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The origins of the Black Mass are shrouded in the mists of history, but very likely date from the 12th century or later. Satan, as a demiurge, was comparatively late on the scene in Christian mythology -- his initial duty was as God's DA, whose job it was to report the evil deeds of humanity. Also, the Mass was not made fixed until at least the tenth century.

The first "variant" Mass we know of was originally conceived in the spirit, not of scorn, but of pious celebration -- The Feast of the Ass. This celebration was traditionally held on or around January 1st (which was not then the beginning of the civil year), and was nominally a celebration of the donkey that carried Mary to Bethlehem and to Egypt. In monasteries, it was celebrated with some of the rituals of Boxing Day today: the novices got the run of the monastery, which was given over to drinking, feasting, and various kinds of fun.

The day would begin at nine in the morning, when most of the monks would have had a full three or four hours of extra sleep. After a rousing prayer service (sung to the contemporary equivalent of the "Thong Song" and "Because I Got High") the monks would eat -- either dinner (which was repeated three times) or supper (with dinner at noon and breakfast food at night). The lectionary would be a nonsensical story, composed for the day, a comical fable, a story by a pagan author, or outright pornography, read with feeling and drama -- as you might imagine, applause and comments were warmly encouraged! The rest of the day would be taken up with similar reversals, parodies, or other pranks, under the direction of a pro-tem Abbot, who would decree as many nonsensical regulations as he could devise. Monks might be told to walk backwards, with sandals on their heads, to wear habits inside out or not at all, to speak without stopping, only in rhyme, or to sing when they should speak, and speak when they should sing, and quite naturally, to goof off, and to eat and drink their fill of the abbey's cellars and larder.

The highlight of the day was the Mass, celebrated near the end of the day's festivities, an event planned for with all the deviousness of overworked geeky young men in any era. Shoes might be burned in the censer, with the crucifix upside down. The whole text might be said backwards, with brandy in the chalice and a Host of cake, or other sweetmeats, and responses to the Collects might be well-nigh unprintable. Finally, with a last toast, the novices would go back to their dormitory, to rise again (with muzzy heads) at five the next morning.

It was a charming ritual, the memory of which helped leaven the days when nothing seemed to be going right. Eventually, abuses crept in, and the whole matter simply forgotten, if not for a growing problem.

Witches. And heretics. (Same difference, legally.) Folk rumor had it that they had Masses, priests, and even popes of their own. And they did...well, terrible things. Instead of elevating the Host, they whispered, they put it in a woman's...oh, the shame! Or they pissed on it, trampled it...They spat on crosses, they did. They had a pregnant whore dressed in a wimple and veils, who'd have sex, right out in the open! And for the most festive occasions...there'd be...babies.

Women, who'd conceived at previous orgies, would abort for the ceremony, and the fetus liquified in the chalice, or a baby would be snatched, and killed and eaten as a Host. Yes..yes...it's all true, I swear!

This last was taken, ironically enough, from an account of the early Christians given by Minicus Felix, a pagan Roman writer, whose lurid recountings of Christian ritual became transferred, first to the mystical Gnostics and then, to the apostates we know as the historical witches. Further rumor had it that a Black Mass could work miracles, especially if the object were something ... un-Christian, like seduction, wealth or revenge.

In this way, we come to the fable of La Voisin, hairdresser to Mme. de Maintenon, mistress to Louis XIV of France. Seems like Louis was getting bored with Madame, who feared losing him to a younger and more lively replacement. Confiding in La Voisin, all sorts of strategems were tried...new hairstyles, exotic sexual techniques...none made a whit of difference. Maybe you could arrange...no, I don't want to even think it...um...
--A Black Mass, Madame?
--Why, yes...

An unfrocked priest was found, for a little money. An inconveniently pregnant peasant girl was found for even less. A ceremony was hastily arranged, at Midnight on the grounds of Versailles, using the priest's memory of an Ass Feast in semanary. The year was 1664. Madame, and her courtiers assembled.

The girl aborted, right on cue, and Madame gagged down the fetal tissue in a foreshadowing of cell therapy. It was a rousing success. Madame moved with supreme self-confidence once more, and with that, managed to have quite the night with the King...

By request, La Voisin was called upon to repeat the performance often in the next four years, and the whole psychodrama became a sophisticated entertainment for a certain set, who thrilled at the thought of being present for a real Black Mass. La Voisin, however, was found, tried, and beheaded in 1668.

Since then, any number of people and/or groups have claimed themselves to be "Satanists" and celebrated similar rituals, including the famous Anton Szandor La Vey, in 1967. Many have also claimed that Black Masses have occured in their childhood as part of Satanic Ritual Abuse, but no hard evidence of this happening has ever turned up.

Somewhat surprisingly the most interesting part about seeing the new Johnny Depp movie Black Mass happened to take part at the concession stand rather than the theater. First, my friend’s AMC club card (or Stubs card, as it’s properly called) brought the entire business to a grinding halt to where the manager had to be called in to hack into the cash register like it held missile codes from the pentagon. After said hacking was completed, the dejected cashier informed my friend he had no reward dollars accrued—despite the fact that the previous employee at the box office had informed us completely otherwise. As the situation continued to develop (and as every single other patron made their way to their respective theater—really, we were the last ones standing, this went on for almost 15 minutes), a woman popped up behind us suddenly very alarmed and concerned, asking, “wait, there are people with black masks in the theater?” Us: “Nooo, Black MASS.” Her: “Ohhhh, I was going to say.” Anyways, after my friend has made sure that he has at the very least tallied our entire purchase for further (missing?) rewards, we are about to head back to see the movie until the staff informs us that our hotdogs will need another twenty minutes. At this point, my friend starts clapping like a jackass and begins making demands for free food delivered to our seats in the theater. The staff relents. I then tell the staff that I will be happy to come out and get the hotdogs when they’re ready, so long as the hotdogs don’t get fucked with. We return to our theater and not surprisingly, Black Mass has already begun.

Now, if you haven’t caught on, this was really all a long winded way of saying that Black Mass isn’t a good movie. It just isn’t. Sorry for the spilled milk. For a movie with countless scenes of people getting their brains blown out, the movie is plain boring. The first three quarters of the movie consist of an overarching cat and mouse game with rival Boston gangs, FBI players, etc. etc but there’s one big problem: you never give a shit. It’s just random people getting killed over and over. The supporting cast all look great, but the audience is never really given an opportunity to identify with any of them. The best performance of the lot comes from Peter Sarsgaard as Brian Halloran, but once again, he ends up being just one more dude getting mowed down by Johnny Depp.

As for Johnny Depp, I thought his chops were up to snuff in the film, but unfortunately there was another huge and glaring problem. I could never get this one screaming thought out of my head literally the entire way throughout the film “He looks like a fucking LIZARD. WHY??? Why does his skin tone look like took an acid bath with the rest of the mutants from X-Men??” I kid you not—every single scene with Depp as Bulger, I found myself contrasting and comparing his luminescence to everyone else in the scene. There was never any common ground. Johnny Depp looked like he was either copy and pasted into the movie or auditioning for The Mask 2—except this time, instead of being a purveyor of justice, he’s a guy who creepily slides his hands all over your wife, covertly threatens you with murder over dinner table conversation, or otherwise kills and tortures anything that moves.

The icing on the cake? The story is DEPRESSING.

More spoilers: Bulger escapes for ten years scot-free while everyone else inherits the massive shit storm in his wake, including his good guy pal FBI buddy, John “how dumb am I?” Connolly.


Here. If you want to see a good movie where a bunch of people die, go see Sicario instead. 

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