Sporting Heroic Bodies In a Christian Nation-at-War
- Claudia Schippert

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The Production and Consumption of Contemporary Charismatic Worship in Britain as Investment and Affective Alliance
- Dr. Pete Ward

 printable version

What a Difference a Gay Makes: Queering the Magic Negro
- Gayle R. Baldwin

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Devil Music and the Great Beast: Ozzy Osbourne, Aleister Crowley, and the Christian Right
- Christopher M. Moreman

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Negotiating the Paradox of Virtual Embodiment in the Classroom: Virtual Ethnicity, the Seductions of Potential, and the Assumption of Access
- Ann Burlein

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on-line web based journal religion religious popular culture film fan culture comics comic books movie movies popular novels television tv radio journalism print media internet www art architecture new religious movements advertising pop music video games the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture webbased online book reviews beliefs values cultural theology

Christopher M. Moreman
Ph.D. candidate, Theology, Religious Studies and Islamic Studies, University of Wales; Lampeter


A biographical account of the much-maligned heavy-metal icon, Ozzy Osbourne, and a comparison with the demonisation of occultist, Aleister Crowley, will shed light upon the evolution of the state and stance of the Christian Right in terms of the "Satanism Scare" of the 1980s and '90s. Both figures have at one time or another falsely been branded Satanists, yet have come to be recognised as leaders in their respective fields and openly praised by people of power and influence in North American society today. The meaning of this societal shift will be examined throughout the paper.

[1] The Christian Right has long been a powerful and vocal component of American culture, influencing corporate and government policy in the name of family values.[2] In an effort to maintain the moral ground, fundamentalist activists have found, and derided, Satan's impact in a wide array of activities, many of them rooted in popular culture. In the same vein that ostensible witches were hunted and persecuted in 15th century Europe, so Lucifer is rooted out in such insidious occult areas as board games, television, children's movies, and pop music. Any mention of New Age spirituality, astrology, witchcraft, or the Devil himself is viewed as the epitome of evil. Parker Brother's ouija board, fantasy role-playing games, Harry Potter, and Black Sabbath have all been singled out for their Satanic influences. The following paper aims to focus specifically on one such figure in an attempt to understand the nature of this derision and how it may be evolving in the new millennium.

[2] Branded a Satanist since his days in Black Sabbath, at the vanguard of the heavy-metal rock genre, the now self-proclaimed Prince of Darkness has become a household name and veritable Father of the Year. Through a brief biographical sketch, it becomes obvious that Ozzy Osbourne is far from a worshipper of the Dark Lord, but simply a talented iconoclast with a flair for creating controversy, and thus publicity. A comparison can be made between Osbourne and the turn of the century occultist, Aleister Crowley. Crowley too was branded a devil-worshipper, and equally relished the attention that came with the title of "Most Evil Man in the World." The connection between the two has been reinforced by Osbourne's song, "Mr. Crowley," which has been described by some as an homage to the Great Beast himself. While neither of these men actually worshipped the Devil, their anti-authoritarianism, combined with such vices as drugs and women, made them both suitable straw men against whom conservative moralists might rail.

With the recent success of The Osbournes, the most popular television program in MTV's history, Ozzy Osbourne has taken on a new role as family man. The formerly demonised Osbourne has become an acceptable role model, applauded even by the president of the United States. Certainly, such a reversal of public perception says much for the influence of the Christian Right on North American culture today.

I was looking back on my life

And all the things I've done to me

I'm still looking for the answers

I'm still searching for the key

The wreckage of my past keeps haunting me

It just won't leave me alone

I still find it all a mystery

Could it be a dream?

The road to nowhere leads to me

(Ozzy Osbourne, "Road to Nowhere," No More Tears, 1991)

[3] In 1948, John Osbourne was born into a struggling, working-class family in Birmingham, England.[3] Suffering from dyslexia and seeing the economic hardship of his family, Ozzy left school at the age of fifteen. Though he worked a number of menial jobs, from plumber's assistant to killing cows in a slaughterhouse, none satisfied him either emotionally or financially. He opted for a brief life of crime that saw him arrested more than once for petty theft and burglary. Two months in prison convinced him that crime was not the path he wanted to take.

[4] Still searching for himself, Ozzy decided to follow the dreams of many young Brits inspired by the recent success of the Beatles. With no technical skills as either a musician or a singer, Ozzy placed an ad in a local record store stating pragmatically: "Ozzy Zig seeks gig. Owns own PA." From this posting, he soon joined three other local musicians, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward, and together they and formed a blues band, which were de riguer for the day. Originally called the Polka Tulk Blues Band, they later changed the name to Earth. Meeting with little success, the band sought change. Noting that people paid to see watch movies that scared them, the band mused that people might similarly pay to listen to scary music. Inspired by the title of a Boris Karloff horror film, Geezer Butler, the group's bassist, penned the song, "Black Sabbath," the title of which would also become their new name. With the renamed band, they transformed the everyday blues they had been playing into a plodding, sombre sound, combined this with lyrics drawn from gothic horror, and thus aimed to strike fear into the hearts of those who would listen. Thus, from the modest union of, in Ozzy's words, "four dimps from Birmingham,"[4] the heavy metal rock genre was born.

What is this that stands before me?
Figure in black which points at me
Turn around quick, and start to run
Find out I'm the chosen one
Oh nooo!

(Black Sabbath, "Black Sabbath," Black Sabbath, 1970)

[5] Black Sabbath, emerging from the poor, working class of Birmingham had great difficulty breaking into the busy London music scene. They infused common rock and roll with an aggressive sense of frustration known only to the silent working classes of the time. This sense of frustration would eventually catch on with a vast population that connected with Black Sabbath at an emotional level. Still, the rock establishment was slow to catch on. The dichotomy between the flighty attitudes of the hippie movement and the heavy pessimism of the lower class is expressed in the words of Chris Welch:

Black Sabbath ... represent everything that the rock establishment rejected. During the Sixties rock had become inextricably involved with a kind of liberal American peace and love movement that embraced everything from diet to politics. The idea of a youth movement devoted to peace in Vietnam, free love and rock music ... left many people cold, particularly working class youth who could not identify with this esoteric concern for higher things, when they were still more worried about getting a job, a fast car and a girlfriend. [This trend] ... tended to isolate a large section of the potential audience for rock.[5]

[6] Black Sabbath catered to the emotions of the disenfranchised. As drummer, Bill Ward, put it, "Most people are on a permanent down ... but just aren't aware of it. We're trying to express it for the people."[6] They combined gothic horror with the dark and gloomy world-view of the downtrodden and added a thunderous soundtrack that expressed powerfully the turbulence of their own lives. Sabbath certainly succeeded in creating a musical style that might instil fear, but they also unintentionally succeeded in encapsulating the emotional state of a large segment of the silent population. Building upon the sombre atmosphere of the music and lyrics, the record company for Black Sabbath marketed the group with an emphasis on Black Magic. The album contained a picture of an inverted crucifix and a picture of a black-clad woman, what many believed to be a witch. An early press release stated that the band, with its name change from Earth to Black Sabbath, was getting more in tune with the dark arts, going so far as to claim that the bassist, Geezer Butler, had perfected techniques to summon a demon. This first record was appropriately released on a Friday 13th in 1970.

[7] As part of the counter-culture movement growing out of the '60s and into the '70s, many who had become dissatisfied with traditional society and religion were turning to alternative forms of spirituality, often in the form of occult philosophies and popularised Eastern mysticism. Almost immediately, the band issued denials of any involvement in black magic and Satanism. Although they were interested in gothic subject matter, actual involvement in the occult terrified them. Still, covens of witches invited them to play at black masses and Satanists stalked the halls of their hotels. Alex Sanders, one of the early fathers of the burgeoning Wiccan movement, invited Black Sabbath to play a special concert for a ritual at Stonehenge. When they refused, however, the self-proclaimed "King of the Witches"[7] is said to have put a curse upon them. In response to the unwanted attention, Sabbath began wearing hastily constructed aluminium crosses to ward away evil, but this was no avail in warding off their image as a group of occultists and Satan worshippers. While some critics were condemning Black Sabbath as, "Black Magic for the sick masses,"[8] Geezer replied, "People like us because they want to listen to our music, not because of any black magic gimmicks. We only do two numbers about black magic in fact, and they are both warnings against it."[9] Despite their attempts, the media latched onto the notion of their Satanic involvement and the image stuck.

[8] Their music was not the only aspect of Black Sabbath that provoked fear, however, as, in addition to their working-class heritage and occult persona, the lifestyle adopted by the young rising stars was less than conservative. With increasing success, the temptations of fawning young women and recreational drugs consumed the young foursome, like many thrust suddenly and drastically into fame and fortune. Within a decade of their first album, Black Sabbath were a gang of drug-addicted alcoholics living in a continuous daze, though somehow still capable of producing immensely popular music. And this was only background for the derision that would later face Ozzy when he embarked upon his solo career in the 1980s.

Yesterday has been and gone

Tomorrow will I find the sun or will it rain

Everybody's having fun except me I'm the lonely one

I live in shame

I said Good bye to romance, yeah

Goodbye to friends, I tell you

Goodbye to all the past

I guess that we'll meet, we'll meet in the end

(Ozzy Osbourne, "Goodbye to Romance," Blizzard of Ozz, 1980)[10]

[9] After a decade with Black Sabbath, Ozzy was fired, ostensibly due to his over-indulgence in drugs and alcohol, although his lack of technical musical knowledge and his compulsive wildness had always made him somewhat of an outsider among the four. Succumbing to a deep depression after losing his best friends, combined with the recent deaths of both his parents and a separation from his first wife, Ozzy locked himself in a hotel room with the determined goal of drinking his way to oblivion. He was only saved from himself when Sharon Arden, the daughter of manager Don Arden, arrived at his door to claim a debt. When she saw Ozzy's deplorable state, she promised to become his manager if he would promise to clean himself up. With her confidence in him, Ozzy gained a renewed spirit and launched his solo career with the 1980 album, The Blizzard of Ozz. Unleashed in his own right, Ozzy's manic personality not only entrenched his name as a rock and roll icon but also enraged conservative sensibilities like never before.

[10] For example, one of his most famous episodes occurred when he was supposed to make a grand entrance at a CBS meeting of executives to negotiate the release of his first album in America. He planned to enter with a flourish, letting loose doves from his robes that would fly about the room. After releasing one dove, however, he was overcome in his drunkenness by the compulsion to bite the head off the other, tossing its lifeless body before the shocked executives. Alhough he was immediately escorted from the premises, this startling display convinced the executives of the marketability of this "Madman of Rock." Though Ozzy has always claimed that the dove incident was unplanned, he easily incorporated such behaviour into his stage act and embraced the role of Madman.

In his increasing efforts to outdo both himself and the growing number of heavy metal bands that sprung up during the 1980s, Ozzy staged more and more outrageous shows involving monstrous costumes, gothic stage sets, and even the launching of butchered meats into the audience as Ozzy appeared to explode before their eyes. Ozzy appreciated so-called fan participation as the audience began to bring its own meat to throw back, which culminated in Ozzy's most infamous moment as someone threw a live bat on stage. Apparently, the animal lay stunned and motionless while Ozzy picked it up, and thinking it was rubber, decapitated it with his teeth. This media frenzy caused by that incident continues to haunt Ozzy to this day. In a recent interview in Rolling Stone, Ozzy ruefully imagined his eventual obituary saying, "I guarantee that if I was to die tonight, tomorrow it would be, 'Ozzy Osbourne, the man who bit the head off a bat, died in his hotel ...' I know that's coming."[11] Of course, Ozzy's greatest asset has always been to capitalise on all of the publicity he received, and as the conservative middle-class increasingly hated him, the younger generation flocked to him as the ultimate symbol of anti-authoritarianism.

They couldn't see what I thought would be so obvious

They hide behind the laws they make for all of us

The ministry of truth that deals with pretense

The ministry of peace that sits on defense

I'm washing my hands of what they're tryin' to do

It's for me, it's for me

It's for you, it's for you

I'm just a rock 'n' roll rebel

I'll tell you no lies

They think I worship the devil

They must be stupid or blind

I'm just a rock 'n' roll rebel

(Ozzy Osbourne, "Rock 'n' Roll Rebel," Bark at the Moon, 1983)

[11] The 1980s saw the outbreak of a so-called Satan-scare. Individuals began to "recover" lost memories of ritual sexual abuse at the hands of hidden Satanic cults, and children started to report such abuse at the hands of day-care workers who were also Satanists in disguise. Throughout the decade, a veritable witch-hunt erupted with Satanists thought to be ritually abusing thousands of children across the country so insidiously that no physical traces could ever be found. Rather than suggesting the implausibility of such a widespread cult, the lack of evidence was looked upon as proof for the extreme craftiness of the Satanists involved. As a result, a great many innocent people were branded Satanists, ruining careers and punishing some with unwarranted harassment and even jail. It has been suggested that a declining social system combined with a growing sense of helplessness and lack of faith in big government provoked the need for a scapegoat of some kind.[12] A culture of conservative Christianity thus responded in an extreme way to the proliferation of cults and new religious movements (NRMs) that sprung out of the 1960s.

[12] Many of these NRMs professed beliefs in pagan deities, magic, and the occult, directly provoking and questioning the established Christian world-view. The sources of this diversification of spirituality can be debated beyond the bounds of the present paper, but it is likely that an increasingly technologically based world based on secular scientism and corporate profiteering had marginalised a vast swath of the younger population, forcing upon them existential questions to which traditional religion failed to supply satisfactory answers. Many of those disenfranchised by a stagnant Christianity moved to more diverse forms of spirituality. Eastern mysticism offered a direct experience of the divine while occult magics promised the means to control one's own destiny in ways otherwise impossible in a technocratic age.

[13] Alongside this widespread rejection of science and Christianity was a simultaneous embrace of fundamentalist Christianity among the more conservative elements of society, which parallels the need felt by many of those who had left the Church to seek a more direct experience of the divine. Certainly, Christian sects exhibiting such direct contact with the divine as glossolalia (or speaking in tongues), faith healing, or other kinds of very personal miracles have existed throughout the history of the United States, but they truly came to the fore in the wake of the anti-establishment movement of the 1960s. Bill Ellis compares these kinds of direct experience of God with the ceremonial magick of Aleister Crowley, stating that, "objectively speaking, their gifts often were indistinguishable from magical practices."[13] In this way, then, Ellis sets up Christian fundamentalists as not only opponents of, but competitors with the NRMs of the counter-culture movement.

[14] Steve Bruce contends, "In part fundamentalism was a response to the rise of secular labour politics, higher criticism, and Darwinism but more generally it was a response to the modern world."[14] Evangelists, led by the likes of Jerry Falwell and his "Moral Majority," gathered conservatives of all stripes from orthodox Jews to born-again Christians under one banner to combat what they perceived as the moral decay of society, which could only be blamed on the influence of Lucifer in the world at large. In an abruptly changing world, these conservatives reacted by clinging to the notion that religious truth was timeless and unchanging.[15] Music, as the popular expression of generational angst for countless ages, not surprisingly became embroiled in the war being waged over the souls of America's children. Ozzy Osbourne, and musicians like him, whose music appealed to that large audience of young people desirous of social change, became instant targets as perceived leaders in the march towards moral degradation. As Joel Best states in an essay on the Satanism scare:

Discussions of Satanism in the mass media usually begin with heavy metal music. This is an obvious target, since several well-known bands use satanic imagery in their lyrics, album covers, stage sets, and costumes. This can be seen as simply the most recent escalation of the rebellious posture that has always been rock's stock in trade. Each generation needs new symbols of revolt ...[16]

[15] The link between fundamentalist Christianity and the political right grew throughout the 1980s. Hill and Owen go s far as to suggest that before 1979, nobody had ever heard of a politico-religious Christian conservative movement.[17] Christian fundamentalists entered the political stage in earnest, however, with the election of Ronald Reagan, who courted them vigorously. Falwell's Moral Majority made the claim that the conservative Christian population had until then been a silent majority, and that the time had come to stand up and be counted. Certainly, political clout gave the Christian Right a strong voice and the appearance of truly being a force to be reckoned with.

[16] Tipper Gore, a prominent activist for the suppression of rock music for its subversive powers, is quoted as saying: "Crimes rooted in devil worship are escalating nation-wide. Teenagers and adolescents are most often involved and heavy metal music serves as a catalyst for their involvement."[18] A Senate hearing committee was organised to investigate what many in government believed to be the moral degradation of society through the misuse of free speech rights. During this hearing, rock music in general was described as, "a plague of messages about sexual promiscuity, bisexuality, incest, sado-masochism, Satanism, drug use, alcohol abuse and constantly, misogyny."[19] Statements such as these became commonplace by the end of the 1980s, despite a complete lack of evidence for either widespread devil worship or a link between music and teenage crime.

[17] Now, Ozzy Osbourne had accepted the publicity that came with his image of the Devil's agent and fostered that of a lunatic. He denied any wrong doing both in interviews and in his lyrics, while at the same time portraying what he considered a demonic character on stage. The vices of women, drugs and alcohol, a compulsively manic personality, and a continued focus on themes from horror, madness and the occult made him the perfect example of all that was evil in popular music affecting the youth of the day. One Christian preacher, Jeff Godwin, decried Ozzy's drunken decapitation of the dove as the symbolic destruction of the Holy Spirit, which appeared in Luke in the form of a dove.[20] He was also accused of urging his fans to commit suicide through the use of subliminal and so-called "back masked" lyrics,[21] a charge that took almost a decade to be thrown out of court once and for all. To all of these claims, Ozzy responded with defiance by simply absorbing the charges into his stage persona and in the process mocking them through such actions as actually including comical messages recorded in reverse on later albums and even striking back at the Christian Right with piercing lyrics. The most poignant example of this latter tactic appears in the song, "Miracle Man," in which Ozzy harps on the hypocrisy of "little Jimmy sinner,"[22] Jimmy Swaggert, whose disgrace, among those of other evangelists, led to the folding of the Moral Majority by the end of the 1980s.

[18] Where the media had at first sensationally labelled Ozzy and Black Sabbath devil worshippers, amid the anti-establishment, and indeed often anti-Christian, sentiment of the 1960s, the Christian Right harshly reinforced this view with the ferocious determination of those who tried witches at Salem. Ozzy became at once the reviled demon of the conservatives and coasted to stardom on the maxim that no publicity is bad publicity.

Mr. Crowley, what went on in your head

Mr. Crowley, did you talk with the dead

Your life style to me seemed so tragic

With the thrill of it all

You fooled all the people with magic

You waited on Satan's call

(Ozzy Osbourne, "Mr. Crowley," Blizzard of Ozz, 1980)

[19] An interesting parallel exists between Ozzy's relationship with conservative Christianity and that of another controversial figure: Aleister Crowley. Ozzy himself had further fostered the conception of his Satanism by singing what some have called an homage to the early twentieth century occultist and cult leader, "Mr. Crowley." While Ozzy has since claimed that the song was written with little knowledge of just who Crowley himself was and was simply in keeping with his stage persona, the song provides a connection that is interesting in many ways. The differences are as important as the similarities between these two figures in understanding the position of Christian fundamentalists in terms of popular culture.

[20] Crowley was born in Leamington Spa, England, coincidentally close to

Birmingham, in 1875.[23] Quite unlike Osbourne, Crowley was born into an upper-class family and went on to attend university at Cambridge. Whereas the members of Black Sabbath struggled against a society that privileged the rich to the detriment of the poor in an effort to make a name for themselves within it, Crowley's turmoil was that of a bored aristocrat seeking guidance and personal understanding. From a young age, Crowley rebelled against the Victorian mores of his rich and rigidly religious family, even rejecting his given name, Edward Alexander, in favour of Aleister. While he was the son of a preacher, he denounced Christianity vehemently, going so far as to call himself by the antagonistic title of, "The Beast 666." He rebelled not only against his family, but against the system in which he had been raised, which it must be said, is the normal human reaction of youth. In fact, it is just such a spirit of rebellion that propelled Black Sabbath to success. Crowley, however, took his social recalcitrance to extremes, the reasons for which will never be known for certain.[24]

[21] Unsatisfied with university education, Crowley impatiently sought out alternative modes of learning and understanding. He soon came into contact with the various occult movements of the early twentieth century and eagerly studied their ideas. He sought out a more personally rewarding, and empowering, wisdom in the occult society known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which had been instrumental in organising a wide variety of esoterica into a single system of thought, and this was readily absorbed by the young Crowley. After an early clash of egos, Crowley was forced to leave the cult and began one of his own design, incorporating what esoteric knowledge he had gained with his own penchant for sexual deviance, forming a highly stylised form of sex magic that characterised his spiritual and personal development.[25] Later, he claims to have begun to receive messages from a divine entity, and the wisdom conveyed from this personage formed the core of Crowley's faith, the key concept of which is summed up in his Law of Thelema: "Do as thou Wilt shall be the whole of the Law; Love is the Law, Love under Will."

[22] Crowley's maxim has often been misunderstood as a hedonistic philosophy, which is an understandable interpretation when Crowley's sexual proclivities and increasing drug use are taken into account. In fact, Crowley's deeper interest lay in the power of the Will to alter the course of destiny, and to this end he applied his own style of magickåthe "k" added by Crowley to differentiate his from the mundane magic of stage magicians.

[23] He attracted a great amount of media attention through the combination of his highly controversial behaviour coupled with his own huge ego, and the misunderstandings of his philosophy only fuelled the fires. Crowley was apparently not bothered by the negative attention he was receiving. Lawrence Sutin, Crowley's biographer, claims: "If Crowley had no practical career in mind, he nonetheless was fired by at least one worldly aspiration. Fame, above all, was the laurel he wished for."[26] Aside from his flagrant role as a social contrarian, Crowley also self-published numerous tracts of poetry and occult philosophy. None of these met with any commercial success, however, and so the Beast had to resort to other means to attract attention to himself. Apparently fame and infamy were indistinguishable to the self-important Crowley. He relished the designation bestowed upon by the newspapers as "The Most Wicked Man in the World." He flaunted his position as a cult leader and readily displayed his condemnation of strict Christian morals, notably through his credo, the Law of Thelema. He believed, at least as far as the guilt-ridden conscience of his Christian upbringing would allow, that humans should do whatever they pleased according to their own inner desires. This belief justified his own deep sexual perversions in the face of a highly conservative culture.

[24]   An example of how Crowley made a name for himself as the pet villain of the media appears during World War II, when Crowley left Britain for the United States. There, Crowley wrote prolifically, in addition to his influential ideas on ritual magick, in defence of the Nazis during the Second World War and spoke polemically about the advantages of drug use in spiritual endeavours, especially cocaine and heroin.[27] Though he claimed that his defence of Germany had been written in satire as a kind of reverse propaganda campaign once it became clear that the Nazis were going to lose, he had already become reviled by the great majority of people who had any exposure to the media.

[25] Despite the controversy that surrounded his life, Crowley's greatest achievement is that he added much to the advancement of modern occultism. In fact, the modern Wiccan movement can be traced, in part, back to ideas originating in his thoughts and writing, especially in many of the ritual details. Certainly, most modern Wiccans would deny that such a connection exists, possibly from fear of the Great Beast himself, and likely also because of the sinister reputation of the man and his beliefs. Still, the link is there. Even the so-called Wiccan Rede echoes Crowley's Law of Thelema in stating, "An' if it harm none, do as ye will." Gerald Gardner, yet another inveterate self-publicist and the founder of the modern Wicca movement, had met Aleister Crowley on at least one occasion and unabashedly borrowed much from him for his Book of Shadowsåa kind of personal holy book of rituals for Wiccans.[28] During their meeting, Gardner, who was also a Freemason as well as self-professed Witch, was granted a charter to establish his own branch of the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), the cult that Crowley headed at his death. Allen Greenfield suggests the possibility that Gardner=s Wicca might simply have been an imaginative use of this charter.[29] In any event, what is certain is that Aleister Crowley lies at the roots of the Wiccan movement, if only as an inspirational tool for Gardner's own thoughts. Wicca has since become the largest of the NRMs to have grown out of the 1960s in America,[30] capturing in many ways the essence of Crowley's anti-authoritarian and anti-Christian leanings. To some extent, Wicca, or at least the ever-present move towards individual spirituality over the hierarchical systems of established religion, can be seen as the development of the New Age predicted by Crowley. Still, he died poor, a drug addict, and completely alone, having ostracised himself totally from the society that he sought to change through sheer force of will.

[26] Aside from such coincidental facts as both Osbourne and Crowley hail from the same county in England, and that the former was born less than a year after the latter died, much about their lives can be contrasted as well as compared. Their differences are important at a fundamental level: Crowley was destructively defiant and self-absorbed, with his main motivation that of self-indulgence, however pure he may have imagined this ultimate goal to be; Ozzy, on the other hand, is an entertainer, pure and simple, and he is prepared to go to extremes for the sake of pleasing the audience. As Ozzy puts it:

Frankly, the only difference between vaudeville and modern music is electric guitars and microphones. It's basically, "Is everybody happy?" "Yeah!" "What about you over here, my friend?" It's the same trick.[31]

[27] At the same time, however, though their deepest motives are different, they share the need for fame, both going to extremes to attain it. This selfish need is couched in different forms by both men, one actively seeking to change society despite the people, with the other seeking only to please the people in the midst of a society-changing movement.

[28] Osbourne and Crowley grew out widely divergent backgrounds, although each ended up at war with the same conventional forces. Ozzy struggled from poverty to invade the upper-class music audience, while Crowley rebelled against the strict morality of his own posh upbringing. As rebels, they have both been embraced by the counter-culture as icons of one sort or another. Ozzy's acceptance by the mainstream will be discussed further below, while Crowley's is best summed up in the words of his biographer once againåin fact, Sutin's words might almost equally be applied to Osbourne as to their intended recipient:

It would seem that Crowley is as irresistible a fantasy for the counter-culture (which typically casts him as a defiant rebel who stood for individual freedom first and foremost, this despite Crowley's lifelong aristocraticåand even, at times, fascistic å bent in politics) as he is for Christian fundamentalists (who have, paradoxically, succeeded in perpetuating Crowley's fame by casting him as the Evil Exemplar best suited to sustain a healthy fear of the Devil in the faithful).[32]

[29] Additionally, they both share the status of innovators in their respective fields, one influencing the development of New Age ideology and the other creating a lasting genre of powerful new music. In both cases, their innovations have left a lasting impact on the counter-culture due to their struggles against conformity on the one hand, and further encouraged by the adverse reaction of the conservative ruling classes on the other. Their common vices of women and drugs, combined with a blatant rejection of the traditional Christian establishment, only add to their shared image as enemies of the conservative Christian Right and the heroes of anti-conformist Liberal Left. While Crowley died with neither redemption nor recognition, though his work is now reaching a wider mainstream audience, Ozzy Osbourne has recently been cast in a new and friendlier light, reflecting what may be a radically changing social climate.

Crazy, but that's how it goes

Millions of people

living as foes

Maybe it's not too late

To learn how to love

And forget how to hate

(Ozzy Osbourne, "Crazy Train," Blizzard of Ozz, 1980)

[30] In 2002, MTV premiered a new "reality-TV" show called The Osbournes, which subsequently went on to become, against all expectations, the most successful television program in the network's history. Cameras followed Ozzy, his wife and manager Sharon, and two of their children, day and night over a couple of months in order to provide viewers a voyeuristic glimpse into the life of an ageing rock icon. The show is part documentary and part situation comedy, with the Osbourne family compared to other unconventional TV families such as the Addamses, Simpsons, and the Beverly Hillbillies.[33] Since the show is unrehearsed and unscripted, revealing the family as their true selves, most of the comedy, aside from giggling at "bleeped" profanity, comes from the fact that here is the self-proclaimed Prince of Darkness being unmasked for the doddering, middle-aged father and emasculated husband that he truly is. Episodes show Ozzy as the prototypical dad, calling his son to figure out how to work the remote control and embarrassing his daughter with his safe-sex advice. The ravages of drug-abuse are obvious as he shakes and stutters in stark contrast to his still forceful stage presence. The one thing that comes through most clearly, and likely accounts for much of the show's appeal to a mass audience, is Ozzy's humanity, especially in the light of the recent illness of his wife and pillar of his life. In the light of the love that permeates his admittedly eccentric family, Ozzy's image as devil worshipper and madman of rock appears blatantly painted on as Ozzy still mugs for media cameras with a wild, gaping grimace while subsequently hugging his family tenderly.

[31] Ozzy himself acknowledges the dysfunctional aspects of his family, but then asks the question, who should people take as a realistic role model anyway?[34] As the verbal battles between Ozzy and the televangelists revealed, these self-righteous moralists are certainly not free from sin. One sign of a softening stance to the condemnation of Ozzy, and heavy metal music in general, can be seen in the theme song of The Osbournes sung by squeaky-clean Pat Boone. The song itself is a cover of one of Ozzy's biggest hits, "Crazy Train." Boone had himself gotten in trouble with the Christian right in 1996-97 when he released a heavy metal cover album featuring his own lounge-style renditions of several heavy metal classics. For conspiring with the purveyors of such "filth," Boone lost his half-hour weekly evangelical program on the religious radio network, Trinity Broadcasting Network. Despite Boone's decades-long career as a highly vocal Christian entertainer, his involvement with "devil music" was enough to have him banned. The experience caused Boone to re-evaluate his own tendency to judge others from the stand-point of right-wing conservatism:

I have been identified in the minds of millions of people as another one of those metal scourges and scumbags, and I am being judged in the same way that I judged ...Christians have got to deal with this judgmental, self-righteous, opinionated attitude that if somebody doesn't dress like we dress, or doesn't like the same music, or maybe rides a Harley-Davidson, he must be a heathen.[35]

[32] This lesson is well-taken in the face of Ozzy's revealed humanity; his label as Prince of Darkness seems untenable as anything more than a stage name. Pat Boone's rendition of Ozzy's most well-known song, "Crazy Train," has become the theme to The Osbournes' hit TV series. Several of the most influential moral pundits in Washington have come to embrace Osbourne in a complete reversal of their condemnation of his demonic influence on their children. Former Vice-President Dan Quayle, who once attacked Murphy Brown for advocating single mother-hood, has praised The Osbournes as an example of nuclear family values as well as sending a clear anti-drug message, though he remains admittedly uncomfortable with the foul language. Current U.S. President George W. Bush also singled out Ozzy at the annual correspondents' dinner in Washington in a bit of good humour:

"The thing about Ozzy is, he's made a lot of big hit recordings," Bush told the audience. "'Party With the Animals.' 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.' 'Facing Hell.' 'Black Skies' and 'Bloodbath in Paradise.' Ozzy, Mom loves your stuff."[36]

[33] This is not to say that suddenly with The Osbournes all criticism of Ozzy's Satanic links has ceased, but with wide-ranging acceptance by a mass audience and further approval from those in power, the voice of contention has certainly been subdued to a great extent. An example of the attitude taken by those who still see Ozzy in the darkest of lights comes from Joseph Farrah, editor of the right-wing online news source, who, while complaining that comments from the President and others have created an uncomfortable atmosphere in which to criticise Ozzy, warns: "He is a depraved moral terrorist, seducing young kids who don't know any better into deadly lifestyles."[37]

I'm not the kind of person you think I am

I'm not the Anti-Christ or the Ironman

But I still love the feeling I get from you

I hope you'll never stop 'cause

It gets me through ... Yeah

I'm just tryin' to live ... Yeah

(Ozzy Osbourne, "Gets me Through," Down to Earth, 2001)

[34] The occultism of Aleister Crowley has become increasingly accepted to the extent that his once highly controversial texts can now be found in any mass-market bookstore. His rituals have been watered down and merged with New Age liberalism, most clearly represented by the Wiccan movement, which itself has been largely accepted into the mainstream, sometimes even given full recognition as an established religion. In the same way, Ozzy Osbourne has been accepted as just another entertainer, and one who has worked his way from the back streets of England to international success. Black Sabbath gained their following by appealing to the emotions of those who felt oppressed and ignored by society. The defensive reaction of the conservative ruling class, in both the religious and secular realms, only served to cement Ozzy as a symbol of rebellion. Ozzy continues to speak to the disaffected among us, though given the span of his career one might rightly imagine that these no longer only comprise youths but a cross-generational swath of fans. Certainly, the jarring juxtaposition of father and madman is one that must give even the most casual thinker pause for thought. It casts a shade of grey in an era when celebrity has become a veritable cult in its own right: Ozzy is not a demon, nor is he a saint; he is an ordinary guy who has led a very extra-ordinary life. The recent revelation that after years of perceived moral corruption, Ozzy has achieved the American ideal in both career and family can surely be seen as a vindication of the counter-cultural revolution and the ultimate failure of Christian fundamentalism in its reactionary attitude and reliance upon black-and-white images of what constitutes right and wrong. Steve Bruce argues that all along the power of the Christian Right had been "hysterical exaggerations;"[38] the influence they had at the beginning of the 1980s was due more to the element of surprise than to their actually wielding a true Moral Majority. He further argues that once the mainstream had been given a chance to evaluate the new situation and adapt, they reacted by pushing the movement back to the fringes of social reality.[39] Certainly, the discussion in this paper lends support to this thesis, especially in the context of Ozzy Osbourne's victimisation in the 1980s. More appropriate to the data on Aleister Crowley, however, is Arthur Schlesinger's argument that the Moral Majority is but one piece of an historical cycle of conservative reaction that wanes and waxes with each passing generation; the 1980s saw the Moral Majority, the 1950s saw the rise of Billy Graham, while the 1920s saw prohibition and fundamentalist attacks on Darwinian theory in schools.[40] What can be certain is that Christian fundamentalism has been an important facet of America society and continues to inform the American psyche, though their voice has ebbed back to a level concomitant with their actual level of support. On a purely practical level, Pat Boone, who has experienced both sides of this issue, sums up what might be the most simple conclusion to draw from the entire discussion: "If we're going to communicate with our culture, we've got to find ways to commend as well as to condemn. Otherwise, what kind of ministry are we going to have?"[41]


[1] Based on a paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Eastern-International Region of the American Academy of Religion, Mercyhurst College, Erie, PA, 2003.

[2] William Packard provides a detailed history of evangelism and fundamentalism in America in his book, Evangelism in America: From Tents to TV (NY: Paragon House, 1988).

[3] Most of the biographical material found in this paper has been culled from a number of sources and is widely known on the internet, in vast magazine interviews, and in unauthorised autobiographies. Specific reference will be indicated in endnotes.

[4] Ozzy Osbourne, liner notes to Nativity in Black: A Tribute to Black Sabbath, 1994.

[5] Chris Welch, Black Sabbath (London: Proteus Books, 1982), 9.

[6] Ibid., 59.

[7] June Johns, King of the Witches: The World of Alex Sanders (New York: Coward å McCann, 1970).

[8] Ibid., 26.

[9] Ibid., 28.

[10] This song expresses Ozzy's mixed feelings over his exit from Black Sabbath.

[11] David Fricke, "For Ozzy Osbourne, There is Reality Television å And There is Real Life," Rolling Stone, 25 July 2002, 66.

[12] Ben M. Crouch and Kelly Damphousse, "Law Enforcement and the Satanism-Crime Connection: A Survey of "Cult Cops"," in The Satanism Scare, James T. Richardson, Joel Best, and David G. Bomley, eds. (NY: Aldine De Gruyter, 1991), 192. Also see Robert Hicks, In Pursuit of Satan: The Police and the Occult (NY: Prometheus Books, 1991), 22-23.

[13] Bill Ellis, Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the Media (Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2000), 8.

[14] Steve Bruce, Pray TV: Televangelism in America (New York: Routledge, 1990), 16.

[15] Nielsen, Niels C., Fundamentalism, Mythos, and World Religions (New York: SUNY Press, 1993), 24.

[16] Joel Best, "Endangered Children in Antisatanist Rhetoric," in Richardson, Best, and Bomley, 101.

[17] Hill, Sameul S. and Dennis E. Owen, The New Religious Political Right in America (Nashville: Abingdon, 1982), 9.

[18] Tipper Gore, "Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society," Forum Report (published by the Council for Children, Inc.), 5 October 1988, 4, quoted in Hicks (1991).

[19] George F. Will, "No One Blushes Anymore," Washington Post, 15 September 1985, citing United States Senate Committee on Commerce Science and Transportation, Record Labelling Hearing (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 19 September 1985), 20.

[20] Luke 3:22; Jeff Godwin, The Devil's Disciples: The Truth About Rock (Chino, CA: Chick Publications, 1985), 98.

[21] For more information on back masking, see: James R. Lewis, Satanism Today: An Encyclopedia of Religion, Folklore, and Popular Culture (Oxford: ABC Clio, 2001), 19-20.

[22] Ozzy Osbourne, "Miracle Man," No Rest for the Wicked, 1988.

[23] Biographical sources on Crowley are widespread, particularly on the Internet, but some of the best sources for information on his life are the following: Lawrence Sutin's Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley (NY: St. Martin's Press, 2000); Aleister Crowley, Diary of a Drug Fiend (London: Sphere Books, 1972); John Symonds and Kenneth Grant, eds., The Magical Record of the Beast 666:The Diaries of Aleister Crowley, 1914-1920 (Montreal: Next Step Publications, 1972); Aleister Crowley, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley: An Autohagiography, John Symonds and Kenneth Grant, eds. (abridged edition; London: Cape, 1969); Percy Reginald Stephensen, The Legend of Aleister Crowley: Being a Study of the Documentary Evidence Relating to a Campaign of Personal Vilification Unparalleled in Literary History (London : Mandrake Press, 1930).

[24] Certainly, one might surmise at the many possible interpretations of his work, though even such an endeavour is troublesome as Crowley filled his autobiographical literature with a mixture of fact, fallacy, and poetic license. See, in particular, Crowley's Confessions.

[25] For a very detailed discussion of the sexual behaviours ascribed to and admitted to by Crowley in the name of spiritual practice, see Burgo Partridge, A History of Orgies (London: Spring Books, 1964), 193-204.

[26] Sutin (2000), 48.

[27] Some details of both of these facets of Crowley's life can be found in his Diary of a Drug Fiend.

[28] Ronald Hutton, The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), 334.

[29] Allen H. Greenfield, "The Secret History of Modern Witchcraft," 2003, online at <>, accessed 10 December 2003.

[30] J. G. Melton, ed., New Age Encyclopedia (New York: Gale Research, 1990), 313.

[31] Fricke, "Ozzy Osbourne," 65.

[32] Sutin, Do What Thou Wilt, 3.

[33] Tom Gliatto and Alexis Chiu, "Daze of Their Lives," People, 9 December 2002, 68.

[34] Ozzy Osbourne, "Ozzfest Interview," by Mary Ann Hobbs, BBC Radio One, 2002.

[35] Pat Boone, quoted in Edward Gilbreath, "Why Pat Boone Went 'Bad': His Controversial Mission to Interpret Pop Culture for Cranky Christians," Christianity Today, 4 October 1999, vol. 43, no. 11, 56, online at <>, accessed 26 June 2003.

[36] David Montgomery, "Great & Powerful Ozz," Washington Post, 6 May 2002, C01, online at <
>, accessed 27 June 2003.

[37] Joseph Farrah, "The Ozzy and Dubya Show," WorldNetDaily, 13 May 2002, online at <
>, accessed 27 June 2003.

[38] Bruce, Pray TV, ix.

[39] Steve Bruce, "The Inevitable Failure of the New Christian Right," 7-20 in Steve Bruce, Peter Kivisto, and William H. Swatos, Jr., eds., The Rapture of Politics (London: Transaction Publishers, 1995); Steve Bruce, The Rise and Fall of the New Christian Right (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1988).

[40] Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Cycles of American History (1986), cited in Packard, Evangelism, 210-11.

[41] Gilbreath, "Pat Boone," 56.