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Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others

Michael A. Aquino

(The Temple of Set)



Written and compiled by George Knowles.


Michael A. Aquino is an Amerian born occultist, satanist, and author of:  The Book of Coming Forth By Night.  He is also known as the 13th Baron of Rachane (Clan of Campbell) in Scotland, UK.  A former Lt. Colonel in the United States Army, Aquino had been a specialist in psychological warfare operations during the Vietmam War, but is perhaps best known as a High Priest of the Church of Satan (CoS) founded by Anton Szandor LaVey in 1966, and as the founder and High Priest of the Temple of Set (ToS) in 1975, which today is one of the largest “neo-satanic” Churches in the USA.

Aquino was born in San Francisco on the 16th October 1946.  His father, Michael Aquino Sr. had been a Sergeant in Patton’s 3rd Army during World War II, and serving with distinction was decorated with a Purple Heart for wounds received during combat.  His mother Marian Dorothy Elisabeth Ford (affectionately known as Betty Ford) was a child prodigy, after only three years of early formal education and at the age of just fourteen years, she was enrolled as one of the youngest students ever admitted into Stanford University.  Three years later she completed a B.A. (Hon) degree in English, the youngest ever to receive such an honour at that time. 



Betty Ford c. 1920, and later c. 1980


Michael A. Aquino was raised and took his early education in Santa Barbara, California, from where he graduated the Santa Barbara High School in 1964.  He then enrolled at the University of California (1964-1968) earning a B.A. degree in Political Science, returning later (1974-1976) to earn a M.A. degree.  Also in 1968 he joined the Army as an Intelligence Officer specialising in Psychological Warfare.  In the following year while on leave from training to marry his first wife Janet, with whom he had a son called Dorien, he joined the newly created Church of Satan (CoS) founded by Anton Szandor LaVey in 1966, but soon after in 1970 left on a tour of duty in Vietnam.  On his return to the United States in 1971, he resumed his association with the CoS and was ordained a High Priest, after which he established his own core group (termed a grotto) that met and practised at his home in Santa Barbara.



2nd Lieutenant Michael Aquino (circa. 1968) - Janet Aquino as the Egyptian Goddess Nepthys (circa. 1970)


As a High Priest of the CoS, Aquino quickly rose to a position of prominence, but soon grew dissatisfied with LaVey’s administrative leadership and philosophical approach to Satanism as a true religion.  In 1972 together with other disillusioned members, Aquino resigned from the CoS and was joined by Lilith Sinclair, a High Priestess from the New York who later became his second wife.


Lilith Sinclair


Over the next two years through ritual invocation and meditation Aquino claims to have received a communication from Satan himself in the guise Set, the ancient Egyptian deity, who inspired him to write the book:  The Book of Coming Forth by Night, and further to found a new Church in his name which would supersede the CoF.  As a result in 1975, a new Church called the Temple of Set was founded in Santa Barbara and formally incorporated as a non-profit organization with both federal and tax-exempt status in California.  Today the Temple of Set is consider the leading Satanic Church in the United States.

In 1976 Aquino returned to academia to finish his doctorial program at the University of California earning a PhD in Political Science in 1980 with a dissertation on “The Neutron Bomb.”  He then took a position as an adjunct professor of Political Science at the Golden Gate University in San Francisco.  It was shortly after this during the mid 1980s that rumours of satanic child abuse began to surface in connection with a day-care Centre at the Presidio Army Base in California, a base where Aquino had once been assigned.  When the media picked up on Aquino’s name and his active association with army Psychological Warfare Operations, and then privately with the Church of Satan and the Temple of Set, the whole thing became a media witch-hunt leading to over a decade of personal persecution.

It is not my intention in this brief to argue the guilt or innocence of such allegations against Aquino, for that the reader should conduct their researches.  However it is fair to report that after months of research and scrolling through reams and reams of some of the most heartbreaking allegations levelled against him, that despite numerous and exhaustive investigations conducted Military and Civilian law enforcement agencies, including the CIA and FBI, no proof of any wrong doing has ever been found and no formal charges have ever brought against the him.

In 1985 Aquino’s devoted mother ‘Betty’ passed away having died of cancer in San Francisco.  Betty, who had steadfastly supported her son through all his endeavours including the child-abuse allegations, was also a High Priestess in his Temple of Set.  On her death she left her him a $3.2 million estate, which included a house leased by Project Care for Children and the Marin County Child Abuse Council (I have so far found no association here with the earlier allegations).  A year later in 1986 Aquino married his second wife Lilith (formally Patricia Sinclair - dob. 21st April 1942) who had been a prominent High Priestess of a CoS and a leader of a grotto in New York before resigning with Aquino in 1972.


Michael & Lilith Aquino


Despite being dogged by repeated allegations of child abuse, and most probably because of his continued association with the Temple of Set, Aquino continued his professional military career rising to the rank of Lt Colonel with Military Intelligence.  Initially he was involved in military psychological operations (“psy-ops”), but he also qualified as a Special-Forces officer (Green Berets), as a Civil Affairs officer and as a Defence Attaché. 

In addition Aquino was a graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, the Command and General Staff College, the National Defence University, the Defence Intelligence College, the US Army Space Institute and the US State Departments' Foreign Service Institute.  His decorations are equally impressive and include:  the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal (3 awards), the Air Medal, the Special Forces Tab, the Parachutist Badge, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross and the long service Meritorious Service Medal.

Lt. Colonel Michael A. Aquino


In 1990 at the end of his full-time 22-year contract of active duty, despite accusations that he was forced to leave due to all the previous allegations made against him, he continued his service as a part-time active USAR officer for another four years and was assigned to the Headquarters of the US Space Command with an above “Top Secret” clearance.  He finally retired in 1994 with an unblemished distinguished record and remains in the Army reserve with the rank of Lt. Colonel (USAR-Retired).

The Barony of Rachane


In 2004 Aquino applied for and became the present caretaker of the Barony of Rachane in the County of Dumbarton, Argyllshire, Scotland, UK, to which he now holds legal title as the 13th Baron of Rachane, of Clan Campbell.  The Coat-of-Arms and title of the Barony is now recorded in the Register of Sasines, Scotland, and is recognised on behalf of the Crown by the Lord Lyon King of Arms.  In the United States it is also a Registered Trademark with both the California Secretary of State and the United States Patent and Trademark Office.



The Baroness and Baron of Rachane, Lilith and Michael A. Aquino  - The Coat-of-Arms


In 2000 the Abolition of Feudal Tenure Act concluded all the land-tenure aspects of the Scottish feudal system as at 28th November 2004.  The effect upon baronies was to end their superior/vassal attachment to specific areas of land, while continuing and preserving them as titles in the Noblesse of Scotland.  The present Baron and Baroness of Rachane - Michael and Lilith Aquino have dedicated their Barony towards charitable support of animal protection, rescue and welfare.

In 2007 a Fellowship of the Barony of Rachane was inaugurated to formally honour people of dignity, wisdom, enlightenment and accomplishment, such as is known to the Baron and Baroness.  Fellows are presented with the Crest Badge of the Barony, which they hope will become a symbol of benevolence and goodwill, as was once a tradition in Scotland.

The Temple of Set (over-view)


The Temple of Set is a left-hand initiatory occult Order founded by Michael A. Aquino and incorporated as a non-profit religious organization in the State of California in 1975.  Initiates and members of the Order are known as “Setian’s.”

Aquino had been a lead figure and High Priest in the Church of Satan (CoS) founded by Anton Szandor LaVey earlier in 1966, but after administrative and philosophical disagreements with LaVey in 1972, and together with other disillusioned members that same year Aquino resigned.  Later through ritual invocation and meditation Aquino sought a new mandate from the “Prince of Darkness” in the guise of “Set,” the Egyptian god of death and the underworld who inspired him to write the book:  The Book of Coming Forth by Night,” and to found a new Church in his name as the “Temple of Set”.


Anton Szandor LaVey


While based on a similar hierarchy structure as the CoS, the Temple of Set (ToS) appears to be a more intellectually evolved form of Satanism, in that the CoS only use the name of Satan symbolically and do not really believe that he exists.  They use his name merely to draw attention to and boost their hedonistic aims of self-indulgence and elitism.  The ToS members however believe that a real Satan exists in the form of “Set” who they consider to be the true “Prince of Darkness”.  The worship of Set can be traced back to ancient times, images of which have been dated to 3200 BC with inscriptions dated to 5000 BC.

In the ToS, the figure of Set is understood as a principle but is not worshipped as a god.  He is considered a “role model” for initiates, a being totally apart from the objective universe.  They consider him ageless and the only god with an independent existence.  He is described as having given humanity through means of non-natural evolution a questioning intellect that sets humans apart from nature and gives us the possibility to attain divinity.

The philosophy of the Temple of Set is heavily influenced by the writings and ritual’s of Aleister Crowley’s A.A., and the earlier Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.  Emphasis through its degree structure is based on the individual’s “Xeper”.  Xeper is a term use by the ToS to mean the true nature of “becoming” or “coming into being” and teaches that the true self, or the essence of self is immortal, and that through self-initiation and development, or Xeper, one gains the ability to align consciousness with this essence.


Aleister Crowley


There are several stages of degrees within the ToS that indicates an individual’s development and skill in magic, or black magic if you will.  The ToS terms the progression through the degrees as “recognitions”, and because their philosophy prefers individuals to self-initiate, after a time of assessment they acknowledge their progress by granting an appropriate degree.

The degrees of the ToS are: 

The first degree is that of Setian

The second degree is that of Adept

The third degree is that of High Priest/Priestess

The fourth degree is that of Magister/Magistra Templi

The fifth degree is that of Magus/Maga

The sixth and final degree is that of Ipsissimus/Ipsissima

A “Council of Nine” holds the main power of authority within the structure of the TOS and is responsible for appointing both the operating High Priest/Priestess, who act as the public face of the Order, and an Executive Director, whose main task is to deal with administrative issues.  Members of the Council of Nine are elected to office from the main body of third degree High Priests/Priestesses, or higher, for a term of nine years with a new member being elected each year during the annual International Conclave.

On joining, a new initiate is provisionally admitted as a first degree Setian and receives a copy of Aquino’s The Book of Coming Forth By Night, their newsletter The Scroll of Set, and a set of encyclopaedias entitled The Jeweled Tablets of Set.  This material contains all the organizational, philosophical and magical information they will need to qualify for full membership into the second degree, that of Adept.  They also receive information on active “Pylons and Orders” (see more below) sponsored by the ToS with open access to their on-line forums and archives through which they can communicate with others should they have questions with which they may need help.

New members then have a two-year time limit to qualify for recognition as a second degree Adept.  Certification and recognition is awarded by third degree members of the ToS, but only after demonstrating they have successfully mastered and applied the essential principles of magic, or black magic if you will.  If such recognition is not received by that time, full membership is declined.

Once full membership as a second degree Adept is attained, most members are happy to remain in that degree and to continue to learn and advance their knowledge through the Order’s teachings in achieving individual self-realisation and self-development of free will (Xeper).  Advancement to the third degree, that of High Priest/Priestess, involves much greater responsibilities towards the ToS, such as holding office in the ToS hierarchy and acting as official representatives.

The fourth degree, that of Magister/Magistra Templi, is granted by the reigning High Priest/Priestess in acknowledgement of an individual’s advancement in magical skills to such a level that they can found their own specialized “Schools of Magic” within the structure of active Pylons and Orders of the ToS.

Advancement to the fifth degree Magus/Maga can only be awarded by a unanimous decision of the Council of Nine.  A fifth degree member has the power to define concepts affecting the philosophy of the ToS, such as the concept of Xeper as defined by Aquino in 1975.  The final sixth degree Ipsissimus/Ipsissima, represents a Magus/Maga whose task is complete.  Only a very few members of the Order achieve this position, although any fifth degree member can assume it based on his own assessment.

The Temple of Set does not tolerate docile new members and expects them to prove themselves capable as “cooperative philosophers and magicians”.  To demonstrate this, the ToS has loosely structured interest groups where specific themes and issues are addressed.  Local and regional “Pylons” are meetings and seminars where discussions and magical work take place.  These are hosted and led by second degree Adepts or higher called Sentinels.  There are also various Orders providing specific Schools of Magic and differing paths of initiation.  These are led by a forth degree Magister/Magistra Templi who will usually be the founder of that Order.  The ToS also holds an annual Conclave where official business takes place, and where workshops are held in which members can take part in a wide variety of topics and activities. The annual Conclave usually lasts for about a week and is held in various global locations.

The ToS emphasizes that magic, or black magic if you will, can be as dangerous to a newcomer as volatile chemicals are to an inexperienced lab technician.  They also stress that the practice of magic, black or otherwise, is not for unstable, immature, or emotionally weak-minded individuals, and that their teachings offer nothing that an enlightened, mature intellectual would regard as undignified, sadistic, criminal or depraved.


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Plus way to many to include here.

Written and compiled by George Knowles  ©  24th June 2016

Best Wishes and Blessed Be.


Site Contents - Links to all Pages


Home Page


A Universal Message:


Let there be peace in the world  -   Where have all the flowers gone?


About me:

My Personal PageMy Place in England / My Family Tree (Ancestry)


Wicca & Witchcraft


Wicca/Witchcraft /  What is Wicca What is Magick


Traditional Writings:


The Wiccan Rede Charge of the Goddess Charge of the God  /  The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) /  The Witches Chant The Witches Creed Descent of the Goddess Drawing Down the Moon The Great Rite Invocation Invocation of the Horned GodThe 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief /  The Witches Rede of Chivalry A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality


Correspondence Tables:


IncenseCandlesColours Magickal Days Stones and Gems Elements and Elementals




Traditions Part 1  -  Alexandrian Wicca /  Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) /  Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) /  Blue Star Wicca /  British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) /  Celtic Wicca /  Ceremonial Magic /  Chaos Magic /  Church and School of Wicca /  Circle Sanctuary /  Covenant of the Goddess (COG) /  Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) /  Cyber Wicca /  Dianic Wicca /  Eclectic Wicca /  Feri Wicca /


Traditions Part 2 Gardnerian Wicca /  Georgian Tradition /  Henge of Keltria /  Hereditary Witchcraft /  Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) /  Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) /  Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition /  Nordic Paganism /  Pagan Federation /  Pectic-Wita /  Seax-Wica /  Shamanism /  Solitary /  Strega /  Sylvan Tradition /  Vodoun or Voodoo /  Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /


Other things of interest:


Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) /  Esbats & Full Moons Links to Personal Friends & Resources Wicca/Witchcraft Resources What's a spell? Circle Casting and Sacred Space  Pentagram - Pentacle Marks of a Witch The Witches Power The Witches Hat An esoteric guide to visiting London SatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  Part 2  /  Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Native American Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection)  The History of ThanksgivingAuras  - Part 1 and Part 2 Doreen Valiente Witch” (A Book Review) /   


Sabbats and Festivals:


The Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)


Rituals contributed by Crone:


Samhain / Yule Imbolc Ostara /  Beltane Litha Lammas Mabon




Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron Magick Mirror Gazing




Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar and Totem Animals) /  AntelopeBatsCrow Fox Frog and Toads Goat / HoneybeeKangarooLion OwlPhoenix Rabbits and HaresRaven Robin RedbreastSheep Spider SquirrelSwansUnicornWild Boar Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat /  Rats /  Unicorn




In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar.  For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following:  Birch /  Rowan / Ash /  Alder /  Willow Hawthorn /  Oak /  Holly /  Hazel /  Vine /  Ivy /  Reed /  Elder


Sacred Sites:


Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /


Rocks and Stones:


Stones - History, Myths and Lore


Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:


Apophyllite  / Amber Amethyst Aquamarine Aragonite Aventurine Black Tourmaline Bloodstone Calcite Carnelian Celestite Citrine Chrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / Fluorite Garnet /  Hematite Herkimer Diamond Labradorite Lapis Lazuli Malachite Moonstone Obsidian Opal Pyrite Quartz (Rock Crystal) Rose Quartz Ruby Selenite Seraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodalite Sunstone ThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble


Wisdom and Inspiration:


Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakening The Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods I have a Dream by Martin Luther King /


Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:


Murdered by Witchcraft The Fairy Witch of Clonmel A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) /  Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-Lantern The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark


Old Masters of Academia:


Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras





A "Who's Who" of Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)


Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)


Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others


Abramelin the Mage /  Agrippa Aidan A KellyAlbertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” /  Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” /  Alison Harlow /   Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda MetteyyaAllan Kardec (Spiritism) /  Alphonsus de SpinaAmber KAnn Moura /  Anna FranklinAnodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey /  Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite /  Austin Osman SpareBalthasar Bekker /  Biddy EarlyBarbara Vickers /  Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel /  Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke Cecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey Leland /   Charles WaltonChristopher PenczakChristina Oakley Harrington Cornelius Loos /  Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" /  Dion Fortune /  Dolores Aschroft-NowickiDonald Michael Kraig Doreen ValienteDorothy MorrisonDr. John Dee & Edward Kelly /  Dr. Leo Louis Martello /  Edain McCoy /  Edward FitchEleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” Eliphas Levi /  Ernest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake /  Fiona Horne /   Frederick McLaren Adams - Feraferia Friedrich von Spee /  Francis Barrett /  Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft /  Gwydion Pendderwen Hans HolzerHelen Duncan /   Herman Slater - Horrible Herman /  Heinrich KramerIsaac Bonewits Israel RegardieIvo Domínguez Jr. /  Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick /  James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches /  Janet Farrar and Gavin BoneJean Bodin Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johann Weyer  / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" /   Johann Georg Fuchs von Dornheim  -  the “Hexenbrenner” (witch burner) /  John Belham-Payne John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" /  John Gerard /  John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred /  John Michael Greer /  John Score /  Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson /  Joseph John Campbell /  Karl von Eckartshausen Lady Gwen Thompson - and "The Rede of the Wiccae" /   Laurie Cabot  - "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis SpenceLodovico Maria Sinistrari Ludwig LavaterMadeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star /  Margaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMichael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" /  Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” /  Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMartin Antoine Del Rio Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” /   Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" /  Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set /  Monique WilsonMontague Summers /  Nicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellarsMrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning GloryOld Dorothy Clutterbuck /  Old George PickingillOlivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis /  Paddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsus /  Patricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPaul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school /  Peter Binsfeld /  Philip HeseltonRaven GrimassiRaymond Buckland /  Reginald Scot /  Richard BaxterRobert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" /  Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Rossell Hope Robbins /   Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) /  Rudolf SteinerSabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" /  Scott CunninghamSelena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" /  Silver RavenwolfSir Francis Dashwood /  Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough"S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  Starhawk /  Stewart Farrar /  Sybil LeekTed Andrews The Mather Family - (includes:  Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) /   Thomas AdyT. Thorn CoyleVera ChapmanVictor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" /  Vivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWalter Ernest ButlerWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna Budapest /  



Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete.  If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below.  Many thanks for reading  :-)



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