The Catholic Church regards the Mass as its most important sacrament.
However, since the beginnings of Christianity there have been those who have deviated from orthodoxy, relishing
in darkness and unearthly delights.
Heretical groups’ divergence from the traditional ritual culminated in the birth of the Black Mass,
a parody of the Catholic Mass which is said to be grounded in the worship of the Devil.
The origins of the Black Mass are obscure.
One of the first known groups to practice a warped version of the Mass were the Borborites.
Their rituals were highly sexual.
Gossip about their depraved practices circulated wildly in the East at that time.
The testimony of a contemporary author even suggests that they would extract fetuses from women who had been
impregnated during previous rituals, and consume the unborn child as a gruesome variant of the Eucharist.
Whilst the Borborites may not have overtly offered themselves to Satan, their practices
would help to form the legacy of the Black Mass.
In 1608 an Italian author, Francesco Guazzo, produced a witch-hunters’ manual called
Compendium Maleficarum. Regarded at the time as the authoritative manuscript on witchcraft,
it describes witches as the agents of Lucifer, who inverted the Christian Mass and stole
consecrated wafers from the Church in order to desecrate them.
Such a ceremony was known as the Witches’ Sabbath, and was believed to have been practiced for many centuries for diabolical ends.
Dreadful famines, plagues and unceasing warfare were all blamed on the witches.
One of the most monstrous beliefs about the Witches’ Sabbath was that human
flesh, preferably of unbaptised children, was consumed in the name of the Devil.
It is in the history of 17th century France that one can find some of the first solid
accounts of organised Satanic rituals.
La Voisin, a French fortune teller, poisoner and professed sorceress, was known to have
killed anywhere between 1000 to 2,500 people in Black Masses.
La Voisin entertained powerful guests. The richest and brightest stars of the French
court would visit the notorious fortune teller to request that she whisper in the Devil’s ear on their behalf.
One example was Madame de Montespan who employed la Voisin to conduct
multiple Black Masses in order to secure the love of the King of France.
Within one year, Montespan was Louis XIV's official royal mistress.
La Voisin’s Black Mass made use of a naked female human alter, in mockery of the sacredness of the Christian altar.
The woman would lie naked with a chalice on her bare stomach,
as she held two black candles in each of her outstretched arms. Such an aspect would become
a permanent feature of future Satanic Masses.
The power of blood was also an important feature of the Black Mass.
La Voisin would have many children abducted to be sacrificed. An attendant of la Voisin was discovered to have buried
the corpses of 2,500 infants.
A confession at the later trial of la Voisin provides this chilling account of the Black Masses performed for Madame de Montespan around 1672:
Although la Voisin met a grisly fate upon
the burning execution pyre in 1680, her dark legacy would continue.
By the 18th century and the time of the infamous Marquis de Sade,
knowledge of the inverted Christian Mass and sexualised rituals were commonplace in France.
Sade’s writings popularised notions of Catholic sacraments being perverted.
One scene between his heroine, Juliette, and the Pope in his
1797 book Juliette, descended into something akin to a Black Mass, with the naked female
figure being once more parodied against the holiness of the Christian altar.
Other authors would follow suit, including the French author of La-Bas, which translates
to The Damned, in 1891.
The description of the Black Mass contained within the novel was claimed to have been
based upon actual Satanic events in Paris during those years.
The novel’s clandestine meeting takes place in an abandoned convent and is attended by
Satanists who are reputable members of the community including a professor from the School of Medicine.
As the modern era approached, Satanists appeared to step out of the dark shadows of history
and offer themselves up to public attention.
This was the case in 1966 with the establishment of the Church of Satan,
an international member organisation founded by Anton LaVey.
One must simply consult their website to become a member and have access to Satanic resources including
audio, video and essays.
It was with the establishment of the Church of Satan that the first set of written instructions
for how to perform a Black Mass turned up.
Once more sexual in nature, the Church of
Satan’s Black Mass advocated, in transcript form, the desecration of a wafer made to symbolise
the Eucharist and the mockery of the Catholic Church.
However, its validity can be questioned.
Appearing first in LaVey’s 1972 'Satanic Rituals', little mention is given to the origins
of the historic French text, La Messe Noire, which the Black Mass is purportedly based upon.
The original text itself has never surfaced, with the ritual only ever being mentioned
by one other, equally dubious, book.
After an entire history of obscurity, it seems unlikely that Satanists would reveal all now.
In the modern day, there have been a range of allegations made against the rich and famous
for their suspected involvement in Satanic practices.
Some of the most horrific testimonies
have been against the notorious British paedophile and children’s TV presenter Jimmy Savile.
Those assaulted as children whilst in hospital have told of being forced to participate in
a ceremony akin to the Black Mass. Savile and others were described as wearing hooded
robes and masks, chanting the Latin Hail Satanus whilst sexually abusing their victims in the
candle-lit hospital basement.
Five years after the hospital attack, he is known to have abused another victim during
another dark ritual held at a house in London, in which Savile acted as master of ceremonies.
The woman was twenty-one years old at the time, and as such was able to provide greater
detail in her testimony, leaving little doubt that this was indeed a Satanic Black Mass.
There were further reports of Savile’s attendance at clandestine Satanic-themed meetings involving
celebrities and local dignitaries.
Many have been shocked at Savile’s ability to keep his child sexual abuse a secret for
nearly fifty years, whilst mingling with royalty and others at the top of society.
Indeed, many of those brave enough to inform the public about the Savile scandal have now lost their jobs.
Such a coverup poses the question of why would such people protect him unless they
too were affiliated with his Satanic practices?
Similar stories can be found all across the globe. In the US, FBI whistleblower Ted Gunderson
reported that there are at least 3 million practising Satanists across America.
Gunderson believed that there are secret networks of powerful groups who kidnap children, and subject
them to Satanic ritual abuse and subsequent human sacrifice in Black Masses.
At the time of his retirement in 1979, Gunderson was the head of the
Los Angeles FBI making him a highly reputable source.
Accusations in the modern day are shrouded in conspiracy and secrecy. If such allegations
are true, they would be continuing a centuries’ old pattern of covert Satanic movements operating
in the shadows of society.
One place, however, which openly practices their own version of the Black Mass in the
modern day is the Mexican city of Catemaco.
Since the 1970s, on the first Friday of every March the lakeside city becomes a destination for thousands of pilgrims.
The acts performed at the annual meeting are an uneasy mix of Catholic rite and pre-Hispanic
beliefs and rituals.
When interviewed in 2015, chief shaman Enrique Verdon
explained the syncretic nature of the ritual by saying that the “black magic stems from Native American
Olmeca culture” and that he and others “are experts in calling upon the devil and his dark power”.
Eye witnesses of the event have described brutal scenes of mass animal sacrifice, leading
one tourist to state that “The next step would be human sacrifice […] and I frankly
think these people have done it.”
Following the sacrifices, shamans stand before inverted crosses and a large burning pentagram,
before attempting to summon the devil through their chants. What follows is the swearing
of oaths to the effect that their souls now belonged to Satan.
At the height of the ritual, the committee of shamans scream “Hail Lucifer!” whilst
the blood from the sacrificial offerings are poured over a statue of the Devil.
When writing in 1924, Aleister Crowley, renowned scholar and magician, stated that “blood
is the life”. This notion has pervaded the Black Mass for centuries, from Early Christianity
right up until the present day.
When making a blood sacrifice, Satanists believe that there is a release of energy.
This power will not only bind the participants of the ritual to the Devil,
but allow them to align themselves with Satan’s power, which can then be used
to bring their intentions to pass.
Ultimately, the aim of the Black Mass is to prove that the agents of
Satan shall do what they will on Earth without a moral conscience.