Satanists on a roll

Satanists have certainly been busy recently, making their presence felt everywhere. The Harvard Extension School Cultural Studies Club, a student group affiliated with Harvard University, announced its intention to stage a Black Mass conducted by members of the New York Satanic Temple, the same group behind the proposed Oklahoma monument.

What is a Black Mass? Supposedly the ritual is “based on the rites of the Roman Catholic Mass but altered in ways designed to be offensive or satirical”. However, this was not to be a genuine Black Mass but just a re-enactment. What’s the difference?

“While black Masses are supposed to utilize a consecrated host, ours is merely representative of a consecrated host,” Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the temple said in an interview. “It is not consecrated. We neither believe in nor invoke the supernatural.”

However, even this watered down version was too much and after protests the event was said to have been cancelled at the last minute because they could not get permission from any venue to hold it.

Monday’s ceremony was first expected to be held at the Cambridge Queen’s Head Pub and involve a ceremony resembling the Eucharistic Prayer, the most solemn part of the Roman Catholic Mass in which Catholics believe that bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ.

“It’s a declaration of personal independence for the people engaged in it,” the Temple’s spokesman Greaves had said of the ceremony. “The Catholic Church is irrelevant to us. We don’t feel like we’re in direct conflict with them, because they don’t have meaning in our lives.

“We plan to talk about historical academic context,” Greaves added, criticizing religious officials’ “ridiculous, infantile fears that we’re actually going to summon the devil, or their great fears that we’re going to profane their magical bread. We’re not using a consecrated host or anything like that.”

But it turned out that news of the cancellation was premature and although the club withdrew its sponsorship of the event, a Black Mass was held anyway at Hong Kong, a nearby Chinese restaurant.

About 50 people, mostly dressed in black and some wearing face makeup, were present for the ceremony. A consecrated host, believed by Catholics to be the body of Christ, was not used in the ritual.

Four individuals in hoods and one man in a white suit, a cape, and a horned mask were active in the proceedings, as well as a woman revealed to be wearing only lingerie. The ceremony began with a narration on the history underlying Satanism and the black mass ritual.

Needless to say, the Catholic church was not pleased at the event going ahead and they decided to make it into a Mass-off.

After learning of the event that occurred at Hong Kong, Terrence Donilon, secretary of communications for the Archdiocese of Boston, said in an interview around 11:00 p.m. that the Diocese’s position is the same. He said the event is disgraceful and despicable.

The Archdiocese followed through with its plans to host a Eucharistic procession to St. Paul Church, where a “holy hour” will be conducted. Donilon said that he was grateful for the community presence at the event and the presence of University President Drew G. Faust.

The proposed reenactment had received sharp condemnation by the Archdiocese of Boston, the Harvard Chaplains, a group of religious and spiritual leaders on campus, and several student groups.

The Cultural Studies Club praised Harvard University for defending its right to protected student speech but said the widespread negative reaction showed the intolerance of some for the rituals of groups other than mainstream ones.

“While it is unfortunate that many people took personal offense at rituals for which they have little or no understanding of their context, what we find most disturbing have been the demands that the rituals and beliefs of marginalized members of society be silenced,” the club wrote in the emailed statement. “It is gravely upsetting to us that some people feel vindicated on the basis that they have disingenuously mischaracterized our invited guests as being part of a hate group.”

Catholics get highly upset when people do not treat the consecrated ‘host’ (the wafer or bread used in their communion services) with extreme reverence since they believe the act of consecration transforms the wafer into the actual body of Jesus, bizarre as that sounds. Some may recall ‘Wafergate’, the huge fuss that erupted in 2008 when a college student took home the wafer to his dorm and he was likened to a hostage taker and received death threats with people threatening to break into his dorm room and release the ‘hostage’, who was presumably Jesus or some bit of him.

The universe even sent armed guards to the next mass to make sure that no more ‘hostages’ were taken and the diocese sent a nun to stand watch as well. The diocese did not say if the nun was also packing heat, though since this took place in Florida where you are considered practically naked if you are not carrying a gun, the nun may well have had a semi-automatic hidden inside her habit. The issue was resolved when the student returned the wafer to the church.

P. Z. Myers was also involved with that incident since he decided to show solidarity with the student and asked readers to get hold of a consecrated wafer and send it to him so that he too could desecrate it. There was huge uproar with people calling for him to be fired from his job.

Religious people can get very touchy when their sacred rituals are co-opted by other groups for other purposes.


  1. says

    What is a Black Mass? Supposedly the ritual is “based on the rites of the Roman Catholic Mass but altered in ways designed to be offensive or satirical”.

    In other words, a joke that got old, and lost whatever punch it may have had, a long time ago.

    I’m all in favor of religious freedom for all, but this “Black Mass” crap is just plain silly. And, worse still, it only reinforces the Christian lie that everyone who doesn’t worship their God, worships their Devil. We in the Pagan community have been trying to get out of that hole for decades, and along comes a bunch of Harvard wankers to help shove us back into it. That’s not standing up for religious freedom.

    And calling it a “reenactment” only adds another layer of pure bullshit. There is ZERO evidence that “black masses” were regularly held at any time in the history of the Christian world. These Harvard twits are only serving as the latest tools in an old and ongoing propaganda campaign.

  2. Artor says

    Umm, Bee? How is a Satanist ritual supposed to reflect anything on Pagans? As far as I’m concerned, anything that pisses of the RCC is a good thing, but apart from that, I could care less what the Abrahamists do amongst themselves.
    Mano, is “Satanists on a roll” anything like chicken on a biscuit? I would have thought “Satanists on a wafer” would be appropriate.

  3. Mano Singham says


    After I wrote that post title, I realized that the ambiguity would be noted by the sharp-eyed readers of this blog!

  4. says

    How is a Satanist ritual supposed to reflect anything on Pagans?

    Did you not understand my previous explanation? Christian propagandists routinely equate non-Abrahamic religions (and sometimes Jews and Muslims as well) with Devil-worship. So when you pretend to actually worship the Devil, simply to show dissent from Christianity, then you are reinforcing that lie by adopting “Satanism” as a lazy default “alternative” to Christianity.

    As far as I’m concerned, anything that pisses of the RCC is a good thing…

    Even if it reinforces their lies and dumbs down a debate that better people need to win? You’re being really short-sighted here.

    …I could care less what the Abrahamists do amongst themselves.

    In case you haven’t noticed, they’re not doing things “amongst themselves,” they’re doing things TO OTHERS.

  5. says

    To be a satanist must one not also be a christian? So this is really a bun-fight between two sects of christians… I am Jack’s huge surprise.

  6. says

    Marcus: Satan is a purely Abrahamic construct; so if you worship Satan, you’re pretty much accepting the Abrahamic worldview from which you pretend to be dissenting. Sort of like “1984,” where the anti-government Brotherhood turns out to be a puppet of the Thought Police.

  7. John Horstman says

    @Marcus Ranum #5: The Satanist temple in New York (for which Greaves is the spokesperson) is a satirical group like the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. As he said, they don’t actually believe in the supernatural, but they do basically think Satan is the good guy in the Christian myths, what with his supporting human knowledge and agency contra the genocidal Yahweh. There certainly have been (and presumably presently are) Satanists who DO believe in the supernatural, but that is not this particular group.

  8. countryboy says

    The Boston archdiocese calling this disgraceful and despicable ? Pot meet kettle. University President Faust? Really? The hilarity continues.

  9. Endorkened says

    @7 is precisely right, said apparently the only Satanist in earshot.

    There are some theistic Satanists who view the Bible as a distorted version of a real metaphysical history–sort of like a theological version of Wicked. But the majority of us are actually atheists who enjoy trolling Christians–there’s even an Atheism+-like split between LaVeyan Satanists, who are basically Randian Objectivists with fake horns, and more progressive Satanists, like myself, who use Satan as a metaphorical representation of good, humanist values as opposed to the ignorance, darkness, and animal fear personified by Yahweh.

    Of course, I’m an odd bird even by our standards–I didn’t quite mesh with any Satanic groups in the area, so I became the founder, Supreme Illuminated Muckety-Muck, and sole member of my very own ironic cult. So I suppose I should say something ex cathedra on the topic:

    The Antagonistic Order of Prometheus Lucifer vigorously approves of these shenanigans! Let large amounts of metal be played with enormous gravitas! \m/

  10. Endorkened says

    P.S. As for Satan being a sort of Goldstein figure for Yahweh, I actually once drafted a short story with that basic premise.

  11. says

    …and more progressive Satanists, like myself, who use Satan as a metaphorical representation of good, humanist values as opposed to the ignorance, darkness, and animal fear personified by Yahweh.

    You can’t find any better “metaphorical representation of good, humanist values” than the Christians’ made-up boogeyman? And you call yourself “progressive?” That’s fucking ridiculous.

    If you really want a “metaphorical representation of good, humanist values,” you can dump Satan, and go back to the pre-Christian gods that the Christians made into their Devil in the first place. Try Prometheus, Icarus, Thor, Athena, Ogun, Tyr…there’s lots of choices here, if you ever bother to read any actual history or folklore. Why would you go with a “metaphorical representation of good, humanist values” created by the enemies of those values?

  12. Endorkened says

    Why do feminists joke about being misandrist man-haters? Why do atheists crack wise about eating kittens? It’s about messing with the oppressor, not about replacing one form of ridiculous magical thinking for another. Now go find a stump to worship–and don’t pretend you know more about history or religion than I do. That’s fucking ridiculous.

  13. says

    So all you care about is “messing with” someone else? That seems to be all Satanists do — not much in the way of memorable ideas or accomplishments.

  14. busterggi says

    Wait a second, according to such brilliant Christian spokespeople as Sarah Palin, Harvard and all other Ivy League schools practise satanic worship regularly. Why would this one black mass be any different from all their others?

  15. mordred says

    To offer a different pagan viewpoint on Satanism, I personally like the idea of messing with the conservative Christians this way, and I consider the Christian devil a rather interesting symbol to build a criticism of Christianity on.

    What’s the first act of Satan (okay, it was the snake, later retconned into Satan) in Genesis? Giving us knowledge! What are his sins later on? Rebellion against a heavenly tyrant.

    Nonetheless I can understand Bee’s position, I assume you live in the US? Here in Germany Pagans do not have to fight prejudice like that, I only once was called a Satanist by a Christian, and that was a rather liberal one who war more interested in what I believed than in criticizing me. I still laughed at him, I have to admit, the guy was nice but rather stupid.

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