Black Mass
According to the inquisitors, the Black Mass epitomized the
worship of Satan and perverted the most holy mystery of Christian
worship—the Christian mass. Evidence of such occurrences
was confirmed in the confessions forced from accussed
witches and sorcerers, who claimed that the devil had mass said
at his Sabbat. Pierre Aupetit, an apostate priest of the village
of Fossas, France, was burned for celebrating the mysteries of
the Devil’s mass. Instead of speaking the holy words of consecration,
the frequenters of the Sabbat were alleged to have said
‘‘Beelzebub, Beelzebub, Beelzebub.’’ The devil in the shape of
a butterfly flew around those who were celebrating the mass,
who then ate a black host, which they were obliged to chew before
It is possible that the concept of the Black Mass derived
from underground traditions of Cathar heretics, who were put
down by orthodox Christianity during the fourteenth century.
The Cathars believed in two gods, the God of light and the
Prince of darkness, the maker of all material things. However,
the idea of a Black Mass only became operative in the fifteenth
century when the Roman Catholic Church turned on the
‘‘witches’’ as followers of Satan, whom because they believed in
the magic of the Christian mass, hence could conceive a vulgar
misuse of its powers. Several printed accounts which may have
fueled the concept document strange occurrences, including
the 1335 story of a shepherd found nude performing a parody
of the mass and the 1458 story of a priest who mixed semen
with the holy oil used for annointing people.
However, Satanism, as defined by the Church at the end of
the fifteenth century, existed solely in the imaginaton of the inquisitors.
Its ideas and practices were carried from generation
to generation by the writings of Christians involved in the pursuit
of witches and the stamping out of its practice. No evidence
of anyone actually holding a Black Mass appears until the seventeenth
century in France, when police arrested a fortuneteller
named Catherine Deshayes, known as ‘‘La Voisin.’’ Allegedly
committing poisonings and sacrilege, La Voisin was a wellknown
abortionist, and was suspected of providing infants for
ritual sacrifice in a Black Mass conducted by a libertine priest,
Abbé Guibourg.
Black Mass Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
These masses were purportedly celebrated on the body of a
naked woman. It was claimed that at the moment of consecration
of the host, an infant’s throat was cut, the blood was poured
into the chalice, and prayers were offered to the demons Asmodeus
and Ashtaroth. Other obscene rites were associated with
the host.
At the trial of La Voisin, evidence was given that some Black
Masses had been held at the request of the royal mistress the
Marquise de Montespan, in order to retain the favor of Louis
XIV. Other masses were associated with murder and poison
plots, and many famous names were involved. Over 300 individuals
were arrested, although fewer than half were tried; de
Montespan was spared. La Voisin was subjected to brutal torture
for three days, but she would not confess to poisoning, and
on February 22, 1680, she was burned alive.
The modern Black Mass seems to have appeared as part of
the magical revival in late ninteeth-century France. J. K. Huysmans
is generally credited with reintroduing Satanism and the
Black Mass in his book La-Bas (Down There), which includes a
detailed description of a Satanic service. More recently the
Church of Satan in San Francisco has based its much publicized
diabolism upon a rejection of the Christian ethics of selfdenial
and humility. Its founder, Anton La Vey, published his
own version of a Black Mass. (See also Black Magic)
Cavendish, Richard. The Black Arts. New York G. P. Putnam’s
Sons, 1967.
Huysmans, J. K. Down There (La-Bas) A Study in Satanism.
Translated by Keene Willis. New Hyde Park, N.Y. University
Books, 1958.
LaVey, Anton. The Compleat Witch; or, What to Do When Virtue
Fails. New York Dodd, Mead, 1971.
———. The Satanic Bible. Seacaucus, N.J. University Books,
1969. Reprint. New York Avon Books, 1976.
———. The Satanic Rituals. Seacaucus, N.J. University
Books, 1972.
———. The Satanic Witch. Los Angeles, CA Feral House,
Rhodes, H. T. F. The Satanic Mass. London, 1954.