Sword and Serpent Oasis holds weekly celebrations of the Gnostic Mass.
Time: Doors open at 6:00pm; Doors close for the Mass at 7:00pm.
Where: Sword and Serpent Temple in Dayton, Ohio
The Gnostic Mass is a beautiful ritual that celebrates the mysteries of Thelema and our Order. It is a magical rite that exemplifies the union of the individual soul with the Absolute, culminating in a Eucharistic sacrament embodying Life and Joy.
At Sword and Serpent Oasis, we celebrate the Mass every third Saturday of each month. It is a public event, meaning we welcome guests who are not otherwise members of our church or the O.T.O. As with any religion, there are multiple ways to interpret or portray the meaning of our rituals. This page offers a brief guide to the ritual and provides useful information for those interested in attending.
You can read the full text of this ritual on the USGL OTO website.
Our weekly Saturday celebrations of the Gnostic Mass are open to anyone who wishes to attend. At the Oasis, we are friendly, relaxed, and personable, and we take the art of hospitality very seriously. At the same time, we will not make any attempts to either sell you anything or convert you to our beliefs. This notion is anathema to Thelemites, since our central ethic demands we respect all personal choices made by free will and thoughtful examination. Naturally we will be more than happy to discuss Thelema and ideas about the Gnostic Mass, but it is not our method to proselytize. We simply delight in sharing our rites, and extend our hospitality to any spiritual seekers or respectful skeptics willing to celebrate with us.
If you choose to join us at the Sword and Serpent Temple for a celebration of the Mass, it is advisable to plan on arriving a few minutes before 6:45pm, since no one will be admitted once the ritual starts. Other important points to consider:
- While the Mass is an elegant and tasteful ceremony, it does have a sexual overtone and the priestess may appear without clothing during the ceremony.
- Wine is served for the Sacrament, but water is available as a substitute.
- We request prior notification if any minors are going to be attending.
A Brief Outline of the Mass
The ritual particulars of the Mass are outlined in a document called Liber XV (Book 15), which was written by Aleister Crowley in 1913. The ritual officers include a priest (who carries his Lance) and a priestess (girded with her Sword) who are assisted by a deacon and usually accompanied by two adult acolytes called “children”. The congregation as a whole—referred to as the People—can also be interpreted as a “sixth officer” since the members are active participants within the ceremony.
While it’s true that the Mass is “churchy” in its presentation, it does not contain preaching or evangelical-style sermons—although it does mention the central ethical statement of Thelema, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” and “Love is the law, love under will.” Moreover, participation does not require devotion to any particular deity or person nor acceptance of any supernatural event. It certainly does not require any kind of renunciation or confession of “wrongdoing”—Thelema rejects the notion of original sin, instead asserting that every person is inherently sacred, and thus the Mass glorifies the identification of the Self with the Divine.
Congregant participation includes making various gestures and speaking assigned words, most notably the Creed, the Anthem, and Communication (the partaking of the Eucharist). Although everyone is expected to participate as best they can, ritual proficiency is not required and most guests find it quite easy to follow the experienced attendees and the deacon, who leads the People. Also, instruction is given before the ritual and missals are available for the speaking parts. For many first-timers, the Mass is an elaborate and enigmatic ritual…we at Sword and Serpent Oasis understand this and want to make your experience with us as comfortable and rewarding as possible.
Steps and Signs
The People make several unusual gestures throughout the ceremony. If it is your first time, you are not expected to know all of these but do your best to “follow the lead” of the Deacon and other congregants.
Near the very beginning is the Step and Sign of a Man and a Brother, which signifies our Birth as incarnate beings. On four occasions the People give the Hailing Sign, the degree symbolizing Life. When the People stand, the proper stance is the Dieu Garde. Finally, there is brief Kneeling in Adoration with the hands joined above the head. This gesture is not tied to any particular degree, but has other possible meanings, including the Union of Opposites, the flame of illumination, and the salutation of a Deity.
Recitation of the Creed
The Gnostic Creed is recited near the beginning of the ceremony. Being a creed, it is a statement of beliefs which are relevent to the celebration of this particular ritual. Several of the words will likely be unfamiliar to guests, and it can be awkward to declare a belief in something that is unknown. In this case, it might be useful to think of the word “believe” as meaning “to acknowledge” rather than “to have faith in”. For more information on the particulars of the Creed, you might find “The Creed of the Gnostic Catholic Church: an Examination” by Helena and Tau Apiryon to be useful reading. The text of the Creed is as follows:
I believe in one secret and ineffable LORD; and in one Star in the Company of Stars of whose fire we are created, and to which we shall return; and in one Father of Life, Mystery of Mystery, in His name CHAOS, the sole viceregent of the Sun upon the Earth; and in one Air the nourisher of all that breathes.
And I believe in one Earth, the Mother of us all, and in one Womb wherein all men are begotten, and wherein they shall rest, Mystery of Mystery, in Her name BABALON.
And I believe in the Serpent and the Lion, Mystery of Mystery, in His name BAPHOMET.
And I believe in one Gnostic and Catholic Church of Light, Life, Love and Liberty, the Word of whose Law is THELEMA.
And I believe in the communion of Saints.
And, forasmuch as meat and drink are transmuted in us daily into spiritual substance, I believe in the Miracle of the Mass.
And I confess one Baptism of Wisdom whereby we accomplish the Miracle of Incarnation.
And I confess my life one, individual, and eternal that was, and is, and is to come.
AUMGN. AUMGN. AUMGN.
Recitation of the Anthem
An anthem is generally a symbolic composition or song of celebration. In the Gnostic Mass it is based on an antiphon, which involves alternating groups of speakers or singers. Although our Anthem has been set to music, in practice it is almost always chanted.
This Anthem can be seen as an invocation of and paean to the essential Creative Principle. The chorus, chanted by the People, furthers the ode to include praise of the sacred Life imbued within the outcome of the rapturous Union of Opposites, which is symbolized in the climax of the ceremony.
Thou who art I, beyond all I am, • Who hast no nature and no name, • Who art, when all but Thou are gone • Thou, centre and secret of the Sun, • Thou, hidden spring of all things known • And unknown, Thou aloof, alone, • Thou, the true fire within the reed • Brooding and breeding, source and seed • Of life, love, liberty, and light, • Thou beyond speech and beyond sight, • Thee I invoke, my faint fresh fire • Kindling as mine intents aspire • Thee I invoke, abiding one, • Thee, centre and secret of the Sun, • And that most holy mystery • Of which the vehicle am I. • Appear, most awful and most mild, • As it is lawful, to thy child!
The People: For of the Father and the Son • The Holy Spirit is the norm; • Male-female, quintessential, one, • Man-being veiled in Woman-form. • Glory and worship in the highest, • Thou Dove, mankind that deifiest, • Being that race, most royally run • To spring sunshine through winter storm. • Glory and worship be to Thee, • Sap of the world-ash, wonder-tree!
First Semichorus, Men: Glory to Thee from Gilded Tomb!
Second Semichorus, Women: Glory to Thee from Waiting Womb!
Men: Glory to Thee from earth unploughed!
Women: Glory to Thee from virgin vowed!
Men: Glory to Thee, true Unity • Of the Eternal Trinity!
Women: Glory to Thee, thou sire and dam • And self of I am that I am!
Men: Glory to Thee, beyond all term, • Thy spring of sperm, thy seed and germ!
Women: Glory to Thee, eternal Sun, • Thou One in Three, Thou Three in One!
Chorus: Glory and worship unto Thee, • Sap of the world-ash, wonder-tree!
Communication (Partaking of the Eucharist)
At the culmination of the ceremony, each member of the congregation approaches the Priestess in turn to partake of the Eucharist. The minimum action includes the eating of a single Cake of Light and drinking an individually-prepared glass of wine (or water), and then crossing the arms over the chest—while facing either the Priestess or the People, your choice—and declaring aloud, “There is no part of me that is not of the gods!”
Although we encourage all attendees to participate in the full completion of the ceremony by communicating, first-time guests are welcome to decline. There are other exceptions as well, notably when the Mass includes a Baptism and/or Confirmation, where only those individuals Communicate (although all other participation actions remain).