by Emily Alden Foster, from Womanzine CULT
In 2005-ish my friend and I decided to start our own cult. We were both fascinated by cults for the usual reasons: the fuzzy line between a cult and a religion, the aesthetics of a bunch of people dressing the same, mind control, mystical nonsense, etc. The most interesting thing about cults for us was probably the cult leader. How do they get people to join their cult? Why do people believe them when they say that they’re chosen messengers from god or aliens or satan or whatever it is that they say. Why do they care what all these cult members do with their lives? Do they all just have really nice eyes? Are people really that desperate for someone with nice eyes to pay attention to them?
Anyway, my friend and I were pretty much doing nothing that summer. I had a job as a dishwasher and she worked in a costume shop. We lived in a small college town where none of our friends seemed to be doing much of anything most of the time either. We had a lot of really fun theme parties thanks in part to her costume shop job. On quieter nights we’d have a few people over and try to have a seance or hypnotize ourselves using a cassette tape we’d found or something. It was a pretty good summer.
At some point we decided to start our own bicycle gang. We wanted everyone to have matching outfits and elaborately decorated bikes. She painted her bike with skeletons and bones and I painted mine with eyeballs and made cool aluminum foil rims for my tires. But then no one else who claimed they wanted to join the bike gang ever really decorated their bikes and we never made shirts or whatever. We did ride our bikes everywhere and talk about how we were a bike gang, but it was a pretty steadily rotating membership based on who happened to also be riding a bike to the same place and we didn’t do anything gang-like at all. Once we did get pulled over for riding our bikes in the street. The cops told us to ride on the sidewalk even though the law was that we should NOT ride on the sidewalk. I think maybe we were just dressed funny and the cops were bored. Anyhow, a bike gang is not a cult, as I am fully aware. You can just ask people if they want to join your totally low-key non-violent no-stakes bike gang and they’ll probably be cool with it as long as they like riding bikes, which a lot of people do!
That same summer we did actually decide to start a cult after looking up some stuff about cults on the internet and flipping through her boyfriend’s copy of The Satanic Bible. First we thought of the name: QUICKSAND CHAPTER, after the David Bowie song, and wrote it in big letters at the top of one of the pages of the mini-notebook I carried with me at all times. As cult leaders we also chose pseudonyms for ourselves: Euronymous (that was me) and Siddhartha Stegodeath. My namesake was Eurynomos, the Greek mythological spirit of rotting corpses dwelling in the underworld, as misspelled in the Satanic Bible. Then we got to recruiting members. Surprisingly, it turns out that you can also just ask people if they want to join a cult and a lot of them will say yes. We got nine people to join. I wrote all of their names on that page of the notebook. Nine doesn’t sound like a lot of members, but we were probably only actually recruiting for an hour or two. We didn’t have a real plan for what we would do as a group, so we sort of just lost interest. I guess that’s where we went wrong. We weren’t conniving enough. Maybe instead of asking people if they wanted to join a cult we should have asked them if they were feeling insecure and wanted to find solace in the truth or something. But that seemed like a big commitment and we had some basement noise shows to go to and we wanted to go look up some more stuff at the library and sneak into the quarry to go swimming later. I think we did tell our cult members that they had to do whatever we said, which they might have agreed to, thinking they could back out if we ever told them to do anything. I’m still in some sort of contact with all but one of them, so maybe I could still make something of this cult. I don’t really talk to Siddhartha Stegodeath anymore, though. Occasionally I text her jokes I made up and she tells me they aren’t funny. She’s wrong, of course.