Aleister Crowley, “the wickedest man in the world”, intrigued and slightly scared me as teenager, fascinated as I was by magic and mysticism of every kind. You had to admire his brazen honesty, his daring willingness to go deeply into places angels fear to tread, and to seem so smugly comfortable and successful there.
I must have been maybe 16 years old when two naughty girls I knew (aptly I suppose) stole a copy of his Magic in Theory and Practice for me from a bookstore in Pretoria. I didn’t know quite what to do with it, but it oozed a palpable power for me (I was under Transiting Neptune Square Sun around that time) and I held onto it for a while as a type of talisman. I eventually sold it to someone who had a similar desire to get intimate with its dark power.
Happily my obsession with that sort of magic mellowed before long and I was left loving and pursuing astrology. Now, two decades after “meeting” Crowley (and with Neptune curiously 45 degrees further ahead in the zodiac) I visit his horoscope with, I would like to think, a more detached and objective curiosity.
I gather from astro.com’s Astro-databank that the Confessions of Aleister Crowley records a birth time of between 11:00pm and midnight (on the 12th of October 1875, in Leamington Spa, England). It is further noted there that Crowley published a chart in Equinox of the Gods for 11:50pm. Other astrologers have apparently rectified his time of birth to various slightly earlier times. I suspect that 11:50pm is more likely to be correct, since only around 11:46pm, according to Vedic astrology, the Ascendant changed from Pushya to Ashlesha Nakshatra. Pushya is symbolised as a cow’s udder and is all about nurture and caring, whereas Ashlesha Nakshatra is symbolised as a serpent and is associated with cunning and deep insight. Ashlesha people are intelligent, shrewd, magnetic, hypnotic and often mystical. They are fascinated by sexuality and there is a specific association also with poisons. Light on Life (by Hart de Fouw and Robert Svoboda) associates Ashlesha with:
“people who deal with poisons, like chemical engineers, druggists and junkies…. people who are very self-serving… behind the scenes manipulators …. those who deal in and gain through sex… insightful but controversial people… primordial energy”.
This sounds very much like Aleister Crowley! Amoung the things Crowley could be considered famous (or rather, infamous) for, sex, drugs and magic (normally partaken of together) loom large.
Western astrology places his Ascendant in the sign Leo, and I guess that’s quite believable, since he was without a doubt something of a show-off and very egocentric, but this boldness that one may be naturally tempted to associate with his Tropical Leo Ascendant could arguably be an expression of Uranus in the 1st House, and, in fact, this may be a more fitting symbol of his fearlessly unconventional personality. The Sun, Uranus and Saturn are all in near exact aspect, making this a very significant triangle in his chart. The Sun/Uranus Sextile without a doubt describes not only his openness to ideas that others may find radical, it also points to a life of vibrant and stimulating social connections, friendships and group activities; Crowley certainly wasn’t a hermit!
Although Aleister Crowley is known for his extremism, and although he was without doubt a hedonist, it can’t be said that he was incapable of discipline, as the Sun/Saturn Trine in his chart testifies. Saturn/Uranus aspects can indicate an ability to master difficult techniques, since it can enable one to hold the tension involved in applying oneself in a structured way to a task requiring great alertness and flexibility. This Sun/Saturn/Uranus triangle in his chart seems to be a description of this capacity of his to learn complex systems fairly quickly, and to use them boldly and innovatively. In my experience Sun/Uranus types believe in their abilities, without arrogance necessarily, and this absence of self doubt or self restraint results in them experimenting with a variety ideas or lifestyles, and so their lives are often freer than most peoples’. Crowley clearly respected established traditions enough to submit to the authority of teachers and to accept the conditions attached to receiving training from them. That he would thereafter defy traditional protocols is unambiguously shown in the tight Opposition of Saturn and Uranus in angular houses.
Vedic astrology places the Ascendant in the sign Cancer, making the Moon the Ascendant ruler. We find the Moon at the first degree of Sidereal Pisces, in the 9th House. This way in which the 9th House comes into sharp focus does aptly reflect the importance of travel and exploration, on all levels, for Crowley. Rahu shares the 9th House with the Moon, in a sense ‘eclipsing’ the luminary, and Vedic astrologers would see in this an indication of a tarnished quality of religion, truth or ‘higher learning’. The person may have ‘bad gurus’ and/or have a negative attitude towards religion or spiritual teachers. However, James Braha suggests that Rahu in the 9th House gives a powerful craving for higher learning. All of these angles seem somewhat true and relevant.
The Nakshatra placement of the Moon in Purva Bhadrapada is extremely interesting; Light on Life gives it the following interpretation:
“… passion, impetuousness and anger are all strongly associated with Purva Bhadrapada, which rules cynacism, harsh words, greediness, and a fascination for the ecstasy of evil and the darker side of life… people who are cruel in deed and word…. radicals, fanatics and terrorists. Those, like ascetics, who self-torment and self-mortify. Black magicians…”
Note, again, that in the Vedic chart, the Moon (whose Nakshatra position is always important) is here the Ascendant ruler, making its Nakshatra position all the more primary, as Nakshatra placements go.
Mercury, Venus and Jupiter, in the Vedic chart, are all three located in the 4th House, and this more or less creates Saraswati Yoga (which indicates intellectual, educational or artistic gifts and achievements), except that Jupiter being in the sign of an enemy (Venus in Jyotish is the enemy of Jupiter) weakens the yoga. Nontheless, this angularity of these three cultured planets shows that Crowley can become very learned, which he was, in his way. Mercury and Jupiter are in close Conjunction, which reinforces the idea that Crowley will be intelligent and well educated, and that he will be interested in philosophy, religion and metaphysics.
Crowley has three Mahapurusha Yogas (combinations indicative of a ‘great being’) in his Vedic chart: Malavya yoga is formed by Venus being in her own sign in an angular house, Shasha Yoga is formed by Saturn being in its own sign in an angular house, and Ruchaka Yoga is formed by Mars being exalted and in an angular house.
Ruchaka Yoga makes you “powerful and arrogant” and likely to peform “many daring deeds”. Shasha Yoga makes makes for one who is “wicked in disposition… usurps the wealth of others, has intrigues with partners not his own…”. Malavya Yoga ensures that he would “enjoy pleasures” and become “famous and learned”. Having three Mahapurusha Yogas in the chart is impressive and accounts for Crowley’s strong personality that would rarely fail to leave an impression, albeit that, with two of these Mahapurusha Yogas being formed by malefic, this may not always have been a pleasant one.
Crowley’s sexual exploits are legendary! He enthusiastically practiced sexual magic, often with prostitutes, and he was able to lure women into his bed long after his physical attractiveness had faded. He had numerous homesexual affairs, and, in short, he had absolutely no inhibitions or scruples in the realm of sexuality. The strength of Venus, for one, certainly made him amorous and sensuous, and would no doubt have added to his charm. Venus and Mars are less than two degrees from an exact Square, which clearly indicates a fiery libido that could easily manifest as a coarse form of lust (both western and Vedic astrology would Venus and Mars in Libra and Capricorn respectively, in which they are exceptionally powerful). Mars and Saturn, both powerfully placed by sign, occupy the 7th House of ‘marriage’ and sexual desire. The strength of these planets show that he is able to succeed in affairs of that house, but they are both malefics, which points to the likelihood of perversions and harsh or discordant manifestation (in this case in the realm of ‘marital relations’). Mars is the ‘Yoga karaka’ for the Cancer Ascendant (because it rules one angular and one ‘trinal’ house), in Vedic terms, and this gives Mars a special benefic status. The fact that Mars is exalted (as the Yoga Karaka, being lord of the 10th and 5th) again generally strengthens Crowley’s capacity to command respect and achieve his goals (though Neptune in the 10th House of both the western and Vedic charts points to a somewhat fragile social status and a vague and perhaps dubious reputation, apart form the fact that in itself it indicates a ‘spiritual’ or artistic career). Neptune in the 10th House furthermore seems to fit the fact that Crowley was often dissapointed that he was not more fully publicly acknowledged for his genius; he felt that his poetry, for example, was worthy of greater praise than he received, and despite enjoying occassional patches of celebrity, he experienced his share of discouraging setbacks in the pursuit of his ambitions.
Whatever you think of him, Crowley was anything but mediocre, and that alone, I think, makes him worthy of some respect.
In his own invariably inimitable words:
“After five years of folly and weakness, miscalled politeness, tact, discretion, care for the feeling of others, I am weary of it. I say today: the hell with Christianity, Rationalism, Buddhism, all the lumber of the centuries. I bring you a positive and primaeval fact, Magick by name; and with this I will build me a new Heaven and a new Earth. I want none of your faint approval or faint dispraise; I want blasphemy, murder, rape, revolution, anything, bad or good, but strong.”