Friday, February 1, 2008

Stairway to Sex Magick

The Strange Case of Aleister Crowley and Jimmy Page

English Occultist Aleister Crowley, aka "The Great Beast 666," "The Wickedest Man In The World," and a number of other equally outlandish monikers.

BORN in the Victorian age into a family of Plymouth Brethren - who regarded sex as horribly sinful - Aleister Crowley spent his life violently reacting against this view. Legendary for an unabashed use of hashish, opium, cocaine and heroin, Crowley achieved further notoriety with sex magick, or sexual intercourse continued indefinitely - without orgasm - to produce long, drawn-out states of ecstasy and intoxication. Traditional magicians had built a system of ritual and drama; but Crowley felt that real magick was hidden in a man's will, and could be summoned by an unconscious process. Conventional morality was worthless; Crowley's credo became "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." Suffering from bronchial infection and addicted to heroin, he passed away quietly in an unassuming Hastings boarding house during 1947, and was almost forgotten until the rock musicians - who alone had the money and inclination to live as Crowley did - started reading about him years after his death. With his libertarian agenda, insatiable appetite for sex and drugs, and a wardrobe of spectacular costumes, it’s as if Crowley had already predicted the heady counterculture of the 1960s and transformed into an icon of rebellion - a metamorphosis crowned by his appearance on the cover of The Beatles’ ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (1967).

Boleskine House - a sprawling U-shaped farmhouse on the shores of Loch Ness - is the most physical ramification in the link between Crowley and Led Zeppelin’s virtuoso guitarist Jimmy Page. Bought by Crowley acolyte Page in 1970, it was purchased in 1900 by The Great Beast for almost twice its value, because it met certain requirements of Abra-Melin the Mage. These included windows and a door that opened to the north toward a secluded structure that was to serve as an oratory (those who practice Thelma - the religious philosophy Crowley founded - are still instructed to "face north to Boleskine" when conducting ceremonies). Crowley subsequently styled himself The Laird of Boleskine, adopted the kilt, and began trying to summon Thoth and Horus. Stories of unexplained – and unconfirmed - occurrences in the area during his residency are numerous; one tells of a local butcher accidentally cutting off his own hand with a cleaver after reading a note left by Crowley.

Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. Zeppelin’s phallic guitar worship and uninhibited sexuality made them the rock phenomenon of their era. Asked of any connection to the Black Arts, the groups publicist B. P. Fallon once said, “Jimmy certainly wasn’t sacrificing virgins at midnight. He couldn’t find any.”

Page was quoted in Roadrunner magazine discussing further mayhem, including the story that Boleskine was once the site of a church that burned to the ground with its congregation. This historical background gives insight into the lyrics of Zeppelin’s landmark track Stairway to Heaven. When we consider its nature - a woman searching for the path to a Celtic higher plane - it is a yearning for spiritual transformation; it also appears to be partially a song of hope for all those who once suffered at Boleskine. Controversy for the tune began in 1982, when a prominent Baptist used his radio pulpit to preach that Stairway to Heaven carried subliminal messages. Then the California State Assembly played a backward tape in a public session, with members of the committee claiming they heard the words, "I live for Satan." Zeppelin were duly denounced as agents of The Devil, who were luring millions of teenagers into damnation as unwitting disciples of the Antichrist.

Rumours of devilry dogged Zeppelin throughout their career, fuelled by Page’s interest in Crowley and their deliberately mysterious album sleeves and personal tragedies - singer Robert Plant’s son Karac died of a respiratory infection in 1977, and drummer John Bonham succumbed after a drinking binge in 1980. Shortly after Bonham’s demise, rumours resurfaced about Zeppelin’s so-called 'Black Album', a record of death chants that a German writer claimed he had translated from Old Swabian. Plant himself dismissed any pacts with the Devil, remembering that the only deal the band made was with some of the girls’ High Schools in San Fernando Valley. But Page’s interest in Crowley is profound; the magus took Lucifer as an agent of intellect and freedom, the liberation of the individual. Without any restrictions, there would be no frustration to lead to violence, crime or mental breakdown. Feeling Crowley a misunderstood genius, the musician believed this doctrine of common sense.