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Black Mass

The Black Mass is an obscene parody of the Catholic Holy Mass at which the Devil is worshipped. During the Inquisition, witch hunters and Demonologists claimed that witches—or any heretics—frequently performed Black Masses as part of their infernal Sabbats with Demons and the Devil. Black Masses have been performed for centuries and occur in contemporary times, but it is doubtful that they have been as prevalent—or as outrageous—as often claimed.

Characteristics

There is no single definitive Black Mass ritual. The purpose is to parody the Catholic Holy Mass by performing it or parts of it backward, inverting the cross, stepping or spitting on the cross, stabbing the host, and performing other sacrilegious acts. Urine is sometimes substituted for the holy water used to sprinkle the attendees, urine or water is substituted for the wine, and rotted turnip slices, pieces of black leather, or black triangles are substituted for the host. Black candles are substituted for white ones. The service is performed by a defrocked or renegade priest, who wears vestments that are black or the color of dried blood and embroidered with an inverted cross, a goat’s head, or magical symbols.

One famous form of the Black Mass was the Mass of St. Secaire, said to have originated in the Middle Ages in Gascony for the purpose of cursing an enemy to death by a slow, wasting illness. Montague Summers provides a description of it in The History of Witchcraft and Demonology:

The mass is said upon a broken and desecrated altar in some ruined or deserted church where owls hoot and mope and bats flit through the crumbling windows, where toads spit their venom upon the sacred stone. The priest must make his way thither late attended only by an acolyte of impure and evil life. At the first stroke of eleven he begins; the liturgy of hell is mumbled backward, the canon said with a mow and a sneer; he ends just as midnight tolls.

The Mass of St. Secaire requires a triangular black host and brackish water drawn from a well in which the corpse of an unbaptized baby has been tossed.

History
Magical uses of the Mass and alleged perversions of the Mass are almost as old as Christianity itself. In the second century, St. Irenaeus accused the Gnostic teacher Marcus of perverting the Mass. The Gelasian Sacramentary (ca. sixth century) documents masses to be said for a variety of magical purposes, including weather control, fertility, protection, and love divination. Masses also were said with the intent to kill people; these were officially condemned as early as 694 by the Council of Toledo.

The magical significance of the Black Mass lies in the belief that the Holy Mass involves a miracle: the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. If the priest, as magician, can effect a miracle in a Holy Mass, then he surely can effect magic in a mass used for other purposes. Priests who attempted to subvert the Holy Mass for evil purposes, such as cursing a person to death, were condemned by the Catholic Church as early as the seventh century.

Magical uses of the Mass increased in the Middle Ages. The beginnings of the organized Black Mass as part of Devil worship coincides with the expansion of the Inquisition and rising public fears about the evil powers of witches. The first witch trials to feature accusations of sabbats, Devil’s Pacts, and Black Masses all occurred in the 14th century.

In 1307, the powerful and wealthy Order of the Knights Templar was destroyed on accusations of conducting blasphemous rites in which Christ was renounced and idols made of stuffed human heads were worshipped. The Knights Templar also were accused of spitting and trampling upon the cross and worshipping the Devil in the shape of a black cat. Members of the order were arrested, tortured, and executed.

In 1440, Gilles de Rais, a French baron, was arrested and accused of conducting Black Masses in the cellar of his castle in order to gain riches and power. He was charged with kidnapping, torturing, and murdering more than 140 children as sacrifices. He was convicted and executed.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, priests in France were arrested and executed for conducting Black Masses. Many of the masses were theatrical events intended for social shock and protest against the church; the seriousness of the actual “Devil worship” was dubious. For example, in 1500, the cathedral chapter of Cambrai held Black Masses in protest against their bishop. A priest in Orléans, Gentien le Clerc, tried in 1614–15, confessed to performing a “Devil’s mass,” which was followed by drinking and a wild sexual orgy.

Black Masses figured in high-profile Possession cases, such as the Louviers Possessions in 1647. Ursuline nuns said they had been bewitched and possessed and were forced by chaplains—led by Abbé Thomas Boulle—to participate nude in Black Masses, defiling the cross, trampling upon the host, and having sex with Demons. The height of the theatrical, anti-Catholic Black Mass was reached in the late 17th century, during the reign of Louis XIV, who was criticized for his tolerance of witches and sorcerers. It became fashionable among nobility to hire priests to perform erotic Black Masses in dark cellars. The chief organizer of these rites was Catherine Deshayes, known as “La Voisin,” a witch who told fortunes and sold love philters. La Voisin employed a cadre of priests who performed the masses, including the ugly and evil Abbé Guiborg, who were gold-trimmed and lacelined vestments and scarlet shoes.

The mistress of Louis XIV, the marquise de Montespan, sought out the services of La Voisin because she feared the king was becoming interested in another woman. Using Montespan as a naked altar, Guiborg said three Black Masses over her, invoking Satan and his Demons of lust and deceit, Beelzebub, Asmodeus, and Astaroth, to grant whatever Montespan desired. While incense burned, the throats of children were slit and their blood poured into chalices and mixed with flour to make the host. Whenever the mass called for kissing the altar, Guiborg kissed Montespan. He consecrated the host over her genitals and inserted pieces in her vagina. The ritual was followed by an orgy. The bodies of the children were later burned in a furnace in La Voisin’s house.

When the scandal of the Black Masses broke, Louis arrested 246 men and women, many of them some of France’s highest-ranking nobles, and put them on trial. Confessions were made under torture. Most of the nobility received only jail sentences and exile in the countryside. Thirty-six of the commoners were executed, including La Voisin, who was burned alive in 1680. Louis kept Montespan out of the trials, but she suffered great humiliation and disgrace. When Louis’ queen, Maria Theresa, died in 1683, he married another woman, Madame de Maintenon.
Paralleling the theatrical and antichurch Black Masses were the accusations of Black Masses conducted by witches. In the 14th–18th centuries, inquisitors considered Devil worship in obscene rites to be an integral part of witchcraft. Victims tortured by witch hunters and inquisitors confessed to participating in obscene rituals at Sabbats, in which the cross was defiled and the Devil served as priest. It is doubtful that such sabbats actually took place as described by inquisitors and Demonologists. There is no evidence that the Black Mass was part of historical European witchcraft.

The Black Mass continued as a decadent fashion into the 19th century during an occult revival. Joris K. Huysmans’ 1891 novel Là-bas (Down There or Lower Depths) features the Gilles de Rais story. It draws upon Abbé Boulle from Louivers—Huysmans even inserted himself as a character—in its exploration of satanic rites and contains a description of the Black Mass.

Durtal, the character who is based on Huysmans, is taken by a woman, Hyacinthe, to a dingy, moldy chapel that once was used by Ursuline nuns, then turned into a livery and a barn to store hay. It has been taken over by satanists. Among the participants is a debauched nun. A choking incense of henbane, datura, dried nightshade, and myrrh is burned. After a mass of obscenities and blasphemies and the desecration of the host, the place erupts in “a monstrous panDemonium of prostitutes and maniacs.” Participants, high on the fumes, tear off their clothes and writhe on the floor. Sexual acts are implied but not described by Huysmans; his two characters who are witnesses become disgusted and exit the scene. The Hell-Fire Club, a fraternal group in London in the late 19th century, was said to perform a Black Mass regularly in worship of the Devil, though it is more likely that the rites were little more than sexual escapades with liberal quantities of alcohol.
In the 20th century, the Black Mass became a staple of Devil worship novels and films. One of the most influential fictions was the 1934 novel The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley, with a black magician character, Morcata, modeled on Aleister Crowley. The novel was made into a film in 1968 by Hammer Films of England, during a time of occult revival and the birth of Witchcraft, or Wicca, as a religion. Black Masses are not part of modern Witchcraft, or Wicca, which emphasizes rituals composed of ceremonial magic and reconstructed pagan seasonal rites.

The occult revival that began in the 1960s saw the birth of contemporary SatanISM as a religious practice, with varying views on the Black Mass. Satanic cults born of social rebellion also instituted Black Masses as a form of social shock.

Aleister Crowley on the Black Mass

In 1947, a Black Mass was performed at the graveside of Aleister Crowley during his funeral. During life, Crowley was described as practicing “black magic” and performing satanic rituals. However, he stated emphatically that he despised black magic and could never perform a Black Mass, which was an abuse of spiritual power. Crowley’s rituals were “anti-Christian”; that does not make them “satanic.” For example, he wrote a Gnostic Mass that remains a central ritual in the Ordo Templi Orientis magical order, of which he was head in England. In 1933, the London Sunday Dispatch newspaper published an article by Crowley on black magic. In it he commented on the Black Mass:

In Paris, and even in London, there are misguided people who are abusing their priceless spiritual gifts to obtain petty and temporary advantages through these practices. The “Black Mass” is a totally different matter. I could not celebrate it if I wanted to, for I am not a consecrated priest of the Christian Church. The celebrant must be a priest, for the whole idea of the practice is to profane the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Therefore you must believe in the truth of the cult and the efficacy of its ritual.

A renegade priest gathers about him a congregation of sensation-hunters and religious fanatics; then only can the ceremonies of profanation be of extended black magical effect.

There are many ways of abusing the Sacrament. One of the best known of which is the “Mass of Saint Secaire,” the purpose of which is to cause an enemy to wither away.

At this “mass,” always held in some secret place, preferably in a disused chapel, at midnight, the priest appears in canonical robes.

But even in his robes there is some sinister change, a perversion of their symbolic sanctity. There is an altar, but the candles are of black wax. The crucifix is fixed the head downwards. The clerk to the priest is a woman, and her dress, although it seems to be a church garment, is more like a costume in a prurient revue. It has been altered to make it indecent.

The ceremony is a parody of the orthodox Mass, with blasphemous interpolations.

The priest must be careful, however, to consecrate the Host in the orthodox manner. The wine has been adulterated with magical drugs like deadly nightshade and vervain, but the priest must convert it into the blood of Christ.
The dreadful basis of the Mass is that the bread and wine have imprisoned the Deity. Then they are subjected to terrible profanations.

Indescribable

This is supposed to release the powers of evil and bring them into alliance. (It is rather the case of the mouse trying to make a friend of the cat!) In the congregational form of the Black Mass the priest, having finished his abominations—these are, quite frankly, indescribable—scatters the fragments of the Host on the floor, and the assistants scramble for the soiled fragments, the possession of which, they believe, will allow them to work their petty and malicious designs.

My most memorable personal experience of the effects of black magic occurred when I was living in Scotland. The machinations of a degraded and outcast member of the Order caused my hounds to die, my servants to become insane. The struggle lasted until the recoil of the current of hated caused the luckless sorcerer to collapse.
The explanation of its effects is that, if you believe passionately enough in your will to do something, then power to achieve it will accrue to you.

The Black Mass in Satanism

When the Church of Satan was founded in 1966, the Black Mass was not included among the rituals. Its founder, Anton Szandor Lavey, said it was outmoded. Church of Satan followers sometimes perform Black Masses as theatrical events.

Other satanic groups have their own practices, and their own versions of the Black Mass. The Temple of Set, founded by Michael Aquino, embraces black magic as a form of self-benefit; elements of the Black Mass are incorporated into some of the rituals. The Order of the Nine Angles, founded by Stephen Brown, incorporates the Black Mass as part of its path of self-development. The blasphemy contained in it has not only mocked Christianity and Christ but also elevates Adolf Hitler as a “noble savior.” There are groups of “Traditional Secretive Satanists,” who practice the Black Mass, and “Nontraditional Satanists,” many of whom place less emphasis on it.

The formats of Black Masses vary with different groups. A Satanic Black Mass is conducted for obtaining and raising magical power. Jesus is cursed and Satan is exalted. A blasphemous mass, where the altar is a nude woman and the vagina is the tabernacle, is performed. If possible, a real host stolen from a Catholic Church is placed in the vagina in the midst of reciting distorted psalms with hot music and all kind of obscenities, cursing Jesus, and honoring Satan. The fake priest ends up having real sex with the woman with the host still in the vagina. A sexual orgy by the participants follows.

Other elements may include drinking urine, blood, or wine from a human skull; shouting obscenities and the names of Demons, especially Beelzebub; trampling a cross; reciting blasphemous prayers and psalms; and performing other blasphemous acts. Supposedly, there are some practices of infant sacrifice and cannibalism, but these claims are doubtful. Animal sacrifices are more likely.

FURTHER READING :

  • Baroja, Julio Caro. The World of the Witches. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975.
  • “Black Mass.” Available online. URL: http://www.religioncults.com/Occult/Satanism/Satanism.htm\#Black Mass. Downloaded February 2, 2008.
  • “Black Mass.” Available online. URL: http://www.satanheaven.com. Downloaded February 2, 2008.
  • Crowley, Aleister. “Black Magic Is not a Myth.” From the Sunday Dispatch, July 2, 1933. Available online. URL: http://www.lashtal.com/nuke/module-subjects-viewpagepageid- 89.phtml. Downloaded February 2, 2008.
  • The Encyclopedic Sourcebook of Satanism. Edited by James R. Lewis and Jesper Aagaard Petersen. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2008.
  • Huysmans, J. K. La-Bas. New York: Dover, 1972.
  • LaVey, Anton Szandor. The Satanic Bible. New York: Avon Books, 1969.
  • Russell, Jeffrey B. A History of Witchcraft. London: Thames and Hudson, 1980.
  • Summers, Montague. The History of Witchcraft and Demonology. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1926.

The Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology – Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley -a leading expert on the paranormal – Copyright © 2009 by Visionary Living, Inc.

Black Mass An obscene parody of the Catholic Holy Mass firmly entrenched in the popular notion of Devil worship. Black Masses are erroneously associated with all witches. They are not performed by Wiccans and Pagans, who do not worship the Devil, and it is doubtful that they were ever performed, at least in any significant numbers, by anyone in centuries past. The Black Mass exists more in fiction and film than it does in reality, though it is performed by various modern satanic groups (see Satanism).

There is no one Black Mass ritual. The general pur- pose of the mass is to mock the Catholic Holy Mass by performing it or parts of it backwards, inverting the cross, stepping or spitting on the cross, stabbing the host and other obscene acts, urine is sometimes substituted for the holy water used to sprinkle the attendees; urine or water is substituted for the wine; and rotted turnip slices, pieces of black leather or black triangles are substituted for the host. Black candles are substituted for white ones. The service may be performed by a defrocked priest, who wears vestments that are black or the color of dried blood, and embroidered with an inverted cross, a goat’s head (see Baphomet), or magical symbols.

The magical significance of the Black Mass lies in the belief that the Holy Mass involves a miracle: the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. If the priest, as magician, can effect a miracle in a Holy Mass, then he surely can effect Magic in a mass used for other purposes. Priests who attempted to subvert the Holy Mass for evil purposes, such as cursing a person to death (see Curse), were condemned by the Catholic church as early as the 7th century.

One such famous form of the Black Mass was the Mass of St. Secaire, said to have originated in the Middle Ages in Gascony. The purpose of the mass was to curse an en- emy to death by a slow, wasting illness. Montague Sum- mers provided a colorful description of it in The History of Witchcraft and Demonology:

The mass is said upon a broken and desecrated altar in some ruined or deserted church where owls hoot and mope and bats flit through the crumbling windows, where toads spit their venom upon the sacred stone. The priest must make his way thither late, attended only by an acolyte of impure and evil life. At the first stroke of eleven he begins; the liturgy of hell is mumbled back- ward, the canon said with a mow and a sneer; he ends just as midnight tolls.

The Mass of St. Secaire required a triangular, black host and brackish water drawn from a well in which the corpse of an unbaptized baby was tossed.

The beginnings of the Black Mass as it is known in modern times date back to the 14th century, when the church was persecuting heretics. Most of the Black Mass cases centered in France. In 1307 the Knights Templar were accused of conducting blasphemous rites in which they renounced Christ and worshiped idols made of stuffed human heads. They also were accused of spitting and trampling upon the cross, and worshiping the Devil in the shape of a black cat. Through arrests and trials, the order was destroyed.

In the 15th century, Gilles de Rais, a French baron, was arrested and accused of conducting Black Masses in the cellar of his castle in order to gain riches and power. He was accused of kidnapping, torturing and murdering more than 140 children as sacrifices and was executed in 1440.

In the 16th and 17th centuries numerous priests in France were arrested and executed for conducting Black Masses. In 1500 the cathedral chapter of Cambrai held Black Masses in protest against their bishop. A priest in Orleans, Gentien le Clerc, tried in 1614-15, confessed to performing a “Devil’s mass” which was followed by drink- ing and a wild sexual orgy. In 1647 the nuns of Louviers said they had been bewitched and possessed, and forced by chaplains to participate nude in masses, defiling the cross and trampling upon the host.

During the same period, the Black Mass was associated with witchcraft. Witches tortured and tried by witch- hunters and inquisitors confessed to participating in ob- scene rituals at Sabbats, in which the cross was defiled and the Devil served as priest. It is unlikely that these took place.

The height of the Black Mass was reached in the late 17th century, during the reign of Louis XIV, who was criticized for his tolerance of witches and sorcerers. It became fashionable among nobility to hire priests to per- form erotic Black Masses in dark cellars. The chief organizer of these rites was Catherine Deshayes, known as “La Voisin,” said to be a witch who told fortunes and sold love philtres. La Voisin employed a cadre of priests who performed the masses, including the ugly and evil Abbe Guiborg, who wore gold-trimmed and lace-lined vestments and scarlet shoes.

The mistress of Louis XIV, the Marquise de Monies- pan, sought out the services of La Voisin because she feared the king was becoming interested in another woman. Using Montespan as a naked altar, Guiborg said three Black Masses over her, invoking Satan and his Demons of lust and deceit, Beelzebub, Asmodeus and Astaroth, to grant whatever Montespan desired. It was said that while incense burned, the throats of children were slit and their blood poured into chalices and mixed with flour to make the host. Whenever the mass called for kissing the altar, Guiborg kissed Montespan. He consecrated the host over her genitals and inserted pieces in her vagina. The ritual was followed by an orgy. The bodies of the children were later burned in a furnace in La Voisin’s house.

When the scandal of the Black Masses broke, Louis arrested 246 men and women, many of them among France’s highest-ranking nobles, and brought them to trial. Confessions were made under torture. Most of the nobility got off with jail sentences and exile in the countryside. Thirty-six of the commoners were executed, including La Voisin, who was burned alive in 1680.

The Black Mass was a decadent fashion into the 19th century, when it began to wane. The Hellfire Club, a fraternal group in London in the late 19th century, was said to perform a Black Mass regularly in worship of the Devil, though it is likely that the rites were little more than sex- ual escapades with liberal quantities of alcohol. In 1947 a Black Mass was performed at the graveside of Aleister Crowley. When the Church of Satan was founded in 1966, a Black Mass was not included among the rituals; it was the opinion of the church’s founder, Anton Szandor LaVey, that the Black Mass was outmoded. Nevertheless, Church of Satan and other satanic groups perform their own versions of Black Masses.

FURTHER READING:

  • Baroja, Julio Caro. The World of the Witches. 1961. Reprint, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975.
  • Michelet, Jules. Satanism and Witchcraft. Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1939 (reprint).
  • Russell, Jeffrey B. A History of Witchcraft. London: Thames and Hudson, 1980.

The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – Copyright © 1989, 1999, 2008 by Visionary Living, Inc.

Black Mass A perversion of a Christian Mass for magical or diabolical purposes. Accounts of perverted Christian masses and rituals are documented, though it is questionable how much is fact versus fiction. The church used accusations and torture-induced “confessions” of diabolical rites to persecute heretics and witches. The Black Mass also became a staple of Demonic novels and films. There is no one, defi nitive Black Mass ritual. Elements include performing the traditional Catholic Mass or parts of it backward; inverting, stepping on, or spitting on the cr oss; stabbing the Host; substituting ur ine for holy water or wine; substituting rotten turnip slices, pieces of 38 binding spell Reading the black book, by van der Wyngaert, 17th century. (Author’s collection) black leather, or black triangles for the Host; using black candles; and so forth. The service may be performed by a defrocked priest, who wears vestments that are black or the color of dried bl ood and are embroidered with an inverted cross, a goat’s head, or magical symbols. The magical significance of the Black Mass derives from the miracl e of the Holy Mass, the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. This miraculous or magical power theoretically could be used by a priest for other purposes. Magical uses of the Mass and alleged perversions of it are almost as old as Christianity itself. In the second century Saint Irenaeus accused the Gnostic teacher Marcus of perverting the Mass. The Gelasian Sacramentary (circa sixth century) documents Masses to be said for a variety of magical purposes, including weather control, fertility, protection, and love divination. Masses also were said with the intent to kill people; these were officially condemned as early as 694 by the Council of Toledo. Magical uses of the Mass were especially prevalent in the Middle Ages. In 1307, the or der of t he knight s t empl ar was accused of conducting blasphemous rites—though not called a “Black Mass”—in which Christ was renounced and idols made of stuffed human heads were worshiped (see baphomet ). The Templars also were accused of spitting and trampling upon the cross and worshiping the devil in the shape of a black cat. The order was destroyed. In 1440, the French baron Gilles de Rais was convicted and executed for allegedly conducting Black Masses in the cellar of his castle to gain riches and power. The baron was accused of kidnapping, torturing, and murdering more than 140 children as sacrif ices. During the European witch hunts, witches were accused of conducting obscene rites that parodied Christian rites, but they were called sabbats and not Black Masses. The descriptions came either from tortured victims or from zealous witch-hunters, and their veracity must be held in doubt. Historian Jeffrey Burton Russell in A History of Witchcraft (1980) states that “the black mass is unknown in historical European witchcraft. . . .” The first mention of a sabbat in a witch trial was in 1335 in Toulouse. By the 15th and 16th centuries, tales abounded of these infernal rites, said to include roasting and eating of babies, kissing the devil, dancing wildly, fornication, pact s with the devil, sermons by the devil, and obscene Masses using black or red hosts, urine, and so on. Most of these tales were undoubtedly wildly distorted or entirely fictionalized. The “Black Mass” reached its organized peak in France in the 17th century during the reign of Louis XIV—a place and time of increasing popularity of magical texts known as grimoires. Black Mass scandals in France resulted in the execution of dozens of people, including priests. Some of the scandals revolved more around sex and love magic than actual worship of the devil. Other cases of Black Masses date to the 18th and 19th centuries, but the evidence is unreliable. The Black Mass became romanticized in fiction and film. Accounts of the Black Mass, whether from historical record or fiction, have inspired fantasy-prone individuals to copy what is supposed to take place. When Anton LaVey founded the Church of Satan in 1966, he did not include the Black Mass among its rituals, as he believed it to be “outmoded.”

FURTHER READING : Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. 2d ed. New York: Facts On File Inc., 1999. Russell, Jeffrey Burton. A History of Witchcraft. London: Thames & Hudson, 1980.
Taken from :The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy Written byRosemary Ellen Guiley Copyright © 2006 by Visionary Living, Inc.

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