently from the Klimax Kantoor Twitter account between December 9, 2022 and March 11, 2023, the business has promoted swingers parties and BDSM shows in the Cape Town area as well as Riaan meeting clients for private BDSM sessions. According to one of his Tweets from January 16, Klimax Kantoor was recently interviewed by an Afrikaans magazine, although I can’t find any sign of the article online.

Let me close this update by saying that I’m really astonished at this man’s ability to reinvent himself, seemingly at the drop of a hat – and to seemingly always land on his feet. However, while I wonder what Riaan Swiegelaar will get up to next, I do hope it won’t involve religion again in future!

I sincerely wish him good luck in his new career. May it bring him fulfillment.


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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2023.

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