Long tapers flickered and sent black shadows along the velveted walls of the satanic temple.
Masked priestesses, naked under diaphanous robes, stood before a black-draped altar on which rested a jade sarcophagus. At either end of the altar burned three large candles of black wax, illuminating that hellish place with a weird greenish light.
A cowled figure in scarlet robes was inscribing mystic symbols over the emerald-hued coffin.
About fifty figures were gathered in the temple, all cowled. Only the eyes were visible, burning with a sort of diabolical madness, intent on the lid of the mummy-case across which cryptic hieroglyphics writhed, lent light and movement by the guttering candlelight.
Outside the temple was night, and a lost wind that moaned through dead trees and screamed about grim battlements.
Somewhere a dog howled dolefully.
The scarlet figure, Grand Master of the extremist cult of Satan, began the chanting liturgy of hell.
"Blessed be the Beast..."
In tones of the damned the others followed.
"Blessed be those who revolt against God . . ."
Again the Grand Master.
"Blessed be the Angel of Eternal Darkness . ."
And so on in parody of Christian Antiphonarium.
At last the foul blasphemy ended.
Demon eyes were fixed on the sarcophagus.
Slowly the lid began to rise.
A shiver passed through the assembly and an icy wind rippled the tapestries.
Gradually the lid fell back.
A gong boomed.
Stealthy steps padded outside the iron-studded door of the temple.
It creaked open.
The monster that stood framed in the doorway was a creature out of hell —a huge bull of a man in a black executioner's hood, naked and glistening to the waist.
But it was not this apparition alone that caused the men and women in the temple to catch their breath sharply; it was the lovely girl he carried above his massive bulk, her slim white body supported easily by the rippling whip-cord muscles of his thick dark arms.
Insane and speechless with terror, the girl was born head-high through the temple and set down before the altar, the cynosure of cruel and lust-filled eyes.
The Grand Master turned upon her, a diamond-hard brilliance in his cat-green eyes. Evil and appraising, they lingered on the full lush undersides of her breasts where her torn shift hugged tight.
His claw-like hand, aglow with a coiled serpent set in glittering jewels, pointed menacingly.
This macabre scene was said to have taken place at the castle of Andijos in 1481.
Under such gruesome circumstances a living body was allegedly metamorphosized from the mummified remains of Thutothmes of Khemi, high priest of Moloch, who died at least two thousand years before the birth of Christ.
At least, that is what Peguilin de Lauzon, Count of Andijos, one of the most diabolical fiends to emerge from Europe's Dark Ages, claimed before a tribunal of the Holy Inquisition.
And while we may have reservations in accepting that such a transmutation resulted, we can be certain that this horrible experiment in all its grisly detail actually did occur. You see, the Count was in a position to know. He was the Grand Master.
Born sometime during the first quarter of the fifteenth century, Peguilin de Lauzon was the elder son of one of the noblest and wealthiest families in the Auvergne region of France.
Little is known about his early life, but from the first he seems to have been fascinated by everything to do with the occult.
During the Middle Ages and well into the Renaissance, Europe swarmed with wizards, sorcerers and many other practitioners of the Black Arts. And the objectives of these medieval theurgists varied from the search for the elusive Elixir of Life to the most outlandish pacts with the Devil.
It was the Devil that interested the Count.
Not that he was unique in this respect. Devil worship and the Cult of Satan flourished throughout the Old World. In France alone, during a single year, over five hundred persons were burned alive for having dealings with the Evil One.
Among the most fanatic of the worshipers of the Anti-Christ was a sect known as the Gnostic Satanists. The name Gnostic comes from the Greek word, gnosis, meaning knowledge. The Gnostic Satanists claimed to be people who knew, who could lay claim to a more profound and intimate religious and philosophical knowledge than ordinary mortals. Moreover they held themselves above both ecclesiastical and secular jurisdiction, indulged in every form of bestial depravity. "Do what thou wilt" was their one and only law.
Gnosticism was found everywhere throughout the civilized world, but it was centered in the South of France—in the Auvergne, in parts of Guyenne, in Languedoc, in Comtat, and in Provence.
The cult's headquarters was Peguilin de Lauzon's castle at Andijos, and he was its Grand Master.
The castle, known throughout the region as the Chateau Noir, was like a fortress out of Gothic lore.
Lying about twenty miles northwest of the provincial capital of Rodez, it is today a vast pile of ivy-entangled stone merging with the gray-green landscape.
But in Peguilin de Lauzon’s day in the castle was a place of screaming terror.
Imagine a great medieval fortress with crenellated battlements towering over the little village that huddled in their shadow. Picture stinking dungeons where scores of young and beautiful girls existed in stygian darkness, waiting to be dragged to blood-spattered torture chambers by monstrous hooded fiends.
That was the Chateau Noir, the Black Castle, in the 1480’s.
It was like that the night they came for Angele Blanchard.
Dragged from a convent by scarlet-cowled horsemen one night late in summer, the beautiful girl had spent an eternity of horror alone with the rats that infested the stinking dungeon where they had thrown her.
But she had not been left entirely alone.
During the midnight hours, Masrur, the huge executioner, had crept in upon her and had enjoyed her smooth body, smothering her screams with his enormous brutal hand.
He was there now, standing in the doorway outside the dungeon.
This time he was not alone. Turs, a hideous hunchback dwarf, was with him.
For a moment they just stood there, creatures from the pit, looking at her with lust-filled eyes. Made mad by years of bestial torture and fiendish execution, they devoured her supple voluptuous body, their gaze creeping upward from the curve of her thighs to the swell of her jutting breasts.
Angele stared at them paralyzed with terror.
The dwarf began to shuffle toward her. He was covered with filthy matted hair, like a great misshapen spider.
Madness, cruelty and depravity were in his rheumy red eyes, and he slavered like a beast. Unlike the Nubian, he liked the Count’s pretty captives best when they were helpless in the torture chamber.
As he reached for her, Angele drew back against the cold slimy wetness of the wall, pulling desperately at her chains.
"Come little pigeon,” the dwarf cackled. "Satan awaits you.”
The Grand Master, magnificent and sinister in his scarlet robes, sat with folded arms in the Temple of Satan. Around him were his priestesses, painted naked harlots, the playthings of evil.
Behind them was an altar swathed in dark velvet embroidered with obscene and esoteric symbols. Phallic candles spluttered eerily on either side of an inverted and twisted cross on which a squirming bat had been crucified upside down.
"Master,” whispered a priestess through red-painted lips, "they are bringing the girl.”
At the sight of that antechamber of hell, Angele’s blood turned to ice and she fell on her knees before the vulturine figure in scarlet.
"Are you a Christian?” The malignant eyes seemed to pierce her to the backbone.
"I—I am.” The girl could hardly speak.
The green eyes blazed at her through mind-numbing wreaths of perfumed smoke.
"Will you renounce your Christ?”
Something of the terror that had filled her veins with ice, left her then. Those dreadful, filmed green eyes acted somewhat like a cold douche.
"No,” she said quietly.
“Are you certain?” The evil presence of the scarlet figure towered over her. The comparative courage that she had temporarily experienced began to slip from her again; for the smoke faintly penciled through the air—from the burning incense before the altar—grew in volume, thickened, and wafted toward her in a cloud of satanic horror.
"Yasmin—Pervaneh,” thundered the voice of the Grand Master. "Show her the pit.”
Swaying sensuously on high spike- heeled shoes, the two lithesome priestesses led Angele to an arched opening off to one side of the temple.
"Look,” they hissed at her. "Look carefully.”
As if in a dream she obeyed.
She saw fire-blackened walls lost in swirling clouds of smoke that glowed redly in the light of flaming braziers. With a gasp of horror she saw the mangled body of a child hanging in chains . . . the grotesquely mutilated form of a once beautiful woman writhing on a wheel of spikes . . . the shapely figure of a young girl impaled on a blood-dripping spit, still shrieking as the flames licked over her blistered flesh.
She saw the bestial figures of torturers intent over the labors of hell, and she heard the awful groans, the sudden shrieks, the maniacal cries.
"Oh God,” she moaned.
"They will do these things to you,” a priestess whispered.
"No,” screamed Angele. "No . . . no . . . nol”
And when they took her back again before the Grand Master, Angele's small courage entirely deserted her.
She stared mesmerized, like many before her, by the green eyes that glittered at her through whirling vapor. And it seemed to her that she looked into the falcon gaze of Satan himself.
"Master,' she wailed in a delirium of terror. "I will do your bidding. I am your slave.”
Was Peguilin de Lauzon, Count of Andijos, Grand Master of the most evil cult in the blackness of time, a man or a devil? How many girls like the luscious Angele Blanchard became his sex slaves, doomed to a life of unimaginable perversion, damnation and madness? How many more retained their sanity only to die screaming at the hands of fiends like Masur and Turs?
We know only that the black cult of Gnostic Satanism exists still in the world today, misty and illusive, holding all the horror of the centuries.
In his now rare tome, La Philosophie du Mai, the well known French occultist Bernard Gassempierre sets down the theory behind this dreadful cult.
"Gnostic Satanism,” he writes, "is based on the premise that the Heavenly Father had two sons, the elder being Satan, who was unjustly and treacherously thrust from heaven. To him, so the Satanists believe, man’s allegiance is due. Satan denies man nothing, but allows him every earthly pleasure, all the forbidden experiences of life. In return he is worshipped as God.”
So it follows that if Satan, the demon, is God, and is to be worshipped and adored as such, he is best placated by every outrage done to the Christian faith.
Accordingly Satanists burlesque, mock and degrade all that is held most sacred by their opponents, the Christians.
The supreme act of Christian worship is the Mass, a sacrifice that can be offered to God alone. The Satanists offer to their master the Black Mass, an orgy of perversion, bestiality and blasphemy in which a young virgin is ravished by a goat after her naked body has served as a satanic altar.
The Black Mass was and is the culmination of devil worship, and the theft of consecrated hosts from Christian churches is a fearful profanity that has persisted through the centuries till today.
Many of the satanic rites require the sacrifice of a young virgin to propitiate the diabolic forces.
If this seems strange, remember that this sort of thing goes on today. Pieces of human flesh and certain human organs are highly prized for their magical potential. This, more than a taste for humans, is often the explanation of cannibalism.
One of the great quests of the medieval Satanists was to produce what was known as the Elixir of Life— a substance whose principal ingredient was human blood.
It was the failure of this chimera to provide immortality for one of his most fervid disciples that brought about the downfall of Peguilin de Lauzon.
The Duchess du Plessis-Belliere was one of the most powerful women in France and an intimate of King Louis XI. In an age of cruelty and debauchery, she was more cruel and more debauched than most.
Like many of the aristocratic whores of her day, the Duchess was obsessed by the craving for eternal youth—the need to preserve her waning vitality and beauty forever.
“Blood,” Peguilin de Luzon advised her. “You must bathe in the blood of young virgins.”
The Duchess ' was enchanted. Ever since the Beast had possessed her body and soul, she had come to regard the Count as her mentor.
In those days, for a woman as powerful and wealthy as the Duchess, there was no difficulty in obtaining a supply of young virgin girls, no questions asked. Maidens were plentiful, gold rare.
How many Auvergne maids died screaming in scenes of horror while their warm life blood gushed over the aging Duchess’s flabby body?
We shall never know.
But we do know that they died in vain. For the once youthful body of the Duchess slowly became bloated and shapeless; her once lovely face a cracked and scabby mask of dissipation.
“You must do something,” she wailed to Peguilin.
But the Grand Master only looked at her in disgust.
“Satan has turned his back on you,” he sneered.
And as he turned away from her, the Duchess’s eyes burned with the flames of hate.
In the weeks that followed this incident, rumors began to circulate throughout the Auvergne that gave the wealthy Peguilin’s enemies much food for thought. It was whispered that the Count was in league with the Evil One, a crime punishable by torture and death.
Among these enemies were the Bishop of Rodez and the rapacious Marquis de Beautreillis. Both were jealous of Peguilin's power and greedy for his rich estates. Secretly they began to scheme how they might obtain them. This after all was a common enough practice. All the same, in this instance, they decided to move cautiously. The Count of Andijos was a dangerous man.
The Bishop needed some pretext other than circumstantial in order to arrest the Count. The Duchess provided it.
“He bewitched me,” she wailed to the crafty and sympathetic Bishop. And she went on to explain how she had been converted to Gnostic Satanism.
“Ah!” exclaimed the Bishop. And he gave the order for Peguilin’s arrest.
The Count appeared, at first before a civil court. He was acquitted.
A week later he received a mandate from the Bishop’s palace summoning him to appear before a tribunal of the Holy Inquisition at Rodez to answer indictments of apostasy, ritual murder, heresy, and Black Magic.
Why Peguillin decided to obey the summons at all remains a mystery. At the Chateau Noir, surrounded by his retainers, he was comparatively safe Alone, at Rodez, he was at the mercy of his enemies.
Perhaps there is wisdom after all in the old adage: Whomsoever the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.
For Peguilin de Lauzon actually boasted before that ecclesiastical tribunal of the very crimes of which he stood accused.
“You cannot judge me,” he sneered contemptuously. “Nor have you any power over me.”
On both counts he seems to have been mistaken.
For after listening to his descriptions of the transmutation of corpses, the sex orgies, the bloody search for the Elixir of Life, the Black Masses, and the hideous things that went on in the secret chambers of the Black Castle, the tribunal found him guilty and ordered him to be handed over to the secular arm of the law for sentencing.
In vain now did he threaten diabolical vengeance.
His power was broken, or so it appeared, and he was sentenced to be lowered alive into a cauldron of boiling oil.
But when the executioners came for him, seized him to pinion his arms, a curious thing happened.
Peguilin’s fleshy face began to dim, to become unreal; his features mingled and merged in a seemingly impossible manner.
Then, like a fading mask of flesh and blood, his face suddenly vanished and in its stead gaped a grinning human skull.
“What devilry is this?” gasped one of the executioners, sweat beading his forehead as he felt cold hard bone under his grasp.
And well may he have asked. For later, when physicians came to examine the weird remains, the skeleton that just a half hour before had been Peguilin de Lauzon had crumbled into dust.