A devil-worshiping group hell-bent on hosting a satanic black mass is planning to go ahead with its controversial ceremony this month, despite fervent protests by residents of Oklahoma City and a lawsuit from the Catholic Church.
The co-founder of Dakhma of Angra Mainyu told ABC News that the religious and educational organization decided to hold the black mass in public but it will be a “tamer” version than some traditional satanic ceremonies by, for example, substituting vinegar for acts involving urine to comply with state health laws.
The upcoming event has generated controversy because black masses mock Christianity and the rituals that make up their services but organizers see it as an integral part of their religion.
"One of the dictates of the church is not only to educate the members but to educate the public,” Dakhma of Angra Mainyu’s Adam Daniels said, “and to debunk the Hollywood-projected image of our beliefs.”
Daniels said all 88 tickets to the Sept. 21 event – held at the theater in the city’s civic center – have been sold. The parks and recreation department, which rented the space to the group for $420, cited First Amendment protections in allowing the group to meet in a public facility.
"Mr. Daniels must abide by our local ordinances, our fire codes and all of our state laws," Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Jennifer Lindsey-McClintock told ABC News. "No bloodletting of any kind will be allowed.”
A $17.50 ticket buys participants a front-row seat to the festivities, which include a performance from the band “God in a Machine” and readings that call for the renunciation of God. Male participants and audience members are encouraged to wear black, hooded, full-length robes, but evening wear is also appropriate for spectators.
Anthony Briggman, an assistant professor of theology at Emory University in Atlanta, explained that the general motivating principles behind satanic groups – including Dakhma of Angra Mainyu – is to “parody” Roman Catholic liturgy by “demonstrating their opposition to orthodox Christian beliefs and practices.”
“The line between parody and mockery is a fuzzy one and it is unclear to me on which side of the line they usually fall,” he said of satanic groups in general.
“The goal seems to be to acquire some of the spiritual power [and] magic that they associate with the Roman Catholic ritual of transubstantiation, the transformation of the Eucharistic bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ,” Briggman said.
Co-founder Daniels said the Sept. 21 ceremony will take place before an altar-like table where a woman in lingerie lies (another concession to reflect the state's nudity laws).
The culmination of the event comes when the Dakhma of Angra Mainyu deacons and priest stomp on the, in this case, unconsecrated host and spit on it. Daniels said organizers will wear profane costumes, use explicit language and desecrate the fake host, which Catholics believe is a form of the resurrected Christ.
Professor Briggman said that in other instances, he has “heard the reports of ritualistic practices of sex, bloodletting, and sacrifice … but it is unclear to me how much these reports are hyperbole designed to capture the attention of the press and public.”
Daniels said the Oklahoma City ceremony will wrap up with a Satanic exorcism intended to draw the Holy Spirit from the follower's body, which contrasts with traditional exorcisms that are designed to expel the devil from the individual.
"Our practices have gotten it to about 22 to 25 minutes," Daniels said of the ritual.
Additional controversy has surrounded this particular event because the Oklahoma City Archdiocese filed a lawsuit against Daniels' group after media reports that he was in possession of a consecrated host, a wafer that some Catholics believe is literally the body of Christ.
The host in question has since been handed over to the archdiocese and the legal action has been stopped, but that has not put all of the Archbishop’s concerns to rest.
"I remain concerned about the dark powers that this satanic worship invites into our community and the spiritual danger that this poses to all who are involved in it, directly or indirectly," Archbishop Paul Coakley said in a statement.
The group is separate from The Satanic Temple, a national group with similar beliefs that has long fought with Oklahoma City officials about the right to have a statue of the devil placed prominently in the Oklahoma State Capitol.
Lucien Greaves, the leader of The Satanic Temple, told ABC News that Dakhma of Angra Mainyu may be timing its black mass in order to coincide with the publicity drummed up by The Satanic Temple’s legal battle for the devil statue.
“I have a feeling that they're rather inspired by the attention that our activity has gotten,” Greaves told ABC News, “but I don’t think there’s a particularly higher concentration in Oklahoma than anywhere else.”