In 1653, there was a fabulous spectacle which lasted seven nights. It was a series of ballets in Paris which totaled over 15 hours in length. The nobles, ambassadors, and even the bourgeoisie attended this opulent work, orchestrated by the Cardinal Mazarin, whose aim was to glorify the Sun King, Louis XIV, who at the age of 15 was only just beginning his long and magnificent reign as King of France.
Mazarin had employed the greatest artistic minds of France to participate in this event, from composers, dancing masters, and the poetic librettist Isaac de Benserade. This magnum opus consisted of four veilles, or night watches, all of which were oriented towards the culmination at the end–a grand ballet for the rising of the sun, played by the young king himself.
So why am I talking about it here? Because during the third veille (midnight till 3 AM), there is a Sabbat! This ballet has everything from Satan riding in on a goat, a dance-off between Ptolemy and Zoroaster, a choir of witches, flaming demons, and werewolves!
Enjoy this abridged version by Ensemble Correspondances, from 2015. The Sabbat begins at 1:53. The astrologer’s dance is at 1:32.
Still recovering from a little trip to Brooklyn, what a blast. And of course I visited a few museums in my spare time! Here, from the Brooklyn Museum, is Salvatore Albano’s depiction of the Fallen Angels. Interestingly, the base was carved 10 years before the upper figures. This is one of those incredibly eye-catching pieces, one where Lucifer and his company are depicted as utterly seductive and beautiful, though bound and in anguish. This sculpture was, believe it or not, not made for a religious institution but likely for an American tourist (with good taste).
Currently working on some designs for a fashion show I’ve been invited to participate in. I’ve had so much manic energy the past week or so. My thoughts and ideas are just spinning and spinning. It’s been hard to sleep because my brain won’t stop. Despite that, I’ve been receiving some excellent inspiration in my muse-kissed state. I promise to share once it all exists in reality. Here is one of the artists who has been giving me major inspiration-exasperation in the past few days.
Enjoy PNAU’s new music video from their single Solid Gold.
Italian traditional witchcraft, la stregheria, is an amalgamation of centuries of influence from all corners of the Mediterranean. By the Middle Ages, it had been re-planted in the Christian tradition. But its roots are massively ancient–built upon the remnants of the old religio romana, and infused during the days of the empire with elements from Grecian and Egyptian magical systems. I recently came across this clandestine rite intended to transport the magical practitioner to the Italian city of Benevento, known since the 13th century as an infamous gathering place for witches sabbats.
As in other traditions, the crossroads is a typical place where the magician may encounter spirits with whom to do their working. Here he would place offerings to the dead and to the goddess Hecate. Mulled wine and grain, and the meat of a pig respectively. Once offered, the magician summons the goddess and asks that a portal be opened allowing passage between the worlds.
On the ground, he marks out a five-pointed star facing Westward. At each point placing a lit candle, and a skeleton key at the center. Gazing at the key unto the point of trance, gently he blows across each flame three times saying:
Sotto aero e sopra vento
Sotto acqua e sotto vento
Menami la noce Benevento
Then he immediately picks up the key in his left hand, closing his eyes and slowly exhaling. While exhaling, he imagines the star opening as a doorway, allowing himself to enter into and move through the portal. The magician finds himself surrounded by the stars of the night sky, moving through them and flying over the land, the sea and the mountains. He finds a clearing lit by torches, and, exhaling, descends himself to rest near the walnut tree at Benevento. This is the gathering place of the witches who have come to feast and revel with the gods.
The magician, visualizing, sees a banquet table filled with food. Others come to join him. He continues feasting, making merry and observing all the goings-on around him. As torches process away, he sees in the distance an ornate throne sitting at the base of the walnut tree. Upon the throne is seated the Great Sabbatic Goat, the Horned One. The crown of his head is lit with a torch, and this is flanked by two great horns. This is the Lord of Nature, Pan himself. The banqueters gather around the one enthroned to dance, their vigor inflamed by the wine and food. The magician moves himself about, all the while dancing and watching around him as the dancing turns into a Bacchic frenzy.
Suddenly the magician sees a person standing behind the Black Goat, offering a fig to eat. This fig is the symbol of these hidden mysteries. He takes it and eats it, the culmination of this strange communion.
When he has decided the time has come to leave, the magician summons his five-pointed star portal again, and pronounces his enchantment to return:
Sotto aero e sopra vento
Sotto acqua e sotto vento
Portami via da Benevento
Again he perceives the opening of the stellar portal, and, slowly inhaling and lifting his arms aloft, is surrounded by the stars of night, his soul flying swiftly through the air and over the world below. Finally exhaling, his arms slowly lowered to the ground, he opens his eyes to his return back the crossroads from whence he first departed.
“To journey to the walnut tree is to awaken the Primal Conscious, through which the ancient forms reconnect. It is a return to the Old Ones known to our ancestors before the world was reshaped by human minds. In ancient times, the serpent was venerated at the site of the tree. The serpent has always been the revealer of truth, the enlightener, and the guardian of the seed of light. The seed that lies under the protection of the serpent gives way to the grand harvest. Thus are the cakes and wine featured at the Sabbat banquet. For it is here that one comes to know that within, which is of the eternal Gods.” – From To Fly By Night, The Craft of the Hedgewitch
Details of Zuber’s engravings from the 1926 biographical work by Maurice Garçon, La Vie Execrable de Guillemette Babin, Sorciere. These scans are from the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections at the Cornell University Library.
As mentioned the other day, the annual celebration of Walpurgisnacht culminated in a celebration of the Black Mass of Desecration. It is always fascinating when I attempt any historical religious reconstruction, to put myself into the worldview and mindset of the people whose rites we are attempting to revive. Much of the lore around the Black Mass comes from Inquisitors, priests, and witch hunters, but at its core there is an element of historic truth. It is certain that there were midnight feasts and revels which flipped the “natural” order of the Christian world, and that these feasts were a means of social release for both the clergy/aristocracy and for rural peasants. We hold similar feasts in the 21st century, some ancient and some new. While our 16th century Satanic liturgy was performed in the grandest fashion, and with all the pomp, ceremony and sacrilege prescribed in the ritus missae nigrae, something was missing–my fear.
This time, as I left the church with the consecrated host in my care, I did not panic. When I looked at the wafer of lifeless bread, I did not sense the presence of Christ. When I pierced it I felt no remorse, and when I urinated on it I felt no guilt. Last year, the fear was what made this ceremony the most worthwhile. It seems its original intent, which was to undo my religious brainwashing at the hands of the Catholic church, was effective! I have always believed that magic exists primarily in the mind, and the Black Mass of Desecration has shown how ceremony can change the mind of a believer into one of unbelief. May I remain unshackled by hierophantic chains!
Because of this realization, I see no further need to repeat this ritual again, except if others may benefit the same way I have.