A Message to Readers

I am quite disheartened in being driven to have to make this statement, and though I do not know how much good it will do in the long run. If there is any chance it might help than it is worth a try.

I am growing rather wary of having to deal with the steady flow of moronic comments that  keep appearing upon my blog from which I can only assume come primarily from Twilight fans, not to say that all Twilight fans are moronic, but it has created a vampire craze among teenagers, and as many of us know a great deal of teenagers are indeed morons.

So to my intelligent readers, of whom are so rare but much appreciated, bear with me a moment, as I am rather disappointed to see that my blog is being so grossly and insultingly misinterpreted I want to set a few things straight for those whom just don’t get it.

Since it is clear by the nature of your comments that any form of subtly is lost upon you, I shall be as clear and precise as I can.

If you take anything written upon this blog literally, than you are an idiot.

This blog is a study of vampires, werewolves, and other such figures of myth and lore, from a historical, folkloric point of view. As well as a psychological look into these myths, and an analysis of how they appear within literature and other media forms.

Since it is also clear that some of you do not understand what Folklore is, let me explain it to you.

Folklore are the traditional stories, songs, customs, jokes, practices, beliefs, handed down orally from individual to individual.

To say it plainer and more simply, folklore is not fact, folklore is not meant to be taken as fact.

If I post something on this blog that I state comes from folklore, and you take it literally, you are an idiot.

Let me say very clearly. This is NOT. I shall repeat just to make sure we understand each other. NOT   a blog about actual “real life” vampires and werewolves running around in the world today.

If you believe that the characters in Twilight, are real or if you think vampires as they are presented in Twilight actually exist or if you think you are going to turn into a vampire or a werewolf, than please.

GO AWAY!

Any comments posted on this blog, in any way  take this blogs content as being literal, will be deleted.

Women and the Brotherhood

Shallott

With their stunning, powerful, and beautiful images, it is hard not to become drawn into the world of the Pre-Raphaelites. It was Waterhouse who was one of the first to introduce me into this delightful world, and I have been fascinated ever since, and urged on to pursue the subject and delve into their fantasies. While I ponder over their extraordinary works of art there is one question which has echoed in my mind and peeked my intrigue, and thus causes me to explore the depths of it. At a glance the question may produce on instant and obvious answer, the evidence at first appearing to be blatantly before you, but when looking beyond the surface, deeper than the outer beauty, prodding into the symbolism, and peeling back the layers the question might become gradually more complex and murky. Now before I reveal this tantalizing question, which has haunted me throughout their paintings, I will take a brief moment to introduce just who the  Pre-Raphaelites are.
 
The  Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, as it was so called (though there were in fact some women also involved in the “brotherhood” women painters influenced by the  Pre-Raphaelite ideals, and women who played an important if lesser known role within the brotherhood) was first established in 1848 and was like many art movements, a reaction against the former current brand of art at the day. This group of revolutionary artists were tired of what they saw as the “formula driven art” commonly produced. They wished to return back to what they viewed as being more genuine art that was based in realism, nature, and truth. The Brotherhood was founded by  Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt, but there is a long list of other artists who became a part of the movement.
 
The meaning behind their name Pre-Raphaelite:
 
To quote John Ruskin (Victorian art critic among many other things) the current approach to art was as follows:
 
 “We begin by telling the youth of fifteen or sixteen that Nature is full of faults, and that he is to improve her; but that Raphael is perfection, and that the more he copies Raphael the better; that after much copying of Raphael, he is to try what he can do himself in a Raphaelesque, but yet original manner: that is to say, he is to try to do something very clever, all out of his own head, but yet this clever something is to be properly subjected to Raphaelesque rules, is to have a principal light occupying one seventh of its space, and a principal shadow occupying one third of the same; that no two people’s heads in the picture are to be turned the same way, and that all the personages represented are to have ideal beauty of the highest order…”
 
The Pre-Raphaelites were a reaction against this very way of thinking, this Raphael worship in art, and so they coined their name. It was their idea, that nature should not be idealized but painted as it truly is, and that all human figures should be painted from a human model and they should be painted as they appeared in their true and real form and figure. Everything should be painted as it appears to the eye, and not rearranged or altered according to any artistic standard.
 
While one could go on for several pages discussing the nature of the Pre-Raphaelites, I think this was enough to give you the general idea of who they were and thus allow me to proceed as I am sure you are waiting in anticipation to the question which has so gripped me into exploring.
 
That question being, are the Pre-Raphaelites in their artwork, truly showing reverence, respect, admiration, and worship of women? Or in fact are their paintings yet another way to reinforce Victorian ideals and stereotypes regarding women and reflect their own apprehensions and fears about women and the idea of women independence and power?
 
To see one of their paintings one might at first think it obvious the positive light in which women are portrayed. For one thing women are the primary focus of almost any Pre-Raphaelite painting, and they are larger than life women who take center stage, and immediately draw the eye in. Women portrayed in bold bright colors, women of power and independent, beautiful women who stand tall and proud in complete confidence of themselves. They are women of the likes of Morgan Le fay,  Belle Dame Sans Merci, Queen Guinevere, Lady Shallot, and so froth. They were mythical women, Greek Nymphs, Sirens, Elemental sprits, Egyptian Priestesses, and Magical women, sorceresses, witches, enchantress. Women portrayed in unashamed sensual nudity.
 
One might at first think the answer to the question posed is a resounding Yes! For how could such women, how could one who portrays women in such a way, do so without the greatest worship, respect, and reverence, how could anyone looking upon a Pre-Raphaelite painting think that it could have been created with anything other than the greatest of admiration? As well one might be tempted by the fact that they are creations of men who must surely be more Enlightened, more radical, and liberal considering their role as revolutionary artists, and they did work with independent women within their community. The sister of one of the founders of The Brotherhood, Christina Rossetti was a poet and of some renown.
 
So how than could such images created by such men be brought to doubt and question in considering their intentions and true meaning in regards to these women? To explore this possibility we must now look beyond the surface and delve into the symbolism that is presented to us within these paintings. In considering these women, what do they truly represent within the Victorian Era?
 
We shall have to resist the temptation now to view these paintings from a modern eye, and from the feminist eye, and look at them through the principles of the age in which they were created, uncover some of the complications of the society in which their creators lived to try and come close to the truth, though it may now never be fully grasped.
 
 While I have mentioned some of the powerful female figures which present themselves in Pre-Raphaelite paintings there are two basic types of women who can be found present within the art work of The Brotherhood.
 
There are the bold, daring, independent, powerful and sometimes even dangerous women whom are often usually unnatural in someway, possessing of some magic quality or drown from mythology and then there are the women who present themselves in the form of the proper Victorian lady. Prim, proper, demure, shy, and chaste maidens. These women are those who are often being courted by some gallant brave knight, but she cannot bring herself to meet his eye. She knows to show embarrassment and dignity and turns her face away when her love attempts to kiss her and pays her compliment.
 
This very black and white, and dual way of viewing women is often referred to “the virgin and the whore” and it is something which sprang out of a period in which society was unable to view woman in other way than fitting into one of these roles, it is also a concept that dates all the way back to the Bible with the Virgin Marry and Mary Magdalene, and is present throughout many literary sources and artistic images.
 
But of course there was a gray area as the members of The Brotherhood knew quite well, for they lived in that space between the virgin and the whore if you will. Their views and ideas about women would be challenged and confused, in a society which on the outside had such a rigid morality, while beneath also had a dark underbelly. They were left to struggle with their anxieties as well as their sexuality in relation to women. Not only where they in close contact with women who went against the grain. Strong, intellectual, intelligent, well educated women who worked as artists, poets, writers, and challenged their “proper” place in society, but there was also their own personal exploits to consider. The members of The Brotherhood were lovers, and affairs between artist and model were not uncommon occurrences.
 
In considering the values of the society and the tug-a-war between different worlds in which the Pre-Raphaelites often found themselves we will give a deeper evaluation of their works to try and uncover a fuller meaning of just where women truly fit in, and what might be revealed of their true thoughts upon the subject of women. Perhaps these spectacular works of art are their own way of trying to make sense of their confused thoughts, and trying to seek that middle ground, like the era itself, and their lives, there is nothing simple in their paintings.
 
 Now to take a closer look at some of the types of images previously mentioned. As stated above, many of the figures of strong, powerful, and independent women that appear within these paintings seem to have some quality about them which is not quite human, or unnatural in someway. These are women that are not fully of our world. Their physical attributes seem to reflect their nature, for they are acting in a way that was not seen at the time as “natural” for women to act. They are thus cast outside of the norms of accepted society.
 
To further explore this idea and the meaning which lies behind it, we will examine some specific paintings and explore the symbolism behind them.
 
labella
This is one of the most well known images of La Belle Dame Sans Merci by Sir Frank Dicksee. Let us look at some of the most interesting elements of it. First the interesting status of the woman being placed “above” the man by having her upon the horse, and he upon foot below her. This places her in a position of dominance over him. The horse itself is portrayed as a rather powerful animal but with its bowed head, it can be seen what full command she has of him. Most notably though is her bold direct state into the man’s eye. She is being quite forward, and her free unbound hair falling wildly about her. In examining the posture of the male, we can see that he is taken aback by her, startled at her bold actions, and perhaps even apprehensive. Though transfixed by her gaze, he does not appear to be completely receptive. Also interesting, the position of his arms, almost Christ like suggesting a sort of martyrdom in the face of this temptress. In spite of his armor and his sword, he is rendered helpless before this woman.
 
Another interesting one worth a look The Beguiling of Merlin by Sir Edward Burne-Jones
 
nimue
The title in itself with the use of the word beguiling is suggestive of the intentions behind this painting, and once more we are dealing with a woman enchantress. There are some strong similarities between this painting and the other. The male is again placed at a disadvantage from the female. He is left lying upon the ground, while she stands tall before him. Towering over him. There is also the same unashamed dead on, bold stare and hard set of the face. The holding of the book here is suggestive of wisdom, knowledge, education, traits generally at this time associated with men. So in both these paintings there is a hint of role reversal. Now looking at the figure of Merlin, he appears pitiful, limp, at her mercy. He cannot bring himself to look at her, and the pallor of his face suggests something sickly, possibly even death.
 
A really telling, and personal favorite image of my own The Fisherman and the Siren by Frederic Lord Leighton.
siren
This image is bursting with sensuality, the rather bold figure of this inhuman female creature thrusting herself upon the figure of innocent youth. The poor young lad, who clearly does not stand a chance in the face of such temptation. The allusions to Christ and martyrdom is very overt in this image in the pose of the lad, and even the tumbling basket of fish falling into the water. There is also something particularly serpent like about the sirens tale. It is ensnared around the poor lads leg, as if she is ready at any moment to drag him down into the watery depths of his doom. With his close eyes, and arms spread out he can be seen as impassive, unreceptive to her charms. The look upon his face having something of a serene calm to it, yet he is left helpless to resist her. He is caught within her clutches. After all what chance could he possibly have against such a foe?
 
 Of course I had to include one of the marvelous works of Waterhouse, who may be one of the most easily recognized painters from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
numph
This image reflects many of the same elements as seen in the image of the Siren and the Fishermen. There is depicted a young innocent lad who has fallen asleep, when unknown to him there comes up creeping out of the waters a nymph with a hint of sultry suggestion upon her face. She appeared ready to prey upon the sweet innocents of the sleeping boy. The fact that he is asleep puts him in a position of vulnerability and at the mercy of this watery maid. In her posture, and pose, and the hint of her expression there is some tale tale signs of predatory intention. Her position between the trees, and the leaves which crown her head suggest that she is something wild, and untamed, and the fact that she is emerging out of the depths of the water is filled with symbolic meaning of its own. There is also something peculiar that seems to be occurring below her waist, something which offer the possibility of the not quite human. What is she hiding just behind the rivers bank? It could almost be a satyr’s haunches or some fishy or serpent like tail? Or is she as a dryad, and made of the trees, rooted in and made a part of them? There is also offered the juxtaposition of the “tamed” wildness of the young lad. There is something significant in the animal skin draped across his midsection. It suggests something perhaps of the wild within him, but it is also a civilized and controlled wilderness. The skin coming from an animal that has fallen under the dominance of man and the fact that he is modestly and decently covered, while she herself is not.
 
 
While to the modern eye these images might at first appear to be done in great praise of women, in an understanding respect of her power, independence, and strength, beneath the deeper analysis a different possible story is revealed. In fact these images may serve as a warning to men to avoid the very sort of women that are depicted here. They are women who are not quite human, not to be trusted, but post a threat and some possible danger to man. Men of the Victorian world should beware of women who step out of their proper role, who become too forthcoming, or bold, too direct, express their sensuality. For they may corrupt man and lead the innocent victim astray down a frightful path, which may seem tempting but in the end lead to his destruction.
 
But to gain the fullest understanding of this complex subject, let us now explore the other side of the coin, the fair maidens of purity and virtue.
 
You can hardly talk of The Brotherhood without mentioning Rossetti himself, so this painting of his The Marriage of St. George and the Princess Sabra offers a perfect example of the other side of women in Pre-Raphaelite art.
knight
The differences in the posture and pose in this one can be seen distinctly from the others we have viewed. One important factor which will be seen time and again in these paintings is the fact that here the eyes of the maiden are closed, opposed to the direct stare down previously seen. As well her head is turned slightly away from him rather than pointed straight on at him. Another important detail, in this painting it is she who is clearly in the vulnerable one, not him. Her weight is being supported by him, and while he is seated within a chair she is kneeled devoutly before him. Now the man is the dominant and has elevated position over the woman. Her clothing is also much more conservative and concealing. Even her hair, while still quite long can be seen as more orderly, more “tamed” than the hair of the previous maidens which often was much more of a wild mane. In the male figure there is an aspect of complete confidence and strength. He is comforting and supporting her.
 
This image of Tristan and Isolde by Edmund Blair Leighton is one of which I am quite found of
Isole
In this painting we see the male being the pursuer as it were. He is leaning in toward her to seek her favors, while she in all proper modesty does not meet his gaze, but has her head turned coyly just so off to the side. She is showing her humility by looking away from him, keeping a chaste distance between them. Instead of returning his affection she keeps the space between them. Also once more her more elaborate and lady like manner of dress can be noted. She is shown as much more civilized then the previous women we have examined. That is another important difference. She is not out alone in some woods somewhere, but rather she is within human society, and again her hair is nearly and orderly kept. Adorned here not with leaves but with gold.
 
In both of these paintings we can see examples of the wild, of nature being firmly conquered. St. George has the dragons head severed and stored away within a box and Isolde has her feet firmly planted upon what looks to be a wolf skin rug. They are not part of the natural world, nor do the posses any unnatural elements, but they are conquers over nature, with their humanity firmly established.
 
Here we have another image by Dicksee to view how the same artist can portray women in two completely different ways.
comehome
The woman seen here is a far cry from La Belle Dame Sans Merci. There is something almost fragile looking about this maiden, she appears frail as well as being quite pale, particularly in comparison to her suitor. Indeed it looks as if she is about the faint at any moment, while it is only the act of his hands holding her own delicate hands that keep her supported. Once more it can be noted that while she is facing him her eyes are closed, and so she does not meet his gaze. Another interesting factor in this image, is that though we see the man kneeling before the woman here, while she is seated, she appears almost to be upon a pedestal to reinforce the idea of the way women were “worshiped” under the rules of chivalry. As being chaste virgin maids not to be despoiled or touched, but to have their virtue protected at all costs. There is also the heavy drapery of her clothing, and the way in which here her hair is in fact completely restrained.
 
To offer one last example this image by John William Godward
courting
There are here many of the same things we have seen in prior images. The tilted head, and closed eyes. The appearance of vulnerability and weakness within the woman, relying upon the man to support her. In this case she appears as if she is about to fall, she does not look to be truly standing by her own volition, but one of her legs is bent and kneeling upon the stone wall, while her suitor has one hand supporting her just against her neck, another hand holding her own. She appears to be quite overwhelmed. While he is the picture of strength and assurance, and in the position of being above her. Her hair here can be seen as being visible bound up by ribbon.
 
Hair and how hair is treated and approached is a powerful symbol. The image of a woman’s hair has a long term association with sensuality and sexuality within women. For a woman to wear her hair down, and completely free, long and unadorned through history was to suggest something of loose morality within the woman. There are striking differences in the preparation of the hair between the powerful, independent “wild” women and the much more docile and submissive women. It is interesting to note, that in the images of  La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Nimue, and the nymph of Waterhouse the hair is bond with something of nature, flowers, what appears to be vines or tree branches, and leaves, while in the previous images, it is some much more civil and man made adornment within the hair.
 
This of course only scratches the depths of the symbolism and meaning behind Pre-Raphaelite art, and all that their paintings convey, it is not in the least cut and dry, or black and white. There are other works of art that can be seen as being contradictory to these very ideas, and throw ones attempt at understanding into doubt, but in this we can begin to better grasp their own struggles with trying to comprehend women and how to view women within their world.
 
 
One interesting analogy is to view the paintings of women within The Brotherhood in the same light as the American romantic pastoral paintings, at a time when the west was not yet fully conquered and men were stricken in awe be the vast nature they saw, coming from Europe which by this time has already been civilized, they were filled with a sense of the sublime. Their paintings were then their way of taming the wild frontier of “framing” it so it would be within their control in which they could put some human order to it. Through capturing the images on canvas they dealt with their awe of what they were confronted with. So perhaps it is with the Pre-Raphaelites, they create these larger than life women, who look as if they are about to break free and they cage them within frames where they are frozen without the ability to truly escape. Upon the canvas they work out their own awe for these women. Contain them where they can safely study them.
 
Within their works there is a mix of both admiration and fear. It just may be that during a time in which women were treated little more than children, rarely taken seriously in intellectual pursuits, (and often according to the science of the day, thought too much education would be overtaxing on their minds) and viewed as fragile and delicate creatures, often little more then commodities for displaying their beauty and producing heirs, that the idea of women gaining power and independence could strike such fear within men, is itself a form of respect all of its own.
 
The Pre-Raphaelite’s may not have been great forbears of women’s liberation and may have had their own skewed ideas and perceptions regarding women, but nor would I venture to say they were complete chauvinists, they struggled with societies view of women, and where they themselves fit into the spectrum. In their paintings they try to make sense of their own fears and anxieties, while still showing through an appreciation for the goddess that lives within woman.
 

Evolved

I am taking a break from my usual topics to make a speical announcement.

 I have been published.

This is my book Evolved.  It is a sci-fi/aventure story novella.

It is the adventurous story of a pair of twins, Alleandra and Jay, who have been living within the safety of the Dome all their lives, ever since terrible disease has wiped out the majority of the population. The world outside the Dome has long been feared and believed to still hold traces of the deadly disease, but the restless Jay and dedicated Alleandra venture outside of the Dome into the unknown and undiscovered wilds. Having no idea what to expect, they face unimaginable dangers and must rely on each other’s strength to survive. Together they will uncover a remarkable and shocking secret.

It was released January 21 and is avilbale at.

www.amazon.com

www.barnsandnoble.com

www.bordersstores.com

Just type in my name Amberly Mason, in the keyword search, and the book will come right up.

Paracelsus

His Youth

Auroleus Phillipus Theostratus Bombastus von Hohenheim, immortalized as “Paracelsus,” was born in 1493. He was the son of a well known physician who was described a Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, and it was from him that Paracelsus took his first instruction in medicine. At the age of sixteen, Paracelsus entered the University at Basle where he applied himself to the study of alchemy, surgery, and medicine. With the science of alchemy he was already acquainted, having previously studied the works of Isaac Hollandus. Hollandus’ writing roused in him the ambition to cure disease by medicine superior to those available at that time to use, for apart from his incursions into alchemy, Paracelsus is credited with the introduction of opium and mercury into the arsenal of medicine. His works also indicate an advanced knowledge of the science and principles of magnetism. These are just some of the achievements that seem to justify the praise that has been handed him in the last century. Manly Hall called him “the precursor of chemical pharmacology and therapeutics and the most original medical thinker of the sixteenth century.”

His Travels

The Abbot Trithermius, an adept of a high order, and the instructor of the illustrious Henry Cornelius Agrippa, was responsible for Paracelsus’ initiation into the science of alchemy. In 1516, Paracelsus was still pursuing his research in mineralogy, medicine, surgery, and chemistry under the guidance of Sigismund Fugger, a wealthy physician of the Basle, but the student was forced to leave the city hurriedly after trouble with the authorities over his studies in necromancy. So, Paracelsus started out on a nomad’s life, supporting himself by astrological predictions and occult practices of various kinds.

His wanderings took him through Germany, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Russia. In Russia, he was taken prisoner by the Tartars and brought before the Grand Cham at whose court he became a great favorite. Finally, he accompanied the Cham’s son on an embassy from China to Constantinople, the city in which the supreme secret, the universal dissolvent (the alkahest) was imparted to him by an Arabian adept. For Paracelsus, as Manly Hall has said, gained his knowledge “not from long-coated pedagogues but from dervishes in Constantinople, witches, gypsies, and sorcerers, who invoked spirits and captured the rays of the celestial bodies in dew; of whom it is said that he cured the incurable, gave sight to the blind, cleansed the leper, and even raised the dead, and whose memory could turn aside the plague.”

His Return to Europe

Paracelsus ultimately returned to Europe, passing along the Danube into Italy, where he became an army surgeon. It was here apparently that his wonderful cures began. In 1526, at the age of thirty-two, he re-entered Germany, and at the university he had entered as a youth, took a professorship of physics, medicine, and surgery. This was a position of considerable importance that was offered to him at the insistence of Erasmus and Ecolampidus. Perhaps it was his behavior at this time that eventually led to his nickname “the Luther of physicians,” for in his lectures he was so bold as to denounce as antiquated the revered systems of Galen and his school, whose teachings were held to be so unalterable and inviolable by the authorities of that time that the slightest deviation from their teachings was regarded as nothing short of heretical. As a crowning insult he actually burnt the works of these masters in a brass pan with sulfur and nitre!

The Hermetic Heretic

This high-handed behavior, coupled with his very original ideas, made him countless enemies. The fact that the cures he performed with his mineral medicines justified his teachings merely served further to antagonize the medical faculty, infuriated at their authority and prestige being undermined by the teachings of such a “heretic” and “usurper.” Thus Paracelsus did not long retain his professorship at Basle, but was forced once again to leave the city and take to the road in a wanderer’s life.

During the worse of his second exile, we hear of him in 1526 at Colmar and in 1530 at Nuremburg, once again in conflict with the doctors of medicine, who denounced him as an impostor, although once again, he turned the tables on his opponents by his successful treatment of several bad cases of elephantiasis. which he followed up during the next ten years by a series of cures that were amazing for that period.

In his book Paracelsus, Franz Hartmann says: “He proceeded to Machren, Kaernthen, Krain, and Hungary, and finally to Salzburg in Austria, where he was invited by the Prince Palatine, Duke Ernst of Bavaria, who was a great lover of the secret art of alchemy. But Paracelsus was not destined to enjoy the rest he so richly deserved. He died in 1541, after a short sickness, in a small room at the White Horse Inn, and his body was buried in the graveyard of St. Sebastian. At least one writer has suggested that his death may have been hastened by a scuffle with assassins in the pay of the orthodox medical faculty, but there is no actual foundation for this story.

What is odd is that not one of his biographers seems to have found anything remarkable in the fact that at sixteen years of age, Paracelsus was already well acquainted with alchemical literature. Even allowing for the earlier maturity of a man in those times, he must still have been something of a phenomenon in mental development. Certainly, few of his contemporaries either could or would grasp his teachings, and his consequent irritation and arrogance in the face of their stupidity and obstinacy is scarcely to be wondered at. Although he numbered many enemies among his fellow physicians, Paracelsus also had his disciples, and for them no praise was too high for him. He was worshipped as their noble and beloved alchemical monarch, the “German Hermes.”

Black Mass

 

Although the Black Mass is erroneously associated with witches and witchcraft it does play a distinct part in witchcraft history. During the middle ages and in the midst of the witch-hunt mania witches were accused of participating in these ceremonies. It is doubtful if any, but only a few witches, ever participated in the cerebrations. As it will be shown, the Black Mass was more of a ceremony that attracted the more wealthy and educated dissenters of the Church. The Black Mass has no association with modern Witchcraft because most Neo-Pagan Witches do not believe in the Devil or worshipping him.

There is no set Black Mass ritual, rather the ceremony is a parody on the holy Catholic Mass. One ritual is that it is performed in entirety, or in parts, backwards. The Mass may include inverting the cross, spitting and stepping on the cross, stabbing the host and other obscenities. Urine, supposedly, was at various times substituted for holy water, or for the wine. Sliced pieces of rotted turnips, black leather, or black triangles were substituted for communion bread. Black candles were used instead of white ones. A defrocked generally performed the Black Mass wearing vestments of black or a color of dried blood, and embroidered with inverted crosses, a goat’s head (referring to Baphomet), or magical symbols.

The magical significance of the Black Mass rests in the belief that the Holy Mass involves the miracle of the transubstantiation, that is, the magical or mystical changing of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. If the priest can affect this miracle within the Holy Mass, then, it is reasoned, the priest, or magician, could effect similar magic in other masses for other, usually harmful, purposes. The Catholic Church condemned priests who attempted to subvert the Holy Mass for evil purposes, such as cursing a person to death, as early as the 7th century.

One such famous form of the Black Mass is The Mass of Saint-Secaire, which is said to have originated in the Middle Ages in Gascony. Its purpose was to curse an enemy to death by a slow illness, which wasted him away. Montague Summers renders a colorful description of it in The History of Witchcraft and Demonology.

The origins of the current known versions of the Black Mass date back to the 14th century in France. This was the time when the Church was persecuting heretics.The Knights Templar, in particular, were accused of conducting these Masses and also other blasphemous rites in which they denounced Christ, worshipped idols composed of stuffed human heads, spit on and trampled the cross, and worshipped the Devil in the form of a black cat. Through accusations and trails the order was tumbled, but whether all the accusations were true still remains a mystery to many.

There is recorded the arrest of a French baron, Gilles de Rais, who was accused of conducting Black Masses in the cellar of his castle in order of acquiring riches and power. The accusation claimed that he kidnapped, tortured, and murdered more than 140 children as sacrifices. He was executed in 1440.

The popularity for the celebration of Black Masses seemed to spread during the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1500 the cathedral chapter of Cambrai held Black Masses in protest against their bishop. A priest in Orleans, Gentien le Clerc, tried in 614-1615, confessed to performing the “Devil’s mass” which was followed by drinking, and a wild sexual orgy. In 1647 the nuns of Louviers claimed that they had been bewitched and possessed, and forced by chaplains to participate naked in masses, defiling the cross and trampling the host.

The peak for the Black Mass was reached in the 17th century during the reign of Louis XIV, who was accused of being lenient toward witches and sorcerers. It was the time when the Black Mass was extremely popular among the nobility, who thought its performance was exotic. Also, this was a time when the Church was becoming more stringent. The nobility still enjoyed indulging in the pleasures of life, which they considered sex still to be one of them. The Black Mass was a form of protest too.

It became fashionable to have Black Masses said in dark cellars. The leading organizer of such events was Catherine Deshayes, known as “La Voisin,” who was supposedly a witch that read fortunes and sold love philters. She was able to acquire priests, probably also protesting the Church, to say these blasphemous masses, including the infamous Abbé Guiborg, who wore gold-trimmed and lace-lined vestments and scarlet shoes.

There was reportedly one notorious mass performed for the mistress of Louis XIV, the Marquise de Montespan. Montespan had sought the services of La Voisin to arrange the Black Mass because she thought the king was interested in another woman. While using Montespan as a naked alter, Guiborg said three Black Masses over her, invoking Satan and his demons of lust and deceit, Beelzebub, Asmodeus, and Astaroth, to grant Montespan whatever she desired. Supposedly while incense burned, the throats of children were cut, and their blood drained 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, sticking pieces into her vagina. An orgy followed the ritual. The bodies of the children were later burned in the furnace of La Voisin’s home.

When the scandal broke 246 people were arrested by the king’s order. Among them were some of France’s highest-ranking nobility. They were brought to trial and confessions were gotten by means of torture. Most of the nobility receive jail sentences, or exile to the countryside. The thirty-six commoners were executed, including La Voisin who was burned alive in 1680.

When reviewing the history of the Black Mass it is easily seen why many doubt that a large number of witches participated in them. The Black Mass, on the whole, was more of a protest of churchmen against the Church. The witches, as a group, of the time were already on the out with the Church. Many were desperately trying to save their lives, plus few fitted into the nobility. Perhaps La Voisin was a witch, but if she was, it appears she used her skills to better herself. She, most likely, could not be classified as an ordinary witch.

Nevertheless, none of this was obvious to the witch-hunters and inquisitors. For them the Black Mass only served as another reason to go after witches. Likewise, confessions were tortured from witches that included tales of performing obscene rituals at sabbats such as defiling the cross while the Devil served as the priest. It is uncertain whether such accounts entailed the actual performance of the Black Mass. It is possible that some pagans retained their beliefs in face of the Church’s opposition and did worship another god or the Devil as a way of fighting back. Possibly, they felt they had a friend in the Devil, for they knew they had no friend in the Church.

During the 19th century the Black Mass went into further decline. A London fraternal group call the Hellfire Club, in the latter part of the century, was said to perform a Black Mass regularly to worship the Devil. Although, speculation is that the ritual was little more than sexual escapades with large quantities of alcohol. In 1947, a Black Mass was performed at the graveside of Aleister Crowley, who in life thought himself the Antichrist. When the Church of Satan was founded in 1966, the Black Mass was not included among its rituals because the founder, Anton Szandor LeVey, thought the Black Mass was outmoded.

However, other satanic groups do conduct their versions of the Black Mass that include deviant sexual acts and orgies, necrophilia, cannibalisms of sacrificial victims (including human beings), and drinking the blood of the victims.

A.G.H.

Greetings

Welcome to my den, well this blog is going to be a bit different from the usual, as I am sure you will discover, it shall be a discussion of dark and gothic themes, focusing on histocal cases of “real vampires and werewolvs” Histoical acocunts of Witchcraft and things relating to the subject, and by that I do not mean how it is viwed or praticed today but how it was seen in history. As well as an account of varrious creatures of myth and any other gnereal unusualness I feel like talking about. So I hope you enjoy