Big Thanks to AFRICAN PAPER:
German online music magazine African Paper posted a great review of Zeena's 'Bring Me the Head of F.W. Murnau". Scroll below for the English translation of the original German language review.
Digital downloads of the album are at Zeena Schreck Bandcamp.
Perhaps one has to be well-travelled to realize that they're one of those people who don't settle for the illusion of home - I'm talking about an illusion here insofar as the ideas you have about your own life, that are always illusory in a certain way - you can or want to let those illusions in. The famous silent film director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau wrote to his mother from Tahiti, where he was shooting his last film Tabu, that he only felt homesick to a limited extent, because no country, no house, no person's companionship could really give him any sense of home. He became particularly aware of this on the island at the other end of the world, which he felt bewitched by.
The compact but intense sound collage-like album, which Zeena Schreck - formerly of Radio Werewolf - composed about a fictional post-biographical episode surrounding Murnau, with accompanying videos by a certain Tnopud Salocin, begins with an excerpt of this letter, appropriately framed by the sounds of tropical tides and delivered in a slowed down, androgynous voice. The haunting tale that forms the backdrop to the music is about the abduction of the director's head from the cemetery in Stahnsdorf near Berlin - something that some may think is an urban legend but that actually happened a good ten years ago, and so the master's homelessness outlasts his physical life.
A feature of the album is the constant blending of the director's life and work. “Ill Omens”, whose melange of alienated, perhaps sampled instruments is reminiscent of a slightly sepia-toned grey, could be a congenial score for the bizarre skull robbery, and yet the tension, the coarse-grained and flickering humming and hissing, after which only the death bell remains, is reminiscent of many a film scene from Murnau's oeuvre. "A Drive up the Coast" is like a peaceful little miniature [fairground]: organ and waltz rhythm evoke a carnival atmosphere, and when you hear the sound of rain and the honking of a vintage car toward the end, you might even think of California, where Zeena herself spent her early years.
While the first three tracks have an effect of a soft introduction, the rest of the compositions get more to the point. With ritualistic percussion by drummer Hisham A. Bharoocha, hand drums and rattles, odd reverbs and orchestral quotes, "Tabu," which contains lyrics from the film of the same name, is a furious celebration of the dark side of the exotic, and contains in Zeena's recitation the warning to respect the eponymous taboo. In “The Phantom Bridge”, which draws from a pivotal scene from Murnau's best-known film Nosferatu, the voice sweeps like murmurs through a room, flanked by dusty bright bells. In a whisper, the voice tells of unknown places and things, but also of life leaving the body, while water ripples in the background. For anyone familiar with Zeena's background in Vajrayana Tantric Buddhism, entirely different dimensions might open up here, in the vampire's quotes.
In the final track, “Endlich Daheim”, which opens with the rattling of an old film projector, and whose lyrics are by Zeena herself, the whole spooky story about the open grave is revealed, in which the director seems to have actually found his home, decades after his physical death.
“Bring Me The Head Of F.W. Murnau” is a beautiful, concise piece of music that wraps the aura of old, fantastic film scores in a delightfully experimental guise, and at the same time doesn't seem implausible for a second. All this and the appreciation of the master is in no way disturbed by the fact that the signature of the musician herself is always present and sometimes becomes explicit through small and not so small hints. The already mentioned echo of a faded fairground somewhere in Karloffornia and the reference to tantra could also be purely coincidental and a projection of the reviewer. Less so, however, is the title which refers to an early Radio Werewolf release (and indirectly to another classic film, Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia) - but at that time it was about the head of an unpleasant journalist.
When past and present, life and afterlife, one's own and the other's are intertwined in this way, it becomes clear once more how illusionary the perceptions of time, space and what one takes for the self are in the end. The fact that you can still feel Zeena and the world of Murnau throughout is not a contradiction in terms. -admin/African Paper
[Original German Version HERE.]
[posted by t.m.]
“Big Thanks to my dear friend Fabiano Gagliano of the band Sacred Legion for adding me in the acknowledgments of their fantastic new debut album 'Silent Lineage'! At Fabiano's request, both the band name and album title came to me through a divination for the purposes of “christening” the newly formed band. And the rest is history, as they say!
[Scroll down for my review!]
Though 'Silent Lineage' is their first album, these well-seasoned musicians have decades-long experience in previous European-based Deathrock and Punk bands. Specifically, Fabiano Gagliano (also a visual artists) is formerly of Chants of Maldoror, Mirko is formerly of Human Disease, and Tony Volume is formerly of Idol Lips. The lads hail from Italy, yet Gagliano, in keeping with the necromantic and nostalgic themes of the album, conjures vocal qualities of deceased cult singers like Marc Bolan, Syd Barrett and Benjamin Orr. The original music in this album reflects an eclectic mix of '80s genres from deathrock, classic goth-rock and post-punk. Yet the music also hints of '70s influences like glam rock, prog rock, early neo-martial and industrial music with choice bits of sampling from cult films that film buffs will enjoy. The stark and mysterious cover art is Gagliano's creation. All lyrics are contained within the CD booklet. An excellent debut for this great new band!
My best wishes and blessings to all involved!
Check it out at batcaveproductions.bandcamp.com/album/the-silent-lineage
Released by Bat-Cave Productions
Den of Geek magazine consults Zeena about Tibetan tantric Buddhist practices of astral projection and traveling though netherworlds in relation to the new film 'Insidious,' and its portrayal of a realm called 'The Further'.
Selected excerpts of Zeena's interview below.
The entire article can be read at:
DoG: Among true believers, “the Further” is also called Liṅga Śarīra, Akasha, and prana. But it’s probably best known as the astral plane, a shallow tag in itself.
“The term ‘astral plane’ is a poetic description, at best, or more accurately a misnomer,” says Zeena, a Tibetan tantric Buddhist yogini, and iconic occult authority and artist. “When our consciousness pierces the veil of our ordinary, everyday scope of perception, there are infinite other realities one might experience, not just one ‘astral plane.’”
DoG: In Insidious, the paranormal hunting psychic Elise explains that Dalton is a “traveler,” who was born with the ability to pierce that veil.
“Everybody possesses the potential for astral projection,” Zeena says. “It’s a natural part of being human, just as many other metaphysical or paranormal experiences can naturally occur. But the ability to actualize it is relatively rare, and the effects from the occurrences vary greatly depending on many factors.”
“Astral projection during deep states of unconsciousness like sleeping, fainting, or coma, could be achieved by a master of such techniques,” Zeena says. “For one who’s trained most of their life in the esoteric method of willed astral projection, and has become highly skilled in the ability to focus the mind under all circumstances, then deep states of unconsciousness wouldn’t impede their ability.”
DoG: Zeena confirms people can be guided through the experience, but insists “it’s a very delicate process requiring a qualified teacher from reputable metaphysical lineages that specialize in that. And even then, astral projection, or directing one’s consciousness, is not the main goal, but rather a way to gauge preparedness for more advanced training on the path toward spiritual enlightenment. When done improperly, the results of attempting astral projection simply for experimentation, entertainment, or curiosity can be disastrous.”
DoG: The different practices are often mistakenly considered interchangeable, but are quite different.
“With astral projection, one is sending one’s consciousness–either in part or fully–away from their body to a designated place or realm, in this world or others, for a particular purpose,” Zeena explains. “Remote viewing is when consciousness remains in the body but one can view anywhere else from afar. These two phenomena are also different from the involuntary experience colloquially known as OBE (out of body experiences), which usually spontaneously occurs in conjunction with trauma, near death experiences, or extreme stressors or ecstasy.”
[End of excerpts]
Big thanks to author and industrial music scholar Nicholas Diak for his great review of Zeena's Bring Me the Head of F.W. Murnau in the latest issue of Exotica Moderna. Fans of Exotica-Industrial mixes will especially appreciate his take on Zeena's 'Tabu' track:
“Bring Me the Head of F.W. Murnau (BMTHOFWM) is the debut studio release of multimedia artist Zeena Schreck. Created in response to the theft of the skull of German director Murnau, that made the news back in 2015, BMTHOFWM is a concept EP that dives into the world of Murnau, his films and his legacy. The release proper is mostly spoken word recitations of Murnau's letters and film intertitles (such as those from his most renowned film, Nosferatu), over field recordings and minimalist industrial pulses.
Schreck's EP is of interest for fans of exotica for her track Tabu, which is an homage to Murnau's final film, Tabu: A Story of the South Seas, from 1931.
The track begins with some old school industrial clangs and beats before it transitions to Schreck reading text from the film as the music eases into a subdued form of primitive exotica with shakers and primal drumming that evokes the likes of Martin Denny and Les Baxter. BMTHOFWM is a niche release, but it situates itself at that interesting pop culture intersection of silent film appreciation and aesthetics to the realm of Tiki and exotica. It is an excellent CD for collectors who indulge in exploring the newer forms of exotica.”
- Nicholas Diak
Bring Me the Head of F.W. Murnau CD Available on this site: HERE
Or download at Bandcamp digital download* [*This Friday Feb 5, Bandcamp will again waive it's revenue share!]
Exotica Moderna is a quarterly publication showcasing the latest in tiki art and culture published by House of Tabu.
Below: A page capture of Nicholas Diak's review of Bring Me the Head of F.W. Murnau in Exotica Moderne #10
NEW Review and Interview: Zeena Schreck and her solo debut Bring Me the Head of F. W. Murnau, by Nicholas Diak
Many thanks to Nicholas Diak for this fantastic review and exclusive interview with Zeena about her new music! [Re-posted below from the original at Heilige Tod - Interdisciplinary Analysis of Neofolk Music.]
Bring Me the Head of F.W. Murnau can be purchased digitally at Bandcamp or in physical format at this site.
Review and Interview: Zeena Schreck and her debut Bring Me the Head of F. W. Murnau
Tuesday, August 4, 2020 by Nicholas Diak
During the summer of 2015, the skull of German silent film director F. W. Murnau was stolen from his tomb. Remnants of wax from lit candles present at the scene spurred the hypothesis that occult work was afoot while the macabre nature of Murnau’s stolen skull drew parallels to his legendary horror output, in particular his influential expressionist film, Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922).(1)
Shortly thereafter, inspired by the event, multimedia artist Zeena Schreck announced a “sequel to Radio Werewolf’s mystical, musical piece Bring Me the Head of Geraldo Rivera” that would be appropriately titled Bring Me the Head of F. W. Murnau.(2) Five years later, Bring Me the Head of F. W. Murnau (BMTHOFWM) was released in March of 2020.
BMTHOFWM marks the first studio release proper of Zeena performing music solo. Prior to this EP, Zeena had been a part of many musical collaborations and projects, such as Radio Werewolf, and had released some of her live ritual performances, such as her appearance at Wave-Gotik-Treffen, on compilations and YouTube. Per Zeena in regard to releasing a concept album instead of an album of her ritual performances:
“I definitely have future recording plans which will be in the areas of dark ambient and ritual music. [T]his first solo release was experimental in the sense I'd never done such a precise theme as concept album like this before. I like working within specific parameters though. Even in past recordings, when it might not seem obvious, I've almost always had in mind a particular framework within which to create the music. But this album was much more of a specific theme than I would normally do.”(3)
BMTHOFWM certainly has a thematic laser focus, concentrating on Murnau and some of his films, while capturing a certain silent film aesthetic, though paradoxically, with sound. Zeena pulls this feat off – a silent film with no images but instead with sounds – by incorporating elements of field recordings, minimalist-industrial, exotica, spoken words, and incantations, in conjunction with the brilliant German expressionist/Caligari style artwork that emblazons the release’s cover art that evokes some of the classic horror posters of the era.
Though Murnau is the subject of the EP, the filmmaker did not have a strong influence on Zeena at the beginning of the project:
“[Murnau was] not a huge influence. It was only his films Nosferatu and Faust that I had known and really liked since childhood, when they'd play on late night TV. I knew he'd worked with the occultist artist/architect Albin Grau on the sets for Nosferatu but working with an occultist doesn't automatically make you one. There is also the tie-in of my last name being the same as the actor who played Count Orlok, Max Schreck, in Murnau's most famous film Nosferatu. I'd also remembered the scandalous rumors about his untimely death that my godfather Kenneth Anger wrote of in Hollywood Babylon, rumors which, by the way, I've since learned weren't true. But aside from these things, I hadn't much knowledge of his life prior to embarking on this project. I know far more about him now.
Originally, I'd planned that this [release] was only going to be a single; not more than a two-track novelty piece inspired by a quirky event. But then, as I began researching more about Murnau and put flesh on the bones of this project, certain metaphysical portals started opening up. More material for more tracks developed than could be narrowed down to just a single. Yet I didn't want this to be a full album either. So, the logical middle ground was to make it an EP.”(4)
Through the process of researching Murnau, Zeena also visited the director’s home and his grave, gathering field recordings that would be incorporated into the compositions of BMTHOFWM:
“[I] intermingled various sounds from both locations in just about every track except the opening one, ‘Letter to Mother.’ Some of those field recordings were used in a straightforward manner, such as a fox barking, birds singing, the sound of some machinery or a metal gate clanging. Those can be detected fairly clearly enough. But other sounds used, I distorted in the editing to achieve certain auditory effects.
When I visited Murnau's grave, for the photo shoot to the CD, I was focused on getting the photos but hadn't intended on capturing field recordings at the same time. I'd already compiled field recordings taken at the former Murnau house in Berlin, which coincidentally happens to be right in my neighborhood. In addition to that, I'd painstakingly searched for specific samples corresponding to the exact years of Murnau's creative life and his death, such as the sound of the precise year and make of the car he was in when it crashed, leading to his death. Or a snippet of a song that would've been popular at parties in Hollywood that he may have attended. Things like that.
So, getting back to the cemetery field recordings: It was only by fluke, while taking photos at Murnau's grave, that my camera accidentally engaged the video record. It wasn't until later that day, when downloading my data from the day's shoot, I realized I'd inadvertently gotten some unexpected and pretty interesting sounds while at the grave. Luckily, there was still time to mix those in before the final edit and mastering. For some unknown reason, I've always had strange energy clashes with electronic devices; something's always malfunctioning with them in my case. I've come to expect these ‘accidental’ recordings of environment sounds, with both my audio recorder and my cameras video setting. Whenever it happens, I always discover something interesting, humorous or just uncanny and bizarre that gets added to my sound library. This reveals how much is occurring all the time that we humans normally filter out but which, when cut out of the normal flow of everyday life, can be wonderful auditory meditations. I'm sure that those unexpected sounds at the cemetery made a difference in enhancing an underlying eerie quality to the whole thing.”(5)
Zeena’s field recordings directly tie into her concept of “sonic necromancy.” These field recordings she gathered communicate an additional essence of Murnau that would not have been present otherwise:
“Sound art differs from conventionally composed music in that soundscapes are generally thought to be like paintings done with sound rather than matter. They may or may not necessarily tell a story. In this case, however, there is story. Between many years of magical ritual practices, as well as early-life theater and film training, which includes techniques in character development, sense memory and improvisation, a fusion of disciplined training in all these areas creates conducive conditions for summoning of the dead. While my magical training and ritual experience is probably more generally acknowledged than my theater training, I mention the latter only in relation to this music project because I'm playing various characters or roles throughout. Whether we are hearing Murnau's own thoughts in the opening and closing tracks, or the female Angel of Death who's come to usher Murnau away from this worldly experience, or the ‘bardo beings’ who inhabit the intermediate state between the end of one life and the beginning of the next. All of those voices are different characters revealing different levels of metaphysical existence and understanding.”(6)
If BMTHOFWM sounds like a multifaceted release, it is because it certainly is. Though the EP only contains six tracks and clocks in at roughly 18 minutes, it is compact in its sound design, atmosphere, and ambitious scope.
The first track of the EP, “Letter to Mother,” has Zeena reciting a letter Murnau wrote to his mother against a background of crashing waves. In this track, Zeena channels her aforementioned acting chops, mimicking a deeper voice that would be Muranu. It is a somber recital that sets a melancholy mood that permeates the release.
Track two, “Ill Omens,” runs with this melancholy with a peppering of something menacing or foreboding. It is a track that is minimal on sound, but high on atmosphere. Closing one’s eyes, one can picture an old film with a scene of tiptoeing through a cave or a dimly lit forest, illuminated day-for-night style, while a Harryhausen-esque monster waiting to emerge from the shadows.
The third track, “A Drive up the Coast,” chronicles the last moments of Murnau as he died in an auto accident while traversing the Pacific Coast Highway near Santa Barbara in 1931. The track begins jovial, with organ music composed by Zeena that evokes a funfair or a period appropriate party in the background. Sounds of an open car window woosh by before (spoiler alert!) the sounds of accelerations, followed by a scream, tires screeching, and a crash.
Track four, “Tabu,” is a reference to Murnau’s final film, Tabu: A Story of the South Seas (1931) that was released shortly after his death. An early tiki film, the story depicts two lovers, Reri and Matahi, as they try to escape Reri’s fate of being made into a sacred maiden for their island’s deities. The first half of the song is the most industrial-sounding music on the EP, with some minimalist piston-percussions. The last half of the song switches gears to the exotica genre, with primitive drumming and shakers, that channels the likes of Martin Denny and Les Baxter. Over the music, Zeena, reaching into her experience of performing incantations, recites the same decree that was uttered in Tabu that denoted Reri as forbidden, and not to be touched by any man.
“The Phantom Bridge” is the EP’s fifth track and this one digs right into the vampiric roots Murnau is best known for. A spoken word track, Zeena recites some of the inter titles from Murnau’s Nosferatu which in turn were taken from Stoker’s Dracula. The music in this track is, as the title suggests, ghostly, with spirituals wisps, shackling noises, tiny bells and chimes.
The EP’s final track, “Endlich Daheim,” is perhaps the most ambitious track on the album, that not only underscores Murnau’s career, but demonstrates Zeena at her most artistic. Prior songs on the EP has Zeena reciting texts from other sources while “Endlich Daheim” contains both original organ music and lyrics by Zeena, sung in a haunting and beautiful style. A sound of a 1920s projector starting up beings the track with the music proper evoking the feelings of being at a funeral - Murnau’s funeral - with Zeena’s poetry acting as a eulogy.
The end result is that BMTHOFWM is a superb solo debut for Zeena and an excellent experimental release all around. Atmospheric, haunting, and magical, but also cinematic and fully versed in filmic pop culture that it celebrates. Born from a macabre act of stealing the skull of Murnau, the EP easily could’ve embraced grotesquery or morbidness, but instead the CD comes off as sincere. Aside from these observations, Zeena herself had her own goals for the release:
“Well, after a few years of unexpected obstacles, as well as unexpected serendipitous occurrences which led to creating much more material for this than I'd originally planned, I guess the main thing I wanted to accomplish was getting it completed at all! Jokes aside, the fact is, there's still someone out there who has taken and kept the skull from Murnau's grave. This is at the heart of the project. I wanted to pull all of the unusual elements surrounding this case together into one cohesive creative expression. The music in this project is created to facilitate opening the mind to all possible questions surrounding that event, and even to, on a transcendental and metaphysical level, provide even bigger answers.”(7)
Five years after the act, the mystery of who absconded with Murnau’s skull remains unsolved. Of course, thoughts have drifted to Schreck as a possible culprit, which she both playfully and adamantly dismisses: “[S]ince many have already jokingly asked me – let's nip this in the bud right here – NO, it wasn't me!”(8)
Sincere thanks for Zeena Schreck for allowing me to interview her for this writeup and providing the images. All images used in this article are copyrighted by Zeena Schreck and used with permission. More information about Zeena and her projects can be found at the following websites and social medias:
1. Nigel M Smith, “Nosferatu director’s head stolen from grave in Germany,” The Guardian, last modified July 14, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/jul/14/nosferatu-director-head-stolen-germany-grave-fw-murnau.
2. “Coming Soon From Zeena Schreck: Bring Me The Head of F.W. Murnau,” Heathen Harvest, last modified July 21, 2015, https://heathenharvest.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/coming-soon-from-zeena-schreck-bring-me-the-head-of-f-w-murnau/.
3. Zeena Schreck, email message to author, June 16, 2020.
“Coming Soon From Zeena Schreck: Bring Me The Head of F.W. Murnau.” Heathen Harvest. Last modified July 21, 2015. https://heathenharvest.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/coming-soon-from-zeena-schreck-bring-me-the-head-of-f-w-murnau/.
Schreck, Zeena. Bring me the Head of F. W. Murnau. KCH KCHCD01. 2020. CD.
Smith, Nigel M. “Nosferatu director’s head stolen from grave in Germany.” The Guardian. Last modified July 14, 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/jul/14/nosferatu-director-head-stolen-germany-grave-fw-murnau.
Posted by Nicholas Diak at 6:58 PM
Many thanks to Dominik Tyroller of Raben Report for his great review of Zeena's new EP! [Click here for original German version.] English translation below:
“Why I came to this CD is immediately apparent when you take a look at the artist behind this music project: Zeena Schreck. I have been following the numerous works of the polarizing Femme Fatale Infernale for years (including in the review of her book "The Zaum of Zeena") and respect the extensive creative expression that the artist was able to express in many areas (something that I absolutely recommend to everyone). Whether in the form of graphic design, writing texts, making music or also leading / accompanying / elaborating complex rituals / magical ceremonies, Zeena Schreck's creative work in and on a wide variety of media is truly varied and expressed itself in this complexity, among other things also in the works in the band "Radio Werewolf", alongside her then partner Nikolas Schreck, one of the cornerstones of the dark ambient and (ritual) industrial genres.
Within this concept album, with the interesting title ”Bring Me The Head of F.W. Murnau ”, Zeena Schreck releases her first work in the dark ambient sector after many years. In addition, this album is her first ever solo release. Zeena dedicated this album to the life and work of the legendary German film director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau and the creepy fact that Murnau's head was actually stolen by unknown people from his grave in Stahnsdorf (near Berlin) in 2015 and has since disappeared to this day ...
Murnau's cinematic works, which were primarily in the horror area, are still considered pioneering and still inspire this popular genre to this day, and not just in the medium of film, but far beyond.
Zeena Schrecks ”Bring Me The Head of F.W. Murnau ” [EP] consists of six musical pieces, individual acts to a ghost story, as expressed on the album in musical form creating frightful realms and atmospheric horrors for the listener. The six pieces together have a playing time of 18 minutes 21 seconds.
The eerie start to “Bring Me The Head of F.W. Murnau” comes in the form of “ A Letter To Mother,” in which an extract from one of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau's letters to his revered mother is recited in a really uncanny voice. In this document, which was made in Tahiti while filming Murnau's last film "Tabu" (1931), Murnau's thoughts are both about the fascination of the exotic island, but much more about the homesickness that plagues him so much.
The following "Ill Omens" bleeds a true horror atmosphere and brings to mind the moody quality of Murnau's films. For me, this song is also the quintessence of this concept album and hits the nail on the head.
The following "taboo" immediately gets to the point, which kidnaps me into damp cemetery dungeons haunted by female horror phantoms. Zeena's voice, in combination with the drums, transforms the piece more and more towards the ritual atmosphere.
Significant to the atmosphere in V "The Phantom Bridge," is Zeena's chant, which in some places whispers an ASMR mood. The fifth title is therefore rather calm and almost relaxing. In terms of content, “The Phantom Bridge“ is dedicated to F.W. Murnau's pioneering film "Nosferatu - A Symphony Of Horror" (1922), in which actor Max Schreck in the role of Count Orlok who affects and inspires the look and manner of vampires in pop culture to this day.
Zeena Schreck's ”Bring Me The Head of F.W. Murnau ” offers a seamless horror atmosphere, especially with suitable framework conditions (darkened room, no disturbances), and is therefore recommended to dark ambient fans but also to friends of soundtracks (regardless of whether from films, video games etc.) and anyone who wants an atmospheric musical background for suitable scenes (e.g., for Pen-&-Paper und LARP role-playing games).
And of course, the topics presented on the album would also appeal to friends of classic horror films from the 1920s and beyond, because in my opinion (at least as far as the majority of the pieces on the album are concerned) they also convey the spirit and atmosphere of these films really well.”
-- Dominik Tyroller
To read this review in original German version, click HERE.
To order the signed & numbered limited edition of this CD, go HERE.
Reposted from Please Kill Me music blog:
Amy Haben reviews seven bands and musicians who were also part of notorious religious cults, communes, and porn legends between the 1960s-80s, culminating with the best for last, Zeena & Radio Werewolf.
Read the entry for Radio Werewolf below, or go to the full article HERE:
The below article was originally posted in San Francisco newsgroups for Halloween by Jeff Farris, who shares first-hand impressions of Zeena in early life. Farris and Zeena attended the same schools yet have never met. Many thanks to Mr. Farris for allowing us to reprint his article here! An afterword from Zeena follows his article:
Lucifer's Daughter in the Richmond District by Jeff Farris
In San Francisco on California Street, between 23rd and 24th Avenues in the Richmond District, there once was a house that was painted pure black long before it was fashionable or cool to do so. The home was rumored to have a real live roaring lion as well as human occupants, we were warned, who were devotees to the Prince of Darkness himself. Other than the austere and gloomy color, it was an unassuming little home just a few blocks down the road from where I grew up.
A typical San Francisco A-framed, 3 story Victorian, The Black House, as it was known for many years, was the official First Church of Satan and the home of Anton LeVay, aka, The Black Pope and Lucifer’s Great High Priest and author of the Satanic Bible, as well as his family, including 2 young children and his companion, the self professed sorceress and High Priestess, Diane Hegarty. An ex-carnival worker and notable chronic liar, Anton established the Church of Satan in 1966 where it had a run for about 35 years until it was eventually torn down in 2001, only to be replaced, unceremoniously, by a cheap, 4 unit apartment complex commonly known among locals as a Richmond Special. The son of Russian and Ukrainian immigrants who had arrived in the United States sometime near the turn of the 20th Century, Mr. LaVey had finally made a name for himself in the late 1960’s with his audacious ambition to create the first church of Satan ever, anywhere.
San Francisco, at the time, was ripe for such a plan and Anton soon found himself at the center of controversy along with much welcomed attention from the ranks of luminaries such as Hollywood elites, avant-garde artists, and rock superstars of the time. One of his first and most celebrated religious ceremonies held at The Black House was the “Baptism” of his youngest daughter, Zeena, in 1967, when she was just 3 years old.
You may have some familiarity with Anton LaVey, but it’s his daughter, Zeena, that I am most curious about today. Anton, who died in 1997, seemed more like an opportunist and a showman than that of a bonafide Satanist, but not Zeena. She was destined for a much more televised profile than her father, becoming the official spokesperson for the Church of Satan in the mid-1980’s during the days of what is now called the “Satanic Panic” wherein born-again, Christian fundamentalists and the U.S. media sensationalized what they said was rampant Satanic Ritual Abuse all across America, especially towards children. In actuality, there was really none happening at all.
Some say that it was a modern day witch-hunt fueled by rumors and hearsay, but it was not without serious repercussions when innocent citizens, mostly teachers and staff from 19 daycare centers and pre-schools, were convicted and some even imprisoned based upon the fabricated testimony of toddlers and therapists who said they had uncovered memories of ritual abuse after hypnotizing previous students. Basically, Christians giving false testimony and acting more like Satan, than, well... Satan.
Zeena was invaluable during this time, advising police departments throughout the country with a general understanding of Satanic practices which helped quell, at least some, of the satanic ritual abuse allegations. I guess that one could say that the first person to have ever been publicly christened, if I can even use that term, for dedication to Lucifer, could have no other destiny in store for her other than to set the record straight regarding the activities of Beelzebub and his followers.
Zeena was one year younger than I, born in 1963, and we went to the same middle school, Presidio Jr. High, on 30th Avenue in between Geary and Clement. I remember her as a very attractive young girl with sensuous lips and an almost ever present furrowed brow. I didn’t know her personally, but being that her father was a somewhat famous, or better yet, infamous San Franciscan, everyone knew who she was, even I. She got pregnant in the 8th grade, at the age of 13, which didn’t help her reputation at all. Vicious rumors went around school stating that it was her father who had impregnated her. Kids can be so mean but, to my knowledge, not one of them had the guts to ever confront Zeena personally. We were all afraid of her clan and no one was brave enough to start trouble with Lucifer’s very own baptized child.
Anyhow, as the years have transpired, I have kept my eye on the life and times of Zeena LaVey, or Zeena Schreck, which is her current last name. I wouldn’t say that I am a stalker, but I have always felt for her as one would feel towards any misunderstood outsider. I felt bad for her, actually, not that she needs my sympathy and she could probably care less of what I think, for that matter. But I’ve always believed that she was a good soul under extraordinary pressure from circumstances beyond her control. She was a San Francisco kid, caught up in those crazy times, no different than I, but definitely more complicated and dark.
As you can imagine, Zeena and her family weren’t very welcome in our working class, multicultural, mostly Catholic, and Asian, and Russian Orthodox neighborhood. In a 2012 interview with Vice Australia, she explains that she had to transcribe for the SFPD death threats left for her on her father’s answering machine wherein she was to be raped and killed. She was 11 years old at the time. She also states that her father may have haphazardly fallen into the role of The Black Pope by sheer accident and that the Church of Satan was created after a local publicist described Anton as a neighborhood eccentric and “the first priest of Satan.” Anton then seized the idea and transformed it into a religion and that it all took off from there.
To be clear, Anton’s belief system did not include an actual deity or entity that one would call Satan or Lucifer, the Angel of Light. He believed that there wasn’t a devil at all. It was an ego driven theology. Each person is a God, in essence, and the tenets of the religion are almost all selfishly motivated and self aggrandizing. It’s also important to note that the Church of Satan, for the most part, was ultimately a failed venture leaving Anton destitute by the time he died. He sold his soul for nothing more than a limited and fleeting run at popularity, poor thing.
By 1990, Zeena had renounced her father’s church and belief structure, and likewise the Church of Satan vehemently denounced Zeena, commencing a campaign to discredit her name. I don’t think she ever had contact with Anton after that. She claimed that her father was basically a charlatan and a con artist and that he never had the depth of knowledge to be a true Satanist and that it was all for show and celebrity.
Whether or not I believe her completely is predicated upon the publication of the Satanic Bible, which is still the definitive go to resource for anything Satanic. It is clear that he gave that book some thought. Nonetheless, Zeena then applied her spiritual endeavors towards the Temple of Set, which could best be described as a pre-christian, Egyptian mystery religion, but highly influenced by other ex-members of the Church of Satan and the writings of Aleister Crowley. But even here, Zeena failed to find an environment that was to her liking and she resigned from her post as High Priestess in 2002. She then formed the Sethian Liberation Movement, donned with a title that could only be conjured up by an ex-San Francisco kid who survived the citywide pandemonium that the Symbionese Liberation Army caused when they kidnapped Patty Hearst in the early 70’s.
Currently, Zeena is a self avowed Tibetan Tantric Buddhist and she offers counseling services and specifically ministers to victims of extreme circumstances, the socially stigmatized, outcasts, and those otherwise subject to prejudice. By use of yogic, meditative and shamanic exercises, she offers short-range treatment, she says, without having to become an initiate of any particular spiritual path. Like the Phoenix, she claims that she can help you rise from the ashes of difficult experiences, find your own inner mystical resources, and have a spiritual awakening towards a foundation of inner strength.
Personally, I believe in her and I want her to succeed. If anyone has experience of overcoming difficulties, Zeena is among those who have. It seems poetic to me that a young girl from San Francisco, without any act of her own volition, was baptized at the tender age of 3 into the milieu of post-modern sensationalized Satanism, only to come out the other side finding peace and stability from the teachings of someone as self effacing and modest as the Buddha. I sincerely hope that she ultimately finds the peace that surpasses all understanding. As a fellow San Franciscan, I am rooting for her. How about you?
– Jeff Farris
San Francisco, Halloween 2014
Afterword by Zeena:
Thank you Jeff, wherever you are! Though it's true we never met, nor shared any words in those years, I never forget a face and knew it was you, because you still look the same, some 40 years later. You are correct that most people didn't have the guts to speak to me then in school, unless antagonistically. The same character traits usually remain on into adulthood. People who refuse to educate themselves about what they're frightened of, find comfort in remaining ignorant. So thank you for your curiosity to educate yourself, and for your candid recollections.
And, as you alluded to, I have found peace and contentment. When we have peace within ourselves and develop intrinsic happiness and relinquish hope for extrinsic sources of happiness, we have peace and joy wherever, and in whatever, situations we find ourselves.
Wishing you [all] a fantastically Happy Halloween.
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