Into my loneliness comes—
The sound of a flute in dim groves that haunt the uttermost hills.
Even from the brave river they reach to the edge of the wilderness.
And I behold Pan.
The Holy Book of Thelema (1907)
Aleister Crowley, called the ‘Beast’ by his own mother, was a poet, artist, mountaineer, chess player and occultist, who described his occult work as Magick. A controversial figure, Crowley spent his whole life in spiritual/magickal work. He defined Magick as
‘the Science and Art of causing change to occur in conformity with Will’
Crowley believed that Magick was a third way between religion and science, and that it involved communication with beings ‘who exist on a higher plane than ours.[and] Mysticism is the raising of oneself to their level.’ Born into great wealth and a fundamentalist Christian sect, The Plymouth Brethren, Crowley spent his life outraging ‘Christian morality’ with his relationships with men and women, his drug use and sex magic.
Where can we see this in his chart? Jupiter and Mercury in Scorpio suggest pushing the boundaries (Jupiter) with sexuality (Scorpio) plus Mercury (the psychopomp) who leads truth seekers into the Underworld (Mercury/Scorpio) and then returns and teaches (Jupiter) and writes (Mercury) about his experiences. Scorpio loves to shock and push everyone’s buttons, there is a real sense of the showman here, who chucked a truth bomb into polite society, he was most active in the 1920s when homosexuality was illegal in the UK (remember the sad fate of Oscar Wilde).
Hi Mercury/Jupiter conjunction forms a wide T Square with a brilliant Saturn in Aquarius in the 7th house and an equally dazzling Uranus in Leo in the first house. Crowley was clearly a gifted showman, throughout his life he persuaded people to follow his vision, and later, when the money run out, financially support it. A Leo Ascendant can be warm, charming, splendid, radiant. It draws people into their vision and welcomes them to their exclusive club. The shadow side of course, if a fierce, vindictive rage if they are challenged in any way. Throughout his life Crowley endeavoured to take control (Saturn in Aquarius) of any organisation he came in contact with and had massive splits (Uranus) with most of them.
In January 1914 together Crowley and Neuburg (his lover and disciple) performed a six week ritual sequence which they referred to as The Paris Working where they invoked both Mercury and Jupiter, performed sex magic together and took cocaine and perhaps heroin and opium (Moon in Pisces loves its drugs!). From this experience, Crowley wrote the Liber Agapé, a book on sex magic. Neuburg later claimed he was cursed by Crowley when he stepped back from their collaboration.
I love that he has Mars in Capricorn and was both an accomplished mountain climber (Capricorn) and chess player (Capricorn). He understood how power worked (Mars/Capricorn) especially in organisations like The Golden Dawn and OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis) and quickly rose among the ranks, but then argued with the members who resented his arrogant (Leo) takeover.
During his lifetime, Crowley’s work was notorious but he had few students and in later life suffered financial hardship. His teachings influenced many Western Esotericists. Gerald Gardner (see last week) used much of Crowley’s work in the early Gardnerian rituals. They fell out afterwards.
I have always felt wary of Crowley, perhaps because of the sex-magic and the drugs, it all sounds a little out of control and ahem, sordid. I was surprised then to see the Tarot cards he produced working with the artist Lady Frieda Harris between 1937-1942. Harris encouraged him to put his own occult, Magickal and spiritual teachings into the deck. The paintings were not made into Tarot cards in either of their lifetimes (Crowley died in 1947 and Harris in 1962), but they are beautiful, ethereal and powerful renditions of the traditional Tarot symbolism. The Fool card, especially looks like the Greene Man.
While the Magus (the Magician in most decks) is a splendid Mercurial/Pan like figure (remember his strong Mercury/Jupiter in Scorpio).
Harris and Crowley collaborated closely, I feel the cards reflect Crowley’s powerful aesthetic sense, Sun and Venus in Libra as well as his refined artistic eye (Moon in Pisces). Harris financially supported him while they worked together and they became close friends. Harris used her society contacts to get support for publication of the Book and exhibitions for her paintings. In the introduction to the Book of Thoth Crowley wrote:
‘She devoted her genius to the work. With incredible rapidity she picked up the rhythm, and with inexhaustible patience submitted to the correction of the slave-driver that she had invoked, often painting the same card as many as eight times until it measured up to his Vanadium yardstick.’
Interestingly, the synastry between them brings out his Uranus which is conjunct her Sun and North Node at 20′ degrees Leo (brilliance, creativity, her path in life).
Crowley’s Venus at 24′ Libra is conjunct her Jupiter at 29′ showing their love of art and aesthetic collaboration, his Ascendant is conjunct her Mercury at 2′ Leo, giving them both a voice (Mercury) and public recognition (Ascendant/Leo). Harris’ Venus, Uranus conjunction in Libra brings up the theme of radicality (Uranus) beauty and art (Venus in Libra).
After Crowley’s death she wrote,
‘I shall miss him terribly
An irreplaceable loss
Love is the law, love under will’
Many people these days, come to Crowley through these exquisite cards, which I feel are a reminder of the beauty of this complicated wild child of Magick.