Crowley peak moments

 

 

 

 

For me, the story of Aleister Crowley’s moment of truth in Cairo 1904 is one of the most interesting in a lifetime graced by perhaps a half dozen such experiences. 1904 was the pivotal year in Crowley’s career, he was 29 years old and therefore well into what is popularly known as the “Saturn Return”. Difficult as it is to believe, Crowley had more or less given up on magick at this point in his life and concentrated on having a good time with what remained of his inheritance. I think we can surmise that he was disillusioned by his experiences as an unwanted member of the famous Victorian occult society we know as the Golden Dawn. Like any hierarchical organisation, internal reveries often blow things apart and in this case, the conflicts had ended in litigation and even, so it is said, deadly magical battles. Its autocratic master Samuel Liddell Macgregor-Mathers said to be overwhelmed by megalomania, locked in conflict with other former friends but also wannabe masters and mistresses. Crowley, still a relatively young upstart, had taken his chances with the boss. Significantly he had cut short his magical retreat in Scotland, for which he had obviously made lavish preparations – this was the famous Abramelin practice. 

In the version he was following, the practice began on Jewish Passover and continued for six months. From a more recent and complete published version, we now know this should actually be 18months. In the 15th century, Abraham began his retreat at Easter (Jewish Passover) itself a very important ancient feast connected with demons and angels of death. These myths make use of doorways of one kind or another, the ancient Hebrews supposedly inscribing magick signs on their lintels, a signal for the angel of death to pass over the house.

It terminated on the old feast of Tabernacles or “Booths”. The modern interpretation tells us this was originally a reminder of the temporary dwellings used by the early Hebrews during their flight from Egypt.  

Crowley’s short gambit with the Golden Dawn did not go well and he was either expelled or left the sanctuary under a cloud. As for The Book of Abramelin, the magical moment had passed and there was no point in returning to his house at Boleskine until the following Easter. So Crowley travelled to Mexico and as often happens, did not return for several years. When he did he was again distracted by his future wife Rose Kelly. 

He eloped with and married Rose Kelly. It was for her patrician family, an unsuitable match, though he was a former family friend. Perhaps to escape the bad family vibe, they set out together on a world tour as a honeymoon. Their cruise ship arrived in Alexandra, a short hop from Cairo, where they planned some sightseeing in the fascinating metropolis. They no doubt took in the sites and the nightlife. Crowley, who already knew the city, having visited a few years earlier, paying a little baksheesh to the local family for special access to the pyramids at night, where in the King’s chamber, he was able to show off some of his old tricks, with a handy copy of the Goetia, which has a preliminary invocation taken from ancient Egyptian magical papyri. 

The results cannot fail to have impressed Rose Kelly, who later, back in their lavish hotel room, no doubt having imbibed perhaps a little too much of the local Omar Khayyam vintage, fell into a light trance and said: “They are waiting for you”. I’m paraphrasing really, more accurate accounts are available I’m sure. Some say Crowley had prepared for all this on his visit a few years earlier, why else did he have the right magical books to hand. But key perhaps is that is was Passover in Cairo, the full moon and exactly the right time to restart another Egyptian originated ritual, that of Abramelin, who according to his medieval account, was a supreme ritual of the adepts in Upper Egypt, which he got after his failed quest through Europe in search of illumination. 

Already experienced with the Abramelin system, Crowley seems to have used it to put himself in touch with his guardian daemon – Aiwass, an entity which some say was his own psyche. There is a famous photograph of Crowley posed with a magick book, a pentagram emblazoned on the front cover. What’s in the book, nothing other than his complete collection of magick squares neatly drawn during his preparation for the Abramelin practice!

The name of his angel lends itself to a bit of wordplay. Aiwass or “I Was” does indeed have a split personality, dictating a book that proposes entirely contradictory solutions to humanity’s problems viz “The Law of the Jungle” versus  “AL True Ism”?  

Snoo Wilson takes up the story some years later when Crowley, now reconciled with his revelation in Cairo, makes an attempt to found an alternative community, dedicated to the tenets dictated to him by those Egyptian spirits in Cairo. It was a brave attempt that eventually foundered due to its own internal conflicts, and the events outside the communards control, such as the rise of a fascist government in Italy, which was hostile to such alternative lifestyles. The Sicilian locals apparently had come to enjoy the presence of their purple priest and his followers. 

Snoo Wilson who carved out a successful career as a playwright specialising in the tricky genre of black comedy used all his talents on the Crowley story. The result was a successful stage play which is novelised as “I, Crowley, almost the last confession of the beast 666”. These days, Crowley people are not noted for their sense of humour and not everyone is able to see the funny side of some of our pretensions. Which is odd, given how fond Crowley himself was of a good joke or an extended tongue in cheek romp.   I’m pretty sure he would have enjoyed Snoo’s retelling of the end of the commune as much as anyone should. Remembering that one must first entertain before getting too serious. In the end, “I, Crowley” does all that, though it starts with a refutation of the accusation common in my hometown, that Crowley killed much loved Oxford student Raoul Loveday with a magick spell. Arthur Calder Marshall wrote that a hit squad was even sent from the Student Union to avenge the crime that never happened. The whole story is set out in this great act of what Snoo once called the “lesser form of magick” although he was again being ironic, there is nothing lesser about writing a good novel.

Part II of this essay
is about Aleister Crowley: A Beginner’s Guide

 

Three Demon Daemons for Pisces

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As is well known to those who follow my reconstructed Egyptian daemonic or demonic calendar, every 30 day lunar period is dominated by three entities, one for each ten day period or trimester, also known as a decan, from Latin for 10. Here they are, as depicted on the wall of the temple of Isis at Philae:

The new moon began on 23rd February with the left most image known simply as Akhw, which I have translated elsewhere as spirit entity, very like the later idea of the Djinn, which in many ways is a belief system in continuity with that of Pharaonic Egypt. The astrological month of Pisces also, as it happens, begins more or less now, and these seem very appropriate spirits for the Pisces type.

Now of course, I have argued that all of the 36 decanal demons are like the class of demonic things known in old Egypt as the Akhw, but this is not to say this term is here just a generic thing. There is something very special about this demon. Rather than being generic we could say it is the paradigm for the whole array of night spirits, In the ancient almanac from which some of these details are gleaned, a great deal of otherwise lost folklore and mythology is recorded, often in passing. In several places in the long text, special rites are prescribed for the Akhw, who maybe otherwise become troublesome. No surprise then that the group of three have a particularly demonic aspect, where as other images could simple be those of the common gods of Egypt.

Interesting too that whereas many other images of the demons have been mutilated in later times, these three survive intact. Here’s an example of one of the other images, although with the typical mutilation of the effective organs, the face & hands. The context of these mutilations is a subject in its own right and very interesting magick too:

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The middlemost image shown earlier is very strange, quite monstrous really; a human headed entity, wearing the archaic skull cap similar to that worn by the god Ptah, but no arms! This absence of arms is intentional, nothing is left to chance in Egyptian art, although the meaning may be lost on us, but something like, he has no hands to take hold of you. His entire body tapers off into that of a crocodile. His or her name translated as “one who comes before or heralds the two souls (the Ba)” Now, as these entities are also groups of stars in the so-called decanal belt – he could be the herald in the sense of the group of stars that rises before the third and final demon, the one who rules the dark nights of the month, and the mysterious days before the next new moon when gods such as Horus arise from the body of their father Osiris. No surprise then that the entity that we are guided towards, is the strangest of the entire strange series of three. The image shows a snake with two heads, one at each end of his body. Monstrous but useful if you want to look in two directions, and in this case two levels, perhaps upper and lower. But troublesome if the two souls decide to pull in different directions. Perhaps they are meant to represent two snakes mating, their sensuous bodies molded together. Ancient mystery of the body is encoded here, one that emerged later in the Hindu tradition known as Tantra. Two souls are fine as long as they move in coordination and in the same direction. We tend to think that being single minded is the best way to get things done but perhaps here we can detect an equally old and valuable idea, that two heads are better than one.

The decans are discussed in greater detail in my books Supernatural Assault in Ancient Egypt and Phi-Neter: Power of the Egyptian gods. I’m currently working on a combined volume, devoted to the Egyptian Demonic Calendar. Look out for all these titles wherever good books are sold, but certainly on Amazon.

Oh, and my name is Mogg Morgan

 

 

Zar, Encounters with the Trance Dance Tradition of Egypt

Zar is the name of an exorcism dance tradition known most commonly from Egypt. The word is itself of obscure origin but most likely explanation is that it means a “visitation”. When western observers first encountered Zar in Egypt they described it as “black magic”:

“WITHIN only a comparatively short period of years,” says Professor Macdonald, “quite easily within thirty years, I should say — we have come to know that practically all through the Moslem world there is spread an observance exactly like the Black Mass in Christendom. That is to say, it is a profane parody of a sacred service. ..”

The heartland of Zar is modern Sudan, which was in the ancient world known as Nubia, the “land of gold”. The Nubians were famous as practitioners of sorcery. Sudanese people have in past been forcibly relocated all over the Middle East via the slave trade, thus there are different kinds of Zar, the most famous being Egypt Zar, but there are also branches all over the Mehreb, Morroccan (Gnawa), Libya, Algeria, and also Iran where they are known as the people of the air. Zar spirits can be Pagan, Muslim, Hindu, Christian or Jewish. 

Initiations into the cult could be be “demonic” – that is one becomes an initiate because of encounter with a specific disease-spirit . One instinctively recognizes the musical signature of your first spirit. Depression is one of the most common triggers for Zar possession, something that, for example, commonly afflicts Egyptian women. From the Iranian branch we learn that there are in fact 72 different kinds of Zar spirit. 

Masters of the Zar circle are known as Baba or Mama – father or a mother. They are experts in all the different Zar spirits, having been introduced to them by their first spirit initiator. These spirits are very similar to those from pharaonic Egypt – where they were known as the Akh or Akhw. These terms have been compared to Arabic Afarit, a kind of Djinn. Actually Djinn are fiery spirits whereas the Zar spirits often live under the earth in places such as caves or tombs.

A contact in Egypt, thinking I might help, told me about the problems experienced by his sister who would fall into a spontaneous possession trance that was catatonic. When her relatives spoke to her in this state and asked what she wanted, the spirit would reply “she wants a divorce.” The spirits are very practical and make a lot of sense in people’s lives. So the first question one should always put to such as spirit should be : “what do you want?”

Often part of the answer is a ceremony of some kind, which like much ancient folk ritual was ecstatic. The ceremony breaks many taboos and can involve alcohol, food, music and ecstatic dance in mixed company. It is important to have a blood sacrifice, usually a goat, whose blood will be offered to the spirits, while the human participants share the feast. 

Wadôh wadêh ‘eni wadôh – yâ mamma / or Al La (Mogg Morgan author of Supernatural Assault in Ancient Egypt) 

The Masters of Zar 

Around 7 pm we were ready to go out to see the Masters of Zar that was showing at the El Dammah Theater, we couldn’t find the theater on the map, and weren’t sure about the address so we got Essmat to write the address and the name of the theater in Arabic so we can show it to the Taxi driver. Thanks to Essmat’s note, the Taxi driver could find the place which was tucked away at the back of a tiny ally. Inside, a very small theater, maybe enough room for about 50 people. There were not many people, only us and 4 other British tourists and about 10 locals. 

At exactly eight o’clock three “mamas” enter. They are dressed in beautiful traditional dresses. The “crone” is dressed in royal blue, the “mother” dressed in black and the “younger” was dressed in red (the youngest probably in her fifties the oldest probably in her eighties). They started singing and chanting and one by one the other members of the group entered. They are drumming and chanting and building the rhythm into a very energetic trance beat which makes you want to get up and dance.

Four British guys are sitting in the front row and it doesn’t take long before one of them gets up and dances with the zar troops. The three mamas dance around him and it looks to me that they are guiding him into a deeper trance – they are circling and chanting around him dancing, hypnotising him, like they are putting a spell on him or maybe they are trying to break the spell that he’s been under…who knows?…

The atmosphere in the room is buzzing and I am sitting at the edge of my chair waiting for the right moment to get up and join in the magickal Zar circle. While thinking that, one of the Zar members approached me, he was a very handsome black man, very tall and looked like an Egyptian Pharaoh, all regal and beautiful in his white Galabia. He took my hand and lead me towards the dancers. As soon as we got into the circle the three mamas circled and danced around me, it felt like they are trying to show me something so I follow their moves which apparently was the right thing to do as the 2 older mamas moved on to dance with the 2 guys, and left me with the third one – The Black Mama, she showed me her moves which I followed and repeated. The rhythm and beat of the music grew faster and hypnotic, I could feel I’m going into trance. The eldest of the company, who I suspect was the leader, got closer and started to dance with me, while dancing together the rest of the company formed a dancing circle around us. The rhythm of the drums became faster and louder all smiling at me like they know something I don’t. I feel hypnotised, I dance the ancient dance with the company of wild Egyptian gypsies, the elder looked into my eyes, said something and smile and handed his drum over to me!

HE HANDED HIS DRUM TO ME!!!

I nearly fainted, this is the deepest shamanic initiation I know, holding THE DRUM in my hand I felt the buzz of its rhythm vibrating all over my body and in my heart. The three mamas are circling us and it feels to me that they are flying around us. I’m so excited and nervous at the same time, I can hear my drum completely out of tune, the “red mama” looked at me and with her eyes I can see her asking, “what are you doing woman? You are out of tune”! I gave her the drum back and thanked her of saving me from total embarrassment. From the corner of my eye I see the black prince leads Mina into the circle and before I knew it the “black mama” is taking me by the hand and Mina with her other hand and dances with both of us, everyone in the circle is cheering and dancing around us, the atmosphere is intoxicating, this is all a bit too much for me, I feel that I’m going to explode with joy, I need to sit down. I leave the circle feeling like I’m walking on clouds, feeling I am blessed.

The show’s going on for a little while longer, and once it’s finished I went to say goodbye to the three mamas. I get hugs and kisses from all of them, but it’s the Blue Mama, the eldest, she really got me. She gave me a big big hug, kissed both of my cheeks, looked into my eyes and said : “Habibty, Ya-Albi” ( “my darling, my beloved – my heart”), I was in tears. I kissed her back and thanked her.

For one long moment we were one, I was as one with her, I was a Zar.