To what extent is CoS only antipodal to faith-based religions?
I’m not sure if I understand what exactly you are asking. “How much of the ‘doctrines’ and ‘practice’ of the Church of Satan is in opposition to theistic religions?” or “Where do the CoS and faith-based religions overlap?” Not trying to be difficult, I just don’t want to spend time answering the wrong question, and then have to clarify my points in yet another answer.
What element does its aesthetics serve to persuade people to partake?
Again, for sake of accuracy, I could interpret this a couple of ways. Satanic Ritual is normally not done for an “audience”, though many performers have staged works that they considered to be public Satanic rituals, and in the early days of the Church of Satan, Anton LaVey hosted a efw public rituals, and allowed them occasionally to be filmed or photographed (The documentaries “Satanis: The Devil’s Mass” and “Speak of the Devil: The Canon of Anton LaVey” both contain rituals led by Anton LaVey in the notorious “Black House” in San Francisco).
I don’t understand what you’re suggesting people may “partake” in, and who you’re referring to as “people” here. Since there is normally no “audience” for a Satanic Ritual, the “people” would be the participants, and hopefully they’ve crafted an aesthetically powerful ceremony to suit whatever goal they have.
To what extent is it purely celebratory?
I think that’s situational. Different rituals serve different purposes. Even a civil service “wedding” is part celebratory, part legal.
Who decides the rituals, the props, the vestments, etc.
“The format for our traditional ritual was created as a guideline that may be amended by Satanists to suit their own aesthetics and emotional needs. Thus, Satanic Ritual is not presented as dogma… You may celebrate the rites precisely as presented in the works of Dr. LaVey and in the following pages, since they are effectively dramatic in structure and content. However, you may find elements that detract from your deepest emotional arousal and so these may be altered to serve you best.”
“The answer is that you really don’t need any of the suggested implements, since the most important tool for ritual is your own imagination.”
“The texts themselves can also be altered to suit your particular sense of rhythm and imagery…”
- Quotes from an essay concerning Satanic Ritual from Peter H. Gilmore’s The Satanic Scriptures
For more information, you can pick up the above quoted book or The Satanic Rituals by Anton LaVey
For the Satanic High Mass of 6/6/06 that was performed at CFI West, the ceremony was designed as a theater piece, and this is unlike normal Satanic Ritual in that it takes an audience into consideration. I’ll quote Peter Gilmore again from The Satanic Scriptures: “There is no guarantee that ritual can do anything more than serve as a cathartic experience for the ones performing it. That is why we do not perform rituals for other people; if they are not performing it, they will not benefit from the experience.”
The set design was inspired in pat by the movie The Black Cat, using non-Euclidian shapes as stage design and the ceremony itself was a modified form of the “traditional” ceremony as outlined in The Satanic Bible.
The sources of inspiration for ritual are as varied as the individuals who partake in it. The ceremonies outlined in The Satanic Rituals itself reflect many Anton LaVey’s interests, from Moussorgsky to H.P. Lovecraft. The Satanic Scriptures features three rituals, a Satanic Wedding Ceremony, a Satanic Funeral, and the Rite of Ragnarök. Since Peter Gilmore is a composer, you’ll see suggested rhythms for drummers and words like “fortissimo” in his ceremonies.
On a personal note, my own wedding occurred while I was designing and typesetting The Satanic Scriptures, and I used a modified form of his wedding ceremony for my own. My wife and I talked about the language used, rearranged, added and subtracted, and even took some lines we liked from a Humanist wedding ceremony that we found inspiring.
Further reading of the sources is recommended for a full understanding.