A Guide to the Office of Deacon

Within the Gnostic Mass, the Deacon plays a much more important and complicated role than is often understood. Moreover, very little is written about this office and it is hard to gain insight beyond the text of Liber XV. Moreover, the various ritual tasks of the Deacon are not all detailed within the canon, and it is to this end that this Guide is offered.

Quite simply, this essay is intended to offer guidance regarding the more practical aspects of the office of Deacon within The Gnostic Mass. It is not easy to write such a guide, because every sanctuary has unique customs and so it is impossible to address all possible variations. Therefore, this essay should not be seen as comprehensive at all, but rather as a set of helpful suggestions given from an experienced participant.

For a much more detailed treatise on the role of Deacon, Advice for Deacons [PDF] is highly recommended, along with other essays by T Polyphilus, a bishop of EGC.

This Guide is not an official document of OTO or EGC, although it attempts to conform with the general policies of the Church and the rulings of the Primate. Any questions on Liber XV and its performance should be directed to one's supervising bishop.

The Deacon wears a white robe, with something yellow. No description is given for the yellow item, although it can be almost anything within reason (other than something worn on the head, which is, by convention, a vestment reserved for the Priest). However, considering the historical sources of the Mass, the following traditional vestments would all be appropriate.

  • Stole
  • Sash/Belt/Girdlesashcincturegirdle
  • Tabard
  • Surplice
  • Chasuble
  • Dalmatic

Setup

Every EGC temple is different and has different set up needs—however, the following tasks are common. It is appropriate for the Deacon to attend to such tasks when possible so that the Priest and Priestess can concentrate on getting ready. It would also be reasonable to recruit the Children to assist.

Questions for the Priest and Priestess

Do not assume that you know what your Priest and Priestess will want, even if you have worked with them before. Of course, many sanctuaries have well-established conventions and so some things will be taken as a given. Even in such cases, however, if there is a new or visiting Mass officer, it is best not to assume they do it the way you are used to. The following questions are good to ask to make sure the ceremony goes smoothly.

Pre-Mass Actions

The Deacon Rap is the pre-Mass welcome and instruction given to the People by the Deacon and usually accompanied by the Children. This is not an official part of Liber XV, and so isn't required, but it is so useful that it has become common practice. There is no set way to deliver it, nor is there any standardized content. However, several important topics are highly recommended, which follow below.

The Deacon Rap should be kept short—no more than three or so minutes. Any questions not directly related to performance during the Mass should be directed towards a clergy member or the body master after the ceremony. This initial interaction between the Deacon and the People can set the tone for the entire Mass. If it is done with confidence, humor, and efficiency, it can start off the Mass on a strong, positive note.

Welcome

Deacon with the two Children enter Narthex (or other gathering place for the People). Greet the People with the Law. Welcome them to the celebration of Liber XV, the Gnostic Mass, and name your sanctuary and local body, as well as the Church and the Order.

Introduction

Name the Priest, Priestess, Children, and yourself as Deacon.

Elements

Quickly asks if anyone prefers water to wine, and if anyone has brought their own Cakes of Light. Children make note of this, along with a careful headcount (so they can make sure there are enough Cakes and glasses of wine/water), and then retire to the temple.

Instruction

If there is even one person who is unfamiliar with the Mass, go over the participatory elements. If so, offer them a missal at this point if you didn't during the five-minute warning. Explain that the Mass is a participatory ritual, which includes steps, signs, recitations, and partaking of the eucharist (note that EGC policy allows first-time guests to refuse Communication). Then display the steps and signs—don’t give too much detail; simply tell them to look to you for when to perform them. Be sure to mention Communication. The bare necessities are: approach the Priestess, eat a whole Cake of Light, drink a whole Cup of Wine, and, in the Sign of Resurrection, make the Declaration—“There is no part of me that is not of the gods.”

Ritual Announcements

Mention things such as Baptisms, Confirmations, Ordinations, and people being noted, such as for the recently born or deceased. Provide relevant instructions for these events.

A Quick Guide to the Steps and Signs

Dieu Garde

The footnote by Crowley within Liber XV states:

“ …feet square [see below], hands, with linked thumbs, held loosely. This is the universal position when standing, unless other direction is given.”

The Step and Sign of a Man and a Brother

The editorial note by Hymenaeus Beta, Frater Superior, O.T.O., in Magick, Book IV, pp. 775-776, states: “ To give the… Step [and Sign] of a Man and a Brother, stand perfectly erect, your feet formed into a square (i.e. a 90° angle, left foot pointing forward, right foot pointing right with the right heel in the hollow of the left foot.) … Take a short pace with your left foot, bringing the right heel into its hollow. … Hold the hands open with the fingers together. Place your right hand level, with the thumb extended in a square and pointed at the throat, just left of the windpipe. Draw the hand smartly across the throat to the right, and drop it to the side.“

The Hailing Sign of a Magician

The editorial note by Hymenaeus Beta, in Magick, Book IV, p. 776, states: “ To give the Hailing sign of a Magician, hold the hands open with the fingers together. Press the right hand against the left breast, extending the thumb upward to form a square. Throw the left hand up, with the left arm horizontal from the shoulder to the elbow, and perpendicular from the elbow to the ends of the fingers, the thumb and forefinger forming a square.”

Kneeling in Adoration

As it states in the main text of Liber XV, “ …they kneel in adoration, their hands joined palm to palm, and raised above their heads. All imitate this motion.“

The Deacon Rap: An Example

Deacon: (Enters narthex with Children.) Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

People: Love is the law, love under will.

Children: (Make headcount)

Deacon: Welcome to our celebration of Liber XV, the Gnostic Mass, here at [ Sanctuary], E.G.C., [local body], O.T.O. Our Priest tonight is Brother , the Priestess is Sister , our two Children are Sister and Brother , and I am your Deacon, Brother __.

Is there anyone here who would prefer water to wine? (Negative Child takes note). Has anyone brought their own Cakes of Light? (Positive Child collects them on Paten. Then both Children return to the Temple for final preparations).

Liber XV is a participatory ritual, and by entering the temple, you are signifying that it is your will to join in all the recitations, steps, signs, and especially in communication. Here are some missals for those unfamiliar with the Mass. The steps and signs consist of: Dieu Garde (stand thus) which is the position we take when standing; the Step and Sign of a Man and a Brother (show); the Hailing Sign of the Magician (show); and kneeling in Adoration (show). Please join the Priest the first time he thumps his chest with his fist. It can be difficult to remember when to perform all these—simply look to me and do them when I do.

Communication consists of approaching the Priestess, eating a Cake of Light, drinking a whole cup of wine, and then folding your arms over your chest and declaring, “There is no part of me that is not of the gods.”

Allow me check to see that everything is ready… (checks on priest and priestess for the final go, and then returns to the People). Let us enter!

It is possible to see the Deacon as the ritual steward. She is largely responsible for the mundane aspects of the rite while also playing her own magical role. As such, there is actually a lot to juggle, including…

  • Setting the initial pace
  • Leading the People
  • Assisting the Priest and Priestess
  • Guiding the Children
  • Maintaining ritual integrity

Magick

This Guide does not presume to explain the magical provenance or significance of the Deacon. Br. T. Polyphilus' Advice is recommended as an excellent entry to the topic. Rather, this section is a general reminder of the importance of exploring the magical function of your role in the Mass. This exploration should include academic research, conversations with experienced deacons, and especially dialog with your own supervising bishop.

It is further recommended to come up with your own ways to prepare spiritually just before celebrating the Mass. This might include such things as assuming an appropriate god form, intoning a prayer (say, from the Stele of Revealing), taking yourself through a visualization, or simply meditating in a quiet corner of the temple. You do not need to be an ascended master to do a good job as a deacon; just remind yourself that the more you understand about the spiritual/magical nature of the deacon, the more powerful your contribution will be.

Stage Directions

The instructions in Liber XV for stage directions, such as sitting and standing, are incomplete and in places contradictory. In the online version of The Gnostic Mass (With Annotations and Commentary) by Helena and Tau Apiryon, the U.S. Primate implies that stage directions are not necessarily restricted to what is literally given in Liber XV. This being the case, there is some room for making decisions that are not in the text. Remember to ask your Priest/ess team, and your supervising bishop, what they prefer.

Sitting and Standing

The following directions are given for your consideration. The asterisks note instructions given in Liber XV; otherwise, you need to make your own decisions based upon the requests of the Priest/ess and your supervising bishop.

  • Stand
  • Sit
  • Stand
  • Adoration
  • Stand
  • Sitnotes“”
  • Stand
  • Sit

Running through the Mass

A renewed disclaimer

I am not a bishop of EGC and am not herein presuming ecclesiastical authority. This Guide is offered as a reference from my own 10+ years of deaconal experience. Authority to make ritual decisions comes from your own supervising bishop.

Entry of the People
  • Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. I proclaim the Law of Light, Life, Love, and Liberty in the name of IAO.

    All: Love is the law, love under will.

Entry of the Priestess

Priestess: Greeting of Earth and Heaven!

Priestess ascends the steps of the High Altar and places the Paten before the Graal.

Ascension of the Priest and Priestess
  • Priestess: Be the Priest fervent of body and soul!

  • Priestess: Be the Priest pure of body and soul!

  • “”
  • Priest: …there is no God where I am.

The Collects

Although you may read these, it is still good practice to become as familiar with them as possible beforehand, so that the text is there more as a reminder. It is not as powerful to have your face buried in a book, especially if you tend to read in a stilted way.

Priest: after reciting the ”…HAGIOS, HAGIOS, HAGIOS IAO“ invocation, he kneels and stretches his arms along the thighs of the Priestess. Have all sit

  • “”

The Sun.
The Lord.
The Moon.
The Lady.
The Saints.

Lao-tzu: Lau (cow)-dzuh
Siddhartha: Sid-ahr-tah
Krsna: Kreesh-nah
Tahuti: Tah-hoo-tee
Mosheh: Moe-shay
Dionysus: Di-uh-ni-sus
Mohammed: Moh-hah-mehd
To Mega Therion: Toh Meh-gah Theh-ree-ohn
Hermes: Her-meez
Pan: Pan
Priapus: Prye-ape-us
Osiris: Oh-sye-rus
Melchizedek: Mell-kee-dek
Khem: Khem
Amoun: Ah-moon
Mentu: Mahn-too
Heracles: Hair-uh-kleez
Orpheus: Or-fee-us
Odysseus: Oh-dis-see-us
Vergilius: Vur-gil-lee-us
Catullus: Kah-tool (wool)-us
Martialis: Mar-shee-ahl-iss
Rabelais: Rah-blay
Swinburne: Swin-burn
Apollonius Tyanaeus: Ap-poh-lohn-ee-us Tee-uh-nee-us
Simon Magus: Sigh-mun May-gus
Manes: Mah-neez
Pythagoras: Pih-thag-or-us
Basilides: Buh-sil-id-eez
Valentinus: Val-un-tine-us
Bardesanes: Bar-duh-sahn-eez
Hippolytus: Hip-pahl-it-us
Merlin: Mur-lin
Arthur: Ahr-thur
Kamuret: Ka-moo-ray
Parzival: Par-tsif-ahl
Carolus Magnus: Kahr-oh-lus Mahg-nus
William of Schyren: Will-yuhm of Sheer-en

Frederick of Hohenstaufen: Fred-uh-rik uhv Hoh-en-stau(cow)-fen
Roger Bacon: Rah-jer Bay-kun
Jacobus Burgundus Molensis: Yah-koh-bus Bur-guhn-dus Moh-len-sis
Christian Rosenkreutz: Kris-tee-ahn Roh-zen-kroits
Ulrich von Hutten: Ool-rikh fohn Hoo-ten
Paracelsus: Pair-uh-sell-suss
Michael Maier: Mike-uhl Mye-ur
Roderic Borgia: Rahd-er-ik Bor-zhah
Jacob Boehme: Yah-kohb Bay-muh
Francis Bacon Lord Verulam: Fran-sis Bay-kun Lord Ver-oo-lahm
Andrea: Ahn-dray-uh
Robertus de Fluctibus: Ro-bare-tus day Fluk-ti-bus
Johannes Dee: Yoh-hahn-es Dee
Edward Kelly: Ed-wurd Kell-ee
Thomas Vaughan: Tahm-us Vawn
Elias Ashmole: Ill-eye-us Ash-mohl
Molinos: Mohl-ee-nohs
Adam Weishaupt: Ah-duhm Vice-haupt
Wolfgang von Goethe: Vohlf-gahng fohn Goh-tuh
Ludovicus Rex Bavariae: Loo-doh-vee-kus Rex Ba-vahr-ee-ay
Richard Wagner: Ree-khard Vahg-ner
Alphonse Louis Constant: Ahl-fohnss Loo-ee Kohn-stahnt
Friedrich Nietzche: Freed-rikh Nee-tschuh
Hargrave Jennings: Har-grave Jen-ings
Carl Kellner: Karl Kell-ner
Forlong dux: For-long dooks(books)
Richard Francis Burton: Rich-uhrd Fran-sis Bur-tun
Richard Payne Knight: Rich-uhrd Pain Nite
Paul Gaugin: Pohl Goh-gan
Doctor Gerard Encausse: Dok-tuhr Zha-rahrd On-kohss
Theodor Reuss: Tay-oh-dor Royss
Aleister Crowley: Al-iss-tuhr Crow-lee

The Earth.
The Principles.
Birth. (Ring the Bell to mark the birth of a child)
Marriage. (Ring the Bell as part of a Wedding Ceremony)
Death. (Gesture for all to stand)
The End. (Ring the Bell to commemorate a Greater Feast. Remember, only you say the three AUMGNs)

Anthem

Generally the Deacon does not join in the Anthem. However, if there is a sparse congregation, it is okay to recite the Anthem to help fill the space or balance the genders. Also, you may read both male and female parts if necessary, regardless of your own gender.

Communication and Exit

The instruction in Liber XV states that the Deacon “marshals” the congregants who “advance one by one to the altar”. To marshal can mean to “arrange in order” or to “usher or lead ceremoniously”. However, since the instruction states that the congregant advances to the altar one by one, it is implied that the Deacon does not usher each to the steps. Rather, the text implies that the Deacon first orders the People and then each approaches alone to the Altar.

How you “order” the People will derive from a combination of the particulars of the temple space, the size and make-up of the congregation, and the traditions of the local sanctuary. Here are three common methods:

For Masses without Children, you will probably need to fill in by offering the sacrament to the communicants. Again, how this is done will depend on too many factors to detail here. However, if you are in this position, it would be a good idea to determine beforehand how you will order the People so that you can assist the team and have Communication go smoothly.

Two common EGC ceremonies that require the participation of a deacon are Baptism and Confirmation. It would be wise to become familiar with these rituals. You can find them on Sabazius' site. Officially, only the Candidates are to communicate at these Masses. While not in the script, a very nice option is to have all the People stand while the newly baptized/confirmed members communicate.

A Ceremony of Baptism

  • “”

Apo Pantos Kakodaimonos (with the gesture detailed in the Star Ruby)

  • “”

Every man and every woman is a star. We are all born free, independent, shining gloriously, each one a radiant world, according to the Law of Liberty. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Priest/ess: …Candidate, say after me: I will know my own Will. I will do my own Will. I will rejoice in the Will of my God. Candidate repeats.

Lord of Life and Joy, grant unto this Candidate the Power of the Holy Spirit to persevere in this intention, and to grow in Knowledge and Understanding.

Priest/ess consecrates the Elements.

Under what name do you approach baptism?

The Candidate is baptized. Candidate stands.

With the Priest and Priestess: We receive thee into the Gnostic and Catholic Church of Light, Life, Love and Liberty, the Word of whose Law is THELEMA.

Priest/ess intones the blessing

Now I begin to pray: Thou Child,
Holy Thy name and undefiled!
Thy reign is come; Thy will is done.
Here is the Bread; here is the Blood.
Bring me through midnight to the Sun!
Save me from Evil and from Good!
That Thy one crown of all the Ten
E'en now and here be mine. AMEN.

  • “”

A Ceremony of Confirmation

  • “”

Mass is celebrated. Remember to strike the bell just before the Saints Collect. The officers come out into the main temple space and take their places for the ceremony. All are to be clad only in plain white robes. Ask the officiants beforehand where you should remove your yellow vestments (i.e. in the Tomb after the Mass or elsewhere).

To the Candidates: Please rise.

Then to the Congregation: Brothers and Sisters, soldiers of Thelema, these individuals seek to make firm their fellowship with us as rightful claimants to the heirship, communion and benediction of the Saints of the True Church of Old Time. Is it your will to witness their confirmations? All should reply with “It is”.

  • “”

…Priest/ess intones the blessing

Now I begin to pray: Thou Child,
Holy Thy name and undefiled!
Thy reign is come; Thy will is done.
Here is the Bread; here is the Blood.
Bring me through midnight to the Sun!
Save me from Evil and from Good!
That Thy one crown of all the Ten
E'en now and here be mine. AMEN.

This has been but a short, unofficial treatise on the job of the Deacon. It is a simple guide and is not a replacement for instruction from your supervising bishop, the Mass team, and your own reasoning. Even so, it is hoped that the suggestions given will help you to become a more confident and competent Deacon.

Although reading is no substitute for practice, the following texts are recommended for further study.