Meaning Behind Black Sabbath’s Menacing Hit “War Pigs”

The words to Black Sabbath’s 1970 classic “War Pigs” may sound Satanic, like prophetic hellfire licking up from the menacing lyrics mentioning black masses and sorcerers, but the true meaning of the song is often disguised in its analogies. “War Pigs” was meant as a protest song, one that equated the act of war with all things evil.

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The Meaning

“War Pigs” kicks off Black Sabbath’s acclaimed sophomore release, Paranoid, introducing the album with the ominous drone of a guitar, the eerie calm before an even more haunting flood of air-raid sirens and a barrage of drum hits.

According to the song’s writer and the band’s bassist Geezer Butler, the song was originally called “Walpurgis.” It took its name from Walpurgis Night, which marks the eve of the feast day honoring Saint Walpurga. The night is also believed to bring about gatherings of witches.

“‘Walpurgis’ is sort of like Christmas for Satanists,” the lyricist explained. “But when we brought it to the record company, they thought ‘Walpurgis’ sounded too Satanic. And that’s when we turned it into ‘War Pigs.’ But we didn’t change the lyrics, because they were already finished.”

The lyrics speak out against war at a time when the war in Vietnam was raging. “To me, war was the big Satan,” Butler said. “It wasn’t about politics or government or anything. It was evil. So I was saying generals gathered in the masses / just like witches at black masses to make an analogy.”

The bassist notes the song’s opening lines, comparing military leaders with their troops to necromancers gathering in their droves and calling them Evil minds that plot destruction / Sorcerer of death’s construction, he continues his analogies as he then pulls from war-torn imagery. In the fields the bodies burning / As the war machine keeps turning / Death and hatred to mankind / Poisoning their brainwashed minds…Oh Lord yeah!

In the song’s bridge, fingers are pointed at the politicians who enact the violence, but leave their electors to fight the battle. Why should they go out to fight? the song asks They leave that role to the poor. The song continues, remarking that their time making war just for fun and treating people just like pawns in chess will soon run out. Wait ’till their judgment day comes, the song warns.

“War Pigs” comes to a close with judgment day. Now in darkness, world stops turning, the song plays, Ashes where the bodies burning / No more war pigs have the power / Hand of God has struck the hour. The war pigs are left crawling on their knees and begging mercy for their sins as Satan laughs and spreads his wings.

Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage

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