The Charge of the Goddess by Aleister Crowley

by G.M.Kelly


Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Mention the name of Aleister Crowley to most modern day Wiccans and one produces in them a kind of allergic reaction. Dare to say or even imply that many of today's Wiccan rituals were written by To Mega Therion, A.C., and these peace-loving, love-preaching blessed-be-ers are ready to take up their athames or swords and slit your throat! Crowley, they claim, had nothing to do with the Wiccan rituals. It's all a lie, a bloody goddamned lie! Crowley, that disgusting Satanist, could have had nothing whatsoever to do with the Craft of the Wise! Witchcraft can trace everything back to very ancient, pre-Christian times. The Old Religion has remained unchanged for centuries--ĉons!--and that wicked old Beast 666 could have had nothing to do with it! 

However, he could have and he did. 

The Craft is a Pagan ("rural", not "godless") religion and the vast majority of Wiccans seem to be artistic people, and so temperamental and emotional people--very often people who enjoy as much freedom as possible and shun too much discipline as being too restrictive. Before I go on after that please let me explain that I am NOT anti-craft. I began my esoteric studies, this time around, with the Old Religion, and I have a soft spot in my heart (skeptics say "head") for the Craft. I, LIKE ALEISTER CROWLEY, would very much like to see Paganism, with its natural and uncomplicated ways, once again take its rightful place in the world. However, this over reaction to the name of Aleister Crowley, this ignorant, spiteful attitude that blinds so many good people to reason, really must stop. In every case where a Wiccan has spoken ill of A.C. I have discovered that they read at most two or three of his books--and that very superficially--read and not studied. In short, these good people, members of the Old Religion, the Craft of the Wise, were not being very wise and were thinking and acting no better than any coward, any unreasonable skeptic or Christian bigot. Like so many others that they should be superior to, Wiccans tend, for instance, to read one or two negative comments about women made by Crowley and instantly, dynamically declare that he hated women, completely ignoring all of the words of praise he had for women, the beautiful poems in honor of womanhood and the Goddess in each woman. Crowley absolutely loved women. Wiccans tend to overreact to a word here and there and cease to think reasonably, rationally, just as a black person noting that A.C. used the word "nigger" in a few places instantly "turns off" to Crowley and Thelema--and yet in various places Crowley praises certain "niggers", while the term itself, which essentially only means "black" or "black-skinned", was commonly used during and after Victorian times to mean an individual of a dark-skinned race, and this included Hindus and Arabians. It was not necessarily and always considered a derogatory term then and it was not until relatively recent times that blacks began to resent the term and insist upon being called "blacks" and not "niggers", "Negroes" or "colored people"--or is it "Afro-Americans" today? Political correctness had not been invented in Crowley's day and he was not (in these instances!) trying to offend anyone. 

The point of all of this is that emotional over reaction tends to blind reason, and then one becomes unreasonable, and to be unreasonable is to be without reason, and to be without reason means that one has, at least temporarily, lost one's reason, and that in turn means one has gone at least a little crazy. 

I Understand the reason for Wiccans' over reaction to the name of Aleister Crowley just as I Understand the reasons for a black person's reaction to the now almost exclusively derogatory term of "nigger", but it is time to calm down and be rational. Besides, when one loses one's temper one loses the argument. Wiccans have a tough job of it. Mother Rome and the Holy Catholic Church may not be persecuting Witches with dunking and the sword, the gibbet and stake, but in more subtle ways, motivated by the massive amount of misconceptions engendered during medieval times by the Roman Catholic Church, Witchcraft and its followers are still subject to gibbet, exposed to ridicule and scorn. Most Wiccans then are overly sensitive and lacking any hard knowledge of Aleister Crowley, his writings and work, and fearing to be linked to "the wickedest man in the world", the Great Beast 666, instead of studying the subject and replying to ignorance with informed wisdom and intelligence, these otherwise good and sensible, down-to-earth people jump on the bandwagon and denounce a man that they owe a great deal to in so very many ways. Crowley was a major force in bringing about the revival of interest in the esoteric that opened minds, just a little, but enough to pave the way for Wicca to "come out of the broom closet", as it were, and practice its religion once again, proudly and by the light of the sun and the moon. And yes, Aleister Crowley DID write at least some of the rituals that most traditions of the Craft employ today. Those who claim that today's Craft is exactly as it was in very ancient times, since the beginning of humankind, are either very naive or very stupid. If this were so there would still be human sacrifices, a thing considered quite "bad" today, but in very primitive times simply the natural thing to do to insure such things as a good harvest. The general overall consciousness of humanity has evolved and with this has come the evolution of the Craft of the Wise, and with evolution there is change. 

So let's get real out there, people! 

Let's grow up. Stop answering unreasonable emotion with unreasonable emotion, and let's be better than the masses who ignorantly follow like sheep anyone who appears to have authority. Think for yourselves. Pick up a book, read it, study it, learn all you can about a subject, and above all THINK. Then speak, but answer that unreasonable emotion in yourself and others with cold logic and reason. Stop trying to fight ignorance with ignorance. Fight ignorance with knowledge, understanding, wisdom--intelligence. Prove to the uninitiated and skeptics that a Wiccan is indeed an intelligent person who just may indeed deserve the title of Wise One! 

Ah, but I have gone a long long way in just opening up this article--and hopefully a few closed minds. Let me proceed with a little "proof" to title and nature of this article. 

First of all it should be noted (and please, before you disagree, dispassionately study the matter and be prepared to be objective and not subjective to it) that much of today's Craft owes a great deal to the work and writings of Gerald B. Gardner, and that many of today's traditions may have roots in some ancient tradition, Celtic (Keltic) or whatever, but many of today's rituals are either directly taken from or adaptations of Gardnerian rituals. These rituals were, in turn, at least in part, written by Aleister Crowley, either as a favor to his friend G.B.G. or for pay, which is most likely as at the time A.C. probably needed the money and he had done many things anonymously for money--thing he believed in--things like the translation, editing and annotating of LITTLE POEMS IN PROSE by Charles Baudelaire and A PROPHET IN HIS OWN COUNTRY, Henry Clifford Stuart--as well as ghostwriting other books such as ASTROLOGY: YOUR PLACE IN THE SUN and ASTROLOGY: YOUR PLACE IN THE STARS supposedly by Evangeline Adams. (There...now we've done it! Now we've gotten a bunch of astrologers all upset!) 

Crowley and Huxley corresponded, compared notes, and much of today's rational knowledge about drugs and their effects upon the human brain and mind can be then traced back to Crowley. A.C. helped to mold generations of science fiction and fantasy writers through, in part, his association with Lord Dunsany and James Branch Cabel. It is, in fact, difficult to find an aspect of modern society that was not in some way influenced by the Beast 666. Ah...but there I go again. I will jump off my soap box and try to get to the point. 

In Gardner's first book on the Craft, a novel, HIGH MAGIC'S AID, 1949 E.V., about two years after the death of Aleister Crowley, G.B.G., writing under the pseudonym of Scrire, clearly shows that he was associated with Therion by following the name with "O.T.O. 4 = 7". Now the O.T.O. is obvious--the now familiar initials of the Ordo Templi Orientis (the real one, not one of the groups masquerading as the O.T.O. today)--and it is equally obvious that Gardner was telling us that he was a member of that order which was headed by Baphomet, i.e. Crowley. The "4 = 7" is obviously a reference to the Philosophus grade of the Golden Dawn, the outer order of the A.·.A.·., which G.B.G. is then claiming to have been admitted to by his friend Aleister Crowley. 

In WITCHCRAFT TODAY by Gardner, 1954 E.V.,he states with a little tongue-in-cheek, knowing full well the facts of the case but also wishing not to take away from the mystery of the "Old Religion" and its "ancient mysteries and practices", that "The only man I can think of who could have invented the rites was the late Aleister Crowley. When I met him he was most interested to hear that I was a member, and said he had been inside when he was very young, but would not say whether he had rewritten anything or not. ... There are indeed certain expressions and certain words used which smack of Crowley; possibly he borrowed things from the cult writings, or more likely someone may have borrowed expressions from him." Can you imagine these two old infamous goats together, G.B.G. and A.C., pulling legs left and right! 

And in THE MEANING OF WITCHCRAFT, 1959 E.V., Gardner strongly defends and supports his old friend and Frater Superior, Aleister Crowley: "I wish here that I could nail the silly lie that Aleister Crowley was a 'Satanist'. Crowley, like most intelligent people, did not believe in Satan. ... The statements I have read in 'popular' articles about him, that he had 'made a solemn pact with the Devil', and 'sold his soul to Satan', are either sheer ignorance or journalistic invention." Et cetera. 

The point is that A.C. was not such a bad person after all, as Gerald B. Gardner amply points out, especially inthe last mentioned book, and for his friend, Gardner, Crowley wrote some of the Wiccan rites now used by many if not most of today's modern traditions whose roots may or may not be in ancient times. Proof? Fine. Let us do this by comparison of one thing in particular for which many have taken credit, usually in a roundabout way. THE CHARGE OF THE GODDESS. 

I have here two versions that are essentially the same. One is taken from THE GRIMOIRE OF LADY SHEBA (Jessie Wicker Bell) and the other that we will use is from the sometimes sloppily written but nonetheless valuable book by Stewart Farrar entitled WHAT WITCHES DO. And there is no sense in arguing that both books are from corrupt traditions or anything like that as The Charge is still essentially the same in more "pure" traditions. 

(I) "...ye who are fain to learn all sorcery,yet have not won its deepest secrets; to these will I teach things that are as yet unknown." LIBER AL VEL LEGIS SUB FIGURA CCXX, Chapter II, Verse 2: "Come! all ye, and learn the secret that hath not yet been revealed." 

(II) "For mine is the ecstasy of the spirit, and mine also is joy on earth; for my law is love unto all beings." CCXXI.53 & 57: "But ecstasy be thine and joy of earth"; "Love is the law". 

(III) "mine is the secret door." CCXX III.38: "I have made a secret door". This door, among other things, relates to the meaning of the Hebrew letter Daleth which means "door" and to which is attributed Atu III of the tarot, "the Empress", Venus, the Goddess of Love, et cetera. 

(IV) "I am the gracious Goddess, who gives the gift of joy unto the heart of man. Upon earth, I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal; and beyond death, I give peace, and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before./Nor do I demand sacrifice..." CCXX I.58: "I give unimaginable joys on earth: certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy; nor do I demand aught in sacrifice." And note that the phrase "heart of man" which appears above and in another place in the Charge can be found in CCXX II.6: "I am the flame that burns in every heart of man". 

(V) "the Star Goddess...whose body encircles the universe." In Thelema Nuit is most frequently referred to as "the Star Goddess" for various reasons; she is "the circumference...nowhere found" (CCXX II.3) and as can be seen by her image on the Stele of Revealing she is depicted as encircling the universe. 

(VI) "and come unto me". CCXX II.7: "'Come unto me'". 

(VII) "let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reference within you." CCXX II.20: "Beauty and strength, leaping laughter and delicious languor, force and fire, are of us." Note not only the style and intent of this verse and that from the Charge but especially the opening phrase, "Beauty and strength". 

Many more similarities between the Charge of the Goddess and THE BOOK OF THE LAW that show that the former was modeled after the latter, perhaps not so outstanding, can be found, and there areother rituals, for instance, which have a strong resemblance in style and phrase to the Hymn to Pan by Aleister Crowley, which poem/invocation was adapted to invocations of the Horned God of Wicca, but I fear I have already strained your patience and given the editor of this publication* more than enough to worry about. Calm down now and think about it--look into the matter yourself and think about it. 

Wicca and Thelema have a great deal in common and one of the things we have in common is that we both exist ina still somewhat hostile environment. Instead of trying to whitewash theimage with ignorant protestation it is far better in the long run, although it may require more work and wit, to fight ignorance with intelligence, and as brothers and sisters back one another up against the common enemy, in whatever form it takes, and together build a far better society than the one that presently exists on this world--our poor old Mother Earth. 

Aleister Crowley was not such a bad guy. Really! He never committed a crime that was punishable by a jail sentence (except perhaps for some drug experimentation during more relaxed times, which many Wiccans today in these more restrictive times still practice, as well as doctors, lawyers, police officers, congressmen, et al!) and he never spent so much as a single day in jail. Crowley loved children so much that he never used the word "abortion" but always--always--referred to it as "criminal abortion", taking a far firmer stand than seems reasonable today. He truly loved women and the Goddess whom he saw reflected in every woman, and if at times he expressed his disappointment in certain women who did not well represent the Goddess, do not jump to the erroneous conclusion that he hated women. Which of us today does not at one time or another say something derogatory about the opposite sex, momentarily disappointed in certain representatives of that sex? Let he (or she!) who is without sin cast the first stone, one fellow is reported to have said about two thousand years ago--and golly!--let's not speak ill of that fellow either just because most of his modern day representatives are badly misrepresenting him and his teachings! 

Let us calm down, get real, think rationally, study the full scope of something, instead of just a small section of it, before arriving at conclusions, then let us work together so Wicca and Thelema can not only survive in this still hostile environment but grow strong and dominate. Rome converted millions with the sword of steel, threatening death and hell to those who would not become Christians. Let us, together,enlighten others with the Sword of Reason, promising life and heaven onearth.  

  

Love is the law, love under will.

POST SCRIPT: A certain Wiccan High Priestessand good friend reminded me of something that should be here noted. In the above article it is more accurate to say that A.C. REWROTE The Charge of the Goddess. Obviously it has existed for a very long time. A fragmentary, Christian-perverted version of it was published, for instance, by Charles Godfrey Leland (1824-1903 E.V.) in ARADIA, THE GOSPEL OF THE WITCHES, chapter I. However, it is obvious that Aleister Crowley not only removed the Christian taint from the ancient charge, for which Wiccans should be thankful, but he did improve the old charge by rewriting it. Another proof of this is the phrase "Keep pure your highest ideal(s)" which appears in the Charge and is also a direct quote from LIBER DCCCXXXVII, THE LAW OF LIBERTY, by To Mega Therion 666, Aleister Crowley (THE "BLUE" EQUINOX). And in a few instances Paul Huson's version of the Charge in MASTERING WITCHCRAFT resembles passages from THE BOOK OF THE LAW more closely than those versions here cited. But for God/dess' sake...let's not argue about it. Let us work together.

 

*This article originally appeared in the June 1987 E.V. issue of WEIRD, Volume 2, Number 2. For anyone interested in WEIRD you may contact Ms. Goldie Brown, P.O. Box 624, Monroeville, PA15146-0624. 


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