Weird History The Gruesome History Of The Black Mass  

Genevieve Carlton
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The black mass is a mysterious, gruesome ritual with a long history. Rumors and legends about the black mass date back to at least the 4th century. The historical black mass ritual usually featured demon worshipping, the “obscene kiss,” cross trampling, and orgies. The modern black mass involves the performance of the mass on the body of a naked virgin lying on an altar – right before the priest copulates with her. 

Questions surround the mysterious ritual, like "what happens during a black mass?" and "how is black mass celebrated?" But just as Satanism isn’t exactly what it seems, how to perform a black mass depends on whom you ask. There are a number of elements that are the same at nearly every black mass, including desecrating Christian symbols and deviant sexual behavior.

Medieval Christians claimed that thousands of women were having sex with demons during black masses. And thousands confessed to participating in them. Even more disturbing stories involved consuming bodily fluids – a practice that Aleister Crowley, "the wickedest man in the world,” revived in the 20th century. And there was even a recipe for cooking babies. It doesn't get more gruesome than the black mass.

Black Masses Were An Inversion Of Catholic Mass, So Instead Of Bread And Wine, They Ate Male And Female Bodily Fluids


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Photo: Paolo da San Leocadio/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

As early as the 4th century, Christians were writing about evil rituals that corrupted the Catholic Mass. Epiphanius of Salamis wrote that one sect called the Borborites practiced all sorts of dark and disturbing rituals during their corrupted black mass. They collected semen and menstrual blood to replace the Eucharist, claiming it was the true blood and body of Christ. Epiphanius wrote that they “take the unclean menstrual blood they gather from [women], and eat it.” As part of their deviant sexual rituals, during the orgy, men would climax and then the group would “absorb the seeds of their dirt” by “eating the dirty stuff themselves.”

For centuries after Epiphanius wrote, descriptions of black masses circulated among Christians. Tales included fantastical magic that involved flying or calling up demons, and the rituals almost always had a sexual element. The key to the black mass, though, was the inversion of the liturgical mass – black masses twisted and corrupted traditions, like the Borborites reportedly consuming one another's liquid byproducts.

Eating Babies Was Part Of The Black Mass Ritual


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Photo: Wellcome Images/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-4.0

Epiphanius didn’t stop at bodily fluids with his 4th-century description of a black mass. He also claimed that the rituals always included deviant sexual acts. “They have sex all the time and commit fornication,” Epiphanius wrote, and sometimes the orgies went even further. If a woman ever got pregnant, the Borborites would cannibalize the infant. 

According to Epiphanius, the Borborites would “extract the fetus at the stage which is appropriate for their enterprise, take this aborted infant, and cut it up in a trough with a pestle. And they mix honey, pepper, and certain other perfumes and spices with it.” After mixing up their fetus stew, the participants would gather, and “each [would eat] a piece of the child with his fingers.” Epiphanius claimed that the Borborites compared this to Passover.

Witches Had Black Masses To Worship Satan Where They Practiced The “Obscene Kiss”


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Photo: Compendium Maleficarum/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

By the 14th century, the stories about black masses transformed into tales of witches’ Sabbaths. Just like the purported earlier black masses, witches inverted Catholic rituals by worshipping Satan instead of God. Another holdover from earlier black masses was the “obscene kiss.” During the ceremony, witches would kiss the Devil on his anus. 

One Basque witch gave an even more detailed description: witches kissed the Devil’s face, his navel, his phallus, and his backside. Sometimes, the Devil appeared in the shape of a monstrous black goat, which the revelers would kiss obscenely. The obscene kiss was the way a witch sealed her pact with Satan, and it was also part of the ritual greeting between a witch and her new master.

A Naked Virgin Would Lay On The Altar For A Black Mass


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Photo: Martin van Maële/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

As dozens of images show, the black mass was to be performed on the naked body of a woman – preferably a virgin. One book reports that “the first requirement in the celebration of the Black Mass is a virgin, naked, spread-eagled on the ‘altar’ and the climax is reached when the officiating priest performs the sexual act with her.”

There are a number of more modern reports of black masses featuring naked virgins. In 1889, one reporter wrote that the mass was said on the bare body of a woman stretched on the altar. In 1940, another writer claimed that a naked woman, preferably a virgin, had to lie naked on the altar at a black mass. Dating back to the 4th century, black masses always had a reputation for “unnatural” sexual acts, which might explain the insistence that a naked virgin was an integral part of the ceremony.