The bear pounced, and while his 12-year-old daughter desperately radioed for help, Aaron was mauled to death. His friend William Tiktaq, 32, told me: ‘That evening, I was in the party that recovered his body. I put a tarp on top of him in the boat, so the salt water wouldn’t get to him. He was badly mauled. There were bites everywhere. It’s not a sight you want to see.’ Six months later Aaron’s death, the first fatal attack by a polar bear in the Hudson Bay area for 19 years, is still a raw and emotional wound, described with sadness and horror by everyone I met. Its impact was intensified by a second mauling in August, when a mother bear and a cub attacked a group of three Inuit hunters near Naujaat, 500 miles to the north, killing Darryl Kaunak. Scared and exasperated by the threat the bears pose, some Inuit leaders are voicing a demand which, if granted, may trigger a global furore akin to Japan’s decision to resume commercial whaling. They want to be allowed to increase their permitted polar bear hunting quota to reduce numbers.
They first cropped up seemingly out of nowhere about six years ago, adorned in black capes with curved devil horns affixed to their heads, holding posters and black American flags as they shouted ‘Hail, Satan’ on the steps of government institutions from Arkansas and Florida to Oklahoma and Detroit. The antics and declarations seemed like a hoax to many – onlookers and journalists and politicians alike – until it became apparent that members of newly-formed The Satanic Temple were here to stay.
And they were growing, exponentially. Since TST’s founding in 2012, the organization has increased from a handful of members to tens of thousands, with chapters all over the US and the globe, from Stockholm to London and Los Angeles to Texas. And their ‘pranksterism,’ as filmmaker Penny Lane first considered it, has given way to a well-conceived ethos, forming an organized ‘religion’ for a ‘group of contrarians’ opposed to any organization at all.
The Satanic Temple, it seems, is becoming more and more firmly established across the United States – largely composed of individuals who don’t even worship Satan in the first place but center on a different interpretation of biblical teachings. And Lane’s new documentary about the group, premiering later this month at Utah’s famed Sundance Film Festival, paints a surprising portrait of the unlikely ‘religion’ – one which has challenged even the preconceived notions of the director herself.
‘The reason this became a feature length documentary was that I found so many interesting surprises at each stage of discovery,’ says Lane, the title of whose documentary – Hail, Satan? – fittingly addresses the controversy surrounding the relatively neophyte group.