FVPCC (Family Violence Prevention Coordinating Committee)

(1991. September 16).


Family violence: Prevention in the 1990s.

Christchurch, New Zealand.


Conference Proceedings,

Two Volumes. Wellington, FVPCC.


Vol.2. Pages 11-14.





The kinds of groups that are most often sources of ritualised abuse involve religious or semi-religious practices that usually have a ritualised format. These practices include satanism, witchcraft, occultism and christianity.


These are the most widely known but are not all. Nor are we saying that any practices known by these names are abusive cults. It is apparent that an abusive cult might develop from a "legitimate" religion or group, with a small circle secretly developing abusive practices. In Aotearoa/New Zealand, we know from the survivors, of groups that have developed from fundamentalist Christian churches, Freemasons, and a sex ring which operated among businessmen.


Where ritual exists, there is the potential to abuse.


"A destructive cult may be defined as a closed system/group whose followers have been recruited deceptively and retained through the use of manipulative techniques of thought reform and mind control (undue influence) The system is imposed without the informed consent of the individual and is designed to alters one's personality and behaviour. The leadership is all-powerful, the ideology is totalistic, and the will of the individual is subordinate to will of the group. The destructive cult sets itself above society by creating its own values with little or no regard for society's ethics or morals"

Cult Awareness Network


Cults are likely to be abusive when leadership is authoritarian and membership is small, elitist and rigidly controlled.


Keeping this definition in mind, and remembering that abuse is about getting power and control over (victimising) others, the following are described to give an idea of the context in which ritual abuse might occur.





There seems to be a wide spectrum of practices, from organized satanic churches to the self-styled practitioners of satanism. Satanism is the, usually systematised, worship or adoration of Satan or the devil as defined in the christian context.


Satanists seek to obtain power to manipulate the world around them for their own gain by calling on the power of satan in certain prescribed rituals. They oppose the traditional values of Judeo-Christian tradition and adhere instead to a system of personal power and control over the world around them.


"Anyone who claims to be interested in magic or the occult for reasons other than gaining personal power is the worst kind of hypocrite"

Anton Le Vey in the Satanic Bible


Satanism exists because Christianity exists. Satanism is the reversal or mirror opposite of the christian belief, and its notions of good


"Although Satanists believe there is a God - to believe in Satan you have to believe in God - they have become alienated from believing that God's representation of "good" is the only way to fly. They believe God is good, but they don't believe that good itself is good"

Mike Warnke in The Satan Seller


Satan is the personification of evil in christian belief and to the christian, evil is evil as defined by the scriptures, church teachings and dogma. To the satanist, evil is open to interpretation. Because satanists are usually after personal power and the satisfaction of earthly needs, evil can be interpreted as whatever stands in the way of these desires.


Satanism might consist of renouncing God and adopting attitudes and beliefs considered appropriate for one who is "anti-God" They might belong to organised groups or practise individually It is likely to be in this context that the teenage dabbler can be found.


Ritual abuse survivors describe rituals that appear to use satanic symbols. Children describe black and red robes, hoods, altars, pentagrams, candles, sacrifice etc. Adult survivors, including those in Aotearoa/New Zealand, describe being ritually abused throughout their childhood, adolescence and into adulthood. They state that their abuse was part of a system of satanic worship and describe satanic invocations and rituals. Some came to believe that the devil was inside of them.





The word is derived from the old English "wicca" which means "wise" or the craft of the wise. It has two interpretations either through the Christian context or beyond it.


Beyond the christian interpretation, Witchcraft is an ancient and widespread practice that pre-dates Christianity by thousands of years. In contemporary practice, much of witchcraft focuses on self-knowledge and healing, revering the laws of nature and working in harmony with these natural laws. Many modern witches, predominantly women, see witchcraft within the context of feminist theory and consciousness, re-empowering the symbols and values of the feminine.


The other interpretation is offered through the historical context of christianity.  Witchcraft was the term used by the clergy to describe practices believe to be satanic. Witches were judged to be in league with the Devil, giving rise to the witch hunts between the 13th and the 18th century. (It is estimated that 9 million European women were killed) During this time, religious practices that were non-Christian were automatically denounced as satanic and therefore to be purged. It is in this context, that satanists can refer themselves as witches, practise "black" magic, and belong to groups called covens.


Because of Witchcraft's general antithesis to christianity, and because many members of destructive cults identify themselves as witches, Witchcraft and Satanism are often believed to be one and the same. While abuse has been described as having occurred in connection with witchcraft, witchcraft per se, does not connote abuse.






The work "occult" is derived from the Latin "occultus" meaning covered over, hidden or secret.


This is a belief in the existence of mysterious, secret or supernatural sources of power that can be known and/or communicated with by human beings. "Occult" is a general designation for various systems of belief, practices and ritual based on knowledge of the world of spirits and/or unknown forces of the universe.


In its current usage, it is employed to describe a variety of beliefs or practices that are usually considered to be on the fringes on accepted science and belief. Examples include - clairvoyance, palmistry, astrology, speaking in tongues (Glossolalia) and necromancy (believing and practising raising the dead so they can reveal to the necromancer otherwise unknown past, present and future occurrences).


Use of the term "occult" depends on the interpretation of the user. To some christians, practices and beliefs considered to be outside the church's teachings or doctrines can be termed occult and therefore contrary to their idea of "right".






The basic tenets and doctrines of christianity, regardless of the specific church, overtly forbid practices that could include ritual abuse. However, where ritual exists, there is always the Potential for abuse to occur.


In seeking a wider understanding, it is possible to put both ritual and abuse on a continuum. Ritual is part of the Christian and church process, and abuse does not deal specifically with sexual abuse. The high ritual of Catholicism and the belief that confession is required to achieve a state of grace can be interpreted as abuse of the mind. This belief is part of the indoctrination process deemed necessary to be at one with god.


Everything has its opposite - the more God is elevated as a supreme being with power over all, the greater the potential to believe that the opposite is true.


Destructive cults develop from churches in the same way that they develop in other institutionalised settings.






Ritual Abuse: Report of the Ritual Abuse Task Force, Los Angeles County Commission for Women


Notes defining some aspects of the occult, religious and semi-religious practioes relevant to ritual abuse

compiled by Nigel Marriott, Lower Hutt


Accounts of ritual abuse survivors, Wellington New Zealand


Ritual Action Group,


August '91