The Auctoritas Ritae are a collection of thirteen rituals practiced by all members of the Sabbat. While the Ignobilis Ritae are optional to a point, Auctoritas Ritae are upheld in a manner similar to the theological commandments given by Moses to the Hebrews. They are held with zealous fever and generally observed on a very casual base.
Known Auctoritas Ritae
The Sabbat grows nightly in strength, due to its unity of mind and ambition. All members of the Sabbat, from the lowliest surviving recruit to the regent herself, participate in the Binding. Group participation and familiarity with the ritual helps unify sect members, in a similar fashion as the Vaulderie. In essence, the Binding is a formal oath of allegiance to the sect, whereby the vampires swear fealty to the Sabbat. The event serves as a sober reminder of why the Sabbat exist as they do.
The ceremony opens with a recitation of the pack's interpretation of the Sabbat's credo. (Although no formal written code exists, most Sabbat have enough presence of mind to compose a summation of the sect's doctrine. These may be anything from long, prosaic accounts to fervent, one-sentence rallies of vengeance).
The event occurs on Winter Solstice night. In larger Sabbat-held cities, nomad packs in the region attend with the local founded packs. If possible, this important ritus is overseen by a member of higher status than pack priest, like a bishop or archbishop. Ideally, the rite takes place at a beach, riverbank, or by a waterfall. If such is impossible, a fountain will suffice. Especially desperate packs may use a simple square of white cloth. The water (or cloth) present represents the implacable nature of the sect – water always finds a way to flow around an obstruction, just as the Sabbat will one night find a way to surmount its terrible progenitors.
This ritus is performed whenever Sect leaders wish to recognize a Sabbat vampire’s claim to a title, such as Bishop or Cardinal. The Blood Bath formalizes the vampire’s new status in the Sect. As many Sabbat as possible who will serve under this new leader must attend the ceremony, for failing to do so without an adequate reason is a grave slight to the leader in question.
Starting with the priest conducting the ritus, attendant Sect leaders and other Sabbat take turns coming forward, kneeling in front of and expressing their endorsement of or allegiance to the Cainite, and contributing a quantity of blood into a large vessel. The newly titled vampire gives praise and/or advice to each of the vampires present, emphasizing the benefits the Sabbat stands to gain through the sharing of her wisdom. She then bathes in the blood donated to the pool. Following the ceremony, all vampires present drink from the bathing vessel (the blood in which is sometimes consecrated as a Vaulderie), symbolizing that they willingly partake of everything the new leader has to offer.
Most Sabbat refuse to acknowledge a leader who has not been confirmed through a proper Blood Bath ceremony, if they have reason to suspect such.
- Main article: Blood Feast
No formal Sabbat gathering would be complete without a Blood Feast. It serves both as sustenance and as a vehicle to express the Sabbat's lust to exist as the ultimate predator. The Blood Feast is a ritual "meal", in which captured vessels are suspended from the ceiling, bound to sculptures, or otherwise immobilized and fed from at the leisure of all vampires present. The feast itself is as much social gathering as it is a structured ritus, and many Sabbat make grand entrances, wearing the best of their finery.
In preparation for a Blood Feast, a specially created pack or hunting party will have collected humans or even a rogue vampire or two the night before the feast. Much shouting, cheering, and baring of fangs occurs as the hunting party makes a formal presentation of the night’s feast to the highest-ranking Sabbat present. The official receives each victim and thanks the giver by kissing her forehead. He then hands the victims over to assistants chosen to prepare the victims for the feast. They bind the victims' hands and feet together and hoist them up on chains to hang at head level, or they tie (or nail) the victims to objects that prevent movement.
The night after the preparation, ghouls or low-ranking Sabbat prepare the feast location by placing the vessels. After all the guests have arrived — it is considered grievously poor form to be fashionably late — the priest, Bishop, or Archbishop holding the service conducts the ritus, dedicating the vessels to the Sabbat. Cainites at the gathering then bite open the victims and feed on the fresh vitae, often licking the wounds closed so as not to waste. There is usually one victim for every three vampires present at the feast; the presiding priest, Bishop, or Archbishop gets first choice of the night's treats, and he draws first blood.
Some Cainites of the Sabbat have been formally censured by higher-ranking Sabbat and even members of the Inquisition and Black Hand for relying too heavily on the Blood Feast. To be sure, mass kidnappings and the bloodstained halls left behind can lead vampire hunters to the trail of careless vampires.
- Main article: Creation Rites
To hear vampires outside the Sect talk, all Sabbat are created on the fly, with recruits being drained, fed, bashed over the head with a shovel, buried, and left to claw their way to the surface in a starving frenzy. This is not always the case. Most Sabbat use the "shovelhead method" only in times of war. This infamous method consists of collecting a number of victims, Embracing them with the tiniest quantity of blood possible, bashing them over the head with a shovel (to knock them unconscious before they Frenzy), and burying them in a mass grave.
The newly Embraced Cainites rouse quickly, and they must dig themselves out of the grave to sate their frenzy, often at the expense of the weaker vampires entombed with them. This method is simple, relatively quick, and quite effective at stripping victims of their Humanity. In any event, vampires created this way have not actually received their Creation Rites. In fact, the Sabbat does not even consider them vampires yet, and it has little reservation against throwing legions of these frenzied horrors against their foes.
The Creation Rites themselves are much more serious, marking the passage from nonentity into "True" Sabbat. After the Embrace, the new vampire is eligible for the Creation Rites only after he has demonstrated his worth to the Sect — perhaps the very night of his Embrace, perhaps years afterward.
The ritus itself is quite simple — the priest merely touches a flaming brand to the initiate’s head and leads him in an oath of allegiance. The ceremony that precedes the Creation Rites, however, varies widely, and it is wholly in the hands of the Cainite's sire. Some Panders and Brujah antitribu have ceremonies not unlike gang initiations, which involve pummeling the vampire in question until the sire decides they had enough. Tzimisce ceremonies are much more civil and formal affairs, often involving recitations of one's lineage and praise of one's sire. Some vampires require no ceremony at all, deciding that they have all the proof that they need from a given vampire's performance, while still others require Byzantine trials or bizarre acts like bestiality, kidnapping, murder, self-mutilation, or other depravity.
The Rites serve several purposes, both practical and symbolic. The flames help reduce the new Sabbat's fear of fire, while the ceremony teaches him what is expected of a Sabbat member like himself. Immediately following the Creation Rites comes a Vaulderie, which binds the Cainite to the pack — his new, immortal family.
Without the Creation Rites, a vampire is not truly a vampire in the eyes of Sabbat. Such an unfortunate may not participate in Sabbat ritae or functions until he has received the Creation Rites, and is often kicked about, abused, and ordered around at any of the "real" vampires' whims.
- Modern Form Creation Rites
- Old Form Creation Rites
- This is your typical mass embrace or shovel party, in which each new Cainite has a single sire, as described on page 49 of The Players Guide to the Sabbat and pages 21 and 140 of the Mind's Eye Theatre Sabbat Guide. In modern nights, some Sabbat clergy are calling for this version of the Creation Rites to be an Ignobilis Ritae reserved for the time just before a siege. These clergy often insist that a Cainite created in this manner is not True Sabbat, not until they have undergone the Modern Creation Rites.
- Ancient Creation Rites
- During the Sabbat-Camarilla Wars, the Creation Rites required the Cainite-recruit be drained of all of his blood and embraced with the blood of the entire pack. The newly embraced Cainite was then bludgeoned and buried in a shallow grave. Those that dug themselves out were accepted. This created an intense Viniculum but an equally high chance that the Cainite would be Clanless. Following the end of the Sabbat-Camarilla Wars, the Creation Rites were modified into the old form that was subsequently changed into the modern form. Despite these changes, some Pander still use the ancient creation rites to embrace new recruits. See page 45 of The Players Guide to the Sabbat for reference to the Auctoritas Ritae actually changing.
- Mechanic: The recruit is drained of all their blood and embraced with a consecrated mix of the pack’s blood. The new vampire rises with a Viniculum rating no lower than three to all Cainites that contributed vitae. The Cainite will likely be clanless, drawing their disciplines and any supernatural flaws from those who contributed Vitae.
Festivo Dello Estinto
- Main article: Festivo dello Estinto
The "Festival of the Dead" occurs during the entire second week of March. All Sabbat in a city take part, and nomadic packs make their way to the nearest Sabbat-held city to celebrate. The purpose is to revel in being a vampire, celebrating immortality by laughing in the face of death and decay. The celebration culminates in a Blood Feast of epic proportions, and nightly Vaulderies take place among (and sometimes between) the collected packs of the Sabbat. The revels are tailored to each individual pack, and the event has as many differences in celebration as it has commonalities. Some packs participate in ritual scarification. Some may waltz in slow circles around a bonfire, using disinterred corpses or bodies borrowed from the local morgue for dance partners. Others will re-enact passages from the Book of Nod. Against the backdrop of all this revelry, the bishops and archbishops watch with interest, encouraging their malignant "children" to indulge in what it truly means to be a vampire while participating in their own bloody, bacchanalian excesses. One popular event uses up to six Sabbat "contestants", each with a live human victim. The vampires use whatever means they can come up with to dismember and kill the victim, causing the most suffering and wasting the least amount of blood to spillage. The results are voted on by a panel of judges. The winner receives the honor of drawing first blood in the nightly Blood Feast.
Sabbat spend the entire week socializing and gorging on vitae. The packs hunt at will, giving little thought to hiding from the eyes of mortals. Often, mortals are singled out and used for games of fox and hound. Anything relevant to vampiric nature goes on at this celebration of immortality, and packs often mingle to trade war stories and concoct secret plans of their own. The festivities of the Festivo dello Estinto open once the highest-ranking priest in town declares it underway. For this week, very little is taboo, and as much happens behind closed doors as does amid the festival's events proper. Generally, this is a time of undead celebration; rivalries are put aside and Monomacies are forgotten as the Sabbat unite in a show of solidarity to bring Hell to Earth.
- Main article: Fire Dance
To most vampires, fire is something to be feared and avoided, yet not to the Sabbat. While they still fear it, they are not above turning it loose on their enemies. To be fully Sabbat, one must face the Rötschreck and master it.
To enact this ritus, the priest lights a large bonfire in a place secure from mortal eyes. Through the rhythmic beating of a drum, chanting, or both, participating Cainites enter a trance-like frenzy, whirling around the flames, writhing before them and even prostrating themselves in front of the blaze. As the ceremony reaches its peak, the vampires rave and chant, and encourage each other to jump through the flames. They make fantastic leaps, some even turning aerial somersaults over and over again to the point of exhaustion. The Fire Dance comes to a close when the last vampire present has jumped through the flames and collapsed from all the activity.
Games of Instinct
The vampires of the Sabbat engage in numerous sanctioned "games", adjudicated by their Pack Priests to maintain their predatory edge. These games take various forms, and different packs practice different styles — everything from parodies of children’s games or sports to completely unique vampiric tests of skill can be made into a Game of Instinct. The only commonality between the games is that the priest presides over them, consecrating them as righteous exercises.
Here are some common examples:
- Cowboys and Indians/Cops and Robbers: The object of Cowboys and Indians is to capture or incapacitate (but not kill) as many members of the other side as possible. Because of vampires' innate resistance to damage, this is easier said than done, and bullets aplenty fly during these games. The team that knocks the other out of commission is the winner.
- Demolition Derby: Starting at opposite ends of a street or parking lot, pack members set their cars on fire and charge another team's car. After much bashing and crashing, one team inevitably has to flee their car or burn to death; the first team to exit its vehicle loses.
- Dogtagging: The object of the game is to capture a werewolf, tag its ear (with tags similar to kind used by cattle ranchers), and turn it loose.
- Rat Race: A human is sealed in a labyrinth of some sort, such as an abandoned factory or part of a sewer system. The human is given weapons that can hurt vampires, such as handguns, knives, blowtorches, or chainsaws. The participating vampires, starting in different locations in the maze, hunt the human, while the human tries desperately to escape the vampires. Whichever vampire captures and drains the human first wins. An alternative to the Rat Race — the Bat Race — involves vampires only.
- Rousing the Beast: The participant has to dig up the victim of a failed mass Embrace. Once the crazed creature breaks the surface and Frenzies, it is up to the game participant to immobilize her and destroy her.
- Boarding Party: The pack begins by selecting a port of harbor. This may be literal port if they are playing on the water, or it may be a parking lot if operating on land. Next, they designate a certain vehicle as the "ship". The ship will typically be controlled by a mortal at the start of the game. The object of the game is to be the Cainite in the driver's seat when the ship arrives at port. The pack then sets out on smaller vehicles, cars, jet skies, motorcycles, etc, and try to board and take the ship. At first, the pack must over take the operator of the ship but ultimately they must face off against each other to control the driver's seat. The team variation of this game pits two packs (or teams within the pack) against each other. Each team has its own port and the pack that gets the ship to their port first wins.
- Cattle Ride: The pack takes to the highway on motorcycles with the goal of corralling a target car "the bull" to a specific location.
- Base Jumping: Pick a building, pick a floor, jump off. Whoever walks away from the highest floor wins. For added fun, include bonus points for landing on and taking out passers-by.
- Main article: Monomacy (VTM)
It is inevitable that among vampires as headstrong and violent as those of the Sabbat, differences of opinion occur. While the vast majority of these conflicts are handled with all the civility and reason a Sabbat can muster, some grievances are so deep as to warrant a more serious solution. When two (or more) Sabbat are unable to come to a resolution, the ritus of Monomacy serves to settle the issue.
Monomacy is usually practiced by only ranking members of packs. Many young Sabbat are too violent and hotheaded to recognize the gravity of ritual combat to the death, and would resort to it every time a packmate took blood from a vessel they decided they liked. As such, this ritus is conducted by the Pack Priest (or a higher ranking Sabbat, if the challenge is cross-pack), to whom a challenge is issued simultaneously with the challenge to the rival. The priest then decides whether or not the grudge is worth Monomacy, and whether or not she chooses to preside over the ritual. Should the priest deem the cause worthy, the challenged vampire may decline. In theory, there is nothing wrong with declining a challenge, but unless the challenger is of such little consequence as to be below the challengee's notice, declining usually involves a great loss of face (and perhaps an unsanctioned duel afterward).
The actual practice of Monomacy varies widely — no formal code exists as to the choice of weapons, locations, or even terms of victory. Most often, Monomacy duels are fought to Final Death in some ridiculously dangerous or highly inaccessible place like an iron foundry or atop a skyscraper. Whether or not the vampires may use weapons, Disciplines, or other assets is typically the decision of the challenged. On the priest's invocation, the combat begins, and the last vampire standing is declared the winner, usually followed by other ritae and celebration.
The challenger decides upon the time and location of the duel. The challenged decides whether or not weapons will be used and what they will be, as well as any other details (until first blood instead of Final Death, no Disciplines, participants must wear blindfolds, participants must ride the wave of frenzy during the duel, etc.). The priest administering the ritus is an adjudicating official — the duel begins and ends on her word, and it may be aborted at any time. It is even within the priest's power to declare a Monomacy null and void after the fact, but the priest who does this to favor her own candidate is looked upon with extreme displeasure thereafter by other Sabbat.
- Main article: Palla Grande
Of the 13 auctoritas ritae, the Palla Grande is the highlight of any Sabbat coven's ritual year.
The "Grand Ball" takes place on All Hallows Eve, and all Sabbat in the city are expected to attend. Nomadic packs, not wanting to miss the festivities, travel to the closest Sabbat city in order to attend. The highest-ranking Sabbat in the city preside over the affair, and the city's most renowned priest opens the celebration. It is held in a public place such as a civic auditorium or a public park, as long as most of the revels take place in full view of as many humans as possible. In fact, most Sabbat arrange their Grand Balls like raves or public festivals, sometimes even charging mortals admission for the secretly malignant privilege of attendance. The vampires often go the whole nine yards when creating this party atmosphere, hiring bartenders and providing liquor and other refreshments for their guests.
As the Palla Grande is a major social event, the Ventrue antitribu and Toreador antitribu, Lasombra, and Tzimisce usually find themselves with the responsibility of planning the affair. In true high-society fashion, many vampires also compete with each other for the most elaborate costumes. Often the most spectacular and unusual displays are by one or two elder Tzimisce skilled in the art of fleshcraft, but it is not unheard of for a Toreador antitribu to exchange favors with a talented Tzimisce "artist" to create a finely fleshcrafted face or costume for the party. Indeed, the regent herself is rumored to have once had 50 mortals fleshcrafted to resemble her at a Grand Ball in the interests of "being everywhere and talking to everyone – and leaving an indelible impression".
Hidden away from the public debauchery, the Sabbat also consecrates a Blood Feast at the Palla Grande. The "kine-kegger," as the younger Sabbat call it, capitalizes on the public location of the masquerade ball. Victims for the feast are often vampire wannabes, drunken revelers, and "witches" out for a good time on Halloween night. These victims are often lured to the feast under the pretense of being invited to attend an exclusive social affair. They have no idea just how fleeting the honor is to be. Other possible sources of vitae for the blood feast include retainers or ghouls selected from the Sabbat covens' own members who may be of no further use to the sect (or are too dangerous to allow to live).
The main event, which kicks off the affair at midnight, is the re-enactment of an event from vampire legend or history. This stage play could be anything from the slaying of Abel by Caine as told in Biblical terms to the dramatic interpretation of signs and portents of Gehenna. It is completely organized, acted, and choreographed by a group of vampires, though "audience participation" in events depicting sacrifice or feeding does occur, with the "guest actors" being whisked away or quietly disposed of after their debut.
After the final act of the historical play, all Sabbat present retire to the Blood Feast for a special version of the Blood Bath. This night the archbishop bathes in the vitae, as a symbol of the sect's power and vitality. The ritual begins with blood from the victims suspended overhead flowing freely into a large, ornate receptacle where the archbishop reclines. Each vampire in the coven adds some of his own vitae to the bath, first bleeding into a ceremonial Vaulderie vessel, then tipping it into the bath. The archbishop performs various rituals and incantations while this process proceeds – details vary city to city. It is rumored that the Palla Grande Blood Bath imbues the Archbishop with certain powers until the next sunrise, such as the ability to see into the realms of the dead.
At the conclusion of the Blood Bath, all Sabbat at the Palla Grande begin a frenetic dance of undeath, dancing to near-deafening music and drinking insatiably from the archbishop's bath, the hanging vessels, and each other. Many of the participants fall into frenzy, driven on by the violence of the dance and the scent, sight, and feel of blood coagulating on the floor, caked on walls and splashing from the carpets as dawn draws near. Once the night's revels conclude, Sabbat ghouls take care of the cleanup. Any potential loose ends are swiftly dealt with over the next couple nights through death, the Discipline of Dominate, or the Embrace, depending on the extent of the problem and potential use of the individuals involved.
Sermons of Caine
Some members of the Sabbat value their knowledge of the Book of Nod. Others do not know or care about the book, and they see their role in the Sabbat as one of endless war and violence. Those members who take the story of their origins very seriously often gather to hear sermons on their history to remind them who and what they are. This reminder serves to strengthen their loyalty to the Sect and their ideology. Pack members take turns reciting from the Book of Nod, while the others sit in a semicircle holding lit candles and meditating on the passages.
The sermons are sometimes followed by the Vaulderie, and, among more intellectual packs, intense deliberation. Pack members often discuss the passages read during the ritus almost until dawn. Vampire history, particularly as far back as Cainite legend, is largely an oral tradition — very few copies of the Book of Nod actually exist. Few, if any, Sabbat packs can agree unanimously on the exact phraseology of a given passage from the book. The Sect is divided on this matter — some Sabbat believe that as long as the spirit of the Book of Nod is preserved, the letter is irrelevant, while others maintain that for all Sabbat to have the same reference, a standard book needs to be decided upon. This schism, of course, results in a wide variety of individual positions on the matter, from violent support on both ends of the spectrum to a profound ambivalence for anything outside one's pack's take on the matter.
- Main article: Vaulderie
- Vinculum never breaks like a Blood Bond. They are for life and never degrade over time. When a person who has a Vinculum to another dies, the other Cainite (the one surviving) instead feels a pull on that bond, knowing something terrible has occurred.
- The Vinculum prevents new full Blood Bonds from taking into full effect. The only exception to this is if a vampire is "Fully Bound" to someone before partaking in the Vaulderie. In that case, until they perform the version of the Vaulderie that removes Blood Bonds, they will have both (Vinculi and Blood Bonds). Also, while the Vinculum prevents full Blood Bonds from occurring, it does not stop partial ones.
- The Merit "Unbondable" makes one immune to Blood Bonds and to Vinculum as well.
- Main article: War party
The Sabbat thrives on diablerie and the destruction of elders, and this dangerous ritus serves to facilitate both of those urges. War parties consist of multiple packs that vie for the blood of a non-Sabbat elder. Packs participating in the War Party compete against one another for the privilege of killing and diablerizing the elder, but rarely do the packs come into deadly conflict with each other, reserving their violence for their target.
In preparation for a War Party, the participating packs gather and celebrate. They may also perform the Fire Dance, listen to Sermons of Caine, and participate in a Blood Feast or Vaulderie. The chief of the War Party, usually the most accomplished or highest-ranking priest among the packs, offers the assembled packs the challenge. She stands before the individual packs, each lined up behind their leaders, and asks each of the packs' leaders in turn, “Do you come freely to war, and do you take up this noble cause, never resting until the blood of our enemy is spilled?” The leaders respond with a forceful "We do!" Only after the packs have committed to the hunt does he reveal the identity of their target. A pack suffers great humiliation if it backs out of a challenge after its members have committed themselves to this most dangerous game. For the remainder of the night, the vampires hold a revel, preparing themselves for the hunt the next evening holds in store. The War Party sets out after its prey on the night following the challenge — the hunt has begun.
Sabbat vampires on the warpath stop at nothing to take down their prey. They kill, burn, smash, and overturn anyone or anything that stands between them and their target. The winning pack is the one whose member consumes the elder’s blood first. The target, unliving or dead, or some recognizable portion of the target, must be brought back to the place where the packs accepted the challenge. The Chief of the War Party accepts this trophy and bestows her blessing over the winning pack. Once the chief recognizes the winner, all bets are settled and another celebration is held. The vampire partaking of the diablerie gains the benefits of committing the Amaranth. Vampires who belong to the winning pack gain status within the Sabbat – at least until the next War Party (unless the same pack wins again), or at the end of the next grandiose Sabbat affair. This gain of status might be permanent if the hunted elder was of exceptional power or reputation.
One of the greatest crimes a Sabbat can commit is to turn traitor, and the Sect protects its secrets. If a member reveals a Sect secret to the enemy, she is punished severely. If a Sabbat leaks information of a vital nature, a priest may call for a Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt is much like the Blood Hunt, but ends with the eradication of the offending Sabbat Sect member, as well as anyone — Kindred or kine — who may have knowledge of the betrayal. The gravity of the Wild Hunt depends upon the traitor in question — the packs are expected to police their own ranks, while high-profile turncoats receive the attention of Archbishops, Prisci, Cardinals, and all those who serve them.
The priest assembles the local Sabbat and formally calls them to the hunt, which is sometimes similar to the preface of a War Party. Once caught, the offending Sabbat is staked and immobilized. The pack takes her before the Ductus and Pack Priest (or Bishop, etc.), who recite her crimes to her packmates. The pack then torments the offender in whatever manner it deems appropriate — hot irons, Vicissitude, and mutilation are the least-creative forms of vengeance a righteous pack can inflict on a traitor. Finally, the pack destroys the traitor by throwing her (still staked) on a consecrated burning pyre.
After the traitor meets her end, the Sabbat pursues those who either learned of the secret or were involved. Sabbat justice is relentless — the Sect stops at nothing to ensure their security. Naturally, the Sabbat cannot know about every little (or even many of the big) secrets that slip through the cracks. Frustration over this fact often makes things doubly bad for those they do catch.
Sabbat who are subject to the Wild Hunt are no longer Sabbat, and thus, no longer considered by the Sect to be vampires at all. No amount of groveling can convince the Sect to take back a traitor, though this harsh reality comes more out of security than bullheadedness.