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1920s cult leader, black magician, drug and sex addict Aleister Crowley was dubbed ‘the wickedest man in the world’. In the 60s, he inspired the Rolling Stones, but 100 years on, how do his exploits hold up?
Crowley rebelled against his strict religious upbringing and at Cambridge University he published obscene pornographic poetry. He joined an occult society of writers known as The Golden Dawn which included the poet W.B. Yeats. He completed his magical training but began to believe he was destined for darker magic and left.
1899 The Real Loch Ness Monster
Crowley is also called ‘The Real Loch Ness Monster’ due to events at Boleskine House. He bought the house on Loch Ness to conduct rituals to invoke dark powers. The ritual should have lasted for six months, but he got tired of it and left. Claims of strange noises, suicides, and deaths at the house continued. It was later bought by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin who was fascinated by Crowley.
1904 The Great Pyramid
Crowley shocked society when he married his wife Rose and spent a debauched honeymoon in Egypt, including a ritual in the Great Pyramid. Rose claimed to have been inhabited by Spirit of Horus who dictated instructions in The Book Of The Law. The central idea that everyone should Do What Thou Wilt, e.g. total freedom and no restrictions.
1905 Mountain Disgrace
His notorious reputation grew worse after he was alleged to have let climbers die while leading an expedition to Kanchenjunga in 1905. He had set a height record for K2 in 1902 but hated the Alpine Club. He fell to blows with his group at 21,000 ft. Half the group set out to descend, but were caught in an avalanche, hearing their cries for help Crowley sat and drank tea in his tent. He admitted: ‘I was not over-anxious to render help. A mountain accident of this sort is one of the things for which I have no sympathy whatever.’ He was shunned by the climbing community.
The 1920s Drug Sex Cult in Sicily
At Cefalu in Sicily, he founded a commune to practice his total freedom/black magic philosophy. When one commune member died, his wife gave graphic revelations to the press: of orgies and satanic rituals, of heroin and cocaine abuse, the eating of human excrement, the drinking of cat blood and that cult members were made to have sex with goats during rituals. The international scandal was unimaginable and he was deported by Mussolini.
The 1938 Libel Case
Back in England, Crowley descended into heroin addiction, poverty, and obscurity. In the hope of being awarded some money, he sued for libel. When challenged in court to demonstrate his magic or his ability to make himself invisible that he had so often bragged about, he refused. He denied that a cat was killed or that blood was drunk, but the Judge was so outraged anyway that Crowley lost the case.
Crowley’s reputation rose in the free love era of the 1960s. Kenneth Anger directed a film dedicated to Crowley called Lucifer Rising and Mick Jagger and his then-girlfriend Marianne Faithfull were involved. In 1967, the released the album Their Satanic Majesties Request. Crowley was also included on the cover of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and his motto of “Do What Thou Wilt” was inscribed on the Led Zeppelin III album while Ozzy Osbourne dedicated “Mr. Crowley” to him.