Sicily's northern coast in a vast bay sits the small town of Cefalù. Some
distance inshore away from the sandy, tourist beaches, a steep hill topped by a
cell phone mast rises into the hinterland. Beyond the mast and almost as high as
you can go before the road ends a sports stadium with parched brown grass is
where the local football team play. There are a few houses dotted around the
ground's perimeter but hidden away amongst dense undergrowth a small dilapidated
building is slowly collapsing in upon itself. Upon casual inspection no one
could begin to suspect what dark secrets this tiny, single story villa
is black magician Aleister Crowley's Satanic Abbey of Thelema...
Alexander Crowley, better known as Aleister Crowley, was born sometime between
11 o' clock and midnight on October the
12th. 1875, at number 30, Clarendon Square, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire -
. Both of his parents were
members of the Plymouth Brethren, a very strict fundamentalist Christian sect,
and his father was a practising Evangelist despite being an engineer by
profession. It is
perhaps because of his highly religious upbringing that Crowley rebelled against
the teachings of the bible at an early age and began to identify with the
enemies of God in the stories that were read to him. He particularly identified
with the antichrist predicted in the book of Revelation. That he had strong
negative feelings towards his parents is perhaps best illustrated by a comment
he made in his autobiography about his mother Emily, "she
became, after her husband's death, a brainless bigot of the most narrow, logical
and inhuman type" - strong words indeed.
Crowley is justly infamous for his occultist beliefs, he
was in his time a published writer, a painter, a poet, an astrologer, a yogi, a
mountaineer AND quite possibly a spy who worked for the British Secret Service!
To his credit this enigmatic man actually led an attempt upon the then
unconquered peak of K2 in 1902. But it is for his Satanic worship and occultist studies that he is best
remembered, indeed by the age of 24 he had already become a prominent member of the
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a magical society.
Around the same time he also became a member of the Ordo Templi Orientis, a society which studied and possibly practised the
black arts, and it is for his magical writings on the topic that he is best
known today, not least for "The Book of the Law,"
supposedly dictated to him in 1904 during a visit to Egypt by an Egyptian deity Aiwass.
This work forms the central sacred text of
cult for which he created his temple.
much notoriety during his lifetime, living a hugely debauched and hedonistic
life style. Openly bisexual, a compulsive drug
experimenter, and an acute social critic, he once said, "I
was not content to just believe in Satan, I wanted to be his chief of staff".
He was regularly denounced in the
popular press of the day as "the wickedest man in the world,"
and he was deported from almost every country in which he tried to make his
home, including of course Sicily.
The following overview of
Crowley’s life is from Hungry for Heaven
by Steve Turner:
Most of Crowley’s adult life was dedicated to indulging in everything he
believed God would hate: performing sex magic, taking heroin, opium, hashish,
peyote and cocaine, invoking spirits, and even once offering himself to the
Russian authorities to help destroy Christianity. He wrote volumes of books that
he believed were dictated to him by a spirit from ancient Egypt called Aiwass.
“To worship me take wine and strange drugs,” the spirit conveniently told him.
“Lust, enjoy all things of sense and rapture. Fear not that any God shall deny
thee for this.”
ABOVE - the young Aleister
Crowley’s father Edward had inherited a
considerable fortune from his own father and when he died when Crowley was eleven the
fortune passed on to the grandson. With his financial future thus secured by his
inheritance Crowley was free to live as he chose and he soon began his journey
of perverted Satanic excess with a will, already torturing and killing animals
by the age twelve. In his teens he became a heroin addict and displayed such sexual perversion
that his mother openly referred to him
as “The Great Beast of Revelation whose number is 666,” a
title which greatly pleased him. Perhaps occasioned by drug induced
hallucinations or possibly symptomatic of underlying mental problems - hearing
voices would tend to indicate Schizophrenia - he became convinced that he was the reincarnation of the magician Eliphas Levi, who
had died the year Crowley was born. He was a firm believer in reincarnation
claiming that he had also lived previously as Pope Alexander VI. His first wife Rose
Edith Kelly -
died in a mental asylum, his second wife also went insane, five mistresses
committed suicide, and scores of his concubines ended up as
alcoholics, drug addicts, or in mental institutions.
Crowley firmly believed in human sacrifice,
though nothing more than anecdotal evidence exists to suggest that he actually
ever indulged this vile belief. He is however quoted as saying, "A made child of perfect innocense
(sic) is the most suitable victim."
On December the 1st. 1947, Crowley died, pitifully wasted by his heroin
last words were “I am perplexed…” Crowley
had worshipped Pan -
LEFT - the
of sexuality and lust, as his principal deity for most of his life, and lines
from a poem he had written, “Hymn to Pan”,
were read at his funeral:
“I rave and I
rape and I rip and I rend, everlasting world without end”.
Although Crowley was an extremely
disturbed individual he was clearly a man of massive intellect and compelling
magnetism, and it is disturbing to note that even today people still embrace his
beliefs and his teachings. Jimmy Page of
Led Zeppelin was a devout follower and he eventually bought Crowley's Scottish
mansion Boleskine House by Loch Ness, a former church which had originally burnt
down with all the congregation trapped inside.
risk now of straying into the bizarre world of conspiracy theories et all, there
is also fairly reasonable evidence to suggest that Barbara Bush, the mother of
lunatic former US President George "Dubbyah" Bush, - seen
held by his grandmother - was the
illegitimate daughter of Aleister Crowley, and lets face it, the loopy gene
Dubyah has displayed so often and so comprehensively has to have come from
somewhere! It is a strange story and perhaps a little hard to accept at first
however many of the facts of the story ARE irrefutable and it does not take a
mathematical genius to add all the individual ones together and arrive at the
There were many women in Crowley's
life at this time and inevitably he fathered several illegitimate children. One
of these women was an American socialite named Pauline Pierce - holding Dubyah
in the photograph. She was the wife of Marvin Pierce, the president of a large
and successful publishing company, the McCall Corporation. He married Pauline in
1919 and they soon had two children Martha (born in 1920) and James (born in
1921). Around this time Crowley bought a small villa in Sicily with the
intention of turning it into an temple dedicated to the worship of Thelema - the
very subject of this exploration report of which more in a moment. In brief, by
1924 the debauched behaviour of Crowley and his followers at the villa created
such a firestorm of outrage in conservative Catholic Sicily that the
Italian government headed by the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini decided
enough was enough and they threw Crowley out. Having nowhere else left to go and
having already squandered a vast amount of his fortune, he ended up in France
where he was taken in by a follower called James Thomas Harris, known to almost
everyone as Frank. Harris was a successful publisher, playwright and author from the USA ,
and a friend to many influential figures of that time including H. G. Wells and
George Bernard Shaw, but he was also in many
ways as outspoken and contentious a figure as Crowley himself. The first volume
of his book
My Life and Loves
published in 1922, was burnt by customs officials and the second volume resulted
in him being charged with corrupting public morals. He had already been married
twice but his second wife would not grant him a divorce, so he and an ex-pat
American adventurer called Nellie O'Hara -
- lived together as man and wife.
Nellie's closest friend was Pauline Pierce.
full well as we do how Crowley's licentious mind worked, together with his
powerful animal magnetism; and given that Frank (and presumably Nellie too) were
disciples of Crowley's Thelemite mantra, "Do
what though wilt shall be the whole of the law",
then it is not just likely but nigh on inevitable that Crowley slept with one or
both of the women, and probably Frank too just for good measure!
Pauline returned to America in early October 1924
and then on June the 8th. 1925, she gave birth to a girl named Barbara. Barbara
went on to
marry decorated WW2 dive bomber pilot George H.W. Bush, who later became the 41st. President of the United
States. And of course their son is Dubyah.
So is Crowley the father of Barbara Bush?
No one in the know is likely to give up their secret any time soon and I doubt
even she knows for sure herself but one of the most compelling pieces of
evidence for me is the striking likeness so clear to see in the
middle two photographs above!
||The Abbey of Thelema...
Period exterior photo of The Abbey -
Abbey of Thelema is the name given to the small, single story house which
was used as a temple and spiritual centre by Aleister Crowley and was run
together with his disciple Leah Hirsig. Leah, seen here -
- was Crowley's
Babalon or, Scarlet
Woman, taking the name Alostrael - , "the
womb (or grail)
She wrote in her 1921 diary: "I
dedicate myself wholly to The Great Work. I will work for wickedness, I
will kill my heart, I will be shameless before all men, I will freely
prostitute my body to all creatures".
The Abbey they created is
situated in Cefalù in Sicily and Crowley bought it with his rapidly
dwindling fortune in 1920. As can be seen from the floor plan
LEFT - it was not a very big
building at all. The
name for the villa came from a satire penned by François Rabelais where an
Abbaye de Thélème is described as an "anti-monastery"
where the lives of the inhabitants were "spent
not in laws, statutes, or rules, but according to their own free will and
pleasure." This idealistic utopia was the
inspiration for Crowley's commune, which also functioned as a school of
black magic. A typical day of study at Crowley's Satanic college included
daily worship of the sun similar in many ways to the mono-theistic worship
of the Aten by the heretic Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, studying Crowley's
own writings on Satanic magic theory, regular yogic and ritual practices,
and general domestic chores. The stated object was for students to devote
themselves to the Great Work of discovering and manifesting their True
Crowley planned to transform the small house into a global centre of
magical devotion and ultimately to charge the acolytes tuition fees for
their training in the Magical Arts. These fees would further finance his
ultimate goal of promulgating the doctrine of Thelema and the publication
of his manuscripts.
Leah Hirsig and another woman disciple called Ninette Shumway
LEFT - both became
pregnant by Crowley whilst living at the villa. Leah had a miscarriage,
but Ninette gave birth to a daughter on the 11th. of December, 1920, who
they named Astarte Lulu Panthea. In 1931 Astarte moved to America and
began a new life with Ninette's sister, Helene Fraux. She would grow up to have four
children of her own, including the renowned jazz pianist Eric Muhler. On arrival in
Sicily, Leah already had a two-year old son named Hansi, and Ninette had a
three-year old son named Howard; they were not Crowley's sons but he
nicknamed them Dionysus and Hermes respectively -
. At some point, Leah
apparently suspected Ninette of magical foul play, and Crowley found supporting
evidence of it in Ninette's magical diary (it was a rule that everybody had to keep one
whilst resident at the abbey). One cannot help but wonder if the reality
of the situation had more to do with the archetypal little green god
rearing its ugly head rather than the summoning of any denizens of
the deepest pits of hell, but who am I to cast aspersions upon the
veracity of their statements! Anyhow, I digress! Appalled by their apparent perfidy Crowley
banished Ninette from the abbey, however, she soon returned again to take care
of her children.
In 1923, a 23-year-old Oxford undergraduate by the name of Raoul Loveday
(or possibly Frederick Charles Loveday) died at the Abbey after taking
part in one of the Satanic rituals. His wife, Betty May,
variously blamed the death on the consumption of the blood of a
sacrificed cat then upon the more probable diagnosis of acute enteric fever
contracted by drinking from a mountain spring which Crowley had already warned the
couple about. When Betty returned to London, she
gave an interview to The Sunday Express, which included
her story in its ongoing attacks upon Crowley. With these and numerous
about the dark activities going on at the Abbey in mind, Benito Mussolini's government
demanded that Crowley leave the country in 1923. After Crowley's
departure, the Abbey of Thelema was abandoned and local
residents whitewashed over Crowley's murals. It is not clear whether or
not the house was ever occupied again after Crowley's departure
however relatively modern TV aerials on the wall outside would seem
to indicate that it has been.
The villa is still just about standing today, but it is in extremely poor condition.
American filmmaker Kenneth
Anger, himself a devotee of Crowley, uncovered and filmed some of
the murals in his 1955 BBC Omnibus documentary
Thelema Abbey, now considered lost.
He did not visit the Abbey alone but went in the company of Alfred Kinsey
who was an American biologist and professor of entomology and zoology, and
who founded the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and
Reproduction. He is also famous for the production of the highly
controversial Kinsey Reports. They can both be seen here at The Abbey.
Recently some of the other murals were uncovered, and pictures of them were posted on
the internet. "Abbey of Thelema" remains a popular name for various
magical societies, Witchcraft covens, and Satanist grottoes and it is also
the name of a fan club for controversial rock star Marilyn Manson, who
included the line "We're gonna ride to the Abbey of Thelema, to the Abbey
of Thelema..." in his song "Misery Machine". Experimental musicians Coil,
known to be fascinated by mysticism, went a step further in "The Sea
Priestess" on Astral Disaster, whose lyrics are a bizarre interpretation
of the murals in the Abbey The German/Swiss painter and conceptual artist
René Luckhardt, after a visit to the Abbey, built a replica of the interior
complete with paintings and showed them on various occasions.
In 2005 the Danish artist Joachim Koester created five colour and five black and white
photographs of the interior of the villa, these photographs comprising his ‘Morning of the
ABOVE - a period photograph
of a Satanic ritual being conducted in the main room of the Abbey...
Sadly today the Abbey is
collapsing fast and the highly superstitious locals shun it for fear of
the evil eye, however with its
dark history and connections to the man who was perhaps the
personification of Satanism incarnate the house attracts more than its
fair share of weirdoes and psychological misfits, some of whom have
erected a bizarre shrine in the last room with any remains of the infamous
murals. But you know, all that kind of undesirable stuff could be
stopped if someone would just buy the place. It is on the market right now
and it's a snip at 1.2 million Euros...
...I think Beelzebub and Astaroth must have been down on the beach in Cefalù the
day we called!!!
A selection of photographs of
the Satanic murals taken a significant time ago. The murals were initially
painted over by the locals when Crowley and Co. were thrown out of the
country in the 1920s however they were uncovered again in the 1950s.
Inevitably they have begun to decay and there is a lot less left of them
to see now compared to when these photographs were originally taken - for
example the mural shown top right could not be found anywhere during our
cannot credit the author of these photographs as it is not immediately obvious who took them,
however I suspect some of them at least are the work of the
previously mentioned Danish artist Joachim Koester. The obvious difference
between the wide angle
TOP LEFT and
the close up of part of the same mural
does tend to rather contradict this assumption
as there is an immediate difference indicative of the two photos having
been taken at different times.
Below is a
selection of the photographs we took in and around the Abbey of
Thelema in June, 2013.
view any of the photographs in a far bigger size then click on the
image of your choice and it will open in a new window.
Click right on the
button if you wish to return to our urb-ex
site front page...
The photographs on this
website MAY NOT BE USED WITHOUT THE EXPRESS PERMISSION of the
realise as she took this pretty, pretty scenic shot that she was
actually looking at the roof of The Abbey behind the pole on the
right of frame!
Standing outside The
Abbey in the grossly overgrown gardens...
that the assorted junk left in the hallway was fly-tipped waste
dumped there by the locals however upon inspection of some
photographs taken shortly after The Abbey was abandoned it would
appear that this stuff is what remains of the original furnishings
from the 1920s.
I'm not sure how this
gas cooker migrated from the kitchen. Perhaps Aiwass fancied a fry
up when he was gardening.
of the kitchen.
|I wonder if
Astoroth kept his beer chilled in here.
|All mod cons
for the discerning demonic guest...
this is modern graf...
symbol on the left is Om,
a mystical mantra of
chanted in various
Chamber of Nightmares" - Crowley's
name for the main room of the temple. If you compare this photograph
with the old monochrome photograph further up the page you can
clearly see where the alter stood, which is on the right of our photo
where a guitar is leaning against the wall.
|M takes a
close up of an inscription on the wall...
This inscription and
decoration are in all likelihood a modern intrusive piece of
graffiti rendered by some fruit-loop Crowley obsessive.
is almost certainly modern "art", presumably a representation of
Crowley, rendered by someone who really needs to lay off the 'shrooms.
The faces beneath the
poem inscribed above are known as "The
original poem written by Crowley for Leah Hirsig said, "Stab
your demoniac smile to my brain! Soak me in cognac, cunt and cocaine".
Degenere numero uno...
This is known as "The
Mural of Heaven".
to make out now but the inscription is said to read, "Aiwass
gave Will as a law to mankind through the mind of The Beast 666".
It would appear to be written in Greek.
|Part of "The
Serpent of Heaven" mural. The
serpent is to the right of the photograph. The bound person represents
the earth. originally there was an inscription by the snake which
read, "The Serpent may find itself
utterly neglected by all creation, unable to communicate the
knowledge which would make man as Gods."
TJ takes a close up of
the "Blonde Lady"...
of "The Serpent of Heaven"
mural is said to show the "Blonde Lady and Her
Negro Lover: ease and delight are obtained by blending opposites".
This mural represents "The
Dragon Serpent devouring the Seven Hanged Wives in Bluebeard's
Closet being watched by the Toad."
The Toad is very faded now but it
used to look like a very smiley frog - a sort of Clyde Frog (Southpark)
|A shot of the
Alter taken side on.
breath of fresh air from the real world outside!