For many people, the word ‘satanic’ conjures up disturbing images of pentagon-worshiping cult lovers swinging incense, making blood sacrifices and delightfully relishing in thoughts of contacting the Devil.
So what happens when a Satanic Flea Market (ironically held in Angel) is opened up to the public on a cold October Sunday?
Founders Jason Atomic and James Elphick first set up Satanic Flea Market in 2015. “What started (almost) as a joke took us by surprise when the universe took us seriously,” they explain, “I think we had around 900 people show up that day! It was the most successful event we’d organised to that date.”
Fast forward seven years and they now have over 2,000 attendees per market. Leather trousers and doc martens on, I feel ready to embrace Satan and his market wares.
“Press? Eugh,” moans one of the ticketing staff when I mention I’m covering the event. “I’m only interested as to whether you’re from VICE or not.” I keep tight-lipped while trying to distinguish between the right and wrong answer. Eventually I’m stamped with a baphomet (goat head) alongside a chirpy ‘hail satan’. I’m in.
I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel nervous about approaching people for photos and interviews after this greeting — will I be met with the same suspicion and coldness as I try to dig deeper into what this unusual fayre has to offer?
The market is a dark labyrinth of eclecticness — a mass of leather, silver jewellery and maybe surprisingly… smiles.
I first approach a tarot reader called Orlando. With his baseball cap, blazer and skull jumper, he’s not your average psychic. Swigging on a can of Red Stripe and puffing on a watermelon vape, he welcomes me for a reading. He has kind, piercing blue eyes and makes me feel exceptionally good about my future. That’s a relief. Now I have the confidence boost I need to proceed with the day.
Jason Atomic had told me previously that his favourite purchase from one of these markets was a human skull. Curiosities from the 5th Corner is by far the busiest stall here — so Jason was clearly not alone in his morbid taste in home decor. Its wares literally make my jaw drop: £7.50 for a human tooth, £35 for a bundle of ‘Rustic Human Bones’ and £65 for a jar of human ashes ‘from an evil woman’.
“Please tell me more about this” I beg the stall owner, who stands proudly among the ashes, a taxidermy goat’s head and a pickled piglet in a jar.
He explains that a mother to three sons had died and none of them wanted her ashes, so they sold them instead. “How many jars did you get out of her?” I ask. “A fair few,” he chuckles.
The exceptional and distinctive dress sense at Satanic Flea Market is something that every single person has in common; everyone is very sure of their style and taste — and it’s inspiring to see so much creativity in one room.
One man who particularly stands out is Ross from New Zealand. “I’m new to London, it’s my first time here and it’s pretty sick.” he grins. “I can’t say I’ve been to anything like this before, it’s pretty hectic with stalls selling human teeth and all sorts but I’d definitely come again for sure!”
Luke from Green Devil Designs runs a business where in his own words he is paid to: “fuck people’s dolls up”. With great enthusiasm he explains how people will commission him to destroy their toys and turn them into brilliantly deranged art pieces. Sully and Mike from Monsters Inc and Minions are extremely popular choices, apparently. Rows upon rows of googly, cross-eyed dolls with sewn in teeth and pentagons slathered on their faces stare ominously at me while we chat.
Looking at corn voodoo dolls and clay nipple badges, kawaii (Japanese for ‘cute’) coloured friends Candy Fox and Satan’s Church catch my eye. With Candy Fox in pink and purple pastel and Satan’s Church in bold neon green, they stand out among the mass of black and purple leather and funereal netting. “The market is definitely an excuse to dress up and look at weird shit,” they beam at me, “It’s full of quirky oddities and people of similar interests,” they explain. “People think that because the market has the word ‘Satanic’ in it, it’s going to be weirdly religious but it’s not.
“It might deter some people but there’s such an element of intrigue within it. It’s full of joy and quirky artistic people expressing themselves in whatever way they can.”
They’re not wrong. There is a real sense of solidarity through Satan, and the market attendees are by far some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Everyone is keen to talk about their art, excited to share their purchases and most are vocal complimenting of each other’s work, sense of style — or approval at things other people nabbed from various stalls.
“Since we started, we’ve seen the rise of the non-binary Instagram witches, we’ve provided a safe space for modern Satanic thought,” Jason and James explain. “We seem to be the focal point of a new counterculture with artists and designers meeting and collaborating at our event… We like to give space to new creatives and nurture them to flourish, alongside our talented regulars.”
“Each market we curate, hand picking from hundreds of applications.”
Many people I speak to focus on how inspired they are looking around, and admittedly I feel the same. I particularly enjoy meeting the crew from the ‘stitch & witch’ group, Battle Jacket Sewing Club. They regularly meet to help patch and sew jackets. One of their sewing bags is covered in ‘fuck off’ and ‘pervy but nice’ patches — sewing has never been so satanic.
Other stalls sell books focusing on the occult, cannibalism, witches and vintage bibles — and though a vintage bible has never been on my shopping list, I find my browsing becoming more confident, more involved at each new stall.
Even though I pass on buying any human bones today, I can’t dispute the pure talent, hard work and, yes, kindness an event like this takes to put on. Each person is clearly at the very top of their game and a master of their craft. It feels an incredibly safe space, and I really admire the strength people have to fully embrace themselves and their passions, despite what the ‘outside world’ might think.
Satanic Flea Market usually takes place four times a year in London. The next one is Antixmas on 11 December 2022
Last Updated 25 October 2022
PUBLISHED IN THE LONDONIST