The Satanic Mass – H.T.F. Rhodes

Arrow – 1964

Arrow – 1973

Through an unfortunate postal error, I ended up with two copies of this little gem. I came across the title in the bibliography of Richard Cavendish’s Black Arts, and I knew that I had to read it. I’m glad I did; it’s really not as trashy as it looks.

Rhodes seems convinced that the heretical Cathars have been almost entirely responsible for all varieties of Satanic worship since their untimely end in the early 14th century. He portrays the Cathars as neo-Gnostics who renounced the physical world and the Demiurge that had created it. The Cathars supposedly believed that the Catholic church was worshiping this evil creator God, and hence saw any inversion of Catholic ritual as a positive form of worship of the true God.

Rhodes maintains that most Satanism is rooted in Christian dualism. This basically means that devil worshipers only worship the devil because they think that God is the evil one, and anything that goes against this bad God’s wishes must therefore be good. And sure, what other reasons could a person have for turning to Satan? A few dolts aside, I doubt there’s many people who get involved in Satanism solely through their desire to do evil.

What’s interesting about Rhodes hypothesis is that he pinpoints a specific movement and tentatively links their practices with the charges brought against the Templars, witches, Sabbat attendees and dodgy French aristocrats. One of the less convincing, but very interesting arguments he makes is that the alleged homosexuality of the Templars and later heretics had its roots in the Cathar practice of ejaculating into anything other than vaginas. The Cathars preached that sex was evil because it brought forth more souls into the material world. Abstinence may have been their goal, but they were realists. They understood the physical need to ejaculate, and they supposedly preached that it was better to be a sodomite or an onanist than to risk reproducing. Apparently their homosexual compromise was to become institutionalized in later Satanic movements.

Well, at least he’s being creative.

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If I were to judge this book by its cover, it would get a 10/10.

My biggest complaint about this book is that Rhodes presumes his reader has a solid understanding of all of the stuff he’s talking about. He introduces obscure characters and events from history and presumes that the reader is familiar with them. I would recommend checking out Huysman’s Là Bas  and the wikipedia articles on the affair of the poisons and the Taxil hoax before picking this one up.

There are some really cool parts in here. I was particularly interested in the account of the mass of Saint-Sécaire.  A mass “murderous in intention. The victim against whom its malevolence is directed is supposed to wither away and die of the mysterious St. Secaires sickness which no physician can cure.” Apparently there is no St. Secaire on record, and it seems rather uncertain where the origins of this legend come from. I’ve also come across mentions of this suspicious ceremony in Summer’s History of Witchcraft and Demonology, and apparently Aleister Crowley wrote a short story about it too.

I cannot deny that I laughed heartily when reading the details of the ancient and esoteric ‘ritual of the faggot’. The spell spoken during this ritual, which is used to gain control of another individual, contains the line; ” In the name of all demons, depart, faggot”. Imagine the accusations of hate-speech that could be made if a  modern day magician was overheard attempting this ritual from inside their garage.

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Doesn’t that make you want to read this book?

One final thing that I found very interesting was a biblical quotation on the title page book. It says:
‘Get thee abacko me owld scrat.’
Luke iv, 8 (dialect version)
The King James version of this line from Luke 4:8 is:Get thee behind me, Satan
I can’t find information on the dialect version mentioned in the text. I don’t know if it was an actual text, a joke, or something else. Either way, I would love to read more scripture in that dialect.

I would imagine that a more academic book on Satanic ritual would probably be quite dull.  This one has a nice balance of objectivity and goat worship. Rhode’s claims aren’t all believable, but they are worth thinking about. He rarely discusses the rationality or morality of the practices and beliefs of the Satanists, and he tries neither to polish nor to tarnish their already squalid reputation. The links between some of the sections are a bit weak, and in honesty, the last chapter is extremely dry, but overall there is more good than bad. Plus, the 1964 edition is worth owning just for the cover! (I reckon the more-boring later version was redesigned to look  like the Satanic Bible.) I’ll give it 7/10 and recommend this book to anyone interesting in Satanism.

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