A Comparison of Crowley’s Scarlet Woman to Kali of Hinduism


“Chapter eleven of Crowley’s Magick (original edition) is entitled “Of our Lady Babalon and of The Beast whereon She Rideth . . …. it begins: ‘The contents of this section, inasmuch as they concern Our Lady, are too important and too sacred to be printed. They are only communicated by The Master Therion to chosen pupils in private instruction.’

It is not claimed that the contents of the present chapter constitute the private instruction mentioned in Magick, but the following interpretation of the Formula of the Scarlet Woman is based upon a study of unpublished material which possibly formed the basis of such instruction.

The adjective scarlet has reference to the Draconian Current upon which the New Aeon is based, for it is the colour of Ares, Orus or Horus. Aries in the zodiac also represents the Green Man, the Vernal Power of the Sun. Scarlet is the colour of the flame which initiates the annual vernal current that “avenges” itself upon the drought and darkness of the winter months.

In another sense, scarlet equates with the red substance of female source, the prime menstruum of magical energy, and also with the negatory, destructive aspect of lunar or “black” magic and witchcraft. It is in this sense that the Scarlet Woman equates with Kali, who is primarily the goddess of stellar and lunar periods, hence of Time.

One of the first methods of telling time was by the periodic emanations of the female cynocephalus, which the ancient Egyptian priests used for this purpose. Time is the menstruum in which all material forms arise, transform and finally dissolve.

“The best blood is of the moon, monthly,” says AL. This refers particularly to the Kali aspect of the formula. Best, that is, for works of dissolution or transmutation; best, in other words, for Magick, or Energy tending to Change.

The name Babalon, which is used to designate the office of Scarlet Woman, differs from the apocalyptic version not only in respect of its orthography but also for the following reasons. The biblical concept of the Scarlet Woman is already a corruption of that ancient magical tradition of which – outside Sanctuaries of Initiation – temple prostitution is the only remembered form. The tradition is best preserved in the doctrines of the Indian and Tibetan Tantras which describe ceremonies involving the use of the kalas (medicines) which imbue the exudations of specially trained priestesses. The “sweet-smelling ladies” (suvasinis) have a more than literary correlation to the “sweet-smelling perfume of sweat” spoken of in AL, 1, 27. The formula of the Scarlet Woman is the formula of the Suvasini.

Babalon means “the gate of the sun”; she admits the solar force through her gate, gut, cut or cat (i.e. pudenda). As the cat she is the Moon, or the Sun reflected in the Eye of Amenta; the left eye of Space as the Sun is the right. Thus the Vama Marg, literally the Left Path, or the Path involving the use of woman, the female being considered as the left or lunar aspect of creation in contradistinction to the Dakshina Marg, which involves the solar current, the male, or right-hand aspect.

In another sense, Vama Marg is the esoteric aspect of Tantra, of which the exoteric aspect is the Dakshina Marg. These distinctions have nothing whatever to do with “white” and “black” magic, as often and erroneously supposed.

The name Babalon is numerically equivalent to 156, whereas the corrupt, apocalyptic form, Babylon, totals 165 – a number of no particular qabalistic significance. One-five-six, on the other hand, conceals many ideas relating to the function of the Scarlet Woman. For instance, it is the number of TzIVN, Zion, the Holy Mountain; it is also the number of the City of the Pyramids beneath the Night of Pan which may be entered and explored through the magical use of Babalon. It is also, according to Liber 418, the number of Chaos, which is a concept of singular importance in the qabalah of Thelema for it is a secret name of The Beast. Babalon is thus identified with her true Lord.

Another important correspondence with the number 156 is sen-hru, a term used by the ancient Egyptians to denote the day of the summer solstice, when the Eye of Horus (i.e. the moon) was full, and the year completed. The number 156 is therefore a perfect symbol of the magically inspired female (i.e. of the Scarlet Woman); it is also her numerical formula, which is one of Change and Manifestation-Scorpio and Capricorn.

The apprehension of the interchangeability of these symbols requires the use of a special kind of mental faculty, one which is capable of simultaneously distinguishing and identifying apparently disparate concepts. The disparity exists only in relation to the mentality which conceives it. Once this is grasped, initiation becomes possible and the mind transcends itself by means of the reconciliation of opposites.

The Visvakosatantra says: “No worship is valid without women (sakti), fish and meat.” Similarly, a Sahajiya text declares: “If you do not submit yourself to a manjari (woman) but simply rely on theoretical knowledge of the thing, you cannot get Krishna by spiritual culture.” According to Manindra Bose, “the Sahajiyas do not use fish or meat in mystic culture, but as regards the necessity of women, they have the same idea of the utility of a female companion as preached in the Tantras”.

An initiated Tantric comment on the Vama Marg describes the suvasinis as: “sweet-smelling ladies … selected to play the role of Mother. They are to be sought as the one and only refuge … and even though as many as sixteen ladies are chosen in one of the rarer forms of magic that appertain to this school of worship, the chief focal point is the woman, the one and only who is the Suvasini.”

Crowley was working the same formula and he explained the mechanics of it in his Magical Record:

‘The formula of the Aeon, 418 … is not, as one might have expected, of Horus, but of Cheth, the Chariot. A formula of going! It is the House of the Moon, body of Change. This balances the Solar 666: “he is ever a sun, and she a moon” (AL, 1, 16). The Scarlet Woman is therefore lunar. I am the White, and she is the Red, of alchemical perfection; and my failure has been due to lack of her, in whom is all power given. I have achieved my own private initiation quite nicely and nimbly, but I have not been able to manifest in power for lack of her.’

Crowley then enumerates several Scarlet Women who had assisted him during major magical workings:

‘The seer Ouarda [i.e. his wife, Rose Kelly], candidate No. 1 gave me the power to get The Book of the Law. Virakam [Mary d'Este Sturges], No. 2, gave me Book 4, in part, but broke down, surely through my own default of faith in her, more than her quite justified distrust of me. We neither of us gave ourselves wholly without reservation to the Work. Third, Soror Hilarion [Jeanne Foster] gave me the Child of Promise [i.e. Frater Achad, Crowley's "magical son"], and probably helped me to attain my Grade of Magus. Fourth, Soror Ahitha [Roddie Minor] helped to build the Temple of Jupiter. I may not yet appreciate the effect of this; but if, on the whole, the Work was marred, as appears on the surface, I must again blame myself for my imperfect non-attachment. I feel sure that I was always upsetting the Gods’ plans by obtruding my own rational ideas of the proper way to do things. Fifth, Almeira [Bertha Bruce], whose vocation I cannot doubt, seems to have failed altogether, unless she gave me that very non-attachment I so needed. But I cannot make out whether she is still in office …’

Ouarda was Fire, of the Archer [i.e. Sagittarius]; so was Hilarion; Virakam was Air, of the Balance [i.e. Libra]; Ahitha, Fire and Earth of Ram [Aries] and Bull [Taurus]; Almeira, Air of the Twins [Gemini].

And in his full Comment to AL, Crowley supplies more information about the nature of these Scarlet Women:

1. Rose Edith Crowley nee Kelly, my wife. Put me in touch with Aiwaz; see The Equinox, 1, 7; The Temple of Solomon the King. Failed as elsewhere is on record.
2. A doubtful case. Mary d’Este Sturges nee Dempsey. Put me in touch with Abuldiz; hence helped with Book Four. Failed from personal jealousies.
3. Jeanne Robert Foster nee Olivier. Bore the “child” to whom AL refers. Failed from respectability.
4. Roddie Minor. Brought me in touch with Amalantrah. Failed from indifference to the Work.
5. A doubtful case. Marie Rohling nee Lavroff. Helped to inspire Liber CX1 [Aleph]. Failed from indecision.
6. A doubtful case. Bertha Almeira Prykryl nee Bruce. Delayed assumption of duties, hence made way for number 7.
7. Leah Hirsig [Alostrael-thc Ape of Thoth]. Assisted me in actual initiation; still at my side, 1921 P.S. And 1923.

it is necessary at this stage to explain the actual formula and function of the Scarlet Woman, and the use of the occult vibrations that she emanates.

In Tantric literature, the suvasini is a “priestess” in the sense that she is the chosen vehicle of the Supreme Goddess, or Magical Power (Mahashakti). Her body contains zones of occult energy intimately related to the network of nerves and plexuses associated with the endocrine glands. As the Supreme Goddess, she is represented yantrically’ by the Shri Chakra, and mantrically by the secret vibrations that invoke the primal Creative Energy in its lunar, or feminine, form (i.e. in a form specially suited to manifestation). Her mantra has never been written down because it can be transmitted only orally. The Shri Chakra is therefore the signature of the Scarlet Woman, insofar as it delineates the formula of the Goddess (whether of Nuit, Isis, Kali, etc., makes no difference).

When the Great Magical Power (Kundalini) is roused to activity, it energizes the chakras in the body of the Scarlet Woman, generating vibrations that influence the chemical composition of her glandular secretions. After appropriating the amrit (“nectar”) precipitated at any given chakra, these vibrations inform the fluids which flow from the genital outlet.

The fragrances emanating from each chakra are thus made available for use by the priest, or “beast”, who devours them and transmutes them into ojas-magical energy.

There are three main methods of obtaining these vaginal vibrations, or kalas. One of them is of particular interest to Thelemites because it is equivalent to the ancient Egyptian formula of Nuit, the goddess of the night-sky, represented anthropomorphically by a naked woman arched over the earth. In the Tantras, this posture is called the Kailasa Prastara; the goddess towers over her worshippers like Mount Kailas, from which the healing coolth of her snows flows down. The earlier image of this formula, as depicted on the Stele of Ankh-af-na-Khonsu, shows a woman on all fours, which suggests the viparita maithuna, a back-to-front mode of congress described in some of the earliest Tantras and in certain occult writings of the Arabs. Viparita maithuna is also symbolic of the total reversion of the senses necessary to the full awakening of the Serpent Power.

Ankli-af-na-Khonsu, a priest of Amen Ra during the XXVIth Dynasty, was a previous avatar of Therion (the Beast). Khonsu, meaning literally “the traveller of the night-sky” not only denotes the moon but also the stars or kalas that accompany the moon in its nocturnal or feminine phase. Ankh-af-na-Khonsu concentrated within himself the life or vital energy (Ankh) of the (-af-na-) Moon (Khonsu), the moon being the Shri Chakra: Light as the medium of manifestation.

The Shri Chakra is the moon in its fullness, the lotus in full flower, the flow-er which, in the graded phases of its cycle, emanates fourteen rays (one for each day of the fortnight) that culminate in the full circle of the fifteenth.

A circle has 36o degrees, and the Shri Chakra is such a circle. It has been equated, by some commentators, with the circle of the year of 365 days, the five missing days being disregarded because inexplicable to the uninitiated. But when the physiological formula of the Scarlet Woman is understood, it is seen that these five days represent the five negative days of her occultation every “moon” or month, which is the periodic cycle or full circle of the human female.

The fifteen grades, or steps, of this progression from newness to fullness, virginity to motherhood, were intimately related to the monthly pulse of the woman chosen for the secret rites of the Kaula (or Kala) Circle, which is the genuine Vama Marg or Path of the Supreme Goddess. Particular deities were ascribed to the days and nights of the dark and bright fortnights which constituted the full month, or moon. The dark fortnight comprised the period from full to new moon; the bright fortnight, from new to full moon. These fifteen grades were conceived as rays or digits of the moon: they not only related to the celestial moon and its occult influence but also, and more significantly, to the physical moon of the women se lected for the magical working.

From the sixteenth ray or digit of the moon flows “the nectar of supreme excellence”. According to the Lalitasahasranama, ” the moon shows fifteen phases in its waxing and waning. The sixteenth part, when Time stands still, it when and where Divinity incamates.” Time is Kali, the Goddess Fifteen, and the kala that transcends time is known as the sixteenth digit or ray.

Fourteen female genital secretions are accounted for by Western science, the fifteenth and sixteenth remain undiscovered, yet they have been known to, and used by, oriental initiates from time immemorial; they manifest only in the vaginal emanations of the fully trained Suvasini.

The writings of the Tamil Siddhas (Adepts) contain grave warnings concerning the dangers of evoking these kalas in a chakra that has not been properly prepared to receive them, and in AL, 11, 26, Hadit exclaims: ‘I am the secret Serpent coiled about to spring: in my coiling there is joy. If I lift up my head, I and my Nuit are one. If I droop down mine head, and shoot forth venom, then is rapture of the earth, and I and the earth are one. There is great danger in me . . .’

The downwardly directed forces are charged with poisonous vibrations. They can be used for works of materialization and dissolution, and-with deadly effect-in works of black magic. Imbibition of the kalas charged with the upwardly direct ed currents transforms human consciousness and makes possible contact and communication with transcendental entities. Conversely, the intake of the venom brings man into direct relationship with the demonic worlds and the lower elementals; only the Adept can use this current with impunity.

The venom is typified by Scorpio; the nectar, by Aquarius. This duplex formula is all-comprehensive and facilitates the use of the kalas, or star-fire, of Nuit, and the primal sexual current represented by Babalon, death-dealing and vampiric. Scorpio is the whore, or serpent-woman, who in conjunction with the Beast generates the biune kala, the mixed seed; Aquarius is the virgin priestess in whom is generated the double kala or creative fluid represented by the glyph for water, doubled, thus:

The ancient signs of Scorpio and Aquarius are forms of the letter M, which, in the Egyptian, Chaldean, Hebrew and Greek qabalahs, is a glyph of the liquid of life. Furthermore, M is the Sanskrit Emkara, or Omkara, which resumes the entire cycle of existence from manifestation to non-manifestation, from appearance to disappearance, from the primordial vibration to its ultimate dissolution in absolute silence (the Void, symbolized by dreamless sleep).”

Aquarius is the eleventh division of the celestial circle, or zodiac; it transmits the influence of Set, whose planetary vehicle is Saturn. The Scarlet Woman is thus the repository and the focus of all the kalas required by the Adept whose will it is to establish contact with transmundane Intelligences such as Aiwass, Amalantrah, Abuldiz, etc.

These considerations explain why Crowley insisted on observing the arcane tradition that sanctions initiation of the priestess by the priest, but prohibits the opposite procedure.”‘ Perhaps they also explain why so many of Crowley’s magical operations ended in failure for himself, and in so much psychological trouble for the Scarlet Woman concerned, several of whom succumbed to insanity.

Crowley supposed that an instantaneous reciprocal attraction between the parties concerned was a sign of magical competence. The partner had, so to speak, been chosen of the gods. This is brought out in a secret instruction given by Crowley to members of the Sovereign Sanctuary, O.T.O.:

Choice of an assistant seems so important that perhaps it should be left to caprice; i.e. to subconscious attraction. With regard to the choice of one to serve this Sacrament, man is so confused in mind, and so easily deceived as to this matter, that it seems to Us not unreasonable to allow full sway to the Caprice of the Moment. For this caprice so-called is in truth perhaps the Voice of the Sub-Consciousness; that is, it is the deliberate choice of the Holy Phallus itself. “The Phallus is the physiological basis of the Oversoul.” For this very reason are these many men led astray … But let the conscious Will be devoted wholly to the Great Work, then shall the subconscious Will choose inevitably the appointed Vehicle for the Work.

Over and above this, however, it appears from Crowley’s Magical Record” that he took no pains to ensure that his assistants possessed all the requirements of a Scarlet Woman. It is no doubt true that the particular qualifications necessary for this office have little to do with the moral status of the woman used in the rites. Whores, no less than “respectable” women, may possess the necessary competence; the ultimate test of eligibility is the purity of passion brought to the rite by both priest and priestess. Yet there is some indefinable “something” beyond even this, and about this aspect of the matter the oriental Initiates were prolix. Their writings, like those of the mediaeval Alchemists, were couched in mysterious cyphers, impenetrable to all but Initiates.

One thing is certain, however: the lotus, or flower, of the human female supplies the vital elixirs sought after by the Alchemists and Adepts of old.

Among the welter of published arcane writings there is one and one only known to me-that contains an initiated “inner sense” commentary which approximates to the genuine Vama Marg interpretation of this chakra. This is the Karpuradistotra of the Kaula Tantrics, translated by Sir John Woodroofe as the Hymn to Kali. Therein, theMahachakra, which is the focus of the mystic rite, is the mandala or yoni of Kali Herself; a close-up, as it were, of the trikona (inverted triangle) that typifies the Supreme Goddess. The stotra is a litany of praise that contains the secret of Kaula worship.”

- Kenneth Grant, Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God

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