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The Occult Revival: A Substitute Faith

26 minute read

It is Saturday night. A young Army officer and his wife welcome a small group of people to their comfortable split-level home, which stands amid the tidy landscaping of a housing development in Louisville. The guests — most of them dressed neatly in sports clothes — include a computer programmer, a store clerk, a dog trainer and a psychology major from the nearby University of Louisville. They all troop downstairs to a vinyl-floored recreation room.

Is this a bridge party? A committee meeting for a charity drive? Hardly. The hour is midnight. On the front door of the house is an orange emblem showing black pitchforks. Downstairs, the party is gathered solemnly before a black -draped altar. Facing them, on the wall, is a chartreuse goat-image superimposed on a purple pentagram. “To night there is one among us elected to the priesthood of Mendes,” intones one of the men. “Satan, thou hast seen fit to charge Warlock Shai with thy priesthood on earth … the deification of the human race.” Reciting an ordination rite first in Latin and then in English, the speaker taps a second man on each shoulder with a sword. Someone pours flash powder on the sterno altar flame and whoosh! Fire leaps toward the ceiling.

This recent scene — and many a similarly bizarre one — is being re-enacted all across the U.S. nowadays. In Oakland, Calif., when the moon is full, a group of college-educated people gather in a house in a middle-class neighborhood, remove their clothes, and whirl through the double spiral of a witches’ dance. In southern New Jersey, a 30-year-old receptionist winds thread around a voodoo doll and sticks steel pins into it in a determined effort to harass a rival at the office into resigning. In Chicago, from 75 to 100 otherwise ordinary people — mostly professionals, such as office managers, nurses, social workers and chemists — meet weekly in The Temple of the Pagan Way to take instruction in ancient witchcraft and ceremonial magic from a high priest and priestess.

Crystal Balls. A wave of fascination with the occult is noticeable throughout the country. It first became apparent a few years ago in the astrology boom, which continues. But today it also extends all the way from Satanism and witchcraft to the edges of science, as in Astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s experiment in extrasensory perception from aboard Apollo 14. In this area, serious researchers in the field of parapsychology are increasingly interacting with devotees of such claimed occult gifts as prophecy and telepathy to probe the powers of the human mind. Indeed, the very word occult—denoting hidden knowledge, secret arts or unexplainable phenomena—is no longer fully appropriate. While some practitioners still jealously guard their secrets, much of what once seemed occult has long since emerged from underground.

A good deal of the activity focuses around occult bookshops, which often offer subsidiary courses and services as well. One of the busiest is the Metaphysical Center in San Francisco. Its book department sells out 65% of its $25,000 stock every month. The center also presents tarot-card readings, daylong crash courses in palmistry (at $25 each), reincarnation workshops, and classes in astral projections, numerology and the esoteric Hebrew mystical system, the cabala. There is even a gift shop that sells ritual robes, amulets, special incense made from herbs, and crystal balls (large size, $25; small, $16.50).

Conventional bookshops have felt the impact too. In Manhattan’s courtly old Scribner Book Store on Fifth Avenue, books on the occult have completely taken over a counter that was once reserved for more traditional religious books (theological, inspirational and other churchly volumes are now relegated to a side bookcase).

Major publishers have issued dozens of hard-cover books on the occult and the related field of parapsychology in the past year. William Blatty’s novel The Exorcist has been on the bestseller list for 52 weeks. The 1968 movie Rosemary’s Baby—still the most terrifying of the lot—has spawned a series of occult successors, including, currently, The Possession of Joel Delaney and The Other. But the interest goes beyond books and movies: a growing number of colleges across the U.S. are offering courses on aspects of the occult.

New Alchemy. In a commercial sense, occultists seem to have discovered what alchemists sought for centuries: the ability to turn base materials into gold. The field even has its own monthly magazine, the Occult Trade Journal. Among the “marketing” reports that appeared in one recent issue is an article about Pan Am’s new $629 “Psychic Tour” of Great Britain, including a visit to a psychic healing center, a seance, and a day at Stonehenge with the chief of Britain’s Most Ancient Order of Druids. Each tourist receives his own astro-numerology chart, and flight dates are astrologically plotted to be favorable.

A trip to Europe—especially Great Britain—would be right in keeping with the current boom. England is experiencing such a resurgence of witchcraft and other occult dabbling that an ecumenical commission of Anglicans and Roman Catholics recently recommended that each diocese appoint an official exorcist to drive out demons. In France, a popular seer named Madame Soleil gives weekday advice on radio, and rumors say that Black Masses are being performed in Paris and Lyons.

German Journalist Horst Knaut estimates that at least 3,000,000 West Germans subscribe to some form of the occult, and perhaps 7,000,000 more “sympathize with the secret sciences.” Staid Switzerland abounds with oddball sects, including one in which a supposedly “possessed” girl was tortured to death a few years ago. In Italy, it is not so much the quantity as the quality of occultism that has changed. Long a part of Italy’s superstitious southern peasant culture, occultism has moved north to the industrialists, the doctors and lawyers of the affluent upper class.

Author Owen Rachleff (The Occult Conceit), who teaches a course called Witchcraft, Magic and Astrology at New York University, takes a dim view of the whole movement. “Most occultniks,” says Rachleff, “are either frauds of the intellectual and/or financial variety, or disturbed individuals who frequently mistake psychosis for psychic phenomena.” Yet for all its trivial manifestations in tea-leaf readings and ritual gewgaws, for all the outright nuts and charlatans it attracts, occultism cannot be dismissed as mere fakery or faddishness. Clearly, it is born of a religious impulse and in many cases it becomes in effect a substitute faith.

Much of the occult, after all, is man’s feeble attempt to become godlike, to master the world around him. It is, in short, magic, the earliest of man’s religious responses. The world’s oldest art works, the primitive animal paintings in the cave at Lascaux in southwestern France, for example, were Stone Age man’s magical invocation of success in the hunt. The astrology so many millions follow today is a direct legacy from the astronomer priests of Babylonia. Even when Christianity spread through Europe, many in the countryside kept their rustic rites along with the new religion. (“Pagan” stems from the Latin paganus meaning “country dweller” and “heathen” from “dweller on the heath.”) For centuries, magical arts and Christianity lived in uneasy coexistence, as they still do in Latin American countries. But then, out of ancient lore and the minds of medieval churchmen, came the Devil.

Winged Creature. He was not a Christian invention. One of his most persistent forms in the popular imagination—the horned, winged creature with claws—dates at least as far back as ancient Mesopotamia, where it was the image of Pazuzu, the malaria-bearing demon of the southwest wind, the “king of the evil spirits of the air.” In the Old Testament the Devil was satan, the Hebrew word for adversary, as in the Book of Job. Throughout the Old Testament, he remains clearly subject to the wrath and will of Yahweh. But the New Testament began to give the Devil stature, especially with Jesus’ temptation in the desert, when the Devil offered him all the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4: 8-9).

By the time the early church fathers were compiling a theology of the Devil, the mystery religion of Gnosticism was on the scene, proclaiming that the world and all material things in it were irredeemably evil. Taking up the Gnostics’ bias, the fathers often wrote as if Satan really were the ruler of the world, or at least its viceroy.

Meantime, an entire mythology of the origin of devils arose. One story, based largely on a nonbiblical narrative known as the Book of Enoch (and brief mentions in Genesis and the epistles of Jude and II Peter), told of an angelic race of “Watchers,” who were tempted to have intercourse with terrestrial women, and sired a race of giants. The giants died in internecine battle, but their bodies gave forth demonic spirits that prowled the world doing evil.

It took centuries more for the church to condemn witchcraft and magic as exclusive tools of the Devil; persecution did not begin in earnest until the 13th century. By then much of the residual paganism had died out, and at least some of the witchcraft and magic had turned more sinister. The spirits now invoked for aid were demons; the pact was with the Devil. So at least the Dominican inquisitors saw it, and so many suspects admitted.

Corrupt Priest. Some of the confessions must have been sheer defiance: faced with a ruling establishment that was sanctified by the church, a resentful peasantry followed the only image of rebellion they knew—Satan. The satanic messiah became especially appealing in times of despair, such as the era of the plague known as the Black Death. Real or imagined, the pact with the Devil may have been the last bad hope for safety in a world fallen out of joint. Thousands died in the persecution, many of them probably guilty only of delusion. Even benevolent magic was swept away in the purges: the “good walkers” of Friuli in the 16th century believed that their spirits rose from their bodies as they slept and went out into the fields to do battle with evil forces. Despite their good intentions, they were categorized as witches and condemned by the church.

Others were not so guiltless. A peak of sulfur-and-brimstone intensity was reached by the Satanists of 17th century France, who were rooted out by a secret court under Louis XIV. A famous case of that day involved a series of demonic rituals commissioned by a mistress of Louis who felt that she was falling out of favor. To regain the monarch’s love, she had a corrupt priest say sacrilegious Masses *over her nude body in a subterranean Paris chamber, sacrificing a live child at the height of each Mass.

Despite such malevolent connections, Satan remained a temptingly attractive figure. Milton made him such a hero that next to him Christ looked almost pallid. Faust’s fiendish friend, Mephistopheles, is one of literature’s great protagonists. It is no new thing for the Rolling Stones to conjure up Sympathy for the Devil. He had it long ago, even from so famous a church father as Origen, who speculated that Satan and his fallen angels would be saved at the end of time.

Even the Enlightenment did not do the Devil in. Just as ancient Romans flocked to mystery cults in the days of religious and political decay, so do more modern men seek out the occult in times of stress or excessive pragmatism. The Victorian period saw one such flowering, the 1920s another. Now an occult revival has come to the space age.

Despite the bewildering variety of fads and fascinations involved in it, there are roughly four main categories, and Lucifer still has his place:

SATANISM. “Blessed are the strong, for they shall possess the earth. If a man smite you on one cheek, SMASH him on the other!” This inverted gospel —from Anton Szandor La Vey’s The Satanic Bible—sets the tone for today’s leading brand of Satanism, the San Francisco-based Church of Satan. Founded in 1966 by La Vey, a former circus animal trainer, the Church of Satan offers a mirror image of most of the beliefs and ethics of traditional Christianity.

La Vey’s church and its branches might well be called the “unitarian” wing of the occult. The members invest themselves with some of the most flamboyant trappings of occultism, but magic for them is mostly psychodrama —or plain old carnival hokum. They invoke Satan not as a supernatural being, but as a symbol of man’s self-gratifying ego, which is what they really worship. They look down on those who actually believe in the supernatural, evil or otherwise.

La Vey’s church is organized, incorporated and protected under the laws of California. La Vey, 42, stopped giving out membership figures when his followers, who are grouped in local “grottoes,” reached a total of 10,000. The most striking thing about the members of the Church of Satan (one of whom is shown on TIME’S cover) is that instead of being exotic, they are almost banal in their normality. Their most insidious contribution to evil is their resolute commitment to man’s animal nature, stripped of any spiritual dimension or thought of self-sacrifice. There is no reach, in Browning’s famous terms —only grasp. Under the guise of eschewing hypocrisy, they actively pursue the materialistic values of the affluent society—without any twinge of conscience to suggest there might be something more.

They jockey for upward mobility in the five degrees of church membership, which closely resemble those in witchcraft covens: apprentice, warlock (or witch), wizard (or enchantress), sorcerer (or sorceress) and magus—the degree that La Vey holds. The ruling Council of Nine, which La Vey heads, makes appointments to various ranks on the basis not only of the candidate’s proficiency in Satanist doctrine but also his “dining preferences,” the “style of decor” in his home, and the “make, year and condition” of his automobile.

The Army officer who celebrated the recent ordination in Louisville is a fourth-degree Satanist priest, a memmber of the Council of Nine and editor of La Vey’s “confidential” newsletter, the Cloven Hoof. He is also the author of a widely used ROTC textbook. Other La Vey Satanists include a Marine Corps N.C.O. from North Carolina and, in New Jersey’s Lilith Grotto, a real estate broker and an insurance executive. Beyond such devotees, La Vey’s sinister balderdash reaches hundreds of thousands more through the black gospel of The Satanic Bible and his second book, The Compleat Witch, in which his advice reaches the downright sordid.

Besides La Vey’s well-publicized group, there are some quasi-Satanists in the public eye. The Process Church of the Final Judgment (TIME, Sept. 6) includes Satan in its Godhead along with Christ, Jehovah and Lucifer (who is seen as a separate divinity), though it has been playing down Satan lately and emphasizing Christ. But the darker, more malevolent Satanists give only rare and tantalizing hints of their existence, and none at all of their numbers —probably for good reason. Sociologist Marcello Truzzi of Florida’s New College at Sarasota observes that one variety of this underground Satanism consists primarily of sex clubs that embellish their orgies with Satanist rituals. A larger variety, he says, are the drug-oriented cults, whose members improvise their Satanism as they go along.

The most famous of such groups, so far, is the Charles Manson “family,” but now and again other grisly items in the news reveal the breed. In New York this spring, police were searching for possible Devil worshipers in a grave-robbery incident. In Miami last summer, a 22-year-old woman Satanist killed a 62-year-old friend, stabbing him 46 times. Convicted of manslaughter, she drew a seven-year sentence, thanked Satan for her light penalty, and said that she had “enjoyed” the killing. In April she escaped from prison, and has not been recaptured.

WITCHCRAFT. In 1921, British Anthropologist Margaret Murray advanced the theory that witchcraft was basically a vestige of the nature worship of Europe’s pagan days. Scholars have challenged her theory, but many of today’s “white witches” take her suggestion and imitate pagan ways rather than satanic witchcraft. Generally, white witches derive their presumed power from beneficent forces of nature and use it in an effort to heal, resolve disputes and achieve good for others. Such benevolent magic may also include defensive spells against the maledictions of black witches. The black witches invoke power from the darker forces of nature—or Satan—and generally employ their magic for themselves, either in an attempt to acquire something or to cast a malicious spell on an enemy.

America’s most famous witch, Sybil Leek, lives comfortably today in Florida, “practically a millionaire,” she says, from sales of her books. She takes pride in being a hereditary witch whose lineage, she says, goes all the way back to 1134. Redhaired, with deep-set blue-green eyes, Sybil at 48 still looks her part. Like many another witch, she prefers to call her craft by the Anglo-Saxon name of wicca, which is thought to have referred to a kind of early medieval medicine man. She admits that witchcraft is power and bemoans the fact that in America “power leads to corruption. People wish to use witchcraft to personal advantage. [In] pure witchcraft, the life force is all important. Satanism is death. Wicca is a religion designed to preserve life.”

Aidan Kelly’s San Francisco Bay area coven seems more designed to celebrate life. Kelly, 31, a former Roman Catholic who is a manuscript editor of physics textbooks, generally follows a variety of witchcraft called Gardnerian, after a retired British customs official, Gerald Gardner, who formulated it in England in the 1940s. Gardnerian witchcraft is what Occult Debunker Owen Rachleff calls “library witchcraft”: it seems to have been largely concocted from books, perhaps combined with some rudimentary witchcraft practices of existing covens in the Hampshire hills. Kelly himself is one of the founders of a Gardnerian spin-off called the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn, and has rewritten many of Gardner’s rituals and created new ones of his own.

The main ritual is conducted every month when the moon is full. If the ceremony is indoors, it is conducted “sky-clad”—in the nude. It begins with a dance, men and women rotating in a circle facing out. “Thout-tout-a-tout-tout,” they sing, “throughout and about.” The men put their weight only on the toes of their left feet, which gives them a hobbling gait. At a certain moment, the priestess breaks free and guides the others inward in a spiral. When she gets to the center, she kisses the man next to her and begins to unwind the spiral. Each woman then kisses each man, and the spiral opens up into a circle again.

The double-spiral dance, claims Kelly, is a 6,000-year-old symbol of reincarnation, which the witches ardently believe in. Costume, obviously, is minimal: a white waist cord for first-degree witches, a red cord for second degree, and a magic knife called an othame. So far, not even Kelly has felt prepared to go for the highest degree, the green garter. Among other things, it involves a milder version of what Gardner called the “Great Rite,” an act of ritual sexual intercourse. “Nobody in our coven,” says Kelly, “has felt ready to take it.”

PROPHECY. Power, the occultists and their critics agree, is at the core of the occult quest for self-realization. Time and again, converts from traditional religions relate how they resented being told what to do by their priests or ministers, how the occult gives them freedom to do what they want, seek what they want. In Christianity the Gospel message is submission to God; in the occult the ruling motive is control. One anxiety the occultists share with the rest of mankind is about the future. They want to know it, and many of them believe that they can glimpse it.

Astrology has long been the favorite method for divining the future, but many new occultists these days combine their interest in astrology with other ancient methods of divination. The I Ching, the ancient Chinese Book of Changes, provides one of them—an elaborate and complicated casting of sticks (or in another variation, coins). Their random order of fall directs the inquirer to appropriate passages in the book, which then guide his actions. Tarot cards are another favorite. The standard tarot deck has 78 cards, 56 of the “minor arcana,” similar to and forerunners of modern playing cards, and 22 “major arcana” cards depicting such mystical symbols as The Devil, The Fool, The Lovers and The Hanged Man, each of which has many interpretations. The tarots can be laid out in several ways to tell fortunes and interpret character; one method sets them in the form of a cross, another in an outline of a “tree of life.”

The most dramatic prophecies are made by individual psychics who claim the ability to foresee the future. The 16th century physician and astrologer Nostradamus is perhaps the most famous of all time. Nostradamus knew the trick: his writings were cryptic, and interpreters can read any number of different predictions into a single passage. Modern seers like Jeane Dixon are also generally vague, and they bolster their visions by keeping an observant eye on human nature and events. Sybil Leek, for instance, predicted the likelihood of an assassination attempt on Presidential Candidate George Wallace—but many thoughtful and apprehensive laymen could have done the same.

The best-known modern seer is undoubtedly the late Edgar Cayce, a devout Protestant, who made his predictions in a sleep-like trance. His long-range prognostications, such as the imminent rise of the lost continent of Atlantis and another in the Pacific called Lemuria, have become cult favorites, but Cayce in fact had many misses in his predictions. What gave him his credibility was a more limited but very special talent, the ability to diagnose illnesses of persons many miles away. Many Americans —most, the optimistic would say —still find the craze for prophecy foolish and even bankrupt. Others may enjoy the predictions for what many of them are—a parlor entertainment. But millions, obviously, need reassurance about the future.

SPIRITUALISM. Spiritualists are often categorized merely as mediums to contact the “other side,” as holders of seances to call up some departed spirit. In fact, that is only one of their functions. General practitioners of the occult, spiritualists often spend as much or more time healing and counseling as they do holding séances.

The art of spiritual healing is a gift frequently mentioned in the New Testament in connection with Jesus. Many a saint has since established his credentials with healing miracles, and many an evangelical preacher—and occultist—still tries. One such is the Rev. Bonnie Gehman, 32, an attractive woman who heads her own Spiritual Research Society in Orlando, Fla. Founded two years ago, S.R.S. offers religious services, training for mediums and healers, and healing services that evoke the style and flavor of Christian Healer Kathryn Kuhlman (TIME, Sept. 14, 1970).

At least a quarter of the Rev. Geh-man’s work is in health readings for those who seek her help in detecting illness; several reputable doctors in the area bring patients to her for diagnostic clues. Her information, in true spiritualist tradition, comes from “spirit guides,” friendly sources on the “spirit side” who offer secret information to the “earth plane.” On Sundays, standing in a pink chiffon dress in her pulpit, Bonnie will call out, “I want to talk to the lady in the pretty white dress. Those on the spirit side tell me to pass on to you a message not to worry about your lower back.” To another woman: “Your husband has applied for a new job. They tell me it will be a choice of two things. Everything will be all right.”

No skeptic has proven spiritualism to be valid, but there is a residue of the unexplained in these claimed psychic events, some occurrences that seem to defy the laws of chance or mere coincidence. It is just such phenomena that are currently being investigated by parapsychologists under the general heading of ESP, extrasensory perception: telepathy, communication from one mind to another without normal means; precognition, the prediction of future events; clairvoyance, the power to discern objects not present to the senses; and psychokinesis, the movement of material objects with the mind. While investigations go on, though, such gifts pose a problem for Christians. The Old Testament expressly forbids soothsaying; but the prophets’ sort of future prediction was an obvious exception. The New Testament phenomenon of spiritual prophecy among early Christians was seen as a gift of the Holy Spirit —although Christians are warned to discern “good” spirits from bad.

Demonic Dangers. At least some clergymen have chosen the path of investigation. The late Episcopal Bishop James A. Pike was probably the most enthusiastic—and for more orthodox Christians, embarrassing—investigator, claiming to have communicated with his dead son with the aid of the minister-medium the Rev. Arthur Ford. Ford and other, somewhat less flamboyant Protestant ministers had even earlier formed a group known as the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship to open a bridge between traditional Christianity and the occult. For evangelicals and fundamentalists, on the other hand, nearly every aspect of the occult still remains a demonic danger, from ouija-board prophecy to the evocation of a personal and malevolent Satan. Some fundamental ists even attribute every non-Christian spiritual movement to the inspiration of demons.

Whether as a threat or a promise —or as an object lesson—occultism is a phenomenon with which a growing number of churchmen realize that they must come to terms. One who sees it from a particularly revealing angle is the Rev. Festo Kivengere, an Anglican evangelist in Uganda who has been on a speaking tour of the U.S. Kivengere, who was raised as an animist, discerns in occultism “a trend toward the kind of religion that most of my people were converted from.”

Though his family worshiped the “Great God,” he says, they sought the aid of spirits to prevent “catastrophes that were beyond our control.” He senses a similar need in the West today —”something on which you can lean in this complicated life. There is a profound disappointment in the things that people put their trust in. Whatever his material welfare, man is threatened with non-being.”

Philosopher Huston Smith of Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of many authorities who see the occult revival as a response to the failure of science and reason, a movement spurred by the conviction that technology has failed to make the world better, as Americans long believed it would. Dean J. Stillson Judah of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley suggests that today’s young people “cannot live as so many of us do, without the depth of myth and symbol and the richness of mysticism that existed before the rise of the empirical scientific attitude.”

In his 1970 book What About Horoscopes? Evangelical Author-Editor Joseph Bayly lays much of the blame at the door of traditional Christianity. “Another age might have turned to the church in its anxiety and desire for a mystical element in life,” writes Bayly. “But to many people, today’s church seems impotent because it is identified with the problems it should be solving. They see the church as a mere authenticator of the Establishment. The individual is a unit to be counted in large church meetings, his money rung up, just as he is counted by business, university and government for their purposes. Beauty’s holiness, or holiness’s beauty, fades before pragmatism and expediency. But the desire for mystery will be satisfied.”

Magician Playmate. Mixed with the desire for mystery, though, is undoubtedly a desire for mere novelty. Jesuit Theologian John Navone of Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, who held a “Devil Day” at the Gregorian recently to discuss the theology of the Devil, so far is not seriously alarmed by the recrudescence of Satanism. In modern Devil cults, he argues, the Devil “is more often a type of magician playmate, the product of a Playboy culture rather than the malign personal being found in Scripture. These cults tend to use the Devil for a type of arcane amusement, whereas the unamusing Devil that appears in Scripture manages to use men for his dark purposes.”

Sociologist Truzzi argues somewhat similarly in a recent issue of the Sociological Quarterly. “If we fully believed in demons,” Truzzi writes, “we certainly would not want to call them up.” For most occultists, he says, the occult arts and practices are just a form of “pop religion,” more healthy than dangerous. “It shows a playful contempt for what was once viewed seriously by many, and still is by some.” Mass interest in the occult indicates “a kind of victory over the supernatural, a demystification of what were once fearful and threatening cultural elements. What were once dark secrets known only through initiation into arcane orders are now exposed to everyman.”

There is a danger, of course, in taking the Devil too lightly, for in doing so man might take evil too lightly as well. Recent history has shown terrifyingly enough that the demonic lies barely beneath the surface, ready to catch men unawares with new and more horrible manifestations. But the Devil taken too seriously can become the ultimate scapegoat, the excuse for the world’s evils and the justification for men’s failure to improve themselves.

Perhaps the ideal solution would be to give the Devil his due, whether as a symbolic reminder of evil or a real force to be conquered—but to separate him, once and for all, from “magic.” Beyond all the charlatanism, there is a genuine realm of magic, a yet undiscovered territory between man and his universe. Perhaps it can once more be accepted as a legitimate pursuit of knowledge, no longer hedged in by bell, book and candle. Perhaps, eventually, religion, science and magic could come mutually to respect and supplement one another. That is a fond vision, and one that is pinned to a fragile and perpetually unprovable faith: that the universe itself is a whole, with purpose and promise beneath the mystery.

* Authorities are divided on what constituted a Black Mass and how many there ever were. Some sacrilegious Masses were merely ordinary Masses offered for evil intentions. Others may have involved the profaning of a consecrated host, the saying of inverted prayers, the use of crosses upside down and a nude woman on the altar. Some of the worst profanations were probably the exaggerations of church inquisitors, fantasied in their horror of Satanism. If so, such later devotees of the wicked as the Marquis de Sade and England’s 18th century Hell-Fire clubs simply took their cues from the inquisitors.

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