The Occult Influences of Sympathy for the Devil
The band’s mythic satanic alliance was further cemented by their association with American underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger, a former child actor who wrote the tell-all book Hollywood Babylon. Anger was a Crowleyan who called his movies Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Scorpio Rising, and Fireworks “visual incantations” and “moving spells.” Jagger played the synthesizer soundtrack for his Invocation of My Demon Brother. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin scored one on Crowley. Anger met the Stones through art gallery owner Robert Fraser and asked if they would work on a film called Lucifer Rising. Anger wanted to cast Mick as Lucifer and Keith as Beelzebub.
Zeena says that, during the 1960s and 1970s, the filmmaker “transmitted the influences of Curtis Harrington, Jean Cocteau, and Maya Deren [to her],” adding that her own art “was influenced early in life by the mentorship of her godfather Kenneth Anger.” During her childhood and adolescence, Zeena “was privy to Anger's conversations about his involvement with such contemporaries as the Rolling Stones, Jimmy Page and Anita Pallenberg.”
“Occasionally Kenneth Anger would mention his involvement with the members of the band,” Zeena says. “When the subject came up, he'd say they'd brought destructive energies upon themselves. Ironically he, himself, helped facilitate that, being their magical mentor. Despite the Stones' backing off from the 60s’ dark occult influences around them, there can be no denying that Anger was a strong influence for a time, as witness Jagger's soundtrack for Invocation of my Demon Brother.”
But Zeena, who was teaching magic and sorcery at the age of 16, “never agreed with Kenneth's admiration and proselytizing of Aleister Crowley and Thelema. It's a very destructive and misogynistic philosophy which has brought a lot of harm to people who take it seriously.” Zeena severed ties with her father and his Church, and is now a teacher of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism, where the music of the Rolling Stones is more welcome.
“Although Kenneth Anger was befriended with both the Rolling Stones and my father during the same years, you definitely would not hear ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ playing at Church of Satan headquarters,” Zeena says. “The simple reason is that the High Priest had very rigid, idiosyncratic interpretations of what he considered ‘satanic music.’ Rock music, heavy metal, or any other kind of popular music, were definitely not part of his satanic jukebox.”
The British band might also have stopped dropping quarters into the American director’s nickelodeon. “Kenneth Anger they thought laughable,” Faithfull wrote in her memoirs. “Mick and Keith were utterly contemptuous of his satanic hocus-pocus.”
“However, a more direct magical influence, aside from Kenneth Anger, influencing the group during the making of 'Sympathy for the Devil', would have more likely been Anita Pallenberg,” Zeena says. “She openly practiced black magical rituals and never hid her fascination for the darker side of life. She not only performed backing vocals but also had a creative influence on the music and style of the group, being their sort of 'resident witch.' I know one of Pallenberg's cousins who confirmed she was always into the black arts and a little 'witchy.’”
The legend of the “Sympathy for the Devil” took more sinister turn during the Altamont Free Concert in 1969. Though Meredith Hunter was killed by Hell’s Angel’s bikers who were working security while the band was playing "Under My Thumb," the fight that killed him interrupted the band as they kicked into their rhythmic satanic anthem. "We're always having—something very funny happens when we start that number," Jagger said before the band restarted the number. Because of the public outrage, the Stones didn’t play the song live for the next seven years.
Brian Jones was played out during the recording of Beggars Banquet, but he was not silent. Richards worked double and triple duty, but Jones did the wonderful slide work in “No Expectations,” and played the sitar and tanpura on "Street Fighting Man." The album would be the last with Jones, who was discovered drowned in his Sussex swimming pool on July 26, 1969. His own musical exploration propelled the band to take the lead in many major musical movements. “Speaking only for my years composing with Radio Werewolf, I wouldn't say ‘Sympathy’ or Satanic Majesties Request had direct influence on my music within Radio Werewolf,” Zeena says. “But I did have a strong affinity with their music produced in the Brian Jones years - their music when it had a more medieval flavor. That sound is what I'm naturally drawn to and often create.”