The height of the Black Mass was reached in the late 17th century, during the reign of Louis XIV, who was criticized for his tolerance of witches and sorcerers. It became fashionable among nobility to hire priests to perform erotic Black Masses in dark cellars. The chief organizer of these rites was Catherine Deshayes, known as "La Voisin," said to be a witch who told fortunes and sold love philtres. La Voisin employed a cadre of priests who performed the masses, including the ugly and evil Abbé Guiborg, who wore gold-trimmed and lace-lined vestments and scarlet shoes.
The mistress of Louis XIV, the Marquise de Montes-pan, sought out the services of La Voisin because she feared the king was becoming interested in another woman. Using Montespan as a naked altar, Guiborg said three Black Masses over her, invoking Satan and his demons of lust and deceit, Beelzebub, Asmodeus and Astaroth, to grant whatever Montespan desired. It was said that while incense burned, the throats of children were slit and their blood poured 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 and inserted pieces in her vagina. The ritual was followed by an orgy. The bodies of the children were later burned in a furnace in La Voisin's house.
When the scandal of the Black Masses broke, Louis arrested 246 men and women, many of them among France's highest-ranking nobles, and brought them to trial. Confessions were made under torture. Most of the nobility got off with jail sentences and exile in the countryside. Thirty-six of the commoners were executed, including La Voisin, who was burned alive in 1680.
The Black Mass was a decadent fashion into the 19th century, when it began to wane. The Hellfire Club, a fraternal group in London in the late 19th century, was said to perform a Black Mass regularly in worship of the Devil, though it is likely that the rites were little more than sexual escapades with liberal quantities of alcohol. In 1947 a Black Mass was performed at the graveside of ALEisTER Crowley. When the Church of Satan was founded in 1966, a Black Mass was not included among the rituals; it was the opinion of the church's founder, Anton Szandor LaVey, that the Black Mass was outmoded. Nevertheless, Church of Satan and other satanic groups perform their own versions of Black Masses.
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