Monday, August 27, 2018

A Portable Gnostic Mass Enclosure

The weekend of August 10-12, my local OTO body Leaping Laughter Oasis hosted the first ever Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica Conference in Bloomington, Minnesota. Since I'm pretty handy with regular tools in addition to magical ones, I built the main Gnostic Mass enclosure and altar that we used at the hotel.

There was a lot of interest in how I did it at the conference, so I figured I would put a post up here sharing my methods. The Gnostic Mass altar and enclosure is a large piece of magical furniture, and building a portable version of it can be a big impediment to performing Masses outside a dedicated temple space. This article is dedicated to the construction of the enclosure, and I'll put up another one in a bit dedicated to the altar itself.

Ideally each piece should be small enough to fit into a regular car and be light enough for one person to carry. You don't want to have to rent a truck every time you want to move your setup. We did do that for the conference, but that was mostly for convenience. The small 10' U-Haul was much bigger than we needed, so it was easy and quick to load. We could have moved our stuff in several cars, though, which makes the idea of doing more remote Masses possible without additional rental expenses.

This is the furniture that you need for a Gnostic Mass altar setup:
  • A main altar measuring seven feet by three feet, 44 inches high.
  • A super-altar consisting of three shelves that sits on top of the main altar.
  • A "great veil" that entirely encloses the main altar and super-altar.
  • Three steps leading up to the altar, painted or finished in black and white squares.
  • Two pillars, one on each side of the altar, countercharged in black and white.
We already had pieces for the steps, pillars, and super-altar, so the pieces that I built for the conference were the main altar and the veil enclosure. The following describes how the enclosure is put together.

The big trick to building any sort of enclosure - that is, a frame on which you can hang curtains - is to use half-inch steel pipe. Steel is strong for its weight and will not bend or bow over time from the weight of the curtains. You can get it at any Home Depot or remodeling store, and they will cut and thread the lengths you need right there at the store. Once everything is cut, you can just thread the pipes together using regular plumbing fittings.

For the feet, use wood rounds that you should be able to get at the same remodeling store. If you can't find rounds, you can also use plywood cut to 2x2 feet. The rounds are a little easier to deal with in general, though. You will need four feet for the whole enclosure, two in front and two in back. If you plan on the back being against a wall, you can cut the back feet in half - so half-rounds or 1x2 foot pieces of wood.

The basic structure works like this:
  1. The wooden foot sits on the floor.
  2. Screw a flange into the wood which will receive a short pipe, from six inches to a foot. This can be larger than the 1/2 inch steel, depending on what you can find for flanges.
  3. Attach a union to the top of the short pipe. This is crucial for making assembly and disassembly easy. You can loosen a union and the pipe screwed into both sides will rotate freely. Otherwise you need to put the whole thing together in order and spin the feet on, which is a pain.
  4. Attach the first longer pipe to the union. This should be 3-4 feet long. The intent of limiting the pipe size is so that it can be disassembled and driven around in a regular car. This pipe should be 1/2 inch steel, and if it is smaller than the short pipe a bushing should be used with the union so that it fits.
  5. Use a coupling to attach a second longer pipe to the first. This should also be 1/2 inch steel.
  6. Use an elbow at the top of the second vertical pipe to attach a horizontal pipe. With the setup I built for the conference, the front and back are 12' across (2 6-foot pieces with a coupling) and the sides are 4 1/2 feet long (which is a single piece).
  7. Each of the sides is its own independent frame. So the front feet have two flanges and two vertical pipes and so do the back feet or half-feet. Having each side stand independently deals with the issue of trying to use 3-way connectors and screw the whole thing together, which does not work well at this size because of how the threading works.
  8. Finally, hang curtains up using shower curtain rings. You're done.
So what you have is a 4-sided frame on which you can hang curtains. For use in a hotel conference room, keep the total height at under 8 feet. That's the standard ceiling size, and you need about a quarter inch between to top of the frame and the ceiling for the rings. Make sure you count the additional height from the unions, flanges, and feet.

The easiest place to shorten your frame is at the short pipes on the bottom, so if you are, say, using a one-foot short pipe there, get some six-inch or eight-inch ones to hold in reserve. We ran into a ceiling height issue at the conference and had to jury-rig our enclosure a bit, when a set of six-inch short pipes would have solved the problem on the spot. Obviously, that's not an issue if you are building for a ballroom or other space with a high ceiling. A 10' height is pretty much always sufficient, and will look nice in the space with a high ceiling.

This post got so delayed because I was going to do annotated pictures for it and never got around to doing them. I'll see about adding some graphics at a later date when I have time to put them together.

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