The Black MassPosted: May 15, 2014
The Black Mass
You have probably heard the controversy about the plans of The Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club to host a satanic black mass reenactment this past week. In case not…
The club dropped sponsorship of the event when Catholic groups on campus and in Boston expressed outrage and
the archdiocese held a Eucharistic procession in protest, culminating in a holy hour mass at St Paul’s Church in Boston. Harvard President Drew Faust called the event ‘abhorrent’ but said she would allow it to take place on campus for free speech purposes. Later she changed her mind because of the increasing protests. The event was going to be organised byThe Satanic Temple of New York, the same group who have stirred controversy with plans to erect a Baphomet statue. Eventually the reenactment was reported to shift locations and went ahead at a Chinese restaurant in Harvard Square.
Well I guess Boston is a very Irish and Catholic part of America so the controversy was not really surprising. Even so, whose interests were served by what happened? Certainly not those who value free speech or the right to learn and question things. On the other hand, The Satanic Temple Of New York once again increased their public profile which may not be such a bad thing. I know little about them as a group except that they have brought discussion of Satanism into the mainstream media and I do applaud them for that.
But what about the Black Mass itself? Before I was a Satanist the term Black Mass conjured up all kinds of diabolical images. I suppose it still does, but I guess I interpret those images differently. I once had a conversation with an acquaintance who knew I was a Satanist. She was a a Pagan and a Witch, and she said she respected my Satanic beliefs even though she didn’t agree with them completely. “Anyway,” she said, “You are more of a philosophical Satanist aren’t you? You are not the sort that would participate in anything really demonic like a Black Mass.”
I think my reply disappointed her, and we have not spoken since.
I have indeed participated in a Black Mass and I regularly participate in other Satanic rituals many of which derive in part from the various versions of the Black Mass. I take part wholeheartedly. I am fully and unapologetically a Satanist, and the ritualistic side of things is quite important in my spiritual life. There are elements in the Black Mass and other Satanic Rituals which are provocatively blasphemous against Judao-Christian beliefs and morals. There are other things which even non Christians may find to be in bad taste or morally questionable. To a large degree that is the whole idea. However the one proviso that I would like to make is that neither I, nor any of the Satanists I associate with, would ever allow any children to be present at such a ritual let alone be harmed in any way, no animal would be harmed or humiliated, and no person present at such an event would be forced or coerced to do anything they were not comfortable with. In case that is not clear enough let me reiterate, to the best of my knowledge absolutely no laws are broken or crimes committed at or during such rituals.
So what is the big fuss about then?
Well the Black or Satanic Mass is in every aspect a blasphemy against Christian values, rules and power. It mocks the Christian god and it’s participants openly display their allegiance to The Devil, the enemy of all that Christianity and it’s god stand for. In this way it confronts and challenges the norms, values and power structures of much that unites western culture. This is a threat to many of the most powerful institutions we know of, not least being the Catholic Church. It also questions and challenges the moral assumptions that most people in western society take for granted. In essence, it is Satanism encapsulated.
The history of the Black Mass is highly disputed. Some claim Black or Satanic Masses were held from very early in Christian history. There doesn’t seem to be much evidence of that. There is a little more evidence that Black Masses were held in medieval times but even here sources are very few. There seem to be two main traditions, one French and one Latin that other groups used or cited over time. Some aspects of the Black Mass may once have been quite evil and involved murder and bloodshed of innocents, or that might just be the way the enemies of Satanic/anti-establishment and occult traditions portrayed them. In any case it seems clear that for at least a few centuries small groups have celebrated the Black Mass in various parts of Europe and then America.
In the 1960s Anton LaVey largely redefined and reinvigorated Satanism. His version of the Black Mass seemed to be a mixture of of the afore mentioned French and Latin versions and critics will be quick to point out that it is laced with grammatical and contextual errors. I think LaVey initially thought of the Black Mass as nothing more than a satire, a lavish but bawdy joke at the expense of the untouchable Catholic Church. But very quickly he began to recognise the power of the psycho-drama involved in taking part in such a ritual and began to speak of it as being central in the ritual life of Satanists.
Sophie and I have spoken previously about the power of ritual. I have said many times it’s effects can be as powerful and mind altering as taking drugs. In case that disturbs some readers let me say that the same is true for all rituals in all religious paths including Christianity, Islam, Paganism, Buddhism and Hinduism as well as all non religious forms of ritual. If this were not the case then ritual would not exist in any context for it’s very purpose is to alter or tune the mind in various ways. As a life long occultist I am used to that as a tool of magic. So it is in the context attuning our minds and spiritual growth that both Sophie and I have participated in Black Masses and similar rituals and have found them rewarding and empowering.
However, both Sophie and I are sometimes uncomfortable with Satanism being seen as nothing more than an opposing offshoot of Christianity. Moreover we both still have a few Christian friends and know of many people we admire that happen to be Christian. So how does that fit in with participating in a Black Mass?
We oppose the often misused power of the many Christian churches and the so called god from whom they claim authority to oppress and harass people who stand against them. We do not oppose all individuals who associate themselves with Christianity and we acknowledge that some Christians actually have values and morals which are not much different to our own.
For us, in its guise as Satanism encapsulated, the Black Mass is an opportunity to rally against the values and power structures we oppose unreservedly; and to ally ourselves with the spiritual powers that oppose them and represent our interests and aspirations. As the dominant religion in the west Christianity is, and long has been, the most obvious force that would oppress us and force us to repress our true values, indeed our true selves… It is not the only such force though… Satanism opposes all that would restrain us and restrict our growth. In a sense the opposition to Christianity is only the beginning of the struggle to be truly free. It may be where Satanism begins but it is not where it ends.