Black Mass

PaganGreen Pagan Witches

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 purpose
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 enemy
to death by a slow, wasting illness. Montague Summers
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 backward,
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 drinking
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 witchhunters
and inquisitors confessed to participating in obscene
rituals at sabbats, in which the cross was defiled
and the Devil served as priest. It is unlikely that these
took place.
24 Black Goat
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 perform
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 Abbé
Guiborg, who wore gold-trimmed and lace-lined 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. 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 sexual
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.