Genuine Christine

Genuine Christine

In Brief

"For this, O dearly beloved, is the genuine Christine: body and soul and blood and ouns": Mulligan's words imitate the Catholic priest’s action of presenting the consecrated host to the congregation, an action which itself recapitulates Jesus’ words at the Last Supper (“This is my body...This is my blood”). The mocking substitution of Christine for Christ inverts the Catholic Mass into a Satanic black mass, supposedly celebrated over a woman’s naked body. The cheerful blasphemy is typical of Mulligan, but it holds serious implications for all of Ulysses, which subverts otherworldly religion in favor of human sexuality. The novel will conclude with water and blood flowing from the body of a sexually active woman.

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On his website of the occult (, Donald Tyson observes that "The notorious black mass was supposedly a blasphemous parody of the Catholic mass celebrated by witches or sorcerers for the purpose of defiling the most holy beliefs and practices of the Church, and thereby pleasing the Devil, who would as a reward grant to them the power to do evil. Some of its infamous features include a defrocked priest who celebrated the mass on the belly of a naked woman, and the substitution of semen for the holy chrism oil, urine for the wine, and blackened turnip or excrement for the host. During the course of the mass, the defrocked priest was said to copulate with the woman serving as the altar. Sometimes the priest inserted holy wafers into the vagina of the woman before copulation. Sometimes the copulation was anal. The words of the ritual were read backwards or distorted by replacing 'God' with 'Devil' or 'Satan.' The sign of the cross was made backwards."

Tyson notes that such events were “a fantasy created by the priests of the Inquisition as the worst thing they could possibly accuse supposed witches of doing.” Various 18th and 19th century decadents, however, read literary accounts of these supposed perversities and were inspired to stage their own enactments. For further reading, see H. T. F. Rhodes’ The Satanic Mass (1954).

Slote connects "body and soul and blood and ouns" to Lesson 26 of the Maynooth Catechism: "Q. What is the Blessed Eucharist? A. The Blessed Eucharist is the sacrament of the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, under the appearances of bread and wine." But "ouns" takes the echo of church teachings in a sacrilegious direction by recalling the expression "God's blood and wounds," which Gifford identifies as "a blasphemous oath from the late Middle Ages." (A shortened equivalent, "Zounds," stayed in circulation in Britain throughout the 19th century.) Mulligan's pronunciation, "blood and ouns," suggests that his "preacher's tone" may be veering into the Cockney accent which is part of his verbal repertoire. (Later in Telemachus he launches into the tune Coronation Day, "singing out of tune with a Cockney accent.")

In Circe, the black mass so glancingly evoked by Mulligan’s words receives elaborate stage direction: "On an eminence, the centre of the earth, rises the field altar of Saint Barbara. Black candles rise from its gospel and epistle horns. From the high barbicans of the tower two shafts of light fall on the smokepalled altarstone. On the altarstone Mrs Mina Purefoy, goddess of unreason, lies naked, fettered, a chalice resting on her swollen belly. Father Malachi O’Flynn, in a long petticoat and reversed chasuble, his two left feet back to the front, celebrates camp mass. The Reverend Mr Hugh C. Haines Love M.A. in a plain cassock and mortar board, his head and collar back to the front, holds over the celebrant’s head an open umbrella."

This scene recycles many details of the Martello tower scene: eminence (top of the tower), center of the earth (omphalos), barbicans, shafts of light, smokepalled altarstone (hearth), chalice (shaving bowl), petticoat (dressinggown), celebrant (Malachi Mulligan), server (Haines). After the scene is set, Father Malachi chants a demonic inversion of Mulligan’s earlier “Introibo ad altare Dei: “Introibo ad altare diaboli.” The Reverend Mr Haines Love (i.e., Hate-Love) then perverts the responsory line “To God who gladdens my youth” by chanting “To the devil which hath made glad my young days.”

In Ulysses and the Irish God (1993), Frederick K. Lang argues that Joyce substituted art for religion, rejecting the "subordination of flesh to spirit and of human desire to divine law" (16). The God of Irish Catholicism "was now raw material for his art and he proeeded to sacrifice Him to what was now a higher purpose" (15), preserving the idea of transubstantiation but making himself the god of creation. The idea of a black mass cohered with Joyce's sacrilegious project: "Accordingly the Eucharistic rite, Christ's reproducing of Himself in the form of bread and wine, is superseded by human sexuality, by activities and processes associated with human reproduction.... 'Christicle' [on the last page of Oxen of the Sun] suggests Christ combined with 'testicle'. In Nausicaa Bloom masturbates while in the background a Catholic priest holds up the Eucharist. Bloom's penis replaces the sacrament, his erection the Elevation. In Telemachus Malachi Mulligan, named for the prophet who foretold the Eucharistic rite, prophesies the coming of 'christine'.... Also prophetic is the vessel Mulligan carries when he invokes 'christine'. His shaving bowl is a mock chalice, and in Penelope Molly's chamberpot displaces liturgy's chalice when it receives her blood and water" (25-26).

John Hunt 2011


Black mass as celebrated at the court of Louis XIV. Source:

Henry de Malvost, The Guiborg Mass (1666). Source: