Tuesday 2 March 2010

Black Mass

I first came across a full description of the Black Mass on reading The Damned, a novel by Joris-Karl Huysmans, a ninetieth century French novelist, though I heard of it prior to this. The whole thing struck me as laughably silly, like some kind of grotesque pantomime. It is, of course, both a Christian heresy and a Christian fantasy, conceived by priests and practiced by apostates; it has nothing at all to do with witchcraft or paganism.

Performance of the inverted rite be traced no further back than the reign of Louis XIV, and seems to have been constructed on the kind of information that the Inquisition had obtained in earlier ‘confessions’. Literary mention of it is also made by the Marquis de Sade in Justine, in which it is performed by an evil monk. It’s best to take that as a measure of how bizarre and fantastic the whole thing is, what an inversion of reality. It seems only proper that it was de Sade who first gave this practice literary life, for his whole life was a kind of pantomime, a kind of living Black Mass.

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