by Zachary Slobig Wed Jun 7, 4:57 AM ET
LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Satanists from around the world gathered in Hollywood for a mass to mark June 6, 2006, or "6-6-6," and to mock fears over the date known by dark believers as the number of the beast.
The sold-out evening high mass also commemorates the anniversary of the organizing group, the Church of Satan, founded by Anton Szandar La Vey in 1966 who was dubbed "the black pope" by the press.
"Satanists from around the globe are converging on that city-of-the-damned known in common parlance as Los Angeles," the group said on its website.
The mass, an original three-act dramatic ritual, will be celebrated in a theatre with a telephone prefix of 666 by Bryan Moore and Heather Saenz, married suburbanite Satanic priests and parents.
But Satanists say they actually have no regard for the number. "For Satanists, numbers are just numbers, and June 6, 2006 is a day like any other," says Satanic High Priest Peter Gilmore.
Some believers though have tried to time childbirth with the date, and some of the superstitious have attempted to delay deliveries to avoid it, according to Gilmore's comments posted on the church website.
La Vey appeared in the Roman Polanski film "Rosemary's Baby" as Satan himself, but maintained up until his death in 1997 that church members were just "iconoclasts and pranksters," and called Satanism a "cosmic joy buzzer."
His "Satanic Bible" has been in continuous print since 1969 and cites German philospher Friedrich Nietzsche and Italian Niccolo Machiavelli as influences. The dark church has been conspicuously absent from the mainstream since La Vey's death, and has withheld its numbers since it counted 7,000 members, but hopeful Satanists believe the mass may lead to more congregants and greater organization.
But Satanists do not actively recruit, instead they rely on selective breeding, otherwise known as eugenics, to grow the flock. "Satanists are born, not made, and we are interested in preserving and improving our genetic integrity," La Vey wrote in The Cloven Hoof, a Satanic magazine, in 1988.
La Vey also advocated the design of "humanoids", artificial human companions, as birth control. "Unfortunately, many humans sole contribution to the world is to produce another human being," he wrote.
Representatives of the church, which was founded in San Francisco, but has since moved to New York's Hell's Kitchen area, could not immediately be reached for comment on the event that is closed to the press and public.
The church's website said that Hollywood star Jayne Mansfield, who died in 1967, and crooner Sammy Davis Junior had at one time been among the ranks of its faithful.
This year's 6-6-6 date has prompted some US schools to beef up security after murky rumors of possible threats emerged, while Hollywood has jumped on the date as a perfect marketing tool.
Tuesday marks the launch of a remake of the 1976 horror classic "The Omen," a movie event preceded by a months-long advertising campaign built around the ominous 06-06-06 launch date.
The Twentieth Century Fox movie is about a child born with the mark of the beast -- the "666" based on the Bible's book of Revelation who goes on to wreak terrifying havoc.