Allegations that an extremely severe form of sexual and physical child abuse perpetrated by Satanists or the devotees of comparably unorthodox religions were first made in North America in the 1970s and early 1980s. They were subsequently made in Britain, Holland, Australia and New Zealand. ''Satan''s Empire'' is an examination of the bitter debates that these claims provoked in Australia and elsewhere, including the dispute about whether ritual abuse ''really happens''. Timothy Lynch provides some anthropological insights into why these strange and incredible claims were made and why they were accepted by certain therapists, officials, journalists and members of the public. He compares allegations of ritual abuse to the accusations made against ''witches'' in early modern Europe and in non-Western societies, and examines the similarities between the kinds of people typically accused of perpetrating ritual abuse and those accused of practising witchcraft. Lynch also shows how, at a time when Australians had become very sceptical about claims of ritual abuse, activists were able to incite and affect the latest of a succession of homophobic panics in Australia.