Running & The Occult
Running & The OccultSEPTEMBER 2023
Pick a cult, any cult. You say you want to go pro in the world of running, but how far are you willing to go to get there? Would you train every day even when you don’t feel like it? Are you prepared to eat nothing but really healthy food? Would you consider going to bed at 8:30 pm so you can get up super-early and run up a hill 100 times in the dark with a cinder block under each arm? Would you do all that for athletic glory? It sounds like a lot. But what if we told you there was a way to become the next big name in athletics without doing any of the requisite heavy lifting? What if we told you that by harnessing the dark and mysterious powers of the occult, you could be the bestest and fastest runner in the history of the sport? Then what huh? Exactly. Let’s take a look at six cults that made use of the occult for their own nefarious purposes (thunderclap).
Remember that song ‘Mr Crowley’ from Ozzy Osbourne’s 1980 album Blizzard of Ozz? That was about the British occultist Aleister Crowley, who invented a belief system called Thelema. In the early 20th century, Crowley was dubbed ‘the wickedest man in the world’ for his dabbling in paganism and the occult, but really, he was just a bit of a nut.
Thelema was (and is) a religious philosophy centered on the belief that ‘Do what thou wilt’ was the only way to go if you wanted to discover your true purpose—and if your true purpose is to win the Marathon des Sables every year until you retire, you’ll need to employ the combination of ceremonial magic, astrology, and Eastern mysticism that Thelema recommends. Good luck making sense of Crowley’s guidebooks, though—they’re batshit complicated.
The Church of Satan
In 1966, Anton LaVey donned a little silken devil costume, painted his San Francisco townhouse black, and founded the Church of Satan. Spooky. LeVay’s Satanism is heavily informed by the writings of Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, and Dick Bruna, but his satanic church does not practice direct contact with Lucifer, so they won’t be able to help you to sell your soul to beat Aleksandr Sorokin.
However, you will be able to freely explore your desires and individualism and wear a little cape and horns to meetings. If you are keen to sell your soul to the devil in exchange for sporting fame, check out Etsy.com. That's not a joke. You can actually make a pact with Lucifer on Etsy.
What a time to be alive!
Right off the bat, Hrafnar isn’t really a cult. It’s a ‘modern heathen revival’ group, meaning they’re turbo-nerds obsessed with ye olde Norse shenanigans. Hrafnar is based in Berkley, CA, and was founded by author Diana Paxson (the perfectly nice lady in the picture). The group regularly gets together to brew mead, discuss lore, listen to ‘Immigrant Song’ on repeat, and praise the supreme god and creator Odin, which sounds pretty harmless, right? Wrong.
The group also dabbles in an ancient Scandinavian magic system known as Seiðr, which was used eons ago to divine and shape the future. Spoiler: this is how Stian Dahl Sommerseth turned pro. Holler at Diana Paxson on her website and get on the Seiðr train if you want to finally get serious about this whole running thing.
The Sisterhood of the Miraculous Fast Boy
Founded in August 2023 by the editor of the running magazine POSSESSED, The Sisterhood of the Miraculous Fast Boy is a running cult that uses occult practices to break speed records and stack cheddar like Kipchoge.
Harnessing the power of Pan, the Greek god of having intercourse with goats (look it up), The SOTMFB is in its infancy, and membership numbers are expected to remain low due to its initiation rites, which require followers to break into the RVCA Octagon with a hibachi in the dead of night and prepare 69 honey garlic chicken skewers—without getting caught—and then butt-chug a 500ml energy drink of their choice (DM me).
The Process Church of the Final Judgment
Established in the 1960s by English couple Robert DeGrimston and Mary Ann MacLean, the Process Church was a blend of Christianity, Satanism, and the occult. DeGrimston and MacLean met as Scientologist but then decided to steal a few of Scientology’s ideas and do their own kooky-krazy thing, but with Lucifer.
The Process Church believed the end of the world was very much nigh, and they were gonna get their kicks beforehand with sex, drugs, booze, and satanic ceremony. The Process Church did not practice magic, but there were rumors of ritual sacrifice and links to Charles Manson (neither proven true). The Process Church closed its doors around 1979, but revival groups have continued to erupt worldwide to this day. Go find one and get into the 2024 Olympics!
At this point, I think we can all agree that this list is very silly, so why not include the actor and musician Jared Leto and the alleged cult he runs with his band, Thirty Seconds to Mars? Fuck it. If the Leto cult thing is news to you, you’re in for a treat. Here’s what happened.
In 2015, Thirty Seconds to Mars invited The Echelon (their fan base is called The Echelon) to attend a ‘summer camp’ weekend in Malibu. They called it Camp Mars. Besides live performances by the band, there were also campfires, tents, archery, swimming, hiking, and games.
The fans joked that this was a cult, but subsequent Camp Mars weekends (the most recent in Croatia) have become increasingly expensive (four-figure tier system tickets: the more you pay, the closer you get to Jared), and Leto’s behavior at the camps has become increasingly messianic (he gets around with flowing Jesus hair and a white kaftan). People are talking and parents are worried, but how will Leto’s alleged cult help you become a household name like Steve Prefontaine (who, incidentally, Leto plated in the 1997 biopic Prefontaine)? It won’t. None of these cults will. You need to train more.