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Aleister Crowley (Edward Alexander Crowley) was born 12 October in the same year as the

foundation of the Theosophical Society (1875), at Leamington Spa at 11.30pm. He was


therefore a Libran with Pisces moon and Leo rising. Contrary to popular legend, he died on
the 1st December 1947. A review in Cambridge University magazine Granta of 1904
provides some guidance on the pronunciation of the great man’s name: ‘Oh, Crowley, name
for future fame!/(Do you pronounce it Croully?)/Whate’er the worth of this your mirth/It
reads a trifle foully.’

The myth of the magus has grown to prodigious proportions in the half century or more since
the old man’s death. Crowley is now firmly established in the popular mind as a folk hero (or
anti hero?), transmogrified to an icon on a spectrum somewhere between 'the sandman' (Clive
Barker version) and 'the gringe'.

To many, Crowley’s magick (I’m using the archaic form of the term as popularised by AC for
technical reasons), provides a neat dividing line between some kind of urban high magical
tradition and the supposedly more earth centred styles of neo-paganism. The truth is, as
always, a lot more complex. Crowley’s magick draws all of it’s power from nature, see for
example an ancient Egyptian formula: ‘so that every Spirit of the Firmament and of the Ether:
Upon the Earth and under the Earth; on dry land and in the Water: of whirling Air; and of
rushing Fire and every spell and scourge of God may be obedient to Me.’ (1)

Crowley spent all of his moderately long life exploring countless dramatic astral and
mundane landscapes in search of gnosis. It’s a shame he wasn’t a good enough travel writer
to communicate fully in his many books the real majesty of nature. He seemed to go
everywhere, from the deepest jungles to the highest mountains of the earth. An account from
Jan Fries’ book Visual Magick, amply demonstrates that Crowley never quite lost the taste for
the great outdoors and the spirits of nature. In 1925 the mage took the leadership of the
‘Fraternitas Saturni on a long walk up the garden path and into the forest. Whenever Uncle
Aleister noticed a remarkable plant, stone or tree, he graciously lifted his hat to greet it. This
bizarre behaviour apparently astonished his fellows. Some novices, we are told, dared to
whisper “What is the master doing?” “The elemental spirits of nature have come to see the
master” was the reply “and Sir Aleister is acknowledging their greeting.” The whole incident
including a rather nice ritual is to be found in an article on ‘Pentagramme Magick’ in Praxis
(1963).

Towards the end of his life Crowley began to lose interest in the Ordo Templi Orientis and
other organisations he had fashioned as potential vehicles for the dissemination of the great
work. He met Gerald Gardner and together they may have devised a plan to transform the
OTO into a more popular witchcraft cult. Gardner duly bought a charter and rose rapidly
through the grades, even travelling to America to meet other OTO initiates. Fred Lamond,
one of Gardners first acolytes, recalls that American adept Jack Parsons looked very
favourably on the idea of a new witch cult. If Crowley had lived long enough to complete
Gardner’s training, modern paganism would undoubtedly look quite different, but that’s
another story.
Mogg Morgan

(1) From Liber Samekh, as adapted by Crowley from an ancient Hermetic fragment. The
cosmology of the Egyptian original made no sense to Crowley’s teachers, hence his slight
paraphrase - the original reads: ‘so that every daimon, whether heavenly or aerial or earthly or
subterranean or terrestrial or aquatic’