On 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 hides.

 It is black magician Aleister Crowley's Satanic Abbey of Thelema...


Edward 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 - RIGHT . 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.

Although 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 Thelema, the cult for which he created his temple.

Crowley gained 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.

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 -  RIGHT  - 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 addiction. His last words were “I am perplexed…” Crowley had worshipped Pan -  LEFT  - the demon god 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.

At 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  LEFT  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 same conclusion.

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 -  ABOVE RIGHT  -  lived together as man and wife.

...and Nellie's closest friend was Pauline Pierce.

 Frank Harris   Barbara Bush   Aleister Crowley   Pauline Pierce 

Now knowing 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 -  LEFT .


The 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 -  RIGHT  - was Crowley's Babalon or, Scarlet Woman, taking the name Alostrael - , "the womb (or grail) of God."

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 Will.

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 - RIGHT . 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 other rumours 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 Magicians’ work.

 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 visit.

Unfortunately I 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  BOTTOM LEFT  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.

To 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.

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TJ didn't 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...


We thought 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.

The remains of the kitchen.

I wonder if Astoroth kept his beer chilled in here.

All mod cons for the discerning demonic guest...

Undoubtedly this is modern graf...


The Sanskrit symbol on the left is Om, a mystical mantra of Hindu origin chanted  in various Dharmic religious ceremonies.

In "The 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.


Again this 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 Four Degenerates".


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".


It's hard 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"...


This part 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) on green!

A shot of the Alter taken side on.

A welcome breath of fresh air from the real world outside!


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